20 April 2023

India, Russia Talk Free Trade Deal In Step-Up Of Relations


(EurActiv) — India and Russia are discussing a free trade agreement (FTA), the Russian trade minister said on Monday (17 April), an announcement that could deepen bilateral commercial ties that have flourished since war broke out in Ukraine.

The FTA talks mark a step-up in economic relations between the two countries despite calls from Western countries for India to gradually distance itself from its dominant weapons supplier, Russia, over its February 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

India’s imports from Russia more than quadrupled to $46.33 billion over the last fiscal year, mainly through oil.

“We pay special attention to the issues of mutual access of production to the markets of our countries,” Russian Deputy Prime Minister Denis Manturov, who is also the trade minister, told an event in New Delhi.

“Together with the Eurasian Economic Commission, we are looking forward to intensifying negotiations on a free trade agreement with India.”

Indian Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar said the COVID pandemic had disrupted discussions on an FTA between India and the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union, and that he hoped “our colleagues will pick up on this … because we do believe it will make a real difference to our trade relationship”.

The other members of the Eurasian Economic Union are Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

Pakistan’s New Multidimensional Strategy Against Militancy

Umair Jamal

A police officer comforts a man mourning the death of a family member in the bomb blast at a hospital in Quetta, Pakistan, Monday, April 10, 2023.Credit: AP Photo/Arshad Butt

Amid a tense financial and political situation in the country, Pakistan has decided to launch an “all-out comprehensive operation” to rid the country of terrorism.

The decision came amid a surge in attacks on security forces by the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, which in November of last year unilaterally ended a ceasefire with the Pakistani government.

The decision on a “comprehensive operation” was made at a recent meeting of the National Security Committee (NSC). An all-out operation with renewed vigor and determination will be launched with the participation of the entire country and government.

The NSC attributed the recent spate of terrorism in Pakistan to the “thoughtless policy” adopted by the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf government towards the TTP after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August 2021.

Under this policy, the Pakistani state held talks with the militant outfit and rehabilitated its fighters instead of trying to eliminate them inside and outside the country. In addition, it was based on the flawed expectation that the Afghan Taliban would hand over the TTP leadership to Pakistan and shut down the group’s sanctuaries in Afghanistan.

According to the NSC, the policy adopted by the PTI government resulted in terrorists being allowed to return unhindered to the country and dangerous TTP terrorists being released from jails in the name of “confidence building” measures.

However, this will not be the case going forward.

China’s Naval ‘Silkworm Eating’ Strategy for Taiwan

Andrew Orchard

The PLAN Type 054 frigate Ma’anshan recorded operating near Taiwan in August 2022 by ROCN destroyer Ma Kong.Credit: Ministry of National Defense, ROC (Taiwan)

The Chinese equivalent to the Western notion of “salami-slicing” tactics is the idea of “silkworm eating” (蚕食). This colloquialism for gradual encroachments traces its origins to the State of Qin’s consolidation tactics. The essence is gaining success by slowly making inroads, by nibbling away at something.

China employs a silkworm-eating strategy against Taiwan today. The almost-daily People’s Liberation Army (PLA) incursions into the Taiwan Air Defense Identification Zone (TADIZ) and major exercises in response to political events are well documented. Most likely, these sorties seek to demonstrate capabilities, erode Taiwanese sovereignty, and challenge the legitimacy of the TADIZ. Recurring penetrations normalize PLA air operations around Taiwan, while forcing Taiwan to expend finite military resources (aircraft and pilot hours) in response.

Much less reporting in the media describes the daily surface force operations around Taiwan, which is also a key component of the silkworm-eating strategy.

Since August 5 of last year, Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense has publicly reported on PLA Navy (PLAN) surface operations around Taiwan. Based on that data, the PLAN has maintained an average combatant presence of just over four (4.24) around Taiwan through to April 11, 2023.

Assuming Taiwan’s Defense Ministry directs a 1:1 shadow of PLAN combatants, the Republic of China Navy (ROCN) must keep at least 15 percent of its destroyers and frigates at sea, reacting to PLAN forces alone. Forcing Taiwan to expend naval resources (at-sea days and operational tempo) achieves an effect on Taiwan’s navy, analogous to the impact of China’s regular TADIZ incursions on Taiwan’s air force.

China Has Options to Arm Russia Indirectly. But Does It Need To?

A. B. Abrams

Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu speaks during a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, Russia, Apr. 16, 2023.Credit: Russian Presidential Press and Information Office

Hostilities between Russia and Ukraine appear set to enter a new phase, with Kyiv planning major offensives into Russian-held territories, including the Crimean Peninsula, using large quantities of newly supplied Western equipment. With the evolving situation on the battlefield, the potential for China to play a greater role in the conflict has continued to be widely speculated in the West.

In February and March renewed claims were made by both European and U.S. analysts and officials that Beijing may be planning to provide Russia with armaments. U.S. National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby announced on February 24 that there were “indications that China may be considering the provision of lethal capabilities to Russia,” although “we haven’t seen them move in that direction.” The tone from Europe was at the time considerably more alarmist, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy referring to preventing China from providing armaments to Russia as “priority number one.”

U.S. President Joe Biden himself stated, however, that he did not anticipate China would provide arms to support the Russian war effort, and Chinese government sources strongly dismissed claims that such actions were under consideration.

A number of claims regarding Chinese material support for the Russian war effort have been highly questionable – a leading example being a report from the Wall Street Journal in February that parts for Su-35 fighters were being supplied to Russia. China only operates two dozen of the aircraft, while Russia has over five times this number and continues both production and export of the class, which itself has not seen significant attrition in Ukraine. Thus, claims of China selling back some of the relatively few parts it has for the Russian-built aircraft appear highly dubious. As Russian armaments in Chinese service are primarily higher-end assets designed for anti-ship or aerial warfare operations, which are not the kinds of assets that have seen widespread use in Ukraine, prospects for China selling back the Russian weaponry it has remain limited, as the case of the Su-35 illustrates.

Hypersonic Capabilities and Allies

Seth Cropsey

The U.S. Should Leverage its Allies to Accelerate Hypersonic Deployment

The United States must accelerate hypersonic development and deployment. To do so it should turn to its allies, particularly Australia, and leverage the connections under the AUKUS Pact to intensify testing, expand production capacity and ensure American-allied interoperability. Indeed, the U.S. has a unique chance, through its alliance relationships, to ensure that hypersonic weapons and defense reach the future battlespace rapidly and at scale.

Hypersonic Strike (HS) weapons, generally speaking weapons that fly faster than Mach 5, will play an important role in modern high-end combat. They will not wholly replace traditional subsonic and supersonic cruise and ballistic missiles, nor will they fulfill every mission. Rather, the speed of hypersonic weapons provides unique benefits. First, hypersonics can penetrate air defenses that non-hypersonics would struggle to breach simply because of their speed and maneuverability. Second, and equally critical, hypersonic strikes can be staged along a quite different timeline from non-hypersonic strikes simply because they move so quickly, and therefore can hold at risk high-value, time-critical targets.

Russia’s air campaign in Ukraine has demonstrated the value that only a handful of more sophisticated assets have against air defense networks. Russia has paired slower loitering munitions with a handful of faster systems, including hypersonic strike, to prosecute its anti-infrastructure campaign in Ukraine. An unusually warm winter, combined with innovative Ukrainian adaptation, blunted the effectiveness of this campaign – Russia neither knocked out Ukraine’s electrified rail network nor triggered another refugee wave. But Russia did force Ukraine to redeploy air defenses from the front-line to deal with its threat and did cause some damage. Meanwhile, if Ukraine cannot repair its grid this summer, it will face another onslaught in the coming winter, jeopardizing its combat capacity once again.

The Russian experience provides a useful analogue to the Indo-Pacific theater, insofar as hypersonic strike will be part of a much broader strike complex. To borrow an analogy from land combat, hypersonic strike enables an aerial breakthrough operation, punching a hole through a robust air defense system that allows other cheaper slower munitions to penetrate it and erode broader combat capacity.

It’s All about Networking: The Limits of Renminbi Internationalization

Gerard DiPippo and Andrea Leonard Palazzi

Commentators are yet again speculating about the demise of the U.S. dollar and the rise of China’s renminbi. In December, President Xi Jinping told Gulf leaders that China would try to buy oil and gas in renminbi. Last month, President Vladimir Putin met with President Xi and called for wider use of the renminbi for trade settlement between Russia and Asian, African, and Latin American countries; Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) finance ministers and central bank governors met to discuss ways to reduce dependence on the U.S. dollar; and Brazil and China agreed to carry out bilateral trade and financial transactions using their local currencies.
A Confused Debate

The debate about de-dollarization and renminbi internationalization is often muddled. Some analysts make maximalist claims about whether the dollar’s dominance will persist or perish. Others make claims about incremental progress in de-dollarization, often rebutted by those reverting to maximalist claims. At times, it seems commentators are talking past each other.

There are at least two questions—with different thresholds—behind this debate. The first question is about high-threshold internationalization: Can the renminbi overtake the U.S. dollar worldwide across currency functions to end dollar dominance? Many experts argue—correctly—that this level of renminbi internationalization is extremely unlikely and would require major changes to China’s economy, including an open capital account and probably a sustained current account (trade) deficit so that other economies could accumulate renminbi-denominated claims on China.

The second question is about low-threshold internationalization: Can China encourage enough trade settled in renminbi to boost its currency’s standing as a bilateral currency and to reduce its reliance on the U.S. dollar? The answer to this second question is, yes, at least at the margins. Indeed, this seems to be already happening.

Why China Could Dominate the Next Big Advance in Batteries

Keith Bradsher

In Changsha, deep in China’s interior, thousands of chemists, engineers and manufacturing workers are shaping the future of batteries.

The city’s Central South University churns out the graduates who are advancing the technology, much as Stanford University molded the careers of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs who pioneered microchips. Across the Xiang River, vast factories mix minerals into the highly processed compounds that make rechargeable batteries possible.

These batteries, mostly made of lithium, have powered the rise of cellphones and other consumer electronics. They are transforming the auto industry and could soon start doing the same for solar panels and wind turbines crucial in the fight against climate change. China dominates their chemical refining and production.

Now China is positioning itself to command the next big innovation in rechargeable batteries: replacing lithium with sodium, a far cheaper and more abundant material.
Sodium, found all over the world as part of salt, sells for 1 to 3 percent of the price of lithium and is chemically very similar. Recent breakthroughs mean that sodium batteries can now be recharged daily for years, chipping away at a key advantage of lithium batteries. The energy capacity of sodium batteries has also increased.

A weapons stockpile and asymmetric warfare: how Taiwan could thwart an invasion by China – with America’s help

Taipei, TaiwanCNN —

When Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen defied warnings from China to meet with US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy in California earlier this month, Beijing’s aggressive military response reverberated around the world.

In actions that only fueled fears that communist-ruled China may be preparing to invade its democratically ruled neighbor, the People’s Liberation Army simulated a blockade of the island, sending an aircraft carrier and 12 naval ships to encircle it, and flying over a hundred warplanes into its air defense identification zone during a three-day military drill.
A Chinese warship fires towards the shore during a military drill near Fuzhou near the Taiwan controlled Matsu Islands that are close to the Chinese coast, China, April 8, 2023.Thomas Peter/Reuters

China’s ruling Communist Party, which claims Taiwan as part of its territory despite never having controlled it, described the drills as “joint precision strikes” that should serve as a “serious warning against the Taiwan separatist forces.”

The message, in Taipei’s mind, seemed clear. China appeared “to be trying to get ready to launch a war against Taiwan,” the island’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu told CNN’s Jim Sciutto.

That blunt assessment will likely have raised doubts in some quarters over whether the island’s military preparations for such a scenario are sufficient.

Taipei recently – and very publicly – announced an extension to mandatory military service periods from four months to a year and accelerated the development of its indigenous weapons program to boost its combat readiness.

But analysts say a recent announcement – one that has perhaps gone less remarked upon in the global media – could prove a game-changer: talks between Taipei and the United States to establish a “contingency stockpile” of munitions on Taiwan’s soil.

Taiwan highly vulnerable to Chinese air attack, leaked documents show

Ellen Nakashima, Christian Shepherd and Cate Cadell

Taiwan is unlikely to thwart Chinese military air superiority in a cross-strait conflict, while tactics such as China’s use of civilian ships for military purposes have eroded U.S. spy agencies’ ability to detect a pending invasion, according to leaked Pentagon assessments that contain troubling details about the self-governed island’s ability to fend off war.

The assessments state that Taiwan officials doubt their air defenses can “accurately detect missile launches,” that barely more than half of Taiwan’s aircraft are fully mission capable and that moving the jets to shelters would take at least a week — a huge problem if China launched missiles before Taiwan had a chance to disperse those planes.

The classified documents addressing a potential conflict suggest China’s air force would have a much better shot at establishing early control of the skies — a strategy that Taipei itself believes will underpin an attack — than Russia did in Ukraine.

The Discord Leaks

Dozens of highly classified documents have been leaked online, revealing sensitive information intended for senior military and intelligence leaders. In an exclusive investigation, The Post also reviewed scores of additional secret documents, most of which have not been made public.

Who leaked the documents? Jack Teixeira, a young member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, was arrested Thursday in the investigation into leaks of hundreds of pages of classified military intelligence. The Post reported that the individual who leaked the information shared documents with a small circle of online friends on the Discord chat platform.

What do the leaked documents reveal about Ukraine? The documents reveal profound concerns about the war’s trajectory and Kyiv’s capacity to wage a successful offensive against Russian forces. According to a Defense Intelligence Agency assessment among the leaked documents, “Negotiations to end the conflict are unlikely during 2023.”

China resorts to unusual measures to restore confidence among entrepreneurs. But it’s not working

Laura He

After years of regulatory crackdowns and draconian Covid curbs, private entrepreneurs in China are low on enthusiasm. The Chinese government is resorting to surprising measures to restore their confidence, but the campaign has inspired more nervousness than optimism.

The province of Hainan, an island that Beijing plans to turn into the world’s largest free trade port, rolled out a sweeping package of initiatives late last month intended to support the private sector. The most eyebrow-raising was a pledge from the provincial government not to target private businesspeople without cause.

“For those entrepreneurs involved in criminal cases, [authorities] should not arrest them if it’s not necessary, should not prosecute them if it’s not necessary, should not give them jail terms if it’s not necessary,” it said in a statement. “If it’s also not needed to continue to detain them, [authorities] should release them in a timely manner or change enforcement measures [against them].”
The construction site of Hainan's free trade port in the provincial capital of Haikou, photographed in April 2023Luo Yunfei/China News Service/VCG/Getty Images

The package contains more than two dozen measures to support private industry, which accounts for more than 60% of China’s GDP and over 80% of employment.

The Hainan government said the measures were aimed at protecting the legitimate rights and interests of private entrepreneurs and creating a “fair and just” legal environment.

Instead, the announcement caused great controversy online and offline. Some people criticized the move as “absurd” on social media, as it implied the government had been arresting people at will and that entrepreneurs could now enjoy extrajudicial rights.

Rather than assuaging worries among entrepreneurs and encouraging them to create jobs and economic growth, the statement — in which the most controversial promises were later deleted — could have the opposite effect, according to analysts. It may cause even more anxiety among businesspeople about arbitrary punishment.

US Officials Warn ‘Extensive’ Chinese Cyber Attack Expected if Beijing Invades Taiwan

Hana Levi Julian

US officials are warning Americans to expect an “extensive” cyber attack from Beijing if China decides to move ahead with an invasion of Taiwan.

President Joe Biden has repeatedly vowed to support Taiwan with US troops – actual boots on the ground — in the event of such an invasion.

US infrastructure that could be targeted includes public transportation systems, American ports, power plants and water services, according to a report by Politico.

“If Xi Jingping moves on Taiwan, we should assume he’ll launch cyberattacks against the United States as part of the operation,” US Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI), chair of the House Select Committee on China, told Politico in an emailed statement.

“This would likely include attacks on our electrical grid, water systems and communications infrastructure — especially near key military installations.”

China launched a series of military drills around Taiwan in response to what it called a “provocation” – the recent meetings outside Los Angeles between Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and a bipartisan group of House lawmakers led by House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

McCarthy is the highest-ranking US official to meet with the Taiwanese leader on American soil since 1979, when the US established formal diplomatic ties with China.

Beijing recently held simulations of “joint precision strikes” on Taiwan during its military exercises around the island.

Taiwanese Foreign Minister Joseph Wu condemned the war games in an interview with CNN, warning that China seems to be “trying to get ready to launch a war against Taiwan.

There is no avoiding the consequences of appeasement if China swallows it up.


In recent weeks, there has been a flurry of support for Taiwan from the U.S. House of Representatives, typified by the visit of the Foreign Affairs Committee chairman, Representative Michael McCaul. If China invaded Taiwan, he said, sending U.S. forces into the fight “would be discussed by Congress and with the American people.” McCaul was hewing to the congressional Taiwan Policy Act of 2022, which designates Taiwan a “Major Non-NATO Ally” but leaves ambiguous whether the U.S. would fight alongside it or instead treat it as it does Ukraine, sending arms but not entering the fight.

Chairman Xi Jinping has instructed his country’s military to “be ready by 2027” to invade Taiwan. Obviously, his preference is to achieve Taiwan’s capitulation through political maneuvers and threats. But his pledge to employ force during this decade must be taken as firm. A day after McCaul made his unremarkable remarks, China dispatched 80 military aircraft and ships into Taiwan’s littoral space and threatened to board and “inspect” commercial vessels. The Chinese general in command said this was intended as a “serious warning against the joint provocations of ‘Taiwan independence’ separatists and external forces.” The White House issued an infelicitous response, saying there was no reason for China to “overreact.”

Let’s have no illusions about what is at stake. Taiwan is both the linchpin and the weakest link in the security agreements and trade and military resources that make America the superpower in the vast Pacific. China already has imposed dominance in the 3.5 million square miles of the South China Sea, through which an estimated $5 trillion in goods passes each year. If China next controls Taiwan by force, then South Korea, Japan, and the Philippines will adhere to China’s rules. With China ascendant, the U.S. would retrench back to Guam and Pearl Harbor, while clinging to seaborne ties with a tepid Europe.

Why Jack Teixeira Had Access to So Much Classified Information


One of the odd mysteries in the case of Jack Teixeira—the 21-year-old airman arrested on Thursday for pilfering and leaking hundreds of highly classified documents to pals online—turns out not to be so odd after all.

The puzzle, as I noted in a column on Thursday, is why the Massachusetts Air National Guard, which is where Teixeira worked, would have access to such material in the first place.

The answer is that Otis Air Base, the Cape Cod home to the Massachusetts Air National Guard, is one of a few northeastern bases for NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command. This means one of its main missions is to detect, track, intercept, and defend against foreign incursions of U.S. air space.

As such, according to a former intelligence officer who still does high-level intelligence analysis, the base would routinely have access to reports and dispatches filed on the Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communication System (JWICS, often pronounced J-Wicks)—and the key word here is worldwide. All information about foreign aircraft, air-defense weapons, military operations, and foreign-policy decisions would be swept up and transmitted throughout the system.

Teixeira was low-ranked—an airman first class is equivalent to the Army’s private first class—but he was working in the base’s intelligence wing. Just to work in that wing, according to the former intelligence officer, he would have had to be granted a TS/SCI security clearance, allowing him to see documents marked “Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information.”

Though it is not yet known what Teixeira’s precise duties were, he was an IT specialist in the intelligence unit, meaning he would have had access to the JWICS—and, once inside that system, he could have searched any topic.

War Before 2025 – The PLAs Villainous Plan To Defeat the U.S. Military

Christopher Brown

Remember the classic Twilight Zone episode The Monsters are Due on Maple Street? You know, the segment where aliens come to earth and systematically start turning off the lights. This quickly escalates to neighbor turning on neighbor in bloody mayhem blaming each other for these inexplicable, disquieting technological mysteries. Now pause for a moment and imagine any modern street in America. Jamaica Avenue in Queens, New York or East Houston Street in San Antonio, Texas. Each street contains Americans, blue and white collar. Independent, Republican, and Democrat. Americans’ paranoid of one another, each espousing their own ideologies with the vast majority unable to coalesce around topical, pragmatic conversation. Americans armed to the teeth with 400+ million firearms.[i] Every day we hear it in passing. Strangers remarking about a coming civil war, celebrities acting out in extreme defiance over their own political opinions, pundits propagating misinformation over the airwaves, Americans on the brink of sheer hysteria over the latest viral moment on social media. All these things are brewing a divisive stew of suspicion, fear, hate, and angst.
The Looming Large-Scale Combat Operation

In the Pentagon I have no doubt top people right now are focusing on contingency operations for responding to a Chinese invasion of Taiwan. I am of the outside opinion. That is, I believe the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) will launch a full-scale invasion of Taiwan prior to January 1st, 2025, with a minimum of 1+ million troops, air, land, and sea. I will not delve into my reasons, backed up only by open-source information available to the public. And no one is perfect in their assessments. But I was correct in predicting a major Russian invasion of Ukraine, four months before it occurred. Experts such as Peter Zeihan, predicted it as far back as 2014.[ii] Has the Pentagon considered that an attack on an island nearly 7,600 miles away from the U.S. mainland is likely to be preceded by or complimented by a much larger strike with never seen, non-kinetic, weapons of mass destruction here on American soil? I am highly doubtful.

An Electronically Addicted, Uninterested, Untested Youth

Using Big Data to Reduce Leaks

Emily Harding and Benjamin Jensen

The latest leak of sensitive intelligence is cause for concern about how the national security community secures its reports, sources, and methods. Millions of people have access to classified information—including 21-year-old National Guardsmen—and occasionally those people make terrible decisions motivated by ego, greed, or ideology. This leak is likely not the last. It is, however, an opportunity to reexamine existing operational security measures—many of which reflect an outdated bureaucratic model—for safeguarding the nation’s most sensitive intelligence estimates. Just as businesses have adapted to using big data and analytics to secure information, the national security community needs to move into the twenty-first century and embrace the promise of novel technologies for stopping leaks before they spill.

Today’s security focus is physical: emphasis is placed on having local security managers and passing clearances, which is known as security by site. Instead, DOD needs to shift to creating security across the network, finding the blinking red signal in the noise of network activity.

To begin to address this gap, DOD and the intelligence community (IC) in the past few years have implemented a method called Continuous Evaluation (CE) for clearance holders. Meant to urgently flag a development in a clearance holder’s life that could make them vulnerable to recruitment by a foreign intelligence service, CE (also sometimes called continuous vetting) uses data scrapes to immediately flag issues like an arrest or financial trouble. Under previous methods, security violations or risky behavior could sit for years unnoticed between reinvestigations.

This same mindset shift toward intensive, real-time monitoring needs to happen for unusual activity within a classified system. Agencies and departments are beginning to shift their network security practices from a moat approach to a zero trust approach. For the moat, once an individual passes the initial security checks to get onto a system, they have relatively free access within the secure environment. Under zero trust, an individual must demonstrate they have legitimate access not just to the system, but to a particular part of the system. This approach can help flag actors like Edward Snowden, who stole vast quantities of information he had no need to access.

As counterspace weapons ‘proliferate,’ the new cold war for space races forward: studies


Space Development Agency Tracking Layer satellites will keep eyes on both ballistic and hypersonic missiles. (Graphic: L3Harris)

Updated 4/14/23 at 12:41 pm ET with information from the 2023 Space Threat Assessment published by CSIS.

SPACE SYMPOSIUM — More and more nations are developing more advanced counterspace capabilities, in a worrying trend of “proliferation,” though the conflict in Ukraine appears to have demonstrated the limited value in destructive weapons, according to the authors of a new report published by the Secure World Foundation.

The SWF’s survey of 11 nations, released today ahead of the Space Symposium conference, provides an update on the spreading space arms race detailed in the group’s report last year. Over the five years of studying counterspace capabilities detailed in annual reports, one of its authors, Brian Weeden, said a leading trend was definitely “proliferation.”

“On the destructive side, we’ve seen it go from originally two countries in the Cold War, to then China and now four in India, and there’s a lot of concerns over might there be a fifth and a sixth,” Weeden said during a briefing with reporters ahead of the report’s release, referring to the use of destructive anti-satellite weapons, or ASATs.

“And then we’re seeing much more, I would say proliferation on the non-destructive capabilities,” Weeden said. There’s widespread interest in space situational awareness among spacefaring nations, he added, with “growing research on directed energy across quite a few countries.”

Victoria Samson, who co-authored the report, pointed as well to the growth of dedicated military space organizations.

International meeting could imperil Pentagon’s radar, intel-gathering systems


USS Ramage (DDG 61), equipped with the Aegis Weapon System. (US Navy photo)

SPACE SYMPOSIUM — In the run up to this year’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU) rule-making summit, global pressure is growing to turn over radio frequency spectrum now reserved for radar and satellite systems to wireless telecommunications, especially 5G — raising the risk that Pentagon access for its ever-growing intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance needs will be curtailed.

The 193-nation ITU will debate changes to the rules allocating spectrum bands at its Nov. 20-Dec. 15 World Radiocommunications Conference (WRC-23) in Dubai. While each member country has the right to regulate RF spectrum use inside its borders — in the US, this occurs via the semi-independent Federal Communications Commission (FCC) — the ITU manages usage that crosses borders to prevent interference and ensure that all nations have equal access.

And while perhaps little recognized outside of specialized circles, decisions made at WRC-23 could have enormous consequences for the Defense Department. The meeting’s outcome on use of several frequency bands could force DoD to overhaul everything from fighter jets to ground-based radars to change their receiver bandwidth — costly both in terms of money and operational impacts.

Much of the tension ultimately comes down to governments weighing the economic benefits of handing over bandwidth to commercial cell phone communications against the potential impacts on legacy users — including government agencies and militaries — of satellite-based telecom and ISR systems, as well as ground-, air-, sea- and space-based radar. It’s a fight the Pentagon has become familiar with domestically, but now playing out on an international stage.

Elon Musk says he ‘learned a lot today’ after cancelling SpaceX’s giant rocket launch at last minute

SpaceX called off its first launch attempt of its giant rocket Monday after a problem cropped up during fueling.

Elon Musk’s company had planned to fly the nearly 400-foot Starship rocket from the southern tip of Texas, near the Mexican border.

The countdown was halted at the 40-second mark because of a stuck valve in the first-stage booster. Launch controllers couldn’t fix the frozen valve in time, and canceled the attempt. The countdown continued, and fueling was completed, as a dress rehearsal.

No people or satellites were aboard. There won’t be another try until at least Wednesday.

“Learned a lot today,” Musk tweeted after the flight was postponed.

The company plans to use Starship to send people and cargo to the moon and, ultimately, Mars.

On the eve of the launch attempt, cars, campers, RVs and even bicycles and horses jammed the only road leading to the launch pad, where the stainless steel rocket towered above the flat scrubland and prairie. Enthusiasts posed in front of the giant letters that spelled out Starbase at the entrance of the SpaceX complex, and in front of the rocket two miles farther down the road, which ended at the gulf.

On Monday, spectators were barred from the area, and instead packed a beach about six miles away on South Padre Island.

Ernesto and Maria Carreon drove two hours from Mission, Texas, with their two daughters, 5 and 7, to watch.

“I got sad. They got sad,” when the launch attempt was canceled, Maria Carreon said.

They can’t return for the next try but planned to have fun on the beach Monday.

Michelle Vancampenhout, on vacation from Green Bay, Wisconsin, said she’ll be back.

“It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience to see it,” she said.

A New Version of Cyber Warfare: Hacktivism

In the most recent edition of its annual Security Report, Check Point Software Technologies looked back on a tumultuous year in cybersecurity, with the boundaries between state cyber-operations and hacktivism becoming blurred as nation states act with a degree of anonymity without retaliation.

Sundar Balasubramanian, Managing Director, Check Point Software Technologies, India & SAARC shares insights around the rise of a new type of hacktivism and the impact of geopolitical relations on the current threat landscape.

Hacktivism has traditionally been associated with loosely managed entities such as Anonymous. These decentralized and unstructured groups are typically made up of individuals cooperating in support of a variety of agendas and many groups have an open-door policy for recruitment. However, over the last year, and following developments in the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, the hacktivist ecosystem has matured, in both origins of source and motivations.

Hacktivist groups have tightened up their level of organization and control, and today you will see them conduct military-like operations including recruitment and training, sharing tools, intelligence and allocation of targets. For example, following Russian attacks on Ukrainian IT infrastructure at the beginning of the war, Ukraine set up an unprecedented movement called “IT Army of Ukraine.” Through a dedicated Telegram channel, its operators manage more than 350,000 international volunteers in their campaign against Russian targets. On the other side of the battlefield, Killnet, a Russian-affiliated group, was established with a military-like organizational structure and a clear top-down hierarchy. Killnet consists of multiple specialized squads that perform attacks and answer to the main commanders.

Most new hacktivist groups have a clear and consistent political ideology that is affiliated with governmental narratives. Others are less politically driven, but have nonetheless made their operations more professional and organized through specifically targeted campaigns motivated by social rather than economic objectives.

Europe, Cyber and the Cloud: A View from the International Cybersecurity Forum

Dan Lohrmann

How is the cybersecurity industry — including government activity — different in Europe than in the U.S.?

More specifically:

What are the top cyber defense priorities for C-suite executives in France?

How do European Union (EU) companies and governments think differently about security in the cloud?

What is France’s view of American “tech giants” as the world faces more threats in cyberspace?

Why do many global experts prefer to interact and engage on a range of cyber and tech topics in Europe rather than come to the upcoming RSA Conference in San Francisco at the end of this month?

How are the war in Ukraine, NATO military cooperation on cyber, and a long list of U.S./EU tech topics changing the global cyber defense landscape?

What can be done to enable more nation-state cooperation on defeating cybercrime, fighting online predators and strengthening global partnerships with criminal justice agencies?
Where do cybersecurity and technology pros in Europe go for inspiration, learning and career growth?

Is there hope that the “good guys” can work together worldwide on cyber issues and be more effective given the fact “bad actors” still seem to be one step ahead on a range of topics?
These were just some of the questions that I was hoping to answer as I headed to the International Cybersecurity Forum (FIC), which was held in Lille, France, from April 5-7. I will cover many of these topics in this “open trip report” from my pleasant and memorable week in France.

Wave of Cyber Attacks on Israel: Russians Join Iranian Hackers

Dov Eilon

A massive wave of cyber attacks have hit Israeli networks and websites, including Israel Today. Photo by Sliman Khader/FLASH90

A wave of cyber attacks has hit Israel in recent weeks, but fortunately has not caused any major damage. However, a new threat became apparent, as not only Iranians but also Russian elements were involved in the campaign.

Also of concern, according to a Channel 12 report, is that the attacks were able to briefly bring down large websites, suggesting the attackers have advanced skills. The Iranians are believed to have received help from the Russians, perhaps as “payment” for the Iranian drones that Russia is using in the war against Ukraine.

Now it is feared that the attacks could continue and even escalate as part of the annual OpIsrael campaign. The so-called OpIsrael campaign took place from April 6 to 9, and was mainly aimed at private companies, but there were also attacks on universities, hospitals, airlines and media companies.

According to a report by Clearsky, between April 6 and April 9, 2023, DDOS (Denial of Service) attacks were primarily carried out, mostly targeting hospitals and universities. The most significant attacks were carried out by the Killnet group, which started operations last week. A group called Anonymous Sudan also took part in the attacks, surprising them with very advanced technology, which experts define as a “state capability.” The cyber attack was massive, according to Clearsky, up to 4 terabytes at a time, which is far beyond what can be attributed to individual or groups of hackers in a third world country. With their technology, the hackers managed to outsmart the Israeli cyber defenses. The Israeli company Check Point, which was itself the victim of a serious attack, attributes the advanced capabilities to the Russian group Killnet, which operates under the auspices and with financial support of the Russian government.

Organizations targeted included Arkia, Israir and El-Al airlines, Rambam, Assaf Harofeh and Niado hospitals, the Open University, Ben Gurion University, the Technion and the University of Haifa, and media outlets such as The Jerusalem Post, Kan 11 and i24News.

Why America Still Needs Europe

Michael J. Mazarr

The war in Ukraine has sparked a puzzling development in U.S. national security thinking. At the same time as U.S.-European cooperation has surged, an influential group of American scholars, analysts, and commentators have begun pressing the United States to prepare to radically scale back its commitment to Europe. The basic idea is not new: restraint-oriented realists such as Emma Ashford, John Mearsheimer, Barry Posen, and Stephen Walt have long called for the United States to rethink its security posture in Europe.

Now, however, they have been joined by an influential band of China hawks, led by former Pentagon official Elbridge Colby, who argue that the United States must curb its European commitments. The main contest, this group believes, is in the Indo-Pacific, against China—and Washington must focus all its resources on that confrontation.

The specific wishes of these realists and hawks are often vague, combining ill-defined cuts to U.S. forces in Europe with demands for Europe to step up its own security, although without necessarily calling on Washington to ditch NATO outright. But if the United States is to reduce its obligations to NATO, to go all-in on the China threat, as they argue it should, it will have to slash its forces in Europe and at least raise the possibility of pulling away from the alliance.

On a conceptual level, this idea is bold and thought-provoking. In theory, by empowering allies to take the lead in Europe and liberating U.S. resources for use in Asia, Washington can significantly bolster its Indo-Pacific posture. But a closer look at the dynamics in play shows how self-defeating such a shift would be in practice. Instead of strengthening Washington’s hand in Asia, the result could be to badly weaken the United States in its growing competition with China.

Seven Critical Technologies for Winning the Next War

Emily Harding and Harshana Ghoorhoo

The next war will be fought on a high-tech battlefield. But which technologies will make a real difference? Where will the United States find a technological edge? This CSIS report identifies the seven technologies that could make the difference in a fight against a near-peer adversary. Three are “sprint” technologies, where the United States should aggressively pursue advancement with considerable resources and focused commitment: quantum sensing and computing, biotechnology, and secure, redundant communications networks. Four are “follow” technologies, where the United States should support and shape efforts ongoing in the private sector: high-performance batteries, artificial intelligence/machine learning, space-based sensors, and robotics.

The consequences of failure on any of these technologies are tremendous—they could make the difference between victory and defeat. This report aims to focus efforts on the areas that count, across intelligence work, hybrid warfare, competition, and conflict, to prepare for competition today and potential conflict in the future.

For more information on these technologies and how the U.S. government can effectively incorporate technology into national security functions, visit our new microsite, “Tech Recs.”

This report is made possible through general support to CSIS.

I’m Reddit’s CEO and Think Regulating Social Media Is Tyranny. AITA?

FOR THE FIRST 20 minutes of our conversation, Steve Huffman, CEO of Reddit, the sixth most-visited website in the US, does a good impression of a 2020s tech executive. “Our mission,” he says at one point, “is to bring community belonging and empowerment to everyone in the world.”

But then I ask Huffman about regulation. The US government is increasingly looking for ways to rein in the extremist content, viral falsehoods, and conspiracy theories that have breached the thin boundaries from social media into meatspace, leading to violence and a political discourse that’s inflected with the language and narratives of 4Chan. A case before the US Supreme Court is testing the protections afforded to Big Tech companies as platforms, rather than publishers. Social media companies face attacks from the political right, which accuses them of censoring conservative views, and from the left, which says they’re doing too little to prevent the erosion of democratic norms.

Huffman, who has been tensing up for a while, leans in. “Government, elites—whatever you want to say—will always blame somebody else before they blame themselves,” he says. His handler from the public relations department—Reddit has one of those—interjects to give a three-minute warning for the end of the interview, but Huffman is just hitting his stride. “It’s something I’m really scared about. Not just because of the company I work on. But for democracy,” he says. “The irony is that people complaining about the death of democracy are likely going to be the killers of democracy, taking power from people and centralizing it in government.”

Later, he’ll talk about the spread of “memory holes” and prison states, his belief that theories dismissed as misinformation often turn out to be true, and how any government attempt to control what’s published online is tantamount to authoritarianism. US government proposals to regulate social media platforms, Huffman contends, would shut down free speech.

“Literally, we’re talking about state-controlled media,” he says. “There’s no state that controls media thinking they’re not being noble. They always say it’s for your own good—‘We’re making things more safe’—And they probably believe it.” He pauses for a long time. “State-controlled media,” he says finally, “is state-controlled media.”
Happy to Block

OpenAI’s CEO Says the Age of Giant AI Models Is Already Over


THE STUNNING CAPABILITIES of ChatGPT, the chatbot from startup OpenAI, has triggered a surge of new interest and investment in artificial intelligence. But late last week, OpenAI’s CEO warned that the research strategy that birthed the bot is played out. It's unclear exactly where future advances will come from.

OpenAI has delivered a series of impressive advances in AI that works with language in recent years by taking existing machine-learning algorithms and scaling them up to previously unimagined size. GPT-4, the latest of those projects, was likely trained using trillions of words of text and many thousands of powerful computer chips. The process cost over $100 million.

But the company’s CEO, Sam Altman, says further progress will not come from making models bigger. “I think we're at the end of the era where it's going to be these, like, giant, giant models,” he told an audience at an event held at MIT late last week. “We'll make them better in other ways.”

Altman’s declaration suggests an unexpected twist in the race to develop and deploy new AI algorithms. Since OpenAI launched ChatGPT in November, Microsoft has used the underlying technology to add a chatbot to its Bing search engine, and Google has launched a rival chatbot called Bard. Many people have rushed to experiment with using the new breed of chatbot to help with work or personal tasks.

Meanwhile, numerous well-funded startups, including Anthropic, AI21, Cohere, and Character.AI, are throwing enormous resources into building ever larger algorithms in an effort to catch up with OpenAI’s technology. The initial version of ChatGPT was based on a slightly upgraded version of GPT-3, but users can now also access a version powered by the more capable GPT-4.

Altman’s statement suggests that GPT-4 could be the last major advance to emerge from OpenAI’s strategy of making the models bigger and feeding them more data. He did not say what kind of research strategies or techniques might take its place. In the paper describing GPT-4, OpenAI says its estimates suggest diminishing returns on scaling up model size. Altman said there are also physical limits to how many data centers the company can build and how quickly it can build them.

EXCLUSIVE: Pentagon aims to ‘own the technical baseline’ for AI tech, R&D official says


Airmen monitor an Advanced Battle Management System (ABMS) “Onramp” demonstration in 20220. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Daniel Hernandez)

WASHINGTON — Within “weeks” invitations will go out to key figures in defense, industry and academia for a first-of-its-kind Pentagon-hosted conference on “trusted AI and autonomy,” one of the lead organizers told Breaking Defense in an exclusive interview. The crucial question: Can the Defense Department rely on AI across a host of future missions?

The DoD is well aware it’s playing catch-up to the rapidly advancing private sector in many aspects of AI, acknowledged Maynard Holliday, the Pentagon’s deputy CTO for critical technologies. A big part of the conference is a push, not only to better understand what’s happening on the cutting edge, but how the military can adopt and adapt commercial tech to build AI capabilities it can trust — and control.

“We recognize we need to fast-follow, but we also need to develop military-specific applications of these commercial technologies, and as Under Secretary LaPlante has said in the past, we need to own the technical baseline of these technologies, so that we can have control over their evolution to a militarily specific solution, rather than being vendor-locked and having us beholden to one single vendor to evolve a capability.”

“Technical baseline” isn’t just a metaphor here: It’s a specific term of art for the foundational details that define a complex system, guiding its design and development from the initial drafting of requirements through multiple reviews to the final product — or, in the case of ever-evolving software, through continual cycles of upgrades.