5 January 2023

A Constant Game of Outmaneuvering: New Indian Texts on the Relevance of ‘Arthashastra’

Krzysztof Iwanek

Does the New Delhi government follow the policies advocated in “Arthashastra,” an ancient Indian treatise, in its foreign policy? This is a debate that has been going on for quite a while. My answer to this is “no.”

I summarized my views on the subject in a 2020 article for The Diplomat. I also recently spoke about this to the Vaad podcast (in Hindi). In a nutshell, my claim is that while the author of “Arthashastra” was indeed extremely pragmatic in his understanding of governance, this by no means proves that New Delhi’s current foreign policy pragmatism has been influenced by that ancient Sanskrit treatise. (For reservations similar to mine, see the conversation with Partha Chatterjee on page 7-8 in the linked paper.)

Yet, regardless of my views on the topic, there is a growing body of literature that states the opposite. It would be fair of me, therefore, to refer to some of these new texts and briefly summarize in what ways they affect my understanding of the subject.

Takshashila Issue Brief - India’s Options against Chinese Military Aggression

The latest incursions by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) across the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in the Tawang sector in Arunachal Pradesh in early December are part of a new pattern of aggression. In recent years, incursions and standoffs have taken place in Ladakh, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, and Sikkim.

Rapid infrastructure developments, construction of border villages, troop mobilisation, and build-ups, and deployment of aggressive military tactics along the border have also accompanied such intrusions. The loss of lives during the 2020 Galwan clash and the firing of arms at LAC for the first time in decades stand out as the dangers emanating from China’s current military strategy against India. There is no reason to believe that the pattern of Chinese transgressions is likely to stop in the coming years.
What explains China’s moves?

Under Xi Jinping, China has initiated a massive military reform and modernisation programme, beginning in 2015. A key part of this reform agenda is to safeguard what has been termed as China’s core interests. This includes territorial integrity, which has implications for the India-China boundary. China’s new land border law is further evidence of Beijing’s hardening position on the boundary issue. The law, which came into effect in January 2022, specifically states that “sovereignty and territorial integrity” are “sacred and inviolable.” Further, Xi’s politics have also unleashed a nationalistic fervour back home, and assertion about territorial interests is an important component of the domestic narrative. The lack of clarity with regard to the LAC and the so-called “differences in perception” provides a fertile ground for China’s expansionist tendencies to play out.

China-Pakistan Relations: The “All-Weather” Partnership Navigates Stormy Times

Syed Fazl-e-Haider


In a joint statement issued during Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s two-day visit to China in November, Beijing reiterated that relations with Islamabad will always be given the highest priority, reaffirming its support for Pakistan’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, security and development (Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of China [FMPRC], November 2). The Chinese leadership also expressed appreciation for PM Sharif’s long-standing dedication to the China-Pakistan friendship (Dawn, November 3). On the other side, Pakistan emphasized that the bilateral relationship is the cornerstone of its foreign policy and expressed its commitment to the One-China policy and support on the issues of Taiwan, the South China Sea, Hong Kong, Xinjiang and Tibet. The two sides exchanged views on the state of their partnership as well as the regional situation and international political landscape. Both sides agreed on the “importance of the China-Pakistan All-Weather Strategic Cooperative Partnership amidst the emerging global challenges,” said the joint statement (Express Tribune, November 2). Closing out the year on this positive note indicates probable further growth in bilateral ties in 2023 and beyond as both sides seek to manage intersecting global and domestic challenges.

‘Regime Change’ in Islamabad and China-Pakistan Relations in 2022

Can Nepal Achieve Political Stability?

Biswas Baral

Not a single government in Nepal has served out a full five-year term since the restoration of democracy in 1990. The federal government to be formed after the November 20, 2022, elections is unlikely to be an exception.

In the recent elections, the Nepali Congress, the traditional champion of liberal democracy, emerged at the top, winning 89 seats in the 275-member federal lower house. Hot on its heels was the Communist Party of Nepal-Unified Marxist-Leninist (CPN-UML), the torchbearer of leftist politics, with 78 seats. The CPN (Maoist Center), the revolutionary force that waged a decade-long armed insurgency to overthrow the old unitary state, came in third, with 32 seats.

In the previous elections in 2017, at a time when the UML and the Maoists had struck an electoral alliance, they won 121 and 53 seats, respectively. The two parties later united to give birth to a behemoth leftist force in the form of the Nepal Communist Party (NCP). The unified party went on to form governments at the center as well as in six of the country’s seven provinces. People had given the communist coalition an overwhelming mandate to rule for five years; they had voted in favor of stability.

China-Russia Relations: 4 Takeaways From 2022

Joseph Webster

Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin exchanged a warm phone call on Friday, providing a fitting bookend to a year that saw China and Russia strengthen relations across the board. Still, Moscow is becoming weaker both absolutely and relatively, tilting the relationship ever more in Beijing’s favor and creating uncertainty about future interactions. The two sides will very likely continue to expand military and political ties in 2023, although a mutual trust gap could emerge in future years.

Russia’s Disastrous Invasion of Ukraine Made It Even More Dependent on China

Russia, with an economy a tenth the size of China’s, is firmly the junior partner in the relationship. Events this year have underscored Russia’s dependency. In late January, Western diplomatic sources claimed to Bloomberg that Xi asked Putin to delay any escalation in Ukraine until after the conclusion of the 2022 Beijing Olympics. If true, this claim would have extraordinary implications for Putin’s perceptions of the role of China, the conduct of Russian foreign policy, and, potentially, the outcome of the war itself. As many analysts noted at the time, any escalatory delay would strengthen Kyiv’s hand by giving it more time to receive arms and aid shipments.

Peak China?


CAMBRIDGE – The failure of China’s zero-COVID policy is leading to a reassessment of Chinese power. Until recently, many expected China’s GDP to surpass that of the United States by 2030 or soon thereafter. But now, some analysts argue that even if China achieves that goal, the US will surge ahead again. So, have we already witnessed “peak China”?

With inflation on the rise and the era of ultra-low interest rates over, financial markets will face a huge stress test in 2023. While banking systems are more robust than they were in 2008, a real-estate slump could severely affect heavily leveraged private-equity firms, producing a systemic crisis.

It is just as dangerous to overestimate Chinese power as it is to underestimate it. Underestimation breeds complacency, whereas overestimation stokes fear; but either can lead to miscalculations. A good strategy requires a careful net assessment.

Contrary to the current conventional wisdom, China is not the world’s largest economy. Measured in terms of purchasing power parity, it became larger than the US economy in 2014. But PPP is an economist’s device for comparing estimates of welfare; even if China someday surpasses the US in total economic size, GDP is not the only measure of geopolitical power. China remains well behind the US on military and soft-power indices, and its relative economic power is smaller still when one also considers US allies such as Europe, Japan, and Australia.

China Is Preparing for Economic War With the West

Christopher Vassallo

The lynchpin of the G7 countries’ price cap on Russian oil, unveiled in early December, is its conditional prohibition on access to world-class Western insurance and reinsurance firms. The price cap restricts the purchase or sale of Russian seaborne crude above an artificially low price of $60 per barrel. An insurance ban, which prohibits companies within the European Union and the G7 from providing insurance and reinsurance to suppliers of Russian crude sold above the cap, is the mechanism that enforces the $60 threshold. Proof of the insurance ban’s viability as a sanctions tool is of more significance to the future of geoeconomic statecraft than the price cap it is being used to enforce.

So far, the insurance ban has proved an effective means of imposing compliance with the cap, locking in a price differential between Russia’s Siberian Ural crude and North Sea Brent crude, the global benchmark. Companies in G7 nations control 90 percent of maritime insurance and reinsurance. Chinese shipowners, who have been importing an elevated share of Russian crude since the outbreak of the Russo-Ukrainian War, still rely on Western insurance providers to protect their vessels.

While the price cap will help China secure Russian oil at favorable rates in the short term, the prospect of a Western insurance ban, directed at China rather than Russia in a future confrontation over Taiwan, is likely to trouble Beijing. Some of the moves Beijing has undertaken this year—nominally in response to the turbulence surrounding the war in Ukraine but effectively intended to reduce China’s exposure to Western insurers—appear to reflect such a concern.

Xi Jinping’s Visit to Saudi Arabia and Prospects for Relations with China

Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Saudi Arabia on 7–9 December, taking part in a summit with the Saudi crown prince as well as the Gulf-Chinese Summit and the first Arab-Chinese Summit. During the visit, Riyadh and Beijing signed agreements worth $30 billion in the fields of green energy, green hydrogen, photovoltaic energy, information technology and cloud services, transport and logistics, medical industries, housing, and construction, according to the Saudi Press Agency.[1] Xinping received a notably warm welcome in Saudi Arabia, especially compared to the reception given to US President Joe Biden during his visit in July, when he met with the leaders of the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states along with Egypt, Jordan, and Iraq.

I. The Centrality of Energy in Arab-Chinese Relations

Sino-Arab relations have evolved significantly over the last two decades as China has become the world’s top manufacturer and the second biggest economic power after the US. Trade between China and Arab countries exceeded $300 billion in 2021, President Jinping said in a speech at the Arab-China summit in Riyadh,[2] increasing tenfold in less than two decades[3] (the trade figure includes China’s purchases of oil and gas from Gulf countries). Arab states occupy a prominent place in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, in which China has invested more than $1 trillion, mostly in the construction of ports, highways, and railways, to facilitate global trade, including with Arab countries. Twenty Arab states have joined the initiative, with more than $200 billion in Chinese investment. Saudi Arabia is the recipient of 21 per cent of these investments, amounting to some $40 billion,[4] followed by the UAE with 17 per cent, Iraq with 14 per cent, and Egypt and Algeria with 12 per cent each.[5] In 2019, China became the leading trade partner of the GCC states, surpassing the EU with total trade of more than $180 billion; Saudi-Chinese trade accounted for about half of the total.[6]

Saudi Arabia’s growing ties with China ultimately complement U.S. efforts to contain Iran.

Ahmed Alqarout, Ali Ahmadi

Chinese president Xi Jinping’s recent trip to meet with the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) set off a storm of anxiety in Washington. But it’s important to note that much of what was agreed to in these meetings is actually designed to marginalize Iran in regional and trans-regional affairs—a cause shared by the United States and many of its GCC partners.

The Saudi Comprehensive Strategic Partnership Agreement with China comes just two years after Beijing signed a similar deal with Iran. The timing of the deals is thus not a coincidence but a calculable act by Saudi Arabia to contain Iran and curtail any gains it may have secured through such a strategic partnership. Hence, despite popular belief to the contrary, the United States stands to gain from the agreement, which will help ensure Iran's regional and global power remains checked.

Iran and Saudi Arabia Look East

The Saudi-China strategic partnership should not be seen in isolation from the other agreements Riyadh has advanced in Asia. In a way, Saudi Arabia’s “Pivot to Asia” is its answer to Iran’s “Look to the East” strategy. Iran’s strategy was adopted by conservatives who see Asia and Eurasia as key avenues to expand Iranian influence at the expense of ties with the West. Thus, Saudi Arabia aims to contain Iran’s strides in Asia, supplementing similar U.S. efforts. Saudi Arabia and other GCC countries have been signing deals with Asian countries that Iran seeks stronger ties with to relieve itself from Western economic pressure. In the past two years, Riyadh has signed economic, diplomatic, and defense agreements with Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Kazakhstan, and Bangladesh, to mention a few. Therefore, Saudi Arabia’s closer ties with China should be seen as part of its efforts to contain Iran’s growing relationships in Asia and as a response to the Raisi administration’s shift away from the West.

In 2023, Washington Can’t Neglect Iran

Andrea Stricker

The Oslo-based nonprofit Iran Human Rights warned this week that the Islamic Republic is poised to execute up to 100 Iranians for protesting against the regime. Meanwhile, Iran’s illicit nuclear activities continue apace, moving Tehran closer to a bomb. Despite these developments, the Biden administration’s Iran policy still amounts to one of strategic neglect. A hands-off approach with Tehran today will only demand President Joe Biden’s attention later, and at a much greater cost—potentially including military confrontation.

U.S. Iran policy currently rests on the hope that Tehran will not intensify its malign conduct as Washington focuses on other priorities: arming Ukraine, competing with China, and a range of domestic issues. The West is hedging its bets: If Iran’s uprising fails, the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), remains an option to bribe Tehran to temporarily refrain from dashing to nuclear weapons. The West seems unconcerned that the deal’s revival would pump some $1 trillion in revenue to Iran by 2030, helping the regime shore up its hold on power, repress its people, and attack its neighbors.

Moreover, Biden has all but admitted he will not challenge Iran’s mounting nuclear advances, which have positioned Tehran to make weapons-grade uranium for several atomic weapons in under a month.

If Russia Is This Bad At Conventional Warfare, What Does That Tell Us About Its Nuclear Posture?

Loren Thompson

Russia’s military performance in Ukraine has proven to be, in the words of the Economist’s year-end edition, “spectacularly incompetent.” Western observers have noted major deficiencies in intelligence, planning, training, equipment, logistics and other areas critical to military success.

Western intelligence agencies did not anticipate how poorly the Russian military would perform, and are therefore reassessing the nature of the security threat that Moscow poses. However, public discussion of lessons learned has focused almost entirely on the implications for future conventional warfare.

The more important question for Washington is what Russia’s debacle in Ukraine may tell us about the future of nuclear deterrence. As the Congressional Research Service notes in a recent report, “Russia is the only nation that poses, through its arsenal of nuclear weapons, an existential threat to the United States.”

That statement is profoundly accurate. A mere one-percent of the Russian nuclear arsenal would be sufficient to collapse the U.S. economy and kill many millions of Americans. And yet U.S. political leaders have seemed to dismiss Moscow’s persistent threats of nuclear use throughout the Ukraine campaign.

Amid the war in Ukraine, Eastern Europe is growing stronger

Dimitar Bechev

As 2022 is coming to a close, the war in Ukraine rages unabated. Russian President Vladimir Putin sees what he still calls a “special military operation” as a life-or-death contest with the United States and its allies in NATO. The West, for its part, considers the war a threat to its own security and has thrown its weight behind the defence of Ukraine’s sovereignty.

But there is an inherent problem with framing the war as a clash between the US and Russia. It underplays the spirit, resilience and daily sacrifices of Ukrainians in resisting their mighty neighbour bent on re-creating a Moscow-centred imperial order across the post-Soviet space. No amount of military and financial aid for Kyiv would have been sufficient to thwart the Kremlin’s ambition had there been no resolve among Ukrainians to fight back aggression and revanchism.

That Eastern European countries and nations have agency and are more than pawns in the power struggles of larger players is a key takeaway from this war. And it goes well beyond Ukraine’s example.

Poland has become a much more influential player in European defence than it ever was. It is not just the fact that it is a front-line country which takes in many of the refugees coming from Ukraine, provides a land route to supply its neighbour with weapons and humanitarian aid, and sends assistance from its own pocket (more than $3.5bn so far).

What in the World Will Happen in 2023?


NEW YORK – The American baseball player Lawrence “Yogi” Berra is widely quoted as observing, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future.” Whether or not he actually said it, the point is valid. Nevertheless, here are ten predictions for the world for the year just getting underway.

With inflation on the rise and the era of ultra-low interest rates over, financial markets will face a huge stress test in 2023. While banking systems are more robust than they were in 2008, a real-estate slump could severely affect heavily leveraged private-equity firms, producing a systemic crisis.

First, the war in Ukraine, the dominant issue of 2022, will continue, albeit at a less intense level. Neither Russia nor Ukraine will be able to achieve a complete military victory, if victory is defined as routing the other side and dictating the terms of a post-war territorial or political settlement.

Nor will the diplomats achieve victory, if victory is defined as reaching an arrangement both governments are willing to sign and abide by. Peace requires leaders who are willing and able to compromise, two elements that are conspicuously absent (if for very different reasons) on both sides.

Hydrogen hype is rising again—will this time be different?

Vijay Vaitheeswaran

Guzzlers of fizzy drinks in Brisbane could be helping to tackle climate change in 2023. By the end of the year, the vehicle delivering those sugary beverages may no longer spout climate-warming gases. PepsiCo Australia, the local arm of the world’s biggest purveyor of snacks and drinks, will test a new sort of lorry powered not by a dirty diesel engine but by fuel cells, devices that convert hydrogen to electricity while emitting only water vapour.

Enthusiasts are bubbling with excitement as a swirl of geopolitical and energy trends has put the spotlight once again on hydrogen, a clean fuel that can be made from a variety of primary energy sources. Hydrogen has seen previous false dawns. Two decades ago European and Japanese carmakers wasted billions chasing the dream of fuel-cell passenger cars. But governments and investors are betting that this time will be different.

One reason is growing interest in using hydrogen to replace fossil fuels in heavy industries, such as steel-making. That would help reduce carbon emissions—and could also boost energy security by reducing dependency on natural gas, the price of which has soared in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Environmentalists love that “green” hydrogen can be made with renewable energy in electrolysers—devices that use electricity to split water into oxygen and hydrogen. This has sparked a global rush to manufacture them, with around 600 proposed projects, about half of them in Europe. But Big Oil is keen on hydrogen too, because “blue” hydrogen can be made in a cleanish way from natural gas, if methane leaks are minimised and resulting carbon emissions are captured and sequestered.

2022 Year-end Review: Cybersecurity

Daniel Pereira


Not much unlike 2021 (and actually quantifiably worse), 2022 was marked by security professionals reacting to threats, incidents, and vulnerabilities of a constant, unrelenting frequency, volume, and scale. At the end of 2021, in a series of posts entitled The New Normal, we provided case studies of a few of the major cyber incidents which, cumulatively by the end of last year, made it abundantly clear that we were on terra incognito in a way which would clearly carry over into 2022. Also included in our analysis at the time were new threat vectors that were met by new corporate, governmental, and legal mechanisms for response to cyber incidents of all kinds (cyber fraud, crypto theft, data breach, ransomware, etc.) – a trend in this ecosystem which has continued over the course of 2023 as well.
Crypto Goes from ‘Creative Destruction’ to ‘Destruction Destruction’

“…there is more crime being done in the traditional financial system than in the crypto ecosystem right now…”

Over the past several years, there has also been a rapid emergence of companies, projects, and initiatives in what is broadly categorized as Web3, of which the cybersecurity implications were unclear to us until – while monitoring that rapid innovation in 2022 – the OODA research team noticed a disproportionately high number of cybersecurity incidents that have the potential to negatively impact the Web3 ecosystem. Massive, headline-grabbing cryptocurrency security failures – followed by equally massive cyber fraud and cryptocurrency theft – prompted the creation of the OODA Cryptocurrency Incident Database in February 2022.

Do Not Fall for the China-TikTok 'Strategic Ploy'

Gordon G. Chang

The Biden administration should terminate the seemingly endless discussions and either require TikTok to stop operations in the U.S. or force its Chinese owner to sell the app lock, stock and barrel to American parties. No other solution is acceptable from national security and First Amendment points of view.

TikTok and its owner ByteDance have repeatedly made promises about the security of personal data of Americans, but they have violated all pledges.

"Everything is seen in China," a member of TikTok's Trust and Safety Department said in September of last year. A "Beijing-based engineer" known as "Master Admin" had "access to everything." — BuzzFeed, June 17, 2022.

ByteDance, a private Chinese company, is under a compulsion to commit espionage. Articles 7 and 14 of China's 2017 National Intelligence Law require every Chinese national and entity to spy if authorities make a demand. More important, in China's top-down system, every person must follow Communist Party directives.

China will almost certainly obtain U.S. user information one way or another: by taking advantage of technical loopholes in promised protections, by violating agreed protections outright, or by getting U.S.-based personnel to commit espionage

Finland and the Demise of China’s Polar Silk Road

Matti Puranen, Sanna Kopra


Only a short time ago, considerable enthusiasm existed in Finland regarding Beijing’s efforts to forge an “Arctic corridor” of railroads and undersea tunnels, satellite ground stations, an airport for scientific expeditions, and massive biorefineries. In this, Finland was not alone but represented only a small branch of China’s comprehensive thrust to permanently establish a presence above the Arctic Circle. Yet, with the recently emerging geopolitical turbulence, China’s Arctic expansion is facing a standstill, even in Finland, which long seemed like its most viable partner in the region. By applying for NATO membership along with Sweden, Finland is turning westward, practically closing the gates on China’s Arctic expansion beyond Russia. Its story serves as an interesting microcosm on the rise and demise of China’s Arctic policy.

China’s Arctic Dilemma

Today, a clear consensus exists among Chinese officials and experts that China must expand toward the Arctic region. Chinese security experts have long urged the national leadership to develop the necessary capabilities for securing Chinese interests in the new “strategic frontiers.” A particularly authoritative source, the Chinese National Defense University’s Science of Military Strategy (战略学, zhanlüe xue) (SMS) textbook, even claims that the Polar regions represent nothing less than “the main direction of the expansion of China’s national interests,” bound to provide new tasks for the People’s Liberation Army. [1]

The Horn Of Africa States: The Inter-Connectivity Gaps

Dr. Suleiman Walhad

This is the first day of year 2023. It is a good time to welcome it with an article on the inter-connectivity gaps of the Horn of Africa States, highlighting what they have been telling the region to do and what it should actually be doing, if it has to move forward and close the gaps that are apparently obstacles to the region’s further development.

Obviously, the region has a long coast, some 4,700 km and it enjoys a vast territory of nearly 2 million square kilometers. This vast territory consists of agricultural spaces and mountains and plains, rivers and lakes, forests and dry lands, almost desertic. It lounges near a major ocean and overlooks one of the main sea-lanes of the world and a narrow strait that is as important as the Suez Canal for international trade. The region is not empty of people, either. It enjoys a youthful population of some 160 million who live in thousands of villages, towns and cities, and/or are scattered nomadic settlements. The region, nevertheless, lacks inter-connectivity among these thousands of villages, towns and cities and these scattered rural populations.

Hence service provisions, transportation of goods, and movement of people in the region are limited at best. Cross capital and investments within the SEED countries of the region are also hampered by lack of the necessary regional investment laws and protective rules and regulations. It would not be easy to manage all of the above drawbacks within a short period of time, but addressing them, however, is a must if the region has to change its status from its currently disparate single unitary states to a co-ordinated collaborative region on all fronts. An awakening to the realization that there is nothing really terrible to prevent this happening is not apparent. Less than two hundred years ago, there was no such man-made constraints, fake nationalisms and/or borders. Anyone in the region could travel and settle anywhere one chose and start to live and trade and invest and/or start a family within the region and there is no reason the region cannot re-invigorate those long-ago connections.

Why We Will Eventually Have to Listen to Putin

The Russo-Ukrainian war is escalating. The Russians have annexed 4 Ukrainian territories and also declared a partial mobilisation. The Ukrainians are gaining ground and forbidding negotiations with the current Russian president. Medvedev, the former Russian president, again makes clear that the ultimate goal is an overthrow of the Ukrainian political elite. Zelensky believes it is realistic that they can recapture all the territories lost since 2014. That is to say, including Crimea. It is clear. Both the Russians and the Ukrainians believe they can win. Both sides are stepping up rather than down.

And that is precisely the problem. The West has to be the smart one in the room and look for solutions for peace. They say they want peace, but at the same time, they are giving huge amounts of weapons to Ukraine. You cannot continue to ignore Putin. If you want peace, you have to listen to both sides. They believe that Ukraine can be militarily victorious because of the arms deliveries. That is completely wrong. The only thing it will bring is a Putin who will go further. The more territory the Russians lose, the harder they will hit back. And then anything can happen, which is very dangerous. Not only for the region, but for the whole world.

There are two ways to get rid of Putin, but at the moment they seem anything but feasible. One can try to turn the Russian people against him. Or one can hope that his closest circle will get rid of him. Putin is currently one of the most popular leaders in the world. He remains at 77 per cent in polls conducted by the independent Levada polling institute. The trend remains relatively unaffected. After the invasion of Ukraine, his popularity increased, after the partial mobilisation it decreased slightly, and now there is a slight increase again. So that means that despite some concerns, Putin is still the right man in the right place for many Russians. So the first option is not realistic at the moment.

Ukraine is using its old tanks as artillery amid trench warfare in Bakhmut


In the trenches, fields and streets around the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut, Ukrainian tanks are delivering brutal strikes on Russian troops, but not in direct face-to-face combat. Instead, the old T-64 tanks are being used as indirect artillery, with targeting handled by drones or combat helicopters.

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty filmed some of the tank crews utilizing their armor to bolster Ukrainian artillery. It’s a combined arms tactic that is netting successful strikes, even as both sides fail to break through the other’s lines. If Russians try to target the tanks, they move to a different position and resume barrages.

“It gives you an extra nudge. You see what you’ve done, that you have helped the infantry, and you just want to keep on going,” he added.

The fighting around Bakhmut — located in the Ukraine’s eastern Donbas in the breakaway Donetsk region — has descended into World War I-style trench warfare, enhanced with modern touches such as weaponized drones and satellite imaging. Fighting escalated in late summer, but in the last three months ground to a dug-in stalemate with heavy artillery barrages destroying the area around Bakhmut. The city remains in Ukrainian hands, but it has been one of the few places Russian forces have pushed an offensive after Ukraine launched counteroffensives in the country’s east and south. As a result of the trenches set up, both sides are relatively close to one another, allowing the tank strikes to hit with heavy accuracy.

Peace May Be a Long Way Off in Ukraine in 2023

Eugene Chausovsky

As Russia’s war in Ukraine passed its 10-month mark on Dec. 24, the toll of the protracted conflict has been immense. The war has produced hundreds of thousands of casualties, many of them Ukrainian civilians, while forcing millions more in the country to flee their homes. The conflict has rippled out globally, affecting everything from energy to food supplies, whether in the form of rampant inflation or shortages to the world’s most vulnerable states.

At the same time, the war does not appear to be ending anytime soon, and there is no shortage of mixed signals on the outlook for the conflict in the coming year. On the one hand, Russian President Vladimir Putin has shown no willingness to back down on his war aims, stating earlier this month that the conflict could well turn into a “long-term process.” There are also rumblings of a new Russian offensive—potentially with the participation of Belarus—in the coming year, possibly as soon as January.

On the other hand, recent developments such as a high-profile prisoner swap between Russia and the United States, as well as the extension of the Black Sea Grain Initiative, show that diplomacy is still able to achieve tangible results, while Ukraine has ramped up its diplomatic engagements with the United States, France, and Turkey through high-profile calls and visits.

What, then, do these seemingly conflicting signs suggest about the broader outlook for the war in 2023? While the specific outcomes of the war this coming year may be difficult to predict, there are three primary factors that are likely to prove most influential.

Putin Has No Red Lines

Nigel Gould-Davies

“What are Putin’s red lines?”

This question, asked with growing urgency as Russia loses its war in Ukraine but does not relent in its aggressions, is intended to offer analytical clarity and to guide policy. In reality, it is the wrong question, because “red line” is a bad metaphor. Red lines are red herrings. There are better ways to think about strategy.

“Red lines” implies there are defined limits to the actions that a state — in this case, Russia — is prepared to accept from others. If the West transgresses these limits, Russia will respond in new and more dangerous ways. A red line is a tripwire for escalation. Western diplomacy must seek to understand and respect Russia’s red lines by avoiding actions that would cross them. Russia’s red lines thus impose limits on Western actions.

There are three flaws to this reasoning. First, it assumes that red lines are fixed features of a state’s foreign policy. This is almost never the case. What states say, and even believe, that they would not accept can change radically and quickly. In 2012 President Barack Obama said that Syrian use of chemical weapons was a “red line” that would invite “enormous consequences.” Yet when Syria killed hundreds of civilians with the nerve agent sarin the following year, as numerous watchdog groups reported, the U.S. response was muted. The Taliban’s return to Kabul in August 2021 — an outcome the West had spent two decades and trillions of dollars preventing — was the brightest of red lines, until, in the face of changing priorities and a different view of costs and benefits, it suddenly wasn’t.

Russia and Central Asia: Never Closer or Drifting Apart?

Temur Umarov

Just one year ago, Russia’s positions in Central Asia were so solid that even China’s growing presence in the region was not a threat. That all changed with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. With every missile it fires at Ukrainian cities, the Kremlin is destroying Russia’s influence around the world, above all in the post-Soviet space.

Now any statements or gestures that deviate from Moscow’s line look like an attempt by Central Asian countries to sever ties with Russia, and prompt talk of the impending end of its influence in the region. Formal data, however, paints a very different picture of blossoming bilateral relations: Russia’s trade turnover with the region is growing fast; huge numbers of migrants are moving in both directions; and there is a record number of top-level meetings. So what is really happening: is Central Asia moving away from Russia, or ever closer?

None of the Central Asian nations have supported Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and all are adhering to Western sanctions against Russia. The region is also distancing itself from Russian integration projects. In October, Kyrgyzstan canceled military exercises on its territory that were due to be held by the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), and in December, Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev postponed a visit to Bishkek, in doing so avoiding meeting his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin there. The focus is increasingly now on non-Russian projects, such as the Organization of Turkic States.

The War In Ukraine Is A Bloodbath. Could It End In 2023?

Daniel Davis

Note: This is part II of a three-part series. You read part I here. You can read part III here. With the onset of winter and the completion of the first two major phases of the war, both sides are now gearing up for what comes next. Both Russia and Ukraine have suffered significant casualties on the battlefield. The outcome of the next phase – and possibly the war – may be decided by events currently taking place well away from the frontlines.

For more than three months now, the Russians have been engaging in a systematic long-range bombing campaign to cripple or destroy Ukraine’s energy infrastructure in an attempt to severely constrain Kyiv’s ability to sustain its troops in the field and move reinforcements when needed. Though Ukrainian engineers are working heroically to repair the damage from each round of rocket, missile, and artillery attack, almost half of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure has been destroyed.

Most of the focus has been the burden it places on the civil population – frequent blackouts, loss of running water, and little to no heat – but the attacks have done less obvious damage to Ukraine’s military capacity. Factories have a difficult time keeping the electricity on to produce goods, workers can’t reliably get on electrified trains and subway systems to get to work, war material – including ammunition delivered from the West – is having a hard time getting to the front.

Cyber Posture Trends in China, Russia, the United States and the European Union

Dr Lora Saalman, Fei Su and Larisa Saveleva Dovgal

Current understanding of the cyber postures of China, Russia, the United States and the European Union (EU) merits re-evaluation. It is often assumed that China and Russia are aligned, yet this is not always the case. Unlike Russia, which has an ongoing focus on information security, China’s official documents incorporate both information security and cybersecurity concerns that are similar to those of the EU and the USA. Moreover, while often paired, the EU and the USA have differing regulatory structures in cyberspace. Further, both actors increasingly mirror Chinese and Russian concerns about the impact of information warfare on domestic stability. By examining key trends in each actor’s cyber posture, this SIPRI Research Report identifies points of convergence and divergence. Its conclusions will inform a broader SIPRI project that maps cyber posture trajectories and explores trilateral cyber dynamics among China, Russia and the USA to assist the EU in navigating future cyber escalation and enhancing global cyber stability.

Expect the Unexpected in 2023: Cyberattacks and the Next Covid

James Stavridis

With the new year upon us, the big worries for global security are pretty obvious. We should be concerned about a springtime escalation in the Russia-Ukraine war, with the potential for Russian leader Vladimir Putin, in increasing desperation, to use a tactical nuclear weapon. While highly unlikely, a nuclear yield could further distort the world’s military, economic and diplomatic foundations.

A second clear danger is a Chinese attack on Taiwan, which would be even more seismic — in regard to everything from a huge impact on the manufacture of high-end microchips to reordering global trading patterns as sanctions are levied against Beijing. 

Third, there is the intense popular unrest in Iran. Potential outcomes there range from the theocracy being overthrown to a brutal crackdown by the mullahs and a lashing out against regional foes Israel and Saudi Arabia.

US policymakers and analysts will spend a great deal of time anticipating and planning for these dramatic, low-likelihood scenarios. When I was supreme allied commander of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, we would war-game various scenarios, including some in which Russia played the nuclear card. It never ended well for either side. And during the many years I spent in the Pacific commanding destroyers, I had plenty of chances to look at our war plans in case of an attack on Taiwan.

Experts Warn ChatGPT Could Democratize Cybercrime

A new artificial intelligence bot that has quickly become very popular could be utilized by cybercriminals for nefarious purposes, including learning how to craft attacks and write ransomware. ChatGPT was released last month and has already surpassed one million users on the platform. The chatbot leverages vast volumes of data spanning the internet to answer questions with apparent authority in natural language.

Security researchers have warned that the software could be leveraged by aspiring cybercriminals. Picus Security co-founder Suleyman Ozarslan was able to use the ChatGPT bot to create a convincing World Cup phishing campaign and write macOS ransomware. The bot did flag that the phishing script could be used for bad purposes, however, the script was still produced. ChatGPT is programmed not to write ransomware directly, but Ozarslan stated that he was still able to get results.

Virtual Reality, Real Dangers: The Metaverse Poses Counterterrorism Challenges

Girish Linganna

The metaverse is on its way. As with other technical advancements, it presents both new potential and threats.

The metaverse is a virtual reality internet where users can freely move from one virtual environment to another and interact with digital things and digital representations of themselves and other users. It may also involve augmented reality, which is the blending of virtual and physical worlds by depicting people and items from the physical world in the virtual and by bringing the virtual into people’s views of physical locations.

People will be able to wear virtual reality headsets or augmented reality glasses in social, religious, and professional settings, blurring the lines between digital and physical. People’s offline and online lives will complement each other, allowing them to find deeper meaning and more fulfilling experiences in the metaverse. Herein is the dilemma.

Augmented Reality, Amplified Threats

When people develop an affection for anything, whether digital, physical, or a combination of the two, removing it from their lives can bring emotional grief and suffering. To put it more precisely, the things that people hold most dear can be exploited by others who aim to bring harm. People with ill intentions already know that the metaverse is a possible addition to their arsenal. It opens up fresh possibilities for radicals to exert their control over others through coercion, threats, and intimidation. There is a risk that terrorist organizations will establish a foothold in the metaverse. Experts predict that the rise of the metaverse will create new weaknesses and exploitable opportunities. Here are three ways in which the metaverse will hamper efforts to combat terrorism and violent extremism.

Will the Drone Always Get Through? Offensive Myths and Defensive Realities

Antonio Calcara, Andrea Gilli, Mauro Gilli & Ivan Zaccagnini


Do emerging and disruptive technologies yield an offensive advantage? This is a question of central theoretical and substantive relevance. For the most part, however, the literature on this topic has not investigated empirically whether such technologies make attacking easier than defending, but it has largely assumed that they do. At the same time, work on the offense–defense balance has primarily focused on land conflicts, thus offering little understanding of the effect of technological change in other domains, such as the air and sea. In this article we address these gaps by investigating whether current- and next-generation drones shift the offense–defense balance toward the offense or toward offense dominance, as many assume—that is, whether drone technology can or will defeat current- and next-generation air defense systems. To answer these questions, we have explored the literature in radar engineering, electromagnetism, signal processing, and air defense operation. Our analysis challenges the existing consensus about the present and raises questions about the future. Our findings also demonstrate how important it is for the field of security studies to embrace greater interdisciplinarity in order to explore pressing policy and theoretical questions.

Do emerging and disruptive technologies yield an offensive advantage? In other words, do they make attacking easier than defending? These are pressing policy and theoretical questions whose answers have deep and far-reaching implications. Technological change that favors the offense exacerbates the security dilemma, promotes arms races, increases incentives for the employment of force, rewards first movers in a conflict, and ultimately can spiral into aggression and war.1 This is why scholars and practitioners often worry about emerging military technologies, as happened with cruise missiles, cyber weapons, remotely piloted aircraft (or drones), artificial intelligence, lethal autonomous weapons, and hypersonic missiles, among others.2 Perceptions, not factual assessments, often inform such concerns, however: academics, observers, and policymakers tend to assume emerging and disruptive technologies yield an offensive advantage without investigating whether this is empirically true.3 Only recently have some academics started to question some of these perceptions, but their attention has been limited to cyber weapons, leaving other emerging technologies relatively untouched.4

Hypersonic Tonic: A New Year’s Resolution for the United States

Gregory J. Moore

The United States desperately needs a New Year’s Resolution to build and deploy both an offensive hypersonic weapons capability and a defense against hypersonic weapons. China and Russia have both tested and fielded them, while the United States had its first successful hypersonic missile test only in December 2022. More worrying, the United States has not deployed any hypersonic weapons to date, and extant U.S. missile defense systems are not yet capable of shooting down our adversaries’ hypersonic weapons, leaving the United States highly vulnerable at this moment. As former Under Secretary for Research and Engineering Michael Griffin put it, “Proliferation of enemy weapon systems with global reach dictate that the United States can no longer presume domestic sanctuary.”

What are hypersonic weapons?

Hypersonic weapons are missiles/projectiles that travel at hypersonic (five times the speed of sound or Mach 5) speeds and are often highly maneuverable. China and Russia have in recent years pursued hypersonic technology with vigor as a way of circumventing U.S. missile defense superiority. Traditional ballistic missiles have been faster than the speed of sound for decades, leaving the Earth’s atmosphere before returning, plummeting toward their targets in their terminal phase at frightening speeds. However, these traditional ballistic missiles are not maneuverable and have a predictable arc, making them easier to track and, ultimately, shoot down.