9 February 2023

India’s G20 Presidency

Dr. Sharinee Jagtiani, Dr. David Hagebölling

The Group of Twenty’s (G-20) large and heterogeneous membership has always been a double-edged sword: a source of legitimacy on the one hand, a challenge for collective action on the other. Against the background of Russia’s war against Ukraine and intensifying China-U.S. competition, avoiding stasis has turned into an exercise of paramount diplomatic skill.

India’s 2023 G-20 presidency therefore comes at a decisive moment for the group. As a major economic power, key strategic player, and now the most populous country on earth, India possesses the political heft to carve out a role for the G-20 in a drastically changed geopolitical context – and it is making digital technology governance a centerpiece of its G-20 presidency.

The G-20 digital agenda has proven surprisingly robust despite geopolitical turbulence. In the November 2022 G-20 Bali leaders’ declaration, member states recognized the importance of advancing inclusive cooperation on digital trade, expanding affordable and high-quality digital infrastructure, enabling cross-border data flows and developing digital skills and literacy.

Under no circumstances was this an easy win. Just two months before the November summit, the G-20 digital ministers had left Indonesia without agreement on a joint declaration. But digital is among those areas where careful optimism still prevails.

Yet, more importantly, India’s digital governance push signposts its strategic ambitions in this space. At the Bali summit, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi described the rollout of digital public infrastructure as “the most remarkable change of our era.” Premised on an agenda of inclusive growth and sustainable development, the Indian government is mobilizing the presidency to bolster its aspirations as a digital powerhouse and leading power, especially in the Global South. New Delhi’s preparations for bringing its “human-centric approach to technology” to the grand diplomatic stage are in full swing.

As one of the world’s largest and fastest growing digital markets and consumer bases globally, the scale and pace of India’s digital transformation have superseded that of many advanced economies. According to a study by the Reserve Bank of India, India’s digital economy grew 2.4 times faster than the overall economy. Given the rate of growth in India’s digital sector, it is in the country’s interest to sustain and encourage greater investments that can potentially drive the total output of the economy. For these reasons, India sees the digital economy as fundamental not just to its own developmental project, but also to its international image and status. It has the potential to generate jobs, facilitate citizen-centered inclusive growth, and enhance connectivity.

India-UK Trade and Investment Relations: Challenges and Prospects

India and the UK share a strong and multi-dimensional strategic partnership. Following India’s economic reforms in the early 1990s that placed the Indian economy on a high growth trajectory, the two countries have taken several initiatives to expand bilateral relations. To advance trade and investment relations, they have formally launched negotiations for a free trade agreement (FTA) on January 13, 2022 and the first round of talks have been concluded on January 28, 2022.

The present study aims to review and analyse trade and investment flows of and between India and the UK, and examine the barriers that hinder the realisation of the full potential of India-UK economic ties. The findings of the study also highlight the major areas that require focus and the barriers that need to be removed under the proposed FTA.

During 2000-2019, India’s GDP grew at a CAGR of 6.6 per cent compared to the UK’s 1.7 per cent, and it emerged as the fifth largest economy in the world in 2019 ahead of the UK. However, the UK remains a significantly larger player than India in global trade of both goods and services. In 2019, while the UK was the fourth largest trader of goods and services globally, India was ranked 12th. This also indicates the UK’s higher dependence on international trade and hence its greater desire to secure market access in foreign countries. At the same time, the UK’s share in world trade has declined over the last two decades while India’s has increased. The UK’s share in global exports declined from 5.3 per cent in 2000 to 3.3 per cent in 2019, while that of India increased from 0.8 per cent to 2.1 per cent during the same period.

Despite an increase in the share of services in external trade for both India and the UK, goods trade is still more important than services, more so for India. In 2019, the share of goods in India’s total exports and imports was around 60 per cent and 73 per cent, respectively. In the case of the UK, goods constituted around 53 per cent and 71 per cent of total exports and imports respectively. Therefore, both countries have interests in both goods and services trade. There has also been a surge in the merchandise exports and imports of both over the last two decades, but India’s growth rates have been substantially higher than the UK’s. However, there was a slowdown in exports and imports during 2010-2019 as compared to 2000-2010 for both economies, as well as greater fluctuations in their global trade. Overall, the last decade appears to have been more challenging in terms of international trade for both countries.

Takshashila Issue Brief - The Rare Earth Elements Opportunity for India

Last month, Sweden announced that its State-owned mining company LKAB has discovered 1 million tonnes of rare earth oxides in the far north region of the country. This is Europe’s biggest deposit of rare earth elements found so far and is potentially significant to its future plans for energy transition and self-sufficiency in critical minerals.
The press release by the Swedish authorities stressed the need for independence from China and Russia from where Europe imports most of its rare earth minerals today. The actual mining and production from the new-found deposits are likely to take another 10-15 years.

This was followed by a study from Norway which found substantial mineral resource deposits on the seabed of its extended continental shelf, which will require deep-sea mining for exploitation in the future.

In this Issue Brief, we discuss the nature and use of rare earth elements, their geopolitical significance, India’s strategic and commercial interests in the minerals, and possible future courses of action.

What are Rare Earth Elements?

Rare earth elements is a collective term for 17 elements, namely, scandium, yttrium, and lanthanides (a further set of 15 elements). The elements are usually found as compounds of rare earth minerals.

The Taliban in Afghanistan

Lindsay Maizland

The Islamic fundamentalist group returned to power in Afghanistan in 2021 after waging an insurgency against the U.S.-backed government in Kabul since 2001.

Under Taliban rule, Afghanistan’s economy has floundered. Malnutrition has soared, and hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost. Most women have been banned from working.
The Taliban maintain close ties with al-Qaeda. Analysts are concerned that the Taliban could provide it with safe haven and allow it to launch international terrorist attacks from Afghan soil.


The Taliban are a predominantly Pashtun, Islamic fundamentalist group that returned to power in Afghanistan in 2021 after waging a twenty-year insurgency.

Following the U.S.-led invasion that toppled the original regime in 2001, the Taliban regrouped across the border in Pakistan and began taking back territory less than ten years after their ouster. By August 2021, the Taliban had swept back into power. Their swift offensive came as the United States withdrew its remaining troops from Afghanistan as outlined in a 2020 peace agreement with the group.

The Taliban have imposed a harsh interpretation of Islamic law despite pledges to respect the rights of women and religious and ethnic minority communities. Meanwhile, as they have transitioned from an insurgent group to a functional government, the Taliban have struggled to provide Afghans with adequate food supplies and economic opportunities.

The Taliban threaten Afghans’ civil and political rights enshrined in the constitution created by the U.S.-backed government. Since regaining control, the Taliban have taken actions reminiscent of their brutal rule in the late 1990s.

The State of Opposition in South Asia


Over the course of the last year, the Carnegie South Asia Program published a series of essays on the politics of opposition in South Asia. The inspiration for this series was the commonly held assessment that democracy in many parts of South Asia appears to be struggling. This has not always been the case.

Less than a decade ago, voters across South Asia were imbued with a sense of democratic optimism. In 2014, India ushered in its first single-party majority government in three decades, a reprieve from decades of fractious coalition politics. Pakistan’s 2013 elections represented the first civilian transfer of power following the successful completion of a five-year term by a democratically elected government. Voters in Nepal successfully elected a new constituent assembly, incorporating erstwhile Maoist rebels into mainstream politics. Sri Lanka, having emerged from decades of civil war, held important provincial elections, including in its contested Northern Province—the first time elections had taken place there in a quarter-century.

Today, optimism has given way to widespread pessimism. Across the region, democracy’s fortunes have suffered significant setbacks. In 2021, both Freedom House and the Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) Institute downgraded the quality of India’s democracy. While the Pakistani state has achieved success in reducing extremist violence, the military continues to dominate key aspects of domestic and foreign policy. Bangladesh is moving further toward consolidated autocracy, with the ruling party cracking down on dissent and political opposition. In Sri Lanka, the Rajapaksa family may have exited the scene (for now), but it remains unclear what political formation might fill the void. Across the region, regular elections co-exist with deepening challenges to liberal democracy. Far from being a beacon of democratic hope, South Asia now instead fits a larger global narrative of democratic malaise.

Paul Staniland is a nonresident scholar in the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

There has been no shortage of scholarship on South Asia’s democratic backsliding, exploring topics such as declining representative institutions, civil-military relations, and the suppression of individual freedoms. However, what is missing in many of these accounts is a clear understanding of the state of opposition politics. For obvious reasons, most accounts of backsliding focus on the strategies and tactics of regimes, often treating the opposition as a passive actor. Yet, unpacking the nature of the opposition—and the dramatic variation in its forms—not only helps explain regime dynamics, but it also informs the possibilities of democratic renewal as well as the further consolidation of autocratic dynamics and the prospects for violence.

China and the new globalization

Franklin D. Kramer

The unitary globalized economy no longer exists. Driven in significant part by security considerations, a new and more diverse globalization is both required and being built. The transition is ongoing, and its final form is yet to be determined. Many of the causal factors for this very significant change revolve around China and the consequent responses to its actions by the United States, other democracies of the transatlantic alliance, and the advanced democratic economies of the Indo-Pacific. There are other important factors generating this new globalization including the impact of the Russia-Ukraine war both on energy markets and on trade and investment with Russia generally, as well as the global requirements for mitigating and adapting to climate change. However, China has been a critical element in what might be described as the “maximum trade-centered globalization,” which has dominated trade and investment policy in the three decades since the end of the Cold War.

This issue brief describes the still-developing new globalization focusing on the issues surrounding China. A fundamental challenge that China presents arises because its actions have generated significant security and economic challenges, yet it nonetheless is a massive trade and investment partner for the “advanced democratic economies” (ADEs),1 which for purposes of this analysis include the Group of Seven (G7) countries,2 plus Australia, Norway, the Republic of Korea, and the European Union. Adapting to a new globalization requires establishing a strategic approach that resolves the inherent contradictions between those conflicting considerations.

The brief begins by setting forth the ongoing changes in China that have significantly affected global geopolitical and geoeconomic environments including the increased emphasis by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) on the role of the state and on economic self-reliance. China is an ever more ideological environment generating a higher degree of economic and security risks including over Taiwan.

The brief then discusses the advanced democratic economies, first focusing on the United States including the US emphasis on national security concerns, and then reviewing the policies of other advanced democratic economies, especially issues regarding economic dependencies. The United States has put in place significant limitations on trade and investment with China and, at the same time, expanded its security and economic cooperation with Taiwan. The other ADEs have established frameworks or taken other economic and security measures affecting their relations with China, though, for the most part, not with the degree of restrictions undertaken by the United States.

How China Wins the Cognitive Domain

China Aerospace Studies Institute

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) believes the cognitive domain is imperative to achieve victory in any conflict. While kinetic attacks have a specific physical target, in the cognitive domain the target is the mind. In conflict, great physical damage can be achieved, but if the adversary still has a will to fight, they have not yet been defeated. Unlike a kinetic attack, battle for the cognitive domain happens regardless if it is during peace time or war. Ideally, perceptions and narrative can be controlled in a way to achieve strategic objectives without the need for actual conflict. Like many conceptual ideas the CCP implements, the cognitive domain is not something uniquely Chinese, but rather a concept first developed by the United States Department of Defense in their report to Congress in 2001 titled “Network Centric Warfare”1. Since that time, coverage of the cognitive domain in People’s Liberation Army (PLA) media has been an area of discussion and analysis. Recently, China’s Academy of Military Sciences (AMS)i has published a work titled, "Taking the Pulse of Cognitive Domain Operations" which breaks down how to succeed in the cognitive domain with eight operational characteristics. This work provides insight into the possible strategic mindset of the PLA and particularly how technology, information dominance, and both military and civilian components have a role to play in the battle to seize the commanding heights of the cognitive domain.

China’s Massive Belt and Road Initiative

James McBride, Noah Berman, and Andrew Chatzky

The Belt and Road Initiative is a massive China-led infrastructure project that aims to stretch around the globe.

Some analysts see the project as a disturbing expansion of Chinese power, and the United States has struggled to offer a competing vision.

The initiative has stoked opposition in some Belt and Road countries that have experienced debt crises.


China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), sometimes referred to as the New Silk Road, is one of the most ambitious infrastructure projects ever conceived. Launched in 2013 by President Xi Jinping, the vast collection of development and investment initiatives was originally devised to link East Asia and Europe through physical infrastructure. In the decade since, the project has expanded to Africa, Oceania, and Latin America, significantly broadening China’s economic and political influence.

Some analysts see the project as an unsettling extension of China’s rising power, and as the costs of many of the projects have skyrocketed, opposition has grown in some countries. Meanwhile, the United States shares the concern of some in Asia that the BRI could be a Trojan horse for China-led regional development and military expansion. President Joe Biden has maintained his predecessors’ skeptical stance towards Beijing’s actions, but Washington has struggled to offer participating governments a more appealing economic vision.

What was the original Silk Road?

The original Silk Road arose during the westward expansion of China’s Han Dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE), which forged trade networks throughout what are today the Central Asian countries of Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, as well as modern-day India and Pakistan to the south. Those routes extended more than four thousand miles to Europe.

Central Asia was thus the epicenter of one of the first waves of globalization, connecting eastern and western markets, spurring immense wealth, and intermixing cultural and religious traditions. Valuable Chinese silk, spices, jade, and other goods moved west while China received gold and other precious metals, ivory, and glass products. Use of the route peaked during the first millennium, under the leadership of first the Roman and then Byzantine Empires, and the Tang Dynasty (618–907 CE) in China.

But the Crusades, as well as advances by the Mongols in Central Asia, dampened trade, and today Central Asian countries are economically isolated from each other, with intra-regional trade making up a small percentage of all cross-border commerce. They are also heavily dependent on Russia, particularly for remittances, which made up nearly one-third of the gross domestic product (GDP) of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan before the Russian war in Ukraine scattered remittance-sending migrant laborers.

What are China’s plans for its New Silk Road?

Implementing NATO’s Strategic Concept on China

Hans Binnendijk and Daniel S. Hamilton

Set against the backdrop of Russia’s war on Ukraine, the June 2022 Madrid NATO Summit set the tone for the next decade of the Alliance’s shared future. Allies made it clear that they consider Russia their most immediate and direct threat. Yet they also made headlines by addressing challenges emanating from the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Allies laid out actions to be taken across the diplomatic, economic, and military spheres. Now the Alliance must implement those responses. Beijing will be watching closely.
I. China in transatlantic security relations

During much of the past decade, the United States and its NATO allies had diverse perspectives on the nature of the Chinese challenge. Many European countries relied heavily on trade with China and on Chinese investment, neglecting the dependencies and Chinese opportunities for coercion that those economic ties created. Most had no security obligations in Asia. The United States, on the other hand, had defense commitments to several Asian allies, which gave Washington a more complicated assessment of China’s challenges. Those differences were amplified by US President Donald Trump’s “America First” economic warfare with China.

It took Chinese behavior during the COVID-19 pandemic, human rights abuses in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, Chinese diplomatic and economic coercion in Europe, and enhanced Chinese security ties with Russia to generate a higher degree of transatlantic cohesion on the nature of the China challenge. NATO’s ability to address traditional and unconventional threats in Europe became intertwined with related challenges to Alliance security interests posed by China.1 These challenges include the following:

A. Chinese technological advances have a number of direct security implications for NATO

5G/6G infrastructures. Huawei’s emergence as a dominant fifth-generation (5G) telecommunications infrastructure supplier for many countries gives Beijing access to key parts of emerging communications networks, generating choke points of vulnerability for Allied nations. Within fifteen years, 5G is likely to be replaced by dual-use 6G technologies with embedded AI-enabled capabilities of military significance. China is likely to incorporate them into its civil-military fusion strategy, as it has with 5G.2

Defense-relevant technologies. Beijing is seeking technological dominance in command, control, communication systems, and computers (key for political and military decision-making); intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (key for situational awareness); logistical and digital cyber systems (key for deployment of forces and military operations across all domains); and artificial intelligence (key for long-term competitiveness in unmanned systems, C4ISR, and novel operational concepts).China’s civil-military fusion strategy leverages investments in traditionally civilian sectors to enhance development of its military and emerging disruptive technologies.

The 5×5—China’s cyber operations

Simon Handler

This article is part of The 5×5, a monthly series by the Cyber Statecraft Initiative, in which five featured experts answer five questions on a common theme, trend, or current event in the world of cyber. Interested in the 5×5 and want to see a particular topic, event, or question covered? Contact Simon Handler with the Cyber Statecraft Initiative at SHandler@atlanticcouncil.org.

On October 6, 2022, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and National Security Agency released a joint cybersecurity advisory outlining the top Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures that Chinese state-linked hacking groups have been actively exploiting since 2020 to target US and allied networks. Public reporting indicates that, for the better part of the past two decades, China has consistently engaged in offensive cyber operations, and as the scope of the country’s economic and political ambitions expanded, so has its cyber footprint. The number of China-sponsored and aligned hacking teams are growing, as they develop and deploy offensive cyber capabilities to serve the state’s interests—from economic to national security.

We brought together a group of experts to provide insights into China’s cyber behavior, its structure, and how its operations differ from those of other states.

#1 Is there a particular example that typifies the “Chinese” model of cyber operations?

Dakota Cary, nonresident fellow, Global China Hub, Atlantic Council; consultant, Krebs Stamos Group:

“China’s use of the 2021 Microsoft Exchange Server vulnerability to access email servers captures the essence of modern Chinese hacking operations. A small number of teams exploited a vulnerability in a critical system to collecting intelligence on their targets. After the vulnerability became public and their operation’s stealth was compromised, the number of hacking teams using the vulnerability exploded. China has established a mature operational segmentation and capabilities-sharing system, allowing teams to quickly distribute and use a vulnerability after its use was compromised.”

John Costello, former chief of staff, Office of the National Cyber Director:

China’s surveillance ecosystem and the global spread of its tools

Bulelani Jili

This paper seeks to offer insights into how China’s domestic surveillance market and cyber capability ecosystem operate, especially given the limited number of systematic studies that have analyzed its industry objectives. For the Chinese government, investment in surveillance technologies advances both its ambitions of becoming a global technology leader as well as its means of domestic social control. These developments also foster further collaboration between state security actors and private tech firms. Accordingly, the tech firms that support state cyber capabilities range from small cyber research start-ups to leading global tech enterprises. The state promotes surveillance technology and practices abroad through diplomatic exchanges, law enforcement cooperation, and training programs. These efforts encourage the dissemination of surveillance devices, but also support the government’s goals concerning international norm-making in multilateral and regional institutions.

The proliferation of Chinese surveillance technology and cyber tools and the associated linkages between both state and private Chinese entities with those in other states, especially in the Global South, is a valuable component of Chinese state efforts to expand and strengthen their political and economic influence worldwide. Although individual governments purchasing Chinese digital tools have their local ambitions in mind, Beijing’s export and promotion of domestic surveillance technologies shape the adoption of these tools in the Global South. As such, investigating how Chinese actors leverage demand factors for their own aims, does not undercut the ability of other countries to detect and determine outcomes. Rather it demonstrates an interplay between Chinese state strategy and local political environments. This paper specifically focuses on key features in China’s surveillance ecosystem, while the companion to this report will focus on the key ‘pull factors’ from African countries and their significance for US interests.


Chinese tech companies are among the largest firms in the world. Initially focused on the domestic market, they now sell various surveillance technologies to a global customer base. Increased collaboration between the party-state and private Chinese actors in the sale of surveillance products inspires trepidations about the proliferation of China’s surveillance tools, ergo the rise of unwarranted surveillance. Namely, researchers scrutinize China’s diplomatic activities, raising questions about the degree to which the government enables surveillance practices abroad. Large Chinese firms and state amplify debate and concerns by pushing to change the norms and mechanisms in the use of public security technology.

China’s strategy to become a science & technology superpower

Inspired by the idea of the innovation chain, Beijing is accelerating its efforts to optimize and align every step of the innovation process. Several support programs are currently undergoing reform, comprising a degree of recentralization, realignment towards strategic needs (technological self-sufficiency in particular), and a shift in focus towards commercialization over other R&D outputs.

China sees improving its capacity in basic research as part of global tech competition. New policies are incentivizing researchers to transfer technology, link up with industry, and focus on national priority areas.

As part of a shift from quantity to quality, Beijing has reduced the number of project-based funding programs and dramatically slowed the approval of new laboratories and development zones. This reverses decades of decentralization, local experimentation, and greater autonomy of research and business communities, which grew from the principle that markets are better at allocating resources than governments.

China’s innovation system is increasingly hierarchical, resulting in a greater degree of central coordination and control. Centrally supported “national labs” have the highest ranking. Below them are “key labs” at various levels, such as “state key labs” and “provincial key labs”. Similar hierarchies exist for projects and zones.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) continues to define the goals of scientific research in ever narrower national terms. This is causing tension with the principles of openness and international collaboration that govern much of the (basic) research carried out in Europe.

This trend will impact the work of heads of university and corporate research and development (R&D) labs and of science and technology policy decision makers in Europe.

China continues to be an attractive innovation partner and will likely remain so for some time. However, successful collaboration will require European companies, researchers, and other innovation players to navigate the shifting priorities of China’s project-based funding programs, laboratory systems, and development zones.

The West reaps multiple benefits from backing Ukraine against Russia

Taras Kuzio

As it continues to fight against Russia’s ongoing invasion, Ukraine is often depicted as being heavily reliant on Western military and economic support. However, this relationship is not as one-sided as it might initially appear. Western backing has indeed been crucial in helping Ukraine defend itself, but the democratic world also reaps a wide range of benefits from supporting the Ukrainian war effort.

Critics of Western support for Ukraine tend to view this aid through a one-dimensional lens. They see only costs and risks while ignoring a number of obvious advantages.

The most important of these advantages are being won on the battlefield. In short, Ukraine is steadily destroying Russia’s military potential. This dramatically reduces the threat posed to NATO’s eastern flank. In time, it should allow the Western world to focus its attention on China.

During the initial period of his presidency, Joe Biden is believed to have felt that the US should “park Russia” in order to concentrate on the far more serious foreign policy challenge posed by Beijing. Ukraine’s military success is now helping to remove this dilemma.

Defeat in Ukraine would relegate Russia from the ranks of the world’s military superpowers and leave Moscow facing years of rebuilding before it could once again menace the wider region. Crucially, by supporting Ukraine, the West is able to dramatically reduce Russia’s military potential without committing any of its own troops or sustaining casualties.

Backing Ukraine today makes a lot more strategic sense than allowing Putin to advance and facing a significantly strengthened Russian military at a later date. As former US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former US Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates wrote recently in The Washington Post, “The way to avoid confrontation with Russia in the future is to help Ukraine push back the invader now. This is the lesson of history that should guide us, and it lends urgency to the actions that must be taken, before it is too late.”

If this lesson is ignored and Ukraine is defeated, Russia will almost certainly go further and attack NATO member countries such as the Baltic nations, Finland, or Poland. At that point, it will no longer be possible to avoid significant NATO casualties.

Advancing Cyber Norms Unilaterally: How the U.S. Can Meet its Paris Call Commitments

Bethan Saunders, Alex Cooper 

The constant evolution in cyberspace creates immense opportunity – and risk. While the internet makes it easy to innovate and share information rapidly, it also creates ample opportunity for relatively ambiguous and highly destructive cyberattacks. As global critical infrastructure grows ever more interconnected, so do both the attack surface and the potential cost of cyberattacks. Incidents such as SolarWinds, NotPetya, and WannaCry have demonstrated the devastating, widespread, and often non-targeted impacts of cyberattacks on innocent civilians

Establishing norms for state behavior in cyberspace is critical to building a more stable, secure, and safe cyberspace. Norms are defined as “a collective expectation for the proper behavior of actors with a given identity,” and declare what behavior is considered appropriate and when lines have been crossed. Cyberspace is in dire need of such collective expectations. However, despite efforts by the international community and individual states to set boundaries and craft agreements, clear and established cyber norms for state behavior remain elusive. As early as 2005, the UN Group of Governmental Experts (GGE) and UN Open-Ended Working Group (OEWG) both aimed to create shared “rules of the road,” but fundamental disagreements between states and a lack of accountability and enforcement mechanisms have prevented these initiatives from substantively implementing cyber norms. As a result, the international community and individual states are left with no accountability mechanisms or safeguards to protect civilians and critical infrastructure from bad actors in cyberspace.

In 2018, the Paris Peace Forum convened states and international organizations with civil society and the private sector to address persistent failures of peace, including in cyberspace. Participants issued the Paris Call for Trust and Security in Cyberspace as a result of the initial Forum. While not initially involved in the drafting, the United States announced its decision to support the Call at the 2021 edition of the Forum. This Paris Call invites all cyberspace actors, across states, non-profits, and private sector actors to come together to face digital threats endangering citizens and infrastructure. As of today, the Paris Call has over 80 nation-state governments, 700 private sector entities, and 390 civil society organizations’ public supporters.

The 5×5—Russia’s cyber statecraft

Simon Handler

This article is part of The 5×5, a monthly series by the Cyber Statecraft Initiative, in which five featured experts answer five questions on a common theme, trend, or current event in the world of cyber. Interested in the 5×5 and want to see a particular topic, event, or question covered? Contact Simon Handler with the Cyber Statecraft Initiative at SHandler@atlanticcouncil.org.

On February 25, just a day after Russia launched a massive invasion of Ukraine, the Russia-based Conti ransomware group publicly declared its allegiance to the Kremlin. The cybercriminal organization said in an online post that in response to any potential attack against Russia, the group would use “all possible resources to strike back at the critical infrastructures of an enemy.” Conti almost immediately revised the post to reflect a moderately softer stance, but the group had already tipped its hand to reveal what many experts have long speculated to be true—Russia-based cybercriminal organizations play an important role in the Kremlin’s cyber statecraft.

To better understand what this and other recent cyber developments related to the war in Ukraine indicate about Russian cyber behavior, we brought together five experts to share their perspectives.

#1 What role do non-state actors play in Russian cyber statecraft?

Scott Jasper, senior lecturer, Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California; Author of Russian Cyber Operations: Coding the Boundaries of Conflict:

The views presented are his and do not necessarily represent the views of the Department of Defense, the Department of the Navy or the Naval Postgraduate School.

“US Treasury Department sanctions on Evil Corp, a Russia-based cybercriminal organization, revealed that the group’s leader, Maksim Yakubets, worked for the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB), providing further evidence the government enlists cybercriminals. US officials feared ransomware groups could be contracted by the Russian government to interfere with the 2020 US presidential election, especially after seeing TrickBot operators note which infected computers belonged to election officials. The concern was significant enough for US Cyber Command to temporarily take down TrickBot’s command and control infrastructure.”

Rafal Rohozinski, principal, The Secdev Group:

Wagner Group Redefined: Threats and Responses

Raphael Parens

Wagner Group has suffered heavy casualties in Ukraine, and is turning to prisoners, foreign recruits, and newly recruited Russians to fill its ranks.

The length and ferocity of the conflict in Ukraine will determine Wagner’s availability for future deployments.

The West has an opportunity to respond to Wagner deployments in Africa now, while Wagner and the Kremlin are focused on Ukraine.

Who, what, and where is Wagner Group today? Once a Kremlin asset used exclusively in Africa and Syria, the mercenary group redeployed most of its forces to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.[1] Wagner Group has changed irrevocably since the conflict began, exploding from 5,000 seasoned veterans to a force of 50,000 troops, 80 percent of whom are former prisoners, in Ukraine alone.[2] The group’s future, however, hinges on the conflict’s length and severity.

The group’s own success, whether real or perceived on the ground in Ukraine, will also play a key role. Yivgeny Prigozhin, Wagner Group’s financier and key leader, has inextricably tied the group to his own personal fortunes in and around Vladimir Putin’s inner circle. Still, the United States and its allies have an array of responses to this and other mercenary groups promoting Russian influence in Africa.

Wagner forces, like Russian and Ukrainian forces at war in Ukraine today, are sustaining significant casualties. Some reports suggest that 800 to 1,000 Wagner Group recruits have died in Ukraine.[3] Wagner forces have been deployed in front-line assignments in Luhansk province earlier in the fall and in the area of Bakhmut, the scene of some of the bloodiest fighting of the war, in November and December 2022. In August, a HIMARS missile hit a Wagner forward operating base in Luhansk, while retired Russian major general and presumed Wagner operative Kabnamat Botashev was killed while flying a Russian SU-25 over Popasna.[4] Video footage on Twitter shows alleged Wagner forces being repeatedly targeted and wounded or killed by artillery in the Bakhmut area.[5] Wagner forces have also been linked to the establishment of a defensive line featuring anti-tank fortifications, dubbed “the Wagner Line,” near Hirske.[6] Taken collectively, these developments demonstrate that the Wagner Group is deeply entrenched in the Ukrainian conflict and has sustained heavy casualties, which could affect the group’s capabilities in the future, including deployments in Africa.

Global trade in 2023

The current pattern of economic integration and fracturing across different economies and sectors is best described as ‘reglobalization’.

Globalization is far from finished, but is changing in nature through countries’ emphasis on stronger regional links and the formation of economic blocs for sensitive and strategically important sectors. Full-scale decoupling from China is neither achievable nor desirable for the G7 and like-minded partners.

Trade policy has an important role to play in underpinning the positive aspects of a reglobalized world and in balancing geopolitical competition and cooperation, not just through coordinated efforts to strengthen supply-chain resilience, but also in enabling countries worldwide to benefit from the twin transitions to green and digital economies.

This briefing paper draws on insights from expert roundtable discussions and a high-level speaker series under the umbrella of the Chatham House Global Trade Policy Forum.
Image — Dispatch administrators coordinate cargo ships in Huai’an, Jiangsu province, 4 January 2023. Photo: Copyright © Future Publishing/Getty Images

Global trade will continue to face multiple challenges in 2023 as inflation and high interest rates, debt distress and geopolitical frictions weigh on many economies. The downside risks to the global economy and international trade are significant, ranging from an escalation of Russia’s war on Ukraine to deepening tensions between the US and China.

‘Reglobalization’ – rather than deglobalization – best describes the current pattern of economic integration and fracturing across different economies and sectors. Globalization is far from finished, but will increasingly emphasize greater regional links and the formation of economic blocs for sensitive and strategically important sectors. Comprehensive decoupling from China is neither achievable nor desirable for the G7 and like-minded partners.

Ukraine’s Uncrewed Raid on Sevastopol and the Future of War at Sea

Dr Sidharth Kaushal

The use of uncrewed surface vessels by Ukraine to inflict damage on the Russian navy has attracted widespread attention. But does it really herald a new era of naval warfare as some are suggesting?

In late 2022, Ukraine launched an audacious raid on the Russian Black Sea Fleet using a combination of UAVs and uncrewed surface vessels (USVs). The innovative use of USVs as ‘suicide craft’ was of particular note to many commentators, with some heralding the attack as the portent of a new era in warfare at sea. While this is understandable, the significance of the attack should be caveated, and the use of autonomous capabilities set within a wider context.

Though in some ways relatively primitive, the uncrewed capabilities used by Ukraine could presage a wider shift in the conduct of war at sea. The USVs, which appear to be equipped with electrooptical and infrared sensors as well as Starlink antennae, represent a relatively simple uncrewed capability, powered in part by commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) technology including a propulsion system from a recreational power jet. This is not the first time uncrewed explosive boats have been used effectively: the Houthis, for example, utilised remotely operated uncrewed boats in a 2017 attack on the Saudi frigate Al Madinah. Moving forward, uncrewed swarming capabilities could become more sophisticated. For example, the Chinese company Yunzhou Tech has conducted demonstrations of action against hostile targets by coordinated swarms of USVs that can designate targets and engage them autonomously. As likely advances in areas like lithography drive exponential increases in the processing power of semiconductors, increasingly sophisticated algorithms can be run on ever smaller platforms. It is not, then, entirely surprising that some commentators see swarms of smart uncrewed capabilities as being a central feature of the future battlefield, and raise serious concerns about the risks to expensive multi-mission platforms.

Russia at War and the Islamic World

While Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine has resulted in a decoupling with the West on a scale not seen since the worst years of the Cold War, Russia has not been isolated from the non-Western world and has even reinvested its diplomatic energy toward the Global South.

This paper focuses on Russia’s relationships with the Islamic world and how they have been transformed — or not — by the Ukraine war. It discusses both Russia’s “internal” Islamic realm and how the Middle East has reacted to the strategic tectonic shift unleashed by the war and Western sanctions. It explains that the role and place of Islam in Russia have been reinforced by the war context, as Islamic institutions and Muslims are seen by the Russian regime as among the most loyal constituencies. It concludes that the main Middle Eastern regional powers have been able to consolidate their transactional foreign policies and use the war to assert their autonomy toward Western actors so that Russia’s weakening does not result in the West’s increased influence but in a more multipolar order.

Marlène Laruelle is Research Professor and Director of the Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies (IERES) at George Washington University (Washington DC). At IERES she is also Director of the Russia Program, of the Illiberalism Studies Program, and Co-director of PONARS-Eurasia. Since January 2019, she has been an associate research fellow at Ifri’s Russia/NIS Center.

Japan’s new military policies: Origins and implications

Dr Jingdong Yuan

Japan is undergoing the most significant changes to its security strategy since the end of World War II. In late 2022, Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s government approved three policy documents—the National Security Strategy (NSS), the National Defense Strategy and the Defense Buildup Program—that propose a significant expansion of Japan’s military capabilities and a major increase in military spending over five years. The documents enable important modifications of the senshu boei (exclusively defence-oriented policy) that Japan has followed since 1946, not least allowing Japan to participate far more actively in collective self-defence with the United States and to substantially increase its ability to project force beyond its borders.

What factors have influenced these changes, what do they mean for security in the Indo-Pacific region, and what challenges lie ahead in their implementation?
Japan’s changing security environment

The new documents ascribe the changes to a deteriorating international and regional security environment, as well as expectations from its longstanding ally the USA and others that Japan should play a role ‘commensurate with its national strength’ in protecting the ‘post-war international order’. The government has been at pains to reassure the Japanese public, and the wider world, that the new policy direction does not alter Japan’s commitment to peace and regional stability.

Japan certainly faces some serious security challenges today. China is rapidly strengthening its military power, including expanding its nuclear arsenal and missile and naval capabilities. Japan is particularly concerned about increasingly frequent Chinese intrusions into the contiguous waters and air space of the contested Senkaku/Diaoyu islands and intensifying military activity in the East China Sea. The new NSS characterizes China as ‘the greatest strategic challenge in ensuring the peace and security of Japan and the peace and stability of the international community’—which China was quick to react to.

Growing tensions between Beijing and Taipei also potentially threaten Japan’s security interests. Any military conflict would turn Japan’s reliance on energy imports and international trade into major liabilities. Indeed, Tokyo has become increasingly vocal about the importance of maintaining peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

What Is More Important for Ukraine to Win: The Explosion of a Tank or the Spread of Information about a Tank Explosion?

George Chkhikvadze, Matthew J. McGowan, Trevor Davison, and Corban Pierce

The YouTube video titled “Russian tank explodes in HUGE ball of flames after Ukrainian airstrikes” showcases the immediate effects of a Ukrainian airstrike on a Russian tank on Ukrainian ground troops engaged in combat somewhere on the front line. In less than one month the video, shared by the United Kingdom outlet, The Sun, accumulated almost 400,000 views and more than 5400 likes. In it, Ukrainian troops seem to smile and joke about the effectiveness of the strike while the tank is still engulfed in flames and smoke billows up to the sky. These videos are common, with more links available here, here, and here. The ubiquity of these videos speaks to the power of the image of a burning tank to celebrate Ukrainian victory and shore up support within the country and internationally.

Coverage of the Russia-Ukraine war again reinforces two critical elements needed to defeat an enemy: a military unit's will to fight and a nation's will to fight.[1] In most instances, these two elements work in tandem and define one another. The psychological resilience and support of the community significantly determines the resistance of the armed forces, just as examples of success on the battlefield contribute to strengthening the community's psychological resilience.[2] In 2014, Russia conducted well-orchestrated operations against Ukraine in the information environment.[3] In addition, the Russians successfully recruited high-ranking politicians and military personnel who surrendered without any resistance to the Russian armed forces in the very first days of the occupation.[4] Russia’s preparation of the battlefield through information and media significantly contributed to their successful occupation of the Crimean Peninsula and part of the Donbas and Lugansk regions.[5] At the same time, the population living in Crimea and the eastern regions of Ukraine with ethnolinguistic ties to Russia are more likely to believe pro-Kremlin disinformation.[6] Russian propaganda, which convinced the population that Ukraine's interim government was the result of an illegitimate coup, was crucial in ensuring that the military operation had strong support from the Russian domestic audience while the corrupt Ukrainian government was unable to consolidate the population. [7] ,[8] After the 2013 Maidan Revolution and the 2014 Russian occupation of Ukrainian territories, Ukraine made significant changes, and the public constantly expressed their desire to become a normal, European-type state.[9] Following Volodymyr Zelensky's election in 2019, the administration persisted in its sovereign course of action. Along with bolstering government institutions and modernizing the military, the Ukrainian government also built a potent strategic communication system to counter Russian propaganda and unite the Ukrainian populous. [10],[11]

Physical and Mental Combat Readiness

Gustavo Arguello

The United States Army is an organization designed for war, created to protect America's interests at home and abroad. Accomplishing the country's strategic goals, protecting America's freedoms, and supporting the nation in times of need, requires well-equipped and professionally trained Soldiers. The Army needs mentally and physically prepared Soldiers to meet operational environment demands across all war domains. Reaching combat readiness requires a holistic health approach, including spiritual practices, mental health, physical conditioning, proper nutrition, and good sleep practices (Department of the Army [DA], 2020a).

Soldiers apply strength and endurance and use their cognitive capabilities to execute combat operations (DA, 2020a), and to maintain high levels of attention and strength Soldiers require sleep, sleep is like a resupply operation for the Soldier. Physical and mental preparation for operational environment demands is a commander's responsibility, and leadership involvement is critical to mission success because mental health and fitness are imperative to a Soldier's lethality and overall readiness to prepare Soldiers for the chaos of war.

Soldier’s Lethality

Soldiers' lethality includes the ability to tolerate stress, use physical strength, and mental accuracy, therefore physical and mental conditioning is vital to performing occupational tasks on the battlefield. Physical fitness is just as necessary as a Soldier's optimal mental function, which refers to a Soldier's mental capabilities, including emotional, cognitive, social, and people skills (DA, 2020a), which is critical for top performance during combat operations. Effective movement lethality and mental readiness enable Soldiers to make effective decisions in close combat; consequently, the Holistic Health and Fitness (H2F) concept improves Soldier lethality.

Comparable to any other military operation, leaders create and implement strategies to improve the organization's overall readiness. To prepare units for the operational environment, the Department of the Army (DA) provides organizational physical training programs for commanders, and the DA directs units to include H2F in their training plans (Department of the Army [DA], 2020b). The H2F program must incorporate prescribed guidance to meet their unit's mission essential task list (METL), focusing on Soldier readiness following Army doctrine. Training plans require continuous evaluation to assess the effects on the unit and to measure performance.

Ensuring artificial intelligence has human values—before it’s too late

Ana Palacio

This may be the year when artificial intelligence transforms daily life. So said Brad Smith, president and vice chairman of Microsoft, at a Vatican-organised event on AI last week. But Smith’s statement was less a prediction than a call to action: the event—attended by industry leaders and representatives of the three Abrahamic religions—sought to promote an ethical, human-centred approach to the development of AI.

There is no doubt that AI poses a daunting set of operational, ethical and regulatory challenges. And addressing them will be far from straightforward. Although AI development dates back to the 1950s, the technology’s contours and likely impact remain hazy.

Of course, recent breakthroughs—from the almost chillingly human-like text produced by OpenAI’s ChatGPT to applications that may shave years off the drug-discovery process—shed light on some dimensions of AI’s immense potential. But it remains impossible to predict all the ways AI will reshape human lives and civilisation.

This uncertainty is nothing new. Even after recognising a technology’s transformative potential, the shape of the transformation tends to surprise us. Social media, for example, was initially touted as an innovation that would strengthen democracy but has done far more to destabilise it by facilitating the spread of disinformation. It’s safe to assume that AI will be exploited in similar ways.

We do not even fully understand how AI works. Consider the so-called black box problem: with most AI-based tools, we know what goes in and what comes out, but not what happens in between. If AI is making (at times irrevocable) decisions, this opacity poses a serious risk, which is compounded by issues like the transmission of implicit bias through machine learning.

AI governance and human rights Resetting the relationship

Kate Jones

Governments and companies are already deploying AI to assist in making decisions that can have major consequences for the lives of individual citizens and societies. AI offers far-reaching benefits for human development but also presents risks. These include, among others, further division between the privileged and the unprivileged; erosion of individual freedoms through surveillance; and the replacement of independent thought and judgement with automated control.

Human rights are central to what it means to be human. They were drafted and agreed, with worldwide popular support, to define freedoms and entitlements that would allow every human being to live a life of liberty and dignity. AI, its systems and its processes have the potential to alter the human experience fundamentally. But many sets of AI governance principles produced by companies, governments, civil society and international organizations do not mention human rights at all. This is an error that requires urgent correction.

This research paper aims to dispel myths about human rights; outline the principal importance of human rights for AI governance; and recommend actions that governments, organizations, companies and individuals can take to ensure that human rights are the foundation for AI governance in future.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is redefining what it means to be human. Human rights have so far been largely overlooked in the governance of AI – particularly in the UK and the US. This is an error and requires urgent correction.

While human rights do not hold all the answers, they ought to be the baseline for AI governance. International human rights law is a crystallization of ethical principles into norms, their meanings and implications well-developed over the last 70 years. These norms command high international consensus, are relatively clear, and can be developed to account for new situations. They offer a well-calibrated method of balancing the rights of the individual against competing rights and interests using tests of necessity and proportionality. Human rights provide processes of governance for business and governments, and an ecosystem for provision of remedy for breaches.

Tackling Online Terrorist Content Together: Cooperation between Counterterrorism Law Enforcement and Technology Companies

Prof. Stuart Macdonald and Andrew Staniforth

Cooperation between law enforcement and tech companies is widely regarded as necessary to tackle online terrorist content. Both sectors have publicly stated their commitment to working together and there are examples of mutual cooperation. Yet there are also impediments to such collaboration, including different cultures and operating practices, and there have been high-profile instances of non-cooperation. The informality of existing collaborations has also led to concerns about censorship, mission creep and a lack of accountability and oversight.

The focus of this report is on how to resolve the impediments to closer cooperation between law enforcement and the tech sector in order to realise the benefits of mutual collaboration, while simultaneously addressing concerns about due process and accountability. The report utilises an interview-based methodology to examine the experiences and opinions of personnel from both sectors who have first-hand experience of mutual cooperation. It provides empirically grounded insights into this under-researched topic.

The report’s findings are organised around four themes:Shared appreciation of the threat: Participants from both sectors emphasised the importance of tackling online terrorist content. From a law enforcement perspective, this stemmed from a conviction that such content has an important influence in practice, whereas tech sector participants emphasised the growing range of online services and the increasing sophistication and secrecy of the online activities of terrorists.

Progress to date: Interviewees described how initial attempts at cross-sector collaboration had been difficult. Reasons for this included different ideological cultures, an absence of established channels for communication or cooperation, and differing expectations. The key catalysts for change were the significant presence on Twitter of Islamic State during the period between 2013 and 2015 and the Christchurch attacks of 2019. Participants described how major tech companies began to invest more heavily in the removal of terrorist content, including the recruitment of personnel from a policing background, while law enforcement began to deliver specific training on cooperation with social media companies.