25 April 2023

India’s SCO Presidency: No Shanghai Surprise

Burzine Waghmar

As India prepares to host this year’s summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, what is the outlook for its relationship with Russia, China and other members of the grouping?

In remonstrating with a visibly discomfited Vladimir Putin about how ‘today’s era is not an era of war, and I have spoken to you on the phone about this’, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who assumed the presidency of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) at Samarkand in September 2022, revealed a fundamental contrast between India's and China’s positions on accountability and sovereignty. The main take-away for Chinese President Xi Jinping from the summit, on the other hand, was that preventing ‘colour revolution[s]’ in SCO member states – essentially China’s near abroad – now extended to Putin’s puppet regime in Minsk, with a Sino-Belarusian agreement to crush democratic dissidents. Although the SCO was founded in April 1996 as the ‘Treaty on Deepening Military Trust in Border Regions’, its genesis – and the origin of its nomenclature – ought not to confuse anyone, including Indians. It will be a first in the 76-year-old republic’s history when New Delhi hosts this year’s summit of the SCO – a grouping whose official languages are Chinese and Russian.

Stuck between belligerent neighbour and dubious ally, the largest English-speaking parliamentary democracy must sup with a long spoon. For India, partaking in a Chinese-conceived forum whose members are tacitly expected to bolster Beijing’s security, guarantee its energy needs and – preferably – adopt a yuan-based economy for aid and trade is unsavoury to say the least. SCO members are also expected to take a cue from the success of Chinese command capitalism, which encourages the replication of Chinese-style ‘robots’, as British philosopher Sir Roger Scruton referred to them just before his death. Central Asian Stans, pre- or post-91, are accustomed to kowtowing to the Kremlin and Zhongnanhai. Washington’s observer status application to the SCO was rejected in 2005.

The sovereignty and security of the SCO’s Central Asian members have been kicked into the steppe grass: ethnic Russian irredentists domiciled in fertile, mineral-rich northern Kazakhstan plot to break up Central Asia’s largest republic, which contains the world’s second largest uranium ore deposits, as well as ex-Soviet bases – including Baikonur cosmodrome – which Moscow insists on regulating. The Chinese, who invested some $26 billion in oil and gas pipelines up to the end of 2015, ignore objections over the illegal incarceration of dual-national Kazakhs alongside Uyghur Sunnis in Xinjiang’s detention camps. Kazakh authorities arrest those who protest about missing families outside Almaty’s Chinese consulate.

The Strategic Logic of Russia’s Embrace of the Taliban

Sophia Nina Burna-Asefi

Amid new geopolitical conditions, Russia has reinvigorated its diplomatic efforts with Afghanistan as it seeks to reassert itself as a security guarantor in the wider region. On April 6, Russian Ambassador Dmitry Zhirnov met with Amir Khan Muttaqi, the Taliban’s foreign minister. Both parties stressed greater political, security, and economic cooperation. The meeting came after several remarks from Russia concerning the risks and security threats that Afghanistan poses to the Central Asian countries. The bilateral visit is the latest in a flurry of diplomatic meetings between Russia and Afghanistan.

Understanding Russian Interests in Afghanistan

To understand Russian interests in Afghanistan, one must “zoom out” and look at the two nations’ geographies. Afghanistan is located at the crossroads of Central Asia, a region where Russia has long had a dominant influence. The geographic proximity of Afghanistan to Central Asia creates a shared geopolitical reality. Considering Moscow’s habit of forgetting that the Central Asian states are now independent, Russia has, for decades, kept a thumb on the region. The Kremlin claims Central Asia as a sphere of privileged interest.

To this end, the instability in Afghanistan, particularly in the northern provinces which border Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan, plays quite well into Russia’s broader regional objectives. It allows Russia to justify the expansion of security and military cooperation via the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), a Moscow-led military alliance (in which Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Tajikistan are members, plus Armenia and Belarus) in terms of counterterrorism efforts in Afghanistan. It also allows Moscow to justify renewed efforts at border military engagements with non-CSTO countries, like Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, and provides Russia yet another excuse for blaming the United States and NATO for leaving Afghanistan in such a sorry state.

Troubled Times For The Taliban And Their Neighbors – Analysis

Luke Coffey*

The Taliban’s relationship with Afghanistan’s neighbors received a lot of attention on the international stagein the past week. A high-level meeting between the foreign ministers of Russia, China, Pakistan, and Iran, along with their de facto Taliban counterpart, took place in the Uzbek city of Samarkand. A readout from the meeting highlighted concerns that several terrorist groups in Afghanistan “continue to pose a serious threat to regional and global security.”

Meanwhile, the communique issued after last week’s G7 foreign ministers’ meeting in Japan contained a whole section about Central Asia containing a strong emphasis on “the destabilizing effect the situation in Afghanistan” is having on the region. While a G7 statement on Central Asia is not unprecedented, it is certainly unusual, and illustrates how precarious the situation is in the region.

Ever since the Taliban took power in Afghanistan in August 2021, relations between Kabul and the Central Asian republics have been a mix of pragmatism, complexity, and difficulty. The three Central Asian republics that share a land border with Afghanistan — Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan — have taken a slightly differing approach to engaging with the Taliban.

The most enthusiastic country out of that group has been Uzbekistan. Although Tashkent maintained cordial relations with the Afghan governments of Presidents Karzai and Ghani after 2001, its informal engagement with the Taliban started years before Kabul fell. Uzbekistan and Afghanistan share an important land border. Both countries have a history of trade. In recent years Uzbekistan has been one of Afghanistan’s most important transit gateways to global markets. Therefore, Uzbekistan’s approach to engaging with the Taliban has been based more on pragmatism than ideology. The secular government in Tashkent has little in common with the fundamentalist regime in Kabul.

Balochistan Is Seriously Behind In Terms Of Achieving Sustainable Development Goals – OpEd

Dr. Siraj Bashir

On September 15, 2015, all UN member states unanimously adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which provides a universal roadmap for peace and prosperity for people and the planet today and in the future. The SDGs are the universal vision of the world, from which it is aimed to develop the world in terms of social, economic, political, cultural, environmental, education, and wellbeing. The notion of SDGs is drawn from the Brundtland Commission’s Study, which states that “development should meet present-day requirements without jeopardizing the next generation’s interests.”

Pakistan is one of the countries that has assured to meet the SDGs by 2030. Pakistan’s government has developed a National Action Plan for SDGs, which sets out essential indicators and targets for accomplishing the goals.

Balochistan’s government additionally developed a Provincial Development Strategy that highlights key areas and determines for achieving the SDGs. The plan provides strategies for encouraging inclusive economic growth, reducing poverty and inequality, enhancing access to education and health, protecting the environment, and promoting gender equality and social justice.

However, progress toward the SDGs has been very slow and uneven in Balochistan. The province faces significant challenges in achieving the SDGs, such as corruption, bad governance, failure of institutions, funding, infrastructure, political stability, social and cultural norms, and the weak capacity of government employees.

The province lags very far in all goals, and it seems that no credible governance system exists in Balochistan, the living standards of people are not changing, and all indicators of the SDGS are getting worse day by day.

Attack on Taiwan Will Be Start of CCP’s Chain of Aggression

Miles Yu

NEW DELHI: Dr Miles Yu, who is the director of the China Center at Hudson Institute, spoke to The Sunday Guardian on what is being described as an “imminent” Chinese attack on Taiwan and how India needs to respond to this. Dr Yu was a critical part of the Donald Trump administration and served as the China policy adviser to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. In that capacity, he advised the secretary on all China-related issues, helped overhaul US policy towards China, and participated in key US government interagency deliberations on major policy and government actions with regard to China and other East Asian countries, including Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.

Apart from a visiting fellow at the Hoover Institution, he is also a professor of East Asia and military and naval history at the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Dr Yu specialises in Chinese military and strategic culture, US and Chinese military and diplomatic history, and US policy toward China.


Q: You recently used the word “obsessed” in one of your articles while describing China’s approach to Taiwan and gave four reasons for this “obsession”. What is the cure to this?

A: The cure lies in ridding China of the CCP’s “liberation ideology,” and re-establishing a normal set of rules for engaging with the international community on the basis of mutual respect and civility.

Q: You have worked closely in the administration on the measures that the US can employ to tackle China. The United States is already tied with the events taking place in Ukraine. Will the US risk intervening militarily in Taiwan and does it have the wherewithal to operate on two fronts, against two major adversaries?

A: Yes. Ukraine is not the US’ problem alone, the same is with Taiwan. Joining hands with America’s global allies and partners, matching different capabilities with different battlefield requirements in Ukraine and Taiwan, the US and its allies will be able to prevail, should there be a military invasion of Taiwan by the CCP.

China’s renewed influence in the Gulf

Rheea Saggar

China has used the COVID-19 pandemic as an opportunity to rebrand its international role as a ‘responsible’ and ‘great’ power by voicing narratives of its own supremacy to regions like the Gulf.

In this interview, Julia Gurol-Haller draws on her International Affairs article to trace how the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Iran have responded to China’s narratives, with key implications for Sino-US competition and regional autonomy for the Gulf. This illustrates how words and narratives help bolster authoritarian power.

What have the China-Gulf relations looked like in context of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Bilateral relations between China and the Gulf countries have grown in importance over the past decade, particularly since 2013 with the Belt and Road Initiative. The Gulf plays a crucial role in China’s Belt and Road Initiative and its westward expansion, owing to its favourable geographic position and proximity to the Red Sea.

In the beginning, transregional relations were mainly economic partnerships since China has a growing appetite for oil and gas and the Gulf monarchies fulfil these needs. China is one of the most important markets for Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Qatar to export these goods.

Over time, we’ve seen the Sino-Gulf relations expand beyond just economic ties and towards policy fields like security and cultural relations. While these processes were already in place, they were boosted during the COVID-19 pandemic, not only in material terms but also in respect of Chinese attempts to advance its soft power, leverage, and influence in the Gulf region.

When COVID-19 began to ravage the globe, China took that window of opportunity to rebrand its international role. Through efforts such as mask diplomacy, vaccine diplomacy and the strategic diffusion of narratives, China tried to project its image as a ‘global saviour’ and a responsible and great power.

China's innovation system and the localization dilemma

This joint report by MERICS and the European Chamber of Commerce in China (EUCCC) looks at the wide spectrum of research and development (R&D) strategies European companies are deploying in China to mitigate risks and maximize their competitiveness.

It comes at a time when optimism about business prospects in China is starting to reappear following the country’s abandonment of its zero-COVID policy, and as face-to-face exchanges at all levels between Europe and China are gradually resuming. However, it also comes in the context of steady escalation of the United States-China struggle for technological supremacy, all while geopolitical factors— such as the war in Ukraine—are making the situation more complex. Companies across the board are now placing far greater importance on risk assessments when deciding their future R&D plans.

It is therefore especially important for both businesses and policymakers to understand the role European companies play in China’s innovation ecosystem, as well as the positive effects and potential liabilities of doing so.

You can download the full report as a PDF here:

How climate change is shaping China’s domestic security choices

Last month’s UN water conference has sparked renewed global attention on the management of water, particularly for domestic and agricultural uses.

Water has long held a special significance in China, where it’s said that unique hydrological conditions led to the creation of three miracles: the nation, its civilisation and its people.

In recent decades, China’s domestic security has become increasingly intertwined with climate change, forcing Beijing to rethink its approaches to water and food security. Despite having to feed 20% of the world’s population, China only has 7% of the planet’s arable land and 6% of its fresh water. Both are heavily contaminated, raising fears of water and food shortages.

Interconnected water issues have long plagued China’s leaders. Despite being one of the top five countries in terms of freshwater resources on a per capita basis, China faces serious problems. The country’s low and variable precipitation and the uneven spatial distribution of water resources between the north and the south are compounded by overuse and pollution.

Climate-change-induced extreme weather such as droughts and severe flooding exacerbate these issues, with frequent coastal flooding, melting glaciers, storm surges, coastal erosion and saltwater intrusion. It’s estimated that 1% of China’s GDP is lost annually due to flooding alone.

Beijing’s leaders are acutely aware of the importance of water in maintaining social stability and ensuring the regime’s survival. The government has focused on engineering its way to water security, an approach traceable in part to Mao Zedong’s idea that man must conquer nature. This is reflected in the state’s construction of large-scale hydroengineering projects including dams and inter-basin water-transfer projects.

China building cyber weapons to ‘seize control’ of enemy satellites, says leaked CIA report

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar

China is building cyber weapons to hack into enemy satellites that would render them useless during wartime, according to a leaked US intel report.

The CIA-marked report was one of the dozens allegedly shared by a 21-year-old US Air National Guardsman in one of the worst intelligence breaches in a decade, the Financial Times reported.

The leak comes at a time when diplomatic relations between Beijing and Washington are hanging by a thread over trade and concerns that China may attack Taiwan to forcefully bring the self-governed island back to its fold.

According to the leaked document, the cyber capability would allow China “to seize control of a satellite, rendering it ineffective to support communications, weapons, or intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems”.

Washington assessed that the plan to "deny, exploit or hijack" enemy satellites is a core part of China's goal to control information, which Beijing considers a key "war-fighting domain."

China aims to mimic the signals that enemy satellites receive from their operators, tricking them into "either being taken over completely or malfunctioning during crucial moments in combat".

That would knock out the ability of satellites, which tend to operate in clusters, to respond with each other, relay orders to weapons systems, or send back visual and intercepted electronic data, according to the financial daily.

Wahington has never disclosed whether it has similar capabilities.

China Prioritizes 3 Strategic Technologies in Its Great Power Competition

Namrata Goswami

A Long March-2F Y12 rocket carrying a crew of Chinese astronauts in a Shenzhou-12 spaceship lifts off at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan in northwestern China, June 17, 2021.Credit: AP Photo/Ng Han Guan

China recently reconstituted its Ministry of Science and Technology and created a powerful Central Science and Technology Commission in order to ensure that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has more direct oversight over the ministry. This change, which was recommended by the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, recognizes that technology competition with the United States requires direct supervision from the highest level of the party.

This reorganization was carried out during the “Two Sessions,” annual meetings of National People’s Congress (NPC) and Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) held in Beijing in March of this year. This is where policy direction of the CCP becomes clear as thousands of delegates ratify institutional and personnel changes, legislate, and endorse government budgets in rather ceremonial but important meetings. Dissent is hardly allowed.

The result of endorsing the dominant role of the CCP over China’s technology development in these sessions implies the importance China’s leaders place on the sector. During the Two Sessions, Xi indicated that “enhancing integrated national strategies and strategic capabilities” is key to China’s aim of becoming a global power. In this, the development of key strategic technologies plays a vital and consequent role.

By 2049, China aims to emerge as a global leader in three strategic technologies, identified by President Xi Jinping as critical for China’s national rejuvenation: space, AI, and quantum communications and computing.

China’s Military Exercises Near Taiwan: Signaling and War Scares

Narantsatsral Enkhbat

In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, fighter jets of the Eastern Theater Command of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) conduct a joint combat training exercises around the Taiwan Island on Sunday, Aug. 7, 2022.Credit: Gong Yulong/Xinhua via AP

China today is rapidly building up its military, aiming to become strong enough to protect its interests, and presumably to surpass its biggest competitor – the United States. Chinese President Xi Jinping, soon after he took power, announced a drastic military reform program, modernizing weapons and technology and improving the People’s Liberation Army (PLA)’s organization, training, and preparedness. The goal is to “basically complete the modernization of national defense and the military by 2035 and to fully transform the people’s armed forces into world-class forces by the mid-21st century.”

As part of the modernization plan to advance combat readiness and preparedness, the PLA has intensified and increased its military exercises. Beijing uses military exercises for a wide variety of reasons, from military training purposes (improving quality of military performances and testing new weapons) to political and strategic ends. However, the politico-strategic dimensions of Chinese military exercises are frequently overlooked, which can have far-reaching consequences for regional and global security.

In particular, China is employing military exercises as a tool to demonstrate its military might and signal its willingness and ability to “reunify” Taiwan. The use of military exercises by China to intimidate Taiwan through displays of military prowess is not a new phenomenon. Such exercises often serve as a scare tactic to remind Taiwan of the potential consequences of drawing closer to the United States. “Those who play with fire will perish by it,” Chinese President Xi Jinping warned during a telephone conversation with U.S. President Joe Biden last year. Such warnings often emphasize China’s determination to oppose any actions that could be interpreted as supporting Taiwanese independence as well as threatening China`s security.

Empowering Ukraine Prepares Us For China – Analysis

Rebeccah L. Heinrichs*

China is America’s number one adversary due to Beijing’s willingness and capability to undermine US security, freedom, and prosperity. One pressing way China could strike a blow against US interests would be to violently force Taiwan to unify with mainland China. Doing so would immediately cause a global recession and rupture the US alliance architecture in the Pacific. It would also clear the way for China to contest US interests in the global commons far beyond the region. Some policymakers who are rightly concerned about the threat China poses to Taiwan argue that the United States should stop aiding Ukraine and instead divert attention, support, and weapons to Taiwan. While proponents of this argument are right to convey a sense of urgency and focus on some points that are true, their position overlooks key facts that make its simplistic zero-sum formulation unrealistic and self-defeating. For example, their argument does not sufficiently grapple with the connection between the China and Russia threats to US interests and allies, the responses of allies and how their perspectives affect outcomes, and the way the US budgetary and weapons delivery systems function.
China and Russia Threats to Key US Interests

China and Russia have chosen to collaborate to undermine the United States and its allies and interests, even though for decades US administrations sought a “Russia reset.” Chinese leader Xi Jinping has reiterated his support for Russian leader Vladimir Putin multiple times in recent years, including before and after Russia’s full-scale and unprovoked invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. China would gain from a Russian victory in Ukraine—as defined by Russian gains of Ukrainian territory that would allow Moscow to conduct gray-zone operations against NATO nations along the new front, including Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, and Romania.

The United States and Europe conduct over $1.5 trillion in trade annually, making the transatlantic economy the largest in the world. So America will still have an interest in making certain that Europe remains stable and that ports and trade routes stay open, accessible, and safe. As Hudson scholars Peter Rough and Luke Coffey write:

Some of America’s oldest (France), closest (United Kingdom), and most reliable allies (central and eastern Europeans) are in Europe. The North American and European continents are also closely linked economically. These two landmasses account for approximately 45 percent of the global economy. Last year, the US and Europe were each other’s largest export markets. Forty-eight of the 50 states—including the Pacific Ocean states of California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska, and Hawaii—exported more to Europe than to China. Year after year, the US and Europe are also each other’s top source of foreign direct investment. Europe’s security and stability, which Russia now threatens, bring untold benefits to the US economy and, by extension, the American worker.

After Iran-Saudi Mediation, China Angles for Another Diplomatic Victory in Yemen

Ladislav Charouz

At the U.N. Security Council’s April 17 meeting on Yemen, China’s Deputy Permanent Representative to the U.N. Geng Shuang touted China’s success in helping to restore Iran-Saudi relations, expressing the wish that other Middle Eastern countries “follow the general trend” toward peace. Joining the United States in urging restraint from Houthi rebels, the representative said China is willing “to continue making efforts to promote regional peace and stability and realize lasting peace in Yemen.”

Geng’s speech would hardly seem noteworthy were it not for the fact that China’s rhetoric is accompanied by intensive diplomatic efforts. In just one month, China’s chargé d’affaires to Yemen, Shao Zheng, has held five separate meetings with members of Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council, a body formed in April 2022 that takes over the powers of both president and vice president. To put this in context, Shao held only one such high-profile meeting from last November until this March.

Chinese coverage of these meetings has mostly focused on Yemeni praise for China’s mediation between Saudi Arabia and Iran, as well as thanks for Chinese economic assistance to the war-torn country. Both Shao and his interlocutors also agree on the desirability of reaching a speedy peace settlement. While they make no indication that China plans to take a leading role in bringing such a solution about, the press releases emphasize the role of “China and other countries” in helping to achieve a future breakthrough.

The Presidential Leadership Council was supposed to unite various anti-Houthi groups from both southern and northern Yemen. However, as Gregory Johnsen writes, finding common ground between the eight representatives has proven a difficult task. Apparently for that reason, Shao has been seeing leaders representing different interests. His recent diplomatic foray has included meetings with Council chairman and former presidential advisor Rashad al-Alimi, National Resistance leader Tareq Saleh, de facto leader of the Southern Movement Aidarus al-Zoubaidi, and pro-Western Governor Sultan Ali al-Arada.

In recent weeks, Shao has also met the U.N. Special Envoy’s military adviser Antony Hayward, as well as representatives of Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the European Union. Meanwhile, Yemen’s Ambassador to China Mohammed al-Maitami has been quoted by China’s Foreign Ministry as saying that “Yemen sincerely expects China to continue to play a role in promoting the political settlement of the Yemeni issue.” The diplomat recently met with China’s special envoy on Middle East issues, Zhai Jun.

Confronting Illicit Economies and Criminal Threats IN UN Missions

Illicit economies and related criminal agendas pose a significant challenge to United Nations (UN) peace operations. In criminalised conflict economies, the grey zone around these tends to be particularly large. Missions have to find ways of dealing with this, especially when restoring and strengthening state capacity is part of their core mandate. UN sanctions have often been imposed in the same contexts – following their own approach in dealing with criminalised conflict economies. This chapter analyses how UN peace operations and UN sanctions regimes have addressed illicit economies and criminal threats in different conflict environments. Based on an analysis of the UN’s involvement in the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mali, the chapter argues that the more profound challenges in coping with the grey zone in criminalised conflict economies are conceptual and political rather than operational in nature. Since tackling crime and building peace are two distinct goals that do not automatically go together, it largely depends on the mandates and the types of illicit economies in the respective context if peace operations and sanctions converge in their approaches. Ultimately, a more coherent response will require clearer political guidance by the Security Council on how to cope with the grey zone.

Cyber Operations in Russia’s War against Ukraine

Russia, E. Europe, Central Asia

One year after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, certain assumptions about the utility of cyber operations during wartime can now be put to the test. Russian cyber salvos opened this war, but they failed to achieve their objectives in the face of a resilient cyber defender. Joint cyber/conventional warfighting is still hard to implement due to its uncertain effects, the potential for spill-over, malware development cycles, and differing operational tempos. Cyber operations against Ukraine have not (yet) achieved major strategic effects in reducing Ukraine’s capacity to resist. Additionally, Russian information operations targeting Ukrainian and Western audiences fell on deaf ears. The greatest value of cyber operations therefore still appears to lie in their intelligence and reconnaissance functions.

Since the early 1990s, cyber warfare has been heralded by its proponents as a revo­lution in military affairs or a perfect weapon of war. Most of these discussions have been theoretical, often focusing on questions of how the application of cyber capa­bilities might meet or exceed the threshold of an armed attack and thus lead to conventional war. Yet few empirical studies examine the military operational utility of cyber capa­bilities during war. Over the past year of war in Ukraine cyber capabilities have been employed in the midst of a conventional war, allowing us to draw pre­liminary con­clusions about the potential game-changing nature of cyber capabilities when used as an instrument of war.

Three Western schools of thought

Cyber capabilities and wartime strategy

Literature on ‘cyber warfare’ is usually concerned with the application of cyber capabilities for politico-strategic or even criminal purposes rather than military operational ones. The strategic cyber war nar­rative of the 1990s saw cyber warfare as a next-generation front that would threaten modern society. One of the guiding frames of reference was the “Cyber Pearl Harbor” metaphor: With digital decapitation strikes, the power grid could be shut down, critical infrastructure destroyed, and entire econo­mies brought to a halt all without the need for physical military force. Within this nar­rative, cyber operations were seen as a stra­tegic counter-value capability that would target societies with the aim of affecting state behaviour during peacetime. In a nut­shell, cyber operations were expected to alter the balance of power in the inter­national system because they were per­ceived to be superior to conventional force.

Pentagon Speeds Up Tank Timeline for Ukraine but Resists Calls for Jets

Helene Cooper

RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — Ukrainian troops will begin training on American M1 Abrams tanks in Germany in the next few weeks, U.S. defense officials say, in what would be a major step in arming Kyiv as it seeks to seize back territory from Russia.

Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III announced the timeline on Friday during a meeting with allies at Ramstein Air Base. Defense officials said that about 31 tanks were expected to arrive in Germany to begin a training program for Ukrainian troops that is expected to take 10 weeks. Combat-ready tanks could reach the battlefields in Ukraine by the fall, said the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss security matters.

But the United States stood firm in its refusal to supply Ukraine with F-16 fighter jets. Speaking at a news conference after the meeting, Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that Ukraine’s air-defense system had worked effectively for more than a year and kept Russian warplanes “cautious” for fear of being shot down.

Sustaining Ukraine’s air defenses, he said, “is the most critical thing right now.” General Milley said the United States would continue to work with its allies to that end, emphasizing “we need to do everything we can to ensure that Ukraine has adequate air defense — ground-based air-defense capability.”

Ukrainian leaders, calling for jets, tanks and other advanced weapons, have repeatedly expressed frustration with the pace of deliveries from their supporters in the West. President Volodymyr Zelensky urged NATO’s secretary general this week to help “overcome the reluctance” with providing long-range weapons and more modern aircraft and artillery.

Straight Talk about How the U.S. Is Helping Ukraine


On the menu today: It’s time for some serious talk about U.S. military aid to Ukraine, because there are certain kinds of American-manufactured weapons and munitions that the U.S. can provide to Ukraine indefinitely, but at least four kinds the U.S. is running dangerously low on. And there are fair and serious questions about whether the U.S. is sufficiently armed to help Taiwan if China invades that island nation. (And it’s an independent nation. Don’t let anybody fool you into thinking otherwise.) But this discussion is muddled by misleading claims, like the ones from Ohio Republican senator J. D. Vance yesterday that “maybe apparently America already has troops on the ground in Ukraine,” and that Ukraine has “maybe the most corrupt leadership anywhere in the world.”

What You Need to Know about American Aid to Ukraine

Yesterday, Ohio Republican senator J. D. Vance spoke at the Heritage Foundation, and a healthy portion of his remarks dealt with foreign policy.

There are fair arguments for caution or wariness about expanding the U.S. commitment to helping Ukraine. At the beginning of the year, the Center for Strategic and International Studies published a report about which munitions the U.S. military was running low on, and how long it would take to restock the supplies of those munitions to normal, pre-invasion levels.

According to CSIS estimates — and it cautions that these figures are only estimates, based upon the best information currently available — at the “surge” or prioritized production rate, it will take two and a half years to restock the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) mobile-artillery system and vehicles, four years to restock at least one category of 155 millimeter shells, five and a half years to restock the Javelin anti-tank-missile stockpile, and six and a half years to restock the Stinger air-defense-missile stockpile.*

US Military Cannot Refuel, Repair, Reload At Philippines Bases; Cannot Use EDCA To Defend Taiwan — Reports

Ashish Dangwal

In the face of China’s vehement opposition to the Philippines providing the US access to more military bases, Manila has announced that it will not allow the US to store weapons that could be used for defending Taiwan on these facilities, reported SCMP.

In early 2023, the US and the Philippines announced that the US would be granted access to four more bases under the 2014 Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) terms.

But, China has been critical of the deal, accusing the US of exploiting access to these bases to interfere in the situation across the Taiwan Strait to advance its own geopolitical objectives.

On April 19, Foreign Affairs Secretary Enrique Manalo made it clear that the United States would not be allowed to carry out any operations not permitted under the 2014 agreement.

Manalo stated at a Senate hearing on Wednesday that the EDCA is not intended to target any third country beyond its purpose of supporting the Philippines.

He continued by saying that the government’s primary foreign policy was to be “friends to all” and promised that the security pact would reflect that stance. Additionally, the minister stated that Manila would not permit US forces to refuel, repair, or reload at EDCA installations.

The Philippines recently announced that it would grant the US access to four more bases close to the Taiwan Strait and the contentious South China Sea, raising the total number of military facilities Washington may utilize to nine.

Three of the sites are on the main island of Luzon, near Taiwan, while one is in Palawan province in the South China Sea (SCS).

In recent months, the US has increased efforts to broaden its access to critical military sites in the Indo-Pacific amid growing worries about China’s assertive territorial behavior across the region.

The new outposts will enable the US to shift soldiers between nine bases across the Philippines, including the strategically significant Balabac Island near Chinese installations in the South China Sea.

Title:What the conflict in Ukraine can teach us about the future of cyberwarfare

The McCourt School’s Tech & Public Policy program hosted a panel of experts to discuss the conflict in Ukraine, the future of cyberwarfare and the importance of public-private partnerships moving forward.

On February 24, 2023, Russian forces invaded and occupied parts of Ukraine. In the year since, tens of thousands of people on both sides have lost their lives, and even more have been permanently displaced. While the physical war has been widely covered by international media, military and tech experts across the world have found key lessons to be learned by the war being waged online.

To discuss changes in the cyber threat landscape, the McCourt School’s Tech & Public Policy (TPP) program hosted visiting TPP Research Fellow Gulsanna Mamediieva, director general on EU integration in Ukraine’s Ministry of Digital Transformation, Adjunct Professor Jeffrey Glick, former senior advisor to the assistant secretary for cybersecurity and communications in the Department of Homeland Security, Adjunct Professor John Gossart, cofounder and CFO of fintech startup GoodWorld, and Tatyana Bolton, security policy manager at Google.

Following introductory remarks from McCourt School Advisory Board member Craig Newmark, who emphasized the importance of cross-sector collaboration and “protecting ourselves and our country from cyber attacks,” the panel, moderated by Dr. Glick, spoke candidly about what the conflict in Ukraine reveals about the future of war.

Mamediieva, a Ph.D. candidate at Kyiv University whose research was interrupted by the war, offered unique insights into how the Ukrainian government was able to protect itself against cyber attacks. “President Zelensky was committed to making Ukraine a ‘state in a smartphone,’ and his focus on digital really helped us to pivot quickly when we realized the urgency of the situation,” she said.

The US military must move beyond defense-reform theater

Mackenzie Eaglen

The Pentagon finds itself in a new and uncomfortable position, according to AEI's Mackenzie Eaglen: that of needing to work to attract and entice new companies to want to do business with the armed forces. (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP)

The sheer size, scope, reach and budget of the U.S. military is startling. Therefore it makes sense the Pentagon is a most tempting target for constant reform. But change for change’s sake is not helpful, nor is defense-reform theater. Serious crusaders must chart a different course for modernizing defense bureaucracy — one fit for the information age where urgency, flexibility, transparency and action are the watchwords.

Over the past eight sessions of Congress, there have been no fewer than 14 different Pentagon efficiency drills. The names are familiar to budget watchers: Better Buying Power 1.0 (and 2.0 … and 3.0), the Weapon Systems Acquisition Reform Act, night court, fourth-estate reform, and others. Some of these efforts were successful; others not so much.

While well-intentioned, a common theme was that these were short-term, budget-bogey exercises that yielded few new dollars for reinvestment into higher priorities. This is due in part to defense reform being over-focused on the acquisition of things. However, the majority of what the military purchases is no longer weapons systems but rather services and technology. Zealous reformers continue to over-focus on weapons buys when hardware is increasingly the commodity.

Moreover, the U.S. military is no longer a monopsony buyer able to move markets due to smaller bets, nor is the organization an original inventor changing the American economy. Rather, the military must increasingly innovate with mostly commercial products and give them a unique defense application.

The Middle Kingdom Vs. Silicon Valley


Nicolas Berggruen is the publisher of Noema Magazine and the chairman and co-founder of the Berggruen Institute.

Nathan Gardels is the editor-in-chief of Noema Magazine.

If you want to know where the world is headed, the best indicator is how the most transformative technology of our time will be manifested across different political-cultural systems rooted in divergent civilizational foundations.

It is already clear that as generative artificial intelligence rolls out across the planet, it will be anchored in two defining centers of gravity: the Middle Kingdom and Silicon Valley. Others will fall along a continuum within their orbit.

This constellation of power does not fit the geostrategic mold of rivalry between national empires. Rather, it is an asymmetrical array of magnetic forces. On one side is the political logic of the state; on the other is the autonomous logic of technology coursing its way through open societies beyond the authority of governments.

For Beijing, AI is a technology that must be harnessed through centralization and control to ensure the social conformity and enforced political consensus that stands behind stability. The alternative emanating from the West’s innovative core is the opposite: Ideally, at least, it is about the potential of distributed technology to enhance personal liberty.

These fundamentally incompatible visions are set out in stark terms by the relevant players themselves.

“We believe AI should be an extension of individual human wills and, in the spirit of liberty, as broadly and evenly distributed as possible,” OpenAI, which developed GPT-4 and its predecessors, says in a mission statement.

What’s Perfectly Round, Made Of Metal, And Keeping Russia From Replacing the 2,000 Tanks It’s Lost In Ukraine?

David Axe

But optics aren’t the only thing in short supply in the Russian armored vehicle industry. The Russians also are desperately short of ball-bearings, which they used to get from the United States and Europe before the United States and Europe tightened their sanctions on Russian industry.

A new study from the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. confirmed what independent analysts have been saying for months. Tanks and other modern armored vehicles need a lot of ball-bearings. And Russia doesn’t have enough bearings to maintain steady production of new vehicles.

Especially considering that the Russian war effort—indeed, the whole Russian economy—utterly depends on trains for transportation. And trains also need a lot of ball-bearings. The Russians have a choice. Build more tanks and let the rail system fall apart. Or keep the trains moving, and slow tank-production.

“Historically, Russia has imported most of its high-quality bearings from Western manufacturers,” CSIS analysts Max Bergmann, Maria Snegovaya, Tina Dolbaia, Nick Fenton and Samuel Bendett noted. “In 2020, for instance, Russia imported over $419 million worth of ball bearings, around 55 percent of which originated in Europe and North America; Germany was Russia’s largest trading partner, taking up 17 percent of its total imports that year.”

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That changed after Russian forces rolled into northern, eastern and southern Ukraine in February 2022, triggering a wider war that has killed tens of thousands of people on both sides. Kyiv’s foreign allies escalated their sanctions on Moscow’s strategic industries.

Ball-bearing imports were a top target. “Following the start of the invasion, major Western producers of bearings exited Russia and ended their sales there,” the CSIS analysts wrote.

American Deterrence Is Failing

John R. Allen Michael Miklaucic

There is a problem with deterrence; it’s not working. Not that we are about to descend into nuclear armageddon. But aside from nuclear wars, the United States’ deterrence paradigm does not seem to be deterring much recently. Our adversaries—principally Russia and China—do not seem cowed, either by the risk of failure to achieve their objectives or by the fear of retaliation. Both have been seizing the initiative with aggressive behavior ranging from information warfare, through the full range of gray zone tactics, all the way to the illegal military invasion and occupation of a sovereign neighboring state. Either the theory of deterrence is wrong, or the West is doing deterrence wrong.

The litany of Russian aggression in recent years includes the massive 2007 cyber-attack against NATO ally Estonia, the 2008 Russian seizure of the Georgian provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia (15 percent of Georgia’s territory), the 2014 occupation and illegal annexation of Crimea, and the 2015 intervention in Syria. Russia’s actions in Crimea sent shockwaves through the West, yet Russia’s main objectives, attained through well-planned cross-domain operations, were achieved at little real cost. In February 2022, confident in his impunity despite threats and warnings from Western powers, Russian president Vladimir Putin launched a full-fledged aggressive war against Ukraine. At the time of this writing, the war still rages in that beleaguered country as the death toll approaches half million.

Meanwhile, China—dubbed our so-called pacing threat—has been relentlessly and unapologetically stealing Western intellectual property for years at next to no cost in what was described by former National Security Agency director Keith Alexander as “the greatest transfer of wealth in history.” China has militarized the South China Sea, weaponized atolls in disputed waters, and bullied, threatened, and coerced neighbors and extra-regional countries that have dared to defy its strategic demands. The brutal repression of the Uyghurs and the brazen abrogation of the Hong Kong agreement and guarantees were met with loud protests from the West as well as limited economic sanctions, but nothing sufficient to deter China’s aggression.

America’s Military Is Unprepared for Our Age of Advanced Technology


President Joe Biden’s proposed $886 billion defense budget sets a U.S. record for peacetime military spending. It’s a new record, perhaps, but also an old story. America’s military forces, defense industries, and a supportive Congress have spent many decades and trillions of dollars preparing to defend our nation against a multitude of threats across the globe. Unfortunately, far too much of this effort has served only to prepare us for facing the threats of yesterday. This is a failure of vision distorted by support for favorite, outworn systems and strategic mindsets that are of declining use against the fast-changing threats we face today, much less those we will face tomorrow.

Complicating attempts to address this challenge is the fact that our defense establishment is likely the most complicated business enterprise in the world. It is a convoluted, cross-threaded system, driven in part by a “military-industrial complex” that is far too influenced by outside factors, constituency pressures and inefficient acquisition systems to allow for a truly effective approach to defending the nation. Even worse, there are very few people who truly understand the system’s complexities well enough to make it work.

While artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, machine learning, quantum computing, and other advanced technologies have transformed the way business and industry are conducted throughout the world, the Department of Defense and its supply-chain industries have yet to fully incorporate these tools to better defend our county. In the face of these systemic shortcomings, Americans have every good reason to scrutinize our military expenditures and ask fundamental questions about the effectiveness of our military’s defense systems.

To be clear: our purpose in this discussion is not to argue, as some do, for indiscriminate defense-spending cuts solely to reduce the federal budget or to chip away at the national debt. These are worthy goals, but our imperative in this discussion is for a smarter defense budget, one that reflects the latest technologies and acquisition systems needed to enhance our security and protect our future. And yes, a smarter defense budget should also eliminate much waste and inefficiency, but that is not its primary goal.

NATO chief: Ukraine’s ‘rightful place’ is in the alliance


KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg defiantly declared Thursday that Ukraine’s “rightful place” is in the military alliance and pledged more support for the country on his first visit to Kyiv since Russia’s invasion just over a year ago.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged Stoltenberg, who has been instrumental in marshaling support from NATO members, to push for even more from them, including warplanes, artillery and armored equipment.

The Kremlin has given various justifications for going to war, but repeated Thursday that preventing Ukraine from joining NATO is still a key goal of its invasion, arguing that Kyiv’s membership in the alliance would pose an existential threat to Russia.

NATO leaders said in 2008 that Ukraine would join the alliance one day, and Stoltenberg has repeated that promise throughout the war, though the organization has established no pathway or timetable for membership.

“Let me be clear, Ukraine’s rightful place is in the Euro-Atlantic family,” Stoltenberg told a news conference. “Ukraine’s rightful place is in NATO.”

Zelenskyy said he was grateful for an invitation to a NATO summit in July in Vilnius, Lithuania, but said his country needs a roadmap for becoming a member.

“The time has come for the (alliance’s) leaders to define the prospects of Ukraine’s acquisition of NATO membership, to define the algorithm of Ukraine’s movement towards this goal, and to define security guarantees for our state for the period of such movement — that is, for the period before NATO membership,” he said.

Stoltenberg said he and Zelenskyy discussed a NATO support program for Ukraine.


Katherine Kjellström Elgin 

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

The ongoing conflict in Ukraine has revealed a lot about the Russian military and what the world can expect from modern-day large-scale combat operations. However, an important distinction for lessons learned will be what insights can be generalized to other nations and which remain particular to the Russian military. That’s why we asked Katherine Kjellström Elgin, an MWI research fellow, to contribute this edition of War Books. We gave her the following prompt: What five books would you recommend for readers to better understand Russia’s military and the Ukraine War?

Published in 2018, Renz provides a comprehensive analysis of the Russian military’s resurgence under Vladimir Putin by examining the history and organization of the Russian military and developments in Russian military thinking. In so doing, she works to contextualize the Russian military’s reform efforts under Putin within Russia’s broader foreign policy objectives and argues that while the Russian military improved greatly from the 1990s, it does not yet rival the West’s capabilities. Her book is a particularly interesting read in light of the war in Ukraine, which, among other issues, begs the question of the degree to which the Russian military was truly revived.

Ten Guidelines for Dealing with Hybrid Threats: A Policy Response Framework

Rival states increasingly use hybrid tactics to influence democratic processes and exploit the vulnerabilities of their opponents. As a response, Western governments have progressively enhanced their situational awareness and developed capabilities to minimise damages from hybrid threats. In addition, they have also started to respond proactively to hybrid threats by implementing a range of policies to not just increase resilience and bolster defence but also to shape the adversary’s behaviour through deterrence measures. However, deterring hybrid aggressors remains a difficult task.

Therefore, this new HCSS report by Mattia Bertolini, Raffaele Minicozzi and Tim Sweijs provides a set of non-technical policy guidelines for a counter-hybrid posture for small and middle powers (SMPs) that explains how core good practices of cross-domain deterrence can be developed, applied and embedded into policies and practice. The report focuses specifically on active measures associated with deterrence by punishment to provide policymakers with useful insights to craft proportional and effective strategies to deal with actors operating in the grey zone. It also describes the steps needed to manage escalation and anticipate potential second- and third-order effects. Importantly, in conjunction with a counter-hybrid deterrence posture, positive reassurances and incentives should be communicated to the adversary to encourage good behaviour. Download PDF

How to worry wisely about artificial intelligence

“Should we automate away all the jobs, including the fulfilling ones? Should we develop non-human minds that might eventually outnumber, outsmart...and replace us? Should we risk loss of control of our civilisation?” These questions were asked last month in an open letter from the Future of Life Institute, an ngo. It called for a six-month “pause” in the creation of the most advanced forms of artificial intelligence (ai), and was signed by tech luminaries including Elon Musk. It is the most prominent example yet of how rapid progress in ai has sparked anxiety about the potential dangers of the technology.

In particular, new “large language models” (llms)—the sort that powers Chatgpt, a chatbot made by Openai, a startup—have surprised even their creators with their unexpected talents as they have been scaled up. Such “emergent” abilities include everything from solving logic puzzles and writing computer code to identifying films from plot summaries written in emoji.