16 March 2023

The Indian Telecommunication Bill Engenders Security and Privacy Risks

Anunay Kulshrestha, Gurshabad Grover

The last telegram in India was sent in July 2013. Almost 10 years after the use of telegraph faded into extinction, most regulation of telecommunication in India still finds its legal basis in the Indian Telegraph Act of 1885 and the Indian Wireless Telegraph Act of 1933, both of which were legislated by the British colonial government.

In a country that now has more than a billion combined subscribers to telephony and internet services, the Indian government has finally (rightfully) realized the need to update the legal framework that governs telecom and internet infrastructure: 138 years after the promulgation of the Telegraph Act, the Indian Ministry of Communications is seeking to replace the two colonial-era laws with the (draft) Telecommunication Bill, which was released for public consultation in September 2022.

The Telecommunication Bill covers many aspects of regulation, from the licensing regime for telecom and internet service providers to state powers of interception and surveillance. But far from providing the “modern and future-ready legal framework” that it promised, the bill regurgitates antiquated ideas from the very laws that it seeks to amend, threatens human rights, and sanctions unchecked state surveillance. In this article, we focus on the serious threats that the new bill creates for network security and privacy and examine how its provisions will consequently impact the exercise of the rights to privacy and freedom of expression in India.

Finding the right approach to India as a “Civilisational State”


Over the last few weeks Australia’s newly intimate diplomatic relationship with India has been on full display. The “Raisina at Sydney” component of the 2023 Raisina dialogues was quickly followed by the G20 foreign ministers’ meeting and the main Raisina event in New Delhi, and now by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese’s trip to India, given vociferous support in Deputy Prime Minister Marles’ celebratory presentation to parliament. At time of publication, Albanese is in Ahmedabad (scene of the grievous 2002 communal violence), ushering in the new relationship at that great monument to personalist politics – the vast Narendra Modi stadium.

In the government pronouncements to date on these interchanges, little has been said amid the toasts to friendship, cricket and “comprehensive strategic partnership” about developments within India that bode ill for press freedom, the rule of law, constitutional integrity and the architecture of equal citizenship. When quizzed, Foreign Minister Penny Wong did concede last week to having raised human rights issues with her Indian counterpart, but relied on the familiar defence not “to go through chapter and verse what’s discussed” in public. This general accommodation appears based upon the calculation that the obvious strategic and economic convergence between Australia and India, driven by pressing regional circumstances, demands reserve on these issues. It’s also a dynamic that expresses a shifting power dispensation, with India offering alternate labour markets, defence collaboration and strategically complementary diplomatic heft.

Australia ought to be considered in our reception and repetition of the Modi government’s talking points while also developing public messaging more layered than “cricket and Holi”.

Taliban Incapacity and the growing threat of Islamic State-Khorasan Province



In the past two years, the Islamic State’s Khorasan Province in Afghanistan has increased its cadre strength from 3000 to 6000. Taking advantage of the ungoverned spaces and the Taliban’s inability to contain its growth, the group continues to gain strength. The Taliban rely on raids and killings of odd IS-KP cadres, but this hasn’t done much to dent the terror group’s expansion into almost all provinces of Afghanistan. Taliban’s incapacity and denial of the emerging threat are serious problems, not just for Afghanistan’s peace and stability, but for the entire region. What are the reasons behind the expansion of IS-KP in Afghanistan? Does the ungoverned space in Afghanistan provide it with the opportunity to expand its presence? What are the implications of the growth of IS-KP for the region and world at large? This article attempts to address these crucial questions.


In early February 2023, a report by the United Nations said that the Islamic State’s Khorasan Province (IS-KP) has threatened to target Chinese, Indian, and Iranian embassies in Afghanistan. On 2 February, Saudi Arabia closed its embassy in Kabul and evacuated its staff to Islamabad following threats by the group. Turkish and Qatari embassies were placed on high alert. A few days later, in the 18th issue of its monthly ‘Khorasan Ghag’ magazine, the IS-KP termed Pakistan a “cancer” for Islamic existence and is run at the behest of the United States. Days after, it threatened to launch attacks against the Pakistan embassy in the Afghanistan capital. After attacks carried out by the ISKP on Russian and Pakistani embassies in September and December 2022 respectively, the potency of the group has never been in doubt. At the same time, the Islamic Emirate of the Taliban’s ability to provide full-proof security elicits little confidence.

Will the Taliban Regime Dislodge TTP From Af-Pak Border Areas?

Abdul Basit

On February 22, a high-powered Pakistani delegation, including Pakistan’s Defense Minster Khawaja Muhammad Asif and Director General (DG) of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lieutenant General Nadeem Anjum, visited Kabul to discuss prevailing security challenges, particularly the threat of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). The delegation met Afghanistan’s Deputy Prime Minister Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who was accompanied by Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani and Defense Minister Mullah Muhammad Yaqoob. The meeting took place against the backdrop of rising TTP attacks in Pakistan.

Unlike the past, when military-led Pakistani delegations visited Afghanistan, this trip was led by Asif, a civilian. The Pakistani side delivered a stern three-fold message to the Afghan side. First, they asked the Taliban to stop the TTP from launching a spring offensive in Pakistan. It bears mention that the TTP, taking a leaf from the Taliban’s insurgent playbook, launched a spring offensive in Pakistan titled Al-Badar in May 2022. However, after the June ceasefire, the spring offensive lost its momentum.

Pakistani authorities now fear that the TTP might announce another spring offensive, ramping up its militant campaign in Pakistan. In the context of insurgencies and asymmetric conflicts in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, the spring offensive signifies the traditional fighting season.

Bangladesh’s ‘Economic Diplomacy’ – OpEd

Mehjabin Bhanu

Bangladesh’s Prime Minister has outlined a few roadmaps to help achieve Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s goal of Sonar Bangla by 2041, and to aid in achieving those roadmaps, Bangladesh government has introduced two packages. The public diplomacy bundle and the economic diplomacy package complement one another. This event is indeed an opportune initiative, especially in light of the fact that the ongoing Ukraine crisis is making it more challenging for the world to recover from Covid. The crisis has demonstrated to us that in the connected world of today, any occurrence anywhere has an impact on everyone everywhere.

Economic diplomacy: What is it? There are five parts to the economic diplomacy bundle. They are as follows: (1).More diverse commerce and exports, (2) More foreign investment, (3) Gainful employment for domestic and international human resources, (4) Technology transfer, and (5) High-quality services for the Bangladeshi Diaspora and other groups.

While BD government agencies and officials will portray the success stories of Bangladesh and its potentials and opportunities, its Public Diplomacy package is designed so that global leaders, academicians, Think Tank, CEOs, MDs of credible organizations reiterate the narrative of Bangladesh’s achievements and potentials.

China’s Ukraine Peace Plan Is Actually About Taiwan

Craig Singleton

After twelve grinding months, China appears no more capable of influencing the outcome of Russia’s war in Ukraine than it was at the conflict’s inception. Largely reduced to spectator status, Beijing’s primary role has been to provide Moscow with a financial lifeline by ramping up purchases of heavily discounted Russian crude oil and coal, while reaping an unexpected windfall from surging exports to Russia. But these and other Chinese half-measures appear aimed, for now, at ensuring Russia has what it needs to sustain its wartime economy—not actually win the war.

In a similar twist, China’s 12-point peace plan for Ukraine is not geared toward restoring peace in Europe. Indeed, China’s dead-on-arrival missive has little to do with ending the war in Ukraine and everything to do with setting the conditions to win a future war over Taiwan. Put differently, China recognizes the causes of Russia’s failure in Ukraine are the same that threaten its eventual reunification plans.

Read correctly, China’s phony peace proposal could also serve as the basis for a Western-led roadmap to prevent an Indo-Pacific war from breaking out in the first place.

Clearly, Beijing’s position paper, titled “The Political Settlement of the Ukraine Crisis,” reflects China’s concerns about current battlefield conditions in Europe. To date, transatlantic resolve to support Ukraine remains more or less resolute, even as Western democracies grapple with absorbing the costs associated with being cut off from Russian energy and other raw materials. Even though more Russian soldiers have perished in Ukraine than during all Russian wars combined since World War II, Russian President Vladimir Putin remains entirely too confident he can still defeat Ukraine and altogether too stubborn to change course. Meanwhile, China continues to vacillate in providing lethal assistance to Russia, a decision made more complicated now that Washington has leaked details on Beijing’s internal deliberations.

China's Plan to Assimilate Tibet


The People's Republic of China seized control of Tibet in 1950 in what its leaders termed the "peaceful liberation" of a theocracy. Generations of Tibetans in exile continue to call it an invasion and annexation of a de facto independent region, where rich cultural roots are at risk of being buried in obscurity.

Otherwise tranquil Tibetan Buddhists once turned parts of their historical homeland into some of the country's most restive regions, first in 1959 and again nearly a half-century later—both ended in bloodshed. Sporadic resistance against the Chinese government's rule continued, but in each instance, Beijing further clenched its authoritarian fist in pursuit of synthetic ethnic unity under a single banner of the Communist Party.

Tibet has essentially been a police state for more than a decade, observers say, marked by near-constant technological and human surveillance as well as a heavy law enforcement presence at religious sites, including the capital, Lhasa.

The West is familiar with Beijing's heavy-handed approach in Xinjiang. What is less well known, activists say, are its systematic efforts to erase Tibetan identity, including by indoctrinating children. Under the authority of Chinese leader Xi Jinping, Tibetans are increasingly seeing the government's cultural and political "Sinicization" policies manifest in some of the ethnic group's youngest members.

Stop Talking About a ‘Chinese Way of War’

Rick Chersicla

Western security experts tend to speculate about a “Chinese way of war.” This supposedly distinct Chinese military methodology is usually presented as both unique, and centered on deception; proponents of this idea typically point to the renowned theorist Sun Tzu, or political leader Mao Zedong as inscrutable master strategists whose ways are unknown to the West. In terms of military theory, however, these two strategists – as enduring as their legacies are – do not align on key points, let alone represent an unknowable Chinese way of war.

Sun Tzu and Mao’s teachings do not embody the theoretical underpinnings of a unique Chinese way of war, but rather demonstrate widely held general principles – as evidenced by the Western application of many of Sun Tzu’s precepts, and the European influence present in Mao’s writing.

Sun Tzu’s ‘Art of War’ Is Not Unique to China

Sun Tzu’s roughly 2,500 year old text, “The Art of War,” while insightful, does not offer ideas that are representative of a Chinese way of war. Rather than providing observations applicable only to a Chinese military leader, Sun Tzu described military concepts that can be observed throughout history and have been applied outside his culture, even in the West.

Five Years After a Disastrous Syria Battle, Wagner Is More Dangerous Than Ever

Kyle Sajoyan

Five years ago, U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) and Wagner Mercenaries in northern Syria fought the bloodiest engagement between American and Russian troops since the end of the First World War. In a stunning display of American firepower, U.S. air and artillery strikes decimated an entire column of Syrian troops and Russian mercenaries, killing at least 300 without losing a single American. While the Battle of Khasham was at the time equally impressive for Washington and embarrassing for Moscow, it served as a teachable moment for the Kremlin.

Instead of being deterred by its stunning defeat, Wagner has only grown stronger and more dangerous, operating far beyond the borders of the Syrian desert as a transnational criminal and terrorist organization. Rather than showing the incompetence of Russia’s warfighting capabilities, the Syria debacle shows the west that Moscow can learn from its mistakes and become more of a geopolitical threat because of it. As the Ukraine War turns one-year-old, the ghosts of Khasham live on as Wagner shows no signs of stopping its brutal onslaught.

According to reporting by The New York Times, the Battle of Khasham began as a convoy consisting of 27 vehicles and 500 Russian and Syrian troops advanced towards an American outpost at the Conoco gas plant near the northern Syrian city of Deir ez-Zour. Despite an agreed to de-confliction line, the Wagner-led force crossed the boundary, bombarding the outpost with tank, mortar, and artillery fire. As the enemy advanced, the Americans responded with waves of air strikes as B-52 bombers, AC-130 gunships. F-15E Strike Fighters, and attack helicopters pummeled the column. The engagement, lasting over three hours, ended with 40 U.S. SOF annihilating most of the attackers, leaving at least 300 dead on the battlefield.

Saudi-Iranian Deal Brokered By China Will Change Geopolitics In The MENA – Analysis

Murray Hunter

For those within the Anglophile world, the recent agreement cut between Saudi Arabia and Iran, brokered by China, received scant reporting. The deal re-establishing relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran after a seven-year hiatus, may potentially become a major pillar for stability within the region.

Relations turned sour when the Saudi authorities executed a Shiite cleric Nimr Al-Nimr, back in 2016. This resulted in mobs storming the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Tehran, and the breaking off of diplomatic relations.

Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed last Friday in Beijing to restore diplomatic ties by reopening their respective diplomatic missions within the next two months. Shiite majority Iran and Sunni majority Saudi Arabia re-establish a nexus between two competing Islamic leaders, within the Middle East and North African region.

President Xi Jinping visited Saudi Arabia last December, and hosted the Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi in Beijing last month. The deal was signed just after President Xi, was re-elected for an unprecedented third term.

This is part of a broader Chinese initiative to broker a wider agreement, which includes Iraq, and Oman to reduce tensions in the region, and potentially realign the Middle East.

The success of this deal may be observed early with the conflict in Yemen, where the Iranian supported Houthi fighters are at war with the Saudi supported government. Houthi rockets are occasionally fired into Saudi Arabia. There has also been proxy competition between the Saudis and Tehran in Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq.

Saudi Arabia Has Become the Next Tech Battleground

Divyanshu Jindal

Technological innovations have brought tectonic shifts in global geopolitical dynamics over the past decade. A technological competition between the two major powers, China and the United States, is now underway, with implications for the globe. And like every war needs a battleground, the emergent tech war, too, needs a platform for the tech powers to showcase their strength and achieve victories.

Saudi Arabia has embraced the situation with both hands. Having laid its Vision 2030 plan, which seeks to diversify its economy through increased focus on innovation, Riyadh has made digital transformation a critical goal. However, considering the contemporary geopolitical realities, Riyadh must also embrace diplomacy, strategic autonomy, and a multipolar perspective. There is reason to believe that the Saudis are ready to do so.

Saudi Arabia organizes several of the world’s biggest forums and platforms in the tech space. Its annual Global Cybersecurity Forum discusses the universal opportunities and challenges posed by the evolving cyber order, and the LEAP Tech Conference—an annual tech convention—serves as a global platform to exhibit future technologies and some of the most disruptive tech professionals from around the world.

But before taking over as a center for global tech attention, Riyadh has brought its house in order with strong policy and strategy frameworks, reflected in its second rank in the International Telecommunication Union’s Global Cybersecurity Index—a reference that measures the commitment of countries to cybersecurity at the global level.

Experts react: Iran and Saudi Arabia just agreed to restore relations, with help from China. Here’s what that means for the Middle East and the world.

Can the bitter gulf across the Gulf finally be bridged? On Friday, long-standing regional adversaries Iran and Saudi Arabia made a big announcement: They will reestablish diplomatic relations in a deal brokered by China.

Below, Atlantic Council experts share their insights on the breaking news and its significance for one of the Middle East’s most consequential rivalries, for the region, and for the wider world. We’ll update this post as more contributions roll in.

There are two big caveats to this apparent de-escalation

US interests in the Gulf are more secure if the nations that surround it are actively working to de-escalate mutual tensions. That was the case when a 2001 security agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran helped prevent active conflict for ten years despite deep mutual mistrust, and it remains the case today. So we should welcome the news of the reestablishment of diplomatic ties between these two nations, following the agreement last year between the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Iran to exchange ambassadors once again.

However, this time the deal comes with two caveats, each of which raises important strategic questions for the United States. The first, most obviously, is that it was China that brought the sides together, with an announcement timed to coincide with the start of President Xi Jinping’s third term. After many years of proclamations from Beijing that it merely wanted to build economic relations in the Middle East and didn’t seek any political influence, we can see plainly that such declarations are false. Indeed, China has been steadily increasing its regional political influence for two decades, highlighted most recently by a visit by Xi to Riyadh in December and a visit by Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi to Beijing last month. Yesterday, China promised its interests in the region were only economic and it did not want to be a major political player; today China will promise that it only wants diplomatic influence, not a regional military presence. The world should have never believed yesterday’s promises and it certainly shouldn’t believe today’s.

Democrats and Republicans agree on China. That’s a problem.

Max Boot

In these ultra-partisan times, pundits often bemoan the decline of bipartisanship. I’ve done so myself. But we should remember that when the two parties agree on an issue, that doesn’t necessarily mean they are right. It could mean they are falling prey to a collective delusion.

In 1964, for example, Congress passed the Gulf of Tonkin resolution authorizing military action against North Vietnam. There were only two dissenting votes in the Senate and none in the House. Only later did it become clear that the factual basis of the resolution was fallacious (one of the two supposed North Vietnamese attacks on U.S. destroyers almost certainly did not occur) and that its impact was catastrophic: It would drag the United States into a losing war that left more than 58,000 Americans dead.

Nearly four decades later, in 2002, Congress authorized U.S. military action against Iraq by smaller (but still large) bipartisan majorities (296-133 in the House, 77-23 in the Senate) — setting the United States on the path to another disastrous conflict.

That history is worth keeping in mind lest we become too giddy in celebrating the current bipartisan agreement about the dangers posed by China. That consensus was on display last week in the first hearing of the newly formed House Select Committee on the Strategic Competition Between the United States and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which had been created by a vote of 365-65.

Banning TikTok Will Not Solve U.S. Online Disinformation Problems

Caitlin Chin

Once more, Congress and the American public are captivated by rumors of Chinese government surveillance—first TikTok, then the balloon, and now back to TikTok. Congress blocked the video-sharing app on federal government devices last December in a last-minute addition to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Since then, a growing number of primarily Republican states such as Texas, Georgia, and Alabama have also prohibited the video-sharing app on government devices, and some public universities like the University of Oklahoma and Auburn University have blocked access on campus Wi-Fi. The European Union and Canada, which had not previously focused in on TikTok, suddenly joined the United States in recent weeks in banning it on government-owned devices.

These measures do not go far enough for some U.S. politicians; calls for a total TikTok ban are gaining momentum. On February 2, Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) called on Apple and Google to remove TikTok from their app stores, which would amount to a soft ban. On February 10, Senators Angus King (I-ME) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) reintroduced the ANTI-SOCIAL CCP Act, which would force either an outright ban or a sale of TikTok to a U.S.-based company—and, more widely, any social media companies based in China and a handful of other countries. On March 1, the House Foreign Affairs Committee voted along party lines to advance the Deterring America’s Technological Adversaries Act, which aims to enable the White House to ban TikTok across the entire U.S. population. On March 7, Senators Mark Warner (D-VA) and John Thune (R-SD) introduced the RESTRICT Act to give the Secretary of Commerce greater powers to act against technology companies based in China, similarly motivated by TikTok.

Where the New National Cybersecurity Strategy Differs From Past Practice

Herb Lin

On March 2, the Office of the National Cyber Director released the public version of the long-awaited National Cybersecurity Strategy. This document is intended to provide strategic guidance for how the United States should protect its digital ecosystem against malicious criminal and nation-state actors. The document is a welcome and sharp break from a few past practices and principles. If fully implemented, it has the potential to change the U.S. cybersecurity posture significantly for the better.

The scope of the document is limited to cybersecurity, as its title is “National Cybersecurity Strategy” rather than “National Cyber Strategy.” Many press reports (e.g., here and here) on the strategy’s release have conflated the two, but they are not identical in scope. The U.S. government generally operates from a definition of “cybersecurity” promulgated in 2008 under NSPD-54 and HSPD-23:

"cybersecurity'' means prevention of damage to, protection of, and restoration of computers, electronic communications systems, electronic communication services, wire communication, and electronic communication, including information contained therein, to ensure its availability, integrity, authentication, confidentiality, and non-repudiation.

Two omissions from this definition are noteworthy—the lack of reference to information or influence operations and to the use of offensive operations in cyberspace to advance any national goals other than the one explicitly noted. Both of these topics would naturally be included in a National Cyber Strategy, but that is not what this document is—and it should not be criticized for those omissions. The strategy document is also silent on cybersecurity for national security systems, such as those operated by the Department of Defense and the intelligence community.

Ukraine Signals It Will Keep Battling for Bakhmut to Drain Russia

Andrew E. Kramer

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s top generals want to bolster the defenses of the embattled eastern city of Bakhmut, the government said Monday, signaling that rather than retreat from the city, they will pursue a strategy of bleeding the Russian army in a battle of attrition before a planned Ukrainian counterattack.

Ukraine has calculated that the brutal siege is weakening and tying down Russia’s military, even as Kyiv awaits a new arsenal of weaponry from the West, including tanks and long-range precision rockets to enable an expected drive to retake occupied territory elsewhere. This achievement, Ukrainian officials say, justifies their own high casualty toll, though soldiers in the field and some military analysts have questioned the wisdom of defending a mostly abandoned, ruined city.

In seesaw fighting on the city’s artillery-blasted streets and nearby villages and farm fields, the losses on both sides have been staggering, in the longest sustained Russian assault since the invasion last year. Gradual Russian advances have led some Ukrainian officials in recent weeks to hint at the possibility of a retreat to avoid encirclement, but Ukrainian assault brigades went on the attack over the weekend and appeared to push back Russian forces.

Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner mercenary group, which has led Russian assaults on Bakhmut, said on Monday that Russia was at risk of losing the battle — just days after he had claimed to have the Ukrainians on the brink of defeat.

Bakhmut: A Modern Day Stalingrad That Decides The Ukraine War?

Daniel Davis

Like Stalingrad 80 Years Ago, the Battle of Bakhmut Could Ultimately Determine the War’s Winner I remember when I visited the site of the battle of Stalingrad (today known as Volgograd) in 2008 I was struck by the enormity of the resources and the massive number of troops poured into the battle by both sides, especially given the city had only marginal strategic significance. Hitler’s and Stalin’s obsession with capturing or defending the city defied military utility.

But the result of that fight may have sealed Germany’s defeat. Something similar could be playing out right now in the city of Bakhmut for the Russia-Ukraine war, with equal significance.

Towards the end of last week it appeared the end-game had been reached and Ukraine would withdraw its remaining troops from Bakhmut. But on Monday, Zelensky, along with his top two generals, Gen. Valery Zaluzhny and Gen. Oleksandr Syrsky, announced that instead of abandoning Bakhmut, they will reinforce it and seek to drive Russia out of the city.

Meanwhile, the feud that has been unfolding between the leader of PMC Wagner and the Russian Ministry of Defense has added another twist, as Yevgeny Prigozhin declared that unless Moscow supported him with reinforcements and ammunition, Zelensky’s counterattack might succeed. The fighting for the city has escalated into the most brutal, cruel fighting of the entire war, being described by both Ukrainian and Russian supporters as a “meat grinder.”

What has the war on Ukraine revealed about Russia's non-strategic missiles?

William Alberque

Russia’s use of missiles in its war on Ukraine has been less effective and decisive in helping achieve its war aims than leaders in Moscow likely expected. And the country’s actions related to the use of missiles and their import and export since the start of the war have harmed international attempts to control missile proliferation and undermined the credibility of Russia’s compliance with its international arms-control obligations.

Russia’s extensive use of short-range ballistic missiles and land-attack cruise missiles in its war against Ukraine has had several repercussions in the field of arms control. Most notably, the use of dual-capable missiles, that is, missiles capable of delivering both nuclear and conventional warheads, against tactical targets and Moscow’s decisions regarding missile proliferation both before and after February 2022 have damaged the prospects for future arms-control efforts with the United States and globally, particularly regarding missile-related technology. And these missiles have done little to help Russia achieve its declared war aims, leading some analysts to revise their views of the utility of non-strategic missiles in wartime.

Will Vuhledar be Russia’s bloodiest offensive?


The car struggles up the road, drifting through a sea of thick black mud towards a Ukrainian drone base a mile from the frontline. The Nissan Patrol has seen better days: half its windows were shattered by a shell strike the day before, and its doors are puckered with shrapnel marks. “Don’t worry,” Dymtro, the local commander in the driving seat, said as we set off, pointing at the fragments of glass scattered across his ride. “They will not go in your ass.”

Suddenly, there’s an explosion to the left. A patch of boggy woodland a few metres away erupts with a soft thump. A standard 82mm Soviet high explosive mortar round can kill from 30 metres away, but, somehow, the tiny bits of jagged metal fly past us.

Such near misses are a feature of daily life for the Ukrainian men and women holding the line against the better-equipped and more numerous Russian forces. But around the town of Vuhledar, in southern Donetsk, there is a more urgent threat: the never-ending waves of failed tank and infantry assaults. As the world’s attention has been focused on the “meat grinder” fortress city of Bakhmut 100 miles to the northeast, another giant offensive is playing out here. Six weeks after Russia launched its largest assault on Vuhledar, this once relatively prosperous coal-mining town of 15,000 people — the name translates roughly as “the gift of coal” — is now a wasteland.

The reason for Russia’s relentless stream of attacks in Vuhledar is straightforward. For Ukrainian forces, the area around the town is a strategic gem, allowing its drone and artillery teams to target Russian supply lines. For Russia’s army, it is equally important. If it can take control of the town and surrounding area, it will gain access to key tarmac roads and railways that lead both north to Bakhmut and east towards Crimea. Seizing it would effectively cut Ukraine’s southern flank wide open.

Turkey’s Veto: Why Erdogan Is Blocking Finland And Sweden’s Path To NATO – Analysis

Paul Levin

(FPRI) — Finland and Sweden grew closer to Western institutions in the post-Cold War era, and EU accession in 1995 meant that Stockholm and Helsinki finally abandoned their neutrality policies. Both countries remained militarily non-aligned but cooperation with NATO increased through the Partnership for Peace program and increasing participation in NATO missions and exercises.

Russian aggression in places like Georgia, Crimea, and the Donbass, along with covert operations in Europe and the United States, sped up this process. On December 17, 2021, Russia proposed a new US-Russia treatythat included restrictions on “further eastward expansion” of NATO and was viewed by the Finnish and Swedish governments as an unacceptable attempt to infringe on their sovereignty.

The full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, was the last straw. The Finnish leadership indicated quite clearly that NATO accession was forthcoming and the strong historical ties between Sweden and Finland meant that this changed the equation in Sweden as well. The Swedish Social Democratic government began a process of reevaluating the policy of non-alignment.

Why Russia Has Such a Strong Grip on Europe’s Nuclear Power

Patricia Cohen

The pinched cylinders of Russian-built nuclear power plants that dot Europe’s landscape are visible reminders of the crucial role that Russia still plays in the continent’s energy supply.

Europe moved with startling speed to wean itself off Russian oil and natural gas in the wake of war in Ukraine. But breaking the longstanding dependency on Russia’s vast nuclear industry is a much more complicated undertaking.

Russia, through its mammoth state-owned nuclear power company, Rosatom, dominates the global nuclear supply chain. It was Europe’s third-largest supplier of uranium in 2021, accounting for 20 percent of the total. With few ready alternatives, there has been scant support for sanctions against Rosatom — despite urging from the Ukrainian government in Kyiv.

For countries with Russian-made reactors, reliance runs deep. In five European Union countries, every reactor — 18 in total — was built by Russia. In addition, two more are scheduled to start operating soon in Slovakia, and two are under construction in Hungary, cementing partnerships with Rosatom far into the future.

For years, the operators of these nuclear power plants had little choice. Rosatom, through its subsidiary TVEL, was virtually the only producer of the fabricated fuel assemblies — the last step in the process of turning uranium into the nuclear fuel rods — that power the reactors.

Behind Ukraine peace proposal, China foresees end to war in summer


BEIJING -- After avoiding getting too deeply involved in Russia’s war in Ukraine over the past year, China suddenly offered a peace proposal last month. Chinese military experts’ prediction that the war will come to an end this summer is likely behind this about-face.

When over 200 world leaders and senior officials gathered in Munich for last month's security conference, Wang Yi, China's top diplomat, told the attendees that China would soon announce a plan to become a mediator in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

"We will put forth China's position on the political settlement on the Ukraine crisis and stay firm on the side of peace and dialogue," Wang said during the Feb. 18 address.

China formally unveiled its 12-point peace plan on Feb. 24, exactly a year to the day Russia launched its invasion. The proposal called for an early cease-fire and for both sides to restart negotiations toward a peaceful settlement.

The plan itself is prosaic, but it gave the impression that China was suddenly playing an active role.

Beijing has neither condemned Russia's invasion, nor has it joined in the economic sanctions imposed on Moscow. Although China had called for a cease-fire in the past, its leadership has been unwilling to take any concrete actions.

Why The Banking System Is Breaking Up – OpEd

Michael Hudson

The collapses of Silvergate and Silicon Valley Bank are like icebergs calving off from the Antarctic glacier. The financial analogy to the global warming causing this collapse is the rising temperature of interest rates, which spiked last Thursday and Friday to close at 4.60 percent for the U.S. Treasury’s two-year bonds. Bank depositors meanwhile were still being paid only 0.2 percent on their deposits. That has led to a steady withdrawal of funds from banks – and a corresponding decline in commercial bank balances with the Federal Reserve.

Most media reports reflect a prayer that the bank runs will be localized, as if there is no context or environmental cause. There is general embarrassment to explain how the breakup of banks that is now gaining momentum is the result of the way that the Obama Administration bailed out the banks in 2009. Fifteen years of Quantitative Easing has re-inflated prices for packaged bank mortgages – and with them, housing prices, stock and bond prices.

The Fed’s $9 trillion of QE (not counted as part of the budget deficit) fueled an asset-price inflation that made trillions of dollars for holders of financial assets, with a generous spillover effect for the remaining members of the top Ten Percent. The cost of home ownership soared by capitalizing mortgages at falling interest rates into more highly debt-leveraged property. The U.S. economy experienced the largest bond-market boom in history as interest rates fell below 1 percent. The economy polarized between the creditor positive-net-worth class and the rest of the economy – whose analogy to environmental pollution and global warming was debt pollution.

Disastrous Harvest: Silicon Valley Bank And The Anti-Regulation Bank Lobby – OpEd

Binoy Kampmark

Before the financial collapse come the aggressive anti-regulation lobbyists. These are often of the same ilk: loathing anything resembling oversight, restriction, reporting and monitoring. They are incarnations of the frontier, symbolically toting guns and slaying the natives, seeking wealth beyond paper jottings, compliance and bureaucratic tedium.

The collapse of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB), for a period of time the preferred bank for start-ups, is the bitter fruit of that harvest. Three days prior to the second-largest failure of a US financial institution since the implosion of Washington Mutual (Wamu) in 2008, lobbyists for the banking sector had reason to gloat. They had the ears of a number of GOP lawmakers and were pressing the case that Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell had little reason to sharpen regulations in the industry.

As a matter of fact, the converse case was put: the financial environment was proving too stringent, and needed easing up. This effort built on gains made during the Trump administration, which saw the passing of the Economic Growth, Regulatory Relief, and Consumer Protection Act. Then House majority leader Kevin McCarthy was particularly keen on winding back elements of the Dodd-Frank banking measures introduced in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. In 2018, he got much of what he wished for.

Lobbyists for SVB were particularly aggressive in that endeavour, and even went so far as to seek exemptions from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the body responsible for insuring bank deposits in times of crisis and institutional oversight. Two former staffers for McCarthy so happen to be registered lobbyists for SVB, a fact that shows how the US revolving door between politics and business continues to whirr at some speed. The SVB lobby list also includes figures who found employment under former President Bill Clinton, former Senator Mike Enzi (R-My), former Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and former Senator Arlen Specter (D-Pa.), just to name a few.

Another Predictable Bank Failure


NEW YORK – The run on Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) – on which nearly half of all venture-backed tech start-ups in the United States depend – is in part a rerun of a familiar story, but it’s more than that. Once again, economic policy and financial regulation has proven inadequate.

The news about the second-biggest bank failure in US history came just days after Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell assured Congress that the financial condition of America’s banks was sound. But the timing should not be surprising. Given the large and rapid increases in interest rates Powell engineered – probably the most significant since former Fed Chair Paul Volcker’s interest-rate hikes of 40 years ago – it was predicted that dramatic movements in the prices of financial assets would cause trauma somewhere in the financial system.

But, again, Powell assured us not to worry – despite abundant historical experience indicating that we should be worried. Powell was part of former President Donald Trump’s regulatory team that worked to weaken the Dodd-Frank bank regulations enacted after the 2008 financial meltdown, in order to free “smaller” banks from the standards applied to the largest, systemically important, banks. By the standards of Citibank, SVB is small. But it’s not small in the lives of the millions who depend on it.

Powell said that there would be pain as the Fed relentlessly raised interest rates – not for him or many of his friends in private capital, who reportedly were planning to make a killing as they hoped to sweep in to buy uninsured deposits in SVB at 50-60 cents on the dollar, before the government made it clear that these depositors would be protected. The worst pain would be reserved for members of marginalized and vulnerable groups, like young nonwhite males. Their unemployment rate is typically four times the national average, so an increase from 3.6% to 5% translates into an increase from something like 15% to 20% for them. He blithely calls for such unemployment increases (falsely claiming that they are necessary to bring down the inflation rate) with nary an appeal for assistance, or even a mention of the long-term costs.

Moving the Goalposts: Russia’s Evolving War Aims in Ukraine (Part One)

Vladimir Socor

Russia’s political and military aims in Ukraine are continuously evolving throughout the course of the ongoing war. Its blitzkrieg in February and March 2022 failed to defeat and subdue Ukraine outright. Moscow accordingly reverted to the strategy and tactics of gradualism. From last March onward, Moscow has given every indication of seeking a negotiated solution, heavily weighted in Russia’s favor but still falling considerably short of its initial, maximalist objectives (see below).

Russia would currently be satisfied with a land-for-“peace” solution, based on ceasefire lines cutting across Ukraine and de facto international acceptance of (or resignation to) Russia’s territorial conquests. If so, Russian forces would not need to take another centimeter of Ukrainian territory to seal Ukraine‘s defeat, as Hans Petter Midttun points out (Euromaidan Press, March 3).

Moscow, however, would undoubtedly regard any such agreement as a temporary truce that would position Russia to pursue more ambitious goals more effectively in the next stage of the conflict.

The Kremlin’s kinetic war in Ukraine forms an inseparable part of Russia’s multidimensional, protracted conflict with the West. Indeed, at the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022, Russia chose Ukraine as the main arena of that wider conflict. Moscow presented its ultimatum-style demands to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the United States and Ukraine from December 2021 to January 2022 on parallel tracks, as components of a package designed to transform the European security order in Russia’s favor. That would in turn have compromised the position of the U.S. on the global level. Although Ukraine is not a NATO member—and for this very reason—it is in Ukraine, the permanent fulcrum of Europe’s balance of power, that Russia is now contesting what it terms “global U.S. hegemony.”

Cybersecurity’s Third Rail: Software Liability

Jim Dempsey

Well, they’ve done it. The Biden administration’s new National Cybersecurity Strategy takes on the third rail of cybersecurity policy: software liability. For decades, scholars and litigators have been talking about imposing legal liability on the makers of insecure software. But the objections of manufacturers were too strong, concerns about impeding innovation were too great, and the conceptual difficulties of the issue were just too complex. So today software licenses and user agreements continue to disclaim liability, whether the end user is a consumer or an operator of critical infrastructure. With this new strategy, the administration proposes changing that.

The strategy’s discussion of the issue starts with an incontrovertible point: “[M]arket forces alone have not been enough to drive broad adoption of best practices in cybersecurity and resilience.” Indeed, the strategy goes on to note, market forces often reward those entities that rush to introduce vulnerable products or services into our digital ecosystem. Problems include the shipping of products with insecure default configurations or known vulnerabilities and the integration of third-party software with unvetted or unknown features. End users are left holding the bag, and the entire ecosystem suffers, with U.S. citizens ultimately bearing the cost.

We must begin, the administration says, to shift liability onto those who should be taking reasonable precautions to secure their software. This will require three elements, according to the strategy: preventing manufacturers and service providers from disclaiming liability by contract, establishing a standard of care, and providing a safe harbor to shield from liability those companies that do take reasonable measurable measures to secure their products and services. Together, the three points are based on a recognition that the goal is not perfect security but, rather, reasonable security.

Combating Ransomware: A Roadmap for Progress

Gary Corn, Melanie Teplinsky

The Biden administration’s freshly minted National Cybersecurity Strategy calls for, among other things, a comprehensive federal and international approach to addressing the growing problem of ransomware. In line with the strategy’s focus, a newly released white paper from American University Washington College of Law’s Technology, Law, and Security Program (TLS) explores the ransomware problem and identifies actionable, expert-informed recommendations for combating the evolving ransomware threat. Entitled “Combating Ransomware: One Year On,” the paper was drafted in consultation with leading experts in the field: V. Gerald Comizio, Gary Corn, William Deckelman, Karl Hopkins, Mark Hughes, Patrick McCarty, Sujit Raman, Kurt Sanger, Ari Schwartz, Melanie Teplinsky, and TLS student fellow Jackson Colling.

The American public was unexpectedly awakened to the real-world effects of a ransomware attack on critical infrastructure in May 2021, when Colonial Pipeline—which supplies nearly half the fuel for the East Coast of the United States—halted its pipeline operations in response to a criminal ransomware attack on its business-side computers. The ensuing panic-buying, fuel shortages, and price spikes along the East Coast set off alarm bells at the highest levels of government and corporate America and opened people’s eyes to the significance of ransomware to U.S. economic and national security interests.

After the Colonial Pipeline attack, TLS sponsored “Combating Ransomware,” a three-part webinar series that brought together leading experts, informed by diverse experiences and perspectives, to discuss the threat of ransomware and what should be done about it. The webinar series offered an in-depth look at the ransomware problem from three perspectives: private-sector efforts to combat ransomware, cryptocurrency as a ransomware driver, and national security aspects of counter-ransomware initiatives.

ChatGPT May Have Irreversible Consequences For Learning And Decision-Making – OpEd

Mathew Maavak

Mankind’s modern trajectory has been defined by several inflection points. The invention of electricity, light bulb, the telegraph system, computer and the Internet, among others, signalled new irreversible milestones in our modus vivendi. The recent introduction of ChatGPT may however prove to be more than an inflection point. It may be a permanent disruptor to our way of life; its bloopers and Wokist tantrums notwithstanding.

Chat GPT is now the fastest-growing consumer app in history. Within two months of its launch in November 2022, ChatGPT managed to garner more than 100 million users. Its developer OpenAI, which began with 375 employees and thin revenue, is now valued at $30 billion and counting.

How does it work? Broadly speaking, ChatGPT aggregates data from online sources and synthesise answers to a query within seconds. It is currently the most versatile of a stable of new Artificial Intelligence-powered large language models. It can compose musical notes, write software codes, solve mathematical equations, write novels, essays and dissertations, among a host of other tasks. It can be used by scientists to translate their original works – written in a native language – into English. As AI tools like ChatGPT evolve, they may supplant human activity across a wide, yet incalculable, spectrum. Hundreds of millions of jobs may be at stake.

Its most immediate impact however will be in the area of human learning and decision-making.

How to Defeat Russia's Mercenaries | Opinion


Ayear into Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the most striking yet least understood feature of the conflict is the return of mercenary armies to modern warfare. The last time Europe used them in combat, George Washington fought them in New Jersey. Now they are back. The Wagner Group numbers about 50,000 and takes whole towns like Soledar, as if it were antiquity. Chechen charismatic leader Ramzan Kadyrov says he is thinking of forming his own Muslim version of Wagner. I was a mercenary, or rather a "private military contractor" (euphemism of choice), and occasionally speak with members of the Wagner Group. While their atrocities are well known, the dangerous trend they represent is less understood. Privatizing war distorts warfare in ways four-star generals do not comprehend. But a clever strategist can exploit these distortions for victory. Below are three ancient stratagems to win against mercenaries drawn from history that could turn the tide of the war for Ukraine.

First Stratagem: When conflict is commoditized, then the logic of the marketplace and strategies of the souk apply to war. Nicolo Machiavelli wrote in The Prince that mercenaries are "faithless," and he ought to know. His Florence lost to smaller Pisa in 1506, when the latter bribed 10 of Florence's mercenary captains to defect in battle. Mercenary loyalty is for rent. In my conversations with Wagner mercenaries, no one is happy there. They are cannon fodder and know it, and we can exploit this. As the war has evolved, so has Wagner, splitting into two camps. The "old guard" was recruited before the invasion from professional military units across the former Soviet Union. They are not all Russian. The "new guard" were recently dumped out of prisons. Wagner Group is an uncomfortable mix of both.

The U.S. Is Not Yet Ready for the Era of ‘Great Power’ Conflict

Michael R. Gordon

Clint Hinote returned from a deployment in Baghdad in the spring of 2018 to a new assignment and a staggering realization.

A classified Pentagon wargame simulated a Chinese push to take control of the South China Sea. The Air Force officer, charged with plotting the service’s future, learned that China’s well-stocked missile force had rained down on the bases and ports the U.S. relied on in the region, turning American combat aircraft and munitions into smoldering ruins in a matter of days.

“My response was, ‘Holy crap. We are going to lose if we fight like this,’” he recalled.

The officer, now a lieutenant general, began posting yellow sticky notes on the walls of his closet-size office at the Pentagon, listing the problems to solve if the military was to have a chance of blunting a potential attack from China.

“I did not have an idea how to resolve them,” said Lt. Gen. Hinote. “I was struck how quickly China had advanced, and how our long-held doctrines about warfare were becoming obsolete.”

Mammoth shift

Five years ago, after decades fighting insurgencies in the Middle East and Central Asia, the U.S. started tackling a new era of great-power competition with China and Russia. It isn’t yet ready, and there are major obstacles in the way.

Why the Russian Army Isn’t Learning From Its Mistakes


It seems more and more that Russian military officers aren’t correcting the mistakes they made in the early phases of the war against Ukraine—and that they may be incapable of doing so.

The latest dramatic evidence of this comes in Andrew Kramer’s New York Times report of a tank battle outside the coal-mining town of Vuhledar in southeastern Ukraine. It was the largest tank battle in the war to date, a key vector in Russia’s renewed offensive to capture Donetsk province.

And yet, according to the Times account, the Russians “made the same mistake that cost Moscow hundreds of tanks earlier in the war.” They rolled out their tanks in a long, dense column—allowing Ukrainians, hiding and maneuvering behind trees or from a distance, to ambush the assault with mines, artillery fire, and antitank missiles. As one burning tank came to a halt, several others behind it became easy pickings.

In all, Russia was said to lose as many as 100 soldiers a day and more than 130 tanks and other armored vehicles. Even Russia’s military bloggers, who have emerged as a leading pro-war voice to the homefront, have condemned their army’s self-destructive tactics and their reliance on inexperienced conscripts. Ukraine no doubt lost some soldiers and tanks as well—Kyiv doesn’t release figures on their own casualties—but they emerged from the battle with momentum gained.