26 September 2022

Biden Administration Standing Idly By While Iran's Mullahs Advance to Nuclear Bomb

Majid Rafizadeh

[M]ore than a year and half of negotiations seems to have benefited no one except the ruling and Islamist mullahs of Iran. The endless negotiations seem simply to have bought time for the mullahs, so that they could comfortably advance their nuclear program to their highest level ever. Not only has the Biden administration seen no urgency to change its disastrous path, it is actually redoubling efforts to for Iran talks, presumably after America's mid-term election on November 8.

The Biden administration has even been ignoring a joint statement issued by the UK, France and Germany admitting that Tehran "has no credible civilian need for uranium metal R&D and production, which are a key step in the development of a nuclear weapon."

The Biden administration needs to make it plain to Iran's ruling mullahs that if Tehran advances its nuclear program further, severe military, political, diplomatic and economic options against Iran are on the table.

US generals warn 'we're not ready' for space, cyber fight with China

Ronn Blitzer

American generals are pessimistic about the country's capabilities in the space and cyber realms when it comes to potentially matching up against rival nations in a time of war.

At the Air Force Association's Air, Space & Cyber Conference on Sunday, several officials expressed their concern as China advances and the U.S. fails to keep pace.

"The answer is no, we’re not ready," Lt. Gen. Leah G. Lauderback said according to Air & Space Forces Magazine. Lauderback is the Air Force's deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and cyber effects

Lt. Gen. Kevin B. Kennedy Jr., commander of Air Forces Cyber, stressed to an audience of service members the importance and immediacy of the threat they are facing.

The US allegedly used 41 cyber-weapons to steal China’s core technology data

Baba Tamim

China has accused the U.S. of "hacking" into a Chinese space and aviation university, "stealing" critical technical data.

U.S. National Security Agency's (NSA) cyber-warfare unit "penetrated and controlled" unnamed telecom operators, Chinese news media Global Times reported on Thursday, quoting its state sources.

The sources claim that the Chinese government will soon reveal the details of the cyberattack, which actually occurred in June.

"Hackers from abroad were caught sending phishing emails with Trojan horse programs to teachers and students at the university, attempting to steal their data and personal information," Northwestern Polytechnical University, China's key public research university in Xi'an, announced on June 22.

"The attack attempted to lure teachers and students into clicking links of phishing emails with Trojan horse programs, with themes involving scientific evaluation, thesis defense, and information on foreign travel, so as to obtain their email login details," said a local police statement.

Don’t ask when the pandemic will end. Ask how we’re going to live with covid.

Jonathan Lambert, Dan Vergano and Maggie Severns

President Joe Biden set off a scramble this weekend when he told “60 Minutes” that the pandemic is over. “We still have a problem with covid,” he said. “We’re still doing a lotta work on it. But the pandemic is over.”

His comments sparked fierce condemnation from public health experts pointing to the hundreds still dying each day in the U.S. from the virus, along with semantic arguments over what constitutes a pandemic’s end, something that doesn’t have a clear definition.

Moreover, they say that asking whether the pandemic is over, or confidently declaring it finished, misses the point. The bigger question facing the nation is how we learn to live with covid without sacrificing so many Americans to the virus through death or disability, and without stressing hospitals to the breaking point and without disrupting key supply chains and services.

“A lot of people think of the pandemic as a hurricane: It has to be completely gone, blue skies,” said Amesh Adalja, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “That’s not the case. This is not an eradicable disease. It’s a fantasy world to think that the only criteria some of these individuals might have [for the pandemic being over] is, it’s 2019 again. That’s not going to be the case.”

Pentagon Says Russian Mobilization May Be Reinforcing Failure In Ukraine

Jim Garamone

Russian President Vladimir V. Putin’s mobilization of 300,000 reservists may just be reinforcing failure, Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said during a news conference Thursday.

Putin has called up 300,000 Russian reservists for his unjust and unprovoked war in Ukraine. He also indirectly rattled his nuclear quiver.

His action follows a Ukrainian counteroffensive that pushed Russian forces from Kharkiv and liberated more than 3,000 square kilometers of Ukrainian territory. In August, DOD Policy Chief Colin Kahl said the Russians have lost between 50,000 and 70,000 service members in its war on Ukraine.

Putin’s mobilization “would primarily be reservists or members of the Russian military that had retired,” Ryder said.

Russia’s Demographic Problems Make Putin’s Mobilization Plans Explosive – Analysis

Paul Goble 

Russia’s demographic problems, including the extremely high male mortality among working-age groups (Socio.bas-net.by, accessed September 21; Nakanune.ru, August 1) and the declining size of the Russian nation, especially in rural areas where most soldiers come from and opposition to the war is growing (Siberia.Realities, August 24), impose serious constraints on Moscow’s ability to effectively carry out the “partial mobilization” announced by President Vladimir Putin on September 21. The relative increase in the share of men in their 20s and 30s from non-Russian areas who also oppose the war in Ukraine makes this task evermore daunting (Caucasus Post, June 18).

At the same time, given these problems, any level of mobilization will limit Russia’s ability to turn its economy around by removing from the workforce some of its most productive workers (Publizist.ru, November 21). This policy will also hamper the Kremlin’s ability to prevent growing anti-war attitudes among non-Russian nations from morphing into more serious nationalist challenges to the center (Idel-ural.org, September 15). As a result, if this mobilization proceeds, and especially if Moscow is compelled to mobilize more than the 300,000 men as announced this week, the central government may be compelled to seek a quick end to the fighting, lest Putin and his regime suffer from corrosive economic and political consequences in the near future.

Russia Is Losing India How Putin’s Ukraine Gambit Doomed a Long Partnership

Happymon Jacob

India’s initial reluctance to condemn Russia for its war against Ukraine has been the subject of much debate and criticism in the West. In mid-March, Jen Psaki, then the White House press secretary, urged India to reflect on “where you want to stand when history books are written at this moment in time.” Numerous world leaders and diplomats have expressed impatience with India for effectively abetting a Russian agenda by remaining on the side-lines.

Some analysts and former policymakers in strategic circles in New Delhi insist that such a reproach is unfair and fails to appreciate India’s nuanced position on the war. India, they argue, is merely navigating between clashing geopolitical powers, Russia and the United States, that happen to be two of its major partners. Yes, India notably abstained from key votes about the war in Ukraine in the United Nations (in the General Assembly, the Security Council, the Human Rights Council, and the International Atomic Energy Agency). But it has also toughened its statements about the invasion, decrying the killing of civilians and the violation of national sovereignty. New Delhi has its own concerns, this line of thinking runs, and doesn’t want to jeopardize its relations with either Moscow or Washington.

Don’t Let Ukraine Into NATO Or A ‘NATO-Plus’

Doug Bandow

The U.S. Should not Bring Ukraine into NATO by Whatever Name – With war still raging between Russia and Ukraine, Kyiv is looking for future military allies. “We are working to ensure that the strongest subjects of the free world become guarantors of the security of our state,” declared Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky last week.

But that is just Kyiv’s interim goal. Andriy Yermak, head of the presidential office, urged the creation of what he called the Kyiv Security Compact until NATO membership is granted. He explained: “In order to successfully implement these tasks, Ukraine must get a guaranteed safety after the war. This means that we should receive reliable international security guarantees for the time period until Ukraine becomes a full member of the EU and NATO.”

Along with former NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, fellow co-chair of the Working Group On International Security Guarantees for Ukraine, Yermak released a detailed plan to create the equivalent of NATO membership until the real deal was available. The report explained: “Ukraine’s aspiration to join NATO and benefit from its mutual defense arrangements is safeguarded in its Constitution. This aspiration is the sovereign decision of Ukraine. In the interim period Ukraine needs iron-clad security guarantees. These will come predominantly—though not exclusively—from NATO countries.”

Why the Pentagon’s Disinformation Campaigns Crashed and Burned

Tom Robertson

The Pentagon announced this week that it will conduct a full-scale evaluation of its psychological operations capabilities, following revelations that it has been conducting covert online disinformation campaigns. Alongside analyzing the legality of such operations, the review should seek to answer a more fundamental question: do these operations actually work?

The Washington Post, in its exclusive reporting on the story, states that roughly 150 U.S.-based social media accounts were identified and terminated by Facebook and Twitter as fakes over the past few years. Many of these accounts are suspected of having been created and managed by Department of Defense agencies or contractors, and the overwhelming majority gained little to no traction in what would seem to have been their principal purpose—weakening support for U.S. adversaries by posting fictional accounts of atrocities and other falsehoods online.

The Air Force’s Next-Gen Fighter Is Getting Its Own Drone Army

Kris Osborn

The U.S. Air Force is building manned variants of the emerging sixth-generation fighter jet as part of its Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall says that the family of systems will likely control as many as five drones at one time, a development that will introduce new tactics, expand the mission scope of a stealth fighter jet, and enable dispersed yet networked weapons and surveillance nodes to increase attack and reconnaissance options.

Many of the details and exact configurations of this small family of manned and unmanned platforms are either not available for security reasons or still evolving. The unmanned systems being built to support sixth-generation manned aircraft are likely to emerge much sooner than an operational manned variant. Of course, the requirements for the unmanned systems, called Collaborative Combat Aircraft (CCA), are still in flux. Andrew Hunter, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology, and logistics, told reporters that the drones are being built according to key operational imperatives.

Time to End Taiwan’s Isolation from the United Nations

Bi-khim Hsiao

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) brought its aggression against Taiwan to new heights last month, with serious consequences for the Indo-Pacific region. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) visit to Taiwan was met with unprecedented, large-scale joint military drills by the PRC. In a blatant attempt to unilaterally upend the status quo across the Taiwan Strait, China disrupted air and sea routes critical to the regional economy and fired missiles over our island and into nearby waters. This campaign of aggression must be understood as part of a struggle between democracy and authoritarianism—a struggle the United Nations (UN) cannot afford to sidestep.

China’s military exercises were a clear violation of the UN charter, which states that international disputes are to be resolved through peaceful means. But perhaps even more damaging is their longtime legal war against Taiwan within the UN. Seeking to enforce its propaganda on international society, China has exerted undue influence behind the scenes, effectively barring Taiwan’s participation in the UN and its specialized agencies. For far too long, Taiwanese experts, journalists, and students have been denied access to UN gatherings, such as this month’s General Assembly in New York City. Even tourists with Taiwanese IDs have been unjustly prevented from visiting any UN premises around the world.

Talk to Russia Before It Is Too Late

Simon Serfaty

To the end, Samuel Beckett insisted that he did not know who Godot was, nor what his two characters, Vladimir and Estragon, were waiting for. That was not the least absurdity of his play, Waiting for Godot, which, as the Irish author later explained, he wrote in French because he did not know the language well.

That is where we are now: confused and unclear over what we do or expect as we stagger into the second and arguably final half of Joe Biden’s presidency. At home, U.S. democracy is at risk, and abroad, a tragic war waged in a moment of global mutation told in languages we understand poorly even when they carry an American accent.

Who knows what will come next? This is a lose-lose war that neither side can win but which both refuse to end. “We have not started anything yet,” Russian president Vladimir Putin warned a couple of months ago. As a criminal reminder that despite mounting evidence of failure, Russia still owns the war he started since he controls its escalation beyond anything Ukraine can conceivably bear and the West dares to contemplate. “We have lost nothing and will lose nothing,” he asserted this month as a defiant Ukraine rolled his army back. What if, under pressure from his critics at home, he means what he says? For those who dismiss his nuclear hints, these are no echoes of the Cuban missile bluff. A defiant Putin is no Nikita Khrushchev and what is known of him suggests that he might choose the worst of the bad options available despite Biden’s warnings meant to deter him.

Will American Aid to Ukraine Provoke a Russian Nuclear Strike?

David T. Pyne

On September 15, Russian president Vladimir Putin and Chinese president Xi Jinping convened a joint strategy meeting in Samarkand, Uzbekistan at the annual summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, which they formed back in July 2001. The Islamic Republic of Iran was accepted at this meeting as a full member of the alliance, which already includes India, Pakistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan, while Belarus may soon follow. The alliance boasts over 42 percent of the world’s population (as compared to only 12 percent for NATO) and 30 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) by purchasing power parity. Putin previously stated the meeting would have special significance because they will discuss how Russia and China can better support each other with regard to Russia’s continuing war in Ukraine and China’s plan to reunify with Taiwan by force, if necessary, within the next year or two.

This historic summit is taking place shortly after Ukrainian forces took advantage of its seldom discussed two or three-to-one quantitative advantage in troops to recapture more than 2,300 square miles of territory in their counteroffensive which has driven Russian forces from most of Ukraine’s Kharkiv oblast. This offensive, along with Ukraine’s failed Kherson offensive which has cost the lives of up to 3,000 Ukrainian soldiers thus far, was reportedly planned and coordinated with U.S. and NATO military leaders. This Ukrainian military success will almost certainly result in some form of Russian military escalation in the coming weeks.

Could Russia’s invasion of Ukraine make it more expensive to keep the lights on in New England this winter?

Matthew Zeitlin

Like much of Europe, New England is transforming its electric grid, retiring coal, oil and nuclear plants, leaving it largely dependent on natural gas to keep the lights on and power its homes.

And, like much of Europe, New England could be on track for an expensive winter.

Despite New England’s goal of limiting carbon emissions, more than half of its electric power still comes from natural gas that comes into the region in pipelines and, exclusively unlike anywhere else in the United States, imported in liquefied form from overseas. The region’s squeeze between a fossil-fuel-reliant present and renewable-energy future always tightens when demand for home heating rises, but this year, the pressure could be significantly higher, as conflict with Russia has increased the cost of natural gas around the globe.

Would Vladimir Putin let Russia lose in Ukraine before using his nuclear weapons?

Joshua Keating

Can a nuclear power be defeated in a war by a non-nuclear power? At first glance, the answer seems quite obviously, yes. The United States military was defeated in Vietnam. Both the U.S. and the Soviet Union retreated ignominiously from Afghanistan. But these were lopsided counterinsurgencies — “small wars in faraway places,” to use one historian’s phrase, in which the more powerful nation eventually lost the political will, rather than the military capability, to continue fighting.

The war in Ukraine is something different — and without precedent: a conflict in which a nuclear power is in a full-fledged conventional war with a non-nuclear power. And Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government have often framed the conflict as a life-or-death struggle against Western military, economic and cultural encroachment.

In his address to the nation Tuesday, Putin did so again, and added a not-so-veiled reminder about his nuclear option. Addressing the countries backing Ukraine, Putin said, “I want to remind you that our country also has various means of destruction, and some components are more modern than those of the NATO countries.” He added that he was “not bluffing.”

American Industrial Mobilization: We’re Now Learning What We Already Knew

M. Thomas Davis

There have been numerous surprises since Russian President Vladimir Putin’s brazen and brutal invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. Putin’s “special military operation” was the latest, and hopefully the last, revelation of Putin’s penchant for international thuggery. Putin’s behavior has hardly been surprising, but the conflict has offered significant surprises in other ways.

One, most certainly, has been that the conflict has assumed an aura of what was believed to be past characteristics of war. In brief, with its trenches, relatively status condition, and large artillery duels, it looks more like World War I than World War II. And it bears scant resemblance to the conflict I participated in -- Operation Desert Storm in 1991.

In doing so, it has revealed something about American industrial capacity that has long been ignored, namely that the existing defense industrial base may be insufficiently large to support a lengthy, lingering conflict – particularly one that might involve a capable and determined opponent.

Vladimir Putin vows to send more invaders. The West should arm Ukraine faster

To understand Vladimir Putin, hear what he says about his enemies. On September 21st the man who invaded Ukraine said Western powers “aggressively impose their will...on other countries”. They desire the “plunder” of Russia, said the man with a billion-dollar palace. “They have even resorted to nuclear blackmail,” he said, and threatened a nuclear response if Ukraine tries to take back the territory he stole from it.

After humiliating reverses on the battlefield, Russia’s despot is trying to signal strength. Besides the nuclear threat, which Ukrainians dismissed as a bluff, he ordered a partial mobilisation, vowing to send soldiers to beef up his invasion force, and pledged support to puppet “republics” in Ukraine, which plan to hold referendums this weekend on whether to be annexed by Russia. These sham votes, called at three days’ notice, will give Mr Putin a rhetorical excuse to treat Ukrainian attacks in Donbas as attacks on Russia itself, which could in theory invite nuclear retaliation. Mr Putin is doubling down on his disastrous war.

India goes its own way on global geopolitics

Deepa M Ollapally

Russia has been one of India’s most steadfast diplomatic and defence partners and a weakened Russia would negate India’s preference for a multipolar global order in which it is an independent and influential pole. Washington’s tendency to group China and Russia as an ‘authoritarian axis’ that threatens the global order is not something to which India subscribes. India sees Russia as a close friend and China as an adversary, while the United States is hostile to both countries.

Since the invasion of Ukraine, the contradiction between India and the United States is playing out openly. India and China have been more aligned on UN votes, with India abstaining on 11 UN votes to condemn Russia, withstanding intense pressure from its closest Western partners as well as unflattering international media and public opinion.

India could not be persuaded to join the US-led economic sanctions against Russia as it is generally against unilateral sanctions levied outside the United Nations. New Delhi’s decision to accept Russia’s offer of deeply discounted oil is not entirely surprising, though Western officials and commentators have accused India of taking ‘sweet deals’ from an otherwise diplomatically isolated Russia and indirectly funding Putin’s war machine.

Russia has mobilized. What happens now?


Admittedly, things have not been going well. Kyiv’s counter-offensive has retaken thousands of kilometers of Russian-held territory in eastern Ukraine; Moscow’s troops have fled the front lines; dissent from previously loyal pundits has increased; and criticism (oblique though it may be) has even emanated from his pals in Beijing and New Delhi.

Faced with the prospect of a humiliating climb-down, the Russian president on Wednesday sought to escalate the war by announcing a partial mobilization of Russia’s reservists, and threatened Ukraine and its allies with atomic annihilation. At the very least, that’s an open admission that things have been going very badly and, for all his bravura, Putin will now need to tread carefully in sending men from safe lives in Russia to go and die in trenches in Ukraine.

When Putin first launched what he disingenuously calls a “special military operation” against Ukraine in February, much was made of the Russians’ superior strike-power.

The Fractured Superpower Federalism Is Remaking U.S. Democracy and Foreign Policy

Jenna Bednar and Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar

Amid the continuing revelations about what led to the January 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, one aspect of the crisis has received comparatively little attention: how the effort to negate the presidential election outcome was built on the malign use of the United States’ federal system of government. Since the slates of electors that collectively certify the presidential election are chosen at the state level, the January 6 conspirators sought to appoint alternative slates of electors in several states to overturn the results. In the end, Republican state officials in Arizona, Georgia, and other states refused to undermine democracy on behalf of their partisans. But the conspiracy underscored the far-reaching importance of the states in some of the most fundamental decisions of the U.S. government, as well as how much it matters who controls those governments and what interests they serve.

Although it was an extreme case, the January 6 crisis was not the only situation in recent years in which the states have played a crucial role in setting the direction of the country as a whole. In areas as varied as access to firearms, emergency health care, immigration enforcement, cryptocurrency regulation, and the climate crisis, states have been asserting their powers to influence, and in some cases to challenge, U.S. policy. State leaders aggressively litigate to block federal policy and are active in responding to federal developments that contrast with the preferences of state electoral majorities. And some of the largest states—California, Florida, New York, and Texas collectively account for about 37 percent of U.S. GDP—are becoming more involved in foreign affairs, not only on economic and social issues but also through the soft diplomacy of values and culture. In the summer of 2022, even as the Biden administration was reeling from West Virginia’s successful litigation before the U.S. Supreme Court to limit federal regulations on greenhouse gas emissions, the president asked California Governor Gavin Newsom to join a ministerial meeting on climate with Chinese Minister of Ecology and Environment Huang Runqiu.

America’s Education Crisis Is a National Security Threat

Nicholas Eberstadt and Evan Abramsky

Since the end of World War II, the world’s population has not only gotten vastly bigger; it has also become vastly more educated. In nearly every country on earth, the total number of years that citizens have attended school has grown faster than the population itself, and the number of college degrees conferred has grown even faster. Although population growth is now slowing almost everywhere (and depopulation is an emerging reality for some countries), the overall pace of educational expansion will remain much faster than natural population growth as far into the future as a demographer’s eye can see.

Education is a crucial component of human capital and, by extension, of national might. A better-educated citizenry means a more productive economy and thus greater military potential. But because the educational explosion of the last 70 years has been uneven—some countries have made greater strides than others, and the pace of progress has varied over time—this dramatic transformation hasn’t just increased the overall size of the global economy. It has also shifted the distribution of economic potential among countries, including great powers.

Comparatively speaking, Western nations, including the United States, have been the biggest losers in this great reshuffling of educational and economic heft, as we detail in a recent report for the American Enterprise Institute. During the Cold War, the United States was the uncontested education superpower; Americans enjoyed the world’s highest levels of educational attainment and accounted for far more of the world’s highly educated workforce than any other country. But that epoch is now history. An increasing number of countries are overtaking the United States in educational attainment, when measured by mean years of schooling, and it will soon cede its first-place ranking in college-educated workers to China. Sometime in the next two decades, India may also surpass the United States in total numbers of working-age men and women with higher education.

Ukraine’s Counteroffensives in Kharkiv and Kherson and the Road Ahead


Ukraine’s stunning victory in Kharkiv Oblast has reshaped the battlefield and dealt a powerful blow to Vladimir Putin’s ambitions in Ukraine. Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces continue to wage a more gradual but no less important counteroffensive in southern Ukraine. This analysis will unpack them both and highlight some factors that will shape the road ahead.

Kharkiv Counteroffensive

The Ukrainian General Staff, with Western assistance, formulated a plan to retake territory on two fronts: Kherson Oblast in southern Ukraine and Kharkiv Oblast in the east. For months, Kyiv telegraphed its intention to launch a counteroffensive in Kherson, while keeping its plans in Kharkiv under wraps. This led Russia to bolster its previously thin presence in the south, including by redeploying much of its forces from the area around Izyum, where Russian forces had been trying — without success — to push toward Slovyansk, one of two major cities in the Donbas that remain under Ukrainian control.

In recent weeks, Russian military correspondents and commentators began warning of a Ukrainian buildup south of Izyum and particularly near Balakliya, a city key for protecting the northwestern flank of Russia’s Izyum grouping. Ukraine had already been pressuring at Russian positions south of Izyum and around Balakliya, where Russian forces had been left thin. Yet the Russian military command evidently did not add reinforcements. The top Russian-installed official in Kharkiv Oblast later said Ukrainian forces outnumbered Russian troops by eight to one during the counteroffensive.

. frees Taliban narcotics kingpin in exchange for Navy veteran


The Taliban released Mark Frerichs, an American veteran who had been held hostage since early 2020, in exchange for Haji Bashir Noorzai, a convicted Taliban drug kingpin who was serving a life sentence for smuggling heroin into the United States. The U.S. routinely claims it does not negotiate with terrorist groups, but this prisoner swap is just the latest example.

The Taliban, which also claims to be against narcotics production and smuggling, gave Noorzai a hero’s welcome upon his return to Kabul on Sept. 19. He was given a military escort and showered with garlands of flowers.

Before his arrest in 2005, Noorzai was added to the list of the U.S. government’s foreign narcotics kingpins and was considered to be one of the world’s 10 most wanted narcotics traffickers. The U.S. government claimed Noorzai smuggled more than $50 million in heroin into the U.S. In 2008, Noorzai was sentenced to life in prison.

Iranian-backed attacks on Albania highlights need for Cyber Capacity Building


EXPERT PERSPECTIVE — Albania, a NATO member state, cut diplomatic ties with Iran earlier this month after blaming Tehran for a cyberattack against Albanian government networks. It is an unprecedented response to a cyberattack that highlights the impact of such attacks and how they could rapidly move NATO into a crisis or contingency.

Cyber deterrence relies on both maintaining offensive cyber capabilities and improving the resilience of cyber networks. This reality reinforces the importance of building the cyber defense capabilities of NATO allies.

Albania says July’s ransomware attack destroyed government data and temporarily disabled digital services. A group calling itself HomeLand Justice, claiming to be Albanian citizens, claimed responsibility for the attack. The group said in a telegram message that it was upset about the government’s decision to provide refuge to roughly 3,000 members of the Iranian opposition group Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK), which the United States has designated as a terrorist group.

But in announcing his country’s decision to sever diplomatic ties, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama called the cyberattack “state-sponsored aggression,” explaining that investigations aided by Microsoft and the FBI provided “indisputable” evidence that four Iranian government-backed groups were responsible.

China’s ungainly balancing act with Russia


President Xi Jinping’s meeting with Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation summit in Uzbekistan has prompted another round of speculation about China’s stake in its Russian relations.

Some would argue that combined with the earlier visit to Vladivostok by Li Zhanshu, Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress (the third-most senior leader within the Chinese Communist Party), the Xi-Putin meeting demonstrates that the normative basis of the “no limits” relationship between Beijing and Moscow proclaimed in February remains firm.
Prominent commentary on Sino-Russian ties often swings between alarmism and triumphalism.

But an interests-based assessment of China’s behaviour since the Russian invasion of Ukraine indicates that Beijing is attempting an ungainly balancing act between its simultaneous desire to maintain the strategic partnership with Russia and minimise collateral damage to its economic interests and diplomatic reputation, while also extracting leverage from Moscow’s travails.