13 February 2023

It’s Time to Tie India to the West

C. Raja Mohan

India’s new enthusiasm for the global south—it just convened a special summit of developing nations and presides over the G-20 with a development-focused agenda this year—should not be mistaken for reduced interest in its quest to build stronger ties with the West. On the contrary, the centrality of the G-7 for India’s economic and geopolitical prospects is continuing to grow. For India, the West is the most important trading partner, the dominant source of capital and technology, and the major destination for the Indian diaspora. Cooperation with the G-7—comprising Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United States—is also critical for India to effectively deal with the increasing challenges from China. In fact, India’s dual orientations are converging: Both its gradual but inexorable alignment with the West and its renewed engagement with the global south are expressions of New Delhi’s repositioning against Beijing and its growing influence.

The West, too, has an interest in a stronger India that can counter growing Chinese and Russian diplomatic, economic, and military influence among developing countries. Washington’s recent offer of a range of technologies to India—including jet engines—underlines the Biden administration’s desire to strengthen ties with New Delhi despite Indian ambivalence on Russia’s war in Ukraine. The United States is also eager to incorporate India into a new network of global supply chains with trusted partners.

BRI Carries Religion Through Gilgit Baltistan – Essay

Deedar Karim

A connectivity route, primarily an economic venture of one of the key economies of the world, is also simultaneously enabling two scattered segments of a community spread across two countries to reach back to their abandoned counterparts. The project is China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), enabling the Chinese Buddhists to travel and visit the Buddhist relics in Gilgit Baltistan (GB), Pakistan. Similar is the case of Ismaili Shia Muslims of GB. For them, the possibility of visiting their community members in Tushkurgan – the autonomous region of Xinjiang Province in China, has increased manifolds. The legacy of these communities is far grounded in history that dates back to not just the Old Silk Route but even way before than that.

CPEC, under the broader umbrella of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), passes through the ethno-cum-sectarian multifaceted region of Pakistan – Gilgit Baltistan. GB is situated in the far north of Pakistan and shares a direct border with China. The CPEC’s potential to unite the Ismailia Shias on both sides of the border and provide a land route for Chinese Buddhists to visit GB are less talked about in the mainstream discourse surrounding CPEC, but on my recent visit to Hunza, GB, I discovered this unique aspect of CPEC through what I heard from the locals.

How China Tries to Bamboozle the United Nations

William Nee

In recent days, the China watching community has been consumed with talk of a surveillance balloon that crossed over the continental United States before being shot down off the country’s coast.

Beijing has insisted that the balloon was “civilian” and “meteorological” in nature – and just happened to float over many of the United States’ most sensitive nuclear sites.

Of course, while many questions remain unanswered, experts have pointed out that the balloon was indeed most likely made for surveillance. According to the U.S. government, the balloon was part of a massive global surveillance program that has been underway for years. And yet the Chinese government is trying to get the international community to believe its fanciful narrative.

Next week in Geneva, on February 15-16, the Chinese government will be testing the international community again – specifically the U.N. Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) Beijing will seek to defend its compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and its record in protecting these rights since the last review in 2014.

Pentagon looks to restart top-secret programs in Ukraine

Wesley Morgan

The Pentagon is urging Congress to resume funding a pair of top-secret programs in Ukraine suspended ahead of Russia’s invasion last year, according to current and former U.S. officials. If approved, the move would allow American Special Operations troops to employ Ukrainian operatives to observe Russian military movements and counter disinformation.

A determination is unlikely before the fall. Defense officials are preparing a proposal for lawmakers’ consideration in the coming months, when work begins on next year’s Pentagon policy and funding bill. If successful, these programs could resume as soon as 2024, though it remains unclear if the Biden administration would allow U.S. commandos back into Ukraine to oversee them or if the military would seek to do that from a neighboring country. No American military personnel are known to have operated there since the war began, beyond a small number tasked to the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv.

Congressional officials said it is difficult to predict the outcome, particularly with Republicans split over the vast sums being spent on Ukraine. Others argue that the programs’ relatively small expense — $15 million annually for such activities worldwide — is a bargain compared with the tens of billions of dollars being committed to train and arm Ukrainian forces, and replenish U.S. stockpiles.

President Biden Must Act Quickly in Syria!

Ahmed Charai

The earthquake that recently rocked Turkey and Syria measured 7.8 on the Richter scale but was off the charts on the scale of human misery, particularly in Syria. America, as a beacon of Western liberal values, must act now.

While the government in Damascus allows aid to enter the region through only one border crossing, it has been resistant to opening up aid into northern areas, where whole neighborhoods have toppled over, burying alive fathers, mothers, children, and infants. Those who have not been crushed alive are choking on dust in small air pockets that soon become due to poisonous carbon dioxide—the pollution expelled from the victim’s own lungs.

Then came the snowstorm, dropping temperatures to dangerous levels.

Neighbors clawed at the rubble with their bare hands, struggling to save the buried survivors as bitterly cold winds stung their hands and frustrated their sacrificial, saving acts.

Turkey, a NATO ally, has received promises of tens of millions in humanitarian aid. As for Syria, which suffered in the same earthquake, few are lining up to help. Syria’s allies, Russia and China, both with shrinking economies, have each made promises but have little capacity to bring immediate aid by air.

On the Leaks of a War With China

George Friedman

Over the past few days, two senior U.S. officials – Gen. Mike Minihan, the head of the U.S. Air Force Mobility Command, and Michael McCaul, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee – predicted that a war with China could erupt by 2025. I have been on record as saying China’s economic and political vulnerabilities make such a conflict unlikely, but when a four-star general and one of the few politicians I actually respect go well out of their way to say something like this, I’m compelled to recheck my thinking. That the two are saying the same thing, moreover, suggests to me that someone in Washington has briefed them on the matter. Briefings are not the subject of random gossip.

I remain skeptical; the Pentagon has distanced itself from the general’s remarks, and though McCaul may be a respectable politician, he is still a politician. But in reevaluating the likelihood of a war, some questions must still be answered.

Who will start the war? It’s hard to believe the U.S. would initiate a conflict. Defeating the Chinese navy, though doable, wouldn’t resolve the matter. So long as the Chinese homeland is intact, Beijing can rebuild its armed forces. For China, attacking the U.S. Navy would be a major gamble, and it would have to calculate what a defeat at sea would cost it, particularly domestically.

Is the Biden administration late to WWIII?


On Jan. 7, 1943, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivered his State of the Union address to the 78th Congress. The world around him and the country he led were at war and his speech overtly reflected the existential challenges facing the Western democracies under assault from German and Japanese tyranny. 1942, the first full year of American participation in World War II, likely had been “the most crucial for modern civilization,” Roosevelt apprised, and 1943 would be just as “violent.”

Eighty years later, President Biden, speaking before the 118th Congress, was also surrounded by a world arguably at war with itself and its governing values, largely because of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine and China’s machinations in the Pacific and beyond. Yet, despite the existence of these very real threats, hot and cold, respectively, Biden’s State of the Union speech on Feb. 7 buried these two clear and present dangers simultaneously confronting national security.

Biden’s initial focus in his speech was not the past year nor what his 2023 version of FDR’s 1943 of a world at war would look like but, instead, one of where the country is today, compared to two years ago. COVID. January 6th. Closed schools. A stalled economy.

But that was 2020. This is now.

Balloons vs. satellites: Popping some misconceptions about capability and legality


WASHINGTON — The saga of the Chinese spy balloon, and its subsequent Feb. 4 shoot down off the coast of South Carolina by an American F-22 fighter, has resulted in a lot of hot air floating on the public airwaves, including a maelstrom of misleading statements and speculation.

For example, some in the US have questioned why China would use a balloon to spy, when the People’s Liberation Army operates an array of sophisticated intelligence gathering satellites — a question fed by China’s assertion the balloon was designed simply to gather weather data over the ocean and drifted off course by accident.

The shoot down itself has prompted legal questions. Beijing has publicly protested the action, with the vice minister of foreign affairs on Feb. 6 charging that the US had used “indiscriminate use of force against the civilian airship seriously violated the spirit of international law and international practice.” He further vowed that China would “resolutely safeguard the legitimate rights and interests of Chinese companies, resolutely safeguard China’s interests and dignity and reserve the right to make further necessary responses.”

The Pentagon Has Unimplemented Cyber Recommendations from 2012


The Department of Defense has open cybersecurity recommendations dating back more than 10 years, according to a report compiled by the agency's internal watchdog.

DOD's Office of Inspector General said in a recent report that the agency had 478 open cybersecurity-related recommendations from earlier oversight reports, with some dating to 2012.

The January 2023 report doesn't contain new recommendations, but does round up cybersecurity oversight going back to July 1, 2020, and identifies certain trends in cybersecurity oversight from OIG, the Government Accountability Office and other oversight organizations inside DOD.

One key observation relates to the nature of oversight itself. Oversight relating to the use of the National Institute of Standards and Technology cybersecurity framework skews strongly to just a few of the five pillars of NIST's framework: identify, protect, detect, response and recovery.

The identify function - which includes asset and identity management, along with the protect function which includes developing and implementing cyber defense strategies, were frequent topics in oversight reports. The respond and recover functions, covering resilience efforts, were not as regularly featured in oversight reports.

Militarising Big Tech: The Rise of Silicon Valley’s Digital Defence Industry

Roberto J. González

In September 2011, CIA and US military personnel jointly launched a drone strike authorised by President Barack Obama. The attack resulted in the assassination of Anwar al Awlaki – an ardent US-born Muslim cleric – in Yemen. Those who organised the drone strike targeted Awlaki based on geolocation data which was monitored by the National Security Agency(external link) as part of a surveillance programme. Two weeks later, a CIA drone attack killed another US citizen using the same kind of data: al Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman al Awlaki(external link).

Although al Awlaki was deliberately assassinated by US forces, other US citizens – and thousands of civilians in Afghanistan and other parts of central Asia and the Middle East – have been inadvertently killed by drones(external link). These cases foreshadow a major flaw in the latest iteration of automated war: the imprecision of the technologies, and the great margins of error that accompany even the most sophisticated new weapon systems. In their most advanced form, the computerised tools make use of artificial intelligence and machine learning, and may soon have fully autonomous capabilities.

Ukraine’s rocket campaign reliant on U.S. precision targeting, officials say

Isabelle Khurshudyan, Dan Lamothe, Shane Harris and Paul Sonne

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian officials said they require coordinates provided or confirmed by the United States and its allies for the vast majority of strikes using its advanced U.S.-provided rocket systems, a previously undisclosed practice that reveals a deeper and more operationally active role for the Pentagon in the war.

The disclosure, confirmed by three senior Ukrainian officials and a senior U.S. official, comes after months of Kyiv’s forces pounding Russian targets — including headquarters, ammunition depots and barracks — on Ukrainian soil with the U.S.-provided High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, and other similar precision-guided weapons such as the M270 multiple-launch rocket system.

One senior Ukrainian official said Ukrainian forces almost never launch the advanced weapons without specific coordinates provided by U.S. military personnel from a base elsewhere in Europe. Ukrainian officials say this process should give Washington confidence about providing Kyiv with longer-range weapons.

A senior U.S. official — who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue — acknowledged the key American role in the campaign and said the targeting assistance served to ensure accuracy and conserve limited stores of ammunition for maximum effectiveness. The official said Ukraine does not seek approval from the United States on what to strike and routinely targets Russian forces on their own with other weapons. The United States provides coordinates and precise targeting information solely in an advisory role, the official said.

Russia’s Influence On South Caucasus Declining Toward ‘Point Of No Return’ – OpEd

Paul Goble

Sergey Melkonyan and Leonid Nersisyan, two scholars at Yerevan’s Applied Policy Research Institute, says that the Ukrainian conflict has shown Moscow that “the best guarantee of maintaining its influence is a military presence” in the regions of its interest such as the Southern Caucasus.

Compared to that, they argue, the use of soft power about which there is so much took “looks significantly less important” as at best it can ensure public support for policies put in place as a result of the presence of Russian forces (profile.ru/abroad/chto-ugrozhaet-rossijskomu-vliyaniju-na-juzhnom-kavkaze-1255818/).

“From Moscow’s point of view,” Melkonyan and Nersisyan say, “the South Caucasus is part of its exclusive zone of interests,” something that is maintained by the presence of military bases in South Ossetia, Abkhazia, Armenia “and the peacekeeping contingent in Nagorno-Karabakh.”

There are no problems in this regard in Abkhazia or South Ossetia, but there are questions about the Russian military presence in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh where “bogged down” in Ukraine and under pressure by the West, Moscow is all too often making tactical decisions that undermine its strategic goal.

How America Took Out The Nord Stream Pipeline

Seymour Hersh

The U.S. Navy’s Diving and Salvage Center can be found in a location as obscure as its name—down what was once a country lane in rural Panama City, a now-booming resort city in the southwestern panhandle of Florida, 70 miles south of the Alabama border. The center’s complex is as nondescript as its location—a drab concrete post-World War II structure that has the look of a vocational high school on the west side of Chicago. A coin-operated laundromat and a dance school are across what is now a four-lane road.

The center has been training highly skilled deep-water divers for decades who, once assigned to American military units worldwide, are capable of technical diving to do the good—using C4 explosives to clear harbors and beaches of debris and unexploded ordinance—as well as the bad, like blowing up foreign oil rigs, fouling intake valves for undersea power plants, destroying locks on crucial shipping canals. The Panama City center, which boasts the second largest indoor pool in America, was the perfect place to recruit the best, and most taciturn, graduates of the diving school who successfully did last summer what they had been authorized to do 260 feet under the surface of the Baltic Sea.

Last June, the Navy divers, operating under the cover of a widely publicized mid-summer NATO exercise known as BALTOPS 22, planted the remotely triggered explosives that, three months later, destroyed three of the four Nord Stream pipelines, according to a source with direct knowledge of the operational planning.

The U.N. Secretary-General’s Searing Message for the Fossil-Fuel Industry

Bill McKibben

On Monday morning, at the United Nations, the Secretary-General delivered his annual report on priorities—a kind of State of the Planet address. If you’re struggling to remember the name of the current Secretary-General, it’s António Guterres, who came to the job after, among other things, serving as the Prime Minister of Portugal. We’re used to the idea that “diplomatic language” is filled with euphemisms—“a full and frank exchange of views,” and so on. And, since Guterres is the world’s top diplomat, one might expect that he would be a master of this form of address. So I’m going to quote at some length from his talk today, concentrating on the section about global warming and the environment.

He begins by saying, in a sentence typed in bold in the official transcript, “We must end the merciless, relentless, senseless war on nature.” That war, he continues, “is putting our world at immediate risk of hurtling past the 1.5-degree temperature increase limit and now still moving towards a deadly 2.8 degrees.” Hence:

We need disruption to end the destruction.

No more baby steps.

No more excuses.

No more greenwashing.

What Tanks in Ukraine Tell Us About America in the Pacific

Germany’s insistence that the United States move first in the decision to send tanks to Ukraine tells us much about security dynamics in Europe, but it also has implications for America’s strategy in the Indo-Pacific: it reveals the futility of hoping that Europe might soon stand on its own so that Washington can focus more on the Pacific theater.

Deliberations over whether to send tanks to Ukraine took longer than many hoped, but the end result should nonetheless help increase the odds of a Ukrainian victory. The deal was clinched by U.S. willingness to take the lead, announcing it would supply Ukraine with American-made M1A2 Abrams tanks, even though these tanks require a more robust maintenance and logistical support capability. Moreover, Washington will only provide 31 Abrams tanks—just 10 percent of what Ukraine has apparently indicated it needs—and they won’t arrive in any case for several months, meaning they probably won’t play any role in an expected Ukrainian counteroffensive this spring.

Power in Asia: six surprising facts


This year’s Lowy Institute Asia Power Index – an annual measure and analysis of each country’s resources and influence in the region – uncovered a number of unexpected findings.

Japan was the most searched country online among Index members

Why Russia’s cyber-attacks have fallen flat

Wars are testbeds for new technology. The Korean war saw jet fighters employed at scale for the first time. Israel pioneered the use of drones as radar decoys in its war with Egypt in 1973. And the Gulf war of 1991 was a coming-out party for gps-guided munitions. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is the first time that two mature cyber-powers have fought each other over computer networks in wartime. The result is a lesson in the limits of cyber-power and the importance of having a sound defence.

The popular notion of cyberwar has been shaped by lurid and dystopian scenarios of an “electronic Pearl Harbour", first envisaged in the 1990s and accentuated by the relentless digitisation of society. Those fears have been fanned by glimpses of the possible. The American-Israeli Stuxnet worm, which came to light in 2010, inflicted damage on Iranian nuclear machinery with fiendish ingenuity. Russian malware sabotaged Ukraine’s power grid in 2015 and 2016.

Yet when a full-blown cyberwar came to Ukraine, the result was modest. This was not for want of trying. Russia has thrown vast amounts of malware at Ukraine—the largest onslaught ever, say some officials. There were some notable successes, such as the disruption of Viasat, a commercial satellite-communications service used by Ukraine’s government and armed forces, less than an hour before the invasion.

Winners And Losers In The Russia-Ukraine Cyberwar – Analysis

Dr Cherian Samuel

The cyber conflict between Russia and Ukraine preceded the kinetic conflict by almost a month, with the first major cyber attack on 14 January 2022 knocking out over 70 Ukrainian government websites. These included websites of the Cabinet of Ministers and the Ministries of Defence, Foreign Affairs, Education and Science.1 Since then, even though much of the focus has been on the kinetic conflict, the cyber conflict has also continued unabated with both sides engaged in a variety of manoeuvres, from attacks on critical infrastructure to spreading misinformation.

Along the way, a number of existing preconceptions about cyber conflict in an active war scenario have been upended. Chief among them was the expectation that cyber attacks would play a decisive part in the conflict and that Russia would dominate in this domain given its superior capabilities and familiarity with the Ukrainian cyber terrain. This was especially so since its entities had been carrying out cyber attacks against Ukraine over the past decade. The resilience of Ukrainian networks in the face of these attacks has now been attributed to the very same factors, that they are familiar with the Russian cyber play book, having been at the receiving end for so long.

New variables that have made a difference in the cyber conflict have been the assistance provided, both individually and collectively, by countries backing Ukraine in its conflict with Russia. This assistance has taken the form of training, exchange of information as well as assistance in active defence. NATO, the collective security alliance, which is one of the ostensible reasons behind the Russian invasion of Ukraine, has been at the forefront of providing support against the cyber attacks being faced by Ukraine. Ukraine’s application for membership in the NATO Cybersecurity centre, pending since 2021, was approved in January 2023, making it one of the five non-NATO members of the NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Centre of Excellence (CCDCOE).2

National Institute for Defense Studies (NIDS)

Security & Strategy, January 2023, v. 3 

Reassessing the “Nuclear Winter” Theory: Current Research on the Climate Effects of Nuclear War and Its Implications for Security and Nuclear Deterrence
China and the Liberal International Order: Decreasing Affinity, Seeking Primacy
Does “Taiwan Can Help” Apply to Taiwan Itself? Taiwan’s Assessment of the People’s Liberation Army’s Joint Operations against Taiwan and the Development of Taiwan’s National Defense System
Russia’s Constitutional Reform in the Second Putin Administration: Presidential Power in the Russian Political System
Coercive Diplomacy for Political Objective: North Korea Threatened the Moon Jae-in Administration of South Korea
ASEAN Political Security Community: Development of Multilateral Cooperative Frameworks and Further Challenges
The 2019 Pulwama Crisis and India-Pakistan Deterrence Stability in the New Era
British Imperial Defence in the Mediterranean during the Second World War: Focusing on the Battle of Crete and the Siege of Malta

Metaverse adds new dimensions to Web 3.0 cybersecurity

Karl Greenberg

Fans of science fiction hear “metaverse” and think Neal Stephenson’s “Snow Crash” or William Gibson’s “Neuromancer.”

When it comes to security, the better reference for this emergent digital environment, which is predicted to generate $5 trillion in value by 2030, might actually be “Roadside Picnic,” a novel about a surreal and perilous landscape full of toxic hotspots where treasure hunters seek mysterious, powerful trinkets and icons to sell on the black market. What could possibly go wrong?

Metaverse poses risks for users and creators

The metaverse is evolving into a 3D digital world for buying, selling, recruiting and training, unbound by geography and currently without clear rules and regulations. For business opportunities, there are many invisible tripwires, toxic zones and attack vectors making it a danger zone for enterprise.

A Bold Plan to Beam Solar Energy Down From Space

WHETHER YOU’RE COVERING deserts, ugly parking lots, canals, or even sunny lakes with solar panels, clouds will occasionally get in the way—and every day the sun must set. No problem, says the European Space Agency: Just put the solar arrays in space.

The agency recently announced a new exploratory program called Solaris, which aims to figure out if it is technologically and economically feasible to launch solar structures into orbit, use them to harness the sun’s power, and transmit energy to the ground.

If this concept comes to fruition, by sometime in the 2030s Solaris could begin providing always-on space-based solar power. Eventually, it could make up 10 to 15 percent of Europe’s energy use, playing a role in the European Union’s goal of achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. “We’re thinking about the climate crisis and the need to find solutions. What more could space do to help mitigate climate change—not just monitor it from above, as we’ve been doing for the past few decades?” asks Sanjay Vijendran, who heads the initiative and plays a leading role in the agency’s Mars program as well.

The primary driver for Solaris, Vijendran says, is the need for continuous clean energy sources. Unlike fossil fuel and nuclear power, solar and wind are intermittent—even the sunniest solar farms sit idle the majority of the time. It won’t be possible to store massive amounts of energy from renewables until battery technologies improve. Yet according to Vijendran, space solar arrays could be generating power more than 99 percent of the time. (The remaining 1 or so percent of the time, the Earth would be directly between the sun and the array, blocking the light.)

Other Chinese balloons slipped through ‘domain awareness gap’ in US defenses: General


WASHINGTON — Chinese high-altitude balloons have previously floated near or across parts of the US without being detected because US Northern Command does not have the correct mix of sensor capabilities, according to the commanding general responsible for homeland defense.

Last week’s balloon mania reached an apex Saturday when an F-22 Raptor fired an AIM-9X Sidewinder missile at what the Pentagon said was a Chinese “surveillance balloon” that had floated across the American heartland for days. After the strike, the craft’s payload crashed into the Atlantic Ocean off the southeast US coast. White House and Pentagon officials said today it will take time to sort through the debris and figure out the payload’s capabilities, but the incident already has highlighted an apparent blind spot in America’s air defenses.

“It’s my responsibility to detect threats to North America. I will tell you that we did not detect those [previous] threats, and that’s a domain awareness gap that we have to figure out,” Gen. Glen VanHerck, the commander of USNORTHCOM and the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), told reporters today.

Future Challenges and Requirements for Open Source Intelligence

Petra Saskia Bayerl, Babak Akhgar, Alice Raven, Helen Gibson, Tony Day


Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) is a well-established, time- and resource-efficient method in modern-day policing. At the same time, OSINT is not immune from technological, legal and societal developments that affect the ways and contexts in which it operates. This paper examines the key challenges and requirements that OSINT as a policing capability for intelligence needs to address to remain viable long-term. The results are based on a horizon scanning exercise conducted with operationally active OSINT-investigators across seven countries. Findings identify core application areas, new capabilities and essential innovations. Results further define the organizational, ethical and legal requirements enabling the integration of Artificial Intelligence into OSINT-investigations as well as the handling of ‘bad actors’ and citizens’ increasing privacy concerns. Collectively, the results provide vital guidance for police organisations and policy makers for future investments into OSINT-tools and practices.

When Lippy Generals Challenge Civilian Control


News outlets, major and minor, have been quick to jump on and report the controversial memorandum Gen. Michael Minihan, commander of U.S. Air Mobility Command, issued recently to the troops under his command.

The memo, “February 2023 Orders in Preparation for—The Next Fight,” was unclassified. On top of that, Minihan is a big boy, having served in various senior command and staff positions. So, he knew full well that his words would emerge in the public domain and grab headlines of both approbation and disapprobation. We can safely assume that’s exactly how he wanted it.

Minihan is just the latest flag officer to present national command authorities—the Defense Secretary and the President—with a recurring dilemma: whether and how to assert civilian control over the military when faced with outspoken generals and admirals. Relieve them (and thereby end their career)? Coddle them (and treat them as cutesy, attention-grabbing novelties)? Or ignore them (in the hope that they have created nothing more than a momentary tempest in a teapot)?

Whenever a flag officer succumbs to the seductive allure of celebrity, the vital question is whether the remarks in question pose a bona fide danger to the affairs of state, or whether they are simply a dumb reflection of ignorance, insensitivity, and political inconvenience.

Untangling the Gordian Knot that is Irregular Warfare

Mark Grdovic

"All the revision in the world will not save a bad first draft: for the architecture of the thing comes, or fails to come, in the first conception, and revision only affects the detail and ornament, alas!”

                                                                                    T.E. Lawrence

As 2023 begins, the U.S. military finds itself addressing how it will institutionalize the topic of Irregular Warfare (IW). There is no shortage of speeches, articles and documents that extol the importance of the topic to the National Defense Strategy and its related concepts. While this sounds completely appropriate, there is a problem. The U.S. military has been in this position before, multiple times. In 2009, I wrote an article as part of an introduction for an IW conference at Ft Bragg in which I said, “In the 1960s and again in the 1980s, the U.S. military experienced a revival of interest in irregular warfare, or IW, similar to the one that is occurring today. In both of the previous periods, the topic enjoyed a celebrity-like popularity in professional military forums until such time that circumstances allowed it to be relegated back to the margins in favor of a return to proper soldiering. Both previous revivals produced high-quality doctrine and curriculum in professional-education courses. So why, then, did IW fail to become ingrained as part of the military mainstream?’[1] It feels like little has changed since that time other than to add one more period of interest.

How would US troops fight a numerically superior enemy today?


Former Soviet leader Joseph Stalin is credited with saying that “quantity has a quality of its own.” The Russians appear to be putting that axiom to the test in Ukraine by throwing mercenaries for The Wagner Group into wave after wave of suicidal frontal assaults against Ukrainian defenses.

As a result, Russian casualties have been heavy in recent months. One picture posted on social media in January purportedly shows dozens of Russian bodies clustered close together, indicating they were mowed down by the Ukrainians.

In Bakhmut, Ukraine, the Russians continue to use Wagner mercenaries to make incremental gains despite heavy losses. Of the 40,000 Russian convicts who have joined Wagner, 80% have been killed or seriously wounded, András Rácz of the German Council on Foreign Relations told National Public Radio recently.

While Wagner mercenaries continue to carry out these frontal assaults as cannon fodder, the private military company is using this tactic much less in recent months, said Karolina Hird, a Russia Analyst at the Institute for the Study of War think tank in Washington, D.C.

“The Wagner Group likely experienced significant losses in attritional offensive operations in eastern Ukraine over the past few months,” Hird told Task & Purpose. “The high number of casualties — convicts and otherwise — is likely constraining the Wagner Group’s ability to continue offensive operations that accumulate casualties at such a high rate.”

America and China: Whose timeline is it anyway?


In recent years, Washington has become focused on when China will be ready to invade Taiwan. But while predictions such as 2027 and 2025 are driving much of the conversation about preparing for a conflict in the Pacific, Dustin Walker of the American Enterprise Institute believes that focusing on any specific timeline is missing the forest for the trees.

Will China invade Taiwan and, if so, when?

Attempts to answer this question are clouding rather than clarifying America’s national security debate. It’s long past time for policymakers and military leaders to stop speculating about China’s timeline for war and focus on America’s timeline for deterring it.

Two years ago, Adm. Phil Davidson, then-commander of US Indo-Pacific Command, testified to Congress that China may be prepared to act on its ambitions to control Taiwan by 2027. This so-called “Davidson window” has now become a central topic of debate in US defense strategy toward China. It’s a debate that grew more intense last month when Gen. Mike Minihan, commander of the Air Force’s Air Mobility Command, warned in a memo to his command that war with China was probable by 2025.

CENTCOM Exercise Aims To Speed Up the Pace of War


How fast can a force composed of units from different services and acting in different domains make combat decisions? Can the process be radically accelerated? A recent U.S. Central Command exercise sought to find out.

While the Army’s Project Convergence and other efforts have fostered tools to connect services across air, land, sea, space and cyberspace, the process of finding and hitting targets can still be slowed by bureaucracy and other human factors, CENTCOM’s fires chief told reporter Defense One on Friday. That’s especially true as the targets get more important, said Brig. Gen. John Cogbill, the command’s deputy director of operations fires and effect.

“There are certain targets that…you can handle at the lowest level at the tactical level. And then there are certain targets that are operational. And then there are those that are strategic. The strategic-level targets probably have the most risk associated with them and require the highest…approval authority,” Cogbill said.

What is hybrid warfare? Inside the centre dealing with modern threats

Frank Gardner

Mysterious underwater explosions, anonymous cyber attacks and subtle online campaigns to undermine Western democracies - these are all "hybrid threats". The BBC visited a centre dedicated to targeting a relatively new form of warfare which is increasingly concerning Nato and the EU.

"It is about manipulation of the information space. It's about attacks on critical infrastructure," explains Teija Tiilikainen, when asked to define hybrid warfare.

She is director of the European Centre of Excellence for Countering Hybrid Threats (Hybrid CoE), which was established in Helsinki, Finland, six years ago.

Ms Tiilikainen says it is an ambiguous threat format, which is something nations find very difficult to counter and protect themselves against.

But these threats are very real.

Last September, powerful underwater explosions beneath the Baltic Sea ripped gaping holes in the Nord Stream gas pipelines between the coasts of Denmark and Sweden. The pipelines were constructed to carry Russian gas to northern Germany.

U.S. Hypersonic Weapons and Alternatives


The Army, Navy, and Air Force are each developing hypersonic missiles—nonnuclear offensive weapons that fly faster than five times the speed of sound and spend most of their flight in the Earth’s atmosphere. Those missiles are intended to be maneuverable and capable of striking targets quickly (in roughly 15 minutes to 30 minutes) from thousands of kilometers away.

In this report, the Congressional Budget Office analyzes the hypersonic weapons being developed by the U.S. military and compares them with less expensive existing or potential weapons that might fill similar roles, such as ballistic missiles or cruise missiles. CBO reached the following conclusions:Technological challenges must still be overcome to field hypersonic missiles. The fundamental remaining challenge involves managing the extreme heat that hypersonic missiles are exposed to by traveling at high speeds in the atmosphere for most of their flight (unlike cruise missiles, which fly in the atmosphere at lower speeds, or ballistic missiles, which mainly fly above the atmosphere). Shielding hypersonic missiles’ sensitive electronics, understanding how various materials perform, and predicting aerodynamics at sustained temperatures as high as 3,000° Fahrenheit require extensive flight testing. Tests are ongoing, but failures in recent years have delayed progress.