16 February 2023

India’s Navy Is No Superpower Just Yet

James Holmes

This week an indigenously built Indian fighter jet trapped aboard an indigenously built aircraft carrier for the first time. The flattop, INS Vikrant, is the second in the Indian Navy inventory. Vikrant’s entry into service may seem to mark a phase change in Indian maritime strategy. That was the line coming from service chieftains. The chief of naval staff, Admiral R. Hari Kumar, heralded the landing and subsequent takeoff as “a momentous step forward towards the realization of our collective vision of Aatmanirbhar Bharat,” or self-reliance in weapons manufacturing.

That’s a fine thing from New Delhi’s standpoint. Dependence on foreign companies for military hardware could compromise India’s strategic autonomy in wartime. It’s happened before. Memories of the 1965 war with Pakistan linger, for example. The U.S. government imposed an arms embargo on both combatants in hopes of sowing restraint during the fighting. U.S. defense firms withheld sorely needed spare parts and maintenance support under the ban. Indian leaders resented the embargo for constraining Indian forces’ ability to do what they needed to do. To escape future coercion they resolved to diversify their base of arms suppliers and ultimately to approximate self-sufficiency in the armaments sector.

India turned in particular to the Soviet Union. Moscow saw an interest in cultivating military ties with the South Asian giant, and it harbored few scruples about uses to which Soviet-supplied munitions were put. Soviet armaments may have been inferior to those constructed in the West, but New Delhi could count on their being available in times of need.

Pakistan, Terror, and Politics: The 30 January Peshawar Terrorist Attack

Dr Claude Rakisits

The latest terrorist attack in Peshawar confirms that the scourge of terrorism in Pakistan has returned with vengeance. This comes at a time when the economy is in serious trouble.

On 30 January, over 100 people were killed and over 200 others were injured in a terrorist attack in Peshawar, Pakistan. The mosque where the attack occurred was located in the most secure zone of the city, where the police and other security agencies are located. This is one of the deadliest attacks to hit the city in many years. It was claimed by the Mohmand chapter of the banned Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). However, later TTP Central denied any involvement in the act. Most of the victims were police officers. The TTP — a US State Department-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization — was also responsible for the massacre of over 140 people, including 132 children, at a school in that same city in December 2014.

The question that everyone is asking themselves is how this was possible in the Red Zone of the city. It’s not clear whether it was a suicide bomber or if a bomb was planted inside the mosque. Either way, most people agree that there must have been a degree of inside help to execute this terrorist act successfully. Several suspects connected have since been arrested. Not only does this attack point to an utter failure in security and intelligence, but it reaffirms the TTP’s message: “we can kill you anywhere, anytime, including in mosques, and the army and government cannot protect you.”

Pakistan on the Brink: What the Collapse of the Nuclear-Armed Regional Power Could Mean for the World

Murtaza Hussain

THE LAST YEAR has brought Pakistan to the brink. A series of rolling disasters — including catastrophic flooding, political paralysis, exploding inflation, and a resurgent terror threat — now risk sending a key, if troubled, global player into full-blown crisis. If the worst comes to pass, as some experts warn, the catastrophe unfolding in Pakistan will have consequences far beyond its borders.

“This is a country of 220 million people, with nuclear weapons and serious internal conflicts and divisions,” said Uzair Younus, the director of the Pakistan Initiative at the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center. “The world didn’t like the outflows of refugees and weapons that came from countries like Syria and Libya. In comparison, Pakistan is magnitudes larger and more consequential.”

“If the economy remains in a moribund state, and there are shortages of goods and energy leading to a political crisis on the streets of major cities, that would also allow the Pakistani Taliban and other terrorist groups to begin hitting at the government more directly,” said Younus, who is also vice president of the Asia Group, a strategic advisory firm. “We could see a significant weakening of the state and its capacity to impose order.”

The Maldives: geopolitics of Chinese tourism


For the decade prior to Covid-19, China was the Maldives' biggest source of tourism. The pandemic changed all that, with arrivals dropping from 284,000 in 2019 to 34,000 in 2020. As a percentage of total tourism revenue, by 2021 China’s contribution to the Maldives dropped to less than one per cent.

As 2023 kicks off with China reopening its borders, the Maldives is holding its breath in anticipation of a returning influx of Chinese tourists. But 2023 is also a presidential election year and like any other country, the Maldives is not immune to geopolitics.
Approved Destination Status is a designation granted to countries by the Communist Party of China that allows its citizens to travel with fewer restrictions, making the status significant for tourism.

According to the government’s official figures, tourism accounted for 21.4 per cent of nominal GDP in 2021. However, if direct and indirect contributions are included, tourism is responsible for closer to 75 per cent of GDP according to the Asian Development Bank. Due to this dependence, the Maldives was one of the first countries to reopen its borders after initial Covid-19 closures. By July 2020, the country was eagerly welcoming tourists again, with India quick to replace China as the biggest source of tourism, just ahead of Russia.

US Steps-Up Influence in Nepal in Competition with China

Sapana Phuyal

US Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs Victoria Nuland’s recent visit to Nepal, India, and Sri Lanka was a welcome, yet highly charged affair. For Nepal, while new development prospects are welcome, the pressure to choose sides between China and the US is unwanted.

The US State Department’s Victoria Nuland visited Nepal recently, coming less than two months after the forming of government in Kathmandu. The visit is the first and highest level from the current Biden administration and is widely seen as an attempt by the US government to cultivate relations with the new Pushpa Kamal Dahla-led government and lay the foundations for the implementation of new projects under the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) compact. The State Department identified the multi-day visit as a top strategic concern as the administration seeks to boost its involvement in the Indo-Pacific. Under this framework, all small South Asian countries are included, which envisions a free, open, connected, and resilient Indo-Pacific region.

Nuland, in meeting with Nepal’s Prime Minister and key leaders of ruling and opposition parties, said Nepal was free and able to have an economic relationship with all its neighbours. But there was also the caveat and swipe at China’s Belt and Road Initiative dealings: just ensure that Nepal protects its own sovereignty and that projects are mutually beneficial.

The civil war in Myanmar: No end in sight

Yun Sun

The second anniversary of the February 2021 coup d’état in Myanmar has just passed, and the abysmal state of armed conflict, insurgency, chaos, and anarchy has only been deteriorating. Despite the repeated calls by regional organizations like the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and by the United Nations to stop the violence, protect human rights, and respect the democratic process, the Burmese military junta has demonstrated no appetite for political concessions or negotiation with the resistance movement. With the uncertainty associated with the postponed general elections this year — which most speculate will be neither free nor fair nor legitimate — the civil war inside Myanmar is likely to only escalate in 2023. There is no end in sight.

Strictly speaking, the civil war in Myanmar has been ongoing since 1948. The fighting between the central government dominated by the Bamar majority and the ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) in seven ethnic states has never completely ceased since the country’s independence decades before the 2021 coup. The country is no stranger to military coups either. The 1962 coup led by General Ne Win replaced the country’s representative democracy with 26 years of military rule. And the landslide victory by Aung San Suu Kyi and her National League for Democracy (NLD) in the 1990 elections was also denied by the military, which held onto power for another 25 years until the NLD won again in the 2015 general elections.

US Expands Military Footprint in the Philippines

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.

In Its Push for an Intelligence Edge, China’s Military Turned to Balloons

Chris Buckley and Amy Chang Chien

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Long before an unmanned Chinese airship floating over the United States grabbed the world’s attention, Taiwan may have glimpsed Beijing’s ambitions to turn balloons — seemingly so old-fashioned and ponderous — into elusive tools of 21st-century military power.

Residents in Taipei and elsewhere on the island have spotted and photographed mysterious pale orbs high in the sky at least several times in the previous two years. But few people here, even officials, gave them much thought then. Now, Taiwanese officials are grappling with whether any of the balloons were part of China’s growing fleet of airborne surveillance craft, deployed to gather information from the self-ruled island that Beijing claims as its own.

The incursions have come into focus since the United States identified and shot down the Chinese balloon that had spent days traversing the country. Beijing has protested the balloon’s downing, asserting that it was a civilian ship doing scientific research. But American officials say that the balloon was part of a global surveillance effort targeting the military capabilities of various countries.

China's Balloon Reveals the Weaknesses in US National Security Decision-Making

Lawrence A. Franklin

If China perceives that the America's leaders lack resolve or that its national security decision-makers are divided, these failures can only tempt Chinese aggression against Siberia or Taiwan. After watching America's debacles in Afghanistan and a week of hosting the balloon, China must be asking: If not now, when?

These reconnaissance flights seem but one dimension of a vast, multidimensional intelligence-collection effort by China.

The most important lesson China might have learned, unfortunately, is that Washington's bungled balloon performance could well be replicated if Communist China's President Xi Jinping invaded Taiwan or other targets.

The second-most damaging impact to US security regarding spy balloon that the Chinese Communist Party floated over the entire US continent may have been the assessment that China's decision-makers gleaned from the perceived clumsy and indecisive manner in which America's political and military leaders responded to the incident.

China’s ultra-fast economic recovery

During china’s recent lunar-new-year holiday, tourists flocked to the sprawling Taihao mausoleum in Henan province. Many enjoyed slapping a statue of Qin Hui, a scheming official in the Song dynasty who is notorious for having framed a military hero. One visitor got a little carried away, striking the statue with the lid of an incense burner. Feelings are running high after Qin’s villainy featured in a new film, “Full River Red”, which topped the box-office charts during the holiday.

This enthusiastic moviegoing, sightseeing and statue-slapping is evidence of a surprisingly rapid consumer revival in the world’s second-biggest economy. The mausoleum says it received 300,000 people in the festive period, the most to have visited in three years. Box-office revenues were not only better than last year, they were also higher than in the year before covid-19 struck. China’s population, subject until recently to mass screening, is now massing at the screens.

The recovery is arriving earlier than expected because the virus spread faster. Since China hastily abandoned its zero-covid regime, infections appear to have passed remarkably quickly. State epidemiologists estimate that at least 80% of the population has already caught the disease. According to official figures, hospital inpatient numbers peaked on January 5th. A second wave of infections was expected after holiday travel spread the disease from cities to villages. But the virus beat the festive rush. The much-feared second wave appears to have merged with the first, reckons Airfinity, a life-sciences data firm.

A ‘Modern National Security Strategy’: Q&A with Rep. Ro Khanna


The United States has an “incredible advantage” in terms of traditional military forces and weapons, but must make sure it has the same advantage in new tech, and needs a “modern national security strategy” to make that happen, the ranking member of the House Armed Services subcommittee on cyber, information technology, and innovation told Defense One.

“I think we have work to do to ensure the lead in AI, in quantum, in small drones, in hypersonics, in having the most advanced semiconductors. We have superiority when it comes to our Navy, when it comes to our Air Force, when it comes to our Army,” said Rep. Ro Khanna, a Democrat whose California district includes Silicon Valley. “But we need to give them the modern tools and not handicap them by falling behind in one of these technology areas.”

Khanna, who is also a member of the House China Select Committee and co-chair of the India caucus, said in an interview that he sees those three roles as intersecting “to create an overarching mission to have a modern national security strategy” as well as an economic strategy he calls “a new economic patriotism.” The following Q & A has been edited for length and clarity.

The U.S. Overreacted to the Chinese Spy Balloon. That Scares Me.

Howard W. French

With the aperture gradually widening on the recent incident involving the transit of U.S. airspace by a Chinese balloon, providing ever more information to the public about Beijing’s intelligence-gathering capabilities, this might seem like a peculiar time to amplify the response that some people had to the craft’s early sightings: Calm down.

The Chinese balloon incursion needs to be understood in two strongly contrasted ways though, and only one of them has received much focus: What does this tell us about Beijing today? That question is fairly easy to answer—so easy, in fact, that the best interpretation I’ve seen so far came from a comedian not particularly known for her deep insights into U.S.-China relations. “And by the way: China, if you’re listening—which, you obviously are—next time, why don’t you make your balloon the color blue so we can’t see it in the sky,” Chelsea Handler joked on The Daily Show.

This stark fact tells us a lot. Whether by outright calculation or inattention, the Chinese state—led by President Xi Jinping—felt no need to conceal an information-gathering operation as bold as this nor even to prepare a cover story that ordinary people would be comfortable delivering with a straight face. Instead, Beijing’s response was shoddily improvised, confused, and risibly untrue. First came a rare statement of diplomatic regret, then denial that the balloon was anything other than an ordinary weather monitoring device, and finally a tin-eared dudgeon: In effect, “How dare you shoot down our vessel?” and “We reserve the right to respond in defense of our legitimate rights.”

Is Biden’s Pentagon a Warfighting Organization? Amid China Threat, You Have To Wonder

Dakota Wood

In a recent memo, Gen. Michael A. Minihan, commander of the U.S. Air Force’s Air Mobility Command, said he has a "gut feeling" that the U.S. will be at war with China in 2025. Written to the men and women under his command, it was clearly meant to spur them to "attain higher readiness, integration, and agility" deemed necessary to win in such a fight. Minihan’s blunt talk, aggressive instructions to his troops, and sense of urgency differs starkly from the Biden administration’s approach to the threat posed by China.

Minihan has said provocative things before. "Every part of your life is better [when] you can kill your enemy" nettled some. But his prediction of war with China just two years down the road, sent senior officials and national security analysts scurrying to distance themselves from both his forecast and the tone of his memo.

Pentagon officials said Minihan’s comments were "not representative of the Department’s view on China." That’s true enough. Their phrasing and word choice has consistently implied that they are more focused on building alliance structures that achieve security objectives peacefully and that do not antagonize China than in driving a military posture that is capable of and ready for combat action should the need arise.

Wagner Group Redefined: Threats and Responses

Raphael Parens

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

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

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

Ukraine Has the Battlefield Edge

Gil Barndollar

As the conflict in Ukraine nears its first anniversary, both sides have settled in for a long war. Russia mobilized some 300,000 reservists in September to stabilize its front as winter set in. Despite recent successes in Kharkiv and Kherson, Ukrainian leaders are now warning that a new Russian offensive is imminent, boosted by these reinforcements. Some analysts believe that this offensive may already have begun. But there is little reason to expect that increased manpower alone will lead to Russian victory. Ukraine’s Western backers should hold their nerve and keep providing Ukraine with what it needs most: modern weapons and the training to use them effectively.

After the invasion’s initial repulse, Russian President Vladimir Putin procrastinated on further mobilization as long as possible, summoning reserves only when the situation forced him to. Russia does not have a ready and deployable reserve like America’s Army Reserve or National Guard. Russian reservists are simply men who previously served as one-year conscripts—most of them many years removed from the military. Less than 10 percent of those now mobilized had carried out any refresher training within five years of leaving active service. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu himself noted that the average age of mobilized soldiers was 35.

Friends in Need: What the War in Ukraine Has Revealed About Alliances

Stephen M. Walt

NATO was created to prevent a major war in Europe, a task it accomplished well for many decades. Apart from the brief Kosovo war in 1999, its members never had to fight together or coordinate a joint response to aggression—until a year ago, when Russia invaded Ukraine. NATO’s response thus offers fresh, real-world evidence about how contemporary alliances work in practice.

The recent behavior of Russia and the West confirms that states form alliances not to balance against power but to balance against threats. The way NATO has done so has also revealed much about both the alliance’s virtues and its enduring pathologies. The war may have given NATO a new lease on life and shown the value of its well-established procedures, but it also underscores the degree to which its European members remain dangerously dependent on the United States.

As the world moves toward multipolarity, alliances will only matter more. In an age when no single country stands unchallenged atop the international system, success will depend on rival powers’ ability to form a coherent and capable grouping and exercise power collectively. Above all, the invasion of Ukraine and its aftermath show that leaders court disaster if they fail to understand why alliances form and how they work.

The Lessons From Cyberwar, Cyber-in-War and Ukraine

Kevin Townsend

The war in Ukraine is the first major conflagration between two technologically advanced powers in the age of cyber. It prompts us to question the nature of modern warfare and the role of cyber in its operation. Here we will look at the use of cyber in the years leading to the kinetic war, and the use of cyber technology on the modern kinetic battlefield.

We need to understand the meaning of cyber and the meaning of war, to question whether the two concepts can be separated, and to ask ourselves if we are ever not at war.

‘Cyber’ derives from ‘cybernetics’, a word coined by US mathematician Norbert Wiener in 1948, taken from the Greek ‘kybernetes’. Ultimately, it involves the concepts of guiding by control. For Wiener it is the study of communication and control.

By the 1990s, with the combination of the internet (communication) and computers (control), the single word cyber began to denote the non-physical digital world, and became a prefix for compound words in the digital space — such as cybersecurity, or more directly here, cyberwar.

Experts React: Factors Shaping the Russia-Ukraine Conflict in 2023

Emily Harding , Benjamin Jensen , Heather Williams , and Eliot A. Cohen

As Russia and Ukraine head into year two of a war that has defied expectations, a collection of CSIS experts examined driving factors for the future of the conflict. These experts borrow the approach from intelligence analysts, who seek to evaluate the possible trajectories of a conflict rather than make straight-line predictions, bounding reality for policymakers. Emily Harding discusses the life-or-death question of continued outside aid for Ukraine and the resilience of the Ukrainian people. Ben Jensen discusses cohesion in the Russian military and the potential for catastrophic collapse. Heather Williams evaluates the looming nuclear question. Finally, Eliot Cohen examines how a conflict might end.

The success or failure of Kyiv’s war effort hinges on one unfortunate fact: Ukraine does not have the indigenous capacity to arm itself for this fight. Ukrainian president Zelensky knows it and has devoted considerable time and energy to shoring up relationships and corresponding supply lines—for example, leaving Ukraine to visit Washington and Europe.

Has Climate Change Ended Nature?

Elena Casetta

In his 1989 book The End of Nature, Bill McKibben claims that, because of large-scale climate change produced by human technologies, no place on Earth can be considered natural anymore. In 2000, at a conference in Cuernavaca, Mexico, Paul J. Crutzen proclaimed that we live in the Anthropocene, a new phase in the history of the planet in which humankind has imposed itself as a decisive influence on the global ecology, interfering with its fundamental systems. Is nature truly over? And, if so, are we left with nothing more to do than mourning its end? In this chapter, I reconstruct how humans have allegedly ended nature (Section 1); hence I analyse two different possible readings of the ‘end of nature’ claim, namely the ontological and the epistemological readings, showing that the first one is either false or unfounded, while the second one is possibly true (Section 2). Finally, I show how the analysis previously conducted can help in better focusing the (ontological) target of our conservation actions and the (epistemological) tools at our disposal (Section 3).

1. How Humans Are Supposed to Have Ended Nature

Let’s Be Rational: A ‘Fair Share’ Approach to Carbon Emissions

Daniel Burkett

The climate crisis represents a serious threat to our way of life. Without drastic changes to our carbon emissions, we will see considerable and irreversible harm to the environment. There is a growing literature regarding the moral obligations of states, sub-state actors (such as local governments) and industries to curb their carbon emissions (see, for example, Moss 2015). There are also arguments that we, as individuals, have similar obligations to curb our own emissions. Usually, such arguments are based on the claim that our emissions cause or increase the likelihood of harm to others (see, for example, Lawford-Smith 2016 and Broome 2019). But detractors raise questions about how much – if at all – our individual actions truly make a difference (see, for example, Sinnott-Armstrong 2005). This chapter focuses on a relatively novel approach to individual carbon emissions; an approach that sees these emissions as a scarce communal resource, that, like other scarce resources such as a food, water or medical supplies, needs to be rationed. Under this approach, the wrongness of our individual carbon emissions does not depend on harm being caused. Instead, it requires that an individual has consumed more than her ‘fair share’.

1. The Problem with Harm

Don’t Neglect ‘Small-Data’ AI


Much hand-wringing has attended the notion that China has a “natural advantage” in the race to develop artificial intelligence because, as an autocratic state that casts a wide digital net, it is better placed to gather the vast swaths of data needed to train machine-learning models.

But big-data AIs are not the only AIs—and indeed, they may prove too data- and energy-intensive to undergird safe, reliable, and trustworthy AI-enabled defense technologies. Several new “small data” approaches promise better, quicker results—if the Pentagon ensures that they are not starved for funding in the race.

This was becoming apparent as far back as 2017. “The appropriate operational data can be difficult to obtain or lacking,” wrote Elsa Kania at the Center for a New American Security. "Even obtaining a comprehensive dataset to account for one’s own military is challenging.”

Regulate military use of emerging tech before ‘Armageddon,’ new report urges


WASHINGTON — The US and other nations risk global catastrophe is they do not adopt a new overarching framework to regulate disruptive technologies like artificial intelligence, autonomy, robotics, cyberweapons and hypersonic missiles, a new report from the Arms Control Association warns.

The report, released Tuesday [PDF], says that without adopting such measures, “cutting-edge technologies will be converted into military systems at an ever-increasing tempo, and the dangers to world security will grow apace.

“A more thorough understanding of the distinctive threats to strategic stability posed by these technologies and the imposition of restraints on their military use would go a long way toward reducing the risks of Armageddon,” according to the report.

The report lays out the challenges with emerging technologies and calls out the Defense Department on its shortfalls surrounding its recent AI guidelines. It specifically points to how DoD failed to incorporate department-wide implementation of AI regulation procedures in its AI “ethical principles” and “merely reiterated the principles principles incorporated into the original guidelines and attached a blueprint for further action by DoD agencies” in its Responsible AI Strategy.

Is Google’s 20-year dominance of search in peril?

Near the bay in Mountain View, California, sits one of the biggest profit pools in business history. The site is the home of Google, whose search engine has for two decades been humanity’s preferred front door to the internet—and advertisers’ preferred front door to humanity. Every second of every day, Google processes perhaps 100,000 web searches—and, thanks to its clever algorithm, serves up uncannily relevant answers. That power has turned Google into a verb. It also opens up billions of daily opportunities to sell ads alongside the answers to searchers’ queries. The results’ accuracy keeps users coming back, and rivals at bay: all other search engines combined account for barely a tenth of daily searchers.

SpaceX didn’t intend that Starlink be ‘weaponized’ by Ukraine: Shotwell


WASHINGTON — The Ukraine military’s use of SpaceX’s Starlink internet communications service as a weapon system in its war with Russia was something the company neither foresaw or agreed to, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said today.

“We were really pleased to be able to provide Ukraine connectivity, and help them in their … fight for freedom. It was never intended to be weaponized, however,” she told the 25th Annual FAA Commercial Space Transportation Conference here today.

“The Ukrainians have leveraged it in ways that were unintentional and not part of any agreement. So you know, we have to work on that [with] Starlink. You offer a commercial product by connectivity to people which is helpful in conflict, but you also want to be careful of how they use it,” she added. “On the other hand, they’re trying to fight for their country, so I understand it. The thing is, it’s not what was intended.”

“It’s Not Possible for Me to Feel or Be Creepy”: An Interview with ChatGPT

Between Christmas and New Year’s, my family took a six-hour drive to Vermont. I drove; my wife and two children sat in the back seat. Our children are five and two—too old to be hypnotized by a rattle or a fidget spinner, too young to entertain themselves—so a six-hour drive amounted to an hour of napping, an hour of free association and sing-alongs, and four hours of desperation. We offered the kids an episode of their favorite storytelling podcast, but they weren’t in the mood for something prerecorded. They wanted us to invent a new story, on the spot, tailored to their interests. And their interests turned out to be pretty narrow. “Tell one about the Ninja Turtles fighting Smasher Venom, a villain I just made up who is the size of a skyscraper,” the five-year-old said. “With lots of details about how the Turtles use their weapons and work together to defeat the bad guy, and how he gets hurt but doesn’t die.” My wife tried improvising a version of this story; then I tried one. The children had notes. Our hearts weren’t in it. It was obvious that our supply of patience for this exercise would never match their demand. Three and a half hours to go.

My wife took out her phone and opened ChatGPT, a chatbot that “interacts in a conversational way.” She typed in the prompt, basically word for word, and, within seconds, ChatGPT spat out a story. We didn’t need to tell it the names of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, or which weapons they used, or how they felt about anchovies on their pizza. More impressive, we didn’t need to tell it what a story was, or what kind of conflict a child might find narratively satisfying.

Sharper: Critical Technology

Anna Pederson and Sam Howell

Critical technologies promise to upend traditional understandings of national security, economic prosperity, and everyday life. Artificial intelligence, semiconductors, quantum information technologies, biotechnologies, and related technology areas are applicable to a range of industries, from defense and logistics to agriculture and medicine. These technologies, which afford nation-states new tools and vulnerabilities, have become a crux of U.S.-China competition, and a prominent part of cooperation and contention with allies and partners. CNAS experts are sharpening the conversation around the policy challenges associated with critical technologies and how the United States. can maintain its technological superiority in the digital age. Continue reading this edition of Sharper to explore their ideas and recommendations.


DoD Autonomous Weapons Policy

In January, the U.S. Defense Department (DoD) released an updated version of its policy on autonomous weapons, DoD Directive 3000.09, Autonomy in Weapon Systems. This was the first major policy update since 2012. In this CNAS Noteworthy, Vice President and Director of Studies Paul Scharre breaks down the new Directive and what it means for the U.S. military’s approach to lethal autonomous weapon systems. Dr. Scharre led the DoD working group that drafted the original DoD directive 3000.09 in 2012.

Opinion – Chat GPT and IR: Preliminary Reflections from within ‘Dark Academia’

Felix Mantz

Since appearing seemingly out of nowhere, ChatGPT has quickly risen to fame among teachers, lecturers, and professors across Western academia. While students to date seem mostly unaware of the technology and there are serious doubts over its effectiveness, ChatGPT now dominates numerous conversations among colleagues, department meetings, and ‘special discussion sessions’ across university spaces. This rapid emergence of ChatGPT has provoked a range of reactions among academics, spanning from excitement, curiosity, and techno-fetishism, to concern, anxiety, and existential worry about the future of academia and its disciplines. Among the more sceptical reactions from within the social sciences, including Political Science and International Relations, one key issue seems to be the question of student assessment: ‘If we cannot know whether essays are produced by students or computers, how can we meaningfully assess learning?’ Or more specifically, ‘How can we catch those who want to use ChatGPT to trick “the system”?’

My initial reaction was to reflect on how these questions might affect the introductory International Relations courses I teach this semester. While much of the overall grade students receive (45%) is through in-class presentations, activities, and participation – i.e. forms of assessment for which ChatGPT seems to be less of an issue – the other 55% of the grade is determined through essays. In other words, some students might be able to use ChatGPT to produce, submit, and receive a grade for these essays. Aside from being unsure how to prevent students from using ChatGPT or how to ‘catch’ those who do, I am not sure I am very interested in doing so in the first place.

Building guardrails for ChatGPT

Michael J. Ahn and Yu-Che Chen

The recent release of GPT-3, the state-of-the-art language model developed by OpenAI, has sparked a renewed interest in chatbot technology. One of the most notable developments in this area is ChatGPT, a chatbot that utilizes GPT-3 to perform a wide range of language tasks, such as text generation, language translation, text summarization, and conversation simulation. In its current form, ChatGPT has the potential to revolutionize the way we interact with technology, offering a wide range of applications from computer coding, customer service, and virtual assistants to language translation and content creation.

One of the key advantages of ChatGPT over traditional search engines is its ability to provide contextualized and processed information. ChatGPT can understand the context of a search query and provide results that are relevant and specific to the user’s needs by using natural language processing techniques. It can also interpret the intent behind a user’s query, even if it is phrased in a casual or conversational way, which makes it easier for users to ask questions and get the information they need.

Traditional search engines have been around for a long time and have a vast amount of pre-existing and real-time data indexed, and their sophisticated algorithms typically provide a ranked and vast list of search results that their users should process themselves. ChatGPT processes a vast amount of information and provides its users with information that is tailored to the users’ needs, intentions, and contexts. The understanding of the context of questions represents a valuable advance that is relatively accurate and, in the short time people have been using it, appears to open a new chapter in information search for the future.

Deterrence and Military Strategy in the Indo-Pacific: Time to Revitalize Strategic and Operational Concepts

Lt. Gen. Wallace ‘Chip’ Gregson (USMC, ret.)

After an eventful December and January, the defense and security policies of the United States and Japan are being upgraded, and look to be solidly set for the pacing threats of the era. In December, Japan formally published its new National Security Strategy. It was accompanied by a new National Defense Strategy and an ambitious Mid-Term Defense Buildup Program (now called the Defense Buildup Program, or DBP). These documents explain in detail plans for a major defense budget increase—the start of a process to bring Japan up to the NATO standard, which calls for a commitment of two percent of gross domestic product to defense. This program will represent a doubling of Japan’s resource commitment to defense in the next five years. Consequently, the security and defense policies—and budgets—are now in a much better place for the United States, Japan, and Taiwan—but there is still more work to be done.

The Enhancement of the US-Japan Defense Posture in the Pacific Region

January became known as “Japanuary” in Washington, reflecting the extraordinary number of Japanese visitors for policy and strategy discussions. It was capped by the latest “2+2” meeting of the defense and foreign policy secretaries and ministers of each country, ratifying the work done by their subordinates over the past year. A summit meeting between Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and President Joseph Biden provided the capstone to an extraordinary month (and year) for the Japan-US alliance.

Alone and unafraid: How to prepare to fight and win the next war

Lt. Col. Ernest “Nest” Cage

A near-peer conflict between the U.S. and China will be a nightmare lived in real life. Just how scary the nightmare of war might be is dependent on what is done now. As policymakers and war planners prepare for the potential of near-peer conflict — the biggest fight of modern times — two imperatives must be considered: the rapid investment and fielding of highly employable technology, and greater autonomy and expectations from novel warfighters on the battlefield.

In a recent conversation at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. David Berger said that we will have to use everything in the cupboard to prevent conflict with China. At present, open-source war games predict that American fire power and expertise would prevail in a conflict with China. However, the current “victory gap,” is not static, and our military advantage over a near-peer adversary is not guaranteed in perpetuity.

While progress has been made to step up the pace of acquiring new weapon systems through existing acquisition authorities, it can be argued that much more speed is needed to ensure the force is ready for the next fight. This will mean more robust legislative reforms that entrust the Department of Defense with the authority to speed up the acquisition of emerging technology from future years to real-time relevance. It may even mean a radical idea: Buy now and report as soon as possible.

Buying bombs: Why the US often gets it wrong

Jacquelyn Schneider

Ukraine may be one of history’s great examples of military technological innovation.

It successfully integrated decades-old systems like the Javelin and the Stinger with modern digital targeting techniques; used commercial satellites to command and control decentralized forces; reverse-engineered cheap drones to deliver grenades, and converted ship-based Harpoon cruise missiles into truck-launched systems. It recently procured the Ground-Launched Small Diameter Bomb, a precision-guided 250-pound bomb employed by rocket beyond 90 miles.

The Ukrainians’ success highlights weaknesses in the U.S. arsenal. Production lines for weapons like the Javelin and the Stinger were all but shut down. The GLSDB received a hard pass from the U.S. military services. To launch the Harpoon from land, the Department of Defense had to draft a whole new emergency requirement.

As analysts Stacie Pettyjohn and Hannah Dennis concluded, the U.S. has been underinvesting in many munitions, including “anti-ship and area-effects weapons,” and is “not buying enough of these weapons” or “stockpiling enough precision-guided munitions (PGMs) for a protracted war.”

Good Riddance to the War on Terror

Paul R. Pillar

The occasion did not get much attention, but December 31 marked the end of what came to be called the “war on terrorism” (or alternatively, the “war on terror,” the “global war on terrorism,” or the GWOT). To be more precise, that is the date that overseers of military decorations in the Department of Defense declared to be the final day of eligibility to receive the National Defense Service Medal, which is awarded to all service members on active duty during a time of war. The medal had previously been awarded during the wars in Korea and Vietnam and the first Persian Gulf war. Then there was a period of eligibility lasting more than two decades for the “war on terrorism,” from September 11, 2001, until last New Year’s Eve.

This administrative detail about medals is the closest thing we are likely to get to an official announcement about the end of this latest “war.” American political leaders would understandably be reluctant to declare an end to this endeavor, only to have their opponents replay their words after the next terrorist attack that takes American lives. But now is as good a time as any to reflect on the mistakes that were central to this “war.”

The War Between Ukraine And Russia: What Statistics Can Tell Us

Dennis Soltys

Now that Western countries have agreed to supply Ukraine with offensive weapons, it seems a good time to review the statistics and dynamics of the Russo-Ukraine war thus far. A review might indicate what could be expected in the coming spring as the two sides prepare for a possibly decisive showdown, and it might also suggest appropriate Western policy measures.

The first question concerns statistics, their reliability, and what they might mean. Oryx, a Dutch organization using open sources, counts as evidence only those losses of equipment that are confirmed by photographic or video evidence. Thus as of Feb. 9, Oryx recorded that Russian losses of heavy equipment of all types were nearly 9,100 versus 2,934 for the Ukrainians.

While recognizing that these figures greatly understate actual losses, it is notable that the losses of the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU) were about one-third of Russian losses across most categories. This occurred even though AFU weaponry was comparatively poor — especially its artillery, which had a shorter range than its Russian counterparts and vastly less ammunition. The large majority of Russian tanks were destroyed by artillery, not by the famous Javelins, NLAWS, and Gustavs. Ukrainian-made anti-tank rockets and artillery lasted for four months, which meant that the eviction of the Russian army from the northern regions of Ukraine in the initial stages of the war was achieved mostly with domestic resources.
Plausible Devastation

Why the Military Keeps Spotting so Many Unidentified Flying Objects—and Then Shooting Them Down


In the first two weeks of February, the U.S. Air Force has shot down four flying objects that have intruded on the skies over North America. The deployment of force is unprecedented for the U.S. during peacetime—leveraging some of the U.S. military’s most advanced fighter planes, surveillance tools, and expensive air-to-air missiles.

The first object shot down was an alleged Chinese surveillance balloon that the Biden Administration says was part of a years-long scheme to spy on nations across the Earth. But so far, officials have been much less clear about what the other objects are. One shot down over Alaska Feb. 10 was described as a “car-sized object” that did not appear to have a propulsion source. One downed over Canada the next day was described as “cylindrical,” potentially a balloon, but smaller than the Chinese balloon.

That balloon, which was publicly spotted over Montana Feb. 1 and carried sensors capable of spying on conversations on the ground, revealed an entirely new class of threat to U.S. air space. Experts say two things are happening as a result: First, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and other agencies tasked with watching for airborne incursions have recalibrated their detection methods to pick up smaller, slower-moving objects that they weren’t previously paying attention to. Second, the military decided that shooting these objects out of the sky and collecting the wreckage is one sure way to quickly learn where they’re coming from and what threat they pose.

Chinese balloons have been ‘transiting’ Middle East, top general says


WASHINGTON — Chinese balloons have overflown the Gulf region, a top US general told reporters Monday, a revelation that comes after a 72 hour period which saw the US shoot down three flying objects in American airspace — and acknowledgements from the Pentagon that it has changed how it surveils US territory.

“We have seen surveillance balloons in the AOR,” said Lt. Gen. Alexus Grynkewich, commander of Air Forces Central, referring to US Central Command’s area of operations. “They did not go anywhere near any of our sensitive sites, but we have seen them in the past, transiting through the region … they haven’t been a threat to us, but we’ve certainly observed them in the region.”

Grynkewich, who was speaking at the Center for a New American Security, said that the balloons CENTCOM had tracked were Chinese. While he used the term “surveillance” to describe them, he noted that “they have not hung out over American bases or been any threat to our forces whatsoever,” and as a result it’s hard to know what the purpose of the floating devices was.