14 January 2023

India-China Border Clashes: Understanding Indian Perceptions of China

Sinderpal Singh

On 13 December 2022, India’s defence minister informed the Indian parliament about border clashes four days earlier between Indian and Chinese troops in the Tawang sector, part of a disputed swathe of land which includes the entire Indian-administered state of Arunachal Pradesh. This set of border clashes can be traced back to stand-offs between the two sides since 2013, with further reported clashes at Doklam in 2017 and the Galwan clashes in 2020, which led to reported deaths on both sides. Although the crisis ended quickly, tensions remain and hostilities could break out again.

This paper discusses Indian perceptions of China’s approach to the disputed border within the broader framework of India-China relations. It outlines how Indian policymakers have responded based on these perceptions as well as possible future options for India in relation to China.

Perception 1: China bases its responses to India largely on China’s relationship with the United States

Indian policymakers have long sought to frame relations with China on the basis of parity. Nehru’s idea of India and China as two ancient Asian civilisations, with comparable proud histories and comparable experiences of being exploited and humiliated by the “West”, led to his articulation of Asian solidarity at the Bandung Conference in 1955. The 1962 border war between the two states shattered this position but Indian policymakers have persisted in drawing such parallels between India and China.

The PLA’s People Problem


Too much Western analysis and debate about China’s impressive military buildup focuses on its equipment and weapons, and too little on its people. Yet personnel recruiting, training, and retention issues might be exactly what holds China back in the “marathon” it is racing against the United States.

For instance, the Defense Department’s annual China Military Power Report goes into considerable detail about the PLA’s new equipment, but makes almost no mention of personnel. The same is true of congressional testimony by government and non-government officials, as well as statements by politicians everywhere from the hearing room to cable news. And like those who expected a swift Russian victory in Ukraine, the new cottage industry of think tank reports and wargames on a potential Taiwan war count ships, planes, and tanks, while spending less time on the skill and will of the people in them.

The PLA has long struggled to field quality personnel. In its early years, most personnel were illiterate, including officers. (This mirrored even the most senior CCP political leaders; for instance, Chen Yonggui rose to Vice Premier despite not being able to read.) Into the 2000s, a plurality of PLA conscripts only had a ninth-grade education, while one-third of PLA officers lacked even the most basic higher education.

PLA strategists recognize these problems as obstacles to building a world-class military. “We have developed and deployed many cutting-edge weapons, including some that are the best in the world, but there are not enough soldiers to use many of those advanced weapons,” one PLA academic wrote in 2016. “In some cases, soldiers lack knowledge and expertise to make the best use of their equipment.”

As China Reopens, Online Finger-Pointing Shows a Widening Gulf

Chang Che, Claire Fu and Amy Chang Chien

A furious, wide-ranging argument is unfolding on the internet in China over the reversal of the government’s strict pandemic policies and the massive Covid surge that followed. The divisions are challenging the Communist Party’s efforts to control the narrative around its pandemic pivot.

Since the party abandoned “zero Covid” last month, many online commenters have staked out opposing positions over seemingly all manner of questions. Who should be blamed for the explosion of cases and deaths? Is a top government-appointed health expert trustworthy? Is Omicron really less severe, as Chinese officials now say, when hospitals seem to be filling up with sick patients? They are even arguing over whether people should be allowed to set off fireworks during the upcoming Spring Festival holiday, after many did so during the New Year.

The digital finger-pointing reveals a country that is deeply polarized, with each side distrustful and skeptical of the other — and, to varying degrees, of the party and its proxies. In some cases, the party’s own supporters are indirectly questioning its decisions, complicating efforts by the party’s censors and propaganda outlets to push its messaging.

China’s chip industry is struggling

Ian Williams

China is entering the new year with its tech ambitions under a Covid cloud. The enormous cost of the now abandoned zero-Covid policy has badly strained government finances, and the communist party’s pledge to build a world-beating chip industry, already reeling from American sanctions, is falling victim to the familiar ills of cost, waste and corruption.

A much hyped one trillion yuan ($145 billion) investment plan is reportedly on hold. Costly subsidies have born little fruit but they have encouraged graft and provoked sanctions. As a result, government officials are looking at alternative ways of encouraging growth in the semi-conductor industry, according to Bloomberg.
The problems with the chip programme have raised broader questions about whether China’s increasingly autocratic system is capable of innovation

Xi Jinping has pledged that China will ‘resolutely win the battle in key core technologies’, and a domestic semi-conductor industry is fundamental to that ambition. Chips are crucial to the production of products ranging from smartphones to laptops, cars, aircraft and even cookers and refrigerators. The most advanced semi-conductors power artificial intelligence, which has numerous military applications. As relations between the US and China have deteriorated, so they have become a key battleground in the race for supremacy in the technologies of the future. Xi has told Chinese scientists, ‘Technological innovation has become the main battlefield of the international strategic game’.

UK minister: Iran made ‘big mistake’ in giving drones to Russia for Ukraine war


DUBAI — Amid high-level concern over Iran’s decision to supply Russia with deadly suicide drones for the fight in Ukraine, a senior British defense official told Breaking Defense he believes Tehran made a “big mistake” because it’s also an opportunity for Western powers to uncover vulnerabilities in the Iranian systems. He also cast doubt on the effectiveness of any Russian technology that may be transferred to Iran in return.

“Russia’s extensive use of Iranian drones” has enabled the Ukrainians and their Western allies “to detect the weaknesses within the Iranian technology and provide effective solutions to counter them,” UK Minister of State for Armed Forces James Heappy said on Dec. 21.

Russia has used the Iranian drones extensively in targeting Ukrainian civilian infrastructure, especially the country’s power grid. Heappy said he regarded the recent increased rates of success by the Ukrainian air defense in shooting down the Iranian drones, reportedly the Shahed-131 and Shahed-136 models, as evidence of the Iranian drones becoming compromised and losing their edge.

IntelBrief: The Secrets Are Out In the Open

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), the U.S. foreign intelligence agency, has an unofficial motto and organizational ethos of “If it isn’t secret, it isn’t important.” This isn’t an ironclad rule — the CIA has long developed and refined its Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT) capabilities — but it remains somewhat of a foundational principle. For decades, the mission of the CIA and the larger U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) has understandably focused on clandestine collection efforts. This focus on hidden information has too often blinded the IC to that which is readily visible, though perhaps not always readily understandable. The tension between clandestine information operations and OSINT will never go away, nor should it; some things, such as the inner deliberations of an adversary, will always be hidden from open source information though they may be determined through closer discreet study. But the intentions of that adversary, or the early rumblings of global disruptions or conflicts such as a pandemic, global shipping issues, or an invasion, often hide in plain sight. What is therefore necessary is greater capacity to engage with wider sources of OSINT, deepen linguistic and cultural competencies to help properly process and analyze them, and ensure that the IC remains on top of new sources of information.

As noted recently by the Wall Street Journal, the U.S. government is lagging behind China in developing the capabilities to leverage OSINT effectively. There has been ample press on the perceived shortcomings of the U.S. vis-à-vis its most serious geopolitical rival. Yet, the issue of OSINT is different than other arenas, because it is not a capability the U.S. lacks, but a perception that persists that it is not important; in other words, open source is for amateurs and secrets are for pros. Even a cursory glance at the work of a firm like Bellingcat should quickly dispel this notion. The scale of the challenges facing the U.S. requires a fundamental shift in not just how the U.S. collects information but how it both analyzes and uses that information. OSINT needs to be a priority instead of relegated to an afterthought of the intelligence community.

Congrats, You’re a Member of Congress. Now Listen Up.

Stephen M. Walt

It has come to my attention that the United States has a new Congress in session. It took some doing, but we even have a new speaker of the House, along with 86 new members in the House and Senate (48 Republicans and 38 Democrats). This column is for them (or, perhaps more accurately, for the staff members who will do the real work).

For starters, I know that many of you don’t care that much about international affairs, and neither do most of your constituents. The United States’ foreign-policy establishment may work overtime trying to manage the world (and spread liberal values when it has the chance), but most Americans remain ignorant of and largely indifferent to issues of foreign policy, save in the wake of tragic events such as 9/11. There’s broad but shallow support for an “active role” in world affairs, but domestic issues are almost always considered more important by most Americans. It’s a paradox: The United States plays an outsize role in the world and devotes a big chunk of the federal budget to foreign policy and national security, yet its citizens’ attention is usually riveted closer to home.

I’m not going to try to tell you how to get reelected; you’ve proved that you know more about winning votes than I do. Instead, I’ll stick to my lane and focus on a few things you might want to know about the wider world and the United States’ position in it. (If you have a fundraiser to attend and are pressed for time, you could read a previous column of mine, on how to get a degree in international relations in five minutes.)

Will US Speaker McCarthy go to Taiwan?


Chinese media worry that Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), just elected Speaker of the US House of Representatives on an unprecedented 15th ballot, will retrace Nancy Pelosi’s steps to Taiwan and precipitate a crisis with China. McCarthy cheered Pelosi’s nearly disastrous visit to Taiwan last July and declared that he would like to make the same trip as Speaker.

But McCarthy, who has spent his whole career in politics, appears more concerned about how the China issue plays with American voters than with China as such. His first speech to the House of Representatives as speaker mentioned China in the same breath as America’s debt problem, in a formulation that would take a Washington pollster to parse:

We will also address America’s long-term challenges: the debt, and the rise of the Chinese Communist Party. Congress must speak with one voice on both of these issues. This is why we will end wasteful Washington spending. From now on, if a federal bureaucrat wants to spend it, they will come before us to defend it. As for the Chinese Communist Party, we will create a bipartisan Select Committee to investigate how to bring back the hundreds of thousands of jobs that went to China, and then we will win this economic competition.

Evidently, the newly-installed speaker isn’t sure whether the federal debt problem or the China issue will elicit a bigger response from the electorate, so he lumped them together to be on the safe side. McCarthy devoted just ten seconds of a 20-minute address to China.

Keep US Troops in Syria


It was nearly freezing that Syrian night. On a hard-dirt landing strip near the northeastern city of Kobani, I waited with two long lines of U.S. Special Forces soldiers behind a huge C-17 aircraft, its mighty engines temporarily stilled. Four flag-draped coffins were presently brought down the line and moved onboard. Each bore one of the four U.S. personnel, military and civilian, killed in the January 16, 2019, terror attack in a Manbij restaurant. Following a simple service, the aircraft lumbered away to be swallowed up in the dark Syrian sky.

Four years later, the U.S. still keeps troops in northeastern Syria, albeit about half as many as at the height of the fighting against ISIS. It is worth assessing whether that presence remains useful, given the risks and costs, and in light of the threat currently posed by the terror group.

A quick review of the troops’ achievements is helpful. In 2015, U.S. special operators were deployed to northeastern Syria to link up with our local partner on the ground—the Syrian Democratic Forces—and confront ISIS head-on. At the time, ISIS still had its so-called physical caliphate: control of tens of thousands of square miles and major cities in Syria, and more in Iraq. U.S. forces coordinated with SDF leaders and tactical units, provided air cover, and advised and assisted them in day-to-day military and counter-terrorism operations. The SDF’s motivated, disciplined forces supplied the man- and woman-power that physically confronted ISIS, defeating them in hard-fought campaigns in Kobane, Manbij, Raqqa, and Deir a-Zour province.

Russia's cyberattacks aim to 'terrorize' Ukrainians


After widespread failures on Ukraine’s battlefield, Russians are increasing cyberattacks on civilian services such as electricity and internet — a new offensive designed to break the will of everyday citizens and turn the tide of the war.

While Russia has relied more on missile strikes than cyber weapons to accomplish its goals in Ukraine, the attacks against energy, government and transportation infrastructure groups show that cyberattacks are still a key part of Moscow’s overall strategy to break the will of Ukrainians.

“The longer Russia wages this war, the harder it is going to be on those Ukrainian people and the more vulnerable they’ll be to destructive cyberattacks against the critical infrastructure,” Rob Joyce, the director of cybersecurity at the NSA, said in an interview. “I’m concerned that the Russian actors will increasingly look to amplify the things they’re doing with kinetic effects in that space.”

The pace of cyberattacks directed against Ukraine has been unrelenting over the past 12 months. While attacks have been aimed at military targets — such as a widely condemned attack on Ukrainian satellite company Viasat early in the conflict that disrupted Ukrainian military communications — hackers are taking aim even more at critical utilities used in daily life.

Can democracies cooperate with China on AI research?

Cameron F. Kerry, Joshua P. Meltzer, and Matt Sheehan

China looms large in the global landscape of artificial intelligence (AI) research, development, and policymaking. Its talent, growing technological skill and innovation, and national investment in science and technology have made it a leader in AI.

Over more than two decades, China has become deeply enmeshed in the international network of AI research and development (R&D): co-authoring papers with peers abroad, hosting American corporate AI labs, and helping expand the frontiers of global AI research. During most of that period, these links and their implications went largely unexamined in the policy world. Instead, the nature of these connections was dictated by the researchers, universities, and corporations who were forging them.

But in the past five years, these ties between China and global networks for R&D have come under increasing scrutiny by governments as well as universities, companies, and civil society. Four factors worked together to drive this reassessment: (1) the growing capabilities of AI itself and its impacts on both economic competitiveness and national security; (2) China’s unethical use of AI, including its deployment of AI tools for mass surveillance of its citizens, most notably the Uyghur ethnic group in Xinjiang but increasingly more widespread; (3) the rise in Chinese capabilities and ambitions in AI, making it a genuine competitor with the U.S. in the field; and (4) the policies by which the Chinese state bolstered those capabilities, including state directed investments and illicit knowledge transfers from abroad.

Russia Replaces Commander for Ukraine War, as Signs of Dissension Grow

Anatoly Kurmanaev

Russia has replaced the general in charge of its trouble-plagued war against Ukraine, amid signs of dissension among President Vladimir V. Putin’s top allies — a shake-up that critics said would not address what ails the Russian military.

Gen. Valery V. Gerasimov, whose appointment the Defense Ministry announced on Wednesday, is a longtime Kremlin ally, chief of the military general staff since 2012, and an executor of the failed plan for the initial invasion in February. It was the second time in just three months that the ministry replaced the chief of the war effort.

Outside analysts and hawkish Russian war bloggers said the change was a far cry from the radical overhaul the Russian armed forces need to become more effective.

“The sum does not change, just by changing the places of its parts,” wrote one prominent blogger who goes by the name Rybar.

The reshuffling of commanders came as the Kremlin sharply contradicted a key Putin ally about the pitched combat for Soledar, a small town in eastern Ukraine.

Russia names new commander of Ukraine invasion

Jacob Knutson

The Russian Ministry of Defense announced Wednesday that Valery Gerasimov, head of the general staff of the Russian Armed Forces, is taking over as the commander of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Why it matters: Gerasimov replaces General Sergei Surovikin, who was appointed to the post just three months ago. Surovikin has been demoted to one of Gerasimov's deputies.

What they're saying: The ministry said in a statement that Gerasimov's promotion was in part to address the "need to organize closer interaction between the branches and arms of the Armed Forces" and improve the support and effectiveness of "command and control of groupings of troops."The U.K.'s Defence Ministry said in an intelligence update on Wednesday that Gerasimov assuming the position "is a significant development in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s approach to managing the war."

"The move is likely to be greeted with extreme displeasure by much of the Russian ultra-nationalist and military blogger community, who have increasingly blamed Gerasimov for the poor execution of the war," the update reads.

Japan’s prime minister warns of a historic — and dangerous —moment in Asia

Josh Rogin

TOKYO — As fears of war grow in East Asia, the United States’ chief Pacific ally, Japan, is moving away from decades of self-imposed restraint and launching its largest military buildup since World War II. As regional tensions increase, Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is urging the United States to grasp the urgency and gravity of this historic but dangerous moment.

“The global security environment is going through a major change,” Kishida told me in a long interview in his official residence just before departing for a five-country tour that will end with him meeting President Biden at the White House on Friday. “Japan has made a major, huge decision to strengthen our defensive capability. And for that purpose, we also wish to deepen the bilateral cooperation with the United States even further.”

Emerging from three years of covid isolation, Japan confronts a neighborhood where China and North Korea are expanding their military arsenals and advancing their missile capabilities, the prime minister told me. Adm. John C. Aquilino, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, has described Beijing’s expanding armament as “the largest military buildup in history.” North Korea fired more than 90 cruise and ballistic missiles in 2022, often sending Japanese citizens scrambling for cover.

Terrorism Monitor,

 January 6, 2023, v. 23, no. 1 

Security Risks Rise in Rohingya Refugee Camps on the Myanmar-Bangladeshi Border
ISKP Attack on Chinese Nationals in Kabul Unleashes Wave of Anti-Chinese Jihadist Propaganda
The Case of Farhad Hoomer: Is South Africa Becoming Islamic State’s Regional Fundraising Hub?

It’s High Time to Prepare for Russia’s Collapse

Alexander J. Motyl

Ever since Russia’s attempt to take Kyiv and install a puppet government failed in the early days of the war, a defeat for the Kremlin in Ukraine has looked increasingly likely. What’s stunning after almost a year of war, therefore, is the near-total absence of any discussion among politicians, policymakers, analysts, and journalists of the consequences of defeat for Russia. It is a dangerous lack of imagination, considering the potential for Russia’s collapse and disintegration.

In fact, the combination of a failed war abroad and a brittle, strained system at home is increasing the likelihood of some sort of implosion with every passing day. Regardless of whether this will be good or bad for the West, it’s an outcome policymakers should prepare for.

There are various scenarios for what might happen in Russia after defeat in Ukraine becomes even clearer. Most likely is Russian President Vladimir Putin’s departure from office, followed by a vicious power struggle among the extreme right-wing nationalists who want to continue the war effort and destroy the existing political hierarchy, authoritarian conservatives who have a stake in the system, and a resurgent semi-democratic movement committed to ending the war and reforming Russia. We don’t know who will win, but we can confidently predict that the power struggle will weaken the regime and distract Russia from what remains of its war effort. In turn, a weakened regime, in conjunction with a malfunctioning economy, will invite disgruntled Russians to take to the streets, perhaps even with arms, and encourage some of the non-Russian political units comprising the Russian Federation to opt for greater self-rule; leading candidates include Tatarstan, Bashkortostan, Chechnya, Dagestan, and Sakha. If Russia survives this turmoil, it’s likely to become a weak client state of China. If it does not, the map of Eurasia could look very different.

Ukraine sees ‘year of victory’ but Russia has other plans

Liz Sly

LONDON — With upgraded weaponry on the way, Western resolve holding firm, and the Ukrainian army continuing to outmaneuver and outwit Russia’s flailing military, Ukraine’s promised “year of victory” is off to a good start.

If 2023 continues as it began, there is a good chance Ukraine will be able to fulfill President Volodymyr Zelensky’s New Year’s pledge to retake all of Ukraine by the end of the year — or at least enough territory to definitively end Russia’s threat, Western officials and analysts say.

But while Zelensky was rallying Ukrainians to expect victory this year, Russian President Vladimir Putin used his New Year’s speeches to prepare Russians for a drawn-out fight. Russian troops are digging into fortified defensive positions reinforced by at least 100,000 newly mobilized soldiers, and though it seems unlikely that Russia can seize more territory anytime soon, it will also be tougher for Ukraine to make advances in 2023 than it was last year, despite momentum from recent victories, military experts say.

If Kyiv cannot achieve significant breakthroughs against this entrenched, growing Russian force, there is a risk that the war will become a protracted conflict favoring Putin, said Elizabeth Shackelford of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. A $45 billion aid package approved by Congress will tide Ukraine over for the year, she said, but with U.S. presidential elections in 2024, the longer-term outlook is harder to predict.

In Every Modern War, Ukraine Has Been the Big Prize

Hal Brands

The biggest story of 2022 was the war in Ukraine, which put that country on the front lines of the great struggle of this century: the contest between democracy and authoritarianism. But if the war surprised many observers, the position in which Ukraine finds itself is remarkably familiar.

With only modest exaggeration, we could call the past 100 years or so the Ukrainian Century, for that country has figured centrally in every great global clash of the modern era.

Ukraine is a strategic prize due to resources and geography. Occupying some of the richest agricultural land anywhere, it produces large shares of the world’s wheat, corn and barley; it accounts for 6% of all calories traded on international food markets. Ukraine is Europe’s second-largest country by geographical size, and overlooks the Black Sea, which links European Russia to the world.

Most important, Ukraine is the hinge connecting what the great geopolitical thinker Halford Mackinder termed the Eurasian Heartland, with its enormous lands, agricultural riches and energy resources, to the economically advanced countries of Europe.

Any European empire seeking to expand eastward must pass through Ukraine; any Eurasian power seeking to project influence into Europe must do likewise. Mackinder had Ukraine (and Poland) in mind when he argued in 1919: “Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland; Who rules the Heartland commands the World-Island; Who rules the World-Island commands the World,”

The Weaponization of Humanitarian Aid: How to Stop China and Russia From Manipulating Relief Money

Natasha Hall and Hardin Lang

Today, the UN Security Council is set to renew a resolution that allows humanitarian aid to be delivered to millions of Syrians without the permission of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. In the weeks leading up to the vote, diplomats, aid workers, and millions of Syrians worried that Russia would use its veto in the Security Council to block the cross-border aid. They had good reason to be concerned. Moscow, one of Assad’s closest backers, has long argued that the humanitarian mission violates Syria’s sovereignty, and it has previously vetoed the use of other crossing points for aid delivery into Syria. It appears that this time, the crisis will be averted, at least for the next six months. But the uncertainty about the resolution’s fate has exposed the difficulty of providing humanitarian aid during an era of great-power competition.

In recent years, Russia and China have shown themselves more willing to use their diplomatic muscle and veto power at the Security Council to enable governments to deprive their own people of humanitarian aid. This summer, Russia and China helped Ethiopia delay meetings of the Security Council to discuss the declaration of famine in Tigray, according to Mark Lowcock, the former undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator. Famine still has not been officially declared in northern Ethiopia, though nearly half a million children are estimated to be malnourished in Tigray.

To justify limiting or blocking aid, China and Russia argue that sovereignty is inviolable even when oppressive regimes are conducting siege warfare against their own people. Of course, theirs is a very inconsistent application of international law, especially given Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine. By politicizing and weaponizing humanitarian aid, China and Russia are expanding their influence at the expense of international stability, humanitarian norms, and human rights.

Ex-NATO chief: Russian forces in Ukraine will be ‘burned through and exhausted’ by end of winter


Former NATO chief James Stavridis said in an interview that he believes Russian forces in Ukraine will be “burned through and exhausted” by the end of the winter season as the Kremlin’s war against the neighboring country continues.

During an appearance on New York-based radio station WABC 770 morning show “Cats Roundtable,” Stavridis told host John Catsimatidis that he doesn’t see either side having a breakthrough moment during the winter.

“But I don’t see either side having a breakthrough moment — at least this winter,” Stavridis told Catsimatidis. “Unfortunately, the first chance we can get to a negotiation is going to be after the winter. The Russians will be burned through and exhausted, losing so many men, so much equipment.”

Stavridis also said he believes both sides will push for negotiations in the latter part of this year.

“On the Ukrainian side, the pressures from the West, in order to avoid further costs, is going to become significant,” Stavridis added. “When I put it all together, more war to go. Ukrainians win it on the ground. Russians winning in the skies.”

The war in Ukraine is spilling into Russia


In recent days, Russian air defences have been struggling to cope with Ukrainian drones entering the country’s airspace. On 3rd January, videos emerged of AD systems firing at objects over the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don and explosions were reported above Kursk. The incidents occurred shortly after Ukrainian forces directed multiple-launch rocket systems at Belgorod. These are more signs that the arena for the Ukraine war is becoming ever broader.

Early last month, Ukrainian drones attacked Engels airbase deep inside Russian territory. This particular operation was reportedly carried out in coordination with a military reconnaissance unit, damaging two planes, killing three Russian servicemen, and wounding four others. Satellite imagery later confirmed the strikes and detected the presence of emergency response vehicles at the impacted locations.

Engels was hit once more in late December. However, the Russian defence ministry deemed it unsuccessful, and there was no official claim issued by the Ukrainian government. Tu-95 Bears and Tu-160 Blackjack bombers were apparently among the aircraft present at the time of the attempts, and some assessments suggest the attacks have prompted Russia to reduce offensive activity launched from the airbase.

Asia’s Productivity Needs A Boost That Digitalization Can Provide

Antoinette Monsio Sayeh, Era Dabla-Norris and Tidiane Kinda

Asia’s strong economic rebound from the pandemic is losing steam as tightening financial conditions, reduced export demand, and China’s sharp and uncharacteristic slowdown dim the outlook.

More broadly, deep economic scars from the pandemic and the lackluster productivity growth that preceded it are weighing on the region’s longer-term growth prospects. But despite these challenges, we see a promising path for boosting Asia’s productivity that runs through a landscape in which it has a history of leadership: digitalization.

Digital technologies can increase the efficiency of the public and private sectors, expand financial inclusion, improve access to education, and open new markets by allowing companies to serve distant customers. For instance, during the pandemic, digitalization improved the allocation of precious resources for health and social benefits, allowing a prompt provision of relief while keeping leakages of public spending in check. Digitalization has helped support resilience during the pandemic, where, combined with large fiscal support, remote work and online sales protected workers, students and businesses.
Asia as digital powerhouse

Sanctions On Russia Will Work, But Slowly

Masahiko Takeda

In response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the G7 and some 50 other countries have imposed economic sanctions on Russia. They consist of two broad categories: real and financial. Real sanctions include restrictions on trade with Russia and the revocation of its most-favoured-nation status. Financial ones involve a freeze on Russian assets held abroad and measures that impede cross-border fund settlement.

Although not a part of sanctions per se, Western companies’ withdrawal from Russia triggered by sanctions has had a real impact. Substantial outflows of skilled human capital have also taken place in Russia, partly due to the grim economic prospects under sanctions.

Since economic wellbeing depends on real variables such as consumption and employment, real sanctions have a tangible effect on Russia. But since any trade — domestic or international — benefits both the seller and the buyer, trade restrictions are a double-edged sword that harms the sanctioners’ welfare as well. This tends to moderate and slow the latter’s actions. Some countries’ refusal to trade with Russia also creates opportunities for others to trade on favourable terms. Such opportunistic behaviour has offered Russia breathing space.

As for financial sanctions, the asset freeze affects the wealth of Russian senior officials and oligarchs as well as the Russian central bank’s foreign reserves. As this entails little cost to the sanctioners, and clearly damages the sanctionees, it is easy to introduce. Yet its impact on Russia’s domestic economy is minimal.

Cybercriminals Using ChatGPT to Build Hacking Tools, Write Code

Marco Marcelline

Expert and novice cybercriminals have already started to use OpenAI’s chatbot ChatGPT in a bid to build hacking tools, security analysts have said.

In one documented example, the Israeli security company Check Point spotted(Opens in a new window) a thread on a popular underground hacking forum by a hacker who said he was experimenting with the popular AI chatbot to “recreate malware strains.”

The hacker had gone on to compress and share Android malware that had been written by ChatGPT across the web. The malware had the ability to steal files of interest, Forbes reports(Opens in a new window).

The same hacker showed off a further tool that installed a backdoor on a computer and could infect a PC with more malware.

Sympathy for the Algorithm


STOCKHOLM – With hindsight, 2022 will be seen as the year when artificial intelligence gained street credibility. The release of ChatGPT by the San Francisco-based research laboratory OpenAI garnered great attention and raised even greater questions.

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.

In just its first week, ChatGPT attracted more than a million users and was used to write computer programs, compose music, play games, and take the bar exam. Students discovered that it could write serviceable essays worthy of a B grade – as did teachers, albeit more slowly and to their considerable dismay.

ChatGPT is far from perfect, much as B-quality student essays are far from perfect. The information it provides is only as reliable as the information available to it, which comes from the internet. How it uses that information depends on its training, which involves supervised learning, or, put another way, questions asked and answered by humans.

The State of America’s Drone Wars in 2022

David Sterman

As 2022 comes to a close, it provides an opportunity to understand the current state of America’s counterterrorism and drone wars under President Biden. At the end of the year, Biden will have been in charge of the various drone wars including in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia for just short of two years. The Biden administration has also reportedly formalized its rules for U.S. counterterrorism strikes.

Based on an examination of reports of U.S. strikes, it is clear that the drone wars remain far from their peaks under the Obama and Trump administrations. The war in Pakistan remains in a long-term pause that predates the Biden administration, and the war in Yemen may be entering a similar pause. Overall, the U.S. drone wars remain at a low point compared to the past.

Yet, the drone wars are far from over. In Somalia, U.S. strikes escalated slightly in 2022 compared to 2021, although the number of strikes in Somalia remains far below its peak during the Trump administration. Meanwhile, the Biden administration has not sufficiently clarified and limited the objectives and authorizations underlying American counterterrorism warfare, giving even paused wars an endless character.

War in Ukraine ‘essentially trench warfare,’ senator says after Kyiv visit


The situation in Eastern Ukraine is “essentially trench warfare,” Sen. Angus King said Sunday on CBS, as he underscored what he sees as a need to continue funding the country’s fight against Russia.

“It’s almost World War I. It’s horrible,” King (I-Maine) told “Face the Nation” host Margaret Brennan, less than a day after returning from a trip to Kyiv.

The latest aid package from the White House, which includes armored vehicles, is designed to deal with this problem, King said. Patriot missiles for air defense will help stop the country’s energy infrastructure from being “pummeled,” he said.

The U.S. should continue funding Ukraine for its own values and self interest, King said, nearly a year after Russia first invaded its neighbor.

“It would be catastrophic to cut off aid to Ukraine at this point,” King said, responding to calls from some House Republicans to reduce some funding to Ukraine.

To Address the Irregular Warfare Elephant in the Room, Sacred Cattle Must First be Slain

Tom Ordeman, Jr.

In recent weeks, the topic of the DoD's mastery of Irregular Warfare (IW) - one flavor of this being counterinsurgency (COIN) - has received some long overdue discussion, initially in an article in The Hill penned by a team of authors including LTG Charles T. Cleveland (Ret.), former commander of U.S. Army Special Operations Command; and COL David Maxwell (Ret.), a distinguished former Army Special Forces officer and Editor-in-Chief of the Small Wars Journal. Discussion continues in several contributions to the latter publication.

The initial article focused upon the DoD's long-term failure to master IW, and advocated for the designation of U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) to lead the DoD's efforts to master IW, establishment of an Irregular Warfare Functional Center (IWFC), and supplementation through partnerships with one or more American universities. A January 3rd article by MAJ James Armstrong (Ret.) questioned the wisdom this arrangement, given USSOCOM's and Joint Special Operations Command's (JSOC) primacy in the Afghan and Iraq Wars, and their apparent failure to deliver on desired strategic outcomes. Armstrong's commentary invited several critiques, to include a formal submission by Charlie Black. Cleveland, et. al., highlight USSOCOM's role in IW, while Armstrong and Black seem to agree on what Black describes as "the U.S. Army’s rightful place to lead IW," a role underscored by Armstrong in his citation of the Army as the "primary land force."

With due respect to the aforementioned commentators, all of whom (save for Black; and Daniel Egel, PhD, one of the original article's co-authors) served in the U.S. Army, please allow a former contractor to slaughter two sacred cattle in the interest of taking aim at the proverbial "elephants in the room":

To Achieve Deterrence on the Northeastern Flank - We Need to Use Counterterrorism Tools

Peter Roberto and Erik Kacprzyk

The wake of Russia’s once unimaginable invasion of Ukraine has put Europe at war for the first time in nearly a century. All signs point towards a resurgence of Cold War tensions as Finland and Sweden finalize discussions to join NATO, NATO bolsters its rapid reaction force to include 300,000 soldiers from its previous 40,000, and the U.S. plans to add a new headquarters in Poland. However, this movement to secure NATO members on the border with Russia may be futile if NATO and the U.S. do not address Russia’s exploitation of private military companies and the legal cover they provide. As a result, Europe and NATO now find themselves once unimaginable times and must anticipate unimaginable threats to their sovereignty. However, the ever-expanding sanctions imposed from a wide range of states, such as the U.S., the European Union, and even the traditionally neutral Switzerland, can be further enhanced by utilizing tools often used for counterterrorism.

The Wagner Group is a private army allegedly funded by a key Putin ally that the Kremlin uses as a tool for its foreign policy goals. Wagner mercenaries have conspicuously appeared where Russia has interests in crucial natural resources and engages in protracted conflicts with insurgents. Putin has relied upon the Wagner Group to carry out his foreign policy agenda since it gives Russia a cheap and deniable option to assert themselves. Private military forces prevent conflicts from escalating, much like how the presence of Russian troops during the initial 2014 invasion of Ukraine was denied by the Kremlin, giving NATO and the U.S. the ability not to intervene in the conflict. Since current international law does not hinder the use of private military forces aside from its loose definition of “mercenary,” states can continue to utilize these forces to fight wars that states lack the political will to do.

Missile Technology: Accelerating Challenges

The IISS Strategic Dossier Missile Technology: Accelerating Challenges examines the drivers, scope and consequences of the continuing development of ballistic and cruise missiles by the world’s most prominent users and producers. It reviews historical, current and future development and procurement programmes and their impact on regional and strategic stability, as well as bilateral and multilateral arms-control processes that are designed to restrain proliferation. It also considers the trajectory of future technological developments, particularly Mach 5+ systems.

Missile Technology: Accelerating Challenges has a particular focus on the missile forces of China, Russia and the US, given the quantitative and qualitative dimensions of each of these states’ nuclear- and conventional-missile arsenals. It also considers other prominent producers and operators of ballistic and cruise missiles in Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

The dossier examines the opportunities and prospects for adapting arms-control mechanisms in an increasingly competitive environment, particularly within a Russia–US context. It also identifies the strengths and weaknesses of existing arms- and export-control mechanisms and confidence-building measures and how to potentially reform these at a time when proliferation is accelerating and global security is deteriorating.