18 January 2023

Why Is Russia Recruiting Former Afghan Soldiers For Its War Against Ukraine? – Analysis

By Syed Fazl-e-Haider*

According to multiple reports, Russia is recruiting Afghan security personnel, who were previously trained by the United States, for its war effort against Ukraine. The former Afghan elite commandos and soldiers are reportedly joining the Russian private military company known as the Wagner Group, a private mercenary force playing a prominent role in Moscow’s war against Ukraine—especially in the recent intense fighting around Bakhmut (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, December 27, 2022).

Before its military withdrawal, which was completed in 2021, the US built and trained the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, spending almost $90 billion over the past 20 years. US Navy SEALs and the British Special Air Service handled most of the training for these units. When US forces finally left Afghanistan, between 20,000 to 30,000 Afghan commandos remained in the country (Kyiv Independent, October 26, 2022).

Although Russian authorities deny reports on the recruiting of former Afghan soldiers, several former Afghan security personnel have disclosed that Tehran has been enlisting former Afghan soldiers in Iran for their deployment against Ukraine. The Kremlin has offered them Russian citizenship and a better life in Russia in exchange for joining the war effort (Afghanistan International, November 2, 2022).

A former member of the Afghan special forces expressed his views on being abandoned by the US and the former Afghan government lamenting that “after the fall of the country’s traitorous presidential regime, [the US] sold us out and surrendered the country to terrorists [the Taliban]. … We had no place to live in Afghanistan anymore, because the Taliban terrorists chased us. … Several of our peers were captured and beheaded, and we were forced to leave Afghanistan” (Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, December 27, 2022).

Why does TSMC's sub-28nm overseas expansion follow a five-year timetable?

Rocky Uriankhai

On January 12, 2023, TSMC held its Q4 earnings call in Taiwan. Except the financial figures and other key points concerned by the general public, it also shows that this globally expanding semiconductor giant is steadily aligning itself with the US President Joe Biden's national strategy to restructure the global supply chain.

When it comes to the production capacity of 28nm and below, TSMC stated in the earnings call that within five years, the ratio between overseas and Taiwan-based production capacity will be 20% and 80%, respectively. How should the so-called 'overseas production capacity' be allocated? And why five years?

As we all know, TSMC already planned six manufacturing sites with the announcement of Fab 21 in Arizona, USA. Back in mid-May 2020, it was announced that the process technology in Fab 21 would be 5nm. However, in November 2022, after participating in APEC and back to Taiwan, TSMC founder Morris Chang publicly announced that Fab 21 would advance to 4nm, although it is still a technology in the 5nm family - it shows the US desire for advanced chip manufacturing technology.

Furthermore, at the launch ceremony of TSMC's Arizona plant in early December 2022, it was also announced that TSMC's 3 nm technology, which had not yet been mass-produced in Taiwan at that time, would be transferred to Fab 21 in the future. Later at the end of December, TSMC held a 3nm mass production and expansion ceremony at Fab 18 in Tainan Science Park, Taiwan. Although Samsung had announced its 3nm process mass production on June 30 of the same year, half a year earlier that TSMC, TSMC nevertheless has secured clients like Apple, while Samsung still hasn't revealed who their clients are. Even the yield rate remains undisclosed.

'Smart deterrence': China to enhance AI-warfare against US over Taiwan

Baba Tamim

China could allegedly use more artificial intelligence (AI) to maintain deterrence against the United States (U.S.) over Taiwan.

The People's Liberation Army (PLA) should conduct blockade exercises around Taiwan and use AI technology to deter "U.S. interference," South China Morning Post (SCMP) reported on Sunday, quoting a Chinese expert on Taiwan affairs.

"PLA should conduct blockade exercises around the island and use AI technology to deter U.S. interference and Taiwanese independence forces," said Ni Yongjie, deputy director of the Shanghai Institute of Taiwan Studies.

The idea of "smart deterrence" was being researched within the PLA, he stated.

Yongjie made the comments in a Cross-Strait Taiwan Studies essay that was published earlier this week and shared on the journal's social media accounts.

By utilizing its skills in AI, cloud computing, big data, cyber attack and defense, and unmanned equipment, the PLA may become a global leader in future intelligent warfare, he suggested.

Yongjie called on PLA to normalize military drills that cross the median line of the Taiwan Strait, the de facto sea border separating mainland China and Taiwan, and approach the island's territorial waters, cutting off transport.

The PLA has been using AI to simulate war games for invasion operations against Taiwan, as well as to identify underwater vehicles.

China says 60,000 people have died of Covid since early December

By CNN's Beijing Bureau

Close to 60,000 people have died of Covid in China since the country abruptly abandoned its tight “zero-Covid” policy in early December, a medical official from the National Health Commission (NHC) told a press conference in Beijing on Saturday.

Jiao Yahui, head of the NHC’s medical affairs department, said China recorded 59,938 Covid-related death between December 8 and January 12. Of those deaths 5,503 came from respiratory failure caused by Covid infections, and 54,435 were people infected with Covid as well as underlying diseases, such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

China has previously listed only those Covid patients who succumbed with respiratory failure as having died of Covid. In the month after December 8, China reported only 37 deaths from local Covid cases, according to figures released on the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website – even as the outbreak has overwhelmed hospitals and crematoriums amid apparent Covid surges in multiple cities.

The World Health Organization and the United States have accused China of “under-representing” the severity of its current outbreak, while top global health officials have also urged Beijing to share more data about the explosive spread of Covid in China, where reports have emerged of overwhelmed hospitals and funeral homes.

The Taiwanese Expedition - The American Conservative

Jude Russo 

Posit two national powers. One is based on a continental mainland; it enjoys a relative preeminence in wealth and manpower and has historically appeared successful in its efforts to project force on nearby neighbors and even overseas. This mainland power has been formally at peace with its main rival for several years under a treaty still considered binding despite continued tensions and infringements of treaty terms.

The second power is a large island. Its inhabitants are historically friendly with the first power’s current enemies but have not taken much of a role in existing conflicts because of internal concerns. The island, which is resource-rich and agriculturally self-sufficient, is mountainous and largely forested in its interior. The inhabitants’ political orientation varies, but generally rejects the first power’s putative egalitarianism; some elements agitate for a complete separation from mainland interests. The islanders are wealthy and technically advanced.

In a bid for wealth and national glory, and to prevent the islanders from materially aiding the mainlanders’ enemies, the mainlanders decide to invade the island. The mainland power’s deliberative body decides to commit an exceptionally large force to subduing the island. They expect politically friendly elements among the islanders to come to their aid after the initial shock of the invasion.

Despite initial success for the mainland forces, a three-year campaign ensues. The islanders’ infrastructure allows them to hold out against the initial assault, and their physical and agricultural wealth allow them to stay fed and armed indefinitely. Logistical advantages carry the day; the islanders use the rough (and, for the mainlanders, unfamiliar) terrain to harry the invading force and press advantages as they come. The unsuccessful campaign is expensive, wastes an enormous amount of manpower, and leaves the mainland power prone to attack from its other enemies.

Call for PLA to use AI for ‘smart deterrence’ against US over Taiwan

By Amber Wang 

The People’s Liberation Army has ramped up drills around Taiwan in recent months. Photo: Xinhua

The People’s Liberation Army should make more use of artificial intelligence to strengthen its deterrence strategy against the United States over Taiwan, according to a Chinese expert on Taiwanese affairs.

Ni Yongjie, deputy director of the Shanghai Institute of Taiwan Studies, said the PLA should conduct blockade exercises around the island and use AI technology to deter US interference and Taiwanese independence forces.

He said the concept of “smart deterrence” was being studied within the PLA.

Ni made the remarks in an article in the journal Cross-Strait Taiwan Studies, which was posted on its social media account earlier this week.

He suggested the PLA could become a leader in future intelligent warfare, drawing on capabilities in AI, cloud computing, big data, cyber offence and defence, and unmanned equipment.

Ni also called for the PLA to normalise military drills that cross the median line of the Taiwan Strait – the de facto sea border separating mainland China from Taiwan – and that approach the baseline of the island’s territorial waters and cut off transport.

It comes after the PLA staged unprecedented live-fire exercises that encircled the self-ruled island amid heightened tensions after then-US House speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in August. The trip angered Beijing, which saw it as a violation of its sovereignty.

Is Turkey a Crucial or Corrosive NATO Ally?

Emma Ashford and Matthew Kroenig

Emma Ashford: Hey, Matt! Happy new year to you. It’s our first column of the new year, and we’ve already got a lot to sink our teeth into: an attempted insurrection in Brazil, a change of military leadership in Russia’s war against Ukraine, and NATO member Turkey causing all kinds of problems for other member states.

Matt Kroenig: Let’s start with Turkey? Is President Recep Tayyip Erdogan going to ever let Finland and Sweden into NATO or what?

EA: Who knows? I suspect that he will relent at some point in the future—perhaps after the Turkish elections in June, or as part of his reelection campaign—and agree to ratify Finland and Sweden’s entry in exchange for Western concessions.

But Erdogan has been increasingly playing both sides in recent years, and it’s not impossible that he could refuse entirely. In addition to his troubled relationship with the United States, Erdogan is one of the few leaders who has managed to keep ties open with both Russia and Ukraine. The Turks are even arming Ukraine while doubling their trade with Russia. And they helped to orchestrate the grain export deal last year between the two sides.

It’s clear that Turkey plays an important role as a diplomatic middleman between Russia and the West. But it’s far less clear why Western leaders tolerate its veto over issues such as NATO membership, at least to me.

Pride and Prejudice in Tehran

Hooman Majd

Miscommunication between the United States and Iran is nothing new. But now that U.S. President Donald Trump has withdrawn from the nuclear deal with Iran, guaranteeing that tensions will worsen in the months ahead, those hoping to avoid a crisis should start studying a little Farsi, beginning with one word: nafs. The concept most purely defines the essence of Iranian political culture stretching back centuries, especially as it relates to interactions with foreigners. It also offers insight into how the Iranian government approaches difficult diplomacy of the sort it now faces.

Nafs literally means “self,” but what matters is the nuance with which Iranians use the term. The most common usages are etemad be nafs, which means self-confidence; shekast-e nafs, which means “broken self” — essentially, modesty; and ezat-e nafs, which denotes self-respect, or simply “pride.”

Iranians have long used these concepts to evaluate the virtues and deficiencies of their leaders. For example, for all his apparent vanity, Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, who reigned from 1941 to 1979, had too fragile a sense of self — he lacked sufficient etemad in his nafs, an Iranian might say — to face down serious threats to his rule. In 1978, rather than confront demonstrators who called for the end of his dynasty, he apologized over the radio for the shortcomings of the government and ultimately fled Tehran the next year.

Shifting Sands: Why the United States Needs to Change its Policy Toward Saudi Arabia

By Rami Alkhafaji and Dr. Mahmut Cengiz

Background on the Rise of Wahabism

Amongst the sand dunes in central Arabia, a child was born who changed the course of history in the Arabian Peninsula and the Islamic world. Muhammad ibn Abdul Wahab was born in 1703 in ‘Uyayna, Arabia, in the Nejd region of the central part of Arabia.

Contrary to the western part of Arabia, which enjoyed an influx of cultures, ideas, and practices due to the annual Hajj pilgrimage to the holy sites of Mecca and Medina, and the eastern part of the country, al-Hasa, along the Persian Gulf coast which was also a bustling region exchanging ideas and cultures along with goods by trading with Persia, India, and beyond, the Nejd region was sparsely inhabited and experienced less exposure to other cultures and clung to the harsh realities of the desert.

Abdul Wahab had a crisis of faith and traveled outside of Nejd to cities in Iraq, Syria, and Iran, but instead of softening his austere interpretation of the religion, he founded a dangerous cult that plagued the region to this day, a cult that sanctioned violence against the other, the other defined by Wahabism as any individual or group that disagreed with any of Abdul Wahab’s extreme views.

Abdul Wahab outlined his ideology in a book entitled Book of Tawhid. In his book, Abdul Wahab wrote that anything that goes against his creed should be destroyed, no matter what the object, whether it be a “king or prophet, or saint or tree or tomb.” (Gold, 17-19). Abdul Wahab’s views were so extreme that his father and brother both denounced his book. Abdul Wahab’s brother, Sulaiman, wrote a treatise refuting his brother’s work entitled The Unmistakable Judgment in the Refutation of Muhammad ibn 'Abd al-Wahhab (Shafiq and Donlin-Smith, 2021, pg. 212).

Abdul Wahab took to the extreme the views of ibn Tayymiyah and called for the elimination of large swaths of the population, whether they be Shia, Christian, or even Sunnis who disagreed with his ideology. Thus, from the beginning of its existence, Wahabism was built to rid the world of others whom they perceived as different.

Biden Is About to Have His Hands Full in the Middle East

Aaron David Miller, and Steven Simon

For most of his first two years in office, U.S. President Joe Biden has been extremely fortunate to have avoided sustained entanglement with the Middle East, a place where more often than not, U.S. foreign-policy ideas—good and bad—have gone to die.

Biden may have a harder time avoiding the Middle East in 2023 and beyond, though. The administration’s top foreign-policy priorities remain Russia’s war against Ukraine and a rising China. Yet Biden may soon have his hands full with smaller yet determined regional powers eager to advance their own interests and unwilling to play by U.S. rules. With five states—Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, and Libya—in various stages of dysfunction, the Arab world will remain a source of instability, with the exception being wealthy Persian Gulf states (Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) that are acting with greater independence from Washington while insisting on U.S. support.

But it’s really the two non-Arab powers, Iran and Israel—one, the United States’ foremost regional adversary, the other its closest regional friend—that may set the agenda for the next two years. And the implications of that are not particularly uplifting.

With Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s return to office, the Biden administration now confronts the most extreme right-wing government in Israel’s history, one likely to cause a serious rise in—if not an explosion of—tensions over the Palestinian issue and Iran’s nuclear program. If you believe the rhetoric of its extremist ministers—and there’s no reason not to—this coalition is determined to alter Israel’s democratic system, transform society along Jewish exclusivist lines, sow tensions with Israel’s Arab citizens, and erect a gravestone over the buried hope of a Palestinian state by permanently lashing the majority of the West Bank and Jerusalem to Israel.

How U.S. Scientists are Collaborating with China's Military: 'Wake-Up Call'


Work on a robotic fish with potential military use was just one of hundreds of examples of collaboration between scientists in the U.S. and its allies and researchers linked to China's military, according to a new study seen by Newsweek.

The study, which focuses primarily on scientists in key U.S. NATO ally Germany, reveals a scale of collaboration between scientific institutions in the West and researchers connected with China's military that is far greater than has previously been reported.

The release of the report, shared exclusively with Newsweek ahead of its publication in Washington D.C., comes at a time of growing tension between the U.S. and China, with President Joe Biden's administration singling out China as America's key competitor and taking more steps to limit technology transfer.

The scientific establishment has been slow to react to the changing times, said Jeffrey Stoff, author of the report "Should Democracies Draw Redlines around Research Collaboration with China?", which assessed 43,000 papers published between 2016 and May 2022, with about one sixth of those studies having a U.S. co-author.

Who Are You Calling a Great Power?

By J. Dana Stuster 

It is a truth universally acknowledged, at least in the U.S. policy community, that international politics has entered a new era of “great power competition.” It shows in the number of instances of the phrase in books, which nearly doubled between 2012 and 2019, according to Google Books. The phrase had a particular moment when the Trump administration released its inaugural National Security Strategy in 2017, which declared that “after being dismissed as a phenomenon of an earlier century, great power competition has returned.” The consensus has persisted and deepened, declared in think tank reports from across the political spectrum. Though the Biden administration tried to switch to the terminology of “strategic competition” and “major powers,” the sentiment is the same.

From the start, the phrase has been fuzzy, and it has rarely been clear just who counts as a “great power.” The United States is a given. China is always a looming peer rival. Russia crops up from time to time, though in inconsistent ways. For instance, that 2017 National Security Strategy shifts from asserting that Russia “seeks to restore its great power status” to just a couple pages later actualizing that goal for Moscow by identifying it as a great power rival alongside China. Though great power competition has conventionally referred to rivalries between states, the European Union is also occasionally floated as an emerging pole in this new multipolar world.

This is an oddly disparate collection of actors in want of a definition. If the term “great power” has meaning, it is because these actors are somehow different from other, less powerful states. They perceive their interests differently and behave differently than, say, a “regional power,” a “middle power,” or any of those states that are politely but condescendingly called “small powers.” But trying to define great power status is difficult in ways that are evident from the mismatched assortment of candidates that emerge in the recent literature. Power varies across issues and domains in ways that are glossed over when international politics is reduced to great power competition. It can be a convenient shorthand, but policymakers should not lose track of the nuances: Who counts as a great power may vary from issue to issue.

Too Many Definitions

Freedom of Thought Is a Human Right


IN HIS 2019 Stanford address, Tim Cook warned about the threat to our “freedom to be human” from technology that looks to get inside our heads and rearrange the furniture. His “freedom to be human” is, essentially, our fundamental right to freedom of thought—an absolute right that has been mostly overlooked until now. The importance of Tim Cook’s speech was the recognition that Silicon Valley itself could never have come into existence in the current climate. Technology that undermines freedom of thought ultimately undermines innovation, and that is not good for anyone.

This will be the year we take back control of our minds and regain our freedom to think for ourselves. From persuasive design to behavioral micro-targeting through emotion recognition technology, predictive policing and neuropolitics, in the past decade the goal of much new and emerging technology has been about curating what Shoshana Zuboff calls “human futures,” exploiting our data to judge and control what we think and feel and ultimately how we behave. However, we are now at a tipping point, and in 2023 we will start to see shifts in both the regulatory landscape and in the direction of tech innovation that reinforce and protect our right to freedom of thought in the digital age.

In 2016, when Cambridge Analytica was mining the minds of electorates around the world using behavioral microtargeting techniques commonly used in online advertising, the idea of stopping surveillance-based advertising—the data-driven fuel that powers the internet—was unthinkable. This past year, however, we have seen the EU’s Digital Services Act put the brakes on targeted advertising for minors. Even President Biden, in his 2022 State of the Union Address, flagged this as an issue for action. In the US, the attorney general of Washington, DC, is suing Mark Zuckerberg for his role in facilitating Cambridge Analytica’s use of data in the 2016 elections. And in Belgium, the Data Protection Authority made a finding that calls into question the entire structure of real-time bidding for online advertising.

The U.S. Army Needs Mobile, Long-Range, And Precise Artillery

By Dan Gouré

The U.S. Army is currently investing in two of the three critical capabilities for future fires systems (artillery, rockets, and missiles). These capabilities are range and precision. The Army even calls its fires modernization effort the Long-Range Precision Fires (LRPF) program. But what Army fires systems also need is mobility. While new systems such as the Extended Range Cannon Artillery (ERCA), Precision Strike Missile (PrSM), Strategic Mid-Range Fires (SMRF) and the Long-Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW) will be deployed in mobile configurations, the current plan does not envision a mobile system to replace the aging towed M777s, 155mm howitzers that equip a variety of formations, notably the Stryker Brigade Combat Teams (SBCTs).

This is a mistake. The Army needs to invest in a mobile 155mm howitzer, at least for its SBCTs. There are a number of foreign, truck-mounted 155mm systems already in service around the world that could be acquired.

To a large extent, the Russia-Ukraine conflict has turned into an artillery/missile war. Early on Russia was firing as many as 20,000 shells a day. The Russian army is paying particular attention to counter-battery fires, looking to use its advantages in long-range artillery systems to eliminate Ukraine’s artillery.

Russian early success with its artillery and rocket systems led to the decision by the U.S. and other NATO countries to provide Kyiv with longer-range fires systems and precision-guided artillery projectiles. These systems have proven highly effective as well as survivable. The West has delivered an array of long-range fires systems, such as the Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS), the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), and the M109 and PzH2000 tracked 155mm howitzers. Ukraine also has been the recipient of hundreds of old-style towed artillery pieces, including obsolescent U.S. M777s. However, these systems lack the range of MLRS and HIMARS or the survivability of tracked howitzers.

Using the Army Design Methodology Process to Frame Problems

By Dimas A. Fonseca Jr.

Leaders serving in the highest echelons of the United States Army solve complex problems consistently. The Army design methodology (ADM) process enables commanders and staff members to frame an operational environment (OE), recognize problems, and create solutions. The ADM process also promotes continuous assessment of the OE and reframes problems and solutions, ensuring leaders think critically and creatively. Through the ADM process, commanders and staff members can understand, visualize, and describe operations (Department of the Army, 2015). To solve ill-structured problems, Army leaders use ADM. To properly facilitate framing a problem in organizations, leaders must understand the problem framing activity, key ADM concepts, and tools and techniques.

Framing Problems and Framing Activities

Ill-structured problems require the use of ADM, and framing the problem is an activity within the ADM process, which involves a unique set of activities of its own. Framing the problem identifies obstacles impeding progress toward the commander’s desired end state. Framing activities help leaders frame a problem including reviewing the environmental frame, identifying problems and mapping out their relationships, and using a narrative and graphics to capture the problem frame (Department of the Army, 2015). The purpose of problem framing is to determine which obstacles are impeding the end state. The environmental frame encompasses the current and future state of the OE. Soldiers attending the Sergeants Major Academy (SGM-A) use practical exercises in a small group setting to help develop graphics and narratives depicting framing a problem to prepare for future positions as senior enlisted advisors. In addition to practical exercises, Soldiers attending the SGM-A receive instructions on ADM concepts such as operational art and systems thinking to help reinforce framing problems and framing activities.

Key Concepts

The Depth and Breadth of Russia’s Losing

Brian E. Frydenborg 

Some fools have opined that the U.S. and Europe are “fighting Russia to the last Ukrainian.” In reality, Ukraine is fighting Russia to the last Russian with U.S. and European help. No matter how you look at it, things are going to just keep getting worse for Russia and it will continue to sustain massive casualties and equipment losses while gaining nothing Ukraine won’t be able to take back relatively quickly with improving forces and equipment.

Russia’s military remains ineffective against Ukraine’s actual military, and Russia’s overcompensation for this with its war-criminal missile and drone attacks against Ukrainian civilians and civilian infrastructure are not very efficient or (cost-)effective for Russia, not at all, a true sign of Russia’s impotence rather than its power, as I discussed in my last Small Wars Journal article. Remember, too, that these increasingly ineffective missile and drones strikes are one of the few cards Russia has left up its sleeve, with its best troops and equipment now mostly destroyed and its navy and air force mostly sidelined. Masses of brand new and badly outfitted troops led by the same callous and careless fools who led better forces to disaster and destruction (or sometimes now led by their successors who are faring little if at all better) will not change these stark facts. These troops will be supported by and will operate inferior equipment and will have little air or naval support because of Ukrainian anti-ship and anti-air defenses. And Russia is expending its quantities of its missiles and drones against non-military targets in such a way they there will be little left to support Russian forces in Ukraine when fighting intensifies later.

Very tellingly, there have been no major Russian advances since March, the first full month of the war. That kind of tells you everything you need to know: one month of major Russian advances, and over nine months of Ukraine pounding Russian positions or pounding Russian positions while pushing them far back. The main reason why? Because Russia CAN’T: it simply does not have the capability to carry out large offensives that succeed, let alone then hold any new significant amounts of territory successfully from counterattacks; throughout the war, Russia has not even been able to hold much of the territory it gained since February 24. And even where Russia has held and is holding territory, there have been and are effective resistance and guerrilla movements. Between partisans, Ukrainian intelligence, and Ukraine’s long-range precision weapons, there is nowhere safe in Ukraine for the Russian occupiers.

Will a Trillion Dollars Per Year Buy America a Better Defense?

By James Durso

The Pentagon had a very merry Christmas but all the American taxpayers got was a lump of coal.

The U.S. Congress passed an omnibus spending bill that awarded the Pentagon $45 billion more than originally requested – a record $816.7 billion dollars – out of $858 billion for the national defense establishment. The Veteran’s Administration, which is really just deferred defense spending, requested $301.4 billion, and the Intelligence Community budget request includes $26.6 billion for the Military Intelligence Program. There’s also probably something squirreled away at the Department of Homeland Security, but you get the picture.

And don’t forget the interest on the money the U.S. borrows, much of it from foreigners, to pay for national defense.

And that’s not enough for some.

H.R. McMaster, the former White House national security adviser, and other defense hawks, advocate the defense budget be increased to 4.5% of GDP or $1.2 trillion. McMaster justifies the budget increase because American “restraint” is to blame for aggressive moves by Russia and China, which will be news to citizens of the Middle East and Afghanistan who were on the sharp end of U.S. restraint.

The Problem With Primacy America’s Dangerous Quest to Dominate the Pacific

By Van Jackson

In its policies toward Asia, the United States has long sought to reconcile its unsurpassed military, economic, and rule-setting prowess with a desire for stability. Until recently, this was not hard to accomplish. Washington’s international dominance coincided with the post-1979 “Asian peace”—a period of remarkable stability in East Asia and the Pacific—and so the United States had little trouble holding sway over the region without provoking any conflicts. Over time, Washington even came to believe that U.S. supremacy and regional tranquility could not just coexist but were causally related. As a result, U.S. policymakers made maintaining Asian primacy the foundation of their regional strategy, arguing that without Washington’s leadership, Asia would devolve into warfare.

But as the American author James Baldwin wrote in 1963, “time reveals the foundations on which any kingdom rests, and eats at those foundations, and it destroys doctrines by proving them to be untrue.” Even if U.S. primacy was once a source of regional stability, there is little basis to think it will promote harmony today. The United States’ global power has diminished over the past generation, making it harder for Washington to direct the world. Other states have a newfound desire and capacity to resist, subvert, lash out against, or seek alternatives to U.S. preferences, including through violence. And the power of these countries is likely to continue to grow. It defies history to expect that dusk will never come for U.S. hegemony, especially as China—the world’s most populous state and Washington’s primary global competitor—draws power from its central place in the international economic system.

Former Russian president says Japanese leader should disembowel himself

Bryan Pietsch 

Dmitry Medvedev, Russia’s former president and a senior security official in President Vladimir Putin’s administration, said Saturday that Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida should perform a ritualistic suicide by disembowelment to repent for what Medvedev called servitude to the United States.

Medvedev’s remarks were in response to a joint statement Friday by President Biden and Kishida, in which the leaders said that “any use of a nuclear weapon by Russia in Ukraine would be an act of hostility against humanity and unjustifiable in any way.”

Russian military leaders have discussed the potential use of a tactical nuclear weapon should their invasion of Ukraine face more setbacks.

Medvedev, who was president from 2008 to 2012 and is deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, said in a Telegram post that the statement by Kishida and Biden amounted to “paranoia.” He added that Kishida was a “servant” to the United States.

The only way for Kishida to atone for “such a shame” would be to perform a “hara-kiri” in front of a meeting of his cabinet, Medvedev said, using a Japanese term for an ancient ritualistic disembowelment.

Tass, Russia’s state news agency, avoided repeating Medvedev’s comments, writing only that he “described a method” for Kishida to repent.

Rare earths find in Sweden: A gamechanger?

Arthur Sullivan

The Swedish state-owned mining company LKAB announced on Thursday that it had found more than a million tons of rare earth oxides in Kiruna, northern Sweden.

Rare earth elements, also known as rare earth metals or rare earth oxides, are a set of 17 heavy metals which have a wide range of commercial and industrial uses. They are of particular importance for the green transition, as they are needed for the production of wind turbines and electric vehicles.

However, the EU is heavily dependent on importing them or the compounds they are needed for.

Jan Moström, CEO of LKAB, said in a statement that the find was good news for "Europe and the climate", adding "it could become a significant building block for producing the critical raw materials that are absolutely crucial to enable the green transition."

Experts say the size of the find still needs to be verified but the estimate from the company of 1 million tons would make it the largest of its kind in Europe.
Is this a big surprise?

Not really. The deposit, dubbed Per Geijer, is located in the Swedish portion of the Arctic Circle, which has been known to be rich in rare earth minerals for several decades. LKAB already runs the largest iron ore mine in Europe and their exploration for rare earths in Kiruna has been widely publicized.

Logistical challenge looms for Ukraine over promised tanks

Ukraine's European allies have sent Kyiv more than 300 modernised Soviet tanks since Russia invaded more than 10 months ago.

But they have so far held off on dispatching the Western-made heavy tanks that Ukraine has repeatedly requested to push forward against Russian invaders.

Near the battleground city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine, Ukrainian captain Volodymyr Tchaikovsky said NATO tanks had "a huge advantage" for any soldier inside.

"If he has the coordinates of his target, he can destroy the target with one shot," the 54-year-old said.

Initial reluctance to provide Ukraine with advanced weaponry seems, however, to be lifting.

Poland on Wednesday said it was willing to send Kyiv 14 advanced Leopard 2 battle tanks as part of an international coalition.

The German-made model is largely seen as one of the best-performing worldwide and is widely used across Europe, meaning spare parts and munition are readily available.

Germany has so far refused to give its necessary green light to the delivery, fearing an escalation that would more directly pit the West against Russia.

But Britain has not ruled out providing the war-torn country with Challenger 2 battle tanks.

And a meeting of Ukraine's allies in Germany on January 20 could see Western nations make new pledges of military aid.
'Logistical headache'

To Make Japan Stronger, America Must Pull It Closer

By Christopher Johnstone

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s meeting with U.S. President Joe Biden on January 13 will provide a crucial opportunity to turn the page on decades of history in Japan’s security relationship with the United States. In mid-December, Kishida announced a new national security and defense strategy that departs from the path Japan has followed since World War II. The plan calls for Japan to increase defense spending by nearly 60 percent over five years, shattering the informal cap of one percent of GDP that has been in place since the 1970s. Japan will also acquire military capabilities it has long foresworn—in particular “counterstrike” missiles, or long-range precision weapons that will be mounted on vehicles, aircraft, ships, and eventually submarines. These will likely include U.S. Tomahawk land attack missiles, which Washington is preparing to sell to Tokyo. Japan will also heavily invest in cyber-capabilities, unmanned systems, and satellites that can support counterstrike operations. Tokyo has signaled that it intends to move quickly: Just a week later, the Kishida government unveiled a 6.8 trillion yen (about $51 billion) defense budget request for the next fiscal year, a 25 percent increase over the current year.

Once implemented, Japan’s strategy will transform the country’s place in the international security order. The prospect of a better-armed and equipped Japan will complicate North Korea and China’s calculations. But to maximize the effectiveness of Japan’s new posture, the country’s alliance with the United States must evolve. Today it is strong, but it falls short of a true military partnership capable of mounting integrated operations at short notice. As Japan pursues its new vision, the two close allies need a new command and control architecture, far deeper levels of information-sharing, and expanded cooperation between their defense industries. It is also time to revisit the cost-sharing arrangement that has long supported the U.S. military presence in Japan.
From Self-Defense to Active Defense

To create a stronger alliance, Washington and Tokyo must rethink alliance command and control. Japan’s new defense strategy calls for a significant expansion in bilateral military operations, including larger and more complex joint exercises with U.S. forces, enhanced joint patrols and reconnaissance operations, and deeper cooperation in the space and cyber-domains.

Biden and Kishida Vow to Bolster U.S.-Japan Alliance as China’s Power Grows

Edward Wong

WASHINGTON — President Biden and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida of Japan vowed Friday to work together to transform Japan into a potent military power to help counterbalance China and to bolster the alliance between the two nations so that it becomes the linchpin for their security interests in Asia.

“We’re modernizing our military alliance, building on Japan’s historic increase in defense spending and new national security strategy,” Mr. Biden said as the two leaders sat in the White House Oval Office in front of a fireplace with a roaring blaze. “Let me be crystal clear: The United States is fully, thoroughly, completely committed to the alliance.”

Mr. Kishida was making his first trip to Washington since his election in October 2021, and one month after his government announced plans to strengthen its military capabilities and significantly increase military spending in the face of China’s rising power and repeated missile tests by North Korea.

Japan was infuriated by China’s lobbing of missiles around Taiwan in August, five of which landed in waters by Japan, the first time this had happened. And Japan is increasingly anxious over greater maritime activity by the Chinese military in the East China Sea and around the Senkaku Islands, which is disputed territory between the two governments.

Pentagon Balks at Sending Ukraine Long-Range Bombs

Jack Detsch

U.S. Defense Department officials are raising concerns about a proposal to send Ukraine small precision-guided bombs that would allow Kyiv to strike Russian targets nearly 100 miles away, according to sources familiar with the debate, fearing that the timeline for deploying the weapons could take far too long.

Under a plan proposed by the U.S. weapons manufacturer Boeing and first reported by Reuters in November, the United States could provide the so-called Ground-Launched Small Diameter Bomb (GLSDB) to Ukraine. The transfer, if completed, would give Ukraine weapons with twice the range of the precision munitions the United States has already supplied for HIMARS batteries and would enable Ukraine to hit targets that have been out of reach for the duration of the war.

Ukraine has repeatedly pledged not to fire U.S.- and NATO-provided weapons onto Russian soil in a move that American officials worry could escalate the war, a designation that does not apply to Ukrainian territories occupied by Russia, such as Crimea. But the Biden administration has balked at sending the U.S.-made Army Tactical Missile System, known as ATACMS—precision rounds that would give Ukraine the capability to hit Russian targets nearly 200 miles from the front lines—despite lobbying from some NATO allies.

But the small diameter bomb, known as the SDB in Pentagon parlance, has not been subjected to the administration-wide debate over U.S. weapons provisions to Ukraine potentially provoking Russian escalation, a fear that previously snagged U.S.-made arms including the Javelin anti-tank system, 155 mm howitzer guns, and HIMARS batteries before they were subsequently approved for transfer to Ukraine. The Wall Street Journal previously reported that the United States had even modified HIMARS batteries sent to Ukraine to prevent them from firing the long-range ATACMS missiles.

Russia using old Ukrainian weapons sent in goodwill on front line

Mansur Mirovalev

Kyiv, Ukraine – Called the White Swan, the Tu-160 is the world’s heaviest and fastest supersonic bomber.

The Soviet-designed flying fortress can circle half the globe, fly as high as 20km (12.4 miles) above Earth and carry 45 tonnes of bombs – or a dozen Kh-55 nuclear missiles.

Moscow has 16 White Swans and has been using them as trump cards in its renewed confrontation with the West.

In recent years, they have flown over the North Pole to violate US and Canadian airspace, landed in Venezuela and launched cruise missiles at Syria.

Russia's Greatest Military Strength Has Now Become Its Weakness


Vladimir Putin had his eye on his place in Russian history when he compared his invasion of Ukraine to the expansionism of Peter the Great. "It has fallen to us, too, to reclaim and strengthen," Putin said in June 2022.

But the tsar was the beneficiary of cold weather in 1708 and 1709 during the Great Northern War, which helped stop Sweden's Charles XII's troops from advancing on Moscow, military historian Antony Beevor wrote in Foreign Affairs last month.

Beevor noted that while the winter has been an asset for Russian war efforts, such as Napoleon's Grande Armée retreat from Moscow in 1812 and the turning back of Adolf Hitler's forces from the capital in World War II, Putin cannot count on the coldest season being the same ally.

"It may be Russia, rather than its adversary, that suffers the worst consequences," Beevor wrote as reports abound of shortages of body armor, equipment and training for Putin's troops, especially the estimated 300,000 newly mobilized reservists.

Challengers of Big Tech’s sway on the internet won’t have it easy

Writing about competing visions for the future of the internet in a column at the turn of 2022, I argued that two of the much-hyped contenders, the metaverse and web3, appeared far fetched. It is hard to imagine everyone wearing virtual-reality goggles to engage with the internet, crypto is too complicated, and both are costly ways to access the global network. Last year was somewhere between a wake-up call and a devastating setback for promoters of 3-D metaverses and crypto services, with lower profits, higher interest rates and scandals delivering the due reality checks.

And thanks to Elon Musk and the still- unfolding drama at Twitter, the third vision—of ‘Web 3.0’, an open, decentralized network that limits the power of corporations and governments— received greater interest and impetus. Mastodon, a thoughtfully-engineered open-source alternative to Twitter, went from 300,000 to 2.5 million monthly active users between October and November before retreating to 1.8 million last week. What is more interesting is that corporations are installing their own Mastodon servers much like they did with email and web servers 30 years ago. There is serious interest among developers and some European governments in a federated, interoperable ‘Fediverse’ based on open protocols that takes control away from Big Tech.

It remains to be seen whether this movement can compete with Silicon Valley’s formidable technological and business models. But the world’s governments are pushing Big Tech hard on many fronts: antitrust, privacy, data protection, consumer rights, labour regulations, safety and public order. As regulation catches up, costs will rise, profits might fall and political risks will abound.

The cyber pandemic: A need for strengthened cyber resilience in telecoms

Sigve Brekke

With the growth in data and digital infrastructure’s role in society, a threat is rising in the background – cybercrime, cyberterrorism, cyberwar.

It’s imperative for telcos not only to advance their own systems and practices, but also the skillset of future generations.

As we move from cybersecurity to cyber resilience, operators should build resilience and capabilities to detect attacks and minimise impact.

Did you know that about 51 petabytes of data were created worldwide while you read this sentence?

That’s the equivalent of 51,000,000,000 megabytes – and we are supposedly creating 2.5 quintillion bytes of data every day. The numbers are hard to grasp, and it’s not getting easier. The total amount of data globally is expected to grow to more than 180 zettabytes by 2025 – or 180,000,000,000,000,000 megabytes.

Have you read?

Is your head spinning yet?

Don’t worry, the big positive with data – or digitalisation – is that it empowers societies, fuelling a better tomorrow.

How Public and Private Entities Can Fight Cybercrime


OPINION — For years, cybercrime was dismissed as an afterthought. Indeed, it wasn’t long ago that the FBI leadership famously dismissed it as “ankle-biter crime.” Clearly, that’s no longer the case. As our dependence on high-speed electronic communications has increased, the prevalence — and seriousness — of cybercrime has skyrocketed alongside it.

Worldwide, companies are now spending billions of dollars on cybersecurity hardware, software, and professional services. The global damages from cybercrimes are predicted to exceed $7 trillion in 2022 and grow at an annual rate of over 15%, according to Cybersecurity Ventures.

To increase safety all over the world, we need to prioritize cybersecurity by beginning all information technology (IT) and operational technology (OT) modernization projects with cybersecurity in mind. We also need to allocate more funding to cybersecurity, on both a public and private sector basis.

A Persistent and Spreading Global Cyber Threat

Over the last several years, cyberattacks have grown dramatically in their level of sophistication, magnitude, and frequency. One such example is the 2021 attack on the Colonial Pipeline, in which a criminal ring extorted nearly $5 million from a company that owns a vital 5,500-mile U.S. oil pipeline.

As the digital world expands, so does the number of users, devices, and endpoints. In health care alone, it’s estimated that more than 27 billion Internet of Things medical devices will support this industry by 2025. More devices mean there is a larger cyber-attack surface area with more software-related vulnerabilities, which result in more entry points for bad actors.

Hate speech rises on Twitter in its largest markets after Musk takeover

Gerry Shih 

SAN FRANCISCO — Elon Musk’s overhaul of Twitter has been accompanied by an increase in digital harassment of religious and ethnic minorities in some of its largest markets outside the United States — and it’s beginning to wreak havoc in the physical world as well, according to current and former employees and experts studying the issue.

Musk has fired or accepted resignations from about three-fourths of Twitter’s employees since his $44 billion takeover at the end of October. He has also terminated thousands of contractors who were monitoring the site for slurs and threats.

Those cuts went deepest outside North America, where more than 75 percent of the company’s 280 million daily users live and where Twitter already had fewer moderators who understood local languages and cultural references and where the political landscape could be chaotic and prone to violence.

Musk also welcomed back thousands of banned accounts, including many suspended for promoting hate or violence, even as he has personally has tweeted misinformation and interacted with far-right accounts. Sensing an opportunity, if not a welcome, political operatives and attention-seeking profiteers have rushed to fill the vacuum that the drop in moderation efforts has left, employees said.

That has changed the tenor of the site in its No. 2 market, Japan, where nearly 59 million are estimated to use the site, and made it more fraught in India (nearly 24 million users) and Brazil (nearly 20 million), the third and fourth largest markets, according to current and former staff and researchers. Musk cut virtually all staff in Brazil, allowing an unmoderated surge in misinformation that helped fuel this month’s attacks on the country’s government center.