11 February 2023

Pakistan Blocks Wikipedia, Says It Hurt Muslim Sentiments

Munir Ahmed

Pakistan’s media regulator said Monday it blocked Wikipedia services in the country for hurting Muslim sentiment by not removing purportedly blasphemous content from the site. Critics denounced Islamabad’s action, saying it was a blow to digital rights.

Under Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy laws, anyone found guilty of insulting Islam or its figures can be sentenced to death. Although the country has yet to carry out capital punishment for blasphemy, vigilante mob attacks against those accused have resulted in dozens of murders.

Even allegations of the offense are often enough to provoke mob violence and even deadly attacks. International and domestic rights groups say that accusations of blasphemy have often been used to intimidate religious minorities and settle personal scores.

The Pakistan Telecommunication Authority says it blocked Wikipedia because a 48-hour deadline to remove the content was ignored, according to a spokesperson. “Such things hurt the sentiments of Muslims,” said Malahat Obaid, from the regulator.

She said Pakistani authorities are in talks with Wikipedia officials and the ban could be lifted if the platform completely removes anti-Islam content.

The Wikimedia Foundation on Saturday confirmed the ban, saying: “We hope that the Pakistan government joins us in a commitment to knowledge as a human right and restores access to @Wikipedia and Wikimedia projects promptly, so that the people of Pakistan can continue to receive and share knowledge with the world.”

Mohsin Raza Khan, a Pakistani social media expert, said it is easy to update or replace Wikipedia material deemed sacrilegious or offensive for Muslims — so blocking the site is not the answer.

“Pakistan’s media regulator and other authorities should try to find some viable technical solution to such problems as blasphemous content is available everywhere,” he said. “It is equal to a drop in the ocean of knowledge.”

Where Are Southeast Asia’s Tech Companies Headed?

James Guild

It seems like these days the American economy is in over-drive everywhere except the tech sector. The most recent jobs report showed over 500,000 jobs added in January, yet Alphabet – the parent company of Google – recently laid off 12,000 employees and there have been cost reductions and job losses up and down the industry. This echoes a similar trend in Southeast Asia, where economic growth in 2022 was on the whole quite solid, but big tech companies like GoTo and Sea nevertheless slashed jobs.

How can we explain this disconnect between the tech sector and the wider economy? One factor is that in low-interest rate environments (like we had during the pandemic) investors have more incentive to search out higher returning and more speculative assets. The massive flare-up and then heat death of cryptocurrency is the most obvious example of investors piling into tech companies that they didn’t understand with valuations that were detached from reality. And yet, other tech companies with actual marketable products and services had similar experiences.

Singapore’s Sea, the parent company of Shopee, is listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Sea also owns Garena, a popular online game company that was expanding its market share at a very fast clip during the pandemic. In late 2021 Sea’s stock was above $350 a share. When interest rates started rising, the stock saw a massive correction and prices plummeted. Sea reportedly laid off about 10 percent of its workforce during a six-month period in 2022. Shares are currently trading in the $60 range.

China Is Far From Alone in Experiencing Population Decline

Michele Bruni

The news that China’s population shrank in 2022 caused a sensation. Despite it being a relatively modest drop of around 850,000 (or a loss of 0.6 per thousand), many articles not only expressed shock, but also proposed dramatic assessments of the consequences on both the Chinese and global economy.

The sensationalism that accompanied reports of China’s declining population demonstrates a lack of understanding of China and the world’s demographic trends. Indeed, the fact that China’s massive population was going to inevitably decline was already well-known; the United Nations’ Department of Economic and Social Affairs projected last year that population decline would begin in 2023. DESA also forecasted that the total population of the planet will start declining in around 60 years, so China is far from an outlier in this regard.

What in fact makes China different with respect to other countries, especially those that were in a similar socioeconomic situation immediately after World War II, is the speed with which its fertility has declined. And while many analysts might blame the longstanding one-child policy for that, the data suggests otherwise.

Can Chinese Firms Be Truly Private?

Scott Kennedy and Ilaria Mazzocco

As China’s economy moved away from state planning and policymakers introduced market reforms in the 1980s and 1990s, many observers expected that in addition to promoting the growth of the Chinese economy, privatization would also have substantial political implications. Most importantly, it was thought that the rise of the private sector could lead to the establishment of an independent business class that would seek to defend its interests, both in the short term through greater policy lobbying and over the longer term by pushing for institutionalized political change, including democratization. The actual economic and political trajectory of China’s private sector has been more complicated and has been a central area of contestation for economic and political power between firms and the Chinese party-state. Although Chinese companies have pushed to have greater autonomy, they have also faced immense pressure to adapt and cede authority in order to survive and grow.

China’s private sector has grown dramatically over the past four decades. The vast majority of firms in China are now private, including smaller proprietorships and larger private enterprises (see Figure 1). Private firms are still somewhat smaller on average than their state-owned enterprise (SOE) counterparts, but many of them have grown quite sizeable, with some having joined the Global Fortune 500. Private firms also account for the vast majority of jobs (see Figure 2) and economic growth. One reason China has not achieved its potential growth rate in the last decade is because of greater support for far less efficient SOEs.

In the 1990s, private companies became more politically active, lobbying individually and in business associations. Some entrepreneurs joined local and national People’s Congresses and started engaging in philanthropy. Eventually, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) recognized the growing importance of the private sector in the economy and society by officially affirming their economic and political value. The cornerstone of this shift was General Secretary Jiang Zemin’s doctrine of the “Three Represents,” first unveiled in 2000, which in part aimed to increase representation of private business executives in the CCP.

U.S. Push to Secure EV Battery Supply Chains and the Role of China

Jane Nakano and Chen Huang

Securing the supply chains for electric vehicle (EVs) batteries and their requisite minerals has become a key priority for the United States as it seeks to facilitate clean energy deployment, revitalize industrial competitiveness, and reduce undue reliance on a supply chain dominated by China.

The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which became law in August 2022, provides strong support for this effort. These include the Advanced Energy Project Credit for a project that reequips, expands, or establishes an industrial facility for the processing, refining, recycling of critical materials (48C); the Advanced Manufacturing Production Credit for domestic manufacturing of battery components and critical minerals (45X); and the Clean Vehicle Credit (30D). Specifically, under the consumer tax credit for EVs, half of the $7,500 credit ($3,750) is available if 50 percent of the battery components (by value) are manufactured or assembled in North America while the other half of the credit is available if battery minerals are extracted, recycled, or processed in the United States or a country with a free trade agreement (FTA). For both credits, the required value percentage will steadily increase over the next 10 years. Notably, the law also prohibits the application of EV tax credits where components or critical materials are sourced from China.

The onshoring and nearshoring provisions appear to be raising investment interest in the United States. Within three months after the law was enacted, a series of commitments to investing in U.S. EV battery supply chains totaled $13.5 billion, compared with $7.5 billion in the prior three months. Another analysis suggests that the IRA will see over $91 billion invested in the U.S. battery industry over the next 10 years.

Most recently, General Motors has announced a $650 million investment to help develop a massive lithium deposit at Thacker Pass in Nevada, marking another significant step in the growing ties between automotive and mining industries in the United States, as U.S. automakers seek to secure domestic battery mineral supplies to fuel EV production that would meet the new IRA EV consumer tax credit.

Would these investments amount to a counterforce to China’s dominance? The answer depends on multiple factors that currently remain uncertain, such as how successfully these provisions would be implemented, and what level of support that the European Union may provide for its own EV battery supply chains.

The Three Seas Initiative: a Counter to Chinese Influence in Europe?

Tomasz Wroblewski Darren Spinck

The initiative can help the region secure supply chains, realize energy security, and gain independence from Chinese investment.

Over the past century, Central Europe’s political order has seen a pattern of ideological German-Russian love-hate relations. The lands between the two powers, from the Balkans to the Baltics, were alternately controlled by one or the other, usually with shared responsibility. Each time they failed to reach an agreement on power sharing, a political vacuum formed, and world wars broke out. The First World War involved the Balkan vacuum, followed by a Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) vacuum which led to World War II. The Cold War was unleashed when Soviet influence in the region exceeded the acceptable limits of earlier consensuses, while the current war, Russia’s invasion of its neighbor, is clearly the result of the Ukrainian vacuum.

Today we have an unprecedented situation in Europe. With the Russian-German paradigm crumbling for the first time since World War II, the two powers have lost their former political prowess in the region. Russia’s economic influence in Europe has collapsed, while Germany’s unique growth model has dramatically diminished, as has its role as the European Union's main moral authority.

This evolving geopolitical climate is a unique opportunity for the CEE states to create a new, responsible European economic security architecture. But this Eurasian political vacuum also presents an existential threat to the region if it is ultimately filled by a different sort of influence: that of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).

The Hand of the CCP

What Do We Really Know About China’s Food Security?

Genevieve Donnellon-May and Zhang Hongzhou

The world is currently experiencing a global food crisis. Record-high food prices have driven millions more into extreme poverty, magnifying hunger and malnutrition. This ongoing global food crisis was triggered, and continues to be fueled, by several key factors, most notably COVID-19, climate shocks, the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war, and trade-distorting government policies. Amid the worsening global food crisis, there have been growing domestic and international concerns regarding the food security of China, the world’s most populous country and largest food importer.

There have been mounting concerns regarding China’s food security situation amid growing threats from climate shocks and worsening ties with the United States and other Western countries, which are among the top agricultural suppliers to China. In response, the country’s foremost leaders have repeatedly stressed the strategic importance of safeguarding the country’s food security. For instance, in April 2021, Chinese President Xi Jinping declared that “food security is an important foundation for national security.” Having publicly linked food security to China’s national security, he has also called for further efforts to safeguard grain security and protect farmland to increase domestic production.

2022: A Tough Year for China’s Food Security

For China, 2022 was an undoubtedly challenging year for agriculture, primarily due to climate shocks and the continued disruptions caused by its zero COVID policy. Notably, the past summer was the country’s driest and hottest since consistent records began being kept in 1961. The severe heatwave resulted in a drought in the Yangtze River Basin (YRB), which affected over 900 million people in China in over 17 provinces and an estimated 2.2 million hectares of agricultural land, including land used for rice. As the YRB produces two-thirds of China’s rice (mainly Indica rice), the most widely consumed staple in the country, the drought is likely to have had a significant impact on national rice production, while exacerbating the structural imbalances in China’s rice supply.

The Chinese Spy Balloon Incident: An Urgent Need for Communication

Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan

Last week, the world assumed that the United States and China were on the way to mending ties, with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken reportedly set to visit China on February 5. But the appearance of a Chinese spy balloon over the skies of Montana in the northwestern United States dashed that possibility, at least for the immediate future.

The Biden administration called off the diplomatic mission on February 4, a day before it was reportedly supposed to begin, saying “he’d only go when the time is right.”

This could possibly derail what little progress that China-U.S. relations were making following the meetings between U.S. President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping and between then-Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and Blinken in Bali in November at the G-20 Summit.

On the other hand, this could serve as an opportunity for open, pragmatic talks between the two sides and the recognition of the need for establishing certain standard operating procedures (SOPs) that will avoid destabilizing activities, which can spiral out of control. This is assuming that it is the lack of SOPs and agreements that has led China to engage in activities that accentuate the already deteriorating ties between the two sides. There is an important need to institute pragmatic measures that will moderate the behavior of states and lead to openness and transparency while identifying channels of communication to avoid crises from getting out of hand.

In this particular incident, the Pentagon said last week that it had detected a Chinese surveillance balloon “hovering over the northwestern United States.” Commenting on the Chinese surveillance balloon sighting, Blinken said, “China’s decision to fly a surveillance balloon over the continental United States is both unacceptable and irresponsible. That’s what this is about. It’s a violation of our sovereignty. It’s a violation of international law.”

There are concerns about the many militarily sensitive sites that Montana hosts. Senator Steve Daines (Republican) of Montana sent a letter to Defense Secretary Llyod Austin stating that this incident “creates significant concern that Malmstrom Air Force Base and the United States’ intercontinental ballistic missile fields are the target of this intelligence gathering mission. … It is vital to establish the flight path of this balloon, any compromised US national security assets, and all telecom or IT infrastructure on the ground within the US that this spy balloon was utilizing.”

PLA Logistics and Sustainment: PLA Conference 2022

George R. Shatzer, Roger D. Cliff

The US Army War College People’s Liberation Army Conference (PLA) Conference was held March 31 to April 2, 2022, at Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania.

The conference focused on PLA logistics and sustainment. As the PLA continues to build and modernize its combat forces, it is important to examine if the capabilities meant to support combat operations are also being developed.

Specific topics included: 1) China’s national-level logistics, including how China mobilizes national resources for the military and how it provides joint logistics support to the PLA Theater Commands; 2) the logistics capabilities of the different PLA services, especially the Army, Navy, and Air Forces; 3) PLA logistics in China’s remote regions, such as airpower projection in the Western Theater Command along the Indian border; and, 4) the PLA’s ability to sustain overseas operations at its base in Djibouti.

Despite notable potential shortfalls and points of friction, the PLA has successfully sustained counterpiracy maritime operations for many years and conducted noncombatant evacuation operations well-distant from China. It is increasingly able to move forces across the vast distances of China and conduct large training exercises. Far more must be known about PLA sustainment and logistics before the hard questions about PLA operational reach and endurance can be answered.

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Enabling a More Externally Focused and Operational PLA – 2020 PLA Conference Papers

Roger Cliff and Roy Kamphausen

Although the People’s Liberation Army is not yet a global expeditionary force on par with the US military, the former has nevertheless significantly expanded its ability to operate abroad. Through enhanced technological capabilities, robust relationships with foreign militaries, increased access to overseas military bases and dual-use facilities, and the implementation of major structural reforms, the People’s Liberation Army has built a more integrated joint force capable of conducting a wider and more complex array of missions. This volume advances the understanding of the People’s Liberation Army’s capability to conduct overseas missions by examining China’s military relations with Europe, Africa, and Latin America; the country’s military activities in the Indian Ocean, polar regions, and Pacific Island countries; and the emerging roles of the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force and the Joint Logistic Support Force. This volume finds the People’s Liberation Army is engaged in a wide range of activities throughout the world, including port calls, joint exercises, seminars, and personnel exchanges. China sells weapons to some parts of the world and seeks to acquire military and dual-use technology from others. In addition, the People’s Liberation Army seeks to increase its capability to operate in parts of the world, such as the Indian Ocean, Pacific Island countries, and polar regions, where the organization has only had a minimal presence in the past.

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What China’s Surveillance Balloon Says About U.S.-China Relations

David Sacks

On Saturday afternoon, a U.S. Air Force F-22 fighter jet fired one missile into a high-altitude Chinese surveillance balloon, sending it plunging into the Atlantic Ocean and capping a stretch where the world’s most important bilateral relationship was dominated by a slowly moving object crossing the United States.

The incident raises questions about the extent to which China has been employing these balloons – and in the process violating U.S. territorial airspace and sovereignty – and why it has been doing so when its satellites could glean this information. Far more important, however, is what this says about the ability, or more accurately inability, of Washington and Beijing to manage a future crisis.

The Biden administration’s decision to shoot down the balloon was the correct one. Unlike U.S. surveillance of China, which is conducted from international airspace and waters, this was a flagrant violation of U.S. sovereignty. It is hard to see how China, which stresses the inviolability of sovereignty more than any other country, would allow anything like this to be conducted in its airspace. China’s official explanation, that this was merely a civilian weather balloon that was blown off course and drifted over the United States, demonstrated its unwillingness to discuss the matter with any seriousness. The question of whether the balloon was able to collect any information of value is beside the point; far more important is demonstrating that these violations of sovereignty and international law will not stand.

Ultimately, this raises more fundamental questions about U.S.-China relations, revealing that neither side is prepared for a serious crisis. The potential for such a crisis, however, is growing more likely as the two clash over Taiwan, the East China Sea, South China Sea, and China’s support for Russia and North Korea. The stakes in this instance were relatively low, as China likely already had access to similar information on U.S. facilities from its constellation of low orbit satellites. From the U.S. perspective, it was more about protecting a principle than responding to a fundamentally destabilizing act. Yet this incident still dominated news coverage and led to a chorus of congressmen calling for the administration to immediately shoot the balloon down, providing the president with little decision space.

In this context, it is difficult to see how during a potential crisis over Taiwan there would be any room for steps to deescalate. Instead, it is far more likely that leaders in both Washington and Beijing would feel compelled to act quickly and take strong action to protect themselves politically.

February 5, 2023

Richard Haass

Home & Away is normally released every Friday, but these are hardly normal times. I decided to produce this special edition of the newsletter to address events of the past few days. I expect I will want to do this from time to time, which I guess makes this edition something of a trial balloon.

Which brings us to the subject of the Chinese balloon. There has been a great deal of chatter about whether the balloon should have been shot down sooner than it was; more on this below. But largely missing from the conversation has been an attempt to understand why what took place took place.

First things first. What seems intentional, despite China’s strident denials, was its decision to send a surveillance balloon over the United States and in particular over areas of military importance. What I would argue was unintentional was triggering a crisis between the United States and China.

Why? Because ever since Presidents Xi and Biden met at the G-20 late last year, China has been taking steps to improve or at least set a floor under a relationship that had been deteriorating for years. Xi and China have their hands full with Covid and sluggish economic growth. The meeting between Xi and Blinken, the first with a secretary of state in 6 years, was all set. If China wanted to scuttle the Blinken trip for domestic political reasons, something that resonates at home, i.e., Taiwan, would have been far more likely.

What is more, this was hardly the first time China has sent surveillance balloons this way. According to the Biden administration, China did so three times during the Trump presidency and once earlier in this one. None of those triggered a crisis, which makes it not unreasonable for whoever authorized this flight at this moment to assume it did not represent a major risk.

All that said, we are where we are. What now? The problem at the heart of U.S.-China relations is not balloons or even surveillance of any sort as we obviously do a lot of it as well. What is most critical from our perspective is limiting China’s direct and indirect support for Russia at a time when what it is doing in Ukraine poses the greatest near-term threat to order…and setting some guardrails around managing differences over Taiwan, which remains by far the likeliest issue that could spark a direct conflict between the world’s two largest economies.

The Monroe+ Doctrine: A 21st Century Update for America’s Most Enduring Presidential Doctrine

Anthony J. Constantini

The United States has gone twenty years without a new presidential doctrine being espoused. While such doctrines—declarations of key foreign policy strategies—are rarely directly declared by a given president, most have been fairly evident to outside observers, as they often represent major shifts in American foreign policy thinking. Generally, doctrines have defined either a single key policy decision a president makes—such as the Carter Doctrine, which declared that the United States would defend the Persian Gulf—or have acted as broad-based prisms through which all foreign policy decisions are made—such as the Nixon Doctrine, which determined the circumstances in which America would aid countries threatened by communism.

Presidential doctrines are not the end-all-be-all of U.S. foreign policy, but they are useful indicators of where America’s metaphorical head is at, especially since they oftentimes cut across ideological lines and are rarely disavowed by succeeding presidents after being declared. As such, when and why different doctrines have been declared have told the story of America’s foreign policy history—as has a lack of declarations.

Biden’s Failure to Shoot Down Balloon over U.S. Was a Major Win for China

David T. Pyne

On February 2, it was revealed by NBC News that the United States was tracking a huge Chinese balloon that traveled over the Aleutian Islands and western Canada, only to hover over 150 Minuteman III ICBM silos deployed around Malmstrom Air Force Base in central Montana for an extended period of time. The Chinese government claimed that the stratospheric balloon was a civilian airship, designed primarily for meteorological and weather research, that was blown off course. But the Pentagon disputed that explanation, saying it intentionally flew over sensitive U.S. military sites. It has since been revealed that the airship entered U.S. airspace on January 28 over Alaska and was spotted over Montana on January 31. The White House reportedly attempted to conceal this unprecedented intrusion of a Chinese military balloon into U.S. airspace from both the U.S. Congress and the public, which weren’t informed about it until it was sighted by the public days later.

This Chinese military airship was more alarming than the previous ones because it loitered over sensitive U.S. nuclear weapon sites. The Pentagon claims that, once the balloon was detected, measures were taken to prevent the balloon from transmitting any intelligence information gleaned from its proximity to the ICBM silos back to China. The Pentagon further revealed that the balloon was maneuverable and capable of changing the direction it was while moving.

U.S. Push to Secure EV Battery Supply Chains and the Role of China

Jane Nakano and Chen Huang

Securing the supply chains for electric vehicle (EVs) batteries and their requisite minerals has become a key priority for the United States as it seeks to facilitate clean energy deployment, revitalize industrial competitiveness, and reduce undue reliance on a supply chain dominated by China.

The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which became law in August 2022, provides strong support for this effort. These include the Advanced Energy Project Credit for a project that reequips, expands, or establishes an industrial facility for the processing, refining, recycling of critical materials (48C); the Advanced Manufacturing Production Credit for domestic manufacturing of battery components and critical minerals (45X); and the Clean Vehicle Credit (30D). Specifically, under the consumer tax credit for EVs, half of the $7,500 credit ($3,750) is available if 50 percent of the battery components (by value) are manufactured or assembled in North America while the other half of the credit is available if battery minerals are extracted, recycled, or processed in the United States or a country with a free trade agreement (FTA). For both credits, the required value percentage will steadily increase over the next 10 years. Notably, the law also prohibits the application of EV tax credits where components or critical materials are sourced from China.

Is the U.S. Over-Militarizing Its China Strategy?

Harlan Ullman

Last weekend, a leaked memo from four-star U.S. Air Force Gen. Michael A. Minihan set Washington spinning, as Minihan predicted the United States would go to war with China in 2025. The proximate cause of this conflict would be a Chinese invasion of Taiwan. Then on Friday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceled a planned trip to China after a Chinese balloon was spotted sailing across the northern part of the United States and over a U.S. strategic missile base in Montana.

These are just more signs of an over-militarization of U.S. China policy that dates to the National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy of the Obama administration but has accelerated rapidly of late. In 2021, then Indo-Pacific Commander Adm. Phil Davidson warned of a Chinese move against Taiwan by 2027, a sentiment that has been echoed by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday as well as by both Democratic and Republican members of Congress.

Make no mistake: Many Americans see a war looming with China. And for many on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 has focused more attention on a possible Chinese amphibious assault to take and occupy Taiwan. But few have questioned whether or not such an assault by China was feasible, what military capability would be needed for both the assault and subsequent occupation, what other options China has regarding assimilating Taiwan, and how such an operation might be prevented.

The frenzy over China’s spy balloon is dangerous and unwarranted

Max Boot

So the Battle of the Balloon is over — and, not surprisingly, America won. On Saturday, one of the most advanced U.S. weapons systems — an F-22 Raptor — shot down one of China’s most primitive surveillance systems: a balloon that had been traversing the United States during the previous week.

The whole incident leaves me feeling unsettled and alarmed. Oh, I’m not worried about the spy balloon. The violation of U.S. airspace was unacceptable, but it did not pose any actual threat, and it’s doubtful that it gathered any intelligence that Chinese spy satellites cannot. What concerns me is the hysterical overreaction on the part of so many Americans to the balloon’s progress.

Former president Donald Trump claimed that President Biden now “has surrendered American airspace to Communist China,” even though the Pentagon reports that Chinese balloons had crossed into U.S. airspace at least three times during Trump’s own presidency. “The president failed on this one,” said New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R). “Tough guy, Joe. Too little, too late,” huffed talk-show host Mark Levin. “Bought and paid for by the Communist Chinese government.”

What is it that Biden was supposed to have done? Should he have personally climbed into an F-22 cockpit and led the attack on the balloon like the president played by Bill Pullman in “Independence Day”? Should he have launched a nuclear strike against China in retaliation? Republicans didn’t have any clear alternatives, but that did not stop their hyperventilating. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) argued that China sent the balloon to show “that the United States is a once-great superpower that’s hollowed out, it’s in decline.”

China’s Balloon May Have Taught the US More Than Beijing Learned From It, General Says


The recently-downed Chinese spy balloon may have sent more useful information to the Pentagon than to Beijing, U.S. military officials said Monday.

The weather balloon presented “a potential opportunity for us to collect intel where we had gaps on prior balloons,” and that could help NORAD more quickly detect future spy attempts, NORAD and NORTHCOM head Gen. Glen David VanHerck told reporters at the Pentagon.

Both the Pentagon and U.S. President Joe Biden drew much online outrage as they waited to fire on the balloon until it had safely passed over the United States and moved over open ocean.

On Monday, VanHerck reiterated what other officials said last week: the sensor package on the balloon offered China no better intelligence capabilities than their satellites and other means already possess.

“We did not assess that it presented a significant collection hazard beyond what already exists in actual technical means from the Chinese,” he said.

Gen. Glen VanHerck, Commander, North American Aerospace Defense Command and United States Northern Command, Holds an Off-Camera, On-The-Record Briefing on the High-Altitude Surveillance Balloon Recovery Efforts

Gen. Glen VanHerck

STAFF: Well, good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for joining us. It's my pleasure to introduce General Glen VanHerck, commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command and U.S. Northern Command, who will provide an update on the ongoing recovery operations following the takedown of the Chinese high-altitude balloon that violated U.S. airspace.

Today's discussion is on the record. Please note that the focus of the discussion is on NORAD and NORTHCOM's current operations as they relate to the recovery effort, so I appreciate you keeping your questions focused there. I'll turn it over to General VanHerck for some brief opening comments, and then we'll open it up to your questions.

General VanHerck, over to you, sir.

GENERAL GLEN VANHERCK: Hey, thanks a lot, Pat, and thanks a lot to the entire team here for the opportunity to get together and talk a little bit about the operations that ongoing right now to salvage as much as we can of the Chinese high-altitude balloon primarily for the safety and security of -- of folks in the local area, but also to recover and exploit that in any way that we can.

Coercing Fluently: The Grammar of Coercion in the Twenty-first Century

C. Anthony Pfaff

To illustrate the logic and grammar of coercion, this analysis relies on decision-theory methods, such as game theory, that examine the strategic decision-making process in interactions with adversaries and partners. The intent here is not to offer predictive models of rational-actor behavior. Rather, the intent is to use game-theory and similar approaches to understand how coercion works better. This analysis considers competitive interactions between actors that have discrete and qualifiable, if not quantifiable, preferences and who behave rationally, though this analysis acknowledges the behavior that is considered rational is frequently informed by nonrational social, cultural, and psychological factors. Considering these competitive interactions allows one to identify “rules of thumb” that can orient and guide actors as they compete.

This analysis emphasizes coercion does not depend simply on imposing costs; rather, it depends on placing adversaries in positions in which they must act and their most rational option is the one most beneficial to one’s own cause. To achieve this result, actors must carefully calibrate their demands to ensure their adversary’s cost of concession is as low as possible. To prevent challenges in the first place, actors should convince the adversary acting on a threat is one’s most rational response. If convincing the adversary is not possible, then one must find ways to decrease the value of the adversary’s challenge. When none of those options are possible, preparing for conflict is likely one’s rational option. This analysis then applies the rules of thumb to US relations with China, Russia, and Iran.

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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]

What's Public Diplomacy?

Defining Public Diplomacy

The study of public diplomacy is a new and expanding field. CPD defines it as the public, interactive dimension of diplomacy which is not only global in nature, but also involves a multitude of actors and networks. It is a key mechanism through which nations foster mutual trust and productive relationships and has become crucial to building a secure global environment. There is no single agreed-upon definition of the term; this lack of definitional consensus may well prove to be a good thing. To view various definitions used by practitioners, academics, research institutes, or governments, along with the latest scholarship on the topic please visit CPD's comprehensive public diplomacy PD Hub.

A Brief History of Public Diplomacy

As coined in the mid-1960s by former U.S. diplomat Edmund Gullion, public diplomacy was developed partly to distance overseas governmental information activities from the term propaganda, which had acquired pejorative connotations. Over the years, public diplomacy has also developed a different meaning from public affairs, which refers to a government’s activities and programs designed to communicate policy messages to its own domestic audiences.

In the past few decades, public diplomacy has been widely seen as the transparent means by which a sovereign country communicates with publics in other countries aimed at informing and influencing audiences overseas for the purpose of promoting the national interest and advancing its foreign policy goals. In this traditional view, public diplomacy is seen as an integral part of state-to-state diplomacy, by which is meant the conduct of official relations, typically in private, between official representatives (leaders and diplomats) representing sovereign states. In this sense, public diplomacy includes such activities as educational exchange programs for scholars and students; visitor programs; language training; cultural events and exchanges; and radio and television broadcasting. Such activities usually focused on improving the “sending” country’s image or reputation as a way to shape the wider policy environment in the “receiving” country.

Immigration Policy’s Role in Bolstering the U.S. Technology Edge

William Alan Reinsch and Thibault Denamiel

In a December 2022 speech to MIT, Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo addressed one of the greatest strengths of the United States’ technological innovation ecosystem: the ability to attract and retain some of the world’s best STEM talent. The remarks coincided with the 50th anniversary of the opening of relations between the People’s Republic of China and the United States and as both countries enter an era of strategic competition anchored by economic rivalry. As the United States seeks to maintain an economic edge over its main competitor, the Biden administration recognizes that the country should remain at the forefront of global innovation during this era of technological change and competition. One of the cornerstones of promoting U.S. innovation lies in the country’s ability to continue attracting global talent to drive research and development efforts.

Q1: What is immigration’s effect on the U.S. innovation landscape?

A1: Many bodies of research affirm that a nation’s openness to migration enhances overall income per capita by increasing the range of skills and ideas in the host country. Beyond general economic opportunities, however, immigrants are particularly effective at bolstering their adoptive country’s enterprise landscape. The United States has indeed benefited from that trend. The Mercatus Center’s Robert Krol, who specializes on immigration and international trade issues, compiled a summary of evidence about immigration to the United States that illustrates how it increases innovation, firm startups, and general economic dynamism. The main causes of immigrants’ penchant for fostering innovation can be explained by a heightened tolerance to making high-risk/high-reward decisions, a growing percentage of degrees in STEM fields, a higher likelihood of collaborating with foreign inventors, and a more in-depth understanding of international markets. A 2022 working paper from the National Bureau of Economic Research finds that immigrants “make up 16 percent of all US inventors, but produced 23 percent of total innovation output, as measured by number of patents, patent citations, and the economic value of these patents.” Their study also shows how these immigrant entrepreneurs have an innovation dividend, making U.S.-born individuals more inventive. All in all, immigrants are responsible for 36 percent of aggregate innovation, much of which is linked to their interactions and contribution to the work of U.S.-born peers.

Q2: How does the technology sector benefit from immigration?

The Changing Strategic Importance of the Middle East and North Africa

Anthony H. Cordesman

Far too much of the analysis of the Middle East and North Africa only covers a small part of the broad trends in the region or does not examine and compare the data now available. There is also sharp compartmentation of the analyses and data by a specific area and an equal division between reporting on the civil and military trends.

The attached report presents a wide range of data on both civil and military trends. The result is a summary net assessment that covers both civil and military trends and compares sources in the form of graphs, tables, and maps to show both key trends and the wide differences from country to country and between sources. At the same time, it identifies key problems in the data now available.

At the same time, it is designed to bring summary data together on a range of the key variables shaping regional stability, rather than to provide a comprehensive analysis. It highlights key data and trends and does not go into analytic depth in many areas, which requires extensive discussion to properly explain all the issues involved, the many conflicts in the data available, and the range of different views on the subject.

The report begins by summarizing the key issues and trends affecting military and internal security and then goes on to provide an overview of civil issues like demographics, governance, corruption, human rights, economics, energy, water, climate change, employment, and other key civil aspects of regional and national security and stability.

This focus on providing an overview of both security and civil challenges is particularly critical in the case of the MENA region because most of its internal instability and violence are driven by its civil failures, while much of the recent analysis of security issues focus on extremism, terrorism, civil wars, and regional conflicts. The result is to concentrate on treating the region’s violent symptoms rather than the civil causes of its diseases.

What Ukraine Taught NATO about Hybrid Warfare

Sarah J. Lohmann


Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022 forced the United States and its NATO partners to be confronted with the impact of hybrid warfare far beyond the battlefield. Targeting Europe’s energy security, Russia’s malign influence campaigns and malicious cyber intrusions are affecting global gas prices, driving up food costs, disrupting supply chains and grids, and testing US and Allied military mobility. This study examines how hybrid warfare is being used by NATO’s adversaries, what vulnerabilities in energy security exist across the Alliance, and what mitigation strategies are available to the member states.

Cyberattacks targeting the renewable energy landscape during Europe’s green transition are increasing, making it urgent that new tools are developed to protect these emerging technologies. No less significant are the cyber and information operations targeting energy security in Eastern Europe as it seeks to become independent from Russia. Economic coercion is being used against Western and Central Europe to stop gas from flowing. China’s malign investments in Southern and Mediterranean Europe are enabling Beijing to control several NATO member states’ critical energy infrastructure at a critical moment in the global balance of power. What Ukraine Taught NATO about Hybrid Warfare will be an important reference for NATO officials and US installations operating in the European theater.

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Countering Terrorism on Tomorrow’s Battlefield: Critical Infrastructure Security and Resiliency (NATO COE-DAT Handbook 2)

Sarah J. Lohmann

Every day, malicious actors target emerging technologies and medical resilience or seek to wreak havoc in the wake of disasters brought on by climate change, energy insecurity, and supply-chain disruptions. Countering Terrorism on Tomorrow’s Battlefield is a handbook on how to strengthen critical infrastructure resilience in an era of emerging threats. The counterterrorism research produced for this volume is in alignment with NATO’s Warfighting Capstone Concept, which details how NATO Allies can transform and maintain their advantage despite new threats for the next two decades. The topics are rooted in NATO’s Seven Baseline requirements, which set the standard for enhancing resilience in every aspect of critical infrastructure and civil society.

As terrorists hone their skills to operate lethal drones, use biometric data to target innocents, and take advantage of the chaos left by pandemics and natural disasters for nefarious purposes, NATO forces must be prepared to respond and prevent terrorist events before they happen. Big-data analytics provides potential for NATO states to receive early warning to prevent pandemics, cyberattacks, and kinetic attacks. NATO is perfecting drone operations through interoperability exercises, and space is being exploited by adversaries. Hypersonic weapons are actively being used on the battlefield, and satellites have been targeted to take down wind farms and control navigation. This handbook is a guide for the future, providing actionable information and recommendations to keep our democracies safe today and in the years to come.

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What Are The Kremlin’s Hopes For Its War Against Ukraine? – Analysis

Ksenia Kirillova*

In the 12th month of Russia’s war against Ukraine, analysts close to the Kremlin are increasingly sounding the alarm that the Russian people should prepare for a long-term conflict. At the same time, in the past, such statements were always accompanied by propaganda narratives about the United States dragging Russia into a protracted war. Now, propagandists claim that a long war primarily benefits Moscow.

At the end of January 2023, a long anonymous article appeared on a pro-Kremlin website, the essence of which boiled down to the idea that the protracted war in Ukraine was not a forced necessity, but “Putin’s cunning plan.” The author asserts that Western analysts are absolutely right when they say that Russia “will have enough resources for many years, but the reserves of Western military arsenals will be seriously depleted, while their economy suffers.” The propagandist states that the transition from offensive to defensive operations will allow Moscow to carry out large-scale changes in the composition of the Russian Armed Forces, increase their numbers and ensure the timely supply of weapons and equipment. “No one is in a hurry,” the author concludes (Topcor.ru, January 19).

This article is not a lone opinion, but part of an increasingly widespread narrative. Experts from one of Russia’s main propaganda programs, Soloviev Live, also assert that Moscow’s best strategy in this situation is to wait for the moment when the West shows all its cards and demonstrates how far it is willing to go in support of Ukraine. The program encourages holding out “until the last Ukrainian dies” (YouTube, January 23).

It seems that the Kremlin’s main hope is to bet on the depletion of Ukrainian manpower, which Moscow expects to run out before Kyiv receives the necessary weapons from the West. Starting in December 2022, Russian propaganda increasingly began to promote the idea that “Ukraine is running out of soldiers” and that it “has to rely on mercenaries,” who are also suffering huge losses (Svpressa.ru, December 3, 2022; Bloknot.ru, January 17). In addition, Kremlin strategists continue to hope for the collapse of the European economy and the depletion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) military reserves (Runews.biz, July 26, 2022).

Maybe The World Isn’t Falling Apart – OpEd

John Feffer

The international community is not in great shape.

The war in Ukraine pits two entirely different conceptions of the global order: authoritarian Russia and its supporters versus the more-or-less democratic world. This war is currently mired in a stalemate that could, nevertheless, escalate into a nuclear conflict very rapidly.

At the same time, the United States and China have descended into a cold war of military stand-off and economic competition that could also degenerate into a world war.

Right-wing nationalists are in charge in India, Italy, Israel, and elsewhere, and their unilateralist approach to global affairs overlaps with that of countries with equally exceptionalist traditions like North Korea, Eritrea, and El Salvador. According to Freedom House’s Democracy Index, 46 percent of the world lived in “free” countries in 2005. A mere 16 years later, that number had dropped to 20 percent. So much for an ever-widening consensus on democracy and human rights.

Meanwhile, a number of international institutions are facing increasing strains. Here are three examples.

The International Criminal Court has experienced several withdrawals – the Philippines, Burundi – and key countries like the United States have not acceded to the treaty. With war crimes in Ukraine and massive human rights abuses elsewhere in the world, a powerful international court is needed now more than ever, yet it seems to becoming weaker and weaker.

The Paris agreement on climate change has an impressive number of signatories that have all made important pledges to reduce their carbon footprints. But those pledges are voluntary and, according to the Climate Action Tracker, no country has actually fulfilled its promises with the exception of tiny outliers like Bhutan.

Print the Truth, Legend, or Nothing? Failing to Examine and Learn from America’s War in Afghanistan

Benjamin Van Horrick

As the tagline from the Western Classic The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance states, “when the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” When documenting the Afghan War, the Army and the Marine Corps are printing neither the legend nor the fact—they are ignoring the Afghan War. Two recent publications from the Department of the Army and the US Marine Corps, FM 3-0 Operations and Marine Corps Doctrinal Publication (MCDP-8): Information, make no mention of the Afghan War. Instead, the Army and Marine Corps inserted examples from the 2014 and 2022 Russo-Ukrainian War. By omitting the Afghan War from their doctrine, the Army and Marine Corps delay a reckoning with the Afghan War and the resultant learning. Not addressing the Afghan War postpones addressing a larger issue. America’s War in Afghanistan demonstrated the remarkable capacity of the U.S. officer corps for self-deception during the conduct of the conflict. As the services embark on ambitious force design and structural changes, confronting the Afghan War is a necessary step in restoring the American public’s confidence in its military and accounting for the services’ gross miscalculations.

Institutional amnesia of the Afghan War is beginning to take hold within the Army and Marine Corps. Both FM 3-0 and MCDP-8 included vignettes from the 2014 incursion into Crimea and the February 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. Each vignette is valuable; however, lessons from the Afghan War remain relevant, yet perishable. MCDP-8 examines how Russia used the information domain to its advantage while not addressing how the American military failed to grasp and then penetrate the information domain in Afghanistan.

The power and appeal of the Taliban’s narrative—fighting foreign invaders in the name of Islam—boosted the Taliban’s morale.[1] For Afghan citizens, the narrative proved compelling and understandable because it was deeply tied to Afghan identity.[2] The failures of ISAF to counter the Taliban’s narrative are not addressed in FM 3-0 and MCDP-8, yet each offers guidance on how to compete and win in the information domain.

US Expands Military Footprint In The Philippines – Analysis

Alec Soltes

On February 2, 2023, news broke about a meeting between the US and Filipino Defense Secretaries allowing the US use of Filipino military bases, suggesting that the total number of bases to be made available to US forces has risen to nine.

The announcement appears to mark a modest shift in Philippines’ president Ferdinand Marcos Junior’s previous position of casting his government as an “enemy to none.” Philippine governments since the early 1990s have traditionally vacillated on the issue of relations with outside countries, particularly the United States and its departure from the Subic Bay naval base in 1992.

At time of publication by the Japanese broadcaster NHK News, it is not clear where exactly these bases are nor their primary missions. The ideal locations for bases that the US would like range from Luzon, Palawan, or the sparsely populated Batanes islands. This is due to their geographic proximity to the disputed islands and territories of the South China Sea, the Chinese mainland, and its consideration of being an integral part of what is termed “island chain strategy.” Under this strategy, the Philippines is part of a string of islands ranging from Japan, through Taiwan and the Philippines, and rounding out the South China Sea with Malaysia, Brunei, and Vietnam. The goal of inception since the Cold War has historically been to counter the spread of communism in the region. And with a resurgent China in recent decades, the strategy has had a philosophical renaissance for US analysts concerned with the East Asian theater.

Besides the strategic first island chain, there are other major factors that play into Washington’s security interests in the wider region. The US and the Philippines have a relationship that began in earnest in 1898 after the former’s victory in the Spanish-American war. Between then and 1946, the archipelago was a colony of the United States. Ever since protests toppled Ferdinand Marcos authoritarian regime, the Philippines has been considered a democracy, making it a natural ally for Washington in the Southeast Asian region.

Strategically, the Philippines flanks the major maritime routes that flow through the South China Sea, which, like with many East Asian nations, is essential to the Philippines’ economy, particularly its northern regions. Long considered a gateway between the Philippine, East China, and South China seas, its geographic position makes it of strategic interest. Culturally and linguistically, the Philippines are related to the Pacific Micronesian and US-aligned Compact of Free Association states to its east (excluding Kiribati), which together make up the “second island chain.”