24 January 2023

India Is Critical to Deterring a Chinese Invasion of Taiwan

Satoru Nagao

The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, also known as the “Quad,” is a security framework that includes Australia, India, Japan and the US It was launched by former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe before his assassination, and it has become a core part of the strategy to counter China. Among the four members, India is considered to be the most out-of-step, especially when it comes to military matters. Nonetheless, India would play a crucial role in one of the most serious security challenges the Quad could face: a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.

Reluctant partner

Even if China invades Taiwan and the US, Japan and Australia must fight to defend it, India is unlikely to join. India has two aircraft carriers, for example, but it is unlikely to dispatch them to defend Taiwan. So far, the carriers have visited Sri Lanka and Maldives on friendship visits, but New Delhi has not dispatched them to countries further abroad.

Indian Navy destroyers have made port calls in Japan more often, and Indian submarines are deployed in the South China Sea. However, while India participated the November 2022 “Malabar” joint exercises with the US, Japan, and Australia, it did not join them and the UK in the “Keen Sword” exercises that simulated a Taiwan crisis. Both joint exercises happened near Japan at nearly the same time. India’s restraint indicates that one should not expect it to join a war to defend Taiwan.

Despite this, India will be vital in defending Taiwan for three reasons.

1. Strategic balancing

The True Significance of the China-India Yangtse Clash

Ivan Lidarev

On December 9, Chinese and Indian soldiers clashed at Yangtse, near Tawang, on the disputed China-India border. While much remains unclear about the clash, it seems that it followed an attempt by a body of Chinese soldiers to occupy tactically important terrain at the Yangtse Ridge, likely in order to cut the supply route of an Indian unit at an outpost nearby, oust it from its position, and alter the status quo in the area.

The clash was fought with clubs and other melee weapons, leading to non-fatal injuries on both sides. It ended as the Indian side, which probably had prepared for the assault in response to advance intelligence, repulsed the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) soldiers. Two days after the clash, following a “flag meeting” between local military commanders, the situation at the Yangtse area stabilized.

Importantly, the clash took place at a key location. Yangtse is a strategically important area long contested by China and India, where another clash took place in 2021. A Chinese border village connected with a road was recently constructed to establish a Chinese presence on the ground. The area is close to the highly sensitive city of Tawang, which China has long listed as a key demand in its territorial dispute with India and which has particular significance for the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation and, potentially, for the future of Tibet.

The Yangtse clash prompted a storm of commentary among experts, pundits, and netizens in both countries, but especially in India. While some of this commentary was rather far-fetched (such as fears that China might launch a full-scale military assault on India), it reflected the very tense atmosphere between China and India that has persisted since their deadly border clash at Galwan in 2020.

The Galwan clash, which followed years of mounting tensions in the China-India territorial dispute and particularly along the the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the long, disputed, and undemarcated de facto border between the two sides, provoked a deep crisis in relations between New Delhi and Beijing and a massive deployment of troops along the border. In spite of partial disengagement in some areas as a result of bilateral military talks and some limited diplomatic interaction in international forums, China-India relations have remained mostly frozen since 2020 because of the border.

Taliban Liars Will Never Change

Luke Coffey

The winter months are a time of hardship and hunger for many Afghans, of whom an estimated 97 percent are threatened with poverty. This winter, 18.9 million Afghans are suffering from starvation. Meanwhile half the population are reliant on international humanitarian aid for survival. Making matters worse, this aid is now at risk after the Taliban banned NGOs from employing local female staff. How have the Taliban responded to this crisis? Last week they introduced to the world “the first sports car designed and manufactured in Afghanistan.”

Pictures of the new Mada 9 show a sleek looking vehicle, even if under the hood is an engine from a Toyota Corolla. The images are good social media content for the Taliban, but Afghans cannot eat a car. Amid debates on the global stage about how best to provide aid to the Afghan people without lining the pockets of the Taliban elite, unveiling a sports car was poor timing to say the least.

A smart looking sports car with a Corolla engine sums up the Taliban. The group says whatever its international audience wants to hear to create a superficial impression, but a closer look under the hood shows something else.

Every major promise or commitment by the Taliban since peace talks with the Trump administration began in 2019 has turned out to be a lie. Donald Trump and Joe Biden were so desperate to leave Afghanistan that they were either easily duped, or simply didn’t care and were willing to believe anything they were told. There are three notable examples.

The first is the Taliban’s pledge to form an inclusive government. In September 2021, deputy leader Mullah Ghani Baradar said: “We are working to form an inclusive government that represents all the people of Afghanistan…”

This has not come remotely close to happening. Far from representing all the people of Afghanistan, the government is instead focused on representing only the different factions inside the Taliban. The Taliban at the top is fractured and plagued by infighting. At least five different groups — the Haqqani faction, the Baradar wing of the Kandahari faction, the Yaqoob wing of the Kandahari faction, the Pakistani ISI-backed “Supreme Leader” Hibatullah Akhundzada, and the non-Pashtun Taliban operating in northern Afghanistan — are competing for influence and power. With so much division, any hopes of forming an inclusive government with other non-Taliban groups has all but faded away.

Implications of TTP Attack on Counter Terrorism Department Compound in Bannu

Ali Zahid


Since the fall of Kabul to the Taliban in August 2021, Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) attacks have accelerated in Pakistan. After attacks in remote territories, the TTP has also now broadened its operations to include mainstream areas. The December 18, 2022 TTP attack on a Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) compound in Bannu Cantonment, for example, was a case that particularly alarmed the Pakistani government. It took the security forces two days to clear the compound in Bannu, leading to the deaths of three members of the security forces and 25 militants (The Express Tribune, December 20, 2022).

The Road to the Bannu Cantonment Attack

TTP insurgents attacked the CTD compound in Bannu because dozens of TTP members were in CTD custody; reportedly, TTP militants overpowered security guards and snatched their weapons. They freed not only their inmates, but also held several security officials in the building and demanded the government provide a safe path to Afghanistan (Pakistan Today, December 19, 2022). After two days of the Pakistani government refusing to negotiate, Pakistan’s Special Services Group (SSG) commandos launched an operation and killed all the militants. However, the incident raised concerns in the Pakistani security apparatus. The attack was so severe that it prompted the U.S. State Department spokesperson to offer assistance to Pakistan and declare that counter-terrorism was a shared goal between the two countries (The Express Tribune, December 20, 2022).

The TTP attack on the CTD compound, however, was not an isolated attack that unfolded in a few days. There was a lengthy background and trail of events that preceded it, including the following:

Countering China’s Magic Weapon of Grand Narrative

John Lee

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has developed a magic weapon that complements its accumulation of material power: its success in shaping grand narratives in the Indo-Pacific region about China and America. The genius is that these narratives condition countries to accept Chinese policies meekly even if those policies oppose their national interests.

The magic weapon is a narrative buttressed by five basic messages:

1. Chinese dominance is the historical norm and is inevitable.

2. The objectives of the CCP are permanent and unchanging.

3. A CCP-led China is fundamentally undeterrable.

4. Beijing is prepared to pay any price to achieve its core objectives.

5. The US is an increasingly weak and unreliable ally.

Accepting these propositions greatly diminishes the motivation for regional states to resist or counter even the most coercive policies, even if we profoundly disagree with China’s behavior. Striking an uneven bargain becomes seemingly preferable to foolishly balancing against the future inevitable dominant power.

The power of these narratives for Beijing is that once we accept the five basic messages as a given, then the only reasonable action is for regional states (including American allies) to compromise and alter their objectives to maximize gains, avoid instability, and ultimately prevent war. The onus is then placed on America to step back or accept blame for the resulting instability.

Did China Break the Quantum Barrier?

Arthur Herman

The ultimate nightmare for cybersecurity experts is someone using a quantum to factorize the large numbers that underlie our existing encryption systems, from banks and financial markets to secure access to databases around the world.

Unlike conventional hacks, such an attack would be stealthy and virtually undetectable, while cracking one encryption system essentially means cracking them all simultaneously.

It means waking up to a world where every secret and every bit of sensitive data, lies exposed to America’s deadliest foes.

That’s the scenario that haunts the federal government’s efforts in 2022 to get all federal agencies to develop a timeline as to when they’ll be quantum-safe. Meanwhile, at the QAI, we’ve partnered with Oxford Economics to publish two econometric reports on the catastrophic damage such an attack would cause for the national power grid; for the cryptocurrency market; and a new report on the possible impact on the Federal Reserve.

The urgent question has been, how soon will quantum computers be capable of such an attack—as the jargon has it, when will a “cryptographically relevant quantum computer” be a reality. Because of the big engineering challenges of lining up enough “entangled,” i.e. simultaneous working, quantum bits to do the heavy factorization lift, skeptics insist that such an event lies somewhere far off in the future, if ever.

In a new paper, Chinese scientists claim they have devised an algorithm that could crack a very hard encryption nut, i.e. 2048-bit RSA, using a 372-qubit quantum computer. Their algorithm goes beyond the one authored by Peter Shor in the 1990’s which is the theoretical basis of quantum computing’s decryption capability, by using still another algorithm developed by German mathematician Claus-Peter Schnorr, who in 2022 declared it was possible to factor large numbers more efficiently than Shor’s algorithm—so efficiently you could break the RSA code even with a classical computer.

China’s Dominance in Central Asia: Myth or Reality?

Yunis Sharifli

There are incessant debates on the Sino-Russian strategic partnership in Central Asia. The relationship between the two countries in the region has been termed ‘cooperative hegemony’ or a ‘division of labour’. According to the logic of the division of labour in Central Asia, Russia plays a vital role as a political and military power, while China acts as an important economic power and investor in infrastructural development. Since the Russia–Ukraine war began, there has been a growing narrative that China is increasing its power at Russia's expense in Central Asia.

According to this narrative, the war in Ukraine is increasingly challenging Moscow's political, military and economic dominance, leading to a loss of influence over the former Soviet countries in Central Asia. Supporters of the narrative argue that in line with Russia's dwindling power, Beijing is becoming more and more willing to defend its regional interests – even at the expense of Moscow – and stands to fill the emerging power vacuum.

A range of developments demonstrate the declining power of Russia in Central Asia. In terms of politics, Central Asian countries’ neutrality over the Russia–Ukraine war points to the Kremlin’s decreasing clout in the region. None of the Central Asian states endorsed Russia's annexation of parts of Ukraine. At the St Petersburg Economic Forum, Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev rejected Russia's calls to recognise pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukraine, and Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev eloquently condemned Soviet pressure. Moreover, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan's announcement recognising Ukraine’s territorial integrity and promising humanitarian aid to Ukraine can be seen as an example of Russia’s declining political influence in the Central Asian republics.

Beijing takes aim at Airbus and Boeing’s dominance

COMAC’s new single-aisle jet could see the Chinese company break the Western duopoly in China and then in markets further afield, argue Max J. Zenglein and Gregor Sebastian.

China’s new C919 single-aisle passenger jet could hail the end of Airbus and Boeing’s global duopoly. After nearly 15 years of development, state-owned Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) delivered the country’s first homegrown passenger jet to China Eastern Airlines in December 2022. Airbus and Boeing can expect only a slow erosion of their supremacy over the large-jet market– for one, the C919 will need some time to prove its competitiveness. But they will have to brace for an eventually very different global market.
COMAC’s domestic market-share looks set to climb steadily

The C919’s market entry is a symbol of China’s technological rise and a source of national pride. A rival to the best-selling A320 and 737, the aircraft should enable China’s largely state-owned aviation sector to meet the government target of reaching 10 percent domestic market-share by 2025. Production glitches or safety issues aside, COMAC´s domestic market-share looks set to climb steadily in a huge and increasingly protected home market, with the company at some point reaching the scale to brave the step into foreign markets and global competition.

Boeing and Airbus currently have more than 10,000 commitments for orders on their books, most of them for narrow body aircraft. They are the bread-and-butter models for manufacturers, accounting for around 60 percent of all jets. Russian contenders ­– the Tupolev Tu-204 and Tu-214 and the more recent Irkut MC-21 – have over the past quarter century tried to break the US-European domination of the market for single-aisle aircraft. But they can at best occupy a stable, albeit tiny niche, having racked up a few hundred domestic orders.
The size of China’s market gives COMAC an essential home advantage

'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.

Japan’s Prime Minister travels the world cementing alliances with G7 countries, discomfiting China

Duncan Bartlett 

Japanese generals may soon be able to launch a barrage of rockets aimed at targets across China, including Beijing.

The Tokyo government has requested the acquisition of about 500 Tomahawk cruise missiles from the United States at a cost of around $2 billion.

The missiles could either be fired from the ground or from submarines, and have a range of up to 2,500 kilometers (1,500 miles). The missiles are manufactured by Raytheon Technologies, an aerospace and defense company based in Tucson, Arizona, and a large military contractor that gets a significant portion of its revenue from the U.S. government. The company’s website says that they either carry a 1,000-pound conventional warhead or a package of 166 cluster bombs. (The United States has a stockpile of around 4,000 Tomahawk missiles according to the Wall Street Journal, although that number seems to be based on a 2020 report from The National Interest).

The U.S. has also sold them to Britain for use by Royal Navy submarines.
The Biden administration strongly supports Japan’s military build-up

All signs indicate that the sale of the weapons to Japan — a staunch ally of the United States — would be politically straightforward, so far as Washington is concerned.

During a brief on-camera meeting with Prime Minister Fumio Kishida at the White House on January 13, President Joe Biden waved his finger at his guest and stated: “Let me be crystal clear: The United States is fully, thoroughly, completely committed to the alliance. And, more importantly, to Japan’s defense.”

Biden praised the Japanese cabinet for approving a record-breaking defense budget, which totals 6.82 trillion yen ($51.4 billion) for the fiscal year beginning in April. It means that Japan’s military spending will nearly double, marking one of the largest military buildups since the end of World War II.

Beijing’s Zero-Covid Flip-Flop

William C. McCahill Jr.

In building a personality cult around him, Xi Jinping’s propagandists have published reams of “important speeches” and other expressions of “Xi Jinping Thought.” The bulkiest tome among those is Governing China, a thick anthology of platitudes that party cadres have been forced to buy and that foreign businesses have willingly bought to curry favor. What does China’s sudden shift in dealing with Covid-19 say about Xi’s governance?

Xi Jinping’s sudden, bewildering turn from draconian zero-Covid quarantines, lockdowns, and mass testing to a “let ‘er rip” policy will mean sickness, death, sorrow, dashed dreams, and destroyed wealth for millions of Chinese. Another, though far less tragic, casualty of Xi’s volte-face will be foreign investors’ and policymakers’ confidence in China’s governance. When a life-or-death paradigm can turn on a dime, how should we judge the governing competence of Xi’s regime?

Why, after more than two years of relentlessly enforcing zero-Covid restrictions, however unscientific those were, and touting China’s success under Xi’s “overall command,” did Beijing abruptly reverse itself? No official answer will be given, leaving Chinese citizens and foreign observers to speculate on how the mysterious machinery of the party-state works under Xi’s one-man “management.” Always opaque, politicized, and driven by personalities—especially that of the general secretary—Beijing’s policy decisions in Xi’s reign seem to have lost both the internal give-and-take and the wider stakeholder consultations that characterized the tenures of Xi’s predecessors, particularly the Jiang Zemin–Zhu Rongji duumvirate.

The historic Covid-19 pandemic challenged governments around the globe. China’s patchy public health system and authoritarian political culture made its challenges even more acute. China’s long first phase of pandemic policies used the party’s time-tested controls on information and the movement of people—control being the dominant gene in the party’s code—in an unscientific attempt to suppress, if not eradicate, the virus. Xi himself and the party propaganda megaphones boasted of their unique success. Though at terrible cost to public morale and the national economy, this approach worked…until it didn’t.

Krugman, China’s Demographic Crisis, And The Which Way Is Up Problem In Economics – OpEd

Dean Baker

I rarely disagree in a big way with Paul Krugman, but I think he misses the boat in an important way in his piece on China’s alleged demographic crisis. Before getting to my point of disagreement, first let me emphasis a key point of agreement.

Krugman points out that many countries, notably Japan, have managed to do just fine in the face of a declining population and shrinking workforce. Their people continue to enjoy rising standards of living as their population shrinks. In the case of Japan, its population has been declining for more than a decade and its workforce has been pretty much stagnant over this period. Nonetheless, its per capita income is nearly 10 percent higher than it was a decade ago.

This actually understates the improvement in living standards enjoyed by the Japanese population over this period. The average number of hours worked in a year also fell by more than 7.0 percent, meaning a typical Japanese worker has more leisure time now than they did a decade ago.

It’s also worth mentioning that Japan’s cities are less crowded than they would be if its population had continued to grow. This means less congestion and pollution, less time spent getting to and from work, and less crowded, beaches, parks, and museums. These quality of life factors don’t get picked up in GDP.

Japan has been running large deficits and built up a large debt to sustain economic growth in the last two decades, but this has not created a major burden for its economy. Its interest payments on its debt are less than 0.3 percent of GDP, compared to 1.7 percent of GDP for the United States. Its inflation rate has consistently been well below its central bank’s 2.0 percent target, although it did see a modest Covid uptick in the last two years.

This point about inflation is central. Back in the good old days, when the Peter Peterson anti-Social Security warriors were in their prime in the 1990s, the standard story on an aging society was that we would have too few workers to support all the old-timers. The retirement of the baby boomers was supposed to break the camel’s back. There would have to be massive tax increases, otherwise the government would run huge deficits which would lead to cascading interest payments on the debt. Alternatively, it could finance its deficits by printing money, leading to out of control inflation.

The West Must Act to Avert War in Nagorno-Karabakh

Lara Setrakian

A woman in a crowd of protesters clutched a lifeless dove in her hand, its head flopping back and forth as she waved her arm in the air. The bird had apparently been squeezed to death while she spoke into a megaphone, delivering an impassioned speech honoring Azerbaijan’s victory over Armenia in the 2020 war for Nagorno-Karabakh.

With dark humor, the strangled dove came to embody the broken peace process in the South Caucasus. The bird and its human handler were part of a show of political force by Azerbaijan in the Lachin corridor, the sole road connecting Armenians in the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh to the outside world. Since Dec. 12, Azerbaijani protesters have blocked the road with crowds of people and tent encampments, halting the normal movement of people and goods in or out of the enclave. The protests began with specific complaints around the mining of natural resources in areas held by ethnic Armenians. They grew into a broader nationalistic grievance, challenging the role of Russian peacekeepers and pressing for greater controls over Nagorno-Karabakh.

The resulting melee has choked off incoming cargo, cutting food, fuel, and medical supplies for 120,000 ethnic Armenians, according to population figures from local leaders. The U.S. State Department called on Azerbaijan to open the road and made a statement at the U.N. Security Council calling for the same. Samantha Power, the U.S. Agency for International Development’s administrator, warned the closure could “cause a significant humanitarian crisis.” Gas supplies to Armenian-populated areas were cut for three days, leaving people without heat in winter weather.

Iranian Drone Exports to the Balkans and Its Geopolitical Repercussions

Sine Ozkarasahin

Iranian military activity in Europe’s neighborhood is not limited to supporting Russia’s war in Ukraine. Transforming itself from a net arms importer into a burgeoning arms exporter, Tehran is engaged in opportunistic behavior across conflict zones, ranging from Ukraine to tense, fragile regions, like the Balkans. Eyeing the Balkan weapons market, Tehran has focused on the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) sector. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is the main military actor involved in the proliferation of Iran’s indigenous drone program; as such, Tehran’s entry to the Balkan region’s drone industry opens the door to IRGC involvement across NATO’s southeastern flank.

Amidst an escalating arms race and existing political tensions, Iran’s entry to the region would be a wildcard that could lead to increased geopolitical volatility.

On the one hand, Tehran is already disrupting the security environment in the region by carrying out cyberattacks against some of NATO’s regional allies, such as Albania (kryeministria.com, September 7, 2022). In tandem with this, Iran is strengthening its relations with Serbia. The most recent and noticeable example in this regard is the visit of the Iranian foreign minister to the Serbian president on December 4 (mfa.ir, December 5).

On the other hand, besides politics, religion also remains a commonality upon which Tehran can capitalize. Although the majority of the Balkan Muslims are Sunni, some heterodox religious communities, such as the Bekhtasis and Alevis (Kizilbash), remain open to Iranian influence. In the past, the IRGC had allegedly sent tons of arms and ammunition to back Bosnian government forces (Iranwire, November 14, 2020). These examples show that the Balkan region is not immune to Iranian influence, and that Tehran is ready to exploit any vulnerability, including through expanding its UAV program to the Balkans.

Tehran Exploits the Ongoing Arms Race in the Balkans

5 takeaways from the World Economic Forum’s 2023 meeting

Against the backdrop of a ground war in Europe, the threat of recession, and evolving globalization, the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in the Swiss mountain town of Davos came to a close on Friday. This year’s event was the largest in history, convening a record number of leaders from governments, businesses, and civil society, write chief marketing officer Tracy Francis and global co-leader of McKinsey Sustainability Daniel Pacthod. Which topics dominated this year’s conversations? Check out this page to revisit our daily #WEF23 updates, and dive into five key takeaways below.Global disruption isn’t slowing down. Companies must prioritize building resilience muscles today to prepare for tomorrow.

No region is an island. The future of globalization needs diversification rather than decoupling.

To achieve a net-zero future, leaders must balance the energy transition and energy resilience.

Global companies are finding that inclusion is helping them tap underserved markets, giving them a competitive edge.

The budding space economy has vast potential to change the world. Many sectors can capture the innovation of space.

Russia’s Iranian-Made UAVs: A Technical Profile

Uzi Rubin

The appearance of Iran’s Shahed 131/136 unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in Ukraine has catapulted them to the centre of global attention and generated numerous papers by military observers and analysts. Yet audiences in the Middle East have been familiar with them ever since their operational debut in Saudi Arabia. In September 2019, two major Saudi oil installations, Abqaiq and Khurais, were
heavily damaged by swarms of UAVs, supposedly launched by Houthi insurgents in retaliation for the Kingdom’s intervention in the Yemen civil war. A few days later, debris from the attacking UAVs was exhibited in a press conference convened by the Saudi Armed Forces spokesperson. The debris included a hitherto unknown delta wing UAV powered by a small rotary engine (aka Wankel motor) driving a wooden propeller. Labelled by the Saudis as ‘Unknown Delta Wing UAV’, it was the first evidence of a secret Iranian UAV programme, apparently considered a game changer by the Islamic Republic.

The origins of the Shahed 131/136 are quite obscure. Iran’s armed forces have been acquiring and deploying indigenous UAVs ever since the Iran–Iraq war in the 1980s. Numerous types of new UAVs are routinely displayed in the annual military parades the Iranian regime loves to hold. They also feature prominently in various military exhibitions, each one being described and extolled by the eager military correspondents of Iran’s state-controlled media. Yet the ‘Unknown Delta Wing UAV’ was nor exhibited prior to the September 2019 attack on the Saudi oil installations, nor did it appear for some considerable time after that attack. Five years before that attack, in December 2014, Iran’s Mashregh News Agency featured 10 types of UAVs that could be used for suicide missions. One of them, called ‘Touphan’ (‘Typhoon’), which was described as being capable of ‘locating and destroying the enemy by using an optical tracker’, could ‘approach the enemy from various points and because of its high speed it is difficult for the enemy to react in time. The drone is constructed of lightweight radar-absorbing materials and has a small radar cross section… a front-facing camera in the nosecone transmits live images until the moment of impact’. This description was accompanied by an image of a delta wing UAV, very similar to the ‘Unknown Delta Wing UAV’ that struck Saudi Arabia almost five years later. Significantly, the ‘Touphan’ was never displayed again by Iran.

What to expect from Russia and Putin in the Ukraine War in 2023

Rebekah Koffler

On Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared that Russia intends to end hostilities in Ukraine. Don’t buy it, Putin is all spin and the war is almost certain to continue. And as the war drags on, Putin’s hand will be continue to be felt across Ukraine — and quite possibly the world.

By now Putin realizes that Ukraine is not about to capitulate. To the contrary, Volodymyr Zelensky is securing a steady stream of Western weaponry and 100 Ukrainian soldiers are in Oklahoma training to use the Patriot missile defense system. Along with Germany and France, the US is also sending 50 Bradley Fighting Vehicles to hunt down Russian T-90 tanks. Rightfully emboldened, Kyiv plans to launch another counter-offensive, striking “deeper and deeper” into Russia, according Ukraine’s military intelligence chief Kyrylo Budanov who promised the “hottest” fighting in March.Scenes of carnage in Kyiv earlier this month, just days after Putin announced Russia’s willingness to negotiate an “acceptable solution” to end the war.AP

Putin’s Miscalculation

Fred Kaplan

The most stunning geopolitical surprise of the past year is how poorly the Russian military has been fighting in Ukraine. When Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion in February 2022, everyone—including the US intelligence analysts who had predicted it—assumed that Volodymyr Zelensky’s government in Kyiv would fall within a few weeks or even days and be replaced by a Moscow-bred puppet regime. Some anticipated that a long insurgency war might then follow, but no one was impetuous enough to guess that nearly a year later the Ukrainians would be not only fighting the Russians to a standstill but pushing them back on nearly every front.

Has the Ukrainian army turned out to be much better than imagined, or has the Russian army turned out to be a lot worse, or both? In Putin’s Wars, Mark Galeotti, a British scholar and journalist highly regarded by experts on Russian military matters, attributes the unexpected battlefield outcome to Russian weaknesses as well as Ukrainian strengths (greatly abetted by NATO weapons and American intelligence resources), but he lays out a persuasive, detailed case that Russia’s deficiencies are more severe and more deeply rooted than many Western officials and pundits had detected.

Galeotti notes that Moscow overloads its army with weapons but allots too little money and attention to the mundane stuff of logistics—spare parts, food, water, and the trucks to transport them—thus leaving supply lines vulnerable and making offensive operations unsustainable. Junior officers receive rote training, so they’re unprepared to take the initiative—a deliberate policy to keep them from rebelling against senior officers, though as a consequence, campaigns can plunge into chaos if they don’t go as planned. Combine all this with widespread hazing of enlisted men, ramshackle barracks, poor nutrition, and low pay, and it should have been foreseeable that while today’s Russian soldiers might be roused to defend the motherland, they’re lackluster at invading other countries.

Why ‘Economic Security’ Became Magic Words in Japan

David E. Adler

Japan made global headlines in December with its new National Security Strategy, which dropped the country’s post-World War II pacifist posture to call for counterstrike capabilities.

Less visible but in many ways more instructive for U.S. policymakers are Japan’s economic security policies, which aim to shore up its national interests from an economic perspective. These policies were initially conceived by Japan’s Liberal Democratic Party in 2019, with a formal recommendation toward developing Japan’s “economic security strategy” published by the party’s Strategic Headquarters in late 2020. Implementation began over the last two years. It includes funding for supply chain resiliency, the promotion of critical industries of the future, and the involvement of the corporate sector. What is truly noteworthy about economic security in Japan is that it consists of nothing less than a reorganization of the government centered on this novel threat.

The United States has only recently awakened to the national security threat posed by its economic dependence on China. The United States is in many ways in an economic war with China, one that requires a more expansive conception of security than just the military security that the U.S. defense establishment was designed for. Conversely, policymakers are increasingly aware of what is known as the “China shock” and the loss of manufacturing jobs to China. However, they are only beginning to fully grapple with the national security implications of deindustrialization.

Mitigating Ally Concerns about U.S. Semiconductor Policies

Andrew Grotto

In August 2022, President Joe Biden signed the bipartisan CHIPS Act into law. The CHIPS Act appropriates over $50 billion in subsidies for building chip plants in the United States and supporting chip-related R&D. It also includes a 25% tax credit for certain chip-related manufacturing projects and other measures to support U.S. technological competitiveness and enhance the resilience of the global semiconductor supply chain. President Biden followed up with an executive order (14080) on federal implementation of the legislation.

Nothing in the legislation or the executive order limits eligibility for the subsidies to U.S. companies. Indeed, a major aim is to offset the subsidies that other governments already give to their national semiconductor champions and thus make the United States a more cost-effective place to produce chips, regardless of where the corporate headquarters are located. Foreign companies that meet the criteria that the Biden administration develops for awarding incentives should benefit from the law the same way that similarly situated U.S. companies would.

The bill’s many supporters in Congress, the administration, and the business and research communities have regularly emphasized that the United States cannot achieve its semiconductor resilience goals on its own. And yet in many allied capitals—for example, Seoul, Tokyo, Taipei, Amsterdam, and Brussels—there is a notable undercurrent of skepticism about U.S. motivations and goals among government, business, and civil society leaders. The United States must overcome this skepticism if it is to exercise the global leadership that is required to build and sustain a resilient semiconductor supply chain with its allies.

One major source of skepticism is a perception that the United States is using security as cover for a populist economic agenda of protecting manufacturing jobs and repatriating jobs lost to overseas competition. Until relatively recently, U.S. credibility in multilateral export control

Pentagon must act now on quantum computing or be eclipsed by rivals

Freddie Hudson

As quantum computers continue to advance and become more powerful, they present a significant threat to the Department of Defense’s cybersecurity assurance.

When former Pentagon’s Chief Data Officer, David Spirk, left his post in March 2022, he did so with a warning: “I don’t think that there are enough senior leaders getting their heads around the [cybersecurity] implications of quantum… I think that’s a new wave of computers that, when it arrives, is going to be a pretty shocking moment to industry and government alike.”

Quantum computers have the ability to process information much faster than classical computers, making them capable of cracking the secure encryption algorithms relied on to protect information today. This could allow adversaries to access sensitive military intelligence, disrupt communication networks, and even disable military systems.

In late 2021, the head of the NSA’s Cybersecurity Directorate signaled that developing next-generation cryptologic systems to secure weapon systems from foreign adversaries was a top priority. In a fact sheet published that year, the NSA stated that “the impact of adversarial use of a quantum computer could be devastating to National Security Systems.”

The battle for quantum supremacy is already under way, and is set to fundamentally change the defense sector as the technology edges towards maturation.
The quantum threat is closer than you think

Supporting Ukraine: Why it is vital to U.S. national security interest

David J. Kramer

Our Recommendations: The United States and its allies must increase military support for Ukraine to help it achieve victory over RussiaThe U.S. administration and its European counterparts must maintain, even tighten, the sanctions on the Putin regime to deter further aggressive behavior and go after corrupt Russian fundsInternational lending agencies, together with individual countries, should prepare for massive financial assistance for Ukraine, much of which could be funded by seizing those Russian assets overseasDemocratic nations should hold Russia accountable for the invasion of Ukraine and other war crimes and signal to authoritarian regimes like the one in China that similar acts won’t be tolerated

President Vladimir Putin’s wholly unjustified and unprovoked reinvasion of Ukraine marks the gravest security crisis and the greatest humanitarian catastrophe on the European continent since World War II.

The action, which began Feb. 24, 2022, has killed thousands of Ukrainian soldiers and innocent civilians, displaced millions more, and caused massive damage to Ukraine’s infrastructure and economy. It came eight years after Russia first invaded the country and illegally annexed Crimea.

While the Kremlin – and even the U.S. intelligence community – thought the war would be over in days, Ukrainian forces have successfully withstood the attack and have now pushed back Russian troops. Russian forces have suffered humiliating and devastating defeats and have drastically scaled back their aims. With our continued support, Ukraine in fact can achieve victory, defined as driving Russian occupying and invading forces from Ukrainian territory.

Putin’s “special military operation,” as the invasion was called in Russia, aimed to take over vast portions of Ukraine, overthrow its government, and be over in days. Instead, it has been a disaster for Russia, as Ukrainian fighters and determined citizens have bravely fought and defended their land and freedom.

The Ukraine war also caused a global food crisis after Russia imposed a blockade on shipments of Ukrainian agricultural products until a U.N. and Turkish-brokered deal to allow for such shipments. It forced Europe to reduce its dependence on Russian energy imports and drove up inflation worldwide.

Supporting Ukraine: Why it is vital to U.S. national security interest

David J. Kramer

Our Recommendations: The United States and its allies must increase military support for Ukraine to help it achieve victory over RussiaThe U.S. administration and its European counterparts must maintain, even tighten, the sanctions on the Putin regime to deter further aggressive behavior and go after corrupt Russian fundsInternational lending agencies, together with individual countries, should prepare for massive financial assistance for Ukraine, much of which could be funded by seizing those Russian assets overseasDemocratic nations should hold Russia accountable for the invasion of Ukraine and other war crimes and signal to authoritarian regimes like the one in China that similar acts won’t be tolerated

President Vladimir Putin’s wholly unjustified and unprovoked reinvasion of Ukraine marks the gravest security crisis and the greatest humanitarian catastrophe on the European continent since World War II.

The action, which began Feb. 24, 2022, has killed thousands of Ukrainian soldiers and innocent civilians, displaced millions more, and caused massive damage to Ukraine’s infrastructure and economy. It came eight years after Russia first invaded the country and illegally annexed Crimea.

While the Kremlin – and even the U.S. intelligence community – thought the war would be over in days, Ukrainian forces have successfully withstood the attack and have now pushed back Russian troops. Russian forces have suffered humiliating and devastating defeats and have drastically scaled back their aims. With our continued support, Ukraine in fact can achieve victory, defined as driving Russian occupying and invading forces from Ukrainian territory.

Putin’s “special military operation,” as the invasion was called in Russia, aimed to take over vast portions of Ukraine, overthrow its government, and be over in days. Instead, it has been a disaster for Russia, as Ukrainian fighters and determined citizens have bravely fought and defended their land and freedom.

The Trillion-Dollar Coin Idea Is Just Another Way To Rip Us Off – OpEd

By Ryan McMaken*

Here we go again. Every few years in Congress there is a purely political battle over the debt ceiling. We’re supposed to be horrified and worried that the US might default on some of its debt. Some commentators will insist the US has never defaulted, and to default be a disaster. (That’s wrong, by the way. The US has defaulted before.)

But these debt ceiling debates always end the same way. Congress ends up increasing the debt ceiling and the US’s national debt continues to spiral upward. Yes, there might be a few theatrics in the meantime. There might be a government “shutdown.” When this happens, government bureaucrats shut down the parts of the most popular parts of the government, like national parks or the Social Security offices. Of course, the parts of the government the regime likes most are never shut down. Shutdowns never stop any wars. They never stop the FBI from spying on innocent Americans. This grift always works.

During all the theatrics over the debt ceiling, however, many strange ideas are put forward as supposed means to avoiding a shutdown. One of these is the “trillion-dollar coin” idea. The general premise is that the government can do an end run around the debt ceiling altogether if it can find a way to raise revenue without borrowing. Thus, the scheme goes more or less like this, as explained by Yale law professor Jack Balkin back in 2011:

Are there other ways for the president to raise money besides borrowing?

Sovereign governments such as the United States can print new money. However, there’s a statutory limit to the amount of paper currency that can be in circulation at any one time.

U.S. to brand Russia’s Wagner Group a ‘transnational criminal’ entity

Paul Sonne

The United States will designate Russia’s Wagner mercenary group a “transnational criminal organization,” the White House said Friday, an attempt to disrupt the cash and weapons flow of a private military outfit prosecuting President Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine with an army of convicts and contractors.

The designation will come alongside additional U.S. sanctions against Wagner and its support network, spanning multiple continents, said John Kirby, coordinator for strategic communications at the White House National Security Council. The Treasury Department intends to formalize the penalties next week.

Speaking at a White House news briefing, Kirby said the designation would open up “additional avenues” for the United States to go after Wagner’s business activities around the world, and give other nations and institutions the firepower to follow suit.

“These actions recognize the transcontinental threat that Wagner poses, including through its ongoing pattern of serious criminal activity,” Kirby said. He noted the Russian mercenary group had carried out “atrocities and human rights abuses in Ukraine, and of course elsewhere around the world.”

The action comes a month after the Commerce Department imposed new restrictions on Wagner, designating the group a Russian “military end user” to hinder the mercenaries’ ability to acquire items that use U.S. technology.

At Friday’s briefing, Kirby also displayed photos depicting what he said were five Russian rail cars traveling from Russia into North Korea on Nov. 18 and returning along the same route the following day. He said those rail cars carried an initial delivery of North Korean infantry rockets and missiles for use by Wagner fighters in Ukraine.

America in Decline? World Thinks Again.


DAVOS, Switzerland — For the American abroad, the signals are unmistakable — and dissonant.

The world is bullish on America and American power.

You read that right. This is the same world that looks on with glee or horror at the carnivalesque, occasionally violent politics on Capitol Hill. The same one that barely a year ago dismissed an America defeated in Afghanistan as a has-been and hailed the rise of a new authoritarian age led by China, with an assist from Vladimir Putin’s confident Russia.

Now some caveats. By the world, we’re referring to C-suite and political mastodons, and their assorted retinues, who spend $1,000 a night on a tiny bed in a drab two-star hotel to slosh around the icy streets of this Alpine town for a week of the World Economic Forum: the so-called Davos Man (and Woman). By bullish, we don’t mean unconditionally in love with America — when has that ever been the case? — but recognizing, sometimes begrudgingly, its deep strengths and appeal. And doing so in ways that were unimaginable recently and jarring to anyone marinated in the daily cycle of American news.

A police officer stands on the roof of a hotel and monitor the area with a binocular in Davos, Switzerland Monday, Jan. 16, 2023. | Markus Schreiber/AP Photo

Germany’s strategic timidity


BERLIN — News this month that the number of German soldiers declaring themselves conscientious objectors rose fivefold in the wake of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine created little more than a ripple in Germany.

For many Germans it’s perfectly natural for members of the Bundeswehr, the army, to renege on the pledge they made to defend their country; if Germans themselves don’t want to fight, why should their troops?

Indeed, in Germany, a soldier isn’t a soldier but a “citizen in uniform.” It’s an apposite euphemism for a populace that has lived comfortably under the U.S. security umbrella for more than seven decades and goes a long way toward explaining how Germany became NATO’s problem child since the war in Ukraine began, delaying and frustrating the Western effort to get Ukraine the weaponry it needs to defend itself against an unprovoked Russian onslaught.

The latest installment in this saga (it began just hours after the February invasion when Germany’s finance minister told Ukraine’s ambassador there was no point in sending aid because his country would only survive for a few hours anyway) concerns the question of delivering main battle tanks to Ukraine. Germany, one of the largest producers of such tanks alongside the U.S., has steadfastly refused to do so for months, arguing that providing Ukraine with Western tanks could trigger a broader war.

Chancellor Olaf Scholz has also tried to hide behind the U.S., noting that Washington has also not sent any tanks. (Scholz has conveniently ignored the detail that the U.S. has provided Ukraine with $25 billion in military aid so far, more than 10 times what Germany has.)

Germany’s allies, including Washington, often ascribe German recalcitrance to a knee-jerk pacifism born of the lessons learned from its “dark past.”

Murky Threats: Why Defense Against Gray-Zone Aggression Needs a Whole-of-Society Approach

Elisabeth Braw

As the lines between war and peace blur, so do those that define acts of aggression. Germany should learn from other countries’ efforts and invest in developing a defense against these gray-zone threats.

Hostile states’ cyber aggression against other countries is well documented. So is the systematic use of disinformation and misinformation that Russia in particular has perfected in recent years (though its actual skills seem to have declined). But especially in the past three years, the world has been forced to realize that so-called gray-zone aggression goes far beyond cyberattacks and malign-influence campaigns: it already encompasses, among other things, subversive economic practices, hostage diplomacy, gradual border alterations, and the weaponization of migrants. And because gray-zone aggression exploits the vulnerabilities of free and open societies, it will continue to morph and expand. Germany should do like other European countries and develop its gray-zone defenses. Unlike traditional military defense, such defense involves not just the government but all parts of society. Indeed, it gives everyone the opportunity to help keep the country safe.

In December 2022, the US basketball star Brittney Griner was released from a Russian penal camp and, in a prisoner exchange, swapped for the convicted Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who had been serving a prison sentence in the United States for conspiracy to kill Americans. People reacted with euphoria. But there was nothing to be euphoric about. Russia had demanded a massive price for freeing Griner, who had been arrested with a small amount of cannabis oil in her possession, just as China demanded a massive price for Michael Korvig and Michael Spavor, two Canadians who had had the misfortune of being in China when Beijing needed a tool of coercion to force Canada to release Huawei’s CFO Meng Wanzhou, who had been arrested in Canada on sanctions violation charges. Iran and North Korea, too, have a history of using the travels of Western citizens to their countries as an instrument with which to extract diplomatic concessions from such countries.

Towards meaningful Quad cooperation on intelligence


The Quad has a lot on its plate. The informal grouping of Australia, India, Japan and the United States began modestly, but stepped up its ambition two years ago, with regular summit meetings and an ever-growing agenda of work. Recognising the dearth of effective groupings to address some of the Indo-Pacific region’s thorniest problems, the Quad has assumed the job of providing international public goods. Its work program is dizzyingly broad, covering everything from climate change to telecommunications regulation to international scholarships.

It may be time, however, for the Quad to plunge into another endeavour – intelligence cooperation. In particular, the Quad is ideally suited to develop new intelligence tools and enterprise management practices to harness the potential of artificial intelligence (AI).
Risks and opportunities of collaboration

Sharing intelligence is a fraught proposition. Intelligence services jealously guard their secrets. The United States and Australia at least have the advantage of being members of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, with deeply entrenched institutional links and trust built over decades of shoulder-to-shoulder cooperation. Japan lies outside that tent, but is at least a US treaty ally, with deep military cooperation. India is a newer security partner, still lacking any trusted systems or habits of sharing with its Quad partners.
The counterintelligence risk would be as real as ever, but manageable.

Collaborating on AI tools and processes may seem especially fraught because that cutting edge technology is still so nascent, and its mastery will be so consequential for national security. But that is precisely what makes it so important. As it matures, AI is likely to transform every intelligence function: automation can help to cue sensors to fill collection gaps; data analytics can structure, fuse, and sort colossal amounts of raw data; machine learning can quickly detect anomalies or changes and bring them to analysts’ attention; and so on.