20 September 2022

Kharkiv offensive has shown the west that Ukraine can win

Frank Ledwidge

Most people outside Ukraine, even military analysts, have never heard of Oleksander Syrski. But Colonel General Syrski has a claim to being the most successful general of the 21st century so far. The success of this week’s operation in eastern Ukraine – which he commanded – amounts to the most significant Ukrainian victory of the war so far, alongside the 57-year-old military commander’s defeat of Russian forces before the gates of Kyiv in March.

Tactically, the assault towards Kupiansk and Izium was a well planned and superbly executed strike at a weakly held part of the Russian lines. The success can partially be attributed to poor Russian and excellent Ukrainian intelligence.

A Ukrainian official commented: “They are blind, we see everything.” It is likely that this was at least in part due to Ukraine taking temporary control of the air by destroying Russian radars and using their German-supplied Gephard anti-aircraft systems to shoot down their aircraft and drones.

Conspiracy Theories About COVID-19 Help Nobody

Angela Rasmussen and Michael Worobey

In July 2020, the Lancet, one of the world’s premier medical journals, announced the creation of a COVID-19 “Commission” with the stated mission “to help speed up global, equitable, and lasting solutions to the pandemic.” Many of the commissioners are distinguished scientists, doctors, former politicians, or policy experts with a clear connection to the remit of a COVID-19 Commission. But the choice of chair was an unusual one. Jeffrey Sachs is a Columbia University economist with no expertise in virology, evolution, epidemiology, or public health.

Cooperation among experts in different fields is usually a positive and rewarding effort. But as a virologist specializing in host interactions with emerging viruses and an evolutionary biologist with expertise in viral pandemic origins, we find it troubling how easily Sachs has leveraged his academic celebrity to publish grave, unsubstantiated accusations under the guise of legitimate scholarship.

Sachs has consistently pushed the idea that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, was engineered in a laboratory. Michael Worobey, one of this article’s authors, has been one of the most vocal proponents of taking the idea of a lab leak seriously, proposing an influential letter published in Science that brought the hypothesis into the mainstream. It was a hypothesis worth considering, especially the version that posited a natural bat virus infecting an unsuspecting lab worker; the evidence now, however, overwhelmingly indicates the pandemic did not originate via any kind of laboratory incident.

Alternative battery chemistries and diversifying clean energy supply chains

Reed Blakemore, Paddy Ryan, and William Tobin

The energy transition from fossil fuels to low-carbon energy sources will stimulate great demand for energy storage, and batteries will play an essential role in enabling the electrification of the transportation sector and reducing the intermittency of renewable electricity generation in the power sector. Presently, lithium-ion batteries predominate in both electric vehicle and grid storage applications. However, the continued expansion of these sectors will drive demand for minerals in the lithium-ion battery supply chain by a staggering degree.

Demand for lithium alone is projected to grow by 42 times from 2020 to 2040 and could reach a structural undersupply with a deficit of 1.75 million metric tons by 2030. Geopolitical risks also abound in the battery value chain. Russia controls 21 percent of global class 1 nickel production, and China controls 80 percent of global cobalt processing capacity.

Returning Morals And Ethics To Domestic And Foreign Policymaking

James M. Dorsey

The Biden administration is mulling whether to grant Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sovereign immunity in a case related to the 2018 killing of Jamal Khashoggi. The journalist’s fiancé and a non-profit organization he helped found filed the lawsuit in a Washington district court.

The court has extended its original August 1 deadline until October 3 for the administration to advise Judge John Bates on whether it believes that Mr. Bin Salman qualifies for sovereign immunity, a status usually reserved for heads of state, heads of government, and foreign ministers.

It is hard to believe that the administration would refuse the crown prince immunity following US President Joe Biden’s July pilgrimage to the kingdom and the energy crisis sparked by sanctions imposed on Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine.

Mr. Biden’s visit intended to repair relations with a country that he had described as a “pariah” state during his election campaign. Moreover, it came after Mr. Biden had refused to deal directly with Mr. Bin Salman in the president’s first 18 months in office.

Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict could impact the Israeli-Russian relationship — especially in Syria


TEL AVIV — Since the start of the Ukraine war, Israel has been careful to make sure its domestically produced weapons were not used against Russian forces, as part of an ongoing balancing act with Moscow over air space in Syria. But the unexpected, renewed fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the Nagorno-Karabakh area in recent days is raising eyebrows in Jerusalem.

Azerbaijan is a reliable military customer of Israel, while Armenia’s primary military backer has traditionally been Moscow. And clips of Israeli weapons taking out Russian-made equipment is raising concerns in Israel that, as one Israeli defense source put it, Russia will have “big anger” over seeing their defensive equipment exposed.

Israel has been careful to manage its relationship with Russia due to Jerusalem’s need for the ability to safely strike inside Syria against Iranian-backed forces. There is a tacit understanding between Israel and Russia that Russian forces will not fire on Israeli jets and vice versa — although Moscow has occasionally made threats in the past to remind Israel not to get involved in Ukraine.

US-China at a weaponized breaking point over Taiwan

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China’s government has reiterated its determination to realize national reunification with Taiwan after media reports said the United States was considering unveiling a sanctions package against China over its treatment of the self-governing island.

According to a Reuters report citing sources familiar with the discussions, the Biden administration is now mulling a series of sanctions against China to deter it from invading Taiwan while the European Union is also being asked by Taipei to implement similarly punitive measures.

On Wednesday (September 14), Chinese Foreign Ministry’s spokesperson Mao Ning said that the Taiwan question is purely China’s internal affair and no foreign country had the right to interfere in it.

The US Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday approved the Taiwan Policy Act of 2022, which aims to bolster Taiwan’s defense capabilities with almost US$6.5 billion in new security assistance over the next four years. The legislation, if enacted, would effectively signal that Taipei is considered a non-NATO ally by Washington.

Wormuth: Here are the 6 areas the Army must be prepared for in 2030


WASHINGTON — As the US Army prepares to fight on the battlefield of 2030, Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth is making public six key areas the Army must be prepared for as it anticipates “transparent” battlefield, where “Army forces are going to be under constant observation, and what can be seen can be targeted.”

Speaking at the Maneuver Warfighter Conference at Fort Benning, Ga. on Tuesday, Wormuth described a fighting force that must be more lethal, mobile, and protected in order to successfully fight against near-peer threats like China or Russia, as the service moves forward with its modernization strategy.

“The advent of longer range fires, cyberattacks and …proliferation of UAS on the battlefield means that anyone can come under attack whether you’re on the edge of the battlefield, whether you’re in the rear areas, or even if you’re in the homeland,” Wormuth said.

5 Russia-Linked Groups Target Ukraine in Cyberwar

Robert Lemos

Over the past eight months, at least five Russian state-sponsored or cybercriminal groups have targeted Ukrainian government agencies and private companies in dozens of operations that aimed to disrupt services or steal sensitive information.

In February, state-sponsored groups such as Gamaredon, Sandworm, and Fancy Bear used wiper programs in an attempt to damage infrastructure and sabotage computer systems, researchers at Trustwave say in a new research note. Those attacks lasted three months, using credential stealers to gain access to systems.

Fancy Bear and Sandworm are under orders from the Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces (GRU), with Gamaredon being directed by Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB), researchers noted.

Other cybercriminal groups with links to Russia are also taking part in the cyberattacks on Ukrainian targets, with regular cyber-espionage operations attempting to steal information and establish footholds in various systems for later use, Trustwave's report states. This includes two groups in particular, known as Ember Bear (aka UNC2589) and Invisimole, which are known cybercriminal groups that may also collaborate with the Russian government, according to Trustwave's report.

The ‘Kinetic Pendulum’: How the Army wants to defeat drone threats


WASHINGTON — US Army leaders call them the new “improvised explosive devices.”

Small drones, flying above military bases or personnel in the field, packed with explosives can be delivered on targets with lethal effects at minimal cost to the enemy. And as drone technology continues to evolve, US military leaders expect they will attack on the battlefield in swarms, operating with autonomous capabilities that will make them more difficult to knock out of the sky with the jamming technology largely employed to counter drones today.

“The autonomy is a direct attempt to evade the EW type of capability,” Maj. Gen. Sean Gainey, director of the Pentagon’s Joint Counter-Small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Office and the Army’s director of fires, told Breaking Defense in an interview last month. “There are still some ways in EW capability that can still get after some of this threat, but you’re going to start leaning more towards having a kinetic solution.”

The West Holds Firm Why Support for Ukraine Will Withstand Russian Pressure

Ivo H. Daalder and James M. Lindsay

The surprising success of Ukraine’s offensive to retake territory Russia seized since its invasion February has left Russian President Vladimir Putin with precious few choices to turn the tide of war. Without a mass mobilization, which Putin has ruled out for fear of domestic opposition, Russia is running out of men and materiel to keep the territory it still holds, let alone regain the initiative. Putin’s best hope—perhaps his only hope—is that Western support for Ukraine will crumble as the costs of war, including energy shortages and rising prices, begin to hit home in Europe.

Putin has been here before. He invaded Ukraine believing that a divided and weakened West did not have the stomach for confrontation. He was wrong. The United States and its allies responded with a unity and ferocity that surprised not only Moscow but many in Brussels, London, and Washington as well. Western countries placed unprecedented sanctions on the Russian economy, sent massive quantities of weapons to Ukraine, took in millions of refugees, and provided critical financial support to keep Ukraine’s economy afloat. Ukrainians rallied to their country’s cause and have retaken more than 60,000 square kilometers of territory that Russia had captured since February.

German Defence Chief Cautions on Ukraine Counter-offensive

Germany’s defence chief has urged caution over Kyiv’s early successes in seizing back territories from Russian invaders, warning that its lightning counter-offensive might not be effective in pushing Moscow’s troops back over a large area.

Ukraine is mounting “counter-attacks, with which one can win back places or individual areas of the frontlines, but not push Russia back over a broad front”, General Eberhard Zorn told the forthcoming edition of magazine Focus.

Moscow has been forced to pull back troops from swathes of the northeast, particularly in the Kharkiv region, following Kyiv’s dramatic assault since the beginning of September to wrest back terrain.

The territorial shifts marked one of Russia’s biggest setbacks since its troops were repelled from Kyiv in the earliest days of the nearly seven-month-long war.

Chinese Cyber Espionage Against Russia Is About Keeping Tabs and Learning

Emilio Iasiello

Since the start of the year, a Chinese advanced persistent threat (APT) actor group dubbed TA428 has been aggressively targeting industrial plants, research institutes, and government ministries, among others, in several countries to include Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine, according to threat researchers from Kaspersky. The actors penetrated dozens of organizations and were even able to hijack the IT infrastructure of some of their targets, although the researchers did not specify what entities these were or where they were located. Additionally, the attacks implemented a series of stealthy backdoors into systems of interest, a tactic to ensure access to control infected hosts should one be discovered and remediated. These redundant channels would certainly facilitate ongoing cyber espionage, surveillance, and information theft activities, depending on the purpose of that particular intrusion.

Chinese state-sponsored cyber espionage is nothing notable as Beijing has been long engaged in the most expansive cyber-enabled data theft operation for the past decade. However, its recent activities targeting Russia’s military industries is rather novel and not widespread. What’s more, this is not the first Chinese APT actor that has brazenly targeted its close ally. In May 2022, just a couple of months after Russia invaded Ukraine, another Chinese state-sponsored group dubbed Twisted Panda targeted Russian research institutes belonging to the Russian state-owned defense organization Rostec Corporation. Earlier in April 2022, another group known as Mustang Panda conducted a cyber espionage campaign against Russian officials using European Union documents about the possibility of sanctioning Belarus to entice recipients to click on weaponized attachments.

For Vladimir Putin, This Is the Beginning of the End


The collapse of Vladimir Putin's Ukraine campaign has been so dramatic, U.S. intelligence officials who are normally gun-shy about making predictions are ready to look ahead. Three American government officials tell Newsweek that the Russian leader is in serious trouble at home as a result of Kyiv's successful counteroffensive. Angered by the rising cost of the war, by soldiers' deaths and the economic pain of sanctions, Russian politicians and social media influencers are speaking out openly in opposition. "Even pro-Kremlin voices—even state media—are questioning the war for the first time," says one high-ranking intelligence official. "[They're] pushing Putin into a corner."

Ukraine's victories are the beginning of the end for President Putin.

"The past week should convince even skeptics that Russia is done," says a second source, a senior State Department official who works on Russia issues. "Moscow might claim that it is just adjusting to focus more on Donbas, but even that campaign is finished." Back home, "in both men and materiel, the well has also gone dry."

Chinese and Russian militaries share a potential weakness, new US report finds

Brad Lendon

Seoul, South Korea (CNN)China's military leaders share a potential weakness that has undermined their Russian counterparts in Ukraine and could hamper their ability to wage a similar war, according to a new report from the US National Defense University.

The report identifies a lack of cross-training as a possible Achilles' Heel within the People's Liberation Army (PLA), but analysts remain wary of underestimating China's capabilities and warn against comparisons with Russia.

The report delved into the backgrounds of more than 300 of the PLA's top officers across its five services -- army, navy, air force, rocket force and strategic support force -- in the six years leading up to 2021. It found that in each service leaders were unlikely to have operational experience in any branch other than the one they began their careers in.

Hambantota Is Being Unfairly Singled Out To Bash Sri Lanka, Says Lankan President – Analysis

P. K. Balachandran

In his address to the first batch of graduates of Sri Lanka’s National Defense College here on Wednesday, President Ranil Wickremesinghe made significant points: Firstly, Sri Lanka has unfortunately become a “punching bag” because of Hambantota port although that port is only one of the 17 Chinese ports in this region and is only a commercial port. Secondly, he assured New Delhi that Sri Lanka will not compromise on India’s security interests and will always work together with it to ensure the security of the region.

Fuss Over Hambantota

“The geopolitics of the Indian Ocean has unfortunately made us the punching bag for Hambantota. Actually, there are about 17 ports that are operated by the Chinese in the Indian Ocean. Different companies. There are some more ports that are operated by Dubai World ports. Now, all the ports are commercial ports. So is Hambantota. It is not a military port,” the President stressed.

Has Ukraine Exposed the Russian Military as a Paper Tiger?

Kris Osborn

The Russian state-run TASS news agency quoted Vladimir Putin’s spokesman as saying that a military mobilization to achieve Russia’s goals in Ukraine is “not on the agenda.” What exactly does this mean?

Peskov’s comments raise several important questions, as Russian forces now occupy parts of Ukraine and are in some ways already “mobilized.” Perhaps the comments were part of a Kremlin effort to try to convince the world that is holding back large amounts of its military power and could be much more threatening and lethal than it has been thus far. A quick look at Global Firepower’s latest data shows that Russia may indeed have thousands of tanks and armored vehicles in its arsenal. Yet how many of them are now operational? Russia reportedly has 12,000 tanks, but hundreds, if not thousands, may not be operational, and many of those that are could be extremely dated Cold-War era T-72 tanks that have not been sufficiently maintained or upgraded.

Also, by any observer's estimation, Russia has already launched a large-scale invasion of Ukraine, with thousands of soldiers and weapons systems already being used on the battlefield. Russian forces were recently repelled by Ukrainian defenders, however, and although the initial incursion into Kyiv was large in scope and scale, it was ultimately unsuccessful.

Xi Pledges to Promote Global Stability Amidst Russo-Ukrainian War

Trevor Filseth L

Russian president Vladimir Putin and Chinese president Xi Jinping met in Samarkand, Uzbekistan on Thursday, where the two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to their “no limits” partnership and condemned attempts by the United States and Europe to create a “unipolar world,” according to a readout released by the Russian president’s office.

During the meeting—conducted on the sidelines of the annual summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a Eurasian security conference—Putin alluded to the “model” of Sino-Russian relations, suggesting that their partnership played a “key role in ensuring global and regional stability.”

“Together, we advocate the formation of a just, democratic, and multipolar world order based on international law and the central role of the UN,” Putin said. He also expressed gratitude to Beijing for “the balanced position of our Chinese friends in connection with the Ukrainian crisis,” referring to Russia’s invasion of its western neighbor in February. He briefly acknowledged that Moscow “underst[ood] your questions and concerns about this,” a rare allusion to Chinese reservations about the conduct of the war, before shifting to a condemnation of recent Western “provocations” in the Taiwan Strait.

Securing Afghanistan Remains SCO’s Neglected Mission Possible

M. Ashraf Haidari

Before the addition of India and Pakistan in 2017, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) consisted of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan. The now eight-member SCO also has four observer states, including Afghanistan, and six dialogue partners, including Sri Lanka. Together, they constitute much of Asia’s geography, with a population of over 3.2 billion people.

An observer state itself, Afghanistan directly neighbors five of the SCO member-states, including acceding Iran. China remains Afghanistan’s ancient neighbor with ever-growing ties. India as a near neighbor and Russia as an extended one have maintained deep relations with the Afghan people and legitimate governments. And the SCO space holds sizeable Muslim and co-ethnic populations, who share many cultural and traditional values that further tie the SCO geography as a vast area of numerous intertwined interests, opportunities, and challenges for results-driven win-win cooperation in the SCO region.

Against this backdrop, the foundational purpose of SCO as the largest intergovernmental organization in the world is to strengthen mutual trust and promote good neighborly relations among its member-states. This is to be achieved through gradual but consistent efforts by the SCO member-states to engage in multifaceted cooperation to advance their collective, common interest in the sustainable human and protective security of the SCO space. Parallel to this, the SCO seeks to establish a more democratic and rational world order.

Xi, Putin and the Shared China-Russia Worldview

Catherine Putz

Regardless of how much Russia and China differ on tactics and style, they continue to share a worldview: The world is, as Chinese President Xi Jinping conveyed before his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) this week, beset by “change and disorder.”

And that disorder, Putin made clear in his own remarks and Xi alluded to heavily, is entirely the United State’s fault. The U.S., in this view, seeks to cling to a unipolar world while China and Russia seek to promote “democracy” — among states, that is, not people within those states.

It’s only by holding this worldview that one can comprehend the two leader’s statements, or the government’s readouts of the meeting, and not think it refers to some parallel universe.

Putin, as always, was more direct (and by default more absurd): “In general, I must say that the attempts to create a unipolar world have recently acquired an absolutely ugly shape and are absolutely unacceptable for the vast majority of states on the planet.”

The Rise of the Rest: How Russia Views the Future World Order

Clint Reach

Geopolitical forecasting is an imperfect art. Throughout the Cold War, the Soviets confidently asserted to the end that the forces of socialism would prevail over the decadent and corrupt capitalist model. The “correlation of forces” always seemed to be turning their way, until it wasn’t. For their part, American leaders were certain that if Vietnam became communist it might spell the end for the spread of democracy in the region and around the world. Even when there is uncommon clarity about the forces shaping geopolitics, the right conclusion is elusive. In the late 1890s, a Polish banker named Jan Bloch famously forecast the horrifying character of a future war in Europe. He then asserted that such a war was too destructive and illogical to contemplate—only for World War I to break out and look as terrible as he predicted.

Despite the complexities, states create forecasts to strategize for their national security. The U.S. Department of Defense tries to predict how the geopolitical situation might evolve so that it can make decisions on acquisitions, operational concepts, and force structure. Russia has a similar approach that is mandated by a law concerning strategic planning. But what is useful about such state forecasts is not their accuracy. They may well miss the mark. Rather, forecasts reveal what a country envisions as a desirable or undesirable future. And that says a good deal about how it might behave to shape the outcomes it wants.

How Taiwan Views the China Problem

Kuan-Ting Chen Wei Azim Hung

Following U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the Republic of China (hereafter Taiwan), the People’s Republic of China (PRC), irresponsibly but perhaps expectedly, responded with a show of force, encircling the island with live-fire drills, air sorties, and ballistic missile launches. As China continues to deny the existence of Taiwan as a sovereign state and to claim it as part of the Chinese state, any attempt at secession will be met by the full force of China’s firm determination to protect its territorial sovereignty.

In a previous piece by Wang Yiwei and Liao Huan in this magazine, “How China Views the Taiwan Problem,” they defended the framing and necessity of a “great reunification” and its relevance for the wider East Asian region together with Sino-American relations. However, what is the Taiwanese perspective on the China question? And more importantly, what are the incompatibilities lying at the heart of today’s cross-strait impasse?

Why martial arts are still important to the military

Vegim Krelani

In ancient times, the Roman god of war was Mars. He was in charge of everything military, such as warriors, weaponry and military formations. Today, the modern term Martial Art is defined as a set of combat skills and self-defense techniques practiced as a sport. Modern warfighting has changed significantly as compared to ancient times. Yet, many services and armies have adopted or created some methods of martial arts.

The reasons behind such measures are because times have proven that hand-to-hand combat is necessary and irreplaceable. WATM sat down with Captain (CPT) Lirim Bllaca, a recently retired officer in the Kosovo Armed Forces, to get his insights into implementing modern martial arts into professional armies. As the leader of the Martial Arts Program at Kosovo’s Military Academy, he also shared his concerns about the future of martial arts in the armed forces and that it will be less utilized as armies modernize even more.

Anduril Unveils Deployable Military Operations Center


Defense startup Anduril Industries is pitching a deployable air operations center to the Air Force and the Marine Corps as the software company continues to expand its line of military products.

The mobile command center, called Menace, can fit inside an Air Force C-130 cargo plane, allowing it to be carried to austere locations around the world. Once there, small teams could oversee air tactical operations nearby or even serve as a backup for brick-and-mortar regional command centers, company executives said.

Anduril has been in discussions with senior military officials about its technology, and will show off the new command center at the Air and Space Force Association’s annual Air, Space & Cyber conference next week, Zachary Mears, Anduril’s head of strategy and growth, said Wednesday. The company eventually hopes to demo the command center during a military exercise.

A stunning counter-offensive by Ukraine’s armed forces

Russian military vehicles litter the road to Izyum, in Ukraine’s north-eastern Kharkiv province. They serve as signposts to the Ukrainian counter-offensive which began on September 5th and liberated virtually the whole province in a matter of days. As you get nearer to the town, which sits atop a strategic hill, the heavy armour turns into a river of metal. There are tanks, artillery pieces and the remains of a tos-1a heavy flamethrower with its rocket pod sheared off. More than a dozen vehicles stand abandoned in one garage alone. Remarkably, much of this graveyard of Russian might seems to have filled up without any fighting. The invaders appeared to have panicked, abandoned their kit to the advancing enemy and fled.

Ukrainian troops arrived on the outskirts of the town on September 8th, three days after the start of a lightning operation that overwhelmed Russia’s north-eastern flank. Denys Yaroslavskiy, a special-forces officer who took part in the first wave, said the offensive grew in “domino” fashion. Within 24 hours Ukraine’s army had encircled Balakliya, a town close to the front line. Two days later, it seized Kupyansk, a critical rail hub connected to Moscow. At dawn on September 10th Ukrainian units entered the centre of Izyum itself.

Ukraine Writes the Textbook on Twenty-First Century Warfare, Conducts Masterclass

Brian E. Frydenborg

In many ways, Ukraine’s victories are the products of a mathematical equation involving Putinism, the nature of Russian forces and behaviors, the nature of Ukraine’s forces and behaviors, and the two sides relative places in the wider world. The sum of the parts, in most cases, not going to look terribly different from what we are seeing now, an eventuality I anticipated on March 8, less than two weeks into Russia’s escalation, in my piece here for Small Wars Journal.

The Russian failures were the almost natural outcomes of years of Putinism, years of one man above all others running the show. This Ukraine war is the pinnacle of years of Putin’s rule, the best representation of him and the system he built, the people he elevated, the institutions he molded, the natural outcome of his leadership, and it will consume him and his system, an utterly predictable Frankenstein monster utterly predictably doing its father and creator in as can only be the case at this point. No one can, should, or will be blamed more inside Russia (let alone the rest of the world) for this debacle, just as he would have received most of the praise from Russians had this “special military operation” succeeded (calling it a war in Russia can get you arrested).