17 September 2022

Ukraine War: Gradually, Then Suddenly

Lawrence Freedman

As with bankruptcy so with military defeat. What appears to be a long, painful grind can quickly turn into a rout. A supposedly resilient and well-equipped army can break and look for means of escape. This is not unusual in war. We saw it happen with the Afghan Army in the summer of 2021.

For the past few days, we have witnessed a remarkable Ukrainian offensive in Kharkiv. We have the spectacle of a bedraggled army in retreat—remnants of a smashed-up convoy, abandoned vehicles, positions left in a hurry, with scattered kit and uneaten food, miserable prisoners, and local people cheering on the Ukrainian forces as they drive through their villages. The speed of advance has been impressive, as tens of square kilometres turn into hundreds and then thousands, and from a handful of villages and towns liberated to dozens. Even as I have been writing this post, paragraphs keep getting overtaken by events.

It would of course be premature to pronounce a complete Ukrainian victory in the war because of one successful and unexpected breakthrough. But what has happened over the past few days is of historic importance. This offensive has overturned much of what was confidently assumed about the course of the war. It serves as a reminder that just because the front lines appear static it does not mean that they will stay that way, and that morale and motivation drain away from armies facing defeat, especially when the troops are uncertain about the cause for which they are fighting and have lost confidence in their officers. Who wants to be a martyr when the war is already lost?

Trial Run for China-Afghan Rail Corridor as SCO Summit Kicks Off

Sophia Nina Burna-Asefi

A trial period of three months will see freight trains from China deliver goods to Afghanistan via Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Exports of Afghan goods will follow the same route back to China. This new railway corridor commenced its trial run on September 13 when the first two containers of cargo that were trucked from the city of Kashgar in Xinjiang province, arrived in the city of Osh in Kyrgyzstan. From there the cargo will be transported via rail through Uzbekistan then into Hairatan, a border town in the northern Balkh Province of Afghanistan. According to the Kyrgyz national rail operator, Kyrgyz Temir Zholu, by September 15 ten containers with cargo from China are expected to arrive along the route.

The agreement for a trial run of a new economic corridor between China and Afghanistan was signed on September 11, when representatives of the national railway authorities of Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and Kyrgyzstan met in Tashkent with Zhejiang Union of Railway International Logistics Co Ltd, a private Chinese logistics company.

The Zhejiang Union of Railway International Logistics company is expected to transport 3,500 to 5,000 containers of commercial goods from China each round. According to the agreement, the time it takes for goods to reach Afghanistan from China will be cut from two months to two weeks. The Afghan Railway Authority also stated that import and export tariffs would be significantly reduced on goods transported by rail.

Winter Is Coming In Europe

In 1914 Europe became embroiled in what was meant to be a quick war, over by Christmas. In February 2022, many expected Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to be over within a month. There are echoes between the two situations, says Harold James, professor of history at Princeton University. “And we now know that this war won’t be over by Christmas either,” he adds.

For most people in Europe, the fallout isn’t directly military but economic, and both sides are weaponizing finance against each other. The West has imposed economic sanctions on Russia, which, in turn, is cutting off Europe’s gas supplies. Inflation and a looming energy crisis are the new facts of life.

In a wide-ranging discussion chaired by IESE’s Xavier Vives, held for the European Finance Association (EFA) on the Barcelona campus in late August, James was joined by Nicholas Veron (of Bruegel and the Peterson Institute for International Economics), Lucrezia Reichlin (London Business School) and Elena Carletti (Bocconi University) to dissect the situation from various historical and economic perspectives — considering the financial effects so far, how the situation might develop and the difficult reconciliation of energy security and climate goals.
Early results from the financial sanctions

Time Is Running Out to Defend Taiwan Why the Pentagon Must Focus on Near-Term Deterrence

Michèle Flournoy and Michael Brown

Chinese President Xi Jinping has made it abundantly clear that “reunifying” Taiwan with mainland China is a legacy issue, something he intends to accomplish on his watch through political and economic means or, if necessary, military force. Right now, he is preoccupied with the COVID-19 crisis, the slowing growth of the Chinese economy, and the upcoming 20th Party Congress, where he hopes to secure a third term as chair of the Chinese Communist Party. But once these immediate concerns are addressed, it is possible that sometime in the next five years Xi will consider taking Taiwan by force, either because nonmilitary efforts at reunification have fallen short or because he believes his chances of success will diminish if he waits and U.S. military capabilities grow.

The long-standing U.S. policy of “strategic ambiguity” deliberately leaves uncertain whether and under what circumstances the United States would defend Taiwan against a Chinese invasion. But it is clearly in the United States’ interest to deter China from attempting such an operation in the first place. As the scholar Hal Brands noted in a July report for the American Enterprise Institute, a Chinese assault on Taiwan that draws a U.S. military response is likely to ignite a long conflict that escalates beyond Taiwan. Like great powers that have gone to war in the past, the United States and China would grow more committed to winning as a conflict progressed, each making the case to its public that it has too much to lose to stop fighting. Given that China and the United States both have substantial nuclear arsenals, preemptively deterring a conflict must be the name of the game. To do so, the United States must help Taiwan modernize and enhance its self-defense capabilities while also strengthening its own ability to deter China from using force against the island.

How Does the Worsening Security Environment Impact Nuclear Disarmament?

Suzanne Claeys

On August 26, 2022, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) Review Conference (RevCon) ended without a consensus final document, the so-called hallmark of success. The NPT came into force in 1970 and is considered to be the cornerstone of nonproliferation, and in many ways, nuclear arms control. It creates a legally binding framework to prevent nuclear proliferation, promote cooperation on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and further the goal of complete nuclear disarmament. The failure to achieve a final consensus document over “political language” highlights the importance of the security environment and the impact of strategic competition between nuclear weapon states on the nonproliferation and disarmament regime’s ability to progress. But not all state parties are convinced by the argument that the security environment is the problem, and such a narrative ignores growing friction between nuclear weapon states and nonnuclear weapon states which support initiatives for complete and irreversible disarmament. In the end, the security environment, specifically the war in Ukraine and Russian control of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, were to blame for the inability to achieve a consensus final document.

Q1: What is the NPT RevCon? What happened at this RevCon?

A1: When the treaty entered into force, Article VIII called for a review conference every five years to assess the implementation's procedural and substantive aspects. The 1995 RevCon indefinitely extended the treaty to 191 state parties.

Renew SBIR, Just Defend the Recipients against China

Charles Wessner and Sujai Shivakumar

An April 2021 internal report by the Department of Defense (DOD) found that companies funded by the DOD’s Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program are being targeted by state-sponsored Chinese firms. Based on an examination of a sampling of SBIR award recipients, the Pentagon study concluded that “nearly all cases show that China, not the U.S., is the ultimate beneficiary of DoD and other U.S. government research investments, some of which are significant in size.” The authors cautioned that the study sample was small and that their methodologies warrant review, but their findings are clearly a concern for U.S. policymakers.

This justified concern, however, seems to have morphed into quite a different approach. Citing the Pentagon study’s findings, Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), the senior Republican on the Senate Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, said in June 2022 that he would not support reauthorizing the SBIR program “without reforms to strengthen research security and stop abusive behavior by bad actors lining their pockets with taxpayer dollars.” In a move unrelated to national security, Senator Paul and several other lawmakers are also seeking limits on the number of awards that can be made to individual SBIR companies. (There is no empirical basis for such a restriction, nor could it be effectively implemented, but the proposed measure emerges anew as SBIR comes up for reauthorization.) The risks, however, are real. The Wall Street Journal reported in July that SBIR and the related Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) program face “an overhaul or outright extinction” if Congress does not renew their budgets and funding runs out at the end of September. The DOD has already canceled a round of SBIR award solicitations “because of uncertainty over the program’s future.”

Where Does Ukraine Go From Here?

Andrew A. Michta

Western analysts have greeted the spectacular success of the ongoing Ukrainian offensive in the south and east, especially the rout of Russian forces in the Kharkiv region, with a mixture of disbelief and jubilation. Some have begun to call it a first step in a Ukrainian push to all-out victory; others have revised their views of the overall capabilities of the Russian army, with some becoming downright dismissive of those capabilities. Undeniably, the combination of Western equipment and training with the patriotism, high morale, and courage of the Ukrainian armed forces have shredded much conventional wisdom about Russia, Ukraine, and the entire eastern flank of NATO.

But it would be premature to declare victory.

In fact, the success of this offensive should spur the West to redouble its assistance to Ukraine, for much hard work remains ahead. The Kharkiv victory, or rather series of victories, is a major win for Ukraine, both in terms of its own national pride and the positive message it sends to the U.S. and other Western supporters. Historians will likely write about how Kyiv’s skillful messaging about an imminent Ukrainian counteroffensive to the south induced the Russian command to move large numbers of its forces there—a classic case of getting your enemy to do operationally what you want it to do, while weakening their position. Still, this is not the end of the conflict but another phase in it. Much depends on how Ukraine capitalizes on these wins and—equally importantly—how Vladimir Putin responds. Here I see several possibilities.

Ukraine’s Coming Winter of Decision


KYIV – Russia’s war against Ukraine, which President Vladimir Putin began in 2014 and expanded in February, has taken a dramatic turn following Ukrainian forces’ liberation, in less than a week, of some 3,400 square miles (8,800 square kilometers) of territory in the country’s northeastern Kharkiv district. Russian strategists, apparently focused on the ongoing Ukrainian counteroffensive in the country’s south, were unprepared for the attacks, and Russia’s poorly trained and poorly led troops were no match for their highly competent and motivated Ukrainian counterparts.

What happened was a turn, but not yet a turning point, in the war. It is too soon to extrapolate from Ukraine’s gains in one area, much less conclude that what happened in Kharkiv is a harbinger for the entire country. Russia still occupies the vast majority of the territory it seized in 2014 and subsequently, and many Russians regard Crimea as theirs. This suggests that taking it back would prove extremely difficult, especially as more military force is required to conduct offensive operations than to defend.

Russia’s New Nuclear Threat: Power Plants as Weapons

Mary Glantz, Ph.D.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and occupation of Europe’s largest nuclear power station have triggered the first real-world case of a crisis that security scholars have feared for decades: a threat of radiological disaster from a wartime incursion on an operating nuclear power plant. Russia effectively is using the plant at Zaporizhzhia as a pre-positioned nuclear weapon to threaten and intimidate not only Ukrainians but millions of Europeans across a dozen countries. This is undermining global security institutions in which all countries have a stake, and Russia must join the international community in treating nuclear power plants as demilitarized zones.

In particular, Russia must cease all military operations at or near Ukraine’s nuclear facilities and return full control of the Zaporizhzhia plant to Ukraine. The requirement that it do so is rooted in international humanitarian law, which prohibits attacks against civilian targets and demands “particular care” around nuclear power stations. Indeed, Russia’s actions around the Zaporizhzhia plant, and earlier at the Chernobyl nuclear complex, violate Russia’s own formally professed standards, which bar military actions that “may result” in any release of “destructive factors and consequent severe losses among the civilian population.”

Setting Your Moral Compass: A Workbook for Applied Ethics in OSINT

Melissa Hanham 

As the capability and credibility of open source intelligence (OSINT) have grown dramatically, analysts' stakes have also risen.

In nonproliferation and international security, open source analysts have taken on important roles in surveilling potential proliferators, fact checking official claims and government statements, and monitoring crises of global interest. OSINT analysts working on issues of international security must carefully consider the potential consequences of publishing their analysis, including the risk of future harm to themselves, their employer, other individuals, or even international security as a result of their work.

The weight of this ethical burden is starting to be felt more acutely by open source analysts in nonproliferation, many of whom express a strong appetite for tools and resources to support their ethical decision-making (for more information, please see our preceding “Feeling the Burden” report, developed in partnership with the Ethical Journalism Network).

Good Practice Guide on Post-shipment On-site Inspections of Military Materiel

Dr Andrea Edoardo Varisco and Dr Mark Bromley

In order to prevent the diversion of exported military materiel, an increasing number of states have conducted post-shipment on-site inspections (i.e. physical inspections of exported military materiel on the territory of the importing state) or have introduced measures to allow for them to take place. Several multilateral instruments have produced guidance documents on arms export controls that include provisions relevant to requiring or conducting post-shipment on-site inspections and this topic is one of the main focuses of the German presidency of the Eighth Conference of States Parties to the Arms Trade Treaty.

This SIPRI Good Practice Guide is aimed at states that are in the process of developing post-shipment on-site inspections or are considering their future adoption. It highlights a series of good practices that states can apply when developing and implementing this tool and follows four steps that are part of a post-shipment on-site inspection process: (a) adopting on-site inspections, (b) requiring on-site inspections, (c) conducting on-site inspections, and (d) follow-on steps after on-site inspections. The Good Practice Guide draws from experience of states that have conducted post-shipment on-site inspections, relevant guidance and policy documents, and the work done by SIPRI on this topic.

Facebook Misinformation Is Bad Enough. The Metaverse Will Be Worse

Rand Waltzman

Here's a plausible scenario that could soon take place in the metaverse, the online virtual reality environments under rapid development by Mark Zuckerberg and other tech entrepreneurs: A political candidate is giving a speech to millions of people. While each viewer thinks they are seeing the same version of the candidate, in virtual reality they are actually each seeing a slightly different version. For each and every viewer, the candidate's face has been subtly modified to resemble the viewer.

This is done by blending features of each viewer's face into the candidate's face. The viewers are unaware of any manipulation of the image. Yet they are strongly influenced by it: Each audience member is more favorably disposed to the candidate than they would have been without any digital manipulation.

This is not speculation. It has long been known that mimicry can be exploited as a powerful tool for influence. A series of experiments (PDF) by Stanford researchers has shown that slightly changing the features of an unfamiliar political figure to resemble each voter made people rate politicians more favorably.

Will Robotized Fire Power Replace Manned Air Power?

Peter A. Wilson

Russia's war in Ukraine entered the summer of 2022 with no clear military victor in sight. What began as a war of expected bold Russian maneuvers coupled with a paralyzing aerospace and cyber campaign has degenerated into a massive tube-and-rocket-artillery duel, a World War I–style battle of attrition on a battlefield largely confined to the eastern Donbas region and along the Ukrainian border north and west of Crimea.

Although it is important to exercise caution in drawing any major conclusions, some powerful signs about the future of warfare can be derived from this conflict.
Emergent Robotized Deep-Strike Operations

At the strategic and operational levels of war, the Russian aerospace campaign points to an ongoing trend toward the increased robotization of deep-strike systems. The extensive use of long-range precision-guided cruise and ballistic missiles gave Russia the ability to strike a wide range of high-value targets without the use of a fleet of Russian-manned combat aircraft. In fact, the Russian strategic bomber fleet acted as a standoff launch platform for long-range cruise missiles and occasional hypersonic weapons. Noteworthy is the extensive use of ground- and sea-launched long-range cruise missiles and the launching of precision-guided short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) to strike high-value targets.

Characterizing the Risks of North Korean Chemical and Biological Weapons, Electromagnetic Pulse, and Cyber Threats

Bruce W. Bennett, Kang Choi, Gregory S. Jones

To secure the survival of its regime, dominate the Republic of Korea (ROK), and impose unification of the Korean Peninsula, North Korea has amassed a variety of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) — nuclear, chemical, and biological — to include nuclear and likely conventional capabilities that produce highly destructive or even lethal electromagnetic pulse. It also has diverse offensive cyber capabilities that it uses for covert and illegal purposes. The authors of this report focus on how the North could use, and does use, these weapons and capabilities to affect peacetime relations on the peninsula and to prepare for a major war with the ROK, as well as the possible effects of their employment on the military, on civilians, and on critical infrastructure.

The authors present a theory of deterrence and suggest how the ROK-U.S. alliance could rein in North Korean efforts to augment or enhance its WMD and cyber capabilities and deter the North from attacking the ROK and beyond. Throughout, the authors acknowledge the uncertainties involved and argue that any effective action on the part of the ROK-U.S. alliance will require recognizing and managing those uncertainties.

Does the U.S. Economy Benefit from U.S. Alliances and Forward Military Presence?

Bryan Rooney, Grant Johnson, Tobias Sytsma, Miranda Priebe

Scholars of grand strategy debate the merits of U.S. forward military presence and alliances. The authors of this report explore one element of this debate: the potential economic benefits of these security policies. The authors draw on the existing literature to identify possible pathways through which U.S. forward military presence and alliances could lead to economic benefits.

In theory, these pathways include preventing conflicts that disrupt U.S. trade and investment, reducing fears of war that could inhibit peacetime exchange, and increasing U.S. bargaining leverage over security partners in economic negotiations. In practice, the United States has higher levels of bilateral trade with and investment in allied countries. Importantly, however, the existing literature has not evaluated whether this increase in bilateral trade and investment benefits the U.S. economy as a whole. The authors develop a new model that provides evidence that U.S. alliances increase bilateral trade in manufactured goods and that this has a modest but positive effect on U.S. economic welfare.

Decisions about U.S. alliances and forward military presence should be based on a range of factors beyond these possible economic benefits. This report does not examine other pathways through which economic benefits may accrue or costs may arise — or effects on allies' and adversaries' behaviors — and therefore does not make recommendations as to whether or how the United States should change its security policies. Instead, the report describes potential economic benefits associated with U.S. military engagement, which should inform a broader assessment of the U.S. approach to the world.

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.

A Hundred Wrecked Tanks In A Hundred Hours: Ukraine Guts Russia’s Best Tank Army

David Axe

The Ukrainian army’s counteroffensive around the city of Kharkiv in northeastern Ukraine starting on Sept. 6 destroyed half of the best tank division in the best tank army in the Russian armed forces.

A hundred wrecked or captured tanks in a hundred furious hours. That’s how much destruction the Ukrainians inflicted on the Russian 4th Guards Tank Division, part of the elite 1st Guards Tank Army, the Russian army’s best armor formation.

Now the 1st GTA is retreating north in order to preserve what remains of its front-line divisions. But the damage the tank army has suffered could have lasting implications—and not just for Russia’s 200-day-old wider war in Ukraine.

Multi-domain operations in the future battlespace

Andrew Tunnicliffe

With armed conflict in Europe for the first time in more than two decades, heightened tensions on the China–India border and a handful of other potential diplomatic and military flashpoints evolving in East and Southeast Asia, the world has seldom been as dangerous as it is today – at least not since the Second World War.

The situation in Ukraine continues to pose the very real threat of spilling over into the wider region; tensions between China and Taiwan – for years bubbling – are now on show for all to see, with China reaffirming its commitment to take control of the island state by force if necessary. Emboldened by affairs in Europe, the danger of Beijing escalating things is real, not least given China’s withdrawal of cooperation with the US on a number of levels.

The news on the dispute between India and China is less dramatic, described as being in a state of limbo – relations between the two neither improving or deteriorating. Sri Lanka, a country with its own problems, finds itself involved having to cancel the visit of a Chinese vessel thanks to pressure from India. The Yuan Wang 5, the latest of China’s next-generation space-tracking vessels, was due to spend five days at the country’s Chinese built and leased Hambantota port.

Ukraine, rushing into ‘digital transformation,’ prepares for more Russian cyber attacks: Officials


WASHINGTON — Seven months into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Ukrainian officials foresee the country going through a rapid “digital transformation” grown from desperate self-defense, though one said he fears the Russian threats in cyberspace are far from over.

“They [Russia] are trying to find a way to undermine, defeat our energy system and make circumstances even more severe for Ukrainians,” Georgii Dubynskyi, Ukraine’s deputy minister of digital transformation, told reporters Friday. “We are preparing.”

Dubynskyi was speaking on the sidelines of the Billington Cybersecurity Summit, adding that he feared Russia would use “precision” cyber or hybrid attacks as their real-world invasion has stalled, according to VOA.

The War In Ukraine Isn’t Over By A Long Shot

Daniel Davis

Last week, Ukraine caught the Russian military authorities entirely off guard when they launched a successful counteroffensive in the Kharkiv region. The operation was successful even beyond Kyiv’s expectations, having driven Russian forces from nearly all the territory north of Kharkiv and liberating settlements as far east as Izyum.

While it is appropriate for Ukraine and its supporters to celebrate this achievement, it is essential to understand that this doesn’t signal the war is close to over. The outcome is still very much undecided, and much fighting remains.

The preponderance of evidence suggests that Ukraine’s attack suffered major casualties and achieved limited if any, gains.

In preparation for this long-discussed operation, Russia had sent several battle groups to the Kherson region to reinforce its positions, some of which may have come from the Kharkiv region.

Notes From The Front: How The Russian Army Is Rotting From Within

Anna Akage

Russia’s ongoing loss of territory in Ukraine can be explained by tactical errors on the part of Moscow’s generals, and the outsized ambitions of Vladimir Putin. But the collapse of rank-and-file Russian soldiers is no less important — and evidently related.

The sudden collapse of Moscow’s units, having ceded more than 3,000 square miles from the northeastern region near Kharkiv and southern areas around Kherson, comes amid growing disaffection among Russian soldiers who went to war in Ukraine. Much of it has been chronicled through confessions and critiques that have begun appearing in the media and social networks.

To be sure, these are isolated voices among the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of those who for various reasons decided to abandon the army. But they are no doubt an expression of a much wider set of circumstances and sentiments among foot soldiers fighting on behalf of Moscow.

Putin’s problems aren’t just on the battlefield


Ukraine’s rout of the Russian army in the northeastern region of Kharkiv presents President Vladimir Putin with a political as well as military headache.

The Kremlin’s efforts to create a glowing propaganda narrative about its war in Ukraine are in tatters, as popular loyalist bloggers, think-tankers and even politicians start to ask uncomfortable questions about the defeat on the front lines.

For now, their anger is aimed exclusively at Russia’s senior military command, but in the face of this unusual crackle of dissent, Putin still needs to proceed with caution. If he fails to react to the complaints against his commanders, political pressure could mount on his autocratic regime.

On Sunday, Ramzan Kadyrov, the maverick and authoritarian leader of Russia’s Chechen Republic, accused Moscow’s military command of “mistakes” in the Kharkiv region, where Russian troops were hastily withdrawn from the strategically important town of Izyum and Kupiansk, a major railway junction near the border with Russia.

War in Ukraine has bolstered Japan’s support for a stronger army

In august Japan’s foreign minister, Hayashi Yoshimasa, gave a performance at a café in Tokyo. Sitting on stage at a keyboard, the Ukrainian flag emblazoned on the wall behind him, he played and sang “Imagine”, John Lennon’s peace anthem. Mr Hayashi’s appearance at an event called “Flowers of Peace” was one small sign of how deeply the war in Ukraine, 8,000km away, has rattled Japan.

Lennon-esque ideas have shaped Japan’s security policy since the end of the second world war. Its constitution, drafted under American tutelage after Japan’s unconditional surrender, renounces “war as a sovereign right of the nation” and declares trust in the “justice and faith of the peace-loving peoples of the world”. Though Japan did build up its armed forces—which it calls the Self-Defence Forces (sdf)—in subsequent decades, pacifism remained a powerful political force.

Mr Putin has provided a wake-up call for many of Japan’s dreamers. His unprovoked invasion of a neighbour is a reminder that autocratic regimes can be extremely dangerous. China’s recent sabre-rattling around Taiwan has highlighted the possibility that something similar could happen in Japan’s part of the world. “Ukraine today may be East Asia tomorrow,” Kishida Fumio, Japan’s prime minister, has repeated.

The Vanishing Point of the Laws of War

Alex de Waal

The United Nations has assessed that 276 million people worldwide today are “severely food insecure.” Forty million are in “emergency” conditions, one step short of the UN’s technical definition of “famine.” By early this year the combined effects of the climate crisis, the economic fallout from Covid-19, armed conflict, and the rising costs of fuel and food had already caused a sharp increase in the number of people in need of relief. Then the Russian invasion of Ukraine suddenly shut down wheat exports from the world’s breadbasket. For five months, Russian warships blockaded Black Sea ports and stopped grain cargoes from leaving, both to strangle the Ukrainian economy and to destabilize food-importing nations to pressure the US and Europe into relaxing sanctions.

“We face a real risk of multiple famines this year, and next year could be even worse,” UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned the General Assembly in July. Four days later he and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced that they had brokered parallel deals with Russia and Ukraine to resume grain and synthetic fertilizer shipments. Despite a Russian strike on Odesa, the first ships laden with Ukrainian wheat departed on August 1. (No date is yet set for Russia to resume exporting fertilizer.) As of September 4, eighty-six ships carrying over two million tons of food had left Ukrainian ports. World prices for wheat and sunflower oil have dropped, portending lower bread prices in Egypt and easing the strain on the World Food Program (WFP) budget for emergency food aid. Speaking in the Ukrainian city of Lviv, Guterres congratulated himself and Erdoğan on the agreement, the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which would, he said, “help vulnerable people in every corner of the world.”

The Battle Over Russian Oil Is Just Beginning

Blaise Malley

On September 2, the finance ministers of the G7 countries—Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States—released a statement confirming their plans to implement price caps on Russian crude oil and petroleum products.

The idea of the price cap is to leverage the United States and Europe’s control of the insurance and shipping services to prohibit those industries from facilitating any oil shipment that does not meet the yet-to-be-determined price cap, thus forcing Russia to abide by the regulation. Once the plan is finalized, the G-7 countries hope to implement the cap on crude oil starting on December 5, with the cap on refined products to follow two months later.

Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen called the move “a critical step forward in achieving our dual goals of putting downward pressure on global energy prices while denying [Russian president Vladimir] Putin revenue to fund his brutal war in Ukraine,” in a separate statement released the same day. The United States and Europe hope such a maneuver will help fill a gap in the unprecedented sanctions that the West has imposed on Russia since its invasion of Ukraine in February. Thus far, the Russian economy has managed to stay afloat due to oil sales. According to the Wall Street Journal, Moscow has earned $74 billion via oil sales through July of this year.