15 March 2023

China is right about US containment

Edward Luce

Here is a thought experiment. If Taiwan did not exist, would the US and China still be at loggerheads? My hunch is yes. Antagonism between top dogs and rising powers is part of the human story.

The follow-up is whether such tensions would persist if China were a democracy rather than a one-party state. That is harder to say but it is not obvious that an elected Chinese government would feel any less resentful of the US-led global order. It is also hard to imagine the circumstances in which America would willingly share the limelight.

All of which suggests that loose talk of a US-China conflict is no longer far-fetched. Countries do not easily change their spots: China is the middle kingdom wanting redress for the age of western humiliation; America is the dangerous nation seeking monsters to destroy. Both are playing to type.

The question is whether global stability can survive either of them insisting that they must succeed. The likeliest alternative to today’s US-China stand-off is not a kumbaya meeting-of-minds, but war.

This week, Xi Jinping went further than before in naming America as the force behind the “containment”, “encirclement” and “suppression” of China. Though his rhetoric was provocative, it was not technically wrong. President Joe Biden is still officially committed to trying to co-operate with China. But Biden was as easily blown off course last month as a weather balloon. Washington’s panic over what is after all 19th-century technology prompted Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, to cancel a Beijing trip that was to pave the way for a Biden-Xi summit.

China has become a tough target for U.S. spies

Dan De Luce

With Washington and Beijing locked in a tense superpower rivalry, the United States faces a daunting task in discerning the intentions of leaders in a country where power is increasingly concentrated and surveillance widespread, former American intelligence officials said.

Reliable information about decision-making in China is in high demand in Washington amid fears Beijing could opt to arm Russian forces waging war in Ukraine or try to seize control of Taiwan by force.

But under President Xi Jinping’s rule, China has become an elusive target for U.S. intelligence agencies, according to five former senior intelligence officials and congressional aides.

Xi’s tightening grip on power, his government’s vast electronic surveillance apparatus, a crackdown on dissent in Hong Kong, and a strict three-year Covid lockdown have all made intelligence gathering exceedingly difficult, former officials said. Some of the officials spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive nature of the topic.

China wants to avoid escalation with U.S. and favors stable relations, U.S. spy chief says

Dan De Luce

China wants to avoid an escalation of tensions with the United States and believes it benefits from a more stable relationship with Washington, even as it seeks to bolster its global economic and military power, U.S. intelligence chief Avril Haines told lawmakers on Wednesday.

Despite recent sharp criticism of the U.S. by Chinese President Xi Jinping, “we assess that Beijing still believes it benefits most by preventing a spiraling of tensions and by preserving stability in its relationship with the United States,” Haines, director of national intelligence, told a hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

China is increasingly challenging the United States, economically, technologically, politically and militarily around the world and “remains our unparalleled priority,” said Haines.

Haines and other intelligence officials appeared at the hearing as part of an annual assessment from the intelligence community on global threats facing the United States.

Xi’s speech this week at a Chinese Communist Party congress, in which he accused Washington of trying to prevent Beijing’s rise, likely “reflects growing pessimism in Beijing about China’s relationship with the United States” as well as worries about the trajectory of China’s domestic economic development and innovation challenges, Haines said.

TikTok could be a valuable tool for China if it invades Taiwan, FBI director says

Sean Lyngaas

New YorkCNN — The Chinese government could use TikTok to control data on millions of people and harness the short-form video app to shape public opinion should China invade Taiwan, FBI Director Christopher Wray told the Senate Intelligence Committee Wednesday.

Wray responded affirmatively to questions from Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, the panel’s ranking member, on whether TikTok would allow Beijing widespread control over data and a valuable influence tool in the event of war in the Taiwan Strait.

“The most fundamental piece that cuts across every one of those risks and threats that you mentioned that I think Americans need to understand is that something that’s very sacred in our country —the difference between the private sector and public sector — that’s a line that is nonexistent in the way that the CCP [Chinese Communist Party] operates,” Wray told Rubio in the hearing.

Rubio, the top Republican on the Senate panel, argued that TikTok presents “a substantial national security threat for the country of a kind that we didn’t face in the past.”

Wray’s comments come a day after Gen. Paul Nakasone, head of the US National Security Agency, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he worried TikTok could censor videos to shape public opinion in a way that threatens US national security interests.

It’s the latest in a full-court press from US officials to sound the alarm about TikTok’s alleged security risks as Congress weighs giving the Biden administration more authority to address the alleged threat posed by the platform, up to and including banning the app in the United States

China-brokered Iran-Saudi deal raises red flags for US


An agreement struck by Iran and Saudi Arabia on Friday to re-establish relations has shifted concerns back to the state of the U.S. role in the Middle East — especially since the deal was brokered by Washington’s main adversary, China.

The diplomatic agreement, reached after four days of talks with senior security officials in Beijing, eases tensions between the Middle East powers after seven years of hostilities.

Both Iran and Saudi Arabia announced they will resume diplomatic relations and open up embassies once again in their respective nations within two months, according to a joint statement.

Alex Vatanka, the director of the Iran Program at the Middle East Institute, said the Iran-Saudi Arabia deal was an important agreement for the region but questioned whether it would put an end to any violence, including in war-torn Yemen.

“It remains to be seen if they can have a meaningful dialogue. Opening up embassies is not the same as having a meaningful dialogue,” Vatanka said. “There will be a steep journey ahead.”

Saudi Arabia, a dominant Sunni Muslim country, cut ties with Iran in 2016 after protesters stormed the nation’s embassy in Iran after the execution of a Shiite Muslim cleric along with the execution of other prisoners.

Saudi-Iran Agreement Is Less Than Meets the Eye

Bobby Ghosh

The image is calculated to impress. At a media event in Beijing, China’s top diplomat mugs for the cameras, as the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council and Saudi Arabia’s national security adviser shake hands. With Chinese encouragement, Iran and Saudi Arabia, the Middle East’s oldest rivals, agreed to resume diplomatic relations.

The underlying message is calculated to surprise: China, long reluctant to involve itself in other people’s problems, is finally prepared to take on the peacemaking responsibilities of a world power. Diving directly into the diplomatic deep end, Beijing is tackling one of the world’s most intractable enmities.

Who could complain about any of this? Even the Biden administration, which is deeply suspicious of China’s growing global ambitions, was compelled to welcome the announcement. “We support any effort to de-escalate tensions there,” said White House spokesman John Kirby. “We think it’s in our own interests.”

But there is less to this tableau than meets the eye. On closer examination, the mediator’s role is overstated, as is the substance of the agreement. The Iranians and Saudis had been working toward a détente for two years, aided by several intermediaries — notably Iraq and Oman. China entered the picture late, after the terms had been agreed. But it suits Tehran and Riyadh to allow Beijing to supervise the final crossing of t’s and dotting of i’s—and to hog the credit. After all, China is the world’s biggest buyer of what Saudi Arabia and Iran have to sell.

Congress wants to label Wagner group as a terrorist organization. Why is Biden opposed?


A fight is brewing between Congress and President Biden over whether to designate as a terrorist organization the private Russian military company Wagner, which is on the front lines of aggression against Ukraine and accused of heinous atrocities there and across the world.

While the Biden administration has sanctioned the Wagner group as a global criminal organization, lawmakers are pushing the State Department to go further by imposing the foreign terrorist designation.

The split underscores a long-running tension: Congress has criticized the Biden administration as slow-walking its support for Ukraine, while the administration says it is managing a delicate escalation ladder and safeguarding against potential, negative blowback.

“We’ve seen that again and again in terms of this support for the Ukrainians and this war, where Congress has been out ahead of the White House,” Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told The Hill.

“It’s been true since Russia invaded Ukraine. I remember in 2014 supporting lethal weapons for Ukraine, and the White House refused to support that. I don’t see this as unusual. I hope the administration and the State Department comes on board.”

Shaheen is a sponsor, along with six other Democratic and Republican senators, of legislation called the Holding Accountable Russian Mercenaries (HARM) Act, which would force the State Department to label Wagner as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO).

The Counterinsurgent’s Curriculum: Why American Troops Should Study the Iraq War

Peter R. Mansoor

Twenty years ago, the United States invaded Iraq and unwittingly ushered in a lengthy struggle for stability and security in the country. U.S. President George W. Bush and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld expected a short, sharp war that would end once U.S. forces expelled the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. The U.S. military was primed to rapidly and surgically cut through the Iraqi army with its high-tech forces, a swift intervention that would culminate in the seizing of Baghdad. Instead, faulty assumptions, mistakes after Saddam’s ouster, and an invasion force that was too small to secure the country allowed the growth of a virulent insurgency that proved difficult to defeat.

Following the initial invasion, the U.S. military found itself embroiled in combat that resembled its fighting in Vietnam in the 1960s and 1970s. But several decades after that war, many of the lessons learned in Vietnam—at such great cost—had been forgotten. After the United States pulled out of Vietnam in 1973, the U.S. military shifted its focus to the threat from the Soviet Union. It stopped teaching its troops how to combat insurgencies, and those capabilities began to atrophy. As a result, it took the U.S. military several years to work out the best way to fight in Iraq. Today, the United States has once again prioritized great-power competition. But it should not make the same mistake of turning its back on preparing to fight insurgencies. The armed forces must be ready for the range of conflicts that may arise in the coming century, and counterinsurgency will surely be in the mix.

Did US raise a false flag on Nord Stream blasts?


Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh said an odd thing on March 7 when TASS asked him to compare his version of the Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipeline explosions (US Navy divers did it, he had reported February 8) with a newly released version from the New York Times and German media that points to non-governmental Ukrainians as culprits.

“I don’t want to get into it,” Hersh replied to the Russian wire service. “You should decide for yourself. It’s up to you.” The TASS reporter persisted, asking if Hersh thought the New York Times account had come in response to Hersh’s own investigation. He gave the same reply, saying people should come to their own conclusions.

That was pretty clever. Read both versions and you may conclude that they could fit together to point to a plausible account of how, as war raged over Ukraine, three pipelines supplying Germany’s gas supply from Russia were blown up before Vladimir Putin could use their existence to try to lure Germany out of the pro-Ukraine camp. Before the war, over half of Germany’s gas imports came from Russia.

Assemble a whole from the two versions and you might come up with this: On US President Joe Biden’s orders, US government covert types put together and with Norwegian help carried out the operation (that’s Hersh’s story); to avoid detection, they left some clues pointing elsewhere, to Ukrainians or “pro-Ukrainians” – the main clue mentioned so far being that the yacht from which the divers worked could be traced back to a yacht-rental company in Poland, a company owned by Ukrainians.

A Biden Doctrine for Taiwan

Alan Dowd

On at least four occasions, President Joe Biden has pledged to defend Taiwan if the island democracy is attacked. This apparent shift from “strategic ambiguity”—Washington’s long-held deliberately vague stance on Taiwan’s security—to what’s been termed “strategic clarity” is the right course of action. But Biden’s words have been inadequately explained—in fact, they’ve been explained away by after-the-fact staff clarifications—and inadequately bolstered by actions.


It's important to highlight why this change is necessary.

First, Xi has vowed “complete reunification of the motherland” and warned that “we make no promise to abandon the use of force.”

These words are deeply problematic. Taiwan has never been ruled by the PRC, so “reunification” is inaccurate. Beijing is misusing the word to legitimize plans to annex Taiwan and delegitimize Taiwan’s sovereignty. As for Xi’s willingness to use force, the forcible takeover of Taiwan would trigger a cascade of terrible consequences—the loss of life and liberty in Taiwan, the loss of much of the Free World’s capacity to produce semiconductors and microchips, the expansion of Beijing’s geographic reach, the collapse of the U.S. alliance system in the Indo-Pacific.

'We Were Ignored': Veterans and Troops Detail Horrors of Afghanistan Evacuation as House Investigation Begins

Rebecca Kheel

Service members and veterans who helped evacuate Afghans in August 2021 testified in harrowing detail about their experiences Wednesday during the first hearing of the GOP-controlled House Foreign Affairs Committee's investigation into the Biden administration's chaotic exit from America's longest war.

Among the witnesses was Sgt. Tyler Vargas-Andrews, a still-serving Marine Corps sniper, who previously told The Washington Post he believes he identified the suicide bomber who killed 13 U.S. troops outside the Kabul airport but was denied approval to shoot him before the attack. On Wednesday, Vargas-Andrews, fighting to talk through tears, recounted the attack, which left him with an amputated leg and arm.

"Plain and simple, we were ignored," Vargas-Andrews said about his and others' efforts to get approval to shoot the person they suspected to be the suicide bomber. "My body was overwhelmed from the trauma of the blast. My abdomen had been ripped open. Every inch of my exposed body except for my face took ball bearings and shrapnel."

The U.S.-China rift is only growing wider

Ishaan Tharoor

Last month, the Chinese Foreign Ministry published a 4,000-word tract titled “U.S. Hegemony and Its Perils.” The document, which was sent out by the Chinese Embassy to journalists in Washington, including Today’s WorldView, purported to present the “relevant facts” of a near-century of American interference and meddling on the world stage. It’s a catalogue of grievances that casts the United States as a hypocritical superpower, advancing its own self-interests on the pretext of high-minded values, while leaving a trail of abuse and harm in its wake.

Whatever the validity of these historical claims, the real Chinese animus is about the present. “Clinging to the Cold War mentality, the United States has ramped up bloc politics and stoked conflict and confrontation,” the document warned, echoing the near-constant refrain from Chinese officials about current U.S. policy.

Just weeks prior, there had been glimmers of rapprochement between the two countries. The United States and China were readying for talks that would, in the White House’s words, help set “guardrails” on a rocky yet vital relationship. Chinese President Xi Jinping, it appeared, wanted to embark on his third term in power with a spirit of pragmatism, and had set about softening his country’s conspicuously aggressive “wolf warrior” foreign policy.

Then a Chinese spy balloon came along and floated over the United States before getting shot down over the Atlantic Ocean. The incident seemed to close the window for a diplomatic opening and led to Secretary of State Antony Blinken scrapping a major trip to China. The days since have only seen a hardening of lines between Washington and Beijing.

Taiwan Warming to Hosting US Ammo Storage Facilities

Jens Kastner

Taiwan’s defense minister Chiu Kuo-cheng, during recent parliamentarian questioning, has confirmed that Taiwan and the US have opened talks on establishing a "contingency stockpile" of US munitions on the island, a move that would effectively elevate Taiwan to the same status as Washington’s NATO and major non-NATO allies.

Chiu’s confirmation comes against the backdrop of recent war games by the US-based Center for Strategic International Studies (CSIS) demonstrating that the US would quickly run out of a key weapon — Long Range Anti Ship Missiles (LRASM) — while trying to stop a Chinese invasion of Taiwan. It also comes amid concerns over the high-intensity warfare exposing the Ukrainian armed forces' lack of a widely-spread network of ammunition storage facilities.

Although Taiwan’s hosting of US ammunition storage facilities would be certain to enrage China, a key foreign policy figure of Taiwan’s largest opposition party, the Kuomintang (KMT), displayed a supportive stance towards the idea, which is particularly notable, given that the KMT is far more China-friendly than the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DDP) and usually seeks avoiding provoking China.

“If Washington is thinking of increasing the inventory of munitions in Taiwan, it reflects a concrete security commitment to help Taiwan’s self-defense,” Alexander C. Huang, the KMT’s representative to the US, told Asia Sentinel. “The possible acquisitions and arrangements need to be discussed based on Taiwan’s defense concept and mutual interest.”

Is America’s China Policy Too Hawkish?

Ravi Agrawal

There’s a rare bipartisan consensus in Washington that China’s rise must be countered in the strongest way possible. Democrats and Republicans seemingly compete over who can be tougher on Beijing.

The problem with the tone of the current debate, according to Cornell University professor and former State Department advisor Jessica Chen Weiss, is that policymakers are locked in an escalatory spiral. Anyone who seeks to diverge from the consensus is accused of having sympathy for the other side.

Weiss, a China specialist, worked on the State Department’s policy planning staff in 2021 and 2022. Since then, she has widely published her concerns, been cited in Foreign Policy articles, and been the subject of a New Yorker profile. Are her warnings valid? Is she accurately assessing the nature of China’s challenge? And if she is, how should policymakers adapt?

To find out, I interviewed Weiss on FP Live. Subscribers can watch the full interview on the video box atop this page. What follows is a condensed and edited transcript.

Foreign Policy: Let’s start with the obvious: What exactly worries you about America’s China policy?

Jessica Chen Weiss: The concern is that there are really two muscles here. One is the one that wants to outcompete and beat China, and then there is the one that asks “What do we stand for? What are we trying to achieve?” In my view, the former is really dominating our efforts and crowding out an affirmative, inclusive vision of the future that we’re trying to create.

U.S. Probes Whether Pro-Ukraine Group Had Role in Nord Stream Explosions

Bojan Pancevski

U.S. officials are investigating the possibility that a pro-Ukrainian group was responsible for last year’s attack on the Nord Stream natural-gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea, a senior U.S. official said, while Germany said its investigators have searched a ship in connection with the sabotage.

The assessment by U.S. intelligence that a pro-Ukrainian group could have been responsible isn’t definitive, the senior official said. But it adds to the growing sense among investigators in the U.S. and Europe that neither Russian-government nor pro-Russian operatives were behind the sabotage.

The U.S. official said that investigators had no indication that the alleged perpetrators were linked to the government of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and that U.S. intelligence officials are focused on potential nonstate actors as the possible culprits.

Ukrainian officials denied any involvement in the explosions. Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Mr. Zelensky, said his country had no reason to carry out such an attack because it didn’t advance any of Ukraine’s core interests.

Mr. Podolyak said Russia benefits most from such an attack, because Moscow can use it as a false flag to blame Ukraine and deepen rifts in the Western alliance backing Kyiv.

“We certainly have nothing to do with this,” he said of the incident. “Neither our president, nor our government, intelligence agencies or society have anything to do with this. What’s more, these statements about a pro-Ukrainian group are odd, especially as the nationality of its members isn’t specified.”

US cyber strategy is missing accountability and a ransomware moonshot


Ten years ago, everyone was watching Breaking Bad, Frozen hit the theaters, and 2013 was called “Year of the Selfie.” Feels like forever ago, right? Because it was. Ten years is an eternity.

That is the first problem with the new National Cybersecurity Strategy, recently rolled out by the Biden administration. It falls short in two essential areas: immediate impact and accountability. The plan states, “By the end of this decisive decade, we will achieve these outcomes so we can confidently take bold leaps into a digitally enabled future that benefits us all.”

As a 20-year Air Force cyber operations veteran and a former federal CIO, it pains me to say I’m deeply underwhelmed by this plan — even though it details a strong vision for strengthening our nation’s cyber resilience and critical infrastructure.

Planning 10 years ahead in cyber is out of the question. America should worry a lot more about 2024 than 2033. We’re hemorrhaging billions of dollars to ransomware annually, but the strategy doesn’t do anything to immediately turn that around. This is a crisis, and it deserves a crisis response. Last year, U.S. financial institutions saw nearly $1.2 billion in costs associated with ransomware attacks — four times the amount of the year prior.

But financial devastation isn’t the only thing at risk, the fabric of our everyday lives is too. On a weekly basis, ransomware is vexing our healthcare systems, food chains, telecommunications networks, energy infrastructure, and financial institutions, bringing operations for services we rely on to a screeching halt. If we don’t introduce actionable ideas and accountability that will make an immediate impact, it will only get worse.

Staring Down the Black Hole of Russia’s Future

Anastasia Edel

We used to live in a world where large-scale conventional wars that left thousands of dead and wounded existed only in video games and books. A world where mutually beneficial commercial activity was guaranteed by a global security order, to which the world’s leading nations adhered in exchange for membership in a shared civilization. A world trending irreversibly toward liberal democracy.

Russia’s war of choice shattered these assumptions. In the heart of Europe, at least 18,000 civilians are dead, 14.5 million displaced, and thousands more tortured, mutilated, forcefully resettled. The trauma and misfortune Russia has wrought, unprovoked, on Ukraine is akin to those depicted in the tragedies of antiquity—advanced weapons such as drones and missiles notwithstanding. The barbarity of Russian warfare defies everything modernity stands for.

When this war is over, though, there is still hope that Ukraine will take its place in a brighter and honorable future, earned through the heroism of its people. The same cannot be said for Russia, which now finds itself staring down the inevitable black hole of its future.

I came of age as the borders of the Soviet Union collapsed and Russia embraced the West. I was one of those euphoric young Russians standing amid the ruins of communism, looking forward to a life free of ideology, oppression, and untruths. Back then, it seemed that after a decades-long totalitarian detour, Russia had finally found its true path—that of a free, democratic country. Now I’m forced to revise, yet again, my assumptions about what Russia is and what it will become.

In SVB collapse, Asia sees 1997 all over again


To understand the Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) collapse spooking markets, look no further than events in Jakarta.

The Indonesian rupiah’s 3.2% drop since February 1 demonstrates how quickly Asia has resigned itself to the fact that the US Federal Reserve isn’t done tightening. Another batch of too-strong-for-Fed-comfort US employment figures in February only increased the risk.

Episodes of extreme dollar strength tend to hit Southeast Asia particularly hard. And while Indonesia’s financial system is far healthier than it was amid the Asian financial crisis 25 years ago, vulnerabilities abound. Not surprisingly, the region’s dollar-centric economies tend to see another potential 1997-like crisis around every corner.

Case in point: the Fed’s most aggressive tightening cycle since the mid-1990s, an episode that still haunts leaders from Jakarta to Tokyo. As the Fed doubled short-term rates in just 12 months between 1994 and 1995, the collateral damage really started to rack up.

Victims included Mexico, which plunged into the peso’s “tequila crisis.” Orange County, California veered into bankruptcy. Wall Street securities giant Kidder, Peabody & Co went extinct. Then the most spectacular pileup of all: Asia.

As the dollar skyrocketed, currency pegs became impossible to defend in Bangkok, Jakarta and Seoul. Fallout from the barrage of devaluations paved the way for the late 1997 collapse of the 100-year-old Yamaichi Securities, one of Japan’s fabled big-four brokerages.

The Russia That Might Have Been: How Moscow Squandered Its Power and Influence

Alexander Gabuev

In the 12 months since Russian President Vladimir Putin decided to invade Ukraine, the war has turned into an accelerating disaster for Russia. Although Ukrainians are the primary victims of the Kremlin’s unprovoked aggression, the war has already left hundreds of thousands of Russian soldiers dead or wounded. Unprecedented Western sanctions have squeezed the Russian economy, and Moscow’s large-scale mobilization and wartime crackdown on civil society have caused hundreds of thousands of the country’s high-skilled workers to flee abroad. Yet the greatest long-term cost of the war to Russia may be in permanently foreclosing the promise of Russia occupying a peaceful and prosperous place in the twenty-first-century world order.

The current trajectory of Russia’s foreign policy was not predestined, and there were many chances for the Kremlin to do things differently. For much of the last 20 years—even following the illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014—Russia had a historic opening to build a dynamic new place for itself in the international system. When Putin was sworn in as president, in May 2000, Russia was entering a period of greater possibility—both within and beyond its borders—than at any other point in its history. Internally, Russia had survived the collapse of the USSR and the tumultuous 1990s to go from an empire to an influential nation-state in the making. Despite the horrendous wars in Chechnya, Russia was, by the turn of the century, largely stable and at peace. Its planned economy had given way to an adaptable market economy. It was an imperfect but vibrant democracy.

Opinion What would a win in Ukraine look like? Retired Gen. Jack Keane explains.

Marc A. Thiessen's 

Retired four-star Gen. Jack Keane knows how to win wars. A former vice chief of staff of the Army, Keane is the intellectual author of the 2007 “surge” strategy that turned around the war in Iraq. My American Enterprise Institute colleague Danielle Pletka and I recently interviewed Keane on our podcast. We asked him what winning in Ukraine would look like and how it could be accomplished.

For this week’s column, I’m highlighting some of Keane’s most insightful comments. The transcript below has our truncated questions, with Keane’s answers edited for style and clarity. You can listen to the entire interview here.

You say victory is achievable in Ukraine, defined as driving Russia out of all the territory it has unlawfully seized — including Crimea. How?

Keane: [Russia’s] conventional ground forces’ ability to conduct “combined armed” attack — that means a maneuver, artillery and support, and air support, all coordinated — they just can’t do it. The elements of their conventional ground forces have all either sustained high casualties or have literally been defeated.

The Ukrainians, through the use of HIMARS [High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems], have been able to deplete — not extinguish, but deplete — these forces significantly. … So, we assessed that while [the Russians will] make some tactical gains, they will, in a matter of weeks, culminate [their offensive]. …

Australia to Buy U.S. Nuclear-Powered Submarines in Naval Expansion

Michael R. Gordon

The U.S. will speed up Australia’s acquisition of nuclear-powered submarines by arranging for Canberra’s first few subs to be built in the U.S., according to people familiar with the still-confidential plan.

The arrangement is part of a multifaceted plan to be announced Monday in San Diego at a meeting attended by President Biden, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

The plan to sell up to five U.S. Virginia-class submarines to Australia is intended as a stopgap to provide the country with nuclear-powered subs by the mid-2030s.

How do you see the U.S. working with Britain and Australia to address global challenges? Join the conversation below.

Submarine production would later shift to Britain and Australia, which would produce a sub with a new design that would incorporate American technology, the people said.

Other facets of the plan call for the U.S. to step up its port visits to Australia in coming years and to establish the capability to rotate American attack subs through Perth, Australia, by 2027.

America Is Still Losing the Information War

Ivana Stradner, and Anthony Ruggiero

In late January, the Russian Foreign Ministry launched its latest disinformation campaign, claiming that Moscow had acquired more than 20,000 documents about a supposed secret U.S. biological weapons program in Ukraine. Spreading this fake news via its official Twitter account, the ministry also claimed the U.S. Defense Department “aimed at creating elements of a biological weapon, & testing it on the population of Ukraine.” This tweet alone received more than 2 million views. The Russian Embassy in Washington stepped up next, recycling the Kremlin conspiracy theory that COVID-19 was engineered as a bioweapon by the U.S. government.

All of this is part of a familiar deluge of fake news coming out of Moscow, and the obvious absurdity of these claims could prompt U.S. officials to dismiss them. Such complacency, however, would be a mistake. The problem is that they draw attention away from Russia’s genocidal war and other actions, not least because articles such as this one need to be written to debunk them. Even the most far-fetched charges against the United States are taken seriously in some parts of the world—and, increasingly, among Americans beholden to pro-Russian propagandists such as Fox News’s Tucker Carlson. The long history of Russian and Soviet disinformation campaigns shows that they are far more successful than one might think in spreading doubt about U.S. actions and intentions, and Moscow scores a win if even a small fraction of people fall for what, to most observers, appears patently ludicrous.

It is therefore a dangerous omission that Washington still has no counter-disinformation strategy beyond the occasional official denial of Moscow’s claims.

The US Military Needs to Create a Cyber Force

James Stavridis

Two disturbing incidents roiled the cyber seas last week, one foreign and one domestic. They both strengthen the case — which was already convincing, and which I have been making for almost a decade now — for the creation of a US Cyber Force.

The first incident was yet another cyberattack on a NATO member, Albania, by Iran. It was part of an ongoing Iranian campaign to attack Albania, a small Muslim nation of only about three million in the Balkans. The attacks have included zeroing out personal bank accounts, unmasking government and police informants, and degrading command-and-control networks. Iran conducts the attacks because Albania is not prosecuting an anti-Iranian group, the Mujahedeen Khaleq, that has a large presence in Albania.

The attack has raised the issue of whether to invoke NATO’s Article 5, which says that an attack on one nation will be regarded as an attack on all. Because the NATO treaty was drafted many decades ago, it does not say whether a cyberattack activates Article 5. But given the evolution in warfare and expansion of cyber operations, such attacks should now fall into that category.

The second incident involved a ransomware attack on the US Marshals Service. A huge amount of sensitive data was compromised, including information on fugitives, high-security individuals and law-enforcement operations. The attack has been designated a “major incident” requiring significant interagency investigation and remediation.

Ironically, last week was also when Jen Easterly, director of the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, released the National Cybersecurity Strategy, which has been in the works for many months.

What TikTok withholds is as concerning as what it posts, Nakasone says

Colin Demarest

WASHINGTON — What TikTok doesn’t tell you in its digital feed is at least as concerning as how its posts can influence opinion, according to the leader of both U.S. Cyber Command and the National Security Agency.

Gen. Paul Nakasone told the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 7 that while the organizations he oversees are wary of the popular Chinese-owned app’s data collection, its tightly tailored algorithms and its international reach, what TikTok withholds can be just as damaging.

“TikTok concerns me, for a number of different reasons,” said Nakasone, whose teams are tasked with protecting U.S. defense networks and tending to cryptographic standards and intelligence. “It’s not only the fact that you can influence something, but you can also turn off the message, as well, when you have such a large population of listeners.”

The short-form video-sharing app, free to download, has more than 100 million users in the U.S. alone.

The Pew Research Center in October found about one-quarter of U.S. adults under 30 regularly get news from TikTok. Users of the app, however, are “far less likely” than users of Twitter or Facebook to seek out news there, the center said.

STRATCOM wrapping spectrum ops center plan, as military faces bandwidth grab by 5G firms


WASHINGTON — US Strategic Command expects approval soon of the action plan for its Joint Electromagnetic Spectrum Operations Center (JEC), designed to identify gaps in and improve capabilities across the US military to fight through attacks on spectrum access, STRATCOM head Gen. Anthony Cotton said today.

“The overall objective of the JEC is to raise overall readiness of the joint force and to prevail in that mission space,” Cotton told the Senate Armed Services Committee today. “We’re actually doing really good work, and we’re in the final steps — actually working our way through with the Deputy Secretary of Defense [Kathleen Hicks] for her to sign out the memorandum and actions on the tasks that we have to move forward. So, I look forward to seeing that pretty soon.”

Cotton explained that electromagnetic spectrum (EMS) “superiority” is “critically important” for not just STRATCOM, but all of the combatant commands, underpinning “communication through all domains, and assured PNT, position, navigation and timing.”

Gen. Jim Dickinson, head of Space Command, echoed the criticality of EMS to modern warfare. He explained during the SASC hearing that all the space capabilities SPACECOM is responsible for providing to the joint force — from PNT to SATCOM to missile warning — are “dependent” upon access to EMS. Thus, he said, spectrum availability it “foundational to what US Space Command does.”

Look To Korea To See How China Might Fight In The Pacific Today

James Holmes

This week I returned to the mothership for the first time in a dozen years, to take part in a conference at Vanderbilt University asking whether Chinese strategy is “universal or unique?”

My answer: Chinese maritime strategy is novel but not unique. Chinese strategists excel at combining and recombining the same concepts available to everyone, and to do so in ways that often baffle outsiders. Confounding prospective foes is a feature for them, not a bug.

The presentations made me think. Thinking is good.
China, the Korean War, and Modern Warfare

During the proceedings something dawned on me with regard to the Korean War. Namely that the forgotten war could furnish future combatants clues as to how the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) may wage war in maritime Asia. The China seas and Western Pacific comprise an oceanic battleground, but then the Korean Peninsula south of the “narrow neck” that roughly coincides with the inter-Korean border is a maritime theater in its own right.

Sea power can range all across it.

Between deterrence and escalation

Bonnie Kristian

China might send lethal military aid to Moscow for its war in Ukraine, the Biden administration suggested recently — or perhaps, actually, it won’t.

In early February, CIA Director Bill Burns said China has been “very reluctant to provide the kind of lethal weapons to Russia to use in Ukraine,” but by midmonth that story was evolving. From the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced Washington’s “deep concern” that Beijing is “strongly considering providing lethal assistance to Russia.” Unnamed U.S. officials in a Wall Street Journal report specified the aid could include “artillery and drones,” and on the following day, Burns declared himself “confident” that the lethal aid plan was under consideration.

But National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and President Joe Biden himself took a different line. Sullivan reiterated on CNN and NBC that no such transfers have happened to date, and in an interview with ABC News, Biden said he doesn’t expect them to happen at all.

So why raise the issue? In Burns’ telling, the point was to send a warning, “to make very clear what the consequences of that would be.” Blinken promised “serious consequences.” Biden pledged he “would respond.” And Sullivan said this “bad mistake” would “come at real cost to China,” including “alienat[ing] them from a number of countries in the world … and [putting] them for square into the center of responsibility for the kinds of war crimes and bombardments of civilians and atrocities that the Russians are committing in Ukraine.” “No limits” partnership or not, the White House team argued, helping Moscow this way would be bad for Beijing.

Studying Ukraine war, China's military minds fret over US missiles, Starlink

Eduardo Baptista and Greg Torode

BEIJING/HONG KONG, March 8 (Reuters) - China needs the capability to shoot down low-earth-orbit Starlink satellites and defend tanks and helicopters against shoulder-fired Javelin missiles, according to Chinese military researchers who are studying Russia's struggles in Ukraine in planning for possible conflict with U.S.-led forces in Asia.

A Reuters review of almost 100 articles in more than 20 defence journals reveals an effort across China's military-industrial complex to scrutinise the impact of U.S. weapons and technology that could be deployed against Chinese forces in a war over Taiwan.

The Chinese-language journals, which also examine Ukrainian sabotage operations, reflect the work of hundreds of researchers across a network of People's Liberation Army (PLA)-linked universities, state-owned weapons manufacturers and military intelligence think-tanks.

While Chinese officials have avoided any openly critical comments about Moscow's actions or battlefield performance as they call for peace and dialogue, the publicly available journal articles are more candid in their assessments of Russian shortcomings.

Space Force chief outlines 3-part ‘competitive endurance’ theory aimed at ‘space superiority’


AIR WARFARE SYMPOSIUM — Chief of Space Operations Gen. Chance Saltzman today laid out a “theory of success” for the Space Force called “competitive endurance” — a three-part conceptual framework for service operations aimed both at deterring conflict in space and fighting “to achieve space superiority.”

The term competitive endurance “is intended to capture the notion that we are in a state of competition with our pacing challenge” — that is, China — and that “remaining” in constant competition is “preferable to the alternative states of crisis or conflict,” he told the annual Air Force Association spring conference. “Endurance” and “managing the stability” in space “will require an active process of campaigning,” he added.

As part of the tri-part plan, Saltzman made clear that establishing space superiority may necessitate “counterspace” operations “to prevent adversaries from leveraging space-enabled targeting to attack our forces.”

In a “Commander’s Note” dated March 3, sent out to Guardians and obtained by Breaking Defense, Saltzman argues that the need for space superiority in the face of adversary threats is a key reason the Space Force was created. “Our Service was established to contest and, when directed, control the space domain on behalf of the Joint Force. … [T]he responsibility to fight for space superiority with military force is why we are a Service and not a functional community” within Space Command, he writes in the note, titled “The Formative Purpose of the Space Force.”

In Ukraine fight, integrated air defense has made many aircraft ‘worthless’: US Air Force general


AIR WARFARE SYMPOSIUM — Robust Ukrainian and Russian air defenses have rendered both sides’ aircraft, particularly those used for close air support missions, largely “worthless” in the war between the two countries, according to a top American Air Force general.

About 60 Ukrainian aircraft and 70 Russian aircraft have been downed in the year since Russia launched its invasion, according to commander of US Air Forces in Europe and Africa Gen. James Hecker, a feat accomplished by the two countries’ highly capable air defense systems that have left much of the battlefield airspace off limits.

“Both of their integrated air and missile defense, especially when you’re talking about going against aircraft, have been very effective,” Hecker said during a roundtable at the Air and Space Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium. “And that’s why they’re not flying” in many areas, he added.

Russia’s inability to control the skies was an early surprise of the invasion that has generally persisted ever since. As such, both countries’ militaries have had to adapt their tactics for close air support missions, relying more heavily on ordinance like HIMARS-launched rockets to strike ground targets. Aircraft, meanwhile, have mostly had to hang back outside the coverage of air defense systems and employ longer-range weapons, according to Hecker.

“The problem is that both of the Russian as well as the Ukrainian success in integrated air and missile defense made much of those aircraft worthless because they can’t go over and do close air support,” he said when asked about what might be required to reconstitute Ukraine’s diminished air power.