30 April 2023

Personnel vs. capital: the Indian defence budget

Personnel and pensions costs continue to constrain India’s efforts to modernise its armed forces and strengthen its domestic defence-industrial base. Irrespective of increasing security challenges, investment and research funding continue to suffer. However, efforts are underway that may begin to ease the pension- and personnel-cost burden.

India’s 2023 INR5.94 trillion (USD73.8 billion) defence budget makes it the third largest globally behind the United States and China. However, over half of this, some 53%, is spent on personnel and pensions, limiting the scope for defence procurement and modernisation.

To compound the challenge, with Russia mired in the Ukraine war, India’s armed forces face added problems maintaining their Russian-origin defence equipment. Meanwhile, India is facing an assertive China and tensions with Pakistan. In addition, Delhi aims to modernise its military, cut its reliance on Russia, widen its international supplier base, and prioritise domestic arms production and research and development (R&D) via the ‘Make in India’ initiative.

Defence as a public-spending priority Since 2013, India’s defence budget has more than doubled (see table). However, closer inspection shows the internal pressures on domestic defence spending. Over the same period, it is possible to see a marked decline when examining the defence budget as a share of India’s GDP or as a share of total central-government expenditure.

Personnel vs. capital: the Indian defence budget

Personnel and pensions costs continue to constrain India’s efforts to modernise its armed forces and strengthen its domestic defence-industrial base. Irrespective of increasing security challenges, investment and research funding continue to suffer. However, efforts are underway that may begin to ease the pension- and personnel-cost burden.

India’s 2023 INR5.94 trillion (USD73.8 billion) defence budget makes it the third largest globally behind the United States and China. However, over half of this, some 53%, is spent on personnel and pensions, limiting the scope for defence procurement and modernisation.

To compound the challenge, with Russia mired in the Ukraine war, India’s armed forces face added problems maintaining their Russian-origin defence equipment. Meanwhile, India is facing an assertive China and tensions with Pakistan. In addition, Delhi aims to modernise its military, cut its reliance on Russia, widen its international supplier base, and prioritise domestic arms production and research and development (R&D) via the ‘Make in India’ initiative.

Defence as a public-spending priority Since 2013, India’s defence budget has more than doubled (see table). However, closer inspection shows the internal pressures on domestic defence spending. Over the same period, it is possible to see a marked decline when examining the defence budget as a share of India’s GDP or as a share of total central-government expenditure.

Pakistan-Bangladesh Cricket Diplomacy – OpEd

Pathik Hasan

We know about the famous ‘Ping Pong diplomacy’ between China and the USA in the 1970s. The new diplomatic approach between the two sides brought China and America under the umbrella of bilateral ties. The ties became strained between the PRC and USA after the declaration of Communist China by Chairman Mao Ze Dong in 1949.

Ping-pong diplomacy is especially significant in Sino-US history. At the conclusion of the 31st World Championships in Nagoya, Japan, the Chinese table tennis team invited the US table tennis team to visit China.

Responding to that invitation, the US table tennis team visited China on April 10, 1971. It was the first visit by a US delegation to China since the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. The following year, the Chinese team returned to the United States. The visit was able to melt two decades of Sino-US relations and normalize relations between the two countries. The little initiative built the ties between China and the US.

Ping pong is a game. This game melted the ice between China and USA. Can we expect another ping pong diplomacy between Pakistan and Bangladesh regarding Pak-BD strained ties? If policymakers of both states think and realize deeply in this regard, both states could benefit from such kind of ping pong diplomacy. It is cricket diplomacy between Pakistan and Bangladesh.

To some extent, the bilateral relations between Pakistan and Bangladesh are strained now. When Sheikh Hasina resumed ‘war crimes trial after starting her second term as Prime Minister in 2009. This led to the deterioration of Pakistan-Bangladesh relations.

Can Beijing Seize the “Opportunity of the Century”?

Willy Wo-Lap Lam

As President Xi Jinping said farewell to his host and Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin at the end of his visit to Moscow last month, a few Western media outlets caught the Chinese strongman’s parting words to his good friend on the doorstep of the Kremlin: “Let’s join hands in seizing [the opportunity provided by] changes that only appear once in a century” (Radio Free Asia, April 1; VOA Chinese, March 24).

Xi has sought to take full advantage of these “big changes that only come once in a century” (百年未有之大变局),or the “best opportunity in 100 years,” as a primary foreign policy goal since attaining “party core” status at the 19th Party Congress in 2017. More than five years ago, he indicated that the Chinese leadership was “facing the biggest changes [on the global scene] not seen in the past century.” The President and Chinese Communist Party (CCP) General Secretary explained that since the dawn of the 21st century, “a large number of countries with newly developed markets … are growing at an expedited pace.” Moreover, Xi added that “the multi-polarization of the world is developing rapidly, and the global distribution of power has become more balanced by the day,” and that “the currents and major trends of the world cannot be negated” (Netease, January 14, 2022; Sohu.com, January 19, 2018). This viewpoint was buttressed by Xi’s revival of one of his favorite Chairman Mao quotations: “The East is rising and the West is declining” (People’s Daily, November 24, 2022; Radio Free Asia, September 23, 2022).

Xi urged party cadres and comrades to “develop a strategic outlook and establish a global point of view.” He stressed that “while being conscious of the historical opportunity, we must assiduously fix our direction in accordance with once-in-a-century opportunities.” The supreme leader, who heads the CCP’s China’s policy-setting Central Foreign Affairs Commission as well as the Central Military Commission, also indicated that “never have the world’s [developing] countries’ been so united [in the quest] for equal economic opportunities and for a say in global rule-setting” (Qstheory.cn, August 27, 2021; Gov.cn, December 28, 2017). This touches on a related theme in Xi’s style of international diplomacy, which is working to forge a “universe with a common destiny,” particularly with countries barred by the U.S.-led Western coalition from playing a significant role in global affairs (Xinhua, September 3, 2018).

The PLA Is Contemplating the Meaning of Force Design

Conor M. Kennedy and Colonel Scott E. Stephan, U.S. Marine Corps

The operational concepts and organizational changes associated with Force Design 2030 have sparked heated debate inside and outside the Marine Corps since The 38th Commandant’s Planning Guidance was published in 2019. These initiatives are meant to better prepare it to participate in a naval campaign against China. Adversary perceptions are critical elements of deterrence and warfighting, so understanding Chinese and Peoples Liberation Army (PLA) evaluations of these operational concepts and force design programs is essential to gauging the initiatives’ success. This requires learning how the PLA expects the Marine Corps to fight, how it views existing and emerging capabilities, and, ultimately, how these assessments might inform its own operational planning and force design.

Assessing these issues is complicated by language barriers and classification levels in both China and the United States. But much can be learned from unclassified, public material published by Chinese defense sources. These writings and perspectives can give feedback to U.S. leaders charged with planning and implementing sweeping changes to force design and operating concepts. Several perspectives within Chinese writings—and some of the lessons they take away from their close observation of the Marine Corps’ development—can inform that planning.

China’s Perceptions of Force Design

Unquestionably, experts from the PLA and other Chinese sources understand the Marine Corps reforms currently underway. But a few caveats are necessary: First, we do not have access to internal PLA discourse on the subject, including regarding concept development and wargames. But open-source discussions reveal extensive interest in U.S. Marine Corps and Navy developments. Second, there is no unitary verdict among Chinese-language sources. They are likely engaged in debates like those in the U.S. Department of Defense, albeit from the other side. Third, the sources examined here are of varying authority; the attention each receives in what follows reflects a balance of authority and depth of analysis.

Can the U.S., Russia and China Stop War in Sudan from Destabilizing Africa?


As a fragile U.S.-brokered ceasefire between rival generals unravels amid fresh reports of violence erupting throughout Sudan, fears of an all-out civil war with broad consequences for neighboring African nations and global stability are spreading throughout the international community, including its top three powers.

But while the United States, Russia and China have different stakes in Sudan, none of them has a vested interest in state collapse, and each is mobilizing its own response to the volatile situation unfolding in this strategic yet restive part of Africa.

Jacqueline Burns, a RAND Corporation senior analyst who worked firsthand on peace efforts in Sudan during her tenure as strategy advisor for the U.S. State Department, told Newsweek that influential nations on the sidelines of the conflict "could play a very helpful role in convincing the two armed factions to stop fighting."

"But if they continue to support processes that prioritize the demands and control of the armed groups over civilian actors," she added, "it could be detrimental to long-term peace and stability."

Such an approach, she argued, is where Washington went wrong in its previous attempts to bring peace to Sudan and usher in a new era of democracy.

After gaining its independence from Egypt and the United Kingdom in the 1950s, Sudan underwent a series of coups, inter-ethnic conflicts and two devastating civil wars before dividing in two in 2011, establishing the world's youngest recognized nation, South Sudan, which is also beset by unrest. Sudan would remain under the rule of longtime President Omar al-Bashir until his ousting amid widespread protests in 2019.

With Bashir out, the Sudanese Armed Forces moved in, establishing a temporary military government led by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan and his deputy, General Mohammed Hamdan Dagalo, widely known as Hemedti. Dagalo is the leader of the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), a paramilitary group comprised largely of the Arab Janjaweed militias that fought on behalf of the government against a rebellion by non-Arab groups in the western Darfur region.

Fighting China Over Taiwan Could Cripple U.S. Military

Daniel Davis

The House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party recently became the latest in a long list of groups to conduct a wargame examining a potential U.S.-China conflict over Taiwan.

Yet the most important question about such a conflict is the one none of these organizations ever ask: What is the vital national interest of America that would justify fighting such a war?

Answering that question is of paramount importance. The cost to our country of fighting a war with China, regardless of the reasons, will range somewhere between extraordinarily harmful and catastrophic. The American people and the U.S. Congress must be clear-eyed about this fact: There is no scenario in which the U.S. goes to war with China over Taiwan that does not bring severe military and financial harm with it.
A Taiwan War Would Be Historically Bad

What is at stake in Taiwan for America that is worth paying such a high cost? And after paying it, would our country be stronger or weaker?

Most of American punditry is focused on the genuinely serious harm that would be done to the people and government of Taiwan were the Chinese to invade. “We want to live in a world where bullies don’t take whatever they want,” Rep. Dusty Johnson said following the China war games. Virtually everyone in the Western world would heartily agree with that view and would prefer Taiwan never be subject to an invasion from China. It is also entirely reasonable and appropriate for the United States to help Taiwan defend itself.

China Leading Electric Vehicle Charge With 60% Of Worldwide Sales

Subel Rai Bhandari

China led the electric vehicle market last year with 60% of total sales globally, a new report said on Wednesday.

Electric car markets are seeing “exponential” growth as sales in 2022 exceeded 10 million globally, or 14% of all new cars sold last year, according to a report by the International Energy Agency, a Paris-based intergovernmental organization.

That’s up tenfold from 1 million sold in 2017. In 2021, the share of electric vehicles in global car sales was 9% and 4% the year before.

“Electric vehicles are one of the driving forces in the new global energy economy that is rapidly emerging – and they are bringing about a historic transformation of the car manufacturing industry worldwide,” IEA Executive Director Fatih Birol said.

“The trends we are witnessing have significant implications for global oil demand,” he said. “The internal combustion engine has gone unrivaled for over a century, but electric vehicles are changing the status quo.”

Sales are seen growing another 35% this year to reach 14 million, which means almost one in five cars sold this year will be electric, IEA projected.

Xi holds first talks with Zelenskiy since Russian invasion of Ukraine

Dan Peleschuk and Ethan Wang

BEIJING, April 26 (Reuters) - Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke to Ukraine's Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Wednesday for the first time since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, fulfilling a longstanding goal of Kyiv which had publicly sought such talks for months.

Zelenskiy, describing the hour-long phone call as "long and meaningful", signalled the importance of the chance to open closer relations with Russia's most powerful friend, naming a former cabinet minister as Ukraine's new ambassador to Beijing.

Xi told Zelenskiy that China would send special representatives to Ukraine and hold talks with all parties seeking peace, Chinese state media reported.

Zelenskiy said in an evening video address that there was "an opportunity to use China's political power to reinforce the principles and rules that peace should be built upon."

"Ukraine and China, like the absolute majority of the world, are equally interested in the strength of the sovereignty of nations and territorial integrity," he said.

Zelenskiy also said Xi had expressed "words of support" for the extension of a deal to export Ukrainian grain from its Black Sea ports. Moscow has said the pact will not be renewed beyond May 18 unless the West removes obstacles to Russian grain and fertiliser exports.

Xi, the most powerful leader to have refrained from denouncing Russia's invasion, visited Moscow last month. Since February, he has promoted a 12-point peace plan, greeted sceptically by the West but cautiously welcomed by Kyiv as a sign of Chinese interest in ending the war.

China will focus on promoting peace talks, and make efforts for a ceasefire as soon as possible, Xi told Zelenskiy, according to the Chinese state media reports.

"As a permanent member of the UN Security Council and a responsible major country, we will neither sit idly by, nor pour oil on fire, still less seek to profit from it," Xi said.

Could US Cyber Command play a larger role in electronic warfare in the future?


U.S. Army Soldiers assigned to "Wild Bill" Platoon, 1st Squadron, 7th Cavalry Regiment and 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment conduct electronic warfare training during Combined Resolve XV, Feb. 23, 2021 at the Hohenfels Training Area. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Julian Padua)

Cyberspace and electronic warfare are very closely linked. The former is considered by the Department of Defense to be a full-fledged “domain” of warfare while the latter is not, much to the chagrin of its impassioned EW community. While cyber has a dedicated combatant command, electronic warfare is merely a functional area under the combatant commands.

Authorities to launch cyber effects have traditionally been held at the highest levels of government, while electronic warfare capabilities have been held at much lower levels on the battlefield.

While U.S. Cyber Command conducts and coordinates the offensive cyber operations at the strategic and operational levels, there has been a blending of sorts among organizations at the tactical level.

However, for the time being, it seems, Cybercom is leaving EW operations — and the closely related radio frequency-enabled cyber operations — to the services to conduct.

“Traditionally, the services had electronic warfare capabilities that they deployed with their forces … It is not part of my command. But again, a lot of the electronic warfare done is done in support of service requirements. They have service forces that do this,” Gen. Paul Nakasone, commander of Cybercom, told the Senate Armed Services Committee in March when asked about the relationship between EW and cyber and who is in charge of coordinating EW.

Welcome to the Wagner-verse, where action films serve up propaganda for Russia’s notorious mercenary army


In the action movie “Tourist,” military instructors with the Russian mercenary group Wagner deploy to the Central African Republic and find themselves reluctant warriors against rebels and a corrupt ex-politician ahead of a presidential election.

Then there’s “Granit,” another big-budget action flick whose title character, a grizzled but idealistic Russian military trainer, sacrifices himself to protect the southern African country of Mozambique from ISIS-style bandits.

And in the more recent “Best in Hell,” Wagner fighters duke it out with an unnamed enemy — clearly meant to be Ukrainians — in an unspecified location that’s an obvious stand-in for the Donbas, Ukraine’s war-ravaged eastern heartland. The movie starts and ends with the lines: “We have a contract — a contract with the company, a contract with the motherland. … We know we’re going to hell. But in hell we’ll be the best.”

Welcome to the Wagner-verse, a multimedia propaganda project encompassing action movies, documentaries, pro-war social media channels, animated shorts, comics and even children’s cartoons — all aimed at building the brand of Russia’s notorious private army, and promoting the Kremlin’s policies while they’re at it.

Defending Ukraine’s Skies: Mission (Im)possible

Yuri Lapaiev

On April 17, the Slovak Defense Ministry announced that Slovakia had delivered the promised 13 Soviet-made MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine (Kyiv Independent, April 17). Earlier, the German government had authorized Poland to hand over an additional five MiG-29s, originally from the former reserve of the German Democratic Republic’s military and later sold to Warsaw (24tv, April 13). Additionally, Poland delivered another eight MiG-29 aircraft from its own air force, all of which were modernized according to North Atlantic Treaty Organization standards. According to Polish President Andrzej Duda, the country will be ready to hand over six more MiG-29s after receiving new Western fighter jets—and maybe even the entire fleet of these fighters (Hromadske, April 5). For some European countries, Russia’s war against Ukraine provides an opportunity to modernize their air forces while simultaneously helping Ukraine. British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace proposed providing air cover for European donors of Soviet-made planes to Ukraine. Moreover, he pointed out that, at the moment, the United Kingdom has no plans to provide the Ukrainian Armed Forces with Typhoons from the Royal Air Force, as these jets “would be too complex” (Kyiv Independent, February 18).

The new batch of MiG-29 fighters is certainly a positive development for Ukraine on the eve of its upcoming counteroffensive. But at the same time, according to Ukrainian Air Force spokesperson Colonel Yuri Ignat, these Soviet-made fighters will only marginally strengthen Ukraine’s air power capabilities and will do little to ensure a successful counteroffensive and victory on the battlefield. In truth, Ukraine needs more modern platforms to achieve these goals (Hromadske, April 4). Colonel Volodymyr Logachov, a department head in the Ukrainian Air Force, stressed that Ukraine has a critical need for modern fighter jets, such as the United States–manufactured F-16. According to Logachov, F-16s have the versatility to be used as a platform for different types of weapons that would allow for engaging in various critical missions from dogfights with Russian aircraft to hunting down drones and conducting air-to-surface strikes on Russian positions. This could help save the lives of well-trained and experienced Ukrainian pilots, as Russians forces are now using more capable radars and air-to-air missiles. For example, the Russian R-77 anti-air missile (AAM) has a combat range that is almost two times longer as compared to analogous Ukrainian munitions, thus posing a serious threat to Ukraine’s air power capabilities (ArmyInform, April 3).

When Russia is defeated in Ukraine, look to Chechnya

Jamie Dettmer

KYIV — “After Ukraine, Chechnya,” says the Chechen commander fighting on Kyiv’s side.

The Chechen soldiers are clear they’re in Ukraine to make up for around two centuries of Russian oppression of their mountainous and frequently mutinous homeland — from Joseph Stalin’s population deportation in the 1940s to Boris Yeltsin’s razing of their capital Grozny to the current, brutal rule of Moscow’s satrap in Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov.

“We are tired of Russia,” adds the 45-year-old commander, who asked to be identified only by his military call sign Torto, a reference to a castle near his hometown back in Chechnya, which he left as a young rebel soon after the Second Chechen War ended in 2009.

“Russia is like a drunk neighbor. One day he comes to your home and wants to burn it. You catch him, he runs away. Another day he comes back sober and begs for forgiveness. And then he returns drunk with a pistol and kills your wife and kids,” he says.

“This is the Third Chechen War — and this time we will win,” interjects one of Torto’s soldiers, a 20-something who goes by the call sign Maga. A husband and father, he says his partner fully supports his decision to fight, although she “worries about me but knows this fighting needs to be done.”

There are around 150 to 200 Chechen volunteers fighting on the Ukrainian side, most the émigré sons and grandsons of fighters who fought in the First or Second Chechen Wars.

They are divided into three formations — the Dzhokhar Dudayev battalion, named after the first post-Soviet president of independent Chechnya; the Sheikh Mansur battalion, which has been criticized for ties with Islamist groups; and a more secretive battalion that works with Ukraine’s military intelligence service, GUR, and whose members dress in black and even when in the safe confines of Kyiv move around armed and wearing ski masks.

The consensus among the foreign volunteers here is that the Chechens are among the most committed and ideological about the fight, as much as the 200 or so Belarusians who fight for Ukraine, and much more so than most of the Westerners and Latin American volunteers. The latter tend to be here for the money. The former — mainly Americans and Brits — are generally veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, and with a few exceptions acknowledge they’re here because they didn’t fancy civilian life and don’t want their experience and training going to waste, although they also subscribe to the rightness of the Ukrainian cause.

The Next Steps in EU Economic Integration

Federico Steinberg

The European Union is constantly in motion. Economically and politically, European integration has made immense progress. Despite this, recent events have demonstrated the European Union’s limitations and the need for greater integration. Recent trouble in the European banking sector and new demands on the EU budget for defense spending support for Ukraine, as well as the necessity to respond to U.S. clean energy investments, all demonstrate the need for the European Union to take additional action to strengthen its economic and political union.

The European Union is the deepest and most successful integration experiment in history. It is a single market for trade, services, investment and the movement of workers, with strict competition rules that ensure a level playing field and a complex supranational political structure composed of the European Commission (akin to the executive branch), the EU Council (resembling the U.S. Senate) and the European Parliament (the only place where citizens exercise direct democracy and at the supranational level, equivalent to the U.S. House of Representatives). In addition, the European Union, with almost 450 million consumers, has a market that is larger than that of the United States, which has 335 million. It also has a single currency, the euro, and a single voice on issues such as trade or agricultural policy.

Despite its achievements, the European Union is still a far cry from becoming the United States of Europe, and there are significant shortcomings to the European Union’s current structure. It has an incomplete banking union as there is no common deposit guarantee fund such as the U.S. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). Even more so, the European Union does not have a capital markets union, so it is overly dependent on banks and does not have a venture capital ecosystem like those in the United States or Israel. Finally, and most importantly, it does not have a full fiscal union with a federal budget equivalent to that of Washington. Each country has its own budget and fiscal policy is loosely coordinated through the rules of the Stability and Growth Pact, which prevents countries from accumulating too much debt and deficit, and is accompanied by a small federal budget equivalent to 1 percent of GDP to finance some common policies, such as agriculture, cohesion or research (compared to the U.S. federal budget equaling more than 20 percent of GDP). During the Covid-19 pandemic, an embryonic fiscal union with a 750-billion-euro centralized budget was created, with the European Union borrowing in international markets for the first time. The so-called NextGenerationEU funds were intended for investments in the countries most impacted by the pandemic and financed by issuing bonds at the European level. But NextGenerationEU is a temporary fund that will end in 2027. There are no plans for eurobonds to become widespread and replace national debt, or for taxes to be shifted from the national to the European level.

Will Russia Control the Skies over Ukraine?

Mark F. Cancian

Recently leaked classified documents from the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) warn that Ukrainian air defense is nearly out of missiles. Clearly, this is bad for Ukraine, but how bad? Will the Russian air force roam the skies over Ukraine and change the course of the war? Fortunately, this is unlikely in the near term. Russian aircraft will remain vulnerable and unlikely to overfly Ukrainian territory. Cruise missiles and drones are a different matter. Ukraine will be able to defend its military forces with its remaining air defenses but not its cities or infrastructure. Ukraine’s electrical grid could be damaged beyond what was seen last winter, inflicting a new level of civilian suffering. Over time, as Ukrainian air defenses weaken, the situation will become increasingly dire if NATO does not provide more air defense assets.

What Leaked DOD Documents Said

As is now well known, 100 classified DOD documents appeared in open sources, allegedly leaked by a junior Air Force enlisted member. The documents themselves have been withdrawn from the internet and are unavailable for analysis. However, the New York Times, Washington Post, and others have reviewed and written about the documents.

One of the major revelations is that Ukrainian air defense may run out of missiles by May. The New York Times reported, “Stocks of missiles for Soviet-era S-300 and Buk air defense systems, which make up 89 percent of Ukraine’s protection against most fighter aircraft and some bombers, were projected to be fully depleted by May 3 and mid-April, according to one of the leaked documents.” This might allow Putin to “unleash his lethal fighter jets in ways that could change the course of the war.”

The State of Ukrainian Air Defense

Air defense has always been a Ukrainian weak point but became a crisis in the autumn when Russia began focusing attacks on infrastructure and causing hardship to the Ukrainian population. CSIS analysis noted that the United States, NATO, and other countries had relatively little air defense capability to provide because most of their ground-based air defense had been deactivated after the Cold War.

Why the U.S. Military’s Messages Are Falling on Deaf Middle Eastern Ears

Jon B. Alterman

Almost 40 years ago, a glam-rock band from California named Autograph released “My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend Isn’t Me.” The lead singer wails that despite his devotion, “Her mind is stuck on wait and see.” Needless to say, the song doesn’t end well for him.

U.S. military officials spend a lot of time messaging their deep relations with allies and partners in the Middle East, but Middle Eastern rulers aren’t returning the love. The problem isn’t only that they see important opportunities elsewhere, or that they have been hearing for more than a decade that the United States is seeking to diminish its focus on them and concentrate on East Asia. They also see the White House, Congress, and the American public being persistently skeptical about their security needs. Not unreasonably seeing American support as a potentially volatile variable, they are increasingly investing in more diverse relationships and preparing to live in a more multipolar world.

Earth Day: Lessons for Environmental Cooperation

Natasha Hall

In 1970, Americans could see, feel, and smell the effects of pollution in their daily lives. Rivers were catching on fire. Smog hung over cities like a thick fog. That year, Senator Gaylord Nelson (D-WI) launched a bipartisan effort on environmental issues by organizing a day of teach-ins in campuses across the United States. But because rich and poor, conservative and liberal, and urban and rural dwellers were affected by environmental degradation in their daily lives, 20 million people—10 percent of the U.S. population at the time—turned out. That is how the first Earth Day was born. It was the largest demonstration in history until the George Floyd protests 50 years later. The day sustained the momentum needed to inspire a flurry of legislation to protect the environment and the people that depend on it.

The Middle East is facing a similar moment. Environmental degradation, pollution, and severe water insecurity is affecting the health and livelihoods of large swaths of the population. Thousands from Lebanon to Iraq have gone into the streets to demand change to the environmental degradation they see, smell, and fall ill from. In 2015, the “You Stink” movement united tens of thousands of Lebanese to protest egregious waste mismanagement and corruption in the country. In southern Iraq, thousands took to the streets in 2018 every night for nearly three months, frustrated by shortages of electricity, water and jobs. That summer, 118,000 people were hospitalized due to illness stemming from Basra, Iraq’s poor water quality. This is a moment to galvanize and sustain environmental cooperation at the global and national level. Much like the first Earth Day, linking environmental protection to people’s daily concerns will be key to promoting positive change.

Climate Change Impacts on Subsea Cables and Ramifications for National Security—A Legal Perspective

Anjali Sugadev, Nicole Starosielski

A discussion of how climate change impacts the subsea cable system—a critical element of internet infrastructure—and analysis of the legal and policy factors that inform the protection of this system.

You can read the paper here and below:

Challenges of Implementing AI With “Democratic Values”: Lessons From Algorithmic Transparency

Matt O'Shaughnessy

From major policy addresses and influential strategy documents to joint statements with key partners, a major stated U.S. policy goal has been to develop “rules and norms” that ensure technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) are “developed and used in ways that reflect our democratic values and interests.” Unfortunately, this is much easier said than done.

A closer look at one of the most accepted norms for AI systems—algorithmic transparency— demonstrates the challenges inherent in incorporating democratic values into technology.

Like other norms and principles for AI governance, efforts to make the inner workings of algorithms more transparent provide utility to policymakers and researchers alike. More detailed information about how AI systems are used can enable better evidence-based policy for algorithms, help users understand when algorithmic systems are reliable, and expose developers’ thorny design trade-offs to meaningful debate. Calling for transparency is an easy and noncontroversial step for policymakers—and one that does not require deep engagement with the technical details of AI systems. But it also avoids the more difficult and value-laden questions of what algorithms should do and how complex trade-offs should be made in their design.

Take recent rules in both the U.S. and China requiring descriptions of when and how certain AI systems are employed. Both serve the important goal of informing policymakers about how algorithms are being used, enabling future AI-related policies to be better grounded in evidence. However, the two inventory efforts are accessible to different groups and achieve very different ends. The United States’ (partially implemented) inventory covers only federal government use of AI but is open to public inspection. Though this scheme ignores ways in which private-sector AI use can violate democratic principles, it enables broad public scrutiny of the algorithms it does describe. Meanwhile, many details of China’s “algorithm registry” are intended only for government consumption, and, like its recent draft rules for generative AI, it will likely function to increase state power over technology companies.

Ukraine’s Nuclear Moment

Eric Ciaramella 

A review of Mariana Budjeryn, “Inheriting the Bomb: The Collapse of the USSR and the Nuclear Disarmament of Ukraine” (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2022).

History has seen many empires collapse, but only once has a nuclear-armed superpower disappeared from the world map overnight. When the hammer-and-sickle flag was lowered from the Kremlin for the last time on December 25, 1991, the Soviet Union’s fearsome nuclear arsenal was suddenly spread out over the territory of four independent countries: Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. There was no blueprint for what to do next.

Mariana Budjeryn’s “Inheriting the Bomb” tells the story of how one of these new countries, Ukraine, came into possession of the world’s third-largest nuclear arsenal—larger than the combined stockpiles of China, France, and the United Kingdom at the time—and decided to disarm peacefully a few years later. Ukraine’s denuclearization was far from a straightforward process. After initially renouncing nuclear weapons, Ukrainian officials sought recognition that their newly independent country was a rightful heir to part of the Soviet cache, deserving of equal treatment, financial compensation, and pledges that disarmament would not endanger Ukraine’s security.

Budjeryn’s deeply researched book, published at the end of 2022, has obvious relevance today. In exchange for denuclearization, Ukraine received security assurances from the United States, United Kingdom, and Russia in December 1994, in a document known as the Budapest Memorandum. But Russia reneged on its promises, first in 2014, when it annexed Crimea and fomented a shadow war in the Donbas, and again last year, when it launched its all-out assault. (For a deeper dive into the memorandum’s history, see Mykhailo Soldatenko’s analysis in Lawfare.)

Africa Is Russia’s New Resource Outlet

Axel de Vernou

On April 13, Russia’s Institute of Technological Development for the Fuel-Energy Complex organized a panel to discuss energy cooperation between Moscow and African countries. One of the experts, Gabriel Anicet Kotchofa, who served as Benin’s ambassador to Russia, explained that “in Africa, we are waiting for Russia—for what Russia can do. I will tell you something that is never said today: we are tired of Europe.”

As a graduate of the Gubkin Russian State University of Oil and Gas and a Russian citizen, Kotchofa is not a neutral commentator. Nonetheless, recent energy trends support his proclamation. African countries are exponentially multiplying their imports of Russian oil in response to European sanctions and price caps, providing the Kremlin with additional flexibility in the financing of its war against Ukraine.

Morocco imported 600,000 barrels of Russian diesel in the entirety of 2021. In February 2022 alone, approximately double that number arrived in the North African country’s Mediterranean ports. Last month, Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria accounted for 30 percent of Russia’s diesel exports, which just returned to pre-pandemic levels.

Moscow is fulfilling a need in Africa. The International Energy Agency noted that the coronavirus pandemic provoked debt crises in twenty African countries, which will exacerbate the subsidy burdens that these nations already face as a result of frequent oscillations in energy prices. Paired with the fact that factories have still not recovered from pandemic restrictions, African countries are looking for outside aid from new sources. “Significant parts of [African refineries] are idle or underloaded due to equipment deterioration, maintenance problems, [and] interruptions in the supply of raw materials,” said Lyudmila Kalinichenko, a researcher at the Russian Academy of Sciences, during the aforementioned panel. At the same time, Africa’s population is growing vertiginously.

How to Cut Pentagon Red Tape to Accelerate Defense Procurement and Innovation

Chuck Blanchard Ramon Marks

There is growing discussion that Department of Defense (DoD) procurement programs are not nimble enough to meet emerging threats from peer competitors such as China. The timeline for the development of new defense capabilities is lengthy, impeding the nation’s ability to offset swiftly and efficiently growing capabilities of potential adversaries. Critics say that the Department is not adequately accelerating the development of game-changing technologies and not effectively leveraging commercial technology. They have called for comprehensive procurement reform as the solution to these problems.

In fairness, the Pentagon has often proven itself more than able to use existing procurement authorities rapidly and effectively when urgency demands quick action. For example, in 2008, in response to warfighter needs in Afghanistan and Iraq for enhanced intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities, the Air Force successfully developed and deployed the MC-12 Liberty aircraft in less than eight months following congressional funding approval. Similarly, in order to protect soldiers and Marines from improvised explosive devices, the Department of Defense rapidly acquired a new armored vehicle, the Mine Resistant Ambush Protect (MRAP). The decision to buy, followed by the actual commencement of production, took less than a year. More recently, the Air Force used its Rapid Capabilities Office to develop the new B-21 Raider bomber on time and on budget (so far!).

The challenge that remains is fostering an even greater collective effort to expedite weapons development. How can the nation better accelerate the DoD acquisitions process? What can be learned from the experience of the private sector to help? How might DoD adapt the intelligence community’s successful experiment, establishing In-Q-Tel, for military procurement? What can be done to harness private capital markets to help fund and speed Pentagon building programs, such as the renovation of our Navy’s shipyards?

When Aversion to Risk is a Negative

Fighting In Sudan Results In Potential Biological Disaster – OpEd

Dave Patterson

Amidst the intense fighting and failed ceasefire attempts, a new danger to the Sudanese has emerged. During the street-to-street battles, one of the warring factions captured the central public health laboratory in Sudan’s capital Khartoum, a city of approximately five million people, when the fighting began.

Mishandling of the biological specimens used for developing vaccines for various deadly diseases could lead to the release of harmful pathogens. In addition, most frontline fighters are poorly educated and would not know what they are handling. The US State Department closed down the embassy in Khartoum and evacuated 70 staff and families. A catastrophic disease outbreak is possible with no US or allied forces of sufficient numbers in Sudan to secure the research laboratory.
Sudan Could Face a Biological Crisis

This new threat in Sudan comes as the White House has explained US actions will be “helping from afar” as thousands of Americans have been left to fend for themselves to escape the fighting. Helping from afar is vaguely reminiscent of former President Obama’s “lead from behind” 2011 Libyan policy. However, when the US has no presence and consequently little influence, the idea of trying to help the 16,000 abandoned US citizens in Sudan from a distance is about all that is left.

What that looks like as President Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, told reporters the US was providing support remotely. “The US also is placing intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance assets over the route from the capital, Khartoum, to the country’s main seaport, the Port of Sudan, to scope out safety threats, Sullivan said,” Military Times reported. However, Sullivan did not explain how the reconnaissance information would be transmitted to the evacuees on the ground.

Europeans Take the Initiative in Evacuating from Sudan

Beyond New START: Two Forecasts For Future Russian–US Arms Control

In February 2023, Russia suspended its implementation of the New START Treaty, the last remaining US–Russian nuclear-arms-control treaty, bringing a world of unrestricted nuclear arsenals one step closer to reality. In this research paper, published as part of the Missile Dialogue Initiative research programme, Michael Albertson and Dr Nikolai Sokov individually consider the implications of this unravelling of arms control and the prospects for its revival.

Since the 1970s, the United States and the Soviet Union – and later, Russia – have been involved in some form of arms control that served to curb arms racing and prevent nuclear escalation. However, the post-Cold War period has seen the failure of several arms-control agreements, as well as a gradually worsening security environment, further impaired by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. A year later, Moscow’s suspension of the New START Treaty (NST), the final remaining agreement constraining the United States’ and Russia’s nuclear forces, is the latest blow to arms control.

This paper presents the differing perspectives of two experienced arms-control practitioners from the US and Russia on how the unravelling of arms control came to be, what consequences it might have and how to approach the complex task of preventing the nuclear-arms-control architecture from collapsing.

The NST, while criticised for insufficient ambition, has proven to be a durable treaty that contributed transparency and predictability to the US–Russia nuclear relationship, both of which remain desirable today. The suspension of the NST demonstrates Russia’s refusal to compartmentalise arms control and its willingness to jeopardise strategic stability. Should the NST be prematurely abandoned, all transparency measures with respect to strategic offensive arms would be stopped, potentially spurring the US and Russia into unconstrained nuclear expansion. This dangerous dynamic could be further complicated by the emergence of China as a major nuclear power.

Russia can fund war in Ukraine for another year despite sanctions, leaked document says

U.S. intelligence holds that Russia will be able to fund the war in Ukraine for at least another year, even under the heavy and increasing weight of unprecedented sanctions, according to leaked U.S. military documents.

The previously unreported documents provide a rare glimpse into Washington’s understanding of the effectiveness of its own economic measures, and of the tenor of the response they have met in Russia, where U.S. intelligence finds that senior officials, agencies and the staff of oligarchs are fretting over the painful disruptions — and adapting to them.

While some of Russia’s economic elites might not agree with the country’s course in Ukraine, and sanctions have hurt their businesses, they are unlikely to withdraw support for Russian President Vladimir Putin, according to an assessment that appears to date from early March.

“Moscow is relying on increased corporate taxes, its sovereign wealth fund, increased imports and businesses adaptability to help mitigate economic pressures,” reads part of the assessment, which is labeled top secret, the highest level of classification.

The documents are part of a trove shared in a Discord chatroom and obtained by The Washington Post. Massachusetts Air National Guard technician Jack Teixeira was charged this month with taking and transmitting the classified papers. He could be facing 15 years in prison.

Since the invasion of Ukraine began last year, the United States and its allies have fired a fusillade of sanctions at Kremlin-linked people and businesses, prohibiting companies from doing business with them, alongside export controls and other trade measures designed to squeeze Russia’s economy and punish its elites.

The Discord Leaks

Opinion Biden is quietly encouraging Assad’s rehabilitation. He should reverse course.

David Adesnik is a senior fellow and director of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
In the first weeks of Joe Biden’s presidency, Secretary of State Antony Blinken committed to “putting human rights at the center of U.S. foreign policy.” Before taking office, Blinken expressed deep regret for the way the United States “failed to prevent a horrific loss of life” in Syria during his tenure as the No. 2 official at the State Department under Barack Obama.

Digging in

Gerry Doyle, Vijdan Mohammad Kawoosa and Adolfo Arranz

How Russia has heavily fortified swathes of Ukraine – a development that could complicate a spring counteroffensive.

When Ukraine's military paused to regroup towards the end of 2022, extensive Russian fortifications designed to slow any Ukrainian advances started to spring up along, behind and sometimes far removed from the front lines.

Satellite images of thousands of new defensive positions reviewed by Reuters show Russia has been digging in at key strategic points in readiness for an offensive by a Ukrainian military rearmed with state-of-the-art Western weapons.

Advancing Cooperative AI Governance at the 2023 G7 Summi

Gregory C. Allen and Akhil Thadani

Individuals and organizations are beginning to use AI to advance labor productivity and drive anti-inflationary growth, develop more sustainable products, cure diseases, feed a growing population, and address climate change. Alongside the potential to change the way societies learn, work, and innovate for the better, AI’s widespread adoption raises questions about workforce displacement, education, intellectual property rights, and responsible use. The CSIS AI Council believes that there is no inherent trade-off between mitigating AI risks and accelerating adoption. Prudent and interoperable regulatory frameworks that are risk based, context specific, agile, and collaborative can effectively address AI’s challenges, accelerate responsible AI adoption, and harness the full potential of AI technologies.

Acting as an agenda-setter for the global economy, the G7 can provide a forum to encourage the development and adoption of internationally accepted AI standards and to align on key principles to facilitate their adoption in regulatory frameworks. In particular, the G7 can help advance (1) consistent definitions and understandings of key AI norms and concepts that include the responsible use of AI, (2) increased coordination of technical AI standards development, and (3) principles for good AI governance that promote mutually recognized, coherent, and interoperable country approaches to AI regulation.

This report is made possible through general support to CSIS. No direct sponsorship contributed to this report.

911? We Have an Emergency: Cyberattacks On Emergency Response Systems

Mark Grzegorzewski, William Holden 

Cyber problems are people problems. When thinking about “cyber,” many people automatically default to thinking about interconnected hardware or software. This is not entirely incorrect. Interconnected computer systems are part of “cyber,” but people (or “wetware”) are too. People design software and construct hardware. People convert the data that flows through cyberspace into information. People connect networks.

For interconnected information systems to work properly, people must be able to trust the information and instructions transferred between them. The same concept of trust is what allows societies to function. Members of society must trust in the systems they depend on. When people do bad things, they are often deemed corrupt. The same is true of bad information. For example, both can be corrupted through transmitting compromised data (data integrity issues) or transmitting bad instructions (a virus). If a computer system or society is corrupted, it eventually ceases to function toward its intended purpose.

Some malicious actors seek to undermine the trust citizens have in each other and their government. One way in which a malicious actor can further undermine trust in society is by targeting a critical sector, such as emergency services. According to publicly available materials, the tactics targeting U.S. 911 emergency services have been employed only by individual hackers who lack nation-state resources and access to emergency services information systems. Yet, despite these limitations, hostile actors have targeted emergency services through multiple vectors, including hardware, software, and wetware. Given the scale of the problem at the local level across the U.S., the insufficient attention paid to the problem compared to other governance issues, and the dependence of everyday citizens on emergency services when they find themselves in a crisis, malign nation-states could easily employ these same tactics on a larger scale—not only to compromise emergency services during a crisis but also in a much more strategic sense to further undermine the trust many Americans have in their government system and taxpayer-funded services. This hard-earned, yet already tenuous trust—which accumulates over many years—can vanish rapidly and without warning.

Army tweaking its approach for a long-range electronic warfare system


The Army is altering its acquisition approach for its long-range cyber, electronic warfare and signals intelligence platform, determining it might need a tailored approach for each theater, according to a top official.

The Terrestrial Layer System-Echelons Above Brigade (TLS-EAB) capability will be designed for higher echelons — primarily division and corps — that will need to monitor and sense the battlefield across greater distances than lower, more tactically focused echelons. It will be used by the Army’s Multi-Domain Task Force. The technology comes as advanced adversaries are forcing the Army to operate at greater distances, and therefore, the service needs to be able to sense farther and at higher echelons.

“I would say the Army’s evolving sort of our acquisition approach to echelons above brigade. How are we going to do long-range effects from a corps or a division?” Mark Kitz, program executive officer for intelligence, electronic warfare and sensors, said at the virtual C4ISRNET conference Wednesday. “How are we going to do that when … the [combatant command] environments are very different. [U.S. Indo-Pacific Command] looks very different than Africa, looks very different than anywhere. How do we build a tailored electronic warfare capability for our divisions and corps that are going to operate in significantly different environments?”

The Army first developed a TLS system for brigades, but unlike its smaller sibling, TLS-EAB will likely be less integrated with cyber, EW and signals intelligence capabilities due to the greater distances it must sense and provide effects for. The ranges covered for these echelons make operations like electronic attack more difficult as opposed to the more tactically focused brigade version that would perform more local jamming operations on the battlefield.

As a platform that supports these higher echelons, the TLS-EAB capability will contribute to deep sensing, enabling the Army to discover targets across thousands of miles for long-range fires while also possibly conducting its own electronic attacks such as jamming.

29 April 2023

India’s Quest to Build the World’s Largest Solar Farms

Every morning in the Tumakuru District of Karnataka, a state in southern India, the sun tips over the horizon and lights up the green-and-brown hills of the Eastern Ghats. Its rays fall across the grasslands that surround them and the occasional sleepy village; the sky changes color from sherbet-orange to powdery blue. Eventually, the sunlight reaches a sea of glass and silicon known as Pavagada Ultra Mega Solar Park. Here, within millions of photovoltaic panels, lined up in rows and columns like an army at attention, electrons vibrate with energy. The panels cover thirteen thousand acres, or about twenty square miles—only slightly smaller than the area of Manhattan.

As the planet turns and the sun climbs, electricity streams from the panels to eight nearby substations, and, in one of them, a computer monitor decorated with a red hibiscus flower registers their collective power in megawatts. In the predawn hours, the solar park consumes a small amount of electricity for lights and computers, so the monitor may show a negative number. But, within twenty minutes of sunrise on a morning in late February, the park was producing 158.32 megawatts, enough to power, on average, more than a hundred thousand Indian homes. As the temperature soared into the mid-nineties, the air seemed to shimmer with heat; a single ghostly raptor hovered over the area, looking for prey in whatever patches of grass remained. The wind gusted and overhead power lines hummed. Around 1 p.m., the park’s electricity output peaked at more than two thousand megawatts—enough for millions of homes.

Pavagada generates almost four times the power of the largest functioning solar farm in the U.S. The world’s biggest solar installation, Bhadla Solar Park, is in the North Indian state of Rajasthan; the second largest is in China. Pavagada, with a capacity exceeding two thousand megawatts, is in the running for third. In a few places, however, its high-tech panels are interrupted by plots of cropland. Some are fenced in with colorful old saris that waft in the wind. And nestled like islands within the silicon sea are five small villages, virtually untouched. They are not powered by Pavagada, at least not directly. “Twenty-two per cent of the electricity in Karnataka is generated here, but for us there is no power,” a local school administrator told me. Near the school, I saw a single street light and was told that it was funded not by Pavagada Solar Park but by the panchayat, the local village council.