22 February 2023

Taiwan Is Becoming an Intelligence-Sharing Power

Corey Lee Bell

The recent selection of Tsai Ming-yen as Taiwan’s new National Security Bureau (NSB) chief has surprised analysts in Taiwan. It represents the second consecutive surprising appointment for the island’s intelligence czar, both of which came under the tenure of Taiwan’s incumbent president, the independence-leaning Tsai Ing-wen. Like the previous appointment, Tsai Ming-yen’s ascension could reflect a shift in Taiwan’s approach to intelligence collection and sharing, which has responded to escalating and rapidly evolving threats to the island’s security.

Tsai Ming-yen’s accession came after the sudden resignation of former chief Chen Ming-tong. Chen’s appointment, as with Tsai’s, riled critics of the administration, given both were selected from outside Taiwan’s military and intelligence establishments. Perhaps shedding light on the reason for this, an official announcement stated that it was hoped Tsai would continue Chen’s efforts to “reform” the bureau.

Why Tsai?

But why was Tsai Ming-yen deemed the best candidate?

Worse Than Spy Balloons? Taiwan Is More Concerned With Chinese Hacking

Sarah Zheng

There’s something worse than a spy balloon. But first…

Look to the skies

Mysterious balloons hovering ominously over parts of North America are understandably causing some panic. If Taiwan is any indication, these sightings are happening around the globe.

Taiwan has spotted dozens of these sorts of balloons — suspected Chinese military aircraft — in its airspace in recent years, the Financial Times reported. After the US shot down four balloons, a Taiwanese Defense spokesperson said Taipei might do the same if it were concerned enough about them.

What could be more frightening than a big, white spy balloon suspended overhead? The answer, recent moves by Taiwan suggest, is malicious Chinese hackers.

Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen unveiled a new national cybersecurity research institute on Friday. “Information security is national security,” she declared.

If China Cracked U.S. Encryption, Why Would It Tell Us?

Georgianna Shea Annie Fixler 

When Alan Turing cracked the Enigma code during the Second World War, neither the United Kingdom nor the United States immediately published a paper announcing the achievement. Instead, they kept it to themselves so they could keep reading Nazi messages encrypted using Engima machines. Last month, in contrast, Chinese academics from government-run laboratories and research organizations published a paper claiming to have developed a new mathematical strategy to break RSA encryption, today’s standard.

If the Chinese government can crack RSA encryption, then they can break into every U.S. government and private sector system, seeing and exfiltrating anything and everything, achieving true information dominance over Washington and its allies and partners.

There are reasons to doubt the accuracy of the paper’s claims, however, and even more reasons to question why Chinese researchers would show their hand if they really cracked our codes.

Some day, computer scientists will break RSA encryption. But before that happens, they will need to have the right tools. Based on the current understanding of math, breaking RSA encryption will require quantum computers, which harness the principles of quantum physics to accelerate problem-solving exponentially.

The race to quantum computing is well underway. In November, IBM launched the largest quantum computer yet, the Osprey. This milestone “brings us a step closer” to “the coming era of quantum-centric supercomputing,” IBM’s director of research said. But the Osprey cannot yet solve the complex mathematical problems facing those who want to break RSA encryption. Beijing, however, claims it can break RSA encryption with a hybrid approach combining classical computing and quantum computing using a smaller quantum computer.

PSYOPS and Cyber War in Taiwan

Cyberattacks targeting Taiwan are nothing new. Every day, there are both attempted and successful attacks targeting government and private sector websites. But during Nancy Pelosi’s visit to the island in August 2022, we saw a drastic increase in cyberattacks and cybercrime generally.

The Taiwanese Government recorded twenty-three times more cyberattacks than usual on 2 August. Government websites, including the Office of the President and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, came under especially serious attack. It has been reported that a significant number of attacks came from IPs located in Russia and China.Some webpages of the National Taiwan University were replaced with ‘There is only one China in the World’. (Source: anonymous screenshot circulated online)

One popular type of attack that occurred during Pelosi’s visit, but also happens with less intensity in normal times, is the Distributed Denial of Service. Through sending a huge number of messages to a website at the same time, a DDoS attack can be used to shut down the website. This happened to the websites of the Office of the President, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Ministry of National Defense multiple times during this period. For example, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website received, within a single minute, more than 8.5 million requests to access their site, which is significantly over the site’s capacity. This leaves the government unable to communicate to its people through their websites.

Website defacement is another popular approach by hackers, and one used intensively during the period of Pelosi’s visit. Hackers even replaced the webpages of some government and universities and the screens at train stations were replaced with messages such as ‘There is only one China’ 世界只有一個中國 and ‘The old witch’s visit to Taiwan is a serious provocation to the Chinese government’

The Many “One Chinas”: Multiple Approaches to Taiwan and China


This publication is a product of Carnegie China. For more work by Carnegie China, click here.

The past year saw yet more heated debate over definitions of what “one China” means. Beijing asserts that there is widespread international acceptance of and agreement with its “one China principle,” which sees Taiwan as part of a Chinese state represented by the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The PRC accuses the United States of departing from what it claims is Washington’s long-standing acceptance of the PRC position, given U.S. efforts to improve cooperation and contact with Taipei. In reality, the United States’ “one China policy” states that Washington does not take a position on Taiwan’s sovereignty and merely “acknowledges” the existence of a Chinese position even as Washington officially recognizes the PRC as the government of China. The United States reserved the right to maintain unofficial relations with Taiwan as it sees fit. Taipei’s official position is that it is already independent as the Republic of China (Taiwan), whose jurisdiction covers Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu, and other outlying islands.

As the PRC becomes more insistent regarding its claims over Taiwan, Beijing is seeking to leave a clearer imprint of its preferences on the discourse over “one China.” PRC officials are increasingly couching other states’ positions in terms of its “one China” principle, at times claiming that originally stated differences are new deviations from or infractions on earlier understandings. By fostering an impression of broad agreement, Beijing’s claims establish a sense of legitimacy and a seeming moral high ground from where Beijing can highlight what it sees as inconsistencies or even betrayal by others. Given its greater ability and willingness to press its case, Beijing has encountered limited international resistance. For those interested in tracking developments in PRC policies and narratives, such evolving conditions mean greater importance in appreciating the range of stances states adopt toward PRC claims over Taiwan. They can provide a starting point from which to assess statements by predecessors or those of neighbors and partners, as well as any actual shifts in positions.

Space and near-space areas in high use of China for surveillance

In the world of intelligence, China has tried every means to develop technologies to trick its rivals. While the US Navy was busy in the recovery of debris from the Chinese balloon out of the Atlantic for analysis early in February, China Aerospace Science, and Industry Corporation (CASIC) was forthrightly engaged in setting up a new ground station in Antarctica for its ocean observation satellites, which are currently eight in number and are orbiting in the space for various purposes including oceanographic analysis and resource exploitation.

The new Antarctica ground station will facilitate the transmission of data from these Chinese satellites, said the Global Times in its latest report. But analysts say there are geopolitical connotations to every Chinese move: equipment used for peaceful purposes today could be used for other purposes by Beijing tomorrow. Anthony Bergen of the Australian Strategic Policy in his write up maintains that "given the track record Beijing has in moving rapidly on a broad front, as it was done in the South China Sea, we need to be prepared to respond to a rapid increase in the speed and scale of China’s actions in Antarctica". However, in the backdrop of China’s rapid militarisation of its satellites and overseas ground stations, some analysts argue that Beijing’s move in Antarctica could add to the country’s various command, control, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems.

Miles Yu On Taiwan: Three misconceptions about Taiwan’s defense

The Chinese Communist Party is waging a cognitive war against Taiwan that is presently in full swing. In this effort it is taking advantage of Taiwan’s free-media environment, which makes it all too easy for many people to fall into the public opinion traps the CCP sets up. As a result, people — some unwittingly — spread malicious rumors, echo China’s false narratives, bamboozle some in Taiwan into believing these deepfakes about their country. All of this is detrimental to Taiwan’s democratic and free system, and to the future of the island democracy.

Beijing’s cognitive war has cultivated three major misconceptions among some Taiwanese people. To win that war, these falsehoods must be understood and combated.

The first misconception Beijing has pushed, and reiterated by some pundits in Taiwan, is skepticism about America’s resolve to defend Taiwan: doubts about the strategic intent, determination, and ability of the United States to militarily intervene if the CCP invades Taiwan. With the deepening and strengthening of the CCP’s interference on Taiwan’s elections, suspicion of the United States in Taiwan has spread quietly alarmingly.

In a World Awash in Satellites, Why Use Spy Balloons?

Rishi Iyengar

Suddenly, balloons are everywhere. Ever since the United States spent a week finding, following, and finally shooting down a Chinese surveillance balloon earlier this month, sightings and shootings of similar objects have dotted the military and geopolitical landscape (including, perhaps, some innocent hobbyist balloons). U.S. and Canadian authorities downed three more aerial objects over the weekend over their respective airspaces.

U.S. President Joe Biden said Thursday that those objects were “most likely balloons tied to private companies, recreation, or research institutions” and not tied to China’s spy program but added that “if any object presents a threat to the safety and security of the American people, I will take it down.”

In an era of automated drones and laser-guided missiles, let alone spy satellites, balloons may seem a rudimentary tool of espionage and warfare. But experts note that balloons have a long and lofty history and boast reasons for their continued use even with the advent of far more advanced aerial spying capabilities.

After Munich meeting, the US-China relationship is still a mess

Ellen Ioanes 

Ellen Ioanes covers breaking and general assignment news as the weekend reporter at Vox. She previously worked at Business Insider covering the military and global conflicts.

Chinese Director of the Office of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission Wang Yi and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, weeks after Blinken’s planned trip to Beijing was canceled due to what the US says was a Chinese surveillance balloon shot down on February 4. Relations between the two nations are at the lowest point in decades, and Saturday’s meeting didn’t do much to improve the situation.

The primary focus of the conference was Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the one-year anniversary of which is approaching, but Wang and Blinken’s meeting was a critical and much-watched sideshow to the main event given recent tensions over the Chinese balloon. Wang took the opportunity to paint the US response to the device, which China maintains was a civilian weather balloon that was blown off course, as “hysterical” and “absurd.”

Though European nations and the US expressed solidarity with Ukraine and a commitment to providing the country with weapons, Wang was more circumspect, saying only that China supported dialogue and an end to the war. Blinken, for his part, told CBS’s Face the Nation Sunday that he was concerned China might provide material weapons support to Russia. “We have seen [Chinese companies] provide non-lethal support to Russia for use in Ukraine,” Blinken said, though he did not specify what that support entails. “The concern that we have now is based on information we have that they’re considering providing lethal support, and we’ve made very clear to them that that would cause a serious problem for us and in our relationship.”

According to a February 13 report by the Stimson Center, a nonpartisan think tank, China has not thus far provided military support to Russia, at least as far as publicly available information shows, despite providing economic support in the form of increased trade.

But China’s “no limits” relationship with Russia and the surveillance balloon are just the latest points of tension between the two major world powers; long-standing issues over trade, US presence in the Pacific, and the opposing world views of the West and Xi Jinping have laid the groundwork for the present tension.
China sees the world differently

Analysis: Futuristic Chinese military unit most likely behind balloon campaign


Spy balloons continue to dominate the headlines. The latest news from the White House is that the most recent three unmanned objects that the U.S. has shot down may have had a commercial or otherwise benign purpose.

The Chinese government has said that the first -- a 60-meter-high balloon that flew over the entire U.S. -- was a "civilian unmanned airship" from China. Beijing said its purpose was weather observation and strongly protested its downing by a F-22 fighter.

The fierce disagreement over balloons between the U.S. and China is not limited to areas close to the continental U.S.

National security analysts believe that a futuristic unit of the People's Liberation Army, created on the order of Chinese President Xi Jinping, could be behind the operations.

United Nations Says Iran Is Harboring Al Qaeda’s New Leader

Adam Kredo

Iran is harboring al Qaeda’s new leader Saif al-Adel, according to intelligence collected by the United Nations.

U.N. member states overwhelmingly agreed that al-Adel is now the "uncontested leader" of the international terror group and is running operations from inside Iran, according to a report published Thursday by the U.N. Security Council’s Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team.

Al Qaeda has not formally announced al-Adel’s ascension, primarily due to his presence in Iran, which has historically been at odds with the terror group due to religious differences. The group’s former leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, was killed in a U.S. strike last year.

"Member States’ predominant view is that [al-Adel] is now the de facto leader of al Qaeda, representing continuity for now," according to the report. "But his leadership cannot be declared because of … the fact of [al-Adel’s] presence in the Islamic Republic of Iran."

The report signals that despite religious divisions between Iran’s hardline clerical regime and al Qaeda, there is a growing desire among both entities to team up on the terrorism front. Al-Adel has deep ties to the Iranian regime and took refuge inside the country in the early 2000s, along with several other top al Qaeda members. He is believed to have orchestrated al Qaeda’s terror operations from his perch in Iran, including attacks on Americans.

Iran’s Game in South America: A Nuclear Card or Another Bluff?

Leonardo Coutinho

Following the inauguration of Brazilian president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in Brasília, Iran announced that it would send two of its warships to the South American country. The Russian state news agency, Sputnik, which has some other local proxies as its sounding board, recapitulated the announcement just two days before the ships were scheduled arrival of the ships to arrive—as published in the Brazilian government’s official journal. However, the ships never arrived.

What made Iran change its plans? Or rather, what were Iran’s plans?

Officially, Iran says that its ships, Dena—a Mowj-class frigate—and Makran—a former crude oil tanker converted into a helicopter carrier, now the largest ship in the Iranian navy—are on their way to the Panama Canal. The crossing of the Pacific Ocean would be the focal point for its plans to “go around the world.”

So far, it is not known what prompted the Iranians to change their plans and possibly their route. A seemingly isolated event may reveal part of the answer. On January 16, seven days before the Iranian ships arrived in the Port of Rio de Janeiro, the U.S. Air Force dispatched a WC-135R Constant Phoenix aircraft to South America. The operational purpose of the WC-135 is, notably, to identify atmospheric signs of nuclear activity—in other words, to be a “nuke sniffer.”

Dispatching such a plane on an unprecedented mission to collect a baseline reading of normal atmospheric conditions in South America raises eyebrows. The aircraft departed from Puerto Rico and collected atmospheric data off the coasts of Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, and part of Brazil. It also traversed an area from the north up the Rio de Janeiro region, where the Iranian warships were due to be. The U.S. military did not intend for the mission to be secret: the plane’s transponder data was available to the public via flight monitoring platforms.

How Ukraine War Has Shaped US Planning for a China Conflict

As the war rages on in Ukraine, the United States is doing more than supporting an ally. It’s learning lessons — with an eye toward a possible future clash with China.

No one knows what the next U.S. major military conflict will be or whether the U.S. will send troops — as it did in Afghanistan and Iraq — or provide vast amounts of aid and expertise, as it has done with Ukraine.

But China remains America’s biggest concern. U.S. military officials say Beijing wants to be ready to invade the self-governing island of Taiwan by 2027, and the U.S. is the island democracy’s chief ally and supplier of defense weapons.

While there are key differences in geography and in the U.S. commitment to come to Taiwan’s defense, “there are clear parallels between the Russian invasion of Ukraine and a possible Chinese attack on Taiwan,” a Center for Strategic and International Studies report found last month.

The United States Is Deeply Invested in the South China Sea

Gregory B. Poling

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin flew to Singapore in June to address the first in-person Shangri-La Dialogue since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida was officially the headliner, but the contrasting speeches by Austin and Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe drew the most attention.

Wei delivered a tin-eared address threatening Taiwan, warning the United States to stay out of the way, and dismissing the agency of third countries. Austin, by contrast, focused on alliances, partnerships, and international rules as vital. He hailed the United States’ “unparalleled network of alliances and partnerships” as a “profound source of stability” in the Indo-Pacific. And he declared the U.S. commitment to a region “in which all countries—large and small—are free to thrive and to lawfully pursue their interests, free from coercion and intimidation.”

In reflecting on these U.S. commitments, Austin returned to one issue more than any other: the South China Sea. Even when not directly discussing the waterway, his remarks made references to “freedom of the seas,” “maritime-security cooperation,” “threats in the gray zone,” and so on. In this, Austin was the latest in a long line of U.S. officials going back decades to highlight alliance credibility and defense of maritime law as the primary American interests in the South China Sea.

Ending Russia’s Invasion Requires a Reframing of the Discourse on Diplomacy

Dr Jack Watling

There are two prevailing propositions about the termination of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The first argues that Ukraine will have won when it reclaims all its territory. The second suggests that wars end through negotiation and that to secure a peace, concessions must be made. Neither narrative takes sufficient account of Russia’s current outlook, which is that it will eventually win the war and that negotiations are only desirable insofar as they undermine Ukraine’s support or capacity to resist. Until that changes, the war will continue.

Russia’s theory of victory has been through several transformations, from an anticipated occupation of Kyiv within 10 days, to an expected military victory in Donbas, to the hope that Europe would succumb to economic warfare, to the prayer that eventually Ukraine’s partners will run out of munitions, money or attention if the war protracts into 2024. The latest theory may be as tenuous as its predecessors, but it will take longer to disprove by action unless Russia can be convinced that its premises are flawed.

Throughout the war, the Kremlin has proven responsive to its understanding of its prospects. Faced with massive losses to hold its position outside Kyiv, the Russian military retreated. Confronted by the steady attrition of its most motivated assault troops in Kherson, the Russian military conducted a withdrawal far more orderly than any of its advances. The key, therefore, is to show the Kremlin that its prospects in a longer war are poor.

Global War on the Horizon?

Martin Armstrong

A 2022 survey of risk experts at the insurance company AXA and other larger firms paints a pessimistic picture of the where the current geopolitical situation could be leading us. As warned recently by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, the authors of the Doomsday Clock Statement, "Russia’s war on Ukraine has raised profound questions about how states interact, eroding norms of international conduct that underpin successful responses to a variety of global risks."

As this infographic, based on an Ipsos survey for AXA reveals, large majorities of the expert respondents said that they think the current global situation could lead to a number of worrying consequences, including the levels of tension persisting in the future (95 percent), a spread around the globe (94 percent), a threat to national food and energy supplies (91 percent) and most troublingly: lead to a global war (84 percent).

Will Russia Take Advantage of Ukrainian Weak Spots Near Donetsk?

Stavros Atlamazoglou

It has been 342 days since the Russian invasion began. On Tuesday, there was heavy fighting on the ground in the Donbas as the Russian forces tried to take advantage of Ukrainian weak spots and achieve a breakthrough.

Fighting in the Donbas

There is heavy fighting to the southwest of Donetsk City around the towns of Pavlivka and Vuhledar. A Russian brigade-sized force is trying to push the Ukrainian forces back from the Kashlahach River, a small water obstacle that had been the frontline for several months.

The Russian forces had been conducting probing assaults in the area for weeks now, but now there are throwing more units into the fray. Russian commanders have tried to achieve a breakthrough in the area before. The Russian 155th Naval Infantry Brigade suffered extremely heavy casualties trying to capture Pavlivka back in November.

In the east, the Russian forces are trying to regain lost ground around the town of Kreminna, while the Ukrainian military is conducting counteroffensive operations to the northwest toward Svatove, a key logistical hub. The two towns have been at the center of the fighting in the region since September.

The situation in the south has remained unchanged.

Russian casualties

The Post-Cold War Era Is Gone. A New Arms Race Has Arrived

By Marc Champion, Natalia Ojewska, Sudhi Ranjan Sen and Natalia Drozdiak

Shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine, the government in neighboring Poland passed a law to more than double the size of its military, and went shopping for weapons.

With President Vladimir Putin’s war heading into its second year, the Polish expansion plan has become jaw dropping in scale. It includes close to 500 HIMARS or equivalent long-range multiple launch rocket systems, just 20 of which allowed Ukraine to inflict serious damage on Moscow’s military machine.

There are also more than 700 new self-propelled heavy artillery pieces planned, over six times as many as in Germany’s arsenal, and three times as many advanced battle tanks as Britain and France can field, combined.

Poland’s wish list is likely to end up being well beyond its means, but it’s also far from unique.

Governments around the world are drawing lessons from Europe’s first high-intensity war since 1945, reassessing everything from ammunition stocks to weapons systems and supply lines, according to current and former defense officials as well as open source records in ten countries and NATO. Some nations are reexamining the very defense doctrines that define what kinds of wars to prepare for.

The conflict’s effects aren’t limited to Ukraine’s neighbors. China, India, Taiwan and the US are watching closely for implications thousands of miles to the east. So much so that some US officials speak of treating the European and Asian security theaters as interlinked, or potentially at some point as one.

“This is the story of the end of the post-Cold War era, and it ended on February 24, 2022,” said Francois Heisbourg, a veteran French defense analyst and former government adviser, describing a nascent move away from the extreme depletion and restructuring of land forces that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

“All of our armies are going through this, because it’s clear now that none — including the US — have the stockpiles that would be needed to deal with a large, high intensity war,” Heisbourg said.

For many countries nearer to Ukraine, key takeaways include sharply increased defense spending, greater home-grown production capacity and expanded fleets of tanks, artillery and air defense.

Japan’s Bet on Hard Power

Japan increasingly seems to be leaving its post-World War II pacifism behind. As the global security environment deteriorates, the country has announced measures to deepen its strategic alliance with the United States and committed to do much more to ensure its own defense, including by nearly doubling its military spending and acquiring counterstrike capabilities under a new national security strategy.

As Harvard’s Joseph S. Nye, Jr., points out, relying on a strong alliance with the US is “by far the safest and most cost-effective option” for ensuring Japan’s security. The new measures announced by Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and US President Joe Biden last month are thus very good news, as they reinforce the US security guarantee and provide “reinsurance” in the event that Donald Trump or a similarly unreliable president returns to the White House.

For his part, Bill Emmott, Chair of the International Institute for Strategic Studies and the Japan Society of the United Kingdom, praises the Kishida government’s “determination to… deter others from attempting ‘unilateral changes to the status quo’” in East Asia. This commitment to deterrence is both the most important and the most difficult task that Japan has set for itself.

That is partly because, as Brahma Chellaney of the Center for Policy Research points out, China tends to avoid armed conflict, instead employing “salami tactics” that slice away other countries’ territories with a “combination of stealth, deception, and surprise.” To prevent China from altering the regional status quo further, Japan will have to take a proactive approach to countering China’s hybrid warfare.

Japan’s new strategic vision did not begin with Kishida. Rather, it “represents the culmination of a long-term shift that began under Kishida’s predecessor, Abe Shinzō,” explains Taniguchi Tomohiko, a former special adviser to Abe, who was assassinated last year. While Abe’s bold stance evoked considerable concern, it amounted to a rejection of an “absurd” situation: “Before Abe, if China had attacked a US warship near Japan’s territorial waters, the Japanese military would not have gotten involved.”

Is the West escalating the Ukraine war?


Barely a day had gone by from Ukraine’s successful request for German Leopard-2 tanks when the government in Kyiv called on Nato countries to yet again prove their solidarity by supplying it with US-made F-16 fighter jets. While military experts doubt these vehicles will significantly alter the situation on the battlefield, Kyiv touts them as important symbols of Western political resolve.

“War is a continuation of policy with other means,” wrote Clausewitz in 1832. A year into the Russo-Ukrainian War, what is that policy where Ukraine is concerned? Or America, Germany, and other Nato allies? Are Ukraine’s repeated calls for more support and the West’s accommodating response a case of leveraging “strategic publicity”, performative diplomacy, alliance solidarity, or something else entirely? After all, as much as the Ukrainians are fighting Russian forces and suffering massive casualties to protect the territorial integrity of the Ukrainian state, today Nato is openly engaged in a proxy war that risks spiralling into a catastrophic conflict between the West and Russia.

Although foreign policy realism can help sketch, even predict, the general contours of the war and explain policy in Moscow and Kyiv, this mainstream realist position, as represented by the likes of John Mearsheimer, provides an incomplete account of the behaviour of most Western allies, especially the United States. To understand Western decision-making and the peculiar inter-alliance dynamics of Nato, we need a more radical realism that takes seriously the non-physical, psychological, and “ontological dimensions” of security — encompassing a state or an organisation’s need for overcoming uncertainty by establishing orderly narratives and identities about its sense of “self”.

Ukraine war: How drones, start-ups and civilian spotters have reshaped conflict for ever

Cahal Milmo

Somewhere near the Ukrainian frontline this month, Lieutenant “Oleksandr” surveyed the equipment available to him and his battle-hardened unit of infantrymen as they confronted Russian forces across the frozen landscape in the Donbas.

Alongside assault rifles and rocket-propelled tank destroyers sat a dish allowing access to Elon Musk’s Starlink satellite internet service, an array of drones and a box of plastic “fins” produced by volunteers on a 3D printer ready to turn hand grenades into improvised bombs ready to be dropped on Russian trenches.

Although he was unable to comment on the nature and source of any intelligence material, it is likely that at least some of the information provided to his assault force on the distribution of Kremlin units and equipment would have come from civilians behind enemy lines using dedicated smartphone apps to communicate with Kyiv.

Precise detail on the location of the enemy, right down to the names and faces of Russian soldiers, is likely to have been further gleaned via the use of Western artificial intelligence software used to quickly sift vast quantities of intercepted enemy mobile phone traffic and social media postings.

In the meantime, Oleksandr, whose real name is not being used by i for security reasons, and the members of other Ukrainian infantry units can move to and from the frontline in an array of vehicles provided by countries including Britain, Canada, France and Turkey.

Overhead, there is the persistent noise of artillery and guided munitions shipped to Ukraine from, among other countries, the US, the UK, Sweden, Finland and Italy.

How the War in Ukraine Ends

Last year, not long after Vladimir Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine, I turned to the historian Stephen Kotkin for illumination and analysis. I’ve been doing that, for good reason, since the final years of the Soviet empire. Kotkin has published two volumes of a projected three-part biography of Stalin, and his works on the dissolution of the Soviet Union and its aftermath are without peer in their precision and depth. After spending more than thirty years at Princeton, he is now at Stanford.

In our conversation last year, we delved into the nature of the Putin regime, his decision to invade, and what the war could look like as time unfurled. Now we know: the Russian invasion has been a catastrophe in every sense. There have been hundreds of thousands of casualties––it is folly to attempt a more accurate reckoning––and much of Ukraine’s infrastructure is in ruins. Once the Russian military failed to achieve its early hope of taking the capital, Kyiv, and supplanting the Ukrainian leadership, it has prosecuted a vicious war of attrition, in which more and more human beings on both sides are sacrificed to Putin’s pitiless ambitions.

Kotkin is a top-flight scholar, but his ties to the subject are not limited to the archives and the library. He is well connected in Washington, Moscow, Kyiv, and beyond; his analysis of the war draws on his conversations with sources as well as on his own base of knowledge. We spoke again last week, and our discussion, which appears in different form on The New Yorker Radio Hour, has been edited for length and clarity.

Last year, you told me, at a very early stage of the war, that Ukraine was winning on Twitter but that Russia was winning on the battlefield. A lot has happened since then, but is that still the case?

Unfortunately. Let’s think of a house. Let’s say that you own a house and it has ten rooms. And let’s say that I barge in and take two of those rooms away, and I wreck those rooms. And, from those two rooms, I’m wrecking your other eight rooms and you’re trying to beat me back. You’re trying to evict me from the two rooms. You push out a little corner, you push out another corner, maybe. But I’m still there and I’m still wrecking. And the thing is, you need your house. That’s where you live. It’s your house and you don’t have another. Me, I’ve got another house, and my other house has a thousand rooms. And, so, if I wreck your house, are you winning or am I winning?

U.S. Deterrence Failed in Ukraine

Liam Collins

A great deal of praise has been heaped on Europe and the United States for their sustained and determined response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with much of the congratulatory talk centered on the damage being done to Russia. Kyiv’s Western allies have provided the fledgling Ukrainian military with Javelin and Stinger missiles, rocket artillery, and, most recently, modern tanks. Yet, until Feb. 24, 2022, the United States made little effort to deter Russia, despite ample evidence that it intended to invade.

From President George W. Bush’s tepid response to the 2008 invasion of Georgia to the Biden administration’s antebellum halfhearted gestures of support for Ukraine, U.S. policies left the perception that the United States was not willing to make a renewed assault painful for Russia. The result was yet another war and a tremendously costly one at that.

It is often difficult to determine when deterrence works because, almost by definition, it is the proverbial dog that does not bark. Absent being in the room when leaders remark that they are not carrying out an action due to a threat, it is difficult to assign the cause to deterrence.

‘Chip War’

Robert Wihtol

The ‘Malacca dilemma’ is generally considered to top China’s list of strategic concerns. The narrow strait linking the Indian and Pacific oceans serves as the conduit for around 60% of China’s oil imports. In a crisis, it would quickly become a chokepoint. Not only is China’s military strategy built around this fact, but so are its huge investments to develop alternative routes for its energy imports.

Chris Miller considers this old-school thinking. According to Miller, an associate professor at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, these days China’s leaders are more concerned about a blockade ‘measured in bytes rather than barrels’. In Chip war: the fight for the world’s most critical technology, Miller describes how China is investing massively in its semiconductor industry and pressing foreign companies to turn over sensitive technology in an effort to free itself from America’s stranglehold on its supply of advanced microchips.

Miller reminds us that semiconductors are essential to virtually everything we use, from household appliances, smartphones and vehicles to the most sophisticated satellites and military technology. When car manufacturers around the world were unable in 2021 to meet their targets, temporarily closing many plants, it was because of a shortage of semiconductors, not steel. China currently spends more importing microchips than it does on oil.

Is the West escalating the Ukraine war?


Barely a day had gone by from Ukraine’s successful request for German Leopard-2 tanks when the government in Kyiv called on Nato countries to yet again prove their solidarity by supplying it with US-made F-16 fighter jets. While military experts doubt these vehicles will significantly alter the situation on the battlefield, Kyiv touts them as important symbols of Western political resolve.

“War is a continuation of policy with other means,” wrote Clausewitz in 1832. A year into the Russo-Ukrainian War, what is that policy where Ukraine is concerned? Or America, Germany, and other Nato allies? Are Ukraine’s repeated calls for more support and the West’s accommodating response a case of leveraging “strategic publicity”, performative diplomacy, alliance solidarity, or something else entirely? After all, as much as the Ukrainians are fighting Russian forces and suffering massive casualties to protect the territorial integrity of the Ukrainian state, today Nato is openly engaged in a proxy war that risks spiralling into a catastrophic conflict between the West and Russia.

Although foreign policy realism can help sketch, even predict, the general contours of the war and explain policy in Moscow and Kyiv, this mainstream realist position, as represented by the likes of John Mearsheimer, provides an incomplete account of the behaviour of most Western allies, especially the United States. To understand Western decision-making and the peculiar inter-alliance dynamics of Nato, we need a more radical realism that takes seriously the non-physical, psychological, and “ontological dimensions” of security — encompassing a state or an organisation’s need for overcoming uncertainty by establishing orderly narratives and identities about its sense of “self”.

Russia Is Down, But Not Out, in Central Asia

Maximilian Hess
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Russian President Vladimir Putin has long seen Central Asia as Russia’s “most stable region.” He has regularly exerted influence and political pressure over its leaders. However, after decades of stability, the last year has seen Russia’s influence in Central Asia deteriorate at an unprecedented pace.

Putin’s view of Central Asia as part of Russia’s sphere of influence was not unjustified. During his first twenty-one years in power, Russian relations remained relatively unchanged with all five of the former Soviet Central Asian states: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. While the period was not without times of tension—Kyrgyzstan’s 2005 Tulip Revolution that the Kremlin denounced as a Western-backed “color revolution,” Turkmenistan’s replacing of Russia as its major gas export route with the China-Central Asia pipeline, and repeated spats with late Uzbek dictator Islam Karimov before his passing in 2016 foremost amongst them—at the beginning of 2022 the Kremlin could be confident that it was the pre-eminent power in the region.

Russia’s position was solidified by Kazakhstan’s rapid descent into tumult last January. Protests in Kazakhstan over the cost of living were co-opted by officials disgruntled at their loss of influence two-and-a-half years into the transition from long-ruling former president Nursultan Nazarbayev to his handpicked successor, Kassym-Jomart Tokayev. The crisis ended only after Tokayev called on the Kremlin-controlled Collective Security Treaty Organization to intervene. It did so successfully, with Russian forces helping their Kazakh counterparts to crack down on the unrest. China endorsed Putin’s actions and the West hardly objected.

Decisionmaking at the Speed of the Digital Era

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is reminding the world that missiles can help militaries achieve objectives even when ground and air forces are kept far away. The degree to which Russia’s strikes are steadily destroying Ukrainian targets highlights the importance of considering how such weapons may shape the conduct of future conflicts in Europe and in other regions.

The Biden administration’s national defense strategy, still classified and with only a brief summary available to the public, identifies China as the United States’ primary security concern. Even as the Department of Defense (DOD) talks the talk of preparing for future conflict, it is far too resistant to adapting the systems or picking up the pace that served it well for the 30 years since the end of the Cold War.

The past 10 years have seen a steady cadence of reporting on highly classified and time-consuming wargames showing that the United States consistently “loses” to China. The results, easily summarized as “bad!,” lack sufficient publicly available detail to enable informed debate on how best to resolve the potential shortcomings.

PLA Information Warfare and Military Diplomacy: A Primer on Modernization Trends

Patrick Cunningham

The opening remarks of the 2022 National Defense Strategy (NDS) highlight the views held by many leaders within the United States on the current security environment: that “we are living in a decisive decade,” that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) “remains our most consequential strategic competitor” for the foreseeable future, and that the PRC is the only country with both the intent and capacity to reshape the international order.[1] Underscoring these beliefs is the Department of Defense’s most current version of the “China Military Power Report” which asserts that the PRC seeks to harness all elements of national power to attain a “leading position” in strategic competition, “accelerate the integrated development of… informatization, and intelligentization” of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), and cultivate an environment hospitable to the PRC’s strategic goals to create a “community of common destiny.”[2] Comparatively, the PRC’s “2019 Defense White Paper” emphasizes that the PLA is in “urgent need of improving its informationization” and that building a “Community with a Shared Future for Mankind” crucially supports the PRC’s “National Defense Policy in the New Era.”[3] Given these deliberate assessments from both U.S. and PRC perspectives, this paper seeks to examine the mutually reinforcing modernization of PLA information warfare and military diplomacy, the effects of these modernization initiatives on regional and global stability, and key weaknesses that the U.S. and partners can exploit.

Made in America, stolen by China: We need cybersecurity minimum standards


The United States is under siege and many threats originate from the same place, even if the day’s headlines don’t make it obvious.

Russia is certainly the threat du jour because of its rampant use of cyberattacks, invasion of Ukraine, and energy extortion on much of Europe. The Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) even launched a “Shields Up” campaign that centers around cyber threats originating from Russia. Add the threat of nuclear war to the equation, and it’s easy to understand why Russia captures so much of our attention.

But there is a greater threat that is so pervasive and omnipresent that it has infiltrated your teenager’s social media, breached both federal and state agencies and much of the supply chain supporting our defense industrial base.

Military, intelligence, and economic advantages are made in America and then quickly stolen by China.

China Threat Raises Stakes for Navy’s Cyber Offense EvolutionDefense contractors have a role in shaping Navy cyber warfare

Patty Nieberg

Offensive information warfare will be critical in a possible future conflict with China, defense officials said at an industry conference Tuesday, using the war in Ukraine as an example.

US adversaries are constantly studying and improving in the information warfare space, threatening infrastructure and co-opting social media messaging for political gain, Chris Cleary, the Navy’s principal cyber advisor, told reporters at a media roundtable Tuesday.

Flooding information channels with reasons the US shouldn’t get involved in defending Taiwan and convincing enough of the American public to agree, Cleary said as an example, “The Chinese might be like, ‘Well, we’ve won.’”

Improved offensive capabilities are part of the Navy’s “secure, survive, strike” Cyberspace Superiority Vision, said Cleary, whose roundtable was part of WEST 2023, a conference co-hosted by AFCEA International and the US Naval Institute.

Cleary noted that the offensive cyber space has traditionally been overly classified because it grew out of intelligence community activities. In order to better equip forces focused on cyber warfare, though, the Navy is making efforts to “professionalize” non-kinetic operations.

We Need a Peace Time Draft

Michael Szalma

Our nation is facing a national security threat: there are not enough military age people joining the U.S. Armed Forces. Yet, the world is still a threatening place, necessitating a robust American military. Democracy is being tested in Ukraine. China is a looming threat over another democracy, Taiwan. The United States must be ready to answer these and other potential challenges. A peace time draft can help solve this problem. At the same time, drafting politically polarized Americans can help bring the American people back together through a shared sacrifice and a sense of patriotism that military service fosters while simultaneously ensuring the political engagement of modern youth.

The Department of Defense in 2022 found that only 23% of people in prime military age (ages 17 to 24) qualify for service. Why so low? Obesity, drugs, mental/physical health, or a combination of these. Obesity is the largest single factor.

To combat this trend, in 2022 the U.S. Army created two “prep-courses” that recruits can attend prior to Basic Training. One 90-day prep-course helps recruits meet body fat standards. The other course helps recruits achieve higher scores on the Armed Forces Qualifications Test. The U.S. Navy recently announced that it has raised its age limit to 41 years, the oldest of any service (thus far).

This is sounding alarm bells. The recruiting pool is getting shallower.

There has been much discussion recently in how to fix this problem within the framework of the all-volunteer military. Perhaps it is time to put into action an old saying, “If you want a new idea, look in an old book.”

Bring back the peace time draft.