24 October 2022

Palantir wins contract to help Army quickly process battlefield data

Colin Demarest

WASHINGTON — Palantir Technologies won a U.S. Army contract worth as much as $59 million to support the testing and rollout of software that allows analysts to parse vast amounts of data and quickly provide leaders the latest battlefield information.

The five-year indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity deal for the All Source II application was announced Oct. 17 by the Army’s Program Executive Office for Intelligence, Electronic Warfare and Sensors, or PEO IEW&S.

The All Source II application is expected to be deployed as part of the Command Post Computing Environment, a tailorable mission command suite operated and maintained by soldiers.

“ASII is integrated into, and built to interoperate with, the Command Post Computing Environment, which not only reduces the amount of hardware the Army intelligence community is required to maintain, but it also provides a streamlined way to deliver timely intelligence to the commander,” Col. Christopher Anderson, the project manager for intelligence systems and analytics, said in a statement.

Defiant Xi tells world China is ready to stand its ground


President Xi Jinping had a clear message to those who want to thwart China’s rise: You will fail.

In a speech running almost two hours on Sunday, Xi let the world know that China wouldn’t change course even as it faces “dangerous storms” in a more hostile world. Instead, he declared the “rejuvenation of the Chinese nation is now on an irreversible historical course” and more forcefully offered China up as an alternative to the U.S. and its allies.

“China’s international influence, appeal and power to shape the world has significantly increased,” Xi said in kicking off the Communist Party’s once-in-five-year party congress, at which he’s set to secure a norm-breaking third term in office. “Chinese modernization offers humanity a new choice for achieving modernization,” he added.

Xi’s remarks indicate that China is ready to stare down a growing challenge from the U.S. under President Joe Biden, who has moved to hinder Beijing’s ability to access advanced technology and sought to deter any military action against Taiwan — the biggest flash point between the world’s biggest economies. The Chinese leader hailed the nation’s “fighting spirit” and said the country was “well-positioned for pursuing development and ensuring security.”

Why the Pentagon’s Crush on Elon Musk Is Dangerous to Democracy


SpaceX founder Elon Musk’s current spat with the Pentagon over who will pay for satellite internet services over Ukraine illustrates how democracy is vulnerable to the whims of authoritarian-minded tech magnates. But in the case of Musk, Pentagon officials are partially to blame.

A villain to some and a hero to others, Musk owns the Starlink communications satellites that are helping to keep many Ukrainians connected to the internet. Until recently, he seemed to many U.S. military leaders a model for how to build things in the age of information technology. Musk has headlined military conferences where he lectured the Defense Department on what it needed to do to be faster and cheaper. He has hosted key military leaders for private dinners, leaders who spoke about him in public with unguarded adulation.

“Look at SpaceX,” said Gen. John Hyten in 2020, when he was vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Hyten, who has since retired, lauded the company's ability to learn from launch failures. “Did they stop? No…They launched rapidly again. They changed systems. They changed subsystems. They go in a completely different direction."

Americans agree democracy is at risk. They disagree vehemently on why.

Philip Bump

There’s a fable to be written about a group of sailors who learn that their boat is taking on water. The crew divides into factions, each insistent that they understand the reason that the boat is sinking: One blames cracks in the hull, another broken bilge pumps. Instead of fixing the problem, their time is consumed with arguing over it. Eventually they’re just swimming there, sharks circling, fighting about who was right.

It’s been clear for some time that Americans see the country’s political system as endangered. Polling released this week by the New York Times and Siena College reinforces that point: 7 in 10 Americans believe it is. In fact, there’s an unusual bipartisanship to the issue: 7 in 10 Democrats, Republicans and independents all share that conclusion.

Of course, it’s easy to tell when the boat is taking on water; you need only check the moisture level of your shoes. What’s trickier is figuring out why and whether the problem can effectively be addressed. And there our expected partisan divide reemerges.

ASEAN bracing for US-China rivalry to explode


Chinese paramount leader Xi Jinping’s fiery address before the Chinese Communist Party’s 20th Congress has dominated recent headlines, not least regarding his comments on Taiwan.

Despite Xi’s vow to pursue “peaceful unification” with the self-ruling island, the Chinese leader expressed his willingness to use force and flex muscles amid “stormy seas” in an increasingly volatile geopolitical environment.

Xi’s hardline ideological positioning and seeming refusal to loosen domestic political and Covid-19-related restrictions has raised concerns over the future of China’s sputtering economy.

For the first time in three decades, numerous countries in the region, from India to Bangladesh, Vietnam and the Philippines, are expected to outpace the Asian powerhouse for the foreseeable future. A decade earlier, Hong Kong-based expert Wily Lam warned about the perils of China’s more inward and ideological turn under Xi’s leadership.

Big Tech Goes to War To Help Ukraine, Washington and Silicon Valley Must Work Together

Christine H. Fox and Emelia S. Probasco

Even before he made a bid to buy Twitter, Elon Musk was an avid user of the site. It is a reason Ukraine’s Minister of Digital Transformation Mykhailo Fedorov took to the social media platform to prod the SpaceX CEO to activate Starlink, a SpaceX division that provides satellite Internet, to help his country in the aftermath of Russia’s invasion. “While you try to colonize Mars—Russia try [sic] to occupy Ukraine!” Fedorov wrote on February 26. “We ask you to provide Ukraine with Starlink stations.”

“Starlink service is now active in Ukraine,” Musk tweeted that same day. This was a coup for Ukraine: it facilitated Ukrainian communications in the conflict. Starlink later helped fend off Russian jamming attacks against its service to Ukraine with a quick and relatively simple code update. Now, however, Musk has gone back and forth on whether the company will continue funding the Starlink satellite service that has kept Ukraine and its military online during the war.

The tensions and uncertainty Musk is injecting into the war effort demonstrate the challenges that can emerge when companies play a key role in military conflict. Technology companies ranging from Microsoft to Silicon Valley startups have provided cyberdefense, surveillance, and reconnaissance services—not by direction of a government contract or even as a part of a government plan but instead through the independent decision-making of individual companies. These companies’ efforts have rightly garnered respect and recognition; their involvement, after all, were often pro bono and could have provoked Russian attacks on their networks, or even their people, in retaliation.


Olga R. Chiriac and Jahara Matisek

On August 23, 2021, unknown organizers coordinated the “Baltic Way 2021” celebration to mark thirty years of freedom in the Baltic states, with advertising across social media promoting it. However, according to officials at the NATO Strategic Communications Centre of Excellence and Latvian cyber warfare military personnel we interviewed, the event was likely established and funded by Moscow. It quickly turned into, according to one Latvian military officer, an “anti-vax, anti-government meeting that celebrated ‘freedom’ and promoted conspiracies.” Fortunately, attendance was quite low, but this is the sort of sociopolitical-information warfare that has been occurring in Eastern Europe for decades.

A blending of social and political issues in the information environment allows an adversary to weaponize civil society in a way that leads to anomie, confusion, and hyperpolarization, ultimately aiming to undermine democracy and the social contract. The growing prominence of smartphones, constant connectivity, and social media has intensified such adversarial influence actions against the democracies of Eastern Europe, just as it has in the United States. And this influence is accomplished cheaply—Russia is “spending approximately $4 billion a year (comparable value) on cyber-influence operations against the West.”

China’s Surveillance State Pushes Deeper Into Citizens’ Lives

Brian Spegele

SHANGHAI—In many parts of Xi Jinping’s China, state surveillance and Covid-19 controls begin the moment you step out the door in the morning.

The day might start with a government-mandated Covid test from workers in white hazmat suits. Without proof of a negative result, public spaces are off limits, including office buildings, grocery stores and parks.

Surveillance cameras keep watch over the city streets. In a cab on the way to work, the driver requires you to scan a QR code for a government database tracking people’s movements. Scan again when stopping by Starbucks for coffee and then again at the office.

If the database shows you’ve crossed paths with someone infected by the virus, you’ll likely be forced into quarantine. It may be in a hotel room, at a converted convention center, or if lucky, at home with an alarm installed on the front door.

Why Biden’s National Security Strategy Is Destined To Fail

Mackenzie Eaglen

The Biden administration’s newly released National Security Strategy (NSS) calls for a military that can essentially do it all – from “backstopping diplomacy, confronting aggression, deterring conflict,” to fighting and winning the nation’s wars. Focusing the military on its core functions is wholly appropriate. But to do so ably requires robust policies, capable leaders, and sufficient resources in place.

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National Security Strategy: Aspirational Only?

Unfortunately, the National Security Strategy is based on a false premise. The document states that America’s military power “continue[s] to grow, often outpacing those of other large countries.”

‘Massive blackouts’ as 30% of Ukraine’s power stations destroyed in just over a week, Zelensky says

Sana Noor Haq, Gul Tuysuz and Uliana Pavlova

Thirty percent of Ukraine’s power stations have been destroyed in just over a week, leading to “massive blackouts” across the country, President Volodymyr Zelensky said Tuesday, as the Kremlin steps up attacks on critical energy infrastructure.

“Another kind of Russian terrorist attacks: targeting energy & critical infrastructure. Since Oct. 10, 30% of Ukraine’s power stations have been destroyed, causing massive blackouts across the country,” Zelensky tweeted Tuesday.

He added that there was “no space left for negotiations with (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s regime.”

The Russian Defense Ministry later confirmed that the country’s military had launched high-precision strikes on “energy systems” in Ukraine.

“During the day, the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation continued to strike with long-range high-precision air and sea-based weapons on military command and energy systems of Ukraine, as well as arsenals with foreign-made ammunition and weapons, all designated targets were hit,” Lieutenant-Colonel Igor Konashenkov said Tuesday.

Iranian Shahed-136 Drones Increase Russian Strike Capacity and Lethality in Ukraine


Russia has conducted dozens of strikes against civilian and critical infrastructure targets across Ukraine over the past week, including with the Shahed-136 loitering munition. While the Shahed-136 is unlikely to change the overall direction of the conflict, it has increased Russia’s long-range strike capacity as Moscow’s traditional missile stocks dwindle. It also provides some additional capability and capacity against frontline Ukrainian positions, likely offering greater lethality than Russia’s indigenously produced loitering munitions.

Moscow is behind the curve in developing drones and is now racing to catch up. While the Russian military fields various UAVs for combat and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) roles, insufficient capacity has undermined Russia’s war effort in Ukraine. To help redress this weakness, Moscow turned to Tehran, which began pouring resources into its drone program in the 1980s and has since emerged as a regional UAV power and serial proliferator.

Back in July, the White House warned that Iran was “preparing to provide Russia with up to several hundred UAVs, including weapons-capable UAVs, on an expedited timeline.” Declassified U.S. intelligence indicated Tehran showcased various drones to Russian delegations in June and early July and began training Russian operators later that month. In mid-August, Russian cargo aircraft allegedly began picking up scores of Iranian drones, while Tehran dispatched advisors to Russia, and allegedly even into occupied Ukrainian territories, to help the Russians get going. The Russians reportedly began testing the Shahed-136 in Ukraine in August, and visual evidence of its employment in Ukraine first surfaced in mid-September.

Ransomware: Getting Started Guide and Deep Dive into REvil


This paper goes into detail about the REvil ransomware variant and its operators to provide an in-depth look at how it begins its infection chain and why. The paper also covers publicly available information on REvil’s cyber-attacks that targeted industries in the healthcare sector, and why it matters. The paper consists of two main parts. Sections 2 and 3 document the REvil malware’s operation in the flow of a typical operation, based upon observations documented in the MITRE ATT&CK® Framework, additional public threat reporting, and some internal analysis in the MITRE Lab. Section 4 reviews these adversary behaviors from the perspective of a defender, giving guidance on how cyber practitioners could detect and protect against such a threat

NewSpace and the Commercialization of the Space Industry: Challenges for the Missile Technology Control Regime

Kolja Brockmann and Nivedita Raju

The changing nature of the space industry—particularly through its NewSpace entrants—is resulting in changes in business practices, and new funding sources and capitalization models, as well as gaps in awareness and understanding of export controls. NewSpace is not only changing the nature of the space industry, but also exacerbating existing missile proliferation risks and posing challenges for the effective implementation of export controls. It therefore requires a coordinated response by the main multilateral missile export control instrument: the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).

This report identifies developments, trends and possible proliferation scenarios linked to the NewSpace industry that pose possible missile proliferation risks and challenges for MTCR export controls. The report seeks to strengthen the implementation of export controls and related policy instruments through the MTCR and national measures, in order to prevent commercial space industry activities contributing to programmes for missiles and other delivery systems capable of carrying chemical, biological and nuclear weapons.

Putin’s Speech Offers a Way Out of This War … For Now

Emily Ferris

Attempting to parse Russian President Vladimir Putin’s thoughts and understand the inner workings of the Kremlin can often seem like staring into a mirror, which reflects back what we want to see. Some saw his recent address to the Federal Assembly, in which he formally annexed four territories of Ukraine, as an escalation of the war – indeed it was labelled as such by most major news outlets. US and EU representatives duly responded by maintaining that the four territories would never be recognised as Russia’s, and by issuing new sanctions.

But a close reading of the speech, and other Russian government actions over the past week, reveals important nuances about the Kremlin’s state of mind. At points where Putin could have escalated, it seems instead that he could be looking for a way out of this war – but more concerningly, he may be preparing for another.

Perhaps the most obvious takeaway is that the speech was heavy on polemic – plenty of history lessons, Western colonialism, and the obligatory reference to Nazis – but light on details, even about Ukraine itself. Indeed, Putin quickly noted at the start of the speech that the sham referenda in Ukraine were not up for discussion, and that was essentially the end of any real information about them. There was also no clarity about the delineation of the actual borders of these new territories; Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov further muddied the waters that same day by saying that Russia would have to ‘consult with the population’ about the new borders, suggesting that there has been no firm decision taken.


Jaron Wharton and Kris Fuhr

The Army is amidst a well-known recruiting crisis. While multiple factors potentially drive it, there is evidence that a trust deficit features prominently. Restoring that trust is part of the Army’s value proposition for future generations, not just for potential soldiers but also for their families, who greatly affect their decision to serve. It also requires steadfast commitment from engaged leaders and a deliberate emphasis on preventing harmful behaviours and addressing societal trends that may dwarf resources at installations and amplify structural flaws.

Multiple high-level commissions, from the Fort Hood Independent Review Committee to the Department of Defense–wide Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault (DoD IRC), shed light on systemic issues and provide direction for reform. Specifically, both reports identified broken culture as the root of sexual harassment/assault response and prevention policy failures over the past few decades. While there has been progress in shifting from a crisis and response framework to a proactive, preventative mindset, the Army needs creative ways to complement those efforts and ensure recommendations have the intended effect at the unit level. This starts by embracing the well-established relationship between healthy organizational climates and preventative measures. It should also encourage the Army to discuss and track climate in much the same way it addresses safety and maintenance on a regular basis.

Inequality Has Been the Price of Winning in Big Tech; That’s Changing

David Moschella

As a symbol of extreme wealth, it’s been irresistible. The masts on Jeff Bezos’ new 417-foot sailing yacht are so tall that they wouldn’t fit under the historic Koningshaven bridge. Not surprisingly, the citizens of Rotterdam were unimpressed by the Dutch shipbuilder’s plan to temporarily dismantle the bridge at the Amazon founder’s expense. After protestors vowed to pelt the ship with eggs, it was the masts that were temporarily lowered.

Today, there is also less-symbolic evidence that Big Tech’s clout is receding. The world’s richest person, Elon Musk, has made most of his fortune in cars, batteries, and rockets. The war in the Ukraine has made it clear that the world is nowhere near ending its reliance on fossil fuels, and that the global food supply is less reliable than most people thought. Americans and Europeans are finally waking up to how their dependence on China and Russia for essential goods is fueling inflation, shortages, and empty shelves. Taken together, Disney’s Hulu, Disney+ and ESPN+ now have more subscribers than the once all-powerful Netflix.1

Extreme individual wealth during the 1995–2020 period was driven by the consumer market. The Internet enabled new online services to reach billions of individuals, creating unprecedented economies of scale. In contrast, the 2020–2045 period will be much more about applying technology to the physical world—food, housing, water, transportation, the environment, energy, and the military—as well as leveraging innovations in batteries, robots, space, and biotech. These new, and fundamentally more important, societal priorities are why we believe that the power of Big Tech—and its income inequalities—peaked during the covid pandemic.2

Reaching breaking point: The semiconductor and critical raw material ecosystem at a time of great power rivalry

This report covers new ground by specifically outlining pending disruptions in CRM value chains on which the EU relies for its access to semiconductors in the next five and ten years. The report also highlights key green technologies that rely on the same CRM value chains, as disruptions to these chains will also inhibit the energy transition. By doing so, an action plan is proposed for the Netherlands and the EU to deal with the risks and opportunities associated with the dependencies on the CRM needed for semiconductor production and green technologies. The action plan also outlines options to seize the opportunities related to the strengths of the Netherlands, the European Union and other technologically advanced democracies in the semiconductor value chain.

The report relies on a literature review, desk research, prior research, stakeholder interviews, and expert interviews with both regional and thematic experts from academia, think tanks, government, and the CRM and semiconductor industry. Ten threats that may well disrupt the supply of CRM to Europe or its partners in semiconductor manufacturing (e.g., Taiwan) in both the next five and ten years were identified. Ranking of the threats (probability * impact) was done on the basis of a foresight survey in which 49 experts participated. The formulation of the policy implications, opportunities, and recommendations relies on the findings of the previous chapters, additional desk research, and a global expert consultation with representatives from academia, think tanks, government and both the CRM and semiconductor industry from the US, Canada, Australia, Japan, and European states.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative: Successful economic strategy or failed soft-power tool?

The Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is part of China’s efforts to integrate its neighbouring countries into its economic sphere, thus increasing China’s security in its immediate neighbourhood while facing an increasingly hostile international environment due to its rivalry with the US.

In reality, the BRI has evolved into an umbrella term for various infrastructure and development projects with no unified object or strategy. The projects should, in principle, increase goodwill towards China, and correspondingly boost its influence, but in practice they are mainly aimed at economic benefit.

The results of the BRI, especially as a soft-power tool, are ambiguous. Its ideational basis is thin, consisting mainly of China’s critique towards the “hegemony of the West”. This reduces the BRI to a hollow slogan with little appeal apart from the pragmatic gains.

Artificial Intelligence for Defence and Security

Daniel Araya

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are making weaponry and defence systems more sophisticated. As the threat landscape continues to evolve, the Department of National Defence (DND) and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) will need to make faster and better decisions to defend North America against new and emerging threats. This special report summarizes the findings of a series of interactive virtual workshops on using AI to address defence and security issues. Hosted by the Centre for International Governance Innovation and Defence Research and Development Canada, the workshops invited experts from Canada’s AI innovation sector and DND/CAF to share their perspectives on how the development and adoption of AI is impacting defence and security.

Hybrid threats, vulnerable order

Pol Bargués, Moussa Bourekba and Carme Colomina 

At a time of uncertainty and contestation of international norms, conflicts are becoming increasingly diffuse, as is the space between war and peace. Tactics are diversifying. Greater dependency and connectivity between actors is used to exploit the vulnerabilities of others. Concern is growing about hybrid threats like cyber-attacks, disinformation, electoral interference and the mobilisation of migrants, which are being deployed in many parts of the world. Unconventional threats fuel uncertainty, erode values ​​and norms, and strain international relations.

This CIDOB Report analyses the rise of hybrid threats. It aims to study their different forms and tactics, as well as the various scenarios in which they are deployed, in order to examine their impact, and analyse the responses that seek to address the multiple challenges they pose.

The U.S. Is Losing Yet Another ‘War on Terror’


THE SECURITY SITUATION in the African Sahel — where U.S. commandos have trained, fought, and died in a “shadow war” for the past 20 years — is a nightmare, according to a Pentagon report quietly released late last month. It’s just the latest evidence of systemic American military failures across the continent, including two decades of deployments, drone strikes, and commando raids in Somalia that have resulted in a wheel-spinning stalemate and an ongoing spate of coups by U.S.-trained officers across West Africa that the chief of U.S. commandos on the continent said was due to U.S. alliances with repressive regimes.

“The western Sahel has seen a quadrupling in the number of militant Islamist group events since 2019,” reads the new analysis by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, the Pentagon’s foremost research institution devoted to the continent. “The 2,800 violent events projected for 2022 represent a doubling in the past year. This violence has expanded in intensity and geographic reach.”

The U.S. Military’s Growing Weakness

Americans like to think their military is unbeatable if politicians wouldn’t get in the way. The truth is that U.S. hard power isn’t what it used to be. That’s the message of the Heritage Foundation’s 2023 Index of U.S. Military Strength, which is reported here for the first time and describes a worrisome trend.

Heritage rates the U.S. military as “weak” and “at growing risk of not being able to meet the demands of defending America’s vital national interests.” The weak rating, down from “marginal” a year earlier, is the first in the index’s nine-year history.

The index measures the military’s ability to prevail in two major regional conflicts at once—say, a conflict in the Middle East and a fight on the Korean peninsula. Americans might wish “that the world be a simpler, less threatening place,” as the report notes. But these commitments are part of U.S. national-security strategy.

Senate to add $10 billion in Taiwan aid, scale back arms sale reform

Bryant Harris and Joe Gould

WASHINGTON — The Senate’s annual defense authorization bill will now include $10 billion in military aid for Taiwan — more than double the initial amount proposed — even as it scales back language intended to help address the $14 billion backlog of arms sales the Asian nation already made from the U.S.

Senate Armed Services Chairman Jack Reed, D-R.I., included a modified Taiwan defense package as part of a massive bipartisan amendment he filed last week to the fiscal 2023 National Defense Authorization Act. The full Senate is expected to vote on the NDAA, including the Taiwan defense provisions, when lawmakers return to Washington after the November midterm elections.

Reed told reporters last week that the NDAA’s defense package for Taipei remains “consistent with the Taiwan Relations Act.” The bill’s defense provisions for Taipei come from the sprawling Taiwan Policy Act, which the Senate Foreign Relations Committee advanced 17-5 last month.

Elon Musk fears nuclear war, not Ukraine


Elon Musk has done it again. After initially wading into the Russo-Ukrainian war by giving the beleaguered Ukrainian defenders against the terrible Russian invasion free access to 20,000 Starlink terminals, Musk is reassessing his commitment.

Shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine this year, Musk was goaded into generously providing free Internet access to Ukraine via his visionary Starlink satellite communications network.

Starlink is SpaceX’s attempt to deliver affordable, reliable Internet service to parts of the world that otherwise lack access. This constellation of simple, small, easily replaceable satellites is already remaking the way that we communicate globally. Further, it’s remaking the way we wage war.

Biden’s New National Security Strategy: A Lot of Trump, Very Little Obama

David Adesnik

“The United States welcomes the rise of a stable, peaceful, and prosperous China.” These words from the Obama administration’s 2015 National Security Strategy already belong to a bygone era. On Wednesday, U.S. President Joe Biden, who was vice president when the earlier document was drafted, released his own National Security Strategy. And it couldn’t strike a more different tone. “We will prioritize maintaining an enduring competitive edge over [China],” the document pledges, blasting China for trying “to become the world’s leading power.” Russia, too, is no longer described in rosy terms as a potential partner but as an “immediate and persistent threat” to global peace and stability. Put simply, the Biden strategy is a 180-degree turn from the last Democratic administration. Instead, the new document affirms what the Trump administration first concluded in its 2017 strategy: “[G]reat power competition [has] returned.”