31 January 2023

Nomads, Mountains, and Militarization in the Tibetan Plateau

Scott Ezell

An industrial construction site on the upper Mekong, with a Tibetan village on the opposite bank, 2011.Credit: Scott Ezell

In 2004, I traveled a thousand miles in the eastern Tibetan plateau by local bus, hitchhiking, and finally on a second-hand motorcycle, which I rode over 17,000-foot passes so remote I felt like the last man on earth. I drove through villages with flowers blooming from earthen walls, where men walked up and down dirt streets in cowboy hats, with chunks of turquoise braided in their hair.

At this time, the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) required special permits to enter, and Lhasa was being reconstructed as a Chinese city, but life was different in the traditionally Tibetan areas to the east of the TAR proper, in today’s Yunnan and Qinghai provinces. The communities I experienced seemed relatively untouched by industrial development or impositions of national authority, despite having survived gulag conditions in recent decades.

While Chinese “modernization” projects focused on the TAR, other ethnically Tibetan areas remained a raw, wild region of vast plains, golden barley fields beneath incomprehensibly blue skies, nomadic yak herders, and fortress-like Tibetan houses perched on mountain ridges. The earth unfurled in primordial colors and forms, and Tibetan culture appeared to be inextricably rooted to the land, as if the two were mutually sustaining and could not be separated.

But over the next 15 years, as I returned to to the eastern Tibetan plateau I saw destructive dam and mining projects multiply exponentially, displacing autonomous Tibetan communities into resettlement zones. Armored vehicles appeared in towns, and platoons of People’s Liberation Army soldiers patrolled Buddhist temples with assault rifles. Tibetans became a minority in their own territory due to the influx of ethnic Han Chinese migrating from lowland areas for work or business opportunities.

The Af-Pak Dollar Cartel

Kunwar Khuldune Shahid

A Pakistani money changer counts U.S. dollar bills in Islamabad, Pakistan, Friday, Nov. 30, 2018.Credit: AP Photo/B.K. Bangash

On Wednesday, the Exchange Companies Association of Pakistan (ECAP) removed the cap on the U.S. dollar’s exchange rate. This prompted the Pakistani rupee to fall by 1.2 percent, to 243 against the U.S. dollar on the open market. The interbank exchange rate remained 231.7 on Wednesday.

On Thursday, the rupee tumbled even more, losing a further 9.6 percent of its value. By the end of the day, it was trading at 255.4 rupees to the dollar, a record low.

The ECAP’s unilateral move highlighted the fact that there are three effective exchange rates in Pakistan, with the black market trading the greenback for around 270 rupees over the past couple of months. The exchange rate spectrum, which is hindering manufacturing, exporting, remitting, and even everyday banking in Pakistan, is the consequence of Finance Minister Ishaq Dar’s fixation with a fabricated exchange rate, and his vow to “bring the dollar below 200” after taking charge in September.

Dar’s plan was to repeat the monetary policy from his previous term, whereby a portion of the foreign exchange reserves was to be pumped into the currency market to forcibly stabilize the rupee, in turn hindering exports. This plan had special incentives for the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), which is teetering on the edge of political extinction ahead of the upcoming general elections.

However, the expected foreign investments and loans haven’t materialized, while the State Bank of Pakistan’s reserves have fallen to $4.1 billion, providing barely three weeks’ worth of import cover. The prospect of sovereign default in inching closer to reality.

China Suddenly Abandoned Its Zero COVID Policy. How Did It Start In The First Place?

Ceren Ergenc

While the world was already phasing out COVID-19 prevention measures, major Chinese cities were again placed under strict lockdowns in 2022. In the spring, shocking videos from Shanghai appeared in social and mainstream media, showing residents screaming from their balconies amid another strict lockdown to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

What followed in the second half of 2022 was even more shocking. There were news reports of residents committing suicide when they could not receive any health services other than COVID-19 treatment, and an entire family perished in a fire when fire fighters were not allowed into their locked-down compound.

Factory workers first took the streets to protest the strict lockdown measures, and were then followed by university students in big cities in late 2022. In response to the protests, the central government ordered the gradual easing of local measures, then changed centrally planned policies such as quarantine rules for international arrivals.

Now, facing mounting case counts, local governments are once again on their own to decide how to cope with the post-zero COVID surge. Looking at how they coped with the pandemic in its initial stages helps us understand their responses today.

China startled the world with a full lockdown of the city of Wuhan for two months in the early stages of the pandemic in 2020. Since then, the general assumption is that Chinese pandemic management was uniform across the country and was decided by the central government in a top-down manner.

As a political scientist specializing in China’s local governance, I looked at local practices to see if this was the case. I have compiled a database of local government policy documents during the initial stage of the pandemic. Based on my research, there was much variation in the way China’s provinces and major cities implemented pandemic policies. The socioeconomic development level of localities seems to determine the different pandemic policies of the various provinces and cities.

From the bookshelf: ‘Danger zone: the coming conflict with China’

Robert Wihtol

The prevailing consensus for the past few years has been that an ascendant China is threatening to overtake a slumping America. ‘If we don’t get moving, they [China] are going to eat our lunch,’ US President Joe Biden told a group of senators in 2021.

Research suggests that a geopolitical power transition is most likely to take place when a surging challenger overtakes an exhausted hegemon. In assessing the threat posed by China, it has become popular to refer to the Thucydides’ trap, named after the Greek historian and general who blamed the Peloponnesian War on the threat posed by a rising Athens to an established Sparta. The message is clear: a turbo-charged China has increased the likelihood of conflict with America.

In Danger zone, Hal Brands and Michael Beckley challenge this notion and offer a more nuanced view. Brands is a professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, and Beckley is an associate professor at Tufts University. In their cogently argued book, they provide a fresh take on the likelihood of Sino-American war.

As Brands and Beckley see it, China is simultaneously both a rising and a declining power. While China continues to rise in terms of military might, measured in economic and demographic terms it is already firmly on a downward trajectory. No less significant, President Xi Jinping’s assertiveness has alerted the world to China’s ambitions, and the world is gearing up to respond. Consequently, China has a rapidly closing window of time in which to realise its plans.

The authors call this the ‘peaking power trap’. Conventional thinking suggests that China will bide its time until its military is strong enough to guarantee success, but the authors suggest that the pressure is on, and a conflict could be imminent.

The China Innovation Challenge: A Conversation with Professor Jonathan Barnett

Sujai Shiva kumar and Andrei Iancu

Sujai Shivakumar: Welcome to CSIS. I’m Sujai Shivakumar, senior fellow and director of the Renewing American (Innovation) Project here at CSIS. It’s my pleasure to welcome you today to a conversation with Jonathan Barnett, professor at the University of Southern California, on the issue of the China challenge and patents.

Leading the conversation will be Andrei Iancu, who is a cofounder of the Renewing American Innovation Project, and a former director of the USPTO. So, without further ado, Andrei, I turn it over to you.

Andrei Iancu: Thank you very much. Thank you, Sujai, for the kind introduction. Thank you to CSIS for hosting this event. And thank you for everybody for watching this program. And welcome, Professor Barnett. I very much look forward to our conversation.

But before we do that, very briefly, just by way of introduction, Jonathan Barnett is Torrey H. Webb Professor of Law at USC, the University of Southern California. And he is the director of the law school’s Media, Entertainment and Technology Law Program. Professor Barnett teaches primarily intellectual property law, antitrust, along with a whole host of other issues that he focuses on, including contracts, corporate law, and the like. Professor Barnett, prior to academia, worked as a lawyer in private practice.

He has an undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania, a Masters of Philosophy from Cambridge University, and a J.D. from the Yale Law School – a stellar combination. Obviously, you’re not UCLA Law School, but we’ll forgive you for that transgression. Professor Barnett is highly published as well, with lots and lots of academic papers. Most importantly, last year he published a terrific book called “Innovators, Firms and Markets: The Organizational Logic of Intellectual Property.” And he currently is working on a new book, and we will talk about both of them now.

China Increasingly Relies on Imported Food. That’s a Problem.

Zongyuan Zoe Liu

China has increased its reliance on food imports over the past two decades, prompting concerns among officials who worry that disruptions to food supply chains could trigger domestic unrest. In particular, this reliance has heightened China’s sensitivity to food supply disruptions caused by geopolitical tensions, such as Russia’s war in Ukraine.
What is China’s current food security situation?

With less than 10 percent of the planet’s arable land, China produces one-fourth of the world’s grain and feeds one-fifth of the world’s population. Data from the country’s National Bureau of Statistics showed that in 2022, China’s grain output reached a record high of 686.53 million tons [page in Chinese] despite delayed plantings, extreme weather, and COVID-19 disruptions. China ranks first globally in producing cereals (such as corn, wheat, and rice), fruit, vegetables, meat, poultry, eggs, and fishery products.

Despite its domestic production, China has been a net importer [DOC] of agricultural products since 2004. Today, it imports more of these products—including soybeans, corn, wheat, rice, and dairy products—than any other country. Between 2000 and 2020, the country’s food self-sufficiency ratio decreased from 93.6 percent to 65.8 percent. Changing diet patterns have also driven up China’s imports of edible oils, sugar, meat, and processed foods. In 2021, the country’s edible oil import-dependency ratio reached nearly 70 percent [article in Chinese], almost as high as its crude oil import dependence.

Why does China now depend on imported food?

Determining the Future of the Internet: The U.S.-China Divergence

Johanna Costigan

Both the U.S. and Chinese governments put their “values” at the forefront when determining their digital policy frameworks and promoting their visions internationally. The major U.S. value at play is individual autonomy, especially as it applies to freedom of speech; in China, it is collective order.

American priorities for cyberspace are focused on supporting an ambiguous concept of digital freedom, mirroring the rights and rhetoric that dominate American political culture.

Regulatory agencies such as the Cyberspace Administration of China help the Chinese government keep a tight rein on the Chinese internet, overseeing platform regulations, algorithmic recommendations, speech control, and campaigns aimed at developing popular support for the policies of the Chinese Community Party (CCP).

Culture, like the internet, is viewed by Chinese officials as full of potential — as well as threats. Therefore, the CCP attempts to manage manifestations of what it deems acceptable Chinese culture, both offline and online.

China under Xi Jinping is attempting to weave extreme internet regulation — the maintenance of a separate Chinese internet — into other major CCP priorities, such as the socialist core values (social, moral, and legal guidelines) and Xi’s common prosperity agenda. The “Clear and Bright” Qinglang 晴朗 campaign is a key example of a campaign-style push for digital control.

Xi is intent on promoting “internet sovereignty” as a revised global norm. Current efforts are focused on cultivating international tolerance of the concept of internet sovereignty, which is in opposition to the concept of a free and open internet, as envisaged by its Western inventors.
Maintaining control of the domestic internet is a bigger priority for the CCP than influencing the global internet(s), for now.

China’s economic rebalancing and ‘common prosperity’

Since August 2021, Chinese leaders have aimed to reduce economic inequality at home through a ‘common prosperity’ campaign. But Beijing’s attempts to reduce the income-inequality gap have worsened other fundamental problems in the Chinese economy related to its growth model, which relies on exports and investment rather than household consumption.

On 17 August 2021, China’s President Xi Jinping delivered a significant speech at a meeting of the Central Financial and Economic Affairs Commission of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). He said the CCP had ‘won the battle against poverty’ in the last decade and ‘created favorable conditions for promoting common prosperity’. Regarding the latter point, he stated that it was time for the party to go a step further and begin promoting ‘common prosperity’ as an essential component of China’s modernisation plan, which runs until the middle of this century. Indeed, the point of the speech was to position the slogan at the centre of the country’s economic agenda.

Xi also claimed, in the same speech, that China must embrace common prosperity instead of unconstrained economic growth because the latter causes excessive inequality in the distribution of income. His stated goal is to prevent inequality from interfering with social harmony: ‘in some countries’, he said, ‘the rich and the poor are polarized and the middle-class collapses, leading to social fracture, political polarization, and populism. The lessons are very profound.’ At the time of this speech, the CCP was already engaged in a crackdown focused on the country’s largest technology companies. The party justified these actions by accusing the technology companies of infringing antitrust and data-security laws and regulations, and it stated that the companies’ high profits were unacceptable examples of capitalist ‘excess’. Thus, the common-prosperity slogan – with its emphasis on reducing inequality by regulating excessive income, increasing the size of the middle class and opposing the ‘disorderly expansion of capital’ – represents a return to the CCP’s socialist ideals. Meanwhile, it also serves as a justification for current policies and policies that will be implemented during Xi’s third term, which began after the 20th National Congress of the CCP in October 2022.

[Research Reports] Current Status of China-Middle East Relations: What Xi Jinping's Visit to Saudi Arabia Means

Middle East and Africa Study Group FY2022-3

"Research Reports" are compiled by participants in research groups set up at the Japan Institute of International Affairs and are designed to disseminate, in a timely fashion, the content of presentations made at research group meetings or analyses of current affairs. The "Research Reports" represent their authors' views. In addition to these "Research Reports", individual research groups will publish "Research Bulletins" covering the full range of the group's research themes.

Chinese President Xi Jinping paid an official visit to Saudi Arabia from 7 to 10 December 2022 and participated in a series of important summit meetings: a China-Saudi Arabia Summit, a China-Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Summit and an inaugural China-Arab States Summit. This is Xi Jinping's third official visit to the Middle East region as head of state, following visits in 2016 (Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Iran) and 2018 (UAE). Many observers have commented on Xi's visit to Saudi Arabia, emphasizing China's growing influence in the Middle East in contrast to that of the US, which is reducing its presence in the region.

Indeed, it is true that the China-US confrontation is one of the important background factors to Xi's visit. However, this interpretation alone may misrepresent the overall picture of China's involvement in the Middle East because China's relations with the Middle East have their own dynamics that in some respects interact with developments in the China-US confrontation. With that perspective in mind, this article will examine the significance of Xi Jinping's visit to Saudi Arabia in three contexts: China-Middle East relations, China's major power diplomacy and the impact of China-US strategic competition.

1. China-Middle East relations seeing steady progress

China Doesn’t Want a U.S. Debt Default

Arthur R. Kroeber

The big political drama in Washington over the next few months will be the fight over the federal debt ceiling. The worst-case scenario is that Congress refuses to raise the ceiling and the U.S. Treasury defaults on its debt. Since U.S. Treasury debt powers the entire world financial system, the result could be a massive global economic crisis. If that happens, how well would the world’s second-biggest economy, China, survive the crash? And would a U.S. default give China an opening to create a new global financial system less dependent on the dollar?

The good news is that a U.S. default is improbable. Most likely, Congress will reach a deal under which the debt ceiling is raised now in exchange for promises of federal spending cuts later. This is what the “Tea Party” Congress did in 2011 and the outcome that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has forecast.

If negotiations fail, the Biden administration still has plenty of options to prevent a default, ranging from accounting tricks to a decision to ignore the debt ceiling altogether, on the grounds that it violates the U.S. Constitution’s requirement for timely repayment of all federal debts.

Countering China’s Magic Weapon Of Grand Narratives – Analysis

ohn Lee

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has developed a magic weapon that complements its accumulation of material power: its success in shaping grand narratives in the Indo-Pacific region about China and America. The genius is that these narratives condition countries to accept Chinese policies meekly even if those policies oppose their national interests.

The magic weapon is a narrative buttressed by five basic messages:

1. Chinese dominance is the historical norm and is inevitable.

2. The objectives of the CCP are permanent and unchanging.

3. A CCP-led China is fundamentally undeterrable.

4. Beijing is prepared to pay any price to achieve its core objectives.

5. The US is an increasingly weak and unreliable ally.

Accepting these propositions greatly diminishes the motivation for regional states to resist or counter even the most coercive policies, even if we profoundly disagree with China’s behavior. Striking an uneven bargain becomes seemingly preferable to foolishly balancing against the future inevitable dominant power.

The power of these narratives for Beijing is that once we accept the five basic messages as a given, then the only reasonable action is for regional states (including American allies) to compromise and alter their objectives to maximize gains, avoid instability, and ultimately prevent war. The onus is then placed on America to step back or accept blame for the resulting instability.

China Doesn’t Want a U.S. Debt Default

Arthur R. Kroeber

The big political drama in Washington over the next few months will be the fight over the federal debt ceiling. The worst-case scenario is that Congress refuses to raise the ceiling and the U.S. Treasury defaults on its debt. Since U.S. Treasury debt powers the entire world financial system, the result could be a massive global economic crisis. If that happens, how well would the world’s second-biggest economy, China, survive the crash? And would a U.S. default give China an opening to create a new global financial system less dependent on the dollar?

The good news is that a U.S. default is improbable. Most likely, Congress will reach a deal under which the debt ceiling is raised now in exchange for promises of federal spending cuts later. This is what the “Tea Party” Congress did in 2011 and the outcome that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has forecast.

If negotiations fail, the Biden administration still has plenty of options to prevent a default, ranging from accounting tricks to a decision to ignore the debt ceiling altogether, on the grounds that it violates the U.S. Constitution’s requirement for timely repayment of all federal debts.

The next globalisation

Mark Leonard

Is globalisation coming back to life? That was the big question at the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos, where WEF founder Klaus Schwab asked whether it is possible to have cooperation in an era of fragmentation.

For the past decade, the steady demise of ‘Davos Man’ – the avatar of global business and cosmopolitanism – was the big story here, owing to the 2008 financial crisis, Brexit, Donald Trump’s election, democratic backsliding around the world, covid-19, and Russia’s war in Ukraine. All were seen as signs that globalisation had gone too far and would be thrown into reverse.

But the mood at this year’s meeting was slightly more optimistic. Despite much concern about conflict and economic strife, the world seems to be doing a little better than global elites expected when they last met in May. The Ukrainians are valiantly resisting the Russian invaders, the West is united, Europe has managed to keep the lights on this winter, and some think we might still avoid a recession.

Moreover, beneath these important short-term developments is a more profound shift toward a new form of globalisation, albeit one that will be quite different from what preceded it. While the globalisation of goods seems to have peaked, services are becoming ever more globalised, owing to the revolution in telework during the pandemic.

There is also an accelerating revolution in energy, driven partly by the war in Ukraine. European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, and Germany’s chancellor, Olaf Scholz, predict that the widespread adoption of renewables and hydrogen power will be as significant as the industrial revolution of the 19th century. At the same time, advances in artificial intelligence (AI) are opening vast new possibilities, while also creating tensions over microchips and renewed fears about joblessness and rogue robots.

Japan’s New Defense Buildup Plan and Its Defense Industrial Base

Gregg Rubinstein

Japan’s new Defense Buildup Plan (DBP) outlines the path to a paradigm shift in Self Defense Force (SDF) capabilities from potential deterrent to operational reality. A critical part of that evolution will depend on a restructured approach to defense acquisition as well as to Japan’s defense industrial base. Japan’s defense industry historically has been plagued by inefficiency and high costs—a product of postwar policies that effectively banned defense exports and limited industry to Japan’s small domestic defense market. Although restrictions on exports were loosened in 2014 under former prime minister Shinzo Abe, little has changed; Japanese industry remains largely uncompetitive in the international marketplace. Japan’s new National Defense Strategy, and the accompanying DBP, set out ambitions to change that reality—but significant impediments stand in the way.
What DBP Provisions Address

The DBP’s treatment of acquisition and the defense industry begins with emphasizing an obvious but sometimes neglected point—that a strong and competitive industrial base is itself an essential defense capability. From there, the DBP addresses long-standing and increasingly serious challenges to Japan’s defense industrial capabilities.
Procurement Processes

The DBP sets out plans to develop more effective procurement practices and make defense business more stable and attractive to the private sector. Major points include improving procurement oversight of project management and costs as well as making procurement timelines on major programs more predictable to support long-term industry planning. The DBP also advocates for measures encouraging the use of commercial technologies in the defense sector, bringing new entrants into the defense industry, and continuing efforts to strengthen information and industrial security measures.
Defense Technology Base

Avoiding a Long War U.S. Policy and the Trajectory of the Russia-Ukraine Conflict

Samuel Charap

Discussion of the Russia-Ukraine war in Washington is increasingly dominated by the question of how it might end. To inform this discussion, this Perspective identifies ways in which the war could evolve and how alternative trajectories would affect U.S. interests. The authors argue that, in addition to minimizing the risks of major escalation, U.S. interests would be best served by avoiding a protracted conflict. The costs and risks of a long war in Ukraine are significant and outweigh the possible benefits of such a trajectory for the United States. Although Washington cannot by itself determine the war's duration, it can take steps that make an eventual negotiated end to the conflict more likely. Drawing on the literature on war termination, the authors identify key impediments to Russia-Ukraine talks, such as mutual optimism about the future of the war and mutual pessimism about the implications of peace. The Perspective highlights four policy instruments the United States could use to mitigate these impediments: clarifying plans for future support to Ukraine, making commitments to Ukraine's security, issuing assurances regarding the country's neutrality, and setting conditions for sanctions relief for Russia.

How To Really Help Ukraine Beat Russia: Weapons Factories

Michael Rubin

Don’t Just Give Ukraine Weapons, Build Them Factories – After concluding a $3.5 billion supplemental military aid package for Ukraine last month, military equipment is already flowing to Ukraine.

Soon, M1 Abrams tanks and German Leopards will also make their way into Ukrainian hands.

Still, despite its gains on the battlefield, Ukraine burns through artillery and ammunition faster than outsider powers can replace it. This factors into Russian President Vladimir Putin’s calculations as he pursues a World War II-style war of attrition in the belief that he can outlast Ukraine.
Weapons Factories for Ukraine Could Help

Rather than constantly requiring Ukraine to knock on doors in Washington and across Europe when its reserves grow low, the Biden administration and its European partners should help Ukraine stand up its own weapons factories to produce missiles and artillery. Such factories, especially if defended with anti-aircraft and anti-missile systems, would be no more vulnerable than the staging grounds and transports that bring new weapons shipments into and across Ukraine.

Ironically, this would mimic the strategy of Iran. Tehran not only provides its clients—Lebanese Hezbollah, the Yemeni Houthis, and the Syrian and Russian regimes—with drones but also often provides allies with the ability to manufacture the drones themselves.

While Iranian strategists enable direct production in order to claim plausible deniability, an American effort to bolster Ukraine’s weapons factories would have several advantages for both Ukraine and the United States: It would shorten delivery times of needed weaponry to the front and enable the bilateral defense bureaucracy to focus more on higher-end platforms like tanks and F-16s. In addition, it would solidify Ukraine’s ability to defend itself once it wins the war.

Opinion Putin is embracing Stalin’s way of war

By Leon Aron

Leon Aron is the author of “Roads to the Temple: Truth, Memory, Ideas, and Ideals in the Making of the Russian Revolution, 1987-1991.” He is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and has just completed a book about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and beyond.

“When we kill five out of 10 of their soldiers at once, they are replenished again over the course of several hours,” a Ukrainian officer said recently of the Russian troops that for weeks have besieged the town of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine. The Russians, he added, stormed the defenders’ positions “five, six, seven times” a day.

Too-soft Power

H. R. McMaster and Gabriel Scheinmann

The Biden administration failed to deter Russia from its secondinvasion of Ukraine. Like his predecessors in the White House,President Biden went to great lengths to placate and reassureRussian President Vladimir Putin in return for stable rela-tions. Biden defied Congress when he refused to sanction the Nord Stream2 pipeline, unilaterally extended US adherence to the New Strategic ArmsReduction Treaty without reciprocation by Russia, and honored Putin with a bilateral summit during his first overseas trip. As Putin amassed his troops on Ukraine’s borders, Biden pulled US navalforces out of the Black Sea, refused to send additional weapons to Ukraine, enu-merated everything the United States would not do to help Ukraine defend itself,and evacuated US embassy staff and military advisors. More broadly, the admin-istration proposed a real cut to the defense budget; sought to reduce the role ofnuclear weapons in US defense strategy; restricted US production capacity foroil, gas, and refined products that might have displaced Russian supplies; andsignaled its willingness to overlook Russian and Chinese aggression in exchangefor hollow pledges of cooperation on global issues such as climate change.

German and U.S. Tanks Will Be Critical in Ukraine’s Next Phase Against Russia

Max Boot

The main battle tanks that the United States and Germany have agreed to provide Ukraine will help its forces punch through Russian fortifications and retake lost territory.

Western aid for Ukraine has steadily increased over the past year in both quality and quantity—from handheld weapons such as Javelin anti-tank missiles and Stinger antiaircraft missiles that were dispatched at the beginning of the war to much more sophisticated systems provided more recently, such as the HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System) and the Patriot air defense system.

January 2023 marked two other milestones: the month began with Western allies finally agreeing to send advanced armored personnel carriers—the United States will contribute Bradleys and Strykers, Germany will send Marders, Sweden will send CV90s, and so on—and it ended with a breakthrough decision to send main battle tanks as well.

Britain led the way by pledging fourteen Challenger 2 tanks, but Germany refused to provide its Leopard 2 tanks until the United States agreed to send its own M1 Abrams tanks. Risk-averse German Chancellor Olaf Scholz wanted political cover from his American allies if he was going to take a step that could provoke an escalatory response from Russian President Vladimir Putin, and sending the vehicles would represent another break with Germany’s postwar quasi-pacifism.

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But U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who commanded armored units during the Iraq War, insisted that the M1 Abrams tanks would be too unwieldy for Ukraine—they require considerable maintenance and run on jet fuel. The Leopard 2, on the other hand, is slightly lighter and runs on more commonly available diesel fuel.

Russia’s War in Ukraine: What are the emerging military lessons?

The Russia–Ukraine war has demonstrated some key features of modern war between states, reaffirming that war is a dynamic contest of wills across multiple domains where both sides seek to outfight, outmanoeuvre and out-adapt each other.

Major wars severely test armed forces. The Russia–Ukraine war is no exception. Although there are currently only two direct combatants, many other states are involved in the conflict: politically, diplomatically and economically, and by providing military and intelligence assistance to Kyiv. They have supplied Ukraine with considerable military support, including a wide variety of weapons, ammunition, spare parts and training. The international effort to prevent Russia from winning the war has also seen self-organised participation by international businesses in withdrawing from Russia and, in some cases, helping Ukraine.

At the time of writing, the outcome and duration of the war cannot be reliably forecast. But it has demonstrated some key features of modern war between states. It has reaffirmed that war is a highly dynamic contest of wills across multiple domains, where both sides seek to outfight, outmanoeuvre and out-adapt each other. The battle of the narrative is a key factor. The war reminds us that the prime military capability is competence and that numbers and mass still count, both on the battlefield and in logistics stockpiles. It also suggests that many current precision weapons are limited by cost, complexity and lead times to manufacture; and that it is increasingly difficult to hide forces from surveillance by satellites and uninhabited aerial vehicles (UAVs), the latter playing an increasing role in land warfare. Battles in the conflict have often revolved around urban terrain, demonstrating the need for competence in urban warfare.

Could a Russian Military Collapse Lead to Nuclear War?

Tim Willasey-Wilsey CMG

Former Russian President Dmitri Medvedev has suggested that a Russian defeat in Ukraine could lead to nuclear war. Former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has dismissed the idea as nonsense. So what would happen if the Russian army mutinied or collapsed?

There is no exact template for mutiny or the sudden disintegration of an army. The British Army on the Western Front in the First World War never mutinied in spite of huge casualties and poor living conditions, and the Russian army endured even worse on the Eastern Front in the Second World War. In both cases the troops believed in the need to win the war and knew that it was a national effort involving all strata of society. By contrast, the Afghan army did not exactly mutiny in July and August 2021. It just evaporated because the troops no longer believed in the war as the US negotiated a deal with the Taliban behind the back of their own deeply corrupt government.

There may still be some Russian soldiers who believe their president’s myth about Ukraine being a Nazi state, but increasingly they must wonder why they are enduring considerable risk and awful conditions. Is it really for the Russian nation or for the political survival of Vladimir Putin? Furthermore, the hastily recruited and partly trained conscripts will soon experience the delta between their old Soviet-era equipment and the inventiveness with which Ukraine has integrated commercial drones and satellite imagery with precision artillery fire.

There has already been some evidence of near-mutiny. The sudden evacuation of the Kharkiv area in September bore the hallmarks of a rout, with troops abandoning their positions in a hurry and leaving equipment and personal effects behind.

For most of us in the West, a wholesale Russian collapse would be a cause for celebration, heralding a rapid end to the war and an alleviation of some of the economic effects which the conflict has engendered – in particular high energy and food costs. However, in reality, a mutiny would entail a few days of very significant risk.

The Zircon: How Much of a Threat Does Russia’s Hypersonic Missile Pose?

Sidharth Kaushal

Russian moves to operationalise the Zircon hypersonic missile represent an important development, but the significance – especially in terms of the current conflict – should not be overstated.

The Russian Ministry of Defence’s recent announcement that a Gorshkov-class frigate armed with the 3M22 Zircon hypersonic cruise missile will be deployed drew a good deal of international attention. Though the missile represents a potent capability for the Russian navy, claims regarding its utility should be caveated and placed within proper context.

The Missile and its Potential Significance

The Zircon is a scramjet-powered hypersonic cruise missile. Hypersonic cruise missiles are unlike boost-glide vehicles such as Russia’s Avangard and China’s DF-ZF, which rely on the initial momentum provided by multi-stage rocket boosters like those used on a ballistic missile to accelerate them to hypersonic speeds. Instead, hypersonic cruise missiles rely on cooled supersonic combustion ramjet engines, which use the flow of air at supersonic speeds, compressed by the forward motion of the missile, to drive combustion. To achieve this, a missile needs to be accelerated to high supersonic speeds by, for example, a rocket booster before the scramjet engine takes over. For instance, the experimental X-51 waverider relied on a rocket booster from the ATACMS missile. This necessarily means that hypersonic cruise missiles need to be relatively large to carry both the propellants and oxidisers needed for rocket propulsion as well as their scramjets, along with additional payloads such as sensors.

Even so, however, at a reported 8–10 metre length, the Zircon is somewhat smaller than missiles such as the DF-17 which mount hypersonic glide vehicles. This represents an advantage given its maritime role as it means that, in theory, the missile can be carried on a wide range of vessels. The Zircon is expected to be compatible with the 3S-14 vertical launch system that is found on both the Gorshkov and Grigorevich class and which will be fitted on the Kirov-class cruiser Admiral Nakhimov, which is currently undergoing modernisation (though the status of this modernisation has been questioned). The launch system is also found on a range of smaller vessels like the Project 20380 corvette. Finally, the missile will likely be a key component of the armament of the Yasen-class submarine, which is Russia’s quietest submarine to date.

The story of General Gerasimov

Georgy Aleksandrov, exclusively for Novaya Gazeta. Europe

The new commander of the Russian group of forces in Ukraine, Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Defence Ministry Valery Gerasimov, is spoken of differently in the army. Even diametrically opposite. Some consider him an honest soldier who has reached career heights thanks to talent and perseverance. Others call the first Deputy Minister of Defence, a member of the Security Council and a hero of Russia, a huckster who despises subordinates and makes incompetent decisions that have driven the country into a military trap. Novaya-Europe has collected these estimates and studied the facts on which they are based.

A guy from a working family

Born into a working-class family, Gerasimov dreamed of the army since childhood. After graduating from military school with a gold medal, he entered the Kazan Higher Tank Command School, and then the Military Academy of Armoured Forces. Later, having already climbed many steps of the career ladder, Gerasimov studied at the General Staff Military Academy, receiving excellent grades everywhere.

The future army general began his ascent to the top of the army hierarchy as a platoon commander. This was followed by appointments as a company commander, battalion chief of staff, and then as the commander of a motorised rifle division in the Baltic Military District. Gerasimov supervised the division’s move to the Moscow Military District in August 1994. After holding several more responsible posts, in 1998 he became chief of staff of the 58th Combined Arms Army of the North Caucasus Military District, and then in 2001, he began to head this army.

At that time, Gerasimov’s subordinates were actively involved in the second Chechen campaign and were the main military force of Russia in the Caucasus. After several new promotions, in 2006, Gerasimov found himself at the head of the entire North Caucasus Military District. The following milestones of his biography were the leadership of the St. Petersburg and then Moscow military districts. On 23 December 2010, the President appointed him Deputy Chief of the Russian Armed Forces General Staff, and on 26 April 2012, he was made commander of the Central Military District.

Opinion Blinken ponders the post-Ukraine-war order

David Ignatius

The Biden administration, convinced that Vladimir Putin has failed in his attempt to erase Ukraine, has begun planning for an eventual postwar military balance that will help Kyiv deter any repetition of Russia’s brutal invasion.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken outlined his strategy for the Ukrainian endgame and postwar deterrence during an interview on Monday at the State Department. The conversation offered an unusual exploration of some of the trickiest issues surrounding resolution of a Ukraine conflict that has threatened the global order.

Blinken explicitly commended Germany’s military backing for Ukraine at a time when Berlin is getting hammered by some other NATO allies for not providing Leopard tanks quickly to Kyiv. “Nobody would have predicted the extent of Germany’s military support” when the war began, Blinken said. “This is a sea change we should recognize.”

He also underlined President Biden’s determination to avoid direct military conflict with Russia, even as U.S. weapons help pulverize Putin’s invasion force. “Biden has always been emphatic that one of his requirements in Ukraine is that there be no World War III,” Blinken said.

Russia’s colossal failure to achieve its military goals, Blinken believes, should now spur the United States and its allies to begin thinking about the shape of postwar Ukraine — and how to create a just and durable peace that upholds Ukraine’s territorial integrity and allows it to deter and, if necessary, defend against any future aggression. In other words, Russia should not be able to rest, regroup and reattack.

Unlocking Training Technology for Multi-Domain Operations

Timothy Marler

Multi-domain operations (MDO) can present many challenges for training. Involvement of various disparate organizations and services can exacerbate these challenges and can require balancing centralized coordination with decentralized training objectives. Furthermore, although the underlying concept of MDO is not new, the actual term was just recently introduced by the U.S. Army as a doctrinal concept. Consequently, there is a risk that the development of training technology can be reactionary, resulting in siloed efforts. Emerging training technologies can help support the unique complexities of MDO, but the development of these technologies and related systems may need to occur in concert with doctrine development, align with tracing processes, and incorporate input from end users as early as possible. If MDO is to provide new benefits, the training community may need to solve old problems. It may need to communicate more effectively.
The Multi-Domain Operations Context

Emerging technologies may assuage complex training challenges that are magnified by multi-domain operations. To leverage benefits, technology research and development (R&D) may need to occur in concert with doctrinal development. However, coordinated and efficient acquisition has been a longstanding issue for the military (Wong et al., 2022), and if MDO is to provide new benefits, the training community may need to solve old problems. It may need to communicate more effectively.

If MDO is to provide new benefits, the training community may need to solve old problems. It may need to communicate more effectively.Share on Twitter

Despite its common use in military literature, the definition of MDO can be nuanced and may vary. Although the fundamental concept of MDO is not new, the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command recently introduced the term in their 2018 Pamphlet (TP) 525-3-1, The U.S. Army in Multi-Domain Operations 2028 (United States Army, 2018). It incorporates battlefield strategy, but fundamentally MDO is an operational strategy. It evolved from linear operations, nonlinear operations, and strategic paralysis theory, and it describes how the Army will fight across all domains, including the electromagnetic spectrum and the information environment.

Specifically, MDO can be defined as follows (Kasubaski, 2019):

First Mover Typology for the Space Domain Building a Foundation for Future Analysis

Bruce McClintock

Research QuestionsWhat are the different types of first moves, and how are they employed in the space domain?

How should first mover advantages be measured?

The concept of first mover advantage (FMA) is used often by military planners without clarification about what it means to move first or what sort of advantage such a first move is expected to provide to the mover. In space, there is often a perceived offense dominance that provides a first mover advantage to an adversary. To help build an understanding of when and whether exploitation of this concept should be considered in a broader military strategy, as well as when an adversary may consider such exploitation, the authors of this report seek to provide more-explicit definitions of what these first moves are and what objectives are sought with each. Furthermore, they seek to provide an explicit definition of advantage that distinguishes between the expected outcome should a mover wait versus the expected outcome should they move first. This foundational typology is intended to be a base for further analysis. The authors' recommendations reflect the nuanced view required to determine whether engaging in a first move indeed provides an advantage.

Key Findings

There are several categories of first moves — first to innovate and invest, first to reveal, first to maneuver, and first to employ — and each category has its own set of objectives.

An advantage procured by moving first needs to be measured relative to the expected outcome if the potential first mover instead decides not to move.

An FMA can increase the advantage a first mover already has over their adversary, can build an advantage that is not there if they do not move first, or could lessen a disadvantage relative to an adversary.

Twelve Problems Negatively Impacting Defense Innovation

William C. Greenwalt

As the US wrestles with a rapidly changing security environment, the creation of new military capabilities to counter these growing threats is essential. Defense leaders are being forced to relearn, as they have had to do in every conflict since the Revolutionary War, that one cannot just turn on a spigot and obtain weapons on demand. Industrial base constraints reliably manifest themselves in multi-year lead times such as we are seeing today to replace munitions used in Ukraine. Our quandary, however, is much greater than just reconstituting peacetime stocks of existing systems. Any impending conflict, or perhaps more optimistically the ability to deter a future conflict, will require not only production at scale, but innovation at scale that hasn’t been seen since WWII and the early Cold War.

The US is nowhere near being ready to embark on such an effort. Before doing so the Department of Defense (DOD) and Congress need to understand the depths of the issues that are holding back America’s ability to regain the level of technological dominance necessary to maintain deterrence or prevail in a war if deterrence fails. The following twelve problem areas are offered to begin to frame that understanding. We need to focus our attention on the right problems, as well-intended solutions to the wrong ones will end up just exacerbating our decline. This is not an all-inclusive list. One could easily nail 95 innovation theses to the doors of the Pentagon if security would allow it. Still, this represents an initial attempt to identify some of the more significant barriers that will prevent US military success unless we act soon.

1) There is no sense of urgency yet. Defense management systems and the industrial base are optimized for a peacetime cadence after 30 years without a Great Power conflict. It took years to get to this point and without focused leadership we will never adjust to a different set of circumstances.

2) Process compliance is our most valued objective rather than time. Time to operational capability as described in the report “Competing in Time” has been the primary historical forcing function for disruptive innovation, and yet it is not valued in DOD or Congress.

3) We are all communists now. Just as was the case in the Soviet Union, centrally planned, linear, predictive processes and mindsets destroy innovation and creativity. These processes took root at DOD in the 1960s under McNamara and have had 60 years to engrain themselves in culture.

Offensive Cyberspace Operations

LtCol Arun Shankar

Offensive cyberspace operations (OCO) play a crucial role in every phase of modern warfare from competition to conflict to stability. Generally, geographic combatant commanders, U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM), or Service-level components hold the authority to use these weapons. Though there are methods for MAGTF commanders to request OCO support from these agencies, they can be arduous and time-consuming. In practice, this often leads to the assumed unavailability of this resource and suboptimal outcomes at the MAGTF level. This article proposes a simple mathematical model that uses artificial intelligence (AI) to analyze opportunities when a further delegation of this authority might prove fruitful. Implications of these findings to law and policy are also presented.

Does the All-Volunteer Force Have an Expiration Date?

Conrad Crane

Thomas Gates, chairman of The President’s Commission on an All-Volunteer Force in 1970, appears to have been an adept wordsmith. Supporting President Nixon’s own predilections, Gates wrote in his final report to the President that the commission “unanimously believe that the nation’s interests would be better served by an all-volunteer force, supported by an effective stand-by draft, than by a mixed force of volunteers and conscripts.” What he did not say, was that there was not unanimity on the viability of the concept. Crawford Greenewalt, chairman of the Finance Committee of E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Co., thought there was something immoral in “seducing” young people to die for their country with money, and was concerned about the impacts of turning honorable military service with all its risks into “just another job.” General Lauris Norstad, another commission member, shared Mr. Greenewalt’s concern that an all-volunteer armed force would not be representative of the total population and would only recruit from narrow segments. They were also distrustful of econometric projections and shared worries about rising costs with the Department of Defense and Joint Chiefs of Staff. Greenewalt actually suggested the wording Gates used to hide the differences among the commission members. When Secretary of the Army Stanley Resor met with the commission, he kept referring to the proposed volunteers as “mercenaries.” Eventually frustrated member Milton Friedman responded with “Let’s make an agreement. If you promise to stop calling my volunteers ‘mercenaries,’ I will promise to stop calling your draftees ‘slaves.’” But as the concept moved forward, the different perceptions remained. And while even draftees deserve to be adequately taken care of, the move to an all-volunteer force accelerated and magnified increases in pay and benefits.

With the current recruiting crisis, it appears that those concerns about the long-term viability of the AVF expressed more than fifty years ago were well founded, and have been joined with others. In FY2018 for example, military pay and benefits were the single largest expense category for the DoD budget, comprising more than one third. If total compensation funding, including for civilians and contractors, is tallied, that consumed half of the budget. That amount was matched by personnel expenditures outside the DoD budget, for the Department of Veterans Affairs and Treasury payments for retiree pensions and TRICARE for Life. Without counting Social Security payments to veterans and retirees, pay and benefits for DoD personnel and veterans accounted for about 15% of the total federal budget of 4.1 trillion dollars. That was an even larger percentage of discretionary spending. But such costs are unevenly distributed among the services, not surprisingly the Army had the largest expenditures for military pay and benefits, bearing 42% of the total. People are expensive. Over 69 billion dollars of 178 in the Army’s FY23 budget request are for military personnel costs, and there are other associated expenditures in operations and construction categories. (As a point of comparison, the whole DoD budget in 1971 was about 78 billion dollars.) After an increased trajectory of compensation designed to close pay gaps with the private sector overshot the mark by 2010, DoD executed a number of reforms to reduce personnel costs, including accepting reduced raises and increasing TRICARE health care expenses. In the Army, Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) activities were cut back and forced to pay their own way. Despite assurances from Army leadership, many groups have expressed concern about the impact of eliminating thousands of service medical billets. Complaints by veterans groups managed to reduce planned DoD cuts in medical billets by 2027 from 17.000 to 13,000, but they still remain concerned about long term impacts.

Nonstate armed actors in 2023: Persistence amid geopolitical shuffles

Vanda Felbab-Brown 

Four factors will critically shape the landscape of nonstate armed actors and illicit economies in 2023 and beyond:the new geopolitics; 

persisting structural weaknesses of government responses to nonstate armed actors, amplified by the lasting effects of COVID-19;

the synthetic drugs revolution sweeping global crime markets; and the reshaping of criminal actors and their power and allegiances in Russia and Ukraine.

This opening commentary for the yearly briefing book of the Brookings Initiative on Nonstate Armed Actors details the first two.

The overall picture is one of an augmented, if reshaped, threat of nonstate armed actors — even as global powers have abandoned many elements of the post-9/11 global fight against terrorism and focused less on combating militants and organized crime outside their homelands. Yet the power of nonstate actors vis-à-vis the state has grown, including their capacity to embed themselves in official government structures as hybrid actors, rather than merely informally governing territories, economies, and institutions.


The effects of great power competition on nonstate armed actors go beyond reduced attention to nonstate threats outside the homelands, and beyond the U.S. pullback from large-scale military deployments and state-building abroad. Great power competition makes efforts to combat nonstate armed actors far more difficult, yet newly significant.

A core characteristic of the post-9/11 counterterrorism regime was global acceptance of the notion that nonstate armed actors must be countered everywhere. The means differed across localities and global acquiescence was never perfect: For example, Iran adroitly sponsored militias in the Middle East and North Africa. Despite intense U.S. pressure and expansive buyoffs, Pakistan never ended its vital sponsorship of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Governments and political parties in Latin America, Jamaica, Brazil, India, Nepal, and parts of Africa co-opted and used criminal actors for their own political ambitions. Yet, when their policies deviated in practice, governments found it necessary to cloak the subterfuge in a veneer of compliance.

30 January 2023

Modi Is Muzzling Big Tech

Rishi Iyengar

Silicon Valley has spent years courting India, but its companies face an increasingly tricky censorship minefield in the world’s largest democracy.

This week, India made global headlines by banning a BBC documentary on its prime minister, Narendra Modi, which focused on his role in religious riots in the state of Gujarat in 2002 when he was the state’s chief minister. The broadcast ban included a directive to YouTube and Twitter under the country’s technology laws, demanding they take down links to the documentary, which a government advisor said the companies complied with.

A YouTube spokesperson told Foreign Policy that it blocked the documentary “due to a copyright claim” by the BBC but declined to confirm whether the Indian government had demanded a takedown. Twitter did not respond to a request for comment.

The Modi government cited “emergency” powers under new technology rules it enacted in 2021, buttressing existing laws with the power to take down any content it deems as contravening “the sovereignty and integrity of India, public order, friendly relations with foreign countries, etc.” Local employees of tech companies that flout the rules face the threat of jail time. Those rules, digital rights advocates and experts fear, have given Modi carte blanche to go after critics and opponents, shrinking the space for free speech—online and otherwise.

“Modi has always seen the media as an arena to control,” said Aliya Bhatia, a policy analyst at the Center for Democracy and Technology’s free expression project. “Tech companies are an extension of this arena of control for this government. The real issue here is about the impunity and opacity with which Modi is using emergency powers to control what users can say online.”

Having spent several years welcoming global tech companies into India, Modi and his government are increasingly now trying to bring them to heel. A series of clashes with the likes of WhatsApp, Twitter, Amazon, and Netflix indicate that social media and the digital realm are becoming ever more integral to Modi’s long-standing effort to control the public narrative and shut down critics.