21 April 2023

Accelerate: 175: A Plan for Targeted Renewable Energy Cooperation with Key Indian States

Neelima Jain and Richard M. Rossow

At the end of 2022, India stood among the world leaders in renewable energy generation capacity, with around 120 gigawatts (GW) of installed wind power and solar power combined. Yet, India still missed its end-of-year target of 175 GW by a meaningful margin.

The much larger target of 450 GW of renewable energy by the year 2030 looms large. Achieving time-bound targets will require the country to resolve systemic challenges at the state level. Six Indian states account for three-fourths of the country’s renewable energy capacity shortfall of 54 GW. Many barriers persist, including slow-moving distributed renewable energy, the poor financial health of electricity distribution companies (discoms), land availability, limited infrastructure for renewable integration, and a lack of financing options. As local implementors, states hold the key to hitting India’s ambitious clean energy goals and must therefore be empowered to do so. This report assesses the perspectives of various state-level stakeholders, identifies state-level barriers to renewable energy installation, and offers potential areas of collaboration.

This report was made possible through the generous support of the Rockefeller Foundation and the Sequoia Foundation.

The U.S.–India Relationship Is Key to the Future of Tech

Hemant Taneja and Fareed Zakaria

India is in a global sweet spot. It is now the world’s most populous country — home to more than 1.4 billion people—and has had robust economic growth for the past three decades, with GDP per capita having risen by 245%. And yet, it remains relatively underdeveloped on a global scale. As of 2019, more than 600 million people in India live on less than $3.65/day. Thus there remains enormous potential for economic growth, and improvements in human welfare. And as the United States’ concerns about China grow, India shines as a promising alternative in supply chains, innovation hubs, and joint-ventures. As the world’s largest democracy with an increasingly open economy and a strong technology sector, it has the potential to operate at scale.

This makes it the most important potential geo-economic partner for the United States today as it “re-globalizes” with greater concern for national security and resilience. As India considers its own leadership in the world, it must look toward becoming a stronger innovator in technology with a more comprehensive capacity to move up the value chain in software and hardware. This necessitates a much closer and deeper relationship with America, both at the governmental but also at the private-sector level.

The trends for both countries point toward the need for a deeper collaboration when it comes to technology. Policymakers and business leaders in the United States and India must develop a strategy to build a technology corridor that makes India a global technology leader, creates a secure supply chain and deep partner for the United States, and builds a positive feedback loop that benefits both countries.

Re-globalization and Technology Decoupling

India-Russia In The Shadow Of Sanctions – OpEd

Amit Bhandari*

Russia is important for India as a major source of energy, raw materials, and military hardware. The provision of all of these has become increasingly complicated due to ever tightening sanctions on Russia since 2008. While India doesn’t recognise unilateral sanctions, the role of the U.S. in the international financial architecture means that most privately owned Indian corporations prefer not to do business with Russia. As India’s economy is largely driven by the private sector, this reduces opportunities for economic engagement with Russia. India’s dealings with Russia in the defence and energy space are largely carried out by government-owned companies.

One of the ways proposed to enable India-Russia economic ties has been to use the Indian rupee and the Russian ruble to pay for imports/exports rather than relying on the dollar as a means of exchange. It will be difficult to make this work, due to the imbalance in bilateral trade. Despite the Western sanctions on Russia, India-Russia trade shot up during 2022. India’s imports from Russia totalled $32.8 billion from April-December 2022 – three times the corresponding figure for the previous year. This increase is due to higher imports of petroleum, because of the reshuffle in global energy markets. At the same time, India’s exports to Russia fell by over one-third, amounting to a mere $2.2 billion for the same period. With such an imbalance in trade, the bilateral use of national currencies cannot work.

Multiple countries have been affected by Western sanctions in the past and are trying to find ways to work around the dollar’s dominance. There is the example of Russia and China, which are using the Chinese Yuan for bilateral trade. Likewise, there was a report in 2022 that Saudi Arabia may accept payments for its oil in Chinese Yuan. India too, is exploring the expanded use of the rupee as an international currency. In January 2023, Brazil and Argentina also said that they were exploring an arrangement so that bilateral trade could be conducted in a common currency other than the US dollar. While there may be multiple motivations for these, the unease at the role the US dollar plays in international commerce, and how it is used to conduct war by other means has played a role. Central banks around the world have also raised their gold holdings during 2023; unlike the dollar reserves, these cannot be locked out. Several economies are trying to find ways around America’s financial hegemony.

Imran Khan Fights the Army for Control of Nuclear-Armed Pakistan

Sadanand Dhume

In an interview with 'Global View' columnist Walter Russell Mead, the Prime Minister of Israel pointed to developments in Iran, then queried what might happen should it become the first nuclear power run by radical Islam. The answer, he says, is to "expand the circle of peace." Images: Reuters/AP/AFP via Getty Images Composite: Mark Kelly

One of the world’s most consequential political dramas is playing out largely unnoticed in America. The stability of Pakistan, a nuclear-armed nation of 230 million, rests on a duel between the country’s most popular politician and the head of its most powerful institution. Can army chief Gen. Asim Munir stop former Prime Minister Imran Khan from reclaiming power?

Mr. Khan is beloved in Pakistan. He led a recent Gallup Pakistan poll with 61% approval, 25 points ahead of his two closest rivals. Yet his recklessness, impractical ideas and poor administrative skills risk unraveling a nation reeling from floods, terrorism and looming bankruptcy.

The Taliban Are Throwing Pakistan a Googly

Lynne O’Donnell

It’s getting difficult to determine which one among Pakistan’s myriad crises will finally engulf the country. Inflation is hitting historic highs, unemployment is pushing young men into the ranks of extremists, the military is torn between its loyalty to the state and the terrorists it helped create, and leading politicians are engaged in a battle for mutual destruction. The reality is that Pakistan is fighting for its survival.

House China committee will war game an invasion of Taiwan

Members of the House select committee on China will become senior advisers to a U.S. president in 2027 when they participate in a war game simulating a Chinese invasion of Taiwan on Wednesday.

The goal of the closed-door tabletop exercise, a source close to the committee said, is to find ways to best deter Beijing from invading Taiwan and bolster the self-governing island’s defenses as it faces growing threats from China.

Members will be using an open-source, unclassified war game developed by the Center for a New American Security, a think tank based in Washington. CNAS defense experts Becca Wasser and Andrew Metrick will play China.

Lawmakers will confront a scenario in which China, after years of coercive measures aimed at Taiwan, will decide to try to take the island by force, Wasser and Metrick told Semafor in an interview.

It will run two hours and play out about a week’s worth of conflict. The lawmakers will be able to choose from a range of options to respond to an attack by China — including economic, diplomatic, military, and messaging responses, Metrick said.

An unclassified war game run by the Center for Strategic and International Studies last year found that the U.S. and Taiwan could defend against a Chinese invasion but that all sides would incur enormous costs. The decision to incorporate an economic component into Wednesday’s exercise will allow lawmakers to also assess the impact of U.S. exports controls and sanctions, as well as export bans and travel restrictions on the part of China.

House China Committee will War Game an Invasion of Taiwan

Becca Wasser, and Andrew Metrick

Members will be using an open-source, unclassified war game developed by the Center for a New American Security, a think tank based in Washington. CNAS defense experts Becca Wasser and Andrew Metrick will play China.

Lawmakers will confront a scenario in which China, after years of coercive measures aimed at Taiwan, will decide to try to take the island by force, Wasser and Metrick told Semafor in an interview.

It will run two hours and play out about a week’s worth of conflict. The lawmakers will be able to choose from a range of options to respond to an attack by China — including economic, diplomatic, military, and messaging responses, Metrick said.

“It’s a sensitive and challenging topic so we’re trying to treat it with the respect it deserves,” Metrick said, adding that the hope is that the exercise “can be a tool for strengthening deterrence in the region.”

Read the full story and more from Semafor.

China readies supersonic spy drone unit, leaked document says

Christian Shepherd

The Chinese military could soon deploy a high-altitude spy drone that travels at least three times the speed of sound, according to a leaked U.S. military assessment, a development that would dramatically strengthen China’s ability to conduct surveillance operations.

A secret document from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, which has not previously been reported, shows the Chinese military is making technological advances that could help it target American warships around Taiwan and military bases in the region.

The document features satellite imagery dated Aug. 9 that shows two WZ-8 rocket-propelled reconnaissance drones at an air base in eastern China, about 350 miles inland from Shanghai. The drones are a cutting-edge surveillance system that could help China gather real-time mapping data to inform strategy or carry out missile strikes in a future conflict.

The assessment says the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) had “almost certainly” established its first unmanned aerial vehicle unit at the base, which falls under the Eastern Theater Command, the branch of the Chinese military responsible for enforcing Beijing’s sovereignty claims over Taiwan.

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.”

What else do they show? The files include summaries of human intelligence on high-level conversations between world leaders, as well as information about advanced satellite technology the United States uses to spy. They also include intelligence on both allies and adversaries, including Iran and North Korea, as well as Britain, Canada, South Korea and Israel.

America needs friends, and it isn’t going to win them by delivering lectures.

Walter Russell Mead

Internationally, it was another grim week for the Biden administration, the United States of America, and world peace. Brazil, the country with the largest population, economy and landmass in Latin America, reinforced its alignment with China as its president Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva pledged to work with Xi Jinping to build a new global order and called on the European Union and the U.S. to stop shipping weapons to Ukraine. Indian officials reported that China is supporting the development of a military listening post on Myanmar’s strategic Great Coco Island in the Bay of Bengal. Saudi Arabia, which flirted a few weeks ago with opening diplomatic relations with Israel, is intensifying its oil cooperation with Russia and now seeks a meeting with Hamas. Farther south, a Sudanese military faction backed by Russia’s Wagner Group battles for control of Africa’s third-largest nation.

The usual spinners and makeup artists are doing their best to make the disorderly unraveling of the American-led world order look like a visionary triumph of enlightened foreign policy, but former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers expressed a more cogent view. Describing America’s increasing loneliness on the world scene, Mr. Summers said, “Somebody from a developing country said to me, ‘What we get from China is an airport. What we get from the United States is a lecture.’ ”

When the Biden administration steps down from the bully pulpit, good things can still happen. A year ago, Ferdinand Marcos Jr.—son of the U.S. Cold War ally and Philippine strongman whose 1986 overthrow was hailed by democracy activists as a milestone in world history—ascended to his father’s former office after a decisive victory in a less-than-pristine election. The democracy lobby was appalled. Six Democratic senators, including three members of the Foreign Relations Committee, wrote a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken warning him to prioritize democracy and rule-of-law issues. Their core prescription for managing the Filipino leader was the same one they prescribe for almost every American bilateral relationship: Lecture more, and when that fails, use sanctions.

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.”

The Pentagon Needs to Put Climate Clarity at the Top of Its Target List

Tim Gallaudet

Over the past two years, the Biden Administration’s Department of Defense (DoD) has directed the U.S. military to support Executive Order (EO) 14008 Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad. As the global security situation seems to deteriorate by the day, it is worth asking the question, “Are the DoD’s actions to address climate change in the nation’s best interest?”

To answer this question, first consider the DoD Climate Adaptation Plan which was released in September 2021. Curiously, this was nearly two months before the release of the DoD Climate Risk Analysis. Risk analyses are a standard part of the military operational planning process, so the sequencing of these two documents is suspect. More concerning in the latter is the complete absence of citations of peer-reviewed scientific research regarding the climatic trends it identifies. In fact, the DoD Climate Risk Analysis presents no actual analysis at all and instead simply asserts a range of security implications resulting from climate change.

The DoD Climate Risk Analysis also characterizes climate change as an “existential” threat. Despite the persistent alarmism coming from the media, the Administration, and the United Nations, this is an unfounded claim which assumes that (a) we know with certainly that widespread and extreme changes will occur, and (b) our species will be unable to adapt unless we take action to stop them by drastically reducing the greenhouse gas emissions which are causing them. Both are problematic. Climate projections are rife with uncertainty, and even the Biden Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency has recently adopted lower emissions scenarios that are far more likely.

An apparent influence on the DoD’s approach is the extreme emissions scenario known as Representative Concentration Pathway (RCP) 8.5, which refers to the concentration of carbon that delivers global warming at an average of 8.5 watts per square meter across the planet. RCP 8.5 is the highest of other lower emissions scenarios introduced in 2014 within the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report (AR5). Because climate research results using this high emissions scenario are often dramatic, the media and many policy makers point to the often-outlandish headlines they generate. Such results are not only implausible, but they also mislead many in the public who lack the scientific expertise to discern their validity.

Campaigning Through (Security) Cooperation: A Roadmap for Implementing the National Defense Strategy in Lower Priority Theaters

Agustin E. DominguezRyan Kertis

“As we face complex challenges that span across borders, our success will depend on how closely we work with our friends around the world to secure our common interests and promote our shared values.”

– Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III, Message to the Force, March 2021

Campaigning through cooperation is paramount to implementing the 2022 National Defense Strategy (NDS), particularly in lower priority theaters. When the Department of Defense (DoD) transmitted the NDS to Congress in March 2022, it included an unclassified fact sheet that describes a strategic environment identifying China as the United States’ pacing challenge; the acute threats posed by Russia; persistent threats that include North Korea, Iran, and violent extremist organizations; and transboundary threats including climate change and pandemics. In other words, the United States cannot make every region a defense priority. Indeed, the unclassified NDS fact sheet is clear that the Indo-Pacific and Europe are the top priorities. While the fact sheet also makes reference to Central Command with its inclusion of Iran, it fails to mention US Southern Command or Africa Command.

The NDS further identifies integrated deterrence, campaigning, and actions that build enduring advantages as the three primary ways for the DoD to advance its goals. Partners and allies anchor this strategy: they are force multipliers and contribute to the enduring strength of the United States. The Army is well-positioned to leverage existing legal frameworks while applying current doctrine to best campaign through cooperation to provide the US Army access and influence, ensuring that land power remains critical to the Department’s efforts to outcompete China.

What Does Cooperation Look Like?

Unique US Advantages DoD Can Better Leverage To Keep Up With Tech Advances

Kelleigh Bilms

Kelleigh is a Washington DC-based principal in Oliver Wyman’s Aerospace and Defense practice.

The US Defense Department has struggled for decades to ensure the most advanced technology gets into the hands of warfighters as early as possible — a daunting task given the accelerating pace of tech development in the commercial market. How can we do it faster, at scale, and cost efficiently?

Three recommendations for unleashing the power of US commercial innovation on behalf of national security are rising to the top in discussions across the defense industry, private capital investors, and government. They leverage three uniquely American assets — vast private capital markets, a cohort of large, well-funded defense producers, and an extensive, well-educated DoD workforce.

First and foremost, an advantage the US clearly has over rivals on the world stage is access to domestic capital markets with $50 trillion-plus sloshing around that could be leveraged by Defense to fund technological advances for the military. While the private capital is there to fuel the defense tech race, this treasure trove remains underutilized by DoD.

The need for public-private partnerships

One way for Defense to integrate private capital markets to speed up the transition of tech from commercial uses to military is through public-private partnerships. This is not a new idea, but to date DoD efforts have been too timid. It needs to create more partnerships that are bigger and more collaborative if it is to improve its ability to nurture tech innovation and adoption.

To illustrate what’s possible, one need only look at models established by other US government agencies. Two examples are the US Agency for International Development’s INVEST program, which mobilizes private capital to support growth in developing countries, and venture capital partnerships to combat future pandemics created by the Department of Health and Human Services. The Departments of Energy and Commerce also use loan guarantees to support the private sector.

What Drives Political Polarization

William A. Galston

By most measures, the U.S. has become far more polarized than it was when I cast my first vote in 1968. And politically, the kind of polarization that matters most is geographical.

In the close 1976 election between Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford, 20 states were decided by margins of less than 5 percentage points. By 2000, when Al Gore and George W. Bush faced off in another close election, only 12 states ended up this category. That number fell to 11 in 2016 and eight in 2020. During this period, few states became more competitive. Instead, most red states became redder, and blue states bluer, while many swing states shifted decisively toward one or the other party.

County lines are nearly as stable as state borders, and polarizing shifts within counties are similarly pronounced. As recently as 1992, 38% of voters lived in counties that gave winning margins of at least 20 points to Democrats or Republicans. By 2016 the share of these voters had risen to 60%, and this trend appears to have continued in 2020.

Against this backdrop, it should come as no surprise that the number of competitive congressional districts has declined sharply. In 1999, according to Cook Political Report’s David Wasserman, 164 seats were within 5 points of the nearly even national partisan divide. That number has since been cut in half. The number of seats that remain competitive in every election—what Cook calls “hyper-swing seats”—has fallen during this period by 58%, from 107 to 45. In more than 80% of districts, the outcome is for all practical purposes determined in the dominant party’s primary election, typically low-turnout affairs dominated by the most committed voters.

One of the main drivers of geographical polarization is the widening gap between rural and urban America. In an illuminating new study, Cornell’s Suzanne Mettler and Trevor Brown show that as recently as three decades ago, rural and urban voting patterns in presidential elections closely tracked each other. In 1996 Bob Dole’s share of the rural vote was only 3 points higher than his urban share, even though he was Republican from Kansas. In 2020 Donald Trump’s gap was 21 points. He received 64% of the rural vote and 43% of the urban vote.

Ukraine’s Longest Day

Franz-Stefan Gady

The first 24 hours of Ukraine’s much anticipated counteroffensive may be the longest day for the Ukrainian Armed Forces. As German Field Marshal Erwin Rommel said to an aide before the expected Allied invasion of Normandy in 1944: “The first 24 hours of the invasion will be decisive. … For the Allies, as well as Germany, it will be the longest day”—a statement immortalized by the blockbuster Hollywood film about the Normandy landings, The Longest Day. Rommel knew that the initial phase of an attack often shapes the character of the subsequent fight, decides victory or defeat, and determines the strategic impact of an offensive.

Ukraine and Russia Need a Great-Power Peace Plan

Stephen M. Walt

If those leaked documents from the Pentagon are to be believed—and I think they are—the United States needs a Plan B for Ukraine. As much as we’d all like to see the swift liberation of Ukrainian territory, the under-equipped, under-trained Ukrainian forces now gearing up for a spring offensive are unlikely to make far-reaching gains against Russia’s defenses. The administration’s bold promises of an eventual Ukrainian triumph will probably not be borne out, and Ukraine will suffer additional damage in the meantime. What Ukraine needs is peace, not a protracted war of attrition against a more populous adversary whose leader does not much care about how many lives are sacrificed in the maelstrom.

Mauled Russian units, shrinking Ukrainian stocks: Leaks suggest both sides hold mixed hands for next phase of war

Tim Lister

Ukrainian soldiers load ammunition into the 2s9 artillery vehicle in the direction of Avdivka in Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine, on April 14, 2023.

There are several significant takeaways from the leaked US documents about the course of the conflict in Ukraine.

Russian ground forces in the country are approaching exhaustion and there are few reinforcements available. Ukrainian air defenses are depleted, making any counteroffensive vulnerable to Russian air superiority. And the United States does not expect the war to end this year.

The 53 documents reviewed by CNN provide a snapshot of capabilities and vulnerabilities as perceived by the US Defense Department in the first quarter of this year.

Snapshots are inherently risky: Circumstances change, as do resources and intentions. But the documents tend to confirm that Ukrainian forces are preparing for an offensive and that Russia is putting extensive effort into holding what it already has, while looking to aviation to blunt any Ukrainian attacks.

And if the Russians were unaware of the way the Ukrainian military would design its counteroffensive, the documents may have given them some useful indicators.

How the Ukraine war has divided the world

China is making diplomatic progress with countries that are unhappy about America’s approach to the conflict GIDEON RACHMANAdd to myFT © James Ferguson How the Ukraine war has divided the world on twitter (opens in a new window) How the Ukraine war has divided the world on facebook (opens in a new window) How the Ukraine war has divided the world on linkedin (opens in a new window) Save current progress 0% Gideon Rachman APRIL 17 2023 861 Print this page Receive free Geopolitics updates We’ll send you a myFT Daily Digest email rounding up the latest Geopolitics news every morning. While Joe Biden was on a sentimental journey to Ireland, Xi Jinping was busy in Beijing. Following a high-profile visit by President Emmanuel Macron of France, the Chinese leader played host to President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil. The messaging to emerge from the Lula-Xi summit was congenial to China and disturbing to the US. Brazil’s leader said that his country wanted to work with China to “balance world politics” and accused America of “incentivising” the war in Ukraine. He also backed a longstanding Chinese goal of undermining the US dollar’s role in the world financial system, remarking: “Every night I ask myself why all countries have to base their trade on the dollar.” 

China has also made recent headway with its Middle East diplomacy. This month, the foreign ministers of Iran and Saudi Arabia met in Beijing, after China brokered a deal to restore diplomatic relations between the two powers. The preferred messages to the world from Xi and China are clear: “While America promotes war, China promotes peace. While China promotes trade, America imposes economic sanctions.” These developments are causing some concern in Washington. Larry Summers, the former US Treasury secretary, spoke last week of “troubling” signs that America was losing global influence. He added that someone from a developing country had told him: “What we get from China is an airport. What we get from America is a lecture.” 

Ukraine and Russia Need a Great-Power Peace Plan

Stephen M. Walt

If those leaked documents from the Pentagon are to be believed—and I think they are—the United States needs a Plan B for Ukraine. As much as we’d all like to see the swift liberation of Ukrainian territory, the under-equipped, under-trained Ukrainian forces now gearing up for a spring offensive are unlikely to make far-reaching gains against Russia’s defenses. The administration’s bold promises of an eventual Ukrainian triumph will probably not be borne out, and Ukraine will suffer additional damage in the meantime. What Ukraine needs is peace, not a protracted war of attrition against a more populous adversary whose leader does not much care about how many lives are sacrificed in the maelstrom.

The World Beyond Ukraine

David Miliband

“Ukraine has united the world,” declared Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a speech on the first anniversary of the start of the war with Russia. If only that were true. The war has certainly united the West, but it has left the world divided. And that rift will only widen if Western countries fail to address its root causes.

The traditional transatlantic alliance of European and North American countries has mobilized in unprecedented fashion for a protracted conflict in Ukraine. It has offered extensive humanitarian support for people inside Ukraine and for Ukrainian refugees. And it is preparing for what will be a massive rebuilding job after the war. But outside Europe and North America, the defense of Ukraine is not front of mind. Few governments endorse the brazen Russian invasion, yet many remain unpersuaded by the West’s insistence that the struggle for freedom and democracy in Ukraine is also theirs. As French President Emmanuel Macron said at the Munich Security Conference in February, “I am struck by how we have lost the trust of the global South.” He is right. Western conviction about the war and its importance is matched elsewhere by skepticism at best and outright disdain at worst.

The gap between the West and the rest goes beyond the rights and wrongs of the war. Instead, it is the product of deep frustration—anger, in truth—about the Western-led mismanagement of globalization since the end of the Cold War. From this perspective, the concerted Western response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine has thrown into sharp relief the occasions when the West violated its own rules or when it was conspicuously missing in action in tackling global problems. Such arguments can seem beside the point in light of the daily brutality meted out by Russian forces in Ukraine. But Western leaders should address them, not dismiss them. The gulf in perspectives is dangerous for a world facing enormous global risks. And it threatens the renewal of a rules-based order that reflects a new, multipolar balance of power in the world.


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.

Decoding the Defense Department’s Updated Directive on Autonomous Weapons

Lauren Kahn 

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Defense introduced Directive 3000.09, “Autonomy in Weapon Systems.” At the time, the directive became one of the first initiatives of its kind as militaries began considering the impact of advances in autonomous technologies and artificial intelligence (AI)—a concept that, prior to the directive, belonged largely to science fiction. As a result, it sparked widespread interest and discourse among the public, civil society, and nongovernmental organizations.

However, this attention quickly devolved into confusion and misinterpretation.

Human Rights Watch, for example, mischaracterized the original directive as “the world’s first moratorium on lethal fully autonomous weapons.” In reality, the policy did not place any restrictions on development nor use, and the “lifespan” was simply a feature of all Defense Department directives, which requires updates, cancellations, or renewals every 10 years. This led some observers to believe that the department was simply stalling its pursuit of so-called killer robots. In part, this misinterpretation contributed to the birth of Stop Killer Robots—an international coalition calling for a total ban on fully autonomous weapons.

Ironically, within the department itself, there was parallel but oppositely directed confusion about the directive. The policy outlined a supplemental review process for weapons systems that reached a certain level of autonomy, but the scope and purpose of this review were unclear. Some leaders within the department interpreted this more conservatively as a de-facto bureaucratic barricade to developing autonomous systems.

For the past decade, Directive 3000.09 has been the primary U.S.-specific policy regarding the use of autonomous technologies in weapons systems. However, its lack of clarity has cast a shadow over the development of emerging technologies, including AI, that have any degree of autonomy on the battlefield. When the 10-year term ended at the end of 2022, the Pentagon decided to update the directive. The focus of the update is to provide clarity and establish transparent governance and policy, rather than make substantial changes.

A Decade in the Making: Keeping Pace With Rapidly Developing Technologies

Russia’s War Against Ukraine is Catalyzing Internet Fragmentation

Christoph Meinel and David Hagebölling

On March 11, 2022, many observers held their breath: the Russian government had instructed Russian website operators to make themselves independent of the worldwide web by that date. While it soon became clear that only state-owned websites and services were separating, the idea of Russia decoupling from the global internet has persisted in discussion and reporting.

Within weeks after its invasion of Ukraine, Russia had indeed dropped a close-meshed “digital iron curtain” between its more than 140 million citizens and the rest of the world. The Russian government blocked numerous news sites and banned many popular Western internet services and social platforms, including Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. New laws against “fake news” threaten administrative and criminal charges against those Russians that inform about their country’s war in Ukraine.

Notwithstanding this crackdown, Russia has not severed ties with the global internet. Still, the idea of an autonomous “RuNet” is more than just a rhetorical device. Russia’s 2019 "internet sovereignty" law created the legal basis for an on/off switch of sorts. It requires internet service providers (ISPs) to enable the routing of traffic through exchange points approved by the federal agency Roskomnadzor. It also empowers Roskomnadzor to force ISPs to route traffic via special override systems that authorities can use to filter and re-route traffic. Moreover, since 2021, Russian ISPs must be able to process queries to the Domain Name System (DNS)–the internet's “telephone directory”–on servers located within the country, ensuring that computers can locate internet resources even in the event of a nation-wide disconnect from global networks.

Egypt secretly planned to supply rockets to Russia, leaked U.S. document says

Evan Hill, Missy Ryan, Siobhán O'Grady and Samuel Oakford

President Abdel Fatah El-Sisi of Egypt, one of America’s closest allies in the Middle East and a major recipient of U.S. aid, recently ordered subordinates to produce up to 40,000 rockets to be covertly shipped to Russia, according to a leaked U.S. intelligence document.

A portion of a top-secret document, dated Feb. 17, summarizes purported conversations between Sisi and senior Egyptian military officials and also references plans to supply Russia with artillery rounds and gunpowder. In the document, Sisi instructs the officials to keep the production and shipment of the rockets secret “to avoid problems with the West.”

The Washington Post obtained the document from a trove of images of classified files posted in February and March on Discord, a chat app popular with gamers. The document has not been previously reported.

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.

The West Is Preparing for Russia’s Disintegration

Anchal Vohra

Russia’s poor performance on the Ukrainian battlefield, and the growing belief that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s nuclear threat shouldn’t be taken at face value, has emboldened Western analysts and Russian dissidents to publicly call for “decolonization” of Russia itself. They are referring here to the vast Russian Federation, the successor of the Soviet Union that consists of 83 federal entities, including 21 non-Slavic republics.

Is U.S. Diplomacy as Good as Dead?

Paul R. Pillar

Peter Baker, White House correspondent for the New York Times, published an analytic piece the other day that should be disturbing food for thought, especially for professional diplomats but also for everyone else. While marking, along with President Joe Biden, the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement on Northern Ireland, Baker observed that “such diplomatic breakthroughs have become a thing of the past.” In recent years, nations—and especially the United States—have appeared more likely to break treaties and international agreements than to sign new ones. Baker concludes that although it would go too far to talk about the death of diplomacy, “certainly there is a dearth of diplomacy for now.”

Baker uses formal agreements as a measure of diplomatic accomplishment, a gauge that may overstate the problem. The output of productive diplomacy goes well beyond such agreements to include communication and informal understandings that help to stabilize volatile situations, as well as the persuasion of foreign governments to act more in line with the interests of the country the diplomat represents. Nonetheless, Baker is on to something, and it is appropriate to consider what most accounts for the dearth.

The same three levels of analysis that political scientist Kenneth Waltz once used in a classic work about the causes of war can also be used to address a decline of diplomacy. One of those levels, the international system, figures prominently in Baker’s article, with references to “the revival of great power competition on the scale of the Cold War,” and what currently appears to be little appetite in Moscow or Beijing for compromise with the West. But recalling how the original Cold War featured highly significant international agreements, especially on arms control, most explanations at this level for a decline in diplomacy are not persuasive. There is at least as much need for peacefully negotiated agreements with one’s competitors and enemies as there is for agreements with one’s friends and allies.

As for any reluctance in Moscow or Beijing to compromise, if one could strip away the internal forces affecting policies in those two capitals and look solely at the geopolitical circumstances facing Russia and China today, there is little or no reason for those two regimes to turn away from diplomacy. The relevant needs to be served by diplomacy include, for Russia, a rescuing of its great power status in the face of economic and military decline, and for China, a full exploitation of its rising strength to secure a major role in the international system.

Germany Still Hasn’t Stepped Up

Sudha David-Wilp

In late February 2022, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz stood before his country’s parliament and declared that Germany would undertake a Zeitenwende, or an epochal turning point. The war in Ukraine, Scholz declared, demanded that Berlin rethink its role in the world—and in particular, its aversion to using force, rooted in the country’s sense of guilt over its Nazi past. He promised new investments in the country’s underfunded military, calling for “airplanes that fly, ships that can set out to sea, and soldiers who are optimally equipped for their missions.” He argued that his country had an obligation to defend democracy. And he pledged that Germany, long Europe’s dominant economic power, would now become a true geopolitical force.

Among Germany’s allies, Scholz’s Zeitenwende speech was warmly received. For well over a decade, many of these countries have waited for Germany to lead Europe. But unfortunately, Scholz’s deeds have not matched his words. Despite his pledges, the German military remains underfunded. And although Berlin is one of Ukraine’s staunchest supporters, Germany’s tepidness about arming Ukraine and its weariness about isolating Russia have tarnished its credibility.

In Berlin’s absence, other European states are trying to lead the continent. France is advocating for European autonomy from the United States, and Poland claims to be the new security power on the continent. But neither effort is receiving any traction. French President Emmanuel Macron has won himself few fans by suggesting Europe would ignore a Chinese attack on Taiwan, and the rest of the continent has no desire for the kind of joint European military Macron has suggested the EU needs. Poland will remain on the continent’s political margins until it adheres to EU principles on the rule of law. As a result, the United States will be the de facto power best able to manage Europe’s security architecture for the foreseeable future.

But the Zeitenwende could eventually make Berlin a better partner for Washington, one that can help guarantee European security even if it continues to shy away from primary leadership. Indeed, the war has already undoubtedly pushed Germany out of its comfort zone. Berlin, for example, is quickly reworking its energy infrastructure after having spent years being dependent on Russia, and it is becoming a green energy power. It is striving to diversify its economy and strengthen its diplomatic ties with the developing world. Germany, however, will need to make good on its military pledges and better respond to the needs of its allies for its pivot to be a full success.

A ‘ChatGPT’ For Satellite Photos Already Exists


Scene: A U.S. adversary is at work on a new type of drone, ship, or aircraft and it’s your job to find it, wherever it is.

Not long ago, that task would take a massive effort of human, signals, and open-source intelligence collection. But a researcher from AI company Synthetaic has created a tool that will allow users to find virtually any large object that exists in any satellite photo of the Earth within just one day. It’s also the sort of capability the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency is also looking to develop, and it could radically shift strategic advantage on the battlefield.

Corey Jaskolski, founder and CEO of Synthetaic, dubbed his satellite image scanning tool Rapid Automatic Image Categorization, or RAIC. After the Chinese weather balloon incident caught the nation’s attention in January, Jaskolski applied RAIC to satellite photos of the Earth’s surface, as collected by geospatial satellite imaging company Planet. He was able to trace the balloon’s origins to China in just a matter of days.

Now, Jaskolski says, the company is using those lessons to further reduce the time. “Our goal is to be able to ingest the entire Planet daily take [of Earth images] and be able to process that all in less than 24 hours. So if you wanted to literally look for balloon launches around the entire world, we could give you a daily update of that every day. Let you know if there was a balloon launched anywhere.”

Interest around new publicly available AI tools has been spiking, thanks to new generative pretrained transformer—or GPT—tools that allow users to write essays, build business plans, and perform complex tasks with a simple prompt. The national security community has a similar need, but for AI applications for the vast expanse of satellite, surveillance, and other data that could help uncover adversary activities and new capabilities.

But it’s not necessarily a straightforward task, as Jaskolski learned when he attempted to find the origin of that Chinese balloon—a thing that had never been photographed in the open, much less labeled and inserted into a dataset readable by a machine-learning algorithm.

How to Prioritize the Next Generation of Critical Technologies

Over the past two years, the U.S. government has identified and developed initial strategies around what it has determined to be the technologies that are most important to national security, particularly relating to U.S.-China competition. Last year, the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (USD(R&E))
published its technology vision and fourteen critical technology areas, and the White House’s National Science and Technology Council released [PDF] a list of nineteen “critical and emerging technologies.”

Most of the areas mentioned in official critical technology lists reflect well-publicized topics, such as supply chain challenges for semiconductors, the development of new biotechnologies (including vaccines), and the risks and opportunities presented by breakthroughs in artificial intelligence. However, some [PDF] of these technologies are not as well-known outside of the scientific community, such as “advanced manufacturing,” “advanced gas turbine engine technologies,” and “human-machine interfaces.”

Identifying the most important technologies for national security and U.S.-China competition, especially those that don’t make headlines, currently requires an enormous amount of manual, time-consuming work, such as collecting, reading, and categorizing academic publications. This process tends to be top-down, with senior decisionmakers assigning topics for investigation to their staff. It can also be reactive, with certain technologies only being prioritized after high-profile issues emerge, such as a global pandemic, and introduce human bias. Moreover, once experts identify critical technologies, determining the entities involved and the United States’ relative standing in these fields, also known as net assessment, requires even more effort and can take months to years.

IDF: Women can't serve in combat units due to physiological differences


The integration of female soldiers into Israel’s combat infantry units, some elite Special Forces and certain armored units has been postponed due to the physiological difference between men and women, the IDF told the High Court of Justice on Monday in response to petitions by women seeking to join Special Forces.

The IDF has conducted several pilot programs for the integration of women in combat positions, upon which it said the military often bases its decisions. From 2020-2021, it conducted an analysis of combat positions for women, a follow-up to a previous study that determined there was a low probability for women being able to fulfill the physical requirements of certain units, such as armored and heavy infantry. The IDF is conducting further analysis and review of the issue.

The ability to carry heavy weight, in particular being repeatedly burdened with heavy backpacks for long distances, subjected women to a significantly greater risk of injury than men, the IDF said.

Which IDF combat units can women join?

The analysis found that some less weight-intensive combat roles within the infantry brigades, such as in certain mortar teams, could be met by dozens of female candidates each year.