12 January 2023

Taiwan Must Heed the Wake-Up Call From Ukraine

Clara Ferreira Marques

Taiwan’s decision to shake up compulsory military service — extending it to one year, among other measures — has prompted generous commentators to argue that Taipei is finally getting serious about self-defense and deterrence, seizing the window of opportunity provided by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to make a necessary but politically difficult move. The less magnanimous pointed out that the change has been a long time coming, and behind-the-scenes US arm-twisting may have focused minds.

Either way, in the face of an increasingly assertive China, this is at best a first step. From genuinely overhauling conscript and reservist training to adjusting military procurement and addressing critical vulnerabilities like energy supply, Taiwan has far more to do if it is to adequately prepare for catastrophic conflict with its giant neighbor. And, ideally, avert it.

Taiwan has for years been urged to change its approach to a potential confrontation, as the shift in military balance with China alters Taipei’s options. Instead of preparing to tackle Beijing’s forces (and vastly larger budget) head-on, US officials and others have encouraged Taipei to focus on making the most of the defender’s advantage, denying the enemy its strategic objectives and wearing it down. An asymmetric defense relying less on flashy equipment, or “porcupine” strategy, is championed by former military chief Lee Hsi-min as the “Overall Defense Concept.” And yet that plan has struggled to gain traction, even as Taiwan’s civilians headed to first aid and resilience courses or shooting ranges.

Tests on travelers from China offer rare snapshot of covid chaos

Kelsey Ables

SEOUL — As more travelers from China begin visiting international destinations for the first time in three years, covid data from places with on-arrival testing is offering a glimpse into the pandemic situation within China, which the World Health Organization said has been obscured by insufficient data.

In late December, two flights from China to Italy brought in almost 100 coronavirus-infected passengers; about half of one flight and one-third of another tested positive.

Countries around the world soon implemented increased testing requirements for arrivals from China, which have gone into effect during the run-up to heightened travel during the Lunar New Year holiday in late January. The new rules come into effect amid reports of overflowing hospitals and medicine shortages in China after it reversed its “zero covid” policy.

A surge of covid-19 cases in China exhausted hospitals in January 2023 after Beijing scrapped its stringent pandemic controls one month prior. (Video: Reuters)

Among the strictest are policies in Italy, South Korea, Japan and Taiwan, which require on-arrival testing for passengers from China. The United States requires proof of a negative test before departure, while other countries are testing wastewater from aircraft on flights originating in China.

China’s AI Ambitions: Strategic Comparison of Past and Recent Congress Report

The 20th Party Congress report highlights the development of “unmanned, intelligent combat capabilities” in terms of specific uses of AI. This is consistent with the PLA’s ongoing long-term investments in unmanned vehicles at prestigious academic institutions and research centers since the early 2010s. The clear mention of unmanned vehicles outfitted with AI may signal Beijing’s interest in using this particular technology on the battlefield, in contrast to the 19th report’s somewhat ambiguous phrasing of “accelerating military intelligentization.”At China’s recently culminated 20th Party Congress, Chinese Communist Party (CCP) General Secretary Xi Jinping delivered a lengthy speech outlining his vision for development of sophisticated artificial intelligence technology in the present decade of 21st century where it is aspiring to be a superpower. Notably, compared to his report five years ago, Xi dedicated a whole section to technological development and talent management and enhancement of existing talent pool in the recently held CPC meetings. At the same time Washington has attempted to slow down China’s advancement in artificial intelligence (AI) with various new export controls. Beijing is determined to catch up with a comprehensive set of policy measures sooner or later (Xi speech, 2022). It aims to achieve “great self-reliance and strength in science and technology” in the present and following decade.

This piece will analyze the implications of the 20th Party Congress report on China’s technological development, especially focusing on AI in Chinese at the centre of discussion.
Increasing Technological Development Efforts

America Is Lost in a Dark Forest, But There's a Path Out


Sadly, in these not-so-United States, we have found our way deep into a dark forest, and the question before us is how do we find the path out of this dangerous thicket into which we have wandered? Our dire internal divisions are quite extraordinary and worrisome. And here I’m talking to you wherever you are on the political spectrum from MSNBC to Fox News. If you get up in the morning watching Morning Joe and you wrap it up with Rachel Maddow at night; or you start on the white couch over at Fox and you finish up with Sean Hannity—wherever you are on that spectrum, you ought to be concerned about the plummeting nature of our discourse with each other.

That division is the dark forest into which we have wandered, and the real challenge is that the world is not going to wait for us while we figure out how to escape. The world does not see us standing coherently together and facing the challenges and turbulence that roil the globe. This weakens us dramatically.

Consider the challenges: an ongoing global pandemic, a broken withdrawal from Afghanistan, Vladimir Putin rattling the saber of nuclear weapons, failing cyber security, fierce competition with Beijing, Iran moving apace toward a nuclear weapon, Kim Jong-un taunting with ballistic missile launches, terrorism still smoldering in many places, a damaged environment, on and on. The dangers are real, and the world will not wait while we figure out how to face these challenges together as a nation.

Think tank simulation predicts ‘heavy’ losses on all sides, including US, if China invades Taiwan


A war games simulation of a full-scale Chinese invasion of the self-governing island nation of Taiwan predicts “heavy losses” for all parties likely to be involved, including the U.S. and Japan.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) ran the simulation of a 2026 Chinese invasion of Taiwan exactly 24 times, drawing on historical data and operational research. The simulation’s events are included in an extensive report released Monday.

In most scenarios, an alliance between the U.S., Japan and Taiwan defeated China after three or four weeks of fighting — but at the loss of dozens of ships, hundreds of aircraft and tens of thousands of troops.

Mark Cancian, a senior adviser with the CSIS International Security Program and an author of the report, told The Hill the big takeaway from the simulation is that Taiwan can be sustained as an independent nation.

“But the cost is very high,” he added.

In the report, Cancian recommended policies and efforts to deter a future invasion, noting that even if a war is seen as risky for China, the nation still might consider a direct conflict.

The Greatest Threat America Faces Is China

Sean Durns

“One of the most dangerous forms of human error,” the late American strategist Paul Nitze observed, “is forgetting what one is trying to achieve.” For several years now, the United States has rightfully considered China to be its sole peer strategic competitor. Yet, the U.S. is failing to heed Nitze’s warning.

In 2018, the Trump administration issued a landmark document, the U.S. National Defense Strategy, which warned that America was returning to an era of great power competition, with both Russia and China as key threats. The 2022 National Defense Strategy built on this theme and correctly singled out Beijing as the chief threat, noting that China is the “only competitor out there with both the intent to reshape the international order and, increasingly, the power to do so.”

The U.S. has, if belatedly, awoken to the threat posed by China. But it has yet to fully imbibe it.

The United States is right to note that China alone is the long-term “pacing challenge”—a view that likely incorporates Beijing’s economic and military might and Russia’s lackluster battlefield performance in Ukraine. But Washington and its allies need to turn this notion into something more: an animating idea.

US cybersecurity director: The tech ecosystem has ‘become really unsafe’

Daniel Howley

The head of the nation’s top cybersecurity agency is warning that the current technology ecosystem, which underpins much of our lives, is at risk of being hacked by malicious actors.

In an interview with Yahoo Finance at CES 2023 in Las Vegas, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Jen Easterly explained that the tech industry, consumers, and government need to come together to help improve cyber safety in the U.S.

“We live in a world…of massive connections where that critical infrastructure that we rely upon is all underpinned by a technology ecosystem that unfortunately has become really unsafe,” said Easterly, who was previously head of Firm Resilience at Morgan Stanley.

She added: “We cannot have the same sort of attacks on hospitals and school districts that we've been seeing for years. We have to create a sustainable approach to cyber safety, and that's the message that I'm bringing to CES.”

Easterly, who was confirmed as director of CISA in 2021— and helped create and design the United States Cyber Command—explained that tech companies need to ensure that the software they put out into the world has fewer flaws that hackers can exploit.

U.S. sending Patriot missiles to Ukraine signals prolonged war

Gloria McDonald


The Biden administration’s recent decision to provide the Patriot missile system — a surface-to-air guided missile defense system — to Ukraine represents a notable turning point in the conflict.

While many applaud this move as an important sign of America’s commitment to Ukraine, this provision represents a new crossroad in the conflict, in which the Biden administration is now arming Ukraine with military equipment they had previously ruled out for fear that it would curtail a peace treaty, as negotiations between Russia and Ukraine appear unlikely. This move signals that the Biden administration plans to provide increasingly advanced weapons systems to Ukraine, including the possibility of long-range weapons, which could open new fronts to the war. Absent an end-state strategy, this path toward escalation risks prolonging the war.

Throughout this conflict, the Biden administration has avoided arming Ukraine with advanced military equipment, including the Patriot system and long-range missiles, for fear that Ukraine could use these missiles to strike targets in Russia and escalate the conflict. The Biden administration, for example, altered the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System’s range capabilities before giving them to Ukraine to prevent them from being fired into Russia.

American Democracy Is Still in Danger

Erin Baggott Carter, Brett L. Carter, and Larry Diamond

Two years ago, the United States’ democratic system of government faced an unprecedented test when supporters of President Donald Trump sought to overturn his election defeat—some through extralegal schemes, others through a violent assault on the U.S. Capitol. Since that historical low point, American democracy has begun to function better, and its prospects have begun to improve. The 2022 elections were conducted successfully and extreme election deniers lost in key swing states such as Arizona and Pennsylvania. The House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol authoritatively documented the riots that attempted to overturn the results of the 2020 election and former U.S. President Donald J. Trump’s role in fomenting them. In Brazil and France, candidates with dubious commitments to democracy were defeated in presidential elections, and peaceful elections were held in Colombia.

Meanwhile, the world’s most powerful authoritarian regimes are struggling. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s calamitously conceived and executed war in Ukraine shattered the myth of a resurgent Moscow. China’s bid to become the world’s largest economy and most influential power has foundered on the shoals of President Xi Jinping’s disastrous mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic. China’s real estate bubble, a 20 percent youth unemployment rate, a politically motivated crackdown on the private sector, and ballooning local government debt have further undermined Xi’s domestic appeal.

More Foreign Policy Confusion

Pete Hoekstra

The recently released Biden National Security Strategy points to the "acute threat" posed by Russia to United States national security. Yet the administration continues, with the support and encouragement of the European Union, its futile attempt to restart the "nuclear deal" to enable Iran's expansionist regime to have as many nuclear weapons as it likes and the ballistic missiles to deliver them -- and on top of that, using Russia, of all countries, as its proxy negotiator.

One can only wonder at how the Biden administration believes the U.S. can negotiate the nuclear agreement using Russia, a nation it labels as an "acute threat," to work on a deal with Iran, a nation that it labels as a "persistent threat."

Not surprisingly, most Middle Eastern countries do not want to see a nuclear-armed Iran. U.S. President Joe Biden and the Saudi government made this point abundantly clear at their summit earlier this year. Given the unified messaged and shared strategic goal, you would think this would be case closed. Far from it.

It is the Saudi kingdom and its oil wells that Iran has been attacking. The Saudis might therefore be understandably alarmed by the efforts of the Biden administration to finalize a new agreement that would enable Iran to legitimately have nuclear weapons.

Rescuing Economic Growth in Highly Indebted Developing Countries


CAMBRIDGE – This year may prove devastating for the developing world, as more and more countries find themselves engulfed in debt crises. Several (Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Russia, Suriname, and Zambia) are already in default, and scores of others urgently need debt relief to ward off economic collapse and sharp rises in poverty.

When aspiring dictators are not held accountable for attempting to overthrow democratic governments, they tend to return, emboldened. Brazil, currently reeling from an attack on its Supreme Court and National Congress, may be showing that a credible threat of accountability can restrain would-be autocrats.

The prevailing response to debt crises is to negotiate complex packages involving the debtor country, international financial institutions (IFIs), and other external creditors. Domestic bondholders, labor unions, and others play a part, too, as they have their own interests to protect. The bargaining process among all these parties can be lengthy and feature significant domestic and global efforts to game the outcome by pushing a larger burden of losses onto others, even as debtor-country conditions continue to deteriorate.

The rise of emerging markets as major bilateral official creditors has added further complexity to an already difficult process. China, India, countries in the Middle East, and others have not been part of conventional debt-resolution arrangements. Besides complicating coordination, heterogeneity among creditors can unleash more destructive processes led by self-fulfilling expectations, such as sudden capital-flow reversals and banking crises.

We are offered the Korean option, but Koreans regret it Secretary of Ukraines Security Council

Ukrainska Pravda

Oleksii Danilov, Secretary of the National Security and Defence Council of Ukraine, has stated that the Russians are going to propose the so-called Korean option of settling the war with Ukraine, which implies the division of the country.

Source: Danilov in an interview aired during the national 24/7 joint newscast

Quote: "We are being offered the Korean scenario now. The infamous ‘38th parallel’ [which separated North and South Korea – ed.]. Here there are some Ukrainians, and over there, there are some other Ukrainians. The Russians will come up with anything now. I know for sure that one of the options they may offer us is the ‘38th parallel’.

Nevertheless, I have noticed while talking to representatives of Korea recently… They believe it was a mistake to make concessions and agree that it was necessary back then… Now they have problems."

Details: Danilov has also reported that Dmitry Kozak, Deputy Head of the Administration of the Russian President, "goes to meetings with politicians from past eras in Europe and delivers messages through them that they [the Russians - ed.] are ready to make many concessions in order to preserve the status quo, as it is today, and force us to come to some kind of truce".

Ukraine Is Not Behind Recent Spate of Fires and Explosions at Russian Civilian Facilities

Paul Goble

In the months since Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his expanded invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, fires and explosions have occurred at a minimum of 72 military facilities within Russia—including 44 draft offices and 28 bases. A vast number of other fires and explosions have broken out at shopping centers—at least 20—other businesses, apartment blocks and agricultural facilities (Vertska.media, December 29, 2022). Some of these attacks, especially those against draft offices, are undoubtedly the work of Russians opposed to the war; and others, such as the attacks on the two air bases at the end of December 2022, do indeed appear to be the work of Ukrainian forces (Meduza, December 26, 2022).

But given the Russian propensity to blame outside conspirators for their problems, the product of a poor information environment, and particularly at a time when Moscow propagandists are whipping up anti-Ukrainian attitudes and when Kyiv officials openly declare that Ukrainian forces plan to strike “ever deeper” into Russia (Meduza, January 4), many Russians remain inclined to blame everything on Ukraine. And they are doing so even though many Russian observers are now pointing out that the overwhelming majority of these “technogenic disasters”—to use the Russian government’s term—have other causes, including aging infrastructure without adequate fire control protections, a sharp reduction in government inspections of buildings in recent years and even arson, as Russian owners torch their properties to collect insurance.

Russia’s New Foreign Policy Orientation

Stephen Blank

In the wake of growing isolation due to its aggression against Ukraine, Russia’s foreign policy leadership and brain trust have elaborated a new ideology and self-identification that is meant to guide Moscow’s foreign policy moving forward. This orientation rejects Russia’s post-Petrine identification as a European state, claiming instead an “Asia-centric identity” that is associated with refocusing foreign policy priorities toward the Global South, including Asia, Africa and Latin America (Valdaiclub.com, December 19, 2022).

This new intellectual formation begins with the postulate, stated by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and a raft of subservient intellectuals, that the “collective West” wants to “tear Russia apart” (i.e., so-called historical Russia, which for Putin represents the Soviet Union) and has been waging war against its American leadership for years (Mid.ru, September 21, 2022; Kremlin.ru, December 22, 2022; International Business Times, December 25, 2022). Indeed, in the Kremlin’s view, all North Atlantic Treaty Organization members contribute virtually their entire military capabilities to the fight against Russia (Sputnik News, December 21, 2022; Kremlin.ru, December 21, 2022). Therefore, the current war has been forced on Moscow, which has no choice but to fight if it wishes to survive. However, this anti-Russian war, allegedly originating from a desperate effort to reverse the course of history, sustains Western hegemony and suppresses Russia’s revival as a great global power in the inevitable multipolar world that is starting to emerge (Mid.ru, September 21, 2022).

2023 New Year Resolutions for Asia’s Biggest Economies

Anthony Fensom

Asia’s big economies failed to roar during 2022, weighed down by the continuing COVID-19 pandemic and resulting self-imposed restrictions on economic activity, together with rising interest rates and slowing growth globally.

Amid an increasingly uncertain outlook, The Diplomat takes a look at some potential New Year resolutions for the region’s top economies to help them enjoy better fortunes in 2023, the Year of the Rabbit for much of Asia.

China: End COVID lockdowns

International calls for an end to China’s “zero COVID” policy have been getting louder. But none were heard as clearly in Beijing as the internal protests that rocked the nation in late 2022, finally forcing action from its communist rulers.

However, Beijing’s belated easing of pandemic controls threatens to unleash a new wave of infection, sparking further potential shortages of labor and adding to global supply chain pressures. The risks likely will intensify during Lunar New Year holiday celebrations in late January, a key travel period for the nation of 1.4 billion people.

How AI Could Predict The Damage to Ukraine from Russian Missiles


A Silicon Valley company is using artificial intelligence to help Ukraine better predict and prepare for Russian airstrikes like the ones that have knocked out power to thousands of Ukranian families.

Starting last March, Scale AI began to collect imagery of places in the war-torn country where there might be heavy military activity, said Shands Pickett, the company’s head of federal deployments.

“We started buying images of three primary areas"—Kyiv, Kharkov, and Dnipro—"and then essentially doing change over time…We're looking at around 2,000 square kilometers of Ukraine, and about 370,000 structures, and looking to see where damage was occurring. And then using [machine-learning] first techniques to automate that process,” Pickett said.

During the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the military launched an AI pilot program, Project Maven, to make sense of the vast amount of drone footage it was collecting, to help human analysts more quickly find potential targets. But while Ukraine is a bit smaller than Afghanistan, far more data is coming out of the war there.

In a new era of global conflict, US troops are deployed in dozens of countries. Where are they — and why?

Joshua Keating

On Sept. 11 of last year, the U.S. military passed a little-noticed milestone. For the 21 years before that date, virtually all U.S. service members were issued the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal. From now on, it’s being given only to troops who work directly on a counterterrorism operation for more than 30 days.

That may seem a minor distinction, but what it means is that it’s no longer assumed that any U.S. service member is working in support of a counterterrorism mission — an acknowledgment that with the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, an era in U.S. defense policy has come to an end. The Global War on Terrorism (GWOT, as it was once officially known) is not a thing of the past, but it’s fair to say it’s not the all-consuming priority it was in the two decades that followed the 9/11 attacks.

But of course that doesn’t mean the world is now at peace — or that the U.S. military has pulled back from the global stage. As 2023 begins, there are hundreds of thousands of U.S. forces deployed around the world.

Six months after the last American troops left Afghanistan, the Russian military invaded Ukraine. While U.S. troops weren’t sent into combat as a result, the invasion did prompt an unprecedented military assistance effort that has included the deployment of tens of thousands of additional troops to Europe to shore up NATO’s eastern flank. Meanwhile, U.S. tensions with China, which the Biden administration describes in its national security strategy as “the only competitor with … the intent to reshape the international order,” are also prompting a redistribution of U.S. resources, including troop deployments.

11 Takeaways From Prince Harry’s Memoir, ‘Spare’

Spare,” the hotly anticipated memoir by Prince Harry, has captivated people across the world, and is shaping up to be one of the year’s biggest books.

A series of high-profile interviews, along with leaked excerpts and premature sales of the book in Spain, heightened interest in a memoir that offers a frank, if one-sided, look at Harry’s life.

Harry says he decided to write “Spare” when he traveled to Britain for his grandfather’s funeral in April 2021. There he had the “staggering” realization that neither his father nor his brother truly understood why he and his wife, Meghan, had moved to California. “I have to tell them,” he thought. “And so: Pa? Willy? World? Here you go.”

Here are 11 takeaways from the book.

He talks candidly about Princess Diana’s death

The morning after Diana, Harry’s mother, died in a car crash in Paris, Charles, his father, woke him up to tell him what had happened.

“He sat down on the edge of the bed,” Harry writes. “He put a hand on my knee. Darling boy, Mummy’s been in a car crash.” He went on, “They tried, darling boy. I’m afraid she didn’t make it.”

Welcome to 2033

Mary Kate Aylward, Peter Engelke, Uri Friedman, and Paul Kielstra

Prepare for Russia’s coming crack-up. Plan for a Chinese military assault on Taiwan. Temper the optimism about peak carbon emissions. Brace for the further spread of nuclear weapons. Buckle in for even greater global volatility ahead.

These are just some of the forecasts that emerged this past fall when the Atlantic Council’s Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security surveyed the future, asking leading global strategists and foresight practitioners around the world to answer our most burning questions about the biggest drivers of change over the next ten years.

A total of 167 experts shared their insights on what geopolitics, climate change, technological disruption, the global economy, social and political movements, and other domains could look like a decade from now. Although respondents are largely citizens of the United States (roughly 60 percent of those polled), their nationalities are spread across thirty countries, with European citizens constituting the majority of non-Americans. (In the following analysis, all geographic distinctions among those surveyed are based on what individuals identified as their sole or primary nationality, not on the countries where they currently reside.)

Respondents are also employed in a range of fields, including the private sector (26 percent), academic or educational institutions (21 percent), non-profits (19 percent), government (16 percent), and independent consultants or freelancers (13 percent). They are quite evenly distributed across age categories over thirty-five, with less than 10 percent between the ages of twenty-two and thirty-five, but they skew heavily male (a result that we will aim to rectify in future surveys).

New worldwide threats prompt Pentagon to overhaul chem-bio defenses


The Defense Department is overhauling its approach to countering biological and chemical weapons, as potential adversaries such as Russia and China rush to create threats that are easier to use and can evade traditional defenses.

Officials are launching a new plan to develop medical treatments, vaccines and personal protective equipment that can adapt to a range of evolving biological and chemical threats, said Ian Watson, DoD’s deputy assistant secretary for chemical and biological defense.

That’s a change for DoD, which traditionally has developed tools to counter a specific list of biological and chemical threats. Recent advances in technology allow potential adversaries to manipulate existing pathogens and toxins and create new ones, leading to an almost infinite number of new hazards for troops. Adding to the complexity of the problem, those dangers can be naturally occurring, accidental or deliberate, Watson said.

He previewed the new framework, officially called the Chemical and Biological Defense Program’s Enhanced Medical Countermeasures Approach, in an exclusive interview.

Japan dives into rare earth mining under the sea


TOKYO – Japan’s effort to mine the seabed is moving from the research and development stage toward resource extraction as technological advance is spurred by the demands of national economic security.

If all goes according to plan, Japan’s current dependence on China for its rare earth metal supplies could be greatly reduced or eliminated by the end of the decade. China currently dominates global production, processing about 85% of the world’s rare earths.

Japan’s new National Security Strategy document, released in December, states that “with regard to supply chain resilience, Japan will curb excessive dependence on specific countries.”

Furthermore, it will “secure stable supply for critical goods including rare earth, and promote capital reinforcement of private enterprises with critical goods and technologies, and strengthen the function of policy-based finance, in pursuit of protecting and nurturing critical goods.”

The English version is stamped “Provisional Translation,” but the statement is consistent with the original Japanese.

PC giant Dell will reportedly stop using Chinese chips as soon as next year, and it shows how Washington-Beijing tensions are forcing companies to diversify their supply chains


American tech giant Dell is planning to halt the use of Chinese semiconductor chips as soon as next year, and will slash the amount of other made-in-China parts in its products, Nikkei reported Thursday, citing three sources with direct knowledge of the matter.

The move underscores a shifting of supply chains out of China as companies seek to end their reliance on the manufacturing giant as geopolitical relations between Washington and Beijing sour, and as factory operations in China continue to be hit by the country's COVID-19 policies.

It's not just made-in-China chips made by Chinese companies. Dell — the world's third-largest computer maker after Lenovo and HP — has also told suppliers that it plans to cut its use of made-in-China chips that are produced by non-Chinese firms, according to Nikkei.

Other than chips, Dell has also asked suppliers of other electronic parts — such as modules and circuit boards — to ramp up production capacity in countries outside China, per Nikkei.

"We continuously explore supply chain diversification across the globe that makes sense for our customers and our business," Dell told the Nikkei. Dell did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment sent outside regular business hours.

The Missing Minerals: To Shift to Clean Energy, America Must Rethink Supply Chains

Morgan D. Bazilian and Gregory Brew

After decades of foot-dragging in the United States, there is now momentum to tackle climate change. In August 2022, Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act, a landmark piece of legislation that directs more than $1 trillion in subsidies and incentives toward clean energy production. This follows legislation such as the Creating Helpful Incentives to Produce Semiconductors (CHIPS) and Science Act, and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. All include investments in clean energy. Elsewhere, countries such as China, Japan, and Korea announced net-zero carbon emissions goals. The European Union, meanwhile, has been a leader on climate change for years, as evidenced most recently by the European Climate Law, which explicitly set out the goal to be carbon neutral by 2050.

This is welcome and overdue progress. But implementing plans to reduce greenhouse gas emissions could be stymied in part by a material obstacle: the procurement of critical minerals such as lithium, cobalt, nickel, and copper that are essential to clean energy systems. Several of these mineral and metal inputs now make up the bulk of the cost of electric vehicle (EV) batteries and copper is ubiquitous in the generation and transmission of electricity. All will be needed in large quantities, and demand is outpacing supply.

The way the United States seems intent on obtaining these minerals, however, is myopic. U.S. President Joe Biden’s foreign-policy priorities suggest that energy policy will be shaped by great-power competition, aiming to strengthen domestic U.S. energy output, improving energy security and resilience against disruptions such as Russia’s war on Ukraine, and making the United States less reliant on supply chains controlled by potential adversaries.

How Elon Musk’s satellites have saved Ukraine and changed warfare

It is one of the wonders of the world—or, more accurately, off the world. The Starlink constellation currently consists of 3,335 active satellites; roughly half of all working satellites are Starlinks. In the past six months new satellites have been added at a rate of more than 20 a week, on average. SpaceX, the company which created Starlink, is offering it as a way of providing off-grid high-bandwidth internet access to consumers in 45 countries. A million or so have become subscribers.

And a huge part of the traffic flowing through the system currently comes from Ukraine. Starlink has become an integral part of the country’s military and civil response to Russia’s invasion. Envisaged as a celestial side-hustle that might help pay for the Mars missions dear to the founder of SpaceX, Elon Musk, it is not just allowing Ukraine to fight back; it is shaping how it does so, revealing the military potential of near-ubiquitous communications. “It’s a really new and interesting change,” says John Plumb, America’s assistant secretary of defence for space policy.

Appropriately enough, the story started with a tweet, one sent by Mykhailo Fedorov, Ukraine’s minister of digital transformation, two days after the invasion:

@elonmusk, while you try to colonize Mars —Russia try to occupy Ukraine! While your rockets successfully land from space—Russian rockets attack Ukrainian civil people! We ask you to provide Ukraine with Starlink stations and to address sane Russians to stand.

Marders, Leopards, Abrams, Bradleys: What's All This New Western Weaponry Being Sent (Or Not Sent) To Ukraine?

Robert Coalson

In a flurry of announcements, some of Ukraine's major Western allies pledged this week to send advanced armored combat vehicles to help Kyiv in its fight against Russia's invasion.

Both the United States and Germany said they would provide new powerful weapons to Kyiv: 50 M2 Bradley fighting vehicles from Washington and 40 Marder infantry fighting vehicles from Berlin.

The January 5 announcement came a day after France made a similar pledge to send new weapons -- AMX-10 RC armored reconnaissance vehicles -- in a development that marks a clear escalation of Western military support.

Washington was expected to reveal details of its latest military-aid package on January 6.

While representing a significant upgrade in military aid, the Bradley vehicles are not atop Kyiv's main wish-list: main battle tanks, such as the U.S.-made M1 Abrams or the German Leopard.

"There is no rational reason why Ukraine has not yet been supplied with Western tanks," Zelenskiy said in a video address on January 4.

Against Undiplomatic Diplomacy

Rand Paul

When ambassadors or secretaries of State come before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I ask them to detail what policy changes have been achieved as a result of America’s sanctions on Russia, China, Iran, or North Korea.

To date, no official of our government has been able to describe behavioral changes due to the sanctions we impose. The response I have received that came the closest to an answer was that sanctions under President Barack Obama prompted Iran to come to the negotiating table to forge the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement. Perhaps. But one might argue that it was the lure of removing sanctions that actually brought Iran to the table.

Too often, loud voices on both sides of the aisle appear to believe that imposing more and more sanctions will change an adversary’s policy, rather than understanding that it is actually the offer of removing sanctions that can move our adversaries.

When the Iran agreement was initially negotiated, I had my doubts. I felt the U.S. could have insisted upon a more gradual release of impounded funds to Iran based on continued compliance with the pact. But as time went on, inspectors ascertained that Iran adhered to the uranium enrichment restrictions. In fact, the loudest criticism of Iran was not that they abrogated the JCPOA, but rather their continued development of ballistic missiles that were not restricted in the JCPOA.

The Long War in Ukraine: The West Needs to Plan for a Protracted Conflict With Russia

Ivo H. Daalder and James Goldgeier

Whenever the United States faces a foreign policy crisis, critics claim that the U.S. government is doing either too much or not enough. So it is with Ukraine. Many fault the Biden administration for failing to provide Ukrainian forces with the heavy weapons—mainly tanks, long-range missiles, and combat aircraft—that they say are needed to expel Russian troops from Ukrainian soil. Others, worried about Western staying power and the rising human and economic costs of the war, urge the administration to pressure Kyiv into negotiating a deal with Russia—even if that means giving up some of its territory.

Neither argument is convincing. The Ukrainian military has surprised everyone with its capacity to defend the country and even retake a good part of the territory it lost at the outset of the war. But ejecting Russian troops from all its territory, including Crimea, will be exceedingly difficult, even with greater Western military aid. Achieving such an outcome would require the collapse of dug-in and reinforced Russian defenses and would risk starting a direct war between NATO and Russia, a doomsday scenario that no one wants. As for negotiations, Russian President Vladimir Putin has given no indication that he is prepared to give up his imperial dream of controlling Ukraine. And it would be just as difficult to convince the Ukrainian government to cede territories to a brutal occupying force in return for an uncertain peace. Given the strong incentives on both sides to continue fighting, a third outcome is much more likely: a prolonged, grinding war that gradually becomes frozen along a line of control that neither side accepts.

WhatsApp adds feature to bypass internet censors in repressive regimes

Andrew Jeong

WhatsApp, the popular messaging app owned by Meta, has introduced a feature to help users bypass attempts to disrupt access to its services, as repressive governments around the world increasingly use internet controls to clamp down on dissent.

The messaging service will allow people to configure the app to access the internet through proxy servers, which function as intermediaries between users and internet services, and can help disguise traffic and avoid controls. (Users will have to research their own proxy servers, many of which are provided free by volunteers and organizations around the world.) The company specifically mentioned Iran, which launched a brutal security crackdown — and disrupted residents’ access to WhatsApp and fellow Meta platform Instagram — after anti-government protests broke out in September.

WhatsApp, which is also a sister company of Facebook, is not the first service to support internet users living under censorship. But its move is significant because it is the most popular messaging service in many countries. The service says it has more than 2 billion users in 180 countries.

“Our wish for 2023 is that these internet shutdowns never occur,” the company said in a statement, adding that it was hopeful its solution would help in event of shutdowns. WhatsApp also separately announced the launch of its new feature in Persian, the language of Iran.

‘Consciousness’ in Robots Was Once Taboo. Now It’s the Last Word.

Oliver Whang

Hod Lipson, a mechanical engineer who directs the Creative Machines Lab at Columbia University, has shaped most of his career around what some people in his industry have called the c-word.

On a sunny morning this past October, the Israeli-born roboticist sat behind a table in his lab and explained himself. “This topic was taboo,” he said, a grin exposing a slight gap between his front teeth. “We were almost forbidden from talking about it — ‘Don’t talk about the c-word; you won’t get tenure’ — so in the beginning I had to disguise it, like it was something else.”

That was back in the early 2000s, when Dr. Lipson was an assistant professor at Cornell University. He was working to create machines that could note when something was wrong with their own hardware — a broken part, or faulty wiring — and then change their behavior to compensate for that impairment without the guiding hand of a programmer. Just as when a dog loses a leg in an accident, it can teach itself to walk again in a different way.

This sort of built-in adaptability, Dr. Lipson argued, would become more important as we became more reliant on machines. Robots were being used for surgical procedures, food manufacturing and transportation; the applications for machines seemed pretty much endless, and any error in their functioning, as they became more integrated with our lives, could spell disaster. “We’re literally going to surrender our life to a robot,” he said. “You want these machines to be resilient.”

Strategic Thinking for a Complex World: A Middle East Perspective of Required Skills

Daniel H. McCauley

Over the past few decades, the conduct of war has changed significantly. Non-military means are now far more effective than traditional military means in achieving enduring national security objectives. The increased use of information, social, humanitarian, political, economic and other non-military means have dramatically accelerated the real and potential change resident in today’s security environment. As a result, most strategic civilian and military leaders have not yet adjusted their thinking to enable their nation or organization to adjust to this rapidly evolving global security reality. In short, they are failing to think and act strategically in pursuit of their preferred future.

Strategic thinking, however, is not just a challenge for the national security community. The same trends in the global security environment present a challenge across government and private industry alike. For example, a 2018 survey states that the most valued skill in strategic leaders is strategic thinking, yet only 23 percent of executives are strong in strategic thinking. In another survey of 10,000 senior leaders, 97 percent of them said that being strategic was the leadership behavior most important to their organization’s success. Yet in another study, a full 96 percent of the leaders surveyed said they lacked the time for strategic thinking.[1]

Strategic thinking is described as being intent-focused, future oriented, and involving an enterprise-wide, integrated perspective; it is ultimately about obtaining a sustained, competitive advantage for a nation or an organization.[2] National strategic leaders understand that to maintain or improve their position in the world, they must simultaneously think locally and globally, understand short-term and long-term implications and trade-offs, be ever-vigilant in examining trends and their associated challenges and opportunities, and create an organizational mindset focused on constant innovation. To do this successfully, current and future strategic leaders must develop a broad range of thinking competencies to support sound judgment, inform critical decision-making, and develop cognitive agility and adaptability.

Who cares who wins

Paul Winter

Eighty years after rampaging behind enemy lines in the deserts of North Africa, and forty-two years since exploding into the public’s consciousness by dramatically ending the Iranian Embassy siege, Britain’s elite Special Air Service (SAS) is once again the centre of the nation’s attention. This renewed notoriety owes nothing to any stunning military success or dramatic action on the part of the Regiment, as it is referred to, but rather to the new BBC television series, SAS: Rogue Heroes. Based on the best-selling book by Ben Macintyre, who was granted privileged access to the SAS’s own classified regimental archives, SAS: Rogue Heroes depicts the wartime birth and first unsteady steps of the world’s most famous Special Forces unit.

Described by the media’s usual suspects of military commentators and cheerleaders as an adrenaline-fuelled, “gung-ho”, “rock-star history” of the SAS’s infancy, Rogue Heroes is not only a piece of televisual entertainment. It serves another, more profound purpose — namely the supercharging of the Regiment’s reputation, fighting-record and mythology. It also adds a further stratum to existing layers of legend, which throughout its operational history have afforded the SAS a distinct psychological advantage over its opponents.

Book shelves buckle under the sheer volume and weight of a growing corpus of work on the Regiment. The high-levels of embellishment, hyperbole and dissembling inherent in these literary outpourings, compounded by operational security, plausible deniability and a refusal on the part of the MoD to comment on the activities and very existence of UK Special Forces units, has meant, unsurprisingly, that academics and journalists alike have found it a challenge to penetrate the shroud of secrecy enveloping the activities of the SAS. It is difficult to differentiate, therefore, between what is fact and what is myth.

The Largest Armies In The World

Treaties and political promises mean nothing if they cannot be upheld or protected with state-sanctioned force. Opportunist states, since the beginning of human civilization, have been quick to take advantage of vulnerable neighbors regardless of whether peace agreements were in place. Therefore, mass mobilization of national populations is an integral part of existing as a country in the 21st century. The presence of military might is an ongoing balancing act between maintaining peace and engaging in open warfare.

Religious, geopolitical, and economic disputes are not always solved diplomatically, which is why each of the following countries has invested in building up the largest and most powerful armies that the world has ever seen. This ranking considers active personnel to be the key metric, and the combined military might of reserve units is not considered. Furthermore, the tooth-to-tail ratio (combat units as opposed to supporting units) can vary, with a single soldier often relying on the assistance of two or even fifteen additional support personnel, on average.

Asymmetric warfare as an antidote to Chinese aggression

Outsized and outgunned, Taiwan must turn to asymmetric warfare to maintain independence and raise the human cost of any invasion on the island.

Indeed, within the Taiwan Strait alone, the US Congress has estimated that China has fielded more than four times the number of military individuals: fielding 416,000 personnel compared to Taiwan’s 88,000.

As such, Taiwan’s Quadrennial Defense Review affirmed that the nation’s strategic objective was to “raise the cost and risk of PRC invasion” as a primary deterrence mechanism against invasion — a nuanced nod to China’s overwhelming conventional superiority.

Alongside the acquisition of conventional weapons, interestingly, the Quadrennial Defense Review doubled-down the government’s commitment to all-out defence — a concept by which the Taiwanese government can rapidly mobilise the nation’s available manpower to repel invading forces.

Writing for the Modern War Institute, Dr Chris Bassler and Aidan Greer encouraged the Taiwanese government to embrace the equalising effects of irregular warfare to raise the cost of a Chinese invasion.

China claims to have mastered laser-powered drones


Chinese researchers have invented a way to keep drones airborne indefinitely by recharging them with laser beams, which may one day enable drones to complement or replace military satellites in some scenarios.

This week, South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported that scientists from Northwestern Polytechnic University (NPU) fitted drones with photoelectric conversion modules that could convert light into electricity, enabling high-powered laser beams to power the drones remotely while in flight.

The report notes that the team from NPU’s school of artificial intelligence conducted a drone experiment that combined autonomous charging with intelligent signal transmission and processing technology.

“Highlights of the research are 24-hour intelligent vision tracking system and the autonomous long-range energy replenishment for optics-driven drones (ODD),” the team said in their official WeChat account, as cited by SCMP.

Why U.S. Bradleys Are Just the Fighting Vehicles That Ukraine Needs


Ukraine will get a major delivery of armored fighting vehicles from the West, following a deal last week that saw the U.S., France, and Germany agree to send them.

The White House announced Thursday that the U.S. would provide Bradley fighting vehicles, which can transport infantry in combat zones and fire at enemy forces, as part of the newest military aid package totaling $2.85 billion. It would send about 50 Bradleys, according to the Associated Press.

The provision of Bradleys marks a continued willingness from the Biden administration to expand the kinds of weaponry and equipment they will provide to Ukraine. Back in June, the U.S. began providing the country with long-range HIMARS rockets. But they have remained reluctant to send heavier battle tanks with longer-range guns, as Ukraine has requested.

Effective armored vehicles can provide Ukraine with more offensive and defensive options. “The fundamental mission of fighting vehicles is to transport troops… into a protective place that they can move around the battlefield, and then get out when they need to engage in combat,” says Ian Williams, deputy director of CSIS’s Missile Defense Project. “Often times the most dangerous part for infantry is just getting to the fight.”

Promise of armour and combined-arms training to Ukraine point to new phase in Russia war

Richard Thomas

The decision by the US, French, and German governments to supply the Bradley infantry fighting vehicle (IFV), AMX 10RC wheel armoured reconnaissance vehicle, and Marder IFV respectively to Ukraine point towards Kyiv’s war against Russia moving towards a new phase in the first half of 2023, with a greater emphasis on mobile protected firepower.

That Ukraine is able to utilise the resources and financial support of NATO members and replenish or renew its stocks of munitions, small arms, artillery, and armour, runs in stark contrast to the difficulties Russia is facing in its own efforts. Moscow appears to be limited to systems already in reserve, of which it has significant but ageing stock, and niche support from countries such as Iran for loitering munitions.

Reports persist that Russia is attempting to resupply through North Korea, and other allies such as Syria, although little hard data is available to verify such claims. The US Pentagon press secretary Brig Gen Pat Ryder, speaking during a media briefing on 5 January to confirm the inclusion of Bradley in the latest US support package, stated that the US had “seen Russia’s intent to acquire artillery and ammo” from Pyongyang, although little in the way of recent developments.