22 December 2022

Can India Fulfill Its Potential?


STOCKHOLM – In 2023, India will overtake China as the world’s most populous country. And while China has already passed its demographic zenith and begun to age, India’s ascent will continue for decades.

To be sure, after abandoning its socialist model in 1991, India has struggled to boost its economic growth, whereas China’s four decades of “reform and opening” have lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and brought high-income status within sight. As a result, its economy is now six times larger than India’s, and the difference between the two countries’ basic infrastructure is glaring. But with Chinese President Xi Jinping moving his country back in a more statist direction, growth has slowed substantially.

Meanwhile, India’s economy has been outpacing most others this year, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi seems determined to put his country on a path to close the gap with China. This fall, India surpassed the United Kingdom to become the world’s fifth-largest economy, and recent estimates suggest that its current policies and growth rates will make it the third-largest national economy in a decade or so. While its projected growth rate for 2023 is below that of 2022 (5.9% compared to 6.9%), a rapid ascent up the global economic ladder remains well within reach.

Taiwan: An Indian view

Shivshankar Menon

India’s interest in and interactions with Taiwan have grown steadily since the end of the Cold War, as economics and politics have combined to increase Taiwan’s significance to India.

Taiwan has consistently provided a window into the People’s Republic of China (PRC) for India. This dynamic builds on the legacy of India’s relationship with the Kuomintang that were forged during then President of the Republic of China Chiang Kai-shek’s 1942 visit to India, when he insisted on meeting with Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, despite U.K. Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s objections. When the Kuomintang retreated from the mainland to Taiwan, these ties were subsequently carried over.

While India was one of the first non-communist states to recognize the PRC, unofficial ties with Taiwan continued through the 1950s and 1960s. India’s “Look East” policy from 1992 increased Taiwan’s salience in Indian policy, and the relationship gained substantive economic and other content. In 1993, the two sides agreed to establish representation in each other’s capitals, namely the India-Taipei Association for India in Taipei and the Taipei Economic and Cultural Center in New Delhi and Chennai, India.

Understanding India’s Low-Carbon Energy Technology Startup Landscape

Harilal Krishna, Yash Kashyap, Dwarkeshwar Dutt


Low-carbon energy technology (LCET) startups could play a key role in accelerating India’s decarbonization. Yet, our understanding of the LCET startup landscape and what shapes it remains low. Herein, we provide an analysis of the Indian LCET startup landscape to fill this gap. Our descriptive analysis of quantitative data on investment and patenting activities of LCET startups from 2010 to 2020 and qualitative data from 25 semi-structured interviews shows a significant increase in investment and patenting activity, particularly after 2017, driven in large part by market-creation measures undertaken by the Indian government. However, there are large differences between LCET startups in different sub-sectors and core value-creating activities. Our findings suggest that the level of technological capabilities moderates the relationship between market creation measures and innovation outcomes—thus highlighting the need to complement market creation policies with long-term measures to strengthen technological capabilities. Furthermore, we propose a research agenda to improve our understanding of LCET entrepreneurship in developing economies.

Pakistan’s fraught political scene

Pakistan is locked in a three-way contest for power between populist former prime minister Imran Khan, who survived an assassination attempt in November 2022, military leaders and members of the current governing coalition, formed by traditional political parties representing continuity rather than change.

In May 2022, Pakistan’s former prime minister Imran Khan announced that his life was in danger due to what he called a conspiracy led by domestic and foreign political opponents. He had left office a month earlier as the country’s first political leader to have been deposed by a vote of no confidence in parliament. Khan’s concern about political violence was ultimately validated when he was shot on 3 November at a rally in Wazirabad in Punjab province. These events immediately brought to mind the unsolved 2007 assassination of Benazir Bhutto, another popular former prime minister with significant political aspirations.

China’s Dangerous Decline

Jonathan Tepperman

The last two months have been among the most momentous in recent Chinese history. First came the 20th Party Congress, which President Xi Jinping used to extirpate his few remaining rivals. Then, a few weeks later, the country erupted in the most widespread protests China has witnessed since the mass demonstrations in Tiananmen Square and elsewhere in 1989. And then, barely a week later, came the startling denouement: in a rare (if unacknowledged) concession, Beijing announced it was loosening some of the “zero COVID” policies that had driven so many angry people into the streets.

It has been a head-spinning season, even by the turbulent standards of contemporary China. But underneath the noise, the events all carried the same signal: that far from a rising behemoth, as it is often portrayed by the U.S. media and American leaders, China is teetering on the edge of a cliff. Ten years of Xi’s “reforms”—widely characterized in the West as successful power plays—have made the country frail and brittle, exacerbating its underlying problems while giving rise to new ones. Although a growing number of Western analysts—including Michael Beckley, Jude Blanchette, Hal Brands, Robert Kaplan, Susan Shirk, and Fareed Zakaria—have begun to highlight this reality, many American commentators, and most politicians (ranging from former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to President Joe Biden), still frame the U.S.-Chinese contest in terms of Beijing’s ascent. And if they do acknowledge China’s mounting crises, they often cast them as either neutral or positive developments for the United States.

When China’s Economy Stutters, the World Economy Will Shudder

Desmond Lachman

Troubles are coming to the Chinese economy not as single spies but in battalions. The good news is that this should help reduce our inflation rate. The bad news is that trouble in the Chinese economy heightens the risk of a meaningful U.S. and world economic recession.

The Chinese economy was in trouble even before the most recent coronavirus outbreak and spreading social unrest. The country has stuttered to its lowest economic growth in the last 30 years. It has done so due to President Xi Jinping’s zero-COVID policy that has involved countrywide lockdowns and the bursting of its outsized housing and credit bubble. The bursting of that bubble has set off a wave of Chinese property developer debt defaults, and it has significantly dented household wealth by causing persistent house price declines.

And some longer-run troubles make it unlikely the Chinese economy will bounce back to its former rapid growth path anytime soon. To consolidate political power, Xi has reigned in the large Chinese tech companies and reversed many of Deng Xiao Ping’s market-based reforms. At the same time, President Biden has intensified U.S. trade restrictions on China, and China’s earlier one-child policy is leading to a marked decline in its labor force.

After Xi’s Visit, Are the Saudis Moving on from the United States?

Sarhang Hamasaeed; Joel E. Starr

Chinese leader Xi Jinping made a long-rumored trip to Saudi Arabia last week, enhancing ties between his country, the world’s top oil importer, and the leading oil exporting country. Xi and Saudi Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed Bin Salman (MBS) inked a number of deals on oil, technology, infrastructure and security, and also made an agreement to avoid interference in each other’s domestic affairs. Xi also met with leaders from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and a broader group of Arab leaders. The China-Saudi summit comes amid frosty U.S.-Saudi ties and a perception among Arab leaders that Washington is pulling back from its traditional role in the Middle East, leading to some speculation of a larger geopolitical shift in the region amid the intensifying U.S-China rivalry.

USIP’s Joel Starr and Sarhang Hamasaeed look at what the Saudi-China relationship means for U.S. influence in the Gulf and what Saudi Arabia and other Arab states are looking to get from greater cooperation with Beijing.

What does the growing Saudi-China relationship mean for U.S. influence and interests in the Gulf region?

America’s New Sanctions Strategy

Wally Adeyemo

On the morning of Sunday, February 27, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen sat huddled in a secure room with a group of other senior Treasury officials—including me—to discuss a set of extraordinary economic and financial measures against the Russian Federation. A few days earlier, Russia had invaded Ukraine, a stark and violent transgression of international law. At the direction of U.S. President Joe Biden, the Department of the Treasury had already imposed full blocking sanctions on a number of Russia’s largest banks, put in place Russia-wide export controls on sensitive technologies, sanctioned a number of Russian elites, and determined that any Russian financial services firm could be a target for further sanctions. But in response to Russia’s growing aggression, Biden was calling on us to take further steps to cut the Kremlin off from the resources it needed to pursue its illegal war.

Over the course of the weekend leading up to Sunday’s meeting, we had worked with U.S. allies in Asia and Europe and our colleagues at the Department of State, the National Security Council, and across the U.S. government to develop a new tranche of actions: immobilizing Russia’s central bank assets, creating an international task force to hunt down and freeze Russian assets around the world, and removing key Russian financial institutions from the global SWIFT messaging system. Many of these steps were unparalleled in their scale and scope. But what was most significant was the speed with which this international coalition coalesced behind the actions. Within three weeks of Russia’s renewed invasion, more than 30 partners—including Australia, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, and the members of the European Union and the G-7—joined with the United States to counter Russia’s aggression.

Can the War in Ukraine Help the United States Address Security Concerns in the Indo-Pacific?

Even as the Russian military continues to struggle in Ukraine, Air Force leaders and top national security experts at the 2022 West Coast Aerospace Forum warned not to expect similar outcomes in a potential conflict with China. The 7th annual event focused on applying lessons learned from Russia's invasion of Ukraine to the security challenges in the Indo-Pacific.

While deterrence in the Indo-Pacific remains the United States' North Star, Gen. Ken Wilsbach, Commander of Pacific Air Forces and Air Component Commander of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, opened with a stark reminder of what's at stake.

“Let there be no doubt, they want Taiwan back,” he cautioned during the opening panel session. “They don't want to fight for it, but they will if they have to.”

Wilsbach spoke highly of Taiwan's will-to-fight and argued that it is in China's best interest not to start a war over Taiwan, but also noted that China's military might appears to be more formidable than Russia's, largely because they have been watching and learning from the West.


Nolan Peterson

KYIV, Ukraine — For the second time this week, residents in Ukraine’s capital city began their day to the sounds of explosions from a long-range Russian attack. An 8:10 a.m. air raid alert spurred some to seek shelter in basements and underground metro stations. The booms that began shortly thereafter spurred many to follow suit.

The capital city’s metro shut down as civilians filed into the stations. They sat on the stopped escalator steps and the platforms, bundled up against this morning’s subfreezing temperatures with their eyes glued to their smartphones for updates about the attack. Similar scenes played out in apartment block bomb shelters across Kyiv.

“Waking up from explosions, it is not something you can ever get used to. You wake up in one second and run to the corridor hoping that everything is ok. We have missed the air raid alert during our sleep, so here it is. Massive missile attack from russia,” Kyiv resident Anastasiia Holiachenko wrote Friday on Twitter.

Understanding Syria's Enduring Crisis

Michel Duclos

As the world watches Ukraine, a bitter anniversary is being marked this year in Syria, where the country is entering its second decade of civil war. Eleven years after the uprising, the conflict has taken a huge toll on Syrians. Today, the country is subject to the influence of foreign forces and suffering from a severe economic and humanitarian crisis. For Unresolved Crises, we asked Michel Duclos, former Ambassador to Syria and our Special Advisor for Geopolitics, to update us on the state on the ground. He gives an assessment of a divided Syria, walks us through geopolitical power plays, and suggests how the northeastern part of the country if stabilized, could potentially change the conflict's dynamics. To learn more about our work on crisis-affected zones, read the series’ analyses on Afghanistan and Yemen.
Eleven years after the conflict began, Syria is still mired in war. The hostilities have reached a violent and prolonged stalemate. Could you briefly introduce the main actors in the conflict and describe their current geopolitical interests?

The central conflict in Syria is obviously one opposing the regime and its own people. But the battle is essentially over now that al-Assad prevailed, even though he has controlled only two-thirds of the country for some time. Still, some pockets of resistance remain throughout the country, including Salafi groups in the northwest around Idlib as well as Kurdish-dominated regions in the northeast. Assad is not engaged in direct combat with the Kurds, but he continues to bomb the Idlib region controlled by the Salafi movements.

The restoration of the coffeehouse: How a centuries-old institution can save today’s faltering social media culture.

Jeremy Cliffe

All is not well in the land of social media. Many of the digital giants that rose to previously unthinkable peaks of power and wealth over recent decades are struggling. Their basic business model – harvesting data about their users and selling targeted access to them to advertisers – is in trouble. The digital advertising market is stalling. And networks built to serve that market through the algorithmic maximisation of user engagement, often exploiting ­emotions such as rage, fear and envy in the process, have come under greater scrutiny from users and regulators in the so-called techlash.

Facebook has been accused of making products that “stoke division and weaken our democracy” in the words of Frances Haugen, a former employee turned whistleblower. Its CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s big bet on the Metaverse, an immersive form of virtual-reality social networking, has seen his company lose 70 per cent of its stock market value in 2022. Meanwhile Twitter, under the new ownership of Elon Musk, is in crisis. Staff, advertisers and some users have abandoned the platform amid the chaos of Musk’s takeover. “He’s not building a community at Twitter,” wrote the American author Seth Abramson on 29 November after he quit the site, “but a hellscape in which people of good faith must daily fight off the moral dregs of society.”

America Can’t Give Ukraine So Many Weapons A Nuclear War Starts

Daniel Davis

Russia on Friday launched one of its most withering and consequential missile attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, reportedly firing 76 cruise missiles, hitting multiple cities across the country. Ukrainian officials said half the country was without electricity, Kharkiv being completely deenergized.

Adding to Ukraine’s woes, the top four officials in Ukraine warned on Thursday that Russia was preparing for a massive new offensive.

Ukraine may not be adequately prepared for this possible attack and have requested massive new support from the West – a request which, if fulfilled, could place U.S. national security at unacceptable risk.

The Economist on Thursday published a series of three articles assessing the Russia-Ukraine war from the perspectives of the top three officials in Kyiv: President Volodymyr Zelensky, Commander of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Valery Zaluzhny, and Commander of Ukraine’s ground force, Oleskandr Syrsky. On the same day in The Guardian, Minister of Defense Oleskii Reznikov echoed their warnings.

A Tale of Two Nuclear Plants Reveals Europe's Energy Divide

A FOREST OF wind turbines rises out of the fields on both sides of the highway running east out of Vienna. But at the border with Slovakia, which stretches between Austria and Ukraine, they stop. Slovakia gets only 0.4 percent of its energy from wind and solar. Instead it is betting its energy transition on nuclear power.

At the center of Slovakia's nuclear strategy is the Mochovce power plant, an orange and red building flanked by eight giant cooling chimneys. There used to be a village here, before the Soviet Union relocated it to make space for the power plant in the 1980s. All that remains is a small boarded-up church. Cars slide in and out of the guarded security gate, and the cooling chimneys belch a stream of water vapor out into the sky. Inside, workers are preparing a new reactor—where nuclear fission will take place—for launch in early 2023. The 471-megawatt unit, which spent years mired in controversy, is expected to cover 13 percent of the country’s electricity needs, making Slovakia self-sufficient, according to Branislav Strýček, CEO of Slovenské Elektrárne, the company that runs the plant. Slovakia is expected to reach that milestone as its European neighbors scramble for energy supplies after cutting ties with Russia, a major exporter of natural gas.

Without Russian gas, Europe has been racing to avoid blackouts. Every day, Paris is turning off the Eiffel Tower’s lights an hour early, Cologne has dimmed its street lights, and Switzerland is considering a ban on electric cars. Nuclear power advocates, like Strýček, are using this moment to argue that Europe needs nuclear technology to keep the lights on without jeopardizing net-zero targets. “It provides an immense amount of secure, predictable, stable baseload, which renewables are not able to provide,” he said at the World Utilities Congress in June.

A Radar Expert Told Us How Ukraine Sunk One of the Largest Surface Warships in the World


Back in April, two Ukrainian anti-ship missiles attacked and ultimately sunk the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, Moskva, in a serious blow to Moscow. For months, no one knew exactly how Ukrainian forces pulled it off—until now.

According to an account from the Ukrainian news outlet Pravda, the operation relied on the fortuitous appearance of an unusual weather phenomenon known as “ducting.” As a result, radars defending the country’s coastline could see much farther than usual, allowing coastal defenders to launch a lethal missile attack.

If true, this helps explain how a country with no navy to speak of managed to sink one of the largest surface warships in the world. So to get to the bottom of it, we recruited a radar expert.

Gartner Top 10 Strategic Predictions for 2023 and Beyond

Lori Perri

Is your organization ready to turn uncertainty into opportunity? These predictions help you (re)imagine what your organization might need to prepare for.

Heading into 2023, consider how Gartner predictions for some of the most critical areas of technology and business evolution in ensuing years can affect your thinking. Build these strategic planning assumptions into your roadmap for the years ahead to capture the interest of strategic thinkers and fuel the excitement of tactical decision makers.

“The theme of this year’s predictions is ‘seize uncertainty,’ ” says Gartner Daryl Plummer, VP Distinguished Analyst and Gartner Fellow. “This imperative prompts organizations to focus on the weakest link in the chain of their success — themselves. It challenges thinking and action at the same time because it recognizes uncertainty is a repository for ‘hope’ — for opportunity.”

The response to debt distress in Africa and the role of China

Dr Alex Vines OBE, Creon Butler, Dr Yu Jie

The economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have undermined the ability of many African nations to service their sovereign debts. At present, 22 low-income African countries are either already in debt distress or at high risk of debt distress.

Chinese lenders account for 12 per cent of Africa’s private and public external debt, which increased more than fivefold to $696 billion from 2000 to 2020. China is a major creditor of many African nations, but its lending has fallen in recent years and is set to remain at lower levels. This situation is likely to worsen over 2023, limiting the ability of African nations to raise the necessary finance to deliver broader social improvements for their populations and respond to climate change.

China did not cause African debt distress in most cases, but it is key to finding a solution. Despite growing political and economic tensions, China and the West have a strong mutual interest in cooperating with each other, and with African nations and institutions, to tackle the challenge of debt distress.

Trade negotiations between Taiwan and the United States

In November 2022, representatives from Taiwan and the United States took early steps towards beginning negotiations over a trade agreement that would focus on lifting non-tariff trade barriers. It is possible that an agreement will be signed by the end of 2023. If a deal is reached, however, ratification by both countries, and then implementation, will take years longer. A trade deal would serve as an additional pillar of the US–Taiwan relationship and would complement the increasing cooperation between Washington and Taipei on technology issues.

On 8–9 November 2022, Taiwan and the United States began negotiations in New York over what they are calling the Initiative on 21st-Century Trade. The reason this is an ‘initiative’ rather than a full free-trade agreement (FTA) is because, as Taiwan’s Deputy Trade Representative Yang Jen-ni said at a legislative hearing on 5 December, it will not address tariffs but only non- tariff barriers to trade. The talks held so far have consisted of ‘conceptual discussions’ between representatives from the respective diplomatic offices – the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office in the US and the American Institute in Taiwan. The next round of talks – presumably more formal in nature – has not yet been scheduled, but the tentative target is to reach an agreement before the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders’ meeting in November 2023. Most trade negotiations take years, but given the economic and geopolitical context, this seems a realistic timeline. Ratification and implementation will take longer, however.

Fusion Breakthroughs in Context: Professors Holdren and Bunn Reflect on Fusion Ignition Announcement

John P. Holdren, Matthew Bunn

John Holdren, the Teresa and John Heinz Research Professor of Environmental Policy and Co-Director of the Belfer Center's Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program, served as President Obama’s Science Advisor and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy from 2009 - 2017. A plasma physicist who worked in the Magnetic Fusion Energy Division of the Livermore Lab in 1970-72 and served as a consultant on both magnetic and inertial confinement fusion to that Lab and the Department of Energy from 1974 to 1994, Holdren led the study of the future of the U.S. fusion-energy program produced by President Clinton’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology in 1995.

Matthew Bunn is the James R. Schlesinger Professor of the Practice of Energy, National Security, and Foreign Policy and Co-Principal Investigator for the Belfer Center’s Project on Managing the Atom. Before joining the Kennedy School in January 1997, Bunn served for three years as an advisor to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, where he played a major role in U.S. policies related to the control and disposition of weapons-usable nuclear materials in the United States and the former Soviet Union. He also directed a special study for President Clinton on security for nuclear materials in Russia.

Below, Holdren and Bunn provide context for this breakthrough and its implications for national security, clean energy, and climate change.

Are the Silicon Valley Fraudsters Today’s Robber Barons?

Michael Barone

Will Silicon Valley go down in history the way of the robber barons? There’s been plenty of raw material in the headlines for a sharp downgrading of the San Francisco Bay area tech industry’s reputation these last few weeks.

Consider what Twitter’s owner Elon Musk has been revealing about how the people who ran old Twitter did business. As the documents he’s been uncovering have revealed, Twitter leaders lied repeatedly and shamelessly about how they systematically concealed politically inconvenient information, from leading epidemiologists’ arguments against lockdowns to New York Post stories on Hunter Biden’s laptop.

Twitter officials denied that they were “shadow-banning” even while actively engaged in “visibility filtering” — pretty much the same thing. From their stronghold headquarters on San Francisco’s Market Street, they sought to impose the values and voting preferences of the Bay Area (76% to 22% Biden in 2020) on the rest of the country.

Time for Resilient Critical Material Supply Chain Policies

Fabian Villalobos, Jonathan L. Brosmer, Richard Silberglitt, Justin M. Lee

The ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic and Russian invasion of Ukraine highlight the vulnerabilities of supply chains that lack diversity and are dependent on foreign inputs. This report presents a short, exploratory analysis summarizing the state of critical materials — materials essential to economic and national security — using two case studies and policies available to the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) to increase the resilience of its supply chains in the face of disruption.

China is the largest producer and processor of rare earth oxides (REOs) worldwide and a key producer of lithium-ion battery (LIB) materials and components. China's market share of REO extraction has decreased, but it still has large influence over the downstream supply chain–processing and magnet manufacturing. Chinese market share of the LIB supply chain mirrors REO supply bottlenecks. If it desired, China could effectively cut off 40 to 50 percent of global REO supply, affecting U.S. manufacturers and suppliers of DoD systems and platforms.

Software Eating Defense

Mehdi Alhassani

In 2011, venture capitalist Marc Andreessen argued that software was taking over every industry, including ones that would not necessarily be intuitive. With the proliferation of the internet and the enablement of cloud computing, building a software-based business became the natural beneficiary because access to software driven products became much easier. Now, if one wants to watch a movie at home, they no longer need to drive to Blockbuster, rent a video, and play it at home. Now they can watch it on their video streaming device with the click of a button. They don’t go to the record store to buy CDs and cassettes, instead, they listen to Spotify, Pandora, or Apple music. Taken further, a lot of the novelty of Tesla is that it is a high-quality electric car, but also that when it wants to improve the range or other functionality, it sends a software update.

In Defense, however, software was slower to break through. Defense discourse has predominantly focused on big expensive hardware programs like the Super Hornet jets or the Black Hawk Helicopters. Less attention is paid to IT and software programs or their failures. As such, software at the DoD has not kept up with its commercial peers.

Earlier this year, Naval officer Artem Sherbinin published an open letter asking senior DoD leaders to “fix our software.” He warned that the “next war will be network and data centric,” but many U.S. intelligence systems do not share information or budgets or even talk to end users.

How to Stop ChatGPT from Going Off the Rails

WHEN WIRED ASKED me to cover this week’s newsletter, my first instinct was to ask ChatGPT—OpenAI’s viral chatbot—to see what it came up with. It’s what I’ve been doing with emails, recipes, and LinkedIn posts all week. Productivity is way down, but sassy limericks about Elon Musk are up 1000 percent.

I asked the bot to write a column about itself in the style of Steven Levy, but the results weren’t great. ChatGPT served up generic commentary about the promise and pitfalls of AI, but didn’t really capture Steven’s voice or say anything new. As I wrote last week, it was fluent, but not entirely convincing. But it did get me thinking: Would I have gotten away with it? And what systems could catch people using AI for things they really shouldn’t, whether that’s work emails or college essays?

To find out, I spoke to Sandra Wachter, a professor of technology and regulation at the Oxford Internet Institute who speaks eloquently about how to build transparency and accountability into algorithms. I asked her what that might look like for a system like ChatGPT.

Physicists Rewrite a Quantum Rule That Clashes With Our Universe

A JARRING DIVIDE cleaves modern physics. On one side lies quantum theory, which portrays subatomic particles as probabilistic waves. On the other lies general relativity, Einstein’s theory that space and time can bend, causing gravity. For 90 years, physicists have sought a reconciliation, a more fundamental description of reality that encompasses both quantum mechanics and gravity. But the quest has run up against thorny paradoxes.

Hints are mounting that at least part of the problem lies with a principle at the center of quantum mechanics, an assumption about how the world works that seems so obvious it’s barely worth stating, much less questioning.

Original story reprinted with permission from Quanta Magazine, an editorially independent publication of the Simons Foundation whose mission is to enhance public understanding of science by covering research develop­ments and trends in mathe­matics and the physical and life sciences.

Unitarity, as the principle is called, says that something always happens. When particles interact, the probability of all possible outcomes must sum to 100 percent. Unitarity severely limits how atoms and subatomic particles might evolve from moment to moment. It also ensures that change is a two-way street: Any imaginable event at the quantum scale can be undone, at least on paper. These requirements have long guided physicists as they derive valid quantum formulas. “It’s a very restrictive condition, even though it might seem a little bit trivial at first glance,” said Yonatan Kahn, an assistant professor at the University of Illinois.

Operational Feasibility of Adversarial Attacks Against Artificial Intelligence

Li Ang Zhang, Gavin S. Hartnett, Jair Aguirre

A large body of academic literature describes myriad attack vectors and suggests that most of the U.S. Department of Defense's (DoD's) artificial intelligence (AI) systems are in constant peril. However, RAND researchers investigated adversarial attacks designed to hide objects (causing algorithmic false negatives) and found that many attacks are operationally infeasible to design and deploy because of high knowledge requirements and impractical attack vectors. As the researchers discuss in this report, there are tried-and-true nonadversarial techniques that can be less expensive, more practical, and often more effective. Thus, adversarial attacks against AI pose less risk to DoD applications than academic research currently implies. Nevertheless, well-designed AI systems, as well as mitigation strategies, can further weaken the risks of such attacks.

Ensuring Mission Assurance While Conducting Rapid Space Acquisition

Cynthia R. Cook, Éder Sousa, Yool Kim

The U.S. Space Force (USSF) faces potential adversaries that have demonstrated increasingly effective counterspace capabilities. To outpace these threats, the USSF is pursuing rapid acquisition of warfighting capabilities. A key question is whether the acceleration of acquisition by the USSF using various techniques introduces any critical new risks. In particular, do the adaptations and streamlining techniques being used to get new space systems to operators quickly create new (or exacerbate existing) vulnerabilities and challenges to mission assurance (MA) (i.e., the ability of operators to achieve their mission, continue critical processes, and protect people and assets in any operating environment or conditions)?

In this report, the authors identify critical risks to mission assurance created by rapid acquisition, assess the potential impacts of these risks, and recommend possible mitigations. Their findings are based on a review of government policies and literature on acquisition and discussions with over 40 subject-matter experts from the USSF, the Department of the Air Force (DAF), and federally funded research and development centers. The authors identified potential sources of risks, created a framework for managing risks to MA, identified potential mitigation strategies and explored the potential benefit of analyzing DAF data to identify common issues in rapid acquisition programs.

Mastering Irregular Warfare

Charles T. Cleveland, Daniel Egel, Russell Howard, David Maxwell, Hy Rothstein

The U.S. military has failed to master irregular warfare above the tactical level.

This is not a new problem, and it is one that has been recognized by leaders at the most senior echelons of government. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates stated this perhaps most clearly when he admonished the Department of Defense (DoD) in his 2008 National Defense Strategy (PDF) to “display a mastery of irregular warfare comparable to that which we possess in conventional combat.”

This lack of mastery may have contributed to recent U.S. failures in Afghanistan and Iraq, and to the U.S. failure in Vietnam. It may have been a key factor in the thousands of Americans and allies that have been killed or maimed in these conflicts, because senior military leaders may have been unprepared to wage irregular warfare at the strategic level and to provide sound policy advice to their civilian masters.

15 Most Advanced Countries in Military Technology

Ramish Cheema

Military technology, or the use of technology for the brutal art of warfare, is one of the oldest domains in human history. From the caveman using a simple spear to today's high end stealth fighter jets and drones, this field has continuously evolved and is a primary contributor to the ability of armed forces to see the tide of war turn in their favor.

In terms of monetary value, defense items are among the most expensive in the world. The U.S.' crown jewel fighter jet, the F-22 Raptor, costs the USAF a cool $120 million to purchase exclusive of development costs and more than $68,000 (higher than the average U.S. income) to operate per hour. The industry itself stood at $474 billion last year and will grow to $513 billion this year with a compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.2%. Top American firms, which are also the leading players globally, which manufacturer hypersonics, fighter aircraft, and atom bombs are Lockheed Martin Corporation (NYSE:LMT), Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE:NOC), Aerojet Rocketdyne Holdings, Inc. (NYSE:AJRD), and The Boeing Company (NYSE:BA).

Out of these, Lockheed is the most versatile, as it is involved in making hypersonic vehicles, nuclear weapons, and the leading fighter aircraft in the world. Its F-22 Raptor is the world's oldest fighter jet. However, Northrop is known for its bombers and drones, and its latest B-21 Raider bomber revealed in December 2022 is a sight to behold.

U.S.-Japan-Taiwan Dialogue: Deterrence, Defense, and Trilateral Cooperation

Jacques deLisle


China’s investments in military modernization have narrowed the capability gap between U.S. and Chinese forces, especially in the Western Pacific. China’s military modernization has also greatly increased its nuclear capabilities. Beijing has increased pressure on Taiwan (including through gray zone activities), expressed growing impatience with the status quo, and has been developing the means for invading or blockading Taiwan.

The United States, Japan, and Taiwan share an interest in preventing armed conflict over Taiwan and elsewhere in the region, preventing China from forcing unilateral changes to the status quo, and preserving a rules-based international order. This shared interest is multifaceted and rooted in security interests (geopolitical—in the Indo-Pacific—for the United States, regional and national for Japan, and existential for Taiwan), economic inter-dependence (including key global value chains), and shared democratic values. A Taiwan conflict carries high-risk of spillover into Japan’s waters and airspace and could escalate to a large-scale great power conflict between the United States and China, with significant human and economic costs, and threats to the survival of the current rules-based order. A Taiwan conflict also risks nuclear escalation, which would have serious consequences for all countries in the region and increases the importance of preventing conflict.

Nonlethal Weapons Can Play a Growing Role in U.S. Defense

Scott Savitz and Krista Romita Grocholski

The U.S. Department of Defense is increasingly focused on “gray zone” competition with other great powers, striving to deter aggression while also avoiding escalation to full-scale war.

When U.S. warships find themselves in a confrontation with Chinese vessels in the South China Sea, or U.S. ground vehicles in Syria are rammed by Russian armored cars, there is a need to be able to make a muscular response without inflicting lethal or permanent harm. In these contexts, nonlethal weapons could play an increasingly important role.

The good news is that DoD has a variety of NLWs at its disposal, with others under development. Examples include acoustic hailers to communicate or intimidate at long ranges, eye-safe laser dazzlers that create glare, millimeter-wave emitters that cause a temporary heating sensation, and various systems that stop vehicles or vessels.