27 February 2023

As China’s FM Qin Gang Prepares to Visit India, Reflections on Wang Yi’s Views

Saheb Singh Chadha

China’s new Foreign Minister Qin Gang is expected to make his first visit to New Delhi on March 1 and 2 for the G-20 foreign ministers’ meeting. The visit comes at a time when relations are at a historic low, with tens of thousands of Indian and Chinese soldiers backed by heavy weaponry remaining deployed along the China-India border.

In this context and at this juncture, it is worth analyzing where former Foreign Minister Wang Yi left off.

Wang’s address at the Symposium on the International Situation and China’s Foreign Relations in late 2022 showed that China’s position on the border and the gaps in understanding and expectations between the two sides will likely cause troubles in China-India relations. In the year-end address, Wang, who is now director of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Foreign Affairs Commission, summarized China’s foreign policy, diplomacy, and relations with various countries.

Coming roughly two weeks after the most recent clash between Indian and Chinese forces at Yangtse in the eastern sector of the Line of Actual Control, Wang’s address provides some insights into China’s posture towards India.

India’s Radical Reimagination: No More Bandwagoning, for Real

Yogesh Joshi

India has historically been averse to balance of power politics, but not for ideological, moralistic, or even principled reasons. The 2020 Galwan crisis was thus an inflection point when India realized the conditions for bandwagoning no longer applied, and began to abandon the strategy with surprising ease, embracing the logic of balancing China and aligning closely with the US.

Guns At A Terrorist’s Funeral Exposes Pakistan’s War On Terror Farce – OpEd

Nilesh Kunwar

One would have expected a country that’s just been taken off the Financial Action Task Force [FATF] grey list for its active involvement in terror financing and is facing an unprecedented economic crisis would be wary of doing something that could enrage the international committee. However, Pakistan is an exception and Islamabad [or to be more precise, Rawalpindi] deserves full marks for having the temerity to cock a snook at the international community by conspicuously associating itself with Hizbul Mujahideen [HM] chief Syed Salahuddin who is a designated terrorist.

On Monday, Salahuddin presided over the funeral services of his lackey, HM ‘launch commander’ Bashir Ahmad Peer alias Imtiyaz Alam in Rawalpindi, who had been gunned down by an unknown assailant. What was really shocking wasn’t Salahuddin’s presence at the funeral but the sight of armed soldiers in battle gear serving as his personal bodyguards. And even if this questionable official protocol of providing security cover by the army or paramilitary to a designated terrorist is ignored, there’s no way the world can ignore Salahuddin’s public declaration of his unconditional commitment to wage ‘jihad’ till India’s “barbadi” [destruction].

However, those who feel that the HM chief exceeded his brief and expect that an embarrassed Islamabad would tender an apology for an unwarranted and highly provocative threat against its Eastern neighbour are sadly mistaken as he has made similar statements earlier. Readers may recall that in interview given to Arab News in 2012, Salahuddin candidly admitted that “we are fighting Pakistan’s war in Kashmir.” Unfortunately, the international community didn’t take any notice of this incriminating disclosure regarding Pakistan army’s complicity in attempting to bleed India through ‘a thousand cuts.’

Russia Urges Bangladesh To Resist Sanctions Pressure

Bangladesh’s ambassador in Moscow was summoned to the Russian Foreign Ministry after “several dozen” Russian vessels were banned from calling at ports in Bangladesh, including at least one ship carrying equipment for the Rooppur nuclear power plant under construction.

The Russian Foreign Ministry’s Maria Zakharova told a media briefing earlier this month that “as a specific example, we can mention the incident with the Russian ship Ursa Major, which in December 2022, at the request of the Americans, the authorities of Bangladesh withdrew their previously issued permission to enter the port of Mongla. Because of this, the delivery of a batch of equipment for the Rooppur NPP under construction was delayed for more than a month, which in no way meets the interests of the Bangladeshi side itself”.

In a press briefing on Tuesday, following news that the ambassador had been summoned, Zakharova accused the USA of “increasingly forcing neutral countries to comply with anti-Russian sanctions”.

“We have learned that several dozen Russian vessels have been banned from calling at ports in Bangladesh. We know that this unfriendly step was taken by the country’s authorities not at all on their own initiative but under the threat of secondary sanctions by the United States … it risks making the future of traditionally friendly Russia-Bangladesh relations contingent on the whims of a third country pursuing its own geopolitical goals.

This Is China’s 12-Point Blueprint for Bringing Peace to Ukraine

China’s Foreign Ministry published a 12-point position paper on Friday laying out how it thinks peace can be restored to Ukraine.

The proposal is unlikely to find much favor in Kyiv, Washington or European capitals, largely because it avoids explaining how territory that Russia has seized would be handled.

The document also resembles previous talking points Chinese diplomats have made, whether on the Ukraine issue, or on topics such as Taiwan. Here’s a look at what the proposal calls for:

1. “Respecting the sovereignty of all countries.”

CONTEXT: This is a common talking point used by Chinese diplomats, especially concerning Taiwan, the democratically run island Beijing has pledged to bring under its control. The Foreign Ministry has avoided questions on how Ukraine’s sovereignty can be protected. Kyiv has demanded a complete withdraw of Russian forces from all the territory Moscow has claimed from Ukraine since it invaded and annexed the Crimean Peninsula in 2014.

2. “Abandoning the Cold War mentality.”

CONTEXT: This is a line the ministry often uses to criticize the US. Beijing accuses the US — and by extension the North Atlantic Treaty Organization — of seeking to preserve their hegemony. China argues that its greater economic sway means it deserves a bigger role on the world stage, one the US has yet to accommodate.

China Cease-Fire Proposal for Ukraine Falls Flat With US, Allies

China called for a cease-fire between Russia and Ukraine in a position paper on ending the war that offered some reprieve to Moscow but was quickly dismissed by Kyiv’s allies as the conflict enters its second year.

Several of the 12 points outlined by China in the document issued Friday would, if carried out, offer clear benefits to Russian President Vladimir Putin. That includes a cease-fire, which would freeze Russian troops in place on Ukrainian territory, as well as a call to immediately end all sanctions not endorsed by the UN Security Council, where Russia holds veto power.

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan, speaking on CNN, brushed off the Chinese proposal, saying it should have ended after the first bullet point, which calls for “respecting the sovereignty of all countries.”

“This war could end tomorrow, if Russia stopped attacking Ukraine and withdrew its forces,” he said.

Asked about the proposal, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said, “China doesn’t have much credibility” in light of its failure to condemn Putin’s war.

But US and European officials worry that the Chinese proposal may get some traction in the global South, which has largely resisted calls to join sanctions against Russia.

China’s Military Modernisation: Will the People’s Liberation Army complete its reforms?

Meia Nouwens

The People's Liberation Army's modernisation programme has seen the commissioning of some impressive military platforms and systems since 2021, but progress in institutional reform and restructuring is less obvious and China's leaders do not yet have complete confidence in their military's war-fighting capabilities.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has set three goals for the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) modernisation by mid-century (2049 or 2050) as part of China’s larger ambition to become a strong country (强国 qiáng guo) with a strong military (强军 qiáng jūn). These goals were slated for completion between 2020 and 2050, with a fourth added in 2021 as a midway point between 2020 and 2035. The goals are: by 2020, mechanisation of PLA army forces and progress in ‘informationisation’ – the integration of information and communications technology (ICT); by 2027, army building and professionalisation; by 2035, full modernisation and ‘intelligentisation’ – integration of artificial intelligence (AI) and autonomy into the PLA’s command and control, weapons systems and platforms, and decision-making – through reform of theory, organisational structure, service personnel and weaponry; and, by the mid-21st century, the ability to fight and win wars. These reforms will be implemented across all PLA service arms – army, navy, air force, rocket force and strategic support forces – and focus on developing efficient joint operations for theatre commands according to modern and future war-fighting concepts of network-centric and target-centric warfare.

China Could Learn From Ukraine War – But on the Korean Peninsula, Not Taiwan

A. B. Abrams

A year after hostilities between Russia and Ukraine escalated into a full-scale war, the conflict and in particular Western powers’ involvement supporting the Ukrainian war effort could carry a number of important lessons for China, in particular for its security interests on the Korean Peninsula.

The importance of applying lessons from the Russian-Ukrainian War to East Asia has been widely raised by Western analysts, primarily for the furtherance of Western security interests by preparing Taiwan to asymmetrically counter possible military action by the Chinese mainland in similar ways to how Ukraine countered Russia. Often referred to as a “porcupine strategy,” this has involved preparations for mass mobilization, introduction of very large number of cutting edge handheld anti-aircraft and anti-tank weapons among infantry, and emphasis on mobile missile systems for roles from anti shipping to air defense – among a range of other means that have already proven effective in blunting Russian offensives.

While provision of arms and training to Ukraine have been key to facilitating an effective porcupine strategy, NATO members have also used several hundred satellites and a number of airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) “flying radar” aircraft to provide massive support for communications, intelligence, and targeting data. Doing so has given Ukraine a clear picture of the movements of Russian assets, and provided a major force multiplier for Western-supplied precision guided weapons such as HIMARS rocket systems to facilitate highly precise strikes on positions deep behind enemy lines.

As Russia’s Military Stumbles in Ukraine, Chinese Strategists Are Taking Notes

Lyle Goldstein and Nathan Waechter

In shaping patterns of future warfare, there is little doubt that militaries across the world will be seeking to absorb the key lessons of the Russia-Ukraine War, ranging from the employment of tanks to the use of anti-ship cruise missiles and the ubiquitous drones. For the Chinese military, these lessons might even assume a greater importance, since the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) both lacks major, recent combat experience, and has also leaned heavily on Russian weapons and doctrine for its rapid modernization over the last few decades.

Chinese media coverage of the war in Ukraine has been extensive. The close nature of the China-Russia “quasi-alliance” means that Chinese military analysts have not engaged in the ruthless critiques of Russian military performance that have been commonplace in the West. Yet, Chinese military analyses are still probing deeply for lessons to understand the shape of modern warfare. They have taken particular interest in the U.S. employment of novel weapons and strategies.

To fully grasp the scope and depth of these Chinese analyses it is important to take assessments from a full range of Chinese military media, which is more extensive than is often appreciated in the West. These articles are generally associated with research institutes that are directly involved in the Chinese military industrial complex.

The Ideology Barriers to Anti-China Coalitions

Mark L. Haas

The goal of creating partnerships against China akin to the Cold War will be difficult to achieve. In the past, almost every US ally in Europe and Asia was either a liberal democracy or right-wing dictatorship hostile to Soviet communism. In Asia today, no such unifying ideological force exists and key potential US partners are ideologically closer to China.

Iran and Russia: an unsteady axis

John Raine
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Tehran’s military support for Russia has involved the Iranian regime in an elective, foreign war at a time of domestic crisis. While Russia has received material contributions to its military operations and gained leverage in the Middle East, the benefits of this partnership for Iran have been less clear. The regime has a rationale, but its choice to support Russia is risky.

The decision has been publicly criticised by senior figures who reflect widespread scepticism amongst Iranians over Russia’s sincerity and value as a partner. Russia proved less than trustworthy in previous agreements on nuclear power, sanctions and the Caspian Sea. Iranian scepticism thus rests on a historical animosity. As a former colonial power and a neighbour with contested borders, Russia has been more naturally Iran’s adversary and rival than its partner.

Yet Russia and Iran share the strategic objective of countering the influence of the United States and its allies in the Middle East. The leadership in both countries use the same narrative, which includes the demonisation of NATO and denouncing the depravity of the West. Moscow and Tehran have developed their own spheres of influence in the region. Iran’s influence rests on the operational relationships that it has developed with militias and partners in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen, which give it forward bases from which to pressure US allies in Israel and the Gulf. Meanwhile, Russia’s influence is more geographically dispersed and extends through financial and political means. Russia’s presence in the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean, which has been significantly enhanced since its intervention in Syria, is complementary to that of Iran’s, which extends eastwards into Syria, Iraq and the Gulf. Their interests also coincide in areas where their influence is weaker, but their operational needs are similar: in the Gulf, both countries have an interest in using permissive jurisdictions to circumvent heavy US-led sanctions. Thus, despite the deep differences in the political character of the regimes, they are joined by both a strategic objective and operational requirements.

Give Ukraine What It Wants

John Herbst, David J. Kramer, and William Taylor

For Ukrainians, the past 12 months have been both a year from hell and a year of hope. They have lost thousands of their fellow citizens, seen millions more displaced, and watched as their country’s economy was devastated by Russia’s unprovoked invasion. But Ukrainians have demonstrated remarkable resilience and courage, successfully rallying to defend their independence under the inspiring leadership of President Volodymyr Zelensky. Although Russian President Vladimir Putin expected a swift victory, his forces encountered stiff resistance and suffered major losses. Russia’s massive casualties and plummeting morale mean that a Ukrainian victory—defined as driving all Russian troops off Ukrainian soil, Crimea included—is in sight.

Ukraine’s fighters are among the world’s finest. To finish the job, however, Kyiv will need more Western support. Ukrainians face an opponent with great quantitative advantages in soldiers, tanks, planes, missiles, and overall firepower. To break through Russian lines and cut the land bridge to Crimea, Ukraine needs more advanced weapons from the West, including rocket systems that can shoot missiles up to 185 miles, sufficient tanks, and Western-made aircraft.

The United States and some other NATO members are wary of providing these weapons to Ukraine, citing fears that additional assistance could lead to an escalation of the conflict—and even the potential use of nuclear weapons. But for all his tough talk, Putin has given no meaningful indication that Russia will go nuclear; quite the contrary. Kyiv and Western governments have repeatedly crossed Putin’s redlines, ­­yet the Kremlin has never even put Russia’s arsenal on real alert.

US vows to send more drones, aid to Ukraine on war’s anniversary

Joe Gould

WASHINGTON ― The Pentagon announced Friday morning it would send more drones to Ukraine as part of a new $2 billion package to help in the country’s fight against Russia on the first anniversary of the invasion.

The new $2 billion in aid includes more ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, more ammunition for 155mm artillery and more munitions for unspecified laser-guided rocket systems. It also includes unspecified counter-drone and electronic warfare detection equipment.

The Pentagon plans to contract for the gear under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative, which allows the Biden administration to buy weapons from industry rather than draw from U.S. weapon supplies.

The funds would go toward the purchase of a new weapon for Ukraine: the Altius 600, a small drone with a range of 276 miles and endurance of more than 4 hours. The manufacturer, Anduril subsidiary Area-I, has said the system can operate as a loitering munition.

The other drones included are the fixed-wing, vertical takeoff and landing AeroVironment Jump 20 ― a surveillance drone that can fly for 14 hours and has a range of 185 kilometers ― and a system called K8, from CyberLux, a company that makes quadcopters.

Ukraine Crisis After One Year – An Assessment

Dr. Rajaram Panda


Russia’s military operation in Ukraine started on 24 February 2022. During this one year of conflict, the situation in the world has drifted into dangerous situation with the world getting divided virtually into two camps. While Washington took the lead in building a coalition of NATO and others to send arms and other supplies to Ukraine, Russia and China suddenly found a new bonhomie.

The US, the NATO countries and some of the US allies have come to the rescue of Ukraine by supplying arms to strengthen its fighting strength. The US has already supplied arms worth about $25 billion since the war started. Both sides have seen heavy casualties. Though no accurate estimate of casualties can be available, the US military indicates a figure of 100,000 casualties on either side. The figure includes the dead and the wounded. The actual figure may never be known.

The war has impacted adversely on the global economy, particularly on the South with food prices going up. India has followed a calibrated policy of refusing to join the West in condemning or imposing sanctions on Russia while calling for a cease-fire to be followed by negotiations. Will India as Chair of G-20 be able to persuade the belligerents to agree to a cease-fire? India is seen as a beacon of hope and the world looks at India for an important role to defuse the situation and restore peace.

Who Stands for Freedom?


NEW YORK – The Republican Party has long wrapped itself in the American flag, claiming to be the defender of “freedom.” The GOP believes individuals should be free to carry firearms, spew hate speech, and eschew vaccines and face masks. The same goes for corporations: Even if their activities destroy the planet and permanently change the climate, the “free market” should be trusted to sort things out. Banks and other financial institutions should be “liberated” from regulation, even if their activities can bring down the entire economy.

Following the 2008 financial crisis, the pandemic, and the acceleration of the climate crisis, it should be obvious that this conception of freedom is far too crude and simplistic for the modern world. Those who still espouse it are either mind-numbingly blinkered or on the take. As the great twentieth-century philosopher Isaiah Berlin put it: “Freedom for the wolves has often meant death to the sheep.” Or, put another way, freedom for some is unfreedom for others.

In the United States, the freedom to carry guns has come at the expense of the freedom to go to school or the store without being shot. Thousands of innocent people – many of them children – have died so that this particular freedom can live. And millions have lost what Franklin Delano Roosevelt thought was so important, the freedom from fear.

Lessons of Ukraine War: Rethinking America’s Footprint in Europe

James Jay Carafano

Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine stands as the biggest shakeup in the transatlantic community since the fall of the wall. It has completely changed our world, and we must adapt.

Vladimir Putin is denuding his conventional military force. As a result, the future U.S. footprint in Europe should not be what it was in the past, nor does it need to be as robust as was once considered prudent. It is time to start talking about what the new face of the United States in Europe should look like.

Lord Palmerston, a ruthless and cunning old sot, zealously defended his empire without an ounce of empathy, political correctness, or scruples. Still, it’s hard to argue with his dictum: “We have no eternal allies, and we have no perpetual enemies. Our interests are eternal and perpetual, and those interests it is our duty to follow.” This kind of righteous, hard thinking was lost in the post-Cold War world. Instead of ensuring that politics ends at the water’s edge, modern U.S. foreign policy looks increasingly like an extension of domestic policy squabbles.

Indeed, Joe Biden’s National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, has said, “We’ve reached a point where foreign policy is domestic policy, and domestic policy is foreign policy.” That is nonsense. We need a third way that structures America’s actions and commitments to match our vital interests. This is nowhere more important than in America’s European footprint.

What Pentagon leaders say they have learned one year on from the battle in Ukraine

WASHINGTON — One year ago Russia invaded Ukraine, sparking a conflict that’s resulted in, by one US estimate, over 200,000 casualties. It also has provided key lessons about modern warfare that, until the last year, were largely academic in nature.

Watching two relatively advanced militaries face off provided a new window into war, a generation beyond the far more asymmetric nature of the War on Terror. And while the US military surely isn’t advertising everything it has learned, the last 12 months saw repeated public declarations from just about every service and specialty about how they’re incorporating what they’ve seen play out in eastern Europe.

The following is a selection of those lessons, curated by the Breaking Defense staff.

On Land: Tank Warfare, Stockpiles and cUAV

Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine came at a pivotal moment for the US Army, one where service leaders had been justifying soldiers’ potential role in the Indo-Pacific region. Instead, the past year of mostly land combat provided those Army leaders with the opportunity to better examine the complexities of a large-scale ground fight with modern weapons and tout the service’s crucial role to the joint fight. It also emphasized how important it was to be able to refill weapon stockpiles.

A year into Ukraine, looking back at 5 prewar predictions


On Feb. 15 2022, as the world watched to see if Russia would invade Ukraine, Mark Cancian of CSIS wrote an article looking at some of the lessons that could be learned from such a conflict. A year later, he has returned to see what assessments came true, and which surprised him.

Last February, as war became imminent, I wrote an article for Breaking Defense that asked five questions that had been bouncing around the defense community for years — and which the looming conflict in Ukraine would potentially answer.

Are tanks obsolete? Is cyber a game changer? Are helicopter operations viable? Are amphibious assaults still possible? Will artillery dominate the modern battlefield? At the war’s one-year point, some answers are emerging. While some of these answers came as expected, others are surprising, even uncomfortable. All have major implications on how future conflicts — as well as the ongoing war in Ukraine — will be conducted.

1. Are tanks still viable on the modern battlefield? Answer: Yes

Analysts have been predicting the end of tanks since the introduction of long-range precision antitank missiles in the early 1970s. Events in the Nagorno-Karabakh War of 2020 seemed to show that drones dominate tanks. The Marine Corps dumped all its tanks in 2021 and deemed its antitank weapons capable of handling any armored threats it might face.

Disinformation Roulette: The Kremlin’s Year of Lies to Justify an Unjustifiable War

On February 24, 2022, millions in Ukraine awoke to a chorus of air raid sirens that had not been heard for 80 years . Russia had launched a full-scale invasion. Leading up to that fateful morning, and in the year since, Russia’s disinformation and propaganda ecosystem deployed an array of false narratives to deceive the world about the Kremlin’s neo-imperial intentions, portray its war of choice against Ukraine to the people of Russia as a necessary response to purported threats from the United States and NATO, and attempt to justify an unjustifiable war. The Kremlin routinely changed its false claims to distract from its battlefield failures and political isolation. This report will highlight five of the most salient false narratives deployed by Russia’s disinformation and propaganda ecosystem: 1) Russia was encircled by NATO before the February 2022 invasion; 2) Ukraine is committing genocide in the Donbas; 3) the Ukrainian government needs “denazification and demilitarization ;” 4) restoration of traditional values requires “desatanization” of Ukraine; and 5) Russia must fight in Ukraine to defend its sovereignty against the West.

False Narrative 1: NATO “encirclement” and Russia “is not the aggressor”

One of the earliest Kremlin-fabricated justifications for war is the false claim that NATO and “the West” are aggressors threatening Russia’s security. For months leading up to February 24, 2022, Russia demanded security guarantees including restrictions on countries’ joining NATO, a position which rejected Ukraine’s and other countries’ sovereign right to choose their own foreign policy. As Moscow amassed up to 190,000 troops on Ukraine’s border, Russia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs spread disinformation to cloud the Kremlin’s intentions, claiming Russia’s troops were not on the border with Ukraine while accusing the United States and allies of whipping up hysteria . President Putin falsely blamed NATO for the escalating tensions, claimed he was not planning an invasion , and accused the United States of using Ukraine as a “tool to contain Russia .” Aiming to deflect the blame, disinformation outlets linked to Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), Military Intelligence Directorate (GRU), and Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR) amplified the false claims, calling the warnings by the United States and NATO about the potential for a military offensive by Russia against Ukraine “western hysteria ” to “drag Ukraine into war .”

Why the War Will Continue


MUNICH – In the year since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the war has evolved in ways few predicted. The conventional wisdom was that Russian forces would quickly overwhelm the overmatched Ukrainians and take possession of much more of the country than they gained in 2014. Others went further, predicting that Russia would topple the government in Kyiv and replace it with a puppet regime that would ratify Russian control and no longer embody a Western-looking alternative to the bleakness that has become Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

Given such dire forecasts, many in the West and in Ukraine would have readily accepted a version of what exists today, namely, a sovereign Ukraine exercising authority over some 80% of its territory. That this is the reality is a tribute to the effectiveness of Ukraine’s military, the collective courage of the Ukrainian people and their leaders, and the steadfastness of US and European support in the form of arms, money, training, intelligence, and the acceptance of millions of refugees. It is also a stunning indictment of Russia’s military.

Putin is faced with difficult choices as he contemplates a war of choice that has not gone as planned. His decision to invade was not irrational, given his assumptions that Ukraine would be no match for his military, that Europe (especially Germany) was too dependent on Russian gas to stand up to him, and that the United States, post-January 6 and post-Afghanistan, was too divided and inward-looking to aid Ukraine’s defense. But, because all these assumptions proved wrong, Putin’s calculation that the benefits of invading would dwarf the costs became a formula for disaster.

Strategic Survey 2022: Strategic Prospects

John Chipman

Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the strategic challenge for the West is dual: defeat Russia to both restore the European security order and regain the trust of the rest of the world in Western strategic objectives and ethics.

The geopolitical earthquake that resulted from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022 will send further tremors and reinforce fault lines in global politics. At the close of 2021, the United States and most European countries were committed to the Indo-Pacific as the strategic theatre to which attention must shift. Asia’s strategic primacy was a settled strategic consensus. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s imperial adventure, however, pulled the West back into defending the security of its original area of strategic focus. The European security order is ‘a core interest’ of the West. Its fracture would make any more external security commitments unviable. Its successful defence would lend credibility to any Indo-Pacific tilt. A variety of residual security commitments made in the Middle East would also be shown to be more reliable if success were achieved. Nevertheless, the perceptions of the conflict remained diverse in these other regions, with the Russian narrative that its invasion was provoked getting much more purchase than the facts warranted. Reputationally, then, the strategic challenge for the West became dual: defeat Russia to both restore the European security order and regain the trust of the rest of the world in Western strategic objectives and ethics.

Russia’s War in Ukraine: What are the emerging military lessons?

Ben Barry
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The Russia–Ukraine war has demonstrated some key features of modern war between states, reaffirming that war is a dynamic contest of wills across multiple domains where both sides seek to outfight, outmanoeuvre and out-adapt each other.

Major wars severely test armed forces. The Russia–Ukraine war is no exception. Although there are currently only two direct combatants, many other states are involved in the conflict: politically, diplomatically and economically, and by providing military and intelligence assistance to Kyiv. They have supplied Ukraine with considerable military support, including a wide variety of weapons, ammunition, spare parts and training. The international effort to prevent Russia from winning the war has also seen self-organised participation by international businesses in withdrawing from Russia and, in some cases, helping Ukraine.

At the time of writing, the outcome and duration of the war cannot be reliably forecast. But it has demonstrated some key features of modern war between states. It has reaffirmed that war is a highly dynamic contest of wills across multiple domains, where both sides seek to outfight, outmanoeuvre and out-adapt each other. The battle of the narrative is a key factor. The war reminds us that the prime military capability is competence and that numbers and mass still count, both on the battlefield and in logistics stockpiles. It also suggests that many current precision weapons are limited by cost, complexity and lead times to manufacture; and that it is increasingly difficult to hide forces from surveillance by satellites and uninhabited aerial vehicles (UAVs), the latter playing an increasing role in land warfare. Battles in the conflict have often revolved around urban terrain, demonstrating the need for competence in urban warfare.

How the war has changed Russia

Nigel Gould-Davies

When Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine, he expected a quick victory. His failure transformed the Kremlin’s main task from managing his re-election in 2024 to mobilising Russia’s human and material resources to win a major war of aggression. This fundamental policy shift has broken long-standing bargains with society and elites. It is also straining the resources needed to fight the war and maintain domestic control.

The bargain with societyBefore the war, the regime had a clear authoritarian bargain with the population: stay out of politics and the state will leave you alone. Despite a decade-long decline in real incomes, this remained a compelling proposition for most Russians, especially as repression grew more severe.

The war has driven even greater repression. Opposition politics and independent media are outlawed. New laws criminalise even the mention of ‘war’, with up to 15 years in prison. Internet censorship and surveillance, including software to detect authors of anonymous posts, have intensified. But the biggest change is one not of degree but of kind: the regime now seeks not to demobilise the population from politics but to mobilise it behind the war. This demand for active support, not merely acquiescence, marks a fundamental shift from authoritarian towards totalitarian rule. State media and the Orthodox Church now serve up a vitriolic and hysterical diet of wartime propaganda. Education and training instil these messages into schools, universities and administrations. The militarisation of Russian society is under way.

Russia's war on Ukraine: one year on

Ben Barry

Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine was intended to quickly overthrow the Ukrainian government. The campaign was based on inadequate intelligence and excessive optimism; Ukraine’s leaders stayed at their posts, and the Ukrainian armed forces did not collapse. Poor execution by underperforming Russian forces, combined with external support to Ukraine, entangled Moscow in an extended campaign. Almost a year into the war, some key military lessons can be identified.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy helped galvanise Ukraine’s population and armed forces, showing the importance of the human factor in war. Better-motivated and better-led Ukrainian forces slowed and eventually stalled Russia’s first wave of attacks. The war reinforces the value of investing in personnel, without which investments in equipment can be wasted. The Russian military system was also weakened by corruption.

As well as reaffirming that competence is the bedrock of military capability, the war has shown how important it is for armed forces to be able to adapt. Both Russian and Ukrainian forces adapted during combat, though with varying degrees of success. After failing in its initial attempt to seize the country, Russia reshaped its offensives to concentrate on the Donbas. It also executed two withdrawal operations – from around Kyiv and Kherson. Ukraine rapidly incorporated foreign weapons and technology, such as the US HIMARS precision rocket artillery, and further developed its capability to use small uninhabited aerial vehicles (UAVs). Situational awareness ranging from battlefield observers controlling small UAVs to space sensors is only growing in importance. Moscow’s shortage of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems hampered its campaign, while Kyiv benefitted from intelligence supplied by the United States, the United Kingdom and other nations.

What Is China’s Peace Proposal for Ukraine War?

One year into Russia’s war against Ukraine, China is offering a 12-point proposal to end the fighting.

The proposal follows China’s recent announcement that it is trying to act as mediator in the war that has re-energized Western alliances viewed by Beijing and Moscow as rivals. China’s top diplomat indicated that the plan was coming at a security conference this week in Munich, Germany.

With its release, President Xi Jinping’s government is reiterating China’s claim to being neutral, despite blocking efforts at the United Nations to condemn the invasion. The document echoes Russian claims that Western governments are to blame for the February 24, 2022 invasion and criticizes sanctions on Russia.

At the Munich meeting, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed skepticism about Beijing’s position before the plan’s release. He said China has provided non-lethal assistance that supports Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war effort and said the United States has intelligence that Beijing is “considering providing lethal support.” China has called the allegation a “smear” and said it lacks evidence.

Russia Sanctions at One Year

Maria Snegovaya , Tina Dolbaia , Nick Fenton , and Max Bergmann


Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, over 11,000 new restrictions have been placed on Russian individuals, companies, products, and technologies. While the sheer number of such restrictions is impressive, the “sanctions from hell” so far have not delivered as much hell as originally expected. Throughout 2022, Russia’s economy generally defied apocalyptic forecasts.

Will sanctions deliver? Much depends on the envisioned goal. The real question is not whether sanctions will lead to a full collapse of the Russian economy—it is unlikely Moscow will run out of money to fight the war—but whether sanctions can inflict sufficient economic, social, and political pressures on the Kremlin to constrain its options for waging war and push it toward a cessation of hostilities.

This paper provides an overview of the currently identifiable impacts of the international sanctions regime imposed on Russia in early 2022. It also compares Russia’s current situation with that of two other sanctioned economies: contemporary Iran and apartheid-era South Africa. While the relative resilience of Russia’s economy should not be underestimated, the currently available data does indicate that sanctions will have a pronounced impact on the country’s economic development. In the cases of Iran and South Africa, sanctions never delivered a dramatic, immobilizing blow, but they did exacerbate existing structural vulnerabilities in the countries’ economies. Sanctions degraded the quality of life for the average citizen, which existing opposition movements were able to point to in their efforts to organize widespread civil disobedience. In South Africa, the effects of sanctions contributed to undermining the apartheid regime, while in Iran they have driven social discontent, even if the sanctioned government remains in power.

Ukraine War in Data: A year of casualties, violence and displaced Ukrainians

Tom Nagorski, Mariana Labbate and Anna Deen

As we near the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022, Grid has reported this week on what the war has taught the world, how it has changed Russia and how it has made unexpected “winners” of many nations, companies and individuals.

Now, in this space — where Grid has regularly published statistics and metrics to help understand the course of the war — a review of where things stand one year in, from the perspective of data.

To begin with one of the most important statistics, which remains among the most elusive: casualties on either side. There is a vast gulf between the reporting from Russia and Ukraine, but Western intelligence agencies estimated recently that some 200,000 Russian soldiers had been killed or wounded since the war began. The Ukrainian toll is believed to be lower — but still more than 100,000 dead or wounded troops. These are staggering figures for both countries; beyond the grief and loss, the numbers have raised questions about how long the two armies can sustain this pace of fighting. In Russia, the losses have led to the deeply unpopular mobilization of hundreds of thousands of soldiers and the deployment of former prisoners, freed for the express purpose of being dispatched to battle.

Software-defined Defence: Algorithms at War

Simona R. Soare, Pavneet Singh

Software and artificial intelligence (AI) are critical enablers of modern military operations, lead the evolution towards multi-domain operations, enhance interoperability among allied forces, and support the achievement of information superiority and decision-advantage against adversaries. Much of the functionality and performance offered by military equipment, from the F-35 Lightning II fighter jet and the Patriot missile-defence system, to the M1 Abrams tanks and the French Griffon, Jaguar and Serval armoured vehicles, is already software-defined. As software now drives most of many military platforms' functionality, it is increasingly clear that it is not merely layered on to military hardware. Software is part and parcel of a weapons system.

This report investigates the growing role of defence software and AI/ML (machine learning) in military power now and in the medium term. It focuses on three goals: to define software-defined defence. The paper considers software-defined defence to be a fundamental architectural, organisational and operational principle of modern military operations. Software-defined defence entails a new logic for capability development which disaggregates sensors from effectors, software from hardware, and data from specific applications, while connecting them in data-centric, multi-modal, multi-domain, adaptative battle networks;
to assess ongoing practices and processes in the development of defence software and AI/ML, and identify recurring challenges;

to explore and assess the ongoing efforts towards software-defined defence in five country case studies – China, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States – and how Sino-American strategic competition is shaping them.

Investing in Federal Cyber Resilience

Suzanne Spaulding , Devi Nair , and Sophia Barkoff

The "Innovation for Resilience: A New Framework for Security" series is a new project from the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). This initiative is a partnership between CSIS's Diversity and Leadership in International Affairs Program, Energy Security and Climate Change Program, International Security Program, and Strategic Technologies Program.

On December 23, 2015, Russia knocked out power for 250,000 customers in Ukraine. The hackers had taken over the control systems for several electricity plants and remotely shut down the transmission of energy. Power was restored in six hours. Ukrainians found workers who knew where the breakers were physically located along the grid. They got in trucks, drove to those locations, and manually put the breakers back in place. Manual backups to the remote operation, and workers who understood those manual systems, provided resilience that kept this cyberattack from becoming a major disaster.

According to one definition from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), cyber resilience is “the ability to anticipate, withstand, recover from, and adapt to adverse conditions, stresses, attacks, or compromises on systems that use or are enabled by cyber resources.” The more resilient an agency or department, the greater its ability to bounce back after a cyber incident or maintain mission-essential functions in a degraded environment. The Cyberspace Solarium Commission, which highlighted resilience as one of six foundational pillars in its final report, further emphasized that cyber resilience is about recovering from attacks that “could cause harm or coerce, deter, restrain, or otherwise shape U.S. behavior.” Resilience denies an adversary the benefits they seek, potentially altering their cost-benefit analysis. For a municipality or business, resilience in the face of a ransomware attack provides more time and more options in deciding how to respond to attacker demands. Systemic resilience across the economy makes the United States more secure, and the federal government can contribute to resilience in each of these contexts.
Cyber Resilience and Cyber Risk Management


John Nagl

Authors’ Note: One of the hallowed rites of passage each year at the Army War College is reading portions of Thucydides’ 2500-year-old The History of the Peloponnesian War. Most students find it extremely worthwhile, some to their surprise. Many scholars regard The Peloponnesian War as the first work of international relations since it attributes agency to human actions rather than to the will of the gods. A deep reading of Thucydides also requires students to navigate between the opposing pitfalls of the use of history: cherry-picking evidence to come to simplistic “lessons” or giving up any hope of drawing insights from such a distant time. Of course, every year there are always one or two students who do not make the effort. The following is a satirical portrait of one such student’s not-so-careful read of history along with the response of a more discerning classmate. (All citations come from Robert B. Strassler’s translation The Landmark Thucydides.)

The following list was found on the backside of a stained Redd’s Barbeque take-out menu a day before oral comprehensive exams at the Army War College in two separate sets of handwriting–a short list from one student and commentary from another.

Ten Things I Learned by Skimming Thucydides

It’s the day before oral comp exams. While my gullible classmates have been busy rereading Thucydides, I skimmed the text (It’s only a lot of reading if you do it!) and to be on the safe side, rewatched the movie 300. From what I could gather by flipping through the book, these are the top ten lessons I’m taking into oral comprehensive exams from The History of the Peloponnesian War: