7 April 2023

India’s Push for 24/7 Clean Energy From Dams Upends Lives

Aniruddha Ghosal and Ashwini Bhatia

Its dam-building spree in pursuit of hydropower has led to the displacement of people, deforestation and disasters in the Himalayan region.

The pickup truck jostled away from the roaring Sutlej River and up the steep mountain path flanked by snow-capped Himalayan peaks, some nearly 7,000 meters (22,965 feet) high. The nine passengers, farmers-turned-activists campaigning to prevent more dams from being built, were traveling to the remote Kandar hamlet in India’s Kinnaur district.

The few-dozen Indigenous residents were forced to relocate after falling boulders destroyed most of their previous homes in 2005. Villagers believe tunneling for dams was to blame, although authorities deny it.

Indigenous activists like Buddha Sain Negi, 30, went there to learn more about the continued struggles faced by Kandar. Sitting atop a steep slope overlooking a 19-year-old dam, the activists heard residents speak of ways India’s hydroelectric push had upended their lives and led to nearly two decades of protest. Some families took shelter in sheds, and more lives were lost because of falling boulders . They got compensation to build new homes, although it wasn’t enough to mend livelihoods.

For villagers like Raj Kumari, 48, the fear of that night remains. The farmer said her husband was out when the boulders began rolling down. “My daughter said that we’ll get left behind and die, and only her father would survive,” she said.

Should India Respond To NATO’s Overtures?

P. K. Balachandran

India continues to be wary about military alliances despite having multiple international military cooperation projects

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), comprising countries from Europe and North America, has informally sought a partnership with India in an expanded effort to contain Russia and China.

Apart from 32 full members (including Finland), NATO has 40 partners around the world in Asia, Africa, South America and Oceania. Though India is a strategic partner of the US, receiving equipment and intelligence from Washington, neither the US nor NATO considers India a “non-NATO ally”.

However, both the US and NATO see India as a bulwark against authoritarian China and Russia and want it to be a major non-NATO ally sooner than later.

This wish was verbalized by the US Ambassador to NATO, Julianne Smith, earlier this month while speaking on strengthening relationships with South Asia and the Indo-Pacific. She stated that though there were no plans to expand NATO to be a broader global military alliance, it sought different kinds of partnerships with countries outside it. Such partnerships envisaged political engagement, inter-operability of the armed forces and equipment standardization.

China is not only asserting itself geopolitically but openly questioning the U.S.’s central role on the world stage

Tanner Brown

It’s been a busy few months for China — and sobering ones for the United States.

Last month, the world’s rising superpower and second-largest economy held its biggest political gathering of the year, cementing leader Xi Jinping’s controversial third term and ushering in loyalists to key high-level positions.

Days later, Beijing announced it had brokered a deal that will see Persian Gulf rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran normalize relations, a shocking diplomatic coup in an area long dominated by the United States. Xi was reportedly personally involved in the negotiations.

“This landmark agreement has the potential to transform the Middle East by realigning its major powers,” the journal Foreign Affairs declared, adding that the gambit is “weaving the region into China’s global ambitions. For Beijing, the announcement was a great leap forward in its rivalry with Washington.”

But the biggest news came two weeks ago, when Xi flew to Moscow and met with Vladimir Putin, just days after the International Criminal Court in the Hague issued an arrest warrant for the Russian president on charges of war crimes in Russia’s year-old invasion of Ukraine.

‘China has seen a space where it is hard for the West to really block off — heading into issues [that the Western powers] feel are too intractable or too toxic to touch and trying to demonstrate that there might be a different way to mediate or involve yourself in these problems.’— Kerry Brown, King’s College London

Max Boot Says China is “Nominally a Communist Country

Francis P. Sempa

In a recent column in the Washington Post, Max Boot writes a sentence that should dispel any remaining doubts as to whether anyone should listen to (or read) his foreign policy advice. In attempting to explain why many Republicans are “tough” on China but “soft” on Russia, Boot writes: “China is nominally a communist country, Russia isn’t.” It is the word “nominally” that should make one pause. Apparently Boot does not think that China is really a communist country.

The word “nominally” means: “in name only; officially though perhaps not in reality.” So Max Boot thinks that the leaders of the Chinese Communist Party are not communists. And he traces the roots of Republican support for Taiwan and “tough on China” policies to the GOP’s anti-communist past, including what he believes was its wrongheaded “Asia-first” policy of the late 1940s and early 1950s. Boot is a self-professed “Atlanticist” who wants to involve the United States more deeply in the Russia-Ukraine war. In his column he writes that if we don’t stop Putin in Ukraine, Russia will become a “greater threat to NATO” and if Republicans’ “Asia-first” policies win the day we will be back to 1940 in a “pre-Pearl Harbor world.” Perhaps Boot has forgotten that it was Atlanticist Franklin Roosevelt and a Democratic congress, not the GOP, that had the nation unprepared for war before Pearl Harbor.

Boot even accuses Republicans of supporting “Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s desire to wage war on ‘Red China.’” Why does Boot place quotation marks around Red China? Perhaps Boot thinks China wasn’t communist in 1950 either. And it was not MacArthur who wanted to wage war on China--China waged war on the United States when it massively intervened in the Korean War in October-November 1950.

Boot criticizes former President Donald Trump for “revering” Putin while “reviling China,” and he claims that Trump typifies the Asia-first GOP of the late 1940s and early 1950s. But it was on the watch of Boot’s Atlanticists, not the Asia-first GOP, that China fell to the communists, the Korean War ended in a bloody draw, and Indochina fell to the communists. And neither Mao’s China, Kim’s North Korea, nor Ho’s North Vietnam were “nominally” communist.

US says it cannot confirm China collected real-time data from spy balloon

U.S. President Joe Biden's administration said on Monday it could not confirm reports that China was able to collect real-time data from a spy balloon as it flew over sensitive military sites earlier this year, saying analysis was still ongoing.

NBC News on Monday reported that the Chinese balloon was able to transmit data back to Beijing in real time despite the U.S. government's efforts to prevent it from doing so - a disclosure that could deepen Republican criticism of Biden for waiting for the balloon to reach a safe location before shooting it down.

The White House and the Pentagon told reporters that they could not confirm that account. The Pentagon said experts were still analyzing debris collected from the balloon after it was shot down on Feb. 4.

"I could not confirm that there was real-time transmission from the balloon back to (China) at this time," said Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh, adding, "that's something we're analyzing right now."

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday that China has made it clear that the unmanned civilian airship that flew over U.S. territory was "an unexpected and isolated event".

A Western Strategy for Ukraine: Part 4

Kurt Volker

Much has been said about post-war security guarantees for Ukraine. One idea is a massive armament program to make Ukraine a “porcupine” — too difficult to attack and swallow. This could be combined with a bilateral security guarantee from the United States — such as with Israel — or other individual NATO and non-NATO member states. One recent Foreign Affairs article proposed an alliance-led multinational stability force, including US boots on the ground.

All of these suggestions for security guarantees, however, have their own major problems. At root, they are all efforts to work around what is the most obvious conclusion: Ukraine should be a member of NATO.

At the end of the current phase of the war, Ukraine will have the largest, most experienced, and best-equipped Western military in Europe. Under any circumstances, Ukraine and the West will want to maintain this level of capability to deter future aggression. There is no reason why this de facto NATO membership should not become an actual treaty commitment. This would deter aggression even more effectively.

Japan changes aid rules; to fund defense projects of friendly nations

TOKYO, Japan – Japan on Wednesday, April 5, said it plans to offer friendly nations financial assistance to help them bolster their defenses, marking Tokyo’s first unambiguous departure from rules that forbid using international aid for military purposes.

Japan’s Overseas Security Assistance (OSA) will be operated separately from the Overseas Development Assistance (ODA) programme that for decades has funded roads, dams and other civilian infrastructure projects, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hirokazu Matsuno said at a regular news conference.

“By enhancing their security and deterrence capabilities, OSA aims to deepen our security cooperation with the countries, to create a desirable security environment for Japan,” a statement released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday said.

The aid will not be used to buy lethal weapons that recipient countries could use in conflicts with other nations in accordance with the three principles that govern arms exports, according to the statement.

With eye on China, Japan to offer military aid to like-minded countries


Japan on Wednesday unveiled guidelines for a new program to strengthen the militaries of like-minded countries by providing “official security assistance” — a move that breaks with its previous policy of avoiding the use of development aid for military purposes other than disaster relief.

First announced in last December’s revised National Security Strategy (NSS), the new OSA framework will initially provide equipment, supplies and infrastructure development assistance to partner countries in the form of grants, rather than loans, in a bid to reinforce what Tokyo describes as the region’s “comprehensive defense architecture.”

Foreign Ministry officials say the Philippines will be one of the first beneficiaries of OSA, with Malaysia, Bangladesh and Fiji also among those being considered.

The purpose of the initiative is to “contribute to the creation of a desirable security environment for Japan,” while maintaining Japan’s “basic principles as a peaceful nation,” the ministry said in a statement.

A final Cabinet decision on the policy is expected in May, officials said.
OSA: Beyond traditional aid

OSA, which will be implemented jointly by the National Security Secretariat and the Foreign and Defense Ministries, is being presented as an expansion of Japan’s official development assistance (ODA) — one of the world’s largest foreign aid programs — to cover projects “for the benefit of armed forces and other related organizations.”

Why Neutrality Is Obsolete in the 21st Century

Franz-Stefan Gady

The Italian diplomat Niccolò Machiavelli had his doubts about the wisdom of a state remaining neutral, as it usually risks alienating both sides in a conflict. “He who conquers does not want doubtful friends who will not aid him in the time of trial,” he wrote in his 16th-century strategy manual, The Prince. “And he who loses will not harbor you because you did not willingly, sword in hand, court his fate.”

Following Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, two formerly neutral European states—Finland and Sweden—have heeded Machiavelli’s advice. Today, Finland joins NATO as its newest member, and neighboring Sweden will soon follow. Europe’s four remaining traditional neutrals—Austria, Ireland, Malta, and Switzerland—are sticking to their neutrality for now. Ireland, which has de facto disarmed, claims to be militarily neutral if not politically so; but the country is slated to train Ukrainian soldiers and has been cozying up to NATO since the outbreak of the war. Austria and Malta likewise insist they are militarily neutral but not “not neutral on values.” Switzerland is the most uncompromising of the bunch, remaining both politically and militarily neutral, going as far as refusing to grant other countries permission to re-export Swiss-made weapons to Ukraine. To Kyiv, the Swiss government’s stance goes beyond neutrality by actively undermining Ukrainian defense capabilities, Ukraine Ministry of Internal Affairs advisor Anton Gerashchenko tweeted. Critics argue that neutrality, like pacifism, leaves the victim of aggression to its fate.

Yet out of Europe’s four remaining neutrals, it is only Switzerland that maintains relatively robust conventional defenses capable of fielding a credible military deterrent against a potential aggressor. Even though they are not part of NATO, Austria, Ireland, and Malta have de facto outsourced their territorial defense and security to the alliance, with the implicit expectation that it will come to their aid when needed. This enabled each of the three to spend less than 1 percent of GDP on their armed forces before Russia’s attempt to conquer Ukraine. Although the three countries have announced defense spending increases, these will not be enough to boost military capabilities and readiness to a level where they would be able defend against another nation-state in a high-intensity conflict any time soon.

The United States Has Given Ukraine All The Heavy Trucks, Tankers And Recovery Vehicles the Ukrainians Need To Breach Russian Defenses

David Axe

It’s no secret Ukraine is planning a counteroffensive. One that could roll back Russian advances in eastern and southern Ukraine.

All eyes are on the tanks that Ukraine’s European allies have pledged to the war effort, and which could lead the coming counterattack: 14 Challenger 2s, 71 Leopard 2s and a hundred or more Leopard 1s.

But pay close attention to the support equipment the United States is providing as part of a $2.6-billion aid package the U.S. Defense Department announced on Tuesday.

That equipment—armored recovery vehicles, tank-transporters, fuel tankers and armored bridgelayers—arguably is even more critical to the success of any counteroffensive.

With careful planning, it could help the Ukrainians swiftly to reposition heavy forces, and then deploy those forces to punch through the dense fortifications the Russians have built along much of the front line.

It would be a combined-arms operation far more complex than any the Ukrainians have attempted before now. Good leadership would be essential.

A Few Dollars More: Welcome to a Eurasian World

Brian Patrick Bolger

Western actions have driven the rest of the world to embrace the idea of commodity-backed currencies. For the U.S. dollar, built upon debt and confidence, this could mean certain doom.

April is the cruelest month. Especially in the banking sector. In the middle of a war.

It seems that not a day passes that the Institute for the Study of War tells us of the impending gloom on the Russian front; no weapons and an imploding economy at home, though anecdotal stories on the streets of the Red Square would seem to deny any validity to the wasteland of the Russian plateau. Yet a specter is haunting Europe. A specter of “confidence.”

The confidence issue is key when you operate in “fiat” currencies. When Ptolemaic historians predicted the “end of history” in the 1990s: that universal victory of liberal democracy and markets, which would sweep aside the authoritarian, the traditional, and… well, everything, they forgot to account for geopolitics. Joe Biden said the ruble would be reduced to rubble. The French finance minister said the Russian economy would collapse. But despite these various pronouncements, the sanctions and freezing of assets of Russian individuals and firms, along with the foreign exchange reserves of the Russian Central Bank, have not produced any significant tsunami of regime change. It is simply that power and economic power calls the shots—Bismarck’s “blood and iron.” This might not suit the flaky new class of privileged U.S. and UK graduates of the public sector elites, steeped as they are in all-inclusive public sector economic security; the trahison de clercs of modernity. Realpolitik, that of Machiavelli, Carl Schmitt, and Henry Kissinger, didn’t go away. It has taken a back seat amidst the bread and circuses but is now back firmly in the driving seat.

The nexus between technology, geopolitics and national security

Michael C. Horowitz

In the final session on Day 1 of ASPI’s Sydney Dialogue, Mike Horowitz from the US Department of Defense led a panel discussion on global technology trends.

In these introductory remarks, I will lay out how the US Department of Defense is thinking about the intersection of technological change in geopolitical competition and what it means for the security environment, particularly in the context of the Indo-Pacific, a vital region for the future of the world. I want to tell you about three trends shaping this intersection of technological change, geopolitics, and national security.

First, a series of technologies, including artificial intelligence, biotechnology and cyber, are already online and growing more sophisticated every day in ways that are already reshaping economies, societies and militaries. For example, the recent public release of large language models like ChatGPT illustrates the way advances in AI and machine learning can revolutionise how we aggregate, access and process information everywhere from the classroom to the military. These advances represent general-purpose technologies like the combustion engine and the aircraft in prior generations. They have strategic consequences, and the drivers and impacts are so much broader.

They reflect a trend where so many of the cutting-edge technologies of today have experienced booms due to private-sector and commercial investment. Second, these technological changes are accelerating changes in the security environment. The 2022 US national defence strategy clearly describes this evolving strategic environment in the way the People’s Republic of China is seeking to leverage technological advantage to create systemic challenges.

Ukraine’s Coming Offensive: What Happens If It Fails?

Daniel Davis

The viability of the Ukrainian state could well rest upon the results of this offensive. What obviously concerns Kyiv is that if the offensive fails, they could lose the war. What should worry Ukraine’s leaders the most, however, is that Ukraine could win this offensive battle, but as a result, lose the war anyway.

Ukraine is widely reported to be in the final stages of preparing for a spring offensive against Russia. Whether it ends in success or failure, this will likely mark Ukraine’s last chance to launch a large-scale offensive operation for a half year or more. This is true regardless of how many NATO weapons and ammunition are subsequently delivered.

After this operation, Ukraine will have expended the majority of its remaining Western-trained and experienced combat formations. Russia, on the other hand, still has substantial manpower resources from which to draw, as well as an industrial capacity that is producing war material now and will increase its output over time. This assessment stands in stark contrast to what many military experts have led Western publics to believe.

Western analysts overwhelmingly base their claims of Ukraine’s chances to drive back Russian forces on Kyiv’s acquisition of modern NATO equipment and an upsurge in NATO training for the Ukrainian Armed Forces. It is debatable how much NATO weapons and quick training can improve Ukraine’s offensive capacity, but even if the improvement is as notable as advertised, few Western analysts have addressed the most crucial question: What comes after the offensive?

Europe’s Energy Crisis That Isn’t

Adam Tooze

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine has led to a reassertion of national security concerns in every facet of Western countries’ policy. The most obvious aspect is military security, with the United States and the Europeans ramping up ammunition production and wrangling over tank deliveries. But as far as Europe is concerned, the even more urgent priority is energy security. As Russia’s natural gas supplies were cut off and prices surged to record levels, European governments have spent more on subsidizing the energy bills of their populations, stockpiling gas, and bailing out bankrupt energy companies than they have either on their militaries or on supporting Ukraine.

The emergency energy programs were short-term expedients. The urgent question now is which direction long-term energy security is to be found.

The crisis struck Europe in the midst of an accelerated energy transition away from fossil fuels, one driven by climate concerns and a program of green industrial policy. Since 2020, Europe has been doubling down on green energy policy, with the Next Generation EU investment program, the Fit for 55 energy transition framework, rising carbon emissions pricing, and a flood of national programs. Britain recently celebrated a day without any use of coal. Spain celebrated a day entirely on solar and wind. European utilities are driving sectors such as offshore wind. Costs for clean energy were falling, in part due to the parallel efforts being made by China in the cheap mass manufacture of solar panels. The European car industry was setting a course for electrification by the mid-2030s. European car producers and engineering companies saw not risk but huge opportunities in China, which is the dominant global force in electric vehicles.

Get Out of Russia

Natalia Antonova

Years ago, the late Russian writer Elena Gremina correctly predicted that her country was growing worse by the day. “I don’t want to live in an Orthodox Iran,” she told me back in 2013, after Russia passed a reactionary law criminalizing offending “religious feelings of believers.”

Now that the Russian Federation has fully embraced fascism, more parallels with Iran and other autocratic states like China are emerging. One of the biggest is hostage-taking. And that means that for Americans and other Westerners from countries helping fight Russia’s brutality, it’s past time to get out.

Ever since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the rules of the game have changed. Denunciations are on the rise. As it slaughters people abroad, the Kremlin is increasingly more paranoid at home. And an American passport won’t protect you from the Russian authorities. In fact, it’s likely to draw their attention.

After detaining Americans such as Brittney Griner and Trevor Reed in order to use them as bargaining chips, the Russians have decided to go after an American journalist, the first such case since the Cold War. This journalist is the Wall Street Journal’s Evan Gershkovich, currently detained in Russia on ludicrous espionage charges.

Gershkovich came to Russia the same year that I finally left, and we haven’t had much interaction, but I’ve always known him to be a stand-up individual and a terrific writer. He had a lot of affection for Russia, because he was interested in the stories of its people—even as he was more than aware of the darkness at its center.

The Russians Are Coming. There Could Be Downsides.


Russia’s neighbors and other countries hosting large numbers of anti-war exiles need to take seriously the dangers they could pose.

Peter Eltsov is associate professor at the College of International Security Affairs of the National Defense University and the author of the recent book “The Long Telegram 2.0: A Neo-Kennanite Approach to Russia.” The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the National Defense University, the Department of Defense or the U. S. government.

For a country that was invaded by Russia back in 2008, Georgia would have good reason to be hostile to its much larger, imperialist neighbor. Georgia, like Ukraine, has a distinct language and culture and leans westward, having expressed a desire to join NATO. Russia has thwarted that by occupying 20 percent of its territory.

But despite those tensions, on a recent trip to its capital, Tbilisi, I saw how Georgians continue to welcome most things Russian. The city’s premier drama theater, founded in 1845 during the heyday of the Russian Empire, is still playing Russian classics in the Russian language including “Uncle Vanya” by Anton Chekhov. The city’s main opera and ballet theater, founded in 1851, features Russia’s iconic classic “Swan Lake” by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky.

By reducing oil production, Opec is only helping Russia

Ross Clark

Just when we thought inflationary forces were softening, the price of crude oil has shot up sharply today in response to an announcement by Opec that it will try to reduce production. A barrel of Brent crude, which touched $120 last summer before falling back to $75 last month, reached $85 at one point today. Some analysts expect it to hit $100. Given that the benign forecasts for inflation which shaped Jeremy Hunt’s budget were predicated on a falling oil price, has the case for economic recovery now collapsed?

Unfortunately, in spite of the US’s drive towards energy independence in recent years, the world remains depressingly reliant on Opec for oil

On the positive side, last year’s inflationary surge in Europe was more about gas than oil. The spike in wholesale gas prices last July and August was driven by the desperation of European countries to fill their gas storage facilities – and at a time when the facilities for receiving imports of liquified natural gas (LNG) were very limited. Opec’s constraint is bad news for motorists and airline passengers, but on its own it shouldn’t take inflation to new heights – last year’s hike in energy prices will be falling out of the annual inflation figures in coming months. That said, inflation remains stubbornly high, rising unexpectedly in February. Any delay in the projected downward trend in inflation is not going to help the cost-of-living crisis.

The EU-Russia winter energy war wasn't won — it was a stalemate


Let us begin with the good news. The EU managed to weather the biggest energy crisis in its history and restore stability within the energy market. As winter thaws, European leaders are breathing a collective sigh of relief after a protracted period of natural gas shortages, emergency energy shipments and astronomical energy costs.

There is a sense of cautious optimism as natural gas prices in Europe have continuously fallen since December last year. EU gas storage is in proper shape with 50-55 percent average capacity projected for April, which is a good starting point in preparation for next winter.

The EU has clearly showed that it can cope with less volumes of Russian natural gas and resist Gazprom's energy blackmail. European member states accomplished a collective feat by reducing their natural gas consumption by almost 20 percent.

We are witnessing increased investment in new LNG import capacities and European capitals are exploring novel opportunities for joint purchases of natural gas. In parallel, the EU is holding a united front through an embargo on seaborne crude oil imports from Russia and leads a collective effort with the G7 on an international price cap on Russian oil.

Now for the bad news.

The EU's collective response cushioned the blow, but it wasn't the ultimate buttress for braving the energy storm. The main reasons were more prosaic — a mild winter and exorbitant spending. Europe experienced the second warmest winter on record, which substantially reduced pressure on EU gas storages.

Nato's border with Russia doubles as Finland joins

Paul Kirby 

Finland has become the 31st member of the Nato security alliance, doubling the length of member states' borders with Russia.

The Finnish foreign minister handed the accession document to the US secretary of state who declared Finland a member.

Then in bright sunshine in front of Nato's gleaming new headquarters, Finland's white-and-blue flag joined a circle of 30 other flags.

Finland's accession is a setback for Russia's Vladimir Putin.

He had repeatedly complained of Nato's expansion before his full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said by attacking his neighbour, the Russian leader had triggered exactly what he had sought to prevent.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned that Russia would be "watching closely" what happens in Finland, describing Nato's enlargement as a "violation of our security and our national interests".

A military band played Finland's national anthem followed by the Nato hymn. Beyond the perimeter fence a small group of protesters waving Ukrainian flags chanted "Ukraine in Nato", a reminder of why non-aligned Finland had asked to join along with Sweden in May 2022.

US Sending Experimental Anti-Drone Weapons to Ukraine


The U.S. is sending anti-drone missiles as part of an experimental platform to help Ukraine down the Iranian-built drones that have devastated its energy infrastructure, according to representatives of government contracting company SAIC.

On Tuesday, the U.S. announced a large package of military aid to Ukraine focused on air defense, including what it called “10 mobile c-UAS laser-guided rocket systems.”

That follows a January competition held by the U.S. Army, which was seeking a system to fight off Shahed-136 suicide drones. SAIC, which participated in the competition, is in the running to send ten of the weapons to Ukraine, a company representative told Defense One on the sidelines of the Association of the U.S. Army’s Global Force Symposium last week.

Russia has used Shahed-136s to attack not just Ukrainian military forces, but also enough civilian infrastructure to cause blackouts across the besieged country. Ukraine has downed many of the Iranian-made drones, which cost about $20,000 apiece, but sometimes is forced to use $500,000 air-defense missiles to do so.

The Army and one other competitor in the test, Invariant Systems, did not confirm that the test was to provide systems to Ukraine, but confirmed other details that support SAIC’s statements.

Disinformation may be one of Russia and China’s greatest weapons


The United States has just completed its second Summit on Democracy. A warning from the State Department reinforces the reality that democracy is under threat globally and that public distrust is one reason for the threat. This distrust has various components, including concern about economic and political stability, but it is also driven and amplified by autocratic governments’ use of malign influence as a weapon against democracy.

Russia, in particular, uses disinformation and malign influence as part of its offensive national security strategy. In 2013, Russia’s military chief of general staff, General Valery Gerasimov, emphasized its importance in an essay he wrote, “The role of non-military means of achieving political and strategic goals has grown and, in many cases, they have exceeded the power of force of weapons in their effectiveness.” The government of the Soviet Union used what they called active measures — the strategy for the spreading of disinformation — for decades against the United States and the West.

Russia’s use of malign influence has not dissipated. In its 2023 Annual Threat Assessment, the U.S. Intelligence Community assesses that, “Efforts by Russia, China and other countries to promote authoritarianism and spread disinformation is helping fuel a larger competition between democratic and authoritarian forms of government.” Regarding Russia’s use of disinformation, the assessment states, “Russia presents one of the most serious foreign influence threats to the United States because it uses its intelligence services, proxies and wide-ranging influence tools to try to divide Western alliances and increase its sway around the world.”

The Technology of Taming Weapons

George Friedman

The massive spring offensive against Ukraine that Russia threatened has not materialized. This does not mean it won’t happen, but it raises serious questions. A major offensive should not be telegraphed for obvious reasons, and if the secret leaks, it should be launched rapidly. The Russians have not crippled the Ukrainians, nor have they forced the United States to stop sending weapons to support Ukraine on the battlefield. The Russians see themselves as incapable of capitulating or winning a decisive victory. An alternative strategy is needed. The frequent Russian references to the possible use of nuclear weapons, or breaking with the U.S. on arms controls, make sense in this context.

That the strategy pivots around frequent references to nuclear action is a reminder of why they used to be called “terror weapons.” Lenin said the purpose of terror is to terrify. The threat of a nuclear attack clearly has that strategy in mind. It is a reasonable strategy, capable of breaking the material and psychological capabilities of the enemy.

The advantage of nuclear weapons is their ability to inflict significant casualties with a single weapon. A nuclear weapon has a large kill zone, which means it can carry out this mission efficiently. Nuclear weapons may not need high accuracy, but they do need survivability. One part of that is the launch plan, which may be targeted by the enemy. Another risk is interception in flight by the enemy, but in this case the weapon may still be able to destroy a large area. That said, there are weaknesses in nuclear weapons. They are dependent on counterintelligence to create survival strategies. They normally have a fixed launch pad, and the launch vehicle, while rapid, is not normally maneuverable. The weight of the warhead might limit the time to target. Taken as a whole, nuclear weapons combine a large kill zone with high lethality, but until launched they are vulnerable.

From the Russian point of view, a nuclear strike creates more problems than solutions. From the American point of view, the defensive posture is inherently dangerous. At the same time, both the Russian and American positions have vulnerabilities built in. Therefore, both sides must create alternatives.

What AI Can – and Can’t – Do for US Intelligence


During her 20-year CIA career, Kristin Wood served in the Director’s area and three Agency directorates – analysis, operations, and digital innovation – leading a wide variety of the Agency’s missions in positions of increasing authority. Among her key Agency assignments were Deputy Chief of the Innovation & Technology Group at the Open Source Center (OSC). She led OSC’s open-source IT and innovation efforts to extract meaning from big data.

Martin Petersen spent 33 years with the CIA, retiring in February 2005 as Deputy Executive Director and Acting Executive Director. In the course of his agency career, he ran two large analytic units (The Office of East Asian Analysis and the Office of Asian Pacific Latin America Analysis) before becoming Associate Deputy Director of Intelligence for Strategic Plans and Programs, the first Chief Human Resources Officer for CIA, and Deputy Executive Director.

OPINION — Last month marked the 20th anniversary of the Iraq War, begun after the September 11th 2001 al-Qaida attacks on New York and Washington DC. The George W. Bush Administration judged that Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction (WMD) program and his enduring support for terrorist causes posed an unacceptable risk of translating into a WMD-enabled al-Qaida.

The war was justified in part, on Intelligence Community (IC) assessments that Iraq had and was hiding, its WMD and uncertainty about the nature of ties to -al-Qaida. No WMD was discovered, and subsequent Congressional reviews of pre-war judgments revealed that the intelligence reporting was much weaker and the sourcing more questionable than intelligence officers realized or communicated at the time.

Adversarial Machine Learning and Cybersecurity: Risks, Challenges, and Legal Implications

Executive Summary

In July 2022, the Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET) at Georgetown University and the Program on Geopolitics, Technology, and Governance at the Stanford Cyber Policy Center convened a workshop of experts to examine the relationship between vulnerabilities in artificial intelligence systems and more traditional types of software vulnerabilities. Topics discussed included the extent to which AI vulnerabilities can be handled under standard cybersecurity processes, the barriers currently preventing the accurate sharing of information about AI vulnerabilities, legal issues associated with adversarial attacks on AI systems, and potential areas where government support could improve AI vulnerability management and mitigation.

Attendees at the workshop included industry representatives in both cybersecurity and AI red-teaming roles; academics with experience conducting adversarial machine learning research; legal specialists in cybersecurity regulation, AI liability, and computer-related criminal law; and government representatives with significant AI oversight responsibilities.

This report is meant to accomplish two things. First, it provides a high-level discussion of AI vulnerabilities, including the ways in which they are disanalogous to other types of vulnerabilities, and the current state of affairs regarding information sharing and legal oversight of AI vulnerabilities. Second, it attempts to articulate broad recommendations as endorsed by the majority of participants at the workshop. These recommendations, categorized under four high-level topics, are as follows:

Custer’s Last Tweet: Avoiding a Digital Little Bighorn in the Fight for Hearts and Minds

Jayson Warren, Darren Linvill, Patrick Warren

On the afternoon of June 25, 1876, Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer led five companies of the Seventh Cavalry into the valley of the Little Bighorn River, intent on pacifying the Lakota and Sioux encamped there. A veteran of previous campaigns against the Plains Natives, Custer believed he knew the mind of his opponent; he even wrote as much two years earlier in his memoir, My Life on the Plains. He was confident, but, unfortunately for the Seventh Cavalry, overly so. By that evening Custer and hundreds of others would be dead.

In lore, simple hubris is given as the reason for Custer’s defeat, and the same is said about other infamous military losses—from the Romans in Teutoburg Forest to the French at Agincourt. Pointing the finger at pride to rationalize failure may shape a good morality tale or serve to create a useful scapegoat (as Emperor Augustus is said to have declared after hearing of the disaster at Teutoburg Forest, “Quintilius Varus, give me back my legions!”), but seldom does it give actionable insight. The fundamental contributing factor to Custer’s predicament is that he did not understand his opponent as well as he thought he did. The afternoon Custer rode into the valley of the Little Bighorn he was outnumbered, outgunned, and unaware of the disposition of his enemy. More fundamentally, he did not understand or appreciate his opponents’ goals or motivations. Custer thought he was fighting the same battle he had fought before and therefore followed an old plan of battle—one he had literally written the book on. But on that day his experience only ensured he was defeated before firing a single shot.

Western countries are speeding up tank deliveries to Ukraine, but tanks aren't what Ukrainian troops need to get around Russian forces

Michael Peck

A Ukrainian tank at a shooting range near the frontline in Zaporizhzhia on March 29. Muhammed Enes Yildirim/Anadolu Agency via Getty ImagesWestern countries are hustling to deliver main battle tanks to Ukraine's military.

Tanks will be useful in taking on Russian tanks and fortifications in a counterattack this spring.
But Ukraine needs other armored vehicles to counterattack Russia effectively, one expert says.

Top editors give you the stories you want — delivered right to your inbox each weekday.
By clicking ‘Sign up’, you agree to receive marketing emails from Insider as well as other partner offers and accept our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Western nations — and Western media — have focused on meeting Ukraine's pleas for more tanks, but what Ukraine really needs is armored vehicles to carry infantry into battle, one expert argues.

Without those vehicles, Ukraine's large infantry force will lack the mobility to conduct a counteroffensive, according to Michael Kofman, director of the Russia Studies Program at the Center for Naval Analyses think tank.

During a trip to Ukraine, including to Bakhmut, in early March, Kofman came away thinking, "Dear God, that is a lot of infantry battalions, not a lot of mobility," he said during a March 9 episode of the Geopolitics Decanted podcast.

The US Army moves to tweak its formations for future conflicts

By Jen Judson

WASHINGTON — The U.S Army plans to spend roughly the next two years finalizing key decisions on what its future formational design will look like in the 2040s, the service’s four-star general in charge of modernization and requirements said at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Global Force Symposium last week.

“2040 seems like a long way away,” Gen. James Rainey, Army Futures Command boss, said in a March 29 speech, “but I believe we have about an 18 to 24 month window that we need to pursue with a sense of urgency to figure out what’s going to be different, what’s the operating environment going to look like; not to get it right, but to make sure we don’t get it really wrong and to be in a better position than whoever we’re fighting.”

AFC “has a responsibility to find that deep future operating environment, and we need to start iterating on the concept. We hope to be in the draft concept business by this fall, probably,” he said.

The command was established in 2018 to help the service focus on modernizing the force. Taking over the command last fall, Rainey is its second commander.

Working with Training and Doctrine Command, AFC will need to figure out how the Army will fight in the future – specifically a 2040 benchmark – and then design fighting formations that can support that, Rainey told Defense News in an exclusive interview at the show.

The Army is well on its way to fielding over 30 weapon systems and other capabilities in 2030 that will enable the service to fight across all domains against adversaries able to deny access to key terrain, Rainey said.

A Rare Look At Ukraine's Casualties — And The New Drive To Replenish Its Ranks

Ibrahim Naber

For a long time, Kyiv didn’t have to resort to mass conscription, because so many people were enlisting. But as the war drags on, and casualties continue, Ukrainian recruitment becomes an urgent necessity. From the capital to the frontline of Bakhmut, Die Welt traces the current state of Kyiv's fighting power.

KYIV — Since the Russian invasion, the Ukrainian secret service (the SBU) has been hunting down Vladimir Putin’s spies across the country. In early March, it also targeted traitors in its own ranks. Cyber specialists shut down 26 telegram channels that were sharing tips on how men fit for military service could avoid being called up.

In the groups, users warned each other about the army’s plans and published the locations of recruitment posts to avoid. Those responsible for running the channels were arrested by special forces and may face up to 10 years in prison.

The raids are a warning to all those hoping to sit out the war against Putin’s troops. They show that the Ukrainian government is starting to crack down when it comes to mobilization, with the situation on the battlefield at a turning point.

Over the past few months, Russia’s attacks in the east have led to significant Ukrainian losses. In the fiercely contested region of Bakhmut, reports are emerging that some companies have lost more than 80% of their soldiers. In order to plug these gaps, Ukraine needs to send more fresh reserves to the front. At the same time, the military is putting together special brigades to carry out planned counter-offensives in the spring.

Confronting the New Nuclear Peril

Ernest J. Moniz and Sam Nunn

In late March, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Russia intends to return short-range tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus, underlining yet again the terrifying prospect of the use of such weapons in the war in Ukraine. Meanwhile, North Korea is pursuing an accelerated program of missile tests, including of intercontinental ballistic missiles that can strike the United States. China appears committed to a significant expansion of its nuclear weapons program. And the future of nuclear arms control looks bleak, following Russia’s announcement earlier this year that it was suspending implementation of certain obligations under the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) with the United States.

In view of these alarming developments, finding new approaches to preventing nuclear weapons use has never been more urgent. The available avenues for reducing the nuclear threat, strategies that have been built since the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, continue to close. It is hard to imagine that any new treaty on nuclear arms can be negotiated between the United States and Russia and ratified by the U.S. Senate, when trust between Washington and Moscow is at zero and dialogue is frozen. Unrestricted nuclear competition between Washington and Moscow will now overlap not only with China’s expanding nuclear arsenal, and growing threats from North Korea and Iran, but also with efforts by India and Pakistan to advance their nuclear capabilities and even with some U.S. allies considering whether to acquire their own nuclear weapons. The warning bells are deafening.

Ukrainian army uses now captured Russian BMP-2M Berezhok latest generation of IFV

According to a video and pictures published on the "Praise The Step" Twitter account on April 4, 2023, Ukrainian soldiers have captured a Russian BMP-2M Berezhok, the latest generation of tracked armored IFV (Infantry Fighting Vehicle) in the BMP-2 family. The vehicle is now used by the Ukrainian army.

Russian captured BMP-2M Berezhok is now used by Ukrainian soldiers. (Picture source Praise The Step)

In December 2022, we had already reported on the use by the Ukrainian army of Russian tanks and armored vehicles that had been captured during recent clashes between Russian and Ukrainian forces.

Based on publicly available data found online, over 200 Russian BMP-3 tracked armored Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFVs) have reportedly been destroyed, damaged, or seized by Ukrainian troops. Out of these 200 BMP-3 IFVs, 68 are currently under the control of the Ukrainian army.

Information shared on the Internet and social media platforms indicate that, since the war's onset, Ukrainian soldiers have managed to capture a significant number of Russian armored vehicles and tanks. After repairing these captured vehicles, they are reintegrated into the Ukrainian armed forces to continue the battle.