31 March 2023

Countering United Front Work: Taiwan’s Political Warfare System

Mariah Thornton

The Challenges of United Front Work

The evolution and escalation of China’s overseas influence in recent years has captured the attention of foreign policy elites across the world. In October 2022, news broke of the discovery of three secret police stations run by the Chinese government in London and Glasgow. It was revealed these stations were being used to repatriate overseas Chinese, monitor those classified by the Communist Party of China (CPC) as political dissidents, as well as counteract social movements in the UK deemed ‘anti-China’.[1] A report by the Spanish civil rights group Safeguard Defenders confirmed the existence of such stations in at least 21 countries across five continents since 2018.[2] A few months prior in January 2022, MI5 had issued an unprecedented alert detailing Chinese United Front Work Department official Christine Lee’s targeted donations of £420,000 to UK parliamentarians of strategic interest to Beijing, including Sir Ed Davey and Barry Gardiner.[3]

The “Indo-Pacificization” of Asia: Implications for the Regional Order

Justin Au-Yeung

The Indo-Pacific is a vast geographical region that encompasses the Indian Ocean and the western and central Pacific Oceans, including the many seas in Southeast Asia and Oceania. In a geopolitical context, the term only started to appear in the lexicon of geopolitics in the late 2010s. The late Japanese Prime Minister Abe Shinzo first referred to the confluence of the Indian and Pacific Oceans in mid-2007, and the official use of “Indo-Pacific” first appeared in Australia’s 2013 Defense White Paper. Since then, the U.S., India, EU, and ASEAN have all published their respective visions and strategies for the Indo-Pacific. What drove the emergence of this vast super-region in the geopolitical discourse?

Mental Maps, the Far East, and the Asia-Pacific

Regions are social constructs that serve political agendas. Fundamentally, they are mental maps that revolve around power, shape identity, agenda setting, and sense of belonging as a stakeholder in a shared space. Regional identities form the basis for which a state perceives itself vis-à-vis others. A logical consequence of the dynamic nature of political agendas is that regional constructs are also dynamic, and subject to reflect the given state of international relations.

The contemporary Indo-Pacific construct is a relatively recent phenomenon. Previously, the term “Far East” was widely used. The term has mostly fallen out of popular use, due to its certain connotations with eurocentrism, colonialism, and cultural exoticism. The term was also initially used by Imperial Japan, but it later opted for “East Asia” in an attempt to create an alternative region order in the form of the Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere.

Chinese communist way of war: Different than the West

Guermantes Lailari

I disagree with the article written by Major Rick Chersicla, "Stop Talking About a 'Chinese Way of War'" in The Diplomat on 14 March 2023. This article commits the mirror-imaging error, which in trying to understand the adversary, is one of the biggest mistakes any military planner, strategist, policy and decision-maker can make. I will identify errors in his arguments and highlight why the Chinese Communist strategy is different from the Western model.
Similar and different strategic thinkers

A cursory review and comparison of US military doctrine with Chinese Communist military doctrine reveals that US military doctrine refers almost exclusively to Western military strategists. Sun Tzu receives a token footnote. In contrast, the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) strategy fuses Western and Eastern military, political and economic thought.

For example, the Science of Military Strategy (2013) cites 28 sources: twenty of these sources are not mentioned in US military doctrine, such as Lenin, Marx, Mao, Deng Xiaoping, Jiang Zemin, Chinese strategists, and PLA authors. Eight Western sources were translated into Mandarin, and include Clausewitz, Jomini, Liddell-Hart, Sokolovsky, and the US Military Academy’s Military Strategy.

This initial comparison of Chinese and American doctrinal instruction materials should not calm concerns. I have attended all levels of US professional military education (PME) and these PME schools did not teach adversary strategy to any level of competency. Underlying the Chinese approach to adversary strategy is Sun Tzu’s often quoted guidance in The Art of War 3:18: “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat.”

Biden Admin Targets ‘Misuse’ of Spyware with New Executive Order

Alexandra Kelley,

The Biden administration announced major federal action against commercial spyware technologies with a new executive order prohibiting the U.S. government from using commercial spyware products which threaten national security and human rights.

Commercial spyware refers to surveillance software that can be sold and installed discreetly, often without the knowledge of an end user. After installation, the software can extract and augment sensitive data within a device.

As the health of national security shifts to a digital frontier, President Joe Biden’s new executive order will work to prevent government agencies and personnel from being the targets of malicious spyware by restricting its usage. Officials on a press call confirmed at least 50 U.S. personnel overseas were targeted by commercial spyware, spurring further federal action to reduce U.S. data exposure.

“This executive order will serve as a concrete demonstration of US leadership and commitment to countering the misuse of commercial spyware and other surveillance technology,” a senior administration official said during a press call on Monday. “The executive order…prohibits departments and agencies across the federal government, from operationally using commercial spyware tools that pose significant counterintelligence or security risks to the U.S. government, or significant risks of improper use by a foreign government or foreign person, including to target Americans or enable human rights abuses, and it encompasses spyware tools that are furnished by foreign or domestic commercial entities.”

America’s Zero-Sum Economics Doesn’t Add Up

Adam Posen

Beginning with the Trump administration, and accelerating under the Biden administration, U.S. trade and industrial policy has prioritized relocating manufacturing production back to the United States. For all their differences, both administrations disregarded other countries in this pursuit. Both also attacked international trade and investment as harmful to U.S. economic and national security, even though the rules for that very system were established by the United States and serve its interests. Along with members of Congress from both parties, the Biden administration has sought to take away production from others in a zero-sum way—explicitly from China and a bit more courteously from others.

This policy approach, while having considerable popular appeal at home, is based on four profound analytic fallacies: that self-dealing is smart; that self-sufficiency is attainable; that more subsidies are better; and that local production is what matters. Each of these assumptions is contradicted by more than two centuries of well-researched history of foreign economic policies and their effects. Neither the real but exaggerated threat from China nor the seeming differences of today’s technology from past innovations change underlying realities.

Industrial policy—government subsidies and protections to promote domestic capacity in a favorite sector—is nothing new in U.S. or global economic history, and it can be useful. The Biden administration’s renewed push for public investment in infrastructure, research, and innovation is welcome, if oversold in its direct employment benefits. Targeted export and investment controls on China, Russia, and other military rivals on a limited number of well-defined high-tech goods could also be sustainable and worth the economic cost. But the protection and promotion of U.S.-located manufacturing against foreign competition is not only unnecessary for industrial policy’s success—it will defeat the worthy purpose of it.

America Shrugs, and the World Makes Plans

Walter Russell Mead

War in Europe, tensions rising in the Indo-Pacific, Russia and China deepening ties with Iran: The international political situation continues to darken. Yet there are strong positive signs as well. In Europe, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s commitment to Ukraine remains steadfast as Kyiv looks toward a spring offensive. American allies continue to rally in Asia. Japan and South Korea are repairing frayed ties. India and Australia committed to negotiating a comprehensive economic agreement even as Sydney, Washington and London agreed on the next steps in the Aukus defense partnership. Alienated by ham-handed Chinese diplomacy, the Philippine government is offering new base facilities to the U.S.

The threats to global stability and the US homeland are growing. How will the war in Ukraine end? Can China and the US develop a less combative relationship? Join historian and Journal columnist Walter Russell Mead and editorial page editor Paul Gigot for an interactive conversation on the threats to US security.See more...

Hiroyuki Akita, one of Japan’s most respected foreign-affairs commentators, offered a framework for making sense of these developments when he stopped by my Hudson Institute office on a recent visit to Washington. As Mr. Akita sees it, America’s unquestioned supremacy after the Cold War established a global economic and security system that worked very well for key American allies like Germany and Japan. For these countries, their preferred foreign policy, which he calls Plan A, would be to carry on as usual, free-riding on American power and basking in the resulting peace and prosperity.

The failure of US unconventional wars

Charles McKelvey

For the last decade, the US has unleashed a new type of warfare, involving a hybrid methodology with economic, political, military, cultural, and ideological dimensions. Economic sanctions, support for proxy military forces, and ideological distortions are its calling cards. It is utilized against nations that refuse to subordinate their interests to those of the US.

The unconventional war is possibly the last stage of US imperialism. The unconventional war cannot reverse decades of US economic decline, rooted in insufficient attention to the productivity of its national economy. It therefore cannot attain its goal of sustaining US hegemony in the neocolonial world-system, itself in a sustained structural crisis that unconventional wars aggravate.

In addition, the unconventional war has a boomerang effect. It increases unity among anti-imperialist states, deepening their interest in constructing alternatives to US hegemony. And it deepens resolve within targeted nations. Today targeted nations like China, Russia, Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua continue on their sovereign road, applying creative measures to adapt to new imperialist strategies, deepening their relations with one another, and finding the support of other nations that have a long-term interest in structural alternatives to the neocolonial world-system.

Russia’s Military Failures in Ukraine: Causes and Consequences

Aleksandr Golts

One of the main questions about the year-long Russian invasion of Ukraine is why Russia’s armed forces have been so unsuccessful from a military point of view. The military command was unable to concentrate its armed forces in the most important areas, to ensure the joint operation of different branches of its forces, to organize proper reconnaissance and air defence, to provide an effective intensity of aviation and artillery strikes or to conduct war using the accomplishments of the revolution in military affairs. The expert community has suggested a wide range of explanations for these failures from the peculiarities of Russian military equipment to comprehensive corruption. The author argues below that the main reason for Russia’s military failures in the war against Ukraine is that militarism has become the system of state administration in Russia. In such a system, exclusively military considerations are considered when making the most important decisions, while the economic and social spheres are ignored. Paradoxically, the power hierarchy built in Russia according to the military model distorts even the military information on which the Kremlin bases erroneous decisions such as the plan for the invasion of Ukraine. As a result, the armed forces were given goals that, following the "Serdyukov" reform, they were unable to achieve.
Military Adventurism

The war against Ukraine is still ongoing and its outcome is unknown, but it is already clear that none of the immediate goals set for the Russian troops on 24 February 2022 were reached. “Denazification” and “demilitarization”, which President of Russia Vladimir Putin identified as the objectives of the operation, masked the ultimate demand that Kyiv abandon its attempts to integrate into the Euro-Atlantic community and protect its sovereignty through defence preparations. In fact, Moscow was seeking regime change in Ukraine but it is now obvious that, having won several significant military victories, Kyiv is not going to capitulate. While repelling the invasion, Ukraine has been more deeply integrated into the NATO military system, through massive arms supplies and the training of personnel, than some of its official members. Russia was unable to establish military control over the full extent of its neighbour’s territory, or even most of it. In the eyes of other authoritarian states, Russia has lost its reputation as a great power able to resolve any conflict with military might.

Who’s Winning the AI Race? It’s Not That Simple.

Rishi Iyengar

The United States is no stranger to technological arms races, having spent much of the Cold War in a two-pronged one-upmanship effort against the Soviet Union to build bigger rockets and land those on the moon. Its rivalry now is with China, and the latest battleground is artificial intelligence.

China has long sought to dominate the AI landscape, laying out a plan to become a “global leader” in the sector by 2030 and pledging billions of state dollars for research and development. U.S. breakthroughs have been more organic, illustrated most recently by the rapid global uptake of chatbots made by American companies, such as Google, Microsoft, and OpenAI, with Chinese counterparts largely playing catch-up. Experts caution, however, that applying the “arms race” framework to the development of AI doesn’t capture the global dynamics around the technology.

One fundamental distinction is the private sector’s role at the forefront of developing new AI capabilities: There were no private-built rockets in the 1960s. During the Cold War, key technological advances in the nuclear and space sectors were “characterized by a high barrier to entry and a near-monopoly by the state,” said Ryan Nabil, director of technology policy at the advocacy group National Taxpayers Union, whose research focuses on AI governance. “AI is characterized by lower barriers to entry, democratized access, and the preponderance of the private sector in driving innovation.”

After Meeting in Moscow, Will Xi and Putin Combine “IT Armies” and ICT-driven Hybrid Warfare Efforts Against the West?


“…the ICT-driven hybrid warfare landscape – at this point – has been digitally carpet bombed by both the Chinese and Russians – burning and smoldering.”

This week, the Washington Post reports that China’s Xi Jinping and Russia’s Vladamir Putin ended their three-day meeting in Moscow as signatories of “two agreements, one affirming their partnership and one setting out plans for economic cooperation, which they discussed at a joint news conference,” including (as the WSJ reported) “ten documents on economic cooperation stretching until 2030.”

What is more interesting is what Xi and Putin did not discuss at that news conference, which is the potential for the interplay and fusion of their information technology-driven hybrid warfare efforts directed at the West.

Historically, both countries both their current autocratic leaders and the legions in their official “IT Armies” and non-state actors resident within their sovereign boundaries (given free rein by the state) are masters of the dark arts of kompromat, information warfare, and narrative warfare – increasingly in the digital domain. NATO Review defines hybrid warfare as “an interplay or fusion of conventional as well as unconventional instruments of power and tools of subversion.” Invariably, novel information threat vectors are found at the intersection of this “interplay and fusion” that is the hallmark of hybrid warfare. At this point, the complexity and uncertainty that we all feel at the hands of multiple global, parallel crises – including the war in Europe – are fundamentally driven by these unintended consequences of unimaginable use cases of information and communications technology (ICT) to nefarious and destabilizing ends.

No Ukraine offensive without more weapons – Zelensky

James Landale

President Volodymyr Zelensky has said Ukraine's counter-offensive against Russia cannot start until Western allies send more military support.

He told a Japanese newspaper he would not send his troops to the front lines without more tanks, artillery and Himars rocket launchers.

In an interview with Yomiuri Shimbun, he said the situation in eastern Ukraine was "not good".

"We are waiting for ammunition to arrive from our partners," he said.

And when asked about the expected counter-offensive, he said: "We can't start yet, we can't send our brave soldiers to the front line without tanks, artillery and long-range rockets."

He added: "If you have the political will, you can find a way to help us. We are at war and can't wait."

There has been talk for some weeks of Ukraine launching a spring offensive against Russian forces. Ukrainian commanders have hinted it might be imminent. Oleksandr Syrskyi, commander of Ukraine's ground forces, said this week it might come "very soon".

Yoav Gallant sounded the warning on Israel judicial reform danger

Defense Minister Yoav Gallant is to be commended for his announcement on Saturday night in which he courageously spoke out in favor of a suspending the judicial overhaul process for several weeks to pave the way for a dialogue between the government and those opposing its judicial changes.

After delaying his televised address by two days (he had originally scheduled it for Thursday evening) per the request of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Gallant became the most senior official in the Likud to call for a time-out.

“The growing rift in our society is penetrating the IDF and security agencies,” he declared with authority. “This poses a clear, immediate and tangible threat to the security of the state. I will not offer my helping hand to this.”

“The growing rift in our society is penetrating the IDF and security agencies. This poses a clear, immediate and tangible threat to the security of the state. I will not offer my helping hand to this.”Yoav Gallant

Gallant, a former head of IDF Southern Command, noted that he had presented his views to various parties behind closed doors in recent days and weeks.

The Limits of Economic Warfare

Peter Harrell

Over the past decade, economic sanctions emerged as Washington’s preferred policy tool to deal with a range of concerns, from adversarial governments in Iran and Venezuela to international drug trafficking. Sanctions became popular because officials saw them as a low-cost tool that could hurt the United States’ foes. The 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which Iran agreed to after years of devastating sanctions, seemed to vindicate policymakers’ view that sanctions could force adversaries into strategic concessions. Under U.S. President Donald Trump, renewed sanctions against Iran and sanctions targeting Venezuela were widely seen as effective in debilitating those countries’ economies.

Against this backdrop, when Russian President Vladimir Putin launched an invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the Western response was immediate: the United States and its allies slammed Russia with a raft of sanctions and other economic restrictions. But a year later, the effectiveness of these measures offers important lessons on their limits. Sanctions and export controls have been useful in undermining Russia’s financial resources and industrial base, but they have done little to change the Kremlin’s strategic calculus.

As Western policymakers dig in for both a protracted conflict with Russia and an era of geopolitical great-power competition with China, they should recognize that sanctions can do real damage to their targets but rarely succeed in making those targets change course. Sanctions are not a panacea, and, as Ukraine’s victories over Russia on the battlefield have demonstrated, economic warfare is no substitute for the real thing. The United States and its allies need to invest in a range of tools to defend their interests and values rather than expect too much of economic warfare.

"Heroes of the Information Front"?

Natasha Groom

Russia’s military bloggers have emerged from the shadows. Valued in both Russia and the West for the immediacy of their reporting and information about the battlefield realities in Ukraine, these unequivocal supporters of the invasion are also some of the Kremlin’s most trenchant critics. Disillusioned with the way the “special military operation” (“SVO”) is being waged, they have bemoaned the poor logistics and conditions, pummelled the military leadership and punctured holes in official narratives. Yet several of these “non-system” critics have been appointed to a task force created by presidential order on 20 December. This essay will examine two of the most prominent bloggers and their pro-war or “Z” channels, Rybar (https://t.me/rybar) and WarGonzo (https://t.me/s/wargonzo), with 1.1 and 1.3 million subscribers respectively. It will explore their multiple and seemingly subversive and contradictory functions, look at their complex relationship with the Kremlin and consider why the regime tolerates – even values – their criticism.

Who are the military bloggers?

In January 2023, Volodymyr Zelenskyy signed decrees imposing personal sanctions on 3172 Russian and pro-Russian public and media personalities. The sanctions aim to block distribution in Ukraine of the media content of these individuals. Among the lesser-known figures targeted were the 31-year-old “military analyst, known for his publications in the Rybar telegram channel”, Mikhail Zvinchuk,3 and 37-year-old “Russian journalist, blogger, war correspondent”, Semyon Pegov, who blogs under the alias WarGonzo. Pegov was included as a “(m)ember of pro-Kremlin propaganda” who “spreads disinformation about Russia’s war in Ukraine”.4 Zvinchuk is deemed to “publicly call for an aggressive war, justify and recognise as lawful the armed aggression”, “glorify” its participants and thus undermine, inter alia, “peace” and “sovereignty” in Ukraine.

What’s Up There, Where Is It, and What’s It Doing? The U.S. Space Surveillance Network

James E. David and Charles Byvik

Washington, D.C., March 13, 2023 – The 65-year U.S. effort to detect and track objects in space, from the days before Sputnik 1 to today’s much more crowded orbital environment, is the subject of a fascinating new article and briefing book posted today by the National Security Archive.

Obtained through Mandatory Declassification Review (MDR) requests and archival research, these 25 documents reveal how U.S. policymakers conceived and built the U.S. Space Surveillance Network to detect, track and collect information on an increasingly busy and complex array of satellites and debris.

Compiled and annotated by James E. David, curator of national security space programs at the Smithsonian National Air & Space Museum, and Charles Byvik, the documents trace the origins and evolution of the program, including the development, beginning in 1956, of the first cameras specifically designed to photograph and track U.S. scientific satellites. Other documents detail how in subsequent years the development of the Space Detection and Tracking System (SPADATS) greatly expanded the array of radars and optical sensors to keep up with the ever-increasing number of space objects, especially Soviet military satellites, which represented a potential threat to national security.

Today’s posting draws from a variety of declassified sources, including early CIA memos on requirements for “surveilling” foreign space vehicles, Pentagon reports on various Soviet satellite launches, and the 1965 report of a high-level working group established to review the entire U.S. space surveillance program.

ChatGPT Opened a New Era in Search. Microsoft Could Ruin It

GOOGLE TYPICALLY GETS the blame for the lack of competition in web search. The US government is even suing to block the company from using allegedly monopolistic tactics, like making itself the default search engine in widely used software such as Android, Chrome, and Safari.

But some upstart search engines trying to woo users with privacy protections or ad-free searches say their latest challenge doesn’t come from Google. Instead, it’s Microsoft and its Bing search engine causing their aggravation.

Search startups have long relied on licensing search results from Bing, tapping a web indexing operation larger than a small company could easily afford and adding their own features and ways of parsing queries. But Microsoft’s rollout of a Bing search chatbot based on technology underlying OpenAI’s ChatGPT has prompted concerns that Microsoft is unfairly squeezing out its search data customers as it launches a renewed attempt to bite off more market share from Google.

A week after rolling out Bing chat in February, Microsoft announced that its standard fees for search data would increase by as much as 10 times starting in May. The company also added a new rule with immediate effect that startups say effectively blocks them from competing with Bing chat or Google’s rival chatbot Bard.

That rule levies much steeper prices—potentially 28 times Microsoft’s previous fees—on any customer providing Bing results to users on a page that also has content from large language models (LLMs), the technology behind ChatGPT and Bing’s chat. A startup that launched its own LLM-powered search chatbot would pay up to $200 per 1,000 Bing queries, compared to as much as $7 previously, or $25 under the new pricing that takes effect in May.

How Self-Flying F-16s Will Enable Future Fighter Drones


The Air Force is rigging F-16s to fly autonomously, but that’s not the main point of automating one of the service’s most numerous fighter jets, the commander of the Air Force Test Center said Monday. Instead, the Venom project aims to refine an AI engine to fly a wide variety of today’s and tomorrow’s aircraft.

Venom, in turn, is part of the years-long push to develop autonomous aircraft that can work alongside crewed aircraft or operate autonomously, Maj. Gen. Evan Dertian said at a Mitchell Institute event.

It’s not even the first time that the Air Force has built an F-16 drone. The Have Raider II program achieved that five years ago. It was followed by other autonomous flight efforts such as the XQ-58 Valkyrie and the X-62 Vista, which is basically an F-16 modified to test and train AI software.

“The Vista aircraft is great for the control [testing].We kind of have the safety wrapper to develop autonomy,” said Dertien. “What we don't have on that aircraft is a lot of sensors. So by getting in on the Venom aircraft, you now have…radar; you have electronic warning; you have all those things where now you can expand your autonomy algorithm to react to the inputs. It's getting to make decisions for himself. It's kind of the next evolution into scaling up what autonomy can do.”

The goal is not a perfect pilotless F-16 but rather to refine an autonomy software engine that could be useful across aircraft and to develop concepts for operating autonomous aircraft along or with other aircraft.

Comparing Google Bard with OpenAI’s ChatGPT on political bias, facts, and morality

Darrell M. West

One of the hottest technology developments is generative artificial intelligence (AI) that can respond creatively to human inquiries. The technology uses large language models to generate text answers, images, videos, or code, among other things. Many journalistic and academic evaluations have focused on AI capabilities, such as what these algorithms can do and whether they can add large numbers, solve problems, be creative, or analyze complex moral dilemmas.

But in the real world, that is not how people use the internet to find answers to their questions. They typically search for topics that are in the national limelight or are related to major controversies. Going forward, the real test in generative AI models is how their answers hold up compared to baseline standards, such as political bias, completeness, morality, and accuracy. That is why in this blog, I chose to interrogate and compare OpenAI’s ChatGPT model and Google Bard at bard.google.com, which has recently invited users onto the platform.


My specific inquiries were about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a TikTok ban, Donald Trump, and Joe Biden. In the tables below, I compare how each algorithm handled these topics with an eye towards how AI curation might affect civic discourse and public understanding. I should note that Bard operates differently than ChatGPT in providing three different answers, but I used only its first answer in this analysis.


Brian Cheng, Scott Fisher and Jason C. Morgan

When Russia launched its latest invasion of Ukraine early in the morning of February 24, 2022, we were serving as information operations planners for the US European Command Information Operations and Special Activities Division. Army reservists, we had arrived at EUCOM in September 2021 and soon after were assigned to help develop response plans in case of a Russian invasion. When that invasion occurred, our task shifted to rapidly operationalizing those plans. These efforts included working with interagency partners both before and after the invasion to combat Russian disinformation and help inform international audiences of Russian activities, in what some considered a “ramped up” US information warfare effort.

Throughout this process we routinely faced challenges in maximizing the value of open-source information. More specifically, we encountered problems in three areas: collection, vetting and analysis, and sharing content. We attempted several methods to address these deficiencies, with varying degrees of success, but our experiences laid bare a fundamental truth: better solutions are required to ensure US and ally information warfare capabilities are prepared for future crises.

At least 50 U.S. government employees targeted with phone spyware overseas

Ellen Nakashima and Tim Starks

At least 50 U.S. government employees in at least 10 countries overseas have had their mobile phones targeted with commercial spyware, a number that is expected to grow as the investigation continues, senior administration officials said this week.

The revelation comes as the White House announces a new executive order to ban the use by the U.S. government of commercial spyware that poses a risk to national security and human rights. The order, unveiled Monday, follows in the wake of a long-running controversy over the misuse of a powerful spyware, Pegasus, by foreign governments to hack journalists, rights activists and dissidents around the world. It also comes as the administration this week co-hosts the second global Summit for Democracy.

In late 2021, Apple alerted roughly a dozen U.S. Embassy employees in Uganda that their iPhones had been hacked using Pegasus, military-grade spyware developed by NSO Group, an Israel-based company with government clients in dozens of countries. The tool allows its users to steal digital files, eavesdrop on conversations and track the movements of targets — often activated through “zero-click” malware that doesn’t even require the target to click on a link.

But the latest figure — of at least 50 government employees — shocked the Biden administration.

Back to the Future: Balloons in the Modern Security Paradigm

Arlington, VA | March 17, 2023 — The Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies announces a new entry in its Forum Paper series, Back to the Future: Balloons in the Modern Security Paradigm by Dr. Greg Canavan and Dr. John Browne.

It is clear from the coverage and commentary on the recently downed Chinese high-altitude surveillance balloon that it caught America’s defense establishment on the back foot. These and other of China’s recent activities appear to be manipulating U.S. strategic warning. The U.S. public, much less U.S. leaders, appear to lack a full understanding of the impact this could incur on our deterrence and strategic stability.

Whereas the detection and intercept of the balloon off the coast of the U.S. mainland on February 4, 2023, developed a great deal of interest in the press, public, and government, much of the attention at the time was devoted to the physical characteristics, trajectory, and intercept of the balloon. This essay concentrates on the impact of such balloons on strategic warning, deterrence, and crisis stability. It also explores the reasons for the extreme care taken in intercept, interpretation, and attribution.

The Forum presents innovative concepts and thought-provoking insight from aerospace experts here in the United States and across the globe. As a means to afford publishing opportunities for thoughtful perspectives, Mitchell Institute’s Forum provides high visibility to writing efforts on issues spanning technology and operational concepts, defense policy and strategy, and unique interpretations of changing geopolitical relationships.

TRANSCOM’s Unreadiness: U.S. Sealift is Insufficient for a Major Power War

Seth Cropsey

The United States is a maritime power in disarray, as the U.S. Navy’s current woes indicate: the Navy cannot build enough ships, with designs from the 1980s, to maintain the fleet’s current size, nor can it keep ships in the active battle force to preserve a fleet large enough to even maintain an acceptable balance of forces against China.

Yet the issue of sealift may be more critical, and more eroded, than that of active combat capacity. American political figures should take note, and resource the U.S.’ maritime transport capabilities as thoroughly as what is required to sharpen the U.S.’ naval combat fleet’s power.

America is a bizarre maritime power. From the view of national interest, the U.S. is indisputably a maritime nation. It exists at significant remove from Eurasia, but fundamentally depends upon the free flow of goods along Eurasia’s littorals, and between Eurasia and the Americas, for its political-economic model to be sustained. In this sense, the U.S. is a maritime power in the same mold as the UK or Imperial Japan, with a distinct interest in the freedom of the seas, stable international chokepoints, and most fundamentally, an existential interest in the denial of any power or coalition hegemony upon the Eurasian landmass.

Yet the U.S. is also a continental power, one that has a historical industrial heartland, massive agricultural capacity, and energy reserves large enough to sustain domestic and international consumption. There is a distinct strain in American strategic thought, driven by this hybrid nature, that downplays the role and relevance of Eurasia in American policy and towards American interests. This strain has sought all sorts of quick-fixes to the American strategic problem, including the overwhelming deployment of nuclear weapons, the exclusive use of airpower, and the continuous underestimation of naval power.

Russia's Military Industry 'Hopelessly Outmatched' By the West: ISW


Russia's military industry is "hopelessly outmatched" by Western countries providing military aid to Ukraine, a new analysis has said.

"The balance of overall available resources and industrial capacity is decisively weighted toward the West" over Moscow, the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) think tank said in its daily assessment on Saturday.

"Russian military industrial potential is, in fact, hopelessly outmatched by Western military industrial potential," the think tank added.

Russia's ability to wage war in Ukraine has long been the focus of Western analysis, with sanctions targeting Moscow's military-industrial complex.

Speaking on Saturday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the country's military production would be boosted in the coming years, comparing Moscow to the Western economies providing aid to Kyiv.

Marine Generals: ‘Trust But Verify’ Force Design 2030

Jerry McAbee, Mike Hayes

Most people assume military innovation and transformation are two sides of the same coin, and in many respects they are. Many also believe military innovation and transformation are good, never bothering to “look under the hood” and ask the hard questions about the integration, testing, and validation needed to assure a positive outcome and bring about genuine improvement in operational capability

Two recent articles address the virtues and pitfalls of redesigning a military force, albeit from different perspectives. These articles deserve a closer look given ongoing innovations and transformations across the military services. The poster child for both revolutions is the United States Marine Corps, which is well down the road of redesigning and restructuring itself for what it perceives, correctly or not, are the challenges of the twenty-first century. Pursuing the unwise strategy of “divest to invest,” the Marines have shed approximately 50 percent of the combined arms capabilities needed to fight and win today to acquire new weapons and technology for specific future threats. These new capabilities are at least six to eight years away from being fielded in sufficient quantities to be operationally relevant. The Marine Corps is foolishly gambling that potential enemies will ignore the window of opportunity these misguided actions present them.

The future of the U.S. military’s tank force

Brad Howard

The war in Ukraine has been defined by images of destroyed armored vehicles. During the early weeks of the conflict, it seemed as if tanks had become obsolete as mobile anti-tank infantry, precise artillery and drones pushed back Russian armored columns intent on surrounding the capital city of Kyiv.

“The Russian tanks didn’t fare well,” said William D. Hartung, senior research fellow at the Quincy Institute. “They were taken out pretty quickly by modern anti-tank systems. And I think that would be a problem also for U.S. tanks in a future conflict.”

Despite the effectiveness of anti-tank systems, such as the U.S.-made Javelin and the British-produced Next Generation Light Anti-tank Weapon, or NLAW, the heavy armor and firepower that tanks can bring to bear remain in demand by both sides of the conflict.

“When you look at how combat has proceeded, and Ukraine has been a great example of that, tanks have been very important to be able to gain and take territory, ” said Bryan Clark, director of the Center for Defense Concepts and Technology at the Hudson Institute. “You need something that’s going to have some protection behind it, that’s going to allow infantry to be able to either use it for cover or use it for indirect fires.”

Innovative Thinking on the Role of Irregular Warfare in Strategic Competition: Key Insights from the Irregular Warfare Initiative and Joint Staff J7 Office of Irregular Warfare Essay Contest

Lisa McKinnon Munde

The Irregular Warfare Initiative and the Joint Staff J7 Office of Irregular Warfare and Competition co-sponsored an essay contest to generate new ideas and expand the community of interest for irregular warfare in the context of strategic competition. Participants were asked how irregular warfare activities can help the United States address challenges presented by Russia and China in the context of strategic competition.

ESSAY PROMPT: How can irregular warfare activities help the United States address challenges presented by Russia and China in the context of strategic competition?

We received over sixty entries from a diverse group of participants, including undergraduate students, medical students, military personnel from all services within the US Department of Defense, foreign service officers from the US Department of State, as well as experts from industry, think tanks, the legal community, academic institutions, and other nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). The contest generated a wealth of thought-provoking insights and ideas about the role of irregular warfare in competition—from leveraging lawfare for advantage to the role of offensive cyber operations to countering private military companies like the Wagner Group globally.

Why it’s time for the US Army to divest Iron Dome


For several years the US Army has been experimenting with Israel’s Iron Dome system. In the following op-ed, Tom Karako of the Center for Strategic and International Studies argues that Iron Dome does not match the Army’s needs, and that it may be time to move on.

This week, senior US Army leaders are gathering in Huntsville, Alabama for the annual Global Force symposium, hosted by the Association of the US Army. They do so amid increased budget pressure on the service reflected in the fiscal 2024 budget request, challenges for their end strength outlook, and recruiting shortfalls.

One important topic of conversation should be whether Iron Dome still belongs in the Air Defense Artillery branch’s force structure, and if not, what to do with it. An objective review of the situation yields a straightforward conclusion: Iron Dome is a great capability, but not one that fits the US Army in this decisive decade. It is time to evaluate alternatives, including giving it to another country, transferring it within the US military, and sending it back to Israel.

The Iron Dome system is highly effective against the threats it was designed to contend with: rockets, artillery, mortars, and slower-flying cruise missiles. With over 2,000 claimed intercepts, it is among the most combat-proven air defenses in history. Its capability is greatest when operationally integrated as part of a layered defense, as it is deployed in Israel. As a defense acquisition program, Iron Dome is a remarkable case study in urgent material development, cost-effective interceptors, and multi-national development, financing, and production.

US Indo-Pacific Command seeks extra $274 million for cyber

Colin Demarest

WASHINGTON — U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, the oldest and the largest of the Pentagon’s unified combatant commands, asked Congress for an additional $274 million to fund offensive and defensive cyber capabilities, as officials seek to fend off hackers and gird for potential conflict with China.

“Offensive cyber access and effects” projects, at $184 million, and “cybersecurity and network defenses,” at $90 million, are included in the command’s hefty $3.5 billion unfunded priorities list, a copy of which Defense News reviewed.

The former supports “capabilities to access and effect cyberspace operations,” it said. The latter would fund INDOPACOM attempts to harden networks and quickly identify intruders.

Combatant commands and military leaders annually send unfunded priorities lists, also called “wish lists,” to lawmakers, each offering different levels of detail, as required by law. They allow defense officials to note for Congress items that did not make it into the latest budget request from the White House but that would be useful should money be available.

INDOPACOM’s ask comes as the U.S. looks to counter an increasingly influential and assertive China in both real and virtual worlds. The Biden administration’s cybersecurity strategy, published this month, identifies Beijing as the “broadest, most active and most persistent threat to both government and private sector networks” and China as the “only country with both the intent to reshape the international order and, increasingly, the economic, diplomatic, military and technological power to do so.”

Russia’s Mystery of Missile Defense

Pavel Luzin

On March 22, Russian Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu declared that Russia will complete the modernization of the missile defense system around Moscow by the end of 2023. He also announced the upcoming deployment of new units: one air defense division, one air defense brigade, one regiment equipped with S-350 medium-range air defense systems, the space monitoring radar station Razvyazka and one special operations brigade for air and missile defense (Mil.ru, March 22).

Paradoxically, the very next day, on March 23, the Indian Air Force reported that Russia has delayed the supply of S-400 systems to New Delhi. According to the contract signed in 2018, delivery of the air defense systems was previously scheduled for 2023 and must be completed by 2024 (The Economic Times, March 23). This delay has appeared, despite reassurances of Russian officials, who confirmed that the S-400 systems would still be delivered to India according to the original schedule (Interfax, February 13). Even so, this is not the first time the process has been delayed. The first delays appeared in late 2022 (TASS, January 12), only several months after the Kremlin’s declaration that its war against Ukraine will not influence the S-400 contract with India (RIA Novosti, March 18, 2022).

However, the fact of the matter is that the head of the state-owned Almaz-Antey Corporation, the major Russian manufacturer of air and missile defense systems, already confirmed that the war in Ukraine has created significant problems for the corporation’s manufacturing activity as early as April 2022 (Oborona.ru, April 25, 2022). Moreover, Russia has started to use S-300 and even S-400 missiles as short-range surface-to-surface missiles (Focus.ua, January 14). Consequently, the delays in S-400 supplies to India were inevitable considering the limited ability of Russia to produce these missiles domestically, largely as a result of Western sanctions (see EDM, January 23). Nevertheless, this situation also clarifies the Kremlin’s priorities in the field of air and missile defense.

Russian jets of newer generation increase 'dominance' in combat zone, Ukrainian official says

Tom Soufi Burridge

Newer generation fighter jets are giving Russia "increasing dominance" in the skies over the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine, according to a senior Ukrainian official.

It is a potentially worrying shift for the United States and its allies because Russia’s inability to achieve total air superiority throughout the course of the war has been key to Ukrainian successes on the battlefield.

In a briefing last week with journalists, a Western official downplayed the concern, stating that Russia’s ability to control the skies has been limited by air defense and surface-to-air missiles.

"We’re not seeing a huge change in that situation," the official said.

The senior official in Kyiv, who spoke exclusively to ABC News, said Russia had replaced older models of aircraft with its more modern Su-35.