28 October 2022

General Winter Knocks at the Door

Lawrence Freedman

Winters loom large in the military history of Russia and Ukraine, famously when they were fighting together as part of Imperial Russia against Napoleon and then as part of the Soviet Union against Nazi Germany. Winter is about to return and with it questions about how it will affect this war – whether in the impact of energy shortages and high prices in Europe, the vulnerability of ordinary Ukrainians after Russia has done its utmost to deprive them of the ability to keep the lights on and stay warm, and then the troops at the front, shivering in their tents, unable to function properly.

The onset of winter is already starting to shape thoughts about military strategy. It encourages the generals to look for ways to win their battles before manoeuvre becomes too difficult, and their logisticians to worry about how to get the necessary kit forward so that operations can continue. It creates pressure to speed up before everything slows down. It is not the only reason for the current sense of urgency, for both sides are finding it difficult to sustain this war, but it is one of them. Another factor is the growing worry that if things carry on as they are, and especially if Russia faces defeat, then something truly terrible will happen. Before we can assess the impact of winter, we therefore need to consider the fears of escalation.

Chinese Moves Complicate India-Bangladesh Dispute Over Teesta

Snigdhendu Bhattacharya

In the second week of October, a month after Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina returned from New Delhi without a word of assurance on the sharing of the waters of the River Teesta, the Chinese ambassador to Bangladesh, Li Jiming, visited the Teesta barrage site in the country’s Lalmonirhat district.

Li told journalists that he was hopeful that the Teesta mega project can be started “within a very short time.” Later, at another event, while stating that the project “is under serious assessment by the government agencies in Beijing,” he also said that there was some reluctance on the part of China to go ahead with the project considering the possibility of Bangladesh backing out.

“There are some sensitivities that we sensed and observed,” he said, adding, “if someone comes out and says – well this is again another case of Chinese debt trap – there (also) are some particular geopolitical sensitivities.”

Russia’s War in Ukraine and Its Impact on Central Asia

Yunis Sharifli, Chia-Lin Kao , and Bermet Derbishova

The Russia-Ukraine war created a great deal of geopolitical turbulence and a host of problems in the global economy. Since the war began, prices for energy and agricultural products have started to rise. Instability in the global economy has different effects on different regions. One of the most important regions affected by the Russia-Ukraine war is Central Asia.

Generally, the attitudes of Central Asian people toward the Russia-Ukraine war are mainly negative. For example, one question in the Central Asian Barometer (CAB) Survey Wave 11, which was conducted in May-June of 2022, asked: “Do you think the situation in Ukraine will have a positive impact on our country, a negative impact, or no impact at all?”

Among respondents from Kyrgyzstan, 36 percent and 34 percent answered that war will have a somewhat negative or very negative impact on their country, respectively. In addition, 35 percent and 20 percent of responders from Kazakhstan also answered that the war will have a somewhat negative or very negative impact on Kazakhstan.

Looking for Lies An Exploratory Analysis for Automated Detection of Deception

Marek N. Posard, Christian Johnson, Julia L. Melin

Security clearance investigations are onerous for both the applicants and investigators, and such investigations are expensive for the U.S. government. In this report, the authors present results from an exploratory analysis that tests automated tools for detecting when some of these applicants attempt to deceive the government during the interview portion of this process. How interviewees answer interview questions could be a useful signal to detect when they are trying to be deceptive.

Key Findings

Models that used word counts were the most accurate at predicting who was trying to be deceptive versus those who were truthful.

The authors found similar differences in accuracy rates for detecting deception when interviews were conducted over video teleconferencing and text-based chat.

ML transcription is generally correct, but there can be errors, and the ML methods often miss subtle features of informal speech.

Although models that used word counts produced the highest accuracy rates for all participants, there was evidence that these models were more accurate for men than women.

Weaponizing Trade

William Alan Reinsch

Using trade as a weapon is not new. Countries have been embargoing each other or selectively cutting off imports or exports for centuries. The last 25 years, however, have taken things to new heights, and the main reason is the increasing lethality of war. Until the last century, while there was often collateral damage, the main human casualties of war occurred on the battlefield. The increasing lethality of weapons, particularly nuclear weapons, and advances in their means of delivery in the twentieth century has meant that entire populations, including millions of innocent people, have become vulnerable, as countries attack infrastructure and civilian populations in addition to military targets. There is no better example than Ukraine.

The magnitude of the consequences of going down that path have caused leaders to look for more benign alternatives. Trade has become the tool of choice because it lies between diplomacy and war. It is more than words but less than violence.

Over the past 25 years, the United States, more than anyone, has refined sanctions imposition into an art form. Originally painted in broad strokes like the Cuban embargo, the George W. Bush administration developed the concept of more targeted sanctions, usually financial rather than trade-related, and often aimed at specific, named individuals, rather than entire countries or sectors. That has allowed sanctions to focus directly on the “guilty” parties rather than innocent bystanders and has made them more politically palatable in the process. Multilateralizing them has significantly increased their effectiveness, as the current sanctions on Russia demonstrate.

Why Sanctions Can’t Stop Russia and Iran

Ahmed S. Cheema

Economic sanctions and financial penalties form an integral part of statecraft, whether they are used to pursue geopolitical interests or influence the decisions of other states. Since 1990, the use of economic sanctions, especially under Article VII of the UN Security Council, has dramatically increased; the sanctions imposed against Iraq and Yugoslavia serve as historical examples, while the current regimes against Russia and Iran are modern cases. In a globalized world, sanctions ought to have a significant impact on the decisions of countries, but that doesn’t always occur in practice.

Russia’s recent decision to formally annex Ukrainian territory underscores its refusal to back down in the Russo-Ukrainian War. Russian president Vladimir Putin has crossed the Rubicon and closed off any options for a retreat; the Biden administration has announced that the United States will never accept the result of these referendums. Russia has been sanctioned to the gills and its economy has been badly hit—the ruble has fallen significantly and almost 1,000 international firms, representing 40 percent of Russian GDP, have left its market. Russia has been cut off from many imports, particularly critical Western technology products like semiconductors, and Russian airlines are grounded. Despite the economic hammering Russia has absorbed, its military has not withdrawn from Ukraine, and sanctions will not alter Putin’s decision to invade. Putin still has some leverage and will weather the storm, provided his military doesn’t buckle under the Ukrainian counteroffensive. Russia has been cushioned by the degree of support it enjoys from China, India, and other countries that have not joined in sanctioning Russia.

The US isn’t at war with Russia, technically – but its support for Ukraine offers a classic case of a proxy war

Monica Duffy Toft

The United States and European countries continue to pledge their support to Ukraine as Russia’s invasion drags on into its ninth month – and have backed their alliance with recurrent deliveries of advanced weaponry and money.

But despite Russian President Vladimir Putin’s threats to Western powers of nuclear strikes, neither the U.S. nor any Western European country, unified under the military coalition NATO, has actually declared it is part of the war.

The U.S. has provided US$17.6 billion in security assistance to Ukraine since Russia first invaded Ukraine in February 2022. But it can be difficult to track foreign aid and to distinguish between money that governments have promised and actually delivered. Some unofficial estimates place U.S. commitments to Ukraine made in 2022 much higher, at $40 billion.

European countries, meanwhile, have collectively donated an estimated 29 billion euros – or more than $28.3 billion – in security, financial and humanitarian aid in 2022 – not including additional aid to Ukrainian refugees.

A Psychological Theory of the Culture War

Richard Hanania

The American culture war is part of a global trend. The German far right marches against covid restrictions and immigration. In France, Le Pen wins the countryside and gets crushed in urban centers. Throughout the developed world you see the same cleavages opening up, with an educated urban elite that is more likely to support left-wing parties, and an exurban and rural populist backlash that looks strikingly similar across different societies.

How Cold War II Could Turn Into World War III

Niall Ferguson

A large proportion of the world’s top tourist destinations are the remains of dead empires. A week of sightseeing with my younger children in Italy reminded me of this. The city of Rome was the capital of an empire that at its height stretched from Britannia to Babylonia. The city of Venice once ruled a realm that extended across what are now Albania, Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Montenegro and Slovenia.

To walk among the monuments of the most Serene City and the Eternal City is at once inspiring and melancholy. Like Edward Gibbon, “I sat musing amid the ruins of the Capitol” — but musing about the decline and fall of other empires.

My grandparents and parents witnessed the decline and fall of the British Empire, but not before it had helped polish off the more ephemeral empires of Mussolini, Hitler and Hirohito. I experienced the decline and fall of the Soviet empire built by Lenin and Stalin. There are those who subscribe to the delusion that the age of empires is over. But all history is the history of empires.

Why Sri Lanka has a tyrant as president — yet again

Pasan Jayasinghe

Sri Lankans are used to tyrants as presidents. Since the executive presidency was instituted as the centrepiece of the country’s system of government in 1978 by JR Jayewardene, every single person to hold that office has been a dangerous autocrat in some form. Even presidents elected on promises of liberal governance and peace have been responsible for horrendous atrocities.

Still, the presidency of Ranil Wickremesinghe, which began on July 21, 2022, has been a startling reign of terror. Wickremesinghe, incidentally Jayewardene’s nephew, was elected by a vote in Parliament to replace Gotabaya Rajapaksa who resigned as president following the massive uprising of Sri Lankans against his rule.

Wickremesinghe is only the second president of Sri Lanka to not be directly elected, and the first to replace a resigning one.

How to respond if Putin goes nuclear? Here are the economic and political options.

Brian O’Toole and Daniel Fried

Losing on the battlefield, Russian President Vladimir Putin has resorted to implied threats of nuclear weapons use in his war of choice in Ukraine. The United States, Group of Seven (G7) nations, NATO, and the European Union (EU) have responded to his brinksmanship by reaffirming support for Ukraine and its territorial integrity.

Additionally, the United States and others have sent public (and, reportedly, private) messages on the severe consequences Russia will face if it indeed uses any type of nuclear weapon against Ukraine. Although unlikely, the chances of Russian use of nuclear weapons in its war against Ukraine are not negligible. After all, Putin surprised many (though not the US government) when he launched his February 24 offensive against Ukraine.

Laying out for the Russians the consequences of any nuclear use is a good idea. Those conversations must necessarily focus on military options as the most effective deterrent, but should not end with them. Even though Putin has eschewed traditional rational actor behavior in the political and economic sphere with his unprovoked and gruesome invasion of Ukraine, the West should still threaten severe political and economic steps in response to any Russian nuclear use. All these measures should be prepared for rapid application by the G7 and coordinated to at least some extent with other key countries, including China. Russia’s use of nuclear weapons against Ukraine would demand a fast, near-immediate response by a broad coalition of concerned states beyond just the current Western-aligned nations.

Germany’s Geopolitics at a Crossroads

Jose Miguel Alonso-Trabanco

From a long-range perspective, even though the formal establishment of Germany as a national state is a fairly recent phenomenon, its forerunners and preceding entities have played a significant role in European affairs for centuries. In the Battle of the Teotoburg Forrest, a coalition of Germanic tribes defeated professional Roman legionaries, crushing the Empire’s expectation of conquering Germania and expanding throughout Northern Europe, an impressive victory considering the asymmetries involved. Centuries later, the Holy Roman Empire ‒ under the leadership of Germanic rulers that were the successors of Charlemagne ‒ represented the most powerful Western European state of the Middle Ages. In the Battle on the Ice, a clash that foreshadowed the Napoleonic and Nazi campaigns to conquer Russian lands, the Teutonic Knights attacked the Novgorod Republic (a polity of Orthodox Slavs) but the attempt was repelled by Rus Prince Alexander Nevsky, a statesman whose legacy is still revered by contemporary Russians.

In the 19th century, the legendary Otto Von Bismarck masterminded the creation of a unified Germany, an accomplishment that was reached through a bold combination of both hard power and diplomatic skill. The German state became notorious for its active involvement in the deadly game of European power politics, a dangerous endeavor whose pursuit required worldly wisdom in terms of pragmatic statecraft, a strong political resolve, and the material capability to face powerful and wealthy rivals. In parallel, the unorthodox theories of nationalist economist Friedrich List inspired Germany to seek industrialization as a path to enhance prosperity and national power. Eventually, the rise of Germany as a force to be reckoned with would eventually shape the course of history in the following century, an event that would entail tectonic geopolitical shifts and a copious amount of bloodshed.

What the Hell Just Happened to Hu Jintao?

James Palmer

China’s 20th Party Congress concluded on Saturday with a rare and shocking piece of live drama. Hu Jintao, the leader of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) from 2002 to 2012, was publicly escorted away from the Party Congress by staff, visibly confused and upset, just before the final votes of the session. Hu was seated in a prominent position next to current CCP leader Xi Jinping, and the incident was caught on camera; he appeared to ask Xi and Premier Li Keqiang a question, to which they both nodded, while Xi prevented him from taking some papers by placing his hand on them. Li Zhanshu, another prominent party leader, got up to aid Hu as he left but was tugged back down with a pull on his jacket by political theorist Wang Huning, seated next to him.

How Cold War II Could Turn Into World War III

Niall Ferguson

A large proportion of the world’s top tourist destinations are the remains of dead empires. A week of sightseeing with my younger children in Italy reminded me of this. The city of Rome was the capital of an empire that at its height stretched from Britannia to Babylonia. The city of Venice once ruled a realm that extended across what are now Albania, Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Montenegro and Slovenia.

To walk among the monuments of the most Serene City and the Eternal City is at once inspiring and melancholy. Like Edward Gibbon, “I sat musing amid the ruins of the Capitol” — but musing about the decline and fall of other empires.

My grandparents and parents witnessed the decline and fall of the British Empire, but not before it had helped polish off the more ephemeral empires of Mussolini, Hitler and Hirohito. I experienced the decline and fall of the Soviet empire built by Lenin and Stalin. There are those who subscribe to the delusion that the age of empires is over. But all history is the history of empires.

Putin’s Risk Spiral The Logic of Escalation in an Unraveling War

Peter Clement

In the spring of 2018, four years before his second invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered an unusual speech about the growing strength of the Russian military. “To those who in the past 15 years have tried to accelerate an arms race and seek unilateral advantage against Russia…,” he said, “I will say this: everything you have tried to prevent through such a policy has already happened. No one has managed to restrain Russia.”

At the time, the speech drew international attention primarily for Putin’s boasts about new hypersonic weapons designed to circumvent U.S. missile defense systems. But it also conveyed a more subtle message. Putin noted Russia’s successful intervention in the Syrian civil war, stated that the size of Russia’s conventional and nuclear arsenal had increased nearly fourfold, and asserted that its armed forces were “significantly stronger.” Putin also reiterated that “Russia reserves the right to use nuclear weapons solely in response to a nuclear attack, or an attack with other weapons of mass destruction against the country or its allies, or an act of aggression against us with the use of conventional weapons that threaten the very existence of the state.” Taken together, these comments exuded a strong sense of confidence in Russia’s ability to successfully counter any adversary—and perhaps a more muscular pursuit of national and personal goals. “Nobody wanted to listen to us,” he warned. “So listen now.”

Preventive War: Explaining Russia’s Ukraine War And China’s Taiwan Future?

Josh Caldon

Over the last three decades, America’s share of the international economy has stabilized at around 25%. This figure has remained steady even as the European Union has become a solid economic rival and partner, and as China and Russia have risen to compete with the U.S. for international predominance. These powers look set to fade in the coming decade, leaving the U.S. to continue as the world’s sole superpower.

What will this future look like though? One near-term prognostication is quite pessimistic and reflects the theorizing of realist international relations theorist Jack Levy, who in his 1983 article Declining Power and the Preventive Motivation for War identified preventive war as an action that declining great powers generally take.

Levy used Prussian diplomat and realpolitik practitioner Otto von Bismarck to make his case. Bismarck once argued that “no government, if it regards war as inevitable even if it does not want it, would be so foolish as to leave the enemy the choice of time and occasion and to wait for the moment that is most convenient for the enemy.”

The US-UK special relationship faces a China test

Washington Examiner

In his famous 1946 "Iron Curtain" speech warning of a rising Soviet imperium, Winston Churchill hailed a "special relationship" between the United States and the British Empire . As Churchill put it: "If the population of the English-speaking Commonwealths be added to that of the United States with all that such cooperation implies in the air, on the sea, all over the globe and in science and in industry, and in moral force, there will be no quivering, precarious balance of power to offer its temptation to ambition or adventure. On the contrary, there will be an overwhelming assurance of security."

The world faces a similar communist threat today. Indeed, because of Beijing's ability to draw traditional American allies into subordinating economic entanglements, its threat is arguably even greater than that which the Soviet Union posed. China has the potential to overcome the common freedom and prosperity that defines the U.S.-led democratic international order. Under Xi Jinping's now-supreme authority, Communist China aims to enthrone itself atop a new feudal mercantilist international order in which Beijing extracts political fealty in return for scraps of economic opportunity.

Revisiting India’s Inclusion in APEC

Mark S. Cogan & Upamanyu Basu

This November, members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum will converge on Thailand for its 2022 annual gathering. The 21-member bloc is home to more than 2.9 billion people and represents more than half of global GDP, as the United States, China, and Australia are among its members. Thailand’s theme for this year as chair is “Open. Connect. Balance”, dividing optimistic outcomes into three categories: opening the Asia-Pacific to new opportunities, connecting across all dimensions of trade, and achieving balance in all aspects of APEC partnerships.

However, if at least two of these three indicators of progress hope to be achievable, APEC should look once again toward expansion. The last time the bloc added new members was 1998, when Russia, Peru, and Vietnam joined. A moratorium on membership soon after was put into place, which lasted until 2010, but since then, no new members have been accepted. Some, like India, have tried in the past, indicating interest since the 1990s. India made a push for membership in 2015, after some assistance from the Obama administration and then-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd of Australia. The question now is, with APEC just weeks away, is it suitable for India to revisit the idea of APEC membership? And if not now, then when?

The successes and problems of high-value targeting strategies around the world

Vanda Felbab-Brown

Apart from human rights and civil liberties concerns, the recent decisions of the Mexican Congress to place the National Guard under the control of the Mexican military and to extend the role of the Mexican military in domestic policing until 2028 also fundamentally fail to address the design and content of policing in Mexico. Both the Mexican military and the National Guard have been troubled with tools of policing, and during the Andrés Manuel López Obrador administration, tools without a strategy. The fact that neither the military nor the guard has investigative authorities and capacities, and can act only against in flagrante crimes, severely limits how effective at policing either could become. López Obrador’s directive that both agencies avoid using force severely worsens law enforcement deficiencies and compounds the brazen sense of impunity of Mexican criminal groups.

The absence of a law enforcement strategy in Mexico today stems from a rejection of high-value targeting that during the Felipe Calderón and Enrique Peña Nieto administrations dominated policing approaches and fragmented criminal groups. Without the groups being dismantled and the state having the capacity to field effective police forces, the fragmentation became a key driver of violence.

So what is the global record of the effects of high-value targeting, so frequently practiced in law enforcement, counterinsurgency, and counterterrorism operations?

Army 2030: Disperse or die, network and live


AUSA 2022 — In an age of drones, commercial satellite imagery and informants wielding smartphones, you have to assume the enemy is always watching, even thousands of miles from the front line.

That surveillance can pinpoint targets for long-range precision weapons, which means rear-echelon command posts, support troops and supply dumps are under threat of attack like never before, a threat that changes how they have to operate. But how do units spread out, take cover, and keep moving — to avoid being spotted, targeted, and struck — while still coordinating any kind of effective action?

That’s the tactical dilemma the Army attempts to tackle with its new multi-domain operations doctrine – and the critical technical challenge for its still-in-development battle network.

The ‘Anti-Navy’ the U.S. Needs Against the Chinese Military

Mike Gallagher

As Xi Jinping secured a third term as general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party, U.S. foreign policy entered a window of maximum danger. In a speech to the 20th Party Congress, Mr. Xi made clear that unification with Taiwan “must” and “can, without doubt, be realized.”

Secretary of State Antony Blinken admitted that Mr. Xi is moving on a “much faster timeline” to take Taiwan, and Chief of Naval Operations Michael Gilday said he couldn’t rule out an invasion in 2022 or 2023. Domestically, Mr. Xi’s problems—a structural economic slowdown, skyrocketing household debt, and the demographic buzzsaw of the largest group of retirees in human history—will all get worse in the 2030s.

At the same time, Mr. Xi faces an American military that is growing weaker within the decade. As the Heritage Foundation’s recently released 2023 Index of U.S. Military Strength makes clear, because of inadequate budgets, truncated modernization and degraded readiness, the U.S. military is set to be weakest when the People’s Liberation Army aims to be strongest. The report, which for the first time rated the overall state of the U.S. military as “weak,” rated the Navy and Air Force—the two priority forces in the Indo-Pacific—as “weak” and “very weak,” respectively.

House progressives retract Russia-diplomacy letter amid Dem firestorm


House progressives on Tuesday retracted a letter calling on President Joe Biden to engage in direct diplomacy with Russia, less than 24 hours after it sparked intense backlash from other Democrats.

The about-face comes as some Democratic lawmakers vent their fury that the letter backing talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin — originally drafted and signed in June — wasn’t recirculated before its public release on Monday. That release made it appear that the 30 House Democrats who signed on, all lawmakers in the roughly 100-member Congressional Progressive Caucus, were urging the Biden administration to push for diplomacy immediately despite Russia’s engagement in war crimes and indications of a military escalation against Ukraine.

Making the timing of the letter even more politically perilous: Ukraine is not ready for negotiations at this point, especially because its months-long counteroffensive has been successful to date, and there’s no indication Putin is ready to deal either.

Same Type Of Rotax Engines Used In Iranian Drones Targeted In Bizarre Theft Wave


The Austrian-made Rotax light aircraft engine recently found in a Russian-operated, Iranian-made Mohajar-6 drone recovered by Ukrainian forces is a model that has been at the center of a puzzling and prolonged theft campaign around the globe, but especially in Europe. Sophisticated criminals who know how to circumvent airport security measures and find engines that often have low operating hours and surgically remove them have been the hallmark of the widespread thefts.

So many have been stolen just in the U.K. alone that Operation Opal - a national intelligence team focused on organized crime - was called in to investigate the matter, according to the British Microlight Aircraft Association (BMAA), which along with the Light Aircraft Association (LAA) is collating information about the thefts in the U.K. These facts certainly point to the possibility that Tehran has been getting at least some of its drone engines by having operatives systemically literally rip them out of aircraft in foreign countries.

A Musk monopoly? For now, Ukraine has few options outside Starlink for battlefield satcoms


WASHINGTON — Though the recent tumult over whether Elon Musk’s SpaceX would continue to fund the operation of its Starlink satellite service in Ukraine appears to be over for now, an uncomfortable question remains: If for some reason Starlink is not available, who else might the Pentagon, or Ukrainian forces for that matter, be able to turn to?

While there are other satellite communications firms providing internet connectivity from space, experts say that, at least in the short term, there are few that provide both the wide global coverage and inexpensive, highly mobile and easy-to-use receiver terminals that have made Starlink a vital part of Ukraine’s war against Russia.

“There really aren’t any great substitutes here. I mean, this is why [Starlink has] been such a game changer, because there’s not been anything like it before,” said Tim Farrer, an industry consultant. That situation isn’t likely to change, he added, for “maybe about a year” — meaning that for the moment it is almost the only game in town for keeping the embattled Kyiv government and the Ukrainian military connected.

Hu Jintao

George Friedman

An extraordinary thing happened in China at the final meeting of the party congress over the weekend. Hu Jintao, the previous president of China, was sitting next to President Xi Jinping when two men approached from the rear. Hu rose and appeared increasingly surprised and then alarmed. A few others sitting at the lead table also appeared openly surprised, while most seemed unconcerned or were blank-faced out of discipline. Hu was escorted behind Xi, who appeared as if nothing significant was happening. It seemed to me that Xi did finally glance at him, I think with a look of contempt, but that is likely not the case, as the point of this drama seemed to be that dismissing Hu was routine. Although videos of Hu’s departure could be viewed around the world, they did not appear in China. The Chinese now have said, however, that Hu was not feeling well.

This is not the way party congresses have typically been covered in China. In the past, they were a carefully framed portrayal of the absolute unity of the Chinese Communist Party. Every public element was controlled, with no spontaneity permitted, let alone drama of this sort.

Hu may have had to go to the bathroom and needed help, or it may have been some other prosaic event. But I doubt that would require a national blackout. It is always difficult to interpret actions involving individuals. My view of the world is that individuals are defined by the world, not the other way around. So let me take a shot at seeing how China created the television drama we all saw.