27 September 2022

The Complicated Geopolitics of U.S. Oil Sanctions on Iran

Amy M. Jaffe

It is often said, perhaps with some hyperbole, that Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers was the best hope for conflict resolution in the Middle East. Its architect John Kerry argues instead that the 2015 deal’s limited parameter of closing Iran’s pathway to a nuclear weapon is sufficient on the merits. The Trump administration is taking a different view, focusing on Iran’s escalating threats to U.S. allies Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Those threats, which have included missile, drone, and cyberattacks on Saudi oil facilities, are looming large over the global economy because they are squarely influencing the volatility of the price of oil. One could argue that the U.S. decision to withdraw from the Iranian deal, referred to as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), has injected an even higher degree of risk into oil markets, where traders now feel that the chances of Mideast conflict resolution are lower.

But, the Trump administration could argue otherwise. From its perspective, the United States extended to Iran $6 billion in frozen funds, opened the door for a flood of spare parts to be shipped into Iran’s suffering oil and petrochemical sector, and looked the other way while European companies rushed in for commercial deals. In exchange, it’s true, Iran began to implement the terms of JCPOA, but as Secretary of State Pompeo laid out in a major speech on the subject, the nuclear deal has failed to turn down the heat on the wide range of conflicts plaguing the Mideast region.

All the Tsar’s Men Why Mobilization Can’t Save Putin’s War

Lawrence Freedman

In his September 21 speech about the steps he was taking to win his war in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin had to explain why he had not already won. The culprit was NATO, which he faulted for the huge support it has given to Kyiv. When he said “we will certainly use all the means at our disposal” if Russia’s territorial integrity is violated, some saw a link with the earlier part of his speech when he referred to the proposed referendums in occupied territories. But that was left vague. It is hard to establish a redline in areas where the situation on the ground is so fluid. In line with all previous statements, it was toward NATO that his nuclear threat was directed, to deter it from getting even more directly involved in supporting Ukraine.

As for actually turning the tide of the war, his proposed remedy was more troops. He decreed all Russians who had received previous military training to report to service, a mobilization described as “partial” but still looking substantial. Men without past training appear to have been rounded up, including students, who were supposed to have been excluded. Nothing in the seven-minute speech removed the stench of failure surrounding the enterprise. While it remains unclear if the draft can make any difference to the outcome, it has already raised the stakes for Putin at home. As many men are herded sullenly into buses to go to war, others seek to flee the country or, in defiance of draconian security measures, take to the streets to protest.

Scientists at America’s top nuclear lab were recruited by China to design missiles and drones,

Ken Dilanian

At least 154 Chinese scientists who worked on government-sponsored research at the U.S.’s foremost national security laboratory over the last two decades have been recruited to do scientific work in China — some of which helped advance military technology that threatens American national security — according to a new private intelligence report obtained by NBC News.

The report, by Strider Technologies, describes what it calls a systemic effort by the government of China to place Chinese scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where nuclear weapons were first developed.

Many of the scientists were later lured back to China to help make advances in such technologies as deep-earth-penetrating warheads, hypersonic missiles, quiet submarines and drones, according to the report.

Scientists were paid as much as $1 million through participation in Chinese government “talent programs,” which are designed to recruit Chinese scientists to return to China. Such talent programs have long been identified as a source of concern, but U.S. officials said they had not previously seen an unclassified report that described the phenomenon in such detail, naming specific scientists and the projects they have worked on.

India and the Kindleberger Trap: Multipolarity Amid the Taiwan Crisis

Jagannath Panda

In September 2019, India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar in his statement at an Alliance for Multilateralism meeting unambiguously stated that “the Kindleberger Trap on the shortage of global goods is far more serious than the Thucydides Trap.” Moreover, he warned against nationalism, mercantilism, violation of international law, and mechanisms or institutions that are too outdated to fight fast-evolving global challenges.

These warnings were surely a veiled indictment of China’s mercantilism, authoritarian practices, and disregard for laws like the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), as well as of moribund multilateral regimes like the United Nations that fail to reflect contemporary realities and have proved ineffective in preventing modern crises.

Three years later, with defining ongoing global military crises in Europe (the Russia-Ukraine War) and the Indo-Pacific (Fourth Taiwan Crisis) starting in the same year, it is time to re-evaluate the importance of the Kindleberger Trap, and also examine India’s role in sharing the global burden.

Israel Bolsters Digital Defense Amid Iran Cyber Threat – Analysis

David Claridge

At the height of the pandemic just over two years ago, Iranian hackers struck several Israeli water facilities, in an unprecedented cyber attack on the country’s civilian infrastructure. They are believed to have hacked into pump-operating software after routing through American and European servers to try to conceal their identity. If the operation had not been detected, water supplies would have been severely disrupted and chemicals, including chlorine, raised to dangerously high levels.

Yigal Unna, then head of Israel’s National Cyber Directorate (NCD), responsible for defending the country’s cyberspace, described the hacking incident as synchronized and organized. He said the outcome could have been “disastrous.” Israel quickly retaliated, crashing computer systems in the Iranian port of Shahid Rahjee, temporarily crippling the facility. Satellite images showed container ships stranded at sea and queues of vehicles stretching for miles outside the port.

The attacks marked an escalation in a long-running cyber conflict between the regional adversaries and demonstrate how cyberspace is likely to be used to sustain low-level conflict between nation states in the future.

India Is Building On Its Historic Links With Central Asia – Analysis

P. K. Balachandran

Present-day Indian rulers, who are keen on establishing India’s presence in Central Asia, can draw inspiration from the daring and enterprising Indian traders of the medieval era, who were key participants in the trade along the Central Asian Silk Road.

In Medieval times, Central Asia, now comprising the independent Republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, were not known to be rich in crude oil, natural gas, cotton, gold, copper, aluminium, and iron as they are now. But the area was on the Silk Road, a trading highway linking China with Russia and Europe. Indian merchants were a very prominent part of the multi-ethnic trading community operating on this dangerous, wild, and desolate but important route.

Pravin Swamy writes in The Print that in 1557, Anthony Jenkinson of London’s Muscovy Company found Indian merchants from Bengal trading in cotton and linen apparel in Bukhara in what is now Uzbekistan. In the 17 th. Century, the Prussian zoologist Peter Simon Pallas found Indian merchants indulging in “idolatrous worship” in their colony called “Indeiskoi Dvor.” Historian Stephen Dale wrote that Indian merchants had Russian-sounding names like Marwar Baraev, Narayan Chanchamalova, Vishnat Narmaldasov, Talaram Alimchandov and Ramdas Dzhasuev.

Ukraine’s Defense Industry And The Prospect Of A Long War – Analysis

Thomas Laffitte

(FPRI) — After more than six months of war, Russia and Ukraine are now preparing for a long period of hostilities, forcing each side to find long-term solutions for their military supplies. Without Western military and financial assistance, Ukraine would be unable to sustain its military or continue fighting. Although the West has pledged to provide Ukraine with equipment for as long as it takes to win the war, Kyiv wants to procure as much equipment as possible to avoid any policy changes or delays in delivery.

What contributions could Kyiv expect from its homegrown defense industry? Ukraine inherited numerous defense enterprises from the Soviet era, so can these produce some of the wartime equipment Ukraine needs?

The fact that the Ukrainian Armed Forces destroyed the Russian flagship Moskva at the beginning of April using a missile designed and produced by the Ukrainian industry hints at an untapped potential. More recently, the announcement that Baykar, the Turkish manufacturer of the Bayraktar TB2 drones, intends to open a factory in Ukraine also propelled optimism about Ukraine’s military-industrial capacities.

China’s and India’s Realpolitik Relations with the Taliban Regime

Vanda Felbab-Brown

Though the first year of the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan has been characterized by a return to authoritarianism, a tanking economy and worsened relations with the West, two countries—China and India—have made the effort to position themselves closer to the new ruling regime. For China, this is a continuation of a long-standing policy that has seen relations steadily improve; for India, it is a surprising about-face. Both countries’ engagement with the Taliban is principally driven by counterterrorism considerations, with much less focus on human rights and political pluralism than the West has emphasized. But even this realpolitik approach is likely to generate only limited payoffs from the Taliban, even on counterterrorism issues.


Since 2001, China’s policy in Afghanistan has progressed from a non-engagement “observer” policy (2002-2010), to an economics-centered agenda (2011-2017), to a security dominated agenda (post-2018). The security agenda has remained dominant even after the Taliban regained power in August 2021.

China’s regional security agenda has focused on eliminating Uighur militancy and mobilisation in Xinjiang and preventing the flow of any external support to Uighur militants, such as from Afghanistan. This goal, coupled with the struggles faced by the anti-Taliban counterinsurgency, encouraged China to develop strong relations with the Taliban well before they returned to power—to the dismay of the Afghan government that had fervently hoped that Beijing would pressure Pakistan to sever its relations with the Taliban. While China preferred a stable Afghan government not dominated by the Taliban, it assessed that there was a substantial likelihood that the Taliban would return to power in some form, and therefore hedged its bets.

Equally disappointing to the Afghan government, China’s economic investments in the country remained far below what the administration of President Ashraf Ghani (2014-2021) had hoped. In 2016, China and Afghanistan signed a memorandum of understanding on the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), that promised to fund $100 million worth of projects in the country. However, no concrete BRI investments have materialised and Chinese resource extractions have remained minimal. In May 2008, the Chinese Metallurgical Group Corporation (MCC)/Jiangxi Copper Company Limited (JCL) consortium won a thirty-year $3.4 billion lease for the second-largest copper mine in the world—Mes Aynak in the Logar province of Afghanistan. But since winning the bid, the copper production has been minimal to nonexistent.

In theory, Afghanistan sits on some $1 trillion worth of minerals, rare metals, oil, gas, precious stones, and other extractable resources. But developing them and bringing income to one of the world’s most impoverished countries has been hampered by persistent instability and conflict, out-of-control corruption, inadequate infrastructure development, and since the Taliban seized power, by Western sanctions.

Although, like all other countries, China has not officially recognised the Taliban, it has positioned itself far closer to the new regime than the West has. Beyond keeping its embassy in Kabul open, China has repeatedly denounced the “political pressure and economic sanctions on Afghanistan imposed by non-regional forces” and called for the unfreezing of Afghan assets held by the United States (US) and in Europe even before any progress is achieved on human rights and women’s rights in Afghanistan. However, China’s humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan remains a small fraction of the aid supplied by the West since August 2021.

Some Chinese state-owned enterprises have hinted at the possibility of (re)starting economic projects with the Taliban. In reality however, bilateral trade has remained very limited, amounting mostly to pine nut exports from Afghanistan to China. And despite imaginations of large potential sanctions-busting Chinese extraction of valuable commodities such as lithium, large Chinese economic involvement remains unlikely for the above reasons and uncertainty over whether the Taliban regime will survive more than a few years, given Afghanistan’s crippled economy.

On the most important issue—counterterrorism—China finds itself in a similar position as the US and much of the West vis-à-vis the Taliban. The Taliban has promised it will not allow Uighur attacks abroad into China or the flow of financial and material support to Uighur militants, but not anything beyond that. Various Chinese officials have demanded that the Taliban cut ties to other militant groups and act against the Uighur militants. But although the Taliban has never criticised China’s brutal repression of the Uighurs, its actions against Uighur militants have been limited. At first, the Taliban falsely claimed that Uighur fighters had left Afghanistan. In fact, there remained Uighur fighters and commanders in northern Afghanistan commanding Taliban non-Uighur units. Then, in May 2022, it relocated some Uighur militants away from the Chinese border, but did not expel them.

Among the principal reasons for why the Taliban has been light-handed with the Uighurs, (or for that matter other foreign militants) is the need to preserve the inflow of foreign funds and maintain internal unity. Such funding is dependent on the Taliban not reneging on its broader jihadi commitments. The Taliban also has its familial connections to foreign terrorist groups. Crucially, the Taliban also fears that acting against external jihadist groups would weaken the Taliban’s internal cohesion and cause defections, such as to the Islamic State in Khorasan (ISK), the Taliban’s principal armed rival. The only foreign fighters whom the Taliban did expel in the fall 2021 were the Baluchis, who target Pakistan and Chinese assets in Pakistan and whom Pakistan suspects of receiving assistance from Pakistan’s archrival, India.


Unlike China, India waited until the spring of 2022 before attempting even a modest rapprochement with the Taliban.

Throughout the 1990s, India was a staunch supporter of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, and after 2002, of the Afghan Republic, providing economic and limited military assistance. Unsurprisingly, it opposed the restart of US negotiations with the Taliban that led to the signing of a peace agreement in February 2020.

Thus, New Delhi’s decision to discuss the establishment of “diplomatic relations” with the Taliban and provision of limited humanitarian aid (like with China, a small amount of Western humanitarian aid) in June 2022, followed by the re-opening of the Indian embassy in Kabul in July 2022, represent a major policy rupture for India. The Taliban provided security assurances to the Indian embassy (as well as to embassies and diplomatic staff of all countries that return), but the ISK attack on the Russian embassy in Kabul on September 5, 2022, may weaken any stock India places in such promises.

Principally (and accurately), India has concluded that the Taliban remains firmly in power in Afghanistan and that the various armed opposition groups, such as the National Resistance Front, do not pose a major challenge. Following the dictum of keeping one’s enemies far closer than one’s friends (the latter of which India has not kept particularly close, bucking US entreaties that India condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine), India has calculated that reopening the embassy in Kabul and developing a limited relationship with the Taliban gives it at least eyes and ears on the ground in Afghanistan.

Like for China, security, principally counterterrorism considerations, have driven India’s Afghanistan agenda. In 1999, Pakistani terrorists hijacked an Indian airliner with 160 passengers and flew it to Afghanistan where the Taliban protected it from an Indian rescue assault. Moreover, India does not want to see Kashmir- and India-oriented terrorist groups sponsored by Pakistan—such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM)—to be given safe haven in Afghanistan.

The Taliban has given India the same promises as to everyone else: it will not allow terrorist groups to launch attacks from Afghanistan into other countries. But the Taliban’s counterterrorism actions will likely remain the same as with the West and China: promising and perhaps even foiling attack ploys, but not rounding up or expelling these terrorist groups. Indeed, both the LeT and JeM retain a presence in Afghanistan.

By reestablishing a presence in Afghanistan, India has also enjoyed bursting Pakistan’s hope to have its sole run of Afghanistan and potentially use Afghanistan as a place of strategic depth in military confrontations with India. Reportedly, the Taliban has expressed interest in sending some of its military units to India for training.

The Taliban has not lived up to Pakistan’s hopes of taking close direction from Islamabad and Rawalpindi (where Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence or ISI, key sponsors of the Taliban for three decades, are located). Even the Haqqani branch of the Taliban which is very close to the ISI has not shut down the anti-Pakistan terrorist operations of the Tehrik-e-Taliban-Pakistan (TTP), but instead negotiated a series of unsatisfactory ceasefires. And like previous Afghan governments, the Taliban has challenged Pakistan over the demarcation of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, even resulting in armed clashes.

India’s limited engagement with the Taliban fits well with India’s long-running ultra-realpolitik foreign policy. In Myanmar, where India has substantial economic and geopolitical interests, it has been unwilling to criticise the new military junta. Following the overthrow of the democratic government in February 2021, and more recently with the execution of pro-democracy activists, the most that New Delhi has been able to muster was to express its “deep concern”. In fact, India has positioned itself closely to the Myanmar junta, even sending Indian diplomats to attend the junta’s military parades.

Pluralism and Human Rights versus Limited Objectives

Only a limited focus on human rights, accountability, and pluralism animates India’s and China’s dealings with the Taliban. Both China and India have spoken of support for an inclusive government that incorporates non-Taliban and non-Pashtun factions. But along with Iran and Russia, their definition of inclusivity is different from the West’s, centering principally on the integration of key minority ethnic powerbrokers into the Taliban government, rather than true accountability and broad-based inclusivity.

Yet, the Taliban has not been willing to move even in that limited direction, running an exclusionary and Pashtun-centered government since its return to power. It has even marginalised its own ethnic minority commanders—Taliban Uzbek, Tajik, and Hazara commanders—who were critical in the Taliban’s takeover of minority-dominated areas in the country.

Both China and India have endorsed the return of girls to secondary schools in Afghanistan that the Taliban’s top leader Haibatullah Akhundzada banned. But neither Beijing nor New Delhi has issued strong or frequent statements about the issue. In my interviews, I learned from Western diplomats that, along with Russia and Iran, China has indicated to the Taliban leadership that it should not feel compelled to yield to Western pressure on issues such as women’s rights and that Beijing can act as an international interlocutor for the Taliban regime.

Divisions in the international messaging to the Taliban would weaken the capacity of the international community to shape the Taliban’s behavior regarding counterterrorism and domestic political dispensation. Already, the Kandahar power center around Haibatullah has been impervious to both external and internal inputs, including from other Taliban factions. The more internationally oriented segments of the Taliban, including the powerful terrorist commanders Mullah Yaqub and Sirajuddin Haqqani, are liable to calculate that they would unlikely be able to retain control of Afghanistan for more than a few years if the country’s economy remains buckled. Yet persisting internal repression of women, minorities, and political critics that have characterised the Taliban’s first year will, over time, likely jeopardise even Western humanitarian aid. There is little reason so far to believe that any future Chinese humanitarian and economic efforts in Afghanistan will offset the loss of Western development aid.

Equally, however, an isolation of the Taliban regime and persistent denials of development aid and financial liquidity are unlikely to alter its behavior either. Instead, they are more likely to drive it deeper into an inward- and afterlife-focused dogma, as well as likely into a civil war.

Yet a disintegration of the Taliban regime, leading to an Afghan civil war, remains even more contrary to international counterterrorism and humanitarian objectives. As things stand, the only outcome of such a possible civil war would be a more fragmented and unstable Afghanistan.

What the West Gets Wrong About the SCO

Mohammadbagher Forough

Leaders of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) countries met in Samarkand, Uzbekistan on Sept 15-16 for an annual summit. It is becoming a common trope in mainstream Western media and think tanks to describe the SCO as an “anti-Western,” “anti-American,” “anti-NATO,” and “authoritarian” bloc, or even just an “ineffective talk shop.” While there is a hint of truth to each of these labels, they do not provide a clear picture. These labels reductively distort the SCO’s multi-layered nature as a platform and lead to misguided policies.

The problem arises from different conceptualizations of “security.” Western references to the SCO reduce security to a commonsensical notion of geopolitics as “hard,” or military power (hence, the NATO comparisons). The conception of security at the core of the SCO’s mission is much broader. Driven by China’s multi-faceted discourse on security, this conception subsumes not only hard geopolitical security but also geoeconomic development. The latter is a long-term strategy that might be called “security through development” that affects all SCO member states’ global and regional strategies.

Will Russia and Turkey’s Proxy Wars Spiral Out of Control?

Andrew Hinton

The story of the Ottomans and the Russians is an ancient one. The extensive list of conflicts between the two spans nearly 500 years, with battles across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Both have experienced meteoric rises and slow decays, periods of irrelevance on the global stage, and now, most importantly, a coupled rebirth as shadows of their former empires. But what has not changed throughout the centuries are the battlegrounds and areas of influence where the two compete.

A cursory glimpse at a map of both the Russian and Ottoman Empires quickly illuminates why this is so. Both empires shared borders in the Balkans, the Caucasus Mountains, and, at times, Ukraine. As a historical generality, any two countries or empires that share a border are bound to enter into conflict sooner or later. In this case, it is important to understand that Russian and Ottoman territories in the periphery frequently changed hands. A city could find itself a possession of the Ottomans in one century, while in the next it would be under the protection of the tsars of Russia. With this historical context in mind, it is easy to understand why both Turkey and Russia continue to compete for influence over these areas: they have historically been possessions of both empires, and significant cultural and historical value is placed on them. In more recent years, this long-running contest of influence has manifested itself in nearly half a dozen conflicts. While they may seem distant and unrelated in a history book, these wars are strategically linked.

Revealed: US Military Bought Mass Monitoring Tool That Includes Internet Browsing, Email Data

 Joseph Cox

The “Augury” platform includes highly sensitive network data that Team Cymru, a private company, is selling to the military. “It’s everything. There’s nothing else to capture except the smell of electricity,” one cybersecurity expert said.

Multiple branches of the U.S. military have bought access to a powerful internet monitoring tool that claims to cover over 90 percent of the world’s internet traffic, and which in some cases provides access to people’s email data, browsing history, and other information such as their sensitive internet cookies, according to contracting data and other documents reviewed by Motherboard.

Additionally, Sen. Ron Wyden says that a whistleblower has contacted his office concerning the alleged warrantless use and purchase of this data by NCIS, a civilian law enforcement agency that’s part of the Navy, after filing a complaint through the official reporting process with the Department of Defense, according to a copy of the letter shared by Wyden’s office with Motherboard.

The West is testing out a lot of shiny new military tech in Ukraine

Jonathan Guyer

As Ukraine turned a corner 10 days ago with a military offensive that retook territory from Russia, former Google CEO billionaire Eric Schmidt was meeting with senior Ukrainian officials. He was on a 36-hour visit to the country exploring technology’s role in the war.

“What I was interested in is what did the tech industry do to help?” he told a press conference organized by George Washington University, Zooming from a private jet flying back from an undisclosed European country.

Schmidt traveled to Ukraine not just as a former tech CEO, but as a billionaire investor in military technology startups who has served on influential federal boards advising the US government on adapting more artificial intelligence. He has prominently advocated for the US Department of Defense to integrate new tech, and his trip was a reminder of how integral advanced technologies and novel uses of existing technologies have been to Ukraine’s approach in this war.

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

John Hardie

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.

Over 1,000 Russian Protesters Arrested After Putin Mobilizes More TroopsOver

Protesters across Russia took to the streets to show their disapproval of the “partial mobilization” policy announced by President Vladimir V. Putin on Wednesday morning that would press 300,000 into military service. At least 1,252 people from 38 cities were detained, according to OVD-Info, a human rights watchdog that monitors police activity.

In Moscow, hundreds of protesters gathered on the Old Arbat, a well-known pedestrian street in central Moscow. They screamed “Send Putin to the trenches!” and “Let our children live!” Footage showed riot police dragging people away.

In Tomsk, a woman holding a sign that said “Hug me if you are also scared” smiled serenely as she was dragged away from a small protest by three police officers. In Novosibirsk, a man with a ponytail was taken away after he told police officers, “I don’t want to die for Putin and for you.”

U.S.-China Tensions Fuel Outflow of Chinese Scientists From U.S. Universities

Sha Hua and Karen Hao

HONG KONG—An increasing number of scientists and engineers of Chinese descent are giving up tenured positions at top-tier American universities to leave for China or elsewhere, in a sign of the U.S.’s fading appeal for a group that has been a driver of innovation.

The trend, driven in part by what many of the scholars describe as an increasingly hostile political and racial environment, has caused the Biden administration to work with scholars of Chinese descent to address concerns.

More than 1,400 U.S.-trained Chinese scientists dropped their U.S. academic or corporate affiliation for a Chinese one in 2021, a 22% jump from the previous year, according to data gathered by researchers from Princeton University, Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The data, to be published by the advocacy group Asian American Scholar Forum on Friday, is based on changes to the addresses listed under authors’ names in academic journals.

Hezbollah Emerging as Winner from Israel-Lebanon Maritime Talks

Tony Badran

Israel and Lebanon are apparently close to a final agreement delineating their maritime border after a Lebanese government delegation met with the Biden administration’s energy envoy, Amos Hochstein, this week in New York. If the deal goes through, the Biden administration will have turned Hezbollah into a significant player in the Eastern Mediterranean energy industry, a development that will both enrich the terrorist group and expand its regional influence.

While the Lebanese delegation consisted of government officials, the real, if indirect, interlocutor for the Biden administration was always Hezbollah. The group’s chief, Hassan Nasrallah, set the parameters and the tempo of the negotiations and has found an eager and cooperative partner in the Biden team. In fact, Hochstein leveraged Hezbollah’s threats to obtain major Israeli concessions.

With talks apparently headed toward the finish line, Nasrallah reiterated last week the ultimatum that has framed the talks. As before, Nasrallah threatened to attack Israel’s Karish offshore gas rig, unless the U.S. and Israel agreed to his conditions before starting to pump gas from Karish, even though it lies entirely in Israeli waters. The Hezbollah leader said, “our red line is the start of extraction at Karish. … We cannot allow for oil and gas extraction from Karish before Lebanon obtains its rights.” Nasrallah added, “our eyes and our missiles are [fixed] on Karish.”

In an About-Face, Russia Announces Mobilization and ‘Referendums’ in Occupied Ukrainian Territories


In a televised address on Wednesday morning, President Vladimir Putin promised to ensure the security of upcoming “referendums” in occupied Ukrainian territories and declared Russia would conduct a “partial mobilization.” These announcements represent an about-face from the Kremlin’s position on these issues mere days ago, likely reflecting Putin’s realization that drastic measures are necessary to avoid defeat in Ukraine. While mobilization likely will not buy victory for the Kremlin, it could enable Moscow to sustain the war and hold already occupied territory, although mobilized Russian troops will take time to arrive on the battlefield in large numbers.

After railing against alleged Western efforts “to weaken, divide and ultimately destroy” Russia, Putin defended his war in Ukraine as “necessary and the only option,” saying it continues to seek to “liberate” the entirety of Ukraine’s Donbas region. Putin noted that Russian-installed authorities in the occupied parts of Ukraine’s Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson regions had announced plans for so-called referendums on joining Russia, set to be held this weekend. He said Russia “will do everything necessary to create safe conditions for these referendums.”

Vladimir Putin’s Nuclear Threats Work, but Using the Weapons Probably Wouldn’t

Stephen Fidler

With the possible exception of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, no global leader throws around nuclear threats more freely than Russian President Vladimir Putin. The world heard more of the same this week. The reason he issues such threats is that they work.

Fears of Russian escalation have limited the involvement of the U.S. and its allies in the war in Ukraine. While supplying Kyiv with arms that have been critical in turning the tide of the war, Western governments have ruled out steps, including the imposition of a no-fly zone, that would lead to a direct confrontation between forces of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and Russia.

Western governments have said in recent months that they haven’t identified any Russian actions to suggest Moscow is preparing to use nuclear weapons. But they say they have to take Mr. Putin’s threats seriously because there is a nonzero chance that he will act on them.

The West Mimics Mao, Takes a Green Leap Forward

Helen Raleigh

The green movement’s rush to transform the energy economy while ignoring the laws of nature and economics calls to mind China’s ruinous Great Leap Forward. By 1957, Mao Zedong had grown impatient with his country’s slow industrial development relative to the West. He sought to transform China quickly from an agricultural society to an industrial powerhouse through forced industrialization and agricultural collectivization.

Steel production was a priority of the Great Leap Forward. Mao wanted China to surpass the U.K. in steel output within 15 years. Across the country, including in the village where my father lived, people tried to contribute to this goal by building small backyard furnaces. Each village had a production quota to meet, so everyone—including children and the elderly—pitched in. Using everything they could find to keep the furnaces burning, villagers melted down farming tools and cooking pots. These efforts yielded only pig iron, which had to be decarbonized to make steel. That was a process a backyard furnace couldn’t handle. The effort and resources were wasted.

Russian Men, Fearing Ukraine Draft, Seek Refuge Abroad

Ben Hubbard

A little more than 12 hours after he heard that Russian civilians could be pressed into military service in the Ukraine war, the tour guide said he bought a plane ticket and a laptop, changed money, wrapped up his business, kissed his crying mother goodbye and boarded a plane out of his country, with no idea when he might return.

On Thursday morning, he walked into the cavernous arrival hall of the Istanbul International Airport carrying only a backpack and the address of a friend who had promised to put him up while he figured out what to do with his life.

“I was sitting and thinking about what I could die for, and I didn’t see any reason to die for the country,” said the tour guide, 23, who, like others interviewed for this article, declined to give his name for fear of reprisals.

Russia will lose the war against Ukraine. Here's why - opinion


When Vladimir Putin decided to start rebuilding the Soviet Union by conquering Ukraine, he didn’t realize that Russia’s industrial base was too weak to support his military adventures. As his promises of international greatness clash with reality on the battlefield, he faces discontent and accusations of defeatism and, worse, treason.

One thing Russia has always been good at is amassing territory. Someone calculated that between around 1450, when the Grand Duchy of Muscovy came into its own, and the demise of the Russian Empire in 1917, it expanded at the average rate of three square kilometers per hour.

World War I brought an end to the empire. Lenin denounced Russian imperialism, declaring the principle of national self-determination. Some nations on the western edge of the empire broke loose, but the Red Army brought Ukraine, Transcaucasus and Central Asia back into the fold. The Bolsheviks married Russia’s expansionist drive to their millenarian ideology, developing a version of the land grab based on a supposedly scientific claim of the inevitable worldwide triumph of communism.

CIA's first podcast disses Russia as a 'declining' power, warns China is a 'central geopolitical challenge'

Brooke Singman

CIA Director William Burns called Russia a "declining" power in the first episode of the intelligence agency's new podcast, while warning that China is a "central geopolitical challenge" for the U.S.

The CIA's podcast, "The Langley Files," launched Thursday and featured Burns as its first guest.

The podcast comes during the CIA’s 75th anniversary — a time, Burns said, for the agency to "reflect on how we need to organize ourselves to navigate successfully what is an incredibly complicated international terrain."

Burns warned that terrain features a "major power competition with rising powers like China," which he referred to as a "central geopolitical challenge."

Putin’s War In Ukraine Seems Destined To Collapse

Steve Balestrieri

Russian President Vladimir Putin made a desperate move on Wednesday, calling up 300,000 reservists and enacting draconian laws for members of the military. And by all accounts, it did not have the desired effect and may actually be backfiring on him.

With the war in Ukraine going badly for Russia’s military, Putin tried to evoke nationalism among the Russian people, similar to what Stalin did in World War II, now painting a picture of his “special military operation” as one of an existential threat against Russia’s motherland. Long gone are the calls for de-Nazifying and demilitarizing Ukraine. His ploy has seemed to fail.

Ordinary Russians weren’t buying his message that Russia was being attacked by the West. Russian men of military age began voting with their feet to his call to defend the motherland. One-way tickets for flights out of Russia were quickly sold out, sending the cost of a ticket skyrocketing out of control, with tickets to Dubai rising to $5,000 and later to over $9,100.

Holding Ground, Losing War

Douglas Macgregor

At the end of 1942, when the Wehrmacht could advance no further east, Hitler switched German ground forces from an “enemy force-oriented” strategy to a “ground-holding” strategy. Hitler demanded that his armies defend vast, largely empty and irrelevant stretches of Soviet territory.

“Holding ground” not only robbed the German military of its ability to exercise operational discretion, and, above all, to outmanoeuvre the slow, methodical Soviet opponent; holding ground also pushed German logistics to the breaking point. When holding ground was combined with endless counterattacks to retake useless territory, the Wehrmacht was sentenced to slow, grinding destruction.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, (presumably with the advice of his U.S. and British military advisors), has also adopted a strategy of holding ground in Eastern Ukraine. Ukrainian forces immobilized themselves inside urban areas, and prepared defenses. As a result, Ukrainian forces turned urban centers into fortifications for what became “last stands.” Sensible withdrawals from cities like Mariupol that might have saved many of Ukraine’s best troops were forbidden. Russian forces responded by methodically isolating and crushing the defenders left with no possibility of either escape or rescue by other Ukrainian forces.

Scientists at America’s top nuclear lab were recruited by China to design missiles and drones, report says

Ken Dilanian

At least 154 Chinese scientists who worked on government-sponsored research at the U.S.’s foremost national security laboratory over the last two decades have been recruited to do scientific work in China — some of which helped advance military technology that threatens American national security — according to a new private intelligence report obtained by NBC News.

The report, by Strider Technologies, describes what it calls a systemic effort by the government of China to place Chinese scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where nuclear weapons were first developed.

Many of the scientists were later lured back to China to help make advances in such technologies as deep-earth-penetrating warheads, hypersonic missiles, quiet submarines and drones, according to the report.

HIMARS And MLRS Are Great But Ukraine Needs More M119A3 Artillery Guns

Cam McMillan

More M119A3 – What Ukraine Truly Needs: While more modern and long-range weapon systems, especially HIMARS and MLRS, have captured most of the conversation about U.S. military support for Ukraine, the role of cannon artillery cannot be underappreciated.

Long-Range Weapons on the Field

It’s understandable that these big-ticket items get the most attention because of their range, accuracy, and strategic importance. But, despite the never-ending debate about which missiles the U.S. should or should not send, the DoD has made clear that the U.S. will likely retain the status quo of missile and rocket support, remaining hesitant to provide longer-range weapons.

Additionally, while Ukraine’s counter-offensive has been extremely successful, the war is far from over as the DoD foresees a fall of tough fighting before a winter stalemate. Undoubtedly, the effects of HIMARS and MLRS in shaping operations proved vital for the counteroffensive to be as successful as it has been. But the war has moved into a new phase, a phase where Ukraine possesses the momentum and initiative in an offensive where its maneuvering forces are fighting to close in on and destroy the enemy. The mission of the artillery is to enable those maneuver forces to do just that, not simply to flex muscle by destroying long-range targets.

Putin just escalated his war in Ukraine. Here’s your expert guide to what’s coming next.

Amid a string of battlefield setbacks—and the announcement of fast-tracked “referendums” that could enable the Kremlin to annex territory it has occupied in eastern Ukraine—Putin also reiterated his threats to use nuclear weapons to defend what Russia considers its own turf. We asked experts across the Atlantic Council for their reactions to Putin’s moves. This post will be updated as their analysis rolls in.

The US and Ukraine should double down to win the war while deterring nuclear use

Putin’s speech shows he is out of options and in a desperate situation. His conventional military is mangled, so he is drawing on the only tools he has left: mobilization of low-quality reservists and nuclear threats.

As Russian Losses Mount in Ukraine, Putin Gets More Involved in War Strategy

Julian E. Barnes, Helene Cooper, Eric Schmitt and Michael Schwirtz

WASHINGTON — President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has thrust himself more directly into strategic planning for the war in Ukraine in recent weeks, American officials said, including rejecting requests from his commanders on the ground that they be allowed to retreat from the vital southern city of Kherson.

A withdrawal from Kherson would allow the Russian military to pull back across the Dnipro River in an orderly way, preserving its equipment and saving the lives of soldiers.

But such a retreat would be another humiliating public acknowledgment of Mr. Putin’s failure in the war, and would hand a second major victory to Ukraine in one month. Kherson was the first major city to fall to the Russians in the initial invasion, and remains the only regional capital under Moscow’s control. Retaking it would be a major accomplishment for President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine.

Putin’s War, and His Rule, Are In Trouble


Russia’s mobilization of a reported 300,000 reservists hasn’t proceeded very smoothly. Almost immediately after President Vladimir Putin announced that his government would be calling the reservists up for duty in Ukraine, waves of Russians began fleeing the country, rightly suspecting this was just the first wave of call-ups.

In Ukraine, by contrast, many men have returned home to serve when their country needed them, after the initial government order that barred Ukraine’s fighting-age men from leaving the country as Russia invaded. In Finland, even NHL hockey stars return from America to do military service.

Any successful conscription or mobilization begins with respect for the citizens who are being turned into soldiers. Otherwise, they’ll foil the military effort by not showing up or not doing their best—and in Russia's case dramatically demonstrating to the world that Putin’s war, and his rule, is in trouble.

Is cutting-edge military tech really cheaper than manpower?

Daniel Vardiman

The excitement over artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and automation in support of military capabilities is growing inside policy circles. Industry is eager to develop new tools, and the US Department of Defense (DoD) is keen to operationalize new concepts. The mood suggests that we are on the cusp of the next military revolution.

The faith in these developments stems from the confidence that they will make warfare faster and safer, put fewer people in harm’s way—and, crucially, make future capabilities cheaper than traditional military hardware. On the surface, that’s a fair assumption: Service members are the most expensive single item on the annual budget, and any new system that improves proficiency and lowers the number of required personnel should lead to a more effective force and lower costs.

The reality might be more complicated. Take the highly successful MQ-1 Predator drone, for instance: It helped usher in the age of remote piloting and shaped concepts of military automation. When it first came on the scene in 1996, it was heralded as a replacement for the SR-71 and U-2 manned espionage planes to limit the risk to pilots. But really, the Predator did more to fill a gap in requirements than it did to replace a capability. The requirements for U-2s, for example, didn’t go away: The spy planes were designed to fly at high altitudes to avoid most threats and look far into enemy territory from a safe distance. In contrast, the Predator operates at lower altitudes and provides greater flexibility for surveillance operations inside threat windows.

Newly discovered mineral petrovite could revolutionize batteries

Paul Ratner

The research team that found petrovite was headed by crystallography professor Stanislav Filatov, who studied the minerals of Kamchatka for over 40 years. The area offers amazing mineralogical diversity, with dozens of new minerals found there in recent years, according to the university’s press release.

Specifically, Filatov focused his attention on scoria (or cinder) cone volcanos and lava flows formed after the eruptions of the Tolbachik Volcano in 1975-1976 and 2012-2013.

Petrovite, the blue and green mineral Filatov’s team discovered, with the chemical formula of Na10CaCu2(SO4)8, contains oxygen atoms, sodium sulphur, and copper in a porous framework. “The copper atom in the crystal structure of petrovite has an unusual and very rare coordination of seven oxygen atoms,” explained Filatov.