15 February 2023

ICET — another stillborn Initiative, and GE 414 — a noose?

Bharat Karnad

The US government and the Washington policy establishment has been aware for some time now of the brewing Indian dissatisfaction with America promising but not delivering advanced military and other technology. The Biden Administration has been wondering how best to try and mitigate the situation without altogether dismantling the present South Asia policy structure. It is an issue, many in Washington believe, was beginning to colour Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s evolving attitude to strategic cooperation with the United States in the Indo-Pacific.

This American take on the state of bilateral relations became clear in a seminar arranged not too long ago by a former senior Trump regime official at a Washington thinktank to facilitate my interaction with policy experts and the like. The topic was the state of Indo-US strategic linkages. Discussing the reasons for the halting progress in Indo-US strategic cooperation between the two countries, which has puzzled and dismayed many Americans, I elaborated why, in my view, this was so — essential lack of trust. Well into the discussion, my host asked me, point-blank to name the technologies the Indian military would like to get its hands on. I responded with indirection.

Ram Madhav writes: How Pakistan can fix itself

Ram Madhav

“We will eat grass, even go hungry,” Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, as foreign minister in Ayub Khan’s government in Pakistan, famously declared in 1964, insisting that his country would go nuclear. Six decades after that infamous statement, his own Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leaders lament that while they have the bomb, they have only grass to eat.

Pakistan is torn today between a sinking economy and surging terror. The snakes in their backyard, as Hillary Clinton warned during her Islamabad visit in 2011, came back to bite those who reared them. Yet, its leadership insists on fulfilling Bhutto’s prophecy — “Pakistan will fight for a thousand years” against India.

In its existence of over seven decades, Pakistan couldn’t build a stable polity. It remains the only country under the longest spell of military control in South Asia, whereas even smaller countries like Bhutan graduated successfully to democracy. Bangladesh, which parted ways with Pakistan in 1971, built an enduring democracy, sending its army back to the barracks through strong popular will in the 1990s.

China held Taiwan war council in October, general’s memo reveals

Bill Gertz

The four-star Air Force general who predicted a likely war with China within two years also revealed in his memo that Chinese President Xi Jinping has convened a “war council” of senior military leaders on Taiwan.

Gen. Michael Minihan, commander of the Air Force Air Mobility Command, said in the Wednesday memorandum leaked last week to wing commanders that Mr. Xi had secured his position as supreme leader and “set his war council in October 2022.” The outspoken general disclosed the meeting while offering his perspective on a military clash with China over Taiwan.

The general said he hopes he is wrong, but “my gut tells me we will fight in 2025.”

Air Mobility Command and Pentagon representatives declined to comment on the details of the memo.

The 2025 war prediction has generated headlines, but the revelation of the Chinese war council in October may matter more. U.S. officials said the gathering included top members of the Central Military Commission, the Chinese Communist Party’s most powerful institution, which is also headed by Mr. Xi and two People’s Liberation Army generals.

China Pathfinder: H2 2022 update

In the second half of 2022, China veered from one extreme to the other, with carefully choreographed control followed by sudden turmoil. In October, President Xi Jinping was elevated to an unprecedented third term, underscoring his iron grip on China’s Communist Party and the country. Two months later, the chaotic abandonment of zero-COVID measures, in place for nearly three years, triggered a nationwide health crisis. Throughout, the Chinese government has continued to claim that the path it has chosen for China’s economy and its people is the only right one.

Nevertheless, China’s economic weakness is pushing leadership to strike a more business-friendly tone. In recent months, Chinese officials have been reassuring a private sector hammered by regulatory crackdowns and rolling out the welcome mat for foreign investors who have been turned off by years of draconian COVID lockdowns. The defining question of 2023 will be whether the shift in policy and rhetoric is merely a short-term tactic by the Chinese government to shore up growth. So far, evidence of a more meaningful commitment to structural reform is hard to find.

The bottom-line assessment for H2 2022 shows that Chinese authorities were active in five of the six economic clusters that make up the China Pathfinder analytical framework: financial system development, competition policy, trade, direct investment, and portfolio investment. There were fewer developments in the innovation cluster, though we are watching to see if Beijing can muster a response to profound semiconductor controls imposed by the United States on China in October 2022. In assessing whether China’s economic system moved toward or away from market economy norms in H2, our analysis shows a mixed picture.

Building on China’s Mistake to Advance U.S. Interests after the Balloon

John Schaus

A Chinese balloon has captivated the United States for much of the past week. The balloon traversed North America, crossing into the Aleutian Islands in Alaska on January 28, to Canada on January 30, then across the continental United States from January 31 to February 4, until it was finally shot down six miles off the South Carolina coast into the Atlantic Ocean. Now that the balloon and its payload are being recovered from the Atlantic Ocean, U.S. leaders should focus on building consensus—among themselves and with the American public—on how to respond over time.

Q1: What happened?

A1: It depends on who you ask. According to China, it lost control of a research balloon used mostly for meteorology research over the Pacific, and it just happened to follow a five-day path over sensitive U.S. military installations in Idaho, Montana, Missouri, and toward the Carolinas. According to Brigadier General Patrick S. Ryder, Pentagon spokesperson, the balloon was outfitted to conduct surveillance over the United States.

Trial Balloon: Balancing Multiple Goals in U.S.-China Relations

Scott Kennedy

The notion that a balloon slowly floating across the continental United States at 60,000 feet would dominate the headlines and become an international incident of the highest order almost seems laughable on first glance. U.S.-China relations face much larger challenges, including the possibility of war in the Taiwan Strait, an ongoing war in Europe that is claiming countless lives and could continue to spread, and the dangers from not working together to address climate change and prevent future pandemics. But despite a kneejerk reaction to dismiss the balloon incident as nothing but an opportunity for venting hot air, in reality, this case is a test of the United States’ ability to implement a thoughtful foreign policy vis-à-vis its greatest strategic challenge.

Figuring out how to properly respond to the presence of the balloon over U.S. territory requires the weighing of two equally important principles. The first is avoiding moral hazard and not letting China escape penalty and opprobrium for misbehavior that threatens the United States’ national security. Claims that this was a privately-owned weather balloon that veered off course do not hold water. And the downplaying of this as a cute but curious piece of mylar overlooks the fact that the vessel’s high-tech equipment and navigation ability gave it distinctive intelligence-gathering value, and that it is part of a larger fleet of surveillance balloons crisscrossing the globe within the air space of other countries. Once the United States identified the balloon as part of a larger intelligence program, minimizing this becomes impossible, as that would teach Beijing that it could engage in such behavior without any costs. Calling Beijing out, working with other countries whose sovereignty has been or could be violated, and delaying Secretary Blinken’s visit to Beijing, serves this larger purpose.

The Cult of Secrecy: America’s Classification Crisis

Patrick Radden Keefe

In August 2016, the United States suffered one of the most cataclysmic leaks of classified information in history. An anonymous entity calling itself “the Shadow Brokers” exposed an arsenal of cyberweapons that had been developed—in great secrecy—by the National Security Agency. The intelligence community sprang into damage-control mode. Because the NSA’s hackers rely on a degree of plausible deniability, the disclosure of such clandestine tools and their connection to the U.S. government meant that the agency would be forced to devise new ones. But there was also a more pressing danger: with the source code for these powerful weapons now published on the Internet, any unscrupulous actor could deploy them. It was the digital equivalent of “loose nukes.”

Practically overnight, cybercriminals repurposed the NSA’s proprietary exploits to launch audacious ransomware attacks, ultimately shutting down millions of computers around the world and paralyzing thousands of private businesses, from an auto plant in France to a chocolate factory in Australia. Foreign governments took advantage of the tools, as well. North Korea used the NSA’s malicious code to attack the British health-care system, forcing hospitals to turn away patients. Iran used it to target airlines in the Middle East. Russia used it against Ukraine.

Even as these cyber-assaults proliferated, officials in Washington had no idea who was responsible for the breach. They did not know whether it was a foreign intelligence service that had compromised the NSA’s vaunted digital defenses or some disillusioned agency coder gone rogue. As if to compound the government’s humiliation and alarm, the Shadow Brokers taunted the agency in a series of online posts, mocking the investigation in playfully broken English: “Is NSA chasing shadowses?”

U.S. Defends Takedowns of Highflying Objects

Gordon Lubold

WASHINGTON—Biden administration officials defended on Monday their decisions to shoot down unidentified flying objects over North America this weekend and disputed new claims by Beijing that the U.S. violated Chinese airspace with high-altitude balloons.

Chinese officials—who were angered by the U.S. takedown of its suspected spy balloon off the Atlantic coast earlier this month—said that the U.S. had flown high-altitude balloons over its airspace more than 10 times since the start of 2022, fueling an escalating diplomatic standoff between the countries that has derailed efforts to reset relations.

The White House disputed China’s claims, while also defending stepped-up aerial surveillance that led to jet fighters scrambling to shoot down three unidentified flying objects following the destruction of the suspected Chinese spy balloon.

The latest takedowns occurred over Alaska on Friday, Canada’s Yukon territory on Saturday and Lake Huron on Sunday. Officials say they still haven’t determined exactly what they were destroying, but defended the decision to shoot them down.

10,000 cartel drones detected crossing U.S. border last year

Stephen Dinan

One single sector of the southern border saw more than 10,000 illegal drone incursions from Mexico last year, a senior Border Patrol agent told Congress on Tuesday.

Chief Patrol Agent Gloria Chavez, who oversees the Rio Grande Valley sector in southern Texas, said the cartels use the drones to keep tabs on where the Border Patrol is, so they can figure ways to sneak people and other contraband such as drugs through the gaps.

She and John Modlin, chief patrol agent in the Tucson sector of Arizona, said the cartels are driving the chaos on the border, controlling the crossings and forcing the Border Patrol to react to the smugglers’ tactics.

“In Tucson sector, everything south of the border is controlled by the cartels,” Chief Modlin told the House Oversight and Accountability Committee.

Strategies for building US semiconductor fabs: Finding skilled labor

Cranes, bulldozers, and scaffolding now dot the US landscape as a wave of residential and commercial building sweeps the country. In addition to private investment, the federal government’s $550 billion infrastructure legislation, designed to funnel money into road upgrades, rail improvements, and other public assets, is expected to raise construction spending to about $1 trillion over the next five to ten years.

Companies in advanced industries, which includes sectors such as semiconductors, defense, aerospace, batteries, advanced electronics, and automotive, could account for a good proportion of the construction spending. Through 2028, the value of their recent and proposed construction projects is expected to reach about $400 billion in the United States. The bulk of this spending, about $223 billion to over $260 billion, will go toward building or expanding semiconductor fabs across the country.1 The remainder will be devoted to giga-factories for batteries, data centers, renewable-energy plants, and other critical infrastructure.

Some semiconductor companies have already begun constructing new US-based fabs, but many have encountered obstacles related to the COVID-19 pandemic, which temporarily halted or slowed construction and disrupted supply chains. Shortages persist for many critical materials, including polyvinylidene fluoride (PVDF) piping and concrete. (For more information, see sidebar “Fab materials and equipment.”) Difficulties getting construction licenses and permits have also caused delays. But the shortage of skilled labor, including pipe fitters, welders, electricians, and carpenters, poses the greatest challenge to fab construction. Competition for these employees is intense across sectors, and people with specialized skills, such as tool calibration, are particularly scarce.

Avoiding a Long War: U.S. Policy and the Trajectory of the Russia-Ukraine Conflict

Samuel Charap, Miranda Priebe

Discussion of the Russia-Ukraine war in Washington is increasingly dominated by the question of how it might end. To inform this discussion, this Perspective identifies ways in which the war could evolve and how alternative trajectories would affect U.S. interests. The authors argue that, in addition to minimizing the risks of major escalation, U.S. interests would be best served by avoiding a protracted conflict. The costs and risks of a long war in Ukraine are significant and outweigh the possible benefits of such a trajectory for the United States. Although Washington cannot by itself determine the war's duration, it can take steps that make an eventual negotiated end to the conflict more likely. Drawing on the literature on war termination, the authors identify key impediments to Russia-Ukraine talks, such as mutual optimism about the future of the war and mutual pessimism about the implications of peace. The Perspective highlights four policy instruments the United States could use to mitigate these impediments: clarifying plans for future support to Ukraine, making commitments to Ukraine's security, issuing assurances regarding the country's neutrality, and setting conditions for sanctions relief for Russia.

DoD’s clarified AI policy flashes ‘green light’ for robotic weapons: Experts


WASHINGTON — To defense officials working on robotic weapons, at first glance the recent rewrite of the Pentagon policy on “Autonomy in Weapons Systems” might look intimidating, like a Terminator. What was 15 pages in its original form expands to 24, adding paragraphs of ethical principles that new weapons programs must abide by, a full-page flowchart of go/no-go decisions that officials must work through, and a new bureaucratic entity to oversee it all, the Autonomous Weapon Systems Working Group.

But advocates and experts told Breaking Defense the revised policy is really more like R2-D2, helpful and full of nifty tricks. By adding clarifications, the handy flowchart, and the working group as a central clearinghouse — while not actually imposing any major new limitations on the development of autonomous weapons — the 2023 revision of DoD Directive 3000.09 turns the amorphous review process first laid out in 2012 into a clear procedure you can actually do.

“On one hand, it sounds like this is adding more layers of control and regulation, and that might sound daunting,” said Michael Klare, a senior visiting fellow at the Arms Control Association. “On the other hand, I think it’s meant to give a green light to commanders and project managers, [because] they can proceed with a clear understanding of what they’re going to have to go through and what criteria they’re going to have to satisfy.”

Will Logistics Be Russia's Undoing in Ukraine?

Bradley Martin

Wars rarely end quickly. The longer a war goes on, the more it requires: more money, more manpower, more firepower and, perhaps most importantly, more logistics. This last item—logistics—describes the often-complex systems that tie the war's front lines back to the economies of the nations doing battle, as well as the manpower required to link the two.

But the interdependence between what is happening at the front and what is happening economically back home can create counterintuitive situations and strange bedfellows. For example, a nation often cannot hope to continue a war without trading directly with the enemy.

Such is the case with Russia, which has long been selling its oil to nations that are directly supporting Ukraine. In March 2022, half of Russia's crude oil exports and 75 percent of its natural gas exports went to countries in the European Union. When the nations of the European Union prosper, they consume oil and gas. When those same nations prosper, they produce more of the kinds of military equipment needed by the Ukrainians in their war against Russia. And so, Russia's reliance on its energy exports causes it to sustain the very economies that are now supplying Ukraine with tanks and missiles to use against Russians.

The Realist Case for Ukraine

Jeffrey Mankoff
Source Link

The scope of the Biden administration’s response to the invasion of Ukraine has already exceeded what many observers—not to mention Russia’s leadership—expected. From intelligence sharing with Kyiv ahead of the invasion to the imposition of unprecedented sanctions on the Russian economy to the provision of increasingly capable weaponry to Ukraine’s armed forces, the United States has been critical to the failure of Russia’s “special military operation” to achieve its objectives. Despite US support and Ukrainian valor, the war is now approaching a second year, and several observers in the United States and in Europe have become increasingly alarmed at the consequence of a longer war.

Amid these concerns, some of the most trenchant criticisms of the Biden administration’s Ukraine policy have come from self-described realists. The realist paradigm, widely taught in international relations courses, describes the international system as anarchic, with states ruthlessly pursuing their own interests. It is critical of states and leaders who allow wooly ideological commitments to get in the way of this pursuit of realpolitik. Realism and realists are by nature cautious, wary of grand crusades and cognizant of the fact that problems in international relations are rarely “solved,” but must be managed over time. While these considerations have led many realists to call for greater restraint in aiding Ukraine, a strong realist claim can be made that the United States should continue its forthright support of Ukraine’s effort to drive the Russian occupiers out of its territory.

How Russia can end the war


Looking ahead, there are only two possible major military moves for Russia. Following the mobilisation of 300,000 reservists last autumn, of whom more than half are now combat-ready, Putin’s army is now larger than when it invaded last February. Then, the aim was not to start a war but to end it, with a quick victory forecast by Russian and US Intelligence, both equally intoxicated by the false promise of “post-kinetic” warfare; this would combine electronic propaganda with cyber-attacks on everything from military headquarters to civilian infrastructures. Generals who had never fought against patriotic Europeans but only against Middle Eastern sectarians, if they had fought at all, who considered tanks old-fashioned and had limitless respect for “information warfare”, heavily influenced the totally wrong estimates that misled both Biden and Putin.

After initial failure, Putin had two perfectly reasonable options. He could have ordered a retreat — a politically feasible choice since low-level warfare had been underway for years and the entire operation could have been passed off as an exercise in intimidation. Alternatively, he could have declared war, mobilised the Russian Armed forces and invaded Ukraine in earnest.

Instead of choosing between retreat or an all-out offensive, Putin and his unimpressive advisors simply tried one thing after another, from the launch of as many missiles as possible against Kyiv and other cities (even anti-aircraft missiles, with their small warheads) to an attempt to conquer Odesa via the industrial town of Mykolaiv, whose shipyard workers acted out a favourite theme of Soviet propaganda: workers streaming out of factories to fight the enemy with whatever weapons they had.

Andrew Bacevich, Giving Whataboutism a Chance

The name of the game in Ukraine seems to be escalation, not just in the fighting (with a major Russian offensive expected soon), but in weaponry, too. Only recently, after initially refusing, President Biden agreed to send advanced American M-1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine (partly to push Germany to dispatch its own advanced Leopard 2 tanks and other European countries to do the same). And that, sadly enough, represents just another step up the ladder to… well, who knows quite what.

The Ukrainians are now demanding that the U.S. (and so, as with those tanks, other NATO allies) supply its air force with F-16 jet fighters. In an unsettling analog to the German tank accord, the Polish government seemed to agree to deliver some of its F-16s to the Ukrainians, with one proviso: that NATO (that is, the U.S.) agree to do the same. In Washington, those planes had been considered a “red line” not to be crossed and not so long ago President Biden offered a flat “no” to the very idea — as he had, once upon a time, with those tanks, too. In other words, in a phrase now in use at the Pentagon, he “M1-ed” the idea. As it happens, sentiment at the Pentagon already seems to be shifting, suggesting that the president’s F-16 position may soon prove to be so yesterday. Only recently, in fact, the U.S. agreed to send Ground-Launched Small Diameter Bombs that would double the range of that country’s rocket batteries, though like the tanks and possible planes actual delivery remains in an undefined future.

The untold story of the world’s most resilient currency

Ruchir Sharma

In February of 1998, 25 years ago this month, I was in Bangkok, ground zero of the Asian financial crisis. The implosion of the Thai baht had triggered a serial meltdown of currencies and markets with protesters in the streets across the region and chaos spreading. As world leaders raced to slow the global contagion, Thailand and its neighbours had sunk into a depression.

The Thai economy contracted by nearly 20 per cent, as stocks fell by more than 60 per cent and the baht lost more than half its value against the dollar. Prices in Bangkok felt unbelievably cheap. I did not dare buy Thai stocks, with so much unsettled. But I did leave with many shopping bags and two golf sets, one to give away.

While the drama of that year is etched in history, the epilogue comes as a surprise. Since early 1998, Thailand has faded on the global radar but the baht has proved uncommonly resilient, holding its value against the dollar better than any other emerging world currency and better than all but the Swiss Franc in the developed world.

In contrast, in Indonesia, where the 1998 crisis toppled the dictator Suharto, the rupiah trades near 15,500 to the dollar, down from 2,400 before the crisis. The baht trades at 33 to the dollar, not much lower than 26 before the crisis.

The War’s Violent Next Stage

Marc Santora, Josh Holder, Marco Hernandez and Andrew E. Kramer

Both sides are preparing to attack after months of slow-moving fighting. Russia is moving first. Here’s how each side is trying to shape the critical next stage in Ukraine.

For much of the winter, the war in Ukraine settled into a slow-moving but exceedingly violent fight along a jagged 600-mile-long frontline in the southeast. Now, both Ukraine and Russia are poised to go on the offensive.

Russia, wary of the growing Ukrainian arsenal of Western-supplied weapons, is moving first.

Using tens of thousands of new conscripts in the hope of overwhelming Ukraine, its forces are attacking heavily fortified positions across bomb-scarred fields and through scorched forests in the East. They are looking for vulnerabilities, hoping to exploit gaps, and setting the stage for what Ukraine warns could be Moscow’s most ambitious campaign since the start of the war.

Ukraine must now defend against the Russian assault without exhausting the resources it needs to mount an offensive of its own.

How our interconnected world is changing

Olivia White

Globalization isn’t going away, but it is changing, according to recent research from the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI). In this episode of The McKinsey Podcast, MGI director Olivia White speaks with global editorial director Lucia Rahilly about the flows of goods, knowledge, and labor that drive global integration—and about what reshaping these flows might mean for our interconnected future.

After, global brewer AB InBev has flourished in the throes of what its CFO Fernando Tennenbaum describes as the recent “twists and turns.” Find out how in this excerpt from “How to thrive in a downturn: A CFO perspective,” recorded in December 2022 as part of our McKinsey Live series.1

The McKinsey Podcast is cohosted by Roberta Fusaro and Lucia Rahilly.

This transcript has been edited for clarity and length.

Globalization is here to stay

Lucia Rahilly: Pundits and other public figures have wrongly predicted the demise of globalization for what seems like years. Now, given the war in Ukraine and other disruptions, many are once again sounding its death knell. What does this new MGI research tell us about the fate of globalization? Is it really in retreat?

Influence Networks in Russia Misled European Users, TikTok Says

Tiffany Hsu

Last summer, 1,704 TikTok accounts made a coordinated and covert effort to influence public discourse about the war in Ukraine, the company said on Thursday.

Nearly all the accounts were part of a single network operating out of Russia that pretended to be based in Europe and aimed its posts at Germans, Italians and Britons, the company said. The accounts used software to use local languages that amplified pro-Russia propaganda, attracting more than 133,000 followers before being discovered and removed by TikTok.

TikTok disclosed the networks on Thursday in an in-depth report that examined its handling of disinformation in Europe, where it has more than 100 million users, noting that conflict in Ukraine “challenged us to confront a complex and rapidly changing environment.”

The social media platform compiled the findings to comply with the European Union’s voluntary Code of Practice on Disinformation, which counts Google, Meta and Twitter among its other signatories. TikTok offered the detailed look into its operations as it tried to demonstrate its openness in the face of continued regulatory scrutiny over its data security and privacy practices.

Geostrategic competition and overseas basing in East Asia and the First Island Chain

Michael E. O’Hanlon and Andrew Yeo

Under the U.S. Indo-Pacific strategy, the Department of Defense (DOD) now enfolds East Asia within the broader regional framework of the Indo-Pacific. However, significant U.S. forward presence and the U.S. obligation to defend allied territory in Northeast Asia with ground forces means that the needs and dynamics of great power basing in that region will differ from the maritime theaters of the South Pacific and Indian Oceans. Although the DOD has been simultaneously criticized for being too ambitious or doing too little to address U.S. force posture, geostrategic competition with China dictates prudence in making any major changes to overseas basing in East Asia. Yet Chinese ambitions to strengthen its claims over Taiwan and the South China Sea may require some adjustments to U.S. force posture to surmount evolving challenges within China’s so-called first island chain.[1] For long-term geostrategic competition with China, U.S. force posture in East Asia may be sized correctly but wrongly composed and dispersed. That is, the numbers and strategic concentrations of U.S. forces today in East Asia may be largely right, but their specific capabilities may not always be sufficient — they should continue to evolve, not according to a single grand plan but according to ongoing strategic developments.

Policymakers: Keep Ukrainian soldiers front of mind as this war of attrition continues

Justin M. Conelli

Ukraine is succeeding in this conflict; but it’s coming at an extremely high cost in terms of casualties and suffering. Continued Western support is critical to navigating these attritional losses because Ukrainian mettle without Western metal can only go so far. But at this moment of reflection, it is important to not lose sight of the perspective of the soldiers in the field with dirt and blood on their uniforms: They’re more concerned about when they’ll get their next ammunition resupply, hot meal, or break from taking fire than they are interested in contemplating what happens when the war is over. There is no doubt that Ukraine is winning this war, but that does not mean the war has been won.

Russia’s brazen invasion has brought the harsh realities of attritional warfare to Ukraine. This war is being fought by humans—humans engaged in violent armed conflict. At every stage of the war, Ukrainian forces—with strong Western support—have valiantly outperformed the Russian military, not only by defending their homeland but also by executing sizeable offensive operations to retake previously seized areas. Ukrainian successes, coupled with frequent and often incompetent Russian failures, have fueled significant enthusiasm for Kyiv to not only expel Russian invaders from the areas seized since February 2022 but also potentially go further and reclaim Crimea. Social media is rife with content mocking Russian performance or celebrating Ukrainian successes; that can give the appearance of a lopsided war in which the Armed Forces of Ukraine are enduring relatively smaller costs compared to their Russian adversaries—but the costs are, in fact, enormous.

In Syria, the earthquake ‘did what the Assad regime and Russians wanted to do to us all along’

Arwa Damon

As I write this, I have images juxtaposed in my mind on top of the photos and videos that are coming out now. They are the images of past tragedies: children’s dust-covered and blood-streaked faces; mothers crying silently; and rescue teams desperately digging through rubble—often with their bare hands.

Like an evil creature from the most horrific of nightmares, the deadly 7.8-magnitude earthquake on February 6 destroyed hundreds of miles of homes and lives in southern Turkey and decimated a population that was already in many ways decimated in Syria.

I know the areas impacted by the earthquake well. The southeastern Turkish city of Gaziantep is where my charity, International Network for Aid Relief & Assistance (INARA), has its Turkey office based, and is where all our staff and beneficiaries live. In my years as a CNN senior international correspondent, that border zone is where I spent weeks on end covering everything from refugees flooding across, to the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS)’s takeovers of areas in Syria, to the relentless bombing of the miserable Syrian rebel-held swath of Idlib.

Gaming Information Dominance

Video games and video game streaming platforms have emerged as an unprecedented element of the information fight surrounding Russia’s war in Ukraine. Online gaming communities driven by shared interests present a unique tool in the war for perception, which Ukrainian military and government officials as well as civilians have leveraged to grow support for Ukraine both within and outside of the country. Often, these games are military-themed or involve tactical gameplay and range from tank and flight simulators featuring vintage and modern military systems to dystopian first-person shooters. While gaming provides unique opportunities due to its role in enhancing global connectivity, these communities may also pose threats to both personal and institutional security.

Online gaming forums and streaming sites enable information operations to reach broad audiences, both domestically and internationally. The Ukrainian developers of the video game series S.T.A.L.K.E.R. used advertising for its upcoming installment to fundraise for the Ukrainian military. International fans of individual Ukrainian streamers like Escape From Tarkov player “Bobi” have gathered their efforts to send these streamers information which enabled their escape from the country. The Polish developers of This War of Mine integrated immersive technology with their 2014 game to create an experience in which gamers take the role of civilians in a war zone designed to resemble modern Ukraine and explain the nation’s experience to international audiences.

Decrying Starlink's 'Weaponization,' SpaceX Cuts Support for Ukrainian Military


SpaceX will no longer support certain Ukrainian military operations through its Starlink satellite-communications service, the company’s president said on Wednesday, explaining that the tech was “never meant to be weaponized.” But Gwynne Shotwell’s explanation is at odds with Starlink’s role in recent U.S. Army modernization experiments that seek to fire on targets more quickly.

SpaceX began providing Starlink terminals to Ukraine shortly after Russia invaded in February 2022. The satellite service—along with help from other Western IT companies—helped Ukraine ride out a Russian cyberattack intended to knock Ukraine’s civilian population and government offline. That enduring connectivity has helped distribute aid, medicine, and supplies, and enabled Ukrainians to document and publicize Russian war crimes. And it’s been vital to the Ukrainian military, which uses it for purposes such as communicating with Western experts about equipment upkeep and guiding drone strikes on Russian positions.

On Wednesday, Shotwell said has taken steps to keep Ukraine from using Starlink to control armed drones and perform other military tasks.

My Strange Day With Bing’s New AI Chatbot

TWENTY MINUTES AFTER Microsoft granted me access to a limited preview of its new chatbot interface for the Bing search engine, I asked it something you generally don’t bring up with someone you just met: Was the 2020 presidential election stolen?

Answering political questions wasn’t one of the use cases Microsoft demonstrated at its launch event this week, where it showcased new search features powered by the technology behind startup OpenAI’s ChatGPT. Microsoft executives hyping their bot’s ability to synthesize information from across the web instead focused on examples like creating a vacation itinerary or suggesting the best and most budget-friendly pet vacuum.

But they had, implicitly, put into high gear a race to use chatbots to upend the way people look up information online. (Bing is only giving access to a few testers for now, but it will gradually let others off a waitlist in the coming weeks.) Google also announced search upgrades this week and its own chatbot, named Bard. These battling bots’ ability to handle unexpected, silly, or manipulative questions from the public will surely play a big part in how the products work out for their creators and web users.

And so I asked Bing about 2020. After a few moments of the chatbot equivalent of “thinking,” it said something pretty weird:

The military should turn its network innovation upside down

John Ferrari

When it comes to network restrictions, the military may finally be catching up to the times.

The Army’s recent announcement that it’s adopting Gmail, long after many other organizations have done so, could be a sign that the service’s outdated and stovepiped network restrictions may be loosening. But, before declaring victory we should remember that the bureaucracy is working hard to claw back the old way of doing business.

In 2018, the Pentagon banned mobile devices ostensibly from secure areas. However, in reality, the ban was a last ditch attempt to stop the inevitable rise of mobile computing. Overnight, the Pentagon removed laptops with wireless connections because they could not be switched off. This had the effect of driving the entire leadership structure of the department back to the 1990s desktop computing environment.

The banning of mobile devices is part of a broader theme at the Pentagon, where in an effort to create the illusion of reducing network and information risk, the department attempts to hold back the revolution. But, war has the side effect of sobering up risk calculations. In Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria, military commanders took on bureaucracies and built unprecedented jury-rigged networks to conduct combat operations with allies across commercial networks and systems. The operational flexibility, along with the innovative use of non-program of record commercial systems, far outweighed the risk of compromised information.


Alexander Grinberg

How do you win in a siege when the enemy reaches out and ruins your precious artillery? During the Battle of Minas Tirith in the third Lord of the Rings film, Return of the King, the Witch-king faced a unique challenge: seizing a city with multiple layers of defense to include rings of walls armed with trebuchets. The city’s defenders flung giant chunks of stone, destroying siege towers and removing the besieging force’s crude catapults from the fight. The Witch-king knew that it wouldn’t be long before Gondor destroyed his artillery. He also knew what such a loss would mean for the siege’s prospects. He responded by flying his Nazgul to suppress and destroy Gondor’s trebuchet positions, enabling his forces to conduct counterfire of their own.

While fictional, the siege highlights real-world problems commanders can face when besieging an enemy-controlled urban center. Cities will be increasingly likely to play a significant role in large-scale combat operations (LSCO) given global urbanization patterns. Urban areas are the modern-day walls and fortresses of J. R. R. Tolkien’s world, capable of halting advances and bogging down attacking forces. Cities also act as a force multiplier for defenders. While fires can reduce a fortress, field artillery places itself at significant risk by conducting siege operations; lessons from the ongoing war in Ukraine highlight critical vulnerabilities in artillery survivability and sustainability. Moreover, from a US military perspective, habits developed in comparatively more permissive environments and with the benefit of artillery overmatch must be broken. Instead, commanders should encourage judicious targeting that will preserve fires combat power and maximize effects on the defender in a protracted siege.

China Gears Up To Shoot Down US Drones


Drones continue to move toward the center of U.S. warfare, emerging as a major spending priority and a go-to solution for almost every defense challenge—most especially in a conflict with China.

Networked drone swarms proved decisive in a recent Air Force simulation of a Taiwan Strait conflict: they broke through China’s anti-access/area denial efforts and ensured U.S. victory, according to RAND’s David Ochmanek, a former deputy assistant defense secretary for strategy. In turn, Hudson Institute’s Bryan Clark, a former special assistant to the chief of naval operations, has identified drones as the only means to fill in for an expected gap in American missile production. It is not surprising, then, that China has begun to develop countermeasures.

A highlight of November’s Zhuhai Airshow was the LW-30 laser defense system, a vehicle-mounted “drone killer” developed by China Space Sanjiang Group. An “optimized” version of a weapon that debuted at the 2018 show, the LW-30 closely resembles the “Silent Hunter” system produced by China’s Poly Technologies and deployed by Saudi Arabia in September.

China Sanjiang and state media claim that the LW-30 can down small drones several kilometers away, taking just a few seconds to swivel, fire, and move on to the next target. Using electricity to down a drone is far cheaper than physical munitions; China Sanjiang estimates it costs about a dozen Chinese yuan (roughly $1.75) per kill.

Lessons from the meme war in Ukraine

Sarah Kreps, Paul Lushenko, and Keith Carter

In 1927, the political scientist Harold Lasswell wrote about political propaganda as “the management of collective attitudes by the manipulation of significant symbols.” Underlying Lasswell’s work were two sets of insights. One is that the mass public played a key role in political outcomes, such as success and failure in war. Second, that those public attitudes could also be manipulated. Scaling to the mass-level, however, required simplicity. This included the use of symbols and slogans that were memorable, such that they could frame “pictures”—or, cognitive shortcuts—that the public recalled when engaging elected officials to shape certain policies.

Nowhere has the use of propaganda been more ubiquitous than in war, especially because acquiescence or resistance is based on public sentiment and behavior. In World War II, Hollywood produced films that “created a communal viewing experience unlike any during World War I” intended to maintain resolve for the war. These films capitalized on the public’s predisposition to understand social life in terms of in- and out-groups, which shapes how people often interpret foreign policies, including the use of force.

In contemporary conflict, those symbols have increasingly taken the form of memes, defined as a “piece of media that is repurposed to deliver a cultural, social, or political expression, mainly through humor.” Online users have attempted to counter the Islamic State by creating memes satirizing the group’s barbarism, especially on specific “Troll ISIS Days.” Lebanese Internet-users have ruthlessly mocked Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah, with memes.

After Ukraine, French air force zeroes in on anti-drone strategy: Air chief


PARIS — For the French military, the war in Ukraine has thrown into stark relief the importance of ground-to-air defense, including anti-drone systems, to such an extent that the nation’s top air officer says he expects it to dominate strategic considerations for years.

“The conflict in Ukraine has brought ground-to-air defense back to the very heart of our thinking,” Gen. Stéphane Mille, chief of staff of the French Air & Space Force, told journalists earlier this week, adding that “the fight against drones, notably in preparation for next year’s Paris Olympic Games, is going to keep us busy for years.”

At the time, Mille was speaking a couple of days before the publication of a French Senate Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee report [PDF] on lessons learned from Ukraine in which Senators Cédric Perrin and Jean-Marc Todeschini also stressed that “the next [military program law] must consolidate our ground-to-air defenses and our means to fight drones.”

Lawmaker ‘definitely’ considering value of independent Cyber Force, but wants more study


WASHINGTON — A key lawmaker says his subcommittee will consider the idea of having a Space Force-like independent cyber military service, but he said he wants to study the idea more to make sure it wouldn’t complicate the challenging mission further.

The idea was floated on Thursday by Mark Montgomery, senior director of the Center on Cyber Technology and Innovation at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, who told the House Armed Services Committee’s (HASC) cyber, innovative technologies and information systems (CITI) subcommittee that it needs to examine “if the current design of the Cyber Mission Force is what we need for the 21st century, or should we be considering an independent cyber force as we’ve recently done with the Space Force.”

“US cyber forces are really inconsistent in their organization, readiness and training across the various military services, and the size of each military service’s contribution to the cyber mission has not changed appreciably since the original agreements of 2010, despite significant changes in the threat from China and Russia,” Montgomery said in his opening statement.

Characterizing the Performance of Uncrewed Aircraft Systems

Bradley Wilson, Shane Tierney, Rachel M. Burns

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate asked the Homeland Security Operational Analysis Center to help it characterize the performance and availability of various uncrewed aircraft system (UAS) platforms.

The analysis leveraged available data sets that aggregated UAS performance to develop an approach to characterizing spray coverage as a function of payload, speed, endurance, and delivery. They present performance parameters of interest whether the spraying goal is breadth or density of coverage. Although the data were not perfect, they appeared to provide a good representation of manufacturer-reported performance.

Spraying balances the trade space of covering the largest area with how densely the area is covered with the substance being delivered, or saturation level. The analysts considered both. The analysts found that reasonable assumptions about spray rate (based on pump capability) and height were far more–important drivers of spray coverage than any of the other UAS performance measures. Next steps could include developing a parameterized analysis to more deeply assess the trade space between use case, platform, coverage, and saturation level and building component-level models of selected platforms.

Now Russia Is Adding Inferior Optics To Its T-80 Tanks, Too

David Axe

We already knew that the Russian army—in a desperate effort to make good its losses in Ukraine—was pulling old T-72 tanks out of storage, adding 1970s-style optics and shipping them toward the front. Probably to get blown up.

Now it seems the Russians are giving their slightly-better T-80 tanks the same treatment. T-80s are starting to show up with the same outdated 1PN96MT-02 thermal gunner’s sights that could put “war-emergency” T-72s at a disadvantage in Ukraine.

Russia’s nearly yearlong wider war on Ukraine hasn’t been kind to the Russian armor corps. The Kremlin has lost around 1,600 tanks in Ukraine, including more than 500 that Russian troops abandoned—and which the Ukrainians then captured.

That’s three times as many tanks as the Ukrainian army has lost.

While it’s true that Russia has in storage some 10,000 old tanks—T-62s, T-72s and T-80s—many have been sitting outside, exposed to the elements and looters, for decades. Their rubber seals are brittle. Their electronics have corroded. Their optics are cloudy.

What Are Gepard Panzers? German Anti-Aircraft Tanks Sent to Ukraine


Germany has pledged more Gepard anti-aircraft tanks to Kyiv as Ukraine looks to fend off sustained drone attacks from Iranian-made unmanned aerial vehicles.

On February 8, Andriy Yermak, the head of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's office, said Ukraine had secured a new tranche of military aid from Germany, including more Gepards.

Berlin will send an additional two Gepard, or "Cheetah," anti-aircraft guns, along with 6,000 rounds of ammunition, Yermak wrote on Telegram.

In an updated tally as of Sunday, the German government has delivered 32 Gepard air defense systems to Ukraine, up from the previous figure of 30.

A further five Gepards are "in planning," according to the German government website.