17 February 2023

India Ups Its Game in the Middle East

Husain Haqqani and Aparna Pande

India’s response to the recent devastating earthquake in Turkey and Syria reflects its policy of robust engagement in the Middle East. It follows a visit by Egyptian President Abdel Fateh el-Sisi to India, and an expansion of ties with Israel and Arab countries in the Gulf. Coupled with long-standing connections to Iran, India’s overtures to Turkey, Israel, and the Arab states position India as a potentially significant actor in the Middle East at a time when the United States appears to be downsizing its position in the region.

India has, since independence, engaged actively with the Middle East. The quality of that engagement has changed in recent years, reflecting India’s desire to be a more assertive global power in a multipolar world. India’s quick large-scale aid for Turkey and Syria is part of its desire to be seen as the country of first response, providing disaster relief and humanitarian assistance in its wider neighborhood.

But the latest emergency response – which includes an entire field hospital and medical team along with machines, medicines, and hospital beds — is strategic, not just humanitarian. It is part of several actions enhancing India’s profile across the Middle East.

Can India Emerge a Global Chip Powerhouse?

Laraib Farhat

The world is in the grip of the geopolitics of technology. The race to achieve self-reliance in the technology of the future has pushed countries to up their game in the techno-political arena. India too has realized its potential in possessing technologies that are critical to its economic growth and for that, it has opened itself to foreign investment in high-tech. As India moves toward presenting its economy as a workshop to the world, cooperation for establishing the foundation for domestic manufacturing is essential. This is where strategic alliances come into play.

Earlier this month, India and the United States launched their partnership on the Critical and Emerging Technology (iCET) initiative. The opening dialogue was held in Washington, D.C. The meeting covered myriad agenda points, including but not limited to strengthening the innovation ecosystem, defense innovation and technology cooperation, space, next generation telecommunications, and, most important, building resilient semiconductor supply chains. The two sides showed interest in materializing deeper partnerships across areas of defense and critical and emerging technologies.

Still short on promise: India’s defence industrial base

Chandler Myers

New Delhi faces severe challenges to diversify its defence inventory in the wake of Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Even as a storied, reliable Russian defence partner, India sees a diminished Russian relationship in its future. In the past 20 years, India has been
slowly unravelling itself from its Russian defence connections through weapons trade with other nations. However, its momentum towards diluting its heavy Russian military inventory ignores still-needed reforms to its defence industrial base.

Debate on India’s international weapons trade between its major defence partners, Russia, France and the United States, has muted its domestic defence struggles. Upgrading the impact of India’s defence industrial base is a net positive for its security, such as increasing its asymmetric military power against Pakistan and shrinking its economic and military power disparity against China.

Unlike the US and other major Western democracies, India has developed a defence industrial base that’s more akin to China’s or Russia’s, because its defence enterprise is mainly state owned and directed. Roughly 80% of the network of defence companies that make up India’s defence enterprise is owned and controlled by the government. India’s government-owned defence base comprises 41 ordnance factories, 16 defence public sector undertakings, and the Defence Research and Development Organisation that powers its defence research with more than 50 laboratories.

IntelBrief: China’s South Asia Troubles

As China’s strategic influence around the globe grows, Beijing’s focus on South is exceeded only by its intense interest in East Asia. China shares a border with four South Asian states, including a narrow border along Afghanistan’s sparsely inhabited Wakhan Corridor. The corridor neighbors China’s Xinjiang province, where large numbers of Muslim Uyghurs are being detained by the government in what are reported to be camps imposing harsh penalties for expressions of faith or regional culture. Although China is wary of the return of Islamist hardliners amid the Taliban’s regaining power in Kabul, the Taliban poses no conventional military threat to China. Leaders in Beijing remain concerned however that the group is harboring ethnic Uyghur Islamist extremists of the Turkistan Islamic Party (TIP) as it did during its pre-9/11 rule. The TIP, which was listed under the UN’s al-Qaeda sanctions regime when it was formerly known as the East Turkistan Islamic Movement, seeks to use Afghanistan as a base from which to liberate Chinese Uyghurs. Strategically, Beijing is more concerned about the intentions and capabilities of India, whose population is set to exceed that of China this year, and with whom China’s troops have clashed on their border as recently as December 2022. China has long looked to Pakistan as an ally with which to apply pressure on India’s western border in the event of an all-out conflict.

Can Huawei Defy Geopolitical Gravity This Time?

Lyu Jiaran and Dingding Chen

The Biden administration is reportedly considering cutting off Huawei from all U.S. suppliers, including Qualcomm and Intel, according to Reuters. The unnamed sources quoted in the Reuters report revealed that the administration is working on a new policy, aiming at denying Huawei access to technology below 5G level, including items related to 4G, cloud items, WiFi 6 and 7, high-performance computing, and artificial intelligence (AI).

This is not the first time Huawei, a Chinese telecommunications giant, has been targeted by Washington. In 2019, the behemoth was crippled after being placed on the Department of Commerce entity list. The listing restricted most U.S. companies from supplying Huawei with goods and technology unless they were granted licenses. The U.S. Commerce Department later granted export licenses to suppliers like Intel and Qualcomm to provide technologies and items below the 5G level, but Huawei was cut off from Qualcomm’s 5G chips and Intel’s x86 chips.

The ban took a toll on Huawei – the erstwhile 5G smartphone spearhead was forced to drop 5G for its new P50 phones. It also lost access to Google’s Mobile Service. Huawei’s year-over-year phone sales declined 41.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2020. By the end of 2020, Huawei sold Honor, its smartphone division, to Digital China and a local government.

Mysterious Balloons

George Friedman

The relationship between nations is always complex and sometimes difficult to understand. Sometimes it enters the realm of the bizarre. And then, at the most extreme level, it enters the world of balloons, unidentified objects and F-22 fighters – all converging on, as they say in Washington, lies, damn lies and press briefings. This is compounded by the fact that the likely villain, China, claims that the U.S. has intruded on Chinese territory with balloons (their word) at least 10 times. This is possible but also raises the question of why Beijing permitted so many intrusions without a whisper of rage.

According to the Pentagon, China’s spy balloons have entered the airspace of more than 40 nations in recent years. Given that these flying objects are somewhat visible from the ground, it is strange that no one noted them at least loudly enough to be noticed. The question is what the Chinese were looking for – and the Americans too, if Beijing’s counteraccusations are correct. Both countries have many spy satellites, conceived of and used to map out the locations of nuclear-capable aircraft and missiles and deployed in constellations that would detect an enemy launch. These satellites evolved into systems that can detect a wide variety of objects on the ground as well as some that can detect electronic signals.

Chinese attack on Taiwan not ‘imminent’ and predicting it unhelpful to Pentagon readiness: US general

Robert Delaney

A senior US Air Force official on Monday said a military attack on Taiwan by mainland China was not “imminent” and that predictions about such a scenario playing out were a distraction to the Pentagon’s efforts to be prepared for conflict in the region.

Asked whether he agreed with recent predictions of a military flare-up in the Taiwan Strait, General Charles Brown, the Air Force’s chief of staff, replied: “I don’t see that conflict is imminent or inevitable.”

“The goal is to avoid it, and so not knowing when things might occur, my goal is to be ready today, tomorrow, next week, next year, next decade,” Brown said at a discussion hosted by the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank.

Speculation about when military conflict in the Taiwan Strait might break out “is not necessarily helpful”, he added.

What China Has Learned From the Ukraine War

Evan A. Feigenbaum and Adam Szubin

When Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, China’s leaders attempted to balance two fundamentally irreconcilable interests. First, they aimed to bolster China’s entente with Russia to counterbalance American power and alleviate growing strategic pressure from the West. Second, although they backed Moscow, they sought to avoid unilateral and coordinated sanctions aimed at China’s government, companies, and financial institutions.

For a year, China has been performing the “Beijing straddle,” tacking uncomfortably between these competing objectives under the white-hot light of international scrutiny. China has generally refused to sell arms to Russia and to circumvent sanctions on Moscow’s behalf because preserving global market access is more important to Beijing than any economic link to Russia. Simply put, China has no interest in being Russia’s proxy. But Beijing has also tried to have its cake and eat it, too, by endorsing Russia’s rationales for the conflict, coordinating with Moscow diplomatically while it cautiously abstains in United Nations votes, taking full advantage of discounted Russian oil, and enhancing economic linkages to Russia that do not violate Western sanctions. Indeed, China-Russia trade rose by a staggering 34.3 percent in 2022 to a record $190 billion.

China’s Belt and Road to Nowhere

Christina Lu

Nearly a decade after its inception, momentum behind China’s sweeping Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) appears to be slowing as lending slumps and projects stall—forcing Chinese President Xi Jinping to again rethink a floundering initiative that he once hailed as his “project of the century.”

After doling out hundreds of billions of dollars, experts say China’s lending for BRI projects has plummeted, largely a casualty of the COVID-19 pandemic and the country’s own economic slowdown. Support has also waned as partner countries drown in debt and fractures emerge—literally—in projects, fueling uncertainty about the future of the sprawling initiative. In 2022, 60 percent of China’s overseas lending went to borrowers in financial distress, compared to just 5 percent in 2010, said Bradley Parks, the executive director of the AidData research group at the College of William and Mary.

“At its peak, it was really looked at as the centerpiece of China’s economic engagement with the rest of the world,” said Scott Kennedy, an expert in Chinese business and economics at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Now, he said, it is a “shadow of its former self.”

The US Indo-Pacific Strategy’s Weakest Link

Guy C. Charlton and Xiang Gao

In May 2022, with the launch of the “Indo-Pacific Economic Framework for Prosperity,” the Biden administration sought to rebuild the U.S. footprint across the Asia-Pacific region. The Framework, both rhetorically and materially, seeks to counter the growing Chinese economic and military presence across the region by re-emphasizing liberal democratic values, a rule-based international order, the challenges of climate change, and economic development.

Nevertheless, the renewed U.S. geostrategic interest in the region has placed smaller states and long-standing U.S. allies in the uncomfortable position of having to rebalance their relationships with China and the United States in a way that entangles them in the Sino-American strategic competition and does not address their particular concerns. As Fiji’s then-Prime Minister Frank Bainimarama noted on the eve of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi’s 2022 visit to the Pacific Island state, “Geopolitical point-scoring means less than little to anyone whose community is slipping beneath the rising seas.”

Moreover, it is evident that the new U.S. outreach to the Asia-Pacific failed to include a robust economic and trade dimension. As newly appointed Australian Ambassador to the United States Kevin Rudd observed, American involvement in the Asia Pacific needs to have a larger economic component. “For the future, what is the missing element in U.S. grand strategy?” Rudd asked. “It’s called the economy, stupid,” he continued, echoing a nugget of political wisdom from the Clinton administration in the 1990s.

Did Joe Biden Attack Nord Stream 2? This Story Has Some Big Problems

Robert Farley

Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh says that Joe Biden ordered the destruction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. If true, it would represent an explosive intervention in the Russia-Ukraine War, potentially upsetting the coalition that Washington has assembled to support Kyiv.

Does the claim stack up?

Seymour Hersh: The Man Making the Claim

Seymour Hersh is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who has long sought to expose the abuses of the national security state of the U.S. executive branch.

Early in his career, he unveiled the massacre at the South Vietnamese village of My Lai, and later helped report on abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison facility in Iraq.

But Seymour Hersh’s history as a reporter is hardly unchequered.

Hersh’s biography of John F. Kennedy has been harshly criticized for errors of fact and interpretation.

Is the U.S. Reaction to China’s Spy Balloon Overdue or Overblown?

Emma Ashford and Matthew Kroenig

Matthew Kroenig: Hi, Emma! I guess we can put in the work to write the column this week. The editors quashed my idea of just having ChatGPT do it for us. Are you up for it?

Emma Ashford: It’s safer to do it ourselves. If I’ve learned one thing from decades of movies about rogue AI, it’s that you really don’t want to put them in charge of defense policy. You want Skynet? Because, as the Terminator movies showed us, that’s how you get Skynet.

Of course, the big controversy of the week is not advanced AI technology but relatively low-tech surveillance techniques. Washington is going wild over the Chinese spy balloon that was spotted over U.S. territory last week. I haven’t heard this much complaining about inflatables since my 3-year old accidentally let her Mickey Mouse balloon float away.

MK: Well, I bet your 3-year-old did not let her balloon float away over U.S. nuclear-armed ICBM sites!

EA: I don’t know. We’re in D.C. here. There’s a decent chance the prevailing winds took Mickey straight over the White House and the Pentagon. Perhaps we should be more worried about Disney spying on our national security leaders.

Russia declares battlefield gains as Ukraine urges faster military aid

Pavel Polity

KYIV, Feb 15 (Reuters) - Russia said on Wednesday its troops had broken through two fortified lines of Ukrainian defences on the eastern front, as Kyiv described the situation there as difficult and called for faster military aid ahead of a predicted Russian offensive.

The Russian Defence Ministry said the Ukrainians had retreated in the face of Russian attacks in the Luhansk region, although it provided no details and Reuters was not able to independently verify the battlefield report.

"During the offensive ... the Ukrainian troops randomly retreated to a distance of up to 3 km (1.9 miles) from the previously occupied lines," the ministry said on the Telegram messaging app.

"Even the more fortified second line of defence of the enemy could not hold the breakthrough of the Russian military."

The ministry did not specify in which part of the Luhansk region the offensive took place. Reuters was not able to independently verify the battlefield report.

Ukraine briefing: NATO talks focus on weapons production; U.S. general says Russia ‘lost’

Emily Rauhala, Kelsey Ables, Ellen Francis, Erin Cunningham,

BRUSSELS — NATO countries and Western allies on Wednesday announced more weapons and ammunition for Ukraine, moving to boost Kyiv’s military capabilities as Russia escalated attacks in the east. The alliance’s defense chiefs had gathered in Brussels to coordinate a long-term response to the Russian invasion, which has united NATO but also depleted ammunition stocks in allied countries.

“Even as we rush to support Ukraine in the critical months ahead, we must all replenish our stockpiles to strengthen our deterrence and defense for the long term," Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Wednesday as the meetings concluded.

Despite Austin’s assurances, a new poll found that support among Americans for providing weapons to Ukraine has dropped, from 60 percent last spring to 48 percent in January.

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

Gen. David Petraeus: How the war in Ukraine will end

Peter Bergen

CNN — The war in Ukraine is at a stalemate, but that doesn’t mean it’s not changing. General David Petraeus predicts the war will look different this year with significant offensives likely staged by the two sides. Overall, the war continues to demonstrate basic weaknesses in Russia’s military, which was once thought to be one of the most capable in the world.

Petraeus has spent decades studying warfare and practicing its application. He was the US and coalition commander of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and later served as director of the CIA. He earned his Ph.D. from Princeton with a dissertation on the Vietnam War and the lessons the American military took from it. Petraeus is also the co-author, with British historian Andrew Roberts, of the forthcoming book, “Conflict: The Evolution of Warfare from 1945 to Ukraine.”

As we approach the first anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, I asked Petraeus to reflect on the larger lessons of the war.

He says the Russians have lost many battles because of multiple failures of their military culture, doctrine, organizational structures, training and equipping. While Petraeus says this is in many ways the first open-source war, other aspects are being fought with Cold War tactics and weapons – albeit with upgraded capabilities, drones and precision munitions.

DIA Report on Iranian UAVs in Ukraine

From the report

This product provides a visual comparison of UAVs used by Russian forces in Ukraine and Iranian UAVs used to attack U.S. and partner interests in the Middle East. Photos of UAV debris and components from Ukraine are consistent with systems showcased at military expos and other venues in the Middle East. This analysis confirms Russia’s use of various Iranian lethal UAVs in its war in Ukraine.

Military briefing: Russia prepares Ukraine spring offensive

John Paul Rathbone,  Roman Olearchyk and Max Seddon

Fighting in Ukraine is often compared to the first world war: massed troops, artillery barrages and grinding trench warfare that seeks to wear down the enemy.

But when Russia’s long-expected spring offensive begins, there will be no proverbial whistle to mark the moment Russian troops attack and go “over the top”.

It will arrive unheralded, from multiple directions and probably using tactics unlike those Russia has employed so far, including a greater role for its air force, military officials warned.

“The Russian offensive is not going to be like the Somme . . . It will happen in different ways, on different parts of the front line and at different times,” a senior western defence official said. “We have to be careful about thinking the offensive will be a single thing.”

In some parts of Ukraine, the offensive has already begun. “It’s been a week since the Russian attack started,” said Taras Berezovets, a Ukrainian special forces officer. “We expect more Russian troops to become engaged in offensives.”

How Might the Violence in Ukraine Come to an End?

René Pfister, Ann-Dorit Boy,Matthias Gebauer

Starting a war is simple. Ending it, though, is quite a bit more difficult. At the beginning of almost every military conflagration is the illusion that one’s opponent will be relatively easy to defeat.

When German troops headed off to the front in August 1941, they scrawled "Vacation to Paris" on their train cars. Hitler’s "blitzkrieg" ended up lasting six years.

When Russian President Vladimir Putin marched into Ukraine on February 24, 2022, he clearly believed that he would be able to conquer Kyiv within just a few days and install a puppet government. It was an illusion that vanished in the smoke from anti-tank rockets shipped to Ukraine by its Western allies. The Russian army, as quickly became clear, isn’t powerful enough to subjugate a people that is prepared to fight for its own freedom. And as the list of Ukrainian military successes has grown longer, their war aims have also shifted. No longer is survival the only goal. Now, they want to win.

The End of the “post-Cold War” Era and the Future of the US-led International Order

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which began in February 2022, has fundamentally overturned the European security order, bringing to a complete end the “post-Cold War” era in which relatively stable and cooperative great power relations existed despite gradually increasing tensions. Western countries, including Japan, have implemented unprecedented economic sanctions against Russia and support for Ukraine with the strong determination to uphold the principle that the change of status quo by force must not be allowed, and many countries have changed their own security policies. However, with no clear path to an end to the war in Ukraine while faced with uncertain energy supplies and inflation, the sustainability of support for Ukraine and the resilience of democracy are being tested in the West.

In the Indo-Pacific region, tensions between the United States and China, which have been on the rise for several years, increased in 2022, especially over Taiwan, and there is no prospect of a significant easing of tensions in the near future. Amid the war in Ukraine and the escalation of the US-China confrontation, Russia and China have become more united, and a confrontation with the West, between democracy versus authoritarianism, or a “new Cold War” as some call it, is dividing the world into blocs. International cooperation through multilateral frameworks is in serious jeopardy, and countries in the Global South most affected by the food and energy crises face the challenge of securing their national interests in an increasingly unstable international order. The world has entered a new era of fragmentation and instability in which the assumptions of the security structure that has prevailed since the end of the Cold War no longer hold, and even the foundations of the rules-based international order, which has been led by the United States since its construction at the end of World War II, are also threatened.

World economy is fracturing, not deglobalizing

Neil Shearing

There is now broad agreement among economists and commentators that the world has reached peak globalization, but there is little consensus about what comes next. One view is that we are entering a period of ‘deglobalization’, in which global trade volumes decline and cross-border capital flows recede. An alternative and more likely outcome is that the global economy starts to splinter into competing blocs.

This would result in an altogether more volatile macroeconomic and market environment which would pose a formidable challenge to some countries and companies operating in vulnerable sectors. But this process needn’t involve any significant shrinkage of international flows of goods, services and capital, nor a broad reversal of other gains of globalization.

Whereas the period of globalization was driven by governments and companies working in unison, fracturing is being driven by governments alone.

This most recent era of globalization was underpinned by a belief that economic integration would lead to China and the former Eastern Bloc countries becoming what former World Bank Chief Robert Zoellick termed ‘responsible stakeholders’ within the global system.

The Most Powerful Weapon to use Against Democracies

Cole Herring

In the year 2000 around one tenth of the world’s population had internet access, and global internet traffic was 2.5 million gigabytes of data per day. By 2025 over seventy-five percent of the world will have access and global internet traffic will be over 9.1 billion gigabytes of data per day.[1] Currently 93 percent of people that are connected to the internet use social media. Facebook, a predominate social media platform, can reach over half of the adults in the world between the ages of 18 to 34.[2] The surge in global connectivity has distributed influence in international politics to social groups that span multiple countries.[3] Recent advances in artificial intelligence have given state’s an unprecedent power to control and influence messaging domestically and abroad. China and Russia challenge the existing world order through traditional means that have existed for thousands of years, such as using military power, creating parallel institutions, and increasing economic ties through infrastructure projects. They also challenge the world order through means that were unfathomable just 20 years ago by leveraging artificial intelligence and global connectivity to conduct influence campaigns against democracies.

China and Russia challenge the existing world order by using military power, creating parallel institutions, and increasing economic ties through infrastructure projects. To support all of these means they use influence campaigns that leverage global connectivity, social media, and AI to change accepted behaviours and norms. Rapid technology developments in realistic image generation have outpaced general knowledge, which increases the effect of misinformation and is a disadvantage to democracies because of authoritarian regimes’ ability to censor content domestically.

For Russia, Information Is As Valuable As an Army of Tanks | Opinion


Speaking in Moscow earlier this month, a prominent Russian political figure provided a timely reminder of the Kremlin's enduring belief in the importance of shaping global opinion. "[I]nformation work today in the conditions in which we live and fight for our country is like a weapon of war," Alina Kabaeva opined at a televised gala before an audience of media professionals. "It is as important as the Kalashnikov rifle. Let's work."

Kabaeva is no ordinary propagandist. The 39-year-old former gymnast and parliamentarian is widely rumored to be Vladimir Putin's long-time girlfriend, and has even been sanctioned by the U.S. government for her proximity to the Russian president. She also chairs the board of the National Media Group, Russia's largest private media holding company. As such, Kabaeva is arguably the country's most symbolic strategic communicator—and her comments underscore that Moscow sees propaganda, disinformation and media manipulation as essential tools of statecraft.

It's a fact that, after all this time, still isn't adequately appreciated in the West. Over the past year, the United States and its partners in Europe have rallied together in unprecedented fashion to oppose Russia's military aggression against Ukraine. And, both in Washington and in European capitals, there's now a growing consensus about the need to tackle Russian malign political influence writ large. But an accurate understanding of where, precisely, information fits into this equation has, unfortunately, lagged behind the times.

U.S. warns Ukraine it faces a pivotal moment in war

Yasmeen Abutaleb and John Hudson

As the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine nears, U.S. officials are telling Ukrainian leaders they face a critical moment to change the trajectory of the war, raising the pressure on Kyiv to make significant gains on the battlefield while weapons and aid from the United States and its allies are surging.

Despite promises to back Ukraine “as long as it takes,” Biden officials say recent aid packages from Congress and America’s allies represent Kyiv’s best chance to decisively change the course of the war. Many conservatives in the Republican-led House have vowed to pull back support, and Europe’s long-term appetite for funding the war effort remains unclear.

Several officials noted the strong bipartisan support that has accompanied every Ukraine package, adding that Congress gave the White House more than it asked for, but they acknowledged that was under a Democratic-led House and Senate.

“We will continue to try to impress upon them that we can’t do anything and everything forever,” said one senior administration official, referring to Ukraine’s leaders. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive diplomatic matters, added that it was the administration’s “very strong view” that it will be hard to keep getting the same level of security and economic assistance from Congress.

Russia Has Already Lost in the Long Run

Brent Peabody

As Russia ramps up its second offensive, a debate has erupted over whether Moscow or Kyiv will have the upper hand in 2023. While important, such discourse also misses a larger point related to the conflict’s longer-term consequences. In the long run, the true loser of the war is already clear; Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine will be remembered as a historic folly that left Russia economically, demographically, and geopolitically worse off.

Start with the lynchpin of Russia’s economy: energy. In contrast to Europe’s (very real) dependence on Russia for fossil fuels, Russia’s economic dependence on Europe has largely gone unremarked upon. As late as 2021, for example, Russia exported 32 percent of its coal, 49 percent of its oil, and a staggering 74 percent of its gas to OECD Europe alone. Add in Japan, South Korea, and non-OECD European countries that have joined Western sanctions against Russia, and the figure is even higher. A trickle of Russian energy continues to flow into Europe, but as the European Union makes good on its commitment to phase out Russian oil and gas, Moscow may soon find itself shut out of its most lucrative export market.

In a petrostate like Russia that derives 45 percent of its federal budget from fossil fuels, the impact of this market isolation is hard to overstate. Oil and coal exports are fungible, and Moscow has indeed been able to redirect them to countries such as India and China (albeit at discounted rates, higher costs, and lower profits). Gas, however, is much harder to reroute because of the infrastructure needed to transport it. With its $400 billion gas pipeline to China, Russia has managed some progress on this front, but it will take years to match current capacity to the EU. In any case, China’s leverage as a single buyer makes it a poor substitute for Europe, where Russia can bid countries against one another.

U.S.’s Asia Allies See New Threat From Balloons Amid China Spying Row

America’s allies in Asia are raising their vigilance against high-altitude balloons after Washington accused Beijing of using them in a global spying program, ending years in which unannounced incursions by balloons have largely been tolerated in the region.

Balloons of undeclared origin are seen each year around the Asia-Pacific region. One military officer in Taiwan with access to daily intelligence reports said suspected Chinese balloons are spotted by Taipei roughly once every quarter, mostly over Taiwan’s outlying islands near the Chinese coast.

Japan has confirmed foreign balloon sightings in each of the past three years.

The balloons are usually viewed by governments in the region as less of a security threat than satellite reconnaissance or incursions by Chinese military aircraft and armed ships, but government officials say they are raising their level of concern.

“We’ll make every effort to gather and analyze data [about balloons] with our allies,” Japanese government spokesman Hirokazu Matsuno said Tuesday.

Ukraine and the Contingency of Global Order

Hal Brands

The moral arc of the universe is long, the saying goes, but it bends toward justice. That is a pleasing way to see the first year of Russia’s war in Ukraine. True, Ukraine hasn’t seen much justice in a conflict that has ravaged its territory, economy, and people. But the war has at least smashed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military and confounded his imperial aspirations. It has seen Ukraine wildly outperform nearly all initial expectations. It has unified and invigorated the West. The good guys are winning, it seems. The bad guys are getting the cosmic comeuppance reserved for those on the wrong side of history.

It is tempting to think that this outcome was inevitable. Putin’s regime and armed forces were so rotten, territorial conquest in the modern era had become so difficult, and the power of a democratic community united in support of Ukraine was so overwhelming that Moscow never had a chance. The war simply revealed the resilience of the liberal world—and the weaknesses of its enemies.

It is a nice story, but it is mostly not true. The war, particularly in its early months, was a very close-run thing. Ukraine’s success—its survival, even—was never guaranteed. Different choices in Kyiv, Moscow, and Washington could have produced radically different outcomes, for Ukraine and for the rest of the world. Had Putin defeated Ukraine, Western policymakers might be grappling with pervasive insecurity in eastern Europe, an empowered axis of autocracies, and cascading global instability. Ukraine has come to be seen, perhaps prematurely, as the war that strengthened the liberal order; it could easily have weakened it, instead.

US-led Security Assistance to Ukraine is Working

Jahara Matisek, Will Reno and Sam Rosenberg

‘Our way of war is not Western or Russian – it is Cossack. We just happen to be fighting with a lot of donated American and NATO equipment’. This statement by a Ukrainian soldier we met being trained at a US Army base in Germany reflects not only the trend of Ukraine receiving a mix of weapons and ammunition, but also a high level of Ukrainian adaptability.

With memories of the Afghan military collapse still fresh, many US Army advisors are keenly aware of the pitfalls associated with building partner forces in the US’s image. Learning from the failures of past security assistance efforts is just one of several factors contributing to the support for Ukrainian success in resisting the Russian invasion.

As the Russian invasion approaches the one-year mark, Ukrainian forces and international volunteer fighters have defied many Western analysts’ predictions. ‘Kiev should be told it cannot win’, wrote one analyst in the Financial Times. Others viewed Ukraine’s government as too weak and divided to mount an effective resistance to a Russian invasion. In short, many experts thought assistance to Ukraine would be more in the mould of assistance to Iraq and Afghanistan – recipients that lack the political will and capacity to use military aid to good effect.

Cyber Sanctions Are Nice; Digital Takedowns Are Better

Annie Fixler, John Hardie

The U.S. Treasury Department and several UK agencies announced sanctions on Thursday against seven members of a Russia-based cybercriminal group known as Trickbot. While these sanctions — the first UK designations targeting cybercriminals — are welcome, crippling the group will require further Western action.

For nearly a decade, the Trickbot gang has stolen online banking information and used ransomware to extort victims, Treasury and the UK government explained. Trickbot is intertwined with other Russian ransomware groups, including Conti and Ryuk. The British announcement blamed Trickbot for cyberattacks on hospitals, including the Irish Health Service Executive. The U.S. government previously called Trickbot “an increased and imminent cybercrime threat to U.S. hospitals and healthcare providers” amid a wave of ransomware attacks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

While noting that Trickbot is primarily financially motivated, both the U.S. and UK statements linked the group to Russian intelligence. Moscow has created a “haven for cybercriminals,” Treasury noted, and at times uses them to serve state or private interests. The UK National Cyber Security Centre said Trickbot members “have likely received tasking” from Russian intelligence.

AI agents take control of modified F-16 fighter jet


Artificial intelligence agents have demonstrated their ability to control a modified F-16 fighter jet during an initial round of test flights in California as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency moves forward with its Air Combat Evolution program, according to DARPA.

The ACE project aims to advance the Pentagon’s autonomous systems capabilities as the U.S. military pursues robotic wingmen and other drones. Industry participants for the recent tests included EpiSci, PhysicsAI, Shield AI and the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory, which put their algorithms through their paces.

“In early December 2022, ACE algorithm developers uploaded their AI software into a specially modified F-16 test aircraft known as the X-62A or VISTA (Variable In-flight Simulator Test Aircraft), at the Air Force Test Pilot School (TPS) at Edwards Air Force Base, California, and flew multiple flights over several days. The flights demonstrated that AI agents can control a full-scale fighter jet and provided invaluable live-flight data,” DARPA said in a press release Monday.

Eric Schmidt Is Building the Perfect AI War-Fighting Machine

EXPENSIVE MILITARY HARDWARE LIKE a new tank undergoes rigorous testing before heading to the battlefield. A startup called Istari, backed by Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of Google and chair of Alphabet, reckons some of that work can be done more effectively in the metaverse.

Ishtari uses machine learning to virtually assemble and test war machines from computer models of individual components, such as the chassis and engines, that are usually marooned on separate digital drawing boards. It may sound dull, but Schmidt says it can bring a dose of tech industry innovation to US military engineering. “The Istari team is bringing internet-type usability to models and simulations,” he says. “This unlocks the possibility of software-like agility for future physical systems—it is very exciting.”

The company reflects Schmidt’s unique position as a link between the tech industry and the Pentagon. Virtual replicas known as digital twins are common in manufacturing and could help the Pentagon develop hardware more quickly. And Istari is a building block in a wider project in which Schmidt is attempting to bring Silicon Valley technology and thinking to the US military.