17 March 2023

With Pakistan’s economy in freefall, Chinese economic and military influence is likely to grow in the country

Uzair Younus

The bilateral relationship between China and Pakistan dates back decades, and it has been characterized as a deep-rooted friendship critical to the long-term strategic interests of both countries. On Pakistan’s side, maintaining a strong relationship with China is at the heart of its foreign policy, most recently evidenced by the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) and ever-deepening military ties, as signified by the co-development of the JF-17 multirole combat aircraft.

The ongoing convergence of the economic, security, and political crises in Pakistan is having an impact on this strategic relationship. While the near-term impact of these crises has led to a slowdown in the execution of CPEC, the economic crisis in particular makes it likely for Pakistan to become even more reliant on Chinese support. This essay explores the potential impact of the ongoing crises on the China-Pakistan relationship and its implications for US-Pakistan bilateral relations, especially in the context of the growing strategic competition between the United States and China.

Increased dependency is the likely medium- and long-term outcome

In the midst of yet another economic crisis, Pakistan is currently facing significant upheaval in the political, economic, and security domains. Amplified by near-historic polarization among ruling elites, the rapidly deteriorating situation has significant implications on near- and long-term Chinese influence in the country.

How Will China Respond to Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen’s Visit to the United States?

David Sacks

Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen will reportedly meet with U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California rather than in Taipei next month, attempting to avoid a Chinese response similar to the one that followed then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s August 2022 visit, when China conducted large military exercises and missile tests and imposed a host of economic sanctions on Taiwanese entities.

This is a wise decision, one that will allow McCarthy to demonstrate high-level, bipartisan support for Taiwan without closing the door on a future visit to Taipei. Although China will surely voice its displeasure and punish Taiwan in some fashion, its reaction will likely be more muted than the one that followed Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan.

President Tsai will “transit” the United States on her way to and from some of Taiwan’s few remaining diplomatic partners, a practice that began in 1994 when the United States allowed Taiwan’s president Lee Teng-hui to stop in Hawaii on his way to Nicaragua. Tsai has transited the United States multiple times during her presidency, most recently in 2019 when she stopped in New York and Denver. According to reports, Tsai will give a speech at the Reagan Library during her trip. While a public speech would draw Beijing’s ire, Tsai also spoke at Columbia University during the 2019 transit and provided public remarks during other stops in the United States.

The changing face of Chinese governance

Ryan Manuel, Bilby

Chinese President Xi Jinping had only just launched his third term in power when questions about his leadership began to circulate at home and abroad. China’s complete turnaround on its zero-COVID policy was so rapid and extraordinary that it caught almost everyone by surprise.

But China’s course correction was signalled well before policy shifted in December 2022. In February 2022 responsibility for controlling COVID-19 was devolved to local governments, which made China’s shift from ‘dynamic clearing’ or zero-COVID possible. Before the 20th Party Congress, the Yangtze River Delta was slated as the centrepiece of China’s COVID-19 recovery. After the Party Congress, local governments began to loosen restrictions a week before official central word. But the national scale of the reversal was more surprising than the implication that some areas could follow different policies.

Following the zero-COVID turnaround, there was central silence until February, when Xi’s role was portrayed as visionary and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) united behind the new policy direction. That was more than three months after the decisions were taken, and they were then announced by the health authorities rather than by Xi himself.

A similar transfer of political credit had earlier trapped China into its COVID-19 problem. Xi did not take over COVID-19 policy until August 2020, when he was confident enough to declare that China had dealt with the pandemic. He then took all credit for the success of the national lockdown. China’s response to COVID-19, Xi claimed, ‘show[ed] the superiority of the Chinese system’.

China now seen as influencing politics more than ever, on a global scale

Mark Gollom

The uproar over possible Chinese interference in recent Canadian elections is a reminder of what researchers and intelligence agencies have warned regarding Beijing's attempts to politically influence other nations.

The allegations of direct meddling and of money flowing from Beijing operatives into the hands of some Canadian federal candidates is indicative of China's ramped up strategy in recent years to attempt to interfere in the political processes of countries, some observers say.

In a 2017 report, Anne-Marie Brady, a professor of political science at the University of Canterbury and specialist of Chinese politics, wrote that China's foreign influence activities have accelerated under Chinese President Xi Jinping and have the potential to undermine the sovereignty and integrity of the political system of targeted states.

In terms of foreign interference by China, "we're not used to seeing this on such a global scale," she said in a telephone interview with CBC News. "We haven't seen anything like this from any country for a very long time."

Indeed, this is the first time since Mao's era that China is assertively trying to meddle in the internal politics and societies of countries on nearly every continent, according to Joshua Kurlantzick, senior fellow for Southeast Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations.

After years of isolation, Xi’s China looks to dominate world stage

Amy Hawkins

In Xi Jinping’s closing speech at China’s annual parliamentary meeting on Monday, his message was clear: China is back. Speaking to nearly 3,000 delegates in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Xi, newly anointed as president for a precedent-busting third term, said: “After a century of struggle, our national humiliation has been erased … the Chinese nation’s great revival is on an irreversible path.”

The speech comes as Xi is trying to position himself as a global statesman, leading a China that is ready to dominate the world stage. After three years of isolation caused by the zero-Covid policy, Chinese diplomats and Xi himself are jetting across borders to participate in international summits once again.

On Friday, Iran and Saudi Arabia announced a Chinese-brokered deal to restore diplomatic relations, seven years after the relationship was severed. In a joint statement, the Saudi and Iranian governments thanked China for sponsoring and hosting the talks. Chinese diplomats have been working the Middle East circuit for several weeks and Xi is expected to visit Iran soon.

On Saturday, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson said: “China pursues no selfish interest whatsoever in the Middle East … China always believes that the future of the Middle East should always be in the hands of the countries in the region.”

How to avoid war over Taiwan

Europe is witnessing its bloodiest cross-border war since 1945, but Asia risks something even worse: conflict between America and China over Taiwan. Tensions are high, as American forces pivot to a new doctrine known as “distributed lethality” designed to blunt Chinese missile attacks. Last week dozens of Chinese jets breached Taiwan’s “air defence identification zone”. This week China’s foreign minister condemned what he called America’s strategy of “all-round containment and suppression, a zero-sum game of life and death”.

As America rearms in Asia and tries to galvanise its allies, two questions loom. Is it willing to risk a direct war with another nuclear power to defend Taiwan, something it has not been prepared to do for Ukraine? And by competing with China militarily in Asia, could it provoke the very war it is trying to prevent?

No one can be sure how an invasion of Taiwan might start. China could use “grey-zone” tactics that are coercive, but not quite acts of war, to blockade the self-governing island and sap its economy and morale. Or it could launch pre-emptive missile strikes on American bases in Guam and Japan, clearing the way for an amphibious assault. Since Taiwan could resist an attack on its own only for days or weeks, any conflict could escalate quickly into a superpower confrontation.

Opinion China is pushing America’s Asian allies together

Josh Rogin

South Korea and Japan have been estranged neighbors for decades, but now they’re moving to establish a new partnership — and not because the United States told them to. Both countries are rethinking their security posture because they realize the need to counter China’s increasingly aggressive regional expansion. America’s Asian allies are speaking clearly about the rising danger in the Pacific, and the United States should listen.

This week’s historic warming of ties between Seoul and Tokyo was almost completely overlooked in Washington, where pundits and politicians alike have chosen to focus on the latest kerfuffle with Beijing. China’s new foreign minister warned of “conflict and confrontation” unless Washington backs off of its competitive strategy. President Xi Jinping blamed China’s economic woes on the United States and its policy of “containment, encirclement and suppression.”

It’s fashionable these days in Washington to assign primary blame to the United States for the downturn in U.S.-China relations. Some claim America’s hawkish stance is the result of politicized groupthink in Washington. The Chinese government exploits this navel-gazing by claiming that Washington is the only reason that China’s international standing is at an all-time low. Chinese propaganda outlets even blamed the new South Korea-Japan thaw on the United States, accusing South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol of “serving as a pawn of the U.S.”

Biden must follow Roosevelt’s ‘arsenal of democracy’ example

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine did not catch the West’s intelligence agencies unaware. But no one in Washington or Europe anticipated the scale at which they would need to provide Kyiv with arms and munitions. That’s an increasing challenge for NATO and other countries rightly determined to prevent a Russian victory, and the dire consequences for the United States and its allies that would follow. It needs to be addressed swiftly.

In a ground war that in some ways has come to resemble World War I — with thousands of artillery rounds fired daily against deeply dug-in armies — Ukrainian forces are now at risk of running low on key munitions. They are firing shells faster than supplier nations are producing them. There are other historic echoes. Just as President Franklin D. Roosevelt called on Americans to rally behind the country’s European allies as the “arsenal of democracy” in 1940, a year before Pearl Harbor, President Biden will be tested and judged by his own success in making a similar case for this country to step up by applying its military and industrial might.

The most pressing need in Ukraine is the supply of 155mm howitzer shells, which in recent months have become the main munition holding Russia at bay. The United States has supplied more than 1 million to Ukraine since the war’s outset, according to the Pentagon. Ukrainian artillery units have been firing them at a rate of roughly 3,000 daily — perhaps one-third the number of rounds screaming back at them from the Russian side. The math is unforgiving. Not only is Ukraine’s inventory dwindling, but the U.S. prewar production of the shells, fewer than 15,000 per month, is scarcely enough to sustain Ukraine for five days.

DHS has a program gathering domestic intelligence — and virtually no one knows about it


For years, the Department of Homeland Security has run a virtually unknown program gathering domestic intelligence, one of many revelations in a wide-ranging tranche of internal documents reviewed by POLITICO.

Those documents also reveal that a significant number of employees in DHS’s intelligence office have raised concerns that the work they are doing could be illegal.

Under the domestic-intelligence program, officials are allowed to seek interviews with just about anyone in the United States. That includes people held in immigrant detention centers, local jails, and federal prison. DHS’s intelligence professionals have to say they’re conducting intelligence interviews, and they have to tell the people they seek to interview that their participation is voluntary. But the fact that they’re allowed to go directly to incarcerated people — circumventing their lawyers — raises important civil liberties concerns, according to legal experts.

That specific element of the program, which has been in place for years, was paused last year because of internal concerns. DHS’s Office of Intelligence and Analysis, which runs the program, uses it to gather information about threats to the U.S., including transnational drug trafficking and organized crime. But the fact that this low-profile office is collecting intelligence by questioning people in the U.S. is virtually unknown.

Republicans say China is America’s biggest threat, Democrats say Russia

Conn Carroll

Asked by Gallup to name the nation’s greatest enemy, 50% of Americans volunteered China as their top choice, including 76% of Republicans. Democrats chose Russia as the greatest enemy of the United States. North Korea finished a distant third for respondents from both parties.

This will be the third year in a row that most Americans chose China as America’s greatest enemy. In the history of the poll, only Iran has held the top spot longer, and even then, just 32% chose Iran as the top threat.

China’s “association with the origin of COVID” appears to be driving the Republican and independent belief that China is the nation’s biggest threat. As recently as 2018, just 11% of all adults thought China was America's greatest enemy. That percentage had already doubled to 22% by 2020 before soaring to 50% this year. Just last week, the Department of Energy joined the FBI in naming a Chinese lab leak as the most likely origin of COVID-19.

Only North Korea has ever topped 50% in this Gallup poll, reaching 51% in 2018 before President Donald Trump temporarily defused tensions with the Hermit Kingdom.

Gallup has only been asking the question since 2000. Most likely, Russia would have been the top response at any time between World War II's end and the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Traditionally, it was the Republicans who were most likely to identify Russia as America’s greatest enemy, but that all changed after Hillary Clinton baselessly blamed Russian interference for her 2016 loss to Trump.

As recently as 2018, a majority of Democrats (67%) believed the false claim that "Russia tampered with vote tallies in order to get Donald Trump elected." There is no evidence Russia tampered with any votes.

The Asia-Pacific Is More Important to the US Than the Euro-Atlantic

Francis P. Sempa

The great Dutch American geopolitical strategist Nicholas Spykman wrote in “The Geography of the Peace” that “The United States must recognize once again, and permanently, that the power constellation in Europe and Asia is of everlasting concern to her, both in time of war and in time of peace.” Spykman wrote this in the midst of World War II, when the United States was simultaneously at war with great powers in Europe and Asia.

But in truth, American statesmen and strategists have long recognized that U.S. security depends on the balance of power in Europe and Asia, which is worth remembering today as the United States faces off with Russia in Eastern Europe and China in the Asia-Pacific. But U.S. power and resources are not limitless, and the challenges posed by China and Russia today are not of similar geopolitical importance. U.S. policymakers need to make choices based on strategic assessments of relative threats – and the greater threat is in the Asia-Pacific.

The Founding Fathers understood the importance of the balance of power, because they knew that the United States only achieved independence from Great Britain with the help of France and, to a lesser extent, Spain, who both aided the U.S. cause not because of friendship or goodwill but to weaken their European rival. During the Napoleonic Wars, American elder statesman Thomas Jefferson expressed the geopolitical concern that if “all Europe,” including Great Britain, fell to Napoleon Bonaparte, “he might spare such a force to be sent in British ships as I would as leave not have to encounter.” And Congressman John Randolph, in a speech opposing the U.S. declaration of war against Britain in 1812, warned that if Napoleon conquered both Russia and England, France would be “the uncontrolled lords of the oceans” and in a position to gravely threaten U.S. security.

Incrementalism Is Throttling U.S. Support for Ukraine

Nadia Schadlow

The U.S. announcement in January that it would send 31 M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine has upped the ante with Moscow without achieving tangible operational effects. It will take at least a year before the tanks are delivered, with one U.S. official explaining to the Washington Post that they are “probably not for the near fight.” This will give Moscow time to adapt and plan, degrading the operational benefits of the tanks to Ukraine. Moreover, in a year, the war could be over or look very different.

This decision illustrates the persistent problem of incrementalism, which has characterized the U.S. and allied effort toward Ukraine—with ad hoc, one-off decisions and lagging implementation undermining the strategic effects of this assistance.

A successful military campaign is guided by an overall strategy and by what the U.S. military calls “mission analysis.” Leaders define the desired end state, analyze the opponent and other operational factors, and develop a plan that specifies the forces, weapons systems, materiel, and logistics needed to succeed. Adjustments are made—war is unpredictable—but mission analysis offers a way to provide an answer to the question of what it takes to achieve the end state.

What the United States has done in Ukraine departs from that template. Since Russia’s invasion in February 2022, U.S. President Joe Biden has used his presidential drawdown authority—which purportedly allows for the faster delivery of defense equipment and services from the U.S. Defense Department to foreign countries in the event of emergencies—30 times. The fact that the administration has used this authority so many times suggests that the United States could do better in thinking through—up front—the equipment required to achieve its objectives. It also suggests that the administration has no clear and articulable strategic objective.

Disinformation Wars: China, Russia Cooperating On Propaganda More Than Ever, Says Report

Reid Standish

After a year of war in Ukraine, China and Russia have grown closer together in the information space, often parroting each other's talking points across state-owned media as part of a wider strategy to undermine the West, a new report finds.

The yearlong study by the German Marshall Fund's Alliance for Securing Democracy found that messaging by Chinese officials and media evolved following Moscow's February 2022 invasion to provide greater "rhetorical cover for the Kremlin" despite Beijing's official stance as a neutral party in the conflict.

"There has definitely been a pro-Russian convergence, and China has been repeating pro-Russian talking points since the beginning of the war while also downplaying Russian war crimes and giving prominence to Russian voices," Etienne Soula, a research analyst with the Alliance for Securing Democracy and one of the report's authors, told RFE/RL.

Given that growing overlap, the report, issued on February 24, notes that "China's ability to use its own global influence network to undermine the West" gives it a uniquely powerful role to play moving forward in shaping attitudes among nonaligned countries in the Global South.

What was Silicon Valley Bank? How SVB, the startup tech sector’s favorite bank, collapsed.

Khaya Himmelman and Matthew Zeitlin

Silicon Valley Bank, or SVB, collapsed on Friday, sending shock waves through the tech industry, which often turned to SVB for startup lending.

It’s the largest bank collapse since 2008, though its downfall was a classic scenario: SVB was suddenly upside down on its books, investors caught wind, and a run on the bank followed. It didn’t have enough cash to pay its account holders.

Regulators stepped in within hours, putting the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. in charge of SVB’s assets. Account holders will be able to access insured money on Monday through a new entity. For those who had more than $250,000 in the bank, the maximum FDIC will insure, they may have to wait for SVB to be liquidated to recoup their money, and potentially not all of it. According to its last annual report, the bank had $173 billion in deposits, of which $155 billion were not insured by the FDIC.
What was the SVB?

SVB was an unusual bank in its focus on startups in the tech sector. According to its website, it banked around half of all U.S. venture-backed startups. The bank would work hand in glove with technology companies and venture capital firms, frequently lending companies money after they had raised capital from venture capital firms. This mean working with companies that larger, more conservative banks may have been reluctant to do business with because they didn’t have the assets or cash flow necessary to underwrite a traditional corporate loan. Silicon Valley Bank would work with startups instead based on their ability to raise venture capital.

Ukraine short of skilled troops and munitions as losses, pessimism grow

Isabelle Khurshudyan, Paul Sonne and Karen DeYoung

DNIPROPETROVSK REGION, Ukraine — The quality of Ukraine’s military force, once considered a substantial advantage over Russia, has been degraded by a year of casualties that have taken many of the most experienced fighters off the battlefield, leading some Ukrainian officials to question Kyiv’s readiness to mount a much-anticipated spring offensive.

U.S. and European officials have estimated that as many as 120,000 Ukrainian soldiers have been killed or wounded since the start of Russia’s invasion early last year, compared with about 200,000 on the Russian side, which has a much larger military and roughly triple the population from which to draw conscripts. Ukraine keeps its running casualty numbers secret, even from its staunchest Western supporters.

Statistics aside, an influx of inexperienced draftees, brought in to plug the losses, has changed the profile of the Ukrainian force, which is also suffering from basic shortages of ammunition, including artillery shells and mortar bombs, according to military personnel in the field.

“The most valuable thing in war is combat experience,” said a battalion commander in the 46th Air Assault Brigade, who is being identified only by his call sign, Kupol, in keeping with Ukrainian military protocol. “A soldier who has survived six months of combat and a soldier who came from a firing range are two different soldiers. It’s heaven and earth.”

The West Is Losing the Messaging War Over Ukraine

Mihir Sharma

Here in New Delhi, policy makers are beginning to worry. India’s long-awaited presidency of the G-20 grouping is turning out to be even more difficult than they anticipated.

Indian leaders hope the G-20 can effectively replace the various other atrophied organs of multilateralism. But two major summits in recent weeks ended without a joint communique, with countries so sharply divided over the war in Ukraine that they could not even sign up to a common statement on other pressing issues.

This is a clear step backwards from the Bali G-20 summit last year, where leaders managed to agree on a paragraph about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Similar language seems to have been unacceptable to Russian and Chinese representatives this time around. Their unwillingness to cede any ground on paper appears to have grown over the months that the Russian military has ceded actual ground in Ukraine.

They are responding, also, to a changed atmosphere among “neutral” nations in Asia and Africa. New Delhi’s Raisina Dialogue is one of the rare platforms that foregrounds the emerging world’s approach to global problems. (Full disclosure: The event is co-hosted by the Observer Research Foundation, where I work.) There, last week, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov addressed the crowd shortly after US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.

A clip of Lavrov being laughed at as he claimed that “war was launched against us” went viral; everyone knows who invaded whom. But Lavrov was applauded as well when he deftly painted the West as warmongers. A lacklustre Blinken, repeating familiar talking points, received a much more subdued response.


Murtaza Hussain

FOR NEARLY A decade in the 1980s, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and the newly founded Islamic Republic of Iran waged a merciless war against each other. The fighting saw the return of World War I-style human-wave offensives, trench warfare, and chemical weapons attacks.

Though it dragged on for years, the Iran-Iraq war benefited neither side. In the end, the conflict claimed the lives of over a million people, since, despite the carnage and wishes of ordinary people on both sides to end it, no diplomatic solution proved possible over eight years of fighting.

There is good reason to worry that this ugly history is repeating itself today in Eastern Europe.

Like the Iran-Iraq war, the war in Ukraine was triggered by an expansionist dictator hoping to make quick work of a neighbor whom he had wrongly predicted would prove incapable of defending itself. Now, over a year into the fighting, the conflict, which has already claimed hundreds of thousands of casualties by some estimates, has ground to a bloody stalemate that has transformed once-anonymous Ukrainian towns like Bakhmut and Marinka into killing fields.

A peace treaty that puts a stop to this chaos is attractive for many obvious reasons, and foreign powers like China and India have recently indicated that they would like to encourage one. Yet observers say that all signs point to the war dragging on for years to come, with both sides — like Iranians and Iraqis in the past — committed to the belief that victory is within their grasp and that pressing the war forward is worthwhile.

Who blew up Nord Stream?


Nearly six months on from the subsea gas pipeline explosions, which sent geopolitical shockwaves around the world in September, there is still no conclusive answer to the question of who blew up Nord Stream.

Some were quick to place the blame squarely at Russia’s door — citing its record of hybrid warfare and a possible motive of intimidation, in the midst of a bitter economic war with Europe over gas supply.

But half a year has passed without any firm evidence for this — or any other explanation — being produced by the ongoing investigations of authorities in three European countries.

Since the day of the attack, four states — Russia, the U.S., Ukraine and the U.K. — have been publicly blamed for the explosions, with varying degrees of evidence.

Still, some things are known for sure.

Russia’s energy conflict with Europe is turning attritional

Sergey Vakulenko

Russia’s war against Ukraine has many fronts, not least energy. And as with the Kremlin’s plans for a swift victory in Ukraine, both sides in the energy conflict have seen their dreams of rapid triumph collapse amid grinding and attritional trench warfare.

The Kremlin was certain its gas could not be replaced, and that without it, Europe would face a winter with industrial shutdowns. Moscow believed that the ensuing social and political instability would force the EU to abandon its support for Ukraine.

The gas war did cost Europe hundreds of billions of euros in increased gas bills. Some European industries, such as fertiliser manufacturing, struggled and shut down, but the combination of a mild winter and suppressed Chinese demand restored the balance on the global gas market, while the European economy proved highly adaptable.

On the other side, there was a belief that Russia was heavily dependent on western technologies to keep its oil and gas flowing, western markets for its revenues and western financial systems to facilitate its energy exports. It was hoped that, if cut off from these, Russia would face rapid economic collapse that would limit its ability to wage war.

Following the invasion, amid boycotts by western buyers and Moscow’s attempts to keep supply chains alive and payments going through, Russian oil production decreased by 10 per cent between February and April, but later recovered. Now, a year after the war began, Russian oil production is at prewar levels.

The CIA Says It's Already Fighting Russia's Wagner Mercenaries Abroad

Ben Makuch

CIA Director Bill Burns said that the agency is doing everything in its power to counter the Wagner Group—a key Kremlin ally and private military contractor with thousands of soldiers fighting everywhere from regional conflicts in Africa to Ukraine—today during a public hearing for the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

“Our assessment is that the Wagner Group is a vicious, aggressive organization which has posed a threat not just to the people of Ukraine,” said Burns in response to questions from various senators. He pointed out that the mercenary group, whose chief is Yevgeniy Prigozhin (who first came to prominence in Russia as a catering oligarch from St. Petersburg), is currently in charge of most of the fighting in the besieged Ukrainian city of Bakhmut. “But I've also seen it, in my own travels in West Africa and the Sahel, where I think the deeply destabilizing impact of Wagner can be seen in a lot of very fragile societies right now.”

As a means of exporting Russian influence abroad, President Vladimir Putin has dispatched the Wagner Group to West Africa and the Sahels as a sort of Kremlin shadow army fighting with national governments in a series of intractable conflicts. The mercenary group has also been involved in suspicious mining and natural resource extractions, with some of its fighters accused of rape and torture, while they appear openly at the side of national leaders and militia commanders alike.

Do you have any tips on the Wagner Group? We’d love to hear from you. Contact Ben Makuch on email at ben.makuch@vice.com or on the Wire app @benmakuch.

War in space: U.S. officials debating rules for a conflict in orbit

Christian Davenport

Ukraine’s use of commercial satellites to help repel the Russian invasion has bolstered the U.S. Space Force’s interest in exploiting the capabilities of the private sector to develop new technologies for fighting a war in space.

But the possible reliance on private companies, and the revolution in technology that has made satellites smaller and more powerful, is forcing the Defense Department to wrestle with difficult questions about what to do if those privately owned satellites are targeted by an adversary.

White House and Pentagon officials have been trying to determine what the policy should be since a top Russian official said in October that Russia could target the growing fleet of commercial satellites if they are used to help Ukraine.

Konstantin Vorontsov, deputy director of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s department for nonproliferation and arms, called the growth of privately operated satellites “an extremely dangerous trend that goes beyond the harmless use of outer-space technologies and has become apparent during the latest developments in Ukraine.”

He warned that “quasi-civilian infrastructure may become a legitimate target for retaliation.”

“Big Tech” Is a Big Deal in the Strategic Competition with China

Klon Kitchen

Last week, I testified before the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee on the state of the US technology and innovation sector and what that portends for the nation’s strategic competition with China. This week, Senator Amy Klobuchar will hold a hearing to, once again, discuss “reining in dominant digital platforms.” These events are connected and any legislative action targeting the American technology industry should understand and account for these connections.

“Big Tech” Has a Big Role in National Security

Technology has always been a key variable in geostrategic change. From the sailboat and gun powder to modern communications and information technology, these and other innovations revolutionized their respective eras and changed the fortunes of nations. So it is today.

Three trends have special prominence in driving the rise in technology companies that are re-shaping the contours of the emerging global order.

Global interests and influence. In 2023, global technology spending is expected to total $4.6 trillion, an increase of over 5 percent from 2022. Another report predicts that by the end of this year, digitally transformed industries will account for more than 50 percent of world-wide GDP. Put simply: the world’s largest technology companies are amassing a level of wealth and transnational influence that was previously only enjoyed by states. But these companies are more than just players in the game of global politics, they are often the arena itself.

A Full Spectrum of Conflict Design: How Doctrine Should Embrace Irregular Warfare

Robert S. Burrell

China’s gray zone conflict. Russian hybrid warfare. These terms have emerged to describe belligerent activities that standard US military operations struggle to address. Although these adversarial approaches remain central to today’s security environment, they are absent from the current joint doctrinal framework. Even the new joint doctrine note on strategic competition (JDN 1-22) fails to address hybrid warfare at all and there is only one mention of the gray zone. In fact, these two methods of conflict should remain front and center. Since the inception of joint doctrine, the United States has generally envisioned conflict in a linear fashion where peace and full-scale war occupy opposite sides of a continuum, with varying degrees of each in between. Doctrine’s evolution has made little change in this concept of a conflict continuum over time.

The 2022 US National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy made progress in detailing a more comprehensive approach to conflict. But much more can be done to incorporate both deterrence and competition, as well as irregular warfare, into operational design. As Eric Robinson detailed in an Irregular Warfare Initiative essay in 2020, there are four foundational ways of responding to belligerents: traditional warfare, deterrence, irregular warfare, and competition. If planners adopted this framework, they would have a full spectrum of conflict design that would help them to integrate ends, ways, and means into a coherent campaign plan. And they would also be better able to understand the activities of the United States’ most important competitors.

Understanding Conflict—From One Dimension to Two

The Army keeps getting smaller

Todd South

The Army’s end strength continues to decrease under its most recent budget request.

The service unveiled its part of President Joe Biden’s overall defense budget request to Congress today.

The Army is asking to fund an Army with 452,000 active duty soldiers, 325,000 soldiers in the Army National Guard and 174,000 soldiers in the Army Reserve.

That’s a drop of 21,000 soldiers from the active rosters as compared to last year’s initial request for 473,000 active troops.

And last year’s figure was already the smallest active Army since before World War II, Army Times previously reported.

Last year both the Guard and Reserve were left untouched. This year, the Guard’s numbers remain the same as the previous request but would cut 11,500 soldiers from the number of Guardsmen in uniform this time last year, which was 336,500.

The reserve suffers its own cuts from 178,000 reservists in Army green down to 174,000 under this current request.

The war in Ukraine has shown the value of tanks, but militaries are now looking to stock up on slimmed-down versions of them

Russia's renewed attack on Ukraine is the first major war between modern militaries in decades, and many countries are analyzing every aspect of the conflict for insights with which to better train and equip their own forces.

One of the biggest lessons has been that despite high losses, tanks remain a vital part of modern warfare, with Russia planning to ramp up its production of them and Ukraine scrambling to secure Western-made tanks for its troops.

Western efforts to get tanks and other armored vehicles to Ukraine have cast new attention to the utility of light tanks, which largely fell out of favor after World War II.

Though not as powerful or as heavily armored as main battle tanks, light tanks are increasingly seen as filling a capability gap between full-fledged tanks and infantry fighting vehicles.

Even before Russian troops crossed into Ukraine last year, several countries were investing in light tanks to bolster their armored forces on future battlefields.


Rebecca Segal

“You need to be prepared to operate in an environment where your radio communications will be denied, where using your cell phone will get you killed, and where your GPS, if it is working at all, may be providing inaccurate information.” I’ve heard this kind of guidance for training since my first field exercises, through ROTC, in 2014. At that point, it seemed to me to be largely a justification for the frequent map-and-compass-based land navigation and drilling on encrypted radio operations. More recently, I have seen people use it to describe multidomain operations (MDO), the Army’s new operating concept. It’s significant that this set of environmental characteristics both represents a fundamental basis of the Army’s overall operating concept and describes the challenges faced by units at the lowest levels—providing a connective tissue, in a sense, between the big picture and small-unit activities. But that translation of operating concept to tactics remains underexplored. How do multidomain operations translate to the brigade combat team level and below, where the focus is entirely on the tactical fight?

The Army’s recently released Field Manual (FM) 3-0, Operations describes an operating environment in which we are under constant contact in all domains, the adversary is collecting data to use as ammunition, and there is no sanctuary. Even being out of a direct- or indirect-fire weapons range does not mean safety from space and cyber threats. We can no longer return to a forward operating base and reasonably assume we will not be in contact: there is no fully secured area anymore. Furthermore, with the adversary’s investment in their capabilities, we can no longer assume we have domain superiority when we are in contact.


Alex Hollings

According to a recent series of war games carried out by a Washington DC-based think-tank, preventing the success of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan could all come down to a single American missile system and its effective use against China’s invasion fleet.

A 165-page report released by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), titled The First Battle of the Next War: Wargaming a Chinese Invasion of Taiwan outlined the outcomes of 24 wargame scenarios in which China launches a full-scale invasion in 2026. Leveraging the full breadth of unclassified information about each country’s respective military capabilities, stockpiles, and doctrine, the project team played each scenario through the end of the heaviest fighting, and the results were largely positive for those in the West… though positive is a subjective term.

While the United States was able to successfully help defend Taiwan in nearly all instances, every victory came at an incredible cost — including massive warships like aircraft carriers and dozens, if not hundreds, of tactical aircraft.

Of all the platforms and weapon systems employed in these war games, two similar and specific types of missile stood out as particularly essential to defending Taiwan: the AGM-158B Joint Air to Surface Standoff Missile-Extended Range (JASSM-ER) and its ship-hunting sibling, the AGM-158C Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM).

What the Neocons Got Wrong

Max Boot

Shortly after September 11, 2001, I became known as a “neoconservative.” The term was a bit puzzling, because I wasn’t new to conservatism; I had been on the right ever since I could remember. But the “neocon” label came to be used after 9/11 to denote a particular strain of conservatism that placed human rights and democracy promotion at the forefront of U.S. foreign policy. This was a very different mindset from the realpolitik approach of such Republicans as President Dwight Eisenhower, President Richard Nixon, and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, and it had a natural appeal to someone like me whose family had come to the United States in search of freedom. (We arrived from the Soviet Union in 1976, when I was six years old.) Having lived in a communist dictatorship, I supported the United States spreading freedom abroad. That, in turn, led me to become a strong supporter of military action in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Traditional conservatives, such as U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, wanted to teach the Taliban and Saddam Hussein a lesson and then depart each country as quickly as possible. The neoconservative position—which eventually triumphed in the George W. Bush administration—was that the United States could not simply topple the old regimes and leave chaos in their wake. The Americans had to stay and work with local allies to build democratic showcases that could inspire liberal change in the Middle East. In this way, Washington could finally lance the boil of militant Islamism, which had afflicted America ever since the Iran hostage crisis in 1979.

Regime change obviously did not work out as intended. The occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq were, in fact, fiascos that exacted a high price in both blood and treasure, for both the United States and—even more, of course—the countries it invaded. As the saying goes, when the facts change, I change my mind. Although I remain a supporter of democracy and human rights, after seeing how democracy promotion has worked out in practice, I no longer believe it belongs at the center of U.S. foreign policy. In retrospect, I was wildly overoptimistic about the prospects of exporting democracy by force, underestimating both the difficulties and the costs of such a massive undertaking. I am a neocon no more, at least as that term has been understood since 9/11.

US gearing up for gray zone space wars


US defense planners are mulling response options to an adversary attack on privately-owned, military-oriented satellites amid rising concerns of gray zone warfare in space.

This month, The Washington Post reported that the US is developing policy responses to a possible Russian or other adversary state attack on the Starlink satellite constellation.

Starlink, operated by Elon Musk’s SpaceX company, has given Ukraine a decisive edge in the ongoing conflict, providing battlefield communications, artillery fire direction and supporting drone operations.

However, the report mentions that those responses are still being formulated, as several US agencies work to develop a policy framework to set reaction parameters if a satellite owned by a US commercial company comes under attack.

“First, commercial companies are thinking very clearly and carefully about, can we be involved? Should we be involved? What are the implications of being involved? … And on our side, it’s exactly the same thing. Should we depend on commercial services? Where can we depend on commercial services?” said General David Thompson, US Space Force Vice Chief of Operations.

U.S. intensifying 'every leg of nuclear triad' to ensure deterrence: Gen. Cotton

Byun Duk-kun

WASHINGTON, March 9 (Yonhap) -- The United States is enhancing every component of its nuclear capabilities to deter any potential aggression from North Korea, Gen. Anthony Cotton, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, said Thursday.

The Air Force general noted the threat posed by North Korea continues to grow but so does U.S. deterrent capabilities.

"North Korea continues to be a rogue actor and poses a threat to the United States and our allies," Gen. Cotton said in a hearing before the Senate Committee on Armed Services.

"North Korea conducted an unprecedented number of missile launches in 2022 and its new intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), referred to as KN-28, highlight that the security challenge continues to grow," he added.

North Korea fired 69 ballistic missiles last year, nearly three-times more than its previous annual record of 25. The country has also conducted nine ICBM tests in less than a year with its latest ICBM launch taking place last month.