4 February 2023

Pakistan Scrambles for New Approach Against TTP After Peshawar Attack

Umair Jamal

Funeral prayers for police personnel killed in the suicide attack on a mosque in the Police Lines area in Peshawar, Pakistan on January 30, 2023

The deadly suicide bombing inside a mosque in Peshawar’s Police Lines area on January 30 has deepened the realization among Pakistan’s policymaking circles that dealing with the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) necessitates a new approach.

The attack, which appears to have been targeted against police personnel praying at the mosque, claimed the lives of over a hundred people, most of them policemen. Over 200 others were injured in the attack, many of them critically.

The attack came two months after the TTP unilaterally withdrew from a ceasefire and ordered its fighters to carry out attacks across Pakistan. Several bloody attacks have taken place in the months since.

Pakistan’s civil-military leadership agree that the old approach of talking to the TTP was perhaps part of the problem. Moreover, the idea of hoping to disarm the group with the help of the Afghan Taliban did not work, partially because the Taliban regime’s relationship with the TTP is stronger and more important to it than its ties with Islamabad.

Pakistan’s Defense Minister Khwaja Asif told parliament on Tuesday that TTP fighters had fought alongside the Afghan Taliban against the United States and its allies. Consequently, the Afghan Taliban “are repaying their debts [to the TTP] and are turning a blind eye to whatever they are doing in Pakistan from across the border.” He also said that it was time Pakistan puts its house in order, suggesting that the country needed to follow a consistent policy with regard to dealing with militants.

China’s Panicked Reaction to Sri Lanka’s Invitation to the Dalai Lama

Sudha Ramachandran

Chinese Charge d’Affairs in Colombo Hu We at a meeting with Buddhist monks of the Siam Nikaya in Kandy, Sri Lanka, January 11, 2023.

The Chinese government’s rather excessive response to an invitation extended by Sri Lankan Buddhist monks to the Dalai Lama to visit the island underscores yet again Beijing’s deep insecurities vis-à-vis the Tibetan leader. The incident also lays bare the open arm-twisting China indulges in with small countries to get them to toe its line.

According to reports, a group of senior Sri Lankan Buddhist monks who attended the Dalai Lama’s public sermon at Bodh Gaya in India on December 29-31 expressed interest in the spiritual leader visiting Sri Lanka.

The monks’ invitation to the Dalai Lama was reported in the Sri Lankan media. Before long, Chinese diplomats stationed in Colombo headed off to Kandy in the central highlands, where the Chargé d’Affaires of the Chinese Embassy in Colombo Hu Wei met the Mahanayake Thero of the Malwathu Chapter of the Siam Nikaya (a Buddhist monastic order), the Most Venerable Thibbatuwawe Sri Siddhartha Sumangala Thero.

According to a press release from the Chinese embassy, in the course of his “friendly conversation” with the monks Hu told them that the Dalai Lama “is not a ‘simple monk’ as he claims, but a ‘separatist’,” and a “political exile disguised as a religious figure who has long been engaging in anti-China separatist activities and attempting to split Tibet from China.”

Reminding the monks of “China’s firm support” to Sri Lanka, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic and the current economic crisis, Hu said that “both sides especially the Buddhist communities must prevent a sneaky visit of the Dalai Lama to the island to promote ‘Tibetan independence’.”

This was necessary to “safeguard the China-Sri Lanka historical relations from being damaged,” Hu said.

It’s as if Nothing Ever Happened Here in China

Lucy Meng
BEIJING — I caught Covid for the first time in early December.

I panicked when I saw the two lines on my rapid antigen test indicating a positive result. China’s government was still clinging to its “zero Covid” approach of using mass lockdowns and testing in a vain attempt to stop the virus from spreading. Would the dreaded health workers in their head-to-toe protective white suits, who seemed to have taken over the country, come to drag me away to a grim quarantine facility?

Millions of Chinese had been living in fear of that knock on the door. So I hid in my Beijing apartment. Three days later, the government essentially gave up fighting the virus. I was free. I celebrated by taking out my overflowing bag of garbage.

For three years, China’s people were told that Covid had to be controlled. But the government suddenly reversed course not long after street protests broke out in November over the escalating human and economic costs of that approach. But little was done to prepare us for what came next.

Beyond the Putin-Xi Relationship: China, Russia, and Great Power Politics

Alexander Korolev

Chinese President Xi Jinping, right, and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands during an awarding ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, on June 8, 2018.Credit: AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko, Pool, File

On February 4, 2022, the opening day of the Winter Olympics in Beijing and only 20 days before Russia invaded Ukraine, China and Russia declared a “no limits” partnership that “surpasses an alliance.” This new upgrade of the bilateral relationship has been commonly accredited to the role of Presidents Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin or, more precisely, their special friendship. Indeed, the two leaders often describe each other as “best friends” and are believed to have a close personal relationship. Therefore, the so-called no limits partnership is actually the one between Putin and Xi.

Emphasizing the role of authoritarian leaders in shaping their countries’ foreign policy is analytically justifiable. In highly centralized authoritarian political systems, such as China and Russia, channels for open policy deliberations are limited, and the impact of experts and the public on foreign policy is less significant. Moreover, in the case of China-Russia relations, significant advancements in terms of strategic alignment happened after Xi assumed control of the Chinese Communist Party in 2012.

However, a more careful analysis reveals that while the Putin-Xi friendship is important, it mostly oils the wheels of a relationship driven by longer-term structural trends. Those trends are unlikely to be reversed any time soon. China-Russia strategic alignment is likely to stay, and Russia’s war in Ukraine is unlikely to cause it to unravel.

From the moment Xi became CCP general secretary in 2012, China-Russia relations displayed a new upward trend. Being of roughly the same age, Putin and Xi have long been seen as friends with a level of trust higher than what had been the norm between the two countries. According to some observers, “Putin has more trust in Xi than in any Chinese leader before him and any current Western leader” and the “sincerity that Putin feels in Xi has helped the Kremlin to adjust many policies towards China.”

How China Uses Geoengineering to Pursue a Hybrid Warfare Strategy

Kunal Sharma

Geography plays a critical role in shaping the politics of a region. The uneven distribution of natural resources at times influences the regional political landscape enormously. But to a greater extent than ever before, these natural resources can be tweaked as per a country’s requirements over the near to medium term through various techniques of geoengineering.

Geoengineering refers to the large-scale manipulation of a specific process central to controlling and channeling the earth’s resources, such as those of the oceans, rivers, soil, and atmosphere. These techniques are undergoing rapid development primarily to achieve sustainable development in the fields of agriculture, water resource management, energy generation, navigation, connectivity, and climate change mitigation. Unfortunately, the use of these geoengineering techniques is not limited to such noble objectives; they can also be harnessed to dominate or subjugate other countries in a certain region.

China has adopted a strategy of hybrid warfare against countries that it considers hostile or potentially hostile. Geoengineering has the potential to become a game-changing tool for Beijing’s implementation of a hybrid warfare strategy, especially in China’s neighborhood. Various geoengineering techniques could amplify China’s grey zone capabilities in a given theater and shape its future strategy in regional geopolitics. There are three main geoengineering techniques that have bolstered China’s or hybrid warfare capabilities.

According to a statement from China’s State Council, the country is committed to bringing about 5.5 million square kilometers of its land area under its weather modification program by 2025. Much of this involves the process of “cloud seeding.” China claims to have developed this technology to increase agricultural productivity and prevent natural disasters such as droughts and floods. However, the impact of cloud seeding can be seen beyond China’s borders, as it may disrupt the normal monsoon in neighboring countries such as India, Myanmar, Vietnam, etc. This would have an adverse impact on the agriculture in these countries, rising potentially to a form of “rain stealing.”

Weather medication may also be used to sabotage troop movements and logistics operations in border regions by artificially altering the rainy conditions, which would slow down the tactical movement of the adversary on a real-time basis.

River Water Obstruction

Wargaming a Chinese Invasion of Taiwan: ‘Victory Is Not Enough’

Mercy A. Kuo

The Diplomat author Mercy Kuo regularly engages subject-matter experts, policy practitioners, and strategic thinkers across the globe for their diverse insights into U.S. Asia policy. This conversation with Mark Cancian (Colonel, USMCR, ret.) – senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC and coauthor of the CSIS report “The First Battle of the Next War: Wargaming a Chinese Invasion of Taiwan” – is the 352nd in “The Trans-Pacific View Insight Series.”

Identify the critical conditions to prevent China from succeeding in an invasion of Taiwan.

The project identifies five critical conditions for success:Taiwan must resist forcefully and effectively. The rest is futile if the government collapses or the population becomes demoralized.
Taiwanese ground forces must hold the line. Chinese forces will always be able to land on the island. Taiwanese ground forces must be able to contain the beachhead and then counterattack forcefully as Chinese logistics weaken. However, the Taiwanese ground forces have severe weaknesses. Therefore, Taiwan must fill its ranks and conduct rigorous, combined arms training. Ground forces must become the center of Taiwan’s defense effort.
Taiwan must start the war with everything it needs. In the Ukraine war, the United States and NATO have sent massive amounts of equipment and supplies to Ukraine. Russia has been unable to interdict this overland flow. However, the “Ukraine model” cannot be replicated in Taiwan because China’s massive air and naval forces can isolate the island for weeks or even months.

The United States must be able to use its bases in Japan for combat operations. While other allies (e.g., Australia and South Korea) are important in the broader competition with China and may play some role in the defense of Taiwan, Japan is critical. U.S. fighter/attack aircraft, because of their relatively short range, must be able to operate from U.S. bases in Japan.
If the United States is going to defend Taiwan, it must begin operations against China immediately. Delays caused by hesitation or extended decision-making increase the cost and decrease the likelihood of success.

Explain the strategic relevance of wargaming operational outcomes of a potential conflict over Taiwan.

The Latest US Chip Restrictions On China – Analysis

He Jun*

As expected, the United States, the Netherlands, and Japan have made significant progress in the negotiations where an agreement was reached on restricting the sale of semiconductor chip manufacturing equipment to China. Dutch lithography giant ASML confirmed on January 29 that an agreement has been reached between the governments that will focus on advanced chip manufacturing technologies, including but not limited to advanced process lithography systems. Before the agreement comes into effect, the relevant specific content needs to be refined and put into the legislative process. It must be admitted that the agreement reached by the U.S., the Netherlands, and Japan is major progress in the American strategy of restricting the development of China’s semiconductor industry.

In recent years, the U.S. has been pushing harder to curb the development of China’s semiconductor industry. It not only carefully designed the key parts of the bottleneck and the implementation sequence of its strategy but also drove its allies to participate in it. Compared with the simpler and more direct means of Donald Trump’s era, the Biden administration’s strategies and actions to contain China’s semiconductor industry are more systematic and precise, as well as more carefully designed.

Since last year, the U.S. government has made substantial progress at three important points. (1) In August 2022, President Biden signed the CHIPS and Science Act, making a systematic plan for the development of the semiconductor industry in the U.S. and attracting semiconductor companies to invest in the country with huge financial subsidies. (2) On October 7, 2022, the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) of the U.S. Department of Commerce issued export control measures for semiconductors to China, imposing strict restrictions on chip manufacturing equipment, talents, corporate services, technology, and products. (3) On January 29, 2023, the U.S. reached an agreement with the Netherlands and Japan to restrict the sale of chip manufacturing equipment and key materials to China.

What Impact Would a U.S. Debt Default Have on China?

Arthur R. Kroeber

The big political drama in Washington in the next few months will be the fight over the federal debt ceiling. The worst-case scenario is that Congress refuses to raise the ceiling and the U.S. Treasury defaults on its debt. Since U.S. treasury debt powers the entire world financial system, the result could be a massive global economic crisis. If that happens, how well would the world’s second-biggest economy, China, survive the crash? And would a U.S. default give China an opening to create a new global financial system less dependent on the dollar?

The good news is a U.S. default is improbable. Most likely, Congress will reach a deal under which the debt ceiling is raised now in exchange for promises of federal spending cuts later. This is what the “Tea Party” Congress did in 2011, and the outcome that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has forecast.

If negotiations fail, the Biden Administration still has plenty of options to prevent a default, ranging from accounting tricks to a decision to ignore the debt ceiling altogether, on the ground that it violates the Constitution’s requirement for timely repayment of all federal debts.

But strange things sometimes happen in Washington. If the U.S. did default, how bad would the damage be? No one knows for sure; the world economy is just too complex. One real possibility is a global financial crisis and economic depression worse even than the one in 2008-2009. This is because the huge U.S. Treasury market underpins the global financial system, in two ways. Much credit around the world is priced, directly or indirectly, in relation to the interest rates on U.S. treasuries. And many loans both in the U.S. and in the rest of the world depend on U.S. treasuries as collateral.

The Limits of “Friend-Shoring”

Emily Benson and Ethan B. Kapstein

Speaking in April 2022, Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen announced the Biden administration’s new approach to navigating a more contentious global economy, calling it “friend-shoring.” Speaking at the Atlantic Council, Yellen said: “We cannot allow countries to use their market position in key raw materials, technologies, or products to have the power to disrupt our economy or exercise unwanted geopolitical leverage. Let’s build on and deepen economic integration. . . . with the countries we know we can count on.”

But is “friend-shoring” really a panacea? After all, even military allies can be fierce economic competitors. Further, to what extent is dependence on a “friend” that reliable? In that regard, the U.S. maintains a dependence on Taiwan—certainly a friend—for semiconductor chips.

This paper addresses the prospects for friend-shoring, with a focus on U.S.-EU economic relations. It discusses some of the challenges that the enactment of a friend-shoring policy would face and analyzes one of the key institutional developments associated with this new approach to economic cooperation, namely the U.S.-EU Trade and Technology Council (TTC), which held its third ministerial meeting in December 2022. Indeed, the TTC is already being called “the new ‘friend-shoring’ vehicle.” While the TTC is undoubtedly seeking to harmonize U.S.-EU regulatory policy in some key issue areas, its limitations are no less suggestive of the impediments to deeper cooperative engagement. This paper seeks to provide a balanced assessment of the friend-shoring idea.
Would Friends Friend-Shore?

Turkey rises, Russia fades as Iran and Azerbaijan clash over Armenia

Amberin Zaman

SYUNIK, Armenia — A small hotel in Goris, a sleepy tourist resort in the Syunik region in southern Armenia, seems an unlikely backdrop for geopolitical maneuvers between Western powers, Turkey, Russia and Iran. But that is what the Hotel Mirhav, a trio of rustic cottages filled with antique kilims and copperware, has become amid fears of renewed conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan from which Iran could emerge the biggest loser.

Numerous families have been sheltering here since Dec. 12, when Azerbaijan effectively cut off access to their native Nagorno-Karabakh, letting a group of self-described Azerbaijani “eco-activists” with no history of environmental advocacy barge through Russian peacekeepers to block the sole road linking the disputed enclave to Armenia.

The Armenian-majority region lies within Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized borders but has governed itself under the name of the Republic of Artsakh since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

As regional powers butt heads, a full-blown humanitarian crisis is unfolding, with baby formula, medicines and other vital supplies growing scarcer by the day. Schools have been shuttered and Nagorno-Karabakh’s 120,000 inhabitants put on ration cards as Azerbaijan continues to disrupt gas and electricity supplies amid sub-zero temperatures. Armenia’s leaders accuse Azerbaijan of seeking to ethnically cleanse Nagorno-Karabakh by starving the local population and forcing it to leave.

Azerbaijan’s strongman President Ilham Aliyev hinted as much in a Jan. 10 TV interview, saying, “Conditions will be created for those who want to live [in Nagorno-Karabakh] under the flag of Azerbaijan. Like the citizens of Azerbaijan, their rights and security will be ensured.

“For whoever does not want to become our citizen, the road is not closed, but open. They can leave. They can go on their own, or they can ride with [Russian] peacekeepers, or they can go by bus. The road [to Armenia] is open.”

Islamic State Khorasan: Global Jihad in a Multipolar World

Lucas Webber

In this Oct. 8, 2021 file photo, people view the damage inside of a mosque frequented by the Shiite Muslim minority following a deadly bombing claimed by the Islamic State that killed dozens, in Kunduz province, northern Afghanistan.Credit: AP Photo/Abdullah Sahil

The Islamic State (IS) garnered global media attention in 2014, when its forces scored a series of sweeping battlefield victories and territorial gains across swathes of Iraq and Syria. The establishment of the Caliphate and the appointment of Caliph Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi reverberated throughout the region and galvanized Islamic radicals around the world. At the Islamic State’s height, it forged its place in jihadist history by attracting an unprecedented variety of foreign fighters, inciting or directing a high level of attacks throughout the world, and developing an unmatched propaganda apparatus. Further, IS inspired a plethora of existing and new jihadi groups from all over to pledge allegiance, spreading its tentacles with the establishment official branches throughout Asia and Africa.

With the physical rollback of Caliphate territory in the Middle East, IS and its branches became primarily focused on fighting local governments, militias, and other aligned forces, markedly scaling down extra-regional attacks and operations against foreign interests. However, the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) branch, based in Afghanistan, has emerged as an exception to this.

ISKP has internationalized its media strategy while ramping up attacks on neighboring countries and international targets, such as diplomatic missions and foreign nationals. ISKP’s Al-Azaim Foundation for Media Production has dramatically expanded and is now ambitiously producing propaganda in far more languages than any other IS branch – particularly since the Taliban’s August 2021 takeover of Afghanistan.

Saving by Spending: The True Value and Cost-Effectiveness of U.S. Aid to Ukraine

Anthony H. Cordesman

Oscar Wilde is rarely quoted as an expert on strategy, warfare, and international relations, but one of his more famous quips is all too relevant to some of the efforts to reduce U.S. assistance to Ukraine. In one of his plays, Wilde had a key character state in response to the question of who is a fool that he is “a man who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.” Some critics of U.S. aid to Ukraine—including some in Congress—meet this definition of a fool all too well.

It is not a definition that applies to those who demand that Ukraine keep careful control over the aid and weapons it receives and actively fight corruption and carry out anticorruption drives. These are essential aspects of military effectiveness and discipline. As the United States learned the hard way in World War I and World War II, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, it is vital to control the flow of money, weapons, and services as tightly as possible and to make aid conditional on how well and honestly it is used. The cost of such abuses is more than a waste of money and weapons; it is a loss of discipline, a growing focus of taking money over winning a war, and a critical damage to morale and faith in military leadership.

The story is very different, however, when criticism focuses on cost alone. The end result not only chooses price over values like freedom and democracy. It ignores the fact that while the rising number of billions the United States is spending on aid to Ukraine keeps growing, the cost of aid to Ukraine is almost certain to remain comparatively low when compared to the total cost of U.S. security, is a vital investment in deterring future Russian and Chinese aggression, and is likely to save the United States substantial amounts of national security spending in the future.

Europe is giving more aid to Ukraine than you think


Europeans need to pull their weight in Ukraine. They should pony up more funds. And most definitely, they should not fall behind the United States. Such has been the chorus since the start of the war, primarily on the other side of the Atlantic.

The problem is: the argument isn't borne out by the facts, at least not anymore.

Between secrecy at the member state level, and incomprehensible acronyms from Brussels, it has been a challenge for Americans, US Congress first of all, to get a clear grasp of Europe's contributions (Photo: Wikipedia)

Let's look at the numbers: the European Union and its member states actually contributed slightly more to Ukraine than the US did last year.

US contributions approximated €48bn through 20 November, while commitments from the EU and its member states reached close to €52bn.

Why does Ukraine want Western jets—and will it get them?

Ukraine has been asking for fourth-generation Western combat jets pretty much since Russia invaded it in February 2022. But after January 25th, when the German chancellor, Olaf Scholz, at last agreed to export Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine (nudged by a matching offer of M1 Abrams tanks from America), the demand has become more insistent. Ukraine wants American F-16s or F-15s, which are both numerous and being phased out by many nato air forces as deliveries of the stealthy fifth-generation F-35 ramp up. On January 30th President Joe Biden said that America would not supply F-16s. Will Ukraine end up getting them anyway?

The request has become urgent. Ukraine is preparing to launch a spring offensive to regain territory, perhaps before the next wave of Russian mobilisation. The Russian air force has so far failed to establish air superiority over Ukraine, despite having a big advantage in both numbers and capability over the Ukrainian one, which relies principally on Soviet-era Mig-29s and Su-27s. That is thanks to a well-integrated ground-based air defence derived mainly from 1970s S-300 surface-to-air missiles and the large number of manpads (shoulder-launched missiles) supplied by nato members. These have allowed Ukraine’s air force to contest the skies and provide much-needed support for ground forces. But this may be about to change.

Ukraine does not confirm how many aircraft and pilots it has lost, but it is undoubtedly feeling the effect of a year’s attrition. Worse, the missile and drone barrage targeting critical infrastructure and residential areas that the Russians have inflicted over the winter has left Ukraine’s anti-aircraft missile stocks dangerously low. A particular problem is Russia’s use of the Iranian Shahed-136 drone which can provide precision strikes on poorly defended targets, such as power stations. Most of the munitions needed to take them out are many times more expensive than the Shahed itself (which costs about $20,000). While urgently needing many more manpads, the Ukrainians fear that without the F-16s or other Western fast jets their ability to prevent Russia gaining air superiority is eroding.

Russia’s cyberwar against Ukraine offers vital lessons for the West

Yurii Shchyhol

Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine is fast approaching the one-year mark, but the attack actually started more than a month before columns of Russian tanks began pouring across the border on February 24, 2022. In the middle of January, Russia launched a massive cyberattack that targeted more than 20 Ukrainian government institutions in a bid to cripple the country’s ability to withstand Moscow’s looming military assault.

The January 14 attack failed to deal a critical blow to Ukraine’s digital infrastructure, but it was an indication that the cyber front would play an important role in the coming war. One year on, it is no longer possible to separate cyberattacks from other aspects of Russian aggression. Indeed, Ukrainian officials are currently seeking to convince the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague to investigate whether Russian cyberattacks could constitute war crimes.

Analysis of the Russian cyberwarfare tactics used in Ukraine over the past year has identified clear links between conventional and cyber operations. Ukraine’s experience in countering these cyber threats can provide valuable lessons for the international community while offering a glimpse into a future where wars will be waged both by conventional means and increasingly in the borderless realm of cyberspace.

The Russian cyberattack of January 2022 was not unprecedented. On the contrary, Ukraine has been persistently targeted since the onset of Russian aggression with the seizure of Crimea in spring 2014. One year later, Ukraine was the scene of the world’s first major cyberattack on a national energy system. In summer 2017, Ukraine was hit by what many commentators regard as the largest cyberattack in history. These high profile incidents were accompanied by a steady flow of smaller but nonetheless significant attacks.

Putin is facing defeat in the information war

Peter Dickinson

As the world prepares to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day on January 27, the European Union has accused Russia of “trampling on the memory” of the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust. This rebuke came following controversial recent comments by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who compared Western support for Ukraine to the Nazi genocide of European Jewry.

Speaking on January 18, Lavrov claimed a coalition of Western countries led by the United States was following in the footsteps of Napoleon and Hitler with the goal of destroying Russia. “They are waging war against our country with the same task: the final solution of the Russian question,” he said in direct reference to Hitler’s infamous “final solution” of the Jewish question.

Lavrov’s Holocaust comparison was met with widespread international criticism. In a strongly worded statement, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said his Russian counterpart’s comments were “entirely misplaced, disrespectful, and trample on the memory of the six million Jewish people, and other victims, who were systematically murdered in the Holocaust. The Russian regime’s manipulation of the truth to justify their illegal war of aggression against Ukraine has reached another unacceptable and despicable low point.”

The Israeli Foreign Ministry branded Lavrov’s remarks “unacceptable,” while French diplomats said the Russian foreign minister’s attempt to compare international opposition to the invasion of Ukraine with the Holocaust was “outrageous and disgraceful.” Meanwhile, UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly called Lavrov’s comments “totally abhorrent” while noting, “Russia is not the victim. Russia is the aggressor.”

Investment strategy: Geopolitical risks and growth momentum on a collision course

The continuing recovery in cyclically sensitive markets points to improving growth sentiment. This week, even the IMF upwardly revised its 2023 global economic growth forecast, raising it to 2.9% from 2.7% in October. Optimism is such that the IMF even greatly upgraded the outlook for Russia from -2.3% to +0.3%!

The problem with the increasingly positive tone in the market in the new year is that geopolitical risks are going up. If there is anything that we learned from the past few years is that when economic growth and geopolitical risks collide, the latter often wins out.

Regarding the Ukraine war, the latest news is that the United States is about to sign off on a new delivery of advanced weapons to Kiev, this time including the Ground Launched Small Diameter Bomb (GLSDB), a long-range rocket system that has a range of 94 miles (150 km). This brings the US one step away from approving the 297-km range ATACMS missile that we have already warned could trigger a direct confrontation between Russia and NATO.

Notwithstanding the pro-Ukraine propaganda in the western media, mounting evidence continues to support our view that the momentum on the battlefield is turning against Ukraine. The RIWI-Unbound Military Conflict survey, conducted daily shows that the number of Ukrainian respondents expecting the military conflict to intensify over the next few weeks is at the highest level since the start of the war (see chart below).

Donald Trump Vs. Joe Biden In 2024 Could Be A Disaster

Doug Bandow

Donald Trump vs. Joe Biden in 2024: Why the World Should Be Scared: This year elections are scheduled in Nigeria, Thailand, Turkey, Bangladesh, and Pakistan, among other foreign nations. Most of the world will barely notice as these crucial polls occur.

In contrast, there are few people who didn’t closely watch last November’s off-year contest in America and aren’t vitally concerned about the 2024 presidential race, which will kick off later this year. Already former president Donald Trump said he is running. President Joe Biden may announce in the near future.

America’s electoral battles are a global spectacle. Anyone from the US who travels the world can count on being asked to explain the inanity of their nation’s political process. Foreign peoples—average folks as well as political elites—follow US candidates’ antics and foibles. Election night parties are held around the world, and not just in American embassies.

It might be good fun if America was not the world’s most powerful country, ostentatiously self-absorbed and arrogant. And if Washington was not convinced of its moral righteousness and historic mission, filled with practical descendants of France’s royal Bourbans, neither learning nor forgetting anything. Two plus centuries after America’s founding, look what the US ruling establishment has become: no wonder most of the world is simultaneously fascinated and petrified.

American Politics Are a Mess

Senescence dominates the White House. President Joe Biden’s mental acuity evidently comes and goes, leaving billions of people around the globe uncertain who is making critical policy decisions, especially regarding foreign and military policy. The problem is not that the president necessarily suffers from dementia or a similar condition, but that his ability to handle potentially catastrophic crises is almost certainly often impaired. A large majority of Americans, including Democrats, are concerned with his condition and don’t want him to run for reelection. Friends and foes abroad can only watch, wondering who would be in charge if the US slides into war with a great power and nuclear-armed adversary, most notably Russia or China.

How to Get a Breakthrough in Ukraine

Michael McFaul

Nearly a year after he invaded Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin has failed to achieve any of his major objectives. He has not unified the alleged single Slavic nation, he has not “denazified” or “demilitarized” Ukraine, and he has not stopped NATO expansion. Instead, the Ukrainian military kept Russian troops out of Kyiv, defended Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, and launched successful counteroffensives in the fall so that by the end of 2022, it had liberated over 50 percent of the territory previously captured by Russian soldiers that year. In January, Putin removed the general in charge of the war in Ukraine, Sergei Surovikin, whom he had appointed just a few months earlier. Wartime leaders change their top generals only when they know they are losing.

Ukraine is doing so well in part thanks to the unified Western response. Unlike reactions to Russia’s invasion of Georgia in 2008 or Ukraine in 2014, the Western pushback against Putin’s latest war has been strong along multiple fronts. NATO enhanced its eastern defenses and invited Sweden and Finland to join the alliance. Europe has provided shelter to hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees. Led by the Biden administration, the West has provided massive amounts of military and economic support at amazing speed, levied punishing sanctions, and begun a difficult shift away from Russian energy. Even Chinese leader Xi Jinping has offered Putin only faint rhetorical support for his war. He has not provided Russia with weapons and has cautiously avoided violating the global sanctions regime.

These are the reasons for optimism. The bad news, however, is that the war continues, and Putin has shown no signs of wanting to end it. Instead, he is planning a major counteroffensive this year. “The Russians are preparing some 200,000 fresh troops,” General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, the commander in chief of Ukraine’s armed forces, warned in December. “I have no doubt they will have another go at Kyiv.” Even though Putin must understand by now that Ukrainians are willing to fight for as long as it takes to liberate their country, he still believes that time is on his side. That is because Putin expects Western governments and societies to lose their will and interest to keep helping Ukraine. If Putin or his aides watch the television personality Tucker Carlson on Fox News or saw the protests last fall in Prague, their hunch about waning Western support would be confirmed.

Opium of the Elite

Bruce Caldwell and Hansjoerg Klausinger.

We s​ocialists like to hark back to better days, when ideals shone bright and principles stood tall: equality, fairness, democracy, internationalism, mutuality, jobs, education, food, housing, medicine, pensions, peace, friendship and love. But there is one strand of the tradition we prefer not to think about: the idea of putting an end to the wasteful chaos of capitalism by implementing a comprehensive economic plan. Central planning is usually associated with Marxism, though Karl Marx himself expressed only a vague hope of bringing industry under political control and getting rid of ‘haggling’ (Schacher). Friedrich Engels was more specific, asserting in 1878 that socialism would eliminate the ‘social anarchy’ of capitalist free markets by delivering ‘social regulation of production upon a definite plan’. Forty years later Lenin promised to rejuvenate Russia with a ‘nationwide state economic plan on scientific principles’. Modern postal services could serve as prototypes for a ‘socialist economic system’, he said, and the ‘immediate aim’ of a Bolshevik government would be to ‘organise the whole economy on the lines of the postal service’.

You didn’t have to be much of a socialist to think that Marx, Engels and Lenin might have a point. In 1927, Bertrand Russell warned that civilisation would collapse without a worldwide ‘central authority’ to ensure that ‘production is organised scientifically.’ His analysis seemed to be borne out by the calamities of the next two decades, and it eventually won an endorsement from Albert Einstein, who lamented the ‘economic anarchy of capitalist society’ and called for a ‘socialist economy’ in which ‘means of production’ would be ‘utilised in a planned fashion’.

None of us would say that sort of thing any more. Enthusiasm for comprehensive economic planning collapsed following the implosion of the Soviet Union in 1991, but it had already been eroded by decades of criticism under the rubric of ‘neoliberalism’. Today that term is used mainly as shorthand for a set of right-wing policies espoused in the 1970s by Augusto Pinochet, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, and by miscellaneous demented conservatives ever since: ‘rolling back the state’ and ‘empowering the individual’ through privatisation, tax cuts and deregulation. But before that it referred to a body of theory about markets and how they work which deserves to be treated with respect.

How will the Russia-Ukraine war end?

As the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine approaches, there is little sign of an end to the hostilities. Robert H. Wade explains how the competing ideologies of Russia and the US took us to this point, and how the interests of each side might be brought together through a compromise that can end the war.

The Ukraine crisis expresses the clash of two mega forces shaping the world order. One is the US’s long-standing assertion of ‘primacy’ or ‘hegemony’ vis-à-vis all other states. Presidents Putin and Xi talk often and pleasurably of the decline of the US and the fracturing of the West, especially since the 2008 financial crisis. Yet what is striking about the US and the West’s response to Russia’s invasion is how forcefully the US has rallied other western states – and western multinational corporations – to isolate a prominent G20 state and former G8 member. This is US ‘hegemony’ in action.

The second long-standing mega force comes from Russia. The tendency of observers to focus on the actions of Putin misses Russia’s long-standing aim to make itself the centre of the Eurasian polity, culture, and economy. This focus on Putin, coupled to the hope of regime change towards democracy, also misses the larger point that Russia has for centuries operated as a ‘patrimonial’ state, the personal domain of the tsar, a structure widely accepted by the Russian population as ‘normal’. The nobility held status and property at the tsar’s discretion. Today’s oligarchs are in the same position, meaning that, as in China, there is no private sector in the western sense; rather, a state and a non-state sector.

Eurasianism in Russia

Ever since the collapse of the Russian Empire in 1917, a line of Russian thinkers has developed an ideology of Eurasianism. It was suppressed during the Soviet period but burst forth during perestroika in the late 1980s. The ideology posits not just America but the whole Atlantic world as Russia’s ‘clash of civilisations’ opponent, with Russian Orthodoxy harnessed as the glue in the geopolitical war to come. Under Putin, the themes of imperial glory and western victimisation have been elevated to centre stage across the country.

Ukraine figured in Eurasian ideology as an obstacle from the start. Eurasian ideologists in the 1920s were already talking of ‘the Ukraine problem’, presenting Ukraine as excessively ‘individualistic’ and insufficiently Orthodox. Prominent ideologists of the 1990s identified Ukrainian sovereignty as, in the words of one, a ‘huge danger to all of Eurasia’. Russia’s Eurasia project, he said, required, as an ‘absolute imperative’, total control of the whole north coast of the Black Sea (not least to keep the Black Sea as western Russia’s only ice-free access to the sea). Ukraine had to become ‘a purely administrative sector of the Russian centralised state’.

Germany's Leopard Tanks Are a Game Changer with Significant Risks

Markus Becker

There are two iterations of German Chancellor Olaf Scholz these days. One is calm, almost diffident, the Scholz the country knows best. This iteration is the one most often seen on television or in the Bundestag, Germany's parliament. A man who seems almost impervious to the political machinations going on around him. Like on Wednesday of this week: out of the car, into the Bundestag, out of the Bundestag and back into the car. Here and there a smile.

Being the chancellor isn't so tough after all.

The other Olaf Scholz, though, isn't visible to the public eye. The second iteration, say staff members and other members of his center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD), shows up behind closed doors in smaller meetings and policy debates, on telephone calls and in confidential sessions. That Scholz is prone to the occasional outburst.

On some occasions, he'll go after the media, on others he'll voice his anger with political analysts, and periodically, critics from within his own governing coalition will be the focus of his wrath. All those who, from his perspective, have abandoned discretion and have been gripped by war fever. Those who, according to Scholz, shy away from nothing when it comes to sending weapons systems to Ukraine – first demanding howitzers, then tanks, now warplanes, and at some point, no doubt, troops.

"These warmongers!" he apparently roared during an internal meeting this week. "These hawks!" The pressure that had been building during the previous weeks finally erupted. His frustration with, and indeed disdain for, all those who accuse him of not being suited for the current situation.

Not up to the task? Ridiculous. He would show them all once again. That appears to be how Scholz himself views the situation.

The Turning Point

How Russians Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the War

Andrei Kolesnikov

In the late Soviet era, only twice did Moscow’s military interrupt the daily lives of ordinary citizens. The first occasion was the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968, which went largely unnoticed by many Russians because few knew what was going on. The second was the invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, which had far greater consequences. For many people, the sight of zinc coffins being flown back from a distant southern country, even as Marxism-Leninism was losing currency at home, shattered the moral foundations of the Soviet project.

In 2022, Moscow’s military once again interrupted the lives of ordinary citizens with an invasion, and the result has been even worse than either of those previous events: Russia has just lived through the most terrifying year in post-Soviet history. Yet despite growing loss of life and stark moral defeats, there has been no shattering of national foundations. Sure, Russians are becoming divided, and their opinions polarized, as people grow tired of war. But far from weakening Putin’s hold on power, the “special military operation” has only strengthened it.

Those who fear Putin have either fled the country or are silent. The regime has a formidable arsenal of instruments to deploy against anyone who speaks out or otherwise expresses opposition. It has used the legal system to crush any dissent, handing down Stalinist prison terms to antiwar activists. It has invented its own equivalent of yellow stars to harass, threaten, and intimidate those deemed “foreign agents.” (I had the honor of receiving such a designation in late December.) It has closed down or blocked access to virtually all independent media. And it has pinned the unofficial label of “national traitor” on anyone who does not express delight at the state’s ramping up of repression, the war, and the increasingly personal military-police-state regime that is driving it.

Will Russia’s Mid-War Military Restructuring Work?

Jorge L. Rivero

Last month, Russian president Vladimir Putin and the Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu unveiled a new plan to restructure the Russian military away from the brigade model and back to its pre-2008 division structure. These details are being announced as the Russian military struggles to maintain momentum in Ukraine and as NATO membership for Finland and Sweden looms into 2023. Even though implementing such military reforms is not new in the history of the Soviet and Russian militaries, these new restructuring attempts seek to create a new army postured to safeguard Russian interests vis-à-vis NATO, closely mirroring Soviet threat perception of large-scale war.

Even though Russian proposals and their outcomes are often quite different, Western analysts will soon have to contest the feasibility of these reforms and how they will affect Russian force posture across Eastern Europe. The Russian Armed Forces will have to make drastic investments in human capital, both in manpower and training and in equipping these new formations. After massive losses in Ukraine, reaching these new goals can prove troublesome for the Kremlin.

Soviet and Russian Reforms

A brief history of Soviet and Russian military reforms, their aims, and their outcomes are essential when considering what comes next.

During the late Stalin era, the emphasis on Soviet military strength was on a massive ground force. After World War II, the Soviets envisioned a third World War that resembled World War II, albeit enhanced with nuclear weapons. The Soviet military experienced considerable changes in the late 1950s and 1960s, and between 1968 and 1987, the Soviet Ground Forces grew from 138 divisions to 220.

Why Military Leaders Need to Rethink Battlefield Intelligence in a Smartphone Era

Maya Villasenor

Ukrainian forces recently leveraged Russian phone signals to strike a temporary base in the occupied city of Makiivka, killing dozens (or more—the toll is highly disputed). The Russian Defense Ministry subsequently issued a rare statement attributing the unprecedented loss to the widespread, albeit unauthorized, use of personal phones. While powered on, the phones had been pinging Ukraine’s cellular network, allowing Ukrainian forces to triangulate precise location information.

Russia is rumored to have similarly exploited roaming signals to track Ukrainians by equipping trucks and drones with cell-site simulators. Between 2014 and 2016, Russian hacking group Fancy Bear (APT 28) purportedly followed Ukrainian artillery movements using Android malware.

The universal adoption of smartphones, as well as social media, has revolutionized the dynamics of surveillance, especially in theater. Social media requires few intermediaries, meaning that members of the armed forces can—and do—use smartphones to participate in online dialogue without oversight. More data—such as locations, and information about habits, health, relationships, religious beliefs, and more—is being generated and shared than ever before. Although militaries often instruct soldiers in the field not to utilize personal phones, the rules are regularly ignored.

NIST Makes Available the Voluntary Artificial Intelligence Risk Management Framework (AI RMF 1.0) and the AI RMF Playbook

Daniel Pereira

NIST’s Artificial Intelligence Risk Management Framework (AI RMF 1.0)

“The U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has released its Artificial Intelligence Risk Management Framework (AI RMF 1.0), a guidance document for voluntary use by organizations designing, developing, deploying or using AI systems to help manage the many risks of AI technologies. The AI RMF follows a direction from Congress for NIST to develop the framework and was produced in close collaboration with the private and public sectors. It is intended to adapt to the AI landscape as technologies continue to develop and to be used by organizations in varying degrees and capacities so that society can benefit from AI technologies while also being protected from its potential harms:

“Compared with traditional software, AI poses a number of different risks. AI systems are trained on data that can change over time, sometimes significantly and unexpectedly, affecting the systems in ways that can be difficult to understand. These systems are also “socio-technical” in nature, meaning they are influenced by societal dynamics and human behavior. AI risks can emerge from the complex interplay of these technical and societal factors, affecting people’s lives in situations ranging from their experiences with online chatbots to the results of job and loan applications.

The AI RMF is divided into two parts. The first part discusses how organizations can frame the risks related to AI and outlines the characteristics of trustworthy AI systems. The second part, the core of the framework, describes four specific functions — govern, map, measure and manage — to help organizations address the risks of AI systems in practice. These functions can be applied in context-specific use cases and at any stages of the AI life cycle. (1)

Psychology wins wars

Jacob Ware

How do countries win wars? Better strategy, superior firepower, and leaders’ resolve are obviously all key. However, there is one crucial aspect that is often overlooked/ argues Jacob Ware. Superior morale, whilst seemingly intangible, has been the principal driving force not only behind the Ukrainian success in repelling Russian invasion against all odds, but also a significant amount of war in modern history.

“President. Here.”

Dressed in green fatigues and surrounded by advisers and political leaders, President Volodymyr Zelensky’s message in a video released late on February 25 last year was unequivocal: we are not leaving.

In the early days of Russia’s latest brutal invasion of Ukraine, Kremlin propaganda aimed to break Ukrainian spirit. In one particularly notorious example of Russian disinformation, claims suggested Zelensky was set to flee Kyiv, for safer pastures to the west. Other efforts claimed Ukraine had surrendered. Ukrainians responded by standing shoulder to shoulder and facing the approaching tanks head on. Zelensky stayed, and became a global icon of resilience and resistance.

Other stories of Ukrainian valor spread like wildfire on western social media platforms. In the early hours of the war, a Ukrainian woman confronted Russian soldiers, offering them sunflowers. “Take these seeds and put them in your pockets, so at least sunflowers will grow when you all lie down here,” she taunted. In the Black Sea, Ukrainian sailors responded to a Russian cruiser attacking Snake Island, defiantly declaring, “Russian warship, go fuck yourself.” Offered an American exfiltration, Zelensky responded, “The fight is here; I need ammunition, not a ride.”

When Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his soldiers to cross the Ukrainian border last February, he fell victim to what international relations scholar Stephen Van Evera has called the cult of the offensive — politicians’ and military strategists’ insatiable belief in their own offensive capabilities and in the opposition’s defensive frailties. Troops were expected to enter Kyiv within hours, but found their vehicles too heavy to move on the Ukrainian roads. Some soldiers were even given parade dress, in preparation for a celebratory march through the streets of Kyiv, the invaders expecting to be welcomed as liberators. Seemingly little consideration or respect was given to actual Ukrainian defenses—despite eight years of hard war in the Donbas. Russian military blunders allowed Ukraine to seize the initiative, repelling attacks on major cities and constructing a near-mythical tale of its own resistance—and henceforth skyrocketing morale both in the military and among the citizenry, and, crucially, among nervous allies to the west.

William Astore, War Racketeers Won’t Reform Themselves

In case you hadn’t noticed, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists just placed the hands on its Doomsday Clock closer to “midnight” than at any moment since it was created in 1947. Imagine that! At no time since the Cold War of the last century began have those scientific types, including 10 Nobel laureates, felt we were in more danger than… yes, this very second (and I use that word advisedly). We’re talking, in other words, about a proverbial 90 seconds to our possible… is there really any other word for it?… extinction.

One reason they did so, of course, is the war in Ukraine that shows no sign of ending and all too many signs of expanding. Consider, for instance, the Biden administration’s recent decision to send some of its most advanced M-1 tanks there, leading Germany to agree to dispatch its own Leopard 2 tanks as well. And think of those as just two more notches up in what’s functionally become this country’s ever more heated proxy war with … oops, I almost wrote the Soviet Union, but no, it’s plain old Russia now. And that’s just to begin down a list of potential dangers on this planet, including pandemics and, above all, climate change, itself on an ever — dare I say it — more heated path upward (and given a distinct helping hand by Vladimir Putin’s decision to invade Ukraine).

At the risk of boring you to death, let me mention one other thing. As we learned last year, in a world of blossoming dangers, there seem to be no limits when it comes to a congressional willingness to pour endless taxpayer dollars into the military-industrial complex. The Pentagon budget that was passed as 2022 ended simply went through the roof, as retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, historian, and TomDispatch regular William Astore reminds us today. And congressional Republicans and Democrats who fight over everything else find remarkable accord on the issue. With a few exceptions, the investment of at least half of our discretionary budget in the military-industrial complex no longer seems to make anyone blink.

Oh wait, let me make an exception for Astore, too. He’s blinked again and again in these years I’ve known him. If only more of us (and of his former military compatriots) would do the same. Tom

Can the Military-Industrial Complex Be Tamed?
Cutting the Pentagon Budget in Half Would Finally Force the Generals to Think

My name is Bill Astore and I’m a card-carrying member of the military-industrial complex (MIC).

The Wars May Be Over, but the Battles Continue

Jack Hammond

The need for critical mental health and brain injury support for veterans, service members, and family members will continue for the foreseeable future

As I travel across the country and speak to many communities, there seems to be a growing perception in the American public that there is no longer a need to provide mental health and brain injury care for our veterans, service members, and families.

The cost of freedom, as we know, is high, and it is paid for by those wearing the uniform of this nation and the families they leave behind. We continue to lose more than twenty veterans each day to suicide. Last week's “Protest Suicides,” which took place on the properties of the Boston and El Paso VAs, serve as a stark reminder of both the failure of our country to meet the current needs of our wounded and injured warriors and the enduring support required of a grateful nation when it sends its men and women to war.

Most veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan have lost several friends to suicide. Most recently, a close friend who served in Iraq with me and then had additional deployments lost his battle with his invisible wounds.

Poor is a country that has no heroes. Wretched is the one that has heroes but fails to care for them when they return from serving in combat to safeguard its nation.

The battles in Iraq and Afghanistan may have concluded with our chaotic evacuation from Kabul in 2021, but the casualties from these wars will continue for many years to come. Unfortunately, the protracted nature of these injuries, and the care required, will present our Veterans and their families with significant challenges as the American people have a very short attention span, and support for these wounded and injured veterans will wane. There is a flawed perception that has been increasing with time, that the clinical care requirements for our warriors ended with the cessation of combat operations in the Middle East and South West Asia. Unfortunately, the current demand for mental health and brain injury care has never been higher than it is today, and based on published VA reports, this need will continue for decades to come.