11 January 2023

Pakistan in No Mood for Another Ceasefire with TTP

Umair Jamal

The National Security Council (NSC), Pakistan’s principal decision-making body on national security, decided at a meeting on January 2 that “any and all entities that resort to violence” will be dealt with the “full force of the state.”

“Pakistan’s security is uncompromisable and the full writ of the state will be maintained on every inch of Pakistan’s territory,” the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said after the meeting.

Amidst a rise in terror attacks, the NSC, which comprises the top civilian and military leadership, has decided that “no country will be allowed to provide sanctuaries and facilitation to terrorists, and Pakistan reserves all rights in that respect to safeguarding her people. ”The NSC meeting, which is the first that General Asim Munir has attended as Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff (COAS), has brought clarity to Pakistan’s policy towards the banned Tehreek-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and its enablers.

Since the Afghan Taliban’s takeover of Kabul in August 2021, Pakistan has tried all possible avenues to engage the TTP, including involving tribal leaders, religious scholars and the Afghan Taliban. In this effort, Pakistan also reportedly offered to rehabilitate TTP’s fighters and their families, if the group was ready to abide by the constitution and relinquish its militant structure.

“No Ordinary Pakistani”: The Intertwined Stories of Saifullah and Uzair Paracha

Karen J. Greenberg

Bald, bespectacled, and bearded—the image of a beaming Saifullah Paracha sitting at a table at McDonald’s in Karachi, Pakistan, appeared on New York Times reporter Carol Rosenberg’s Twitter on the morning of Oct. 29, 2022. At 75 years of age, Guantanamo’s oldest prisoner had just been released from the island prison camp where he had spent 17 years in detention without ever being charged. Guantanamo’s Periodic Review Board, created to make determinations about further detention or release of prisoners, had ruled a year and a half prior that detainee #1094’s “continued law of war detention is no longer necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States.”

Without fanfare, the father of four was flown to Karachi, Pakistan. A one-time businessman, formerly suspected of aiding al-Qaeda, Saifullah was finally home. He had been dreaming of release for years, writing in 2005, “I am an old man of 58+ years, My Cardiac, Diaretic, Blood Pressures, Skin Disorder, Urinating Difficulties & Ulser, I am on constant medication, but my biggest disease is I am home sick.”

It was the final piece of a story that involved both Saifullah and his son Uzair (for the sake of clarity, this article will refer to the Parachas by their first names), a story of parallel systems for assessing guilt and innocence: one in the federal courts, honoring tradition and the law, and one in Guantanamo, creating its own framework anew, outside accepted norms and laws. This story of father and son shared an ending. Both men ended up heading home, released from U.S. captivity and prison, neither ultimately convicted.

Sri Lanka’s Hard Road To Recovery From Economic And Political Crisis

Dushni Weerakoon

In 2022 Sri Lanka faced its deepest ever economic and political crisis. The country’s descent into chaos accelerated from March, sweeping away high-level bureaucrats and political leaders held culpable for implementing the misguided economic policies at the heart of the country’s problems. The political casualties failed to allay public disaffection with prolonged power outages, queues and shortages of essential commodities.

The primary target of public unrest was Sri Lanka’s elected president, Gotabaya Rajapaksa. His ouster in July was achieved amid outbreaks of violence and the occupation of key government buildings by protesters. For a while, there were real concerns that Sri Lanka would descend into a state of anarchy. The fact that it was averted — with a transfer of power to a new president elected by a majority of votes in parliament — speaks not only to the country’s tradition of democracy but also a desire to avoid repeating past experience of violent upheavals.

The parliament’s appointment of Ranil Wickremasinghe as Sri Lanka’s eighth president was not without controversy. Wickremasinghe, the nominated candidate of the departing Rajapaksas, and his party had also been roundly defeated at the parliamentary polls in August 2020. Yet he was still seen as the safest pair of hands to carry Sri Lanka through what promises to be its toughest economic setback since independence. Complex negotiations with creditors on debt restructuring following a sovereign foreign debt default in April, and an International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailout program, demanded a sound grasp of global economic forces and geopolitical relations. A seasoned politician who has held the post of prime minister on numerous occasions, this was territory familiar to the new president.

Missiles Are No Substitute for Japan Self-Defense Forces’ Manpower Shortage

Samuel Porter

The Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) are not ready for war. This might come as a jarring surprise for foreign defense analysts, many of whom hold the JSDF in high esteem. Just this past November the JSDF received remarkably good news: Prime Minister Kishida Fumio announced his plans for a new defense budget that increases defense spending to 2 percent of Japan’s GDP by 2027. This budget would not only transform a “pacifist” Japan into the world’s third largest military spender after China and the United States, but also dramatically expand Japan’s arsenal of cyber and kinetic capabilities, including the unprecedented acquisition of cruise missiles for retaliatory or preemptive strikes.

But Kishida’s spending plan masks a glaring problem rotting away the core capabilities of the JSDF. The JSDF is critically short of soldiers and sailors to perform the many tasks it already has.

Compared to its peers on the Asian continent, the JSDF is a relatively small military. On paper, the JSDF possesses an authorized strength of approximately 247,154 servicemembers. Since 2014, however, the JSDF has consistently missed its recruitment goals. As of this past year, the JSDF’s ground, air, and maritime branches lack a combined 16,000 personnel. This shortfall has had immediate repercussions on the ability of the JSDF to operate as intended.

Trysts With Sri Lanka’s Ghosts

V.V. Ganeshananthan

In July 1983, Sri Lanka’s capital of Colombo erupted in anti-Tamil pogroms effectively sanctioned by the state. The violence followed the deaths of 13 Sinhalese Sri Lankan Army soldiers at the hands of Tamil militants in the city of Jaffna. The night after the ambush, mobs from the country’s Sinhalese majority targeted and attacked Tamils—members of the country’s largest ethnic minority group—in Colombo. Tamils were murdered or displaced, Tamil houses and offices burned. The violence raged for days before then-President J.R. Jayewardene said anything. The death toll is estimated to have been in the thousands, although no official number was ever announced. What happened in Colombo echoed all over the country, and many Tamils fled, some leaving Sri Lanka forever. Although ethnic tensions preceded this event, known as Black July, by decades, it is often considered the beginning of the Sri Lankan civil war.

Black July lives on through communal memory, of course, but also in photographs. A famous picture by photojournalist Chandragupta Amarasinghe shows a naked Tamil man cowering on a bench while several laughing young Sinhalese men swing their feet in his direction. One is preparing to kick him. Over the years, this image has arguably circulated more than any other depiction of the violence—undeniable proof of the cruelty of those days. How does such evidence pass into fiction? In Shehan Karunatilaka’s novel The Seven Moons of Maali Almeida, which won the 2022 Booker Prize, the photograph (or one strikingly like it) is taken by the eponymous character, who describes it as the “naked boy surrounded by dancing devils.” Rather than publishing it, Maali has tucked it away in a box—along with a number of other politically explosive shots—in anticipation of the day when harm might befall him, just as it has so many other Sri Lankan journalists.

Big Ideas From Recent Trends in China’s Data Governance

Nanda Min Htin

Data will define China. Ever since the State Council enshrined data as a factor of production alongside land, labor, capital, and technology in 2020, the importance of regulating digital information has only continued to grow. Three big ideas have emerged in recent years: First, how China intends to leverage data to drive its economy. Second, the nuances behind increasingly intense data protection enforcement and an accountability blind spot in favor of public bodies, including questions over the Cyberspace Administration of China’s mandate. Finally, the potential influence Chinese data governance ideals have on foreign governments that have become increasingly reliant on the former.

Leveraging Data as a Factor of Economic Production

China’s 14th Five-Year Plan for National Informatization (the 14th FYP), likely the world’s first industrial policy for the digital era, endeavors to “activate the factor value of data” to “shape a strong domestic market that is innovation-driven [and] high-quality.” This should be read together with top leader Xi Jinping’s directives on economic development, which espoused the need to “regulate amidst development and develop amidst regulation.” Accordingly, China’s digital economy will rely on data not as a raw resource to be exploited by the free market, but as a regulated commodity subject to close government oversight.

What China’s Covid Crisis Means for the Rest of the World

AFTER NEARLY THREE years of strict restrictions to keep cases to a minimum, the Chinese government announced last month that it was ending its zero Covid policy—unleashing the biggest coronavirus outbreak the world has ever seen.

Across a population that’s both undervaccinated and underexposed to the virus, up to 250 million people may have been infected in the first 20 days of December alone, according to a leaked estimate from Chinese health officials. In the eastern province of Zhejiang, home to more than 64 million people, the provincial government has reported around 1 million new cases a day.

Infections are likely to escalate further this month following the Lunar New Year on January 22. The event is the world’s largest annual migration, as Chinese people travel across the country to gather with friends and family. “There’s going to be about a billion infections in China this winter,” predicts Ben Cowling, an epidemiology professor at the University of Hong Kong. “Starting within the next two weeks, any village in China which has so far managed to avoid Covid is not going to avoid it for much longer.”

Domestically, this viral surge is nothing short of a crisis. Grim reports tell of hospitals being overwhelmed and huge queues to crematoriums, with modelers predicting that nearly 2 million Chinese people could die this winter because of the country not being ready to fully open up. At the start of November, 60 percent of over-80s in China were either not vaccinated at all or not boosted with a third dose. “They made this decision to rapidly transition out of the pandemic without a high enough vaccine coverage, without hospitals being prepared, without antivirals stockpiled, and so on,” says Cowling.

War game suggests Chinese invasion of Taiwan would fail at a huge cost to US, Chinese and Taiwanese militaries

Brad Lendon and Oren Liebermann

CNN — A Chinese invasion of Taiwan in 2026 would result in thousands of casualties among Chinese, United States, Taiwanese and Japanese forces, and it would be unlikely to result in a victory for Beijing, according to a prominent independent Washington think tank, which conducted war game simulations of a possible conflict that is preoccupying military and political leaders in Asia and Washington.

A war over Taiwan could leave a victorious US military in as crippled a state as the Chinese forces it defeated.

At the end of the conflict, at least two US aircraft carriers would lie at the bottom of the Pacific and China’s modern navy, which is the largest in the world, would be in “shambles.”

Those are among the conclusions the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), made after running what it claims is one of the most extensive war-game simulations ever conducted on a possible conflict over Taiwan, the democratically ruled island of 24 million that the Chinese Communist Party claims as part of its sovereign territory despite never having controlled it.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping has refused to rule out the use of military force to bring the island under Beijing’s control.

How Beijing Accidentally Ended the Zero COVID Policy

Zhuoran Li

In December 2022, China finally ended its draconian zero COVID policy. Following the sudden opening, the number of positive cases and deaths skyrocketed. The reasoning behind this change has been baffling scholars. Not long ago, the official media praised the zero COVID policy as “most economical and most effective.” Perhaps more surprising was that there seemed to be little preparation for the opening. Soon after the opening, hospitals faced overcrowding, and medicines were sold out.

The zero COVID policy certainly demonstrated the Chinese Communist Party (CCP)’s mobilization capability. Thus, one may ask: If the CCP can mobilize its cadres to enforce lockdowns and mass COVID-testing for almost three years, why can’t it facilitate a smoother transition out of zero COVID?

The answer lies in the characteristics of a mobilization campaign, which encourages two behaviors among local governments. First, mobilization is a path-dependent process. The central government directs local governments to concentrate on one political goal. Fearing the punishment that would come with failing to meet that goal, local governments double down on extreme policy implementation to demonstrate their diligence and satisfy upper-level evaluators.

China tops US in defense-related satellites orbited in 2022: Report


WASHINGTON — While the US led the world in the total number of space launches in 2022 with China coming in second, a new report calls China the winner for the most defense-related payloads.

“China is replacing Russia as the No. 2 space power,” Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard and Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., and author of the “Space Activities in 2022” report [PDF], told Breaking Defense Thursday. McDowell is also the author of the online newsletter “Jonathan’s Space Report,” which chronicles worldwide space launches.

The US attempted 78 launches in 2022, with 72 of them successful, according to the report published Tuesday. Russia successfully launched 21. China attempted to launch 64, and 62 made orbit. For each country, many of those launches carried multiple satellites. For specifically defense-related satellites, the report finds that China orbited 45, the US 30 and Russia 15.

A U.S. Data Strategy Net Assessment

Rama Elluru, Chuck Howell, Keefe Singer and Ben Bain

We often think about measuring the state of the technology competition in terms of hardware innovation, nanometers, petaflops, or number of patents or PhDs trained. Assessing a nation's success in utilizing its data

1 assets is more difficult, but equally important to the contest. How the United States and China use data to benefit their societies, accelerate their economies, and deliver for their citizens will go a long way toward determining how the contest between autocracies and democracies plays out over the long-run. Successful data utilization is not solely based on the amount of data available, but also on the rules, laws, and strategies that shape if and how data can be collected and used for productive purposes.

A Data Strategy Net Assessment

The United States has more data centers than any other country, is home to the world’s largest technology companies, dominates the big data and business analytics market, and is the world’s largest data producer. But the United States has not effectively organized a whole-of-nation effort to fully leverage its massive government and non-government (private sector, academia, and civil society) data assets to gain a competitive advantage in the global contest with China.

The Government Is Again Taking Antitrust Action Against Microsoft: Again This Is Wrong

Benjamin Seevers

Once again, after two decades of silence, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is cracking down on Microsoft. For what? Microsoft is accused of monopolistic tendencies in their recent bid to acquire the company Activision Blizzard.

What is ironic about the FTC’s move is that Microsoft’s acquiring Activision will not even give Microsoft a majority market share in the industry. As of 2020, Microsoft’s share in the gaming market was 6.5 percent. Acquiring Activision Blizzard would then put Microsoft at 10.7 percent. This is a far cry away from a majority share in the market, let alone a total monopoly of 100 percent.

The definition of monopoly power is too broad. Any element of a good which sets it apart from another is said to give monopoly power. Consequently, every market participant is a “monopolist” to some extent. This is not a useful definition for the term.

What does the FTC mean when they use the term? In their own words: “[The] maker of Xbox [Microsoft] would gain control of top video game franchises, enabling it to harm competition in high-performance gaming consoles and subscription services by denying or degrading rivals’ access to its popular content.”

Russia is holding back on using its most advanced fighter jets over Ukraine because it's scared they'll get shot down, UK intel says

Sophia Ankel

Russia's using its most advanced combat jets against Ukraine, British intelligence said Monday.

But the jets are firing missiles into Ukraine only from Russian territory, the brief added.

It said Russia's keeping them back over worries about "reputational damage" if they're shot down.

Russia is holding back on using its most advanced fighter jets over Ukrainian airspace because it's scared they'll get shot down, the UK's defense ministry said on Monday.

In its latest intelligence update, the defense ministry said Moscow had "almost certainly" used Su-57 Felon fighter jets to conduct missions against Ukraine since at least June.

"These missions have likely been limited to flying over Russian territory, launching long range air-to-surface or air-to-air missiles into Ukraine," the brief said.

Russia Loses 11 Tanks, 17 Armored Vehicles and 3 Helicopters in a Day: Kyiv


Russian forces in Ukraine had lost a significant amount of military equipment in the space of 24 hours, Ukraine's military said in an update Monday, as Moscow ramps up reinforcements in preparation for possible Ukrainian counteroffensives.

The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said on Monday morning that over the previous day 11 tanks, 17 armored vehicles and three helicopters belonging to Russia's armed forces had been destroyed.

In its daily update, Ukraine also said that Russia had lost four artillery systems, three multiple-launch rocket systems and seven operational tactical UAVs. It also said 590 Russian military personnel had lost their lives, bringing the total number killed to 111,760 since the war began on February 24.

"During the past 24 hours, Ukrainian Air Force launched 17x air strikes on the concentrations of enemy troops, and 3x air strikes against Russian anti-aircraft missile systems," Ukraine's military reported.

The War In Ukraine Must Stop Now

John Scales Avery

After his illegal and brutal invasion of Ukraine, Vladimir Putin put Russia’s nuclear forces on high alert, thus threatening the world with an all-destroying nuclear war. The threat brought back memories of the Cuban Missile Crisis, when the world was balanced on the edge of a suicidal and genocidal nuclear war. We are once again reminded of the urgent need for the world to rid itself of nuclear weapons.
The Danger of Nuclear War

War was always madness, always immoral, always the cause of unspeakable suffering, economic waste and widespread destruction, and always a source of poverty, hate, barbarism and endless cycles of revenge and counter-revenge. It has always been a crime for soldiers to kill people, just as it is a crime for murderers in civil society to kill people. No flag has ever been wide enough to cover up the atrocities of war.

But today, the development of all-destroying thermonuclear weapons has put war completely beyond the bounds of sanity and elementary humanity.

Today, the existing nuclear weapons have half a million times the power of the bombs that devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki. A thermonuclear war would destroy human civilization, together with most of the plants and animals with which we share the gift of life.

In 2023, Uncertainty Will Shape the Global Landscape

Marco Vicenzino

As the world approaches the first quarter mark of the twenty-first century, the global landscape remains more volatile, and uncertain, than at any point in recent history. 2023 promises to be one of the most challenging years in decades as ongoing market turmoil ensues. Although inflation may be brought under control, it will remain exceptionally high and coupled by inevitable global recession. The main questions are how long and severe will the recession be. It will have differing regional responses generally revolving around the fallout of the Covid pandemic and the Ukraine War.

Arguably, the United Kingdom is already in recession. For the United States, recession is likely to be briefer and less severe than for Europe, whose geographical proximity and traditional energy dependence are directly exposed to the Ukraine conflict. Once China learns to live with Covid in 2023, its economy will rebound. However, the question remains when and how it will manage the virus. Furthermore, post-pandemic rebounded Chinese demand may result in higher inflation for Western economies.

Mounting debt in emerging markets is becoming largely unsustainable. 2023 risks a series of sovereign debt defaults, particularly in Africa, unless a concerted and effective restructuring effort is launched. Just before the end of 2022, Ghana reached a last-minute bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund. Others are likely to follow in 2023. Furthermore, investors must prepare for the possibility of haircuts on their holdings.

Russia’s Rebound

Barry R. Posen

“All the dumb Russians are dead.” So said Ukrainian officials in July 2022 as they sought to explain why the Russian army had abandoned the overambitious strategy and amateurish tactics that defined its conduct in the early weeks of the war. It was probably too early to make this quip. The Russians continued to do many dumb things and indeed still do. But broadly speaking, the Ukrainians’ intuition in the summer now appears correct: when it comes to overall military strategy, Moscow seems to have gotten smarter.

Russian strategic decisions are finally starting to make military sense. The partial mobilization of reservists that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered in September has strengthened Russian forces at the front. The bombing campaign against Ukrainian energy infrastructure that began in October is forcing Ukraine and its allies to divert resources toward the defense of the country’s urban population, vulnerable to bitter winter weather in the absence of electricity. And the withdrawal of Russian forces from the city of Kherson in November has saved capable units from destruction and freed them for action elsewhere.

In July, I argued that the war was stalemated. Given Ukraine’s subsequent successes in liberating territory in and around the cities of Kherson and Kharkiv, my assessment was clearly premature. But it is worth noting that Ukraine achieved these successes during the period in which Russia’s forces were at their weakest and its leadership was at its poorest. Despite Kyiv’s advances, the grim truth remains that then and now, the ratio of Russian casualties to Ukrainian casualties stands at one to one, according to U.S. estimates.

'Everything starts to become better': After three years of Covid isolation, China opens its gates

Simone McCarthy, Selina Wang, Ivan Watson and Wayne Chang

Hong Kong (CNN) — Thousands of travelers crossed mainland China's borders on Sunday for joyful reunions and long-awaited journeys as authorities relaxed restrictions that had both separated families and isolated the world's most populous country for nearly three years.

At international airports in China's major cities, families awaited returnees at the exit gates for the first time since the early days of the pandemic -- a sharp change from the longstanding Covid protocols that saw all arrivals processed by hazmat-clad workers and taken to mandatory hotel quarantine for days or weeks.

One Beijing resident surnamed Yu brought her young son to Beijing's Capital International Airport to await the arrival of her husband returning home from his job in Spain for the first time in nearly a year.

"(Previously) we wouldn't have been able to pick him up here today, because he would have had to be quarantined before returning home. We are excited that we can see him today," said Yu, moments before her husband walked out of the arrivals to scoop up their son into his arms.

Is Russia losing the cyber warfare?

Mashal Zahid

Many peculiarities are coming out of this strange war as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine enters its eleventh month. The reason why a strong cyber warfare power like Russia has launched so few and hence ineffective cyber-attacks against Ukraine and its allies is one of the most perplexing. The digital conflict over Ukraine is examined by New Horizons, along with any potential long-term effects.

On February 24, 2022, when Russia invaded Ukraine, many analysts anticipated a conflict far different from the one that is currently being waged. Not only was the invasion expected to be a four-day blitzkrieg, but many experts predicted that Russia would wage such a fierce cyber war against Ukraine that an invasion might not even be necessary to force Kyiv to comply with Moscow’s demands. Even before Russian forces attacked Ukraine in February, many analysts in the West, Ukraine, and Russia predicted that Moscow might use cyber-attacks to cause significant harm to Ukraine before or after the military invasion began. Russia does have significant and formidable cyber capabilities. The reality, on the other hand, has been significantly different.

The offensive has stagnated and stretched into eleven months of brutal ground battle, but the cyber war has never actually taken off. This is unexpected because Russia, along with the United States, the United Kingdom, China, Israel, Iran, and North Korea, has been building advanced offensive and defensive cybernetic capabilities for decades and has also indicated a willingness to employ them on numerous occasions.

Armenia Needs Alternatives to Russia and Iran

George Monastiriakos

Armenia is far from perfect, but it’s a democracy. Two of Armenia’s closest partners are Russia and Iran. The Islamic Republic of Iran is characterized by its repression of women and minority groups. The Russian Federation is defined by its imperialist ambitions to invade and annex former Soviet republics. Whether good or bad options, these are existential partnerships for Armenia due to the threat posed – and the strategic advantage held – by Azerbaijan. To be clear: Armenia’s geopolitical predicament is precarious, and it needs alternatives to Russia and Iran.

Armenia’s partnership with Iran is pragmatic. Armenia is cursed by geography. Blockaded by an antagonistic Turkey to the west and an even more hostile Azerbaijan to the east, Armenia’s connection to the world depends on Georgia to the north and one border crossing with Iran to the south. Although Iran’s direct military support to Armenia is limited, Armenia and Iran share a common cause in their respective disputes with Azerbaijan.

While Armenia’s conflict with Azerbaijan is common knowledge, tensions between Azerbaijan and Iran are not as well-known. Put simply, Baku and Tehran have quasi territorial disputes based on incompatible worldviews. On the one hand, the Azeri concept of Bütöv Azərbaycan – Greater Azerbaijan – is predicated on unifying the lands historically inhabited by Azerbaijanis into one state. This includes Armenian territory to the west of Azerbaijan and Iranian territory to the south of Azerbaijan. On the other hand, Iran has long viewed Azerbaijan as a lost territory that belongs within its sphere of influence. Like Iran’s connection to Iraq and Lebanon, this is mainly due to Azerbaijan’s Shia majority.

Japan, South Korea Wonder: How Strong Is the US Nuclear Umbrella?

Takahashi Kosuke

There are growing concerns in both Japan and South Korea over the United States’ extended nuclear deterrence, or nuclear umbrella.

For one thing, the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war has given East Asian policymakers and publics a big reason to believe that, in order to avoid a nuclear war, the United States will not take direct military action against nuclear-armed nations such as Russia. It is well remembered that U.S. President Joe Biden ruled out the option of U.S. military intervention in the early stage of the Russian invasion in 2022. He repeatedly vowed not to send U.S. troops to Ukraine. This sharply contrasts with the Gulf War (1990–91), when then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein invaded neighboring Kuwait and the United States-led coalition directly fought against Iraq.

This reinforces Tokyo’s and Seoul’s suspicions that the U.S. nuclear umbrella may have some “holes” and fail to provide real protection against other nuclear-weapons states, including China and North Korea, as well.

For another thing, Japan and South Korea need an enhanced nuclear deterrent to be provided by the United States because their neighbors, Russia and North Korea, began to issue direct threats to use tactical nuclear weapons in 2022.

Four Moves To Watch For This Year In Ukraine

Luke Coffey

As Russia’s campaign against Ukraine enters 2023 there is no end to the fighting in sight. What began as a planned three-day military operation last February is about to enter its second year of major combat.

It’s difficult to know the exact numbers, but it is clear that tens of thousands of soldiers from both sides have been killed and many more wounded. Thousands of civilians have also been killed, and millions more have been forcibly removed from their homes.

So what should we expect in the war in 2023? There are four developments to watch out for.

The first place to keep an eye on is the area around the city of Bakhmut in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine. For months, Russian forces — mainly from the private Wagner Group — have tried without success to capture the city. For Ukraine, the priority will be holding the defensive lines near Bakhmut and the surrounding region. Both sides are paying a high price in the battle. Thousands of soldiers have been killed, Bakhmut is essentially flattened, and only about 10,000 of its prewar population of 80,000 remain in the city.

Although Bakhmut holds little military strategic value, both sides have attached symbol worth to it that has made failure there politically difficult. Yevgeny Prigozhin, the Russian oligarch close to the Kremlin who leads the Wagner Group, is acutely aware that his reputation is on the line. Failure to capture the city would mean a major loss of influence in Moscow. Meanwhile, after President Volodomyr Zelensky’s daring visit to Bakhmut last month, abandoning the city to the Russians would be a psychological blow to the Ukrainian people.

What awaits Ukraine in 2023?

Mansur Mirovalev

Kyiv, Ukraine – By the end of 2022, a sense of pride dominated Ukraine.

After more than 10 months of the war, Kyiv’s armed forces had liberated almost half of the areas Russia occupied earlier in the year.

“In the past, this feeling of pride was barely familiar to most of Ukraine’s population; by now it has become massive,” Svetlana Chunikhina, vice president of the Association of Political Psychologists, a group in Kyiv, told Al Jazeera.

Ukraine went through two anti-Russian popular revolts, in 2004 and 2014. But each time, the newly-elected and widely-supported pro-Western governments got mired in corruption scandals and turf wars in the halls of power.

These days, however, Ukrainians overwhelmingly support President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who was elected in 2019 with a record-breaking 71 percent of the vote.

Meanwhile, the clout of billionaire oligarchs, who once controlled entire regions and branches of the economy and were widely seen as political puppeteers, has waned dramatically.

Russia blamed deadly strike on troops using phones. Here's why it might be more about bad planning

Mark Gollom

Russia's explanation that dozens of their soldiers were killed in a strike earlier this week as a result of troops divulging positions through their use of cellphones is being questioned by some observers who believe bad military planning was the ultimate cause.

The use of cellphones by Russian soldiers may have played some role — it has been a significant military problem for the Russians during the war — but according to experts, it's also an indication of the lack of training and discipline among the troops.

"This is kind of an endemic issue to the current Russian military in that their forces are so poorly trained and poorly disciplined that they really don't practise good operational security measures at all," said Karolina Hird, a Russia analyst on the Russia/Ukraine portfolio at the Institute for the Study of War.

The strike that killed 89 Russian service members occurred just after midnight on New Year's Day — on a school that was converted into military quarters in Makiivka, in the Moscow-controlled parts of the Donetsk region.

In a statement Wednesday, Russia's defence ministry said it was "already obvious that the main reason" for the attack was due to "the switching on and massive use — contrary to the prohibition — by personnel of mobile phones in a reach zone of enemy weapons."

Exclusive: Russian hackers targeted U.S. nuclear scientists

James Pearson and Christopher Bing

LONDON/WASHINGTON, Jan 6 (Reuters) - A Russian hacking team known as Cold River targeted three nuclear research laboratories in the United States this past summer, according to internet records reviewed by Reuters and five cyber security experts.

Between August and September, as President Vladimir Putin indicated Russia would be willing to use nuclear weapons to defend its territory, Cold River targeted the Brookhaven (BNL), Argonne (ANL) and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratories (LLNL), according to internet records that showed the hackers creating fake login pages for each institution and emailing nuclear scientists in a bid to make them reveal their passwords.

Reuters was unable to determine why the labs were targeted or if any attempted intrusion was successful. A BNL spokesperson declined to comment. LLNL did not respond to a request for comment. An ANL spokesperson referred questions to the U.S. Department of Energy, which declined to comment.

From Washington, Berlin and Paris, a sudden influx of armor bound for Ukraine


BELFAST and PARIS — Outside of items like refurbished Soviet-era T-72 tanks, Western leaders have been generally hesitant to send advanced armored vehicles to Ukraine, in part for fear of escalation and the conflict pouring over NATO’s borders.

But this week has seen a spate of announcements from Washington, Berlin and Paris that will send lethal vehicles to Kyiv, in what may be part of a Western strategy to slowly but surely ratchet up the tension on Moscow and could presage mobile armor transfers to come.

The transfer of a German Marder infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) package, of around 40 vehicles, along with a Patriot air defense system was signed off by Chancellor Olaf Schultz after a Jan 5. phone call with US President Joe Biden. The same day, Washington agreed for the first time to send 50 M2A2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles. Those equipment pledges come on the heels of France agreeing to supply Ukraine with the nimble AMX-10RC armored reconnaissance vehicles.

The Bradleys headline a new $3.75 billion American package, including a $2.85 billion drawdown from US weapon stockpiles for delivery to Ukraine. In addition to the Bradleys, which will come with 500 TOW anti-tank missiles and 250,000 rounds of 25 mm ammunition, the US is sending 100 M113 Armored Personnel Carriers, 18 155mm self-propelled Howitzers and 36 105mm towed Howitzers.

Malware Threat Feeds On Escalating Narrative Warfare

Dr. Theodore Karasik

State-sponsored efforts to increase malware attacks and seek ransoms are again on the rise. This type of cybercrime is increasing as certain countries feel more economic woe and displacement from the West. Poorly performing economies, due to sanctions, ineptitude or both, are increasing the likelihood of malware attacks and aggressive coding by state-supported criminal actors as part of a wider spree designed to disrupt the ability to closely examine indicators.

Cybercriminals and hackers are launching new campaigns of aggression by surveilling who is on their webpages. A normal practice perhaps in some countries, but when weaponized it turns into a potential revenue stream. Several countries around the world are beginning to support such practices. As international criminal investigations close one case, they uncover a multitude of new hacks. It is an internet-wide phenomenon exacerbated by the clashing narratives emerging across the social media landscape that amplify events on the ground.

Research shows that malware apps are published every eight seconds, indicating that malware is growing at an alarming rate. Analysts argue that state-of-the-art malware detectors yield results that significantly depend on the evaluation dataset. Indeed, none of the studied approaches has been reported to reach the highest predicted performance on all the evaluation settings. This suggests that trusting a single approach toward protection in a real-world setting is unrealistic. To be sure, some families of malware are detected very accurately by state-of-the-art approaches, but other malware can almost completely escape the detection of some approaches.

Defense Logistics Agency to Shift Warehouse Management to Commercial Software

Aaron Boyd

The Defense Department’s central agency for managing the military’s supply chain is modernizing its warehouse management technology and plans to move from government-built systems to commercial software.

The Defense Logistics Agency issued a draft request for proposals for software and hardware integration services as part of a wholesale replacement of its warehouse management systems.

The agency has already begun modernizing its Distribution Standards System with a transition to a commercial cloud-based system developed by SAP. That effort is on track to be completed by September 2025. But a full modernization will also include transitioning from the government-built Equipment Control System to a commercial Warehouse Control System, also expected to wrap by the end of fiscal 2025.

Under the current plan, DLA will award multiple spots on an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract, from which each of the 34 regional warehouses can purchase approved management software through task orders.

The Age of Digital, Transparent Warfare Is Here

THE WAR IN Ukraine was a shock, not a surprise—it was a clear and present danger ever since the Russian invasion of Crimea in 2014. It was also not a surprise because the world watched Russia assemble its forces on Ukraine’s border for months. In 2023, war will be comprehensively transparent, seen and understood by integrating information from satellites—commercial low-Earth-orbit cubesats and high-end geo-stationary military satellites and aircraft; all the digital traces left as people and equipment move through a highly connected world (from closed-circuit TV cameras and traffic data to bank cards and mobile phone locations); and the proliferation of user-generated content discoverable on social media.

In 2023, it will no longer be possible to sneak up on someone else's country with an army, navy, or air force, or to conceal the death and destruction that they inflict. Armed forces around the world will try to counter this by assembling, moving from home bases, and maneuvering on the front lines in more dispersed ways, hiding as much as possible in plain sight. They will mostly fail, but the fleet of commercial vans moving small numbers of heavy artillery rounds on well-varied routes from West to East in Ukraine shows what can be done.

The success of both shoulder-launched and heavier anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles against columns of armored vehicles and streams of aircraft—plus the undisputed vulnerability of the whole of Ukraine to Russia’s long-range cruise and ballistic missiles, and the sinking of the Russian warship Moskva—show that precision weapons are ending the primacy of the platforms and headquarters that have dominated battlefields since the early 20th century. One precision missile, even if it costs tens of thousands of dollars, can destroy a platform that costs many millions and put the lives of its crew in mortal jeopardy. This will transform how armies, navies, and air forces organize, equip, and operate. The restraining factor today is the cost and manufacturing complexity of these weapons, but as the world lives with the existential peril of a 21st century Great Power Conflict, the urgency to drive down costs and increase inventory will only grow.

Britain sending 'most capable' Challenger 2 tanks to fight Russia would be 'game changer'


The UK Government is reported to be weighing up a shipment of Challenger-2 tanks to bolster the Ukrainian resistance against Russia. Britain's move would be the first of its kind and would likely encourage other western militaries to donate their own stocks of tanks to Ukraine, according to Philip Ingram MBE, a former colonel in the British Army. The UK is considering supplying Ukraine with British tanks for the first time to fight Russia's invading forces, Sky News understands. Discussions have been taking place "for a few weeks" about delivering a number of the British Army's Challenger 2 main battle tank to the Ukrainian armed forces, a Western source with knowledge of the conversations said. Such a move would mark a significant step-up in Western support to Ukraine and could help prompt other NATO allies, in particular Germany, to follow suit.

Mr Ingram told Express.co.uk: "The UK stating they could supply Ukraine with up to 10 Challenger 2 tanks is a game changer for Ukraine's military capability.

"It is as much a political measure as it is provision of military capability as it will likely stimulate other NATO members to contribute Main Battle tanks and in particular Leopard 2.

"These combined with the recently announced Marder and Bradley Infantry Fighting Vehicles will give the Ukrainians a real capability that has a proven ability to overmatch anything the Russians have and will be taken by Russia as a significant escalation.