9 April 2023

Is India’s China policy faltering?

Brahma Chellaney 

The United States and India are close friends today, but American policy has long undermined Indian security, first by arming Pakistan as a counterweight to India from the 1950s onward and then aiding China’s rise following President Richard Nixon’s opening to China. That helped create an expansionist power on India’s northern borders. As president, Donald Trump acknowledged that his predecessors “created a monster” by facilitating China’s rise.

Under President Xi Jinping, China seems determined to achieve hegemony in Asia, which explains its stealth border aggression against India in April 2020 that has resulted in continuing military standoffs along the Himalayan border. India-China relations have fallen to their lowest point in decades, with no end in sight to the border confrontation between the two countries.

Yet, amid the military standoffs, Xi’s regime persists with provocative actions against India, including seeking to open new fronts. The fact that Beijing continues to provoke India without incurring any tangible costs points to a faltering China policy under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Despite the imperative to create incentives and disincentives to influence China’s conduct, New Delhi has shied away from substantive action, other than reinforcing military deployments and stepping up infrastructure development along the Himalayan frontier in response to the buildup of Chinese forces. The Indian government has refused to employ economic and diplomatic cards against Beijing, let alone name and shame China for its continuing border aggression.

Unfortunately for New Delhi, American policy under President Joe Biden is likely to further embolden Xi’s regime, with China’s neighbours likely to bear the brunt of the heightened Chinese revisionism.

Biden’s preoccupation with Russia, including bleeding it on the Ukrainian battlefields, limits his administration’s strategic space to deal with the threat from a globally expansionist China. The US may still be the world’s foremost military power but it is in no position to meaningfully take on Russia and China simultaneously.

Great power rivalry is poisoning multilateralism


Multilateralism functions when great powers agree on certain fundamentals. Conversely, multilateralism is bound to sputter when there are deep contradictions between major powers. Publicly, Indian policymakers might not have the space to admit it, but deep down, they are moderating their expectations about two big summits the country will host this year in New Delhi – the upcoming G20 meeting and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO).

The recently concluded G20 Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in New Delhi was conspicuous for the lack of a joint statement, only wrapping up with a Chair’s summary and outcome document. The result was unsurprising. Differences over references to the Ukraine war did not allow for a joint statement.
With a catastrophic war in Ukraine, and with the major powers having picked clear sides, there’s little gas in the tank for working on humdrum public goods issues.

Despite much diplomatic jockeying, Indian policymakers are hard-headed about the limits of forums such as the G20, hence the talk about reorienting the forum to its original economic mandate. The G20 developed against the backdrop of the Asian financial crisis of the 1990s. Its initial objective was to chart out norms for global financial governance. Over time, these objectives expanded to broader public policy issues such as trade and sustainability. In essence, the G20 is a forum for geo-economics. However, given the dynamic churn in great power relations, geopolitics is spilling into geo-economics.

With a catastrophic war in Ukraine, and with the major powers having picked clear sides, there’s little gas in the tank for working on humdrum public goods issues such as rising global debt, water sustainability, renewable energy and reformed multilateralism. This is not to say that policymakers should put these troubling issues on the back burner. But conversely, global public goods remain a top priority given our degenerating economies. Unfortunately, however, the differences between the major powers run deep. Even getting presidents Biden, Xi and Putin in the same room in New Delhi will be a herculean diplomatic task.

The Many Trials of Imran Khan

Betsy Joles

In a high-tension standoff last month, police arrived at the home of former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan in Lahore, Pakistan, to arrest him after he failed to show up to hearings for an ongoing corruption case. Khan blamed security concerns for his failure to appear—he survived an assassination attempt last November—and avoided arrest by vowing to come into court days later. But the police raid at his home sparked protests across the country as his passionate supporters took to the streets to defend their leader.

The Taliban Are Back in the Hostage Business

Lynne O’Donnell

The Taliban have detained multiple foreign nationals, including Americans and Europeans, in Afghanistan in what appears to be a systematic roundup by the group, which has a history of holding Westerners hostage to trade for political advantage. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently said “several” U.S. citizens are prisoners of the Taliban. Others in Taliban custody include British and Polish citizens, their governments confirmed.

China's yuan ideal for energy trade in Gulf Region: vice president of Tehran University

Xie Wenting and Bai Yunyi

Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Qin Gang meets with Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud and Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in Beijing, capital of China, April 6, 2023. The two foreign ministers, Faisal and Amir-Abdollahian, are in Beijing for a meeting.

The meeting between the foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and Iran in Beijing on Thursday will be hopefully the beginning of a much better situation in the West Asia, which can also create the momentum for rapprochement especially in the Gulf Region, Vice President of the University of Tehran, also also Member of Iran's Presidential Delegation to China, Professor Mohammad Marandi told the Global Times in an exclusive interview on Friday.

Marandi said that as the world is moving toward de-dollarization, it's important to have alternative currencies and it would be ideal to use China's yuan when China imports energy from the Gulf region.

Saudi Arabian Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud and Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian met in Beijing on Thursday. Saudi Arabia and Iran announced the resumption of diplomatic ties with immediate effect on Thursday in Beijing after the first formal meeting between the two countries' top diplomats in more than seven years, in a diplomatic rapprochement under a deal brokered by China last month.

During the talks, the two sides said they were ready to make every possible effort to overcome any obstacle that may hinder cooperation. At the conclusion of the meeting, the two sides expressed their thanks and appreciation to China for hosting this meeting, read the statement from Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The resumption of the diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran is widely viewed as a failure of US diplomacy. China's efforts in this historic deal between the two countries were hailed worldwide.

Marandi stressed to the Global Times that unlike the US, China doesn't get involved in the internal affairs of other countries. The US, whenever it wants to play the role of an honest broker, it, in reality, simply manipulates the situation for its own gain and benefit.

Two recent wargames hold timely lessons for space resilience

Brian G. Chow and Brandon W. Kelley

A comparison of two recent wargames reveals that the United States’ current course of action to ensure space resilience may not adequately deter and defend against emerging new Chinese space threats beginning around the mid-2020s. However, these wargames suggest a practical way forward for timely space resilience in the 2020s and beyond.

On Jan. 10, the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), a Washington think tank, issued a 165-page report stating that “CSIS developed a wargame for a Chinese amphibious invasion of Taiwan [in 2026] and ran it 24 times. In most scenarios, the United States/Taiwan/Japan defeated a conventional amphibious invasion by China and maintained an autonomous Taiwan.”

That the United States is likely capable of defeating China in the “pacing scenario” for the U.S. military is reassuring news, especially coming on the heels of Russia’s military adventurism in Ukraine and President Xi Jinping’s consistent advancement of the timetable for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to achieve a sufficient military capability to credibly seize Taiwan.

On the other hand, while the costs of aiding Ukraine to fend off Russia are already high, the costs of helping Taiwan to fend off China are likely to be far higher. China’s economy is about six times as large as Russia’s and much more deeply embedded into global commerce, complicating sanctions and increasing collateral damage. And even military “victory” would come at a high price. For example, the U.S. would likely lose between 12 percent and 40 percent of its operational inventory of fighter aircraft within a few weeks. At the same time, Taiwan is a vital strategic foothold for access to the wider Pacific, and is home to some 92% of the world’s capacity in manufacturing the most advanced semiconductor. Additionally, Taiwan is a bastion of democracy and a “canary in the coalmine” regarding both global norms of sovereignty and China’s intentions in the region.

Crucially, the outcome of any wargame depends on its underlying assumptions. The CSIS study was methodologically robust and quite transparent regarding the assumptions and parameters adopted. One of the most consequential “Major Assumptions” expressly identified in the report was that China’s antisatellite (ASAT) weapons are “moderately effective.” In particular, this assumption was based on a “lack of historical evidence” and the judgment that “co-orbital interference will take longer than…a month.” This determination bears mightily on the resiliency of the U.S.’s space architecture, but another recent wargame calls it into question.

China's Race to Dominate the Military and Emerging Technologies

Lawrence A. Franklin

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) openly says it wants to establish dominance in emerging critical technologies as part of its strategy to supplant the United States as the world's dominant power, establish a new world order and replace the US-led international system established after WWII.

The US has only a little time left in this race. Reports indicate that deep cuts to the military made by several administrations have severely impaired its ability to catch up. Remaining talent and resources will possibly be reallocated in a new administration, if it is not too late by then. China has been supercharging its military for years while the U.S. has sat back, watched, and argued about unrelated social issues.

Communist China is currently preparing its people for war. America is not. The American people, who take their magical lives -- when compared to so many people in the world -- for granted, may be in for a tormenting shock.
China has been supercharging its military for years and is preparing its people for war. America is not. The American people, who take their magical lives for granted, may be in for a tormenting shock. Pictured: DF-17 hypersonic missiles at a military parade in Beijing, China, on October 1, 2019. (Photo by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) openly says it wants to establish dominance in emerging critical technologies as part of its strategy to supplant the United States as the world's dominant power, establish a new world order and replace the US-led international system established after WWII.

The US has only a little time left in this race. Reports indicate that deep cuts to the military made by several administrations have severely impaired its ability to catch up. Remaining talent and resources will possibly be reallocated in a new administration, if it is not too late by then. China has been supercharging its military for years while the U.S. has sat back, watched, and argued about unrelated social issues.

The U.S.-China Fault Line Is Felt in the Academy

Christina Lu and Rocio Fabbro

When Peking University in Beijing harshly cracked down on student activists in 2018, educators around the world watched with alarm. Yet one year later, the Chinese institution was welcoming a high-profile guest—Martha Pollack, the president of Cornell University—and by 2021, the two partners were proposing a flashy dual-degree program.

The U.S. Needs an Economic War Council for China

Charles Edel

This week, Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen met with U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Southern California. It’s the second time in less than a year that Taiwan’s leader has sat down with a speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives—and it’s the second time Beijing is saber-rattling and threatening significant retaliation.

China is turning its anti-corruption fire on banks at a risky time for the economy

Laura He

China’s banks and insurers have become the latest focus of a sweeping anti-corruption crackdown that is ensnaring top officials and risks rattling the already fragile nerves of investors and entrepreneurs.

The Communist Party’s top anti-graft agency, the Central Commission for Discipline Inspection (CCDI), has investigated more than a dozen senior executives at the country’s most important financial institutions so far this year, according to a CNN analysis of statements posted on the CCDI’s website.

Three big names at the very top of China’s financial system have been probed or charged, according to the CCDI, including Li Xiaopeng, the former chairman of China Everbright Group — one of the country’s oldest and largest state-owned financial conglomerates.

Li is suspected of “serious violations of law and discipline” and is under investigation, the commission said Wednesday in a brief statement.

Everbright said in a statement that it “fully supports” the party’s decision and will “fully cooperate” with the investigation into Li, who chaired the bank for four years until he resigned in March 2022.

Last Friday, authorities opened a similar probe into Liu Liange, former chairman of state-owned Bank of China, the country’s fourth largest lender. Liu resigned last month citing “work adjustments,” according to a filing by the bank.

And in January, Wang Bin, who headed state-owned China Life Insurance from 2018 to early 2022, was charged by national prosecutors with taking bribes and hiding overseas savings. He was first probed by the CCDI in January 2022.

China Draws ‘Critical Lessons’ From Ukraine War; NYT Lists 5 Learning That PLA Would Use To Invade Taiwan

Parth Satam

Communist China is too fond of Sun Tzu’s key warfare strategy: “The more you learn from others, the less you need to arm yourself. The more you arm yourself, the less you can rely on others.”

Taking a cue from the pre-Christ era military strategist, China has gone on to study the Russia-Ukraine war to draw some key lessons for its future military campaigns.

Sourcing information floating around in open sources such as Chinese mainstream media and academic publications, The New York Times (NYT) has listed a few learnings that China is taking home from the Ukraine war.

Formidable electronic warfare; use of hypersonic weapons; holding large but adequate weapons stock; technologically robust military industry; and a credible nuclear deterrence — all key takeaways for China from both successes and failures of the Russian military operations that have dragged on for over a year now.
Hypersonic Missiles

The Chinese have analyzed how Russia used hypersonic weapons to destroy an ammunition bunker, a fuel depot, and other targets. In mid-March, Russia launched six Kinzhal hypersonic missiles at Ukraine, amongst a barrage of around 80 missiles, as claimed by Ukraine’s military chief General Valery Zhaluzny.

Before that, Russia used the Kinzhal on March 18 last year. According to its defense minister Sergei Shoigu, a large underground warehouse storing missiles, ammunition, and artillery in Delyatyn village in the Ivano-Frankvisk region was targeted.
Satellite Constellations

“They have studied how Ukrainian troops used Starlink satellite links to coordinate attacks and circumvent Russian efforts to shut their communications and warned that China must swiftly develop a similar low-orbit satellite system and devise ways to knock out rival ones,” the NYT article said.

Peace, China wins. War, China wins

Yen Mo

What does Xi’s visit to Russia mean for the world? There has been much discussion in the Western media about this issue, but what does Xi’s visit to Russia mean for Ukraine and Taiwan? There is less discussion of correctly interpreting its intent, so this article attempts to discuss the intentions of China’s “Peace Strategy” ,what the visit means for the Ukrainian battlefield and, possibly, the next one—Taiwan.

Although the United States is eager to characterize this visit as China’s “choosing sides” in the Russia-Ukraine conflict and favoring Russia, and highly doubts China’s role as a mediator in this conflict, is it only the Global South countries that want to end this war? Does Europe really want to prolong the conflict? If China is excluded, which other country is suitable as a mediator? How long can the US support Ukraine? How should the war end? Will there be another war in Taiwan after the war is over?

Xi said “complex problems have no simple solutions”, but all of the above issues require concise analysis. Taiwan, as a potential hotspot for the next war, may provide a different perspective.

China’s “Peace Strategy”

First of all, the most important message Xi wants to convey in his visit to Russia is that “war is unsustainable”. In Western public opinion, many hawks still insist that Ukraine’s victory can be expected, while China chooses to stand on the side of peace. From a strategic perspective, Beijing intends to offset the hawkish narrative in the West, especially the Neocons in the United States .

There must be a major power in the world standing up to call for peace and offset the warlike narrative. Therefore, Xi’s diplomatic visit can be seen as a crucial step in China’s “peaceful strategy.”

Twenty Years After the Iraq War, a Q&A with RAND Experts

This week marks the 20th anniversary of the war in Iraq, a conflict with a complicated legacy and repercussions still being felt domestically and around the world.

We invited a group of RAND experts, including combat veterans and a former ambassador, to discuss what the war means for the people of Iraq and the veterans who fought there, what lessons the U.S. military learned (or did not learn), and what effect it has had on the balance of power in the Middle East and the global reputation of the United States.Michelle Grisé is a policy researcher with expertise on Iran and international law.
Michael Mazarr is a senior political scientist with expertise in U.S. defense policy and counterinsurgency, and author of Leap of Faith: Hubris, Negligence, and America's Greatest Foreign Policy Tragedy about the Iraq War.

Ambassador Charles Ries is an adjunct senior fellow and former coordinator for economic transition at the U.S. embassy in Iraq.

Kayla Williams is a senior policy researcher focusing on veterans' affairs, former assistant secretary at the Department of Veterans Affairs, an Iraq War veteran, and author of two books on military service.

Jonathan Wong is associate director, Strategy, Doctrine, and Resources Program, a program of the RAND Arroyo Center; a policy researcher focused on the role of new technologies, operational concepts, and processes in shaping how militaries fight; and a former Marine Corps infantryman with two combat tours in Iraq.

Raphael Cohen is director of the Strategy and Doctrine Program, a program of RAND Project AIR FORCE; a senior political scientist; and an Iraq War veteran.

After 20 years, what do you think is the war's most enduring legacy?

OPEC+ Cut Shows Saudi Geopolitical Ambitions

Jason Bordoff

This week’s surprise oil production cut by OPEC and its allies will push up gasoline prices at a time when the U.S. Federal Reserve is already struggling to bring down inflation without triggering a recession or further chaos in the financial markets. The move also underlines the growing political distance between the United States and the oil cartel’s top producer, Saudi Arabia. By putting the prospect of $100-a-barrel oil back in view after it had dropped to around $70, the production cut reinforces the view that Saudi Arabia—with help from Russia and its other OPEC partners—is striving to regain its position as the dominant force shaping oil prices.

The U.N. Could Have a Secret Legal Weapon to Fight Climate Change

Jeff D. Colgan

Long a matter of political disputes, how to address climate change is increasingly becoming a legal question. Most recently, on March 29, the United Nations General Assembly voted to seek a legal opinion from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on the matter. To date, international law has offered those facing the greatest hardships from climate change few legal tools to sue polluters or receive funds to help adapt to threatening weather changes. An obscure U.N. treaty from the 1970s could potentially change all that.

The true war of attrition begins Meduza sums up what happened on the battlefield in 2022 — and what it portends for the year ahead

Late in 2022, the war in Ukraine reached a new turning point. Russia conducted its “first wave” of mobilization and partially eliminated the personnel deficit that contributed to its numerous military defeats in the fall. Now, the Russian army might face a shortage of a different resource: artillery ammunition. Meanwhile, Ukraine is experiencing a shell shortage of its own. Overcoming the deficiency won’t be easy: the West, which is assisting Ukraine with supplies, has largely exhausted its available stockpiles. It is against this backdrop that Russia and Ukraine are fighting a protracted artillery battle around the cities of Soledar and Bakhmut, which is rapidly eating away at the remaining ammunition on both sides. Increasingly, it seems the true “war of attrition” — as many began referring to the war in Ukraine almost as soon as its hot stage began — will take place in 2023. The outcome of this stage will hinge primarily on which side is better able to adapt to its worsening ammunition shortage.
In this article, our editors attempt to assess the military situation in Ukraine based on the available data. Meduza opposes the war and demands the immediate withdrawal of Russian troops from Ukraine.

What was the condition of the Russian and Ukrainian armies at the start of the February 2022 invasion?

The Russian army

In February, Russian military commanders planned to mount a quick victory by launching a decisive operation and advancing its troops at a record pace. In the first days of the full-scale invasion, the Russian army captured a significant amount of Ukrainian territory, taking advantage of the fact that the Ukrainian military hadn’t yet had time to deploy and wasn’t ready to mount a full defense anywhere outside the Donbas.

Just a few weeks later, however, as Ukrainian units arrived at the fronts that had by then formed, the Russian army suffered a major defeat: it completely withdrew from Ukraine’s north (with the exception of the Kharkiv area, which was significant for its subsequent offensive in the Donbas) and retreated south — to 50 kilometers (about 30 miles) outside of Kherson to prevent the city and surrounding bridges from falling within range of Ukrainian artillery.

It became clear that Russia’s troops weren’t prepared to attack the positions of a fully deployed and well-motivated opponent.

Positivism for Peace: Reforming the International System

Andrew Cheatham

Among many insightful and concerning points raised by the U.S. intelligence community’s 2023 threat assessment, it notes that "great powers, rising regional powers, as well as an evolving array of non-state actors, will vie for dominance in the global order … [and] compete to set the emerging conditions and the rules that will shape that order for decades to come.” China’s efforts to supplant U.S. dominance of global governance, along with divisions in the international community over the war in Ukraine have brought to the fore questions over the utility and viability of today’s international order. Calls for reform are growing louder, and those that are made in good faith should be met in turn with good faith debate from all sides — and a willingness to change.Secretary-General António Guterres opens the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly, at the U.N. headquatrin Manhattan, Sept. 20, 2022. (Dave Sanders/The New York Times)

The alternative is a further fracturing of the global community in a way that prevents collective action and increases the risk of catastrophic outcomes from the multiple overlapping threats facing humanity. Therefore, there is an urgent need for further conversations about how, or if, international legal and institutional frameworks will adapt to the shifting norms and influences of today’s multipolar world. International positivist law can provide tools for how to negotiate the new rules.

What is Positivist Law?

Legal positivism derived from 18th and 19th century utilitarian philosophies as a way of seeing law as a conscious tool for human civilization, distinct from emergent, highly diverse, and ever-evolving cultural norms. Twentieth century philosophers like John Rawls argued that in pluralistic societies rules should not be based on any single theory of how to live a “good life.” Positivist legal theories are described as "scientific” or “economic” in their diagnostic and prescriptive approaches. However, positivist theorists are not blind to the individual and cultural biases and values embedded in laws and the frameworks that structure institutions. The analysis makes a point of parsing what “is” from what “ought” to be as way of focusing on the function of law.

NATO’s new center of gravity


Washington may look to establish a permanent presence in key eastern flank countries to counter the Russian threat far sooner than many thought possible.

Chels Michta is a non-resident fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA) and a military intelligence officer serving in the U.S. Army.

The war in Ukraine, now approaching its first anniversary, is continually changing European politics. And as a result, the hub of European leadership is trending eastward — most obviously toward Poland.

The Polish government was at the forefront of the effort to organize a “free-the-Leos” coalition within NATO, which resulted in the recent increase in Western military aid — particularly the decision by Berlin to provide its Leopard 2 tanks and grant permission for others to do the same.

Polish President Andrzej Duda and Defense Minister Marian Błaszczak took the lead in building momentum and support in various capitals to apply pressure on Berlin, eventually announcing that Poland would send the Leopards to Ukraine with or without Germany’s sign-off. And this pressure from Central Europe was an important factor in Washington’s decision to lean on Germany and — in sending its own Abrams tank — leave Berlin no let-out.

This was, undoubtedly, a political win for Poland — but the Leopard 2 coalition that Warsaw built stretches beyond Central Europe. It includes Finland, Norway, Spain, the Netherlands and Denmark, and it has the potential to change Europe’s internal dynamic, shifting NATO’s center of gravity away from the Franco-German tandem.

It shows that Poland, the largest eastern flank country, is accumulating political capital not merely among “front-line” states but across the alliance on account of its critical role in the supply chain, feeding weapons, munitions and equipment to Ukraine.

Notwithstanding German Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s talk about German leadership in Europe, in NATO, Berlin is increasingly seen as a laggard at best and a spoiler at worst. In contrast, Warsaw’s leadership on the Leopard issue and, most importantly, Poland’s ability to speak not just on behalf of the Baltic states but Finland and other mainstays of Western consensus also suggests that Europe’s strategic center is moving east.

Why National Security Needs Neurodiversity

Cortney Weinbaum

Fundamental strengths that are common among members of the neurodivergent population include problem-solving, pattern recognition, visualization, and other skills that benefit many national security fields.

Workplace practices in national security organizations can serve as barriers to the hiring and retention of neurodivergent individuals. Within the U.S. government, neurodivergence is treated as a disability, which means that employees must declare themselves disabled in order to thrive in workplaces designed for neurotypical workforces.

The size of the neurodivergent population in U.S. national security organizations is unknown. This can lead to two unproven assumptions: (1) that neurodivergence is not prevalent in the national security workforce and (2) that this lack of visible prevalence is not due to any systemic discrimination.

Several aspects of the recruitment and hiring process, including unclear or confusing job descriptions, complex application processes, and job interviews that focus on social and behavioral norms, can pose barriers to a neurodiverse workforce.

Once on board, neurodivergent employees can face challenges navigating careers in workplaces that are not designed for them.

Keys to creating a neurodiverse national security workplace include adopting design principles that benefit everyone in the workplace, focusing hiring procedures on the job itself, and preparing the workplace to support neurodiversity.

The Russian General Staff

Alexis A. Blanc

Research QuestionsWhat are the formal authorities and responsibilities of the General Staff?
What is the General Staff's capacity to influence Russia's national security decisionmaking process?

The Russian General Staff is unlike any single organization within the U.S. defense establishment. The absence of an analog in the United States means that audiences within the U.S. civilian and military communities largely are unfamiliar with the concept of a General Staff. Because of the increasing militarization of Russian foreign policy since 2008, it is important to understand not only the formal authorities and responsibilities of this institution but also its capacity to influence Russia's national security decisionmaking process.

In this report, the authors develop a foundational text for policymakers and warfighters to improve collective understanding of the Russian General Staff. The authors first draw on a variety of primary and secondary Russian-language sources⁠—e.g., statutes, speeches by political and military elites, and academic military writings—to inform their characterization of the General Staff's statutory mandate. They then place the General Staff in a comparative institutional context, providing a high-level evaluation of the institutional roles, responsibilities, and authorities of the General Staff's U.S. counterpart—the Joint Staff. They consider what the formal roles and responsibilities of the General Staff suggest about the relative balance of power among Russia's political leaders, the General Staff, and the broader Russian military.

The authors then take this understanding and apply it to the roles and responsibilities of the General Staff in a practical context by analyzing two case studies of this institution's involvement in recent conflicts: Ukraine (2014–2021) and Syria (2015–2019).

Key Findings

What Will Putin Do Next?

Brian Michael Jenkins

One does not easily imagine Russian President Vladimir Putin and his generals poring over maps or conferring with his cabinet, gazing at PowerPoints, weighing various options. Surrounded by servile opportunists who depend on his approval, one suspects that Putin may hold his immediate circle in outright contempt. These are, after all, his minions—mere messenger boys talking taxidermy.

At home, Putin faces no elections, no party or state institutions that threaten his rule, no domestic political opposition. He is Russia. And Russia is his—so long as he projects strength. Avoiding defeat is his paramount objective. According to his foreign minister, Putin takes his counsel from Ivan the Terrible: He fires generals, jails dissidents at home, poisons those abroad.

Measuring by his years in power, Western leaders are mere novices. He faces his third president of China, his fourth president of France, his fifth U.S. president, and his seventh prime minister of the United Kingdom. Longevity doesn't make one smarter, but, as the Russian saying goes, Putin “has seen the parade quite a few times.”
Putin's Assumptions

Russia will eventually triumph. Putin, as well as a number of Ukrainian officials, believes that time is on Russia's side. Despite its reported heavy losses, Russia can continue to pound Ukraine's cities and its infrastructure while sending recruits into battle in order to grind down Ukraine's defenses. Putin likely sees himself as more committed to pursuing the war in Ukraine than the West, and thus believes Russia will succeed.

Sanctions are difficult to enforce, slow to work, and even harder to sustain. A large part of the world is simply not going along with them; others will continue to pretend they are. Putin's experience may give him confidence that Russia can easily work around the constraints. After all, Russia has so far been able to find willing buyers and eager sellers.

Russia, though sanctioned, is not isolated.Share on Twitter

North Korea Is Forcing U.S. Military Counters

Bruce W. Bennett

North Korea's Kim Yo-jong is at it again, making extreme threats. Two weeks ago, the U.S. Indo-Pacific commander, Adm. John Aquilino, reportedly said that the United States would “immediately” shoot down any intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) fired over the U.S. territory of Guam or into the Pacific region.

On March 7, Kim Yo-jong is reported to have responded, “It will be regarded as a clear declaration of war against the DPRK, in case such military response as interception takes place against our tests of strategic weapons that are conducted without being detrimental to the security of neighboring countries in the open waters and air which do not belong to the U.S. jurisdiction.”
North Korea: Translation Needed On New Threat

First, let's be clear about what she's saying: If North Korea lobs an ICBM in the direction of the United States and its territories, and the U.S. military shoots it down, that will be regarded as a U.S. act of war. Even in the realm of North Korean rhetoric, this is extreme.

Next, let's parse her justification: North Korean missile tests into the Pacific are open game and no threat to anyone. That is patently not true. All of North Korea's ballistic missile tests are prohibited by multiple U.N. Security Council Resolutions because its development of missiles does pose serious threats to its neighbors.

All this might lead one to ask why Kim Yo-jong is being so extreme?

Realistic or not, Kim Yo-jong is trying to create a situation in which North Korea can show off an ICBM without U.S. interference.

Korea Needs This Cover

The Ripples of War Are Only Beginning to Spread. Is America Ready?

Kayla M. Williams

Drop a pebble into a pond and, after the initial splash, ripples spread across the water. It's a familiar image, one we know so intuitively that everyone understands immediately what you mean by the phrase “ripple effect.” Yet, even when the pebble is a boulder, and the splash soaks us, we may not fully grasp how far the ripples will spread—or for how long.

On March 20, 2003, the United States invaded Iraq. I crossed the berm two days later as part of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), 26 years old and full of equal parts naiveté and cynicism. The war already seemed unjustified to me, but I felt deep loyalty to my fellow troops, and some measure of excitement at what was to come. If the waiting place is, as Dr. Seuss says, the worst place to be, I'd rather have been at war than sitting around Camp Udairi.

Kayla Williams crossed the berm two days after the March 20, 2003 invasion of Iraq as part of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault)

Photo courtesy of Kayla Williams

During my deployment, I went on combat foot patrols with the infantry in Baghdad, got bored out of my mind on Mount Sinjar, endured chronic sexual harassment, and came home feeling like America was a foreign land after a year in the Middle East. In Iraq, I also met the man who became my husband.

In retrospect, my book about his injury and our relationship was an effort to tell myself that the ripples had stopped spreading. We coped with his traumatic brain injury and posttraumatic stress disorder, learned to navigate the Department of Defense and Veterans Affairs, and advocated for improvements to systems and services. I wanted a nice tidy narrative arc. I wanted a happy ending—or at least a hopeful beginning for the rest of our lives. I wanted to box up the war and put it away. We had two children and a bright future. Let the pebble sink as the waters stilled.

But sometimes the ripple becomes a wave that threatens to sink the whole boat. PTSD, I learned, can be chronic and episodic. Brian had good weeks, months, years—but they were never permanent. He drank, sometimes heavily, when times were bad. Eventually, I reached a breaking point. I decided the status quo could not endure.

Clinton regrets persuading Ukraine to give up nuclear weapons

Miriam O'Callaghan

Former US president Bill Clinton has expressed regret in an RTÉ interview about his role in persuading Ukraine to give up its nuclear weapons in 1994.

Mr Clinton suggested that Russia would not have invaded Ukraine if Kyiv still had its nuclear deterrent.

Mr Clinton addressed the ongoing war in Ukraine when he spoke to Prime Time about his role in the Northern Ireland peace process and assessed recent developments.

"I feel a personal stake because I got them [Ukraine] to agree to give up their nuclear weapons. And none of them believe that Russia would have pulled this stunt if Ukraine still had their weapons," he said.

In January 1994, Mr Clinton signed a tripartite agreement with the then presidents of Russia, Boris Yeltsin, and Ukraine, Leonid Kravchuk, to eliminate the arsenal of strategic nuclear weapons which remained on Ukrainian soil after the fall of the Soviet Union. The United States was also party to a related agreement later in the same year, which included Russian commitments to respect Ukraine's territorial integrity.

These commitments were broken in 2014, when Russia invaded and annexed Crimea, and further shattered when it began a wider war against Ukraine last year.

"I knew that President Putin did not support the agreement President Yeltsin made never to interfere with Ukraine's territorial boundaries - an agreement he made because he wanted Ukraine to give up their nuclear weapons.

"They were afraid to give them up because they thought that's the only thing that protected them from an expansionist Russia," Mr Clinton said.

"When it became convenient to him, President Putin broke it and first took Crimea. And I feel terrible about it because Ukraine is a very important country."

NATO chief tells CNN he's "confident" Sweden will join alliance, in first interview since Finland's entry

Sweden will become a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) despite opposition from Turkey and Hungary, the chief of the transatlantic military alliance said on Wednesday, in his first interview since Finland became a new member of the group.

"I'm confident that Sweden will become a member [of NATO], not least because all NATO allies, including Turkey, invited Sweden to become a member at our summit in Madrid," NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told CNN's Becky Anderson in an interview.

Finland officially became the 31st member of NATO on Tuesday, marking a major shift in the security landscape in northeastern Europe that adds some 1,300 kilometers (830 miles) to the alliance’s frontier with Russia.

However, Sweden’s attempt to join the bloc has been stalled by alliance members Turkey and Hungary, as under the accession rules, any member state can veto a new country from joining. Finland’s fold into the alliance also reignited calls from Ukraine to join NATO.

US President Joe Biden's administration announced an additional package of military aid to Ukraine totaling $2.6 billion on Tuesday, as part of a slew of NATO support for the embattled nation. Ukraine has burned through ammunition and weapons faster than the US and NATO can produce it, but Stoltenberg promised to ramp up production to meet further needs.

"This has now become a war of attrition, a war of logistics. We are working closely with the defense industry across the alliance to ramp up production, partly to be able to replenish our own stocks, but also continue to provide support to Ukraine," Stoltenberg added.

"It is Russia that has invaded neighbors ... That is the reason why countries in Europe decide they want to be part of NATO."

Microsoft’s war on illicit Cobalt Strike software is part of a new anti-ransomware front

Jessica Davis

Threat actors leveraging cracked versions of the penetration testing tool Cobalt Strike face new challenges as Microsoft, Fortra and the Health Information Sharing and Analysis Center (Health-ISAC) step up efforts to reduce instances of the software tool from being available for download on warez sites and the networks that host them.

Forked versions of the Cobalt Strike software have proliferated among cybercriminals and are attributed to a scourge of malware attacks. Cobalt Strike is used by security professionals to simulate an adversarial attack against a company's attack surface. The respected tool, used widely by red team security professionals, has been coopted by criminals who use the software in a growing number of cyberattacks.

"Our action focuses solely on disrupting cracked, legacy copies of Cobalt Strike and compromised Microsoft software," wrote Amy Hogan-Burney, general manager at Microsoft's Digital Crimes Unit in a blog posted Thursday outlining the effort.

As part of the effort, the companies and Health-ISAC were granted a court order on March 31 from the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York that empowers Microsoft, Fortra, and Health-ISAC to work with internet service providers and computer emergency readiness teams (CERTs) who can assist in taking the infrastructure used by cybercriminals to distribute illegal copies of Cobalt Strike offline.

“Together, we are committed to going after the cybercriminal’s illegal distribution methods,” Microsoft officials said in the announcement. “We’ll need to be persistent as we work to take down the cracked, legacy copies of Cobalt Strike hosted around the world.”

The court order, Hogan-Burney said, will boost investigation efforts that include detection, analysis, telemetry and reverse engineering. Additional data and insights will help strengthen related legal cases, she said.

New Batch of Classified Documents Appears on Social Media Sites

Helene Cooper, Julian E. Barnes, Eric Schmitt and Thomas Gibbons-Neff

WASHINGTON — A new batch of classified documents that appear to detail American national security secrets from Ukraine to the Middle East to China surfaced on social media sites on Friday, alarming the Pentagon and adding turmoil to a situation that seemed to have caught the Biden administration off guard.

The scale of the leak — analysts say more than 100 documents may have been obtained — along with the sensitivity of the documents themselves, could be hugely damaging, U.S. officials said. A senior intelligence official called the leak “a nightmare for the Five Eyes,” in a reference to the United States, Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, the so-called Five Eyes nations that broadly share intelligence.

The latest documents were found on Twitter and other sites on Friday, a day after senior Biden administration officials said they were investigating a potential leak of classified Ukrainian war plans, include an alarming assessment of Ukraine’s faltering air defense capabilities. One slide, dated Feb. 23, is labeled “Secret/NoForn,” meaning it was not meant to be shared with foreign countries.

The Justice Department said it had opened an investigation into the leaks and was in communication with the Defense Department but declined to comment further.

Mick Mulroy, a former senior Pentagon official, said the leak of the classified documents represents “a significant breach in security” that could hinder Ukrainian military planning. “As many of these were pictures of documents, it appears that it was a deliberate leak done by someone that wished to damage the Ukraine, U.S., and NATO efforts,” he said.

One analyst described what has emerged so far as the “tip of the iceberg.”

Early Friday, senior national security officials dealing with the initial leak, which was first reported by The New York Times, said a new worry had arisen: Was that information the only intelligence that was leaked?

The ‘Manhattan Project’ Theory of Generative AI


THE PACE OF change in generative AI right now is insane. OpenAI released ChatGPT to the public just four months ago. It took only two months to reach 100 million users. (TikTok, the internet’s previous instant sensation, took nine.) Google, scrambling to keep up, has rolled out Bard, its own AI chatbot, and there are already various ChatGPT clones as well as new plug-ins to make the bot work with popular websites like Expedia and OpenTable. GPT-4, the new version of OpenAI’s model released last month, is both more accurate and “multimodal,” handling text, images, video, and audio all at once. Image generation is advancing at a similarly frenetic pace: The latest release of MidJourney has given us the viral deepfake sensations of Donald’s Trump “arrest” and the Pope looking fly in a silver puffer jacket, which make it clear that you will soon have to treat every single image you see online with suspicion.

Here’s What Canon, Nikon, and Sony Need to Learn From Apple and Google Before It’s Too Late

Innovation from Canon got me into photography, but sadly Canon and its competitors lost their way.

Selling stock photos in 2005 meant spending big money. Submissions had to meet high technical standards that only expensive cameras could deliver.

One stock agency, for example, demanded 50MB image files — I think it was Alamy. Only pro cameras could create image files that big. Alamy was targeting professionals with medium format cameras.

A medium format camera costed as much as a luxury car. Dream on, I told myself. Alamy was out, and although other agencies were less stringent, everyone had demanding standards.

Then Canon launched the full-frame 5D, which gave me my start on iStock. Technical innovation opened the door for me.

Fast-forward to now, and I’ve a bone to pick with technical innovation. Thanks to ever better cameras on smartphones, the need for fancy cameras to do serious photography is waning.

Or is it? Could it be that Canon, Nikon, and Sony’s incremental innovations in the wrong direction are the real issue? What if they have spent too much time solving yesterday’s problems?

Let’s talk about how the major camera suppliers lost their focus, and what they need to do to help serious photographers catch up with the amateurs.

Camera hardware is the last thing you should care about

AI is not as scary as you think.

News feeds have recently been inundated with terrifying headlines about AI. Everyone is talking about the rise of the machines and how AI will fundamentally change our lives. Headlines are screaming that AI will take everyone’s jobs, create new religions or even kill everyone. This buzz has reached a crescendo thanks to a new petition signed by dozens of prominent researchers calling for a moratorium on AI development and the rise of ChatGPT in the public sphere. And some people are freaking out.

But artificial intelligence is not as scary as you might imagine. In fact, if we use history as a guide, it likely will never come close to the heights that people imagine it. Artificial intelligence is just that. It is artificial. Can humans create something greater than ourselves? People have long dreamed that we could, but so far, we have yet to achieve the heights we imagine for ourselves.

Our reach far outstrips our grasp

Where’s my flying car? That is the question that is often bandied about on tech forums about the development of technology. The question is a meme of sorts, and it points to the fact that people have long imagined remarkable technologies that never materialize. Flying cars are just one of the many technological advancements that never came to fruition in the ways people have long thought up. For thousands of years, people’s imaginations have always been more significant than their abilities. In this, human’s reach far outstrips its grasp.

History is littered with doomsday predictions, warnings, and fiction that never come to fruition. People love to imagine the worst of any new technology before feeling out the best of it. Any time new data emerges people grab a hold of it and imagine the absolute worst with little to no evidence to back it up. Here are some examples.Cloning never took off. Super soldiers were never created. Clones didn’t become a part of mainstream medicine. In the 1990s, after Dolly the sheep was created, people’s imaginations ran wild and wildly wrong.