4 September 2022

China's psychological war for Taiwan

Paul Szoldra

Taiwanese military radar operators deserve a raise following U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) trip to Taipei in early August. More foreign delegations are coming, and the radar screen may be busy for a while.

China, which has long vowed to “unify” the tiny island democracy situated about 100 miles from its shores, has been conducting regular flights into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ) throughout the month. According to Radio Free Asia, two of those sorties featured strategic bombers with nuclear strike capability. And dozens of Chinese aircraft and several ships were seen operating around Taiwan this past weekend, its defense ministry said.

SO TODAY, I’m unpacking China’s saber-rattling toward Taiwan and its meaning. The good news is that these sorts of moves are mostly bluster from China, and an invasion isn’t likely to happen soon. It’s psychological warfare meant to intimidate the U.S. and Taiwan—and those radar operators are certainly feeling the strain.

A Draft for Russia’s Army? Putin Opts for Domestic Stability Instead.

Anton Troianovski

President Vladimir V. Putin says Russia is fighting for its very existence in Ukraine, taking on a country that is conspiring with the West to destroy his nation. In high-octane talk shows on state television, the war is presented as a continuation of the Soviet Union’s fight for survival against Nazi Germany.

But if the battle is existential, the Kremlin’s actions do not bear that out. Six months into the biggest land war in Europe since World War II, Russia continues to wage it with a military that is essentially at peacetime strength — even as the invasion’s loudest cheerleaders increasingly clamor for Mr. Putin to declare a draft and put his nation on a war footing.

The debate over a draft has grown more urgent in recent weeks as Ukraine has gained momentum on the southern front and the killing of an ultranationalist commentator in a car bombing outside Moscow has magnified the voices of Russia’s most radical hawks. To those hawks, the Kremlin — which continues to refer to the war as a “special military operation” and insists it is going “according to plan” — is underestimating the enemy and lulling Russian society into a false sense of security.

Ukrainian Soldiers Say They Are Advancing in the South, but at a Cost

Matthew Luxmoore

Ukrainian army units pushing toward Kherson in the south are retaking ground held for months by Russia’s invading troops amid extremely fierce fighting, according to Ukrainian soldiers taking part in the offensive.

The Ukrainians said that Russian soldiers seemed well-equipped and were putting up stiff resistance.

“They’re throwing everything against us,” said a 22-year-old Ukrainian soldier who said Russians were fighting with artillery, tanks, helicopters and mortars. “They have a lot of equipment but few men.”

Interviews with eight soldiers who took part in fighting—and were being treated for injuries at a hospital behind the front lines—offered the most detailed on-the-ground picture yet from an offensive that Ukraine hopes will help it seize the initiative in the conflict and show its Western backers, and its own people, that its military can take on Moscow’s army and win.

US war-gamed with Ukraine ahead of counteroffensive and encouraged more limited mission

Katie Bo Lillis and Natasha Bertrand

Washington (CNN)In the buildup to the current Ukrainian counteroffensive, the US urged Kyiv to keep the operation limited in its objectives and geography to avoid getting overextended and bogged down on multiple fronts, multiple US and western officials and Ukrainian sources tell CNN.

Those discussions involved engaging in "war-gaming" with Kyiv, the sources said -- analytical exercises intended to help the Ukrainian forces understand what force levels they would need to muster to succeed in different scenarios.

The Ukrainians were initially considering a broader counteroffensive, but narrowed their mission to the south, in the Kherson region, in recent weeks, US and Ukrainian officials said.
Pentagon spokesperson Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told CNN that "the United States has routine military-to-military dialogue at multiple levels with Ukraine. We will not comment on the specifics of those engagements. Generally speaking, we provide the Ukrainians with information to help them better understand the threats they face and defend their country against Russian aggression. Ultimately, the Ukrainians are making the final decisions for their operations."

Officials say they believe there is now increased parity between the Ukrainian and Russian militaries. But western officials have been hesitant to label the nascent Ukrainian operation -- which appeared to begin on Monday in the southern province of Kherson -- a true "counteroffensive."

How successful Ukraine is likely to be in regaining lost territory remains an open question, sources familiar with the latest intelligence tell CNN. Ukrainian officials have already said this offensive will likely be a slow operation, and punishingly cold winter weather is coming and then an early spring mud, both of which could force pauses in the fighting.

Still, there is a distinct feeling amongst Ukraine's US and western advisers that the Ukrainian military is on much more even footing with Russia than was believed even just a few short months ago, multiple officials told CNN. Russia still maintains superior numbers in overall manpower and massed artillery.

But Ukrainian capabilities, bolstered by sophisticated western arms and training, have closed an important gap, officials say -- particularly the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, that Ukraine has been using to launch attacks behind Russian front lines in recent months.

"It shows you what the sustained training and weapons provision can do when the force is highly motivated and capable in its employment," a senior NATO official told CNN.

Another US military source put it more bluntly: Ukraine has made up for Russia's advantage in sheer volume of fire with its "competence."

Growing momentum

Ukraine has been publicly signaling for months that it intended to launch a major counteroffensive to retake territory lost to Russia in the six-month war. And even before Monday, when Ukrainian forces began increasing their artillery rocket and missile fire on the frontlines in southern Ukraine, Kyiv had been actively disrupting Russian resupply efforts and command and control across the region.
For weeks, Ukraine has used a mix of partisan supporters, long-range fire and special operations forces to launch a series of attacks far behind Russian lines -- including in Crimea -- that have targeted logistics and command and control hubs in preparation for the southern offensive.

"I don't think it's possible yet to confirm the extent of Ukrainian advances, but they've certainly impacted Russia's ability to move north and south across [the Dnieper River] with their attacks on bridges," the senior NATO official said on Wednesday. "And in terms of future prospects, I'd note that Ukraine is much closer to parity in troop numbers in Kherson than it has been in recent weeks" in the country's eastern provinces, where fighting has ground on for months.

One official said that attacks in Crimea have been a particularly smart strategy because Russia has been using the peninsula as a launchpad for its operations in southern Ukraine.

Russia has also been forced to pull resources from the east "simply because of reports that the Ukrainians might be going more on the offense in the south," John Kirby, the communications coordinator for the National Security Council, said on Monday.

"And so they've had to deplete certain units ...in certain areas in the East in the Donbass, to respond to what they clearly believed was a looming threat of a counter offensive," Kirby said.

A narrower mission
US and Ukrainian sources tell CNN that earlier plans for the Ukrainian operation were initially broader, and involved a more ambitious effort to regain other territory lost to the Russian invasion over the last six months, including the southeastern oblast of Zaporizhzhia.

But by Monday, Ukrainian officials appeared laser-focused on retaking the Kherson region.
An administration official told CNN that Ukraine has been asking the US for weapons specifically suited to their planned southern counteroffensive in recent months. The US fulfilled many of those requests -- including additional ammunition, artillery and javelins -- over the course of several presidential drawdown assistance packages provided to Ukraine over the last two months, the official said.

The planning exercises also helped the United States better grasp what kind of equipment, munitions or intelligence it could offer that would be most useful to Ukraine. Over the course of the war, the US has been regularly providing Ukraine with military advice and intelligence, along with billions of dollars in equipment and weaponry.

'A slow operation to grind the enemy'

Officials say that Ukraine now appears more evenly matched with Russian forces not only because of the advanced western weaponry that Ukraine has been using effectively, but also because the Ukrainians still have the advantage in terms of morale, unit cohesion, tactical acumen, and a superior ability to improvise on the fly.

They have another advantage, too, two officials said: a population that is largely appalled by the Russian occupation, and willing to engage in partisan attacks to expel them -- such as assassinations and sabotage efforts behind enemy lines.

Still, despite a more bullish assessment of Ukrainian fighting capabilities, US officials aren't making any bets that Ukraine will successfully retake Kherson.

"I'm not sure this is going to be the big, massive counteroffensive that folks might be waiting on — it might be a smaller number of forces," the US military source cautioned. Much will depend on how well Russia is able to defend newly-claimed territory, the source said—something that it has not yet been called upon to do in the last six months.

A Ukrainian presidential adviser also warned that the offensive will be a "slow operation to grind the enemy."

"This process will not be very fast," Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to the Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine, said in a statement posted on his Telegram account late Monday, "but will end with the installation of the Ukrainian flag over all the settlements of Ukraine."

History’s bookends: Putin reversed many Gorbachev reforms


NEW YORK (AP) — One stood for freedom, openness, peace and closer ties with the outside world. The other is jailing critics, muzzling journalists, pushing his country deeper into isolation and waging Europe’s bloodiest conflict since World War II.

Such are history’s bookends between Mikhail Gorbachev, the Soviet Union’s last leader, and Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president.

In many ways, Gorbachev, who died Tuesday, unwittingly enabled Putin. The forces Gorbachev unleashed spun out of control, led to his downfall and the Soviet Union’s collapse.

Since coming to power in 1999, Putin has been taking a hard line that resulted in a near-complete reversal of Gorbachev’s reforms.

When Gorbachev came to power as Soviet leader in 1985, he was younger and more vibrant than his predecessors. He broke with the past by moving away from a police state, embracing freedom of the press, ending his country’s war in Afghanistan and letting go of Eastern European countries that had been locked in Moscow’s communist orbit. He ended the isolation that had gripped the USSR since its founding.

To China’s fury, UN accuses Beijing of Uyghur rights abuses


BEIJING (AP) — The U.N. accused China of serious human rights violations that may amount to “crimes against humanity” in a long-delayed report examining a crackdown on Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim ethnic groups. Beijing on Thursday denounced the assessment as a fabrication cooked up by Western nations.

Human rights groups have accused China of sweeping a million or more people from the minority groups into detention camps where many have said they were tortured, sexually assaulted, and forced to abandon their language and religion. The camps were just one part of what the rights organizations have called a ruthless campaign against extremism in the far western province of Xinjiang that also included draconian birth control policies and all-encompassing restrictions on people’s movement.

The assessment from the Geneva-based U.N. human rights office was released in the final minutes of High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet’s four-year term. It largely corroborated earlier reporting by researchers, advocacy groups and the news media, and it added the weight of the world body to the conclusions. But it was not clear what impact it would have.

U.N. Says China May Have Committed ‘Crimes Against Humanity’ in Xinjiang

Nick Cumming-Bruce and Austin Ramzy

GENEVA — In a long-awaited report released on Wednesday, the United Nations’ human rights office accused China of serious human rights violations that “may constitute international crimes, in particular crimes against humanity,” in its mass detention of Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim groups in its far western region of Xinjiang.

The assessment was released shortly before midnight in Geneva and minutes before Michelle Bachelet, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, was set to leave office.

The release ended a nearly yearlong delay that had exposed Ms. Bachelet and her office to fierce pushback by rights groups, activists and others who had accused her of caving to Beijing, which had sought to block the report.

Tiger can’t slouch in face of menacing dragon

Ajai Sahni
Source Link

The docking of the Chinese surveillance vessel Yuan Wang 5 at Hambantota Port in Sri Lanka, is, in itself, of little significance. Chinese submarines and a warship had earlier docked in the Colombo Port in 2014, with little lasting ramification.

As part of a wider strategy of dominance, testing the waters for a ‘nibbling expansion’, however, such events have critical consequences, unless India evolves a blueprint to effectively counter China’s persistent intent, as well as the growing resources it brings to the contest.

China seeks ‘a powerful and strong two oceans layout’ in the Pacific and Indian Oceans for its People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), strong enough to challenge both the US and Indian dominance in the region. It uses the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and its debt trap diplomacy as strategic instrumentalities to this end.

It is useful to recall the trajectory of the Doraleh Base at Djibouti, which started as a commercial and logistics base in 2017. The pressure of debt forced Djibouti to allow the establishment of a full-fledged military hub. China’s debt trap strategy, compounded by Beijing’s rising military power, is likely to force many weak states to eventually concede similar facilities. China has already established a presence—principally civilian but potentially military—in Pakistan’s Gwadar and Keti Bandar (Karachi) ports, Bangladesh’s Chittagong Port, the Maldives’s Feydhoo Finolhu Port, Cambodia’s Sihanoukville Port, Myanmar’s Kyaukpyu Port and Thailand’s Laem Chabang Port. In March 2021, China signed a $400-billion deal with Iran, and alarms have been raised about Tehran being ensnared in a potential debt trap as well. Beijing may then secure multiple berths at Iranian ports, potentially hemming in the Chahbahar Port developed by India.

‘No Dumb Questions’: Is there a climate change silver bullet?

Dave Levitan,  Jake Garcia, and Tom Nagorski

Climate change is of course a vast problem — global in scope, involving every aspect of society and concerning nothing less than the future of the planet. Given that, it’s not surprising that policymakers and millions of ordinary people crave easy or quick solutions.

In January, Grid’s Climate Reporter Dave Levitan joined forces with Grid’s data visualization team for a look at roughly a dozen measures, from grand-scale change (meeting all the Paris Agreement pledges, weaning all Americans off fossil fuels, among others) to smaller-scale policy prescriptions (cuts in cement and steel production, and limits on deforestation), to assess the relative difference such measures would make, if any or all were implemented. It was at once a hopeful and sobering look — all under the heading of what Levitan called “paths to a cleaner, cooler world.”

This week, in our video series “No Dumb Questions,” Levitan takes up a fundamental question about the climate crisis and possible ways to mitigate against its effects: “Is there a climate change silver bullet?”

How Russia’s strange cultural mindset led to Vladimir Putin’s great miscalculation

Alex Berezow

Despite my last name and the fact that I was raised, in part, by my Soviet grandparents (one from Russia, the other from Ukraine), I’m an outsider to Russian culture. Their single biggest mistake in helping raise me was not teaching me to be bilingual. But that was many years ago, when globalization hadn’t taken off, and bilingualism was not perceived as particularly useful.

My grandparents are both gone now, so for insights into the Russian mindset, I turn to the news and the country’s classic literature. Full of gloom and a seeming resignation to fate, the characters cope and make sense of their impoverished, miserable lives with vodka, bitter cynicism, and dark humour. Consider this exchange between Father Ferapont and a monk from The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky. It concerns whether the Holy Spirit appears as a dove and speaks to Father Ferapont:

Real Deterrence of China Will Be Uncomfortable

Jennifer Bradley

The pace of China’s nuclear modernization has been described as breathtaking by Adm. Charles Richard, commander of U.S. Strategic Command. The increased size and sophistication of the capabilities being developed make them a strategic threat to the U.S. and its allies. Along with that threat comes the uncertainty around how large China plans to grow its force.

It is tempting to reach for the Cold War playbook and enhance deterrence to deal with this threat. Arms control negotiations and agreements played a pivotal role in reducing risk, increasing transparency, and promoting stability between the United States and the Soviet Union. But China is not the Soviet Union, and arms control will not address this threat.

For arms control to be effective, at least two parties must be willing to negotiate. Unfortunately, China is not. Beijing has steadfastly refused to even entertain the idea of joining any nuclear arms control negotiations. It remains opaque on its current nuclear capabilities, its intentions for its nuclear modernization program, and any changes in nuclear doctrine its leaders may be contemplating. It is easy to point to the disparity in the size of China’s nuclear arsenal compared to those of the United States and Russia, but to understand China’s resistance to nuclear arms control, it is imperative to examine its strategic culture.

US Army to launch offensive cyber capabilities office

Colin Demarest

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — The U.S. Army will establish an office dedicated to offensive cyber and space capabilities next year amid rapidly shifting priorities, officials said.

The office, dubbed Program Manager Cyber and Space, will fall under the Program Executive Office for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors, which tests and fields equipment such as aerial jamming pods, biometric information systems and battlefield navigation tools.

Its creation will shift offensive cyber responsibilities away from an existing PEO IEW&S enclave tasked with electronic warfare and cyber.

“That’s one of the things we’re driving toward,” Brig. Gen. Ed Barker, the deputy at PEO IEW&S, said Aug. 30 during a roundtable with reporters at the Open Innovation Lab. “So we’re definitely trying to realign to some of those emerging priorities and areas.”

The American Withdrawal from Afghanistan, One Year Later

Yoram SchweitzerEldad Shavit

The end of August 2022 will mark one year since the United States withdrawal from Afghanistan. The Taliban's quick takeover of the capital city of Kabul and the fact that Afghan President Ghani fled the country created a situation where the departure of the forces took place against the backdrop of a violent deterioration on the ground. The presence of the Taliban, despite understandings between the US administration and the Taliban that it would refrain from any harm to Americans and NATO forces, evoked fear and chaos. Thousands of Afghans congregated at the airport seeking to escape from the terror of the new regime. The difficult images received much coverage worldwide and created the impression that the United States was running away from Afghanistan. Beyond the failure of American intelligence in assessing the survivability of the Afghan government, it seemed that the events harmed the image of US strength in general and the image of President Biden in particular.

One year later, it is worth examining the implications of the withdrawal from two perspectives: the fight against global terrorism, and the global interests of the United States as a superpower.

Who Pays for an Act of Cyberwar?

THIS SUMMER MARKS the fifth anniversary of the most expensive cyberattack ever: the NotPetya malware, released by Russia in June 2017, that shut down computer systems at companies and government agencies around the world, causing upward of $10 billion in damage due to lost business, repairs, and other operational disruptions. Half a decade later, the businesses affected by NotPetya are still sorting out who will pay those considerable costs in a series of legal disputes that will have serious ramifications for the rapidly growing cyberinsurance industry, as well as for the even more rapidly growing number of state-sponsored cyberattacks that blur the line between cyberwar and standard-issue government cyberactivity.

Whether or not insurers cover the costs of a cyberattack can depend, in part, on being able to make clear-cut distinctions in this blurry space: When Russian government hackers targeted Ukraine’s electric grid earlier this year, was that an act of war because the two countries were already at war? What about when Russia hacked Ukraine’s electric grid in 2015, or when pro-Russian hackers targeted servers in countries like the United States, Germany, Lithuania, and Norway because of their support for Ukraine? Figuring out which of these types of intrusions are “warlike” is not an academic matter for victims and their insurers—it is sometimes at the heart of who ends up paying for them. And the more that countries like Russia exercise their offensive cyber capabilities, the harder and more critical it becomes to make those distinctions and sort out who is on the line to cover the costs.

Rebalancing the Science and Art of War for Decision Advantage

Vice Admiral Ann Rondeau, U.S. Navy (Retired)

In today’s all-domain, high-tech maritime battlespace, decision advantage is arguably the difference to prevailing in war. While enabled by technology, the commander’s education, experience, and judgment become critical factors to making not only sound decisions, but to developing the cognitive capability to outthink an adversary and take decisive, bold actions—especially in combat. Intellectual overmatch is the goal. Decision advantage is the result.

Decision advantage in war results from the rapid discernment of trusted information for a decision-maker to act confidently. In fact, the Chief of Naval Operations NavPlan 2022 establishes decision advantage as one of six Force Design Imperatives: “Generate Decision Advantage: Naval forces will out-sense, out-decide, and out-fight any adversary by accelerating our decision cycles with secure, survivable, and cyber-resilient networks, accurate data, and artificial intelligence. Connecting sensors, weapons, and decision-makers across all domains enables naval forces to mass firepower and influence without massing forces.”

“What Is in Our Interest”: India and the Ukraine War


India’s response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine has been distinctive among the major democracies and among U.S. strategic partners. Despite its discomfort with Moscow’s war, New Delhi has adopted a studied public neutrality toward Russia. It has abstained from successive votes in the UN Security Council, General Assembly, and Human Rights Council that condemned Russian aggression in Ukraine and thus far has refused to openly call out Russia as the instigator of the crisis. For many in the United States, including in President Joe Biden’s administration, India’s neutrality has been disappointing because it signaled a sharp divergence between Washington and New Delhi on a fundamental issue of global order, namely, the legitimacy of using force to change borders and occupy another nation’s territory through a blatant war of conquest. Whatever their views on the Ukraine war's genesis and precipitants, most Indian strategic elites would admit that their country’s diplomatic neutrality ultimately signifies what one Indian scholar has called “a subtle pro-Moscow position.” This seems particularly incongruous today because India stands shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States in opposing Chinese assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific while at the same time appearing tolerant of the vastly more egregious Russian belligerence in Europe.

The oddity of this Indian position is explained by New Delhi’s perceptions of its interests. These interests have led India to avoid condemning Russia publicly, even though its declared positions were intended to convey—perhaps a tad more subtly than is justified—its dismay with Russian actions. Thus, India urged “respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of states,” called “for the immediate cessation of violence and hostilities,” regretted “that the path of diplomacy was given up” and urged the concerned states to “return to it,” and reiterated that “dialogue is the only answer to settling differences and disputes, however daunting that may appear at this moment.” India’s Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar reinforced these themes during his intervention in the parliamentary debate on Ukraine when, in a coded critique of Russian actions, he reiterated India’s position “that the global order is anchored on international law, [the] UN Charter and respect for [the] territorial integrity and sovereignty of states.”

2 Major Traps on China’s Path to Global Leadership

Plamen Tonchev

Chinese authorities are anything but humble when they set out their long-term vision: making their country a leading economic and technological power by 2049, the 100th anniversary of the creation of the People’s Republic of China. The Chinese don’t just want to be a superpower – they believe that they deserve to be one, that it’s their destiny to lead the world.

Chinese leaders are convinced that we’re witnessing the end of the post-Cold War Pax Americana and the transition to a new world order, ultimately finding China in the driver’s seat. The vast majority of official pronouncements exude the utter conviction that the U.S. and the Western liberal order are in terminal decline, while there are very few lonely voices that question the precise degree and speed of that decline.

China has made spectacular and truly unprecedented progress over the past 40 years. But is it likely to achieve the ambitious objective set by the CCP? There are at least two major obstacles – or, rather, sets of obstacles – that China will have to get over on its path to global leadership. The first set of obstacles relates to China’s political and economic governance (“the middle-income trap”), and the second to Beijing’s capabilities to claim a leading role in the international arena (“the Kindleberger trap”).

China: Deciphering the Beidaihe Meeting


The Beidaihe meeting, or “summer summit,” is held in early August each year. This year it took place ahead of the National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), due to take place in the fall. Especially in a year like this when personnel appointments are made – something that happens only once every 10 years – many observers pay close attention to what might have taken place in Beidaihe. In fact, during the transition from the Jiang Zemin administration to the Hu Jintao administration, the decision to retain Jiang Zemin as Chairman of the Central Military Commission was believed to have been made because of the Beidaihe meeting.

Beidaihe is a summer resort facing Bohai Bay. From the late Qing dynasty to the Republic of China, it was a popular summer resort for foreign residents in Tianjin and Beijing, so it has long been home to many Western-style buildings. Following the founding of the People’s Republic of China, Beidaihe became a recreation spot for Communist Party cadres.

IMF Set to Provide $2.9 Billion to Help Crisis-hit Sri Lanka

Bharatha Mallawarachi

The International Monetary Fund announced Thursday it has reached a preliminary agreement to provide Sri Lanka with $2.9 billion over four years to help it recover from its worst economic crisis.

The arrangement will help restore financial and macroeconomic stability and debt sustainability as well as enable the country’s growth potential, an IMF team visiting Sri Lanka said in a statement.

The package is contingent on approval from the IMF management and executive board and on receiving assurances from Sri Lanka’s creditors, including China, India and Japan, that debt sustainability will be restored.

To China’s Fury, UN Accuses Beijing of Uyghur Rights Abuses

Ken Moritsugu and Jamey Keaten

The U.N. accused China of serious human rights violations that may amount to “crimes against humanity” in a long-delayed report examining a crackdown on Uyghurs and other mostly Muslim ethnic groups. Beijing on Thursday denounced the assessment as a fabrication cooked up by Western nations.

Human rights groups have accused China of sweeping a million or more people from the minority groups into detention camps where many have said they were tortured, sexually assaulted, and forced to abandon their language and religion. The camps were just one part of what the rights organizations have called a ruthless campaign against extremism in the far western province of Xinjiang that also included draconian birth control policies and all-encompassing restrictions on people’s movement.

The assessment from the Geneva-based U.N. human rights office largely corroborated earlier reporting by researchers, advocacy groups and the news media, and it added the weight of the world body to the conclusions. But it was not clear what impact it would have.

Are Think Tanks Ready for the Age of AI?

Vincent J. Carchidi

The preeminence of American foreign policy think tanks is too often taken for granted, even if the ideals to which they aspire exude confidence—and these ideals are indeed lofty.

The purpose of a think tank is to serve as a “catalyst for ideas,” to “bridge [the] gap between the worlds of ideas and action,” and to build a source of intellectual capital for future government officials. Think tanks produce ideas, frame policy debates, and link private research to public policy. But, noble as this sounds, foreign policy think tanks have undergone a period of increased scrutiny in recent years with the rise of anti-expert sentiment and dubious sources of funding.

This is not the first time think tanks find themselves in a period of change and turmoil. After the September 11 terrorist attacks, the think tank community began to take public outreach seriously, departing from its “tightly networked and insulated” routines. The 2008 financial crisis jolted them again, this time forcing think tanks to seek out new sources of individual, corporate, and even foreign government funding, becoming “smaller and more specialized” in the process. Today, American think tanks face questions of how to survive and thrive in the twenty-first century, particularly with the rise of political risk consultancies like the Eurasia Group and other for-profit companies like the McKinsey Global Institute.

The Gas Weapon? Gazprom Shuts Down Nord Stream 1 Pipeline

Mark Episkopos

Russian energy giant Gazprom has announced it will shut down the Nord Stream 1 pipeline for seventy-two hours, the latest in what critics have described as Moscow’s attempts to put the energy screws to Europe.

"Supply via Nord Stream has been completely stopped, today scheduled preventive work is starting at the gas pumping unit," read a statement published by Gazprom. The gas flow at the reception point in Greifswald, Germany, was stopped at 04:00 Moscow time on Wednesday and will resume at 04:00 Moscow time on September 3, Gazprom added. The suspension is “necessary for maintenance and scheduled preventive work on the only gas compressor unit remaining in operation,” according to a summary of Gazprom’s statement by Russian state news outlet TASS. Supplies will be restored on September 3 to an output of 33 million cubic meters per day provided there are no unexpected technical challenges, according to Gazprom. Nord Stream 1, a significant pipeline that supplies gas from Russia to Europe, has been operating at about 20 percent of its maximum capacity since July 27 due to what Moscow described as technical problems with turbines.

Who Is Shelling Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant?

Mark Episkopos

Russian-aligned authorities have again accused Ukrainian troops of shelling the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (NPP), just one day before the arrival of an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) mission.

"Today, at 06:50, the Ukrainian army shelled the premises of the Zaporozhye NPP and the city’s coastal line. Large-caliber artillery was used. Following this, two explosions were recorded near a building storing spent fuel," the Russian-installed military-civilian administration of Enerhodar said in a statement on Tuesday.

The Kremlin claimed Ukraine is trying to sabotage the IAEA’s ongoing mission to the Zaporizhzhia plant. "The Ukrainian side’s attempts to muddy the progress of the IAEA international mission, the intensified attacks on this site, and the use of increasingly heavy weapons negate all the statements uttered by the regime [of Ukrainian president Vladimir Zelensky] that Kyiv is allegedly interested in a successful visit by [IAEA head] Rafael Grossi,” said Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova in a briefing on Wednesday.

Can Semiconductor Reshoring Prime a U.S. Manufacturing Renaissance?

Sujai Shivakumar, Charles Wessner

Recognizing the strategic importance of renewing U.S. innovation and manufacturing, the Biden administration in 2021 launched an initiative to foster the “reshoring” of several key industrial sectors, particularly semiconductor manufacturing. Despite the bipartisan realization that the United States is now lagging compared to other countries’ production capabilities in semiconductors both in quantity and—crucially—in quality, an agreement on related legislation was slow to materialize. Fortunately, such an agreement finally came in August 2022 in the form of a sweeping $280 billion bill that provides support for scientific research and includes an unprecedented $52 billion in federal funding to promote the expansion of chipmaking within the United States. This new strategic focus on semiconductor manufacturing represents a more comprehensive understanding of the industry’s importance beyond a secure supply of chips for defense applications.

CHIPS as a Response to Supply Chain Shortages

The Covid-19 pandemic heightened public and congressional awareness of the importance of semiconductors for civilian applications. as shortages of chips began to hamper production of automobiles, smartphones, and other key consumer products. However, the pandemic was merely a disruptive catalyst that exposed long-running U.S. vulnerabilities in strategic supply of semiconductors. U.S. onshore chip manufacturing capacity had been eroding for decades as the United States became increasingly reliant on extended and fragile global supply chains, especially for the most advanced chips. The Russian invasion of Ukraine further underscored these vulnerabilities just as dependency on Taiwan (TSMC) and South Korea (Samsung) for semiconductor chips reached new heights.

How Word Games Became War Games in the Taiwan Strait

Paul Heer

The reverberations of House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in early August are likely to continue for some time. An interactive dynamic is unfolding between Beijing, Washington, and Taipei—each of which has its own interpretation of what has been happening, and its own explanation for what it has felt compelled to do in response. Beijing launched an unprecedented series of military exercises around the island, asserting that Washington and Taipei had breached its red line by violating prior understandings of the “one China” framework. Washington has deemed China’s moves an unwarranted and destabilizing overreaction to Pelosi’s trip and vowed to sustain its own military posture in the Taiwan Strait to deter any actual Chinese use of force. Indeed, two U.S. Navy guided-missile cruisers transited the Strait on August 28; the Biden administration is reportedly poised to announce $1 billion in new arms sales to Taiwan. Taipei has announced that it will increase its defense spending to enhance the island’s preparedness for any potential Chinese attack. All of this reflects and reinforces the three sides’ tendency to view the cross-strait dilemma as a military problem, thus probably making it even more difficult than it already was to pursue a diplomatic path to de-escalation.

However, the preoccupation with war games on the strait distracts attention from the complex word games that the three parties are playing as they justify their positions and actions. The leading narrative now is that Beijing has established a “new status quo” or a “new normal” by regularizing an enhanced military posture around Taiwan, similar to the enhanced presence and patrolling it adopted earlier in the East and South China Seas (also, in Beijing’s view, in response to challenges by other countries to its sovereignty claims). But this omits and/or obscures changes to the status quo that arguably have also been made by Washington and Taipei. China policy specialists often recall that in 2004, then-Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly asserted in Congressional testimony that the United States did not support “unilateral moves [regarding Taiwan] that would change the status quo as we define it.” Kelly, however, did not define it; nor have more recent U.S. officials who now routinely reiterate Washington’s opposition to any “unilateral changes to the status quo.” In any event, the status quo obviously is now one in which the speaker of the House can visit Taiwan as a routine matter because this is “consistent with our one China policy”—notwithstanding reports that the Biden administration thought Pelosi’s visit was inadvisable and did not want it to happen.