23 April 2023

What are the Implications of India overtaking China as the World’s Most Populous Nation?


In the second half of April 2023, the UN predicts India will become the most populous country in the world, surpassing China. More than 40% of India’s residents are under the age of 25. People over the age of 65 only make up about 7%. India is also on track to become the world’s third-largest economy by 2027.

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India is poised to overtake China as the world’s most populous nation, with almost 3 million more people than its neighbor by the middle of this year, data released on Wednesday by the United Nations showed.

India’s population by mid-year is estimated at 1.4286 billion, against 1.4257 billion for China – 2.9 million fewer – in the United Nations Population Fund’s (UNFPA) “State of World Population Report” for this year.

The United States is a distant third, with an estimated population of 340 million as of the end of June, the data showed in a report that reflects information available until February.

China Developing Anti-Satellite Weapons - Report

Phil Muncaster 

China is well on its way to developing capabilities to hijack and sabotage enemy satellites, as part of efforts to become the pre-eminent power in space by 2045, according to leaked US documents.

The intelligence comes from the recently leaked Pentagon trove traced to a 21-year-old cyber official at the US Air National Guard.

The classified CIA document states that Chinese efforts are focused on capabilities allowing it “to seize control of a satellite, rendering it ineffective to support communications, weapons, or intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems,” according to the FT.

To do so, such a system would aim to impersonate legitimate signals that satellites receive from the ground and each other, tricking them into either being hijacked for remote control or to malfunction during combat, the report claimed.

Such efforts would go some way beyond anything seen before. Russian has sought to jam the signals from low orbit Starlink satellites used by the Ukrainian military, and it also compromised Viasat routers ahead of its invasion in February 2022.

In a sign of the growing strategic and military importance of satellites for communications during conflict, the Kremlin also recently warned that any cyber-attack on its own systems would be treated as an act of war.

Last month, US Space Force chief of space operations, Chance Saltzman, testified to Congress that China is likely developing anti-satellite technology that could be weaponized during a war.

He reportedly claimed that the Chinese military has launched 347 satellites, including 35 in the past six months, capable of targeting US assets, including “grappling” satellites that could pull US spacecraft out of orbit.

US Space Command Wants Red Phones With China, Russia


COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — The world’s military space forces need to talk more, U.S. officials say, and that means everything from establishing norms for space operations to setting up red phones with Chinese and Russian space operators.

“I think it is definitely in our interest to have norms of behavior and ways to communicate with other operators in the space domain as to what's going on. And that can extend in the commercial level or it can extend between US and Russia and China, said Lt. Gen. John Shaw, deputy commander of U.S. Space Command.

“Right now, we don't have those avenues to communicate with them and that opens up the opportunity for misperception, miscommunication, and miscalculation,” Shaw told Defense One Wednesday at the Space Symposium.

Pentagon officials have stressed the need to prepare for conflict in space, but have been hesitant to define, mostly due to classification, what exactly conflict means in space and how it would retaliate if there was a kinetic or non-kinetic attack on U.S. satellites.

In an effort to establish a level of transparency about U.S. military space activities, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin approved “eight specific behaviors” in February, providing more details on the Pentagon’s five “tenets of responsible space behavior.”

“The department—we really can't set what the worldwide responsible behaviors are, but we certainly can participate in those discussions and we do that,” Gen. James Dickinson, commander of U.S. Space Command, told reporters Tuesday.

Russia has previously demonstrated aggressive space operations: conducting a hit-to-kill anti-satellite test in 2021, which created over 1,500 pieces of debris. China has proved its ability to grab spacecraft with its S-J 21 satellite, which recently took a defunct Chinese satellite and dropped it off past the GEO orbit.

Lawmakers will (literally) game out a Chinese attack on Taiwan

Olivier Knox

Welcome to The Daily 202! Tell your friends to sign up here. On this day in 1912, the Associated Press informs me, a special subcommittee of the Senate Commerce Committee opened hearings in New York into the sinking of the Titanic.

The big idea

Lawmakers will (literally) game out a Chinese attack on Taiwan

AT3 Jet Pilots from the Taiwan air force returning after running missions and trainings at an Air Force base in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, on Nov. 30. (An Rong Xu/The Washington Post)

“Show, don’t tell.” This evening, the House Select Committee on China adapts that old journalism adage to their mission, holding a war game anchored on a Chinese attack on Taiwan in 2027 and simulating an American military, diplomatic and economic response.

Most of the committee’s Republicans and Democrats are expected to gather at 7 p.m. eastern in the cavernous and perpetually freezing House Ways and Means Committee Room for a TTX (“tabletop exercise”) run by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). The think tank has run these before.

Under the watchful eye of “game-master” Stacie Pettyjohn, director of the CNAS defense program, the lawmakers will play advisers to the president, a.k.a. the Blue Team.
Becca Wasser, who leads the CNAS gaming lab, and CNAS fellow Andrew Metrick will play Beijing, a.k.a. the Red Team.
The game will unfold in fictional three-day increments and is likely to have a real-world running time of between two and two and a half hours — far shorter than Pentagon war games that can run over several days.

Why would you do this?

Basically, to tease out shortcomings in American policymaking.

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

Alicia García-Herrero Michal Krystyanczuk Robin Schindowski

Li Keqiang’s last Two Sessions

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

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

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

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

Major topics in the 2023 work report

The eruption of violence in Sudan shows the generals can’t be trusted

Jeffrey Feltman is the John C. Whitehead visiting fellow in international diplomacy at the Brookings Institution. He is a former U.S. special envoy for the Horn of Africa, and the former U.N. undersecretary-general for political affairs.

The violence that erupted on April 15, and is now metastasizing between Sudan’s two most powerful generals and their respective forces, was sadly predictable. The marriage of convenience between the two warlords — built on a shared contemptuousness of Sudanese civilians’ democratic aspirations — collapsed into a winner-takes-all battle for supremacy in which civilians are the collateral damage.

It didn’t start this way. In the aftermath of the popular revolts that ousted longtime Sudanese dictator Omar al-Bashir in 2019, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, head of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), and Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo (known as Hemedti), leading the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF), overcame bureaucratic and ethnic jealousies by establishing common cause.

Unfortunately, their partnership was premised on undermining, delaying and ultimately derailing Sudan’s transition to democratic, civilian rule. The two sought to evade accountability for crimes dating back to the genocide in Darfur and the more recent massacre of over 120 unarmed protesters in June 2019. Above all, their arrangement was based on the shared understanding that Sudan’s military would never report to civilian authorities.

Left undecided until today was which general would end up on top once the civilians were permanently sidelined.

For the Sudanese military and the RSF, the partnership was wildly successful while it lasted. They postured as partners of Sudan’s civilian parties while cultivating and exploiting their bickering. They humored international partners supporting the civilian-military transitional government. They cultivated the pretense of being responsible players on the world stage by pledging to partner in counterterrorism operations, and by telegraphing their support for the Abraham Accords and normalization of relations with Israel.

Local Partners Are Not Proxies: The Case for Rethinking Proxy War

Barbara Elias

Despite being a scholar of “proxy wars” in Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq, I rarely use the term. Here’s why.

Work on security partnerships is expanding in response to a shifting US defense posture emphasizing the benefits of working “by, with, and throughallies and partners. This research is essential, but it is worth reconsidering if we should call strategic military engagements fought in coordination with local forces “proxy wars.” While the term is pervasive, it is conceptually problematic, at least in the post-colonial era. Describing local partners as “proxies” minimizes complex coalition bargaining dynamics, risks overemphasizing the influence of US resources, and insufficiently accounts for US political dependencies.

This argument is not meant to discredit existing scholarship on proxy wars, much of it rigorous, important, and insightful. But it is worth collectively considering if the terms we tend to reach for in the proxy war literature are misleading. Are “proxies” really proxies, or do Americans just hope that’s what small local security forces partnered with the United States will be? Or if policymakers and academics rightly expect local partners to pursue their own interests and impose costs on sponsors, then why call local allies “proxies” if they aren’t? The term “strategic local partners” seems to better reflect the empirical record of small allies in direct and indirect interventions. The term “proxy” seems more aspirational than descriptive—it implies that small state or nonstate actors can be readily manipulated by the provision (or removal) of resources. But the degree to which local partners are faithful to the agendas of their foreign patrons is a multifaceted variable that changes across and within wars—it is not a defining constant in these strategic coalitions, and the language policymakers and academics employ to describe this category of strategic engagements should better reflect this variation to avoid oversimplifying complex partnerships or overestimating US control within coalitions.

While scholars disagree about the criteria and universe of “proxy wars,” there is general consensus that proxy war describes a sustained strategic relationship involving the provision of significant foreign military support for a local partner or agent, and the delegation of “some authority over the pursuit of strategic war aims to [this] proxy-agent.” Foreign resources are invested in local labor in the pursuit of a foreign patron’s political-military objective. According to current definitions, a local proxy is a “conduit” for foreign partners, “a subordinate charged with some task,” a local operator acting “on behalf of another.” Foreign resources are exchanged for local action. Proxies are thus often modeled as imperfect employees, commissioned for a set of important tasks as a cost saving measure for important foreigners. Political influence follows money, and academic research tends to largely focus on influence in one direction from foreign power to local proxy. Too often the agency of the proxy is minimized and patrons are assumed to hold the balance of power through their purse strings in these partnerships. Proxy war studies often imply that competent patrons can and should set and enforce the political agenda. This stands in contrast with more expansive studies on alliance politics which model coalition policymaking as a collective bargaining process that is not necessarily determined by the richest member.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is also being fought in cyberspace

Vera Mironova

The Russian invasion of Ukraine is the first modern war to feature a major cyber warfare component. While the conventional fighting in Ukraine often resembles the trench warfare of the early twentieth century, the evolving battle for cyber dominance is highly innovative and offers important insights into the future of international aggression.

The priority for Ukraine’s cyber forces is defense. This is something they have long been training for and are excelling at. Indeed, Estonian PM Kaja Kallas recently published an article in The Economist claiming that Ukraine is “giving the free world a masterclass on cyber defense.”

When Russian aggression against Ukraine began in 2014 with the invasion of Crimea and eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region, Russia also began launching cyber attacks. One of the first attacks was an attempt to falsify the results of Ukraine’s spring 2014 presidential election. The following year, an attempt was made to hack into Ukraine’s electricity grid. In 2017, Russia launched a far larger malware attack against Ukraine known as NotPetya that Western governments rated as the most destructive cyber attack ever conducted.

In preparation for the full-scale invasion of 2022, Russia sought to access Ukraine’s government IT platforms. One of the goals was to obtain the personal information of Ukrainians, particularly those working in military and law enforcement. These efforts, which peaked in January 2022 in the weeks prior to the invasion, failed to seriously disrupt Ukraine’s state institutions but provided the country’s cyber security specialists with further important experience. “With their nonstop attacks, Russia has effectively been training us since 2014. So by February 2022, we were ready and knew everything about their capabilities,” commented one Ukrainian cyber security specialist involved in defending critical infrastructure who was speaking anonymously as they were not authorized to discuss details.

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.

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.


Space Force eyes 2025-2026 timeframe for tactically responsive space capabilities


The Space Force successfully launched its the Tactically Responsive Launch-2 (TacRL-2) mission on a Northrop Grumman Pegasus XL rocket from Vandenberg Space Force Base on June 13, 2021.

SPACE SYMPOSIUM — The Space Force has set a goal of fielding a tactically responsive space capability by the 2025-2026 timeframe, a top service official said Thursday, though the Pentagon still has many details to work out before it can launch satellites practically on-demand if the need arises.

“The ultimate goal for us is to get to an enduring [tactically responsive space] capability by the 2025 or 2026 timeframe,” said Lt. Col. MacKenzie Birchenough, who leads the effort to field tactically responsive space through Space System Command’s Space Safari office, during a panel at the Space Symposium.

Birchenough broadly defined the concept as “the capability to rapidly respond to on-orbit needs on operationally relevant timelines.” In simpler terms, the Space Force wants to be able to get assets into orbit at previously unimaginable speeds — ideally, Birchenough said, within 24 hours after a request.

“As far as the specific needs, we kind of look at two different missions. The first is the ability to rapidly respond to any kind of on-orbit threats. And then the second is, if any of our current assets on orbit were to be degraded or destroyed, having the ability to augment that capability on a very short timeline,” she said.

Various approaches are being evaluated to meet the ambitious goal of tactically responsive space, and Kurt Eberly, who directs Northrop Grumman’s space launch vehicles business unit, said more tests would be needed to figure out the best way to achieve it. “I think now’s the time where we need to figure out what is tactically responsive space, and I don’t think there’s a clear consensus,” he said on the panel.

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


During exercise Stellar Avenger, the Aegis-class destroyer USS Hopper launches a standard missile 3 Blk IA, successfully intercepting a sub-scale short range ballistic missile, launched from the Kauai Test Facility, Pacific Missile Range Facility, Barking Sans, Kauai. (DVIDS)

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.

Russian War Report: Russian army presses on in Bakhmut despite losses

As Russia continues its assault on Ukraine, the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab) is keeping a close eye on Russia’s movements across the military, cyber, and information domains. With more than seven years of experience monitoring the situation in Ukraine—as well as Russia’s use of propaganda and disinformation to undermine the United States, NATO, and the European Union—the DFRLab’s global team presents the latest installment of the Russian War Report.

Russian army presses on in Bakhmut despite losses

The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces recorded fifty-eight attacks on Ukrainian troop positions on April 9 and 10. Of these attacks, more than thirty were in the direction of Bakhmut, and more than twenty were in the direction of Marinka and Avdiivka. Russian forces also attempted to advance toward Lyman, south of Dibrova.Documented locations of fighting April 1-13, 2023; data gathered from open-source resources. (Source: Ukraine Control Map, with annotations by the DFRLab)

Ukrainian company uses social media, open source technology to counter Russian invasion

Jack Hewson

Espionage in wartime is as old as war itself, and the protection of vital information is a key component of an effective military. But it may be time to update the old adage "Loose lips sink ships" for the digital age and the Russian invasion of Ukraine. As Jack Hewson reports, Ukrainians are using social and news media posts to cull information about their Russian adversaries.

Amna Nawaz:

Espionage in wartime is as old as war itself, and the protection of vital information a key component of an effective military, but it may be time to update the old adage loose lips sink ships for the digital age and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

As special correspondent Jack Hewson shows us, Ukrainians are using social and news media posts to cull information about their Russian adversaries.

Jack Hewson:

Weapon silo burns deep behind Russian lines at the base of the Pyatnashka Brigade. This is one of many Ukrainian strikes in the summer of last year, most likely perpetrated using HIMARS, a guided rocket system supplied by the U.S., a technology that, at the time, helped turn the tide of the war in Ukraine's favor.

But the targeting for this attack started out far from the front line here at this anonymous office block.

Where are we?

Elon Musk's SpaceX Rocket Explodes After Takeoff


SpaceX's Starship rocket exploded during a test launch Thursday morning.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk predicted explosion was likely.

The rocket cleared the tower before exploding in the sky after it failed to properly separate.

SpaceX's Starship rocket launched Thursday morning only to, moments later, erupt in a deafening explosion.

The unmanned Starship was the first attempt by SpaceX to launch its spaceship equipped with the Super Heavy booster it needs to reach orbit. Originally scheduled for Monday, the test was delayed by several days after teams discovered issues with a frozen valve. The team previously launched Starship in high-altitude flights in 2020 and 2021, but the rocket has never reached orbit. Thursday's attempt was the first time the Starship was attached to the Super Heavy booster.

Crowds watching the launch cheered when Starship gained momentum and cleared the tower. Later in the launch, the Starship began to spin and didn't properly separate as it was supposed to do three minutes into the flight. When the Starship erupted in a plume of smoke and flame, the crowd cheered and clapped anyway.

Spectators off South Padre Island, Texas, wait for the launch of the SpaceX Starship (L, rear) for a flight test from Starbase in Boca Chica, Texas, on April 20, 2023. The Starship exploded shortly after launch, but the SpaceX team and CEO Elon Musk still deemed it a success.

US ‘behind’ in electronic warfare, and personnel are the key to catching up: EW officer


A pair of F-35 Lightning IIs pass under the sun while doing maneuvers to the Eglin Air Force Base runway. The 33rd Fighter Wing-owned aircraft is a fifth-generation fighter and used to train pilots and maintainers. (US Air Force / Samuel King Jr.)

WASHINGTON — The commander of the Air Force’s new Spectrum Warfare Wing recently warned that the US is “behind” its rivals when it comes to electronic warfare (EW), and said he needs more people, and a better way to train them, to improve the service’s non-kinetic weapons.

“In a lot of ways we gave our pacing challenges a big head start, [and] we gave ’em a bigger one in the spectrum,” Col. Joshua Koslov said Wednesday at an event organized by the Air and Space Forces Association, prefacing his comments by stating his wing “wear[s] a tab that says 2027 to impress upon us how close the threat is.” (2027 is the year US intelligence says Chinese President Xi Jinping wants his military to have the capability, if not the intent, to invade Taiwan.)

Koslov added “so we’re behind, and so it’s gonna take a everyone approach to really realize the full vision of what the future of the Spectrum Warfare Wing can be.”

In congressional testimony today, Navy Adm. John Aquilino, the commander of US Indo-Pacific Command, highlighted the importance of the spectrum.

“We view it through this lens of decision superiority, which means we need to be able to operate in contested space,” he told lawmakers. “We need persistent battlespace awareness of all things going on. We need to be able to close our kill chains with weapons and the network that allows that to happen, and the electro-magnetic spectrum is critical to that.”

11,000 Ukrainians Have Had at Least Some US Training As Spring Offensive Looms


About 8,800 U.S.-trained Ukrainian troops are back in their home country ahead of an anticipated spring counter-offensive meant to oust Russia from the one-sixth of Ukraine’s territory they still occupy. Another 2,250 are currently training at U.S. bases in Germany, a U.S. official said Thursday.

That updates a March 30 statement that the U.S. had trained more than 7,000 Ukrainian soldiers.

The U.S. training is just part of the European effort to improve the effectiveness of the Ukrainian army. Britain has put some 10,000 Ukrainian civilians through a five-week boot camp, and plans to train 20,000 more this year. And more thousands received some training from U.S. troops before Russia invaded in February 2022. But foreign-trained troops are just a fraction of the Ukrainian armed forces, which has swelled from its pre-invasion total of 246,445 troops to more than 700,000.

About half of the U.S.-trained troops—some 4,600—are members of mechanized battalions who were trained in combined arms tactics, Cmdr. Lenaya Rotklein, a spokeswoman for the U.S.’s Security Assistance Group-Ukraine, said on Thursday. Combined arms tactics consist of closely coordinating actions between infantry, tanks, artillery, and other combat arms, which Ukraine may be expected to use in assaults during its counteroffensive.

So far, the U.S. has trained seven mechanized battalions: three equipped with U.S. Stryker armored fighting vehicles, three with U.S. Bradley AFVs; and one motorized infantry battalion.

The U.S. has promised to send 90 Strykers and 109 Bradleys to Ukraine, as of April 19. Both vehicles protect troops from small arms and artillery fire as they travel into battle, but lack the heavier armor and weapons of tanks.

Russia Is Importing Western Weapons Technology, Bypassing Sanctions

Ana Swanson and Matina Stevis-Gridneff

Late last month, American and European Union officials traded information on millions of dollars’ worth of banned technology that was slipping through the cracks of their defenses and into Russian territory.

Senior tax and trade officials noted a surge in chips and other electronic components being sold to Russia through Armenia, Kazakhstan and other countries, according to slides from the March 24 meeting obtained by The New York Times. And they shared information on the flow of eight particularly sensitive categories of chips and other electronic devices that they have deemed as critical to the development of weapons, including Russian cruise missiles that have struck Ukraine.

As Ukraine tries to repel Russia from its territory, the United States and its allies have been fighting a parallel battle to keep the chips needed for weapons systems, drones and tanks out of Russian hands.

But denying Russia access to chips has been a challenge, and the United States and Europe have not made a clear victory. While Russia’s ability to manufacture weaponry has been diminished because of Western sanctions adopted more than a year ago, the country is still gaining circuitous access to many electronic components.

The result is devastating: As the United States and the European Union rally to furnish Ukrainians with weapons to keep fighting against Russia, their own technology is being used by Russia to fight back.

American officials argue that the sweeping sanctions they have imposed in partnership with 38 other governments have severely damaged Russia’s military capacity, and raised the cost to Russia to procure the parts it needs.

The Age of Energy Insecurity

Jason Bordoff and Meghan L. O’Sullivan

As recently as 18 months ago, many policymakers, academics, and pundits in the United States and Europe were waxing lyrical about the geopolitical benefits of the coming transition to cleaner, greener energy. They understood that the move away from a carbon-intensive energy system that relied on fossil fuels was going to be difficult for some countries. But on the whole, the conventional wisdom held that the shift to new sources of energy would not only aid the fight against climate change but also put an end to the troublesome geopolitics of the old energy order.

Such hopes, however, were based on an illusion. The transition to clean energy was bound to be chaotic in practice, producing new conflicts and risks in the short term. By the fall of 2021, amid an energy crisis in Europe, skyrocketing natural gas prices, and rising oil prices, even the most optimistic evangelist of the new energy order had realized that the transition would be rocky at best. Any remaining romanticism evaporated when Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. The war revealed not only the brutal character of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime and the dangers of an excessive energy dependence on aggressive autocracies but also the risks posed by a jagged, largely uncoordinated scramble to develop new energy sources and to wean the world off old, entrenched ones.

One result of this turmoil has been the revival of a term that had come to seem anachronistic during the past two decades of booming energy supplies and utopian visions of a green future: energy security. To many Americans, that phrase is redolent of the 1970s, conjuring images of boxy sedans and wood-paneled station wagons lined up for miles, waiting to fill their tanks with gasoline at sky-high prices thanks to the Arab oil embargo of 1973 and the Iranian Revolution of 1979. But energy security is hardly a thing of the past: it will be crucial to the future.

Postimperial Empire

Timothy Garton Ash

History loves unintended consequences. The latest example is particularly ironic: Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attempt to restore the Russian empire by recolonizing Ukraine has opened the door to a postimperial Europe. A Europe, that is, that no longer has any empires dominated by a single people or nation, either on land or across the seas—a situation the continent has never seen before.

Paradoxically, however, to secure this postimperial future and stand up to Russian aggression, the EU must itself take on some of the characteristics of an empire. It must have a sufficient degree of unity, central authority,

CyberUK 23: Ukraine offers masterclass in withstanding cyber war

Alex Scroxton

The scale and pace of Russia’s wartime cyber operations have been unprecedented, but Ukraine has nonetheless provided the world with a masterclass in withstanding open cyber warfare through bolstered defences and improved resilience, according to a European Cyber Conflict Research Institute (ECCRI) report commissioned for the National Cyber Security Centre’s annual CyberUK event, which continues on Thursday 20 April in Belfast.

The wide-ranging report, The cyber dimensions of the Russia-Ukraine war, contains detailed analysis of the cyber security dimension to Russia’s war on Ukraine, offering potentially valuable new insights to learn from.

“We are very grateful to ECCRI for this important and valuable analysis of the cyber dimensions of the Russia-Ukraine conflict to date,” said NCSC operations director Paul Chichester.

“The report offers a range of helpful insights, not least around what Ukraine has taught us about the power of resilient systems in the face of sustained cyber attacks. As we look to the future during our CyberUK conference, this is a timely contribution to the debate on what we can learn from the conflict, as well as the limits to our current understanding.”

Security minister Tom Tugendhat added: “Putin’s illegal war isn’t just being fought on the ground. Ukraine’s protectors are also defending their country against unprecedented cyber attacks on a digital battlefield. This report has shone an important spotlight on a different kind of hostility, which the Ukrainians have responded to with exceptional resilience and determination. We must carefully assess its findings and learn the lessons it has to offer.”

The report is based on a workshop held under the Chatham House Rule earlier this year, at which participants explored angles such as the role played both by cyber criminals and political hacktivists – as detailed earlier this week in an NCSC alert on mercenary hacktivist groups.

How Gamers Eclipsed Spies as an Intelligence Threat

Jonathan Askonas

The recent leaks of classified U.S. military documents on the Russian-Ukrainian war count among the worst Western intelligence failures in recent history. Veteran intelligence officials, however, are shocked for a different reason: The particular way the top-secret documents spread—and the apparent motivation for the leaker. The information was not disclosed to a foreign intelligence agency or sympathetic media outlet but posted to an online gaming chat server dedicated to memes, video games, and internet camaraderie. The leak had nothing to do with traditional espionage or hacktivism but appears to have been motivated by clout-chasing on an obscure internet forum.

Why the Pentagon’s Response to the Discord Leaks Won’t Fix the Problem


Some steps the Pentagon is taking in the wake of the recent leak of classified documents are missing the point.

In response to the unauthorized disclosure of hundreds of pages of sensitive and secret material on a private Discord server, Defense Department officials will add restrictions on classified material and allow fewer people to access it. But that response misses the core problems that drive unauthorized disclosure: the Pentagon classifies too many documents, limits its own ability to detect when leaks occur, and greatly overestimates how long classified information can stay secret according to a senior Defense Department official that works in insider threat detection.

On Monday, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters that the Defense Department was “taking a close look at security protocols and procedures and assessing whether or not they need to be changed,” around classified information. Kirby said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, “has already restricted access to classified information” to fewer people. He added that U.S government protocols and practices “exist for a reason and they are never considered static. So if we need to implement changes, we will.”

One senior Defense Department official who has worked in insider threat detection told Defense One that so-called “unauthorized disclosures” of classified and sensitive information are incredibly common, though few of them make the press. That’s important because it shows that the government is failing to keep a lot of things secret, not just this case.

That’s partly because of the sheer number of secrets it has tasked itself with keeping. But the Pentagon also doesn’t have the right policies in place to allow for the rapid detection of unauthorized disclosures.

In recent years, Defense leaders have set up new systems and policies to predict who might be a leaker. But so-called continuous vetting only captures things like arrests, large purchases, suspicious trips or credit activity, and the like. It is unlikely to have spotted an IT guy who was posting secret documents for clout on a closed Discord messaging group.

The Logic of American Strategy and War

George Friedman

In recent weeks I have focused on the social and economic evolution of the United States. Obviously, we also need to discuss U.S. strategic policy. Domestic policy tends to be more dynamic than strategic policy, which follows from more persistent things like imperatives. The United States is secure from an attack on land. Neither Canada nor Mexico has the ability to wage or interest in waging a land war against the United States. Therefore, the fundamental threat to American national security must come from the sea. Still, American strategy has within it a logic. It lacks the cyclical logic of domestic politics but is shaped by the necessities imposed by place and enemies.

America’s entry into World War I was triggered by a German attack on U.S. shipping. In World War II, Washington’s key motive was the same. If Germany cut off lines of supply between the U.S. and Britain, it could isolate Britain and attack it at will. Having secured the Atlantic and a base of operations in Britain, Germany could threaten the East Coast. In the Pacific, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, if fought sensibly, could have secured sea lanes from Hawaii to the West Coast and possibly enabled Japan to impose its will there. Even the Cold War was primarily naval. Germany was indeed the line of contact with the Soviet Union, but the vital supply lines ran from the U.S. to Europe, and NATO could be crippled by cutting off those supplies. Toward that end, the Russians deployed submarines and supersonic anti-ship systems.

The Germans (twice), the Soviets and the Japanese each saw the defense of their nations as rooted in maritime war against the United States. The German failure permitted D-Day to take place, the Soviet failure made a Soviet ground offensive in Europe impossible, and the Japanese failure led to Hiroshima and the U.S. occupation of Japan. In each case, the ability of the U.S. to maintain lines of supply and block enemy attacks was the key to the defense of the United States and its economy, and in each case, American strategy was built on deterrence. In the event that U.S. security was not entirely at risk at sea, Washington created barriers to block enemy powers from moving assets toward Atlantic or Pacific ports. It was understood that the immediate threat might be trivial compared to the long-term threat. Therefore, it was essential to engage Germany as early as possible – to contain the long-term threat while it still entailed combating ground forces and before the sea threat had fully materialized. This was also critical in the Pacific against Japan. It should be noted that in Vietnam, where the U.S. had no land-sea strategy, matters ended badly.

Ukraine is a Master Class in Cyber Defense and a Real-time AI Accelerator


In March 2022, at the onset of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, OODA Loop CTO Bob Gourley posited a working thesis that We Are In The First Open Source Intelligence War. A year and change into the conflict, two recent articles do a great job of expanding on Bob’s initial thesis, capturing the other analogies and framing that have been used to describe this ongoing conflict in Europe.

The First Open Source War. A Technology War. Digital David vs. Analog Goliath. The First Full Scale Drone War. Cyber-Armageddon.

“Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, much debate has centered on whether the conflict represents conventional warfare or some revolutionary type of contest.An article in the New Yorker in March 2022 described the conflict as ‘the first TikTok War.’ Ukraine’s Minister of Digital Transformation Mykhailo Fedorov has called it a “technology war.” Alex Karp, CEO of data analytics company Palantir, has suggested that the technology being used is changing the competitive advantage of a small country versus a larger adversary. The Washington Post in December ran a front-page article about how Ukraine and Russia are fighting the ‘first full-scale drone war.'” (1) In addition, “for years, we had heard predictions that the next big war would be a kind of cyber-Armageddon.” (2)

The First Open Source War. A technology War. Digital David vs. Analog Goliath. The First Full Scale Drone War. Cyber-Armageddon. Pick your analogy. the fact is Bob’s initial framing was spot on – and now events on the ground have provided hard quant to reinforce that something fundamentally different and heavily digital is afoot in Ukraine.

Russian Glider Bombs Spark New Air Defence Woes for Ukraine—Reports


Ukraine is contending with Russian-guided bombs without the ability to effectively counter the attacks, according to Ukrainian and Russian media reports.

Ukrainian air force spokesperson Yuriy Ignat has described guided, or glider bombs, as a "new threat," adding that they are used almost daily by Russian forces. Up to 20 of the guided bombs are launched each day across the front line, Ignat said last month, and they have had a "perceptible effect" in areas including the contested Donetsk region, a Kyiv Independent report said on Monday.

"This is a threat to us, and we have to urgently respond to it," Ignat told Ukrainian television.

The spokesperson said the bombs were dropped using Russia's Su-34 and Su-35 fighter jets beyond the reach of Kyiv's air defense systems. To push these jets out of range, Ignat said, Ukraine would need upgraded air defense capabilities, such as the Patriot surface-to-air missile system.

An F-16CJ from the 78th Fighter Squadron, at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina flies over the Eglin Land Range as the pilot releases a GBU-31 2,000 pound Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) during a test mission February 25, 2003. JDAM "smart" munitions have been supplied to Ukraine, which is also facing down Russian gliding bombs.

"There is nothing to get them yet, it is the planes that launch them," Ignat told Ukrainian media.

The U.S. has promised to deliver this capability to Ukraine, committing to speeding up the time it takes to get Patriots operational in Ukraine.

Here's how companies should navigate generative AI in the world of work

Ravin Jesuthasan

57% of CEOs and CFOs plan to increase use of AI and automation in their companies.

This is a cause of concern for people working across various industries.

However, the true strength of generative AI is to augment, rather than replace, the work of human experts.

Since the release of OpenAI’s GPT-3 large language model in November and subsequent release of GPT-4, there has been much angst about what these advances in generative AI mean for the future of work.

But the impact of generative AI isn’t limited to that of GPT on text generation and the potential consequences for the work of journalists and writers. It includes the impact of DALL-E-2 on image generation, CODEX on coding and MegaMoIBART on drug discovery, to name just a few.

Three main elements underpin the capabilities of generative AI:

Massive memory and pattern recognition, with capability to connect distant concepts or ideas and draw inferences.

Low/no code requirements, significantly reducing the premium on coding skills.

Absence of logic, since it makes predictions based on massive amounts of training data — with significant consequences for its applications to work.

A recent Mercer survey reported that 57% of CEOs and CFOs plan to increase use of AI and automation; nearly one-third are redesigning work to reduce their organizations’ dependency on people.

SPACECOM sets key requirements for space, including ‘combat power’


Gen. James H. Dickinson, Commander, US SPACECOM, speaks at the 2022 Space Symposium. (Credit: Space Foundation)

SPACE SYMPOSIUM — US Space Command has provided the services with its “initial” requirements for four key mission areas for joint space operations, including “space combat power,” Gen. Jim Dickinson, SPACECOM leader, said today.

“We’ve had a lot of success in the command in doing that formal process of creating initial capability documents … and getting those into the department’s process for satisfying requirements that we have in the US Space Command,” Dickinson said during the Space Foundation’s annual Space Symposium in Colorado Springs.

“We have four of those right now, and are working towards more of those. One is in space domain awareness … space combat power, joint space C2 [command and control] and the joint space communications layer. And so these are critical, because in order to get the funding, in order for the services to provide capabilities to us, they need to understand what our requirements are,” he said.

Satellite communications, Dickinson noted, has become a priority for SPACECOM as part of its space “assurance mission” for NATO allies and international partners in the Ukraine war.

“The command has prioritized many different assets, in particular, satellite communications, where we provided more than an additional gigabyte of data to support communications across the European continent. And since the beginning of the conflict, US Space Command has also provided more than 11,000 indications and warnings of theater launches to NATO allies, as well as our US partners,” he said.

SPACECOM also continues to move aggressively to strengthen cooperation with allies and international partners, Dickinson said in his wide-ranging remarks on the command’s three first years.

There Is No A.I.

As a computer scientist, I don’t like the term “A.I.” In fact, I think it’s misleading—maybe even a little dangerous. Everybody’s already using the term, and it might seem a little late in the day to be arguing about it. But we’re at the beginning of a new technological era—and the easiest way to mismanage a technology is to misunderstand it.

The term “artificial intelligence” has a long history—it was coined in the nineteen-fifties, in the early days of computers. More recently, computer scientists have grown up on movies like “The Terminator” and “The Matrix,” and on characters like Commander Data, from “Star Trek: The Next Generation.” These cultural touchstones have become an almost religious mythology in tech culture. It’s only natural that computer scientists long to create A.I. and realize a long-held dream.

What’s striking, though, is that many of the people who are pursuing the A.I. dream also worry that it might mean doomsday for mankind. It is widely stated, even by scientists at the very center of today’s efforts, that what A.I. researchers are doing could result in the annihilation of our species, or at least in great harm to humanity, and soon. In a recent poll, half of A.I. scientists agreed that there was at least a ten-per-cent chance that the human race would be destroyed by A.I. Even my colleague and friend Sam Altman, who runs OpenAI, has made similar comments. Step into any Silicon Valley coffee shop and you can hear the same debate unfold: one person says that the new code is just code and that people are in charge, but another argues that anyone with this opinion just doesn’t get how profound the new tech is. The arguments aren’t entirely rational: when I ask my most fearful scientist friends to spell out how an A.I. apocalypse might happen, they often seize up from the paralysis that overtakes someone trying to conceive of infinity. They say things like “Accelerating progress will fly past us and we will not be able to conceive of what is happening.”

I don’t agree with this way of talking. Many of my friends and colleagues are deeply impressed by their experiences with the latest big models, like GPT-4, and are practically holding vigils to await the appearance of a deeper intelligence. My position is not that they are wrong but that we can’t be sure; we retain the option of classifying the software in different ways.