16 September 2022

Andrew Bacevich, Will the U.S. Learn Anything from Putin's Disastrous Invasion?

The figures stagger the imagination. The latest Pentagon budget will come in at about $850 billion (while the full national security budget will undoubtedly once again be in the $1.4-trillion range). Consider that a stunning sum to invest in a U.S. military that, as TomDispatch regular Andrew Bacevich points out today, has proven a first-class failure in every one of its wars in this century. Consider it a remarkable fact of our world that the military which has a budget the size of the next nine countries combined couldn’t win a single one of the conflicts it took on globally in these years. (As last August’s tumultuous withdrawal from Afghanistan showed, it generally couldn’t even come close.)

If you want an explanation for why such an overfunded military underperforms so radically, the answer might perhaps be found in one devastating reality on this planet: nuclear weapons. After all, our military has built itself up in a mind-boggling fashion largely to engage in future wars that, in the end, can’t truly be fought against enemies (think Russia and China) that, like us, are nuclear powers. Yes, Washington can indirectly fight such enemies — in the case of Russia by giving billions of dollars in arms aid to Ukraine. But directly, without potentially endangering all life on this planet? Not likely. In fact, though the U.S. has been facing off against Russia and China (with rare exceptions) for almost three quarters of a century, from Korea to Vietnam to Ukraine, it has only been able to fight either of them in the most indirect fashion.

Cyber trends in the wake of Russia-Ukraine war undergoing evolution – report

Lyle Adriano

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine involves military action and an elaborate state-sponsored hacking campaign as well – and a new report from cyber analytics firm CyberCube has found that related cyberwarfare efforts have swelled since the start of the war.

CyberCube’s new report, “Ukraine Cyber War Update,” is a follow-up to the company’s previous report “War in Ukraine creates a fundamental shift in the cyber threat landscape.” The new report noted that although Russia has employed cyberwarfare tactics to complement its military activity on the physical battleground during its invasion, the nation has also taken the opportunity to direct its hackers against Ukraine’s allies.

Citing findings from Microsoft, the new report found that since the start of the war, there were Russian-affiliated network intrusion efforts launched against 128 different targets in 42 countries outside of Ukraine. The past six months have also seen a steady increase of cyberattacks from Russian-speaking ransomware gangs that have openly pledged allegiance to Moscow and have largely targeted US and European businesses, said CyberCube.

National Security Threat: China's Eyes in America

Peter Schweizer

Chinese intelligence gathering in the US takes many forms and has different purposes. Most Americans are familiar with some of their means and tactics, but not with how widespread and persistent they are.

Americans may know about the malware contained in that infernal TikTok app that their children use. They may know the Chinese military's cyber-intelligence service was likely behind many of the largest hacks of Americans' personal data that have ever occurred. They may know from the news how US defense and intelligence policy have sanctioned Chinese telecom giant Huawei, and counseled America's allies to reject Chinese-architected implementations of 5G networking, due to evidence that China has planted backdoors in commercial networking equipment designed to allow the Communist regime in Beijing to conduct surveillance and cyber-espionage anywhere in the world.

Do they know it extends to consumer-level drones?

Cybersecurity expert Klon Kitchen, writing for The Dispatch, recently detailed the problem with DJI, the Chinese company whose consumer and commercial grade drones control nearly 90% of the market. These popular products are cost-effective, easy to fly and operate, and send every byte of data they gather to servers in China. For this reason, they are banned by the US military and Department of Homeland Security, though still used by the FBI and increasingly by local police as "eyes in the sky" during crime events. FBI use of DJI drones is especially ironic considering bureau director Christopher Wray has warned often of the dangers to western commerce posed by the Chinese, most recently in London.

Iran and Russia: The New Alliance

Judith Bergman

Iran and Russia have been strengthening their alliance recently, growing it gradually to such an extent that the Wall Street Journal wrote on August 27 that the two countries were "forging tighter ties than ever," as both countries face continued international isolation.

In recent months, Russia and Iran have signed a multitude of agreements, especially in trade, oil and gas, and military cooperation.

In June, an agreement on the establishment of mutual trade centers in St. Petersburg and Tehran was signed, to generate further trade between the two countries in the sectors of energy, transportation, electronics, agriculture, food, pharmaceuticals and construction, by helping Iranian and Russian businessmen establish contacts and conduct financial transactions.

In May, Russia and Iran signed agreements on settling their trade and energy payments in their national currencies instead of the US dollar. In addition, they agreed to continue talks to connect their electronic payment systems as well as their financial messaging systems. Since then, Russia and Iran have gradually begun trading in their national currencies.

Ukraine at D+201: Ukraine's counteroffensive, and Russian attempts to make sense of it.

Ukrainian forces have reconquered almost all of the disputed Kharkiv Oblast, the New York Times reports. Ukraine has recovered some 2400 square miles of territory, by Al Jazeera's tally, an area greater than that of the US state of Delaware. (Ukraine itself is roughly the size of the US state of Texas.) The AP cites reports claiming large numbers of Russian prisoners, but the situation remains fluid and details of the fighting are still unclear. US officials confirm that they've observed significant Ukrainian battlefield success, much of it owed to intelligent use of rocket artillery, but they sensibly observe that Russia still has options as the invaders seek to recover from what's being widely described as a rout.

The situation report from the UK's Ministry of Defence this morning looks at the 1st Guards Tank Army state, many of whose elements were withdrawn from the Kharkiv Oblast in the last few days. "Elements of the Russian forces withdrawn from Kharkiv Oblast over the last week were from the 1st Guards Tank Army (1 GTA), which are subordinate to the Western Military District (WEMD). 1 GTA suffered heavy casualties in the initial phase of the invasion and had not been fully reconstituted prior to the Ukrainian counter-offensive in Kharkiv. 1 GTA had been one of the most prestigious of Russia’s armies, allocated for the defence of Moscow, and intended to lead counter-attacks in the case of a war with NATO. With 1 GTA and other WEMD formations severely degraded, Russia’s conventional force designed to counter NATO is severely weakened. It will likely take years for Russia to rebuild this capability."

Russian general commanding West is out.

Lieutenant General Roman Nikolaevich Berdnikov has been fired as commander of the Western Group of Forces, the Telegraph reports. His replacement is said to be Colonel General Aleksandr Pavlovich Lapin, formerly Central Group of Forces commander. General Berdnikov had held that job only since August 26th; apparently his sixteen-day tenure was marked by enough combat failure during Ukraine's counteroffensive that President Putin felt it necessary to make a change. General Lapin is now the fourth commander the ill-starred formation has had since the beginning of Russia's war.

The Kremlin line on the war.

Russian social media influencers and their amplifiers have been claiming that the Russian retreat is really a planned and voluntary maneuver to create a pocket within which Ukrainian forces can be destroyed ("like Stalingrad") but no one other than the official influencers (and probably not even the official influencers themselves) are prepared to credit this claim. There have been unusual public expressions of dissatisfaction with Russia's fortunes in Ukraine. Foreign Policy reports dissent and disapproval of Russia's progress in the war on the part of hardline Russian nationalists, who, as can be heard on Rossiya1, have been denouncing the Russian war as a campaign of half-measures, fatally restricted by misguided humanitarian restraint. (No one else perceives any such restraint.) Much of the criticism has had a tone familiar in Russian history--wicked advisors around the throne (in this case the intelligence services) are to blame. Why didn't they advise the President better? If only the tsar knew. The Telegraph speculates that opinions voiced on state television to the effect that "Ukraine cannot be defeated" are a stalking horse intended to determine whether Russian public opinion would tolerate peace talks.

Reviewing the cyber phase of a hybrid war.

Six months into Russia's war against Ukraine, CyberCube has reviewed Russian cyber operations. While their effect has fallen far short of prewar fears, those fears based largely on memory of Russian cyberattacks against Ukraine's power grid in 2015 and 2016, some trends have emerged that are likely to continue through the end of the war and beyond.

The close relationship between Russian intelligence services and the criminal gangs they use effectively as privateers has come into sharper relief. The advantage of using such gangs is not only the capacity the criminals contribute, but also the degree of deniability (at this point implausible rather than plausible deniability) they bring with them. They've been deployed against economic targets, but the selection of those targets is designed to stay below a level that might provoke massive (perhaps even kinetic) retaliation. "Russian ransomware gangs are focusing on large targets that fall just under the critical infrastructure threshold," CyberCube writes. The intention is to work economic damage as a way of retaliating against, and perhaps dissuading governments that have provided Ukraine with material and diplomatic support. "Russia is using criminal ransomware gangs to undermine the US economy while also avoiding direct war with the US. European energy companies are also increasingly being targeted for their strategic value. Russia is targeting governments in Europe that are assisting in Ukraine’s defense."

Among the more striking Russian successes in what has generally been an underwhelming performance in cyberspace were early campaigns that deployed wipers against targets in Ukraine and adjacent areas of Eastern Europe. "There has been a dramatic rise in the normalization of wiper malware being used as a weapon in this war."

Russia has advanced its long-term project of Internet autarky. This has been in part by design, driven partly by a perceived need to control information domestically, and partly by necessity, as Western technology firms withdrew from the Russian market. In any case, an isolated Russian "sovereign Internet" is thought likely to provide a more secure safe haven for the criminal gangs Russia tolerates and uses. (Whether it will provide as convenient a line of departure for criminal operations as the former, more connected Russian web remains to be seen.) While Russian cyber operations have not had the devastating effects widely predicted during the run-up to war, they've nonetheless affected the calculations of the insurance market. "In response to this pattern of increased cyber activity, (re)insurers and brokers need to take proactive measures to manage their exposures," CyberCube observes. "Lloyd’s recently introduced a requirement that all standalone cyber attack policies must exclude liability for losses arising from state-backed attacks." The clarity the war clauses will introduce may prove beneficial to the insurance market. "CyberCube believes this mandate will help reduce uncertainty and enable more insurers to participate with confidence, based on a clearer understanding of what is covered, and what is excluded."



In the summer of 2022, the FBI proudly announced that it had thwarted a cyberattack against a hospital in Boston. The announcement was a cause for celebration. The attack had failed to elicit any meaningful consequences. Equipment and networks were not damaged. Neither health data nor funds were stolen. Lives were not lost. By every metric, the attack caused no damage. Or so it seemed.

Like a predictable twist in an action movie, the real danger remained unseen. A fixation on a subset of high visibility consequences—degraded hardware, pilfered funds, stolen data, and fatalities—obscured a more insidious threat. If you look beyond the first order consequences, the hidden threat of cyberattacks is that they can undermine societal cohesion, diminish trust in government, traumatize the public, and encourage violent and isolationist worldviews. Even with the strongest cybersecurity software, democratic societies remain vulnerable.

Our research group has been exploring the subtle political effects of cyberattacks by running dozens of experiments that directly expose people to cyber operations under strictly controlled settings. The studies involved some 10,000 respondents in four countries—the US, England, Israel, and Germany.

Russia spent millions on secret global political campaign, U.S. intelligence finds

Missy Ryan

Russia has secretly funneled at least $300 million to foreign political parties and candidates in more than two dozen countries since 2014 in an attempt to shape political events beyond its borders, according to a new U.S. intelligence review.

Moscow planned to spend hundreds of millions of dollars more as part of its covert campaign to weaken democratic systems and promote global political forces aligned with Kremlin interests, according to the review the Biden administration commissioned this summer.

A senior U.S. official, who like other officials spoke to reporters Tuesday on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence findings, said the administration decided to declassify some of the review’s findings in an attempt to counter Russia’s ability to sway political systems in countries in Europe, Africa and elsewhere.

The 4 factors that explain Ukraine’s extraordinary military success

Max Boot

Last week, I wrote that Ukrainian forces had the initiative and Vladimir Putin was losing his “war of choice.” Little did I know how true that was. When I wrote that column, attention was focused on Ukraine’s offensive in the south toward Kherson. That attack is making only incremental gains, but in the past week, Ukraine has launched a surprise offensive in Kharkiv province that has achieved lightning progress in the northeast.

The internet is full of images of jubilant Ukrainian civilians being freed from the yoke of Russian occupation. In all, Ukrainian forces claim to have liberated more than 1,000 square miles of territory (more than the land area of Los Angeles and New York combined), and the offensive is not over yet. Especially significant has been the liberation of key railway and logistics nodes such as the Ukrainian city of Izyum that were used to support Russian operations in the eastern Donbas region.

This is the biggest Ukrainian victory since the successful defense of Kyiv in the conflict’s early days. Putin’s plans for a three-day war have turned into a nearly seven-month slog. How has Ukraine been so successful at besting its larger neighbor? I see four factors at work.

'Don't Do It:' Senior Leaders Say Soldiers Should Stop Taking Mandatory Online Classes

Steve Beynon

Online, so-called mandatory training -- a set of roughly a dozen courses soldiers are typically tasked with completing annually, including training on securing military facilities and information, ethics, equal opportunity and safety courses -- is time-consuming. Some in the force view the courses as a distraction from more important tasks, like combat training.

Senior leaders have a solution: Skip the classes.

"Don't do it," Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston told soldiers at a conference Tuesday. "Set priorities for your organization and fight for it."

Army senior leaders want commanders to stop hounding their soldiers to complete the mandatory online training, part of a broader shift away from the Global War on Terrorism era and toward ramping up training for conventional warfare. That training is expected to be faster-paced and more complicated.

"I was a division commander for three years, and I never did this stuff," Gen. James McConville, the Army's chief of staff, told soldiers at a conference Tuesday, referencing the online training. "People actually do this stuff? You don't have time … and frankly, this is when senior leaders need to come in."

The classes are largely seen as a burden on the force, taking soldiers away from training and duties pertaining to their job, with most of the information covered in the online courses potentially included in more detailed training programs soldiers already must undertake. The online classes are also run off of clunky Defense Department websites that are known to crash often.

However, when it comes to some of the material covered in online classes, subject matter experts might not always be available to units for in-person training and certification, and the courses do provide a way for the Army to emphasize certain areas, like ethics, that can be important across a service member's career.

Not completing those courses isn't reflected on a soldier's record; instead, the data is usually shown exclusively in internal unit rosters for commanders to note who did the training. The only training that directly impacts the careers of enlisted troops are other lengthy online courses, needed to rise to the next rank.

"Is someone going to physically take that soldier [to complete the training]?" Grinston, the service's top enlisted leader, asked about forcing troops away from their regular duties. "It's usually the staff; it's rarely the battalion commander."

Army leaders want commanders to focus on other priorities, like a more difficult physical fitness and marksmanship test the service has rolled out, along with prioritizing tests for expert badges.

"What we have to do for junior subordinates is give them our priorities and make sure they have the time," McConville said. "Are you doing PT? Are you making sure your squads can do a night live fire?"

-- Steve Beynon can be reached at Steve.Beynon@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @StevenBeynon.

Predictions of Putin’s Demise Are Greatly Exaggerated

Mark Lawrence Schrad

There is a growing cottage industry among Russia watchers and international relations experts focused on the political demise of Russian President Vladimir Putin. It’s an understandable wish—but one that so far is rooted more in optimism about karmic justice than in reality. Every Kremlin setback is framed as “the beginning of the end of Putin” and his regime. The Russian Armed Forces’ recent disorganized retreat and “regrouping” in the face of a dramatic Ukrainian offensive have unleashed yet another wave of premature speculation about Putin’s impending doom, unbalanced by any consideration of the sources of his political resilience and stability, which have kept him in power through one political crisis after another.

The end-of-Putin genre is nothing new and includes (ultimately false) prognostications by all manner of respected journalists, academics, Russian opposition politicians, and even Western leaders. The predictions of Putin’s imminent demise have been around for almost the entirety of his rule.

After succeeding Boris Yeltsin as president in 2000, Putin’s popularity was bolstered by the dramatic growth of the Russian economy—an average of 7 percent per year for nearly a decade—but the tragically bungled government responses to both the 2002 Moscow theater siege and the 2004 Beslan school attack led to premature political eulogies for Putin.
Joe McDonald

Chinese leader Xi Jinping is keeping the West guessing about whether Beijing will cooperate with tougher sanctions on Russia as he meets President Vladimir Putin a year after declaring they had a “no limits” friendship ahead of the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine.

China has avoided violating sanctions, but its purchases of Russian oil and gas rose almost 60 percent in August over a year ago to $11.2 billion. That helps to top up Moscow’s cash flow after the United States, Europe, and Japan cut purchases and expelled Russia from the global banking system.

Xi and Putin are due to meet this week in Uzbekistan at a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, an eight-nation Central Asian security group.

Washington and allies in the Group of Seven major economies want to squeeze Moscow by enforcing an upper limit on how much buyers are allowed to pay for its oil. That would require cooperation from China, India, and other energy-hungry Asian economies that have avoided taking sides and still buy from Russia.

Taiwan’s Greatest Vulnerability Is Its Energy Supply

Jeff Kucharski

The struggle Taiwan is waging against China’s attempts to change the status quo in the Taiwan Strait would lead one to believe that the greatest threat currently facing Taiwan is that China will try to unify the island with the mainland by force. As worrisome as this possibility is, Taiwan's most fundamental threat is to its economy and energy system.

Soon after U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island in early August, China launched military drills and “war games” around Taiwan – the largest ever. These operations took place in large swaths of the ocean around the island, with China issuing navigation warnings to ships and aircraft to stay out of these areas. The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Eastern Theater Command said that the drills were designed to prepare for “defense” and “blockade” operations. However, these incursions into Taiwanese-controlled areas were more intense and extensive than ever before. There are growing fears that an elevated level of PLA military activity in and around Taiwan will become a “new normal,” creating instability and threatening regional security, with potential ongoing impacts on Taiwan’s maritime trade and commerce.

A Retrospective Post-Quantum Policy Problem

Herb Lin

This concern is not new. The theoretical possibility that quantum mechanics could be used as the basis for computation was first posed in the physics literature around 1980. In 1994, Peter Shor developed an algorithm that could rapidly factor large numbers into their constituent primes if run on a quantum computer. The development and publication of Shor’s algorithm raised the possibility of undermining the RSA algorithm that underlies most secure messaging over the internet. The security afforded by the RSA algorithm is based on the difficulty of factoring large numbers, and thus Shor’s algorithm presents a potential threat to RSA.

Since 1994, the cryptography community has speculated about the forthcoming availability of quantum computing hardware that could run Shor’s algorithm. In the early days of such speculation, the range of estimates for that time frame ranged from “pretty soon” to “probably never.” However, in recent years, the emerging consensus seems to be that quantum computing, as it applies to cryptanalysis, cannot be dismissed as mere puffery. Scientific and engineering progress in quantum computing over the past 25 years has been nontrivial, and many nations are involved in supporting extensive research efforts into quantum computing. In 2016 under the Obama administration, the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology initiated the first public U.S. government effort to develop cryptographic algorithms that would be resistant to quantum computing. The Trump administration continued this interest in quantum computing by proposing substantial increases in funding for quantum information sciences. And, as noted above, the Biden administration’s 2022 White House National Security Memorandum has continued to emphasize the importance of quantum computing and has directed federal agencies to begin preparing for a transition.

In Reclaimed Towns, Ukrainians Recount a Frantic Russian Retreat

Andrew E. Kramer and Jeffrey Gettleman

BALAKLIYA, Ukraine — The signs of desperation were everywhere. Abandoned military vehicles. Cans of food and dishes left on tables. Mail scattered on office floors. Clothes left hanging on lines.

This is how the Russian army left the town of Balakliya in northeastern Ukraine, in a sign of a frantic, chaotic withdrawal as the Ukrainian Army closed in during a fast-moving counteroffensive over the last few days. The lightning assaults allowed Ukraine’s military to recapture hundreds of square miles of territory, strategic towns and abandoned weapons.

One resident, Oleksandr Kryvosheya, said that he had overheard Russian soldiers yelling at their commanders on a radio in an armored personnel carrier parked in the courtyard of his apartment block. “You left us behind, you got out,” the soldiers protested, Mr. Kryvosheya said.

“If they came to fight, if they came to build this new Russia, why didn’t they stay and fight in Balakliya?” he said in an interview on Tuesday.

As the Russian defenses around the town collapsed, residents said, soldiers ran for whatever transport they could, leaving behind ammunition and weapons along with personal items in apartments where they had quartered.

“Trucks drove through the city honking, and they climbed on and left,” said Igor Levchenko, a retiree, describing the Russian Army’s withdrawal after more than six months of occupation. “They didn’t have a fighting spirit. They were afraid.”

The testimony of the town’s residents aligned with reports from other recently retaken villages in the Kharkiv region, where Ukraine has routed Russian forces, and towns that are still occupied in the south. The accounts shed a harsh light on apparent morale and communications breakdowns within Russian occupying forces that could have broad implications for the course of the war, should units elsewhere be afflicted with similar problems.

Some witnesses described the Russian troops as increasingly ill-disciplined, unpredictable, anxious and, in some cases, simply scared.

The morale of Russian troops is just one factor in Ukraine’s calculus about whether it can extend its gains in two campaigns, in the east and the south, without overstretching its own forces. But it could prove critical, as it did over the last week, when Russian forces deserted their positions and gear en masse and Ukrainian forces swept into dozens of villages and towns.

Around 150,000 people in some 300 communities in northeastern Ukraine are living in areas reclaimed from Russian control, Hanna Malyar, Ukraine’s deputy minister of defense, said Tuesday.

Even after the lightning offensive, Russia still holds vast swaths of territory in eastern and southern Ukraine and outguns the Ukrainians with artillery and tanks. Russian troops have increased shelling in some areas, including on the Ukrainian stronghold of Bakhmut, in the east, where both sides are deeply dug in. And the particular woes of units in the north may reflect a Ukrainian strategy of striking first where the Russians were weakest.

In an interview on Tuesday, Ms. Malyar said that the Ukrainian Army was prepared to react “dynamically” to various situations, suggesting that its plans are not relying wholly on collapsing Russian morale.

“The Ukrainian Army is more motivated because we are fighting a just war, we are fighting for our land,” she said. “When Russian soldiers arrive here they realize they have been deceived by Russian propaganda.”

Still, a visit by journalists to the recaptured areas, organized by the Ukrainian police, turned up signs of what military analysts have said are worsening shortages of qualified troops in Russia’s military, which has increasingly relied on a motley array of soldiers.

In the newly recaptured village of Verbivka, made up of a few isolated streets and brick homes surrounded by a sea of farm fields, a crowd of residents turned up to meet the police buses. Some cried, expressing both happiness and shock at the quick turn in fortunes.

They described Russian soldiers beating a hasty retreat.

Residents said that a hundred or so soldiers had occupied the village from the self-declared Luhansk People’s Republic, one of the two Russia-backed separatist groups that rebelled in 2014.

Put on occupation duty in what had been a rear area for the Russians, the troops were ill-equipped, lacking even their own vehicles. They had been dropped off by buses, residents said.

Iryna Derevyanka, a schoolteacher, said one soldier had told her he was only fighting “to earn money.” She said that the occupiers made little effort to sway residents with the ideology of expanding Russia’s borders.

The soldiers quartered in homes of residents who had fled, typically about half a dozen men to a house, and drove in cars commandeered from locals. “They lived comfortably, taking whatever they wanted,” she said.

Confronted with an unexpected fight as the Ukrainian Army advanced, the soldiers seemed surprised, she said, as they had made no special preparations either for defense or retreat. In the panicky moments as they fled, some changed into looted civilian clothes.

Vitaly Bychok, a welder, said he had seen Russian military jackets hanging on a fence after soldiers changed into street clothes, in an effort to slip away disguised as fleeing civilians.

“They ran into the houses and changed into whatever clothes they could find,” he said. “They ran where they could, in small groups.”

The counterattack on the village was not without cost for the residents. About two dozen civilians were wounded by shrapnel from Ukrainian shelling, said Larisa Khrantsova, a clerk in the village store. “I heard people screaming in the streets,” she said.

But she said she understood the risks the Ukrainians had undertaken in the attack.

“How else could we get them out?” she said.

In the hours after the battle, the village was eerily silent.

“When they left it became quiet, and it was so scary I cannot describe it,” said Olha, an employee of an electrical company who asked that her last name not be published out of safety concerns. “We were scared that this silence would bring something horrible.”

The Russian soldiers, she said, were young and inexperienced. “They were silly, so young, children,” she said. “If they had surrendered, they would have survived.”

Residents said that the soldiers’ lack of discipline extended to their treatment of civilians. If men expressed any displeasure with the Russian military’s presence, soldiers would hit them in the chest with a rifle butt, said Oleksandr, a retiree. “Many men had blue chests,” he said.

In the south, people who just escaped Russian controlled territory said some of the occupying troops seemed scared about the possibility of fighting off a Ukrainian advance.

“At the checkpoints, they seemed stressed out,” said Maksym Bratienkov, a beekeeper who fled a southern city, Berdyansk, for the Ukrainian-held city of Zaporizhzhia. “All night they were moving military equipment around, like they were in a hurry. They were looking for partisans and going to parts of town they had never been to.”

Another resident who fled southern-occupied territory, Yevhen Kornienko, said Russian troops had been barging into homes more often recently. “Even the simplest check can now end very badly,” he said.

Mr. Kornienko, speaking in a shelter for displaced people in Zaporizhzhia, said Russian forces in his hometown, Hola Prystan, had grown increasingly brutal. He also said that in the past few days, Russian soldiers were looting more than ever, robbing townspeople at gunpoint of electronic equipment, cars, computers, even dresses.

“They are out of control,” he said.

Mr. Bratienkov, the beekeeper, said not all the Russian soldiers in his town had behaved badly. He said some were from the mostly Muslim republic of Dagestan, while others came from a Ukrainian separatist group and were to be feared. “These guys are fanatics,” he said.

In Balakliya, the police on Tuesday exhumed two bodies of men they said had been shot in the final, panicky days before the Russian withdrawal. Working in a thick stench, officers zipped the corpses into body bags and loaded them into a hearse taking them for an autopsy. Ukrainian prosecutors say they have found a dozen or so bodies in the town and nearby areas.

As elsewhere, Russian soldiers had taken to living in abandoned apartments.

Tatyana Morkolenko, another retiree, lived next door to a dozen or so Russian soldiers who had settled into three apartments in her building. They were quiet neighbors, she said, but didn’t appear disciplined. When she entered one apartment after they fled, she found empty beer bottles in the kitchen.

In their haste, Russian soldiers left a city police station in a state of chaos, with papers scattered about the floor along with personal items, like a mug and boots. A can of ham was set out on a table, a meal never enjoyed.

The floor was littered with papers trodden over with muddy boots, including letters and drawings sent from Russian schoolchildren to cheer up the soldiers.

Upstairs, laundry was drying on a clothesline and looped over chairs, including a pair of gray, striped boxer shorts.

“Look,” said Oleg Tertishin, a Ukrainian policeman who referred to the Russian soldiers by a derisive term commonly used in Ukraine. “There are the underwear of the orcs.”

China’s ponzi-like property market is eroding faith in the state

he 120km train ride between the cities of Luoyang and Zhengzhou is a showcase of economic malaise and broken dreams. From the window endless, half-built residential towers pass one after another for the duration of the hour-long journey. Many of the buildings appear near completion; some are finished and have become homes to families. But many more are empty skeletons where construction ceased long ago. Developers have run out of cash and can no longer pay workers and buy materials. Projects have stalled. Families will never get their homes.

The train ride through China’s heartland helps to explain one of the country’s biggest crises in recent memory: the public’s loss of confidence in the government’s economic model. For decades the property industry has been symbolic of China’s unstoppable rise. Private entrepreneurs have made vast fortunes. Average people have witnessed their net worth soar as home values trebled. Local governments have filled their coffers by selling vast tracts of land to developers. An astonishing 70% of Chinese household wealth is now tied up in real estate.

The War in Ukraine at the Half-Year Mark: How Has the Media Fared?

Shashank Joshi

JE: Months before the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, we witnessed an unprecedented release of intelligence information, much of it very accurate and very detailed, with the intent of either preventing or deterring the Russian attack. Was the media comfortable digesting this quantity of information from US intelligence sources?

SJ: It’s worth contrasting the information we faced in January or February this year with that in 2013 during the Syria chemical weapons crisis because that also reflected some of the post-Iraq hesitancy around handling Western intelligence claims. Western governments at that time were forced into much more aggressive disclosure of intelligence than they would have preferred in the past. And we saw that in the form of dossiers published by the David Cameron government, which failed to persuade the House of Commons and a large share of the UK public. What was different this time? It was partly the sheer weight of evidence. It wasn’t just claims of arrows on maps or puppet governments; it was a wealth of kaleidoscopic data on everything from ‘false flags’ to the identification of particular Russian military units in specific places.

One Year On: The Aftermath of the Kabul Evacuation

Tim Willasey-Wilsey CMG

The memories of August 2021 are still raw. The refugees falling from C-17 transport aircraft and queuing waist-deep in sewage will remain lasting images, along with the drone strike on an innocent family and the billions of dollars of military equipment left behind. But how does the local situation look now?

Nearly a year later, a recent CIA operation killed Ayman al-Zawahiri, the head of Al-Qa’ida, who was allegedly staying at a house linked to Sirajuddin Haqqani in the Sherpur district of Kabul. This event indicates three important points.As predicted, the terrorists hiding in Waziristan on the Afghanistan–Pakistan border have returned to Afghanistan for the first time since late 2001. This was exactly what Western leaders claimed would happen when they justified the NATO presence for 20 years. The UN has recently reported that the Afghan branch of Islamic State is one of ‘the most vigorous and best established’ of its regional networks.

The Haqqanis, who have long been close to the Al-Qa’ida leadership, have not changed their spots. They lead a terrorist organisation which is both distinct from and part of the Taliban. They are (or should be) the biggest barrier to countries considering whether to discuss recognition with the traditional Kandahari Taliban, led by the more moderate Mullah Baradar.
Although CIA drones were evidently able to mount an operation in Kabul, the fact remains that Western counterterrorist capabilities in Afghanistan are insufficient for the extent of the threat. Zawahiri was an iconic target rather than a major threat, and the US must have been operating at the limit of its capabilities.

Can Russia Continue to Fight a Long War?

Dr Sidharth Kaushal

As the war in Ukraine enters its sixth month and with no immediate end in sight, its duration has signposted the critical importance of endurance in the context of high-intensity warfighting. Authors such as Alex Vershinin have done the analytical community a service by underscoring the ways in which Western industrial capacity will need to adapt if Western countries are to expend resources on the scale that Russia and Ukraine are doing. However, Russia itself built many of its strategic and operational concepts around short war assumptions. Though it has demonstrated the ability to expend resources at scale so far, the question of whether Russia has all the underpinnings of a state capable of continuing to fight a long war deserves further examination. This article will examine whether the foundations of Russian military power – both political and material – can sustain a protracted conflict.
The Political Conditions

A key consideration that many analysts have debated is for how much longer the Russian state can absorb the political costs of war, particularly under sanctions. Is the regime durable, or will a long war weaken its hold on power? This question is difficult to answer in a conclusive manner, but the record of similar regimes in long wars might provide some insight. Most data suggests that authoritarian regimes do not face unmanageable instability in the context of either victorious wars or protracted stalemates. Indeed, they are somewhat more likely to endure long wars without suing for peace than democracies are. Only after decisive and delegitimising defeats like that suffered by General Galtieri’s regime in the Falklands War is opposition galvanised. Dictators have more domestic incentives to extend a conflict even in the face of limited strategic gains than they do to terminate it on unfavourable terms. This is borne out by 20th-century conflicts such as the Iran–Iraq War, which continued in an indecisive manner for a decade without either side losing domestic legitimacy (particularly notable in the case of Iran, which at the time had a new regime). Popular revolt is unlikely, and autocrats can head off the risk of elite dissent by enriching elites likely to support conflict at the expense of those who do not. This is a probabilistic claim, and Russia’s history provides counterexamples – the Tsarist regime collapsed in the face of mounting war costs despite its army not having been decisively defeated on the Eastern Front of the First World War. Though outperformed by Germany, Russia was still a credible military force capable of launching counteroffensives when popular will to fight the war collapsed. Nonetheless, on the balance of probabilities, we might assume that the collapse of a regime in response to the costs of a long war is unlikely.

Rivalry in the Information Sphere

Michelle Grisé, Alyssa Demus, Yuliya Shokh, Marta Kepe

Information and information technologies infuse all parts of modern society — in peacetime, during periods of strategic competition, and during wartime. Since the early 2000s, advanced information technologies for rapidly sharing, processing, and analyzing data have had a significant effect on the character of Russian military operations. An examination of the Russian military-scientific literature reveals the centrality of the concept of information confrontation in Russian military strategy.

Information confrontation, or informatsionnoe protivoborstvo (IPb), is a distinct element of Russian strategic thinking in the post–Cold War era. Russia sees itself as being in a constant state of information confrontation with the West as it tries to expand its own dominance and prevent its adversaries from gaining influence.

In this report, the authors examine prevailing definitions and types of information confrontation, and they discuss the historical evolution of Russian (and Soviet) influence operations and psychological warfare, from 18th-century Imperial Russia up to the Vladimir Putin era. As a fundamental element of Russian strategy, information confrontation is evolving from primarily carried out to supplement traditional means of waging war into something carried out continuously and in peacetime to shape the operational environment so that it will be malleable in future conflicts.

Emerging Technology Beyond 2035

Bryan Boling, Benjamin Boudreaux, Alexis A. Blanc

The future is highly uncertain — however, it is important for the Army to try to anticipate future global developments and technological changes. This forecasting work aims to assist the U.S. Army in preparing for shifting operational environments, including environments it might not have faced extensively in the past, such as in extreme weather conditions driven by climate change. In these and other operating conditions, emerging technologies might help the Army succeed in key missions and promote U.S. interests. Forecasting could also help the Army better understand and anticipate the types of conflicts it might face, along with the characteristics of key adversaries, and the operational-level challenges that could be in play. Preparing and planning for future contingencies are especially important in the context of scarce resources in an austere budget environment where the Army already today needs to make difficult decisions about how it dedicates its resources. This report presents the development and implementation of a technology road-mapping process to help the Army understand the implications of key emerging technologies that could be crucial to Army missions in the years 2035 to 2050. This work aims to assist the Army for shifting operational environments, such as operations in extreme weather conditions. Emerging technologies might help the Army succeed in key missions and promote U.S. interests.

Nanomaterials pave the way for the next computing generation

Jeff Hecht

Solid-state computing has had a long run since the 1950s, when transistors began replacing vacuum tubes as the key component of electronic circuits. Generations of new solid-state devices that process and store information electronically at accelerated speeds came and went as germanium transistors were replaced by silicon transistors, integrated circuits, and increasingly complex chips filled with ever-higher counts of smaller transistors.

Since 1965, the industry has been guided by Moore’s law — predictions made by Gordon Moore, co-founder of microprocessor giant Intel — that ever-shrinking devices will lead to improved computing performance and energy efficiency. Advances in nanotechnology have allowed the smallest features on today’s most advanced integrated circuits to be shrunk to an atomic scale, but this is incompatible with current devices. The next major step in computing not only requires new nanomaterials — it needs a new architecture.

CMOS (complementary metal-oxide-semiconductor) transistors have been the standard building blocks for integrated circuits since the 1980s. CMOS circuits, like generations of digital computers before them, rely on the fundamental architecture that John von Neumann chose in the mid-twentieth century. His architecture was designed to separate the electronics that store data in computers from those that process digital information. The computer stored information in one place, then sent it to other circuits for processing. Separating stored memory from the processor keeps the signals from interfering with each other and retains the accuracy needed for digital computing. However, the time spent moving data from memory to processors has become a bottleneck. Developers are now seeking alternative non-von Neumann architectures to perform calculations ‘within memory’ to avoid wasting time moving data around.

Twitter whistleblower reveals employees concerned China agent could collect user data

Sheila Dang and David Shepardson

Sept 13 (Reuters) - The FBI informed Twitter Inc (TWTR.N) of at least one Chinese agent working at the company, U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley said during a Senate hearing on Tuesday where a whistleblower testified, raising new concerns about foreign meddling at the influential social media platform.

Peiter "Mudge" Zatko, a famed hacker who served as Twitter's head of security until his firing in January, said some Twitter employees were concerned the Chinese government would be able to collect data on the company's users.

Twitter has come under fire previously for lax security, most notably in 2020 when teenage hackers seized control of dozens of high-profile accounts, including the verified profile of former U.S. President Barack Obama.

On Tuesday, Zatko's testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee revealed Twitter's security issues could be far more serious, alleging for the first time that the company was informed of agents of the Chinese government working at the social media firm.

China, India had agents working at Twitter, whistleblower says

WASHINGTON — Twitter’s former security chief told Congress on Tuesday there was “at least one agent” from China’s intelligence service on Twitter’s payroll and that the company knowingly allowed India to add agents to the company roster as well, potentially giving those nations access to sensitive data about users.

These were some of the troubling revelations from Peiter “Mudge” Zatko, a respected cybersecurity expert and Twitter whistleblower who appeared before the Senate Judiciary Committee to lay out his allegations against the company.

Zatko told lawmakers that the social media platform is plagued by weak cyber defenses that make it vulnerable to exploitation by “teenagers, thieves and spies” and put the privacy of its users at risk.

Communist China’s Plot for World Domination Ian Easton sounds the alarm about an existential threat to our way of life.


Earlier this year, Ian Easton, a former China analyst with the Center for Naval Analyses and currently senior director at the Project 2049 Institute, a think tank that focuses on U.S. security interests in the Indo-Pacific region, wrote a book titled The Final Struggle: Inside China’s Global Strategy. In his author’s note, Easton describes the book as an analysis of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) “plan for world domination.” Easton contends that a close reading of President Xi Jinping’s speeches — some of them never before translated — reveals that that CCP is committed to spreading China’s communist totalitarian model of rule worldwide.

Easton makes clear in the book that China’s goal of “world domination” does not envision Chinese armed forces conducting a long series of military invasions with “hordes of tanks, and fascist storm troopers swarming across the map” and “goose-stepping into fallen capital cities.” The CCP’s global strategy, he explains, “is much more sophisticated” than Hollywood visions or American novels of World War III. Instead, the CCP’s strategy involves “a protracted campaign of silent invasions to replicate on a global level what it sees as its own superior system.” The CCP’s geopolitical goal is a “totalitarian world order” led by China.

The rot runs deep in the Russian war machine. Ukraine is exposing it for all to see

Brad Lendon

From Wednesday to Sunday, Vladimir Putin’s military forces saw at least 338 pieces of important military hardware – from fighter jets to tanks to trucks – destroyed, damaged or captured, according to numbers from the open source intelligence website Oryx, as Ukraine’s forces have bolted through Russian-held territory in an offensive that has stunned the Russians in its speed and breadth.

Ukraine’s top military commander claimed on Sunday that more than 3,000 square kilometers (1,158 square miles) of territory had been retaken by his country’s forces since the beginning of September. And for more perspective, just “since Wednesday, Ukraine has recaptured territory at least twice the size of Greater London,” the British Defense Ministry said Monday.

Ukrainian reports say Putin’s troops are fleeing east to the Russian border in whatever transport they can find, even taking cars from the civilian population in the areas they had captured since the start of the war in February.