28 March 2023

Militarizing Re-entry of Space Objects – An Indian Perspective

Tejas Bharadwaj

Since the incident surrounding the Chinese balloon that was brought down by the U.S. over its airspace in February 2023 captured world attention, there have been reports claiming such balloons being spotted over Indian airspace in the past.

Indian media has reported that balloons were spotted over India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands in January 2022 when a tri-service military drill exercise was in progress. These were apparently similar to the ones that floated in U.S. airspace.

An official statement from the Indian government in this regard is awaited.

Meanwhile, it is paramount for India to evaluate threats arising from air or space from any adversary, considering that India is situated between two nuclear-armed neighbors with which it has unresolved border disputes, as any miscalculated act may lead to conflict, threatening the peace of the region.

At a time when countries and companies are seeking to develop strategic aerial technologies, this article analyses whether the re-entry of space objects can be militarized by states and how would they affect India’s obligations under international law.

China-India Choice Splits Maldives Presidential Politics

Shantanu Roy-Chaudhury

Maldives is expected to go to polls in September 2023. The vote will elect the parliament and the president, the head of government. In Maldives’ 2019 parliamentary election, the Maldivian Democratic Party (MDP) won 65 seats in the 87-seat parliament. Led by Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, this was the first time a single party was able to get such a high number of seats in the parliament in Maldivian history. Following the MDP, the Jumhooree Party has five seats; the Progressive Party of Maldives (PPM) has five seats; the People’s National Congress (PNC) has three seats; the Maldives Development Alliance has two seats; and the remaining seven seats are held by independents.

Domestic issues for the country that feature in electoral campaigning primarily revolve around development, corruption, the environment, and violent extremism. Nevertheless, despite these domestic concerns, the focus of the electoral campaigns appears to be on external factors such as India and China. In this regard, anti-India and anti-China campaigns have been dominating the polarized political discourse.

A rift in the ruling MDP appears to be widening between the party’s main leaders, former President Mohamed Nasheed and incumbent President Solih. Nasheed announced he would contest in the MDP’s presidential primary and officially launched his campaign in early December 2022. Solih had earlier confirmed at a press conference in June 2022 that he would seek re-election.

Beyond the First Battle: Winning the Long War Over Taiwan

Lonnie Henley
Source Link

Much has been written on whether war with China is likely and whether Beijing has a timeline for invading Taiwan. When it comes to what such a war would look like, however, the focus is almost exclusively on the early days or weeks of the conflict, defeating a Chinese attempt to land on Taiwan and countering Chinese threats to American forces. Virtually no one looks past those first weeks, at what happens after the United States repels the landing. The country is in severe danger of winning the first battle only to lose the war.

If Xi Jinping or a future Chinese leader goes to war over Taiwan, it will be in the full knowledge that he is risking both China’s future and the survival of the Chinese Communist Party regime. Win or lose, the conflict would devastate China’s economy, disrupting trade, destroying infrastructure, and opening decades of extreme hostility with the United States and its allies. Having argued to the Chinese people that the situation in Taiwan was critical enough to require such enormous sacrifice, accepting defeat would not be an option. If the amphibious landing failed, and Beijing could not find a political formula they could sell as victory despite the military failure, then they would be forced to continue the conflict by whatever means possible.

There is a risk that Beijing would escalate to a limited nuclear strike at this point, despite their avowed policy of never being the first to use nuclear weapons. If they refrain from nuclear use, then the most effective course of action remaining is a prolonged blockade of Taiwan to starve the island into submission. Unfortunately, the United States (and the people of Taiwan) has little ability to break such a blockade.

An Anxious Asia Arms for a War It Hopes to Prevent

Damien Cave

The tiny island of Tinian was the launch point for American planes carrying atomic bombs to Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Now a new runway is being carved from the jungle, just south of World War II ruins inked with mildew.

And on a blustery February morning a few hundred yards away at Tinian’s civilian airport, American airmen refueled Japanese fighter jets during a military exercise using more airstrips, islands and Japanese planes than the two enemies-turned-allies have ever mustered for drills in the North Pacific.

“We’re not concerned with the past, we are concerned with the future,” said Col. Inadome Satoru, commander of Japan’s Ninth Air Wing Flight Group. “We can ensure stability by showing strength.”

Asia and the Pacific are steering into an anxious, well-armed moment with echoes of old conflicts and immediate risks. Rattled by China’s military buildup and territorial threats — along with Russia’s war of aggression in Ukraine and doubts about U.S. resolve — nations across the region are bolstering defense budgets, joint training, weapons manufacturing and combat-ready infrastructure.

For decades, Asia’s rise made it an economic engine for the world, tying China and other regional manufacturing hubs to Europe and America. The focus was trade. Now, fear is setting in, with China and the United States locked in a volatile strategic contest and with diplomatic relations at their worst point in 50 years.

The Future of State-Sponsored AI Research in China

Shaoshan Liu

In previous articles, I discussed how the recent advancement of generative artificial intelligence (AI) technologies may impact the Chinese state and the Chinese society. In this article, I explore China’s approach to AI research, as well as its implications on the world order.

The recent AI achievement signified by GPT-4 is actually the result of over a decade of intensive fundamental AI research and tens of billions of dollars of investments sponsored by tech giants, such as Microsoft, Alphabet, and Facebook. The two main organizations driving the advancement of generative AI technologies are Alphabet’s DeepMind, which was founded in 2010, and OpenAI, which was founded in 2015 and backed by Microsoft. Both research organizations conducted AI research independently, without their sponsors rushing them toward monetization.

Although there had been many doubts from investors over the spending lavished on these labs without generating profits, persistence finally paid off. OpenAI released ChatGPT and Microsoft immediately integrated ChatGPT into their products. In a quick response, Google was able to release Bard, its own AI chatbot, to compete with Microsoft.

Although China’s tech giants – Baidu, Tencent, Alibaba – all have their own AI labs, they hadn’t been able to develop technologies comparable to ChatGPT. A main reason is that, instead of focusing on independent fundamental research, these Chinese tech giants’ AI labs were founded with the mission to improve the profits of their sponsors. Many AI researchers embed with different business units to provide consulting services for improving revenue and profit of that business unit. It was only after ChatGPT demonstrated its monetization capability that many Chinese tech companies, large or small, quickly jumped onboard to announce their plans for developing the Chinese version of ChatGPT. Another gold rush started.

Xi Jinping’s Chinese Tragedy

Although Xi Jinping finally ended China's disastrous zero-COVID policy late last year, he has continued to double down on his Leninist project of deepening autocracy at home and aggression abroad. More Sino-Western "decoupling" and the emergence of Cold War-style blocs is all but assured.

Orville Schell, the director of the Asia Society’s Center on US-China Relations and a long-time chronicler of China, has been closely watching the country’s development since the days of Mao Zedong. Here, he speaks with the Polish historian and former dissident Irena Grudzińska Gross about President Xi Jinping’s increasingly iron-fisted rule and China’s regression toward Maoist absolutism at home and nationalist aggression abroad.

Irena Grudzińska Gross: Every day seems to bring new developments that augur a downward spiral in US-China relations.

Orville Schell: Yes. And making matters even more fraught, Xi Jinping has just returned from a three-day official state visit to Moscow, where he met with President Vladimir Putin and other senior Russian officials. As Beijing’s top diplomat Wang Yi put it, China’s goal is “to strengthen our comprehensive strategic partnership” in ways that can “withstand all tests.”1

So, of course, the US and its democratic allies feel threatened, and not just by Russia and China’s bellicosity, but by the unholy alliance of autocrats – Iran, Syria, Belarus, and North Korea – they are assembling. It is hardly surprising that the US and its allies are now actively rallying to create a more effective and collective deterrent that makes Russia feel even more spurned and cast out, and China feel even more threatened by what it views as an unprovoked latter-day containment policy.

The Potential Inroads and Pitfalls of China’s Foray Into Middle East Diplomacy


China’s mediation of the Saudi-Iran normalization agreement signals a potential break from its long-standing policy of keeping to a minimal and economically oriented regional footprint. By successfully bringing two of the Middle East’s bitterest rivals to the negotiation table, China aims to build credibility as a capable partner in a region that has at times protested American security disengagement and bemoaned Washington’s strategic neglect.

Yet China’s ability to achieve its proclaimed objectives of peacefully resolving Middle Eastern conflicts and realizing regional stability will now be put to the test. The Saudi-Iranian agreement to normalize and uphold the principles of national sovereignty and noninterference will depend on the policies of regional actors themselves—Iran in particular. Although Saudi Arabia intervened in Bahrain in 2011 and has been militarily involved in Yemen since 2016, the Islamic Republic’s policy toward the Middle East—which is interventionist in nature, by both historical and ideological design—needs to be revised. This could be achieved by curtailing Iranian support for nonstate actors and withdrawing from aggressive campaigns in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, and the Gulf.

Beijing’s Lean Into Moscow


Fifteen years ago, as deputy assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia, I watched Beijing’s ambivalent response to Moscow’s dry run for its current war in Ukraine. When Moscow invaded Georgia in 2008 and detached two regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, it attempted to rally support from China and Central Asian members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. But then president Dmitri Medvedev had little success—not least because the precedent of hiving off parts of sovereign states risked, from Beijing’s perspective, undercutting its claim to be “sovereign” over Taiwan.

Fast forward to 2023. On Monday morning, Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Moscow at a different time and in a different world. Strategically, Beijing is preoccupied with the United States, which Xi has publicly alleged aims to “contain, surround and block, and suppress” (遏制, 围堵, 打压) China. In this context, Russia is not the only country that shares Beijing’s ambivalence about American foreign policy and Washington’s frequent use of economic levers, but it is the only sizeable one. On numerous issues, from data sovereignty to the use of unilateral sanctions, Beijing and Moscow are broadly in agreement and seek to alter elements of the international system. Therefore, despite Moscow’s brutal invasion of Ukraine and claimed “annexation” of four Ukrainian regions over the past year, Beijing has leaned into its partnership with Russia, which Xi, in a piece published Monday in Russian-language media, describes as anchored by a “vision of lasting friendship.”

So, despite a recent Chinese position paper that seeks to present Beijing as a prospective arbiter of peace in Ukraine, no one should expect Xi to impose conditions on President Vladimir Putin or Russia. Nor should anyone expect a substantive diplomatic initiative with new points beyond the positions that Beijing has offered to date. These positions are, broadly speaking, friendly to Moscow’s view, which is precisely why Putin unsurprisingly told Xi at a meeting on Monday in the Kremlin that he would be “happy to discuss” them.

Xi and Putin Have the Most Consequential Undeclared Alliance in the World It’s become more important than Washington’s official alliances today

Graham Allison

Chinese President Xi Jinping’s decision to visit Moscow this week in his first trip abroad since his reelection comes as no surprise to those who have been watching carefully. When one steps back and analyzes the relationship between China and Russia, the brute facts cannot be denied: Along every dimension—personal, economic, military, and diplomatic—the undeclared alliance that Xi has built with Russian President Vladimir Putin has become much more consequential than most of the United States’ official alliances today.

Many observers still find this alliance hard to believe. As former U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis put it in 2018, Moscow and Beijing have a “natural nonconvergence of interests.” Geography, history, culture, and economics—all the factors that students of international relations focus on—give both nations many reasons to be adversaries.

On today’s map, large swaths of what was in earlier centuries Chinese territory are now within Russia’s borders. This includes Moscow’s key naval base in the Pacific, Vladivostok—which on Chinese military maps is still labeled by its Chinese name, Haishenwai. The 2,500-mile border between the two nations has repeatedly seen violent clashes, most recently in 1969. On the Russian side, the land east of the Ural Mountains is full of natural resources but has a population of just 32 million people, while on the Chinese side, hundreds of millions of people live with few natural resources.

Disasters in Turkey

Burak Bekdil

[W]hen the earthquakes struck, the Kızılay [Turkish Red Crescent] had, through a little-known business arm, sold thousands of tents to a Turkish charity, and scored a profit of $2.5 million, instead of dispatching the tents immediately to the victims free of charge.

The Turkish Union of Pharmacies was one of the quickest to respond to the earthquake. The organization wanted to set up "tent pharmacies" in the earthquake zone to distribute the most urgently needed medicines for free. It needed tents. It had none. It appealed to Kızılay for help. Kızılay helped by selling them tents -- at $7,000 each.

Turkey is a poor country, where per capita income is barely $9,000. The earthquake zone is one of the country's poorest. It was not a surprise that the Erdoğan administration pledged to build new homes for the earthquake victims. Nice? Nice. A local chamber of architects found out that the cost to build each apartment would be $40,000. The government said each apartment would be sold for $80,000.

When the recent earthquakes struck Turkey, the Kızılay (Turkish Red Crescent) had, through a little-known business arm, sold thousands of tents to a Turkish charity, and scored a profit of $2.5 million, instead of dispatching the tents immediately to the victims free of charge. Pictured: A man cleans from mud a Kızılay tent in Adiyaman, southeastern Turkey on March 16, 2023. (Photo by Ilyas Akengin/AFP via Getty Images)
Compare the response of two countries, one Middle Eastern, the other European.

In Turkey, twin earthquakes on February 6 took more than 50,000 lives, even though there was warning about the impending earthquake.

In Greece, a train crash on March 1 killed more than 50 people.

Greece's Transport Minister Kostas Karamanlis, a former prime minister, immediately resigned, saying:

The Growing Power of the China-Iran Alliance Thanks to the Biden Administration

Majid Rafizadeh

The deal grants China significant rights over the Iran's resources and help to Iran in increasing its oil and gas production. Leaked information revealed that one of the terms is that China will be investing nearly $400 billion in Iran's oil, gas and petrochemicals industries. In return, China will get priority to bid on any new project in Iran that is linked to these sectors.

China will also be able to pay in any currency it chooses.

The Biden administration's failure to lead is effectively handing the US over to China, Russia and Iran on a platter, actively creating a new world order with China at the top and the US potentially wherever China wants.

Where is our commitment to a "Manhattan Project" to strengthen our defense? Why is the requested defense budget for 2024 only 3.2% higher than the 2023 budget? This means in real terms, factoring in the current inflation of 6%, that the current defense budget is a cut. Worse, it comes in below the budget increases planned for the Environmental Protection Agency (19%), Department of the Interior (12%), and Department of Veterans Affairs (5.4%). In 2022, US defense spending as a percentage of GDP was 3.1%, compared to the 8% of GDP it was in 1970.

Thanks to the monumental serial ineptitude of the Biden Administration, China's President Xi Jinping, backed by his troika of oil suppliers -- Russia, Saudi Arabia and Iran -- doubtless feels on the verge of fulfilling his fondest dream: Displacing the US as the world's leading superpower. The saddest part is that the reason is us: Why are we deliberately not protecting our Republic?

The System Is Blinking Red Over Iran

Jonathan Schachter

In his testimony to the 9/11 Commission, then-CIA Director George Tenet described the harrowing intelligence picture that had emerged in the summer of 2001. “The system was blinking red,” he famously recalled. What followed, of course, was the well-documented, multi-agency failure to prevent an avoidable disaster that changed the course of history.

The system is blinking red again, and the American response appears frighteningly familiar.

Earlier this month, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed that its inspectors in Iran had discovered uranium particles enriched to about 84 percent purity. Most reports have noted that this is just shy of the 90 percent level generally considered to be “weapons grade.” Others correctly point out that uranium enriched to around 80 percent fueled the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. Almost no one mentions that Iran has no civilian need to enrich uranium in the first place.

During the nearly four years leading up to the IAEA’s finding, Iran has engaged in increasingly grave violations of its international nuclear obligations, only some of which derive from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Iran still refuses to cooperate with at least three separate IAEA investigations of undeclared nuclear materials, activities, and sites, in violation of its commitments under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Remembering the Iraq War: Has Washington Really Learned the Lessons?

Christopher S. Chivvis

Twenty years ago, the United States invaded Iraq with faulty intelligence, inadequate planning, and the impossibly ambitious aim of constructing a new Iraqi nation to American specifications. The result was over a trillion dollars lost, thousands of U.S. service members killed and wounded, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead, a major setback in the war against al-Qaeda, irreparable damage to America’s global reputation, and tears in the fabric of American politics and society. These enduring legacies of the war have served as a cautionary tale for future military interventions in the region.

But has the United States fully internalized the lessons of the Iraq War? Two decades later it is clear that Washington still has crucial lessons to absorb. Here are five of the most important:

1. An imperfect strategy may be the best strategy. The United States pursued a frustratingly imperfect strategy in Iraq for a decade after the First Gulf War. This strategy, known as “containment,” called for coercive economic and military measures to contain Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. There were many problems with containment, not least that Saddam seemed to be making progress obtaining weapons of mass destruction and evading international inspections. He also represented a threat to his own population and the region as a whole. But, in hindsight, containment was a much better strategy than attempting to overthrow him militarily in the hope of fashioning a stable, democratic Iraq.

How to Out-Deter China

Joel Wuthnow

In January 1996, in the midst of a crisis brought about by a series of Chinese missile tests conducted in Taiwan’s waters, a Chinese general grimly alluded to a potential nuclear response to any U.S. intervention in defense of the island. “The American people,” he warned a U.S. official, “care more about Los Angeles than Taipei.” Such saber rattling, however, belied the fact that China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) knew it did not have the military strength to deter the United States from intervening in a war over Taiwan. At the time, the costs and risks of any kind of war with the world’s sole superpower prevented China from seriously considering provoking one in the first place.

But in the years since, China has worked to make a U.S. intervention less likely through an approach it calls “strategic deterrence,” which relies on, among other things, using nuclear signals to dissuade a potential adversary from entering the fray. China’s deterrence efforts are intensifying even as the Biden administration moves ahead with its own plans for the “integrated deterrence” of Chinese aggression, which involves threatening military and economic penalties in concert with a coalition of allies to convince China of the tremendous costs of war. These two competing models of deterrence are at odds with each other in ways that could destabilize the Taiwan Strait and the region at large. China, spurred by its perception of U.S. decline, emboldened by its rapidly expanding nuclear arsenal, and inspired by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s apparent success in using nuclear threats to limit U.S. support for Ukraine, could become overly confident and spark a conflict in the belief that Washington will stay out of the way.

Washington must avoid this kind of escalatory spiral by undermining Chinese optimism in its own capabilities; in other words, by out-deterring China. This requires delivering an unequivocal message to Beijing that any conflict between the two nuclear-armed powers could quickly become calamitous, far outweighing the potential benefits of an armed reunification with Taiwan. If deterrence fails—if China grows more convinced of its military superiority and underestimates the U.S. commitment to the island—both countries could end up embroiled in a war between great powers armed with nuclear weapons.

The Cold War With China Is Changing Everything

David Brooks

So I guess we’re in a new cold war. Leaders of both parties have become China hawks. There are rumblings of war over Taiwan. Xi Jinping vows to dominate the century.

I can’t help wondering: What will this cold war look like? Will this one transform American society the way the last one did?

The first thing I notice about this cold war is that the arms race and the economics race are fused. A chief focus of the conflict so far has been microchips, the little gizmos that not only make your car and phone work, but also guide missiles and are necessary to train artificial intelligence systems. Whoever dominates chip manufacturing dominates the market as well as the battlefield.

Second, the geopolitics are different. As Chris Miller notes in his book “Chip War,” the microchip sector is dominated by a few highly successful businesses. More than 90 percent of the most advanced chips are made by one company in Taiwan. One Dutch company makes all the lithography machines that are required to build cutting-edge chips. Two Santa Clara, Calif., companies monopolize the design of graphic processing units, critical for running A.I. applications in data centers.

These choke points represent an intolerable situation for China. If the West can block off China’s access to cutting-edge technology, then it can block off China. So China’s intention is to approach chip self-sufficiency. America’s intention is to become more chip self-sufficient than it is now and to create a global chip alliance that excludes China.

What Big Shifts in East Asian Geopolitics Mean for the World


Bremmer is a foreign affairs columnist and editor-at-large at TIME. He is the president of Eurasia Group, a political-risk consultancy, and GZERO Media, a company dedicated to providing intelligent and engaging coverage of international affairs. He teaches applied geopolitics at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs and his most recent book is The Power of Crisis

The past two weeks have featured a remarkable series of events that highlight big shifts in the geopolitics of East Asia. Each of them casts light on the opportunities and risks shaping that region and the world.

Xi in Moscow

Most of the news coverage has gone to Xi Jinping’s visit with Vladimir Putin in Moscow. Images of the Chinese and Russian presidents exchanging warm words, pledging to expand and deepen their commercial ties, and raising glasses together provided the embattled Putin with something he badly needs: the visible support of a powerful friend willing to embrace a man recently indicted by the International Criminal Court.

Beyond the show, Putin appears to have gotten little of substance from this meeting. We don’t know what the two men said privately, but Xi made no public call for ceasefire or issue threats to back Russia’s military if (when) a Chinese-sponsored compromise is not accepted by Kyiv and its NATO backers. The joint statement they agreed to made clear they were not establishing the “military-political alliance” that would quickly change the balance of power on the Ukrainian battlefield.

Terrorism Monitor

  • Brief: Peru Seeks to Close Door on Shining Path
  • Brief: South Korea Cracks Down on Cryptocurrency Transfers to Central Asian Jihadists
  • Will Iran’s Conventional Army Join the Drone Export Game in Ukraine and Beyond?
  • The Haqqani-Akhundzada Rift: Could Civil War Break Out in the Taliban’s Ranks?
  • The Deradicalization and Parole of Indonesia’s Umar Patek - the Bombmaker of Bali

Strategic Lessons from the Russia-Ukraine Conflict

Marc J. Berkowitz


The 1991 Persian Gulf conflict was called the first “space war” because of the extent to which space systems influenced its course and outcome. Now the Russia-Ukraine conflict is being called the first “commercial space war” as well as the first “social media war” for similar reasons. Indeed, Ukraine has effectively leveraged both commercial space capabilities and social media services to help defend itself against Russia’s unlawful aggression.

Every war is a combat laboratory that provides an opportunity to learn lessons about the consequences of the threat or use of armed force in international relations. What lessons can be learned (or relearned) from the latest interstate conflict in Europe that can be applied to help deter or prevail in future wars? While the ongoing war’s outcome is currently uncertain, there are evident takeaways. This article examines both general and space-related strategic lessons from the Russia-Ukraine conflict.


Nearly all the fundamental strategic lessons from the conflict have been learned (or observed) before. Perhaps the most important, as philosopher George Santayana stated, is that “those who fail to learn from the past are condemned to repeat it.”[1] This is, of course, not the first time the world has had to deal with the reality that the use of violence as a political instrument is an enduring characteristic of international relations. As political scientist Hans Morgenthau asserted, “international politics, like all politics, is a struggle for power.”[2]

How to Make Sure Peace Endures Once the Fighting Ends

The need for peacebuilding in post-conflict societies grew out of the realization that signing agreements to bring fighting to an end is a necessary but insufficient step toward true and enduring peace. Peacebuilding is now conceived of as a multistage process to strengthen the peace accord and begin unifying communities through approaches ranging from governmental capacity-building and economic development to reforms of the legal and security sectors. Each initiative is intended to be a step toward improving human security, and the process often includes a transitional justice mechanism to foster societal healing and reconciliation.

Peacebuilding is often a laborious and expensive process—and one that can easily be undone. Witness Brexit’s triggering of the long-dormant fault lines between unionists and nationalists in Northern Ireland. Moreover, as peacebuilding has evolved, there is still no consensus on who should lead these efforts. In the wake of Sept. 11, the United Nations introduced a Peacebuilding Commission, intended to push for the adoption of post-conflict interventions and then aid and track their implementation. But it lacks enforcement capacity, and key member states can block its activities. Regional bodies, including the European Union and especially the African Union, have shown an interest in prioritizing post-conflict peacebuilding, but their track records are mixed.

Let the Banks Burn


ATHENS – The banking crisis this time is different. In fact, it is worse than in 2007-08. Back then, we could blame banks’ sequential collapse on wholesale fraud, widespread predatory lending, collusion between ratings agencies, and shady bankers peddling suspect derivatives – all enabled by the then-recent dismantling of the regulatory regime by Wall Street-bred politicians, like US Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin. Today’s bank failures cannot be blamed on any of this.

Yes, Silicon Valley Bank had been foolish enough to assume extreme interest-rate risk while serving mostly uninsured depositors. Yes, Credit Suisse had a sordid history with criminals, fraudsters, and corrupt politicians. But, unlike in 2008, no whistleblowers were silenced, banks complied (more or less) with the post-2008 beefed-up regulations, and their assets were relatively solid. Moreover, none of the regulators in the United States and Europe could credibly claim – as they did in 2008 – to have been blindsided.

In fact, regulators and central banks knew everything. They enjoyed full access to the banks’ business models. They could see vividly that these models would not survive the combination of significant increases in long-term interest rates and a sudden withdrawal of deposits. Even so, they did nothing.

Did officials fail to foresee herd-like panic-stricken flight by large, and thus uninsured, depositors? Perhaps. But the real reason central banks did nothing when confronted by banks’ fragile business models is even more disturbing: It was central banks’ response to the 2008 financial crash that had given birth to those business models – and policymakers knew it.

The Other Conflict on Europe’s Doorstep


COPENHAGEN – All eyes are rightly fixated on Russia’s war in Ukraine. But that is no excuse for ignoring another crisis that is brewing on Europe’s doorstep. Tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan are rising again, raising the prospect of another war.

Last week, I visited the Lachin corridor, the only road linking the ethnic Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia and the outside world. Since December, access to the corridor has been blocked by Azerbaijanis under the pretext of an environmental protest. This is clearly happening with the backing of the regime in Baku.

With the “protesters” blocking all civilian or commercial traffic into Nagorno-Karabakh, Amnesty International warns that some 120,000 ethnic Armenian residents are being deprived of essential goods and services, including life-saving medicines and health care.

Under the ceasefire agreement that ended the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War between Azerbaijan and Armenia, Azerbaijan pledged to ensure free movement along the road in both directions. Recognizing that Azerbaijan is violating its commitment by refusing to lift the blockade, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) issued an order on February 22 demanding that Azerbaijan take all steps necessary to do so. But a month has passed, and nothing has changed.

Although Russian peacekeeping forces stationed along the corridor are supposed to protect the route, they have failed to act. Unless Europe and the wider international community pressure Azerbaijan to lift the blockade, the current humanitarian crisis could become a humanitarian catastrophe.

The Country Where Economic Freedom Has Grown The Most Over The Last Two Decades

Dr. Rainer Zitelmann

Vietnam continues to gain economic freedom, as confirmed by the latest edition of the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom ranking.

The Index ranks a total of 176 countries based on how economically free or unfree they are. The comprehensive rating is based on twelve categories of freedoms. The Index divides countries into five groups, the best of which is “free” (and includes Singapore, Switzerland, Ireland, and Taiwan); the worst is “repressed” (with countries like Venezuela, Cuba, and North Korea).

Vietnam’s economic freedom score is 61.8, making its economy the 72nd freest in the 2023 Index. Its score is 1.2 points better than last year. Vietnam ranks 14th out of 39 countries in the Asia–Pacific region, and its overall score is above the world and regional averages.

What is most important, however, is not just the most recent score, but the change in the ranking over time: no country of comparable size in the whole world has gained as much economic freedom as Vietnam since 1995. Back in 1995, when the Index was first compiled, Vietnam scored a meager 41.7 points. In the intervening years, Vietnam has gained 20 points. By comparison, China had 52 points in 1995 and has gone on to lose almost four points since then. With a score of 48.3 points, China is now only 154th out of 176, a full 82 places behind Vietnam.

The US only just scrapes into the second-best of the five categories (“mostly free”, rank 25). There are now 16 countries in Europe alone that are economically freer than the US. If the United States were to lose just one more point in next year’s ranking, it would find itself in the “moderately free” category. The US has progressively dropped down the rankings in recent years.

Inside Ukraine’s scramble for “game-changer” drone fleet

Max Hunder

KYIV, March 24 (Reuters) - At an unassuming industrial estate in northern Ukraine, two former Microsoft executives and a team of engineers are producing military drones that can travel over long distances and carry large payloads.

AeroDrone, which made crop-dusting drones prior to the war and now supplies Ukraine’s armed forces, makes unmanned aircraft that can carry up to 300 kilograms or fly up to several thousand kilometres in certain configurations.

As Ukraine seeks to narrow the yawning gap between its own military capabilities and Russia's, Kyiv says it is expanding its drone programme for both reconnaissance and attacking enemy targets over an increasing range. It is hoping that domestic drone makers like AeroDrone will help it meet its ambitious goals.

The government is now working with more than 80 Ukraine-based drone manufacturers, Ukraine's Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov told Reuters. He said Kyiv needs hundreds of thousands of drones, many of which it is looking to source from a rapidly-expanding domestic industry. Currently, the military operates dozens of models of domestic and foreign drones that fulfil a “wide spectrum” of roles, Reznikov said, in written responses to questions.

"Drones are potentially a game-changer on the battlefield in the same way that precise Western MLRS became last year," Reznikov said, referring to Multiple Launch Rocket System weapons.

Skilled Migrants Aren’t Interested in Germany

Paul Hockenos

Germany faces a fundamental migration dilemma. Refugees from poor and war-torn countries flock to it as a haven while skilled professionals from outside of the European Union—workers the German economy sorely needs—tend to shun it. Germany’s efforts to make itself more appealing run up against deep-seated cultural affinities, which explains why a new Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development report lists it as only the 15th most attractive country for foreign workers—just behind Portugal, Denmark, and Ireland and way behind front-runners New Zealand, Sweden, and Switzerland.

“Germany is child-friendly!” according to Make It in Germany, a portal funded by Germany’s ministry for migration and refugees, the purpose of which is to attract foreign nationals to Germany. Think tanks forecast that the German labor market could be short as many as 7 million workers by 2035. “We need labor and skilled worker immigration from third countries,” Vanessa Ahuja of the German Federal Employment Agency told German media, referring to non-EU countries. Her office’s goal: 400,000 new professionals a year.

It should be clear, however, that this offer isn’t meant for the often impoverished, usually undereducated refugees fleeing countries like Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq. These nationalities constituted most of the nearly 250,000 asylum applicants last year. That’s almost 28 percent more than 2021 (though just a third of those filed during the migration crisis year of 2016.) The newspaper Bild reflects the ire of many ordinary Germans: “They are often without proper education, without a job. But they have the right to welfare support, housing, clothing.” In 2022, every third day saw an attack on the accommodations of refugees.

The Global War Over AI Already Started


An actual human being wrote this column, not one of the artificial intelligence-based bots like ChatGPT or Bard, which have recently dominated headlines and public consciousness. While these chat-based AIs have largely served so far as amusement, AI's role in everyday life is set to increase exponentially—and a global war over AI's national security applications is already underway.

China, in particular, has been swift to react to these American-developed tools' rapid deployment—San Francisco-developed ChatGPT, for example, became the fastest-growing consumer app in history, blazing past 100 million users two months after launching. Beijing rapidly clamped down on access to ChatGPT and used state media to release pointed videos about "how the US uses AI to spread disinformation."

In parallel, a whole host of Chinese companies have stepped up their own conversational AI tools. The "Chinese Google," Baidu, said it would unveil its Ernie Bot in March after completing internal testing. Alibaba, China's e-commerce leader, is also testing its own ChatGPT-style tool, while a plethora of smaller players are rushing to market their own solutions.

As this international AI competition heats up and positive applications for the technology abound, experts are also paying increasing attention to its potential nefarious uses. As the CEO of cyber defense company Check Point Software Gil Shwed underlined, generative AI makes writing malware very easy: "You can go to a tool like ChatGPT, ask it to develop a back-office application that collects information and then write a phishing email from that info that looks perfect. You can do all of that without knowing how to program or having the best English to write those emails." Within two months of its launch, ChatGPT has already been used in several cyberattacks.

How to Describe the Future? Large-Language Models and the Future of Military Decision Making

Bryce Johnston

The innovation of the smokeless rifle may not be as flashy as that of the aircraft and armored vehicles, but describing its impacts on the future of war required more than four-hundred pages of technical analysis in Jean de Bloch’s The Future of War.[1] The difficulty in forecasting the effects of new weapon systems stems from the fact that technology is not additive. A smokeless rifle not only increases visibility on the battlefield, but it also opens new possibilities for tactics and strategy. With smokeless rifles, soldiers could fire upon their enemies without giving away their exact location while large formations could no longer hide under a cloud of smoke as they sent volleys across the battlefield. These changes required armies to reorganize their units to become nimbler and more maneuverable leading to deadlier clashes between opposing forces. States had to contend with deadlier conflicts by increasing their investments in new technologies while taking political stances that would maintain the will of the people in the face of high casualties.

Leaders across the world are seeing the early effects of another transformational technology: widely available large-language models.

The example of the smokeless rifle shows that relatively unexciting technologies can have transformational effects on warfare and society. Today, leaders across the world are seeing the early effects of another transformational technology: widely available large-language models. Viewed as the first step in true artificial general intelligence, large-language models incorporate massive amounts of data from books and articles into training sets that allow them to recognize patterns between words and images. These models appear to be able to answer many questions by generating coherent responses in seconds and can perform menial tasks like summarizing articles or cleaning unstructured data. Across the internet, early adopters have demonstrated novel uses for OpenAI’s chatbot, ChatGPT, that range from editing code to writing essays for college courses.[2] These models are well regarded in the private sector, but they have not received much attention in military circles largely because they do not appear to have direct applications for combat. Large-language models will likely have a larger impact on the battlefield than autonomous drones due to their ability to automate the many aspects of staff work that prevent military leaders from focusing on tactics and strategy.
Large-language models will likely have a larger impact on the battlefield than autonomous drones due to their ability to automate the many aspects of staff work that prevent military leaders from focusing on tactics and strategy.

A New Battlefield: The Need for Regulations To Govern Near Space

Rebecca Connolly

International space agreements do not define “outer space”
for the purpose of space activities – and that’s a problem.

The recent take down by the US military of a Chinese weather “spy” balloon over its national airspace has cast a spotlight on the need for regulation of the “Near Space” zone. This zone refers to the region between 20–100 kilometres above Earth’s surface, sitting above the altitude flown by most aircraft, but below the orbit of satellites. This transitional expanse between airspace and outer space has been relatively unutilised – until now.

With technological advancements, the Near Space zone has significant civilian and military potential for communications, navigation, sensing, meteorological monitoring, intelligence collection and surveillance initiatives. The official newspaper of the People's Liberation Army described Near Space as “a new battlefield in modern warfare and an important part of the national security system”.

Recent Near Space research programs in China and the United States have concentrated on both high-dynamic craft (hypersonic and sub-orbital vehicles) and low-dynamic craft (stratospheric aircraft, high-altitude balloons and unmanned aerial vehicles). Recent events indicate that China has rapidly pulled ahead, having set up a research centre under the Chinese Academy of Sciences to develop tech capabilities in high-altitude balloons and stratospheric airspace vehicles. Reports of progress on Chinese airspace vehicle prototypes have been published in the Chinese media, including details of a blimp-like craft (with a flying altitude of 20–24 kilometres, a six-month flight duration and a capacity to carry 100–300 kilograms) and two small stratospheric vehicles. In 2017, the Beijing “Lighter Than Air Vehicle Center” launched two drones from a high-altitude balloon. In 2018, China again launched a high-altitude “airship” balloon named “Cloud Chaser” under the research led by a prominent Chinese scientist Wu Zhe. Then in 2020, a Chinese high-altitude balloon reportedly circumnavigated the globe.

Ukraine's Army Is Now the Best in the World, Retired General Says


The Ukrainian army is currently the best in the world amid their ongoing war with Russia, Mick Ryan, a retired major general in the Australian army, said this week.

While speaking with the Kyiv Post on Thursday, Ryan talked about the different aspects of Ukraine's armed forces and how they've used a number of capabilities, like missile defenses, drone defenses and frontline combat troops, in their war against Russia.

"And my view is that the Ukrainians are probably the best army in the world at the moment," Ryan said. "And it's not probably, they are. They are the best army in the world. They're the most experienced at the modern warfare, they've demonstrated that over the last 13 months.

"Now they've shed a lot of blood and lost a lot of young men and women and older men and women, to be honest, to learn the many lessons they've learned, but they are the best army in the world. There is much that we can all learn from them."

The comments by Ryan come amid the ongoing war that began when Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the "special military operation" in Ukraine on February 24, 2022.

Ryan told the Kyiv Post that there are several "elements" to the Ukrainian army.

A Threshold Alliance: The China-Pakistan Military Relationship

Sameer P. Lalwani

Geopolitical shifts in South Asia over the past decade, driven by sharper US-China competition, a precipitous decline in China-India relations, and the 2021 withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, have pushed the Chinese and Pakistani militaries closer together. The countries’ armies and navies are increasingly sharing equipment, engaging in more sophisticated joint exercises, and interacting more closely through staff and officer exchanges. Yet, as this report concludes, a full China-Pakistan alliance is not inevitable, as Chinese missteps and other sources of friction could slow its consummation.

SummaryDespite China’s eschewal of formal alliances, the China-Pakistan military partnership has deepened significantly over the past decade, approaching a threshold alliance. The trajectory toward a military alliance is not, however, inevitable.

China is Pakistan’s most important defense partner since the end of the Cold War. Beijing has become the leading supplier of Pakistan’s conventional weapons and strategic platforms and the dominant supplier of Pakistan’s higher-end offensive strike capabilities.

China’s military diplomacy with Pakistan quantitatively and qualitatively rivals its military partnership with Russia. China and Pakistan have accelerated the tempo of joint military exercises, which are growing in complexity and interoperability. Increasingly compatible arms supply chains and networked communications systems could allow the countries to aggregate their defense capabilities.

Ukraine’s M-1A1 Tanks Have A Special Power: The Ability To Pinpoint Targets 8,000 Meters Away

David Axe

To speed up deliveries of new tanks to Ukraine, the United States has opted to send secondhand M-1A1s instead of newer M-1A2s that would take longer to produce.

The M-1A1s presumably are ex-U.S. Marine Corps tanks that the Corps retired starting in 2019. While lacking the sophisticated commander’s sights that are the main feature of the M-1A2, the USMC M-1A1 Firepower Enhancement Package was the first American tank with a piece of equipment the Ukrainian army might find really useful: a Far Target Locator.

With the press of a button, an M-1A1 FEP’s FTL calculates the GPS coordinates of a target as far away as 8,000 meters. The tank’s four-person crew can relay—via voice radio or a digital network—these same coordinates to an artillery battery, which then can lob guided or unguided shells at the target. All in the span of a few minutes.

In that way, the tank functions as a forward-observer—spotting targets too far away for the tank itself to hit, but close enough for an artillery fire mission.

A Far Target Locator combines a compass, gyros and a processor that takes input from the platform’s GPS and laser rangefinder.