23 December 2022

Pakistan Escapes the FATF Grey List, but Risks a Clash with its Jihadists

Dr Antonio Giustozzi

The South Asian country has been able to secure its removal from the FATF’s grey list, but its actions have fuelled dissent among jihadist groups in Kashmir.

On 21 October, Pakistan managed to achieve a major aim: its removal from the FATF (Financial Action Task Force) grey list of countries supporting terrorist organisations, where it had been since 2018. How did it manage this? It probably helped that Pakistan cooperated with the US in deploying its drones over Afghanistan, either by allowing the US to use Pakistani airfields (which both countries deny) or at the very least by allowing the drones overflight rights. Neither the US nor the Pakistani government will admit to this, but there are not many alternative options. This would demonstrate some commitment to combating Al-Qa’ida, and it enabled the 31 July strike that killed the organisation’s leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri. This type of cooperation would earn Pakistan at least a fair amount of goodwill from the FATF, where the US is highly influential.

Pakistani Taliban Overpower Guards, Seize Police Center

Riaz Khan and Munir Ahmed

Several Pakistani Taliban detainees have managed to overpower their guards at a counter-terrorism center in northwestern Pakistan, snatching police weapons and taking control of the facility, officials said Monday.

The militants at the detention center in Bannu, a district in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and part of a former tribal region, also took police and others inside the compound hostage, according to Mohammad Ali Saif, a spokesman for the provincial government.

Officials say at least 30 Taliban fighters are involved in the takeover and that there could be as many as 10 hostages being held.

The brazen action reflected the Pakistani government’s inability to exercise control at all times over the remote region along the border with Afghanistan. The Pakistani Taliban are a separate group but also allied with the Afghan Taliban, who seized power in the neighboring country last year, as U.S. and NATO troops were in the final stages of their pullout from Afghanistan.

No clear path to US-China reconciliation


Plenty of analysts, including Americans, argue that improvement in US-China relations depends on the United States adjusting its behavior to accommodate Chinese concerns.

This curiously absolves Beijing of equivalent responsibility. It also deflects the important question of whether the government of the People’s Republic of China has trapped itself into an inability to make the policy changes that could resuscitate bilateral relations.

Cornell University professor Jessica Chen Weiss, in a much-discussed article in Foreign Affairs, acknowledges the dangers of “aggression” and “coercion” by the PRC but limits her specific policy recommendations to the United States. Weiss says Washington should:

halt acts that seem to encourage de facto independence by Taiwan;

stop “reflexively opposing” Chinese international initiatives;

cease targeting Chinese technology firms; and

work through international groupings that include China rather than those that exclude China.

The China-Russia ‘Alliance’: Double the Danger or Limited Partnership?

Andrew Scobell, Niklas Swanström

According to the recently released 2022 U.S. National Security Strategy, China and Russia “are increasingly aligned with each other but the challenges they pose are, in important ways, distinct.” These challenges are felt all around the world, not least in Europe and the United States. All too rarely explored, however, is when and how Beijing and Moscow coordinate or cooperate and what this means for the United States and its allies and partners.

Indeed, much attention by officials and commentators has focused on the simple assertion that China and Russia pose different challenges to the United States and other allies and partners in Europe. The consensus U.S. view has been that China constitutes the serious rival while Russia poses a significant nuisance threat as it experiences political and economic decline, producing a predisposition in recent years to use military force around its periphery. According to one group of researchers writing in 2017, “Russia is a rogue, not a peer; China is a peer, not a rogue.” This assessment was made before Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, but this act of aggression has only reinforced the picture of Russia as a pariah power.

Another widely held view is that Moscow is a more immediate in-your-face adversary while Beijing is more of an over-the-horizon emerging threat. As one U.S. official pithily put it in 2019: “Russia [is] a hurricane. It comes on hard and fast. China … is climate change: long, slow, pervasive.”

China's citizens revel in newfound Covid freedoms – but liberty may come at a cost

Paul Nuki,

Nothing changes in China unless it’s initiated and approved by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

That, until just a few short weeks ago, was how most experts believed modern China functioned. After all, the Party’s general secretary Xi Jinping only recently secured a third term in office – the first Chinese premier to do so since Chairman Mao.

Yet today things look very different. A brief but genuinely popular uprising against the country’s draconian Covid restrictions three weeks ago has upended the political calculus – and perhaps even the power balance – within the world’s most populous nation.

“For the first time I am optimistic”, said Carrot Cartoon, the nom de plume of a young satirical cartoonist from Hong Kong who now lives as a political refugee in London. “The protests have, for the first time, caused Xi to change direction.”

The spark for the protests was the CCP’s strict handling of Covid-19. On Nov 25, protesters in cities across the country came on to the streets and held aloft sheets of blank white paper to symbolise their lack of freedom amid rolling lockdowns.

China’s Strategic Support Force: what do we know about the hi-tech military branch?

Jack Lau

President Xi Jinping has given the Chinese military the ambitious task of transforming itself into a world-class fighting force by mid-century.

Xi, who heads the Central Military Commission (CMC) that oversees the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), says the way to get there is through cutting-edge military technology.

The Strategic Support Force is one of two newest service branches of the PLA and was created in 2015 to be at the heart of the military integration and modernisation plan.

This is what we know about its operations.

What does the Strategic Support Force do?

Chinese state media says the Strategic Support Force uses information to support all of the PLA.

Taiwan’s Offensive Cyber Capabilities and Ramifications for a Taiwan-China Conflict

Dr. Valentin Weber

Much media attention and scholarly research goes into understanding Chinese hacking campaigns. At the same time, Taiwan’s cyber capabilities are often overlooked, even though public sources indicate that Taiwan is an advanced cyber actor that has successfully and repeatedly breached key Chinese systems for over a decade. Over the last five years, Taiwan has developed organizational structures for offensive cyber capabilities. Taiwan’s cyberespionage capabilities could play a useful role in countering China’s growing disruptive attacks and detecting any military buildup along the Strait, while cyber operations themselves, could be used to react to Chinese cyber actors which have frequently targeted Taiwan, or disrupt the planning capabilities of the People’s Liberation Armed Forces. If a shooting war were to break out, however, cyber operations would likely play a much smaller role than traditional kinetic arms.

The cyber fourth service, i.e., the Information Communication Electronic Force Command (ICEF) is central to Taiwan’s offensive cyber operations. It was inaugurated on July 1, 2017 and brought together communication, cyber, and electronic warfare units under one organizational authority for the first time. The cyber warfare wing is estimated to have around one thousand soldiers, while total ICEF personnel numbers about six thousand. The ICEF is responsible for the operation of the national military network, which keeps track of the location of Taiwanese fighter jets and adversary-launched missiles as well as the smooth running of internal military communication lines.

Why Saudis Don’t Want to Pivot to China

Mohammed Alyahya

Chinese President Xi Jinping just returned from three days of back-to-back summits in Riyadh: the first with Saudi Arabia’s King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the second with leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council, and the third with a larger group of Arab governments. The result of the summit marathon was a number of public and not-so public agreements on energy, trade, investment, technology cooperation, and various other areas. The summits ratified an increasingly close economic and security relationship. Saudi Arabia supplies China with
18 percent of its energy needs, and it is expanding orders for petrochemical, industrial, and military equipment, much of which it previously obtained from the United States.

The White House, meanwhile, said Xi’s attempt to expand Chinese influence in the Persian Gulf region is “not conducive to maintaining international order.” Commentators described Xi’s visit as a sign that Riyadh is abandoning its traditional relationship with Washington and pivoting to Beijing.

The National Defense Strategy shows the Pentagon’s increased focus on the gray zone. Here’s what that means.

The 2022 National Defense Strategy (NDS) marks a change in the Pentagon’s tone in several ways, but the most distinctive change may be the emphasis on operating in the gray zone—which was entirely absent from the 2018 summary. With the publication of the 2022 strategy, the Department of Defense (DOD) is officially recognizing that the escalation of competitors’ coercive and malign activities in the gray zone present a challenge to US security; it also calls for campaigning across all spectrums of conflict, pushing the department to make a deliberate effort to coordinate its activities and investments across various theaters and domains. Our experts from the Gray Zone Task Force within the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security’s Forward Defense practice, which aims to develop an integrated strategic framework for US operations in the gray zone, map out what this new focus means for the US defense industry in the coming years.

1. What exactly does the Pentagon mean by activities in the gray zone?

The NDS defines gray zone methods as “coercive approaches that may fall below perceived thresholds for US military action and across areas of responsibility of different parts of the US government.” That definition acknowledges that strategic competitors are increasingly taking the fight off the physical battlefield and using unconventional and nonmilitary means to undermine US and allied security. Adversaries such as China and Russia are not solely—or even primarily—targeting military assets, but rather they are fueling societal and cultural fissures, shaping the information domain, and disrupting economic markets and trade. This is not a new concept: China’s and Russia’s use of nonmilitary means of warfare dates back to Operation Desert Storm, wherein the United States walked away celebrating a decisive battlefield victory while US adversaries began visualizing a future fight in which they could compensate for unparalleled US conventional power through hybrid means.

How to avoid another world war

The first world war was a kind of cultural suicide that destroyed Europe’s eminence. Europe’s leaders sleepwalked – in the phrase of historian Christopher Clark – into a conflict which none of them would have entered had they foreseen the world at war’s end in 1918. In the previous decades, they had expressed their rivalries by creating two sets of alliances whose strategies had become linked by their respective schedules for mobilisation. As a result, in 1914, the murder of the Austrian Crown Prince in Sarajevo, Bosnia by a Serb nationalist was allowed to escalate into a general war that began when Germany executed its all-purpose plan to defeat France by attacking neutral Belgium at the other end of Europe.

The nations of Europe, insufficiently familiar with how technology had enhanced their respective military forces, proceeded to inflict unprecedented devastation on one another. In August 1916, after two years of war and millions in casualties, the principal combatants in the West (Britain, France and Germany) began to explore prospects for ending the carnage. In the East, rivals Austria and Russia had extended comparable feelers. Because no conceivable compromise could justify the sacrifices already incurred and because no one wanted to convey an impression of weakness, the various leaders hesitated to initiate a formal peace process. Hence they sought American mediation. Explorations by Colonel Edward House, President Woodrow Wilson’s personal emissary, revealed that a peace based on the modified status quo ante was within reach. However, Wilson, while willing and eventually eager to undertake mediation, delayed until after the presidential election in November. By then the British Somme offensive and the German Verdun offensive had added another two million casualties.

Can Russia’s War Chest Withstand the New Oil Cap?

Tatiana Mitrova

The Russian economy is hardly likely to collapse as a result of the decline in oil revenues. What the decline certainly will impact is Russia’s development and long-term investment in new projects. In a decade, the energy superpower status Russia had claimed will be firmly in the past.

After several months of debate and preparations, the United States and other G7 nations introduced a price cap on Russian crude oil on December 5. In the ten months since Russia invaded Ukraine, this is the first serious attempt by the West to slash Russia’s oil revenues, which remain Russia’s biggest cash cow.

Until now, most sanctions have targeted the financial sector and technology. The United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada banned imports of Russian oil and petrochemicals back in March, but they had in any case imported insignificant volumes. The EU, meanwhile, postponed the introduction of an oil embargo passed in June until December, and an embargo on petrochemicals until February.

The price cap is aimed at solving the difficult task of preventing the Kremlin from replenishing its war chest while avoiding sparking a surge in global oil prices by removing one of the biggest exporters from the market, since such a surge could cancel out any losses felt by Russia in terms of export volumes. But will it work?

Russia Can Finally See That Putin’s ‘Days Are Numbered’

Anna Nemtsova

More than two decades after he came to power, President Putin’s grip on the Russian people is finally starting to falter.

The war in Ukraine has opened up a credibility gap, and for the first time many Russians no longer feel they can trust what their leader is saying to them. Combined with tough economic sanctions, funds being re-allocated to the war, and conscription drives across the country, the costs of this vainglorious conquest are becoming more and more difficult to take.

Even loyal Russians have plenty of questions for Putin right now. And the Kremlin is running out of ways to cope with the pressure. In the past, a scripted appearance, or a half-naked staged photoshoot would be enough to get the domestic media back on side. Sometimes, they even gave independent reporters a chance to ask Putin one or two sensitive questions—which he would quickly and vigorously dismiss.

But every recent attempt to make Putin look like a strong and decisive leader has failed so badly—even inside Russia—that after nine months of devastating war in Ukraine, the Kremlin is running out of ideas. They even canceled Putin’s big annual press conference for the first time in years.

What Russia Got Wrong: A cascade of military failures started with Vladimir Putin.

Claire Moses

Nearly 10 months into its invasion of Ukraine, Russia has suffered great losses. Its military has faltered against a foe that, before the war, appeared much weaker. A team of Times journalists published an account this weekend of how Russia so badly mismanaged its invasion, based on interviews, intercepted phone calls, documents and secret battle plans. At the center of it is Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, who has been in power for more than two decades.

I spoke to Anton Troianovski, the Moscow bureau chief and one of the lead reporters on the story, about how Putin came to decide to go to war.

Claire: When Russia invaded Ukraine in February, experts believed that Russia would quickly conquer Ukraine. That didn’t happen. What is the main reason that the war went so badly for Russia?

Anton: It was a cascade of failures, and at the top is Putin’s own misguidedness, his own isolation and his own conviction that he knew what was best. The Russian military was unprepared all the way down to a tactical level, like using Soviet-era maps. Like using their cellphones to call home, which gave away their positions and allowed them to be ambushed or attacked. There wasn’t enough food to feed the soldiers.

Understanding Russia’s relentless assault on Bakhmut

Francis Farrell

Water-logged trenches, shredded tree lines, and an undulating, colorless landscape of mud: The visual experience of the battles outside Bakhmut in Donetsk Oblast have proved to transcend centuries.

When Ukrainian machine-gunner Viktor Borinets’ photos of conditions on the first line of defense went viral, the comparisons to the notoriously grim trench warfare of World War I wrote themselves.

“It does remind me of the Battle of Verdun, a brutal war of attrition,” Mick Ryan, an ex-Major-General of the Australian Army and Adjunct Fellow at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, told the Kyiv Independent. “It was a deliberate German strategy which had nothing to do with territory or anything else except bleeding the French forces dry.”

How Narco-Geopolitics Hinder US-China Antidrug Cooperation

Alexander Miller

The powerful and deadly synthetic drug fentanyl was at the forefront of an alarming spike in US overdose deaths in 2021. Mexican Cartels, the main supplier of fentanyl to the US market, rely heavily on China’s severely underregulated chemical production industry for the chemicals needed to create fentanyl. Despite the industry’s central role in the lethal fentanyl supply chain, the Communist Party has been selectively willing to cooperate with the US to address this issue. Given the geopolitical gridlock between the US and China, bilateral cooperation between the two seems unlikely, prolonging the already detrimental wave of the ongoing US opioid crisis.

Fentanyl’s ascent to the forefront of the US opioid crisis and antidrug priorities began in 2016. As the drug became increasingly mixed with other drugs like heroin and cocaine, demand grew immensely. Combined with a steady illicit supply, the fentanyl wave had begun. Along with the new wave of the opioid crisis came emerging dynamics on both the supply and demand sides.

The 2017 National Drug Threat Assessment (NDTA) states that in 2016, law enforcement seized a record 287 kilograms of fentanyl, a 72 percent increase from 2015. The 2017 NDTA also noted the increasing availability of fentanyl-laced pills marketed as legitimate prescription opioids like Percocet and Xanax. The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) seized more than 20,000 of these counterfeit pills in 2016, 20.4 million in 2021, and more than 10.2 million between May and September 2022. DEA Laboratory testing discovered that six out of ten fake pills analyzed in 2022 have a potentially lethal dose of fentanyl, compared to only four out of ten pills analyzed in 2021. Fentanyl’s expanding footprint has caused a spike in synthetic opioid-related overdoses. In 2021, a record 65 percent of the record 108,000 US overdoses were related to synthetic opioids.

Great Britain: Multiculturalism and Islam Turn It Upside-Down

Giulio Meotti

This year, Leicester's famous multiculturalism, so praised by the establishment, exploded. Knife attacks, stone- and bottle-throwing, cars torched, religious symbols under siege, dozens wounded, including policemen.... Then the hunt for Hindus began in Britain's streets.

"Leicester to be first city where white people are minority," announced The Independent in 2007. Some understood that it would not end well.

What happened? Leicester became Islamized fast. In 2001, the Muslim population was 11%. By 2017, it made up 20%. Among children, Islam is dominant.

For the first time since the 7th century AD, England is no longer majority Christian.

A British bishop, the brave Michael Nazir-Ali, was attacked for denouncing the existence of "no-go areas" in the UK.

No one knows what Britain will be like in 30 years. We might, however, be concerned about a scenario in which large parts of the UK and Europe could resemble Pakistan.

The War in Ukraine and Food Security in Africa

Matthew Rochat

Over the past 35 years, Africa is the only continent where the absolute number of people who are chronically undernourished has gone up. To put this into perspective, nearly 20% of Africans, representing approximately 238 million people in total, face persistent undernourishment. The problem of hunger is particularly drastic in the Horn of Africa region, where the COVID-19 pandemic, civil conflict, and one of the worst droughts in four decades have exacerbated the problem. In this region, over 80 million people are confronted with food insecurity and nearly 37 million are facing an acute hunger crisis.

In South Sudan nearly 75% of the population is dealing with a crisis of severe food insecurity. In northern Ethiopia, civil conflict has presented an added obstacle to commercial and humanitarian relief efforts, where nearly 20.4 million people are in severe need of food assistance. In Kenya, approximately 3.5 million are facing either an IPC Phase 3 crisis or IPC Phase 4 emergency in 2022, representing a 10% increase from 2021. In Somalia, nearly half of the population is facing acute food insecurity, including over 1.5 million children under the age of five. In the final months of 2022 it is estimated that 213,000 Somalians are facing a catastrophic IPC Phase 5 famine.

With the major escalation of hostilities between Russia and Ukraine in February of 2022, the crisis of food insecurity in the Horn of Africa has gone from bad to worse. Russia and Ukraine are at the center of global agriculture markets and their conflict has major implications for food security around the world and especially in Africa. For starters, Russia and Ukraine are among the world’s largest producers and exporters of cereal crops such as wheat, barley, and corn. In the past five years, they collectively represented 13% of the world’s overall wheat production and 30% of global wheat exports. Russia and Ukraine are the third and fourth leading exporters of barley, and together they make up 20% of the world’s barley production. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, Ukraine is also the world economy’s third largest exporter of corn, supplying 16% of global corn exports.

Putin’s War

Michael Schwirtz, Anton Troianovski, Yousur Al-Hlou, Masha Froliak, Adam Entous

They never had a chance.

Fumbling blindly through cratered farms, the troops from Russia’s 155th Naval Infantry Brigade had no maps, medical kits or working walkie-talkies, they said. Just a few weeks earlier, they had been factory workers and truck drivers, watching an endless showcase of supposed Russian military victories at home on state television before being drafted in September. One medic was a former barista who had never had any medical training.

Now, they were piled onto the tops of overcrowded armored vehicles, lumbering through fallow autumn fields with Kalashnikov rifles from half a century ago and virtually nothing to eat, they said. Russia had been at war most of the year, yet its army seemed less prepared than ever. In interviews, members of the brigade said some of them had barely fired a gun before and described having almost no bullets anyway, let alone air cover or artillery. But it didn’t frighten them too much, they said. They would never see combat, their commanders had promised.

Europe's competition with China in third markets

The MERICS Global China Inc. Tracker began as a tool to track Beijing’s efforts to become the developing world’s dominant infrastructure partner through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). China’s role as an economic partner has matured in the years since the BRI was launched in 2013, and so too has its impact on Europe. China Inc. increasingly looks to higher value chain projects such as renewable energy, or 5G rollouts. Corporate foreign direct investment (FDI) is taking over from traditional BRI infrastructure projects as Chinese firms seek to build market share abroad.

We are therefore rebranding this quarterly report the ‘China Global Competition Tracker’ to reflect the political, economic, corporate, and technological competitiveness of China across the world. The tracker’s core components will largely remain the same, but the focus will shift to implications for European actors meeting China as a competitor in third markets.

In this edition, Jacob Gunter looks at China’s efforts to secure supplies of an often over-looked basic resource – iron ore. China’s vast steel industry demands massive supplies of iron ore and depends on imports from Australia and Brazil. Beijing and Canberra are increasingly at odds, while shipments from Brazil must travel one of the longest possible distances between any two countries on earth. China has a two-pronged strategy to address this. First, diversification towards existing and new sources, but this is insufficient to fully offset China’s dependency. Second, Beijing is creating a new SOE, the China Mineral Resources Group, to centralize China’s iron trading. This promises drastic changes to global iron and steel markets. Europe could see significantly lower prices for Chinese steel, with implications for European steelmakers, and for steel-intensive sectors like the automotive, shipbuilding, and rail industries.

Euro SIFMANet: Berlin Report

Discussions revealed that Germany's performance to combating illicit finance has improved, although challenges remain.

In late November 2022, the Centre for Financial Crime and Security Studies at RUSI convened a roundtable discussion (in partnership with the Jacques Delors Centre at the Hertie School) and a series of one-on-one meetings involving representatives from government ministries and agencies, and the private sector (such as banks, law firms and other organisations exposed to sanctions implementation) in Berlin as part of its ongoing study of EU sanctions implementation and wider responses to illicit finance (Euro SIFMANet) funded by the National Endowment for Democracy

The Orlan Complex: Tracking the Supply Chains of Russia’s Most Successful UAV

James Byrne, Dr Jack Watling , Dr Justin Bronk, Gary Somerville, Joe Byrne

Executive Summary

A joint investigation between RUSI, Reuters and iStories has found that Russian companies closely associated with the St Petersburg-based Special Technology Centre Limited Liability Company (STC LLC or STC) – the Russian military-affiliated manufacturer of the Orlan-10 UAV1 – have drastically increased imports of critical Western-manufactured components since the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine began.

These imports will likely enable the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (AFRF) to maintain and expand production of the country’s most successful UAV – a platform that sits at the heart of the country’s warfighting capabilities and enables the AFRF to rain accurate fire down on Ukrainian formations.2

Financial records, customs data, court records, Russian company filings and a range of other open sources indicate that many of these Western-manufactured imports are likely being procured by a St Petersburg-based company named SMT-iLogic3 on behalf of STC,4 which was first sanctioned by the US government in December 2016 for supporting Russia’s interference in the 2016 US Presidential election.5

Developing Renewable Energy in Ukraine

Ben Cahill, Allegra Dawes

The aim of the bipartisan and international CSIS Ukraine Economic Reconstruction Commission is to produce a policy framework that will help attract private sector investments to support Ukraine’s future economic reconstruction. To support the commission, CSIS will convene a series of working groups to examine a range of issue-specific areas that are critical for reconstructing and modernization of the Ukrainian economy, including in agriculture, energy, and transportation and logistics, as well as addressing the impact of corruption on private sector investment.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has had far-reaching impacts on the global energy system. In Ukraine, a very different energy crisis is unfolding as Russia has directly targeted Ukraine’s energy infrastructure with waves of missile attacks, leaving the power grid severely damaged. These attacks have led to rolling blackouts across the country, worsening the humanitarian crisis.

Rebuilding Ukraine’s energy system will be essential to enabling both broader reconstruction efforts and the return of economic activity. There are two principles that should guide efforts to rebuild Ukraine’s energy system: (1) ensuring energy security and independence, and (2) deepening the connection and economic relationship between Ukraine and the European Union. To accomplish both, Ukraine should develop its potential renewable energy resources. Renewable energy, including wind, solar, and biomass, are abundant in Ukraine. Developing these resources will support domestic power generation, thereby bolstering Ukraine’s energy security and independence. Ukraine has ample potential to become an energy exporter after the war, thereby supporting the European Union’s decarbonization and energy security goals.

Russian disinformation rampant on far-right social media platforms

Suzanne Smalley

A report released Tuesday by the Stanford Internet Observatory and the social media analytics firm Graphika documents how suspected Russian information operators are exploiting a lack of enforcement on alternative social media platforms to target right-wing users with politically divisive disinformation.

The new research portrays a freewheeling alternative social media universe on platforms like Gab, Gettr, Parler and Truth Social where Russian information operators can freely share disinformation due to the lack of content moderation.

The Graphika and Stanford researchers say that a “set of 35 newly-discovered and previously-attributed inauthentic accounts” on these platforms build on previous Russian influence operations, likely committed by the same Russian actors.

“Some of the accounts in this network were first exposed in 2020, again in 2021, and most recently ahead of the 2022 U.S. midterms,” the report says. “Due to the apparent lack of enforcement, the actors have established a degree of persistence unavailable on most mainstream platforms and are able to conduct their operations with relative ease.”

2022 Cyber Review: The Year the Ukraine War Shocked the World

Dan Lohrmann

When we look back at this past year’s cybersecurity stories a decade from now, what will we remember most? That is the question that I attempt to answer every December in this annual cyber review.

And, in my opinion, 2022 will be remembered as the year that the Russian invasion of Ukraine changed the narrative around cybersecurity in numerous ways. Here are some of my blogs from this year covering this ongoing theme:

January 2022: Will the Ukraine Conflict Lead to More Global Cyber Attacks? – “Recent cyber attacks against Ukrainian websites have focused global attention on the potential for wider online conflict. So what are the new cyber threats and potential scenarios to be prepared for?”

February 2022: Planning for a Nation-State Cyber Attack — Are You Ready? – “Some global experts are predicting a significant cyber attack against U.S. and U.K. critical infrastructure if Russia invades Ukraine. Whether it happens or not, is your organization prepared for this scenario?”

US, allies mull paths for engaging China to ward off conflict over space exploration


WASHINGTON — While the geopolitical relationship between China and the US and its allies is increasingly fraught, there remains hope among current and former government officials that it may be possible to engage Beijing on space exploration and resource exploitation to help avoid future conflicts.

One potential lever for outreach could be the Artemis Accords, a set of voluntary norms for responsible behavior in civil space activities on and around the Moon, Mars and mineral-rich asteroids, according to US and allied diplomats and space policy experts attending a Secure World Foundation conference on Monday.

Mike Gold, a former NASA official who did much of the negotiating on the accords, stressed that the goal of the effort in the first place was “prevent conflict before it happens” by creating “norms or behavior, transparency, interoperability, [and] avoiding harmful interference. … [T]he journey of Artemis is to the Moon and Mars, but the destination of the accords is peace and prosperity.”

No ‘magical pixie dust’: DoD’s AI exec says driving high quality data is main priority


WASHINGTON — The Pentagon’s Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Officer (CDAO) initially thought his job would entail producing tools for the Defense Department to do modeling, but over his first few months on the job his priorities have shifted instead to “driving high quality data.”

“Why do I believe driving high quality data is the most important? Well, first of all we have massive amounts of data…distributed all over the world,” Craig Martell said Tuesday at the DIA DoDIIS Worldwide Conference in San Antonio, TX. “Some portion of that data is going to be really effective for decision making at scale and other parts of that data is going to be totally ineffective for decision making. And so a large part of our job is figuring out the ways to manage that data, so that the data that’s effective for decision making is front and center for decision makers when they need it.”

The CDAO office “originally thought our job…was to produce tools for those in the government to do modeling. We no longer think that’s the case,” Martell said, because it’s not folks in DoD who are building out the actual models.

Will Cybercriminals Increase The Use Of Wipers in 2023?

Emilio Iasiello

The Ukraine conflict has unleashed wiper malware variants that are being used against both Ukraine and Russia. The onset of the crisis saw the deployment of a series of wiper attacks of varying levels of intensity and destruction starting in January 2022 and continuing to the present. WhisperGate, HermeticWiper, IsaacWiper, and CaddyWiper, among others, have been executed against Ukraine, while CryWiper has targeted Russian organizations. While none of these attacks have proven instrumental in gaining any particular advantage for either side, the range of effects include but are not limited to destroying data and partition information, triggering boot failures, and overwriting data in disk drives. What’s clear is that wipers are becoming popular cyber attack tools when the actor’s intent is to destroy or at least seriously disrupt the functionality of exploited networks. As concern over critical infrastructure security looms over network defenders, the potential threat of a wiper malware attack against these systems is daunting.

Wiper malware is not new, though it certainly seems to be the weapon of the moment. One of the first notable wiper malware attacks linked to state actors occurred in 2012, when suspected Iranian actors deployed the Shamoon wiper against Saudi Aramco and RasGas, wiping the data from at least 35,0000 systems. Since that watershed moment, other state actors entered the fray using wipers in attacks to hurt a target or at least send a message to government. 2013 saw the North Korea orchestrated DarkSeoul target South Korean media and financial organizations; 2017 witnessed Russia’s NotPetya emerge against Ukrainian organizations before spreading globally; and 2018 Russian-executed OlympicDestroyer against Winter Olympics entities in South Korea. This is not a comprehensive list by any means, but just shows how such a weapon has become a go-to tool for states leading up to the present day, whether they be disguised in other assaults like ransomware, or just a straightforward attack.

A Wireless Intelligence Community ‘On The Horizon,' Official Says


Some wireless devices—phones, tablets, or maybe even smart watches—could soon be welcome inside secure facilities, according to an intel official.

“I think it's inevitable, in terms of the incorporation of wireless, into our community, into our facilities,” Douglas Cossa, the chief information officer for the Defense Intelligence Agency said Thursday. “I mean, when you look at it, look at all the technology you're driving in with through the gate, even what's on your car, your key fob, it's just inevitable that we're going to have to face that.”

And because companies aren’t going to develop technology just for the intelligence community, “we're going to have to adjust our posture and our policies to incorporate that in, and that includes wireless,” Cossa said during a panel at the Department of Defense Intelligence Information System, or DoDIIS, Worldwide Conference in San Antonio, Texas.

Ultimately, he said, the challenge is in securing data, e.g. encryption, and “tearing down the walls” of command centers and offices built in response to crises.

How Ukraine Used Old Soviet Drones To Strike Bombers Deep Inside Russia

Sebastien Roblin

It was business as usual early on Dec. 5 at Diaghilevo, a Russian bomber base situated 100 miles southeast of Moscow. Though primarily used by training units, pilots and ground crew were in the process of refueling a Tu-22M3 Blackfire supersonic bomber on the flight line, with at least one huge Kh-22 anti-ship cruise missile newly loaded underwing.

Later that day several would take off and launch the supersonic weapons not at the U.S. Navy warships they were designed to destroy, but rather at the electrical and gas heating infrastructure of Ukraine, 280 miles away.

Unlike the strategic bombers that rained gravity bombs on cities in the World Wars, Korea and Vietnam, in 2022 Russia’s bombers delivered their missiles well outside Ukrainian airspace, beyond the reach of even Ukraine’s long-range S-300 air defense batteries, and thoroughly insulated against Ukrainian fighters under their own air defense umbrella.

But at 6 AM, a jet-powered drone plummeted down into a refueling truck. The resulting conflagration shredded the rear fuselage and wings of the Backfire bomber and killed two ground crew and a bomber pilot with the rank of major. The bomber, RF-4110 (Red 02), was almost certainly put out of service for the foreseeable future.

Patriot missile system not a panacea for Ukraine, experts warn


WASHINGTON — The US government appears to be finalizing plans to deliver the Raytheon-made Patriot surface-to-air missile system to Ukraine, with multiple outlets reporting that the Biden administration could announce its intent by the end of the week to transfer a single battery from US stocks.

And while the weapon system would provide the Ukrainian military with a leap forward in air defense capability — particularly in the realm of ballistic missile defense — experts raised questions about the impact that one Patriot battery could make on the battlefield, as well as the long-term ability for the United States to continue supplying Ukraine with replacement missiles for the expensive system.

With “no realistic prospect” for Russia to retake a large amount of territory after the Ukrainian liberation of Kherson, Russian President Vladimir Putin is directing attacks on Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure, banking on Ukrainian resolve to weaken as more people face harsh living conditions and bitter cold, said Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow with the Brookings Institution.