6 February 2023

Will The Current Bonhomie In India-Sri Lanka Relations Last? – Analysis

P. K. Balachandran

India-Sri Lanka relations are at their best now, thanks to India’s timely and generous assistance to the financially-beleaguered neighbor. Both New Delhi and Colombo are using the ongoing financial crisis in Sri Lanka to put the relationship on a meaningful and secure footing. But given the troubled 75-year past and the looming challenges of the present and future, it is difficult to be sanguine about the future.

Atavistic fears about Indian hegemony that exist in the Sri Lankan ruling class, the trust deficit that exists in the minds of policy-makers in New Delhi, and the place attained by China in the calculations of the Sri Lankan rulers remain key determinants, although not publicly displayed.

Bilateral relations have generally not been smooth over the past 75 years or even more. There has always been an underlying fear in Sri Lanka about “Indian hegemony” because of India’s humongous size, its geopolitical ambitions, and its involvement in the internal issues of Sri Lanka. A critical factor has been the existence of two communities in Sri Lanka related to India – the Indian-origin Tamils and the Sri Lankan Tamils. The fear of Indian hegemony flowing from India’s stake in these two communities has created distrust, which in turn, has made Sri Lanka cultivate India’s adversaries, Pakistan and China, causing deep anxieties in New Delhi. The widening footprint of China in Sri Lanka since 2010 has emerged as the major bugbear for India.

Do Pakistan-Russia Ties Have a Future?

Salman Rafi Sheikh

In early December 2022, upon his return from a short visit to Moscow, Pakistan’s petroleum minister, Musadik Malik, surprised the public with an announcement that Russia would provide Pakistan with crude oil and diesel at a discounted price. Musadik also confirmed a Russian invitation to start talks over the supply of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Pakistan, which could begin in 2025 or 2026.

Many in Pakistan believed that energy ties with Moscow could really develop this time, after many false starts. Following the announcement, various Pakistani officials told national and international media that Pakistan was all set to start purchasing 4.3 million tonnes of oil from Russia to help meet its annual demand and consumption of 19.92 million tonnes of oil and diesel.

Musadik pointed out that buying energy from Russia was necessary since Pakistan’s energy supplies need to rise by 8 to 10 percent to meet its target growth rate of 5 to 6 percent. There is no denying that Pakistan could use cheap energy resources from Russia to revive its economy, which has been struggling to gain momentum for the past five years. Pakistan is now on the verge of a default, as the country’s foreign exchange reserves fell to just $4.5 billion in the second week of January, barely enough for three weeks of imports.

Biden Aims to Deter China With Greater U.S. Military Presence in Philippines

Edward Wong and Eric Schmitt

WASHINGTON — President Biden and his aides have tried to reassure Chinese leaders that they do not seek to contain China in the same way the Americans did with the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

But the announcement on Thursday that the U.S. military is expanding its presence in the Philippines leaves little doubt that the United States is positioning itself to constrain China’s armed forces and bolstering its ability to defend Taiwan.

The announcement, made in Manila by Lloyd J. Austin III, the U.S. defense secretary, was only the latest in a series of moves by the Biden administration to strengthen military alliances and partnerships across the Asia-Pacific region with an eye toward countering China, especially as tensions over Taiwan rise.

“This is a really big outcome,” said Jacob Stokes, a senior fellow in the Indo-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Society and an adviser to Mr. Biden when he was vice president. “You can better mass forces and project power if you can rotate into those locations in the Philippines.”

Why Sri Lanka’s Headline Grabbing Protests Failed

Thusiyan Nandakumar

So much has happened and yet so little has changed in Sri Lanka. The last year was a period of unprecedented political turmoil on the South Asian island, as an economic crisis led to angry protests that captured headlines around the world. A strongman president, once dubbed “the Terminator” for his ruthlessness, was forced to flee as thousands of protesters raided his official residence. While Gotabaya Rajapaksa sought refuge in the Maldives and Singapore, demonstrators flooded into his home, swam in his private pool, and rifled through his underwear. The images played on screens across the globe, in what looked set to be a moment of much needed and radical change for the conflict-ridden island.

Just a few short months later, however, those hopes of change have been dashed. Rajapaksa soon returned to the island and was even welcomed by supporters at Colombo airport. Close allies have replaced him in office and his political party is currently plotting its next return to power, its reputation seemingly unscathed. Rajapaksa faces no investigations for any of his crimes, from his cronyism and corruption to the slaughter of tens of thousands of Tamil civilians more than a decade ago. Many of the protests have now been dispersed and public outrage with the Rajapsaksas quelled.

The so-called aragalaya, or “people’s protest,” which seemed to be on the brink of a spectacular revolution, has roundly failed.



General Mike Minihan, head of Air Mobility Command and 50,000 US service members, said, “I hope I am wrong. My gut tells me we will fight [China] in 2025.” China’s invasion of Taiwan might spark this war. Predictably, the politically obedient Department of Defense (DOD) responded “comments [by Minihan] are not representative of the department’s view on China.”

“Views” can be unimportant. Whether or not General Minihan is correct is important.

Who would win the war between the US and China? Many are pessimistic about the chances of the United States being the victor. Here are short summaries (with links) of a few disturbing opinions from those who should know.China’s military technology looks to eclipse that of the United States. Brandon Tseng, co-founder of the high-tech AI company Shield, described the US’s preparedness for war with China with some chilling similes.China’s military is Netflix; the U.S. military is Blockbuster.

China is Amazon; the U.S. is Barnes & Noble.

China is Tesla; the U.S. is General Motors

How America Would Be Screwed if China Invades Taiwan

Sascha Brodsky

The vaunted fleet of the U.S. Navy may not be ready for a conflict with China.

A recent analysis found that the U.S. would likely lose a vast number of ships in a war with China over Taiwan, thanks to a narrowing technological advantage. And experts say the U.S. fleet of over 490 ships is also losing its edge in numbers compared to China’s fleet of 661 vessels.

“We are nowhere near adequately prepared,” said William Toti, who led the Navy’s anti-submarine China strategy before his retirement. “I fear that we've awakened a sleeping giant. They have more ships than we do. They have more industrial capacity than we do.”
A Dwindling Advantage

A report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies concluded that the U.S. Navy, which had a budget of about $220 billion last year, would likely suffer heavy losses if the U.S. seeks to defend Taiwan from a Chinese invasion. In the opening days of a conflict, Chinese missiles could destroy U.S. air bases in Japan and Guam and sink two American aircraft carriers and between 10 and 20 destroyers and cruisers.

How a Chinese Spy Balloon Blew Up a Key U.S. Diplomatic Trip

James Palmer

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has postponed a critical diplomatic visit to Beijing this weekend following the revelation of a Chinese surveillance balloon, carrying equipment roughly the size of three buses, floating over Montana close to sensitive nuclear sites. The Biden administration says it is monitoring the balloon closely, has neutralized any intelligence threat it poses, and is considering how to bring it down, since there are concerns it could fall on inhabited areas.

High-altitude balloons might seem unimpressive compared with satellite imagery that can already pick out minute details from way up in the heavens. But balloons, as analyst William Kim pointed out last year, have several advantages over satellites. They’re cheap, they can last for months, they can loiter in place rather than following the predictable tracks of satellites, and they’re surprisingly hard to take down.

Previously, all of that was negated by one obvious factor: They were at the mercy of the wind. But new machine-learning techniques now allow balloons to use air currents to steer themselves in set directions, making the technology much more useful.

To Deter Beijing, What the United States Says Matters

Jude Blanchette and Ryan Hass

Last week, General Mike Minihan became the latest U.S. military official to offer a personal assessment as to when Chinese leader Xi Jinping might decide to invade Taiwan. “My gut tells me we will fight in 2025,” Minihan wrote in an internal memo that was leaked to NBC News.

While General Minihan’s comments were not intended for an external audience, they are only the latest in a string of public comments by senior Department of Defense (DOD) leaders making their own boutique assessments as to Xi Jinping’s thinking on Taiwan.

Former U.S. Indo-Pacific command chief admiral Phil Davidson testified to Congress in March 2021 that an invasion could occur “in the next six years.” That same month, his successor, Admiral John Aquilino, cryptically warned the Senate Armed Services Committee that a Chinese invasion was “much closer to us than most think.” Admiral Mike Gilday, the Chief of Naval Operations, estimated late last year that conflict with China over Taiwan could come by the end of 2022 or “potentially [in] a 2023 window.”

The picture becomes even less clear when listening to the assessments of the two senior-most officials at the DOD. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, believes “it'll be some time before the Chinese have the military capability and they're ready to do it.” His boss, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, recently stated that he “seriously [doubts]” that an invasion of Taiwan by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is “imminent.”

Bretton Woods 2.0: A Global Monetary System for a Multipolar World

Ville Korpela

Earlier this month, I had the privilege of participating in the conversations held in the various lounges and side events connected to the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. One topic was on everyone’s lips, from the official sessions at the Congress Center to the late-hour conversations at Hotel Europe’s Piano Bar: decoupling between the United States and China. This decoupling can be described using the metaphor of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. In the classic book, the two cities of Paris and London are depicted as vastly different from one another, yet connected through the tumultuous events of the French Revolution. Similarly, the United States and China, closely interconnected through trade and investment only several years ago, are now moving in separate directions as tensions rise and their relationship becomes increasingly fraught. Chinese vice premier Liu He warned against the “Cold War mindset” at Davos, but he failed to convince the world that Beijing is back. Just the title of this year’s gathering, “Cooperation in a fragmented world,” spoke volumes about the state of play in global affairs.

Just as the French Revolution in 1789 created a divide between Paris and London, trade tensions and geopolitical disputes between the United States and China are resulting in the decoupling of the two of the world’s largest economies. This global divide is defined by a growing sense of mistrust between the two economic engines of global trade.

The Pentagon must make a culture shift to embrace innovation

Mac Thornberry

People are the bedrock of our nation’s military and create the culture that is foundational for innovation. But thus far, our Department of Defense is falling short of building an organization where people are encouraged to lead, make mistakes as they learn, challenge outdated thinking and pursue new creative initiatives.

That sort of culture is essential to success on the battlefield. And a culture of innovation is fundamental to acquiring, adopting and scaling new technologies that will give our men and women in uniform the advantage they deserve over our competitors.

Beginning in 2015, the House and Senate Armed Services committees made acquisition reform the highest priority. Many new provisions were passed into law to help get the best technology our nation can produce into the hands of the warfighter as soon as possible. While there are pockets in DOD using some of those authorities to drive modernization, there are still pervasive cultural barriers inhibiting the agility and private-public sector collaboration we need.

One of America’s key advantages in the fight against our adversaries is our ecosystem of innovation within government and more widely in the private sector and academia. Without an adaptable, collaborative culture, it is difficult to harness all of the nation’s innovation.

U.S. nuclear sites face hacking and espionage threats

Tim Starks

Welcome to The Cybersecurity 202! Another recommendation, for those who haven’t been tuning in: “Poker Face,” by the always-wonderful Rian Johnson.

Below: A cybersecurity firm identifies the North Korean hacking group that stole nearly 100 gigabytes of data in a months-long breach, and regulators start to probe Tuesday’s cyberattack on the financial trading group ION. First:

Hackers target U.S. nuclear facilities, the latest in a long line of nuclear-related cyberattacks

Hackers are pursuing nuclear targets, which are some of the most heavily regulated facilities in the United States. Despite those safeguards, the opportunities for espionage and much worse have made them alluring to hackers.

The latest apparent espionage threat is a Chinese spy balloon over Montana, which is the site of several nuclear missile silos, my colleagues Dan Lamothe and Alex Horton report. Military advisers have advised President Biden against shooting down the balloon. The incident was first reported by NBC News.

America Can’t Sit Out of the New Space Race

Kendall Carll

With overwhelming bipartisan support and his infamous sharpie in hand, former President Donald Trump made Ronald Reagan’s dreams a reality. Nearly four decades after the Cold War-era president called for the weaponization of space, the Trump administration created the first new military branch since 1947: the United States Space Force (USSF).

The USSF’s inception expanded on Washington’s existing and persisting goals to expand U.S. influence in space. Since 2017, NASA and the State Department have worked to recruit signees to the Artemis Accords, a seven-page document outlining Washington’s vision for space governance. While typical Washington partners—including Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United Arab Emirates—were quick to join as founding members, the twenty-one country list of signees is notably missing Russia and China as terrestrial rivalries threaten to go interstellar.

In an effort formally initialized under the uniquely space-forward Trump presidency, Washington is trying to call dibs on writing the rules in space, eager to create a model that mirrors America’s terrestrial geopolitical and commercial preeminence. But Russia and China aren’t going to sit idle, and, according to some, Moscow and Beijing—not Washington—are leading the charge.

What to make of the US military’s movements in the Pacific and a general’s wild warning about war

Zachary B. Wolf

CNN — Multiple developments in recent weeks reinforce the US military’s new hyperfocus on China:

The US is beefing up its presence in the Pacific with a new military base – its first in 70 years – on the island of Guam, a US territory.
There is a new agreement between the US and Japan that will redesignate US Marines stationed on Japan, allowing them to fire anti-ship missiles.
Plus, the US military will gain expanded access to bases in the Philippines, a newly announced deal that drew US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to that country this week.

These military moves give the impression of resolve and focus that the US will help protect the democratic, self-governing island of Taiwan in the event of direct Chinese aggression.

China’s ruling Communist Party views Taiwan as part of its territory, despite never having controlled it, and has refused to rule out the use of military force to bring about what it calls “reunification.” The US provides Taiwan with defensive weapons but has remained intentionally ambiguous on whether it would intervene militarily in the event of a Chinese attack.

Contested Information Environment: Actions Needed to Strengthen Education and Training for DOD Leaders

Fast Facts

The United States' adversaries are exploiting social media, IT, and other aspects of the "information environment" to undermine the nation's security. Such actions can include making false social media posts or interfering with GPS data used by DOD leaders to make decisions about their military options, such as troop positions.

In response, DOD educates and trains its leaders to address such threats. However, DOD hasn't issued guidance specifying what content should be included in this education and training. Without such guidance, DOD leaders may be unable to make effective decisions. Our recommendations address this and more.

Soaring Death Toll Gives Grim Insight Into Russian Tactics

Helene Cooper, Eric Schmitt and Thomas Gibbons-Neff

WASHINGTON — The number of Russian troops killed and wounded in Ukraine is approaching 200,000, a stark symbol of just how badly President Vladimir V. Putin’s invasion has gone, according to American and other Western officials.

While the officials caution that casualties are notoriously difficult to estimate, particularly because Moscow is believed to routinely undercount its war dead and injured, they say the slaughter from fighting in and around the eastern Ukrainian city of Bakhmut and the town of Soledar has ballooned what was already a heavy toll.

With Moscow desperate for a major battlefield victory and viewing Bakhmut as the key to seizing the entire eastern Donbas area, the Russian military has sent poorly trained recruits and former convicts to the front lines, straight into the path of Ukrainian shelling and machine guns. The result, American officials say, has been hundreds of troops killed or injured a day.

Russia analysts say that the loss of life is unlikely to be a deterrent to Mr. Putin’s war aims. He has no political opposition at home and has framed the war as the kind of struggle the country faced in World War II, when more than 8 million Soviet troops died. U.S. officials have said that they believe that Mr. Putin can sustain hundreds of thousands of casualties in Ukraine, although higher numbers could cut into his political support.

Ukraine’s Coming Electricity Crisis

Thomas Popik

After 11 months of war and nearly four months of relentless Russian attacks on Ukraine’s energy sector, the country’s electric grid comes nearer to collapse each day. In addition to its brutal barrages on residential areas, Russia has targeted power plants, substations, and other critical infrastructure that electrifies the country. Ukrainians are now habituated to rolling blackouts, but the electricity supply falls far short of what the country needs, inducing severe economic disruption. Further strikes could cause the total failure of Ukraine’s electric grid, plunging tens of millions of people into darkness.

Deaths from a grid collapse could be far greater than the casualties caused by a Russian use of tactical nuclear weapons. A grid collapse could also lead to a humanitarian and refugee crisis for Europe, the meltdown of nuclear reactors, flooding from breached hydroelectric dams, and a deeper food crisis for countries dependent on exports from Ukraine.

But the West has the wherewithal to avert this catastrophe. Kyiv’s friends in NATO and elsewhere should deliver swift and targeted aid for the country’s electric grid, help that is commensurate with the financial resources and diplomatic attention devoted to weapons systems. After all, electric power, not just weapons, sustains Ukraine’s war effort. If Western democracies take effective action and reinforce the country’s tottering electric grid, they will show how societies can be protected from such attacks on critical infrastructure. But if these democracies do not rise to this challenge, bad actors worldwide will gain confidence that striking the electrical underbelly of a country is the best way to bring it to its knees.

What Ukraine Needs to Liberate Crimea

Alexander Vindman

The next six months will witness a great deal of human tragedy. Ukraine’s armed forces will face harsh battlefield conditions, and Ukrainian civilians will continue to endure daily Russian attacks. Meanwhile, Russia’s underequipped and poorly led troops will suffer thousands of casualties, destroying the country’s remaining fighting capability. Already, the Russian military has suffered “significantly more than 100,000” deaths and injuries, according to the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley. And thanks to the neglect and cruel indifference of President Vladimir Putin’s regime, thousands more will perish this winter because of the Kremlin’s callous disregard for human life.

With the help of newly promised Western tanks and other weapons, Ukraine’s armed forces will also liberate more territory in the east and south of the country, making it possible to imagine an eventual Ukrainian campaign to retake Crimea. Illegally annexed by Putin in 2014, the peninsula served as a staging ground for Russia’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine. Now, occupation of Crimea enables the Russian military to threaten Ukrainian positions from the south and gives Russia’s Black Sea Fleet a forward base for carrying out long-range attacks. But for the first nine month of the war, Kyiv’s Western backers were reluctant to support any military effort to return the territory to Ukraine, partly out of concern that such an attempt would cross a redline for Putin and invite disastrous Russian retaliation and partly because the peninsula is now home to a sizable number of people who identify with Russia, which could make it more difficult to reintegrate the territory into Ukraine.

Russian War Report: Satellite imagery confirms destruction of aircraft at Crimea airbase

As Russia continues its assault on Ukraine, the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab) is keeping a close eye on Russia’s movements across the military, cyber, and information domains. With more than seven years of experience monitoring the situation in Ukraine—as well as Russia’s use of propaganda and disinformation to undermine the United States, NATO, and the European Union—the DFRLab’s global team presents the latest installment of the Russian War Report.

On August 9, two explosions took place at the Saki airbase in Crimea at about 3:20pm local time. Located more than 200 kilometers from the Russia-Ukraine front line, the military airfield hosts the Russian 43rd Separate Naval Assault Air Regiment of the Black Sea Fleet. According to Ukrainian intelligence, Russia has stationed Su-30M and Su-24 fighter aircrafts, along with an Il-76 cargo transporter, at Saki airbase and uses them to launch missile strikes on Ukraine.

At the time of writing, it remained unclear what caused the large explosions at the airfield. On August 9, the Russian Ministry of Defense claimed that aircraft munitions had detonated at a storage facility and that there was no strikes on the airfield. A ministry spokesperson told TASS news agency that the explosion resulted from a violation of fire safety rules. However, volunteers with the mapping collective GeoConfirmed argued that two columns of smoke visible in the footage contradict Russia’s account of events. GeoConfirmed suggested that the distance between the two smoke columns was around 750 meters, which makes it unlikely that an accidental fire could cause two explosions across such a distance. Meanwhile, Ukrainian authorities offered somewhat conflicting explanations about the cause of the explosion. On August 9, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense argued that it was not able to determine what caused the explosions, while an anonymous Ukrainian government official told the Washington Post that it was an attack carried out by Ukrainian special forces.

Ukraine can’t retake Crimea soon, Pentagon tells lawmakers in classified briefing


Ukrainian forces are unlikely to be able to recapture Crimea from Russian troops in the near future, four senior Defense Department officials told House Armed Services Committee lawmakers in a classified briefing. The assessment is sure to frustrate leaders in Kyiv who consider taking the peninsula back one of their signature goals.

It’s unclear what led the briefers to that assessment. But the clear indication, as relayed by three people with direct knowledge of Thursday’s briefing’s contents, was that the Pentagon doesn’t believe Ukraine has — or soon will have — the ability to force Russian troops out of the peninsula Moscow seized nearly a decade ago.

A fourth person said the briefing was more ambiguous, but the point remained that Ukraine’s victory in an offensive to retake the illegally annexed territory wasn’t assured. All four asked for anonymity in order to disclose details from a classified briefing.

The briefers included Laura Cooper, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia, and Lt. Gen. Douglas Sims, director of operations on the Joint Staff.

Why Won’t Russia And Ukraine Negotiate?

Robert Farley

Questions about whether and how the international community should push Ukraine and Russia into negotiations have thus far been vague as to the structure of negotiations. Wars of territorial conquest have become rare.

It is even less common for nuclear powers to find themselves in situations of conventional vulnerability relative to the victims they’ve determined to invade. But peace conferences are extraordinarily complex affairs, and it’s worth thinking about some of the negotiating models available to us for ending the conflict.
The Vietnam War and the Paris Peace Accords

The Paris Peace Accords, resulting from several years of negotiation between the United States, North Vietnam, South Vietnam, and the Communist resistance within South Vietnam, bear some superficial resemblance to the situation in Ukraine.

The United States sought to extricate itself from Vietnam while ensuring the sovereignty of its client. This isn’t a perfect analogy for the Russia-Ukraine War, but there are certainly echoes; the US wants the war to end but wants to ensure that Ukraine remains sovereign and independent, while Russia wants to sharply limit Ukrainian sovereignty while annexing Ukrainian territory.

Aid to Ukraine: Much More Than Tanks

Mark F. Cancian

Although Germany’s angst about tanks dominated the discussion the recent Ukraine Defense Contact Group (UDCG) (ultimately, the Germans agreed), there is much more going on than just tanks. Allies are squeezing more air defense from their limited capabilities, expanding artillery support, building Ukraine’s inventory of armored vehicles, and might have a few surprises hidden away in the bland bureaucratic language. The most important news is that the aid continues at a high level.
Aid Continues

The controversy about tanks gives a misplaced sense that the meeting’s success—and Ukraine’s future―hinged on their availability. Such a perception misses a key point: there is no silver bullet that will bring victory. Even if NATO and coalition countries provide tanks, they will not be a game changer. Tank battlefield capabilities will be useful, but numbers will be limited compared to the 800 or so tanks that Ukraine already possesses. Victory will come from the cumulative effect of weapons and munitions provided, training for Ukrainian soldiers and units, and the resilience of the Ukrainian people.

What is essential is that aid has continued at a high level, as evidenced in the recent European and U.S. aid packages. This has become a long war of attrition that requires military support across the board―weapons and munitions of all kinds as well as mundane elements like trucks, medical supplies, and spare parts. Ukraine can win the war without tanks if this level of overall support continues. If it gets tanks, but support is cut substantially, Ukraine will lose because its forces will gradually run out of munitions, mobility, and weapons.

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.

National Defense University Press

Joint Force Quarterly (JFQ), 108, (1st Quarter, January 2023) 
  • Assessing the Trajectory of Biological Research and Development in the Russian Federation
  • Havana Syndrome: Directed Attack or Cricket Noise?
  • The Narrative Policy Framework in Military Planning
  • Choosing Your Problems
  • Cultural Change, Tuition-Free College, and Comprehensive Health Care: Emerging Challenges to National Defense?
  • Security Cooperation for Coastal Forces Needs U.S. Coast Guard Leadership
  • America’s Special Operations Problem
  • Beyond a Credible Deterrent: Optimizing the Joint Force for Great Power Competition
  • Army Sustainment Capabilities: Instrumental to the Joint Force in the Indo-Pacific Region
  • America Must Engage in the Fight for Strategic Cognitive Terrain
  • British Successes in 19th-Century Great Power Competition: Lessons for Today’s Joint Force
  • The Joint Force Remains Ill-Prepared to Consolidate Gains

The IC’s Biggest Open-Source Intelligence Challenge: Mission Creep

Gavin Wilde

From establishing the use of chemical weapons by Syrian forces against innocent civilians in 2012, to documenting war crimes by invading Russian forces in Ukraine in 2022, the past decade has seen the explosion of open-source intelligence (“OSINT”). The discipline draws upon an ocean of (putatively) publicly available data – now ranging from selfies to car registrations to satellite imagery – to perform a kind of forensic analysis that would have been nigh impossible in previous eras. Having redefined practices from citizen journalism to military targeting, OSINT’s increased prominence has been accompanied by growing calls from scholars, practitioners, and senior officials for the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC) to more concertedly take up the craft. Otherwise, so the thinking goes, these agencies run the risk of obsolescence, as governments find their erstwhile monopoly on sophisticated intelligence gathering eroding, alongside their ability to avoid strategic surprise.

For senior U.S. decisionmakers, the choice may boil down to a simple binary: double down on the game the IC plays best, or wade into a relatively new game that anyone can play. In terms of resourcing, authorities, and analytic credibility, however, forays into the latter could come at the expense of the former. By dint of its sheer scale, scope, authorities, relationships, organization, and history, the IC’s potential reach into the depths of secrecy is unparalleled. It is this very reach that may stand at greatest risk from unbounded attempts to find what hides in plain sight.

Drones:FAA Should Improve Its Approach to Integrating Drones into the National Airspace System

Fast Facts

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is responsible for safely integrating drones into the national airspace—a complex network that includes airports, aircraft, and air traffic control facilities.

FAA has developed various planning documents to manage its efforts to integrate drones. But, it has yet to develop a comprehensive strategy to guide these efforts. For example, FAA's documents don't include important elements—such as goals, objectives, and milestones—that would help FAA manage more effectively.

We recommended that FAA develop a comprehensive strategy to integrate drones into the national airspace.

Cybersecurity High-Risk Series:Challenges in Establishing a Comprehensive Cybersecurity Strategy and Performing Effective Oversight

Fast Facts

Federal IT systems and our nation's critical infrastructure are at risk of attack from malicious actors, including those acting on behalf of other nations. Such attacks could result in serious harm to human safety, national security, the environment, and the economy.

The federal government should:establish a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy
mitigate global supply chain risks
address the federal cybersecurity worker shortage
ensure the security of emerging technologies

We’ve made 335 public recommendations in this area since 2010. Nearly 60% of those recommendations had not been implemented as of December 2022.

Blind Sided: A New Playbook for Information Operations

BG Christopher M Burns USA (Ret.)

Last summer, a coordinated campaign by users on Facebook and Twitter targeted the Australian company Lynas. In 2021, Lynas—the largest rare earths mining and processing company outside China—finalized a deal with the U.S. Department of Defense to build a processing facility for rare earth elements in Texas. A year later, numerous concerned Texas residents began to criticize the deal on social media, claiming that Lynas’s facility would create pollution, lead to toxic waste dumping, and harm the local population’s health. Their posts also denigrated Lynas’s environmental record and called for protests against the construction of this facility and a boycott of the company.

Except the posts were not written by Texas residents—nor even by real people. The vast majority of posts came from fake accounts that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) created and maintained as part of an influence operation. The PRC’s goal was to do reputational damage to one of the main threats to its dominance in the geopolitically important rare earths sector. Rare earth metals are critical to producing a range of technologies, including semiconductors, batteries, cell phones, electric vehicles, renewable energy systems, and missiles. China has a veritable chokehold on the global market for rare earth elements, controlling almost 90 percent of their production—an edge that Beijing is eager to maintain. More recently, PRC information operations (IOs) took aim at the U.S.’s midterm elections, with posts that disparaged certain senators and spread disinformation about politically-motivated violence.

Russian Soldiers' Successful Bakhmut Tactics Emerge—ISW


A Ukrainian soldier's account of the front line in Bakhmut has given rare insight into the tactics being employed by Russian soldiers in the eastern industrial city in the Donetsk region, which has, for months, been one of the war's hottest spots.

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a think tank based in Washington, noted in its daily assessment of the conflict that Ukraine's Joint Forces Task Force posted an interview on February 1 with a Ukrainian serviceman operating in Bakhmut.

His account "provided granular insight into Russian tactics in the Bakhmut area," the ISW said.

In his interview, the Ukrainian soldier said that the situation in Bakhmut has recently "radically changed." Russia has committed to the city competent fighters from the Wagner Group, a shadowy paramilitary outfit, and operatives from the Main Directorate of the Russian General Staff (GRU).

Is the U.S. Military Capable of Learning From the War in Ukraine?

Raphael S. Cohen and Gian Gentile

At its core, a country’s defense strategy is a very expensive gamble. Every year, the United States spends hundreds of billions of dollars on defense—all on the assumption that such investments will allow it to win the next war. Absent a conflict in which the United States is directly involved, policymakers rarely get a window into whether these bets have actually paid off. One window is when other countries fight a war using U.S. military equipment and tactics—such as the one in Ukraine today. Another example is the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, also known as the Yom Kippur War, when Israel’s near-defeat prompted a thorough reexamination of U.S. weapons and tactics in Washington. Today, Russia’s war once again poses the question whether the United States needs to reexamine the way it prepares for future conflict: not only which weapons it buys, but also how it envisions great-power wars in the 21st century—whether they will be short, sharp affairs or grinding, protracted struggles.

When, in 1973, the United States last had a window into the future of conflict without fighting in one, Israel was caught flat-footed by the surprise attack of an Egyptian-Syrian-led coalition. Although Israel prevailed in the end, the war was a debacle for the Jewish state. Despite having a seasoned military leadership with decades of collective combat experience—and being equipped with U.S. weaponry—Israel lost more than 800 armored vehicles and 100 attack aircraft. Just six years after Israel stunned the world by quickly crushing a combined Arab army during the Six-Day War, the Yom Kippur War stood in stark contrast: It dragged on for weeks, required emergency U.S. assistance to backfill equipment losses, and brought Israel uncomfortably close to defeat.

Mercenaries—Outsourcing—Firepower vs. Ground Maneuver

Shmuel Harlap

Every state, governed by any type of regime, faces a paradox: to fulfill its basic obligation to defend the lives of its citizens from external enemies, it puts these same citizens in danger by conscripting them into the army. In order to resolve this conundrum, the state turns to creative solutions, including the recruitment of mercenaries, security outsourcing, and use of firepower instead of maneuver. Do these responses offer a solution to the paradox?

Few people are loathed like mercenaries. Their brutality on the battlefield and the terror accompanying their work set them apart from conventional military forces. Murderousness is their art. Mercenaries resemble contract assassins but differ in terms of legality. Hitmen operate according to a criminal contract with the party commissioning the assassination. Mercenaries, on the other hand, operate through a legal contract with a state. Still, the space between mercenaries and contract assassins is indisputably filled with different shades of black. Mercenaries are often recruited from criminal elements; a timely example is Yevgeny Prigozhin, leader of the Wagner Group, the Russian mercenary group, who is recruiting thousands of criminal convicts for the war in Ukraine, in return for promises of a pardon and material benefits.

The use of mercenaries is not unique to autocratic regimes. The oldest mercenary armed force is the French Foreign Legion. Established in 1831, it fought in all of France’s wars and eventually became a special operations commando unit.