10 November 2022

Iranian Drones in Ukrainian Skies: Not the Battlefield of the Future that Was Expected

Liran Antebi

The Russian attack carried out in October 2022 on Kyiv using Iranian-made suicide drones, which caused widespread death and destruction, should be reviewed and studied by Israel. It appears, both based on photos of the aircraft in the air and based on remains of the aircraft at the various attack sites, that the drones used were Shahed 136 drones. Although currently this does not present as a weapon with decisive potential, the pictures from Ukraine should worry every citizen and decision maker in Israel concerning the next round of fighting that might involve Israel.

The Shahed-136 are relatively cheap drones (compared to Western drone models that operate in a similar manner) at a price of about $20,000 each. The drones have the ability to carry a warhead estimated at about 40 kg and have a flight range of about 2,500 km, which is relevant to Israel both in a possible conflict on the border and in the case of launches from a greater distance, for example from deep inside Lebanon or from Iran itself. These aircraft cruise at a relatively low altitude, which usually helps them avoid radar detection (there are also claims that so far have not been fully substantiated regarding certain stealth capabilities of these aircraft) and they belong to the family of loitering munitions. They are also called kamikaze drones, as they explode on their target and in doing so destroy themselves.

The parallel front | An analysis of the military use of information in the first seven months of the war in Ukraine

Snake Island, the Ghost of Kyiv, the Sinking of the Moskva. These are but some of the episodes from the war in Ukraine which captured the attention of global audiences. In part, we were impressed by the resilience and bravery of Ukrainians, who from the start of the war stood as David in defiance against an intruding Goliath. But we were also captivated by the narratives that persistently appeared, and how they impacted the behaviour of both the Ukrainian and Russian sides.

The first seven months of fighting have reaffirmed that warfare does not only take place in the physical realm. Rather, in modern high-intensity warfare, an ongoing informational battle interacts with and impacts the behaviour of people on the ground.

Outside of command and control, information can influence the morale of troops as well as their movement, and spotlight key battle locations. And, although the deliberateness and meaning behind certain information manoeuvres, like narratives, can prove difficult to identify, the war in Ukraine has created a unique opportunity to study the interaction between the informational and physical domains in real time.

Challenges and Opportunities for the “Chip 4” Group

Erik M. Jacobs

On September 28, the American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) hosted the first virtual meeting of the US-East Asia Semiconductor Supply Chain Resilience Group (or the “Chip 4” group), which aims to bring together representatives from the American, Taiwanese, Japanese, and South Korean governments to discuss and build resilience throughout the semiconductor supply chain. The initial meeting took place more than one year after reports emerged that the US government had begun discussions to establish such a group amid tensions and disagreements between participating countries on key elements of the plan. It was also held a few days before the US Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) announced new export controls on certain technologies—including semiconductors, chip manufacturing equipment, and super computers—that are critical to China’s domestic advanced technology industry.

Situational Understanding

In order to address pandemic- and national security-related supply chain challenges, the US government first called for coordinating semiconductor activities with like-minded nations in 2021. Yet, progress on implementing policy objectives has been slow. Leaders and ministers have met at various fora, including the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (the “Quad” framework, which includes the United States, Australia, Japan, and India) and the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) for Prosperity—which does not include Taiwan. These meetings have had mixed results, as bilateral engagement between Washington and Taipei, Tokyo, and Seoul has continued.

Is this time different? The structural economic reform challenges for Xi’s 3rd term

In his report at the 20th party congress , Xi Jinping outlined the success of his previous term in office while also building upon his vision for the future of the People’s Republic. Throughout the report were a wide range of development goals that are familiar to followers of China’s policy agenda. While some of the oft-mentioned goals are simpler to make measurable progress on – issues like administrative reform or support for industrial clusters – other, more structural goals that demand considerable change and upsetting of vested interests also reappeared.

Among that range of issues are five structural reforms to broader development goals that Beijing has repeatedly struggled with advancing. Importantly, these are areas in which the long-term stated policy goals have not meaningfully changed between generations of leadership, unlike, for example, the liberalization of state-owned enterprises (SOEs), which was advanced by one generation, rejected by the next, then revered under Xi. Instead, these five structural reforms have seen several waves of effort surge forward, only to then be broken up and dissipated by the many inhibitors to structural reform found in the current ecosystem.

Don’t Panic About Putin Even Desperate Leaders Tend to Avoid Catastrophe

Dan Reiter

National leaders who are losing wars sometimes resort to desperate gambles. Defeat or even lack of victory might threaten their hold on power, and they are sometimes willing to take daring or outside-the-box moves to try to turn things around. This is the great fear about the war in Ukraine: if Russian President Vladimir Putin judges that his back is up against the wall, he may decide to take catastrophic action.

If he does so, he certainly has some nasty tools he could use. In the weeks since Ukraine’s dramatic September offensive, Putin has already demonstrated his willingness to order conventional airstrikes and missile strikes against civilian targets, including population centers and power-grid infrastructure in many parts of Ukraine. Russian forces could renew attacks on the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, risking the release of nuclear radiation. More darkly, one cannot rule out the possibility that he might deploy chemical or biological weapons against Ukrainian targets, as his Soviet predecessors did in their war in Afghanistan. Given the moral backlash that would ensue, some might assume that Moscow would be deterred from such action. But it is also possible that Putin might be encouraged by the relatively lackluster U.S. responses to Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s use of chemical weapons in the Syrian civil war and Russia’s use of a nerve agent against Russian defectors living in Britain in 2018.

The Iran Protests: A Crossroads in Governance?

Karishma R. Mehta

Iran has seen large-scale protests in response to the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year old woman who died in the custody of the Iranian morality police on September 16. Her death sparked widespread protests in more than 80 cities within Iran as well as many more across the globe. But are these protests the spark that will usher in a democratic form of governance in Iran? While the protests occurring in Iran bear resemblance to past protests in Iran and across the Middle East, there are some differences as well.

The current anti-government protests are the longest since the protests of the Green Movement in 2009 which lasted six months. However, there are differences between the current protests and the largely peaceful Green Movement demonstrations, which sought the removal of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad after an election many thought to have been rigged, and the current unrest. The Green Movement was a political movement that contested an election result, while today's protests are calling for a change in regime. Beginning largely as a feminist movement, the protests have evolved in the past month.

Beijing's Global Media Offensive

Joshua Kurlantzick

Since China’s ascendancy toward great power status began in the 1990s, many observers have focused on its economic growth and expanding military power. In contrast, most viewed China’s ability to project “soft power” through its media industries and its global influence campaigns as quite limited, and its ability to wield influence within the domestic politics of other countries as nonexistent. But as Joshua Kurlantzick shows in Beijing’s Global Media Offensive, both of these things have begun to change dramatically.

An incisive analysis of China’s attempt to become a media and information superpower around the world, and also wield traditional forms of influence to shape the domestic politics of other countries, the book shows China for the first time is actively seeking to insert itself into many other countries’ elections, social media, media, and overall politics, including that of the United States.

Kurlantzick focuses on how all of this is playing out in the United States, where Beijing has become the biggest spender on foreign influence activities, and also in China’s immediate neighborhood—Southeast Asia, Taiwan, Australia, Japan, and New Zealand—as well as in Europe and other parts of the world. He also traces the ways in which China is increasingly collaborating with Russia in their efforts to become more powerful global influencers via disinformation and other tools, but critically examines whether Beijing has enjoyed great success with these efforts to wield power within other countries’ domestic societies and politics and media.

What’s the future of US nuclear strategy?

MATTHEW KROENIG: The Atlantic Council is delighted to partner with the United States Department of Defense to roll out the 2022 Nuclear Posture Review, released last week alongside the National Defense Strategy and Missile Defense Review. I’d like to thank our distinguished panelists for participating in this event, and our audience for joining us in person here at the Council’s offices, and for tuning in virtually. I’m especially grateful to Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Johnson and his office for selecting the Atlantic Council as a partner for publicizing this strategy.

Here at the Atlantic Council, our Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security works to develop sustainable nonpartisan strategies to address the most important security challenges facing the United States and its allies and partners. We seek to honor General Brent Scowcroft’s legacy of service and embody his ethos of nonpartisan commitment to the cause of security, support for US leadership in cooperation with allies and partners, and dedication to the mentorship of the next generation of leaders. The Scowcroft Center’s namesake, General Brent Scowcroft, was the chairman of the 1983 Scowcroft Commission that established the foundation for US nuclear deterrence and arms control policy through the present day.

Inside the US Nuclear Posture Review’s approach to a new era of three-power nuclear competition

Katherine Walla

The Biden administration’s recently released Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) depicts a new nuclear era taking form. As Richard Johnson, deputy assistant US secretary of defense for nuclear and countering weapons of mass destruction policy, described it at an Atlantic Council event Tuesday where the Department of Defense rolled out the review, the United States is now “facing potentially the rise of two nuclear-armed competitors” for the first time.

By focusing on the problems posed by two nuclear peers, the review “nailed the strategic environment” and has shown that the world is “moving beyond the post-Cold War period,” said Robert Soofer, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear and missile defense policy.

A pillar of post-Cold War nuclear arms control, the New START arms-reduction treaty between the United States and Russia is set to expire in 2026. Given that looming deadline, Alexandra Bell—deputy assistant secretary at the Department of State’s Bureau of Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance—said that the administration will need to think about how to face a scenario in which there are “potentially no constraints over the… largest nuclear arsenals in the world.” If that happens, “for the first time in over fifty years, it’s not a safer world.”

Iranian Drones in Ukraine Contain Western Brand Components

David Albright, Sarah Burkhard, and Spencer Faragasso


The Institute for Science and International Security has analyzed open-source information, photographs, and videos of downed or captured Iranian drones used by Russian forces in combat operations in Ukraine, identifying parts and components produced or designed by Western companies. Information on the recovered and downed Iranian drones and the foreign parts and components identified in them is discussed here.

It is widely reported by multiple official sources in the media that Iran is supplying Russian forces with complete drone systems, infrastructure, and the required training necessary to operate the drones in combat operations. Iran continues to deny it has supplied any drones or arms to Russia, despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. These reports indicate that Russia, known to have also imported foreign goods for its own drones, is becoming increasingly dependent on imports to supply its combat forces with effective fighting tools.
Which Drones Have Been Supplied?

As of October 2022, Iran has supplied three types of drones to Russian forces. The Shahed-136 (Russian designation: Geran-2/Germanium-2), its smaller version, the Shahed-131 (Russian designation: Geran-1/Germanium-1), and the Mohajer-6. Media reports indicate that Iran has agreed to supply the Arash-2 UAV to Russian forces, and in the future, potentially short-range surface-to-surface ballistic missiles, such as the Fateh-110 and the Zolfaghar. The embargo on Iran’s ballistic missile exports ends in October 2023, as stipulated under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. With the impending end to the ballistic missile embargo and the failure to renew the UN Arms Embargo that expired in 2020, Iran will be free to continue to sell its weapons to Russia and others.

The Geopolitics of Deep-Sea Mining and Green Technologies

Jocelyn Trainer

For the first time, the International Energy Agency is reporting that global demand for fossil fuels will peak or plateau in the next decade as the world transitions to renewable energy. This is a welcome development ahead of the 27th U.N. Climate Change Conference (COP27), which includes a focus on the “promise of innovation and clean technologies” to mitigate the climate crisis. However, there is often a disconnect between the prospect of green technologies and the reality surrounding the minerals and materials required to produce them.

A ship carries seabed samples from the remote Clarion-Clipperton Zone of the Pacific Ocean, about 1,500 miles southwest of San Diego. June 7, 2021. (Tamir Kalifa/The New York Times)

As demand for fossil fuels levels off, renewable energy sources will occupy a larger and larger percentage of the total demand for the minerals involved in their creation. Within the next two decades, the IEA predicts that renewable energy technology will make up over 40 percent of the demand for copper, 60 to 70 percent for cobalt and nickel, and 90 percent for lithium.

Does North Korea harbour air-launched cruise missile ambitions?

Joseph Dempsey

North Korea is already adding ground-launched land-attack cruise missiles (LACMs) to complement its ballistic missile inventory, but could it also be pursuing an air-launched LACM capability? Recent statements from Pyongyang at least raise this possibility as the country attempts to improve and expand its air-launched weapon inventory.

State-controlled media reported on live-fire exercises involving the North Korean Air Force held in early October. According to the coverage, the exercises included attacks on a simulated enemy base using ‘air-to-surface medium-range guided-bombs and cruise missiles’. In the past, neither of these classes of weapons have been officially associated with air force aircraft. The report added that another exercise, conducted shortly after, involved the successful testing of ‘new-type air weapon systems’.

There are several existing North Korean systems that could fit the ‘cruise missile’ description, making them potential candidates for development into an air-launched version, though they have very different performance characteristics and dimensions. Among these is the Kumsong-3 (KN-SS-N-02 Stormpetrel) surface-launched medium range anti-ship missile which may already have been the focus of attempts to develop an air-launched variant. Alternatively, the new weapon could be a variant of a previously seen, and much larger and longer-range, ground-launched land-attack cruise missile. Two long-range cruise missile designs were shown at a North Korean weapons exhibition in October 2021. Pyongyang has claimed that both these missiles have been successfully tested.

Leadership successions in Central Asia: Elite pacts, dynasties and revolutions


Despite their shared communist past, similarities in political systems, and record of “authoritarian learning” from one another, there is significant diversity in how Central Asian regimes have prepared and undergone leadership successions.

Authoritarian states, particularly those led by personalist rulers, face instability during moments of leadership succession. Sometimes the turbulence develops into a full-blown succession crisis characterized by increased elite contestation and popular protests.

In Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, personalist leaders died in office and the elites chose a successor after negotiations. Still, most regional leaders have sought to pass power gradually to a designated successor, either a familial or non-familial member of the elite, with varying degrees of success.

Comrades-in-Sanctions: Can Iran Help Russia Weather the Economic Storm?

Since the start of the war in Ukraine, relations between Russia and Iran have flourished. Having been hit by a new raft of tough Western sanctions over its invasion of Ukraine, Moscow set about looking for alternative partners among other traditionally anti-Western countries—including to bypass trade restrictions—and Iran looks set to be one of the most promising.

The aspect of their relationship that has attracted the most attention recently is Russia’s use of Iranian drones to terrorize Ukrainian cities. Both the Russian and Iranian governments have denied that the kamikaze drones the Russian army is using in Ukraine are Iranian, but all the evidence suggests that they are. Ukraine’s military intelligence services said at the end of October that Iran was also about to start supplying Russia with missiles. This is far from the extent of their joint projects, however.

This year has seen a record number of meetings between senior Russian officials and their Iranian counterparts, including a visit to Tehran by Russian President Vladimir Putin. There was much discussion at these meetings of how to circumvent Western sanctions with Iran’s help. They were also aimed at showing Russian domestic audiences that Russia is not isolated on the international stage, despite Western efforts.



Using laser beams to create highly-excited Rydberg atoms, Army researchers say they built a quantum sensor to detect the complete radio spectrum. The findings published in the Physical Review Applied show the Rydberg sensor can pick up Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, AM and FM radio, and other communication signals on frequencies up to 20GHz.

More engineering and physics work is needed; however, the device could unleash radical new potentials for military communications, spectrum awareness, and quantum electronic warfare.

In a statement, Dr. Kevin Cox, a researcher at the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command, said, “All previous demonstrations of Rydberg atomic sensors have only been able to sense small and specific regions of the RF spectrum, but our sensor now operates continuously over a wide frequency range for the first time.” A Rydberg receiver and spectrum analyzer detects a wide range of real-world radio frequency signals above a microwave circuit including AM radio, FM radio, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. (U.S. Army illustration)

Assessing the Non-Kinetic Battlespace

Dustin Carmack

Kinetic warfare continues to evolve, though its brutality is enduring (as witnessed by the current war in Ukraine). But in the shadows, a preview of future conflict is playing out—that hybrid, non-kinetic future war.

Cyberwarfare, electronic warfare, information operations, intelligence, and space technology all came into play in the lead-up to the Ukraine war, and remain salient. The ongoing conflict offers many lessons that can help the United States and its allies not only to assist the Ukrainians in resisting Russian aggression, but also to prepare the West to prevail in future conflicts. All sides are keenly watching these “gray-zone” tactics play out, hoping to determine how best to use them for the battlespaces of tomorrow.

Prior to its invasion of Ukraine, the Kremlin had already used cyber and informational warfare, with varying levels of effect, in Estonia, Georgia, and Ukraine. Thus, when Russian tanks rolled into Ukraine in February, many experts expected to see coordinated, large-scale offensive cyber and electronic warfare operations aimed at severing communications in much of Ukraine. Also expected was a replay of previous power grid tactics meant to undermine confidence and stability in the government of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky.

UK Leader’s ‘Tech-NATO’ Proposal Won’t Tackle China’s Technology Threats

Joseph Jarnecki and Pia Hüsch

Rishi Sunak, the UK’s third prime minister in as many months, faces pressing domestic and international challenges. During his summer leadership campaign, Sunak, who has no ministerial foreign policy experience, put forward an ambitious plan to counter China’s tech power – advocating a new ‘NATO-style international alliance to face down Chinese threats’. Now in office, he has reaffirmed his focus on ‘China’s malign influence’ in a call with US President Joe Biden, and must deliver strategic direction or risk the UK’s international credibility.

The new prime minister has described China as the ‘biggest-long term threat to Britain’, and has correctly identified technology as the central arena of competition. While running for the national leadership, he asserted that China actively steals intellectual property, infiltrates university research programmes, conducts hostile cyber operations, and promotes dependencies on its tech products.

Sunak’s leadership campaign put forward both domestic and international measures to mitigate these threats. Domestically, he proposed an expansion of MI5’s powers to fight industrial espionage and to directly support universities and businesses, for example by building a national security-led ‘toolkit to help companies protect their intellectual property’. In addition, Sunak pledged to close all Confucius Institutes at UK universities – a policy his government has now announced it will pursue – and to examine Chinese takeovers of UK assets, especially tech companies. How this would expand on existing controls under the National Security and Investment Act, which are often poorly or inconsistently applied, is unclear.

Internationally, Sunak’s campaign suggested ambitious policies to counter Chinese cyber threats and ensure technology security, advocating a ‘new [NATO-like] international alliance of free nations’. Composed primarily of existing UK intelligence partners from the Five Eyes alliance and AUKUS strategic partnership, Sunak envisioned both Japan and India as potential additional members. His plan, therefore, seeks to unite long-time allies – Australia, New Zealand, the US, Canada – with major Indo-Pacific democracies, thus, providing strategic continuity with the UK’s Indo-Pacific tilt outlined in the 2021 Integrated Review.

While Sunak’s pitch draws crucial attention to cyber and technology threats from China, and the corresponding risk for the UK and its allies from inaction, his proposal so far remains underdeveloped and undefined; perhaps it was only intended to make his leadership bid seem ‘hard’ on China. Be that as it may, the new prime minister will need to continue to shore up his reputation on foreign policy, so could his idea come to fruition?

If Sunak is hoping to lean on the Five Eyes alliance to marshal policy efforts against China’s tech challenges, he is mistaken. The alliance collects and analyses information; it does not coordinate its members' strategic policymaking. Even if his idea is to leverage full group membership to bring India and Japan closer to UK interests, it is uncertain whether they could or would want to join. Japan’s intelligence collection capabilities are underdeveloped, lacking even a dedicated intelligence agency, and India’s government is unsure about membership. Not to mention other Five Eyes partners, who would not take well to the UK trying to steer the group for its own interests.

Similarly, an entirely novel ‘NATO-like’ organisation is a poor proposal when existing bodies will do. The Quad, a grouping of the US, India, Japan and Australia, already promotes a ‘free and open Indo-Pacific’ – code for countering China – across issues including cyber security and technology. The US–EU Trade and Technology Council (TTC) goes a step further by explicitly ‘addressing global trade and technology challenges’. And NATO itself has, in the face of Russia’s war in Ukraine, found renewed vigour to tackle long-term security challenges. Although locked out of TTC discussions, the UK is in NATO and able to aspire to Quad involvement; a new initiative would thus be an unnecessary distraction that risks fragmentation when a common approach is needed.

While proposing new international organisations can seem appealing to fresh politicians with an unruly base, threats from China can be addressed in existing bodies. For starters, NATO can – and must – address long-term technology threats, including those posed by China. NATO members currently do not have a common strategic approach to technology infrastructure, with Huawei’s involvement in national 5G telecommunications a prominent example. The US has strongly lobbied against Huawei, and the UK – arguably in reaction to the US – similarly banned Huawei equipment from its infrastructure, with existing parts to be removed by 2027. In contrast, Germany sat on the fence about Huawei involvement for almost two years before restricting the role of ‘untrustworthy’ suppliers in its 5G networks, but much like the Netherlands, Austria and Spain, it has not adopted a complete ban. Continued Chinese investment in Europe’s critical infrastructure – for example, in Hamburg’s ports or across Greece – is a major risk and illustrates how divided NATO members are on China. Such strategic incoherence weakens the alliance’s resilience.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, however, has changed the geopolitical context significantly. NATO itself is now at its most united since the Cold War, and members want to act on national security. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg confirmed this new level of unity by setting out ‘a fundamental shift in our defence and deterrence to respond to a new security reality’. More concretely, NATO has announced a new technology initiative called DIANA, fostering research, development and coordination among start-ups, tech companies and researchers. Start-ups and other tech funds are further supported through a €1 billion venture capital fund. This, coupled with a growing awareness of Chinese cyber attacks and democracies’ reliance on authoritarian states for tech, opens the door for the UK to further drive conversations within NATO on addressing long-term threats. The aim should be a common strategy on issues including cyber security standards, attribution and supply chain risks, meaning members can jointly achieve greater resilience vis-à-vis Chinese tech threats. The UK could also potentially explore greater integration of Indo-Pacific democracies into NATO, rather than launching a whole new initiative.

Outside NATO, groupings like the Quad – whose members are rooted in the Indo-Pacific – have more legitimacy and opportunities to counter China than a novel UK-driven endeavour. They can pursue strategic coherence by jointly mitigating risks to their supply chains and conducting information-sharing on cyber threats, while also supporting smaller regional countries against Chinese ambitions – truly championing an alternative ‘free and open Indo-Pacific’. As India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi looks forward to building a ‘modern partnership’ with Rishi Sunak, now may be the moment for the UK to leverage good relations and push to participate in the Quad. The UK also needs to pursue stronger ties with the EU, which plays a central role in shaping the global technology agenda, including through the US–EU TTC.

Outside the EU and excluded from the Quad, the UK finds itself on the side-lines as global liberal democracies respond to China’s technology threats. If Rishi Sunak wants to improve the UK’s position, he should act decisively, not pursue personal projects delivered as offhand soundbites. Internationally, he must rebuild broken bridges and strengthen existing ties to ensure the UK has a seat at the table. This begins with setting a clear direction at home. Publishing a China Strategy is an essential next step, as is delivering on the promised International Technology Strategy. Without clear direction and broad-based international cooperation, Sunak’s government risks the UK becoming an ineffective part of the liberal democratic response to China’s technology threats.

“Is There a U.S.-China Cold War” Is the Wrong Question

James Jay Carafano

Let’s not call the U.S.-China competition a “cold war.” This ongoing conflict ought to have a name all its own.

Using the term “Cold War” encourages oldthink. It suggests that we’ve been here before and therefore can manage this challenge in the same way we managed—and won—the decadeslong standoff with the Soviet Union.

That is a dangerous idea. Today’s standoff with Beijing is as different as World War II was from World War I.

The Soviet Union was a monstrous military machine and a struggling economic power. China is a massive economic competitor and a rising military challenge. The threats have to be seen differently.

The U.S. is simply not going to “contain” China. Indeed, Beijing already poses a global threat far beyond the scope of what Moscow ever achieved.

Improving the Technical Requirements Development Process for Weapon Systems

Lauren A. Mayer, William Shelton, Christian Johnson

The acquisition process for a new weapon system involves developing a set of technical requirements — a set of statements or models defining what a system should do and how well it should do it — for the system's design to ensure that the system provides the needed operational capability within budget and schedule constraints. However, oversights during this process can result in cost or schedule overruns, unsuitable operational performance, or outright cancellation.

The U.S. Department of the Air Force (DAF) asked RAND Project AIR FORCE to develop an approach to help improve DAF's technical requirements development process. To do so, the authors consulted policies and the literature, held discussions with DAF stakeholders and subject-matter experts, conducted two case studies, and assessed various tools that might assist development of technical requirements.

Could the US Navy, Japan and South Korea Destroy a Chinese Amphibious Attack on Taiwan?


(Washington, D.C.) With tensions potentially higher than they have been in years, and Chinese weapons, planes and warships conducting war drills encircling Taiwan, the possibility of a massive Chinese-US confrontation may now look more realistic, if not imminent.

Several Pentagon reports and think tank studies have in recent months raised the question of whether Taiwan could quickly be taken over by China, creating a “fait-accompli” circumstance wherein any effort to remove occupying Chinese forces by force could introduce potentially unprecedented and catastrophic consequences.

Much of this simply seems to pertain to a simple, self-evident question … could U.S., Japanese, South Korean and Australian forces get there fast enough? Could there be an effective, coordinated multi-domain response within the crucial, and likely quite small time window afforded during a Chinese attack? How quickly would a Chinese attack be detected? How far away are response forces?

The Russian gas habit Europe can’t quit: LNG


European leaders have boasted about cutting their reliance on Russian gas since Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine. But that’s only part of the truth.

While supplies of natural gas delivered by pipeline fell dramatically this year, liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports from Russia into the EU increased by 46 percent year-on-year in the first nine months of 2022, according to European Commission figures.

For EU countries, the risk is that growing usage of seaborne LNG from Russia could put Europe at the mercy of a fresh round of Putin’s gas blackmail in 2023, just as the bloc seeks to refill its gas stores for winter.

It has been a point of pride for EU officials that countries have reduced their purchases of Russian fossil fuels since the start of the war, as leaders tried to degrade the Kremlin’s finances. “We must cut Russia’s revenues, which Putin uses to finance his atrocious war in Ukraine,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in September.


George Friedman

The United States has asked Ukraine to be open to negotiations with Russia, according to a report that was likely carefully leaked by U.S. officials. Since no one in the U.S. administration is denying the report, it’s meant to be taken seriously by the Ukrainians. (Considering that the U.S. is not asking them to negotiate but only to be open to negotiating, it is nicely deniable.) Meanwhile, on Nov. 15, Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden will both attend the G-20 summit in Indonesia. They will likely hold a meeting there, but if they don’t, it would send a message about as clear as a post-meeting press release. Russian President Vladimir Putin has also been invited to the summit. He hasn’t confirmed if he will attend but initially indicated he would not. His presence would open him to face-to-face hostility, or at least frigidity, from many attendees. Therefore, if Putin decides to come, and for more than the canapes, he would be attending in the expectation of some benefit.

A refusal to meet paints a leader as inflexible and responsible for the tension. A willingness to meet creates an expectation of some progress. If there is none but neither side wants to burn bridges, a cheerily incoherent announcement will be made. If a major breakthrough is announced, everyone will be shocked. The details of any meeting will be worked out to the letter before Biden and Xi meet, and will be carefully leaked to test responses at home.

Quantifying Cyber Conflict: Introducing the European Repository on Cyber Incidents

Matthias Schulze

Is cyberwar getting better or worse? Are cyber operations increasing or decreasing? This basic fact of cyber conflict (the total number of operations) is often hard to grasp. Depending on whom a curious individual chooses to listen to, estimates to quantify cyber conflict range from thousands to billions of incidents each year. Various stakeholders offer different views on the cyber threat landscape, some of which are classified and some of which are open to the general public. Because most quantifiable data on cyber conflict is shrouded in secrecy within intelligence agencies and military cyber commands, civilians lack a shared, informed cyber situational awareness.

The public lacks quantifiable data about cyber conflicts. But what about more traditional conflicts? Comparatively, there are numerous databases available that help to quantify boots-on-the-ground warfare. Access to this information allows observers to draw more generalizable, concrete conclusions to answer questions about the phenomenon of war. Is it increasing or decreasing? Are wars becoming more deadly? Are there regional hot spots? And if so, where? Are there trends in the motivations to start wars, such as increasing conflicts over resources?

The promise and perils of the new space boom

Sarah Kreps, Avishai Melamed, and Ray Jayawardhana

The surprise launch of Sputnik 65 years ago, along with the Apollo moon landings, the two space shuttle disasters, and perhaps the movie Armageddon, may encapsulate the space age in our collective memory. But these events obscure a less dramatic, yet far more frequent, activity: near-daily commercial space launches. The American commercial space industry has grown rapidly in recent years, and in turn prompted global interest in replicating its successes. But as the recent failure of a Blue Origin New Shepard rocket demonstrates, moving beyond the longstanding “slow and steady” governmental approach into the Silicon Valley-inspired ethos of “fail fast, fail forward” brings new challenges. The proliferation of commercial space activity demands better coordination and stronger oversight to minimize technical accidents and political tensions.

The growth of the private space industry is extraordinary. So far this year, SpaceX has launched 31 rockets, already matching its total for 2021, at a pace of one launch every 6.4 days and ten times as many launches as every one of its American competitors. The company is building a new launch tower in Florida, providing launch services for NASA and the Department of Defense, and operates 2,500 Starlink satellites offering internet access to a broad range of customers. Blue Origin’s New Shepard is operational, with four launches this year of which three were successful, though its range is limited to suborbital flights. The company’s next model, New Glenn, is under development. Virgin Galactic, owned by Richard Branson but also based in the U.S., advertises “space for the curious.”

America’s Risky New China Policy Washington has a bold plan to restrict Beijing’s semiconductor imports. The world needs to talk about it.

Ravi Agrawal

Last month, a small U.S. federal agency released a regulatory filing that has gotten relatively little media attention—especially in the context of its immense global ramifications. The U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security announced worldwide limits on China’s ability to import advanced semiconductors. The strict new rules—which countries and companies are scrambling to comply with—go beyond any previous attempt to curtail China’s technological progress and ambitions.

Writing in Foreign Policy a week after the filing, Jon Bateman described Washington’s move as a watershed moment in U.S.-China relations that “all but guarantees a continued march toward broad-based technological decoupling.” He added that the “increasing boldness of U.S. unilateral actions, and Washington’s open embrace of a quasi-containment strategy, … may finally set in motion forces beyond the control of U.S. national security leaders.”