28 April 2023

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.

US to Dock Nuclear Subs in South Korea for First Time in 40 Years

Aamer Madhani, Colleen Long, and Zeke Miller

Presidents Joe Biden and Yoon Suk-yeol on Wednesday will sign an agreement that includes plans to have U.S. nuclear-armed submarines dock in South Korea for the first time in more than 40 years, a conspicuous show of support to Seoul amid growing concern about nuclear threats by North Korea, according to senior Biden administration officials.

The planned dock visits are a key element of what’s being dubbed the “Washington Declaration,” aimed at deterring North Korea from carrying out an attack on its neighbor. It is being unveiled as Biden is hosting Yoon for a state visit during a moment of heightened anxiety for both leaders over an increased pace of ballistic missile tests by North Korea over the last several months.

The three senior Biden administration officials, who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity ahead of the official announcement, said that Biden and Yoon aides have been working on details of the plan for months and agreed that “occasional” and “very clear demonstrations of the strength” of U.S. extended deterrence capabilities needed to be an essential aspect of the agreement.

The agreement seeks to allay South Korean fears over the North’s aggressive nuclear weapons program and to keep the country from restarting its own nuclear program, which it gave up nearly 50 years ago when it signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Yoon earlier this year said his country was weighing developing its own nuclear weapons or asking the United States to redeploy them on the Korean Peninsula.

Under the Washington Declaration, the U.S. and South Korea also would coordinate more deeply on nuclear response strategy in the event of the North attacking the South – but operational control of such weapons would remain in U.S. control, and no nuclear weapons are being deployed onto South Korean shores.

The Children Fighting in Myanmar’s Civil War

Rajeev Bhattacharyya

A child functionary of the Chin National Defense Force observes a morning drill at a training camp in Kalay in Sagaing Region.Credit: Rajeev Bhattacharyya

As Myanmar’s civil war grows in ferocity, children are getting caught in the crossfire in myriad ways. While many children have been killed in air strikes or shot dead by junta forces on the suspicion that they are part of resistance groups, some have joined the fighting against the junta.

This involvement of children in Myanmar’s Spring Revolution has prompted the opposition National Unity Government (NUG) to instruct resistance groups to abstain from training and engaging them in the war against the military junta.

“The NUG has strictly prohibited PDFs [People’s Defense Forces] from engaging children under 18 years of age to join any operations or military training,” Secretary to the Ministry of Defense in the NUG Naing Htoo Aung told The Diplomat. “Each unit officer and division commander has been given appropriate instructions. If any unit commander finds minors being given any military responsibilities, they are to take immediate action.”

PDFs are armed groups affiliated with the NUG that were formed all over the country after the military staged a coup in Myanmar on February 1, 2021.


Alex Hollings 

With its sights set squarely on countering Chinese threats in the Pacific and Russian aggression in Europe, the U.S. now has at least five secretive new warplanes in development. These programs range from next-generation air superiority fighters that will fly amid a constellation of AI-driven support drones to dual-cycle scramjet-powered hypersonic strike drones very similar to the long-awaited SR-72 concept.

With new multi-static anti-stealth radar arrays and more advanced integrated air defense systems continuing to come online, the U.S. Air Force has stated that it believes even the mighty F-22 Raptor will no longer be survivable enough in near-peer contested airspace as soon as 2030. The Raptor is widely considered to be the stealthiest fighter ever to take to the skies, so the broader context one can glean from concerns about its survivability is clear: the U.S. needs a slew of new offensive and defensive warplanes it can rely on to dominate the skies over its opponents. These warplanes will also have to defend our own airspace against a sea of new stealth fighters and bombers being hurriedly developed by Russia and China.

In order to meet the combined threat of new air defenses and increasingly potent enemy warplanes, the U.S. now has two different but deeply connected stealth-bomber programs at some stage of development, alongside two similarly connected stealth-fighter programs. But perhaps the most secretive of all of these new programs is an Air Force Research Laboratory effort to field fully-functioning dual-cycle scramjet engine systems for a low-observable hypersonic drone designed to fly three different types of combat missions.

1) NGAD: The US Air Force’s next air superiority fighter will come with its own drone wingmen
US Air Force NGAD stealth fighter render.

The F-22 Raptor is widely seen as the most capable air-superiority fighter on the planet, but with fewer than 150 combat-ready airframes left in service, America’s apex predator of the skies is an endangered species. That’s where the U.S. Air Force’s NGAD program comes in.

Could the UK’s new China policy prevent a second cold war

What a difference a year makes. Three prime ministers ago, in April 2022, Liz Truss gave a characteristically punchy speech at Mansion House as Foreign Secretary. Grouping Beijing with Moscow into a club of ‘aggressors’ with ‘malign tactics’, she reiterated her pledge to create a ‘network of liberty’, bringing together like-minded, liberal and democratic countries to face down ‘the bullies’.

US-China relations have entered a frightening new era

Economic co-operation with Beijing will be harder than recent speeches by Janet Yellen and Ursula von der Leyen suggest MARTIN WOLFAdd to myFT © James Ferguson US-China relations have entered a frightening new era on twitter (opens in a new window) US-China relations have entered a frightening new era on facebook (opens in a new window) US-China relations have entered a frightening new era on linkedin (opens in a new window) Save current progress 0% Martin Wolf APRIL 25 2023 360 Print this page Receive free Global Economy updates We’ll send you a myFT Daily Digest email rounding up the latest Global Economy news every morning. The relationship between the US and China is likely to determine humanity’s fate in the 21st century. It will determine whether there will be peace, prosperity and protection of the planetary environment, or the opposites. Should it be the latter, future historians (if any such actually exist) will surely marvel at the inability of the human species to protect itself against its own stupidity. Yet today, happily, we can still act to prevent disaster. 

That is true in many domains. Among these is economics. How then are economic relations to be best managed in the increasingly difficult future we confront? Janet Yellen, US Treasury secretary, and Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, have both recently made thoughtful statements on this topic. But do they set out a workable future? On that I am, alas, doubtful. Yellen sets out a plan for what she calls “constructive engagement”. This has three elements: first, “secure our national security interests and those of our allies and partners, and . . . protect human rights”; second, “seek a healthy economic relationship” based on “fair” competition; and, third, “seek co-operation on the urgent global challenges of our day”. 

Multi-front war with Iran proxies irks Israel despite deterrence

Ben Caspit

TEL AVIV — An Israeli citizen was shot and injured on Tuesday in the northern West Bank as the country was marking Memorial Day for fallen soldiers and terror victims.

The incident comes against a backdrop of increased tensions between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank in recent weeks, including a deadly attack in the Jordan Valley on April 7, when a mother and her two daughters were shot and killed. On Sunday night, Israeli forces arrested 16 Palestinians suspected of carrying out militant activities against Israelis throughout the West Bank.

Israel faces not only with tensions in the West Bank, but also with simultaneous and perhaps even coordinated threats on its other fronts.

Fifty years ago, on May 21, 1973, then-Defense Minister Moshe Dayan told commanders of the Israel Defense Forces that in his assessment, the likelihood of a multi-front war with Egypt and Syria was rising and that other countries would join the fighting, including Libya and Iraq. His assessment materialized less than five months later. On Oct. 6, as Israeli Jews were marking Yom Kippur, the holiest day on their calendar, Egypt and Syria launched a coordinated surprise attack. The IDF was prepared for war but had not mobilized reserve forces, believing that regular forces could block the enemy advance until reserves could be deployed. To this day, the error is perceived as the greatest security failure in the history of the State of Israel.

Last Thursday, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant sounded a similar assessment in a conversation with journalists. "The IDF must prepare for a multi-front war with a real security threat on all fronts at the same time," Gallant said. "We are at the end of the era of limited conflicts. … Today there is a prominent phenomenon of arena convergence."

The defense minister was referring to the IDF operating mostly in one arena at a time these days, whether against Iran-backed militias in Syria, militants in Gaza and in the West Bank.

Sudan in Crisis

Michelle Gavin

Sudan’s suffering deepens by the hour, as self-serving army and militia forces battle for supremacy in a struggle totally divorced from the aims of the 2018-2019 revolution, in which the people of Sudan bravely stood up to one of the world’s most brutal authoritarian governments to demand democratic change. Given the rancor on both sides, and what each stands to lose if they do not prevail, it is difficult to imagine a lasting peace between them until one party is convinced it has decisively defeated the other. Certainly the notion of return to the state of play before the fighting broke out on April 15 is absurd. Even before the open warfare in the streets, that process, relied on the good faith and commitment of the very armed actors that had already staged a coup to derail the transition to civilian rule, and now have plunged the country into chaos. It lacked credibility and support domestically despite the puzzling international investment in it. Attempts to return to the same approach would align with the popular definition of insanity.

For the United States, the options to mitigate the crisis are limited. Doubtlessly, there are lessons to be learned from the policy failures of the recent past. But for now, in addition to addressing the security of U.S. government personnel and U.S. citizens in the country, the focus will be on trying to alleviate human suffering by pushing for safe humanitarian access and corridors that allow trapped civilians to flee the worst of the fighting. Despite the antagonists’ long history of disregard for the laws of war, the United States should condemn their violations, and help to collect evidence for later prosecutions.

More broadly, policy should focus on trying to prevent a long period of disintegration in Sudan with destabilizing spillover in the region. Sudan is already in a tough neighborhood, and its descent into civil war will only worsen the prospects for peace among its neighbors. One need only consider the havoc that Libya’s dissolution has wrought to get a sense of the worst case scenarios. The intense fighting in Darfur and ethnic cleavages between parties to the conflict in Sudan raises real security questions for Chad, an already fragile state with its own illegitimate, militarized leadership. In addition to the potential for renewed border clashes, a prominent Egyptian role will raise alarm bells in Ethiopia, given Egypt’s vociferous objection to the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. From South Sudan to the Central African Republic, already bad situations could get even worse.

Africa in Transition

Are Petro and Biden Syncing? Key Takeaways from the Bilateral Meeting

Ryan C. Berg , Christopher Hernandez-Roy , Juliana Rubio , Rubi Bledsoe , and Henry Ziemer

In what seemed like a spur-of-the-moment decision, President Biden invited Colombian president Gustavo Petro to meet last Thursday, April 20. The White House joint statement highlighted similarities between the two presidents, including their commitments to climate change, migration, economic prosperity, the promotion of peace, and holistic counternarcotics strategies, as well as the roles of their respective countries as the two oldest democracies in the hemisphere.

Q1: What is Petro’s conservation and climate change agenda?

A1: Climate change is easily the issue where both presidents share the most common ground. The issue has been at the forefront of Petro’s agenda from the beginning of his term in 2022. A few recent actions help demonstrate Petro’s commitment to climate, including his pick for vice president, climate activist Francia Marquez, his consistent emphasis on creating a green economy, and the coast-to-coast trip that he scheduled amid his short U.S. visit to speak at Stanford University about climate change.

In his ambitious National Development Plan, Petro seeks for Colombia to become a world power in conservation and decarbonization. One of the key differentiators of this plan is the deep commitment to involve local communities, giving them back the power to make decisions about their own protection strategy and develop mechanisms to resolve socio-environmental clashes. The ambition of his plan is not unprecedented; his predecessor, President Iván Duque, had committed to laudable goals, but Duque’s militaristic approach led to serious human rights violations and to greater deforestation in 2021 and 2022 compared to 2019 and 2020.

Sudan’s Budding Civil War Must Be a U.S. Priority

Ahmed Charai

The suffering of the Sudanese people becomes more dramatic by the hour: water and food supplies are shrinking while the injured are turned out of their hospital beds to make room for fresh victims of a pointless civil war, the third in as many decades. Hundreds have died and thousands have been gravely wounded in the crossfire as two generals fight for supremacy.

The shooting started the day following the Framework Agreement, which was supposed to enable the transition to a civilian government. Democracy in Sudan is always, tantalizingly, just out of reach.

Sudan’s politics live in a tragic loop. Since its independence from Great Britain in 1955, Sudan has been ruled by strongmen who are later replaced by coup leaders promising democracy, the rule of law, and, sometimes, the rule of Islam. Each time, from the coup leaders, a new strongman emerges.

After a bloodless 1989 coup, General Omar al-Bashir came to power along with his former classmates in what was then called Gordon College. Bashir, by 1996, had seized total power, pushing out the Islamists, former communists, and some northern tribal leaders. Bashir was himself was toppled in 2018 by protests, but the army quickly took control before democracy could break out. The doom loop cycled again.

Still, it would be wrong and dangerous to America’s security to assume a disintegrating Sudan poses no risks to the United States.

First, other global powers are already contending to control Sudan’s oil, gold, and strategic ports. If one Sudanese faction wins, then Russian demands for a naval base on Sudan’s Red Sea coast would give Putin’s navy a global reach. If the other faction wins, Russia would also gain but Chinese influence in Sudan—already extensive, as measured by the Chinese-built skyscrapers in Khartoum and the bobbing oil derricks in the Nuba region—would surge.

In the Age of Illegal Mass Migration, Border Protection Starts Next Door

Viktor Marsai

When it comes to illegal mass migration, it is almost impossible to successfully protect a thin border line stretching for hundreds and thousands of miles. Thousands of people—concentrating their efforts on short border sections—can easily overrun the equipment and guards, as has happened from the Spanish exclave of Ceuta to the small city of Yuma, Arizona.

Neighboring states are reluctant to deter people from crossing because they do not want to serve as a “parking lot” for illegal migrants, as Serbian president Aleksandar Vučić has said. It is much simpler for transit countries to simply let people go—a win-win situation both for the migrants and the transit country.

Similar patterns are visible not only in Europe, but also in Mexico, which—after the end of pressure and threats from the Trump administration—has begun refusing to permit Customs and Border Protection to expel families with children under the age of seven, citing a new law relating to the treatment of migrant children since the Biden administration took office.

Yet it is not only the “carrot and stick” policy—which does not save transit countries from becoming parking lots—that can bear fruit for both transit and destination countries. Providing support for transit countries’ own border protection to prevent aliens from entering can be more beneficial for all participants, likely in a cheaper manner than pure—and costly—blackmailing and bargaining.

Great in Theory: Does the U.S. Need a New Strategic Paradigm?

Joe McGiffin 

To cite this article:McGiffin, Joe, “Great in Theory: Does the U.S. Need a New Strategic Paradigm?”, Military Strategy Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 3, winter 2022, pages 10-15.

Disclaimer: The views expressed herein are those of the author and do not reflect the position of the United States Military Academy, the Department of the Army, or the U.S. Department of Defense.

Military theory is a critical and oft-neglected piece of any state’s national security strategy, and the United States is no exception. It is conceptual and abstract, making it all but anathema to the comfort and safety of quantifiable information and empirical methodologies that pair so effectively with the increasing might of technology and computational power. However, the absence of a theoretical framework for any state’s strategic process is always evident in hindsight of a security problem gone poorly. From Bernard Brodie’s iconic lamentation: “Soldiers usually are close students of tactics, but rarely are they students of strategy and practically never of war;” to Colin Gray’s amusement at the persisting “buzzword” culture of the U.S. security sector, the world’s greatest strategic scholars have consistently observed that there is something missing from U.S. security policy and scholarship which manifests in a consistent failure to develop effective strategy.[i]

One key but neglected analytical tool in crafting cohesive strategy is epistemology: “the theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods, validity, and scope. Epistemology is the investigation of what distinguishes justified belief from fiction.”[ii] Without a common theoretical system, a strategy’s validity conflates with its popularity, promoting a climate of catchy phrases and trendy ideas. There is no framework from which to gauge the merits and drawbacks of any given course of action until after it has most likely failed in execution.

'Constantly-boozing and unprepared' Russian troops forced to dig trenches with spoons

Leigh Mcmanus

A Russian soldier has admitted that he and his fellow troops spent a lot of time "sleeping and drinking" during their training, and they even dug trenches with spoons.

Interviews were conducted with Russian soldiers and their relatives to investigate whether mobilised men were prepared for Vladimir Putin's "special military operation" over the border in Ukraine.

But the "training" descended into constant boozing according to soldiers, who told the publication that when the troops were paid the drinking would begin.

Insider reports the soldier, named Yaroslav, as explaining: "When the soldiers received 200,000 rubles (£2,000) on their bank accounts, they went into a frenzy.

Russia's best tanks are in Ukraine, Russian state media says, but they're not assaulting Kyiv's forces, just shooting at them from a distance

Erin Snodgrass

A Russian T-14 Armata tank moves across challenging terrain at the International military and technical forum ARMY-2016 in Alabino, outside Moscow, Russia. Russian Defence Ministry Press Service photo via APRussia's cutting-edge T-14 Armata tanks have arrived in Ukraine, state media reported.
But the high-tech armored vehicles have yet to truly get in on the action of the war.

The T-14 program has been plagued by setbacks in recent months.

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The Russian Army has finally brought its top-tier T-14 Armata tanks to the fighting in Ukraine, according to Russian state media — but the armored vehicles are thus far serving more as propaganda than potential military power.

The RIA state news agency reported Tuesday that the much-awaited T-14 tanks have made it to Ukraine, citing an "informed source."

But the high-tech tanks are yet to get in on the action of the stalemated front lines, instead firing on Ukraine's forces from a distance, according to RIA.

"Russian troops have begun to use the latest Armata tanks to fire on Ukrainian positions," the unnamed source told the outlet. "They have not yet participated in direct assault operations."

Russian state media outlet TASS previously called the cutting-edge vehicle "the world's best tank," but the T-14s have been plagued by setbacks in recent months, according to reports.

Russian forces ‘forcibly evacuating’ civilians in Kherson, says Ukraine

Peter Beaumont 

Ukrainian authorities say Russian forces are “forcibly evacuating” civilians in the area of the Kherson region that they still occupy, a day after it was claimed Ukrainian forces had established a bridgehead on the east bank of the Dnipro River.

“I have information that the evacuation starts today [Sunday] with an excuse of protecting civilians from the consequences of heavy fighting in the area,” Oleksandr Samoylenko, the Ukrainian head of Kherson’s regional council, said. Russian troops were “trying to steal as much as they can” as they withdrew, he added.

The claim cannot be verified, but it comes amid an apparent increase in Ukrainian military activity in the south of the country which some analysts have interpreted as a potential precursor to Kyiv’s long anticipated counter-offensive.

Serhiy Khlan, another Ukrainian official in Kherson, said over the weekend that Wagner group fighters were helping Russian occupation officials impose control over the civilian population on the east bank of the Dnipro.

Ukraine’s southern military command meanwhile reported airstrikes in Kherson region by four Russian Su-35 jets. Ukraine said buildings were hit with guided bombs, but did not specify the location of the strikes.

Attention has focused on Ukraine’s southern front around the key city of Kherson since Sunday’s report from the Institute for the Study of War, a US-based thinktank, which suggested Ukrainian forces had established positions on the east bank of the Dnipro, opposite Kherson in the area of a settlement called Dachy. The ISW made the claim after geolocating reports from Russian sources.

Analysts at the thinktank came to the conclusion after examining text messages and photos posted by “Russian military bloggers”.

Rival factions are undermining Russia’s military

Vladimir Putin is struggling to keep competing interests in check
Yevgeny Prigozhin stands at a cemetery for fallen Wagner mercenaries in Russia

Factionalism and infighting are currently rife in Russia’s sprawling military network. This was clearly shown in a Telegram post late last week from the leader of Rusich — a prominent neo-Nazi paramilitary formation with ties to the Wagner Group — stating:

We who are involved in the Special Military Operation are not fighting against Nazism or fascism (Which is almost non-existent on the other side, though there are proper elements of Russophobia). We are fighting for the living space of our northern people.


As has been noted elsewhere, the sanctioned participation of a neo-Nazi paramilitary formation fighting on behalf of the Russian state somewhat undermines the narrative that Putin is “fighting fascism in Ukraine”. But this statement goes further, explicitly rejecting the President’s stated war aims, with its final sentence inspired by the concept of Lebensraum — or “living space” — a core element of Nazi ideology.

The announcement also serves as one of many examples of how self-interested actors are writing new narratives around the invasion of Ukraine, and in doing so creating a clouded vision of what the Russian state wishes to achieve. Another prominent example of this factionalism is Yevgeny Prigozhin. The self-described “owner” of the Wagner Group has repeatedly suggested that the Russian Ministry of Defence is incapable of effectively leading the invasion of Ukraine due to its use of outdated tactics and ineffective methods, going so far as to accuse it of engaging in treason.

Russia deploys new tank in Ukraine that UK says commanders are 'unlikely to trust' in battle

Greg Norman 

Advisor to Ukraine’s defense minister advisor Yuriy Sak says air dominance is the most important ingredient to military dominance.

Russia reportedly has deployed a new battle tank in Ukraine that the United Kingdom Ministry of Defense suggests commanders will be "unlikely to trust" in combat.

The T-14 Armata, which has an unmanned turret and is operated by a crew remotely controlling its armaments from "an isolated armored capsule located in the front of the hull," has started firing at Ukrainian positions, Reuters reported, citing the Russian state-run RIA Novosti news agency.

State media said the new tanks have "not yet participated in direct assault operations," but have undergone "combat coordination" at training grounds within Ukraine and are being defended with extra protection on their flanks, Reuters added.

However, the U.K. Ministry of Defense says rolling out the new tanks is "likely to be a high-risk decision for Russia."

The Russian T-14 tanks' weapons are remote-controlled from an armored capsule, Russian state media said. (Reuters/Shamil Zhumatov)

"Eleven years in development, the program has been dogged with delays, reduction in planned fleet size, and reports of manufacturing problems," it said in a series of tweets in late January.

"An additional challenge for Russia is adjusting its logistics chain to handle T-14 because it is larger and heavier than other Russian tanks," it tweeted.

"If Russia deploys T-14, it will likely primarily be for propaganda purposes," it added. "Production is probably only in the low tens, while commanders are unlikely to trust the vehicle in combat."

Ukraine Situation Report: Explosive Drones Are Getting Very Close To Moscow


Several locations in Russia, including near Moscow - as well as Sevastopol on the Crimean peninsula it has occupied since 2014 - were reportedly hit by Ukrainian drone attacks Sunday and Monday, according to the Russian Defense Ministry (MoD), local government officials and various media accounts.

A Ukrainian UJ-22 drone packed with explosives was found near Moscow, in what appears to be the closest discovery of a weaponized Ukrainian drone near Russia’s capital. However, there was a discrepancy in reporting about exactly where it landed.

The official TASS media outlet, the Russian Shot news agency and Al Jazeera reported that it fell in the Bogorodsky district, about 19 miles east of central Moscow.

"In the Bogorodsky district, not far from the SNT Zarya, a fallen drone filled with explosives was found," TASS reported, citing a source. “According to him, the aircraft was discovered the day before, it was broken in half. Currently, the drone was taken for examination, during which those who launched it and where it flew to will be established.”

A “‘Ukrainian’ drone has been found outside Moscow, an official has said, adding that the discovery had forced local authorities to call off a Victory Day parade for security reasons,” Al Jazeera reported, citing the Telegram channel of Igor Sukhin, head of the Bogorodsky city district.

However, the Telegram channels for Russian media outlets Baza and Mash reported that a drone matching the same description was discovered near the city of Noginsk, about 31 miles east of Moscow.

Should the UK have seen the crisis in Sudan coming?

Megan Gibson

As Sudan’s descent into civil war is momentarily paused, thanks to a temporary ceasefire agreed at midnight on 24 April, the UK government is trying to evacuate thousands of its citizens.

This follows the US’s evacuation of its embassy personnel from the capital, Khartoum, where the most intense fighting has taken place, in the early hours of 23 April. But the US government has said it won’t evacuate the roughly 16,000 Americans who live in the country, even as the Sudanese army and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) battle for control. European countries such as France, Italy and Germany, meanwhile, were able to successfully get both their diplomatic personnel and hundreds of their citizens (as well as citizens of allies) out. The UK managed to evacuate its embassy staff from Khartoum, but thousands of British people were still trapped in the country. Reports emerged of UK citizens who were unable to access help from the embassy when attempting to flee the country; a number of people were recorded as being actually hindered in their efforts to leave.

On 25 April – ten days after the conflict broke out – the UK’s Foreign Secretary James Cleverly finally announced that a mission was under way to evacuate remaining UK citizens.

The rapid and chaotic evacuation in the middle of an escalating conflict echoes the sudden US-led withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021. Unnamed Foreign Office sources and UK government ministers, such as the development and Africa minister Andrew Mitchell, have made it clear that the situation in Khartoum is far more volatile than was the case in Kabul: the airport has been badly damaged, the capital is at the centre of direct clashes, and the UK military has little presence in the country.

Yet the defensive nature of the official response seems designed to give the impression that it was impossible to foresee such a conflict in the first place. While it’s true that the fighting in Sudan escalated rapidly – clearly catching foreign allies and millions within Khartoum by surprise – the conflict hardly sprang from nowhere.

Sudan Conflict: More Complex than Meets the Eye

Dr. Mohamed ELDoh

After weeks of escalating tensions, open military clashes broke out on April 15 between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), where the latter is a powerful paramilitary group. Despite the fact that both groups were previously close allies who jointly seized control of Sudan in 2021, subsequent tensions over control and decision-making on national key issues have driven them apart. This includes, but is not limited to, opposing views on the integration of the RSF into the Sudanese military and transitional planning for eventual civilian rule in Sudan. The currently developing events in Sudan resemble a typical power struggle seen in fragile states, where more than one powerful armed group exists and each is vying for control. However, the political conflict and escalating military confrontation is actually much more complex than a simplistic power struggle.

Generally, Sudan has a long history of authoritarian rulership, with the military frequently intervening in the political ecosystem of the country. In this respect, the RSF was formed in 2013 by the Sudanese government under the leadership of the former Sudanese president, Omar al-Bashir, whom the RSF would eventually play a key role in overthrowing in 2019. Regardless of the military groups involved in overthrowing al-Bashir, the move was highly supported by regional players, particularly in the Middle East. However, back in 2013, the RSF was established under the willingness and “blessing” of the Sudanese government to crush the rebellions in the western region of Darfur and fight on behalf of the Sudanese government. The RSF originally evolved from the Janjaweed militias, mainly located in Darfur, and their role grew over time over the course of the Darfur crisis in the 2000s, when the group was accused of numerous human rights abuses and war crimes amid an estimated 300,000 deaths and 2.5 million displaced. The paramilitary group’s influence grew, and in 2013 it was designated under the name of RSF; later in 2015, the RSF was granted the status of a regular force. In addition, in 2017, a new law was passed making the RSF an independent security force, allowing it to expand its operations across the entire country.

Russia Is Betraying Former Allies. Joe Biden Must Take Advantage

Michael Rubin

Russia is betraying former Allies: Time for the US to Seize Advantage: In 2018, India purchased Russia’s S-400 Triumf air defense system for $5.4 billion, a contract Russia promised to fulfill in five deliveries. India also relies on Russia for spare parts and other support for its Sukhoi Su-30MKI and MiG-29 fighter jets, which are the mainstays of the Indian Air Force. Yet, last month, the Indian Air Force acknowledged to India’s parliament that Russia had informed it that it would be unable to fulfill its contracts because of Russia’s military needs in Ukraine.

The U.S.-India renaissance is over two decades old and transcends both Democratic and Republic administrations. Still, essential obstacles remain. The Pentagon remains uncomfortable with India’s Russian contracts because they impact interoperability as the United States and India grow more strategically aligned and because Washington remains concerned about technology leakage, though India compartmentalizes such systems strictly and has never made any platform available to the rivals of its origin country.

At the same time, India’s military continues to suffer specific deficits that Russia cannot address, especially concerning gas turbines and jet engines. Should the United States provide India with substitutions for Russian platforms, it might not only help fill an immediate strategic need for a country on the frontline with China, but also enable a generational partnership.

The same is also true with Armenia. Since its independence in 1991 until now, the tiny country has been under persistent threat from Turkey and Azerbaijan. Both countries have blockaded their tiny neighbor. Even prior to the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War, Azerbaijani snipers launched hundreds of attacks across the international border. President Ilham Aliyev, who rules Azerbaijan with an iron fist and as a family enterprise, has repeatedly threatened to conquer Armenia in its entirety.

Victory Day

George Friedman

We are a few weeks away from the anniversary of Victory Day, which marks the Soviet Union’s defeat of Nazi Germany. The annual parade in Moscow boasts pictures of famous Soviet and Russian leaders and heroes standing atop the Kremlin, watching all the new military weapons roll by. For U.S. intelligence, it’s like Christmas Day, as analysts are gifted a treasure trove of new military hardware to parse and analyze. But for anyone old enough to remember World War II, it’s a recollection of despair. A Russian associate once told me that those who died early and quickly were the war’s only victors. He took pleasure in the fact that Russia, whose chances of survival were dismissed by much of the world, handed to the Germans everything they had dealt out and more.

My father, who was born in Hungary, fought in World War II in his own way. Hungary allied with Germany and sent troops to fight Russia. A forced laborer, my father was at Voronezh north of Stalingrad, where the Hungarians and other allies were deployed. From his point of view, the Russians and the Germans were the same in that they were to be evaded at all costs.

The war began with a treaty between Germany and Russia. Together they agreed to invade Poland, which they did comfortably, with Russia taking the eastern portion. For Germany, the treaty with Russia vastly increased the chances of defeating Poland. Germany was unsure about it; it would be their first major campaign, and Berlin didn’t know how well Poland or its own army, for that matter, would fight. A German attack from the west and a Russian attack from the east simplified the matter. In any case, Germany saw Poland as the first step in a far more ambitious campaign. It wanted Europe, and Europe included Russia. Berlin intended to turn on Russia in Poland and drive toward Moscow to subdue a country of vast resources. The ensuing war lasted until 1945. The truth is we will never know how many died, only that a generation’s representatives stood in front of the Kremlin when the first parade was held.

Occam’s razor relevant to Taiwan

Jerome Keating

Looking to the future and next year’s presidential election, it is a good time for Taiwanese to take stock of their democracy.

In this, Russia, with its war in Ukraine and its recent visit from Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) provides interesting insights.

Russia has always had an indirect historic relationship with Taiwan through its Marxist/Leninist principles and ideology. When Russia’s 1917 revolution was still being fought, the Bolsheviks took the communist name in 1918, and then founded the Communist International, or Comintern, on March 2, 1919, with the aim of establishing communist governments around the world.

By June 1920 Russian representatives had gone to China and by July 1921, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had been formed. Although Taiwan was a Japanese colony at the time, these events would set in motion the inevitable collision between Taiwan and China.

Fast forward to when that same CCP won the Chinese Civil War in 1949 and established the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) was driven into exile on Taiwan and Taiwanese had to win their democracy after the imposition of martial law and the KMT’s White Terror era. This illustrates the many challenges that Taiwan’s democracy overcame and currently faces.

However, what is more important is that Taiwanese can see how Russia and China lost whatever ideological goals they might have had and became hegemonic, totalitarian states.

Neither Russia nor China has been able to pass the purifying fire set forth by British author George Orwell in his satire Animal Farm. Instead, although Orwell did not live to see his prediction fulfilled, Russia and China well illustrated his summary prediction on how one of the pigs’ Seven Commandments, “All animals are equal,” would mysteriously change to “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”

The Kazakhstanis Picking Sides in Putin’s War in Ukraine

Dan Storyev and Nazeer Baturin

Ukrainians warm up at the Kyiv “Yurt of Invincibility” installed by the local Kazakh community.Credit: Anton Streltsov

ALMATY – KYIV: As Russia continues to pummel Ukraine’s infrastructure, Ukrainians facing the brisk Kyiv winter were turning to a unique way to warm up: a Kazakh yurt. Traditional Turkic tents, yurts began appearing in Ukraine on January 6, when the first was put up in Bucha.

“People come to charge their phones, drink tea, hang out, sing… it’s moral and psychological support,” according to Rustem, a 28-year-old Kazakh businessman who sometimes mans the “Yurt of Invincibility,” Kyiv’s implementation of the Kazakh dwelling. With warm air saturated with the aroma of tea and pastries, the yurt offers an uncommon luxury for the war-torn country. On the Yurt of Invincibility project’s website, there are seven yurts listed, all in key locations in Ukraine: Bucha, Kharkiv, Kyiv, Mykolayiv, Dnipro, Odesa, and Lviv.

The yurts are a joint project organized by a member of the Ukrainian Parliament, Sergiy Nahornyak, and notable Kazakh business community figures, such as Daulet Nurzhanov, a multimillionaire with various assets in Ukraine. According to the initiative, the yurts aim to represent “the multi-century Kazakh-Ukrainian friendship” and demonstrate Kazakh solidarity with Ukraine.

Nahornyak, a member of the ruling “Servant of the People” party, told The Diplomat that the yurts were his idea. He says the yurts are there “to show the government of Kazakhstan that Kazakhs in Ukraine and in Kazakhstan are standing with Ukraine.” At the same time, Nahornyak says he “understands why” Kazakshtan is staying neutral, while he highlights that the Kazakh diaspora has “provided great aid to Ukraine.”

Why Latin American, Caribbean Economies Matter to Americans

Roberto Salinas-Leon

Despite the onslaught of illiberal populism and a new wave of toxic economic statism across countries in Latin America and the Caribbean, there seems to be a newfound optimism emerging about the region’s economic future.

In 2023, Latin American and the Caribbean (LAC) economies are projected to grow by over 1.6 percent—far below their real potential, but up from earlier estimates.

Economic growth flows from a strong market, open trade, and robust activity in the private sector, and there are countries which have embraced a resurgence of free-market alternatives in LAC countries. The post-pandemic tourism recovery and a rebound in global trade—in part due to China’s reopening—are two reasons to adopt an optimistic view about economies across the LAC region. In certain cases, the public sector has played a pivotal role in alleviating the burden of taxes and regulations, with some elected officials favoring market activity over government bureaucracy.

Consider Brazil, where the Supreme Court is expected to validate the prior privatization of power company Eletrobras, despite opposition from the country's new leftist government under President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. Brazilian officials are also working with the World Bank to privatize Sabesp, a water and waste management company currently owned by the state of Sao Paulo. Given that Brazil is home to the most state-owned enterprises (SOEs) in South America, the country has taken positive steps in recent years. The strengthening of its private sector in the region’s largest economy can only reap dividends for economic growth in the years to come.

But, in Brazil and across the LAC region, significant barriers remain. While there are notable opportunities for LAC economies to seize through market-oriented reforms, obstacles such as bureaucratic largesse and poorly defined property ownership rights cannot be overlooked. Regional economic growth came out to nearly four percent in 2022 and exceeded seven percent in 2021 (which, admittedly, was a rebound year), suggesting that 2023 could bring some negative momentum. That is a cause for concern, but also a sign of the urgent need for a new wave of reforms focused on facilitating everyday trade, business, and productive investment

OPINION: 420 Days and Counting – Putin is on Borrowed Time

Steve Brown

In an opinion piece in Die Welt on April 17, the US journalist and political scientist Fred Kaplan expressed the view that the easiest way to end the bloody war in Ukraine was through the physical elimination of President Vladimir Putin. Many people probably share the sentiment, but is that really the best or most likely way forward?

There are now signs that the damage that has been inflicted upon Russia, by Putin’s reckless war in Ukraine, which the political elite has known for some time is becoming increasingly recognized by the Russian population at large.

There are anonymous reports that discussions about the country’s future, in general, and the succession plan for replacing Putin, in particular, are taking place in the backrooms of the clubs and salons of Moscow. Everyone, except perhaps Putin himself, understands that his time is fast coming to an end.

Political analysts of every stripe are starting to agree that Putin's regime is unlikely to survive the war of aggression that he started in Ukraine. There seems to be no question that, whatever the outcome of the war, there will be regime change. The only question is whether there will be a peaceful handover or not.

Does Artificial Intelligence Change the Nature of War?

Baptiste Alloui-Cros 

To cite this article:Alloui-Cros, Baptiste, “Does Artificial Intelligence Change the Nature of War?”, Military Strategy Magazine, Volume 8, Issue 3, winter 2022, pages 4-8.

Baptiste Alloui-Cros is a professional wargame designer and founder of the Strand Simulations Group. He earned an MA in War Studies from King’s College London, as well as a BA in Political Science and an MA in International Security from Sciences Po Paris. His Master's thesis, entitled “How can Artificial Intelligence provide new insights to modern Strategic Thought? Using wargames as a bridge between machines and strategists”, is awaiting publication in an academic journal. His main research interests lay at the intersection of strategy, artificial intelligence, and wargaming.

In his book, ‘Men against Fire’, the American General S.L.A. Marshall designated the battlefield as ‘the epitome of war’[i], where everything that characterises the deep essence of war, as theorised by Clausewitz, comes into action. Violence, passions, opposition of wills, frictions: whatever the war, this blunt reality is always reached, at one point or another. This makes war a human activity before everything else.

And yet, the battlefield seems to slowly give way to non-human elements. The rise of automated weapons based upon Artificial Intelligence (AI), such as autonomous drones, raises questions about the human character of the battlefield. It even interrogates the validity of the concept of the battlefield itself, as AI weapon systems are programmed to act or react over long distances at fantastic speeds, far out of human reach. This displacement of warfare toward new dimensions of time and space seems to challenge the monopoly humans traditionally own over the conduct of war and the use of force. Where has the ‘epitome of war’ gone then? Does the rise of AI truly challenge the nature of war itself?

This piece argues that although AI alters the character of war in significant ways, it does not change its nature. Rather, it has the contrary effect. It emphasises the essential element behind the deep nature of war: its human component. Psychology, ethics, politics, passions and the proximity of pain and death are what war is all about. A ‘trinity of violence, chance and politics’.[ii] By departing from all this, by showing how relative other elements are, by handling all the practical details, AI enables us to focus on what matters most. It is this contrast that reminds us that war is a very intimate expression of our humanity, and something we cannot delegate.

Terminology: Clarity, Context and War

Military Strategy Magazine

To cite this article:“Terminology: Clarity, Context and War”, Military Strategy Magazine, MSM Brief, March 2013.

Within the halls of academia, doctrine-writing shops, and other institutions of prolific pontification two phrases are frequently bandied about: “words matter” and “context is king”. And while these two phrases have been overused almost to the point of cliché, their accuracy in the context of war and strategy cannot be overstated.

First, let’s address the importance of terminology. Indeed, as the phrase says, words matter, but not just any words. The words must accurately describe “the thing” in as brief and clear language as possible. It is next to impossible, however, in the realm of politics, war and strategy, all of which are inherently human endeavors, to sum up such complex concepts in pithy alliterations and catchy buzzwords, despite what modern military doctrine and twenty-four hour news cycles lend us to believe.

The language that most clearly and accurately describes the topics important to strategists is not the overly scientific and “insider” language found in other disciplines. The language – the words used – most useful for describing strategy can be found in a common dictionary (though the dictionary definition of strategy itself is quite problematic). However, the genius found in the great works of modern strategy is not prophetic simply through their use of common language, but rather how they use it to clearly describe the complex interaction of humans in politics and war. Their genius comes from their clear description of how these interactions impact – and are impacted by – the context.

And this brings us to our second phrase: context is king. Besides being wonderfully pithy and alliterative, why is this phrase important to strategy? In the main, it is because strategy is ‘all context’. Without an understanding of what is occurring, why it is occurring (including historical context), how is it occurring, and what an actor is trying to achieve, then there is no strategy. In other words, to truly understand a ‘thing’, and thereby attempt to change it according to some desired policy, those that are developing the strategy must know the context in which it is occurring and how it can be channeled to achieve a desired strategic effect.

What is Strategy

Military Strategy Magazine

What are we talking about? The noun and the adjective, strategy and strategic, are so commonly, indeed casually employed that it can be shocking to appreciate how frequently they are misapplied. Given the very high stakes of this subject for national and international security, misunderstanding and therefore misuse of the concept of strategy can be dangerous and expensive. Fortunately, such perils and costs are as easily avoidable as they are gratuitous. For an efficient definition of strategy, the following has sufficient merit to serve well enough: “Military strategy is the direction and use made of force and the threat of force for the purposes of policy as decided by politics”.(i) This definition obviously and suitably is heavily indebted to Carl von Clausewitz, who told us, “Strategy is the use of the engagement for the purpose of the war”.(ii) What matters most for the definition of strategy is that it must be crystal clear in the necessary assertion that the subject is all about instrumentality. Strategy is about the use made of force for political purposes. Strategy is not the application of force itself, that is warfare and there is a professional term for it – tactics. Combat is tactics and tactical, the use made of that combat is strategy.

All military behaviour has some strategic meaning, be it ever so minor, net positive or negative, but it is not inherently strategic. It may make sense to consider war as having strategic, operational, and tactical levels, but all forces of all kinds behave tactically, just as they all contribute to net strategic effect. Despite conceptual abuses asserting to the contrary, there are no strategic forces. Strategic always refers to the consequences of military behaviour, not to its conduct. “Long-range”, “nuclear”, or “most important”, are not synonyms for strategic. An important reason for this apparent pedantry is to enable, at least encourage, strategic thought about the forces in question. It can be very hard to recognize the need for strategic thought about forces that one has already labelled strategic. Surely, everything they do must be strategic, by definition?

The psychology of operational planning

Cmdr. Tony Schwarz

As military planners formulate recommendations for their commanders, they draw upon many kinds of data: joint and service doctrine, friendly and enemy capabilities, personal and shared experience. But one category is often missing from their calculations: emotion.

All humans experience emotion (broadly defined as “feelings”), which means that no one is capable of absolutely rational behavior. Not convinced? You’re not alone. In the study of economics, for example, it has long been generally assumed that human decision making is purely rational — that with few exceptions, humans can be expected to act in their own best interests. This assumption, already under assault by behavioral economists, was swept away by the economic crash of 2008, which obliterated $14 trillion of American wealth and proved just how irrational decision makers can be. (Even Alan Greenspan, one of the staunchest believers in rational economic theory, admitted that his ideology had pushed him to make regrettable decisions.)

Today, the work of the behavioralists is being embraced throughout academia, and it is quickly becoming generally accepted that while humans usually try to make rational decisions, our conscious, rational discernment processes are limited by emotions (or put another way, irrational wants and tendencies in our subconscious).

It is not possible, or even wholly desirable, to eliminate emotion when making decisions. But planners can — and indeed, should — work to manage its effects.

Emotions and controls