10 April 2023

Is Myanmar building a spy base on Great Coco Island?

John Pollock

Myanmar’s Coco Islands in the Bay of Bengal have long been the subject of geopolitical intrigue and controversy among analysts, journalists, and policymakers across South Asia.

The most common allegation is that since the early 1990s, Myanmar has allowed a Chinese signals intelligence facility on the archipelago. Little evidence exists for such a facility, bar a heavily weathered radar station, but recent satellite photographs have raised concerns, especially for India, of increased activity on the islands.
The phantom Chinese intelligence post

The islands are experiencing a steady makeover, with tell-tale signs of military modernization and facilities to support aircraft. Instead of the phantom Chinese intelligence post still prevalent in the popular imagination, the latest images reveal that Myanmar may soon be intending to conduct maritime surveillance operations from Great Coco Island, the largest in an isolated archipelago that lies just 55 kilometres north of India’s strategic Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Beijing has staked a large investment in Myanmar to access Indian Ocean sea lanes

The photos from January 2023 by Maxar Technologies, which specializes in satellite imagery, show renewed levels of construction activity on Great Coco. Visible are two new hangars, a new causeway and what appears to be an accommodation bloc, all of which are visible in proximity to a freshly lengthened 2,300-metre runway and radar station. Visible as of late March on the southern tip of Great Coco, just beyond the causeway connecting the islands, is evidence of land clearing efforts indicating construction work to come.

The past two years of civil war in Myanmar have left it isolated internationally with the military junta, known as the Tatmadaw, increasingly fragile. Beijing has staked a large investment in the country via the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor to access Indian Ocean sea lanes as a way to bypass the Strait of Malacca – which has acted as a critical sea lane for shipping destined for China’s east coast – and direct energy imports instead over land into China’s Yunnan province.

India’s Defense Plans Fall Victim to Putin’s War

Tom Waldwyn

India’s armed forces have long relied heavily on Russian weapons and military equipment, and that dependence will not change soon. However, since Russia invaded Ukraine in early 2022, the Russian defense industry is struggling to resupply Moscow’s own forces at the front, which have drawn down weapons and ammunition stocks at a remarkable rate. Therefore, Russia will almost certainly not be able to satisfy many export demands for the rest of the decade—with profound implications for the country’s most important arms customer, India.

US Did a Lot 'to Support India' in 2020 Ladakh Border Crisis With China

A former Pentagon official says that the MQ-9 drone leasing arrangement was complicated, "but the [Trump] administration worked very hard to make that happen quickly, to provide India with additional sort of intelligence collection capability. And there were other things that were done that are classified.”

New Delhi: The Donald Trump administration ‘quickly’ provided a lot of support, some of it still classified, to the Narendra Modi government in 2020 when the ongoing border crisis with China began in Ladakh. This was revealed by a senior Trump administration official to a Japanese newspaper.

“During the Trump administration, quite a bit was done to support India during the border clash, including making available to India MQ-9 drones for surveillance purposes,” Christopher Johnstone, a former Pentagon official in charge of South and Southeast Asia in the Office of the US Secretary of Defence, told Nikkei Asia. The drone leasing arrangement was complicated, “but the administration worked very hard to make that happen quickly, to provide India with additional sort of intelligence collection capability. And there were other things that were done that are classified,” he told Nikkei.

Johnstone, who is currently a senior adviser and Japan chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, was at the Pentagon handling India at the time.

He revealed that “there was a very explicit decision made inside [Pentagon] and at the White House to provide as much support as we could, based on what India wanted. Frankly, that helped to create something of a foundation under the relationship that also contributed to the Quad and the elevation of the relationship under President Biden.”

As per the former official, the real test for the Quad will come next year when India will be hosting the summit of the Quad leaders. “It will be India’s first time to host so they will have to develop an agenda and identify priorities and deliverables. It will be a test of the Quad’s durability and effectiveness, and India’s commitment,” warned Johnstone.

This year’s Quad summit is scheduled in Australia in May, following the G7 summit at Tokyo to allow the US president to travel easily. India has so far resisted militarisation of the Quad, keeping security-related issues away from its agenda.

India’s Defense Plans Fall Victim to Putin’s War

Tom Waldwyn

India’s armed forces have long relied heavily on Russian weapons and military equipment, and that dependence will not change soon. However, since Russia invaded Ukraine in early 2022, the Russian defense industry is struggling to resupply Moscow’s own forces at the front, which have drawn down weapons and ammunition stocks at a remarkable rate. Therefore, Russia will almost certainly not be able to satisfy many export demands for the rest of the decade—with profound implications for the country’s most important arms customer, India.

A new report on the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan

The August 2021 withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan produced some of the Biden administration’s worst days. The withdrawal also led to profound change and trauma for the people of Afghanistan: The U.S.-backed government fell, the Taliban returned to power, frightened Afghans jammed Kabul Airport in desperate efforts to flee, and the withdrawal and evacuations were punctuated by an Islamic State attack that killed 170 Afghan civilians and 13 U.S. service members.

Nearly two years later, the Biden administration has released the main findings of an almost two-year review of the withdrawal and the decisions that led to those fateful days. The National Security Council (NSC) shared a 12-page summary of its review Thursday, which acknowledges that the withdrawal was rushed, the administration misjudged the rapid advance of Taliban forces, and the overall evacuation effort should have begun sooner.

“Clearly we didn’t get things right here with Afghanistan with how fast the Taliban was moving across the country,” said White House spokesman John F. Kirby. Kirby — and the report itself — noted that the U.S. has instituted policies to carry out such evacuations sooner when security conditions worsen.

But the NSC release and Kirby’s answers were noteworthy for their defensive tone as much as their acknowledgment of errors. For the most part, the Biden administration is seen as having done well to navigate an extremely fraught situation, while the Trump administration comes in for blame — particularly for brokering the initial deal with the Taliban to withdraw American troops by the spring of 2021. That deal, the argument goes, left the Biden White House with few good options — and the Trump administration had also cut U.S. troop levels from 10,000 to 2,500, bequeathing the Biden team a force outnumbered by Taliban fighters. And of course the Taliban commanders knew — thanks to the Trump deal — that the rest of the Americans would soon be gone. Afghan security forces knew it too.

The U.S. Withdrawal from Afghanistan

To view the document outlining the key decisions and challenges surrounding the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, visit: https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/US-Withdrawal-from-Afghanistan.pdf

China’s military aims to launch 13,000 satellites to rival Elon Musk’s Starlink

Chinese military researchers are calling for the rapid deployment of a national satellite network project to compete with SpaceX’s Starlink, over concerns that Elon Musk’s internet-beaming satellites pose a major national security threat to Beijing following their successful use in the Ukraine war.

Recent Chinese research papers and people familiar with the program say plans are underway to deploy a national mega-constellation of almost 13,000 low-orbit satellites, while military scientists are pursuing research on how to “suppress” or even damage Starlink satellites in wartime scenarios.

An opaque state-backed project — referred to in China’s satellite industry as “GW” or “Guowang,” which translates as “State Network” — first gained momentum in 2021 as a rival to the United States and other civilian internet satellite networks. But Chinese researchers in recent months have shared concerns in public research and privately with military officials that the project is lagging too far behind Starlink and should be fast-tracked after the SpaceX communications technology withstood practical tests in Ukraine.

“The Starlink constellation has finally shown its military colors in the Russia-Ukraine conflict,” said one Beijing academic familiar with the Chinese project.

“The focus now is to accelerate the development of China’s own constellation … and explore defensive measures against Starlink-type foreign satellites,” said the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Chinese national security concerns over Starlink come amid an increasingly heated space race between Beijing and Washington, with both countries investing heavily in cutting-edge defensive technology and exploration missions — including competing efforts to put the first human on Mars.

Large low-earth internet satellite networks like Starlink and rival projects from Amazon and Boeing — which orbit between 300 and 1,200 miles above the Earth’s surface — are commercial ventures designed to provide broadband internet to areas that have low connectivity.

China is looking to stir up border tensions again; India must be on highest alert, intensify military engagement with US

Sreemoy Talukdar

The signs are ominous. A close reading of tea leaves suggests that the inhospitable regions of high Himalayas, through which runs thousands of kilometres of undemarcated border between India and China, may again witness Beijing’s renewed attempts at incursion or other forms of mischief.

The joining of seemingly disparate yet coordinated dots leads to an unsavoury conclusion — that India must be on highest alert for yet another Chinese misadventure along the LAC. PLA’s western theatre command may probe and test Indian preparedness in more than one place.

The geopolitical moment is opportune. Russia, an important cog in India’s China strategy, is getting increasingly beholden to Beijing. The United States, meanwhile, is distracted by the war in Ukraine and the need to punish and degrade Russia. Washington is simultaneously casting a wary eye out for Taiwan.

This leaves China with the chance to resume its ‘grey zone’ tactics against India and focus towards achieving its strategic goals just under the conflict radar.

Top-ranking US military officials are hinting at increased Chinese activity along the LAC.

Worth noting that India had anticipated and repelled a Chinese offensive on 9 December last year in the Tawang sector of Arunachal Pradesh when PLA troops armed with spiked clubs and tasers sought to overrun an Indian outpost at Yanki in the Yangtse area of Tawang sector and “sought to unilaterally change the status quo”, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh had told the Parliament. There were multiple injuries from both sides in the ensuing fisticuff, but no one died.

American media has claimed that India was able to force Chinese troops to retreat on that occasion due to “real-time” and “actionable intelligence” about China’s force position and strength provided by the US military to counterparts in New Delhi. The “unprecedented intelligence sharing” had caught PLA troops “off guard”, according to a report by Paul Shinkman for US News in March this year.

China as a Lender of Last Resort

China has become a major rescue lender for heavily indebted countries. In 2022, loans to countries in debt distress accounted for 60 percent of China’s overseas lending portfolio – up sharply from just 5 percent in 2010.

Silicon Valley Is Beating Washington to China Decoupling

Rishi Iyengar

After flocking to China for more than a decade, American venture capitalists have significantly curtailed their exposure to the country’s technology sector in recent years, in large part due to increasing geopolitical tensions and increasing investment restrictions in both Washington and Beijing.

Ukraine War Plans Leak Prompts Pentagon Investigation

Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt

WASHINGTON — Classified war documents detailing secret American and NATO plans for building up the Ukrainian military ahead of a planned offensive against Russian troops were posted this week on social media channels, senior Biden administration officials said.

The Pentagon is investigating who may have been behind the leak of the documents, which appeared on Twitter and on Telegram, a platform with more than half a billion users that is widely available in Russia.

Military analysts said the documents appear to have been modified in certain parts from their original format, overstating American estimates of Ukrainian war dead and understating estimates of Russian troops killed.

The modifications could point to an effort of disinformation by Moscow, the analysts said. But the disclosures in the original documents, which appear as photographs of charts of anticipated weapons deliveries, troop and battalion strengths, and other plans, represent a significant breach of American intelligence in the effort to aid Ukraine.

Biden officials were working to get them deleted but had not, as of Thursday evening, succeeded.

“We are aware of the reports of social media posts and the department is reviewing the matter,” said Sabrina Singh, the deputy press secretary at the Pentagon.

The documents do not provide specific battle plans, like how, when, and where Ukraine intends to launch its offensive, which American officials say is likely coming in the next month or so. And because the documents are five weeks old, they offer a snapshot of time — the American and Ukrainian view, as of March 1, of what Ukrainian troops might need for the campaign.

Zelensky strikes back

Jamie McIntyre, Senior Writer 

Ukraine’s strategy for its planned counteroffensive against the Russian invasion force might be similarly summarized as: “First, we're going to cut it off, and then we'll watch it die.”

Ukraine faces a daunting task, dislodging and defeating several hundred thousand entrenched Russian troops who have spent six months digging hundreds of miles of trenches and erecting all manner of tank traps along more than 745 miles of front lines.

In more than a year of war, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military has suffered a series of battlefield humiliations and lost more than 200,000 troops, either killed or wounded.

Russian troops are downtrodden and dispirited, poorly led, treated, trained, and equipped, but they will be on defense, and Putin need only hold the territory he now occupies to eke out the semblance of a win.

On the other hand, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky believes only total victory, defined as the expulsion of Russian forces from every inch of Ukraine, will ensure his nation’s security in the short term. And more permanently by securing membership in NATO, which can’t happen while the country is divided.

It’s no secret Ukraine will soon strike back. But while its broad objectives are clear, the Ukrainian General Staff hopes its war plan will take Russia by surprise.

Most Western military experts agree that, at the minimum, Ukraine needs to break through Russian lines and cut the so-called land bridge between the eastern Donbas region and Russian-occupied Crimea to the south, isolating pockets of Russian troops and cutting supply lines.

There are some who believe the capture of Crimea, illegally annexed by Russia in 2014, is also a real possibility.

The Open Source VPN Out-Maneuvering Russian Censorship

THE RUSSIAN GOVERNMENT has banned more than 10,000 websites for content about the war in Ukraine since Moscow launched the full-scale invasion in February 2022. The blacklist includes Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and independent news outlets. Over the past year, Russians living inside the country have turned to censorship circumvention tools such as VPNs to pierce through the information blockade.

But as dozens of virtual private networks get blocked, leaving users scrambling to maintain their access to free information, local activists and developers are coming up with new solutions. One of them is Amnezia VPN, a free, open source VPN client.

“We even do not advertise and promote it, and new users are still coming by the hundreds every day,” says Mazay Banzaev, Amnezia VPN’s founder.

Unlike commercial VPNs that route users through company servers, which can be blocked, Amnezia VPN makes it simple for users to buy and set up their own servers. This allows them to choose their own IP address and use protocols that are harder to block.

“More than half of the commercial VPNs in Russia have been blocked because it’s easy enough to block them: They do not block them by protocols, but by IP addresses,” says Banzaev. “[Amnezia] is an order of magnitude more resilient than a typical commercial VPN.”

Amnezia VPN is similar to Outline, a free and open source tool developed by Jigsaw, a subsidiary of Google. Amnezia was created in 2020 during a hackathon supported by Russian digital rights organization Roskomsvoboda. Even then, “it was clear that things were moving toward stricter censorship,” says Banzaev.

Russian authorities have been attempting to control tools such as VPNs and anonymous proxy servers for years, including by introducing a law regulating these tools in 2017. Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, however, the Kremlin has escalated its efforts to control information.

Just days after Russian troops headed toward Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, Vladimir Putin signed legislation that criminalizes spreading "fake" information about the war, with a penalty of up to 15 years in prison. Most independent news outlets are now blocked, with editors and journalists ending up in prison, leaving Russians with state propaganda.

This has made VPNs and other censorship circumvention tools all the more important, says Stanislav Shakirov, cofounder of Roskomsvoboda and founder of tech development organization Privacy Accelerator. “If internet users in Russia stop receiving information other than state information,” he says, “we will have no hope of any processes leading to a change in the current regime.”

Debunking the myth: Cryptocurrency is used for criminal activity

Cryptocurrency is often associated with criminal activity, but this is mostly a myth, especially today. Bitcoin

$28,065 and other cryptocurrencies don’t provide complete anonymity due to the Know-Your-Customer (KYC) policies implemented by most crypto exchanges. Even without KYC scanning, law enforcement agencies can easily track crypto transactions to identify criminal activity, as the blockchain is transparent and immutable.

In 2019, United States Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said that Bitcoin was a national security issue, since it had been used for illicit activities. To him, cryptocurrencies were dominated by illegal activities and speculation. But the facts say otherwise.

Though illicit crypto volumes reached an all-time high at $20.6 billion in 2022 (primarily due to sanctioned entities), the share of all crypto activity linked with illegal activity was only 0.24%.

Bill Gates Weighs in on the Opportunities and Responsibilities of a ChatGPT-based AI Future


As far as a “hype cycle meticulously intertwined with a true technology inflection point” – and the signal-to-noise ratio of it all – nothing quite matches this ChatGPT moment. As Microsoft Chairman Bill Gates recently pointed out:

“In my lifetime, I’ve seen two demonstrations of technology that struck me as revolutionary.

The first time was in 1980 when I was introduced to a graphical user interface—the forerunner of every modern operating system, including Windows. I sat with the person who had shown me the demo, a brilliant programmer named Charles Simonyi, and we immediately started brainstorming about all the things we could do with such a user-friendly approach to computing. Charles eventually joined Microsoft, Windows became the backbone of Microsoft, and the thinking we did after that demo helped set the company’s agenda for the next 15 years.

The second big surprise came just last year. I’d been meeting with the team from OpenAI since 2016 and was impressed by their steady progress.

In mid-2022, I was so excited about the work that I gave them a challenge: train an artificial intelligence to pass an Advanced Placement biology exam. Make it capable of answering questions that it hasn’t been specifically trained for. (I picked AP Bio because the test is more than a simple regurgitation of scientific facts—it asks you to think critically about biology.) If you can do that, I said, then you’ll have made a true breakthrough.

I thought the challenge would keep them busy for two or three years. They finished it in just a few months.

In September, when I met with them again, I watched in awe as they asked GPT, their AI model, 60 multiple-choice questions from the AP Bio exam—and it got 59 of them right. Then it wrote outstanding answers to six open-ended questions from the exam. We had an outside expert score the test, and GPT got a 5—the highest possible score, and the equivalent to getting an A or A+ in a college-level biology course.

Once it had aced the test, we asked it a non-scientific question: “What do you say to a father with a sick child?” It wrote a thoughtful answer that was probably better than most of us in the room would have given. The whole experience was stunning.

I knew I had just seen the most important advance in technology since the graphical user interface.

Artillery usage could show the future course of the Ukraine war


In the war in Ukraine, artillery has emerged as perhaps the signature weapon of war, and that reality is likely to continue for the foreseeable future. By watching trends in its use in the coming weeks, we may be able to deduce a good deal about the likely future course of the conflict — even as debates intensify over whether to provide Ukraine fighter jets and more tanks, among other key technologies.

The intensity of artillery usage in the Ukraine war harkens back to the days of World War I, when artillery dominated the battlefield. In that tragic conflict, during which at least 10 million perished, hundreds of thousands of rounds were often employed by the belligerents daily. In this war, there are important differences, to be sure. Rates of fire are measured in the thousands or, at most, the low tens-of-thousands of rounds a day. Industry, ironically, seems less able to keep up with demand today than a century ago. Much artillery on the Ukrainian side is now precise and longer-ranged in capability and character. And, while Ukraine, like the belligerents of WWI, has largely directed its fire against enemy fighting positions, Russia has followed the classic Vladimir Putin model — dating back to the Chechnya and Syria wars — of simply leveling civilian buildings and neighborhoods to drive out the opponent’s forces, regardless of the ensuing losses of innocent life.

The big-picture story on artillery usage over the past 14 months goes something like this. Russia has used far more artillery than Ukraine, but both sides have used a lot. The most intensive period was last spring and summer, when Russia sought to expand control of the four provinces of eastern and southern Ukraine that, along with Crimea (back in 2014), it has “annexed.” A significant breakthrough occurred in late summer when Ukraine gained access to a couple dozen high-mobility artillery rocket systems (HIMARS) and their precision-guided munitions able to range some 70 kilometers. Since early fall, however, the fighting has slowed overall, breakthroughs have been scant, and both sides have faced artillery supply shortages.

Ukraine’s use of artillery peaked from May through August 2022, reaching an average of 6,000 rounds per day. Daily estimates declined to about 5,000 rounds a day in the fall of 2022, and further dropped to levels of about 3,000 rounds a day in November 2022. Russia’s artillery consumption has followed a similar trend, reaching its highest daily averages of 25,000 to 30,000 from April through August 2022. Notwithstanding the parallel month-to-month trend lines, Russia has fired about four times more rounds than Ukraine, on average, since the start of the invasion.

Ukrainian Cyber War Confirms the Lesson: Cyber Power Requires Soft Power

Jason Healey

Cyber experts, policymakers, and practitioners are striving to understand how cyber capabilities have been used since the Russian invasion of Ukraine one year ago. These analyses have missed a crucial lesson from fifteen years ago: cyber power requires soft power.

While it is hard to come to firm verdicts about the efficacy of cyber operations related to Ukraine (because cyber operations are often kept secret and cannot be spotted by open-source sleuths), some conclusions appear rather obvious.

For example, Ukraine’s cyber defenses have been remarkably resilient. There are multiple sources of this defensive strength, in particular the savvy, energy, and determination of Ukrainian cyber organizations, who have been adapting to Russian offensive campaigns since at least 2014, has been critical. Kyiv has also been backed by cyber defense assistance from the private sector and offensive and defensive cyber interventions by U.S. Cyber Command.

These advantages were driven in large part by the strength of Ukrainian soft power. Connections to allies, global tech firms, and networks of information security researchers allow states to mobilize defenses unavailable to others.

Estonia and the Earliest Signs of Cyber Soft Power

Views of a hot cyberwar — the Ukrainian perspective on Russia’s online assault

Christopher Burgess

In a recent report issued by the State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection of Ukraine (SSSCIP) titled “Russia’s Cyber Tactics: Lessons Learned in 2022 — SSSCIP analytical report on the year of Russia’s full-scale cyberwar against Ukraine” readers obtained a 10,000-foot overview of what a hot cyberwar entails from the Ukrainian perspective.

The SSSCIP report highlights the major targets, the coordination between government-advanced persistent threat groups and “hacktivists”, espionage operations and influence operations, and the Ukrainian analysis and discoveries.

SSSCIP Deputy Chairman Victor Zhora highlights in his introduction that Ukraine has been both the active testing ground and the target of choice for Russia’s cyber efforts since 2014. He takes an interesting tack by noting that each attacker is a person being directed to achieve a given result and that the SSSCIP report attempts to include the human context in observed tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP). Zhora notes that Russia has had some success but has not been successful overall due to the resilience of the Ukrainian defensive methodologies and the assistance of the many partners in defending Ukraine’s cyber landscape.

CISOs should take note of potential spillover from the war

Two of those partners, who have invested heavily both monetarily and technologically, are Microsoft and Google. Both entities have also recently published pieces providing optics into the Russian cyberwar against Ukraine. When reading these the CISO (and staff) should be looking to better understand the ramifications of any cyber spillover from the conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

UK’s offensive hacking unit takes on military opponents and terrorist groups

Dan Sabbagh 

Britain’s newly created offensive hacking unit, the National Cyber Force, has said it is engaged daily in operations to disrupt terrorist groups, distributors of child sexual abuse material and military opponents of the UK.

An official paper, Responsible Cyber Power in Practice, is the first policy statement from the body and is intended to describe how far the UK is prepared to fight back against growing organised online threats.

Operational details remain sketchy, although the NCF says it is engaged in techniques to “undermine the tradecraft” of Russian, Chinese and other state-sponsored hackers and in “technical disruption” against terrorist groups, for example to prevent the dissemination of online propaganda.

Other activities listed by the NCF include “disrupting networks and operational capabilities” of Britain’s enemies in support of the UK military, and “persistent campaigns” to remove images of child abuse, so making the illegal content harder to find online.

Formally announced in 2020, the NCF is a joint operation between the GCHQ spy agency and the Ministry of Defence. It is the first time Britain’s cyber-attack capabilities have been grouped together in one acknowledged unit.

Russia, China, Iran and North Korea are all considered to promote hacker groups which aim to steal political and trade secrets online, or engage in online ransomware extortion attacks, where cybercriminals take control of a company’s systems and demand substantial payments to restore them.

Last week, a leak of files from Moscow revealed that Russian spy agencies tasked an IT company, NTC Vulkan, to develop cyberwarfare tools aimed at taking down infrastructure networks and scouring the internet for vulnerabilities.

The NCF says it is willing to try to knock out an adversary’s cyber capability if necessary, but argues that it can often be more effective to degrade their “ability to acquire, analyse and exploit the information they need”.

It describes this as the “doctrine of cognitive effect”, by which it is hoped that it is possible to affect opponents’ “perception of the operating environment and weaken[ing] their ability to plan and conduct activities effectively”.

France: A 'Field of Ruins'

Guy Millière

France, once again, is on the verge of chaos.

The subject of the discontent is the adoption of a law reforming the pension system in a minimal way: the legal retirement age in France has been set at 62 since 2010; the law raises it two years, to 64.

Neither members of the government nor economists on television dare to speak the truth: The French pension system is collapsing. The reform just adopted will not be enough to save it; just allow it to survive a bit longer.

The system has been bankrupt for years, but its bankruptcy is growing more costly.

The French pension system is not the only system collapsing. The country is facing a much larger crisis.

The French health insurance system, also based on mandatory contributions deducted from salaries, also is in terrible shape.

Food prices in 2022, meanwhile, increased 14.5%.

The center-left and center-right parties are dead. Neither the Rebellious France Party nor the National Rally Party would be able gather enough votes to constitute an alternative majority. The political situation is blocked.

France seems deadlocked, the possibilities of unblocking it nowhere in sight.

"A modest reform based on an implacable demographic observation has tipped France into an existential crisis in which everything is wavering... A much deeper malaise is rising to the surface. That of a country haunted by its decline". — Vincent Trémollet de Villers, Le Figaro, March 23, 2023.

Biden’s State Department Needs a Reset

Stephen M. Walt

It is a truth universally acknowledged that America’s diplomatic institutions—and especially the State Department—are under-resourced. This truth is especially evident when you compare the State Department or Agency for International Development budgets with the money allocated to the Defense Department or the intelligence services. It’s even more obvious when you take America’s lofty global ambitions into account. It’s also a truism that the president’s time—and that of top cabinet officials such as Secretary of State Antony Blinken—is the scarcest resource of all.

Will U.S. Support for Ukraine Outlast Biden?

Robbie Gramer and Christina Lu

At a major NATO summit in Madrid last year, U.S. President Joe Biden vowed to support U.S. allies and Ukraine against the Russian invasion for “as long as it takes.”

Why Putin Won’t Use Nuclear Weapons

Ravi Agrawal

Having withstood a winter offensive from Russia, Ukraine is likely to strike back at some point in the coming weeks. It raises several questions about what such a counterattack might look like, how Kyiv should define its goals, and how allies in Europe and the United States should think about helping.

NTC Vulkan leak shows evolving Russian cyberwar capabilities

Dr. Christopher Whyte

National habits and perspectives on waging war are not just apparent in terrestrial conflict. In cyberspace, national ways of cyberwar clearly exist. From the unusually aggressive style of Israeli responses to regional cyber threat activities to the consistent correlation between Communist Party interests and China-attributed cyber espionage, a host of examples show that diverse geopolitical interests, national political imperatives, and institutional cultures seem to produce unique flavors of cybersecurity practice.

Now, the NTC Vulkan leak of thousands of pages of secret documentation related to the development of Moscow’s cyber and information operations capabilities adds more weight to this view. The documents paint a picture of a government obsessed with social control and committed to scaling their capacity for non-kinetic interference.
NTC Vulkan: What we know

An apparently unhappy employee of a contracting firm linked to Russian military and security services passed several thousand documents to a German reporter working for Süddeutsche Zeitung. They detailed a collaboration centered on fleshing out Moscow’s cyber conflict toolkit. The employee, who has remained anonymous and disappeared soon after the transfer of documents, claimed extreme discomfort with Vladimir Putin’s administration. “The company is doing bad things, and the Russian government is cowardly and wrong,” the whistle blower stated. “I am angry about the invasion of Ukraine and the terrible things that are happening there…. I hope you can use this information to show what is happening behind closed doors.”

The leaked documents constitute a cache of over 5,000 manuals, reports, company communications, software specification sheets, and other media covering a period between 2016 and 2021. The portfolio details applications and database resources developed by a company called NTC Vulkan for use by the intelligence agencies of the Russian Federation. Reporting on the leak highlights the close relationship held by the company across the period with key spy agencies and military units. These include the Federal Security Service (FSB), the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), and both military intelligence divisions of Russia’s armed forces: the Main Directorate (GRU) and Main Operational Directorate (GOU) of the General Staff.

The latest counter-UAS system targets drones with dual-defeat kinetics and EW

Leonardo DRS is the lead integrator for the US Army’s on-going Mobile-Low, Slow, Small Unmanned Aircraft System Integrated Defeat System (M-LIDS) program. Photo courtesy of Leonardo DRS.

Drones continue to become more capable and more dangerous. They’re being deployed effectively for surveillance and attack by both sides of the on-going conflict in Ukraine. Drones are impacting each side’s ability to maneuver ground forces, and Russia has used them extensively to attack critical infrastructure to shape the will of the Ukrainian people.

To address this new battlefield reality, the US Army, in particular, is leading the way in providing warfighters with Counter-Unmanned Aircraft System (C-UAS) capabilities. One of its priorities is the mobile C-UAS program known as Mobile, Low, Slow, Small, Unmanned Aircraft Integrated Defeat System (M-LIDS). The Army identified M-LIDS Increment 2 as an ACAT III program of record about a year ago.

M-LIDS is configured with two mine-resistant ambush-protected (MRAP) all-terrain vehicles (M-ATV). One MATV employs on-board radar to detect and track threats and a remote turret with multiple kinetic effectors to defeat threats; the other vehicle carries non-kinetic electronic warfare technologies.

In this Q&A with Aaron Hankins, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Leonardo DRS Land Systems, we discussed the latest developments with M-LIDS, what the company brings to the program as lead vehicle integrator, and the effort it leads to reimagine the two-vehicle M-LIDS M-ATV package as a single M-LIDS Stryker.

Pentagon should experiment with AIs like ChatGPT — but don’t trust them yet: DoD’s ex-AI chiefs


WASHINGTON — Imagine a militarized version of ChatGPT, trained on secret intelligence. Instead of painstakingly piecing together scattered database entries, intercepted transmissions and news reports, an analyst types in a quick query in plain English and get back, in seconds, a concise summary — a prediction of hostile action, for example, or a profile of a terrorist.

But is that output true? With today’s technology, you can’t count on it, at all.

That’s the potential and the peril of “generative” AI, which can create entirely new text, code or images rather than just categorizing and highlighting existing ones. Agencies like the CIA and State Department have already expressed interest. But for now, at least, generative AI has a fatal flaw: It makes stuff up.

“I’m excited about the potential,” said Lt. Gen. (ret.) Jack Shanahan, founding director of the Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center (JAIC) from 2018 to 2020. “I play around with Bing AI, I use ChatGPT pretty regularly — [but] there is no intelligence analyst right now that would use these systems in any way other than with a hefty grain of salt.”

“This idea of hallucinations is a major problem,” he told Breaking Defense, using the term of art for AI answers with no foundation in reality. “It is a showstopper for intelligence.”

Shanahan’s successor at JAIC, recently retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Michael Groen, agreed. “We can experiment with it, [but] practically it’s still years away,” he said.

Instead, Shahanan and Groen told Breaking Defense that, at this point, the Pentagon should swiftly start experimenting with generative AI — with abundant caution and careful training for would-be users — with an eye to seriously using the systems when and if the hallucination problem can be fixed.

Who Am I?

What is cybersecurity?

It’s what organizations do to protect their own and their customers’ data from malicious attacks.

Hot data. The internet isn’t always a safe space. Cyberattacks are on the rise, and there’s no indication that they will stop anytime soon.

As a result of this uptick, everyone is on red alert: consumers are paying more attention to where their data goes; governments are putting regulations in place to protect their populations; and organizations are spending more time, energy, and money to guard their operations against cybercrime.

For organizations, the increasing awareness of cyber risk, by consumers and regulators alike, doesn’t have to spell trouble. In fact, the current climate could present savvy leaders with a significant growth opportunity. McKinsey research indicates that the organizations best positioned to build digital trust are more likely than others to see annual growth of at least 10 percent.

What’s the current state of cybersecurity for consumers, regulators, and organizations? And how can organizations turn the risks into rewards? Read on to learn from McKinsey Insights.

What is a cyberattack?

Before we learn how organizations and individuals can protect themselves, let’s start with what they’re protecting themselves against. What is a cyberattack? Simply, it’s any malicious attack on a computer system, network, or device to gain access and information. There are many different types of cyberattacks. Here are some of the most common ones:Malware is malicious software, including spyware, ransomware, and viruses. It accesses a network through a weakness—for example, when a member of the network clicks on a fraudulent link or email attachment. Once malware controls a system, it can demand payment in exchange for access to that system (ransomware), covertly transmit information from the network (spyware), or install additional harmful software on the network. In 2021, ransomware attacks alone surged by 105 percent.

Cyberwarfare is all in the mind, says Britain

“It is the deterrent rocket force of our age,” gushed one columnist. “Cyber divisions are worth more than aircraft carrier[s] or nuclear weapons.” He was referring to Britain’s National Cyber Force (ncf), created in 2020 with a mission to “disrupt, deny, degrade” in cyberspace. Now the ncf is opening up to dispel such fantasies.

On April 4th it published “Responsible Cyber Power in Practice”, which explains in 28 pages how Britain views the purpose and principles of “offensive cyber”. On the same day it revealed its commander’s identity. James Babbage has spent nearly 30 years at gchq, Britain’s signals-intelligence agency. Mr Babbage gave his first interview to The Economist.

WhatsApp urges all users to make simple settings change to beat cyber attack

Messaging and call firm WhatsApp has warned users of the dangers of fake messages and urged people to take action to ensure their accounts are protected against cyber attacks. The Mirror says that with the recent resurgence of a worrying six-digit text scam that can give hackers full access to private chats, WhatsApp has reminded its billions of users worldwide of steps to counter the crooks.

Due to its huge popularity, WhatsApp is a constant target for thieves, but there are simple ways to avoid becoming a victim. These include checking your settings to ensure that your profile picture is private. WhatsApp says this is an easy way to keep your identity safe as strangers cannot view the photo or steal it in a bid to trick friends or contacts into believing that they are speaking to you.

The Mirror says that perhaps the biggest reason to hide your face from view is the dreaded ‘friend in need’ scam. This is where the hacker pretends to be a close family member and asks for money to be transferred due to their phone and wallet being lost or stolen. It is thought that thousands of pounds have been stolen using this method and it continues to be a favoured tactic used by online crooks.

Along with changing your profile picture, WhatsApp has also issued some other advice to help users avoid having their accounts hacked. This includes taking time to think before responding and never sharing codes sent to your phone if you have not asked for them.

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Here are the latest tips you should know:

When Training Simulation Is Better Than Reality


NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland—The Navy is betting big on simulated training as part of its Live, Virtual, and Constructive training program. But virtual training is not always the best choice, and simulations must be realistic to be valuable, experts say.

“It's a question of when simulated training is juice that's worth the squeeze. And the reality is that it is not always, but where it is, it really has exquisite capability,” said Schuyler Moore, the chief technology officer for U.S. Central Command, during a panel discussion on the future of all-domain mission rehearsal at the annual SeaAirSpace conference on Monday.

Figuring out that value means determining three things: accessibility, risks, and how much a simulated environment can be tailored to specific training needs, while being as realistic as possible.

“Is it something where you don't want someone up in the air, out on a ship trying something because the risk is too high to consistently run training on the reps and sets that they need?” Moore said. “Do you have access to whatever system or aircraft or platform would allow you to do the training necessary, if not supplemented with simulated training as much as humanly possible?”

Moreover, the value simulated training offers is directly related to how specific it is, she said.

“Doing general simulated training that covers everyone may be generally useful, but specifically useful to no one. And so to the extent that you can very clearly articulate what your environment is and the way that you will be using whatever system that you are training on, the better,” Moore explained.

For example, simulations are perfect for safety training because the risk is too high to put individuals in dangerous scenarios, and space to run those exercises repeatedly in the real world could be limited.