4 March 2023

East-West Showdown Looms at G-20 FMs Meeting in India

Matthew Lee

Fractured East-West relations over Russia’s war in Ukraine and increasing concerns about China’s global aspirations are set to dominate what is expected to be a highly contentious meeting of foreign ministers from the world’s largest industrialized and developing nations this week in India.

The increasingly bitter rift between the United States and its allies on one side and Russia and China on the other appears likely to widen further as the top diplomats from the Group of 20 gather in the Indian capital on Thursday. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will all be in attendance and battling for support from non-aligned members of the group.

While they will all be in the same room together, there was no sign that Blinken, who spent two days in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan warning Central Asia about the threat Russia poses before traveling to Delhi, would sit down with either of them.

As it has at most international events since last year, the split over the war in Ukraine and its impact on global energy and food security will overshadow the proceedings. But as the conflict has dragged on over the past 12 months, the divide has grown and now threatens to become a principal irritant in China-U.S. ties that were already on the rocks for other reasons.

FACT SHEET: United States and India Elevate Strategic Partnership with the initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology (iCET)

President Biden and Prime Minister Modi announced the U.S.-India initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology (iCET) in May 2022 to elevate and expand our strategic technology partnership and defense industrial cooperation between the governments, businesses, and academic institutions of our two countries.

The United States and India affirm that the ways in which technology is designed, developed, governed, and used should be shaped by our shared democratic values and respect for universal human rights. We are committed to fostering an open, accessible, and secure technology ecosystem, based on mutual trust and confidence, that will reinforce our democratic values and democratic institutions.

Today, the two National Security Advisors led the inaugural meeting of the iCET in Washington, DC. They were joined on the U.S. side by the Administrator of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Director of the National Science Foundation, the Executive Secretary of the National Space Council, and senior officials from the Department of State, Department of Commerce, the Department of Defense, and the National Security Council. On the Indian side, the Ambassador of India to the United States, the Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India, the Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization, the Secretary of the Department of Telecommunications, the Scientific Advisor to the Defense Minister, the Director General of the Defence Research and Development Organization, and senior officials from the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology and the National Security Council Secretariat participated. The two sides discussed opportunities for greater cooperation in critical and emerging technologies, co-development and coproduction, and ways to deepen connectivity across our innovation ecosystems. They noted the value of establishing “innovation bridges” in key sectors, including through expos, hackathons, and pitch sessions. They also identified the fields of biotechnology, advanced materials, and rare earth processing technology as areas for future cooperation.

Despite Flaws, the 2020 U.S.-Taliban Deal Should Still Be Implemented

Sadiq Amini

Two years ago, on February 29, 2020, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation representing the United States, signed a deal with Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, Chief of Taliban’s Political Office in Doha representing the Taliban, to end the twenty-year U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan. Since the signing, pundits and foreign policy practitioners from all sides have widely criticized the deal for its flawed language and unnecessary concessions. One needs little legal background or foreign policy expertise to identify these flaws—a mere glance at its contents and it almost appears as if its terms were primarily dictated by the Taliban at the time. Indeed, on the day of the signing, the Taliban celebrated their victory by marching with their flag from their political office to the Sheraton Hotel, where the two parties inked the agreement in front of international observers. That march was a harbinger of things to come, culminating with the Taliban’s complete takeover of Afghanistan on August 15, 2021.

Despite the deal’s deep flaws, the Biden administration should still insist that the remaining parts of the deal be implemented; namely, intra-Afghan negotiations and the termination of support for foreign terrorist groups. Implementing these provisions could eventually lead to the formation of an “inclusive” Afghan government that could guarantee basic human rights and women’s rights in Afghanistan. Such a government would be able to attain recognition from the international community and begin the difficult process of Afghanistan’s post-war reconstruction, serving the long-term interests of both the United States and Afghanistan.

China’s Spymasters Can Get More From TikTok Than From Balloons

Tobin Harshaw

The Great Spy Balloon Panic of 2023 may have deflated, but the episode did raise significant questions about America’s preparedness for the next era of superpower rivalry. Bloomberg Opinion’s Niall Ferguson, for example, argued that the Chinese flying object exposed the US “domain awareness gap” and aging military industrial base. Admiral James Stavridis questioned the cost-benefit ratio of using Sidewinder missiles (costing over $400,000 each) to bring down what might turn out to be weather balloons or scientific experiments. The best-selling horror novelist Whitley Strieber warned of the “remarkable, complex and secretive presence" of extraterrestrials. (Then again, Strieber says he was abducted by aliens on Boxing Day in 1985.)

As the hysteria abates, let’s pay attention to the big threat: the global web of Chinese intelligence operations that have largely flown beneath the radar of public awareness. This week I tracked down Alex Joske, an Australian risk analyst and expert on Beijing’s adept influencers — not the TikTok kind. Joske, who lived in China for six years and has studied in Taiwan, is the author of Spies and Lies: How China's Greatest Covert Operations Fooled the World, which published in October. Here is a lightly edited transcript of our exchange.

Bipartisan lawmakers warn of China threat at select committee’s first hearing

Clare Foran

CNN —Bipartisan lawmakers warned of the threat posed by the Chinese Communist Party on Tuesday during the first hearing of the House select committee on China, a rare demonstration of unity across the aisle in a Congress increasingly divided along partisan lines.

The panel’s chairman, Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher of Wisconsin, described the stakes in sweeping and dire terms at the outset of the hearing, saying, “This is an existential struggle over what life will look like in the 21st century – and the most fundamental freedoms are at stake.”

Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois, the panel’s top Democrat, argued that working across the aisle is critical for the US to counter the threat. “We must practice bipartisanship,” he said. “We must recognize that the CCP wants us to be fractious, partisan and prejudiced,” a reference to the Chinese Communist Party.

Gallagher made a clear distinction between the Chinese government and its citizenry, saying, “We must constantly distinguish between the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese people themselves, who have always been the party’s primary victims.”

And Krishnamoorthi stressed the need to “avoid anti-Chinese or Asian stereotyping at all costs.”

U.S. Treasury Official Travels to Beijing Despite China Tensions

Andrew Duehren and Keith Zhai

A senior Treasury Department official recently traveled to Beijing, according to people familiar with the matter, in a sign of continued diplomacy despite recent tensions between the U.S. and China.

Robert Kaproth, a deputy assistant secretary focused on Asia, met last week with Chinese counterparts for technical, staff-level discussions on macroeconomic and financial issues, the people said.

The meetings came during a delicate time in the U.S.-China relationship. The two superpowers last year agreed to restart high-level diplomatic engagements. But Secretary of State Antony Blinken postponed a planned trip to Beijing last month after the U.S. shot down what it said was a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon.

More recently, the U.S. has said it believes China is weighing whether to supply weapons to support Russia’s war in Ukraine. Officials including Mr. Blinken and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen have repeatedly said the U.S. wouldn’t hesitate to sanction Chinese entities if the country aids Russia in the fighting. Beijing said the allegation that it may help Moscow is merely “disinformation” and instead blames Washington for stoking the conflict.

China’s Plan for Ukraine Is No Plan at All

Giacomo Bruni and Ilaria Carrozza

On February 24, one year after Russia began its invasion of Ukraine, China released a paper on “China’s Position on the Political Settlement of the Ukraine Crisis.” In classic Beijing style, the document unpacks China’s official position in 12 points. These points repeat previous Chinese positions on the conflict, and in this sense do not offer anything new in terms of Beijing’s rhetoric and supposed neutrality. They do, however, offer several useful insights into China’s own perception about its role in the international arena as well as its positioning with respect to global dynamics of power.

On the one hand, the document openly condemns the use of nuclear weapons, calls for a military de-escalation, and claims that China will continue to play a constructive role in these regards. On the other hand, the position paper remains vague on several key issues, reinforcing the perception that China continues to distance itself from directly engaging in the resolution of the conflict.

Furthermore, doubts remain about China’s possibility to function as a realistic mediator, both in terms of its ability to perform these functions and its international legitimacy to do so. While the document aims to project China as a third party to the conflict, the visit to China of Belarus’ President Alexander Lukashenko this week, as well as recent speculations about China’s possible supply of weapons to Russia, leave little to no doubt that China cannot be considered as a credible mediator.

China and Russia

George Friedman

There has been a great deal of discussion about Chinese military aid to Russia. The United States warned Beijing against sending such aid, and Beijing responded by saying these continued reckless accusations would have consequences. The specter of a Chinese-Russian alliance against the United States seems catastrophic to many Americans, and the idea of Chinese weapons on the Ukrainian battlefield seems like a preface to disaster. But these concerns are misplaced.

It’s true that China and Russia entered into a treaty just before the war in Ukraine. But it’s also the case that the Chinese recoiled from the alliance once the war broke out. In fact, China was one of the few countries to abstain from a U.N. vote to condemn Russia just after the war started. The alliance was portrayed by both sides as a long-term commitment, not a collective defense pact. Beijing saw the war as something to avoid. With serious economic problems, a degree of domestic unrest at home, and the U.S. Navy lurking in and near the South China Sea, China’s participation in a war – or even simply supporting Russia at the U.N. – rendered the alliance little more than a diplomatic bluff.

There are several reasons why China is unlikely to provide significant aid to Russia. Perhaps the most important is that China’s economy continues to struggle. It relies heavily on exports and foreign investment. The threat of American sanctions alone would likely deter the Chinese, but involvement in Ukraine would probably incur sanctions from Europe too. Europe has invested much in containing Russia in Ukraine and in maintaining relations with the United States. Europe has nothing to gain from a Russian victory and potentially much to lose. The Chinese could not pay the price of American and European sanctions.

China’s Latin American Gold Rush Is All About Clean Energy

Christina Lu and Rocio Fabbro

A new gold rush is underway in Latin America—only this time around, the bounty is white. With its sprawling salt flats, the region is rich with a new ore—lithium—and everyone from Germany to China is clambering to get in on the race.

White gold, or lithium, is a coveted critical mineral that is key to making the batteries that drive the energy transition. Some 60 percent of the world’s lithium reserves can be found in the so-called lithium triangle, a region that encompasses Chile, Argentina, and Bolivia. It’s not just lithium either: Peru and Chile are the world’s two largest copper producers, while Brazil is home to 17 percent of all nickel reserves.

“Latin America is front and center in the race for minerals,” said Ryan Berg, director of the Americas Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “It’s just about every single mineral you need to power the modern infrastructure, the green infrastructure that we’re going to need.”

That has sparked a global scramble to tap the region’s wealth—one in which Chinese companies have an edge. For decades, Beijing has rapidly ramped up its trade and investment in the region, entrenching its economic ties and influence there while the United States’ attention wandered. A growing number of Chinese projects in Latin America now center around the clean energy sector, part of what experts say is emblematic of a broader shift, as Beijing scales back its big-bore lending and zeroes in on what it sees as the prize.

Lawmakers Question Pentagon on Ukraine Funds, Signaling Fresh Concerns

Karoun Demirjian

WASHINGTON — Republicans in Congress sharply questioned senior Pentagon officials on Tuesday about the tens of billions of dollars in military and other aid the United States has sent to Ukraine, casting fresh doubt on whether they would embrace future spending as Democrats pleaded for a cleareyed assessment of how much more money would be needed.

The exchanges at two House committee hearings, coming just days after the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, highlighted how concerns about the high cost of sending weapons to Kyiv have intensified on Capitol Hill. The growing doubts have threatened what has been a strong bipartisan consensus in favor of the aid, and could make it more difficult for the Biden administration to win congressional approval of funds to replenish its military assistance accounts. The funding inflection point could come as soon as this summer, months earlier than previously expected.

The hearings also illustrated how members of both parties, despite expressing confidence that a majority in Congress remains committed to supporting Ukraine, are concerned that a determined minority — including right-wing Republicans who eschew U.S. involvement in foreign conflicts and liberal antiwar Democrats — may weaken that resolve if the war continues to drag on.

“We’re all concerned about accountability,” Representative Joe Wilson, Republican of South Carolina, who has supported Ukraine funding ventures in the past, said during a House Armed Services Committee hearing. “Please, let’s get this publicized so the American people can trust what the expenditures are.”

How Indo-Pacific Strategies Are Entering a New Stage

Kei Hakata, Brendon J. Cannon

U.S. president Joe Biden paid a surprise visit to Ukrainian president Volodymir Zelenskyy in Kyiv on February 20, 2023. Speaking together at the Mariinsky Palace, Zelenskyy said, “Right now, in Ukraine, the destiny of the international order based […] is decided.” He rightly emphasized that “a common, joint task for all the countries” is their defense of the rules-based international order. From Kyiv to Taipei, and from Warsaw to Tokyo, we are entering a new geopolitical stage that encompasses both terrestrial Eurasia and the maritime Indo-Pacific.

Although Russia’s war in Ukraine gravely threatens the international order, the most acute international security problem emanates from the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The October 2022 U.S. National Security Strategy, for instance, pointed to the PRC as “the only competitor with both the intent to reshape the international order.” Half a world away, Japan’s National Security Strategy, released in December 2022, spelled out the threats associated with “historical changes in power balances.”

During the 2010s, the “Indo-Pacific” emerged as a geography of strategies, a commensurate response awakened by a gnawing sense of systemic unpredictability. Democratic powers—what we term Indo-Pacific lynchpins—have begun conducting flanking maneuvers to counter China’s revisionism. The Quadrilateral (Quad) cooperation of Australia, India, Japan, and the United States―an informal grouping of the lynchpin Indo-Pacific states―stands in China’s way and erodes its political momentum.

Why sending more US military troops to Taiwan is so risky

Daniel Larison

The United States is reportedly planning to increase its military presence in Taiwan from nearly 40 to between 100 and 200 military personnel.

According to the first report by The Wall Street Journal last week, the additional troops will arrive in the coming months. The small number of U.S. forces in Taiwan has been growing steadily in recent years from less than two dozen at the start of 2021 to what could be nearly ten times as many by the middle of this year. News of the larger troop presence came on the heels of a high-level meeting between U.S. and Taiwanese officials in Washington last Tuesday. There are also separate reports that 500 Taiwanese troops will be sent to the United States for combat training.

While the total numbers involved are still small, these moves represent significant increases in cooperation between the two governments and could portend larger deployments in the future. As the Journal article states, the planned increase would be “the largest deployment of forces in decades by the U.S. on Taiwan.” The United States and Taiwan have had some military cooperation and unofficial ties despite the lack of formal relations between the two, but the difference now is that these ties are becoming stronger and more visible at the same time and therefore harder for the Chinese government to ignore.

The article suggested that the administration had been trying to keep the larger troop presence out of the public eye. According to the report, the training program is one that “the Pentagon has taken pains not to publicize,” but the public also has a right to know about decisions that the government is making that increase the direct U.S. commitment to Taiwan. If the Washington is going to deploy more troops to Taiwan than it has in decades, the public should be aware of it and Congress should be asking pointed questions about the potential implications of these decisions.

Red Balloons and China’s Hybrid Warfare Challenge to International Law

Michael J. Listner.

The passage of an intelligence-gathering balloon from the Peoples Republic of China through U.S. sovereign airspace earlier this month created a Sputnik-conundrum in terms of international law and national sovereignty. The balloon, which was first detected entering U.S. sovereign airspace around the Aleutian Island chain was permitted to transit this airspace unimpeded into Alaska and then reenter the continental U.S. where it was allowed to transit the continental U.S. unchecked until it was finally brought down within the 12-mile zone of the southeast coast of the U.S. Much is not publicly known what types or amount of intelligence was gathered by the balloon; however, aside from this the permissive entry and transit of the balloon raises questions about the effect of incident on international law and U.S. national sovereignty.

Hybrid Warfare and International Law

The term hybrid warfare was coined by Xu Sanfei, the editor of Military Forum and a senior editor in the Theory Department of Liberation Army News. Hybrid warfare “…refers to an act of war that is conducted at the strategic level; that comprehensively employs political, economic, military, diplomatic, public opinion, legal, and other such means; whose boundaries are blurrier, whose forces are more diverse, whose form is more mixed, whose regulation and control is more flexible, and whose objectives are more concealed.” The CCP’s Central Military Commission adopted the concept of hybrid warfare when it announced in 2003 three new types of warfare capabilities: legal warfare (lawfare), psychological warfare, and media warfare, which individually and collectively attain a political objective. This new strategy, which is called the Three Warfares, was subsequently adopted by the Peoples Liberation Army. This article will focus on the legal aspect of hybrid warfare.

Putin’s War Rhetoric Rallies Russian Border Towns, but Nerves Fray

Evan Gershkovich

PSKOV, Russia—A jackhammer pounded the frozen ground on a recent afternoon as gravediggers uncovered fresh soil to provide the resting place for the body of a Russian soldier killed in Ukraine.

At the Vybuty village cemetery in the western region of Pskov, the digging, the men said, has become a near daily job.

But even as the fatalities rise—Western officials estimate nearly 200,000 Russians have been killed or wounded in Ukraine—there is little resistance in places such as Pskov to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion.

Mr. Putin’s claim that the war in Ukraine is meant to protect Russia from an aggressive West is felt vividly in Pskov, home to an elite paratrooper division just 35 miles from Latvia and Estonia, both members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

“Look at our history. Russia has never attacked first,” said Nadezhda Nikolayeva, who is married to a soldier fighting in Ukraine. “That our men have died is, of course, a tragedy for everyone. But it isn’t in vain. They defended their people, their wives, their children, their future.”

The armed forces have pride of place in Pskov, an impoverished region that offers few options to young men and where the military is the biggest employer along with a local distillery and the border control. The regional capital is home to the 76th Guards Air Assault Division, whose paratroopers have been at the forefront of most major battles in Ukraine.

Clausewitz’s Analysis Resonates to This Day

Alexander S. Burns

The nineteenth-century Prussian military theorist Carl von Clausewitz famously wrote On War, which remains a leading work of military theory down the present. However, he wrote far more: to date, parts of his writings have yet to be translated into English, even if scholars are working to change that. One of his untranslated works is a short history of a Russian war in Ukraine. Clausewitz’s analysis of this eighteenth-century war gives lessons that strategists studying the current conflict in Ukraine would do well to heed. His commentary draws parallels between eighteenth-century Russian practices and the present, and allows us to see continuities in Russia’s aims.

Why Cabinet Wars Matter

But can reading an analysis of a limited conflict fought by men in laced coats and powdered wigs really inform our view of war in the twenty-first century? It can, and it should. Why?

First, Western and Russian commentators like Franz-Stefan Gady, James Lacey, and Valery Alekseev have claimed that Kabinettskriege, or cabinet wars, can provide a window into warfare in the 2010s and 2020s. Lacey has argued:

In any future great power war, it might be helpful to think of objectives such as Taiwan or the Baltics as small territories that are in one camp but are coveted by another great power, like provinces in an 18th-century cabinet war. One side is willing to fight to keep the province (state) within its sphere, while the other side is willing to fight to take it. Neither great state, however, is willing to see itself destroyed or its internal political order overthrown to attain its objective.

Russia has just one tank factory churning out 20 tanks a month, with demand outstripping production by a factor of ten, says report

Joshua Zitser

In the 1940s the Soviet Union was able to produce 1,000 tanks a month. Today, Russia can produce just 20, with a single factory struggling to keep pace with outsized demand caused by the war in Ukraine, according to The Economist.

The British publication reported that Russia now has just one tank factory, UralVagonZavod, a massive 1930s-built industrial complex in eastern Russia.

It may be one of the largest tank manufacturers in the world, with Fortune estimating that it has 30,000 employees, but each month it is only able to produce tanks in the double digits, The Economist said, citing liberal Russian media outlet Novaya Gazeta.

That's nowhere near demand: one Western official told the publication that demand is outstripping supply by a factor of 10.

Russia is losing around 150 tanks a month in Ukraine, according to an analysis by open source intelligence platform Oryx. It has lost 1,779 tanks since February 2022, Oryx reported.

Tank production is harder than it was in the 1940s, when the Soviet Union was churning out vehicles, largely because modern-day tanks are more complex to build and far more sophisticated, according to The Economist.

Russian Casualties in Ukraine: Reaching the Tipping Point

Mark F. Cancian

In four weeks of combat, Russia may have lost 25 percent of its initial attacking force. These casualties are not on the scale of World War II but are large compared with the relatively small size of the Russian military today. Although reinforcements and replacements can offset some of these casualties, the loss of trained troops will impair military operations and eventually have a political effect.

Russian losses to date are high. NATO estimates that Russia has lost between 7,000 and 15,000 soldiers. Wounded who cannot rapidly return to duty generally number about twice the number of dead. That would mean that Russia has lost between 21,000 and 45,000 troops in four weeks of conflict. To put that into perspective, Russia reported 14,400 killed through 10 years of war in Afghanistan.

The initial invasion force numbered about 190,000 troops. However, that included militias in the Donbas and security forces (Rosgvardiya) for occupation. Ground combat troops numbered about 140,000. Thus, Russia may have lost about a quarter of its initial combat force.

Russia has moved reinforcements and replacements into Ukraine to compensate for these losses, which will offset them to some degree. However, these reinforcements and replacements likely lack the training and experience of the early deployers, especially elite units like paratroopers. The loss of skilled troops and leaders will be felt in the conduct of tactical operations.

Ukraine Is Afghanistan All Over Again

Peter Van Buren

The thinking in Washington goes like this: for the “low cost” of Ukrainian lives and some American dollars, the West can end Putin’s strategic threat to the United States. No Americans are dying. It’s not like Iraq or Afghanistan ’01–’21. This is postmodern, something new, a clean great power war, Jackson Pollock for international relations—getting a lot of foreign policy mojo at little cost. It's almost as if we should have thought of this sooner.

Well, we did. It didn’t work out past the short run, and there’s the message. Welcome to the new 1980s-style Afghanistan, with the U.S. playing both the American and the Soviet roles at times.

At first glance it all seems so familiar. Russia invades a neighboring country who was more or less just minding its own business. Russia's goals are the same: to push out its borders in the face of what it perceives as Western encroachment on the one hand, and to attain world domination on the other. The early Russian battlefield successes break down, and the U.S. sees an opportunity to bleed the Russians at someone else's bodily expense. "We'll fight to the last Afghani" is the slogan of the day.

The CIA, via our snake-like "ally" in Pakistan, floods Afghanistan with money and weapons. The tools are different but the effect is the same: supply just enough firepower to keep the Bear tied down and bleeding but not enough to kill him, and, God forbid, end the war that is so profitable—lots of dead Russkis and zero Americans killed. (OK, maybe a few, but they are the use-and-forget types of foreign policy, CIA paramilitary and special forces, so no need to count them.) An ironic historical bonus: in both Afghanistan 1980s and Ukraine, some of the money spent is Saudi. See the thread yet?

What to make of China’s ‘Peace Plan’ for Ukraine


A year after Russia’s barbarous invasion and bombing of Ukraine, China — Moscow’s strategic partner — has taken a rare initiative into European problem-solving by offering a 12-point position paper to end the conflict in Ukraine.

Why? Beijing’s motives are complex.

The gambit comes amid a Chinese charm offensive aimed at driving a wedge between the U.S. and Europe, both of which have reacted with skepticism. Moreover, by playing peacemaker, Beijing seeks to burnish its image with the Global South, which, as last week’s United Nations vote showed, has largely been neutral on Russia’s war. Mixed motives aside, it doesn’t preclude China from seeing that an end to the war is in its own interests. So, what to make of its proposal?

First, there is a credibility problem. From Day 1 of the war, Beijing has tried to straddle an impossible position: claiming neutrality while refusing to condemn Moscow’s invasion, parroting Russian disinformation and increasing trade, much of it in price-discounted Russian oil and gas. At the same time, China has been cautious to avoid crossing the line on Western sanctions, and has halted several finance deals of Chinese banks and its Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) for Russian energy projects. It has been a pro-Russian neutrality.

Germany’s Self-Centered War Debate


BERLIN – Two months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, Jürgen Habermas, perhaps Germany’s leading public intellectual, published a commentary that triggered one of the country’s most ferocious political debates in decades. Habermas asked how Germany should position itself in the widening Russian-Ukrainian war. Germans still haven’t reached any agreement on an answer.

At the start of the war, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz was subject to a barrage of open letters, each signed by hundreds of leading public figures. Some took a hawkish position, advocating more forceful and active engagement on Ukraine’s behalf. Others were dovish, pushing for a settlement that would permit Russia to claim some kind of victory and spare Europe from a widening and prolonged conflict. Habermas rejected both the bellicosity of the former and the naive pacifism of the latter. Instead, he supported Scholz’s cautious approach, which seemed – at the time – to hold the most promise for a just peace settlement.

Since then, Russia’s war on Ukraine’s civilian population has intensified, and Germany has expanded its military and financial support for Ukraine to a level that would have been unthinkable last spring. But one year after the invasion, divisions are appearing within Scholz’s coalition government, and open letters are pouring in again.

Reflecting on One Year of War: Is China’s Military Learning Anything from Ukraine?​

Dr. Joel Wuthnow

A year into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, we still don’t have good insight into what China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is distilling from that conflict and applying to its own major contingency—forceful unification with Taiwan. Despite the occasional newspaper commentary and a handful of articles in Chinese defense industry publications, mostly focused on specific weapons being used on both sides of the conflict, we lack an authoritative Chinese post-mortem on the early phases of Russian operations and a sense of how those observations might be influencing PLA training and capabilities. There’s good reason for this reticence: any such analysis would require the PLA to explain the reasons for Russia’s failure to achieve its initial war aims, undermining China’s pretense of respect for their Russian brethren.

The absence of direct evidence, however, creates an opportunity to revisit our assumptions that the PLA might be adapting from the Russian experience in the first place. Such an outcome is only one of three possibilities. China’s military could also be learning the wrong lessons – such as assuming that U.S. leaders and our allies can be easily deterred through nuclear signaling at the outset of a conflict – or downplaying the need to learn from the Russian by overstating their own proficiency and discounting the prospects that Taiwan will fight as vigorously as Ukraine. None of these possibilities are particularly reassuring for Taiwan, which could be faced with a revitalized PLA or one prone to strategic blunders.

The first possibility is that Ukraine has been an important “battle lab” for the PLA, just as the Gulf War spurred the PLA to reconsider its outmoded Cold War era doctrine. Based on Russia’s surprising failure to achieve a rapid victory in the opening months of the conflict, and Ukraine’s success in employing a combination of new and older technology, the PLA might be inspired to take a closer look at its own vulnerabilities and correct flaws that otherwise might have gone unnoticed. In a potential nod in this direction, Xi Jinping’s speech to the 20th Party Congress in October called for an improved “command system for joint operations,” and enhanced “reconnaissance and early warning, joint strikes, battlefield support, and integrated logistics support.”

The government cannot win at cyber warfare without the private sector


On Feb. 17, the FBI announced that it is investigating a hack of its computer network. This hacking follows a 2020 Russian cyber espionage operation on many federal networks, a 2015 Chinese hacking of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) that led to the theft of scores of employee records, and countless others that occurred in between. Digital dictatorships around the world, such as China and Russia, control and oppress their own people, to be sure, enabled by advanced and sophisticated high technology, but they also pose a direct threat to security and interests of the democratic world.

The hacking threat emanating from these two countries cannot be overstated. According to the U.S. Intelligence Community’s 2021 Annual Threat Assessment, “China can launch cyber attacks that, at a minimum, can cause localized, temporary disruptions to critical infrastructure within the United States,” while Russia “continues to target critical infrastructure, including underwater cables and industrial control systems, in the United States and in allied and partner countries.”

The Biden administration recognizes the scope of this issue and has made cyber attacks a major diplomatic front, but the executive and legislative branches have done little to stop these attacks. The government agencies charged with deterring and defeating this threat are not properly equipped for the task, and there is a lack of consensus about which methods will be most effective for countering digital dictatorship. That needs to change.

The Cyberwar Is Here


On the menu today: For the second time in a few weeks, a federal law-enforcement agency suffered a serious cyberattack, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services warned that Russia-linked ransomware group Clop had reportedly taken responsibility for a mass attack on more than 130 organizations, including some in the health-care industry. Ransomware attacks are now as common as rainstorms, even though you only hear about them intermittently. Often, but not always, the trail leads back to Russia, China, North Korea, or Iran — another demonstration of how those faraway foreign-policy problems aren’t always quite so far away.

The Rising Concern of Cyberattacks

It’s a busy news cycle, but did you know that two federal law-enforcement agencies suffered serious cyberattacks this month?

CNN reported earlier this month that the FBI’s New York Field Office was investigating and working to contain a malicious cyber incident on part of its computer network in recent days, allegedly involving a computer system used in investigations of images of child sexual exploitation.

Then, NBC News reported late yesterday that the U.S. Marshals Service suffered a security breach over a week ago that compromised sensitive information:

FBI Director Says Covid Pandemic Likely Caused by Chinese Lab Leak

Michael R. Gordon and Warren P. Strobel

WASHINGTON—FBI Director Christopher Wray said Tuesday that the Covid pandemic was probably the result of a laboratory leak in China, providing the first public confirmation of the bureau’s classified judgment of how the virus that led to the deaths of nearly seven million people worldwide first emerged.

“The FBI has for quite some time now assessed that the origins of the pandemic are most likely a potential lab incident in Wuhan,” Mr. Wray told Fox News. “Here you are talking about a potential leak from a Chinese government-controlled lab.”

Mr. Wray added that the Chinese government has been trying to “thwart and obfuscate” the investigation that the Federal Bureau of Investigation, other parts of the U.S. government and foreign partners have been carrying out into the origin of the pandemic, but that the bureau’s work continues.

The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that the FBI had come to the conclusion with “moderate confidence” in 2021 that the Covid-19 pandemic was likely the result of an accidental lab leak and still holds to this view.

The Department of Energy, the Journal also reported, now also judges the pandemic was most likely the result of an unintended lab leak. The Energy Department reached that assessment with “low confidence” as a result of new intelligence, and it represents a shift from its previous position in 2021, which was undecided.

Ukraine’s New BVR Capable, Long-Range Switchblade 600 Kamikaze Drones ‘Bad News’ For Russian Main Battle Tanks?

Parth Satam

Ukraine will receive a fresh batch of new and highly capable Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) as a part of the latest security aid worth $2 billion. Of the current tranche, two UAV systems stand out for their technical novelty and sophistication – the JUMP 20 vertical take-off landing (VTOL) UAV and Switchblade 600 loitering munitions.

They are two of the platforms assessed to be a massive boost in surveillance and long-range precision strike capabilities.

Together, they add significant tactical battlefield enhancement to Ukrainian forces as the war enters its final stage and most decisive phase.

With Western main battle tanks like the M1A2 Abrams (United States), Challenger-2 (United Kingdom), and the Leopard-2 (Germany) headed to Ukraine, the systems might very well be used in conjunction with them to effect the maximum impact on Russian armor.

The delivery is part of a $2 billion US military aid package announced on February 24 and is being executed under the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative (USAI), which provides funds to make direct purchases for Ukraine.

This differs from Presidential Drawdowns, which involve transferring weapons and ammunition stocks directly from US military inventories.

Cyber Command working to create an intelligence center


Cyber Command is establishing its own cyber intelligence center, on par with other similar centers across the military services and domains of warfare.

“Congress asked us ‘do we need a center that is focused on all-source intelligence to support Cyber Command in the cyber domain?’ The answer was a resounding yes,” Col. Candice Frost, commander of the Joint Intelligence Operations Center at Cybercom, said Tuesday at an event hosted by Billington Cybersecurity. “My small but hearty brigade-worth of people are unable to do that … as is done in the Army by National Ground Intelligence Center and the Air Force for their Air and Space Center. We’re going to stand that up.”

The idea for the center, dubbed the Cyber Intelligence Center, was first described in November by Maj. Gen. Matteo Martemucci, Cybercom’s director for intelligence.

For years, dating back to when Cybercom was created, there have been discussions surrounding building the capability and capacity for developing organic cyber intelligence. Relatedly, as cyber has grown in importance, there have been increasing discussions for years at the Defense Intelligence Agency regarding what foundational cyber intelligence is.

Nation-State Cyberattacks Have No Norms, And We Should Be Concerned

Marcus Fowler

As recently as a decade ago, the idea that a nation's ability to protect itself from cyberattacks was as, if not more, important than its missile defense systems would have seemed laughable.

Today, however, this is the reality nation-states confront as cyber operations play an ever-increasing role in critical geopolitical confrontations, from the cyber proxy war tied to global conflict to the seemingly state-aligned objectives of groups like Killnet.

While it's clear that cyber warfare is here to stay, what is less clear is how the international community should collectively engage with this new dynamic. The most pressing challenge is the lack of definition for an act of war in the cyber sphere and the potential risks stemming from that uncertainty. When will a cyber operation be the spark that lights an outright kinetic conflict?

Getting this right is critical. While several calls have been made for greater global governance with norms and regulations in cyber, efforts have thus far seen limited success. Delivering the sort of international collaboration that defined the Bretton Woods Agreement has proven elusive because of the complexity and variables involved. If countries strike too hard of a redline related to cyber flare-ups, a nation could quickly find itself headed to war over a phishing attack. Too loose of a standard could continue our current cyber free-for-all.

NCOs Key to Ukrainian Military Successes Against Russia 

Jim Garamone

Since 2014, the United States has sent Ukraine more than $32.4 billion in security assistance, and while the transfer of equipment is important in Ukraine's defense, the training aspect of this aid may have longer term implications.

These military capabilities — including Javelins, tanks, air defense systems and more — have been crucial, but Ukraine's investment in developing a noncommissioned officer corps may be the key to victory against the Russian invader.

The Senior Enlisted Advisor to the Chairman Ramón "CZ" Colón-López said that looking at a year of conflict in Ukraine since Russia invaded, he has been convinced of "the decisive advantage that the human brings" to combat.

The SEAC — who spent most of his career in special operations — noted that the No. 1 rule in his military community "is that humans are more important than hardware."

Colón-López spoke before traveling to Europe to meet with his counterparts among the NATO frontline states. "That is true, not only for special operations, but for conventional forces, because you can have the best technology in the world, but if you don't have the will and the pride to fight for your nation, you're going to be on the losing end of the equation," he said. "We have seen this play over and over again."

US Army chooses 5 companies to compete for Army’s future tactical UAS

Jen Judson

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army said it selected five companies to build prototypes in a competition to ultimately provide the service with a Future Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System.

Aerovironment, Griffon Aerospace, Northrop Grumman, Sierra Nevada Corp. and Textron Systems were each awarded contracts between $1 million and $25 million to participate in five development phases and four option periods over the next three years, according to a Feb. 28 Army statement.

The Army began considering requirements for a replacement for its Textron-made Shadow drone in 2018 and by 2019 had narrowed the pool of competitors to a Martin UAV-Northrop Grumman team, Textron Systems, L3Harris Technologies and Arcturus UAV. Aerovironment purchased Arcturus in 2021. Shield AI bought Martin UAV in the same year.

The service evaluated the four drone offerings over a year with operational units, culminating in a spring 2021 rodeo at Fort Benning, Georgia. The Army awarded Aerovironment an $8 million contract in August 2022 to provide the Jump 20 UAS as an interim FTUAS capability that will go to a single brigade.

The service reopened competition in October 2021 with a request for white papers, which resulted in a bigger pool of bidders, Maj. Gen. Rob Barrie, the Army’s program executive officer for aviation, told Defense News in an interview last fall.


Alex Hollings

Last year, Russian tanks flooded over the border into Ukraine, intent on reaching Kyiv and displacing the country’s democratically elected government. But, Ukraine proved to be made of tougher stuff than most would have predicted.

In the weeks that followed, Russia’s massive numerical advantage seemed to do little more than provide Ukrainian forces with a target-rich environment, which laid waste to tanks and other armored vehicles by the dozen using inexpensive shoulder-fired weapons and improvised explosive-laden drones, capturing many of those left intact.

The Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank reported that by the end of the first month of fighting, Russia had already lost a full quarter of its massive invasion force, including 274 tanks. By September, the tally of lost and captured Russian tanks reached 1,000 — more than all the tanks in the British, French, German, and Finnish militaries combined.

“The tank’s vulnerabilities—it is ill-suited to many types of terrain, inflexible in its movements, and the opposite of stealthy—have been known for years, but until this war they had not been exposed so clearly,” wrote Phillips Payson O’Brien, a professor of strategic studies at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, for The Atlantic.