28 February 2023

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

Miles Yu

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.

Getting ASEAN Right in US Indo-Pacific Strategy

Kei Koga

New US-centric frameworks, such as AUKUS, risk further marginalizing ASEAN, always a “second order” priority in US strategy. Although ASEAN is particularly vulnerable after the 2021 Myanmar coup, the US and its allies can clarify an institutional division of labor to help maintain ASEAN unity, regional stability, and prevent member states from aligning with China.

China’s Influence Efforts Are Expanding—But They Also Often Are Failing

Joshua Kurlantzick

In a speech at the Australian National University last week, Home Affairs Minister Clare O’Neil minced no words about how the government perceives the danger of foreign interference—primarily from China—in Australia. “Foreign interference … it is activities carried out or directed by a foreign state that are coercive, corrupting, deceptive or clandestine,” the minister noted. “The threat is ever present. It is relentless and it is insidious. And it not only affects individuals, it fundamentally undermines our democratic processes.”

While O’Neil went on to say “this is not just a China problem, although it is a China problem,” it is certainly true that Beijing has attempted, using various tools, to wield significant influence within Australian politics and society—as it increasingly has around the world in recent years. Indeed, for the first time since Mao’s era, China is assertively trying to meddle in the internal politics and societies of countries on nearly every continent, not just limiting itself to wielding influence in Southeast Asia and Taiwan, its near neighborhood.

As has been well reported by the Australian media, Beijing has used various means to try to foster self-censorship about China’s actions on Australian university campuses, has gained control of a large portion of the Chinese-language press in Australia (and elsewhere), has directly tried to influence specific politicians, has upgraded its disinformation efforts on social media, has attempted to use economic coercion against Australia, and has tried to use the soft power of its state media to alter opinions of Beijing.

Despite Beijing’s Charm Offensive, the EU-China Investment Agreement Is Not Coming Back

The EU-China Comprehensive Agreement on Investment (CAI) has been frozen for just under two years. In May 2021, the European Parliament (EP) voted to suspend ratification after Beijing sanctioned 10 individuals and four entities within the European Union in retaliation for EU sanctions of the same month targeting Chinese individuals and entities involved in the persecution and mass detention of Uyghurs in Xinjiang. Yet Beijing continues to push the deal, which would have replaced the individual bilateral investment treaties (BITs) that most EU member states hold with China and included promises from both sides in terms of market access, level playing field provisions, and environmental and labor standards.

China’s new EU ambassador, Fu Cong, has expressed a desire to “resuscitate” the CAI, marketing it as a cure-all for the complaints he acknowledged some European businesses have about access and operating conditions in the Chinese market. Earlier this month, Fu suggested that all parties consider simultaneously removing sanctions and noted that Beijing stands ready to explore other proposals that would permit movement toward ratification. Some European parties may be receptive to a revival, at least according to the Chinese state media, which reported that EU Council president Charles Michel praised the deal during his December trip to Beijing, and that Sweden has promised to explore dialogue with the EP to move the deal forward during its EU Council presidency through the end of June.

The Push to Ban TikTok in the US Isn’t About Privacy

FRESH OFF THEIR successful effort to ban TikTok on government devices last year, China hawks in the US Congress are looking to expand that ban further, even as lawmakers continue allowing US companies to scoop up Americans’ data and share or sell it with third parties—potentially including China’s government.

The irony is largely lost on many in Congress. Lawmakers are renewing their calls for a nationwide TikTok ban and pushing the Biden administration to force a breakup of the Chinese-owned tech company. Meanwhile, efforts to pass a national privacy law, which failed last year, have largely evaporated.

International balloon politics have only complicated TikTok’s rapidly deflating US future.

“If you’re certainly willing to fly a balloon over your continental airspace—and have people see it with a naked eye—what would make you not weaponize data? Or use an app that’s on the phone of 60 million Americans to drive narratives in society that try to influence political debate in this country?” says Senate Intelligence Committee vice chair Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida.

One House Republican is now calling for Biden to “blow up TikTok,” while a Senate Democrat is bypassing the White House and calling for Apple and Google to remove it from their app stores. TikTok, which is owned by China-based ByteDance, may be the fastest-growing social media app on the planet, but that means little in Washington’s marble halls.

United States–China semiconductor standoff: A supply chain under stress

Jeremy Mark and Dexter Tiff Roberts


In August 2022, the US Congress passed the CHIPS and Science Act, a law that approves subsidies and tax breaks to help jump-start the renewed production on American soil of advanced semiconductors.1 Just two months later, the Joe Biden administration issued wide-ranging restrictions on the export to China of chips and chip-making technology to undercut that country’s ability to manufacture the same class of integrated circuits.2

Taken together with a steady stream of Biden administration prohibitions on technology sales to key Chinese companies, the US initiatives represent a profound turn toward competition with China in the high-tech realm.3 They also highlight an effort to restructure the complex, multinational supply chains centered on East Asia that manufacture hundreds of billions of dollars of semiconductors a year. As such, the Biden administration has set in motion a process that could alter the business strategies—and fortunes—of homegrown and foreign-invested semiconductor companies based in China, world-leading chipmakers in Taiwan and South Korea, and suppliers around the world that provide the industry with the machinery and myriad inputs that fuel chip production.

The balloon drama was a drill. Here’s how the US and China can prepare for a real crisis.

John K. Culver

The Chinese surveillance balloon incident highlighted a central problem for Washington and especially Beijing: the need for their leaders to talk tough in public while retaining the opportunity to seek progress—or prevent worse—in private. This was hard in 2001, when the Chinese held twenty-four crew members of a US EP-3 reconnaissance aircraft that made an emergency landing on China’s Hainan Island after a Chinese fighter collided with it in international airspace, resulting in the loss of the Chinese pilot. Then, the United States skillfully used public rhetoric and private diplomatic and military dialogue to give Chinese President Jiang Zemin a path to resolution just eleven days after the airborne collision. Today, that kind of deft solution is far less likely. The two nations’ communication breakdown could prove disastrous if a crisis arises that’s bigger than a balloon—which is why they need to start talking now.

The parallels to 2001 go beyond the fact that the surveillance balloon was launched from Hainan Island. Indeed, in the first statement on the balloon issued by the Chinese foreign ministry, one can hear echoes of US President George W. Bush’s 2001 statement of regret—short of the apology that Jiang had publicly demanded:

“I regret that a Chinese pilot is missing. Our prayers go out to the pilot, his family. Our prayers are also with our own servicemen and women, and they need to come home… Our relationship with China is very important, and—but they need to realize that it’s time for our people [to] be home.” —Remarks by President Bush, April 5, 2001

American Money Going to China Still Mysterious

Derek Scissors

Once a month, the Department of the Treasury publishes numbers for US investment in foreign stocks and bonds, with the Cayman Islands the largest recipient. This is laughable. Once a year, Treasury publishes numbers for destinations which actually have stock and bond markets, not transit points like the Caymans. The 2021 data just appeared. They show cumulative US portfolio investment of $950 billion in China, the fourth-largest foreign recipient. We have little idea what the money is doing.

Using the right numbers, the Caymans aren’t in the top 20. The US itself received by far the most – funds were round-tripped through off-shore financial centers then came back. The top foreign destination is the UK, followed by Canada and Japan. Four democratic nations which are defense treaty allies, then mainland China.

If Hong Kong is added, the total for the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) rises to $1.18 trillion. This is in fact nearly a $200-billion drop from 2020. The drop is all in the value of American holdings of Chinese common stock. It didn’t occur because Americans withdrew money from the Chinese market, it occurred because share prices of popular Chinese stocks dropped.

Batteries Are Ukraine’s Secret Weapon Against Russia

IN JANUARY 2022, Valeria Shashenok uploaded a TikTok video of herself playing tourist in Paris: red beret, fresh croissants, posing in front of the Eiffel Tower. A month later, her videos took on a much different character: Touring the bombed-out buildings of her town, Chernihiv, Ukraine; racing for cover as the air raid sirens sounded; reviewing the military rations served in her local bomb shelter.

Through the next year, Shashenok’s social media documented her life in the early days of the war, before seeking refuge in Western Europe—and then returning to Ukraine. In October, Shashenok uploaded a video promising to show her followers “how people live without electricity in Ukraine.” More than 3 million people watched the tour of her darkened city, all set to George Michael’s “Careless Whisper.”

Since Russia invaded Ukraine a year ago tomorrow, it has worked feverishly to stop Ukrainians like Shashenok from broadcasting to the world. Yet, even with the power out, Shashenok continued streaming to the world. The enormous work that has gone on behind the scenes to make that possible is a story of resiliency, planning, and batteries.


One Year After Russia’s Invasion of Ukraine, Three Western Illusions Have Collapsed

Alexandra de Hoop Scheffer

One year after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, three Western illusions have collapsed, forcing the United States and Europeans to adjust their positions against the backdrop of a changing international order.

The first illusion was that of believing that Europe's economic interdependence with Russia would guarantee lasting peace. The war in Ukraine brutally highlights the strategic cost of our economic and energy dependence and the consequences of denial—by Paris and Berlin in particular—of the threat that Vladimir Putin's Russia poses. We have entered an era of lasting confrontation with Moscow, and this requires Europe to strengthen its territorial defense capabilities, its economic resilience, and to rethink its neighborhood policy to avoid gray areas that are permanently exposed to the risk of Russian destabilization, such as Moldova.

The second illusion was the certainty that the war would be short and would not require long-term military and financial assistance. This vision has given way to the imperative of ensuring Ukraine's military victory, despite the lack of a common understanding of what that victory should look like. This implies an urgent adjustment of our industrial capacity to accelerate and maintain military aid and training for the Ukrainian army, since these will constitute the core of future security guarantees.

Opinion: Consider these 4 inconvenient questions as the Ukraine war moves forward

Graham Allison

As we end the first year of war in Ukraine, no one can doubt who the big winner is — and who the loser. In this 21st-century version of David and Goliath, Kyiv’s defiance of Moscow’s attempt to erase Ukraine from the map has inspired us all. In a just world, this war would end with a total victory for Ukraine that buried Russian President Vladimir Putin in an ignominious grave.

Most public discussion this winter reflects a conviction that Ukraine must — and can — win a decisive victory. But what constitutes a win against a country such as Russia? As we consider the road ahead, we cannot escape the brute fact that Putin commands an arsenal of roughly 6,000 nuclear weapons that could kill us all. Lest we forget, consider his announcement this week that Russia is suspending participation in New START, the last remaining arms control treaty it had with the United States.

First: If what is at stake is not just Ukraine’s survival but the future of Europe and even the global order, why are there no American troops fighting on the battlefield alongside brave Ukrainians? Answer: President Biden determined from the outset that the United States “will not fight World War III for Ukraine.” If the United States sent American troops to the battlefield to kill Russian troops, it would quickly become a war between the United States and Russia and could escalate to a nuclear war.

The Middle East in the US-India-China Strategic Triangle

Atlantic Council

An overview of India’s interest in the Middle East and the shift toward the Gulf region
New Delhi’s viewpoint on the India-US-China triangle in the Middle East
The India – China relationship in the recent decade
The geopolitical play of Iran, India, Pakistan, and GCC in the Indian Ocean
The growing partnership between India and the Gulf
The perspective of geopolitical forces in Asia

[00:00] Introduction
[01:25] An overview of India’s interests in the Middle East
[09:11] India’s shift toward the Gulf region
[13:12] The I2U2 group and India’s approach to the Middle East
[15:34] New Delhi’s perspective on the India-US-China triangle in the Middle East
[21:04] The India-China relationship today
[26:00] An assessment of the China-Iran relationship
[28:53] Maritime security in the Indian Ocean
[31:32] Geopolitics of Iran, India, Pakistan, and the GCC
[34:52] India’s growing partnership with the Gulf
[38:01] Integrating different cultures and people in the Middle East
[40:20] Balancing geopolitical forces in Asia
[42:27] Conclusion

Carnegie Experts on the Ukraine War’s Long Shadow


This piece is part of Carnegie’s series on the Ukraine war’s impact, one year in.


The war has permanently changed Europe’s relationship with Russia from one of interdependence to almost complete decoupling. The most radical change has been in Germany—the so-called zeitenwende. Former socialist-bloc countries—mainly the Baltic States and Poland—have been forcing the Ukraine agenda. Finland and Sweden almost overnight abandoned decades-old postures of neutrality and applied to join NATO.

The conflict has changed the European security order, forced the EU to take greater responsibility for its own defense, and broken taboos about investing in security. The centrality of the transatlantic relationship in responding to Russia’s war is also a painful reminder that the EU’s stated goal of “strategic autonomy” is more of a lofty ambition than a reality and that the United States is still democratic Europe’s main security patron.

The war in Ukraine has brutally revealed the costs of EU inaction toward its neighbors, forcing it to put enlargement back on the agenda after a decade of drift. The naming of Ukraine and Moldova as candidate countries, with a more conditional offer made to Georgia, means that the EU now has to come up with a real pathway for those three countries to join the union, as well as a proper accession plan for the countries of the Western Balkans, which have been stuck in the waiting room for years.

The Ukraine War’s Prelude to What?

Victor Davis Hanson

The Ukraine mess is daily looking more like the Spanish Civil War of 1936 to 1939, a meat grinder that took 500,000 lives. That three-year conflict became a savage proxy war and prelude for the belligerents of World War II.

The Ukraine battlefield is proving a similar laboratory of death. New lethal weaponry and tactics are introduced, modified—and always improved—from drones to guided missiles to internet-fed artillery.

Likewise, a similar pre-global war lineup of the eventual adversaries is emerging in preview of a much larger, much scarier war to come.

The first mission of Ukraine, the aggrieved victim of a peremptory Russian attack, was simple survival.

But now that it has been armed to the teeth and its soldiers proved far more capable and heroic than Putin’s once-feared Russia, Kyiv now seeks to push back Russians to their 2014 Ukrainian acquired borders.

Next President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has announced that the third stage will be to eject every Russian from 2013 Ukraine. He promises to reabsorb both the Crimea and the Donbas.

Joe Biden Is Making One Critical Mistake in the Ukraine War

Michael Rubin

The US Continues to Flub the Information War on Ukraine – Give credit to the Biden administration. After a slow start, the White House and Pentagon have done great work to ensure Ukraine has (most of) the weapons it needs when it needs them. There remains one major deficit in U.S. strategy, however: the information war.

Military academies teach the DIME model: every coherent strategy has a diplomatic, information, military, and economic strategy. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

Diplomatically, the United States has helped rally and direct a fissiparous Europe. NATO has a renewed sense of mission. Militarily, the supply lines grow. The Biden administration’s economic strategy still tilts more to virtue signaling than substance. Sanctions on Russia are important, though, as former Treasury Department official Marshall Billingslea shows, the Kremlin continues to take advantage of their many loopholes.

Where is VOA?

U.S. investment in the information landscape, however, continues as if Russia never launched Europe’s largest land war since World War II. Voice of America’s Ukrainian service broadcasts Ukrainian language television less than six hours per week. VOA Russian programming is only about twice that.

Assessing the Prospects for Great Power Cooperation in the Global Commons

Raphael S. Cohen, Marta Kepe

If there is a set of issues where great power cooperation could be most likely, it should be in the global commons. Global commons issues are — by definition — shared by multiple nations. As part of a broader study of great power cooperation in an era of strategic competition, the authors assessed the potential for U.S. cooperation with China or Russia on eight global commons issues: maintaining freedom of access to space, dismantling transnational criminal organizations/networks, countering violent extremist organizations, promoting global stability, preserving access to the air and maritime commons, preventing nuclear arms races, preventing militarization of the Arctic, and maintaining the openness of cyberspace. The authors sought to understand where the United States, China, and Russia share interests on these issues, what the obstacles to cooperation are, and where the United States might be able to deepen its cooperation with one or both powers.

The authors find that the trade space for cooperation is already narrow and usually focused more on civilian aspects of these domains rather than core security matters. In general, there is more room for the United States to cooperate with Russia than with China, and there are significant obstacles to cooperation, with a lack of trust being the most common. Finally, cooperation produces both positive and negative externalities, and the costs of cooperation do not always outweigh the likely benefits.

Vanishing Trade Space

Raphael S. Cohen, Elina Treyger

To what extent can the United States still cooperate with China and Russia in certain areas even in this era of strategic competition? On which issues? What are the obstacles, the potential benefits, and the risks associated with great power cooperation? This report, the first of a four-part series, presents the overarching findings of a study that explored these questions.

The authors find that the trade space for cooperation is already narrow; that the obstacles to cooperation — particularly the absence of trust — are growing; that there are comparatively few wedge issues to play China and Russia off of one another; and that the side benefits of pursuing cooperation over competition do not clearly outweigh the costs of doing so. In other words, any cooperation between the powers will be rare and needs to be narrowly focused on making competition safe, and U.S. leaders should expect that the era of strategic competition will be here to stay for the foreseeable future. This research was completed in September 2020, before the February 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. It has not been subsequently revised.

Consequences of the War in Ukraine

Brian Michael Jenkins

Part one in a series

One year ago, Russian ground forces, following a lengthy military buildup, invaded Ukraine. They came from Belarus in the north, Russian territory in the east, and Russian-occupied Crimea in the south. They also tried to take the airport near Kyiv and quickly topple the Ukrainian government, all while Russian missiles struck cities across the country. Today, the war continues, with no clear end in sight. How does this end?

More than 50 years ago, Fred Iklé, then head of RAND's Social Science Department, wrote an influential book called Every War Must End. Among other insights, Iklé noted that, “Since war plans tend to cover only the first act, the national leadership, in opting for war, will in fact be choosing a plan without an ending.” As in all wars, circumstances may suddenly change that alter the resulting consequences. There are wild cards—a serious nuclear accident at Zaporizhzhia, for example, or another war in the Middle East, an invasion of Taiwan, or the outbreak of another new and deadly pandemic. The longer a war continues, the greater the likelihood that such events will occur.

But as the war stands today there are currently six scenarios that may bring about its end. With no attempt to assign probability, they are as follows:

One Year into the War in Ukraine: Israel's Preparedness for the Changing Aerial Threat

Liran Antebi

The war between Russia and Ukraine has seen extensive use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), including many unmanned aircraft produced by Iran. As the war enters its second year, it offers Israel a good opportunity to study enemy technologies and prepare accordingly, not via forecasts or wargames but through actual – and alarming – occurrences. The use of UAVs by non-Western parties as an alternative to an air force, along with the lethal attacks on civilians in Ukraine and the extensive collateral damage caused by UAVs, is highly revealing about the new face of the global aerial threat. As such, Israel must meet new challenges in the fields of detection, interception, and defense, while defining UAVs and drones as a “new layer.” In addition, given the impossibility of creating total, hermetic defense, urgent handling is needed to upgrade the preparedness of the home front for defense and recovery. Israel would do well to maximize emerging opportunities for regional and international partnerships, to enable heightened intelligence and improved force buildup, and perhaps encourage further sanctions on Iran.

One year has passed since Russia invaded Ukraine, launching a war of inter-state violence that pits two relatively technologically advanced countries against one another. Therefore, some view it as an example of "the future battlefield," particularly given the extensive use by both sides of UAVs and drones of various types. In addition, the conflict demonstrates the clear change in the aerial threat that is widespread in the world today.

The war in Ukraine is an opportunity for countries that are liable to face similar scenarios to study and prepare for such eventualities. For Israel, this is a unique opportunity: with Iran considered its greatest threat, Tehran’s involvement in a conflict in Europe allows an in-depth examination of one aspect of Iranian capabilities and weaknesses.

How? (and Does?) the War in Ukraine End: The Need for a Grand Strategy

Anthony H. Cordesman

No one can ignore the grim realities Ukraine faces this winter and spring. Ukrainian forces did well with outside support in 2022, and Russia suffered important losses both on the battlefield and from the economic sanctions imposed by Europe, the United States, and other powers. Nevertheless, statements such as those made by General Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, suggesting that Russia is losing needs to be put in careful context.

General Milley stated in a recent speech that “Russia is now a global pariah, and the world remains inspired by Ukrainian bravery and resilience. In short, Russia has lost. They’ve lost strategically, operationally [,] and tactically. He further stated in Financial Times that “It will be almost impossible for the Russians to achieve their political objectives by military means. It is unlikely that Russia is going to overrun Ukraine. It’s just not going to happen.”

Such statements may be intended to build morale, but they grossly understate the challenges Ukraine now faces, as well as the challenges that the U.S. and its European partners face in creating a new security structure in Ukraine and in Europe. Promises made by the leaders of a number of countries at the Munich security conference in February 2023, including the president of the United States, cannot substitute for prompt and effective action. As Joseph Borrell Fontelles, the senior foreign policy official of the European Union, said at the end of the Munich meeting, “There needs to be less applause and better supply with arms . . . much more has to be done, and much quicker.”

How Putin blundered into Ukraine — then doubled down

Max Seddon, Christopher Miller and Felicia Schwartz

At about 1am on February 24 last year, Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, received a troubling phone call.

After spending months building up a more than 100,000-strong invasion force on the border with Ukraine, Vladimir Putin had given the go-ahead to invade.

The decision caught Lavrov completely by surprise. Just days earlier, the Russian president had polled his security council for their opinions on recognising two separatist statelets in the Donbas, an industrial border region in Ukraine, at an excruciatingly awkward televised session — but had left them none the wiser about his true intentions.

Keeping Lavrov in the dark was not unusual for Putin, who tended to concentrate his foreign policy decision-making among a handful of close confidants, even when it undermined Russia’s diplomatic efforts.

On this occasion, the phone call made Lavrov one of the very few people who had any knowledge of the plan ahead of time. The Kremlin’s senior leadership all found out about the invasion only when they saw Putin declare a “special military operation” on television that morning.

Adapting NATO to Great-Power Competition

Henrik Larsen

The invasion of Ukraine has enhanced NATO’s ability to face great-power competition as a cohesive and properly calibrated defense alliance. But the alliance must address two potential maladaptations as it makes its transition through the summer 2023 Vilnius summit and beyond.

Should Algorithms Control Nuclear Launch Codes? The US Says No

LAST THURSDAY, THE US State Department outlined a new vision for developing, testing, and verifying military systems—including weapons—that make use of AI.

The Political Declaration on Responsible Military Use of Artificial Intelligence and Autonomy represents an attempt by the US to guide the development of military AI at a crucial time for the technology. The document does not legally bind the US military, but the hope is that allied nations will agree to its principles, creating a kind of global standard for building AI systems responsibly.

Among other things, the declaration states that military AI needs to be developed according to international laws, that nations should be transparent about the principles underlying their technology, and that high standards are implemented for verifying the performance of AI systems. It also says that humans alone should make decisions around the use of nuclear weapons.

When it comes to autonomous weapons systems, US military leaders have often reassured that a human will remain “in the loop” for decisions about use of deadly force. But the official policy, first issued by the DOD in 2012 and updated this year, does not require this to be the case.

Ukraine Suffered More Data-Wiping Malware Last Year Than Anywhere, Ever

AMIDST THE TRAGIC toll of Russia's brutal and catastrophic invasion of Ukraine, the effects of the Kremlin's long-running campaign of destructive cyberattacks against its neighbor have often—rightfully—been treated as an afterthought. But after a year of war, it's becoming clear that the cyberwar Ukraine has endured for the past year represents, by some measures, the most active digital conflict in history. Nowhere on the planet has ever been targeted with more specimens of data-destroying code in a single year.

Ahead of the one-year anniversary of Russia's invasion, cybersecurity researchers at Slovakian cybersecurity firm ESET, network security firm Fortinet, and Google-owned incident-response firm Mandiant have all independently found that in 2022, Ukraine saw far more specimens of “wiper” malware than in any previous year of Russia's long-running cyberwar targeting Ukraine—or, for that matter, any other year, anywhere. That doesn't necessarily mean Ukraine has been harder hit by Russian cyberattacks than in past years; in 2017 Russia's military intelligence hackers known as Sandworm released the massively destructive NotPetya worm. But the growing volume of destructive code hints at a new kind of cyberwar that has accompanied Russia's physical invasion of Ukraine, with a pace and diversity of cyberattacks that's unprecedented.

“In terms of the sheer number of distinct wiper malware samples,” says ESET senior malware researcher Anton Cherepanov, “this is the most intense use of wipers in all computer history.”

The WIRED Guide to Quantum Computing

BIG THINGS HAPPEN when computers get smaller. Or faster. And quantum computing is about chasing perhaps the biggest performance boost in the history of technology. The basic idea is to smash some barriers that limit the speed of existing computers by harnessing the counterintuitive physics of subatomic scales.

If the tech industry pulls off that, ahem, quantum leap, you won’t be getting a quantum computer for your pocket, so don’t start saving for an iPhone Q. Quantum computers won’t replace conventional computers. Instead, many experts envision the quantum computer as a specialized chip, part of a conventional supercomputer accessed via the cloud. For problems suited to specific algorithms where quantum calculations offer advantages, that system would tap its quantum accelerator chip. Through these promised speedups, quantum computers could help advance many areas of science and technology, from longer-lasting batteries for electric cars to new medical treatments.

It’s not productive (or polite) to ask people working on quantum computing when exactly those dreamy applications will become real. The only thing for sure is that they are still many years away. Researchers have yet to make prototype quantum hardware do anything practical, although they have demonstrated prototype machines that can solve a commercially useless math puzzle faster than a state-of-the-art supercomputer.

How to Prioritize the Next Generation of Critical Technologies

Connor Fairman

Over the past two years, the U.S. government has identified and developed initial strategies around what it has determined to be the technologies that are most important to national security, particularly relating to U.S.-China competition. Last year, the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (USD(R&E)) published its technology vision and fourteen critical technology areas, and the White House’s National Science and Technology Council released [PDF] a list of nineteen “critical and emerging technologies.”

Most of the areas mentioned in official critical technology lists reflect well-publicized topics, such as supply chain challenges for semiconductors, the development of new biotechnologies (including vaccines), and the risks and opportunities presented by breakthroughs in artificial intelligence. However, some [PDF] of these technologies are not as well-known outside of the scientific community, such as “advanced manufacturing,” “advanced gas turbine engine technologies,” and “human-machine interfaces.”

Identifying the most important technologies for national security and U.S.-China competition, especially those that don’t make headlines, currently requires an enormous amount of manual, time-consuming work, such as collecting, reading, and categorizing academic publications. This process tends to be top-down, with senior decisionmakers assigning topics for investigation to their staff. It can also be reactive, with certain technologies only being prioritized after high-profile issues emerge, such as a global pandemic, and introduce human bias. Moreover, once experts identify critical technologies, determining the entities involved and the United States’ relative standing in these fields, also known as net assessment, requires even more effort and can take months to years.

AI Enters the Dogfight

Paul Scharre

Late last year the U.S. Department of Defense successfully ran a dozen flight tests in which AI agents piloted an experimental fighter jet. We explore the program that got it there and what this milestone means. Paul Scharre joins the In Machines We Trust Podcast from the MIT Technology Review to discuss this latest development in the intersection between AI technology and national security.

Universal Command and Control Language Early System Engineering

James Dimarogonas, Jasmin Léveillé, Jan Osburg

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) requires more efficient and timely methods to acquire, integrate, and interoperate systems, and perhaps more crucially systems-of-systems (SoSs), to deter near-peer adversaries in a rapidly evolving threat environment and prevail in combat should deterrence fail. Current practice for integration across systems generally relies on the development of interface control documents that describe in detail how the different systems and subsystems connect and interact.

In 2019, RAND researchers were asked to participate in a multiyear effort to help DoD understand the challenges of creating a universal command and control language (UCCL) to facilitate the evolution of systems and interoperability of SoSs. In this report, the authors establish a conceptual framework for analyzing SoS performance of different sensor-to-shooter connections, combinations, and associated command and control constructs. The analysis shows that implementation details of a standard interface may contribute to interface overhead that changes technical performance by orders of magnitude.

Overall, while the authors found that there are cases in which mission performance is mainly driven by operational parameters and not the interface design, there are also cases in which implementing a standard interface has the potential to adversely influence mission outcomes if designers do not apply in-depth engineering analysis and careful design practice. This research should not be viewed as a study of a specific standard interface, but as an early system engineering study of how such an interface could and should be designed.

Avoiding the Brink: Escalation Management in a War to Defend Taiwan

Stacie Pettyjohn and Hannah Dennis

Executive Summary

The United States is entering an unprecedented multipolar nuclear era that is far more complex and challenging than that of the Cold War. This report examines potential triggers, thresholds, and targets for Chinese nuclear use as well as options for the United States and its allies and partners to avoid and manage escalation. It uses the results of two exploratory tabletop exercises (TTXs) focused on how China’s expanding nuclear arsenal could impact the risk of nuclear escalation in a conventional conflict over Taiwan.

From these two TTXs, the authors derived tentative insights into how nuclear escalation in a war over Taiwan might unfold and identified areas where further research is needed. First, the expansions and improvements projected for China’s nuclear forces will provide it with a wider range of coercive options. With a secure second-strike capability and more diverse theater nuclear options, China may be willing to brandish its nuclear weapons to attempt to deter the United States from entering a war. There are few incentives to conduct nuclear strikes early in such a conflict, but a war over Taiwan might well lead to a protracted war between the great powers—another area where more study will be critical. The authors also found that American policymakers today might not find the PRC’s nuclear threats credible because of its smaller arsenal size and historic policy of no first use (NFU). Furthermore, the authors found that attempts to degrade key conventional capabilities might lead either side to cross the other’s red lines, setting off an escalatory spiral and transforming a regional conflict into a great-power war. Both the United States and China will have to weigh the value of eliminating certain targets with the risk of crossing an adversary red line. Last, the authors found an asymmetry between the targets available to the United States and China in a Taiwan contingency. With fewer categories of targets to strike and types of capabilities with which to strike them, the United States may have fewer options to manage escalation. All these findings merit further study.

Exploring Chinese Thinking on Deterrence in the Not-So-New Space and Cyber Domains

Nathan Beauchamp-Mustafaga

Besides nuclear deterrence, the space and cyber domains are viewed by China as its main means of strategic deterrence. A key commonality between these two domains is the nearly universal Chinese perception that the U.S. dominates and seeks to further entrench its hegemony. Combined with the broader perception of U.S. hostility, this reinforces a notion that the People's Liberation Army (PLA) is weak, vulnerable, and at risk of coercion by the U.S., requiring a strong Chinese deterrence response. Chinese thinking on space and cyber deterrence is evolving. For space, China's deterrence requirements are likely increasing. Early strategy was likely focused solely on the U.S., but current policy must also account for an India with anti-satellite capabilities. For the cyber domain, recent updates to Chinese military teaching materials suggest that the PLA has come to believe that deterrence requires demonstrating not only an ability to penetrate networks but also an ability to generate real effects. The space and cyber domains are thus key parts of "integrated strategic deterrence"—China's conceptualization of the highest level of deterrence that draws on comprehensive national power.