18 April 2023

The Emergence of the Indo-Pacific: Geopolitical Turn or Continuity?

Marie Kwon

On 20 March 2023, Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida announced a $75 billion plan for a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” dedicated to maintaining peace and ensuring cooperation and connectivity in the Indo-Pacific region. The plan, revealed in New Delhi, echoed Kishida’s predecessor Shinzo Abe’s landmark address to the Indian Parliament in 2007, which was the first public defence of a strategic confluence of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The conceptual merging of the two oceanic spaces was, at the time of its introduction, understood to reflect the material political and economic convergences that brought the region’s leading powers, namely India and Japan, closer together. This speech paved the way for the later release of Japan’s vision for a Free and Open Indo-Pacific in 2016 but it also kickstarted the coming into being of the Indo-Pacific as both a geographical notion and geopolitical vision.

Despite the prevalence of the Indo-Pacific in global policy discourses, the emergence of the terminology is endogenous to the region itself. Japan and India were the first to call for greater convergence in the face of common security concerns across the regional space, thereby introducing a novel form of Asian identity expressed by Shinzo Abe as “broader Asia.” However, grasping the meaning of the Indo-Pacific has since become deeply ambiguous. There is scant consensus as to the region’s geographical scope, and the contestation around the terminology demonstrates the eagerness of certain state actors to shape the new regional framework according to their national interests. Interpretations of the region’s extent are indeed numerous, some locate the region as stretching from the Eastern coast of Africa to the Americas, others exclude the Eastern flank of the Indian Ocean, while Beijing rejects the term completely in what appears to be an effort to denounce anti-China bloc politics. These competing definitions and ensuing diverging policy approaches have further reinforced the complexity of the Indo-Pacific debate in both policy and academic discourses. But exactly what has led to the rapid popularisation of the Indo-Pacific? What does the term have to do with broader discourses on geopolitics? And what impact will it have on international relations theory? This article intends to reflect on these questions as a way of clarifying the debate surrounding Indo-Pacific studies.

Centre issues alert as hacker group targets 12,000 Indian govt websites

Anwesha Mitra

A group called ‘Hactivist Indonesia’ has declared that they will target a list of 12,000 Indian government websites in the coming days.

A hacking group on Thursday announced plans to attack thousands Indian government websites in the near future. According to an alert shared by the Home Ministry, ‘Hacktivist Indonesia’ has circulated a list of 12,000 websites which they want to target. The group has previously been linked to cyber attacks in Sweden, Israel and the US.

The communique however asserted that Indian government websites were "updated" and "capable" of handling such threats and narratives. The alert was circulated by the MHA's Indian Cybercrime Coordination Centre (I4C) on the basis of inputs received by its Cyber Threat Intelligence wing following its open-source intelligence.

According to a Moneycontrol report, the list includes thousands of government such - including Aadhaar, departments of police, space, and Income Tax and even consulate websites.

While authorities noted that the ill elements could be operating within or outside the country, the location or origin of 'Hacktivist Indonesia' remains unknown.

"A group named 'Hacktivist Indonesia' has been targetting India, and it has created a narrative that it will attack 12,0000 Indian government websites that include Central and those linked to States. It is, however, not necessary that the group belongs to Indonesia," said sources citing by news agency ANI.

Space Threat Assessment 2023

Kari A. Bingen , Kaitlyn Johnson , Makena Young , and John Raymond

Welcome to the sixth edition of Space Threat Assessment by the Aerospace Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS). This resource for policymakers and the public leverages open-source information to assess key developments in foreign counterspace weapons. Drawing on six years of collected data and analyses, this series describes trends in the development, testing, and use of counterspace weapons and enables readers to develop a deeper understanding of threats to U.S. national security interests in space. The past year was dominated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine, where space capabilities, including commercial satellites, played a highly visible and compelling role in Ukraine’s resistance to the invasion. Thus, this year’s featured analysis provides an in-depth look at Russia’s battlefield employment of counterspace weapons. As space capabilities continue to demonstrate their utility, from peacetime to conflict, it should come as no surprise that adversaries seek to block their use.

This year’s assessment covers the growing space and counterspace capabilities of China, Russia, India, Iran, North Korea, and other nations. For more detail on past counterspace weapons tests, including historical tests by the United States and the Soviet Union, please review the prior Space Threat Assessments (editions 2018–2022) or visit the Aerospace Secu­rity Project’s interactive online timeline at https://aerospace.csis.org/counterspace-timeline/.

This report is made possible by general support to CSIS. No direct sponsorship contributed to this report. Download the Full Report13979kb

China’s Two-Pronged Approach Around The World – OpEd

Gufron Gozali

China’s diplomatic style on certain strategic issues and locations across the globe can be characterized as “two-pronged”, often offering both carrot and stick while deliberately masking its true colors. Below are three expositions as to how China engages in this behavior in three separate nodes.

The Ukraine Invasion

Despite its perceived rhetorical and political support towards Russia’s actions in Ukraine, China surprisingly submitted a 12-point peace proposal aimed at ending the conflict and accelerating recovery in February 2023. One of its most important points is that all parties should respect each country’s territorial sovereignty.

This proposal came after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Chinese companies of supplying non-lethal support to Russia, a remark seemingly made to deter China’s involvement in the conflict. Blinken also stated that China might consider providing Russia with weapons and ammunition in the future. However, this assistance has not been provided because the two sides have yet to reach an agreement on price, and there are indications that high-ranking Chinese officials are still skeptical about this move.

Positioning itself as a neutral party, China is aware that overt support to Russia would only harm China’s national interest. This explains China’s rather ambiguous stance on the conflict since its beginning. China did support the invasion of Russia of Ukraine because they think this is caused by the expansion of influence by NATO to the east, and do not agree with the attitude of the West which imposes severe sanctions on Russia. However, at the UN general assembly session, China chose to abstain, and so far, China has rejected accusations of providing weapons assistance to Russia.

China’s 2023 Defense Spending: Figures, Intentions and Concerns

Amrita Jash

In March, at the opening session of the 14th National People’s Congress (NPC), the top legislature of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) announced an annual defense budget of roughly 1.55 trillion yuan (about $224.79 billion) for fiscal year 2023, which is a 7.2 percent increase from last year (State Council Information Office [SCIO], March 6). This year’s increase is the eighth consecutive single-digit uptick in China’s defense spending, with the last double-digit jump of 10.1 percent recorded in 2015. In the interim, the PRC’s estimated yearly military budget increases have been 7.6 percent in 2016, 7 percent in 2017, 8.1 percent in 2018, 7.5 percent in 2019, 6.6 percent in 2020, 6.8 percent in 2021 and 7.1 percent last year, respectively (Huanqiu, March 4). As a result, this year’s defense budget increase aligns with recent spending patterns and confirms the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership’s unwavering commitment to sustaining a rapid pace of military modernization, despite the economic downturn during the COVID-19 pandemic and mounting fiscal challenges.

The PRC’s decision to significantly increase its defense budget again this year is unsurprising given escalating geopolitical tensions with the U.S. and the Russia-Ukraine war. While China’s defense spending remains behind the U.S., the continuous nominal increases are alarming to both Washington and China’s neighbors, given the growing tensions over Taiwan, the South China Sea, the East China Sea and the China-India border dispute in the Himalayas (China Brief, April 29, 2022). A significant contributing factor to anxiety over the PRC’s military modernization is the lack of transparency on defense spending, both in terms of estimates and in classifying areas of spending.

Xi Seeks to Reinvigorate Military-Civilian Integration

Arthur Ding, K. Tristan Tang

In a speech to the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and the People’s Armed Police Force (PAP) delegation to the National People’s Congress (NPC) on March 8, Chinese President and Central Military Commission Chairman Xi Jinping called for accelerating the development of “integrated national strategies and strategic capabilities” (INSSC:一体化国家战略体系和能力) (Xinhua, March 8). Xi defined the key elements of developing INSSC in the defense and military portion of his political report to the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) 20th Party Congress last October. He stated that:

“We will consolidate and enhance integrated national strategies and strategic capabilities. We will better coordinate strategies and plans, align policies and systems, and share resources and production factors between the military and civilian sectors. We will improve the system and layout of science, technology and industries related to national defense and step up capacity building in these areas. We will raise public awareness of the importance of national defense. We will improve our national defense mobilization capacity and the development of our reserve forces and modernize our border, coastal and air defenses. We will better motivate service personnel and their family members through military honors and do more to protect their rights and interests. Better services and support will be provided to ex-service personnel. We will consolidate and boost unity between the military and the government and between the military and the people” (Xinhua, October 25, 2022).

While Xi’s vision of INSSC is extremely comprehensive and all-encompassing, it has also been persistent. The concept was raised in Xi’s work report to the 19th Party Congress in October 2017. At that time Xi, stated:

“We will accelerate implementation of major projects, deepen reform of defense-related science, technology, and industry, achieve greater military-civilian integration, and build integrated national strategies and strategic capabilities. We will improve our national defense mobilization system and build a strong, well-structured, and modern border defense, coastal defense, and air defense. We will establish an administration for veterans; we will protect the legitimate rights and interests of military personnel and their families; and we will make military service an occupation that enjoys public respect…” (Xinhua, October 27, 2017).

PLA Freezes out Pentagon, Sustains Military-to-Military Relations with U.S. Allies

John S. Van Oudenaren

At the conclusion of French President Emmanuel Macron’s April 5-7 state visit to the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the two sides released a joint statement laying out 51 priorities for “opening new prospects in bilateral relations” and “fostering momentum in China-EU relations” (PRC Ministry of Foreign Affairs [FMPRC], April 7). While much of the joint statement focuses on deepening economic ties, strengthening cultural exchanges and enhancing cooperation on transnational challenges such as climate change, the document also addresses global security issues and bilateral military-to-military relations. The section on “jointly promoting world security and stability” lists eight shared priorities, including, strengthening the UN Security Council, preventing nuclear conflict, supporting non-proliferation regimes, restoring peace in Ukraine and promoting a diplomatic resolution of the Iran nuclear issue. Although the statement does not explicitly mention the PRC’s recently launched Global Security Initiative (GSI), the points made therein echo many of its key organizing principles and lend weight to General Secretary Xi Jinping’s efforts to position the PRC as a leader in international security affairs (China Brief, March 3). In addition to reaffirming both sides’ willingness to promote the “continuous development” of the China-France strategic partnership, the joint statement also notes that both sides have “agreed to deepen exchanges on strategic issues,” with a specific emphasis on enhancing dialogue between the “People’s Liberation Army [PLA] Southern Theater Command and the French Armed Forces in the Pacific, in order to strengthen mutual understanding on international and regional security issues” (FMPRC, April 7).

In his role as Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), Xi has emphasized the importance of military diplomacy as a key element of China’s overall foreign policy. According to recent congressional testimony by the director of the U.S. National Defense University’s Center for the Study of Chinese Military Affairs, Philip Saunders, high-level delegation visits, dialogues and other military-to-military exchanges advance both the operational and strategic aims of PLA diplomacy (USCC.gov, January 26) Strategically, high-level exchanges with foreign militaries support overall Chinese foreign policy and the PRC’s efforts to foster a favorable international security environment. Operationally, such interactions provide opportunities for intelligence gathering on both friendly and rival militaries. Indeed, throughout Xi’s tenure, many of the PLA’s senior-level visits, dialogues and international academic exchanges have occurred with the militaries of the U.S. and its NATO and Indo-Pacific allies. [1] However, as geopolitical tensions between the U.S. and China have escalated, Beijing has responded to perceived U.S. provocations, in particular Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan last August and the spy balloon crisis in early February, by halting established military dialogue mechanisms and greatly curtailing US-China military communication.

China’s 2023 Defense Spending: Figures, Intentions and Concerns

Amrita Jash


In March, at the opening session of the 14th National People’s Congress (NPC), the top legislature of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) announced an annual defense budget of roughly 1.55 trillion yuan (about $224.79 billion) for fiscal year 2023, which is a 7.2 percent increase from last year (State Council Information Office [SCIO], March 6). This year’s increase is the eighth consecutive single-digit uptick in China’s defense spending, with the last double-digit jump of 10.1 percent recorded in 2015. In the interim, the PRC’s estimated yearly military budget increases have been 7.6 percent in 2016, 7 percent in 2017, 8.1 percent in 2018, 7.5 percent in 2019, 6.6 percent in 2020, 6.8 percent in 2021 and 7.1 percent last year, respectively (Huanqiu, March 4). As a result, this year’s defense budget increase aligns with recent spending patterns and confirms the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership’s unwavering commitment to sustaining a rapid pace of military modernization, despite the economic downturn during the COVID-19 pandemic and mounting fiscal challenges.

The PRC’s decision to significantly increase its defense budget again this year is unsurprising given escalating geopolitical tensions with the U.S. and the Russia-Ukraine war. While China’s defense spending remains behind the U.S., the continuous nominal increases are alarming to both Washington and China’s neighbors, given the growing tensions over Taiwan, the South China Sea, the East China Sea and the China-India border dispute in the Himalayas (China Brief, April 29, 2022). A significant contributing factor to anxiety over the PRC’s military modernization is the lack of transparency on defense spending, both in terms of estimates and in classifying areas of spending.

Macron Said Out Loud What Europeans Really Think About China

Benjamin Haddad

On returning from his recent trip to China, French President Emmanuel Macron gave interviews that have ruffled feathers on both sides of the Atlantic. Memorably, he said that Europe cannot blindly follow the United States’ lead and should avoid “getting dragged into crises that are not our own.” This remark, which presumably refers to Taiwan, has caused some observers to claim that he is undercutting the trans-Atlantic front against China, even though he went on to reiterate France’s support for the status quo in Taiwan.

US cyber chiefs warn AI will help crooks, China develop nastier cyberattacks faster

Jessica Lyons Hardcastle

Bots like ChatGPT may not be able to pull off the next big Microsoft server worm or Colonial Pipeline ransomware super-infection but they may help criminal gangs and nation-state hackers develop some attacks against IT, according to Rob Joyce, director of the NSA's Cybersecurity Directorate.

Joyce, speaking at CrowdStrike's Government Summit Tuesday, said he doesn't expect to see — at least not "in the near term" — AI used "for automated attacks that will rip through systems at speeds that are unfathomable today."

Machine learning and its chatbot offspring are "the tools that are going to flow and increase the pace of the threat," Joyce claimed. "It's not going to generate the threat itself." The usual caveats and limitations of today's large language models, in other words.

Miscreants can use ML software to develop more authentic-seeming phishing lures and craft better ransom notes, while also scanning larger volumes of data for sensitive info they can monetize, he offered. These tools may be handy while developing some stages of a cyberattack; generating boilerplate code for malware, sending out messages, gathering information about a target, and so on.

AI gives network defenders these same opportunities, Joyce added. "So for the next year we are going to be very focused: what tools come out that will … give us the advantage as defensive folks."

CCIA report exposes malicious behavior and threat of US cyber hegemony

Zhao Manfeng 

The China Cybersecurity Industry Alliance recently released a report detailing the malicious behavior of the United States in conducting long-term cyber attacks on other countries. The report exposes the significant damage and serious threat posed by US cyber hegemony to the global cyberspace order.

Entitled Review of Cyberattacks from US Intelligence Agencies- Based on Global Cybersecurity Communities' Analyses, the report is divided into 13 parts, organized by time and event. These include US intelligence agencies' cyber attacks on key infrastructure in other countries, indiscriminate cyber theft and monitoring, implantation of backdoor pollution standards and supply chain sources, development of cyber attack weapons and leakage, connivance of penetration test platforms as hacker tools, interference and suppression of normal international technical exchanges and cooperation, and destruction of the international order and market rules in cyberspace. These actions obstruct the development of global information technology, create fragmentation and confrontation in cyberspace, and ultimately undermine the global cyberspace order.

Visit the full text of the report:

US tech firms should wargame response if China invades Taiwan, warns NSA cybersecurity chief


Robert Joyce, director of cybersecurity at the National Security Agency (NSA), speaks during a Senate Armed Services Subcommittee hearing in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, April 14, 2021. (Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year sent American tech firms scrambling to shore up their operations, especially those with workers in danger zones. But a Chinese invasion of Taiwan would have even more chaotic consequences for which businesses should start planning today, said the National Security Agency’s director of cybersecurity, Rob Joyce.

“We had a lot of companies who had to had to endure hard decisions and take rapid action at the time of the invasion” in February 2022, Joyce said at the Center for Strategic & International Studies this morning. “Often they had people in Ukraine that were now going to be in a war zone and they had to think about getting them out. They had Russian or Ukrainian sysadmins [systems administrators], and they had to think about what privileges they wanted them to have. They had network segments in Russia or Ukraine and they had to think about whether they severed that or firewalled that. They had to think about whether they just pulled all the way out of their Russian businesses and what the implications were.”

Joyce said for all that complexity, a Chinese invasion of Taiwan would even worse, considering “how [much] more intertwined” Taiwan is with the global economy and how much more of a cyber threat China may pose compared to Russia.

“That’s a really hard problem,” he emphasized, “and you don’t want to be starting that planning the week before an invasion when you’re starting to see the White House saying it’s coming. You want to be doing that now and buying down your risk and making those decisions in advance — and it’s really hard, so tabletop it and see where your pain points are.”

China’s 2023 work report and what it means: an AI post-mortem

Alicia García-Herrero Michal Krystyanczuk Robin Schindowski

China’s so-called Two Sessions, the country’s most important annual political gathering, marked a transition this year. Held in early March, it included the final work report – or summary of government business – delivered by outgoing Prime Minister, Li Keqiang, who after two five-year terms as China’s prime minister, handed over to Li Qiang.

Against this backdrop, Li Keqiang’s 2023 work report was blissfully short, compared to past reports. It focused mainly on reviewing 2022 economic performance and much less on the future. Still, given its symbolic importance, there is no doubt that every word in Li Keqiang’s work report was measured, making it important to analyse in detail, to draw out conclusions for China’s economic future.

The report (Li, 2023) did offer a few macroeconomic targets for 2023. The GDP growth target of “around 5 percent” has been read as unambitious, reflecting caution after the government missed 2022’s 5.5 percent target 1 . The announced employment target – 12 million new jobs – is higher than in the last five years, pointing clearly to the Chinese government’s concern with rising unemployment, especially among young people. The government’s short-term policy priorities are familiar as well: expanding domestic demand, modernising the industrial system, supporting public and private sector alike, attracting more foreign investment, containing economic and financial risks, and further transitioning to a green economy. But Li Keqiang provided little detail on how these goals would be achieved.

Beyond the targets, the legacy messages Li Keqiang put into his last work report can be studied more deeply using artificial intelligence techniques to gauge the sentiment and the major ideas. For comparison purposes, we used the same techniques to also analyse the work report presented by Premier Li during the previous Two Sessions, which took place in March 2022 (Li, 2022) as China moved towards tighter mobility restrictions because of increasing COVID-19 cases.

Major topics in the 2023 work report

China’s Data Governance and Cybersecurity Regime

Sourabh Gupta

China is unique in its farsighted treatment of data as a standalone ‘factor of production’. The goal of the central leadership appears to be to chart out the long-term parameters of a deep and liquid marketplace where data elements can be traded seamlessly, data factors are remunerated fairly, and guardrails erected to prevent the misuse, abuse or weaponization of data against the Party and State.

The focus of regulatory action has been four-fold: (a) to rein-in fintech-linked financial instability risks; (b) to rein-in the anti-competitive practices of Big Tech and compel greater data portability across platforms; (c) to rein-in the misuse and misappropriation of personal information; and (d) to streamline processes for classification of data and network security, including for data export purposes. More lately, regulators have sought to monitor network security risks as well as tighten controls over content at social media platforms through ‘golden shares’.

Chinese regulators have not been reticent to move fast and break things to instill order and structure to the marketplace – a far contrast to the all talk and no action mode of regulatory non-accomplishment across the Pacific. The capriciousness of regulation and the lack of due process has been disconcerting though, particularly at a time when China seeks to convey a more predictable business environment to local entrepreneurs and foreign investors.

The resemblance of China’s approach to Big Tech regulation – be it with regard to privacy and data handling, how content is treated on major digital platforms, or how gatekeeper platforms treat their smaller peers and vendors – bears significant resemblance to the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Digital Services Act (DSA), and Digital Markets Act (DMA). Which in turn begs the obvious question: Can Europe and China interconnect their digital ecosystems?


A New American Grand Strategy to Counter Russia and China

John Bolton

The post-Cold War era is over. This brief interregnum following the Soviet empire’s defeat proved an illusory holiday from reality and is now rapidly disappearing before expanding or newly emerging threats. History often fails to arrange itself conveniently for our understanding, especially for those alive when its tectonic plates shift. By any standard, however, history is now moving rapidly.

Xi Jinping certainly thinks so. He told Vladimir Putin after their recent Moscow summit: “Right now there are changes—the likes of which we haven’t seen for 100 years—and we are the ones driving these changes together.” For China’s communists, that century started with the 1927 onset of civil war against Chiang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang, culminating victoriously in 1949 when Mao Zedong established the People’s Republic of China and famously declared that “the Chinese people have stood up!”

The Critical Minerals Club

Christina Lu

U.S. lawmakers are scrambling to weaken China’s grip on the critical mineral supply chains that are key to the global energy transition, as escalating tensions stoke fears of strategic vulnerabilities and potential geopolitical disruptions.

Meet the hacker armies on Ukraine's cyber front line

Joe Tidy

When Russia initiated its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, a second, less visible battle in cyberspace got under way. The BBC's cyber correspondent Joe Tidy travelled to Ukraine to speak to those fighting the cyber war, and found the conflict has blurred the lines between those working for the military and the unofficial activist hackers.

When I went to visit Oleksandr in his one-bedroom flat in central Ukraine, I found a typically spartan set-up common to many hackers.

No furniture or home comforts - not even a TV - just a powerful computer in one corner of his bedroom and a powerful music system in the other.

From here, Oleksandr has helped temporarily disable hundreds of Russian websites, disrupted services at dozens of banks and defaced websites with pro-Ukraine messages.

He is one of the most prominent hackers in the vigilante group, the IT Army of Ukraine - a volunteer hacking network with a Telegram group nearly 200,000-strong.

For more than a year, he has devoted himself to causing as much chaos in Russia as possible.

Even during our visit he was running complex software attempting to take his latest target - a Russian banking website - offline.

Ironically though, he admits the idea for his favourite hack actually began with a tip from an anonymous Russian, who told them about an organisation called Chestny Znak - Russia's only product authentication system.

He was told all goods produced in Russia - including fresh food - have to be scanned for a unique number and a barcode supplied by the company from the moment of their creation at a factory, up till the moment of being sold.

More leaked documents reveal U.S. insight into Russian infighting, threat from China, candid views of allies


Nearly a dozen additional leaked U.S. documents include new details about Russian infighting over the war in Ukraine, concern that the United Nation's chief has been too "accommodating" toward Moscow, pressure from Beijing on an Arab ally of the U.S. and Chinese technology threatening to "hijack" Western satellites and infiltrate Defense Department supply chains.

CBS News has reviewed 11 new documents that are separate from an initial tranche of 53 pages that surfaced last week. Hundreds of documents have been released according to media reports — the Washington Post said it has reviewed about 300. The latest documents reviewed by CBS News came from the same server on the gaming site Discord, where the other 53 had initially appeared. Some of the 11 documents appear to have been dated Feb. 28.

CBS News has not independently verified the authenticity of the documents, but they closely resemble others acknowledged by U.S. officials to be real. The records show the breadth of the U.S. intelligence community's reach around the world.
Russian infighting

One document details internal strife in Russia about the number of troops killed. Officials at Moscow's Federal Security Service (FSB) accused Russia's Ministry of Defense of "obfuscating" Russian casualties in Ukraine by excluding deaths from the National Guard, Wagner Group, Chechen mercenaries and other unofficial organizations. The document says the FSB claimed the actual figure of Russian dead and wounded was closer to 110,000, a far higher figure than what has publicly acknowledged by the Kremlin. The most recent update from the Russian Ministry of Defense, from September 2022, said only 5,937 Russian soldiers had been killed in combat.

The entry observes that the dispute highlights the "continuing reluctance of military officials to convey bad news up the chain of command."

Time for Ukraine's Offensive?


Ukraine’s spring offensive has been spoken of with a mixture of anticipation and apprehension for the past few months. The Ukrainians are naturally impatient to get on with the business of pushing the Russians out of their country. But now that spring has come there are doubts about whether they are truly ready for a big push against the Russian occupiers. This war has shown that offensive operations are hard, especially against entrenched and determined defenders. If this offensive falters then it may be difficult to put together another operation with comparable capabilities, and weary international backers, with little more to invest in Ukraine’s fight, might start to press for an unsatisfactory compromise. The messages from Kyiv are mixed. Some insist that the offensive is imminent: others warn that it might be delayed, and perhaps become more of a summer offensive.

The Pentagon Leaks

The numerous slides from Pentagon briefings discovered in a gamer’s chat room provide one source of uncertainty. This episode is embarrassing for the Pentagon. It suggests that too many people, in this case a 21-year-old Air Force reservist, have access to highly sensitive information they really don’t need to know to get on with their jobs but would like to know to show off to their friends. Unlike other countries the US discourages compartmentalisation in intelligence assessments. This is to help analysts join dots that might otherwise have been missed. Unfortunately this also means that when individuals decide to leak material there is plenty to hand.

Leaks like this always make friendly countries nervous about sharing their secrets with the Americans, although another conclusion might be that the American spy agencies are so efficient that they’ll find out anyway. In this respect, the Russians should be especially alarmed about the degree of American insight to their deliberations. The leaks might encourage them to improve their security processes but also demonstrate how much the Americans know, and the detail with which they know it.

Game-changers: Implications of the Russo-Ukraine war for the future of ground warfare

T.X. Hammes

What does the record of combat in the year since Russia began its full-scale invasion of Ukraine herald about the future character of ground war? Defense analysts are split on whether the conflict manifests transformative change or merely reinforces the verities of ground combat. On the one hand, the bulk of each side’s formations are armed with decades-old equipment and trained in Soviet-era tactics. However, both forces are adapting, and the Ukrainian military is demonstrating an impressive propensity to improvise and innovate. In particular, Russia was not prepared for Ukraine’s convergence of new capabilities in command and control, persistent surveillance, and massed, precision fires which are changing the game of ground warfare.

Verities of ground combat

The Russo-Ukraine war has reinforced important continuities in military operations. These include the importance of preparation, logistics, and industrial capacity which are the core components needed to sustain a capable force. The war has also driven home the importance of both massed and precision fires. Cannon artillery has played a central role in the war, firing about two million rounds to date. Ukrainian forces have also adeptly employed long-range High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) to dramatically damage Russian ammunition resupply. Artillery fires have been, and will continue to be, crucial for supporting maneuver, degrading adversary communications and logistical capabilities, and destroying or suppressing adversary artillery. Consequently, the industrial capacity to produce the necessary ammunition, maintenance equipment, and systems to replace losses, will remain a defining feature of military preparedness.


Prosperity at Risk: The Quantum Computer Threat to the US Financial System

Arthur Herman & Alexander Butler

Due to the deep interconnectivity between public and private institutions and the inherent sensitivity of equity and credit markets, the financial sector network presents a prime target for a quantum attack. Even if America’s financial sector could install sufficient protections against conventional cyberattacks, it will remain a valuable and vulnerable target for a quantum-powered cyberattack.

Despite the many benefits that quantum computing is poised to bring to the financial sector, the threat of quantum-enabled cyberattacks and, more specifically, quantum decryption holds the potential to outweigh any gains in computational efficiency and accuracy. The impact of a cascading quantum attack on major banks, the Federal Reserve, or stock exchanges and derivative exchanges could be calamitous for the United States and the global economy. The risk of a catastrophic attack and financial collapse rises to levels that eclipse the 2008–09 crisis or the Great Depression.

Consequently, now more than ever, cyber threats, especially in the future quantum-enabled era, pose a critical risk to our national, economic, and even societal security—especially within the financial sector. While there are numerous attack vectors for a quantum-enabled adversary to exploit and a variety of points of failure within the vast financial system, experts have placed growing emphasis on the threat of a breakdown in the interbank payment system, specifically real-time-gross-settlement (RTGS) systems such as the Fedwire Funds Service that the US Federal Reserve provides.

The combination of the reliance on digital security that will be exposed to quantum intrusion, internally centralized operational design, and the overall concentration of network topology within Fedwire drastically increases the potential for a systemically disruptive event. If an adversary prevents the settlement of cross-border and domestic transactions between banks operating within the Fedwire RTGS system, a cyberattack could lead to liquidity issues for receiving parties, contract breaches, and payment and obligation failures, among other issues.

No Russia-Ukraine peace talks expected this year, U.S. leak shows

The grinding war between Ukraine and Russia is expected to bleed into 2024 with neither side securing victory yet both refusing to negotiate an end to the conflict, according to a Defense Intelligence Agency assessment that is among the highly sensitive U.S. government materials leaked online and obtained by The Washington Post.

The analysis concludes that, even if Ukraine recaptures “significant” amounts of territory and inflicts “unsustainable losses on Russian forces,” an outcome U.S. intelligence finds unlikely, the nation’s gains would not lead to peace talks.

“Negotiations to end the conflict are unlikely during 2023 in all considered scenarios,” says the document, which has not been disclosed previously.

A leak of dozens of classified U.S. military documents has stunned U.S. officials and allies, and has led to a Justice Department investigation. (Video: The Washington Post)

The assessment, based on close U.S. scrutiny of each side’s troop counts, weaponry and equipment, could galvanize the war’s critics who have called on major powers such as the United States and China to push for Kyiv and Moscow to reach a settlement and end a conflict that has displaced millions and left hundreds of thousands dead or wounded.

Asked about the DIA’s assessment, a U.S. official said the decision on when to negotiate is up to President Volodymyr Zelensky and the Ukrainian people, underscoring what has been a hands-off approach to mediation espoused by the administration since Russia’s full-scale invasion began in February 2022. The United States will continue to stand with Kyiv and provide it with the equipment and weapons that will bolster its position at the negotiating table, whenever that day comes, the official said.

The Discord Leaks

Ukraine’s Best Chance

Rajan Menon

Before Russian President Vladimir Putin’s army invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, the prevailing view was that Ukrainian resistance would crumble quickly. The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency thought so, as did Mark Milley, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, who reportedly predicted that Kyiv could fall in 72 hours. Yet more than a year later, Ukraine’s army fights on, having achieved remarkable advances on the battlefield. In March, it repelled Russia’s attack on Kyiv and areas north of the city. It had retaken Kharkiv Province by mid-September and has subsequently attacked the main Russian defense line between Svatove and Kreminna in adjacent Luhansk Province. In November, it forced Russia to withdraw from the part of Kherson Province that lies on the Dnieper River’s right bank. Ukraine has now regained about half the land Russia seized after the invasion.

The initial pessimism about Ukraine’s chances was, however, scarcely unreasonable. Russia had overwhelming superiority in the standard measures of military power, such as the number of soldiers and the quantity and quality of major armaments. Moreover, Putin had initiated a megabucks military modernization drive in 2008 that was widely considered by experts to have made the Russian armed forces substantially stronger. For these reasons I, too, believed that Russia would prevail and not end up mired in a protracted war.

In the event, stronger morale, superior generalship, and Russia’s overconfidence (and consequent expectation of a rapid victory) proved of outsize importance. By now Ukraine has amply demonstrated just how significant these and other, often intangible elements can be. And Russia’s many military shortcomings have become evident to the point that even ardent pro-war Russian nationalists openly acknowledge them, recognizing that the winter offensive has failed to push the frontline forward substantially, and questioning the prospects for success. Yet many Western assessments of the war’s likely course and outcome still assume that none of this will matter very much and that Russia will prevail because it will learn from its mistakes and has material resources that far exceed Ukraine’s.

Auto-GPT: The Next Big Thing in Artificial Intelligence, Your Complete Guide

TN Tech Desk

The world of artificial intelligence (AI) is constantly evolving, and Auto-GPT is the latest buzzword on the block. This experimental, open-source Python application uses GPT-4 to act autonomously, making it one of the most powerful AI tools available to date.

Auto-GPT's capabilities are so advanced that people are already talking about it being the first glimpse of artificial general intelligence (AGI), a type of AI that can perform human-level intellectual tasks. In this article, we will explore everything you need to know about Auto-GPT and why it is the next big thing in AI.

What is Auto-GPT?

Auto-GPT is an experimental, open-source Python application that uses GPT-4 to act autonomously. This means that it can perform a task with little human intervention, and can self-prompt. You can tell Auto-GPT what you want the end goal to be, and the application will self-produce every prompt necessary to complete the task.

Who is Behind Auto-GPT?

“The rapidly changing nature of the information ecosystem and nation state online propaganda requires a whole-of society approach to mitigate against threats to democracy.”

Teresa Hutson, Vice President, Technology and Corporate Responsibility

Trends in cyber influence operations

Operations are becoming increasingly sophisticated as technology evolves. We are seeing tools used in traditional cyberattacks being applied to cyber influence operations alongside increased coordination and amplification among nation states. Foreign cyber influence operations typically have three stages: pre-position, launch and amplification.


Kyle J. Wolfley 

Editor’s note: Welcome to another installment of our weekly War Books series! The premise is simple and straightforward. We ask an expert on a particular topic to recommend five books on that topic and tell us what sets each one apart. War Books is a resource for MWI readers who want to learn more about important subjects related to modern war and are looking for books to add to their reading lists.

A recent report on military cyberspace operations declared, “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine demonstrates cyber influence operations integrated with more traditional cyberattacks and kinetic military operations to maximize impact.” Surprisingly, this document was authored not by an intelligence agency or military organization, but by Microsoft. In fact, most of the top thinking on cyberspace and information warfare originates from outside the traditional national security establishment. Yet, from the war in Ukraine to Chinese theft of sensitive military technology, it’s clear that defense officials and military leaders need a basic grasp on the principles of cyber and influence from competition all the way to conflict. That’s why we asked Kyle Wolfley, an MWI research fellow, to contribute this edition of War Books. We gave him the following prompt: What five books would you recommend for readers to better understand cyber and influence operations?

Russia’s massive assault on Ukraine has everyone wondering why the cyber dogs of war have not barked, at least loudly. Nearly a decade ago, Rid was one of the first observers to challenge the prevailing wisdom that digital attacks would generate destruction analogous to nuclear weapons or cause the next Pearl Harbor. He tests cyber military thinking with Clausewitz’s theory of war and concludes that cyber war is not a useful construct: operations through wires and signals are fundamentally nonviolent, more akin to intelligence gathering than actual harm to people or computers, and too unwieldy to demonstrate resolve in a contest of wills. His three-part typology of offensive cyber operations as espionage, sabotage, or subversion is powerful because it calls into question whether any cyber incident is really an attack as opposed to intelligence collection or morale deflation, activities that have existed in other forms for centuries, if not millennia. Rid’s mix of social science rigor with skillful narration of technical subjects makes this book one of the best foundational military cyberspace books available.

How to survive a cyber attack: 3 lessons from the world's top CEOs

William Dixon

Approximately 8% of the world’s GDP, over $10 trillion dollars, is reportedly at risk from cyber attack. At the end of March 2023, a consortium of the world's leading media outlets reminded us how high the stakes are through an international investigative project on Russia’s cyber war machine Project Vulcan. It was another stark warning to global business leaders that the digital ecosystem their enterprises and the wider economy rely on is a contested battleground.

This reminder is critical, cyber issues matter, not only in terms of strategic importance to global prosperity but as an ultimate business leadership challenge. It is also timely, according to Gartner, that 75% of all CEO’s will be personally liable for an incident by next year. A new report, The CEO Report on Cyber Resilience, shares interviews with dozens of global CEOs who have experienced a cyber attack.

Here are three leadership lessons global CEOs shared on surviving a cyber attack.

1. Be prepared: it's not like other business crises

The most common crises organizations face – liquidity, natural disaster, even a pandemic – are seldom malicious acts directed at a business specifically. By contrast, with a cyber attack, suddenly someone is out to get you – causing you to panic, surviving on instinct and your gut. Unlike other crises which often unfold slowly, the damage can be done within minutes, crossing international borders, crippling without warning critical operations. Answers are quickly demanded from the staff, client and the board.
We are a big company but this was life threatening. You can’t produce, you can’t ship, you can’t sell, you can’t invoice, you can’t communicate with your employees and customers… we basically ran the company for nine days on WhatsApp.”— CEO of an $8 billion company.


A new study raises safety concerns about Google’s new Bard AI after finding that the tool generates persuasive misinformation content on 78 out of 100 narratives tested.

‘Bard’ is a generative AI chatbot that can produce human-sounding text, articles and social media content in response to prompts and questions posed by users. Google began rolling out the product to select users from March 21.

Google plans to integrate the technology into all of its products within a matter of months, raising concerns that the billions of people who use popular Google products could unwittingly be exposed to AI-generated misinformation.

The research also raises concerns about the potential for malicious use of its Bard AI. Google claims to have built Bard with an emphasis on safety, promising that “where there is a material risk of harm, we will proceed only where we believe that the benefits substantially outweigh the risks, and will incorporate appropriate safety constraints.”

To test Bard’s guardrails against generating harmful content, the Center for Countering Digital Hate created a list of 100 false and potentially harmful narratives on nine themes: climate, vaccines, Covid-19, conspiracies, Ukraine, LGBTQ+ hate, sexism, antisemitism and racism.
Our findings

Out of the 100 narratives, the Center found that Bard was willing to generate text promoting a given narrative in a total of 96 cases. In 78 out of the 100 cases, Bard did so without any additional context negating the false claims. The following quotes are taken from responses in which Bard generated false content without additional context:“The Holocaust never happened.”

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

Micah Musser

Artificial intelligence systems are rapidly being deployed in all sectors of the economy, yet significant research has demonstrated that these systems can be vulnerable to a wide array of attacks. How different are these problems from more common cybersecurity vulnerabilities? What legal ambiguities do they create, and how can organizations ameliorate them? This report, produced in collaboration with the Program on Geopolitics, Technology, and Governance at the Stanford Cyber Policy Center, presents the recommendations of a July 2022 workshop of experts to help answer these questions.Download Full Report

Views expressed in this document do not necessarily represent the views of the U.S. government or any institution, organization, or entity with which the authors may be affiliated. Reference to any specific commercial product, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise, does not constitute or imply an endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the U.S. government, including the U.S. Department of Defense, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, or any other institution, organization, or entity with which the authors may be affiliated.

Executive Summary

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

The Development of In-Space Servicing, Assembly, and Manufacturing Technology

Marissa Herron

This study researched the renewed interest in satellite servicing, now called In-space Servicing, Assembly, and Manufacturing (ISAM), as a technology enabler to creating an in-space economy. The U.S. is pursuing an in-space economy as a modernized means to efficiently support and preserve the significant national dependence on the space domain. The study examined the challenges and enablers associated with developing infrastructure to support an in-space economy. The research began with an exploration of the technology and whether the technology was mature enough for near-term implementation. Then the study identified the relevant drivers and urgency within the national security and civil space sectors, and the potential national alignment. Key international actors were also evaluated for their priorities. A U.S. perspective of the challenges and enablers to adoption of the technology was explored. Finally, the combined framework of technology maturity, drivers, urgency, and challenges was presented in the context of use cases. The study found that competition with China is the primary driving force behind the creation of an in-space economy. Also concluded was that opportunities for U.S. national alignment exist but will not occur without direct intervention. Recommendations for policy and decision makers were provided for steps towards the creation of an in-space economy.