31 August 2023

India’s Space Cooperation With the Middle East

Anuttama Banerji

India’s ISLV-C56/DS-SAR Mission launched a satellite on behalf of Singapore on July 29, 2023. Credit: Indian Space Research Organization

Since the arrival of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the national scene in India in 2014, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, or West Asia,  has emerged as a fulcrum of activity for the Indian government. While the traditional view holds that India’s engagement with the region is primarily focused on economics, especially energy, recent events suggest that science and technology, especially convergence on issues concerning space, are increasingly dominating the narrative.

With most states in the Middle East starting their space programs in recent years, India has emerged as a reliable partner for these states. That trend will only grow with India’s successful landing of a rover on the Moon.

This is an interesting development, for it points to the larger pattern of novel engagement between India and MENA. These relationships are based on questions of energy security and broadening and deepening ties in non-traditional security sectors, especially the space sector.

Conference Proceedings on Indian and U.S. Security Cooperation

John V. Parachini

Weapon exports and the provision of security and military services abroad by China and Russia serve as a means for both countries to extend their influence around the globe. How do such activities affect India — an emerging great power — and what do they mean for India-U.S. security cooperation?

A conference held on June 30 and July 1, 2022, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, was part of an ongoing project focusing on these questions. Participants explored Indian and U.S. views on important security issues across the Indo-Pacific and sought to identify areas of mutual interest and disagreement.

Discussions were informed by six papers — three from the RAND Corporation and three from the Observer Research Foundation — that discussed common approaches to bilateral security cooperation, Russian arms sales to India, and the challenges posed by China to regional security. This report contains those papers, along with a summary of the issues discussed.

Biden's Disastrous Withdrawal from Afghanistan Still Haunts the West

Con Coughlin

  • Putin is nothing if not an opportunist, and the images of American forces and their British allies struggling to contain the surging crowds at Kabul airport who were desperately trying to flee the country will have confirmed the Russian leader's view that, so long as Biden remained in power, he had nothing to fear from the US.
  • By ordering US forces to withdraw from Afghanistan, Biden effectively gave Putin the green light to press ahead with his invasion plans.
  • In every sense, the invasion of Ukraine started in Kabul, so much so that the Russian military build-up on the border with Ukraine prior to the invasion only got seriously underway after the August 2021 withdrawal.
  • Now, thanks to the utter incompetence of the Biden administration's handling of the Afghan crisis, Afghanistan, Ukraine, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and most urgently Taiwan all find themselves struggling to deal with the disastrous consequences of the Biden administration's ineffectual leadership.
  • Had the warplanes been provided when President Volodymyr Zekensky first requested them at the end of last year, they may have arrived in time to make a calculable difference to the Ukrainian ground offensive, where a lack of effective air cover has slowed the Ukrainian advance.
  • Biden's dithering over the issue, with the White House initially ruling out approving the transfer of the jets before eventually changing its mind, now means that it is highly unlikely the warplanes will be in action this year, by which time the Ukrainian offensive will have ended.
  • Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who has told his army to "prepare for war", appears to have reached the same conclusion as Putin.
  • In such circumstances, the Ukrainian people and the Taiwanese could be forgiven for believing that, just as happened in Afghanistan, Biden's inability to provide effective leadership on the world stage will simply result in them being abandoned to their fates


Karolina Hird

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s August 25 decree to increase the size of the Russian military starting in January 2023 is unlikely to generate significant combat power in the near future and indicates that Putin is unlikely to order a mass mobilization soon. The decree increases the nominal end strength of the Russian Armed Forces by 137,000 military personnel, from 1,013,628 to 1,150,628, starting on January 1, 2023.[1] The Russian military likely seeks to recover losses from its invasion of Ukraine and generate forces to sustain its operation in Ukraine. The announcement of a relatively modest (yet likely still unattainable) increased end strength target strongly suggests that Putin remains determined to avoid full mobilization. The Kremlin is unlikely to generate sufficient forces to reach an end strength of over 1,150,000 soldiers as the decree stipulates. The Russian military has not historically met its end-strength targets. It had only about 850,000 active-duty military personnel in 2022 before Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, for example, well shy of its nominal end strength target of over one million.[2]

Russia would likely face serious obstacles to adding large numbers of new soldiers quickly. Apart from the challenges Russian recruiters face, Russia’s net training capacity has likely decreased since February 24, since the Kremlin deployed training elements to participate in combat in Ukraine and these training elements reportedly took causalities.[3] Russia may use the fall conscription cycle in October 2022, which should bring in about 130,000 men, to replenish Russian losses, which reportedly number in the tens of thousands killed and seriously wounded. The Kremlin may alternatively use the additional end strength to formally subsume into the Russian military the forces of the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics and/or the new Russian volunteer units that are not formally part of the Russian military. The net addition to Russia’s combat power in any such case would be very small.

China Wants to Run Your Internet

Edoardo Campanella and John Haigh

For the last two centuries, great powers—both nations and their associated firms—have fiercely competed to set the technical standards for leading technologies. By imposing their preferred standards, nations not only solve technical problems to their advantage but they also project power globally. Standards determine what kind of technology will prevail in the future, ensuring market dominance to national champions, while forcing foreign competitors to adapt at hefty costs. As the industrialist Werner von Siemens reportedly put it: “He who owns the standards, owns the market.”

China Turned Upside Down: Life During Mao’s Bloody, Chaotic Cultural Revolution

Weijian Shan

This month marks the 40th anniversary of the normalization of diplomatic relations between China and the United States and the start of China’s “reform and opening up.” In the late 1970s, China was still emerging from the shadows of Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution, which had swept away most of the country’s social and political institutions and had brought its undeveloped economy to its knees.

China has made remarkable progress since then; today’s China bears almost no resemblance to the China of that period. But the experience of the Cultural Revolution—a chaotic and brutal time of social upheaval—is still fresh in the memories of those who lived through it, including myself and many members of China’s contemporary ruling class. Although most of them rarely discuss it publicly, the Cultural Revolution had a defining impact on many of the people who now lead China and the country’s biggest firms.

Two schools of thought about how to govern China and manage its economy emerged in the wake of the Cultural Revolution. Some senior party leaders favored limited political liberalization and market-friendly reforms. Others insisted on the suppression of dissent and unwavering support for old-school, statist policies. This debate still roils China and serves as the main prism through which most foreign observers view Chinese politics. But outsiders sometimes fail to grasp how the debate itself has been shaped by the participants’ shared experience of the Cultural Revolution. Living through social disorder has left a profound mark on many Chinese elites. It has led them to a wide variety of conclusions about what kind of society China should be. But to understand their thinking and their competing visions, it helps to have a sense of what life was like in those dark, intense times. My own experience was fairly typical.

What the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact tells us about today’s war in Ukraine

Ann Marie Dailey

While speaking at his security council on July 21, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that “the western territories of Poland are a gift from Stalin to the Poles.” What he did not say is that the Soviet Union annexed Poland’s eastern territories as part of its partition of the country with Nazi Germany as agreed to in the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, signed eighty-four years ago this week. On the eve of World War II, Moscow made the pact with what it saw as the pre-eminent power in Europe to divide smaller nations between them. Today, Russia is pursuing a similar ambition—with its invasion of Ukraine, the Kremlin is once again trying to expand its borders by force and make a bargain with a great power at the expense of the smaller country it seeks to conquer.

Some impatient Western leaders who don’t understand the difficulties inherent in attacking well-prepared defensive positions are fretting over the slow progress of Ukraine’s counteroffensive. This has led to increased discussion of a potential negotiated settlement to the conflict by political commentators and some officials. Russia will continue to seek a grand bargain with the United States on “European security” based on Moscow’s interests and without the input of the nations impacted, particularly Ukraine.

Thus, it is crucial that US politicians and diplomats fully include Kyiv in all peace negotiations with Russia. This also applies to any “track 2” or “track 1.5” dialogues. Otherwise, the United States would be reinforcing Moscow’s mistaken belief that—as it did in 1939 with Nazi Germany—it can engage in territorial horse-trading by coercing smaller nations and making bargains with larger ones. Moreover, Putin’s disregard for smaller nations’ sovereignty demonstrates that only security guarantees backed by military force can deter future Russian aggression against Ukraine.

China’s Road to Ruin: The Real Toll of Beijing’s Belt and Road

Michael Bannon and Francis Fukuyama
Source Link

This year marks the tenth anniversary of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s Belt and Road Initiative, the largest and most ambitious infrastructure development project in human history. China has lent more than $1 trillion to more than 100 countries through the scheme, dwarfing Western spending in the developing world and stoking anxieties about the spread of Beijing’s power and influence. Many analysts have characterized Chinese lending through the BRI as “debt trap diplomacy” designed to give China leverage over other countries and even seize their infrastructure and resources. After Sri Lanka fell behind on payments for its troubled Hambantota port project in 2017, China obtained a 99-year lease on the property as part of a deal to renegotiate the debt. The agreement sparked concerns in Washington and other Western capitals that Beijing’s real aim was to acquire access to strategic facilities throughout the Indian Ocean, the Persian Gulf, and the Americas.

But over the last few years, a different picture of the BRI has emerged. Many Chinese-financed infrastructure projects have failed to earn the returns that analysts expected. And because the governments that negotiated these projects often agreed to backstop the loans, they have found themselves burdened with huge debt overhangs—unable to secure financing for future projects or even to service the debt they have already accrued. This is true not just of Sri Lanka but also of Argentina, Kenya, Malaysia, Montenegro, Pakistan, Tanzania, and many others. The problem for the West was less that China would acquire ports and other strategic properties in developing countries and more that these countries would become dangerously indebted—forced to turn to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other Western-backed international financial institutions for help repaying their Chinese loans.

In many parts of the developing world, China has come to be seen as a rapacious and unbending creditor, not so different from the Western multinational corporations and lenders that sought to collect on bad debts in decades past. Far from breaking new ground as a predatory lender, in other words, China seems to be following a path well worn by Western investors. In so doing, however, Beijing risks alienating the very countries it set out to woo with the BRI and squandering its economic influence in the developing world. It also risks exacerbating an already painful debt crisis in emerging markets that could lead to a “lost decade” of the kind many Latin American countries experienced in the 1980s.

These technologies could defeat China’s missile barrage and defend Taiwan: Analysis


On July 6, as Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen visited China to build a “floor” under US-China relations, 600 miles to the south Chinese leader Xi Jinping was focused on another pressing matter. Visiting the People’s Liberation Army Eastern Theater Command, the unit responsible for the Taiwan Strait, Xi called on China’s military to enhance war planning, and to raise the forces’ capabilities to fight and win. The world, according to Xi, has entered a new period of turbulence, and China’s security situation is facing rising uncertainty.

The US intelligence community and a number of senior US military leaders have warned publicly that Xi has directed his commanders to be ready by 2027 to conduct a successful invasion of Taiwan. This is not to suggest that Xi has made a decision to invade by 2027. But — at a minimum — he appears intent on having an option to invade by then.

However, the Defense Department has yet to demonstrate that it can assuredly deny a concerted Chinese military effort to suborn Taiwan in 2027 or beyond. Moreover, the Department is quickly running out of time on this task. 2027 is just barely on the edge of its three-year timeline to start spending funds on a new initiative. And war game after war game indicates that the United States would struggle to win, or — if it did — it would be at high costs.

As time grows short, and with the stability of the Indo-Pacific hanging in the balance, we at the Special Competitive Studies Project and the RAND Corporation sought to stretch the Defense Department’s imagination on what solutions may be feasible to adopt within the next few years. In an attempt to try something different, we embarked on a series of wargames that featured not the usual cadre of DC-based strategists and operators, but technologists from some of the most successful companies in Silicon Valley, early-stage tech companies focused on defence and traditional defence contractors.

A Compound Problem: Dialing in U.S. Semiconductor Strategy

Emily de La Bruyère & Nathan Picarsic

Semiconductors are centre stage in today’s U.S.-China geopolitical competition. And both sides are firing. The CHIPS Act, which just turned one year old, stands as the marque measure of U.S. initiative in the fight.

China is fighting back. In early July, Beijing announced export restrictions on eight gallium and germanium products – key semiconductor inputs, and materials for which China dominates global production. The move signalled Beijing’s willingness to leverage upstream supply chain advantage.

At the same time – less obviously but also more significantly – Beijing is continuing to invest in domestic capacity in order to increase both competitiveness and control. And those domestic development efforts are being led by none other than Huawei, perhaps the Chinese State champion most explicitly targeted by U.S. high-tech regulatory action over the past few years. Of late, for example, the Chinese press has celebrated Huawei’s progress in establishing production capacity for semiconductors in Wuhan’s Optics Valley: “In the storm of sanctions around the world, it is still able to hold its ground and fight unremittingly for technological innovation. Its latest feat - the establishment of a new chip factory in China - marks the opening of a new chapter in Huawei's self-developed chips.”

The fact that it is Huawei leading China’s chip charge underscores the degree to which U.S. strategy is missing the mark. This is the company that Washington has most aggressively targeted, and about which Washington has promoted a "mission accomplished” narrative; this is the industrial field that has seen the most landmark and far-reaching U.S. efforts to compete with China. If existing U.S. tools for defending critical technology were effective, Huawei would not be at the forefront of Chinese semiconductor efforts, and successfully so.

The US-Japan-South Korea summit was ‘historic.’ But what did it accomplish?

Long-lasting friendships start at camp. On Friday, US President Joe Biden hosted the first-ever trilateral summit bringing together the leaders of the United States, Japan, and South Korea at Camp David in Maryland. Biden convened this summit with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol to cement a common security agenda among the three countries to deter China and North Korea.

The summit resulted in a joint statement dubbed “The Spirit of Camp David,” along with separate trilateral principles and a joint commitment to consult with one another on security threats. Below, Atlantic Council experts explain what this historic summit and its resulting commitments will mean for security in the Indo-Pacific region.

Seize the moment while the ‘Spirit of Camp David’ lasts

As the expert commentaries below explain, the progress made in recent months and codified at the Camp David summit is a remarkable achievement, one unparalleled in the history of US-Japan-South Korea ties. After so many false starts in improving this strategic relationship over the course of generations, this time really is different, as Ryo Hinata-Yamaguchi tells us. The progress demonstrated is so dramatic, Parker Novak astutely assesses, that it will have ripple effects throughout the Indo-Pacific region.

This moment came about through a combination of hard work and vision by officials of all three countries, but was enabled by a new set of circumstances very different than from just a few years ago. As Matthew Kroenig notes, Biden seized upon the opportunity presented by Yoon’s willingness to weather the domestic criticism inherent in advancing Seoul’s relations with Tokyo. But there were also other key factors. As Jessica Taylor points out, the People’s Republic of China and North Korea helped set the stage for this summit with their aggressive rhetoric and behavior, as well as their increasing cooperation with Russia.

What Does Victory Look Like For Ukraine?

Alexander Motyl

What would a Ukrainian victory look like, and is it achievable? 

Seemingly demoralized by the ongoing Ukrainian offensive’s slow progress, many analysts have predicted that a Ukrainian victory is impossible.

Russia, so the argument goes, can hold its defensive lines indefinitely because its resources are greater than Ukraine’s.

Hence, a long-lasting war of attrition is unwinnable for Ukraine—as well as, possibly, for Russia.

Since a stalemate is unavoidable, negotiations should begin sooner rather than later. Neither side may get what it wants, but at least fewer lives will be lost.

Ukrainians roundly reject this scenario, while Russians generally endorse it, even if not openly. That’s significant, testifying to Ukrainian confidence that they can win and Russian uncertainty about their current capacities.

Naturally, both sides could be wrong, so a closer look at the reasoning outlined above is worthwhile.

The Heated Debate Over Who Should Control Access to AI


In May, the CEOs of three of the most prominent AI labs—OpenAI, Google DeepMind, and Anthropic—signed a statement that warned AI could be as risky to humanity as pandemics and nuclear war. To prevent disaster, many AI companies and researchers are arguing for restrictions on who can access the most powerful AI models and who can develop them in the first place. They worry that bad actors could use AI models to create large amounts of disinformation that could alter the outcomes of elections and that in the future, more powerful AI models could help launch cyberattacks or create bioweapons.

But not all AI companies agree. On Thursday, Meta released Code Llama, a family of AI models built on top of Llama 2, Meta’s flagship large language model, with extra training to make them particularly useful for coding tasks.

The largest, most capable models in the Code Llama family outperform other openly available models at coding benchmarks and nearly match GPT-4, OpenAI’s most capable large language model. Like the other AI models Meta develops, the Code Llama language models are available for download and are free for commercial and research use. In contrast, most other prominent AI developers, such as OpenAI and Anthropic, only allow businesses and developers limited, paid access to their models, which the AI labs say helps to prevent them from being misused. (It also helps to generate revenue.)

For months, Meta has been plotting a different path to the other large AI companies. When Meta released its large language AI model LLaMA on Feb. 24, it initially granted access to researchers on a case-by-case basis. But just one week later, LLaMa’s weights—the complete mathematical description of the model—were leaked online.

U.S. conducts first Hunt Forward Operation in Lithuania

At the invitation of the Lithuanian government, U.S. Cyber Command’s Cyber National Mission Force deployed a hunt forward team to conduct defensive cyber operations alongside partner cyber forces, concluding in May.

For three months, the U.S. cyber operators hunted for malicious cyber activity on key Lithuanian national defense systems and Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ networks alongside its allies.

This was the first shared defensive cyber operation between Lithuanian cyber forces and CNMF in their country.

“This hunt forward operation is a great example of how cyber is a team sport, and we have to play it together,” said U.S. Army Maj. Gen. Joe Hartman, the CNMF commander. “With these missions, we see a broader scope of how these bad actors are trying to attack important government networks.”

The objective of the hunt forward operation was to observe and identify malicious activity that threatens both nations, and use those insights to bolster homeland defense and increase the resiliency of critical networks to shared cyber threats.

“The war in Ukraine has shown that cyber-attacks are an integral part of modern warfare. We therefore need to prepare in advance and build capacity to ensure the secure security of our critical networks in both peace and war. The operation carried out in Lithuania for three months provided a lot of valuable knowledge to all participants of the operation,” said Margiris Abukevičius, the Lithuania deputy Minister of National Defense, during the closing ceremony of the HFO.

Microsoft says Chinese hacking crew is targeting Taiwan


Researchers at Microsoft said on Thursday that a hacking group with suspected links to the Chinese government is actively targeting dozens of organizations in Taiwan as part of a cyber espionage campaign.

Flax Typhoon, the name Microsoft uses to describe the group based in China, is working to gain and maintain long-term access to primarily Taiwanese organizations, although some victims have been observed in Southeast Asia, North America and Africa, the company said in a blog post-Thursday. The group’s targets include government entities, manufacturing firms and tech companies.

The news comes on the heels of the Biden administration’s approval of a $500 million arms package to Taiwan and a new round of Chinese military drills near the island. Three months ago, Microsoft and a coalition of intelligence agencies revealed that Chinese-linked hackers targeted telecommunications systems in Guam as part of an operation that may have laid the groundwork for severing communications between the United States and its military assets in East Asia.

Thursday’s report from Microsoft describes a fairly stealthy actor that uses minimal amounts of malware in its operations and instead relies on tools already within victim systems, “along with some normally benign software.” Microsoft researchers have not observed the group using its access to Taiwanese systems to conduct additional operations but noted that the group is using “techniques that could be easily reused in other operations outside the region and would benefit from broader industry visibility.”

Meta Terror?: The Threats and Challenges of the Metaverse

Dr. Gabriel Weimann


Since their inception, terrorists have used the Internet and social media platforms to spread propaganda, communicate, incite, recruit, train, raise funding for their activities, and coordinate attacks off- and online. Today, with the emergence of the metaverse, new opportunities have unfolded for terrorist actors. This Insight examines some of the potential uses of the metaverse for terrorists and suggests preemptive measures to minimise the potential risks. It discusses the emergence of the metaverse and identifies six potential uses by terrorist actors: recruitment and indoctrination; planning and coordinating attacks; virtual training; spreading disinformation; financing terrorism and financial attacks. I then provide potential solutions for mitigating these risks.

The Emergence of the ‘Metaverse’

The term ‘metaverse’, combining ‘meta’ and ‘universe’, was first introduced in the 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash. The metaverse represents an amalgamation of the physical and virtual worlds in the digital sphere through 3D technologies and online communication devices like computers and smartphones. Large corporations are drawn to the metaverse because it appears to be the cutting-edge of digital and technological developments. In 2021, Mark Zuckerberg presented his vision for the future: “In the metaverse, you’ll be able to do almost anything you can imagine—get together with friends and family, work, learn, play, shop, create—as well as completely new experiences that don’t really fit how we think about computers or phones today”. Zuckerberg also announced that he would invest $50 million into partnerships with other firms to promote the metaverse concept and technology.

Discrepancies Between Social Media Policy and User Experience: A Preliminary Study of Extremist Content

Thomas James Vaughan Williams, Calli Tzani and Maria Ioannou


One issue raised when examining the growing usage and influence of social media is the potential for hateful and extreme ideologies to be promoted among vulnerable individuals. Research has indicated that social media has become a fundamental tool for promoters of extremist ideologies to not only share their ideological propaganda but also seek out potential new recruits for their group or cause.

Research has documented that the more an individual is exposed to hateful and extreme narratives, the more likely it is that they start identifying with these ideologies and become radicalised. All of these advancements in the arsenal of extremist groups and the rising fear of vulnerable individuals becoming radicalised online only further exacerbates the criticisms and concerns of social media and the safety of the users who regularly utilise these sites.

In this Insight, we provide an overview of our study into the experience of social media users and their exposure to hateful or extremist content. We explored and compared the experiences of social media users to the safeguarding policies stated by prominent social media sites, in the context of extremist communication and hate speech. We find that the average social media user is being exposed to extremist material and hate speech 48.44% of the time they spent online. This Insight explores the community guidelines and policies of prominent social media sites regarding extremist material, comparing the platform’s policies with the user experiences.

Protecting point-to-point messaging apps: Understanding Telegram, WeChat, and WhatsApp in the United States

Iria Puyosa

Executive summary

Too often, consideration of point-to-point messaging platforms in the United States is focused on either diaspora or second-language usage, given the global popularity of these platforms. Another common focus is on extremist or unlawful usage.

In reality, a broad swath of Americans use point-to-point platforms, the popularity of which is increasing, but that usage remains at a lower rate when compared to that in other regions of the world. An estimated 69 per cent of the United States population currently uses at least one point-to-point messaging app, though the use and dynamics of this part of the information ecosystem remain understudied.

The Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab) undertook this project to better understand and contextualize point-to-point platform usage in the United States with two goals: first, to analyze the growing use of these platforms in the United States; and, second, to emphasize the growing importance of rights-respecting— and protecting—elements of some platforms, such as end-to-end encryption as an important technology at the core of designing for data privacy and free speech.

The DFRLab carried out this research project to shed light on the following topics: 
  • First, how point-to-point platforms work, their varying degrees of security features, and how they deploy encryption.
  • Second, understanding how diverse communities use the messaging platforms for different purposes.
  • Third, understanding the variance among platform design and enforcement of terms of usage.
  • Finally, how messaging app security is important for protecting and respecting rights—like privacy and freedom of expression—in this digital era.

Employing artificial intelligence and the edge continuum for joint operations

James E. Cartwright and Jags Kandasamy

Executive summary

In March 2022, the US Department of Defense (DOD) released the Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) strategy, which describes the urgent need for an “enterprise-wide, holistic approach” to integrate command-and-control (C2) capabilities and empower joint-force commanders across all domains, theaters, and threats. This paper employs the JADC2 decision-cycle vision of “sense” (integrate information across domains), “make sense” (leverage intelligence to understand the environment), and “act” (decide and disseminate based on intelligence) through the lens of data, artificial intelligence (AI), and the edge continuum. It then presents a four-layer edge computing architecture for the DOD.

Sense: The DOD has deployed sensors at every vantage point in recent years, and a reflexive instinct has emerged in DOD to address operational problems by deploying more sensors for information gathering. As more sensors are added to the picture, even more data are being generated—for example, aircraft sensors and onboard equipment gather up to a terabyte of data during a flight. Yet, at the same time, more data bottlenecks are being created as communication networks fail to keep up with expanding data and sensor locations, a situation akin to freeways with the addition of more automobiles.

Make sense: Data without proper context and analysis are insufficient for actionable insights. Better understanding and analysis of the data provides information for decision-makers. This “make sense” paradigm becomes increasingly complex as the volume, velocity, and variety—the “three Vs”—of data coming from the sensors continue to grow. The DOD faces challenges in efficiently processing and analyzing the vast amounts of data generated by its operations in remote and hostile environments. AI and machine-learning (ML) algorithms have proven to be the optimal solution to make sense of the “three Vs” of the data conundrum. The emergence of AI at the edge (processing on or near devices where the data are created) has brought a significant opportunity for the DOD to filter the signal from the noise and enable real-time decision-making.

The Political Economy of Technology


CAMBRIDGE – Daron Acemoglu and Simon Johnson’s new book, Power and Progress, joins a number of other grand narratives that address a key question for the world economy today: How did the United States – and, somewhat in parallel, the United Kingdom – get into their current mess? Other worthwhile contributions include Jonathan Ira Levy’s Ages of American Capitalism, J. Bradford DeLong’s Slouching Towards Utopia, Gary Gerstle’s The Rise and Fall of the Neoliberal Order, Helen Thompson’s Disorder: Hard Times in the 21st Century, and Martin Wolf’s The Crisis of Democratic Capitalism.

All these works address a fundamental tension between the industrialized Western world’s two systems for distributing and exercising power: political democracy and the market economy. Each, in its own way, documents how the dynamics of capitalism have concentrated economic and financial power, which then is used to influence and even dominate the political process.

What distinguishes Power and Progress is the authors’ own professional habitat. Both are MIT economists – Acemoglu with the Department of Economics, and Johnson with the Sloan School of Management. Acemoglu is one of his generation’s leading economists. The sheer breadth, diversity, and quality of his contributions to economic theory and empirical analysis are extraordinary, and he has done important work on the differential impact of technology as it liquidates existing jobs and generates new ones. Johnson is a former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, well known for his analysis of how the financialization of the US economy set the stage for the 2008 global financial crisis.

Both are also distinguished by their evident willingness to publish books for a non-academic audience. Their previous work on the political economy of development (Acemoglu) and on the political economy of fiscal policy and the national debt (Johnson) were steps on the path to Power and Progress, and representative examples of the evolution of economics since 2008.

Deep-fake content is worming its way into our lives through our newsfeeds


We are long past the point where an untrained eye can distinguish signs of artificial intelligence-generated images or videos, popularly known as “deep-fakes.”

The latest chapter of the “Indiana Jones” franchise features an extended opening sequence with a de-aged Harrison Ford so realistic that one could suspect the filmmakers travelled back to the 80s.

Social media Images of a supposed explosion at the Pentagon in May raised fears of another 9-11 and actually caused a market selloff before they were exposed as fakes. Quite simply, we are being trained to accept that we cannot believe our eyes.

But while the mainstream media and opinion-makers have done much to highlight the dangers of these images, little consideration has been given to the problem of deep-fake text, which isn’t new and has been more quietly with us for many years.

For the past decade, I’ve worked as chief technology officer at Silent Eight, a company that leverages artificial intelligence (AI) to help financial institutions and banks such as HSBC, First Abu Dhabi and Standard Chartered fight financial crime.

Much of what I do, both as an engineer and businessperson, involves both interpreting and generating text.

Consequently, I’ve observed with growing frustration how the effectiveness of the algorithms and machine learning of the Big Tech companies has only helped to exacerbate this problem.

How the administration’s cyber strategy falls short


In response to the White House’s newly released National Cybersecurity Strategy (NCS) Implementation Plan, one cannot help but voice concerns over its alarming lack of clarity and specificity. Unfortunately, it reflects an ongoing pattern within this administration, a puzzling avoidance of detail, and a seeming underestimation of such specificity’s role in successful strategy execution.

The NCS Implementation Plan is a strategic blueprint, yet it is vague, creating a dissonance between intention and operation. The administration has underestimated the complexity of the cyber realm; their plan echoes this by offering a set of initiatives and completion dates but still needs to provide a clear roadmap to achievement.

Vague rhetoric isn’t enough in the face of looming technological and geopolitical challenges. While the plan sets forth a vision, it fails to provide actionable tactics, clear benchmarks, and measurable indicators to monitor progress and ensure accountability. These omissions risk leaving the nation in a state of perpetual planning rather than moving it toward robust cyber resilience.

Moreover, the administration’s oversight of time’s crucial role in the rapidly evolving cyber domain is concerning. The cybersecurity landscape is fast-paced, and its threats are unpredictable and constantly evolving. A reactive, slow-paced response strategy can be perilous in such a scenario.

China says its ban on Japanese seafood is about safety. Is it really?

Kathleen Magramo and Michelle Toh

In the busy streets of Hong Kong’s Central district the lunchtime queues snake around the swanky Japanese restaurants where high-end sushi can sell at $150 a pop just for a tasting menu.

At Fumi, one of the more popular joints, the floors are packed with over a hundred people chattering away and chowing down.

“It’s just as busy as ever,” says Thomason Ng, Fumi’s general manager. “Only a small portion of people have asked where the food is from. They’re here for the dining experience and great hospitality alongside the food.”

The great economies of Asia are clashing over the sea once again, but from the look of these customers either nobody told them, or they simply don’t care.

The move by Japan, the world’s third-largest economy, to release more than 1 million metric tons of treated radioactive wastewater from the destroyed Fukushima nuclear plant into the sea has prompted a furious response from its neighbour and longtime rival China, the world’s second-largest economy.

Entering the age of artificial truth


Gary Marcus, cofounder of the Center for the Advancement of Trustworthy AI, has for years been highly critical of generative artificial intelligence and large language model applications like OpenAI’s ChatGPT. These programs consume vast quantities of data to perform various functions, from creating new cocktail recipes to sharing insights about the folding sequences of proteins.

Marcus recently wrote that there are “not one, but many, serious, unsolved problems at the core of generative AI.” He isn’t alone. During an interview earlier this month, theoretical physicist Michio Kaku dismissed AI chatbots as “glorified tape recorders” that are only a “warped mirror of what’s on the internet the last 20 years.”

Yet that hasn’t stopped popular culture, business blogs, and tech enthusiasts from contemplating their supposedly revolutionary implications. There are many unknowns about general artificial intelligence and its role in American society, but one point is becoming clear: Open-source AI tools are turning the internet into an even murkier den of confusion.

One of Marcus’s chief concerns is that these models can create self-amplifying echo chambers of flawed or even fabricated information, both intentionally and unintentionally. AI researchers Maggie Harrison and Jathan Sadowski have each drawn attention to what the latter cleverly termed “Habsburg AI,” which appears when AI-generated information is fed back into another AI program on a loop. What results is a sort of information “inbreeding” that drives the AI mad, causing it to spew abominations of data. Yet even absent these conditions, human influence on the information filtering process creates opportunities for additional forms of distortion.

Why Can’t Sweden Sell Its Fighter Jets?

Elisabeth Braw

In December, French President Emmanuel Macron visited the United Arab Emirates. He left with a $19 billion order for French Dassault Rafale fighter aircraft. You wouldn’t see Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson performing energetic sales pitches for Sweden’s equally fine Gripen jets the way Macron does for French military equipment—or the way most leaders of other countries with defence industries do for their local companies.

Since the end of the Cold War, the Swedish government has mostly been putting defence exports in the hands of the globalized market. But with other countries’ leaders pitching their companies to governments now investing more in defence, it’s a flawed strategy. Oddly, Swedish governments of different stripes have put their faith in an invisible hand that simply does not exist when it comes to defense equipment.

Last September, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia unveiled their so-called AUKUS agreement, which will see Australia build nuclear-powered submarines aided by British and American technology. That, in turn, meant that Australia relinquished an agreement with the French company Naval Group for diesel-powered submarines. Apoplectic anger ensued from Paris, with allegations that friends had stabbed France in the back.

A few years earlier, Sweden’s Gripen suffered a similar setback. In 2012, Switzerland was getting ready to buy new fighter jets, and having investigated its options, the government—backed by the armed forces—opted for the Gripen over other top contenders, France’s Dassault Rafale and the Eurofighter Typhoon.

30 August 2023

What’s so bad about ‘aggressive neutrality’?

Christopher Mott

When Russia invaded Ukraine in February of last year, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan raised suspicions in Washington for his decision to maintain relations with the Kremlin. In a characteristically unsubtle move, Khan also visited Moscow shortly after the war began. He returned to Islamabad with a chip on his shoulder.

“What do you think of us? That we are your slaves and will do whatever you ask of us? We are friends of Russia and we are friends of the United States,” Khan told a crowd of his supporters. “We are friends of China and Europe, we are not part of any alliance.”

Little did Khan know that these words may have helped bring about the end of his political career. According to Pakistani diplomatic cables published by the Intercept, U.S. officials reacted to Khan’s stance on the war by subtly encouraging his opponents to remove him from power.

While it is doubtful that the United States was the sole or primary actor in the events that would land the prime minister in jail and lead to a military crackdown on the country’s political system (a state of affairs that remains in place today), the cables reveal that opponents of Khan were informed of U.S. anger over Khan’s statements on the Ukraine War and may have moved to oust him with the expectation of being rewarded with closer ties by Washington.

Most of the reactions to this breaking story have understandably focused on the Cold War-like aspect of what seems to be brazen interference in another country’s internal affairs. However, what is in danger of being overlooked is something more fundamental to how so many in D.C. conceptualize foreign policy as a whole.

Another Anniversary Passes With Little Progress in Afghanistan

Jim Cook

While Afghanistan has largely receded from public memory, the two-year anniversary of the U.S. withdrawal revives the shocking scenes of bedlam at the Kabul airport as desperate civilians tried to flee the country. Amidst the confusion, thirteen U.S. service members were tragically killed in a horrific terror bombing attack. Some distraught family members recently traveled to Washington demanding answers from senior military and civilian leaders. In defending the Biden administration’s actions, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby conceded there was no easy way to end America’s longest war but “that doesn’t mean it wasn’t worth doing.” This sombre occasion provides an opportunity for reflection on the war and the consequences of the withdrawal for Afghanistan and U.S. interests.

Unfortunately, there has been little progress in Afghanistan’s governance, economic prosperity, and security over the last two years. If not for a close inspection of the dates, one could easily mistake last year’s commemoration news reports for an analysis of the situation in Afghanistan today. Despite international conferences and donor pledges for billions of dollars in humanitarian relief and other forms of assistance, these well-intentioned initiatives have little chance of meaningfully changing the status quo. Moreover, those who optimistically believed in Taliban reform have seen their hopes repeatedly dashed by their hardline policies and brutal governance.

China’s 21st Century Empire Building


In his new book The Loom of Time: Between Empire and Anarchy from the Mediterranean to China, Robert Kaplan views China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) as the 21st century’s version of empire building. If China succeeds in achieving its commercial and strategic objectives in Central Asia and the Middle East, Kaplan writes, it will be positioned to control what geopoliticians call the “World-Island” — the vast Eurasian-African landmass that, as Halford Mackinder noted, combines insularity with incomparable human and natural resources. “Who controls the World-Island,” Mackinder warned, “commands the world.”

Kaplan compares China’s BRI to the British East India Company, which was an important lever in Great Britain’s empire building across the region that Kaplan calls the “Greater Middle East.” “Whereas the British East India Company in the early modern era advanced eastward from Europe across the Middle East to China,” he writes, “China is now advancing in the opposite geographical direction westward, though with similar commercial and strategic motives.” The strategic goal of the BRI is, in Kaplan’s opinion, to link the “Heartland” of Central Asia to the “Rimland” — a crescent-shaped region named by the great Dutch-American geopolitical thinker Nicholas Spykman that encompasses East Asia, the Indian subcontinent, the Middle East, and Western Europe. “The more the Heartland and the Rimland are interconnected, and the more China’s BRI becomes regionally dominant,” Kaplan explains, “the greater the potential for China to dominate Mackinder’s World-Island, including Spykman’s Rimland.” (READ MORE: These American Businessmen Are Cozying Up With China)

Winning the Influence War Against China

Patrick W. Quirk, Caitlin Dearing Scott

Earlier this month, President Joe Biden signed an executive order curtailing U.S. high-tech investment in China, reflecting a bipartisan consensus that U.S. investment should not be helping the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in these highly strategic industries. Such efforts are welcome, but to be truly effective, must be part of a broader strategy to push back on Beijing’s pursuit of global domination.

Military strength is obviously necessary for the free world to prevail in this new great power contest—however, it is not sufficient. The CCP uses economic leverage and elite capture to exert political influence, deploying information operations and exporting its authoritarian governance model to create the conditions for Beijing to advance its local and global interests. The more successful China is in eroding democracy around the world, the better placed it will be to undermine American interests and supplant the United States as the global superpower.

We need a strategy that combines the serious commitment of hard power resources and economic statecraft with a robust campaign to counter China by strengthening democratic resilience around the world. The United States has deployed foreign assistance to advance its geopolitical interests since the end of World War II, when the Marshall Plan was used to rebuild Europe and Japan’s social and economic foundations to prevent a Soviet takeover. Throughout the Cold War, the United States used foreign aid as part of its strategy of containment, providing valuable lessons for advancing U.S. interests in a new age of competition. This includes the establishment of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in 1961 and the founding of the congressionally funded National Endowment for Democracy in 1983 at President Ronald Reagan’s instigation.

Early Intelligence Suggests Prigozhin Was Assassinated, U.S. Officials Say

Michael R. Gordon

The plane carrying Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner paramilitary group, crashed as the result of an assassination plot but wasn’t shot down by a surface-to-air missile, U.S. officials said.

The preliminary U.S. government assessments, which officials stressed are incomplete, suggest that a bomb exploded on the aircraft or that some other form of sabotage caused the crash northwest of Moscow.

The Russian government has said it is investigating the cause of the crash, but hasn’t offered an explanation. Social-media channels close to Prigozhin’s Wagner have claimed that the aircraft was downed by a Russian military antiaircraft missile.

“We have no information at this time to suggest that a surface-to-air missile was launched against the private aircraft reportedly carrying Yevgeny Prigozhin,” a senior Biden administration official said.

U.S. satellites with infrared sensors can detect the heat from missile launches, and none was detected at the time the plane was downed, defense officials said.

U.S. officials, however, haven’t determined what specifically led to the crash and have stopped sort of publicly asserting that the downing was an assassination, although numerous officials have privately concluded that.

China’s Crisis of Confidence in Six Charts

Nathaniel Taplin

What ails China?

There are plenty of answers, from demographics to geopolitics to trade. But the key problem might boil down to household finances and, just as important, everyday citizens’ deeply shaken confidence that their lives will keep improving following China’s Covid-19 emergency.

Why look at households specifically? China has a serious debt and productivity problem, especially in the state-owned and local-government sectors, but that has been true for years. Exports are falling, but China has weathered trade downturns before. Moreover, private manufacturing and infrastructure investment are actually holding up relatively well.

What is really new and notable about the current slowdown is a combination of exceptionally weak consumer prices, consumption, services-sector investment and property investment. All of that points firmly at households.

Reduced willingness to spend and take risks by families also undermines other parts of the economy in pernicious and self-reinforcing ways: consumption directly, and investment indirectly because household borrowing, mainly through mortgages, has long helped keep cash-strapped property developers and local governments above water.

China Casts CIA as Villain in New Anti-Spying Push

Chun Han Wong

SINGAPORE—Chinese leader Xi Jinping is expanding a campaign to harden the country against foreign efforts to steal its secrets, with his spymasters warning citizens abroad to guard against enticement from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.

The Ministry of State Security—China’s main civilian intelligence agency—recently accused two Chinese nationals of spying for the U.S., saying both were recruited by the CIA while living overseas. It publicized the cases soon after CIA Director William Burns said the agency had made progress in rebuilding its spy network in China, an assertion that drew widespread attention on Chinese social media.

The disclosures are part of the Chinese state-security ministry’s first-ever public foray on social media, where it has solicited the public’s help in fighting espionage and other threats to national security. In its debut post on the popular do-everything app WeChat on Aug. 1, titled “Counterespionage Requires Mobilization of an Entire Society,” it urged ordinary Chinese to help build a “people’s line of defense for national security.”

The ministry’s social-media offensive lands amid rising tensions and mutual distrust between the U.S. and China, with each power portraying the other as a strategic threat. Both sides have also traded spying allegations, with Washington accusing Beijing of running cyberattacks and espionage efforts against American targets, and vice versa.

Two active members of the U.S. Navy have been charged with allegedly transmitting sensitive military information to the People’s Republic of China in exchange for thousands of dollars, officials said. Photo: Meg McLaughlin/The San Diego Union-Tribune/AP (Published Aug. 3)

Defecting Russian Mi-8 Helicopter Was Lured To Ukraine


In what’s probably one of the more remarkable stories to come out of the Russia-Ukraine air war, reports emerged today of an apparent defection to Ukraine by a Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS, in its Russian abbreviation) Mi-8AMTSh Hip combat transport helicopter, in what is claimed to have been a long-planned Ukrainian intelligence operation.

If true, not only did the Mi-8 and at least some of its crew end up in Ukrainian hands, but the helicopter’s cargo consisted of undisclosed parts for VKS Su-27 and Su-30SM Flanker fighters, which were being transported between two airbases. That is the claim made by the Ukrainska Pravda newspaper, citing sources in Ukrainian defense intelligence, and the chief of Ukraine’s Main Directorate of Intelligence has also confirmed the basics of the story.

Those Russian airbases have not been named, and the exact route taken by the helicopter into Ukraine is unclear, although there are suggestions it landed somewhere near Poltava, in central Ukraine.