5 September 2022

Crypto Is More In Step With Asia’s Equities, Highlighting Need For Regulation – Analysis

Nada Choueiri, Anne-Marie Gulde-Wolf and Tara Iyer

Few parts of the world have embraced crypto assets like Asia, where top adopters include individual and institutional investors from India to Vietnam and Thailand. This raises the important issue of the extent of integration of crypto into the financial system in Asia.

While digitalization can aid in the transition to an environmentally-conscious payment system and also foster financial inclusion, crypto can pose financial stability risks.

Before the pandemic, crypto seemed insulated from the financial system. Bitcoin and other assets showed little correlation with Asian equity markets, which helped diffuse financial stability concerns.

Crypto trading, however, soared as millions stayed home and received government aid, while low interest rates and easy financing conditions also played a role. The total market value of the world’s crypto assets surged 20-fold in just a year and a half to $3 trillion in December. Then it plunged to less than $1 trillion in June as central bank interest rate increases to contain inflation ended easy access to cheap borrowing.

To Renew Or Not The 2015 Iran Nuclear Agreement, That Is The Question

Richard Falk

After two weeks in Iran during latter part of January 1979, the height of the revolutionary movement against the dynastic, autocratic rule of Mohammed Reza Ayatollah, I had the opportunity for an extended conversation with Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in his tent where he received foreign visitors and journalists during his final days in Paris. This was the individual who would serve as uncontested Iranian leader, officially the Supreme Guide, of the Islamic Republic of Iran until his death in 1989.

I was accompanied at the meeting by Ramsey Clark, former U.S. Attorney General and major progressive personality at the time in the United States and Don Luce, a prominent and courageous anti-war religiously oriented activist who gained worldwide fame in 1970 by departing from a prescribed tour route to expose a visiting delegation of U.S. Congress members to the notorious ‘tiger cages’ in Con Son Prison the major facility in South Vietnam a repeated focus of severe torture allegations. During our time together in Iran we met many religious leaders and secular supporters of the popular uprising that would soon be running the country. We witnessed extraordinary displays of mass popular excitement in the country and anxious sighs of disbelief that greeted the news that the Shah had abdicated the Peacock Throne, and as it turned out, leaving Iran never to return.

Many aspects of this meeting are worth recalling, but one stands out for me as having current relevance more than 43 years later. Immediately after greetings were exchanged, Ayatollah Khomeini carefully posed a question to us that seemed uppermost in his mind, more so than any of the topics covered in the ensuing two hours or so of questions and answers, with the three of us raising most of the questions. But the Ayatollah’s question came first, and it turned out to be the one where our words of response earned the full attention of this religious leader: “Do we think that the U.S. Government will repeat its intervention of 1953 that overthrew a popularly elected government and restored the Shah to his throne?”

Pelosi’s Visit And The New Normal In Taiwan – Analysis

Randall Puah

Businesses are rightly more concerned now over the outbreak of hostilities in the Taiwan Strait and its impact on physical security, assets/investments, and business continuity. Given the Chinese response to US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s 2-3 Aug 2022 visit to Taiwan, the risk of significant business disruption is perceived to have shifted up a notch from a low probability scenario to medium probability.

What has changed?

Prompted by the visit, China launched military exercises unprecedentedly close to Taiwan, as compared to the 1995-6 third Taiwan Strait crisis. China effectively closed six zones surrounding Taiwan from 4-7 Aug. Unlike in 1995-6, this is a step up as three of the exercise zones fall within Taiwan’s territorial waters, and all the zones fall on Taiwan’s side of the median line. China also launched ballistic missiles into multiple exercise zones, and some of these missiles overflew Taiwan, another unprecedented move. These Chinese military exercises signalled China’s ability to impose a blockade on Taiwan and also featured anti-access area denial capabilities to ward off intervening foreign forces.

China also demonstrated the full range of its options short of war – from economic leverage to cyber-attacks. China temporarily halted over 100 Taiwanese brands of food imports and also stopped selling sand to Taiwan. China did not go as far as to stop other types of Taiwanese imports like electronics, but started strictly enforcing its customs regulations stipulating that products with Taiwanese-made content had to be labelled as made in “Taiwan, China” or “Chinese Taipei.” Chinese state-sponsored groups also engaged in low level cyberattacks on government and commercial targets in Taiwan.

In the new offensive in the Ukraine War, can new recruits, high morale and heavy weapons tip the balance?

Joshua Keating

The war in Ukraine appears to be at another turning point. The early weeks of the conflict were defined by Russian forces’ failed attempt to take the capital, Kyiv, and overthrow the Ukrainian government. Then the fighting shifted to the eastern Donbas region, where Russia made slow, bloody but significant progress in taking Ukrainian territory and cities thanks to its overwhelming advantage in artillery and equipment. Now, with the arrival of more and more advanced weaponry from the U.S. and Europe, most notably High Mobility Advanced Rocket Systems (HIMARS), the Ukrainians are going on the attack, striking Russian logistics targets well behind the front lines and, this week, formally announcing the start of a long-anticipated counteroffensive in the south of the country. Early Western military assessments suggest this offensive is making progress, though it’s early to say anything definitive.

Still, Ukraine’s offensive against heavily fortified Russian positions carries significant risks, and looming behind it is the question of whether the West’s support for the Ukrainian resistance will outlast Russian President Vladimir Putin’s determination for victory. And this week’s visit by U.N. inspectors to the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is a reminder that despite the enormous losses already suffered in Ukraine, there may still be major calamities to come.

The Army Wants Smarter Sensors To Ease Soldiers’ ‘Cognitive Burden’


AUGUSTA, Ga.—The Army wants to make sure commanders and soldiers get vital sensor data in near real-time. So the service’s shop for intelligence and electronic warfare is focusing on developing tools to do that without trawling through a morass of information.

In the past, Army senior leaders weren’t very concerned about electronic warfare, according to Mark Kitz, who leads the Army’s Program Executive Office Intelligence Electronic Warfare and Sensors. But that’s changing, in part due to world events such as the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“So one of the things we've learned not just in this conflict, but over the last five years, is that electronic warfare is an enabler and our enemies, and our capabilities, are going to have to be able to function and work in a contested environment,” Kitz told Defense One at the AFCEA TechNet Augusta conference. “And so in order to understand that environment, we've got to have a collection and standoff capability to characterize that environment.”

Russian Invasion of Ukraine Will be ‘Longer War’, Says Denmark’s Defense Minister

John Grady

Denmark’s defense minister’s major take away from a recent meeting in Copenhagen, where 26 nations and the European Union pledged another $1.5 billion to Ukraine, was Russia must not win its war against its neighboring country.

Morten Bodskove called the latest financial commitment to Kyiv the third phase of Western support of Ukraine. The emphasis is on stepped up arms production, including artillery and ammunition, more training of Ukrainian forces in advanced systems and greater assistance in demining efforts in areas that Russian troops have departed.

“We are looking at a longer war” and changes need to be made to meet new challenges and sustain the Ukrainians, he said speaking at an Atlantic Council forum. Kyiv has lost about 20 percent of the nation’s land since 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea and backed separatists in the east.

He added that he saw no cracks in NATO’s and the European Union’s commitment to Ukraine as winter nears and Russia’s export of energy westward has largely been blocked.

A Strategist’s Cast of Characters: The Critical Attributes and Skills of Strategic Decision-Makers

Roni Yadlin

Since the day when Thespis made dramatic history and first took to the stage as a character in a play, the ancient Greeks used theatrical productions to provide social commentary, impart lessons, and inspire action. These publicly funded events helped the audience understand their history and role in society. The Greek use of drama imbued a tragic sensibility in the citizenry, warned them of dangers facing their community, reminded them of their responsibility to the collective and helped them develop national strategy.[1]

A key tool in these dramas was symbolic characterization in which the characters on stage represented moral concepts and imparted desired lessons. Greek drama was itself embodied in the masks representing Melpomene, the Muse of tragedy, and Thalia, the Muse of comedy. This concept of characterization also provides an allegorical framework through which to consider some of the critical characteristics and skills necessary for strategists. Strategists need to have the ability to reconcile and balance opposing tensions, as represented by Thalia and Melpomene, engage in both reflection of the past and anticipation of the future like the Roman God Janus, emulate the contemplation and discernment of Judeo-Christian cherubim, and seek the aims of the embodiment of Lady Justice.

Melopmene, Ny Carlsberg Glyptothek, Copenhagen (Wolfgang Sauber/Wikimedia)

Originating in ancient Greece, the smiling and crying faces of Thalia and Melpomene still symbolize drama today. These characters, embodying comedy and tragedy, represent opposites in life and the tensions between them. Although strategic decision-makers are concerned with issues extending far beyond drama, they must know how to balance the tensions they encounter.

Roman statue of Muse Thalia, Spanish Royal Collection (Ana Belén Cantero Paz/Wikimedia)

Intelligence, according to F. Scott Fitzgerald and quoted by John Lewis Gaddis, is “the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.”[2] This concept of holding two ideas simultaneously, whether they are directly opposing or not, represents the need for strategic decision-makers to balance. Strategy is a complex process that comprises a number of elements in a world where chance, uncertainty and ambiguity are ever-present.[3] The complexity inherent in strategic challenges presents decision-makers with conflicting priorities and concerns. Strategic success requires the ability to maintain equilibrium between those competing imperatives.

There are many avenues through which strategists can develop the skills required to adequately balance tensions. Carl von Clausewitz argues military leaders can gain their requisite knowledge and skills through reflection, study, thought, and experience.[4] St. Augustine frames his teachings as checklists that provide recommendations, rather than prescriptions.[5] This kind of framework allows those who use it to react to changing circumstances and become comfortable with contradictions.

Strategic decision-makers must balance the tensions inherent in their own minds. They also need to resolve the structural tensions within the strategic decision-making landscape. Because strategy is the “alignment of potentially unlimited aspirations with necessarily limited capabilities,” strategists need to be able to balance competing goals and requirements.[6]

Determining priorities among the various aspirations and appropriately managing all the tools of national power is an exercise in balancing tensions.[7] Additional tensions arise from the opposing desires and motivations of individuals within the decision-making apparatus. Each participant in the decision-making structure, be they individual or a collective, has their own goals, objectives, and motivations.

Consequently, strategic decision-makers must balance these often-conflicting priorities to reach a single choice. These decisions will likely be the product of the pulling and hauling of political bargaining and not match the desire of any particular player.[8] President Barack Obama’s decision to intervene in Libya, albeit in a limited and restricted role, demonstrated one such instance of political decision-making. Differing recommendations, as well as potential political and financial costs, led to a compromise that did not entirely reflect the desires of any particular party, but it was ultimately a successful strategic intervention.[9] Because of the complexity inherent in strategic choices, the ability to balance both individual and group tensions, to include those that are in direct opposition to each other, is a critical requirement for strategic decision-makers.

Thalia and Melpomene are two different characters who represent opposing tensions. By contrast, the Roman god Janus is a single character with two faces, one looking forward and the other backward. Strategic decision-makers must similarly look both forward and back; they need the ability to appropriately reflect on the past and forecast the future. Strategists routinely look to historical analogy when confronted with difficult situations, but they often learn the wrong lessons and thus make bad decisions.[10]

A Roman coin depicting Janus (Britannica)

Analogies provide useful shortcuts, but they obscure aspects of the present that may differ from the past.[11] When considering American intervention in Vietnam, President Lyndon Johnson drew connections to the 1938 Munich negotiations and the Korean War to inform his decision-making. These events did not, however, accurately mirror the current situation and instead the French defeat at Dien Bien Phu may have been a more appropriate historical analogy.[12]

Hindsight can contaminate judgment and decision-making.[13] When looking backwards, decision-makers are prone to outcome bias and may judge past choices not on the quality of the decision but on the desirability of the outcome. This is evident in the belief that officials in the George W. Bush administration should have anticipated and prevented the attacks of September 1. Because of the emotional desire to have avoided the trauma of the attack, hindsight caused observers to point to intelligence reports prior to the event as overwhelming evidence of its impending occurrence.[14]

Strategic decision-makers need to temper the lessons they draw from history with an understanding of the pitfalls of analogizing. To do so, Yeun Foong Khong recommends using analogies whose lessons appear more ambiguous. This forces decision-makers to augment their answers elsewhere and seek several relevant past occurrences, rather than rely solely on a single historical instance.[15] Colin Gray suggests that historical analogies are useful to strategists so long as they approach their analysis of the past on different levels.[16] By considering the analogy at the tactical, operational, and strategic level, and garnering specific conclusions from each strata, decision-makers can avoid some of the traps of misapplying historical analogy.

In addition to historical analogies, strategists can use their own experiences to ground their strategies in lessons from the past. This can also be fraught with difficulty. Firsthand experiences often exercise too great an influence on a person’s predispositions. The impact a past event had on a decision-maker will influence the likelihood that they attempt to apply that event to their current situation. If, for example, the event was particularly traumatic or brought the individual significant attention, it will weigh heavier in their mind.[17] Firsthand experiences also contribute to the illusion of familiarity. Familiarity is confused with truth such that personal experiences bias expectations and lessons learned.[18]

French officer David Galula was successful in his counterinsurgency efforts in the Greater Kabylia district of Algeria. However, this success proved detrimental when he tried to apply the same tactics and strategy to the Bordj Menaiel sector.[19] His previous successes blinded him, and this made him unable to recognize differences between the two regions and fail to see how those differences would impact the utility and effectiveness of the strategy.

Despite the risks inherent in learning from experience, there are still significant benefits to using the past to make strategic decisions. J.F.C Fuller argues that all knowledge is derived from experience and that knowledge can drive a decision through observation and reflection. Without experience, strategists cannot develop the reason required to make decisions and formulate strategy.[20] Emile Simpson defines strategy as a dialogue between theory and experience. Simpson asserts that effective strategy requires balance between those factors.[21] Examining the past through historical analogy and personal experience provides strategists context to apply to and frame their decision-making.

In addition to appropriately interpreting the past, strategists must also make reasonable and useful predictions about the future. There are pitfalls in this endeavor as well, some of which are related to the difficulties of understanding the past. Because it is easy to construct plausible narratives about what has previously happened, individuals develop the illusion that they understand the past. This gives them overconfidence in their ability to predict the future.[22]

In addition to heuristic biases, strategists must grapple with the presence of chance and uncertainty when making their predictions about the future. Clausewitz considers uncertainty and chance two of the elements that make up the climate of war and includes chances in his trinity. Because of the presence of uncertainty and chance, guesswork and luck become a significant part of war and strategy.[23] Additionally, the presence of chance precludes strategists from controlling circumstances enough to ensure they can achieve their desired effects.[24]

The German parachute assault on the Maleme airfield on Crete suffered from several setbacks related to chance. First, excessive dust from the propellers of the aircraft prior to takeoff disrupted the planned spacing of the aircraft and drops. Additionally, the tow-rope of the glider flown by the operational commander General Wilhem Sussmann snapped, and he crashed to his death. Finally, the Germans had little control over their parachutes and thus many of them landed in water, drowning nearly immediately. Chance so completely impacted the effectiveness of the parachute assault that Adolf Hitler refused to approve another parachute operation for the remainder of the war.[25]

Despite the inherent difficulties, strategy nonetheless requires prediction. Decision-makers can employ several tools and frameworks to make reasonable and useful predictions. Khong recommends mitigating the dangers by subjecting predictions to a test.[26] One such test might be a “premortem” wherein decision-makers conduct a thought experiment arguing that their forecasts and plans have failed. Attempting to trace the reasons for the failure can provide decision-makers a check on their prescriptions and inspire improvements.[27] Another predictive framework involves using strategic foresight to imagine multiple futures. In this type of planning, which Herman Kahn used to contemplate nuclear strategy, decision-makers imagine a set of plausible futures and then build strategies that could be useful across a range of those futures.[28]

Having several frameworks for prediction can help provide better projections that may be more resilient to the inevitable uncertainty and chance. These projections then inform policy decisions that, when accurate, can bring strategic success. China’s Premier Deng Xiaoping chose to invade Vietnam in part because he predicted the Soviet Union would refrain from attacking China in response. Deng anticipated that moving troops away from other theaters would go against Moscow’s strategic interests and thus the Soviet Union would not pose a risk to Chinese action. This accurate forecast informed Deng’s decision-making and allowed Beijing to achieve its strategic objectives.[29]

While some strategies have a specific timeframe with which to bookend a prediction, when it comes to national objectives, strategy never ends. Everett Dolman characterizes strategy as a plan for attaining a continuing advantage and considers it an unending process seeking continuation rather than culmination.[30] This means that strategists’ foresight must have an infinite horizon. However, because of uncertainty, the future is unlikely to play out as predicted.

Therefore, strategists need to implement feedback into their strategic processes to continually adjust their plans as reality diverges from their prediction. Despite the difficulty and risk inherent in both historical analogy and future predictions, strategic decision-makers must embody Janus’s ability to look backwards and forwards to appropriately apply historical analogy and experience to their predictions for the future. This dual perspective will help them make better informed strategic decisions.

Engraved illustration of the "chariot vision" of the Biblical book of Ezekiel. (Matthäus Merian/Wikimedia)

While Janus has two faces on a single head, the Judeo-Christian cherubim, heavenly creatures described in the book of Ezekiel, each have four heads.[31] These creatures represent the highest levels of contemplation and discernment, two related attributes that are also critical to strategic decision-makers.[32] Contemplation, or considering something deeply and thoughtfully, is necessary when grappling with the difficult challenges that strategists face.

Competing priorities, limited resources and the presence of uncertainty combine to create difficult strategic problems that require contemplation. Because contemplation is a cognitive act, it is subject to cognitive biases like the tendency to address difficult questions by oversimplifying them and answering a related, but easier, question.[33] Throughout the war in Vietnam, the United States military failed to make meaningful progress towards their objectives. Rather than reevaluate their strategy and consider what changes might be necessary to achieve their political aims, the military instead focused on easy metrics of body counts, missions flown, and bombs dropped.[34] The inclination to simplify is understandable because the world is complex and strategic decision-making is difficult. However, these cognitive shortcuts sacrifice methodological rigor; strategic decision-makers cannot afford to take shortcuts and instead need to engage in contemplative thinking to address the challenging questions they face.

Like contemplation, strategic decision-makers need discernment, or the ability to judge well, to reconcile the attainment of possibly unlimited ends with necessarily limited means.[35] Strategists must know how to appropriately limit the desired objectives and how to properly allocate the available capabilities. Knowing the difference between respecting constraints and denying their existence is fundamental in strategy; successful strategy rests on that ability.

President Abraham Lincoln held his objective of maintaining the Union constant, but was able to recognize shifts in his available means. Lincoln chose to curtail certain civil liberties and Constitutional protections but was not willing to suspend the Presidential election. He kept his options within the appropriate physical, emotional and moral tolerances of the time and was able to recognize and adapt as those tolerances changed.[36] In contrast, President Woodrow Wilson was unable to reconcile his means and his ends following the First World War. The goals of his Fourteen Points far exceeded the abilities of American foreign policy officials tasked with negotiating its implementation.[37] Wilson lacked the cherubim’s skill of discernment required to align his objectives and capabilities and thus achieve his strategic goals.

While the cherubim’s multiple heads allow for the wide ranging vision necessary for contemplation and discernment, strategic decision-makers must also seek the aims of a character usually depicted as blind: Lady Justice. John Lewis Gaddis argues justice should be a goal for strategic decision-makers, defining history as a search for justice through order.[38] Strategists must aim for justice both in the ends they seek and the means by which they seek them.

Statue of Lady Justice in Frankfurt, Germany (Pablo Pola Damonte/Flikr)

The just war theory of jus ad bellum is not only relevant in the direct lead-up to armed conflict. It is also pertinent long before, and independent of, the use of force. As such, jus ad bellum should guide strategists as they make decisions in times of peace.[39] Strategy should seek the common good, which loosely equates to a combination of peace, justice, and order. Other aspects of proper strategy include human life, physical security, honor, dignity, and material, moral, economic and spiritual well-being.[40] Strategists should seek to achieve these elements alongside their political objectives. B.H. Liddell Hart argues the objective of war should be a better state of peace and that strategists should consider their desired state of peace as they conduct war.[41] These ideas should drive and guide decision-makers, particularly as they consider foreign policy interactions.

Lady Justice carries a set of scales with which she balances evidence in order to render judgment and make decisions. While strategists do not necessarily balance evidence, they do need to consider a wide range of other factors when making strategy. As previously discussed, they must balance priorities, resources, and tools to achieve their aims. Additionally, strategic decision-makers often have to balance short term goals with their ultimate long-term objective, driving the choice between action and prudence. Lincoln made such a strategic choice in the timing of the Emancipation Proclamation. Lincoln delayed the decision by understanding that many of the slave-holding Union states might defect if he freed the enslaved population too early in the war.[42] This choice required him to balance justice and expediency. He understood, as Clausewitz argued, that individual aspects of war, and by extension strategy, cannot be considered in isolation from their overall purpose. Lincoln did not allow his quest for justice in freeing the slaves to impact his overall objective of preserving the Union.[43]

As Lady Justice balances the evidence in front of her to render judgment and make decisions, she wears a blindfold. This lack of sight represents her impartiality and ability to consider evidence without regard to the status or power of either side. Strategic decision-makers must similarly be able to impartially approach their strategic challenges and put aside personal biases. Individual policymakers and political operatives are likely to have their own personal and group preferences based on the organization they are a member of, the position they hold within that organization, and their own personal views. Graham Allison and Philip Zelikow argue that individuals involved in decision-making will usually make recommendations that reflect his or her own preferences.[44] The final decision-maker needs to consider all the preferences of these individuals but, like Lady Justice, should do so impartially and without bias or preferential treatment.

In addition to the scales, Lady Justice carries a sword, underscoring the fact that retribution may be a part of achieving justice when she finds someone guilty. This desire to seek justice impelled the Obama administration to intervene in Libya and protect the values of human rights, the rule of law, and constitutional government.[45] Proponents of intervention understood that allowing Muammar Qaddafi to continue killing Libyan civilians would amount to a failure to uphold the international community’s moral responsibility to protect innocents.[46] Strategic decision-makers must compare the costs of going to war with the harm of failing to intervene and make decisions guided by justice and the common good.

Gaddis recommends, "if you turn your ideas into animals, they’ll achieve immortality.”[47] The attributes and abilities of a strategic decision-maker lend themselves well to such characterization, not as animals, but as part of three particular mythical embodiments. First, the Greek Muses Melpomene and Thalia, representing the opposites of tragedy and comedy, remind strategic decision-makers of the importance of appropriately balancing tensions. Second, the two faces of the Roman God Janus represent the strategic decision-makers’ requirement to properly draw lessons from the past and make forecasts regarding the future. Those historical analogies and future predictions can drive better informed decisions. Contemplation and discernment, attributes of the many headed cherubim, are critical to strategic decision-makers. They must be able to recognize cognitive biases and use tools and frameworks to judge well and avoid the downfalls of those biases. Finally, strategic decision-makers should seek to uphold the attributes of Lady Justice by impartially balancing evidence and taking action to ensure the achievement of justice. Strategic decision-makers must embody these characters, embrace their attributes, and utilize their abilities to build a successful strategy.

Europe is heading for recession. How bad will it be?

Every single warning light is flashing red. Russia’s war on Ukraine, an uneven recovery from the covid-19 pandemic and a drought across much of the continent have conspired to create a severe energy crunch, high inflation, supply disruptions—and enormous uncertainty about Europe’s economic future. Governments are rushing to try to help the most vulnerable. Amid the nervous confusion, there is broad agreement on one thing: a recession is coming.

Quite how bad the downturn will be depends on how the energy shock plays out, and how policymakers respond to it. This week energy prices reached once-unimaginable heights: more than €290 ($291) per megawatt hour (mwh) for benchmark gas to be delivered in the fourth quarter of the year (the usual pre-pandemic price was around €30); and more than €1,200 per mwh for daytime electricity for the same quarter in Germany (up from around €60). Because gas is the marginal fuel in most European electricity markets, it sets the price for power more broadly.

The European economy entered the crisis in a reasonably strong position. The labour market is still relatively healthy, with unemployment at 6.6%—meaning that the economy is near to full employment by Europe's mediocre standards. Wage growth will probably pick up in the coming months, as long-term contracts are renegotiated. Consumer confidence fell at the beginning of the war, but consumption didn’t slump. Inflation expectations have subsided somewhat.

Russia’s longstanding problem with Ukraine’s borders

Kataryna Wolczuk and Professor Rilka Dragneva

As Russia’s second invasion of Ukraine drags on, many are keen to see the end of fighting, with some international elites and political leaders arguing for a truce with Russia.

While their motives and goals may differ, they all hope that with the right concessions Russia can be brought to the negotiating table to agree on a ceasefire, Ukraine’s borders, and its place in Europe’s security.

But such thinking is sharply at odds with Putin’s professed goal of fulfilling Russia’s historical mission to ‘conquest and fortify’, denying Ukraine’s right to exist as a sovereign country.
Russia’s historical approach to Ukraine

In the early years of Vladimir Putin’s regime, a sense of ‘mission’ was not articulated in public, but it was on display for those who sought to see it.

The truth about Xi Jinping’s ‘One China’ policy

As the representative of Her Majesty’s Government in Beijing entered the room through the tall and heavy doors, he was met with a sight of Imperial splendour. At the far end of the glorious room were two comfortable chairs facing down the room, separated by a marble table on which sat a huge vase of flowers. The Chinese government representative sat impassively in one chair, while to his left, a harsh wooden bench stretched down the side of the room, occupied in strict hierarchy by various government functionaries numbering about 15.

The British minister took his seat in the other seat, his view of his counterpart blocked by the flowers, while his rather smaller contingent of officials began to occupy the parallel wooden bench, and not in any hierarchical order. And so the ceremony began: two formal speeches which had been agreed between the parties beforehand, and delivered to the mute officials on either side rather than to each other. Nobody else was allowed to speak, clap or express themselves in any way. The formal signing of a document would follow.

All very much what you would expect from an event held in the Qing dynasty, which was finally deposed in 1912. Except this was 2013 and I was the British minister. The emperor’s new clothes are being worn by the hard-nosed apparatchiks of the Chinese Communist party and in ways that go far beyond, and are far more significant, than the superficial conduct of ceremonies.

The Air-To-Air War In Ukraine No One Saw Coming

Sebastien Roblin

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has resulted in the most sustained air-to-air combat in decades, pitting the Ukrainian Air Force’s prewar fleet of roughly 110 operational Soviet-era warplanes (not one purchased after the collapse of the Soviet Union) versus roughly 1,200 fixed-wing Russian Aerospace Force (VKS) combat aircraft, many relatively new and the rest extensively modernized.

Many observers (including this writer) believed this imbalance of power would result in a one-sided and short-lived contest when Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

But that’s not what happened: the Ukrainian Air Force wisely dispersed prior to the war. The Air Force sustained only modest losses from Russia’s initial airbase attacks. Meanwhile, Ukrainian warplanes were visibly fighting on day one.

A half year later, Ukrainian and Russian fighters continue to joust, mostly with long-range missiles, while both sides’ ground attack aviation remains active at low altitudes near the frontline. After heavy losses early in the war, neither side is willing to penetrate deep into enemy airspace.

Can India Defeat China and Pakistan’s Air-to-Air Missiles?

Girish Linganna

In June, India took an important step toward self-reliance by placing an order for the Astra Mk-1 beyond visual range (BVR) missile. BVR missiles can engage targets beyond a pilot’s visual range, which is typically about thirty-seven kilometers. The Astra Mk-1 has a range of 100 kilometers and a ceiling of twenty kilometers. It has satisfied all the consumers who intend to integrate them into their aircraft, including the Indian HAL Tejas multirole fighter. However, will this new capability give India an edge over Pakistan and China?

A Tall Order

Pakistan’s F-16 fighter jets are armed with U.S. AIM-120 advanced medium-range air-to-air missiles (AMRAAM). It is a fire-and-forget active transmit-receive radar guidance weapon with a range of over 100 kilometers capable of traveling at Mach 4 speed. In retaliation to the 2019 Balakot airstrike, Pakistan launched Operation Swift Retort where it fired the AIM-120 AMRAAM at six locations in Jammu and Kashmir.

The Taliban’s Triumph Has Been Afghanistan’s Tragedy

Mirwais Parsa

Afghanistan has long been a rentier state dependent on international aid. Aid has had a mixed impact on the long-run performance of the Afghan economy. From 2001 to 2021, the flow of aid undoubtedly shaped the contextures of a modern economy and bureaucracy, boosted a nascent but thriving civil society and private sector, and integrated Afghanistan’s economy into the world economy. Meanwhile, international assistance created a culture of dependency, increased systemic corruption, and hampered state legitimacy. Upon the collapse of the Afghan republic, international grants covered about 75 percent of the government’s public expenditures. Economic growth slowed with a gradual decline in international assistance starting in 2014, while poverty and unemployment kept rising. The pandemic and the intensified conflict in the later years of the republic had already led the economy to the brink of a collapse.

When the Taliban took over on August 15, 2021, Afghanistan became a pariah state. The country was isolated from the international financial markets, and its economy began a free fall. An absolute majority of the population lost its purchasing power due to loss of employment, distorted civil service salary payments, reduced household incomes (particularly for the female-headed households who are denied the right to work), and the suspension of development aid. Total domestic expenditure declined by 60 percent. More than 82 percent of households lost their wages, 18 percent of families resorted to the negative coping mechanisms of child marriage or child labor, and 7.5 percent of families started begging for survival. Of those still employed, at least 70 percent lost a significant portion of their incomes.

Spirals of Delusion How AI Distorts Decision-Making and Makes Dictators More Dangerous

Henry Farrell, Abraham Newman, and Jeremy Wallace

In policy circles, discussions about artificial intelligence invariably pit China against the United States in a race for technological supremacy. If the key resource is data, then China, with its billion-plus citizens and lax protections against state surveillance, seems destined to win. Kai-Fu Lee, a famous computer scientist, has claimed that data is the new oil, and China the new OPEC. If superior technology provides the edge, however, the United States, with its world class university system and talented workforce, still has a chance to come out ahead. For either country, pundits assume that superiority in AI will lead naturally to broader economic and military superiority.

But thinking about AI in terms of a race for dominance misses the more fundamental ways in which AI is transforming global politics. AI will not transform the rivalry between powers so much as it will transform the rivals themselves. The United States is a democracy, whereas China is an authoritarian regime, and machine learning challenges each political system in its own way. The challenges to democracies such as the United States are all too visible. Machine learning may increase polarization—reengineering the online world to promote political division. It will certainly increase disinformation in the future, generating convincing fake speech at scale. The challenges to autocracies are more subtle but possibly more corrosive. Just as machine learning reflects and reinforces the divisions of democracy, it may confound autocracies, creating a false appearance of consensus and concealing underlying societal fissures until it is too late.

Britain After Ukraine A New Foreign Policy for an Age of Great-Power Competition

Tom Tugendhat

Six months after Russian President Vladimir Putin’s unprovoked invasion of a European democracy, the West is awakening to a startling reality: the nation-state is back. The institutions built to constrain rogue actors are vulnerable, and technology has given autocracies new forms of leverage. Rather than the last gasp of nationalism, the attack on Ukraine shows the new direction of power.

Risks that were only possible now look probable. The Baltic states’ paranoia about Russia now seems well founded, and Finland and Sweden’s once vaunted neutrality no longer appropriate. Even Beijing’s threats against Taiwan look less performative and more preparatory.

The severity of the international response to Russia’s aggression is just as notable. For years, Moscow made clear its plans—cyberattacks on Estonia in 2007, the occupation of Georgia in 2008, the attack on Ukraine in 2014—but Europe and the West treated these events as business as usual. This time is different. Governments from Tokyo to Stockholm are proving their resolute support for Ukraine with military aid and unprecedented economic sanctions on Russia.

How to Teach Beijing a Lesson in Ukraine

Robert C. O’Brien

The world is becoming more dangerous. Russia’s war on Ukraine is entering its seventh month, while China has become increasingly aggressive toward Taiwan, with recent large military exercises around the island and the regular crossing by fighter jets of the median line that divides the Taiwan Strait. The lessons the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) learns from Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine will inform Beijing’s decision-making on Taiwan.

What could be called the Davos view that China is “communist in name only” is fading. In its place, an understanding of the strength of both ethnonationalist and Marxist-Leninist conviction among the Chinese leadership is taking hold. It was once common to believe that China would be transformed into a more liberal polity if the United States kept making concessions and ignored its unfair trade practices, intellectual property theft, and genocide—just the opposite has occurred. China has become more authoritarian and aggressive, especially over the past decade. The United States is now paying a price for its past naivete and tendency toward appeasement of Beijing.

Since Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin publicly embraced a “no limits” partnership on the eve of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, there have been worries that Beijing would seize the moment to invade and annex Taiwan. Although the prospects of an immediate invasion are slim, with China distracted at home by economic crisis and the run-up to the critical 20th Party Congress, the threat remains.

MIT’s New Battery Will Change The World

Will Lockett

The future is battery-powered. All of our next-gen and planet-saving technology, like solar power and electric vehicles (EVs), require batteries to function. But as these brilliant pieces of technology become more widely adopted, we find that our current batteries aren’t quite up to the job. Lithium-ion, the most commonly used type of battery, is expensive, slow charging, bulky, fast to degrade, has a tendency to catch fire, and isn’t the kindest to the environment. Fortunately, MIT just created an entirely new type of battery that solves all of these issues in one fell swoop. So, is this the battery of the future? Or is there a catch?

When I say entirely new, I mean it. Every part of this battery uses different materials from anything currently available. Its electrodes (the parts at the ends of the battery which carry current into the circuit) are made from aluminium and pure sulphur rather than the complex metals and graphite electrodes of lithium-ion batteries. Its electrolyte (the part of the battery in the middle, which carries ions to and from the electrodes) is also different, being made of molten chloro-aluminate salts rather than the organic solution with lithium salts found in lithium-ion batteries.

The truth about Xi Jinping’s ‘One China’ policy

As the representative of Her Majesty’s Government in Beijing entered the room through the tall and heavy doors, he was met with a sight of Imperial splendour. At the far end of the glorious room were two comfortable chairs facing down the room, separated by a marble table on which sat a huge vase of flowers. The Chinese government representative sat impassively in one chair, while to his left, a harsh wooden bench stretched down the side of the room, occupied in strict hierarchy by various government functionaries numbering about 15.

The British minister took his seat in the other seat, his view of his counterpart blocked by the flowers, while his rather smaller contingent of officials began to occupy the parallel wooden bench, and not in any hierarchical order. And so the ceremony began: two formal speeches which had been agreed between the parties beforehand, and delivered to the mute officials on either side rather than to each other. Nobody else was allowed to speak, clap or express themselves in any way. The formal signing of a document would follow.

All very much what you would expect from an event held in the Qing dynasty, which was finally deposed in 1912. Except this was 2013 and I was the British minister. The emperor’s new clothes are being worn by the hard-nosed apparatchiks of the Chinese Communist party and in ways that go far beyond, and are far more significant, than the superficial conduct of ceremonies.

Some of the first troops into Afghanistan celebrate victories, lament failures

Michael Lee

Americans involved in the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan took part in one of the most unique victories in U.S. military history, but some have expressed sadness over the way the war ended nearly 20 years later.

"There was no reason to leave Afghanistan… just like I don't believe there was any reason to leave Iraq at that time," Perry Blackburn, the founder of AFG Free and a former commander with 5th Special Forces group during the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, told Fox News Digital.

Blackburn, one of the first veterans of America's longest war, expressed sadness over how the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan concluded, noting the people the U.S. left behind when it departed the country and arguing that American military power could have still helped bring about generational change in Afghanistan.

Lessons from history for the future of work

Robert C. Allen

Today is not the first time that people have worried that machines will render human labour obsolete, making a few very rich and the majority very poor.

Since the Industrial Revolution, mechanization has been controversial. Machines pushed up productivity, raising incomes per capita. But they threatened to put people out of work, to lower their wages and to divert all the gains from growth to the owners of businesses. The stocking-frame operators of Nottingham, UK (the Luddites), wrecked improved knitting machines that threatened their jobs. Mobs burnt down the first mills housing spinning and weaving equipment in the 1760s and 1790s.

Now, it is robots that threaten work, wages and equality1. Are the gains of technological progress destined to benefit only the top 1% of earners?

Economists' stock answer to this question is 'no'2. Technical progress in the past three centuries has led to incomes in the West (that is, the developed nations of today) that are much higher than they were in 1700 in real terms, and the fraction of the adult population employed in these countries is at record levels. Despite mechanization, automation and computerization, people have found jobs. Somehow the economy has always adjusted; somehow in the future it always will.

Six months into the war, what is the state of Russia's economy?

Andrey Ostroukh

Russia's economy has avoided the meltdown many predicted after Moscow sent its forces into Ukraine six months ago, with higher prices for its oil exports cushioning the impact of Western sanctions, but hardships are emerging for some Russians.

After predicting at one point that the economy would shrink more than 12% this year, exceeding the falls in output seen after the Soviet Union collapsed and during the 1998 financial crisis, the economy ministry now expects a 4.2% contraction.

High global energy prices have helped the Kremlin follow through on President Vladimir Putin's pledge in March to reduce poverty and inequality despite crippling Western sanctions and inflation. Some economists have compared the situation to the COVID-19 pandemic, when authorities increased payments for those most vulnerable to the crisis.

"So far, there are no signs that the drop in living standards could lead to unrest," said Alexei Firsov, founder of social studies think tank Platforma.

Marine Hone Future Concepts with Dune Buggies, Liaison Officers, and Many Radios


MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII—For one senior leader in the Pacific, the changes coming to the way Marines fight were acutely demonstrated by the small teams zipping around in Polaris ATVs during a recent exercise.

Brig. Gen. Joseph Clearfield, the deputy commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Pacific, recalled how years ago he had to move around in Humvees or amphibious assault vehicles, and stop to put up a 30-foot antenna whenever he wanted to talk to the rest of his unit.

The commander of MAGTF-7’s battalion landing team “is running all around Oahu right now with four [ultra-light tactical vehicles], so these little dune buggies with four Marines each, and he's able to communicate on the move and do and have better capability than I did in 11, 12 years ago,” Clearfield said at the bi-annual Rim of the Pacific exercise, or RIMPAC, in July.

I’m a Ukrainian Soldier, and I’ve Accepted My Death

Artem Chekh

IVANKIV, Ukraine — Recently, one of the companies in our battalion returned from a mission in eastern Ukraine. When we saw our comrades a month earlier, they were smiling and cheerful. Now they don’t even talk to one another, never take off their bulletproof vests and don’t smile at all. Their eyes are empty and dark like dry wells. These fighters lost a third of their personnel, and one of them said that he would rather be dead because now he is afraid to live.

I used to think I had seen enough deaths in my life. I served on the front line in the Donbas for almost a year in 2015 and ’16 and witnessed numerous tragedies. But in those days the scale of losses was completely different, at least where I was. Each death was carefully fixed, investigations were conducted, we knew most of the names of the killed soldiers, and their portraits were published on social networks.

This is another kind of war, and the losses are, without exaggeration, catastrophic. We no longer know the names of all the dead: Dozens of them daily. Ukrainians constantly mourn those lost; there are rows of closed coffins in the central squares of relatively calm cities across the country. Closed coffins are the terrible reality of this cruel, bloody and seemingly endless war.

When Israel Struck Syria’s Reactor: What Really Happened – Analysis

Ehud Barak

When I joined Ehud Olmert’s government on June 18, 2007, as minister of defense, it was almost three months since planning of the destruction of the Syrian reactor in Deir az-Zor had begun (in late March). I was aware of this activity, having been briefed in late April about the reactor’s existence by Olmert, Mossad head Meir Dagan, and IDF head of intelligence Amos Yadlin. Asked for my opinion on what should be done, I answered on the spot: “We must destroy it.” This issue was why I insisted on entering the defense ministry as soon as possible. I assumed that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) was deep into preparations to execute an operation, and I believed I could contribute to the operation’s success.

Two Flawed Plans

On my first day at the ministry (I had already served as defense minister alongside my premiership, 1999-2001), I convened a “status of operation” discussion with participation of all relevant operational arms—Intelligence, Mossad, and Air Force (IAF), as well as experts on nuclear reactors. The two operational plans for the reactor’s destruction on which the Air Force and others had been working were presented to me in full detail. The prevailing view in the room, as well as the conventional wisdom in the Prime Minister’s Office, was that of an urgent, immediate need to implement the plan, preferably within a week or two. It was also perceived as critical to proceed swiftly lest our awareness of the reactor’s existence became public, which would significantly complicate its destruction, and before the reactor became “hot” and rendered the operation impractical. There was a general unanimity regarding the need “to destroy the reactor and avoid a wider clash with Syria.” To my surprise, I found that both plans, quickly nearing “D-day,” failed to meet these requirements.

A Reminder that the position of Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs actually exists


Since 2011, I have been tracking the ridiculously short tenures of the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs. By the way, the average tenure is 517 days, and the median tenure is 477 days. I also tracked how often the office was empty, which was equally if not more critical since senior positions can be stressful and some churn might be expected. For example, in December 2011 when my staff at the Advisory Commission for Public Diplomacy and I first looked at the Under Secretary turnover, for the six Under Secretaries for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs since 1999, there had been five Under Secretaries for Political Affairs in the same period. However, as of December 2011, the political affairs office lacked a confirmed appointment to the office 5% of the time, a stark difference from the public diplomacy office being empty 30% of the time. What follows is far less commentary than my June 2021 post reminding people the office was empty.

Today, there has not been a confirmed appointment to the position of Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs over 44% of the days since the position was first occupied in October 1999. Imagine if a division president was absent nearly seven months of every year in the corporate world. I’ll leave aside that each new Under Secretary brings a new concept of how the office should be run, which led to a now largely forgotten (because fewer now care?) parlor game of wondering how the new Under Secretary would redefine “public diplomacy.”