28 August 2022

The Ukraine war has made Iran and Russia allies in economic isolation. Here’s how.

Alam Saleh and Zakiyeh Yazdanshenas

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has turned the country into a heavily-ostracized state and opened new opportunities for Iran to build closer relations with the major global power.

The United States, European Union, and the Group of Seven (G7) have imposed severe sanctions on Russia. These punitive multilateral sanctions have put Russia in a situation that is familiar to Iran, which has ample experience circumventing their damaging effects.

From the outset of the war, Iran declared the invasion a legitimate Russian response to security concerns over actions by the United States and NATO. The new administration of Ebrahim Raisi admires Russia’s action-oriented foreign policy. Iranian officials have also grown weary of exerting strategic patience and have become more assertive in light of the long-lasting animosity between Iran and the United States, coupled with the failure of the 2015 nuclear deal to reintegrate Iran into the international community.

On July 22, Ali Akbar Velayati, a veteran foreign policy adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, stated that, instead of appeasing the West, Tehran should turn to Russia for support and strategic support alignment. Russia, Velayati remarked, has a strong track record of backing the Islamic Republic..

Chinese discourse power: Ambitions and reality in the digital domain

Kenton Thibaut

Executive Summary

As China’s military and economic power has grown, so has its ambition to shape global norms to suit its priorities. China believes that the United States currently dominates the international system, and sees growing Western opposition to China as evidence that the current order is now a threat to the continued security of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). China’s leadership has come to see its ability to reshape the international order—or, at least, to decenter US power within it—as essential to the party’s future.

China’s leaders have clearly articulated that they believe that Western countries, and especially the United States, have been able to exert global dominance because they possess what China terms “discourse power” (话语权): a type of narrative agenda-setting ability focused on reshaping global governance, values, and norms to legitimize and facilitate the expression of state power.

The Li vs Xi silly season Business & Technology

Dexter Tiff Roberts

When Premier Lǐ Kèqiáng 李克强, visiting Shenzhen in Guangdong last week, laid a wreath at the foot of a statue of Dèng Xiǎopíng 邓小平 and pledged to continue the paramount leader’s “Reform and Opening” policy, he unleashed a flurry of rumors that he might be challenging the “Politics in Command” form of state capitalism favored by Xí Jìnpíng 习近平, and by extension challenging Xi and his future running of China too.

Speaking to local officials, the 67-year-old Li, trained as an economist, waxed poetic, saying, “the Yellow River and Yangtze River will not flow backwards,” widely interpreted to mean that despite recent setbacks for market reform, like the Xi-directed crackdown on China’s top private technology companies, China would inevitably right its course and once again continue on a path of economic integration with the West.

The Reign of the Rajapaksas Ends, Again

Jeff M. Smith

It was rather remarkable: In the 21st century, no Asian country had defaulted on its sovereign debt. Until now.

Sri Lanka, a small island nation off India’s southern coast straddling the region’s crucial waterways, has been embroiled in an economic and political crisis for the past several months. It reached a crescendo in July, when street protests forced the resignation and hasty departure of President Gotabaya Rajapaksa.

The crisis arose from numerous problems. Among those highlighted by Akhil Bery of the Asia Society Policy Institute are: spiraling debt obligations; protectionist trade policies; runaway budget and trade deficits; unsound vanity infrastructure projects; nepotism and corruption; waning tax revenues; surging inflation; commodity price spikes; and a crippling blow to vital tourism and remittances revenues because of COVID-19.

How the war in Ukraine is reshaping the dark web

Zoë Grünewald

Before Adam Darrah spent his days scouring the internet for security breaches, the director of dark ops at ZeroFox, a cyber firm specialising in the dark web, was a US government employee. The work, he explains, involved a fair amount of speaking Russian and conducting “Russian analysis”.

His move to dark web surveillance made sense, then, because the “kings and queens” of the dark web are Russian speakers, according to Darrah. “Nobody rules the dark web like the Russian-speaking world,” he says.

The dark web – a group of websites only accessible via special routing software, usually Tor – has a bad reputation. The phrase has long been synonymous with a brisk illegal trade in pornography, weapons and drugs, and an ecosystem of hackers and illegal data dumps.

The Mineral Conflict Is Here

In the aftermath of the humiliating Yom Kippur War, the Arab nations decided the time was finally right to deploy its most powerful weapon: oil. In 1973, Saudi Arabia had just replaced the U.S. as the world’s oil producer of last resort, which meant that even at 100% production capacity, the U.S. would be powerless to replace Saudi Arabian supply in the event it was cut off. OPEC announced an oil embargo on supporters of Israel in the October of that year, and the energy world would never be the same again.

The ensuing shortages and rationing led Western nations, especially the U.S., to ramp up production. President Richard Nixon launched Project Independence, an initiative that called for the United States to achieve energy independence by developing alternative energy sources and building 1,000 nuclear power plants. The initiative failed as fears surrounding nuclear energy grew and renewable energy technology of the time proved inefficient. However, it led to the creation of the Department of Energy and funding the research that was essential to developing our modern renewable energy systems. Its fruits include electric vehicle batteries and the fracking technology that enabled the U.S. to beat OPEC, helping it reclaim its crown as the world's largest producer of oil and gas. Today, the US accounts for 20 percent of global output and is a net exporter. Oil is a valuable weapon that can backfire on those who use it.

The Dark Side of Congo’s Cobalt Rush

Nicolas Niarchos

In June, 2014, a man began digging into the soft red earth in the back yard of his house, on the outskirts of Kolwezi, a city in the southern Democratic Republic of the Congo. As the man later told neighbors, he had intended to create a pit for a new toilet. About eight feet into the soil, his shovel hit a slab of gray rock that was streaked with black and punctuated with what looked like blobs of bright-turquoise mold. He had struck a seam of heterogenite, an ore that can be refined into cobalt, one of the elements used in lithium-ion batteries. Among other things, cobalt keeps the batteries, which power everything from cell phones to electric cars, from catching fire. As global demand for lithium-ion batteries has grown, so has the price of cobalt. The man suspected that his discovery would make him wealthy—if he could get it out of the ground before others did.

Southern Congo sits atop an estimated 3.4 million metric tons of cobalt, almost half the world’s known supply. Hundreds of thousands of Congolese have moved to the formerly remote area in recent decades. Kolwezi now has more than half a million residents. Many Congolese have taken jobs at industrial mines in the region; others have become “artisanal diggers,” or creuseurs. Some creuseurs secure permits to work freelance at officially licensed pits, but many more sneak onto the sites at night or dig their own holes and tunnels, risking cave-ins and other dangers in pursuit of buried treasure.

Shanghai Shelf Life

Mimi Jiang

‘Can you pay cash?’ the chef asked. It was a bizarre request: Shanghai abandoned paper money years ago. ‘My neighbours reported me for hosting private dinners at home. It’s better that you pay cash so there will be no proof of a commercial transaction. And if anyone asks, just say you have come to celebrate my mother’s birthday. Tiptoe upstairs if you can.’ I wasn’t going to disagree. I told my fellow foodies and went to the bank to withdraw some old-school notes, wondering how many birthdays the chef’s mother has had recently. Before the dinner, everyone took a PCR test to show the doorman at the apartment block. You also can’t use public transport without a negative test result. They’re valid for 72 hours: people joke that a Shanghainese’s ‘shelf life’ is shorter than that of a loaf of bread.

After more than ten weeks (some endured twelve) of strictest lockdown, Shanghai’s residents were finally let out again last month, one district at a time. The streets were a bleak sight in early June. On my first day out, I walked for almost three hours to find an open café. The owner talked about all the paperwork he’d had to submit to different ministries to get an ‘essential food and drink supplier’ permit. In the empty street the wild grass was thriving. It wasn’t the only thing that was overgrown. Walking round the silent city, I occasionally saw a barber trimming a caveman's long beard and hair out in the road. Manicurists and masseurs tried to do the same but were driven away by police. ‘Have you no shame?’ one was asked. ‘Cutting nails and rubbing feet in the street? This is not an essential job, go away immediately or else you’ll be fined!’ The girl grumbled and signalled to the customer to come back when the officer had gone.

Six months into the war in Ukraine, Russian media has a new message: ‘Either we win or World War III begins’

Stanislav Kucher

The other day a friend from Nizhny Novgorod, one of Russia’s largest and most modern cities, sent me a video of a theatrical production called “The Dulles Plan,” performed by the experimental theater “NEXT.” Here were actors in their 20s — the generation born in a free Russia, after the Soviet era and before Putin took office — taking to the stage for a 90-minute rant about the degradation and moral decay of the West. The Dulles Plan — named for the U.S. spymaster Allen Dulles — was a long-ago-debunked conspiracy theory suggesting that the U.S. and its allies had a plan to undermine the values of the Soviet Union, and then Russia. The not-so-subtle current message: This is what the west is doing today, to modern Russia.

The play is one bizarre example of a clear shift in Russian narratives about the war in Ukraine. Six months ago, Vladimir Putin’s case for war — or for the “special military operation,” as he called it — rested on a few basic arguments: It was necessary to “denazify” Ukraine, to remove the “criminals” ruling the country, and to rescue the Russian-speaking citizens of the Donbas, in eastern Ukraine, who had been allegedly subjected to “genocide.”

Why Crimea matters: Ukrainian attacks are frightening Russian tourists and forcing Russia’s army to change tactics

Joshua Keating

At least two things were striking about one of the first videos that emerged of an attack on Russia’s Saki Air Base in Crimea on Aug. 9. One was the size of the mushroom cloud in the background. The other was the sight of clearly alarmed Russian tourists in bathing suits and beach wraps scattering from their cabanas. The first attests to Ukraine’s demonstrated ability to strike targets deep behind Russian lines. The second shows the degree to which Crimea — the peninsula that Russia annexed in 2014 — has been cut off from the war raging just a few miles away, and the sense of calm and security that has prevailed there.

That calm has now been shattered. It started in a relatively small way last month, when a Ukrainian drone flew into the courtyard of the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s headquarters in the Crimean city of Sevastopol, injuring five people and forcing the cancellation of Navy Day celebrations. Russian beachgoers might have kept to their routines.

Army’s Next Helicopters Are Still a Ways Off—But Their Digital Links Are Already Changing the Battle


The U.S. Army’s next big leap in aviation will be as much about moving bits as rotor blades, said Maj. Gen. Walter Rugen, who directs the service’s Future Vertical Lift Program.

“The Analog Age will not give us the decisive transformational capabilities we need on the future battlefield for the future force,” Rugen said Wednesday at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event on the future of Army vertical lift.

So the FVL program focuses on four development lines: an attack reconnaissance aircraft, a long-range assault aircraft to replace the Black Hawk, unmanned systems, and a modular open-system approach.

While many of the FVL efforts are classified, this last line of effort—to develop digital modules that are widely compatible across an open system—has already been used in field experiments. And it’s “changing the game,” Rugen said.

Why Europe’s Electricity Prices Are Soaring

Stanley Reed

Energy traders in Europe are witnessing price increases that are hard to fathom. Natural gas, which is used to generate electricity and heat, now costs about 10 times more than it did a year ago. Electricity prices, tied to the price of gas, are also several times higher than what used to be considered normal.

As Russia tightens the screws on flows of gas, the energy markets are locked in a relentless upward climb. This week, benchmark European natural gas prices hit a series of records after Gazprom, the Russian gas giant, said it would temporarily shut a key pipeline to Germany at the end of August — a move that has further stoked market fears.

Electricity prices have been extremely volatile. In Britain, the wholesale price of a megawatt-hour of electricity (enough to supply about 2,000 homes for an hour) hit a record daily average of about 500 pounds, or $590, early this week, roughly five times the level of last August, according to Rajiv Gogna, a partner at LCP, a consulting firm.

‘We Need to Own the Heat The Way We Now Own Night,’ Pentagon Climate Leader Says

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The Pentagon's climate-adaptation chief said Friday that future U.S. troops deploy to environments several degrees hotter than today’s hottest places, they’ll need special gear to help them train and operate. And if the U.S. military can figure out how to operate in extreme heat, it could give them an advantage similar to the advent of night vision.

“If you go back 30, 40 years, we were concerned that we couldn't operate at night, and there was a significant investment in night vision. Now the United States military can operate day and night, all our assets,” said Richard Kidd, the deputy assistant defense secretary for environment and energy resilience. “We have a tremendous advantage in the fact that we're able to do that. Looking forward to a hotter world, we need to be able to operate in all temperatures. We need to be able to own the heat the same way that we now own night.”

Kidd, who spoke to Defense One in an interview that will air on Aug. 25 as part of the Defense One Climate Summit, has been warning that extreme heat is already beginning to affect military readiness.

‘No Dumb Questions’: Why is Taiwan so important to China?

Lili Pike, Tom Nagorski and Jake Garcia

For decades, Taiwan has loomed as a geopolitical flashpoint, a regular on the list of top national security concerns for the United States, though the prospects of actual conflict with China over Taiwan have always seemed highly unlikely. China has never renounced its claim over Taiwan, never dropped “reunification” from its long-term planning, and the U.S. has walked a fine line — acknowledgment (but not support) of Beijing’s view that there is only one China; a commitment to be prepared to defend Taiwan, without a pledge to do so. Year in and year out, think tanks and policymakers have gamed out war scenarios, but there have always been actual wars or other global tensions that felt far more immediate.

Lately, however, the calculus has shifted. And the prospect of conflict in Taiwan has moved from the back burner to a very real concern, one that increasingly worries policymakers, businesspeople and of course residents of mainland China and Taiwan themselves. Driving the shift are regular threats and military exercises from China and heightened U.S.-China tensions — most recently the visit to Taiwan of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). The war in Ukraine may be playing a role. Whatever the causes, one consequence is that more people are asking a fundamental question: Why is Taiwan so important to China?

Ukraine’s Strikes Are Setting the Stage for a Rough Russian Winter


Many have speculated that recent strikes on Russian bases in Crimea are the start of a much-anticipated Ukrainian counter-offensive aimed at regaining territory lost since the February invasion. But experts say the attacks are more likely a bid to prevent Russian forces from resupplying or further advancing.

A series of Aug. 9 explosions at Saki Air Base and Aug. 20 strikes on the Russian Navy’s Sevastopol homeport seemed to mark a new phase of the conflict as Russian forces re-oriented to focus on the Donbas and southern Ukraine. “Ukraine’s long-awaited southern counteroffensive begins with a bang in Crimea,” Politico said.

But one military analyst specializing in Eastern Europe said Ukraine’s aims were likely more modest.

The World Putin Wants

Fiona Hill and Angela Stent

Vladimir Putin is determined to shape the future to look like his version of the past. Russia’s president invaded Ukraine not because he felt threatened by NATO expansion or by Western “provocations.” He ordered his “special military operation” because he believes that it is Russia’s divine right to rule Ukraine, to wipe out the country’s national identity, and to integrate its people into a Greater Russia.

He laid out this mission in a 5,000-word treatise, published in July 2021, entitled, “On the Historical Unity of Russians and Ukrainians.” In it, Putin insisted that Belarusians, Russians, and Ukrainians are all descendants of the Rus, an ancient people who settled the lands between the Black and Baltic Seas. He asserted that they are bound together by a common territory and language and the Orthodox Christian faith. In his version of history, Ukraine has never been sovereign, except for a few historical interludes when it tried—and failed—to become an independent state. Putin wrote that “Russia was robbed” of core territory when the Bolsheviks created the Soviet Union in 1922 and established a Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. In his telling, since the Soviet collapse, the West has used Ukraine as a platform to threaten Russia, and it has supported the rise of “neo-Nazis” there. Putin’s essay, which every soldier sent to Ukraine is supposed to carry, ends by asserting that Ukraine can only be sovereign in partnership with Russia. “We are one people,” Putin declares.

How China’s Propaganda Influences the West

Seth D. Kaplan

The Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda machine has had a busy year. Two weeks before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin declared that their countries’ friendship has “no limits.” Chinese state media has since been working overtime to parrot the Kremlin’s lies about the conflict. Less well known—and especially troubling—is how successful they have been in spreading their disinformation in the U.S.

Thanks to a decadeslong effort by the Chinese Communist Party, millions of Chinese-speaking American citizens rely on Beijing’s mouthpieces as their primary sources of news. SinoVision, a Chinese-language TV broadcaster, and Qiaobao, one of the largest Chinese-language newspapers in the U.S., are subsidiaries of the Asian Culture and Media Group, an arm of the Chinese government. Staff at both places cut their teeth at the state-owned China News Service and are often dispatched to the U.S. for propaganda purposes. Once there, most of their stories on China, Sino-American relations, Taiwan, Hong Kong and related subjects are reproduced from state-owned media such as Xinhua and the People’s Daily.

U.S. Goes in for the Long-Haul With Latest Ukraine War Aid


The $3 billion military aid package that President Joe Biden announced for Ukraine Wednesday shows his administration expects the war with Russia to last for many months or years, and signals Washington is in the fight for the duration.

The latest aid package is the largest to date and includes weaponry that won’t appear on the battlefield for a year or more. The promise of ongoing shipments of sophisticated, American-made weaponry well into the future, in contrast to previous tranches designed to help with ongoing battles or imminent counter-offensives, signals to Western allies, Ukraine and Russia that the U.S. intends to stick with the war, regardless of daily gains or losses.

“The United States of America is committed to supporting the people of Ukraine as they continue the fight to defend their sovereignty,” Biden said in a statement, announcing the aid package. “This will allow Ukraine to acquire air defense systems, artillery systems and munitions, counter-unmanned aerial systems, and radars to ensure it can continue to defend itself over the long-term.”

Taiwan to boost defense spending to deter China’s military threat

Christian Shepherd and Alicia Chen

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Taiwan announced Thursday a record jump in defense spending for next year as the self-governing democracy eyes new fighter jets and anti-ship missiles to deter a Chinese military invasion.

The Executive Yuan, Taiwan’s cabinet, proposed a record 13.9 percent increase in defense spending. Including a special fund for military hardware purchases will be about $19.4 billion, or 2.4 percent of projected gross domestic product. The announcement did not include details of specific expected purchases.

The rise from about 2.2 percent of GDP last year comes after China, which claims the islands of 23 million as part of its sovereign territory, escalated military exercises in retribution for visits to Taipei by U.S. lawmakers. Beijing responded with live-fire drills and fury to a 19-hour stopover by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) this month, including shooting missiles into the waters around Taiwan’s main island for the first time since the 1990s.


Joshua C. Huminski

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has provoked a belated immune response to Moscow’s political warfare campaign to subvert democracy and exploit systemic weaknesses in Europe and the United States. To be sure, there were attempts to halt or roll back the Kremlin’s efforts before the invasion, particularly after Russia’s 2008 war with Georgia and the 2014 annexation of Crimea. It was only after the invasion that countries moved purposefully to close off the broader avenues that had, hitherto, largely remained open.

This response is incomplete and will almost certainly encounter a new variant of the political warfare virus that contains the DNA of previous iterations adapted to the post-Ukraine environment. In turn, governments in the West should seek not only to treat the symptoms of the virus but to strengthen their bodies politic comprehensively by developing antibodies to respond to signs of infection and by creating an inhospitable host for this new variant.

Only Bipartisanship Can Defeat Authoritarian Aggression

Dan Sullivan and Daniel Twining

U.S. Presidents Joe Biden and Donald Trump don’t agree on much, but their administrations together have executed the most important pivot in U.S. foreign policy since the 9/11 terrorist attacks: centering grand strategy around systematic great-power competition with China and Russia. For the first time since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United States has genuine rivals for international leadership with the ability to potentially defeat U.S. forces in military conflict. Yet approaching this geopolitical earthquake purely as a competition doesn’t tell the full story and makes it hard for presidents to garner popular support for difficult policy choices in what is a generational struggle. After all, what is the United States competing for and why?

A more accurate description of this new international dynamic is one of authoritarian aggression, as evident in Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and in China’s escalating threats to absorb Taiwan by force. For nearly a century, American presidents have seen Asia and Europe as theaters that, if under hostile control, would put U.S. national security at extreme risk. Generations of Americans fought and died so that East Asia and Europe would not fall under the imperial control of U.S. adversaries. Both these theaters are at risk today. Should predatory dictatorships be allowed to swallow democratic neighbors with impunity, freedom would be imperiled everywhere—including in the United States.

Imran Khan’s Revolution

Azeem Ibrahim

On Sunday, Pakistani police charged Imran Khan, the country’s former prime minister, with terrorism offenses for threatening police officers and a judge. Khan was removed from office in a close no-confidence vote in April and has not been silent since. He has held rallies broaching many subjects that are taboo in Pakistan, including criticism of the country’s military and judicial system.

The charges stem from comments Khan made after one of his staff, Shahbaz Gill, a former member of Khan’s cabinet, was arrested on Aug. 9 on charges of sedition. Khan and other members of his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party allege that Gill was tortured by the Islamabad police after his arrest, though Pakistani Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah has denied this.

Gill’s alleged mistreatment outraged Khan’s supporters, and in a speech on Saturday, Khan pledged to “take action” against the police chief and a judge. When referring to a judge and the police chief, the former prime minister said, “You should also get ready, as we will take action against you.” He did not specify what form that action would take.

Ayman al-Zawahiri’s Killing Could be a Blessing in Disguise for the Taliban

Saman Rizwan

Al-Qaida chief Ayman al-Zawahiri was killed in a U.S. drone attack in Kabul on July 31. Subsequent media reporting and expert commentary portray this development as bad news for the Taliban, which is likely to impact their ties with the United States and undermine their efforts to get international recognition and unlock the frozen $7 billion Afghan reserves.

However, alternatively, it can be argued that al-Zawahiri’s killing is a blessing in disguise for the Taliban’s de facto regime. His killing ahead of the Taliban’s first anniversary of returning to power would blunt al-Qaida’s effort to flourish in Afghanistan. More importantly, his killing is a rude awakening call for the Taliban to reconsider their ties with al-Qaida. Revisiting ties with the terrorist group can offer incentives to the Taliban.

Arguably, al-Zawahiri’s killing would strengthen the Taliban pragmatists who advocate distancing the regime from al-Qaida and sideline the hardliners whose rigid insistence on harboring and protecting al-Qaida have shone a negative light on the Taliban regime. From the get-go, hardliners like the Haqqani Network have been in favor of defending al-Qaida, in contrast to the pragmatists, who are primarily from the Taliban’s political office, such as Deputy Prime Minister Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and Deputy Foreign Minister Sher Abbas Stanikzai. If the pragmatists prevail, the Taliban’s ongoing transition from an insurgent to a political movement will compel the regime to distance itself from al-Qaida and focus on governance.

UN Chief Calls for ‘Inclusive Solutions’ to Myanmar’s Rohingya Crisis

Sebastian Strangio

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called on Myanmar’s military-installed government to include the country’s embattled Rohingya population in any solution to the country’s ongoing political crisis.

In a statement issued yesterday, U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said Guterres noted “the unflagging aspirations for an inclusive future” for the Rohingya, and said that “the full and effective participation of the Rohingya people was an inherent part of a Myanmar-led solution” to the country’s current conflict.

Myanmar has slipped into dysfunction and conflict since the military coup d’etat of February 2021, which has prompted an increasingly zero-sum struggle between the military administration and a polycentric resistance movement that includes civilian militias and established ethnic armed groups.

What’s Behind China’s ‘Action Guidelines on Military Operations Other Than War’?

Ying Yu Lin

On June 13, China announced in a press release that its paramount leader Xi Jinping, in his capacity as chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), had signed an order for the implementation on an experimental basis of the “Action Guidelines on Military Operations Other Than War,” which took effect from June 15. While the full text of the mandate has yet to be publicly released, China’s state-run media have summed it up as comprising 59 articles in six chapters, setting up norms specifically for main subjects such as fundamental principles, organization and command, various forms of operations, logistics support for operations, and political work so as to provide the legal basis for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to undertake military operations other than war (MOOTW).

The promulgation of the trial action guidelines on MOOTW (hereafter referred to as Action Guidelines) aroused considerable speculation from the outside world. It is assumed that the Action Guidelines are comparable to the Anti-Secession Law passed in 2003, giving the PLA legal justification for intervening in affairs in the Taiwan Strait or conducting military operations against Taiwan. Are the new Action Guidelines China’s equivalent to Russia’s ongoing “special military operation” in Ukraine? These are the issues that grabbed the attention of the whole world.

What Kenya’s Presidential Election Means for China’s Belt and Road Initiative

Erick Manga and Tristan Kenderdine

On August 9, Kenya held general elections for various seats, including president, in accordance with the 2010 constitution, with the presidential election closely contested. The chairman of Kenya’s Independent Electoral and Boundary Commission (IEBC), though disowned by four commissioners, eventually declared William Ruto the president-elect, having attained 50.48 percent of total votes cast, followed closely by Raila Odinga at 48.8 percent and the remaining two candidates at 0.72 percent.

The change in government could have huge implications for Chinese investment in the country.

Kenya was the third African country to sign on to Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) after South Africa and Egypt. Since Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta signed the BRI agreement in May 2017, Chinese entities have both financed and constructed massive infrastructural projects across Kenya. These include the Standard Gauge Railway, which connects the port of Mombasa, Nairobi City, and the Inland Dry Port in Naivasha Town; an upgrade of the Mombasa port; the construction of Lamu deep sea port; and the development of the Naivsaha inland dry port.

The war that changed the world

Jeremy Cliffe

It feels like an eternity ago, that grim wintry pre-dawn of Thursday 24 February. A time before the place names Bucha and Irpin, Kramatorsk and Mariupol became bywords for the bloodiest war in Europe since 1945; before the letter Z became emblematic of a new fascism; before a new Iron Curtain fell over the continent; before it became impossible to describe the Covid-19 pandemic as a “once in a decade” shock to the global system. A time when a British prime minister could, as Boris Johnson had done in November, blithely declare that “the old concepts of fighting big tank battles on the European landmass are over”.

The final act of that pre-invasion era was at one with the dark poetry of the moment. In a ten-minute video address issued in the early hours of 24 February, after months of Russian troop build-ups on the Ukrainian border and increasingly deranged rhetoric from Moscow, Volodymyr Zelensky made a last-ditch plea for peace. Ukraine’s president appealed directly to Russian citizens in their own language: “The people of Ukraine want peace,” he said, but warned that the country would defend itself: “While attacking, you will see our faces. Not our backs. Our faces.” Then, just before 5am local time, Vladimir Putin announced a “special military operation”. Within minutes, air-raid sirens and the first explosions were heard in cities across the country.

Seeking Dronations: The Crowdfunded Drone War in Ukraine

Andro Mathewson Lauren Kahn

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has triggered a strange new phenomenon: People from all over the world are crowdfunding purchases of materiel, such as commercial off-the-shelf drones and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and gifting them to foreign Militaries.

For example, within seventy-two hours of launching “The People’s Bayraktar Project,” Ukrainian television presenter Serhiy Prytula surpassed his $15 million crowdfunding goal, instead receiving $20 million, enough to purchase three Turkish Bayraktar TB2 UAVs. The charity accepts donations from anyone anywhere in the world and takes bank transfers through cryptocurrency.

Since the start of the Russo-Ukrainian War, dozens of crowdfunding initiatives have been launched to raise money for a variety of military supplies and equipment including helicopters, SUVs, medical kits, and demining equipment. However, the majority of these campaigns have focused on drones, ranging from cheap commercial quadcopters to UAV systems complete with ground control stations and data and remote display terminals, generators, and trailers. It has become so prevalent that the Ukrainian government has termed the phenomenon “dronations.”

Why Justin Trudeau’s Canada Is So Soft on China

Julian Spencer-Churchill

Despite repeated calls from the Biden administration, the Canadian government of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has yet to formulate a public foreign policy strategy to deal with China. Canada has the world’s ninth-largest economy, a population of nearly forty million, a major Pacific Ocean coastline, and fully benefits from the U.S. missile defense architecture, to which it makes no contribution. Yet it is a disappointingly meek U.S. ally. Ottawa has been pursuing a virtually neutralist strategy of avoiding committing to any U.S. effort to harness the coalition of democracies to confront the Chinese threat to Taiwan. Washington needs to be aware that domestic electoral politics will heavily influence any Canadian foreign policy on China.

The strategic polarization in Asia between communist China and the world’s democracies on the issues of maritime sovereignty, human rights, and the integrity of Taiwan is complicated by the diversity of interests typical of immigrant societies in democracies. There are 1.8 million Chinese-Canadians (5.13 percent of the population), of which about 72 percent are foreign-born, with diverse histories and origins, participating across every political platform. By comparison, there are 5.4 million Chinese-Americans (1.5 percent of the population), of which 3 million are Chinese-born and 100,000 Taiwanese-born. Consequently, Ottawa is at least three times more sensitive to the foreign policy preferences of recent Chinese immigrants than Washington. The current Liberal Party government of Justin Trudeau is torn between immediate U.S. pressure to articulate a coherent China policy (meaning anti-China) and electoral imperatives.

The (nation) state of cyber attacks

Staff Writer, Johannesburg

Nearly two-thirds (64%) of organisations suspect they have been either directly targeted or impacted by a nation-state cyber attack. In addition, 66% say they have changed their cyber security strategy as a direct response to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

This was revealed by new research from Venafi, a machine identity management provider, which delved into the security impact of the increasing number of nation-state attacks and recent geopolitics shifts.

Other important findings include that 77% believe we’re in a perpetual state of cyber war, 82% believe geopolitics and cyber security are intrinsically linked, and another 68% have had more conversations with their board and senior management in response to the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.