25 October 2022

Bombing to Lose Why Airpower Cannot Salvage Russia’s Doomed War in Ukraine

Robert A. Pape

Beginning in early October, facing huge territorial loses and other reversals in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin reached for a military strategy in which Russia should have a decisive advantage: airpower. In the most widespread such campaign to date, he ordered a blistering series of missile attacks against a dozen cities and electrical infrastructure across the country. Ukrainians were forced into basements and bomb shelters, and some 30 percent of the country’s power generation capacity was knocked out, causing rolling blackouts that affected homes, hospitals, and even the basic functioning of the economy. In the weeks since, Russia has been sending waves of drones to attack residential buildings and offices in Kyiv and other cities. In effect, Putin was reminding the Ukrainian government of his ability to attack its main population centers—a threat that Ukraine, having scrapped Soviet-era bombers long ago, having no long-range rockets able to hit Russian cities, and having only a tiny number of ground attack aircraft—is unable to match. The goal, it seems, is to punish civilians, wearing them down in the hope of convincing their leaders to sue for peace.

But it is a strategy doomed to failure. As in earlier phases of the war, Russia’s supposed air superiority has done little to shift the overall momentum on the ground. Despite the significant damage they have caused, Putin’s airstrikes have failed to hinder Ukrainian advances in the east. And when they have reached civilian targets they have only served to strengthen Ukrainian resolve.

Baloch Conflict: No Longer a Low-Level Insurgency

Manish Rai

For decades, the Pakistani establishment has termed the Baloch insurgency a low-intensity conflict confined mostly to Balochistan, the country’s largest province by territory. But that seems to have changed, as a spate of attacks this year clearly demonstrates that the insurgency has entered into a new phase.

Despite Pakistani security forces claims of a sweeping crackdown on rebels, the insurgency’s lethality has increased many folds in recent times. As a result, more ferocious attacks, such as suicide bombings, high-profile targeted attacks, and kidnappings of high-ranking army officials are now shaping the course of Pakistan’s oldest separatist insurgency.

In particular since the start of this year, a remarkable shift in the strategy of Baloch militants has been evident. It started with a large-scale attack in January on a security checkpoint in Balochistan’s Kech region, which borders Iran. Less than a week later, another bold attack was carried out by militants from the Baloch Liberation Army (BLA) suicide wing (the Majeed Brigade). In these attacks, militants stormed two security camps in Balochistan’s Nushki and Panjgur districts.

Lt. Gen. Stephen N. Whiting on Posturing U.S. Space Operations for a Warfighting Advantage

Kari A. Bingen: Good afternoon. I’m Kari Bingen, the new director of the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

It turns out that we share our event today with a famous space broadcast. On October 14th, 1968 the Apollo 7 crew transmitted the first live telecast from space. The broadcast began with a view of a card reading “from the lovely Apollo room high atop everything.” So it is fitting that I welcome everyone from the lovely CSIS Aerospace Security Project virtual room and I get to welcome Lieutenant General Whiting, commander of U.S. Space Operations Command, as my first guest in this new role to discuss how Space Operations Command is posturing U.S. space operations for a warfighting advantage.

What I think is remarkable about General Whiting’s career is that he is a true space operator and an engineer. Many Air Force Academy graduates at the time who wanted to pursue a space track got their start as missileers and then moved over to space. General Whiting started as a crew commander at a space warning squadron and then went on to command several operational space units – the UHF Follow-On system, Satellite Control Network, Missile Warning and Space Control, the Joint Space Operations Center – and as the deputy commander of Air Force Space Command. He brought a space perspective to tactics development at the Air Force Warfare Center, conducted scholarly analysis at RAND and the Navy’s Strategic Studies Group, and worked at the senior-most levels at the Pentagon as the deputy secretary of defense’s senior military assistant. I can’t think of anyone better positioned with the right breadth of experiences to lead the standup of Space Operations Command at this consequential time.

Will the Ukraine War Reshape the Internet?

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, for the most part, seems an old-fashioned war of invasion and terror that demands boots on the ground. In reality it has blended traditional and innovative elements, and while the cyber dimension has been less visible, it has been full-fledged from the very start. A study by Microsoft indicates that as a prelude to the war, on Feb 23, 2022, one day before the official invasion, Russia launched a cyberweapon called “Foxblade” against computers in Ukraine. ­“Reflecting the technology of our time, those among the first to observe the attack were half a world away, working in the United States in Redmond, Washington,” the report said. As for the Ukrainian defense, it has been quick “to disburse its digital infrastructure into the public cloud, where it has been hosted in data centers across Europe.”

Ukraine also has launched one of the most successful public relations campaigns ever, amassing international information technology armies of 500,000 hacktivists. It lobbied the Western block for tough sanctions on Russia and was rewarded with the most severe sanctions ever levied on a major economy, and successfully orchestrated a private sector digital embargo. In addition, President Zelensky called for Russia’s right to vote in the UN Security Council to be discounted, and there are calls for similar action in other international institutions. While Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Digital Transformation Mykhailo Fedorov asked internet governance institutions to cut off Russia from the internet. Fedorov’s appeal received a collective but sympathetic no on the grounds that the core of the internet should remain apolitical. Today, Ukraine receives robust intelligence cooperation from the United States, while the European Union offers cyber capacity-building support through its Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) policy. Meanwhile, an agreement has been signed between the State Archival Service of Ukraine and the National Archives of the United Kingdom on the temporary transfer of cloud data storage and backup copies of digital materials of Ukrainian state archival institutions in case of their potential loss.

China’s 20th Party Congress Report: Doubling Down in the Face of External Threats

President Xi Jinping loomed large over the opening of the Chinese Communist Party’s 20th National Congress on October 16, 2022. He is all but guaranteed to emerge from the party congress with a history-making third five-year term, and he is widely expected to tighten his hold over the party by placing political allies in key positions.

Xi kicked off the party gathering with a landmark speech that stretched for nearly two hours. His address, an abridged version of the full party congress report, focused heavily on domestic issues but also provided a useful glimpse into how Xi and the party leadership view the world and China’s place in it. Xi’s address (and the full report) struck a different tone from the last one Xi delivered at the 19th Party Congress in 2017. While Xi still voiced confidence that China’s power and prospects are on the rise, he also doled out stark warnings about the growing threats and challenges that China faces.

China’s Worsening External Environment

In his 2017 report to the 19th Party Congress, Xi took a triumphant tone, proclaiming that China “stands tall and firm in the East” and asserting that China’s soft power and international influence were on the rise. That speech was seen at the time as presaging a more assertive and activist Chinese foreign policy. Those predictions panned out. The last five years witnessed Beijing ratchet up pressure on Taiwan and take steps to crush Hong Kong’s autonomy. Chinese “wolf warrior” diplomats also aggressively ramped up their rhetoric and tactics in defense of Chinese interests.

Team Biden Balks on Africa Sanctions

Robbie Gramer

The Biden administration is sitting on dozens of potential sanctions for human rights violators and coup-plotters in countries in Africa, refusing to pull the trigger despite mounting pressure from U.S. lawmakers and human rights advocates, according to seven officials, congressional aides, and experts familiar with the matter.

The U.S. State Department has extensive dockets for possible sanctions on people involved in grave human rights violations in countries including South Sudan; Ethiopia, where a deadly internal war has raged for nearly two years; and Sudan, where security officials helped plot a coup last year and then unleashed a deadly crackdown on pro-democracy protests, the officials and experts said. For reasons that are unclear to U.S. lawmakers and outside advocacy organizations, the Biden administration has yet to implement any of the potential sanctions.

Pakistan’s Military Is Here To Stay

Husain Haqqani

Pakistani politics have always revolved around the country’s military. Civilian politicians compete for support while criticizing—or seeking covert help from—a ubiquitous security establishment. Since his ouster as prime minister last April, cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan has become the latest to challenge this system. But Khan’s polarizing rhetoric is only adding to Pakistan’s chaos—not marking the advent of a revolution.

The government elected after Khan’s removal via a no-confidence vote initially tolerated the former prime minister’s attacks on generals, judges, and political rivals in addition to his conspiracy theories about his ouster being the result of a U.S.-backed plot. Unlike previous civilian leaders who fell afoul of the military, Khan was not immediately arrested, charged with corruption, or disqualified from future elections by judicial fiat. But now, Khan and his close aides are beginning to face the wrath of the state apparatus. Both the security establishment and the civilian government seem to have realized that Khan’s populist influence will not diminish without prosecuting him and his associates.

Xi's call to win tech race points to new wave of Chinese state-led spending

Josh Horwitz

SHANGHAI, Oct 17 (Reuters) - President Xi Jinping's call for China to "win the battle" in core technologies could signal an overhaul in Beijing's approach to advancing its tech industry, with more state-led spending and intervention to counter U.S. pressures, analysts say.

Achieving self-reliance in technology featured prominently in Xi's full work report to kick off the once-every-five-years Communist Party Congress, with four mentions versus none in 2017. The term "technology" was referred to 40 times, up from 17 times in the report from the 2017 congress.

While the report did not mention any other countries or specific sectors for that goal, it comes days after Washington imposed sweeping new regulations aimed at undermining China's efforts to develop its own chip industry.

HSBC analysts said their takeaway was that increased spending in China, particular in STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) fields, and policy support was likely.

Iris Pang, chief economist for Greater China at ING, said Xi's remarks addressed "the urgent need for talent and promoting self-sufficiency in technological advancement".

Profits at the Expense of Patriotism Is a Dangerous Game

Lawrence Kadish

Today's American mega-billionaires need to think long and hard about where their allegiances lie: perhaps reciting the Pledge of Allegiance before our nation's flag might be a good place to start.

If past history is any indication, their current corporate behavior will become their personal legacy illuminated under a harsh and revealing spotlight.

American industrial giants, General Motors and Ford, found that to be the case when lawyers dug through national archives in the 1990s and discovered documents that revealed how these two corporations had their German-based subsidies working hand-in-glove with the Nazi regime both before World War II and during the conflict.

Company spokesmen were quick to suggest that those firms were operating at a distance but researchers begged to differ. History records that there is reason to be skeptical of corporate "spin."

What Does Russia Hope to Achieve by Bombing Ukrainian Cities?

Mikhail Vinogradov

Russia’s recent aerial bombardment of Kyiv and other Ukrainian cities is a response to several new and unforeseen problems that the Kremlin has found itself facing in recent weeks. First and foremost was the mass withdrawal of Russian troops from the vicinity of Kharkiv and Lyman, which caught most Russian commentators unaware, regardless of their views on the war. Despite the mixed results of the first six months of the war, there was skepticism in Russia that Ukraine could really launch a counteroffensive.

Accordingly, Russia’s severe military setbacks in the Kharkiv and Kherson regions could not fail to cause dismay, and sparked a widespread desire to find a scapegoat, forcing the powers that be to engage with the public more than usual. This, in turn, had the effect of emboldening the public to be far more critical of the military campaign, which had until recently been widely considered to be nothing but victorious.

On top of this, it also became apparent that the Russian establishment had no plan in place for presenting a united front over the implementation of the partial mobilization announced by the Kremlin. Although the public reaction to the announcement was calmer than many had predicted, criticism of the military top brass over its erratic implementation was so widespread that it threw into question the seemingly self-evident theory about people rallying around the regime at a time of war. Combined with the shock of Russia’s military losses, it created the impression that the Russian political class was losing the ability to demonstrate any unity on difficult issues.

Can Putin’s Center Hold?

Tatiana Stanovaya

The question of how Russian elites are responding to further developments in the Russia-Ukraine war has become one of the most discussed issues in Russian and Western media. That’s understandable: While ordinary Russians remain relatively conformist and show no signs of politicization—despite the unpopular mobilization—there have been some hopes that the elites could perhaps play a role in restraining Russian President Vladimir Putin from further escalation. Or, at least, that they would become a factor Putin would have to take into consideration when making his decisions. The debate over whether Russian elites are split or not has been intensifying against the backdrop of unprecedented internal conflicts questioning Russian tactics in Ukraine. So, are the elites a threat to Putin? And how might possible further military failures impact the mood among the elites?

When it comes to the war in Ukraine, what is important is whether the splits concern Putin and his decisions. Putin’s regime is well known for its inter-elite fighting; indeed, that is its natural state. Security officials, or siloviki, clash with other siloviki (the FSB vs. the Federal Protective Service, the military intelligence service vs. the FSB); some of Putin’s friends with others (businessman and mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin vs. St. Peterburg Gov. Alexander Beglov); senior officials with other officials (domestic policy overseer Sergei Kiriyenko has long been embroiled in a confrontation with his predecessor, State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin); and so on.

ISIS Terrorists Living in Turkey - with Yazidi Captives

Uzay Bulut

In Ankara's Sincan district, a 24-year-old enslaved Yazidi woman was rescued after her relatives in Australia (who themselves are asylum-seekers) purchased her freedom on the dark web. The woman was held captive in a house in Sincan for 10 months and systematically raped. Signs of torture in the form of cigarette burns and razor cuts were found on her body.

[A] secrecy order was placed on the indictment against those ISIS members who had kidnapped a seven-year-old Yazidi child to Turkey and listed her for sale. These are allegedly high-ranking IS members. They are currently living in Ankara and remain free.

[I]t is difficult to obtain data on the detained ISIS members from state authorities. When we ask questions to authorities, it is not possible to get an answer from them. — Hale Gonultas, Turkish journalist, interview with Gatestone Institute, October 2022.

Germany’s Continued Illusions About China and Russia


As if the German government needed to be reminded of the high price of its dependence on Russia and China.

Over the years, these two authoritarian regimes embedded themselves in the German economy and ingratiated themselves with the elites. Such developments prevented the EU from forging a coherent, critical strategy toward both Moscow and Beijing.

The union is now conducting major political and economic reassessments of its relations with Russia and China. But what about Germany, Europe’s biggest economy?

Over the decades, regardless of whether the Social Democrats or the Christian Democrats were in government, both parties consistently pursued economic and political relationships with Russia and China. This pursuit was based on national, not European interests. It was motivated by profit, not values or principles. These policies were also naively based on the idea that closer trade and economic ties would lead to stability, even trust.

U.S. has viewed wreckage of kamikaze drones Russia used in Ukraine

Shane Harris, Dan Lamothe, Alex Horton and Karen DeYoung

The U.S. government has examined the wreckage of Iranian-made drones shot down in Ukraine, deepening its insight into the unmanned craft that Russia has launched in a spate of kamikaze attacks on the country’s critical infrastructure, according to two U.S. officials.

Information about the drones’ structure and technology could prove crucial in helping the United States and its Ukrainian allies better identify and ultimately defeat them before they can reach their targets. Officials said the process has been used in the past to study weaponry deployed by Iran’s proxies in conflicts in the Middle East. People interviewed for this report spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence collection.

The Shahed-136 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) used in this week’s attacks on the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, have targeted power stations and other utilities, killing at least four, authorities there have said. Their use by Russian forces has underscored the growing ties between Moscow and Tehran, alarming Western leaders whose sanctions and other punitive economic measures have drastically undercut the Kremlin’s ability to regenerate its military after eight months of war.

China, Russia Deepen Partnership on Satellite Navigation

John Hardie

China and Russia signed contracts late last month to host ground stations for their respective global navigation satellite systems (GNSSs), BeiDou and GLONASS, which are alternatives to the U.S.-run Global Positioning System (GPS). These stations will improve the performance of their systems, which provide precision, navigation, and timing (PNT) services for both military and civilian purposes.

The two sides inked the contracts during the September 27 annual meeting of their Project Committee on Important Strategic Cooperation in Satellite Navigation, launched in 2015. He Yubin, head of the China Satellite Navigation System Committee, and Yuri Borisov, head of Russia’s state corporation Roscosmos, co-chaired the meeting.

Under the contracts, Beijing will place three ground monitoring stations at various locations throughout Russia, while Moscow will do the same in China. Both countries have sought to expand their respective networks of ground stations in recent years, aiming to bolster the performance of their systems. Sino-Russian talks on mutual hosting of ground stations have been ongoing since at least 2014.