25 August 2022

Cyber Workforce Strategies Should Produce at Scale

James Andrew Lewis

The national cyber director recently held an event at the White House on the cyber workforce shortfall. One remark that stood out came from Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh, who noted that he had begun working on cyber workforce issues 25 years ago as a freshman member of the House of Representatives. There have been many efforts to expand the cyber workforce since then, but none have adequately addressed the problem. The creation of the Office of the National Cyber Director (NCD) provides an opportunity to change this.

The primary reason that the 25 years of effort to meet the workforce shortage has been unsuccessful is that these efforts have not worked at scale. There are other reasons, including that the growth in demand for cybersecurity workforce labor outpaces supply, but the primary cause is the absence of programs that produce the necessary volume of trained cybersecurity workers. The number used in the NCD White House meeting was a shortfall of 700,000 people. There was discussion at the meeting of apprentice programs, which, for all their merits, produce only a few hundred new workers annually. Some of the larger programs provide a few thousand new workers annually. At this rate, it will take decades (if not centuries) to meet the shortfall.

Creating a New Energy Strategy for a Post Ukraine War World

Anthony H. Cordesman

There is every reason for the U.S. to focus on the dangers of climate change and the need to change the sources of its energy supplies to reduce carbon emissions. The new Inflation Reduction Act that President Biden signed on August 16, 2022, is an important step toward achieving these goals. At the same time, the U.S. needs to work with its European strategic partners to permanently reduce their dependence on Russian oil and gas exports and work with Asian partners like Japan and South Korea to ensure that they will not confront a similar threat in the future from China.

The Emeritus Chair in Strategy has prepared a detailed analysis of the issues involved and the new levels of interaction that the U.S. and its strategic partners must address between national security planning and national energy planning. It is entitled Creating a New Energy Strategy for a Post Ukraine War World. A downloadable copy is attached at the end of this transmittal, and it is available on the CSIS website at https://csis-website-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/publication/220822_Cordesman_New_Energy_0.pdf?TcOhgxfcHLkg4EIqO1s8V.EOQybP0p2X.

The analysis addresses the fact that the Ukraine War may well end within a few years, but unless Russia’s leadership changes fundamentally in character, the energy crisis triggered by the Ukraine War is a warning that NATO European states and Europe must not return to dependence on Russian gas and oil. The war is also a warning that America’s strategic partners in the Pacific could face a future Chinese threat to their energy imports that could be as serious as the one Europe faces today.

A New ‘Bumper Sticker’ for Space Satellites

Zhanna Malekos Smith

If space satellites wore bumper stickers, they'd probably echo Thomas Hobbes’ famous words that life is “nasty, brutish, and short.” Why the gloomy outlook? Cyber threats are unfortunately the “soft underbelly of our global space networks,” reasons Lieutenant General Stephen Whiting, commander of the U.S. Space Force’s Space Operations Command. The Ukraine war is also prompting military and commercial space leaders to pay greater attention to securing space systems from cyber threats. There are many paths to fortifying communications, navigation, and surveillance satellites from counterspace weapons, but the most resilient design methods integrate cybersecurity-informed engineering across the entire lifecycle of space systems.

Types of Counterspace Weapons

There are four different categories of counterspace weapons outlined in the CSIS Annual Space Threat Assessment. The first is kinetic physical counterspace weapons, such as Russia’s destructive direct-ascent anti-satellite (ASAT) missile test in November 2021; the second is non-kinetic physical like targeting satellites with lasers; the third is electronic-based weapons that can disrupt the transmission of radio frequency signals; and the fourth is cyber counterspace weapons. Focusing on the last category, cyber weapons can target both space satellites and ground-based systems by intercepting and monitoring data, corrupting data with malware, or even wresting control of the space system from the space operator. The war in Ukraine demonstrates how malicious cyber actors can manipulate several points of entry to exploit ground systems and the network equipment necessary to operate space systems.

The Military Dimensions of the Fourth Taiwan Strait Crisis

Bonny Lin: I’m Bonny Lin, director of the China Power Project and senior fellow for Asian security at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Thank you for joining us this morning to discuss what some of us call the fourth Taiwan Strait crisis.

As many of you know, U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s recent visit to Taiwan caused an escalated tension in and around the Taiwan Strait. The Chinese PLA conducted large-scale, unprecedented military actions around the island after her visit. Chinese missile tests splashed down around Taiwan’s territorial waters and a significant number of Chinese naval ships and airplanes have repeatedly passed across the median line in the Taiwan Strait since then, and on a daily basis. So what this panel is trying to do is we’ve gathered together five leading experts on this issue to analyze the military dimensions of China’s response to Speaker Pelosi’s visit. Should we call the military events in August a Taiwan Strait crisis? And what does PLA behavior mean for the future of security in the Taiwan Strait?

So joining me today to shed light on these pressing military issues is our five leading scholars. And I’ll introduce them by their – in alphabetical order.

France in the Indo-Pacific: Expanded Horizons

Hugo Decis

France’s posture in the Indo-Pacific As outlined in the 2021 update to France’s Indo-Pacific Strategy, Paris maintains a significant presence in the Indo-Pacific with almost 5,000 troops, ten naval assets – including four Floréal-class light frigates – and 18 aircraft, plus another 2,000 troops based in Djibouti and in the United Arab Emirates. These are supplemented by periodic deployments of more capable assets from France. Together, this puts Paris at the forefront of the European military presence in the Indian and Pacific oceans, which is perhaps unsurprising given the extent of French territory in the region.

However, France’s footprint remains small compared to the United States’ presence and the growing military capacity of other regional powers. The French forces are overstretched, have limited capabilities, and are growing in obsolescence. France’s largest naval assets based in the region, the Floréal-class light frigates, were commissioned between 1992 and 1994 and are currently without surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) or anti-ship missiles (AShMs). Despite being modern (commissioned between 2016 and 2020), capable and of high endurance, the D’Entrecasteaux-class offshore patrol vessels are armed only with machine-guns. These two classes of ships are the workhorses of France’s naval presence in the Indo-Pacific and are supported by a collection of three patrol crafts, each of which is a different type, but they are essentially unarmed.

Could the US Navy Destroy Attacking Chinese "Carrier-Killer" DF-26 Anti-Ship Missiles?


China’s well known and much discussed “carrier-killer” missiles have been making headlines for many years now, as major weapons threats capable of keeping US Navy carriers from operating close enough to the Chinese coastline for sea-launched aircraft to attack.

DF-26 Missile

There have been numerous Chinese test firings and ominous warnings that these weapons could, in effect, “back off” US carriers by virtue of demonstrating an ability to destroy them. The DF-26 is China's most powerful anti-ship missile. It's 46 feet tall and weighs 44,000 pounds. "

The DF-26 comes with a 'modular design,' meaning that the launch vehicle can accommodate two types of nuclear warheads and several types of conventional warheads," the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. stated.

China’s New H-20 Stealth Bomber Should Make Air Force Generals Sweat

Stavros Atlamazoglou

The Xian H-20 stealth bomber is one of the most ambitious projects of a Chinese military that is seeking to become the regional power in the Indo-Pacific.

Still under development, the Xian H-20 stealth bomber will give the Chinese military an air-delivered nuclear capability in addition to a powerful conventional bomber.

H-20: A Deep Penetration Bomber

All the available evidence—which, to be sure, is limited—suggests that the Chinese military has opted for stealth and deep penetration capabilities rather than speed and agility. Put simply, the Chinese military seems to be preferring an aircraft that will be hard to detect and will have the necessary systems that would allow it to penetrate deep inside the anti-aircraft umbrella of an adversary over an aircraft that will be able to outrun or outmaneuver enemy fighter jets or anti-aircraft missiles.

Russia's internal shadow war intensifies

Janusz Bugajski

The assassination in Moscow of the daughter of an influential Russian imperial ideologue, Alexander Dugin, has confirmed that the Kremlin’s war against Ukraine is rebounding back into Russia. The FSB, Russia’s security service, quickly blamed Ukrainian operatives for the Moscow attack, but this may be aimed at disguising something even more serious for the regime.

There are three potential explanations for the assassination of Darya Dugina, all of which intensify the Kremlin’s domestic crisis: a Ukrainian attack, a growing armed rebellion, or an internal power struggle. Kyiv has denied involvement in the Moscow bombing, even though FSB accusations will elevate respect for the capacities of Ukrainian special forces and raise morale in the country in defiance of Russia. Dugin’s daughter was a propagandist on state television who vehemently supported the murder of Ukrainian civilians and will be seen as a valid target.

The finite army

Pavel Luzin

Following six months of Russia’s war against Ukraine, the Pentagon estimates Russian military casualties at 70−80 thousand, both killed and wounded. In the second half of July 2022, the CIA estimated Russian losses at 15,000 killed and 45,000 wounded. At the time of writing, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces reported that the number of the enemy’s «eliminated personnel» exceeded 43,000. Even if this is the total number of losses without trying to distinguish between the personnel of the Russian Armed Forces, National Guard troops, forcibly mobilised residents of Donetsk and Luhansk regions as well as mercenaries, Russia is dealing with catastrophic losses.

Of course, against the background of the total size of the Russian armed forces, which was estimated at 740,000−780,000 people in 2020 (with 770,000 in 2016 and no evidence of subsequent increases), the catastrophic size of the losses might be challenged. However, the division into kinds and types of troops must be taken into account. The forces mainly involved in the war include the land forces, the airborne forces and marines, and their maximum strength is estimated at 280,000, 45,000 and 35,000, people respectively. Certainly not all of these 360,000 soldiers and officers were assigned for direct participation in combat operations since there are quite a few various auxiliary units.

The economic ties that bind China

Taiwan’s status as a potential trigger point for conflict amid escalating strategic competition between the United States and China has only been confirmed in the wake of Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei. There is risk of miscalculation, mistake and escalation that could have devastating consequences.

China’s flexing its military might over Pelosi’s visit is currently feeding global uncertainty. Even if conflict is avoided, the new status quo will sit uncomfortably with the United States and the West, and tensions will likely worsen.

The United States and China are now engaged in policies of mutual technology ‘decoupling’ as the next phase of their trade war. Japan is enacting economic security laws aimed at China — in part to avoid becoming collateral damage in US decoupling policies. Australia, having been a target of Beijing’s trade coercion, seems to have also chosen to side with America in its futile attempt to diversify trade away from China.

Russia Can’t Let Ukraine Turn Into A Vietnam War 2.0

Robert Kelly

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has bogged down, and the conflict has moved into a stalemate. This means Russia is holding its current conquests in the east and south of Ukraine. It may even formally incorporate them into the Russian state. But it is no longer making major progress. Similarly, Ukraine has stopped losing territory and has even pushed back Russian thrusts in the north and northeast. But it has yet to launch a major counteroffensive. It has not yet retaken any large slice of ground occupied and reinforced by the Russians.

Russia’s initial February thrust into Ukraine was a poorly planned, misshapen catastrophe. Too many invasion routes led to a dispersion of effort, leadership, and logistical support. Russian incursions in the north and northeast of Ukraine were unsustainable. The territories taken in the east and south – in the Donbas region and along the coast – were too fragile and exposed. Russian President Vladimir Putin then concentrated his forces in the east, using Russia’s enormous superiority in artillery to pummel territory before sending infantry to take it. This worked relatively well for a few months, in the spring and early summer. But that, too, petered out, a reality variously attributed to better U.S. artillery help for Ukraine, or to Russia’s high casualties – especially among its best units, which were committed early to the fight. The analytical consensus is that the war is now stalemated.

Europe on Its Own Why the United States Should Want a Better-Armed EU

Max Bergmann

The transatlantic alliance is experiencing a renaissance. The war in Ukraine has drawn Washington’s attention back to Europe in ways not seen since the 1990s, when the United States orchestrated NATO’s eastward expansion and fought two wars in the Balkans. The United States has supported Ukraine with massive quantities of weapons, rallied the West around unprecedented economic sanctions against Moscow, and bolstered NATO through additional force deployments. It is hard to think of a time in the last generation when transatlantic relations were stronger.

Yet the Biden administration’s engagement with Europe is ultimately unsustainable. Russia and the war in Ukraine will no doubt remain a significant focus of the United States in the months and years to come. But even though U.S. support for Ukraine is unlikely to waver, there is no way Washington will be able to maintain the current level of diplomatic engagement, force deployments, and resourcing to Europe over the longer term. The pivot to Asia has not ended. The risk of conflict in Asia, where China may attack Taiwan, could abruptly reshuffle U.S. priorities. China’s continued rise will pull U.S. attention back to the Pacific. Washington will likely find it impossible to balance the demands of its allies in Europe and Asia while maintaining the force presence necessary to deter Russia and China. The United States is overstretched.

The Permanence of War and Peace

George Friedman

Last week my friend and colleague, Jacek Bartosiak, wrote a piece for GPF titled “The Scalable World War Ahead,” in which he warned that the world is descending into the abyss of near-global war. The most important argument he made was that there was a new dynamic in the world in which wars will grow as a cancer, with cells dividing until the world is fully consumed.

I disagree with what I will call the theory of war as metastasis generally, and particularly in our time. Wars occur between nation-states, rising from the particular interests of each nation-state. In general, wars originate from fear or greed. A nation calculates that the threat from another nation is best met by preemptive action. This occurs in the particular circumstance in which a nation fears what another nation will become, and risks war on the assumption that going to war will prevent the rise of another nation. The fear could be of the not-yet-harnessed power of the opponent or the possibility of the power of an ally. War can also arise from greed, or the desire to acquire something of strategic value from another nation – in which case the calculation of power assigns a probability of success on the nation initiating the war.

Back to a Backwater: Why Afghanistan Matters Little to the West

Gil Barndollar

One year after the stunningly swift collapse of its government and the return of the Taliban, Afghanistan has faded to the edge of world attention. Despite a crippled economy, massive food insecurity, an earthquake, and an ongoing insurgency by the Islamic State-Khorasan Province (ISIS-K), the West isn’t interested. With only slightly less speed than the Taliban’s 2021 return to power, Afghanistan has plummeted down the list of Western security concerns.

The United States entered Afghanistan to disrupt and decimate Al Qaeda, and to teach its Taliban backers a lesson. Despite an intermittent, unserious, and wholly quixotic attempt to apply flawed Western counterinsurgency doctrine to Afghanistan, counterterrorism was always the overriding U.S. interest in the country. As maximalist U.S. aims of a united, democratic, peaceful Afghanistan slowly proved unattainable, it was counterterrorism—really, the fear of a successful attack on U.S. soil under the watch of a president who had had the resolve to order a final withdrawal—that kept an American military presence in Afghanistan.

Brief #123: Beijing’s Tech Crackdown: Logic and Prospects

Beijing’s crackdown on internet technology firms has led to much speculation about the prospects of China’s digital economy. Episodes such as the brief disappearance from public view of Jack Ma, the former executive chairman of Alibaba, and the security review of Didi by Chinese authorities following the ride-hailing giant’s listing on the New York Stock Exchange, have been portrayed in foreign media reporting as an inflexion point marking a decline in the global presence of Chinese digital technology actors.

In fact, the crackdown has been restricted in the scope of both its targets and the measures involved. These measures have primarily targeted internet-based services firms rather than hardware providers. They have also concentrated on the largest firms in the industry (Alibaba, Didi, etc.), which control the personal information of millions of Chinese citizens and have quasi-monopolistic market positions. This approach is consistent with the emphasis under Xi Jinping on integrating the digital with the real economy and making the private sector serve the Party-state’s development goals in line with the ‘common prosperity’ vision of more equitable wealth distribution across Chinese society.

The chip shortage has suddenly morphed into a glut

Dan McCarthy

The semiconductor market continues to be, in a word, thorny. The industry is now reportedly bracing for a downturn due to an oversupply of chips—aka the exact opposite of the challenge it’s dealt with for the last few years.
Christopher Danely, an analyst at Citigroup, told Bloomberg he expects the coming semiconductor downturn to be “the worst in at least a decade, and possibly two.”

That would be a huge reversal in fortune for chipmakers: Global semiconductor revenue and units shipped both surged to record-highs last year. Meanwhile, Gartner recently slashed its growth projection for this year from 13% to 7%, the Financial Times reported, and now expects that semiconductor sales will shrink 2.5% in 2023.

Takshashila Issue Brief - India’s Options as China-Taiwan Tensions Rise

After several days of speculation, U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi finally landed in Taiwan on Tuesday, August 2, 2022. The most senior U.S. politician to visit in 25 years, she met Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and reaffirmed unequivocally that the U.S. will not abandon its commitment to Taiwan. China termed Pelosi’s visit a provocation challenging international order and its Foreign Minister Wang Yi stated that “those who play with fire will perish by it and those who offend China will be punished.”

China then proceeded to impose certain economic sanctions on Taiwan and conducted live-fire military drills in six exclusion zones encircling Taiwan over the next few days (including over Taiwan territorial waters and Taiwan Strait). Taiwan labelled China’s actions tantamount to an economic blockade.

In the past week, a delegation of US legislators led by US Senator Ed Markey visited Taiwan and met officials. China again termed the action provocative and announced further military drills in areas surrounding Taiwan. Chinese warplanes have regularly flown past and Chinese naval ships have intruded across the Taiwan Strait.

Drought roiling China’s already evaporating economy


China’s southwestern Sichuan province has extended its factory shutdowns to Thursday due to a one-month-long heatwave and drought, marking the latest big global supply chain disruption to emanate from the crisis-hit country.

Foreign manufacturers including Apple and Toyota as well as Chinese solar power product cell makers had originally planned to resume production on Sunday after their six-day shutdowns ended on Saturday. However, the provincial government on Sunday released a Level 1 emergency response due to the extreme weather and ordered factories to stop work.

About 16,500 companies in Sichuan have reportedly been affected by the power shortage after reservoirs' water levels dropped and halved the province’s hydropower output.

US in denial of a hypersonic gap with China, Russia


As China and Russia make new advances in hypersonic weapons technology, the US is increasingly focused on developing counter-hypersonic technologies to address the emerging threat.

In a US Department of Defense (DOD) press interview last week, US Deputy Secretary Kathleen Hicks rejected the notion that the US is falling behind in the development and fielding of hypersonic weapons.

She also stated that looking at emerging hypersonic weapons technologies from China, Russia and the US as an arms race can be misleading.

A Russian soldier’s journal: ‘I will not participate in this madness’

Mary Ilyushina

RIGA, Latvia — Russian paratrooper Pavel Filatyev spent more than a month fighting in Ukraine after his poorly equipped unit was ordered to march from its base in Crimea for what commanders called a routine exercise.

In early April, the 34-year-old Filatyev was evacuated after being wounded. Over the next five weeks, deeply troubled by the devastation caused by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s bloody invasion, he wrote down his recollections in hopes that telling his country the truth about the war could help stop it.

His damning 141-page journal, posted this month on Vkontakte, Russia’s equivalent of Facebook, is the most detailed day-by-day account to date of the attacks on Kherson and Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine as seen through the eyes of a Russian soldier.

Six months after Russia invaded Ukraine, the world is on a knife edge

Ishaan Tharoor

This week marks six months since the start of Russia’s latest invasion of Ukraine. The resulting war has dominated international headlines, disrupted global supply chains and galvanized a new spirit of solidarity in the West. For many Europeans, the moment marked a “turning point in history” — as German Chancellor Olaf Scholz declared in the early weeks of the conflict.

The stark moral dimensions of the war — the brazen, destructive Russian advance and the courageous Ukrainian response — led to the scales falling off the eyes of European elites who had sought peaceful accommodation with Russia. What was unleashed was on a scale not seen in the heart of Europe in decades. As the New Statesman’s Jeremy Cliffe wrote, it definitively ended, “the easy optimism of the immediate post-Cold War years.” But, he added, even as we drift “towards something new,” its contours are “still hazy.”

The fog of war is still thick over Ukraine. Beyond the country’s trench-strewn landscapes and blockaded, battered coastal cities, a clash of ideologies and even visions of history is still playing out. In their refusal to bow to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s neo-imperialistic ambitions, Ukrainians see themselves on the front line of a global war between democracy and autocracy. That’s a vision echoed by their backers in the West, including President Biden himself, who declared in March that Ukraine was waging a “great battle for freedom … between liberty and repression, between a rules-based order and one governed by brute force.”

India has a stake in Taiwan's defense

Brahma Chellaney

Brahma Chellaney is professor emeritus of strategic studies at the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi and a former adviser to India's National Security Council. He is the author of nine books, including "Water: Asia's New Battleground."

Chinese military drills are rarely empty shows of force.

In 2020, China's unusually large winter exercises on the Tibetan Plateau became the launchpad for stealthy land grabs in the northernmost Indian territory of Ladakh. This triggered a military standoff between the two Asian giants at multiple sites across a long and inhospitable stretch of the Himalayas, leading to deadly clashes and China's first combat casualties since its 1979 invasion of Vietnam.

This month's live-fire military drills around Taiwan, which effectively simulated an air and sea blockade, demonstrated China's combat capability to accomplish President Xi Jinping's "historic mission" of absorbing the island democracy.

Who’s Winning the Sanctions War?

Bruce W. Jentleson

Your economy will face “devasting” consequences, U.S. President Joe Biden warned Russian President Vladimir Putin about the sanctions the United States and its allies would impose if Russia invaded Ukraine. When Putin invaded Ukraine anyway, the sanctions did hit hard. Yet Putin hasn’t withdrawn. And he’s jiujitsu-ed with Russia’s own countersanctions. Close to six months in and now into its third phase—first deterrence, then compellence, now attrition—who’s winning the sanctions war?

The first phase, sanctions as a major element of deterrence, did not succeed. Putin’s Greater Rossiya vision and belief that victory was at close hand—recall that Russian soldiers carried dress parade uniforms in their packs—may have made him undeterrable. But even if he were not fully set to invade, we know from other cases that while threats of sanctions have had some success for limited policy change objectives, they have not been able to deter a determined aggressor from going to war. Not former Italian dictator Benito Mussolini from invading Ethiopia-Abyssinia in 1935, not former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein from invading Kuwait in 1990, and not the Soviet Union from invading Afghanistan in 1979.

China's Belt and Road is facing challenges. But can the US counter it?

Simone McCarthy

Hong Kong (CNN)As US President Joe Biden and top American officials traveled the world this summer, promoting a pledge of hundreds of billions of dollars for poorer countries, a largely unspoken motivation loomed in the background: competition with China.
For nearly a decade, Beijing's sprawling overseas development initiative, known as the Belt and Road, has poured billions of dollars into infrastructure projects each year -- paving highways from Papua New Guinea to Kenya, constructing ports from Sri Lanka to West Africa, and providing power and telecoms infrastructure for people from Latin America to Southeast Asia.

Washington now appears keen to bolster its own role in global infrastructure development as it intensifies its competition with China across the globe.

In June, Biden and leaders from the Group of Seven advanced economies promised to unleash $600 billion in investment -- $200 billion of that from the US alone -- by 2027 to "deliver game-changing projects to close the infrastructure gap" between countries.

This month, US Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman visited the South Pacific, promoting a new partnership to bolster support for island nations, while US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced a plan aimed at Africa.

"We've seen the consequences when international infrastructure deals are corrupt and coercive, when they're poorly built or environmentally destructive, when they import or abuse workers, or burden countries with crushing debts," Blinken said during a visit to Pretoria, where he revealed the White House's new "Sub-Saharan Africa Strategy."

"That's why it's so important for countries to have choices, to be able to weigh them transparently, with the input of local communities without pressure or coercion," he said in an apparent reference to common criticisms of Chinese-funded projects.

The challenge from the United States comes at a precarious time for China's Belt and Road. Even as the initiative has had an impact on a number of countries, funding shortfalls and political pushback have stalled certain projects, and there is public concern in some countries over issues like excess debt and China's influence. Accusations that Belt and Road is a broad "debt trap" designed to take control of local infrastructure, while largely dismissed by economists, have sullied the initiative's reputation.

Economic challenges at home and a changing financial environment globally also have the potential to impact how China's lenders and policymakers deploy funds, analysts say.

All this may create an opportunity for Washington to step forward and work with willing partners in need of financing. But major questions hang over the extent to which the US can deliver, both in terms of mobilizing billions and driving infrastructure -- areas in which China has long excelled.

Boom or bust?

Since its official launch in 2013, early in the first term of Chinese leader Xi Jinping, funds under the initiative have powered the construction of bridges, ports, highways, energy and telecoms projects across Asia, Latin America, Africa and parts of Europe.

To do this, China has relied on lending, with capital often coming not only from its development banks but state-run commercial lenders -- a stark difference to the American model that's been largely based on official aid.

On average, during the first five years of the initiative from 2013 to 2017, China spent about $85 billion financing overseas development projects per year, more than twice as much as any other major economy, AidData, a research lab at William & Mary in the US, which tracks this spending from Chinese government institutions and state-owned entities, said in a 2021 report.

And while funding has been welcomed by countries around the world, it has also come with problems.

"We find that 35% of (Belt and Road) projects are suffering from some sort of implementation challenge," said research scientist Ammar A. Malik, who heads AidData's Chinese Development Finance Program. He said those issues include environmental incidents, corruption scandals and labor violations, and the 35% figure refers specifically to projects implemented solely by a Chinese entity.

AidData has also reported on what it terms "hidden debts," referring to cases where the recipients of Chinese loans are entities like private or project companies, not governments themselves, but the terms of the loan require the host government to guarantee it. This can ultimately pass liability to them for repayment if the borrowers fall short, the researchers say.
China has pushed back on assertions of risky lending or environmental issues in its projects, pointing to its "green" initiatives and saying "such allegations do not reflect the whole picture."

Uganda's Chinese-funded Karuma hydropower plant, pictured here in 2020, remains under construction after set-backs due to Covid-19.

Another question concerns the direction of the initiative, especially as China's own economy flags amid a mortgage crisis and Covid-19 lockdowns, while many developing countries are struggling with rising debt and inflation -- making lending a potentially riskier proposition.

Beijing has said it remains dedicated to the initiative, with its top diplomat Yang Jiechi at a trade forum on August 14 calling for Belt and Road to "promote the early recovery and growth of the global economy."

But while tracking investments across a wide range of players, and without a central, public Belt and Road data source, is difficult work, there are signs that China's efforts, especially big-ticket projects, have been slowing in recent years and since the pandemic.

For example, according to data from the Boston University Global Development Policy Centre, Chinese loans to Africa dropped 77% from $8.2 billion to $1.9 billion from 2019 to 2020.

"Potential reasons for this decrease include the Covid-19 pandemic's deterioration of economic conditions in host countries and a lack of host country demand due to fiscal constraints and debt issues. Limited travel and suspension of several (Belt and Road) projects may have also contributed to preventing financial deal closing," said data analyst Oyintarelado Moses of the center's Global China Initiative.

"Before the pandemic, Chinese policy bank finance was already on the decline. The pandemic appears to have accelerated this trend," she said, adding Chinese institutions would now "take stock" of their strategies.

More time may be needed to observe whether Belt and Road infrastructure financing has peaked, and to assess the performance of the initiative overall, others say.

"The (initiative) is not even a decade old yet. Labeling it a failure because of delayed or distressed projects would be premature and simplistic, as would deeming it a success for Chinese global influence," said Austin Strange, an assistant professor of international relations at the University of Hong Kong.

Build Back Better?

The US is already the world's top donor of aid for developing countries. But whether it can mobilize its private sector and a recently revamped development finance arm, known as the US International Development Finance Corporation, to rival China as an infrastructure financier is another question.

The G7 initiative, originally announced in 2021 under the name Build Back Better World, has gotten off to a slow start, analysts say. The leaders only formally launched the initiative -- now called the Partnership for Global Infrastructure and Investment -- in Germany this summer.
In addition to the US pledge of $200 billion from grants, federal financing, and private sector investments, the White House promised the project would "demonstrate how millions of dollars can mobilize tens or hundreds of millions in further investments and tens or hundreds of millions can mobilize billions."

But unlike Beijing's model, where state-run entities play a key role, the US has no such ability to determine the size and scope of investments made by its private sector, analysts say.

The US also doesn't have the same kind of domestic dynamics, such as excess capacity in the industrial sector, which made the Belt and Road an ideal outlet for the Chinese economy and enabled it to launch projects quickly.

"This is not the first time that expectation has been built, but it's going to be quite challenging to get private companies to finance (projects) because at the end of the day, they're accountable to their shareholders and they want projects that are bankable," said AidData's Malik.

But while US private companies will be looking to return a profit, the plan does have the potential to open up opportunity for the US and partners in developing countries, particularly in certain sectors, analysts say.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken listens as Rwanda's Minister of Foreign Affairs Vincent Biruta speaks during a news conference in Kigali, Rwanda on August 11.

One reason is that US appears poised not to compete with China on the kinds of signature big-ticket items like bridges and railroads its known for, or to seek to push countries to choose it or China -- a choice few would likely be willing to make.

Instead, it could use its own model of public-private finance and focus on areas where it may have competitive advantages, analysts say, with Biden laying out energy security and climate resilience, information and communications technology projects, as well as infrastructure that promotes gender equality and strengthens health care systems, as areas of focus.

However, the US and its partners will need to do more than in the past to become "strong alternative sources of investment" chosen by partner governments over China, according to Moses at Boston University, who added US strengths in regulatory standards, transparency and environmental or social safeguards could appeal to some partners.

The US may also need to face perceptions that it retreated from Africa after the end of the Cold War, only to return when there is another great power rivalry at play, according to Christopher Isike, director of the African Center for the Study of the United States at South Africa's University of Pretoria.

"When these initiatives come, like (the US' new "Sub-Saharan Africa Strategy") people are skeptical," he said.

However, governments on the continent would welcome more sources of funding to meet shortfalls, and there is a perception that the US is more transparent and has an advantage when it comes to soft power, according to Isike.

As that great power competition returns to Africa, the question, he said, should not be whether or how countries would choose between the US or China, but if African governments "would be ready to leverage the benefits of having this kind of contest."

Dugin Assassination Plot: Here’s What We Know Thanks To A Source

Jack Buckby

The daughter of Professor Alexander Dugin, the nationalist philosopher known as Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spiritual adviser, was killed by a car bomb on the outskirts of Moscow over the weekend. Russian authorities confirmed the death of Darya Dugina on Sunday and revealed that her death was being treated as a homicide.

According to the Russian Investigative Committee, the explosion was planned and the detonation ordered by anti-Kremlin actors. Authorities said that they took into account evidence obtained from the blast as well as other intelligence gathered by the authorities.

“Taking into account the data already obtained, the investigation believes that the crime was pre-planned and was of an ordered nature,” a statement revealed on Sunday.

Dugin’s Toyota Land Cruiser was fitted with an explosive device which was detonated as she traveled on a public road at around 9pm local time on Saturday, according to Russia’s TASS news agency.

Taliban Appoints Former Guantanamo Bay Detainee to Lead Fight in Panjshir


The Taliban named Mullah Abdul Qayyum Zakir as its military commander in the restive central Afghan province of Panjshir. Zakir, who was held at the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility for six years, is considered to be one of the Taliban’s most effective and dangerous military commanders.

Zakir’s appointment to lead the fight against the National Resistance Front (NRF) in Panjshir and the district of Andarab in the neighboring province of Baghlan was announced on Aug. 21 by Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid.

The Taliban’s naming of Zakir to combat the National Resistance Front, which is led by Ahmad Massoud, is a clear indication that the NRF is challenging the Taliban’s primacy in central and northern Afghanistan. FDD’s Long War Journal has compiled information on the fighting, and assesses seven districts as contested (four in Panjshir, two in Baghlan, and one in Takhar) and 14 more as having significant guerrilla activity.

Analysis: Thirty hour long hotel siege emblematic of Somalia’s remaining security challenges


On Friday, Shabaab, al Qaeda’s branch in East Africa, launched a coordinated suicide assault on the Hayat Hotel in Somalia’s capital of Mogadishu. Almost 30 hours later it was ended by Somali security forces, constituting the longest hotel siege in the jihadist group’s history. More worrying, however, is that the assault acts a deadly symbol for Mogadishu’s continued lack of security.

Somali outlets have reported that at least 21 people were killed in the siege, though this number is expected to rise. It is also unclear if this number includes security personnel or just civilians. At least 117 other people were wounded in the long assault.

Local sources and Shabaab itself reported on Friday that the group began the assault on the Hayat Hotel, a popular hotel with Somalia’s security establishment, with two suicide car bombs before an assault team breached the perimeter and entered the hotel. This modus operandi of a suicide assault is a common tactic used by Shabaab, as well as other jihadist groups around the globe.

The Easy Way To Reset Saudi Ties: Sanction The Houthis Again

Matthew Zweig and Jonathan Schanzer

President Biden’s travel to Saudi Arabia last month yielded little improvement in the relationship between the Biden administration and the Saudi government under Crown Prince Muhammed Bin Salman. Distrust lingers. Yet, the Biden administration could take a unilateral step that would not only help mend the rift between the US and Saudi Arabia, but correct a foreign policy mistake: redesignate the Yemeni Houthi organization, also known as Ansar Allah, for terrorism sanctions.

Admittedly, U.S. policy is not the only thing that needs correcting. The Saudis have their own sins for which they must atone. The country’s human rights record is still not where it should be. And Riyadh has yet to fully account for the 2018 murder of Jamal Khashoggi. But if Washington is serious about a reset with Saudi Arabia, motivated by a need to get more oil on the market or a desire to counter China’s regional ambitions, taking action against the Houthis is the best bet.

China’s Growing Water Crisis

Gabriel Collins and Gopal Reddy

China is on the brink of a water catastrophe. A multiyear drought could push the country into an outright water crisis. Such an outcome would not only have a significant effect on China’s grain and electricity production; it could also induce global food and industrial materials shortages on a far greater scale than those wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine. Given the country’s overriding importance to the global economy, potential water-driven disruptions beginning in China would rapidly reverberate through food, energy, and materials markets around the world and create economic and political turbulence for years to come.

Unlike other commodities, water does not have any viable substitutes. It is essential for growing food, generating energy, and sustaining humanity. For China, water has also been crucial to the country’s rapid development: currently, China consumes ten billion barrels of water per day—about 700 times its daily oil consumption. Four decades of explosive economic growth, combined with food security policies that aim at national self-sufficiency, have pushed northern China’s water system beyond a sustainable level, and they threaten to do the same in parts of southern China as well. As of 2020, the per capita available water supply around the North China Plain was 253 cubic meters or nearly 50 percent below the UN definition of acute water scarcity. Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, and other major cities are at similar—or lower—levels. So scarce are Hong Kong’s freshwater resources that the city has for decades used seawater to flush toilets. For reference, as of 2019, even severely water-stressed Egypt had per capita freshwater resources of 570 cubic meters per capita, and it does not have to support a large manufacturing base like China’s.


Benjamin Fogel and Andro Mathewson

Hours after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began in February, Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense appealed for civilian drone owners to donate or fly their commercially bought drones to help defend Kyiv. Donations poured in and consumer unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) took to the skies amid Russia’s advance. Throughout the war, commercial UAVs have been used by Ukrainian regular and special operations forces, Belarusian partisans, Russian infantry, and Russian-led separatists; they demonstrate the challenges, opportunities, and threats emerging from the proliferation of consumer drones. The most common are small, light, and inexpensive rotary-wing quadcopters produced by the Chinese drone maker DJI.

Commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) and homemade drones can offer low-cost and low-risk intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities and are commonly used for target acquisition and for directing artillery or mortar fire. These drones can also be converted into delivery vehicles for improvised explosive devices (IEDs), capable of precision impacts and profound psychological effects. Shortly into the conflict, videos emerged of Ukrainian forces dropping munitions on Russian targets from commercial UAVs, including one popular example where a bomblet was dropped through the sunroof of a Russian vehicle. These aerial attacks employed modernized RKG-3 antitank grenades and VOG-17 fragmentation grenades and successfully targeted and destroyed mechanized and infantry forces.