4 November 2022

Report to Congress on Hypersonic Weapons

The United States has actively pursued the development of hypersonic weapons—maneuvering weapons that fly at speeds of at least Mach 5—as a part of its conventional prompt global strike program since the early 2000s. In recent years, the United States has focused such efforts on developing hypersonic glide vehicles, which are launched from a rocket before gliding to a target, and hypersonic cruise missiles, which are powered by high-speed, air-breathing engines during flight. As former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former Commander of U.S. Strategic Command General John Hyten has stated, these weapons could enable “responsive, long-range, strike options against distant, defended, and/or time-critical threats [such as road-mobile missiles] when other forces are unavailable, denied access, or not preferred.” Critics, on the other hand, contend that hypersonic weapons lack defined mission requirements, contribute little to U.S. military capability, and are unnecessary for deterrence.

Funding for hypersonic weapons has been relatively restrained in the past; however, both the Pentagon and Congress have shown a growing interest in pursuing the development and near-term deployment of hypersonic systems. This is due, in part, to the advances in these technologies in Russia and China, both of which have a number of hypersonic weapons programs and have likely fielded operational hypersonic glide vehicles—potentially armed with nuclear warheads. Most U.S. hypersonic weapons, in contrast to those in Russia and China, are not being designed for use with a nuclear warhead. As a result, U.S. hypersonic weapons will likely require greater accuracy and will be more technically challenging to develop than nuclear-armed Chinese and Russian systems.

China and America are barely speaking, though crises loom

During donald trump’s four years in the White House, tempests buffeted relations between America and China. There was a trade war, backed by presidential tweets “hereby” ordering American businesses to leave China. There was also mutual finger-pointing over the origins of covid-19, including conspiracy theories, promoted by Chinese diplomats, that the virus began in an American military laboratory. In 2020 Mr Trump’s secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, urged his country to see clearly its differences with the “bankrupt, totalitarian” ideology of the Communist Party, and to empower the Chinese people to “induce China to change”. That speech is not forgotten in Beijing, where party leaders heard a call for their overthrow.


Alex Hollings

In recent months, Russian officials have made a number of veiled (and less-than-veiled) nuclear threats that may have left some wondering, what exactly is the difference between an atomic bomb and a modern thermonuclear weapon like those carried by Russia’s ICBMs?

At a very practical level, the most important difference is in their destructive capacity. While atomic bombs are capable of delivering huge amounts of destruction, they actually pale in comparison to the firepower found inside thermonuclear weapons — which are also commonly referred to as hydrogen bombs.
Atomic bombs are the precursors to thermonuclear weapons

Atomic bombs are the original nuclear weapons — first developed by the United States with allied support during World War II within a program known as the Manhattan Project. Atomic bombs, sometimes referred to as atom bombs, leverage a physical process known as nuclear fission to release huge amounts of destructive energy.

To replace the Abrams tank, the Army should stick to what it knows


One of the most striking displays at the Association of the United States Army conference this year was the intimidating, full-sized, silver Abrams X, which greeted visitors coming down the stairs to the show floor. It’s also the tank that AEI’s John Ferrari, a 32-year Army veteran, and Charles Rahr argue in the following op-ed should be the focus of Army acquisition as the service casts about for its next main battle tank.

As the Army determines the future of the Abrams tank, it should remember that when it comes to purchasing new equipment, it’s often the easiest and cheapest to stick with what you know.

The Army is expected to make an initial determination on the Abrams’ successor next year. Rather than building an entirely new tank, like the Decisive Lethality Platform [PDF], the Army should continue along the Abrams’ iterative design route and purchase the Abrams X with the goal of the first production unit being in the hands of Army soldiers this decade.

The Most Vulnerable Place on the Internet

THE ASIA-AFRICA-EUROPE-1 INTERNET cable travels 15,500 miles along the seafloor, connecting Hong Kong to Marseille, France. As it snakes through the South China Sea and toward Europe, the cable helps provide internet connections to more than a dozen countries, from India to Greece. When the cable was cut on June 7, millions of people were plunged offline and faced temporary internet blackouts.

The cable, also known as AAE-1, was severed where it briefly passes across land through Egypt. One other cable was also damaged in the incident, with the cause of the damage unknown. However, the impact was immediate. “It affected about seven countries and a number of over-the-top services,” says Rosalind Thomas, the managing director of SAEx International Management, which plans to create a new undersea cable connecting Africa, Asia, and the US. “The worst was Ethiopia, that lost 90 percent of its connectivity, and Somalia thereafter also 85 percent.” Cloud services belonging to Google, Amazon, and Microsoft were all also disrupted, subsequent analysis revealed.

While connectivity was restored in a few hours, the disruption highlights the fragility of the world’s 550-plus subsea internet cables, plus the outsized role Egypt and the nearby Red Sea have in the internet’s infrastructure. The global network of underwater cables forms a large part of the internet’s backbone, carrying the majority of data around the world and eventually linking up to the networks that power cell towers and Wi-Fi connections. Subsea cables connect New York to London and Australia to Los Angeles.

Hacking. Ministers’ devices, vague rules, bad tech, Britain’s enemies – and echoes of the expenses scandal

Paul Goodman

The Mail on Sunday reported yesterday that Liz Truss’s personal phone was hacked when she was Foreign Secretary. The story provokes Kremlinology – by which I don’t simply mean speculation about the Russian Government, which may have been the ultimate beneficiary of the hack.

For the tale came to light at the same time as the running controversy about Suella Braverman’s use of her own personal e-mail. This was no coincidence. Who gave the Truss story to the Mail? Why? Was it an attempt to take the spotlight off the Home Secretary? Cui bono?

It’s tempting to wander into these processy wilderness of mirrors, in true SW1 style, rather than stand back and ponder the issues that arise. They flow from a fact: namely that, in the words of one source, “everybody does it”. The only difference between Truss and Braverman and their present and erstwhile colleagues is that the former have been exposed.

Is Nepal Under China’s Thumb?

Marcus Andreopoulos

On Nov. 20, Nepalis will head to the polls to elect their 11th government since the country became a democratic republic in 2008, after more than 200 years of monarchical rule. In that time, the continuous formation and breakdown of alliances have plagued Nepal’s politics, leaving voters disillusioned. Yet there is still a greater threat to the country’s young democracy: China has become increasingly more involved in Nepal’s domestic politics.

Geography makes engagement with China a necessity for Nepal, but during the country’s transition to democracy, this relationship quickly developed into what onlookers inside Nepal describe as foreign meddling in Kathmandu’s political affairs. Nepal features prominently in China’s growing assertiveness in South Asia, and the outcome of the vote could either blunt or enhance Beijing’s strategic agenda as Chinese President Xi Jinping begins his historic third term. China will be keeping a close eye on the country’s upcoming elections, which will see briefly united communist parties compete against each other once again.

Trong Goes to China: Form or Substance?

Huynh Tam Sang

The visit by Vietnam’s Communist Party chief Nguyen Phu Trong to China deserves scrutiny—not just because the trip could affect Vietnam’s relations with China and the United States, but because the war in Ukraine is being watched cautiously in Hanoi. The primary lesson Vietnam’s leaders have learned from the war is that a weaker state should learn how to embrace an acute sense of asymmetry with a stronger power next door. In 1979, China and Vietnam entered a brief border war, which, in the words of Deng Xiaoping, China’s pre-eminent leader at that time, was conducted to “teach Vietnam a lesson.” The conflict occurred because China was enraged at Vietnam’s attempts to seek autonomy in interactions with Beijing while forging close ties with the Soviet Union.

Even though Trong’s official trip to Beijing seems to be more form than substance, with both sides vowing to join hands to increase bilateral trade turnover, maintain supply chain stability, make good use of free trade agreements, and strengthen connectivity for strategic development, it still has important implications. By paying deference to China, especially at a time when Xi Jinping has become powerful and seemingly unchallenged after securing a historic third term as the Chinese Communist Party’s leader, Trong seems to have acknowledged Xi that Vietnam will continue to value the traditional relationship of “camaraderie and brotherhood“—wording used by Xi in May last year. In the words of Trong, his visit aimed to elevate Vietnam’s comprehensive strategic partnership with China “to a new height“ that is “stable, healthy, and sustainable.”

Why Iran Is Involved in the Ukraine War

Jamsheed Choksy & Carol Choksy

Iran’s political and military elites continue to deny that their country’s burgeoning weapons industry is becoming a major supplier of munitions to Russia. The Kremlin has been circumspect, referring to nomenclature that defines the armaments as Russian. Yet as Russia’s weapons systems run low on their own munitions during action on the battlefields and in the airspace of Ukraine, evidence is mounting from attack wreckage that rebadged Iranian-manufactured combat, kamikaze, and reconnaissance drones – as well as surface-to-surface ballistic missiles, apparently – are taking a deadly toll on Ukrainian soldiers, civilians, and infrastructure. Trainers from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps have been sent to a base in Crimea to train Russians to use the munitions, according to U.S. officials.

Tehran’s government is besieged by mounting sanctions, limited finances, rising unemployment, shortfalls in housing, and constant droughts. Many of Iran’s citizens have been regularly demanding change, and their protests now may be coalescing into a nationwide uprising. So why does the regime risk further international and domestic anger by supplying martial expertise and ordnance to a once mighty, but now struggling, regional partner?

Why Vladimir Putin Would Use Nuclear Weapons in Ukraine

Nicholas Konrad

On October 23rd, the Russian defense minister, Sergei Shoigu, made phone calls to the defense ministers of four nato member countries to tell each of them that Ukraine was planning to detonate a “dirty bomb”—that is, a conventional weapon spiked with radioactive material—on its own territory. Three of the four recipients of this information—France, the United Kingdom, and the United States—responded that day with an unusual joint statement denouncing the claim. (Shoigu’s fourth interlocutor was Turkey.) Russian leaders and propagandists, who covered the phone calls in some detail, don’t necessarily think that anyone, anywhere, will believe that Ukraine would use a radioactive weapon against its own people just so it can blame Russia for the attack. Shoigu’s phone calls were preëmptive, another example of Russia creating information noise, sowing doubt, asserting the fundamental unknowability of the facts of war. On Thursday, Vladimir Putin said that he had personally directed Shoigu to make the calls, and this claim underscored their true meaning: Russia is preparing for a nuclear, or nuclearish, strike in Ukraine.

This was not the first, second, or third time that Moscow had sent this message. Putin has been rattling the nuclear sabre since the start of the full-scale invasion in February, and, indeed, for many years before. In 2014, months after annexing Crimea and at the height of engineering a pro-Russian insurgency war in eastern Ukraine, Russia changed its military doctrine to open up the possibility of a nuclear first strike in response to a threat from nato. In 2018, Putin first proffered his promise—since reprised, and replayed many times by Russian television—that, in a world-scale nuclear event, Russians will go to heaven while Americans “just croak.” The threat of a nuclear strike has become more apparent—more frequently repeated on Russian propaganda channels—since the Ukrainian counter-offensive began, at the end of the summer.

Intelligence Community Help Wanted: Open Source Ninjas


OPINION – For those who have been privileged enough to read, write for, or brief the Intelligence Community’s President’s Daily Brief (PDB), the following quote looks like the topic paragraph of one of the 4-5 articles that would run “in the book,” and one that likely would garner a significant amount of senior policymaker feedback.

“A joint investigation…has discovered voluminous telecom and travel data that implicates Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) in the poisoning of the prominent Russian opposition politician Alexey Navalny. Moreover, the August 2020 poisoning… appears to have happened after years of surveillance, which began…after Navalny first announced his intention to run for president of Russia. …FSB operatives from a clandestine unit specialized in working with poisonous substances shadowed Navalny during his trips across Russia, traveling alongside him on more than 30 overlapping flights to the same destinations.”

But this isn’t from the PDB. This insight is available to all and written by Bellingcat, the open-source investigations non-profit, together with The Insider in cooperation with Der Spiegel and CNN. The analytic bottom line: telecom and travel data implicate the FSB in the August 2020, poisoning of Alexey Navalny. Confidence levels? High. And why wouldn’t it be? It’s based on data, commercial data.

Implementing blockchain: Why a security strategy must come first

Ryan Spanier

More industries are incorporating blockchain applications into their business, drawing the attention of threat actors — like the recent Axie attack, for example. As a result, many cybersecurity professionals are now finding they are responsible for securing blockchain systems. Unfortunately, even skilled cybersecurity professionals are ill-equipped to secure blockchain applications because it and other decentralized applications bring different risks and threat vectors that can only be mitigated through tailored controls.

Blockchain technology allows untrusted parties to agree on the state of data and applications securely, but that security guarantee is quite narrow. This means that many developers and users assume this security broadly applies to applications built on top of the blockchain. When in reality, that’s not the case. Whether it’s due to code mistakes, breaches or scams, both individuals and big corporations have lost significant amounts of money — in fact, scammers stole $14 billion worth of cryptocurrencies in 2021.

UN troops in DRC make ‘strategic withdrawal’ from key army base

The United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has withdrawn troops from the eastern military base of Rumangabo, ceding ground in the battle against the M23 rebel group.

UN troops have been supporting Congolese forces against the M23, which launched a new offensive in October and seized the town of Kiwanja on Saturday, breaking months of relative calm.

“We have made a strategic and tactical withdrawal from Rumangabo, in consultation with our partners, to better prepare the next steps together,” the UN mission, known as MONUSCO, said in a post on Twitter on Tuesday.

It’s Official: Space Force Sets Sights on Smaller Satellites


The U.S. Space Force will buy cheaper, smaller satellites in the future instead of the bespoke, multi-billion dollar behemoths it has relied on for decades, according to the service’s acquisition chief.

The long-anticipated move to smaller satellites is now official policy, according to an Oct. 31 letter from Frank Calvelli, the Space Force’s assistant secretary for acquisition and integration.

Calvelli’s letter also urges the service’s acquisition officials to move quickly and buy satellites via fixed-price contracts, which puts the onus on companies to deliver innovative products on time and budget.

“To gain speed, we must shorten development timelines by building smaller satellites, acquiring ground and software intensive systems in smaller more manageable pieces that can be delivered faster, using existing technology and designs to reduce non-recurring engineering to enable speed, taking advantage of commercial systems and capabilities, and most importantly delivering programs on cost and schedule through solid program management discipline and execution,” Calvelli wrote in the Oct. 31 letter, which was reviewed by Defense One.

How Elon Musk’s Twitter Buy Raises Cybersecurity Risks For The Rest Of Us


1. Musk may own Twitter, but China and Saudi Arabia effectively own Musk. The transitive property matters in not just math, but business and politics. Elon Musk’s fortune comes from owning Tesla; he had to sell off some of his stock to gain the cash needed to complete the Twitter deal. However, Tesla depends on the Chinese Communist Party’s good graces not just for its manufacturing (its Gigafactory in Shanghai makes over 70,000 cars a month), but also 24% of its revenue and its primary growth market (sales jumped 65% in last year in China, amid tougher sales in the rest of the world). This means a crucial communications network is now owned by a man whose business and personal fortune are beholden to the whims of an authoritarian government, one that has proven perfectly happy to turn the screws on companies for its own political ends.

Other authoritarian regimes have a more direct hold on Twitter. To avoid tanking the stock by selling too many Tesla shares, the stock-rich, cash-poor Musk also needed help from other investors. After multiple traditional tech investor candidates declined to get involved in a deal with a questionable path to profit, several non-democratic regimes filled the gap. The second-largest chunk of Twitter now belongs to Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal and the Saudi kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund, which invested roughly $1.9 billion, followed by the sovereign wealth fund of Qatar at $375 million.

China’s Shocker That Wasn’t: Xi Consolidates His One-Man Rule And State Economic Domination

Harry G. Broadman

It is hard to find a Western observer surprised by Xi Jinping’s “election” to an unprecedented third term at October’s twice-a-decade session of China’s Communist Party’s National Congress. Outcomes of the Party’s important meetings are always highly choreographed.

Still, there was one shocker to many outsiders: Xi’s elevation of his closest—and relatively unknown—cronies into the Party’s inner-most circle of power, the Standing Committee. He replaced four widely familiar veterans of the Committee’s seven members. But this shouldn’t have been such a surprise. Xi was formalizing his already entrenched one-man rule.

Similarly, his pronouncements before the Congress about an urgent redoubling of reforms to reinforce the state’s role as the primary engine to spur China’s economic growth were old news. Party members unsurprisingly and wholeheartedly endorsed the move. While some have hoped for years that market forces in Communist China were on the ascendency, they are not.


Justin Sherman

The Russian government’s war on Ukraine has sparked renewed interest in Russian cyber proxies. Before the war began, headlines described “Russian-backed” hackers defacing Ukrainian websites; since then, analysts have continuously debated how much Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime might turn to cybercriminals and other actors to help it attack Ukraine in cyberspace.

Describing every cyber operation coming from within Russia as a “Russian cyberattack” obscures the large, complex, and often opaque web of different cyber actors in Russia—each with varied relationships with the state. As I describe in a new Atlantic Council report, there are cybercriminals operating at the state’s direction, cybercriminals operating with state protection, patriotic hackers encouraged by propagandistic statements on television, front companies set up by the security services, and everything in between. Untangling this web shows many perceived and actual benefits for the Kremlin, such as deniability and obscurity—but it also underscores the risks Putin is running by leaning too heavily on this diverse cyber ecosystem.

The Roots of Russia’s Vast Cyber Ecosystem

Putin inherited a convoluted web of cyber actors—born from the chaos of post-Soviet collapse, the 1990s criminal (and cybercriminal) explosion, and an oversupply of technically talented individuals with few legitimate job prospects—and now actively cultivates it. Rather than cracking down, Putin allows cybercriminals and patriotic hackers to operate freely within Russia, so long as they follow a social contract of sorts: focus on foreign targets, do not undermine the Kremlin’s objectives, and answer to the state when asked.

Senate Democrat wants national security investigation of Saudi Arabia’s role in Elon Musk-Twitter deal

Matt Egan

Saudi Arabian Prince Alwaleed bin Talal helped Musk finance the $44 billion acquisition of Twitter (TWTR) by rolling over his existing $1.9 billion stake in the social media company. The move makes Saudi entities the second-largest shareholder in Twitter – behind only Musk himself.

“We should be concerned that the Saudis, who have a clear interest in repressing political speech and impacting US politics, are now the second-largest owner of a major social media platform,” Murphy said in a tweet on Monday.

The Connecticut Democrat urged the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States, known as CFIUS, to conduct an investigation into the “national security implications” of the Saudi involvement. CIFUS, an interagency committee chaired by the US Treasury Department, reviews takeovers of US businesses by foreign buyers and has the ability to block transactions that raise concerns.

New Pentagon National Defense Strategy Will be ‘Well Received’ by U.S. Allies in Pacific, Says Expert

John Grady

The National Defense Strategy clearly points at China as the United States’ pacing threat in both the Indo-Pacific and globally with its territorial ambitions and expanding nuclear arsenal, four regional security experts said at a Center for Strategic and International Studies discussion Thursday.

Christopher Johnstone, Japan chair at the Center for Strategic and International Relations, said he expects the strategy to be “well-received” across the Indo-Pacific. He added the strategy also now includes “a new constellation” of allies in the region that now includes the United Kingdom through the Australia-United Kingdom-United States [AUKUS] nuclear submarine and technology agreement and the Quad, the informal security and economic arrangement with Australia, Japan and India.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin noted several times the value of “working even more closely with our unparalleled network of allies and partners” to counter an aggressive China at a Pentagon briefing on the strategy and the accompanying nuclear posture and missile defense reviews earlier Thursday.

New Army social media policy pushes stricter rules

Jonathan Lehrfeld

The Army is taking a tougher stance on social media use, according to a new service-wide policy announced last week.

The new guidance released Thursday governs what information troops can share on their personal accounts and from which accounts Army officials can post. The guidance also calls for more training for key personnel, transparency when posts are removed, and restrictions on using new, untested social media platforms before they’re officially vetted.

The move builds off the Defense Department’s release of its first social media guidance in August, where it called for stricter regulation of official accounts.

Bryce Dubee, a Army spokesperson, said in a statement to Army Times that the DoD policy, “became a catalyst for significant change in the Army’s social media landscape.”

Here is the new social media guidance sent to the force...

Man, doubt you can put the genie back in the bottle and this will only make it worse.

The High Cost of Low American Military Spending Ukraine’s lesson: Deterrence isn’t about preventing only nuclear war.

Walter Russell Mead

The U.S. and its allies in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization failed to deter Mr. Putin from launching a conventional war in February, and the costs of that failure—in blood and tears, in the military and economic support needed to keep Ukraine in the fight, in the economic shocks reverberating across Europe, in the food and fuel inflation threatening to destabilize governments across the Global South—continue to mount.

If conventional deterrence also fails against China, and Beijing attacks Taiwan, the costs will be even higher. Ukrainians at least were able to flee from the war zone. Trapped on their island, the people of Taiwan would have no place to go as war engulfed their homes. The shock to the world economy would be almost immeasurably greater. The importance of the Taiwan Strait and the South China Sea to world commerce eclipses that of the Black Sea. It isn’t only computer chips whose global supply chain would be crippled by war over Taiwan. Everything made in China, Vietnam, Korea and Japan would become scarce. Global financial markets would tank. Japan and Korea would face critical shortages of fuel and food. Africa and Latin America would face massive economic damage.

US military now doing onsite weapons inspections in Ukraine


WASHINGTON (AP) — A small number of U.S. military forces inside Ukraine have recently begun doing onsite inspections to ensure that Ukrainian troops are properly accounting for the Western-provided weapons they receive, a senior U.S. defense official told Pentagon reporters Monday.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to provide a military update, would not say where the inspections are taking place or how close to the battlefronts the U.S. troops are getting. The official said U.S. personnel can’t do inspections “close to the front lines,” but said they are going where security conditions allow.

The official said there have been several inspections, and they are being done by the U.S. Defense attache and the U.S. Office of Defense Cooperation team that is in Kyiv. So far, the official said, Ukrainian officials have been transparent about the weapons’ distribution and are supporting the inspections.

Russian Army's Quiet Fatal Flaw: No Sergeants

Jeff Stein

Of all the post-invasion excuses given for the Russian army's failures in Ukraine -- corruption, bad logistics, poor execution of a bad idea -- the most obvious one, to me, has gotten short shrift: The Russian army has virtually no sergeants -- or as retired Army Gen. Mark Hertling put it to me recently, "no functioning NCO corps."

U.S. veterans have to be gobsmacked as I was hearing this for the first time. From the moment screaming drill instructors "welcomed" us to basic training, the sergeants owned us. From making tight beds to marching in order to firing and cleaning weapons, they told us how to do it. We all lived in fear of being singled out for punishment on the order of Full Metal Jacket.

But as most of us eventually learned, the sergeants were really trying to teach us how to stay alive. In combat units especially, it's the guys with the stripes who make sure the troops stick together, change their socks, watch the other guy's six and do things right. Same in the Marines and Navy. Gunneys and petty officers make sure their people eat right, get sleep, write home, ace the drills and -- the big one -- don't freeze or run away when the shit hits the fan.

Iran’s Repression and Alignment with Russia Carry Costs

Since early 2021, the United States, the United Kingdom, and European partners have negotiated with Iran to restore full compliance with the terms of the 2015 multilateral Iran nuclear agreement, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The Trump administration withdrew the United States from the pact in 2018, reimposing all U.S. secondary sanctions which had been lifted under the agreement. Tehran, predictably, responded to the U.S. pullout by violating the deal’s restrictions on its nuclear program. Assessments indicate that Iran is now within weeks of acquiring sufficient fissile material to successfully produce one nuclear weapon should Tehran choose to do so. Talks between Iran and the six major powers that are parties to the JCPOA nearly reached an agreement at several points during 2022, only to stall as Iranian leaders brought forward additional demands.

As of late October, the prospects for the nuclear talks appear to have evaporated due to Iranian behavior separate and distinct from its nuclear activities. Although the JCPOA focuses only on limiting Iran’s nuclear program, the talks have always been vulnerable to a collapse in the wake of shifting public opinion against Tehran. Support for a revived nuclear deal with Iran has eroded significantly as a result of Iran’s draconian suppression of a women-led uprising that began in mid-September. Iran has deployed units of its multiple and overlapping security forces, in many cases using live ammunition, to try to end nationwide protests that were triggered by the death of a young woman of Kurdish origin, Mahsa Amini, while in custody; she had been detained for allegedly violating the mandate that women’s hair be fully covered in public. Human rights groups report that at least 250 protesters have been killed, including 16-year-old Nika Shakarami, and thousands arrested across the country since the uprising began. Concurrent with the protests, Iranian leaders have been actively supporting Russia’s war effort in Ukraine by delivering to Russia hundreds of sophisticated Iranian-made armed drones and short-range ballistic missiles used by Moscow to target civilians and civilian infrastructure in Ukraine. A contingent of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) drone operators reportedly have also deployed to Russian-occupied Crimea to help train Russian forces on the Iranian systems.

China's Global Security Initiative: Xi's wedge in the U.S.-led order


HONG KONG -- Chinese President Xi Jinping's nearly two-hour speech to more than 2,000 delegates at this year's Communist Party congress was filled with familiar refrains. Written into his work report for the first time, however, was the Global Security Initiative (GSI), signaling an important theme in his precedent-breaking third term.

"An ancient Chinese philosopher observed that 'all living things may grow side by side without harming one another, and different roads may run in parallel without interfering with one another,'" Xi said in his work report. "Only when all countries pursue the cause of common good, live in harmony and engage in cooperation for mutual benefit will there be sustained prosperity and guaranteed security."

It is "in this spirit," according to Xi, that China has launched the GSI.

But what is it?

As with China's other lofty global programs -- the Belt and Road Initiative for building infrastructure and the Global Development Initiative for helping emerging nations confront poverty and other challenges -- the nascent GSI is heavy on verbiage and light on concrete details. When he announced it at the Boao Forum for Asia in April, Xi said the GSI would provide a framework of principles for global affairs and diplomacy that could make the world a safer place.

The Valdai Club

George Friedman

Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke at the Valdai Club, a Moscow-based think tank where serious matters are discussed, and where Russian policy is frequently shaped. I was invited to speak there in December 2014, after the Maidan uprising in Ukraine. The Russians believed it was engineered by American intelligence. I argued that that’s a hard thing to pull off without widespread dissatisfaction, and that while the CIA can do many things, fueling a revolution, including feeding, watering and supplying tens of thousands of people in a small space without end, isn’t one of them. The U.S. could hand out cookies, as the assistant secretary of state for European affairs did for her own strange reason, but the Maidan uprising was mostly an organically grown rebuke of a staunchly pro-Russia president and the massive corruption that surrounded him. I said that if the uprising was the result of a coup, then it had to be the most blatant coup in history. What I meant, in a wryly sarcastic way, was that the United States did absolutely nothing to hide its enthusiastic support. Russian media took it to mean that it was, in fact, the most blatant coup in history. There’s a reason I’m not a diplomat.

The Russians believed it was a Western coup, while the Americans saw it as an expression of political independence. I think both sides were sincere. From the U.S. point of view, a democratic uprising was an appropriate outcome. From the Russian point of view, it was a first step toward destabilizing Russia. The Americans dismissed Russian concerns, of course, but the Russians could not dismiss the idea that this was all but an act of aggression. It was at this point in 2014 that the current war was set in motion.

China calls for new ‘strategic guidance’ at 20th Party Congress


One of the most important changes in terms of national security from the Party Congress in Beijing isn’t Xi Jinping’s third term as CCP General Secretary. It’s the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) need to create a “new military strategic guidance.”

The new guidance is mentioned in Xi’s ‘work report’ to the Communist Chinese Party, where he laid out key points for Chinese national security and for China’s military in the next half-decade, with obvious implications for the region and the world.

In terms of national security, Xi made clear that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is confronted by a wide-ranging set of threats, not all of which are military, such as the need to maintain social stability. While the world usually focuses on how much China has increased its military spending, internal security spending has long been rising even faster than external security spending. With COVID lockdowns and various banking scandals it is likely that internal security challenges will remain the foremost threat to the regime.

Nuclear, missile defense reviews target increasing Russian, Chinese threats


WASHINGTON — The Biden administration’s new nuclear and missile defense reviews, released in unclassified format today, both double down on the widespread view in Washington that the strategic threats to the US homeland from China and Russia are growing — thus raising the criticality of both US nuclear forces and missile defenses to deterring future conflict.

“We recognize that the international security environment has deteriorated since 2018,” when the previous Nuclear Posture Review was released by the Trump administration, a senior Defense Department official told reporters ahead of the official document rollout.

“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a stark reminder of nuclear risk in contemporary conflict. And China’s nuclear modernization and its rapid expansion presents us with new risks and uncertainties. In the coming years, for the first time, we’ll have to deter two major nuclear competitors, both Russia and China. This presents new dilemmas for both strategic deterrence and for regional warfighting,” the official elaborated.

EXCLUSIVE: US Strategic Space Review signed out, but no unclassified version is coming


WASHINGTON — The Biden administration has decided not to release an unclassified version of its Strategic Space Review, despite the recent publication of other similar Pentagon reviews and a public push by senior space officials for more openness in space operations, Breaking Defense has learned.

In response to questions about the status of the report, a Defense Department spokesperson confirmed that the review had been signed out by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines and transmitted to the White House. The document is meant to assess a range of space issues, including the balance of offensive and defense space capabilities available to Space Command. It was mandated by White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan earlier this year.

Turkey: 243 Sleepless Nights for Erdoğan

Burak Bekdil

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Turkey's Islamist president, has been invincible since he burst on the political scene three decades ago. In 1994, he was elected mayor of Istanbul, Turkey's biggest city. In 2002, he was elected prime minister and, in 2014, president of Turkey. Since 2002, he has not lost a single parliamentary, municipal or presidential election. The dream story, however, may be over in June 2023 when Turks will vote in twin presidential and parliamentary elections.

Turks are suffering. According to the findings of the pollster Optimar, 76.6% of Turks think their top problems are inflation and unemployment.

The country's nominal gross domestic product (GDP) fell from its peak in 2013 of $958 billion, to $815 billion in 2021, bringing down per capita GDP from $12,615 to $9,587.

Turkey's official annual inflation climbed to a fresh 24-year high of 80% in August – though ENAG, an independent research organization, estimates the true annual inflation rate at 181% for the same period.