23 January 2023

India Backs Sri Lanka to Secure IMF Bailout Plan Amid Crisis

Krishan Francis

India’s foreign minister said Friday his country has given financial assurances to the International Monetary Fund to facilitate a bailout plan to help neighboring Sri Lanka emerge from its worst economic crisis, in a first formal announcement from one of the island nation’s creditors.

India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar announced the support while on a two-day visit to Sri Lanka, where he met with President Ranil Wickremesinghe and other Cabinet ministers.

“We felt strongly that Sri Lanka’s creditors must take proactive steps to facilitate its recovery. India decided not to wait on others but to do what we believe is right. We extended financing assurances to the IMF to clear the way for Sri Lanka to move forward,” he said.

“Our expectation is that this will not only strengthen Sri Lanka’s position but ensure that all bilateral creditors are dealt with equally,” Jaishankar added. He did not elaborate on the kind of assurances given.

India’s official credit to Sri Lanka is $4.4 billion excluding other forms of lending. Among Sri Lanka’s leading creditors are Japan and China.

Sri Lanka and the IMF have reached a preliminary agreement on a $2.9 billion bailout plan over four years, but final approval depends on assurances given by creditors on the debt restructuring.

Indian External Affairs Minister’s Colombo Visit Underscores Delhi’s Role As First Responder In Crises – Analysis

P. K. Balachandran

Jaishankar pushes for Indian investments in Sri Lanka and urges Colombo to adopt business-friendly policies

Indian External Affairs Minister Dr.S. Jaishankar’s two-day visit to Sri Lanka which concluded on Friday, has underscored and re-affirmed India’s role as the first responder during crisis situations in Sri Lanka.

The visit, which included a meeting with President Ranil Wickremesinghe, raised hopes that India-Sri Lanka cooperation in a variety of economic sectors will increase. Jaishankar has offered further Indian investments and has appealed to the Sri Lankan authorities to create a business-friendly environment that will help attract Indian investments.

Jaishankar told a media briefing that the primary purpose of his visit was to express India’s solidarity with Sri Lanka during these difficult moments when the island nation is facing a deep financial crunch.

“As you all know, last year, India extended about US $ 4 billion in terms of credits and rollovers to help Sri Lanka get through an economic crisis. For us, it was an issue of ‘Neighborhood First’ and not leaving a partner to fend for themselves.”

“This year, in a developing situation that was beginning to cause concern, the same sentiment reasserted itself. We felt strongly that Sri Lanka’s creditors must take proactive steps to facilitate its recovery. India decided not to wait for others but to do what we believe is right. We extended financing assurances to the IMF to clear the way for Sri Lanka to move forward. Our expectation is that this will not only strengthen Sri Lanka’s position but ensure that all bilateral creditors are dealt with equally,” Jaishankar said.

Taliban Government: A Nightmare For The Afghans – OpEd

By Naseebullah Khan Bazai

Sane are those who learn from history and go shoulder by shoulder with the changing world, who know how to handle crises ridden situation and that how to pull out the sinking boat of the country from whirlpool. These need commitment, competent minds, good governance, farsightedness, and holistic policy formulation which the Taliban 2.0 lack, whose rule has become a nightmare for the common Afghans.

The orthodox Taliban have banned women education after primary. They have barred women to run beauty parlor shops. Man teachers have been ordered to take beard. Democracy is in short supply. Political instability is at its peak. Human rights violations are taking place with a repid speed. Media has been suffocated. Health sactor is on decline. Ecnomic frail is playing havoc with the country. While, humanatrian crisis is engulfing lives. Forced and early marriages have increased. At the same time, the ISIS is cementing its feet in the country.

When the Doha talks were on the way, people, the sympathizers, and the signatories expected changed Taliban. Their hopes remain hopes. The use of religion for political gains by the Taliban regime should not be astonishing and unexpected. As they have nothing to present to impress the common Afghans in socioeconomic, political spheres, and in foreign policy.

The Taliban 2.0 have failed to deliver (as excepted) while the proponents and suppoters of the Doha accord have trapped. They have ruined the lives of Afghans for the fulfillment of their vested interests. A partially stable Afghanistan has become a Hell for the people of Afghanistan, for the world where the ISIS is cementing its roots, where al Qaida is re-emerging, and where the TTP has become a real threat for Pakistan.

The World Has Fallen for the Taliban’s Lies Once Again

By Fawzia Koofi

I was a first-year medical student at Kabul University when, on Sept. 26, 1996, Taliban fighters swept in and seized the capital. It was a Thursday. I remember that clearly because I was rushing to finish schoolwork due by the weekend. Those assignments were suddenly no longer required. By the next day, the Taliban had announced that all women and girls were henceforth banned “until further notice” from schools, workplaces or even appearing in public without a male companion present.

For the next five years, until U.S.-led international forces ended the Taliban’s reign of terror in 2001, an Afghan woman’s view of the world was through the windows of her home. I was crushed. I had dreamed of becoming a gynecologist, hoping to help address Afghanistan’s chronically high maternal mortality rate. I never became a doctor.

That despair is being felt once again by a new generation of millions of Afghan women.

Before completing their reconquest of Afghanistan in August 2021, the Taliban had promised to safeguard women’s rights, along with other pledges of moderation designed to ease world fears and pave the way for the withdrawal of the last foreign forces standing in their way. But since then, they have issued dozens of edicts to deprive women of basic human rights, including last month barring them from attending universities.

It should now be crystal clear that the international community was swindled. Taliban leaders have re-established their brutal fundamentalist Islamic and gender-apartheid regime, reversing the social progress achieved over the past two decades.

Yet the international community, including the United States, still clings naïvely to yet another Taliban fallacy — that it will stamp out the Islamic State’s affiliate in Afghanistan — and has maintained political and security-based contacts with the Taliban.

This is a gross misreading of reality that in fact increases the longer-term security threat to the United States and the world.

A Trilateral Gas Union: Risks and Benefits for Central Asia

By Mikhail Strokan and Nodira Mukhammadkulova

The idea of a new “gas union” was floated at a very consequential time, amid an unusually harsh winter in the region. Since the second half of November, several Central Asian countries have experienced unprecedented energy deficits and natural gas shortages. This coincided with a snap presidential election in Kazakhstan. So, it was during Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev’s first foreign visit — to Russia — after beginning his second term that the idea of a “trilateral gas union” was aired in late November.

As press secretary for the Kazakh leader Ruslan Zheldibay commented: “…the talks between the presidents of Kazakhstan and Russia in the Kremlin focused on the creation of a ‘trilateral gas union’ between Russia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan with the purpose of coordinating their actions in order to transport Russian gas through the territories of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.”

Over the next few days, the proposal was elaborated upon by Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov, who talked about the creation of a joint company that would manage energy infrastructure. “The proposal implies the creation of a certain legal entity for cooperation between these three countries, and for infrastructure development, then for foreign markets,” said Peskov.

This statement suggested Russia’s desire to expand its natural gas export routes in the direction of Central Asia and perhaps partially substitute for the losses of the European export market.

The Western press and some local experts’ initial reaction was focused on the expansionist dimension of Russia’s interests in the region. Most commentators noted that Russia arguably wants to increase its political grip over Central Asia and create yet another point of leverage to increase its political presence in the region. In order to confront this vision, the leaders of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan made it clear that the two countries are not willing to join any political unions and are ready to discuss the proposal only on commercial terms.

Washington Is Missing a Chance to Turn China Against Russia

Robert A. Manning

It may seem counterintuitive, but the political and economic costs to China of Russia’s war in Ukraine, a wobbly economy, anti-zero-COVID backlash, and Chinese President Xi Jinping rolling back an array of policies may be opening space for U.S.-China cooperation on Ukraine. The war in Ukraine’s galvanizing global support for Taiwan may also weigh on Beijing.

Since the start of the war, China has offered rhetorical support to Russia and demonized NATO’s actions—but avoided any actual commitments to aiding Moscow. The Sino-Russian entente is not, as it is often viewed in the West, a simple ideological sympathy between two revisionist autocracies. Rather, it’s a pragmatic, somewhat transactional union, one where the United States may be missing opportunities to pry the two apart—at least on particular issues.

First, on a visit to the former Soviet republic of Kazakhstan last September, Xi pledged to “resolutely” support its sovereignty, a snub to Moscow. Then at a Shanghai Cooperation Organization meeting that same month, Russian President Vladimir Putin publicly and unprecedentedly acknowledged China’s “questions and concerns” over the war in Ukraine. In early October 2022, China abstained from both United Nations Security Council and General Assembly votes to condemn Russia’s annexation of the Donbas rather than voting against them. Beijing also joined India in calling for an end to the war.

New twist in China’s 5G war with the West


The US is playing catch-up with China in the 5G race. Photo: AFP / Getty Images / Josep Lago

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak recently declared that the “golden era” of UK-China relations is over. The next day, the government removed China General Nuclear Power Group, a Chinese state-owned company, from the construction of the UK’s Sizewell C nuclear power station.

Other countries have made similar moves in recent years. In 2020, for example, then-US president Donald Trump attempted to ban social media platform TikTok in the US. The move was subsequently stopped by two US judges following a lawsuit by TikTok, and eventually dropped by current President Joe Biden.

But such government decisions based on national security concerns could affect the future international growth of Chinese business. This is particularly important given that China’s international investment and trade have increased in recent years, enabling it to emerge as a powerful challenger to the global economic order.

Indeed, Chinese companies and investors often refuse to take such national security changes lying down. With varying degrees of success, firms have mounted a range of formal and informal challenges in recent years.

As would be expected, their approaches include lobbying, media campaigns and diplomatic assistance or support from business associations, as well as contesting national security decisions in domestic courts.

A relatively new strategy for China, however, is to challenge national security decisions before international tribunals using a method called investor-state dispute settlement. A tribunal normally is set up to handle a specific dispute, with arbitrators appointed and paid for by one or both of the parties involved.

The suits tend to claim that national security decisions have breached host countries’ obligations to Chinese investors under bilateral investment treaties (BITs). These treaties grant foreign investors certain standards of treatment and allow them to sue host states for alleged violations.

Xi’s course correction reveals an agile autocrat under pressure

David Ignatius

Chinese President Xi Jinping likes to cultivate an aura of careful, well-planned policy. He claims that’s the advantage of autocracy. But the past few months have looked more like an impulsive, zigzag journey along the edge of a cliff.

Xi in December announced a stunning reversal of major covid-19, economic and technology policies. This turnabout came just two months after an arrogant display at the Communist Party’s 20th Congress, during which Xi had seemed to be doubling down on failing strategies.

Xi didn’t explain or apologize in December. He just changed course. That illustrates his tactical agility, and also his shamelessness about rewriting party doctrine. It also shows how erratic Xi can be, and how important it is for the United States and China to establish guardrails so that misunderstandings on security issues don’t turn into disasters. Secretary of State Antony Blinken will try to deepen this U.S.-China dialogue when he visits Beijing next month.

An examination of Xi’s recent U-turns was compiled by the Asia Society Policy Institute, headed by Kevin Rudd, a former Australian prime minister and a China expert. In a paper released this week, the Society’s Center for China Analysis catalogued the policy changes, many of them announced during a meeting in December of the party’s Central Economic Work Conference. Their account matches recent reporting by Pamir Consulting, a leading advisory firm based in Vienna, Va.

The most dramatic change was the party’s “backflip,” as the Asia Society paper calls it, on its “zero covid” policy. In his October speech to the congress, Xi had described his lockdown strategy as “an all-out people’s war to stop the spread of the virus.” But at that time, U.S. officials believe, Xi probably knew that the omicron variant had spread so widely that it couldn’t be contained. Rather than admit error — and prepare to treat a spread of disease that could lead to 1.7 million covid deaths in his country by April, according to the British analytics firm Airfinity — Xi just waited.

Who Would Win a War Over Taiwan?

Good news: The Chinese military can’t easily seize Taiwan by force. That’s the gist of the headlines about a recent war game from a Washington think-tank. But that’s not the full story, and the details in the 160-page report show that even a victorious fight for Taiwan would be a ruinous affair, and the U.S. is still showing little sense of urgency in deterring it.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies set out to test what would happen if China attempted an amphibious invasion of Taiwan. Analysts played the war game 24 times, and in most instances U.S. intervention beat back the invasion. Taiwan remained an autonomous democracy, albeit as a ravaged island without basic services like electricity.

10 Reasons Xi Won’t Attack Taiwan Anytime Soon

Hemant Adlakha

When General Secretary Xi Jinping reiterated that China will “not renounce the use of force” to unify Taiwan with the People’s Republic of China at the 20th Party Congress in October 2022, he received prolonged applause from the 2,300 delegates. “Complete reunification of our country must be realized, and it can, without doubt, be realized,” Xi later thundered.

However, seven months earlier in March 2022 during the annual “Two Sessions,” namely the simultaneous convening of the National People’s Congress (NPC) and the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), Taiwan was mentioned only briefly, in reference to the “one China” policy.

Both in the government work report presented by the outgoing Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to the NPC on March 5 and in the CPPCC work report presented by its chairman Wang Yang the previous day, the Taiwan issue, including unification, was downplayed in a surprisingly uncharacteristic manner. This deemphasizing was particularly significant when viewed in light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which had started just a week before the convening of the Two Sessions.

Remember, within days of the Russian military invasion of Ukraine, the media and many observers globally started arguing that Taiwan could be the next Ukraine, with China playing the role of Russia. Interestingly, the cross-strait affairs analysts in Taiwan did not agree.

Most Taiwanese analysts were down-to-earth and realistic in interpreting the rhetoric coming from the 2002 Two Sessions. The Two Sessions were absolutely forthcoming in that China did not consider Taiwan and Ukraine comparable. On March 7, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi further dismissed the comparison between the Taiwan question and the Ukraine issue as “baseless speculation.” Second, and perhaps related, compared to previous years, the Two Sessions in March 2022 were remarkable for downplaying the discussion on Taiwan.

Europe Needs a New Iran Strategy


The new year began in Iran as the old one ended: with executions. 2023 promises to be even more consequential than 2022, which has already shaken the foundations of the Islamic Republic. It’s time for Europe to change course in response.

Adebahr is a nonresident fellow at Carnegie Europe. His research focuses on foreign and security policy, in particular regarding Iran and the Persian Gulf, on European and transatlantic affairs, and on citizens’ engagement.

Two men were hanged on January 7, 2023, after sham trials found them guilty of killing a member of the Basij militia during street protests in Karaj, a city near Tehran, two months earlier. Mohammad Mehdi Karami and Mohammad Hosseini, a karate champion and a volunteer children’s coach, respectively, suffered the same fate as Mohsen Shekari and Majidreza Rahnavard, who were hanged in December 2022 for an alleged similar offense.

The goal of such state-sanctioned revenge killings is clear: to intimidate the protesters into submission. And while actual demonstrations have somewhat ebbed due to the regime’s brutal crackdown, the clocks cannot be turned back. What is uncertain is whether the country will experience the positive change people have clamored—and died—for, or whether there will be even more unrest.

Three news bits from the past days illustrate what has already changed in Iran—and why this is relevant for Europe and the rest of the world.

For one, the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has been quoted as saying that women should not be ostracized for failing to properly cover their hair, as religious rules and the laws of the Islamic Republic demand. This only goes to show how removed Iran’s leaders are from their people: after four months of revolt caused by the slaying of Mahsa Jina Amini for what Khamenei would now call “weak hijab,” this concession is found wanting.

Ukraine Situation Report: Russian Casualties “Significantly Well Over 100k” Says Top U.S. General


Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, offered a slightly revised update Friday on the numbers of Russian casualties during the country's all-out war in Ukraine.

“I would say it’s significantly well over 100,000 now,” he said Friday at a press conference after the wrap-up of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting in Germany.
A view of debris at the Russian Armed Forces' temporary deployment location, where scores of Russian troops died after Ukrainian artillery attacks near Makiivka, Ukraine on Jan. 16, 2023. (Photo by Vladimir Aleksandrov/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The last time Milley publicly discussed the number of Russian casualties, back in November, he said that “well over” 100,000 had been killed and wounded.

"Same thing probably on the Ukrainian side as well."

While not offering any further specifics about the Russian casualty numbers or offering any numbers at all about Ukrainian losses, he said “there are significant casualties on both sides.”

The Great Game of NATO and the White European Tribal Wars

Dr. A. Adityanjee

Europe historically has had a penchant for wars. The geopolitical games European nations played led to two world wars in the 20th century. The first Secretary General of NATO, Lord Hastings Lionel Ismay once famously stated that the ostensible purpose of NATO was “to keep Russians out, Americans in, and Germany down”. At the time of its founding on April 4th, 1949, in Washington DC NATO comprised only ten European nations and two North American countries. It was conceptualized as a military alliance of European countries to defend Europe while deterring Soviet expansionism. Headquartered in Brussels, it now comprises 30 European countries and two more nations, Finland and Sweden, joining in the near future.

Ironically, the former Soviet Union, fearing the restoration of German militarism in West Germany, had suggested in 1954 that it join NATO, but this was rejected by the US. Last Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev also proclaimed on multiple occasions his desire for the Soviet Union/Russia to be integrated into the common European home. In 1991 Mikhail Gorbachev was invited to meet with members of the G7 on the sidelines of the summit in London.

By 1994, Russian President Boris Yeltsin was participating in the G7 summit in Naples. Russia became a full member of what became known as the G8 in 1997 and went on to host the 2006 summit in St. Petersburg. Boris Yeltsin had gatecrashed into earlier closed G7 meetings before it was formally G-8 with the hope of being part of the ideological “West”. Interestingly, Vladimir Putin after becoming President of the Russian Federation had expressed interest in joining NATO in 2000 but did not wish to wait in line as an applicant.


As alarms began to go off globally about a novel coronavirus spreading in China, officials in Washington turned to the intelligence agencies for insights about the threat the virus posed to America.

But the most useful early warnings came not from spies or intercepts, according to a recent congressional review of classified reports from December 2019 and January 2020. Officials were instead relying on public reporting, diplomatic cables and analysis from medical experts — some examples of so-called open source intelligence, or OSINT.

Predicting the next pandemic or the next government to fall will require better use of open source material, the review found.

“There is little indication that the Intelligence Community’s exquisite collection capabilities were generating information that was valuable to policymakers,” wrote the authors of the review, conducted by Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee.

That echoes what many current and former intelligence officials are increasingly warning: The $90 billion U.S. spy apparatus is falling behind because it has not embraced collecting open-source intelligence as adversaries including China ramp up their efforts.

This doesn’t diminish the importance of traditional intelligence. Spy agencies have unique powers to penetrate global communications and cultivate agents. They scored a high-profile success when the Biden administration publicized ultimately correct intelligence findings that Russian President Vladimir Putin intended to invade Ukraine.

‘No Big Bang’: Cyber successes in Ukraine are no cause for complacency in US


WASHINGTON — In cyberspace, as on the ground, Ukraine has done a remarkable job fending off Russian attacks. That’s not because Russian cyber warfare is weak, warned officials and experts at a National Security Institute event here on Thursday. It’s because, after the shocking losses of Crimea and Eastern Donbas in 2014, Ukraine got serious about the threat and — with extensive US and European help — spent eight years preparing for an all-out Russian attack.

But has the US taken its own defenses as seriously? Has it prepared as well for an attack on critical public and private networks as Ukraine did before 2022? According to NSI founder Prof. Jamil Jaffer, no.

“Have we operationalized it [cyber defense] effectively, for real?” Jaffer told Breaking Defense during a sidebar interview after the public panel, which featured experts from the NSA, Homeland Security, State Department, and Google. “Of course not — and while we’ve made significant progress, without a crash effort and real commitment from both government and industry, we’re probably years away from that, maybe a decade away.”

“On the cyber front, I think the lesson to be learned is that we’ve actually done pretty decently in Ukraine, where we helped build resilience ahead of time,” he said. “And if we’d done that years earlier, we would have been even better — as is the case if we do so here at home.”

It’s crucial to realize that the Russian cyber attacks haven’t failed for lack of trying, but because of the strength of the Ukrainian defense backed by almost a decade of Western assistance.

Ukraine signs agreement to join NATO cyber defense center

Daryna Antoniuk

Ukraine has taken another step to deepen its cooperation with NATO in the cybersecurity field as its war with Russia — both kinetic and digital — approaches the one-year mark.

On Thursday, Ukraine signed an agreement to join the Estonia-based NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE). Before it is official, all of CCDCOE’s members will have to sign this agreement.

CCDCOE conducts research on cyber policy, coordinates education and training in cyber defense for all NATO bodies, and organizes the world’s largest international cyber defense exercise, called Locked Shields.

Such cooperation will help Ukraine and NATO to more effectively counter common cyber threats, including from Russia, according to a statement by Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council (NSDC).

For example, Ukraine and its NATO allies will be able to exchange information on how to detect cyber threats, how to respond to cyberattacks and conduct defense and deterrence operations in cyberspace, said Nataliya Tkachuk, the head of information security and cybersecurity at NSDC.

Both sides stand to benefit from this partnership. Ukraine will get access to NATO’s cutting-edge technology and research, while CCDCOE members will learn more from Ukraine about how to defend against cyberattacks during wartime.

“Ukraine’s experience is unique,” Tkachuk told The Record. “And we are ready to share it with our allies — from the public-private partnership and effective involvement of cyber volunteers to methods of detecting and neutralizing cyberattacks from Russia.”

The Centre also analyzes the legal aspects of cyber defense — for example, its Tallinn Manual interprets how international humanitarian law is applied to cyber warfare — and it’s important that Ukraine become part of this discussion, according to Tkachuk.

NSA red team will attack JWCC providers to test zero trust security


WASHINGTON – Zero trust, but verify: That’s the strategy the Pentagon is experimenting with for its new private-sector cloud providers.

Beginning this spring, red-team hackers from the National Security Agency — and possibly the armed services’ red teams as well — will launch a months-long series of attacks on zero-trust security systems on clouds run by Amazon Web Services, Google, Microsoft and Oracle, according to the head of the Defense Department’s zero-trust office.

“That would be a realistic adversary attack [to] determine whether or not the red teams could get in and exploit data,” Randy Resnick, chief of the Zero Trust Portfolio Management Office, told a Billington Cybersecurity webcast this afternoon. “That’s going to give us a really good feel on whether or not these zero trust overlays are implemented correctly.”

It will also “give us a way forward for recommending to the DoD whether or not we could do zero trust in the cloud,” he said. “If … we come to the conclusion that in fact it can be done, it would be absolutely revolutionary.”

Why those four firms? They just happen to be the ones announced on Dec. 7 as the winners of the long-awaited Joint Warfighting Cloud Capability (JWCC) contract, itself a successor to the failed JEDI program.

Venezuela’s Modest Economic Liberalization Has Created a ‘Hellscape of Inequality’

Tony Frangie-Mawad

In mid-November, a glassy Saks Fifth Avenue-like department store opened in Caracas’s wealthy commercial district of Las Mercedes. The store, Avanti, is owned by a Palestinian-Venezuelan businessman and sells high-end fashion brands—Balenciaga, Gucci, Versace, Valentino—and luxury goods such as a $110,000 Samsung television that quickly racked up a waiting list.

Although Avanti was built in the capital of Venezuela, a country where most of the population lives in poverty, the store is hardly an aberration. Throughout Caracas, hundreds of new restaurants, fashion stores, and nightclubs have popped up in the past year—including a restaurant hanging from a crane, with diners overlooking the Caracas skyline.

This “Bubble,” as it’s sometimes called on social media, has arisen from a change in President Nicolás Maduro’s economic policies. After experiencing one of the world’s largest economic collapses outside of war, followed by a series of sanctions, Venezuela’s authoritarian government has drifted away from the orthodox socialist policies of Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chávez, and toward a mild economic liberalization. This new approach in recent years has included the elimination of tariffs on many imports, the lifting of price and currency exchange controls, and a nationwide de facto dollarization, in which U.S. dollars have been widely used in place of bolívars.

Don’t Fear Putin’s Demise Victory for Ukraine, Democracy for Russia

Garry Kasparov and Mikhail Khodorkovsky

The regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin is living on borrowed time. The tide of history is turning, and everything from Ukraine’s advances on the battlefield to the West’s enduring unity and resolve in the face of Putin’s aggression points to 2023 being a decisive year. If the West holds firm, Putin’s regime will likely collapse in the near future.

Yet some of Ukraine’s key partners continue to resist supplying Kyiv with the weapons it needs to deliver the knockout punch. The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden in particular seems afraid of the chaos that could accompany a decisive Kremlin defeat. It has declined to send the tanks, long-range missile systems, and drones that would allow Ukrainian forces to take the fight to their attackers, reclaim their territory, and end the war. The end of Putin’s tyrannical rule will indeed radically change Russia (and the rest of the world)—but not in the way the White House thinks. Rather than destabilizing Russia and its neighbors, a Ukrainian victory would eliminate a powerful revanchist force and boost the cause of democracy worldwide.

Pro-democracy Russians who reject the totalitarian Putin regime—a group to which the authors belong—are doing what they can to help Ukraine liberate all occupied territories and restore its territorial integrity in accordance with the internationally recognized borders of 1991. We are also planning for the day after Putin. The Russian Action Committee, a coalition of opposition groups in exile that we co-founded in May 2022, aims to ensure that Ukraine is justly compensated for the damage caused by Putin’s aggression, that all war criminals are held accountable, and that Russia is transformed from a rogue dictatorship into a parliamentary federal republic. The looming end of Putin’s reign need not be feared, in other words; it should be welcomed with open arms.

Putin’s effort to restore Russia’s lost empire is destined to fail. The moment is therefore ripe for a transition to democracy and a devolution of power to the regional levels. But for such a political transformation to take place, Putin must be defeated militarily in Ukraine. A decisive loss on the battlefield would pierce Putin’s aura of invincibility and expose him as the architect of a failing state, making his regime vulnerable to challenge from within.

A drone cure for Russia’s artillery-killing ‘Penicillin’


Military drones have evolved mightily from the cameras hung on model airplanes that were introduced in the early 1980s. They are now used for battlefield intelligence, reconnaissance, and surveillance (ISR), early warning, troop support including search and rescue, and attacking enemy assets.

As the Russian invasion of Ukraine grinds on, drones could soon be deployed for another use. A new generation of drone-based acoustic sensors may provide an important response to what appears to be a significant upgrade in Russia’s passive sensor system for locating Ukrainian artillery far from the immediate battlefield and thus hard to destroy.

Called “Penicillin,” the new Russian system combines acoustic sensors, thermal imaging and seismic detectors. It replaces an older passive sensor system (AZK-7M/1B33M), of which the Ukrainians have a derivative (RAZK).

Russian sources claim Penicillin is having a devastating effect by letting Russian forces accurately target Ukrainian long-range artillery from great distances. Ukraine’s artillery, say the Russians, is being steadily eroded while its airpower is being diminished. This is backed up by Ukraine’s continued requests to the West for more long-range artillery.

In the meantime, Russia seems capable of protecting its own artillery far from the front line. Air defenses coupled with jamming and electronic warfare capabilities are poised against the US-supplied counter-battery radars that are used to locate and target Russian artillery.

Israeli X-Wing-Looking Loitering Munition To Be Tested By U.S. Special Ops


Israel will be developing and delivering new hand-launched and recoverable loitering munitions to the U.S. Department of Defense under a multi-million dollar, multi-year contract announced today. The state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries will be designing the vertical take-off and landing drone with missile-like capabilities that the company has named Point Blank.

And yes, it looks a lot like a little X-wing.

An Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) press release explains that the company will produce and provide prototype versions of Point Blank designated as ‘ROC-X’ to the United States. ROC-X will be tailored to meet Defense Department (DOD) requirements. The contract was awarded to IAI by the Pentagon’s Irregular Warfare Technical Support Directorate (IWTSD), which is responsible for exploring new capabilities with a particular focus on special operations forces missions.

The contract announcement also acts as IAI’s official unveiling of Point Blank, which the company is touting as a recoverable and reusable “electro-optically guided missile that can be carried in a soldier’s backpack.” However, it’s worth noting that the Point Blank system seems far more reminiscent of a loitering munition, sometimes referred to as an optionally reusable ‘kamikaze’ drone, than it does a missile.

“Point Blank joins Israel Aerospace Industries’ family of missiles, to provide ground-based tactical forces with more precise capabilities to undertake offensive operations, especially against short-lived targets,” Guy Bar Lev, executive vice president for IAI’s Systems, Missiles & Space Group, was quoted as saying in the press release. “We wish to thank the IWTSD for its support and cooperation in the field of precision munitions, confirming, yet again, the importance of tactical missiles to the modern army.”

CIA director holds secret meeting with Zelensky on Russia’s next steps

John Hudson

CIA Director William J. Burns traveled in secret to Ukraine’s capital at the end of last week to brief President Volodymyr Zelensky on his expectations for what Russia is planning militarily in the coming weeks and months, said a U.S. official and other people familiar with the visit.

Burns’s travel comes at a critical juncture in the 11-month war. Russian forces are mounting a massive assault near the eastern city of Bakhmut that is causing many casualties on both sides and forcing Ukraine to weigh its resources there as it prepares a major counteroffensive elsewhere in the country.

Doubling the Defense Budget Won’t be Easy for Japan

By Daisuke Akimoto and Purnendra Jain

Japan’s annual Diet session is set to commence on January 23. Among some of the key policy and legislative agenda items, the Kishida government’s proposed increase in Japan’s defense budget will be one of the most critical decisions at the session.

At the end of last year, the Kishida administration approved a record draft budget of 114 trillion yen ($865 billion) and announced plans to increase its defense budget to about 43 trillion yen ($312 billion) over the next five years. The government has proposed raising its annual defense budget from the current 1 percent of GDP to 2 percent in order to align with the NATO standard. The question, though, is how will the Kishida government fund this significant increase in defense spending?

One of the plans is to secure extra revenue by introducing expenditure reforms, selling national assets, and raising corporate, income, and tobacco taxes. Under the proposal, the corporate tax rate will not be changed, but a surcharge of 4 to 4.5 percent will be added to the existing tax, which is estimated to bring an additional 700 billion yen in revenue. Most small- and medium-sized companies are likely to be exempted from the proposed corporate tax hike; the surcharge will be applied to less than 6 percent of companies and other large enterprises.

Furthermore, the “special income tax for reconstruction” imposed to reconstruct Japan’s northeast will be lowered by 1 percent, but a new 1 percent tax would go to the defense budget – effectively keeping the tax rate the same but redistributing the money. Finally, the tobacco tax will be raised by around 3 yen per cigarette, generating another 200 billion yen.

A corporate tax hike could force companies to reconsider wage increases, as encouraged by the Kishida administration, and this is not consistent with Kishidanomics. There have also been concerns that an income tax hike to support the defense budget would negatively impact the living standard of low-income earners.

ChatGPT expected to deepen disinformation crisis, says NYT chairman

DAVOS: ChatGPT, the artificial intelligence-powered natural language processing tool, will exacerbate the global problem of disinformation, Arthur Gregg Sulzberger, the chairman of the New York Times, said during a panel discussion at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting on Tuesday.

“A lot of this will not be information that is created with the intent to mislead, but based on everything I’ve read, I suspect we are going to see huge amounts of content that is produced, none of which is particularly verified (and) the origins of which are not particularly clear,” he added.

“I think we are getting to a point where tools are going to make it harder and harder to solve this problem.

“We need to address this information crisis but we also need to rebuild an ecosystem that is weaker than ever.”

He added that to tackle the crisis, the media has “to go back to first principles, which is if you do not want bad information, you need to crowd it out with good information.”

Seth Moulton, a member of the US Congress representing Massachusetts, said he believes that “there is a hunger for the truth,” which means “the market will be even bigger for the machine that can identify disinformation than for the machine that makes it easier to write your fourth-grade history paper.”

He added that accountability should be sought and enforced to achieve “some level of public safety,” explaining that the principles of a free press have been “established for traditional media, that we have accepted for a long time, and we are just having trouble translating those to the social media world.”

Now is the time to save the all-volunteer force

Brad McNally, Marcos Melendez, and Jason Wolff 

It has been nearly 50 years since the United States moved away from drafting members into military service. Since the Vietnam War ended, an all-volunteer force has kept America safe at home and abroad. During this period, volunteer numbers for military service have seen ups and downs, but recent reports indicate we may be near a historical low point for interest in military service.

Although some services report more significant challenges in recruiting than others, all need help to recruit enough members to sustain active duty and reserve numbers. The Army is the worst off, missing its fiscal year 2022 recruiting goal by 25%, and may need to cut its overall force size by 10,000 personnel in 2023 due to a lack of accessions. The Navy did better, falling short by only several hundred personnel. The Air Force and Marine Corps met 2022 numbers but only by dipping into pools of deferred candidates who would have typically entered service in 2023, putting both services at a deficit to start the new year. Compounding all of this is the fact that Reserve and National Guard forces, which augment the active-duty force, are also struggling to recruit.

With little intervention, numbers will decrease even more due to the lack of qualified candidates willing to volunteer for military service. Fewer qualified candidates will have significant implications for national security and fixing the problem will require significant changes.

The time to act is now, and there are two options. One is instituting nationally required service, like in other countries worldwide. Service could take several forms, from compulsory military service, akin to previous drafts, to compulsory civil service, with military service being one option. While national service of any form should be encouraged, two data points should lead us away from the required service option. Periods when the United States forced people into military service during previous conflicts, and the impacts on both the military forces and the public’s support of the military, should cause concern. To be clear, many Americans drafted into the military served honorably and rightfully deserved recognition from a grateful nation but never received it in some cases. However, sending military members compelled to serve into harm’s way is much different from sending people that are volunteering to serve.

We need an open source intelligence center


In April 2018, Dutch authorities caught four Russian intelligence officers red-handed as they attempted to hack into the network of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) from the hotel across the street. The OPCW was investigating the substances used in the poisoning of a Russian defector living in the United Kingdom, and a chemical attack by Assad-backed forces in Douma, Syria. After the Dutch government publicly identified the four officers, open source researchers at Bellingcat — an independent investigative journalism group — leveraged the personal details of the four to identify 305 additional agents of the GRU, Russia’s principal military intelligence unit. Bellingcat’s researchers made the discovery using the agents’ car registrations, which were linked to the service’s training academy.

This kind of open source discovery — once thought to be within the exclusive purview of governments — has become somewhat routine for skilled researchers in the private sector. Their accomplishments include validating U.S. government claims about the Kremlin’s military build-up around Ukraine, exposing Beijing’s efforts to acquire foreign technology on a vast scale, uncovering the Chinese military’s investments in artificial intelligence, and identifying several Russian assassination and surveillance teams behind the attempts on the lives of Russian dissidents and defectors.

The discoveries point to a broader trend that the U.S. government would be wise to harness — the exponential growth of publicly and commercially available data, and the emergence of technologies that allow for its rapid processing and dot connecting.

The Future of Quantum Security Will Be Encoded in Light, Researchers Hope

Alexandra Kelley

The future of data security could hinge on the transmission of information as encrypted light particles, with a new joint U.S.-Swiss research paving the way for quantum cryptographic devices to create a new cybersecurity scheme.

The eventual development of a fully-operational quantum computer has the potential to render current data security practices utterly ineffective. The U.S.-funded quantum technology research initiative aims to solve this problem by marrying both classical and quantum technology to further safeguard digital networks ahead of the advent of quantum computing.

Stemming from the recent U.S.-Swiss bilateral collaboration in quantum technology, a team of researchers in Switzerland is working specifically with device-independent quantum cryptography—a process that would allow the standard computers of today to transmit secure encryptions with a quantum-capable add-on.

Renato Renner, professor for theoretical physics and head of the research group for Quantum Information Theory at ETH Zürich, serves as one of the lead theorists within the U.S.-Swiss partnership. He explained to Nextgov that these devices look to arm the current familiar computing systems with quantum protections.

“We may hope to have better classical schemes, which are so good that even a quantum computer cannot attack them. That's post-quantum cryptography,” he said in a recent interview. “But what we are doing [is] also using quantum technology—that is, device-independent quantum cryptography—[to] secure against attacks by quantum computers [using] quantum technology itself.”

As the race to develop quantum computing systems—and with them the capacity to crack modern encryption—poses a threat to the classical computing systems that secure the vast majority of today’s digital networks, the primary defensive tactic relies on quantum-resistant algorithms.

ChatGPT Stole Your Work. So What Are You Going to Do?


IF YOU’VE EVER uploaded photos or art, written a review, “liked” content, answered a question on Reddit, contributed to open source code, or done any number of other activities online, you’ve done free work for tech companies, because downloading all this content from the web is how their AI systems learn about the world.

Tech companies know this, but they mask your contributions to their products with technical terms like “training data,” “unsupervised learning,” and “data exhaust” (and, of course, impenetrable “Terms of Use” documents). In fact, much of the innovation in AI over the past few years has been in ways to use more and more of your content for free. This is true for search engines like Google, social media sites like Instagram, AI research startups like OpenAI, and many other providers of intelligent technologies.

This exploitative dynamic is particularly damaging when it comes to the new wave of generative AI programs like Dall-E and ChatGPT. Without your content, ChatGPT and all of its ilk simply would not exist. Many AI researchers think that your content is actually more important than what computer scientists are doing. Yet these intelligent technologies that exploit your labor are the very same technologies that are threatening to put you out of a job. It’s as if the AI system were going into your factory and stealing your machine.

But this dynamic also means that the users who generate data have a lot of power. Discussions over the use of sophisticated AI technologies often come from a place of powerlessness and the stance that AI companies will do what they want, and there’s little the public can do to shift the technology in a different direction. We are AI researchers, and our research suggests the public has a tremendous amount of “data leverage” that can be used to create an AI ecosystem that both generates amazing new technologies and shares the benefits of those technologies fairly with the people who created them.

The Nile Dispute: Beyond Water Security


As climate change accelerates, the Nile dispute has entered a new era of complexity, prompting regional states to compete for water, food, and energy security. The construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD), a non-consumptive hydropower project being built by Ethiopia on the Nile, has further complicated the relationship between Ethiopia and Egypt—two states that respectively frame the project as a matter of existential necessity and an existential threat. Yet, this conflict does not revolve only around physical resources but also extends to the very identity of the two states.

Since the start of GERD construction in 2011, Cairo has asserted that the project poses a threat to Egyptian and regional stability, and specifically to Egyptian water security. Conversely, Ethiopia maintains that the GERD is a development project rather than a security-based political project. Despite these different assertions, it is clear that the quests of the conflicting parties to maintain ontological security—or the preservation of state identity—are driving factors for the Nile dispute.

Ontological insecurity may arise when internal and external developments disrupt the continuity of established identities and worldviews. It could be argued, then, that the GERD project threatens the continuity of Egypt’s enacted world that sees the Nile as a living being inseparable from Egypt’s history, culture, and civilizational identity. Thus, developments related to the project could force Egypt to redefine its national identity that is centered on the Nile River.

Concerned about this possibility, Cairo securitized the issue, immediately opposing the project when it was announced by Ethiopia in 2011. The conflict further escalated in 2013 when Ethiopia diverted the river to construct the dam—a move believed by some Egyptian parties to be a red line. Egypt has ultimately raised the GERD conflict in the UN Security Council.


Jonathan Schroden

In March 2022, the Pentagon released a new National Defense Strategy (NDS) that identified China as the “most consequential strategic competitor” of the United States. The NDS also described two concepts—integrated deterrence and campaigning—as primary means by which the Department of Defense will seek to address the challenge posed by China, as well as lesser challenges posed by other actors. Ten months later, however, DoD has still not issued specific guidance on how to conduct effective campaigning in support of integrated deterrence.

As part of a broader study that I recently led for a DoD sponsor, I identified the critical components of campaigns—in other words, the specific types of military activities—that would enable the United States to compete with state adversaries, in line with the concepts described in the NDS. The resulting framework has the potential to help US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) position itself as the force of choice for competition campaigning and avoid further reductions in its budget and force structure. It can also help the Pentagon sharpen its existing campaign plans and assist the relevant congressional committees as they think about oversight of the Pentagon’s approach to strategic competition.

Competition Campaign Design

The central concept of the 2022 NDS is integrated deterrence, which seeks to combine deterrent effects across warfighting domains, geographic regions, the spectrum of conflict, elements of US national power, and US allies and partners. But the NDS also focuses on the idea of campaigning, which it says DoD must conduct to “strengthen deterrence and enable us to gain advantages against the full range of competitors’ coercive actions” and “to undermine acute forms of competitor coercion, complicate competitors’ military preparations, and develop our own warfighting capabilities together with Allies and partners.” While the US military routinely conducts campaigns—defined as “the conduct and sequencing of logically-linked military activities,” day after day, “to achieve strategy-aligned objectives over time”—in wartime, the NDS’s emphasis on campaigning is focused on improving the military’s ability to do so in preconflict, competitive settings. In this regard, the focus on campaigning in the 2022 NDS is, to a large extent, an extension of the emphasis in the 2018 NDS on strategic competition.