6 May 2023

Conspiracy Theories Swirl Around Sikh Separatist Amritpal Singh Sandhu

C. Christine Fair

Amritpal Singh Sandhu is no longer on the run. Since March, the 30-year-old proponent of an independent Sikh state—to be carved from India’s Punjab province—had eluded a massive manhunt that commenced after he escaped an attempted arrest during a dramatic car chase in the Punjabi city of Jalandhar on March 18. Singh is wanted in numerous criminal cases, including attempted homicide. Before his April 23 arrest, Singh gave one final address at a gurdwara (a Sikh temple). Many of Singh’s associates have already been wrapped up and dispatched to the Dibrugarh Central Jail in India’s Assam province, but Singh remained elusive despite promises to surrender before Baisakhi (April 14) at the Sikh’s holiest of holies, the Golden Temple, before eventually surrendering.

Why China Hasn’t Come to Russia’s Rescue

Agathe Demarais

Since 2014, when Western nations imposed sanctions on Russia in response to its illegal annexation of Crimea, the Kremlin has claimed that Russian companies are looking to China in search of opportunity. That pivot eastward has taken on greater urgency since Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Last year, two bridges opened across the Amur River, which marks the border between Russia and China. And at a meeting in March 2023, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged to deepen economic cooperation as part of their “no limits” partnership.

Chinese-Philippine Confrontation

George Friedman

The Philippine coast guard reported last week that two of its ships were involved in a confrontation with the Chinese navy in the South China Sea. According to the Philippines, the Chinese vessels were engaged in unsafe maneuvers. The incident occurred near the Spratly Islands, which have been a point of contention for years.

This episode is of little military significance since the Philippines and China have been dueling in the region for years. What is significant, however, is the timing. In January, the Chinese launched a significant diplomatic opening with the Philippines. Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. had accepted an invitation to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping in China. The meeting, which seems to have gone well, represented a potential threat to the United States, which was the dominant outside power in the region and had considerable influence in the Philippines. (Relatedly, Marcos met with U.S. President Joe Biden in Washington on Monday.)

The Philippines had found itself in – or maneuvered itself into – the tension between China and the United States. A fundamental imperative of Beijing has long been to have unlimited access to the Pacific. China is an exporting power, and its position relative to Taiwan and the Philippines made Beijing vulnerable to a blockade by the U.S. China had concentrated on the northern flank of this problem, trying to seduce or force Taiwan into expelling the U.S. Navy and other American assets in order to secure its access to the Pacific. Another potential route was between the islands of the Philippines, which are plentiful enough to make it difficult for the U.S. to blockade. Finally, there’s the gap between Taiwan and the Philippines that could be used.

What China’s embrace of digital currency means for the world

China has become one of the world’s foremost innovators in the world of digital currency and finance, in many ways leapfrogging the United States. As recently as 2013, China’s financial system was cash-based, low tech, and repressive—hardly a model for the future of finance. Yet, in the blink of an eye, digital platforms took over payments and just about any transaction for daily life in China could be completed with a mobile phone only. Chinese people stopped carrying wallets, and even beggars went digital with QR codes hung around their necks for mobile donations.

In contrast, it is now the United States which still clings to paper checks and plastic cards. The flow of ideas in this world of financial technology, or fintech, from Silicon Valley to China has reversed, with U.S. tech titans such as Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk as well as major U.S. banks learning from China about what the future of finance could be. The benefits of China’s digital finance and currency revolution accrue not only to its companies. They grant a form of soft power to the Chinese authorities too, showcasing their technical prowess and facilitating financial interconnection with the rest of the world.
Today, policymakers in Washington worry that China’s financial innovations will empower attempts to internationalize its currency, eroding the dominant position of the U.S. dollar. China’s Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC), the eCNY, is already involved in experiments with other central banks aiming to trade directly with each other’s currencies instead of going through the U.S. dollar. That in turn could reduce the potential reach of U.S. sanctions and blunt Washington’s financial power.

Other concerns include a scenario in which other countries adopt the eCNY for payments or that China will force U.S. companies to transact in eCNY, increasing Beijing’s ability to surveil financial transactions and potentially impose sanctions of its own. Even if the United States can keep them out of its market, Chinese fintech companies and banks could also outcompete U.S. companies in other markets.

China's Grand Strategy For Global Data Dominance

Matthew Johnson

China is engaged in a bid to shape how digitized information – data – will be distributed and controlled around the world for the foreseeable future. Xi Jinping’s Party-state is building a massive institutional architecture to maximally exploit data as the fundamental resource of the future global economy and governance system. This new report proposes robust policy solutions to arrest the exposure of huge swaths of the world’s population to the CCP's data accumulation, espionage, and manipulation.

The United States and China are engaged in a global contest to shape how digitized information—data—will be distributed and controlled for the foreseeable future. For the Biden administration, the contours of this contest are only just becoming visible. While officials have addressed the importance of data in US-China competition, there is not yet a clear set of laws and policies that would support a strategy of protecting Americans’ data from our biggest global rival. The opposite is true in Beijing, where Xi Jinping’s Party-state is building a massive institutional architecture to draw more and more of the world’s data resources toward China.

This report, based on the Chinese Communist Party’s own documents, dissects how the CCP has created a policy and regulatory architecture to maximally exploit data as the fundamental resource of the future global economy and governance system. It illustrates how People’s Republic of China (PRC) technology companies that are now omnipresent in foreign markets are increasingly integrated with the Party’s data storage and processing—and control and security—systems. This embedding potentially exposes huge swaths of the world’s population to a broad spectrum of data accumulation, espionage, and manipulation.Under Beijing’s new data hierarchy, all companies are forced to integrate into a centralized national data infrastructure controlled by the Party, structured to serve Party objectives in strategic competition with the West, and based on the fundamentally nonreciprocal premise that China maximizes the absorption of data from around the world while exporting as little of its own as possible.

Ukraine denies Kremlin’s claim of drone assassination attempt on Putin

Russia said that it thwarted the attack and that Putin was not in the building at the time.

Among the mysteries surrounding Wednesday’s alleged attack was how two drones could have successfully reached one of the most protected buildings in Moscow’s fortified city center. While some analysts said the incident might have been a false flag attack staged by Russia, others suggested it could be a performative gesture by Ukraine, striking at a preeminent symbol of Russian state power.

The allegation of an assassination attempt — which could not be independently confirmed and was broadly rejected by military experts — was made in a statement shared by the Kremlin press service with Russian state news agencies on Wednesday afternoon.

In the overnight hours early Wednesday, “the Kyiv regime attempted a drone strike on the Kremlin residence of the President of the Russian Federation,” the statement said. “Two drones were aimed at the Kremlin.”

“We regard these actions as a planned terrorist act and an attempt on the life of the president of the Russian Federation, carried out on the eve of Victory Day, the May 9 parade,” the Kremlin said, referring to the annual commemoration of the Soviet Union’s role in defeating Nazi Germany in World War II.

“Russia reserves the right to respond to an attempted strike on the Kremlin where and when it sees fit,” the statement said.

Videos circulating on social media and verified by The Washington Post show two drones streaking toward the Kremlin at about 2:30 a.m. local time. The first drone appears to hit the dome of the Kremlin Senate, a building within the fortress that houses Putin’s office, causing an eruption of flames; the second drone appears to explode over the Senate dome. Two people are visible on the roof during the second explosion.

Cyber lessons from Ukraine: Prepare for prolonged conflict, not a knockout blow


WASHINGTON — Russia’s failed cyber “blitzkrieg” in Ukraine has turned into a long slog that puts a premium on adaptability, resilience, and the will to win, one of Kyiv’s top cybersecurity officials told US audiences on a recent tour. And the strategic lesson for the US, several independent experts said, is that this kind of drawn-out cyber conflict is a more likely model for future wars than the sudden-death visions of a “cyber Pearl Harbor” or “cyber 9/11″ predicted by US officials for over a decade.

Ukrainian networks and their defenders, with extensive Western help, have proven resilient under brutal pressure. “We’ve learned how to use all these tools and techniques in critical circumstances, when sometimes there’s no electricity, there’s no communication, when your city is about to be surrounded, when you [are] under missile attacks or under shelling,” said Illia Vitiuk, who heads the cyber department of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU in Ukrainian). “Sometimes you try to reach the system administrator of the ministry that is under cyber attack, but he’s not here: He disappeared because needed to take his family out of Bucha.”

The Russians weren’t counting on this kind of resilience, said Vitiuk. “They, of course, hoped this was going to be a blitzkrieg, and so they used most of their aces they had in their sleeves just before the invasion,” he told the RSA conference in San Francisco on April 25. That first wave of efforts included “defacing websites, stealing data, wipers and lockers, [and] a vast disinformation campaign.” Russian cyber attacks have ebbed and flowed since, but they never again reached the intensity of January-April 2022, according to Google Cloud’s Mandiant, which has provided extensive assistance to Vitiuk’s team.

It’s a long struggle and far from over, Vitiuk told a Billington cybersecurity forum earlier in April: “If you have 12 rounds in a boxing match…we are in probably round eight now.”

It’s early days to draw sweeping conclusions from the war in Ukraine, warned several experts. “People need to be very, very patient,” said National Security Archives scholar Michael Martelle at a recent Atlantic Council panel. Analyzing Ukraine now, he said, is like analyzing World War II in 1943, when it was still a closely guarded secret that the Allies had broken the German and Japanese codes.

Cyber lessons from Ukraine: Prepare for prolonged conflict, not a knockout blow


WASHINGTON — Russia’s failed cyber “blitzkrieg” in Ukraine has turned into a long slog that puts a premium on adaptability, resilience, and the will to win, one of Kyiv’s top cybersecurity officials told US audiences on a recent tour. And the strategic lesson for the US, several independent experts said, is that this kind of drawn-out cyber conflict is a more likely model for future wars than the sudden-death visions of a “cyber Pearl Harbor” or “cyber 9/11″ predicted by US officials for over a decade.

Ukrainian networks and their defenders, with extensive Western help, have proven resilient under brutal pressure. “We’ve learned how to use all these tools and techniques in critical circumstances, when sometimes there’s no electricity, there’s no communication, when your city is about to be surrounded, when you [are] under missile attacks or under shelling,” said Illia Vitiuk, who heads the cyber department of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU in Ukrainian). “Sometimes you try to reach the system administrator of the ministry that is under cyber attack, but he’s not here: He disappeared because needed to take his family out of Bucha.”

The Russians weren’t counting on this kind of resilience, said Vitiuk. “They, of course, hoped this was going to be a blitzkrieg, and so they used most of their aces they had in their sleeves just before the invasion,” he told the RSA conference in San Francisco on April 25. That first wave of efforts included “defacing websites, stealing data, wipers and lockers, [and] a vast disinformation campaign.” Russian cyber attacks have ebbed and flowed since, but they never again reached the intensity of January-April 2022, according to Google Cloud’s Mandiant, which has provided extensive assistance to Vitiuk’s team.

It’s a long struggle and far from over, Vitiuk told a Billington cybersecurity forum earlier in April: “If you have 12 rounds in a boxing match…we are in probably round eight now.”

It’s early days to draw sweeping conclusions from the war in Ukraine, warned several experts. “People need to be very, very patient,” said National Security Archives scholar Michael Martelle at a recent Atlantic Council panel. Analyzing Ukraine now, he said, is like analyzing World War II in 1943, when it was still a closely guarded secret that the Allies had broken the German and Japanese codes.

Ukraine’s Counteroffensive Has a Nuclear Complication

Anchal Vohra

Zaporizhzhia, one of the four regions Russia has annexed and claimed as a part of the Russian Federation, is at the heart of Ukraine’s strategy for its much-touted spring counteroffensive. The rationale for focusing on Zaporizhzhia is clear enough: It lies on the land corridor along the Sea of Azov that connects Russian troops with their supply lines in eastern Ukraine all the way from the Donbas region to Crimea.

Who Owns the Moon?

Robert A. Manning

Once upon a time, outer space, like the air and seas, was one of the global commons, held jointly for all of humanity. But great power competition, a deficit of rules, and a booming private space economy are eroding that status. The new cold war between the United States and nations such as Russia and China is extending to the cosmos: NATO has declared space an “operational domain.” And like the old Cold War, the new one poses a threat to life on Earth itself, from the dangers of space debris to the possibility of targeting satellites in an already-crowded Low Earth Orbit (an orbit around the Earth at 1,200 miles or less) that so much of modern life is dependent upon.

Air & Space Operations Review, Spring 2023, v. 2, no. 1

Uncertainty Quantification: Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in Military Systems

Deep Neural Networks: Enriching Leadership Screening and Selection

Restrategizing Digitalization in the Military

JADC2 Culture at the Operational Level of War

Empathy in the Foundations of Warfare

Ukrainian Armed Forces: a Year of Fighting Russia

Johan Huovinen

Executive Summary

The Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) have fought well over the past year with existing equipment but suffered substantial losses, especially of main battle tanks and infantry fighting vehicles. The US-led Ramstein process has managed to coordinate replacements to the level requested by Ukraine, but deliveries are still awaited. Once rearmed, the UAF will be able to launch new offensive operations.

Ukrainian air defence has proved itself to the utmost and been reinforced but the newly arrived Western air defence systems are likely to need further integration into a system of systems in order to be fully effective against Russian cruise and ballistic missile attacks. The air force’s lack of fully established command and control for air interception is seen as the weakest part of Ukrainian air defence. The UAF will need continuous technical support in order to fully enhance its air defence capacity.

It is important to note that what Ukraine has received is not traditional military surplus but rather active military equipment. Western allies must provide Ukraine with sustainable technical support for all types of delivered military hardware, especially as it will be difficult to provide additional heavy equipment in the future.

Ukraine’s weak military resources in the air and at sea make it less likely that there will be any significant joint operations in the near future. Ukraine’s main operational domain will be on land. The UAF must avoid further entrenching positions and being pulled into endless artillery duels in order to save resources for future offensive operations. The UAF must try to explore more manoeuvre warfare with battalion- or brigade-sized units.


Imagining the Future of Professional Military Education in the United States

Emily Ellinger, Marek N. Posard

Professional military education (PME) institutions prepare leaders for complex future conflicts. Recently, PME institutions experienced a sudden shift to distance learning during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic. Studies show that pandemic-related disruptions have significantly affected military policies and readiness and negatively affected education for both students and educators across all education levels.

To discuss objectives, requirements, capabilities, and implementation options for the continued evolution of PME programs, the RAND Corporation National Security Research Division led a one-day joint PME workshop with participants from various PME institutions, J7 Directorate for Joint Force Development, RAND researchers, and others. In this report, the authors summarize the results of the workshop to identify areas for change following the COVID-19 pandemic.

Participants generally agreed on PME's goals but tended to disagree on the means for attaining them. Consensus centered on providing PME students with communication skills, joint warfighting strategies, and critical thinking skills and preparing these future leaders for an unknown national security environment.

These results highlight several opportunities for PME moving forward, including utilizing the general agreement on objectives to build clear documentation, leveraging technology during the pandemic, and building a diverse student body. The results also bring forward several possible barriers that may complicate the implementation of PME objectives. These roadblocks, which received the largest discussion during the workshop, included difficulties navigating bureaucracy, obtaining stable funding, and balancing the varied demands of talent management.

Regional Responses to the Russia-Ukraine War

Roundtable with Michael J. Green, Nargis Kassenova, Pavel K. Baev, Kristian Coates Ulrichsen, Rajesh Rajagopalan, Jeffrey Reeves, Matthew Kroenig, and Clementine G. Starling

The essays in this roundtable examine the relevance of the Russia-Ukraine war to other regions outside the war zone, assess the responses of countries in these regions to the war, and explore the lessons they have learned from the conflict so far.


After eight years of simmering conflict, Russia undertook a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022—an event that sent geopolitical shockwaves around the world. Beyond the immediate impact on how policy and military planners strategize about European security, the invasion has had wider implications for thinking about the stability of the international order and existing security arrangements, norms of sovereignty, the intertwined nature of security and economics, major-power relations, and the management and conduct of war. In this context, this Asia Policy roundtable examines the relevance of the Russia-Ukraine war to other regions outside the war zone, assesses the responses of countries in these regions to the war, and explores the lessons they have learned from the conflict so far. Notably, a clear line can be drawn between the northern regions, where the war has prompted close attention and strong reactions, and the southern regions, which have tended to view the war as a less pressing concern.

The roundtable opens with Michael Green’s analysis of Northeast Asia, focusing on Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and China. He argues that, for Northeast Asian governments, “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has demonstrated that traditional national security toolkits really do matter and precisely which tools are most effective on the battlefield,” and that these governments are applying these lessons to their defense procurement, planning, and policies, even if the timelines for actualizing capabilities are still over the horizon. Japan and Taiwan, which draw parallels between Russia’s invasion and imagined future actions by China, have come out the strongest in support of Ukraine and the Western-led coalition backing Kyiv. Both have also stepped up plans for stronger national defenses and counterstrike capabilities. South Korea has ended its strategic ambiguity by clearly favoring the U.S. position on the conflict, albeit cautiously to mitigate any hostile response by China or Russia. And China, where all Northeast Asia’s attention is focused, has chosen to align more closely, at least diplomatically, with Russia rather than remain neutral or reassure other states in the international system. As a result, the geopolitical divide in Northeast Asia between China and U.S. allies is only set to grow.

In Central Asia, Nargis Kassenova assesses that the Russia-Ukraine war is also highly destabilizing. As part of Russia’s “near abroad,” Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan see Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as an existential threat because it “undermines the founding principles of the post-Soviet security and political order—the mutual recognition of each other’s sovereignty and the existing borders at the time of the Soviet Union’s dissolution in 1991.” Kazakhstan, which shares a border with Russia and has sometimes been identified as “historical Russia,” sees its sovereignty and national livelihood as particularly at risk. The Central Asian states, especially Kazakhstan, are thus forced to perform a delicate tightrope act as they attempt to deepen foreign and economic relations with other states, such as China, the United States, and Turkey, while not offending or alienating Russia, their powerful neighbor and historical supporter. Whether the Central Asian states can demonstrate unity and resilience in this regional balancing act remains to be seen.

How Russia Went to War: The Kremlin’s Preparations for Its Aggression Against Ukraine

Kalev Stoicescu Mykola Nazarov Keir Giles Matthew D. Johnson

This report examines Russia’s preparations for its full-scale invasion of Ukraine: domestically, in Ukraine itself, in the global information domain, and in building its relationship with China.

For Russia, crushing Ukraine’s quest for democracy was central to meeting its objectives of reshaping the post-Cold War order in Europe and globally, restoring its own status, and reconstituting the Russian empire and Russian world. Its preparations in the political and informational, military, and economic domains for a full-scale war in Ukraine were too extensive and overt to go unnoticed, but they were not acted upon. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the evidence went against the dominant narrative in the West and was simply brushed aside.

In the political and informational domains, Russia’s domestic preparations including cementing the regime’s authority, and taking advantage of the population’s Soviet nostalgia and aspirations for the restoration of the Russian world and the empire. Limited economic preparations were intended to safeguard Russia’s economy against current and future Western sanctions, while Russia’s extensive military preparations involved large-scale defence spending and extensive military modernisation efforts.

Russia’s preparations beyond its own territory included: a campaign within Ukraine to divide society and discredit the democratically elected leadership; a campaign directed at the rest of the world about Ukraine, discrediting the country and its people as an object of sympathy and support in their resistance against Russia; and a campaign of intimidation designed to instil in western leaders and populations a fear of obstructing, impeding, or offending Russia.

Russia also worked to build a relationship with China. China’s support is essential to Putin’s ambitions. But equally, China’s strategy for confronting the United States – which China cannot do alone – depends on Russia remaining at least a quasi-great power.

Ukrainian Counteroffensive Assessmen

Can Kasapoğlu

This report first appeared as a part of Hudson's Re: Ukraine newsletter series. To subscribe, click here.

Below Hudson Senior Fellow Can Kasapoğlu offers a military situational report about the war in Ukraine.

1. Why Must Ukraine Conduct a Counteroffensive?

Ukraine needs to conduct a successful counteroffensive for two reasons.

First, Ukraine cannot function as a sovereign state with its territory carved up as it currently is. At present, around 20 percent of Ukrainian territory is under Russian occupation. Before Ukraine’s successful push into Kharkiv in the north and Kherson on the western bank of the Dnipro in the fall of 2022, Russia controlled 27 percent of its land. The current geography of the occupation is crippling Ukraine’s economy. Moscow has managed to completely seize the Sea of Azov, cutting off Ukraine from the key ports of Berdyansk and Mariupol, which are vital for the nation’s trade capacity. In the meantime, the Russian Black Sea Fleet’s Kalibr missiles and Iran-manufactured Shahed-131 and -136 loitering munitions have continued to relentlessly pound Odesa.

The core territorial problem revolves around Crimea. Since the illegal annexation of the peninsula in 2014, the Russian Black Sea Fleet has become a maritime security threat in the region. The armada is acting as if the Black Sea is part of the Russian Federation, recklessly threatening commercial shipping there. According to the International Maritime Organization, approximately 2,000 seafarers were stranded aboard 94 vessels in Ukrainian ports at the start of the Russian aggression. At present, the Black Sea Fleet’s blockade is killing the Ukrainian economy.

Should Ukraine recapture Crimea, the Russian Black Sea Fleet would have no choice but to move its principal homeport to Novorossiysk some 200 miles east. In that case, Russian Aerospace Forces and Russian Ground Forces would be unable to exploit the strategic peninsula.

The Wagner Group’s Expanding Global Footprint

Wagner Roadmap: Ten Recommendations to Fight the Group

1. The sanctions discussion needs to be expanded, as such designations should aim to shame Wagner’s state partners.

2. Sanctions lists should expand to include actors in third-party countries, such as Broker Expert LLC, a Russian-owned company widely reported to be shipping heavy machinery to support Wagner Group forestry activities in CAR, and First Industrial Company, a business owned by Wagner operator Dimitri Sytyi which concocts cheap “Russian” alcohol in Cameroon and sells it in CAR.

3. Perhaps one of the more important lessons for countering Wagner and other Russian PMCs is the importance of multilateralism.

4. NATO must also continue to consider proactive tools to counter Russian and other PMCs.

5. NATO should work to amplify efforts to push the adoption of the 2008 Montreux Document—an international agreement designed to reaffirm the legal obligations of states where PMCs originate and for those who hire them.

6. The Wagner Group and other Russian PMCs require consideration within a larger great power discussion, particularly as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has firmly aligned Europe and the US against Russia.

7. US senior leaders should demonstrate a greater diplomatic commitment to African allies and put pressure on other African leaders considering, or currently contracting, the Wagner Group and other Russian PMC operations.

8. International bodies such as the African Union, ECOWAS, and the East African Community (EAC) should reevaluate their approaches to peacekeeping and instability.

9. Exploiting the friction between Wagner’s financier and the MoD should also be considered a worthwhile policy option.

10. Last, NATO members must formalize methods of blocking contact with the Wagner Group through their international activities.

The United States and regional great power rivalry: Can America still pass the Mearsheimer test?


Is a first version of a text that will be developed into a larger publication of an academic or policy-relevant character. The series includes publications aimed at larger audiences as well as expert audiences.

The United States is clearly no longer seen as the dominant great power in the world, with great power rivalries and regional powers seeking to expand their influence. But how significant is the much-reported decline in American power, and the rise in that of others? In his book The Tragedy of Great Power Politics, renowned international relations theorist John Mearsheimer set forth a very clear standard for measuring great power influence, namely their influence in the various regions of the world. According to Mearsheimer, the United States is the only country that has achieved predominant influence in its own region (the Western Hemisphere) and has also been able to prevent any other great power from dominating any other region. But is this still true?

Through examining the balance of power in the various regions and subregions of the world, this FIIA Working Paper concludes that the US can still pass “the Mearsheimer test” in all regions of the world, albeit not in all subregions. The paper also points out possible contingencies in which the United States may become less able to pass the Mearsheimer test.


Justin Bronk

One of the defining features of the February 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine and subsequent full-scale war has been the inability of the much larger and more technologically advanced Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) to establish and exploit air superiority over its Ukrainian opponents. This came as a surprise to most Western and Ukrainian military and civilian analysts and has prompted a widespread reappraisal of the current capabilities of the VKS and, perhaps more importantly, the potential threat that it can pose in the medium term. However, these efforts have been hindered by the lack of granular information about the actual tactics and operational tempo of VKS operations over Ukraine.

For external analysts, areas of VKS weakness have generally been possible to infer from the absence of visible operations and destructive effects. Examples of visible weakness include the VKS’s inability to effectively conduct suppression and destruction of enemy air defense (SEAD/DEAD) operations, or to project fixed-wing or rotary strike sorties over most of Ukraine. However, the sorties that Russia’s combat aircraft have been flying and the effects they have been achieving are much harder for outside observers to see and analyze. In the land domain, ubiquitous small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and handheld cameras have provided a rich, albeit fragmentary, source of information on the tactics and nature of operations being undertaken by both sides at each stage in the conflict. In contrast, footage available for air operations has been limited to cockpit footage that is carefully collated and released periodically by both sides and clips filmed from the ground of aircraft either flying past or sometimes being engaged by surface-to-air missiles (SAMs).

To help bring greater granularity to the Western picture of Russian combat air operations in Ukraine, the British think tank the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) produced a special report based on face-to-face interviews conducted in Ukraine in August and October 2022 with senior Ukrainian Air Force (UkrAF) aviation, ground-based air defense (GBAD), intelligence, maintenance, and capability development commanders. In compiling this report, the authors also inspected and disassembled significant numbers of Russian missiles, UAVs, and other weaponry, and conducted numerous secondary interviews with external intelligence professionals to cross-reference the material gathered. This paper builds on that work to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the Russian VKS as the war in Ukraine moves towards its second year.


Mary ChesnutTim DitterAnya FinkLarry LewisTim McDonnell

The US, the Russian Federation, and the People’s Republic of China (PRC) have all recognized the revolutionary promise of artificial intelligence (AI), with machines completing complex tasks and matching or exceeding human performance. In parallel, all three competitors are modernizing their nuclear forces. It is likely, as each seeks areas of advantage through AI, that they will explore nuclear applications. AI applications—in both nuclear operations and AIenabled military capabilities more broadly—could increase or decrease nuclear risk.


Against this background, the US State Department’s Bureau of Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance (AVC) asked CNA to conduct research and analysis that would sharpen its understanding of how AI could impact nuclear risks. To that end, CNA addressed three questions:How are the US, Russia, and PRC using AI to enable their respective nuclear operations today?

How might US, Russian, and PRC enabled nuclear postures interact—especially during crises or conflict—in the circa 2035 timeframe? In what specific ways might AI increase or decrease nuclear risk?

What steps can the US government take to mitigate AI-driven nuclear risks and/or capture any risk-reducing benefits of AI-enabled nuclear operations?


This project makes two basic contributions. The first is a deep exploration of the many complicated ways that AI could influence nuclear risk that goes beyond what can be found in prior research on the topic. Building on that exploration, the second contribution is a set of recommendations that will help the US government mitigate the risks and capture the risk reducing benefits of AI-enabled nuclear operations.


RSAC in review: Supply chain security, cyber war and AI

Paul Roberts 

More than three years after the COVID pandemic threw the global economy — not to mention the technology conference business — on its ear, the RSA Security Conference was back in full force this year, with attendance and a theme, Stronger Together, that celebrated the diversity of the information security community and promoted a sense of post-pandemic healing.

But amid the crowds and good vibes in and around San Francisco’s Moscone Center was a palpable sense of unease at this year’s show. The world’s first “hot” cyber war in Ukraine and a steady drumbeat of nation-state backed attacks on software supply chains might have had something to do with that. And let’s not forget about the prospect of AI-fueled disruption that loomed over the event, prompting questions about what lies ahead for cyber defenders in industry, enterprises and the public sector.

The ReversingLabs team was at the show. Here is a look at some of the big takeaways from this year’s RSA Conference.

Software supply chain security gets messy

Threats to software supply chains were one of the most prominent themes at this year’s RSA Conference. Supply chain threats and attacks have been a top concern for organizations in recent years, especially after the attack on the firm Solar Winds made clear that sophisticated, nation-state actors were capable of penetrating and leveraging trusted software supplier relationships to plant malicious code.

At this year’s event, the recent 3CX hack ensured that conversations about the security of software supply chains would occupy center stage. The picture that emerged from RSAC was complicated, however, with a range of experts warning that not enough was being done to manage supply chain risks, and counter growing attacks.

Global Approaches to Cyber Policy, Legislation and Regulation

Pia Hüsch and James Sullivan

This paper aims to serve as a guide to policymakers by examining different approaches to cyber-security policy, regulation and legislation. It provides an overview of the priorities of five countries (the UK, the US, Canada, Japan, and Singapore) and the EU. The focus rests on cyber policy advanced in the period between January 2019 and March 2023.

The research underlying this paper focuses on four key research areas:The general context in which cyber policy is made.

Priorities with regard to the protection of critical national infrastructure (CNI).

Approaches to the development of cyber skills and the cyber workforce.

International cooperation on norm development for cyberspace.

The Context

All jurisdictions follow a unique cyber strategy, but common approaches exist:Strategies are updated in line with domestic timelines but also adjust to changes in the cyber threat landscape (such as the rise of cybercrime) and respond to geopolitical events and the increased need to secure CNI and supply chains.

Strategies increasingly focus on harmonising and streamlining each jurisdiction’s cyber policies to avoid fragmentation and duplication of efforts.

There is an increasing reliance on interventionist policies and regulations to enhance resilience and cyber-security standards.
On Critical National Infrastructure

Space launch: Are we heading for oversupply or a shortfall?

Chris Daehnick, John Gang, and Ilan Rozenkopf

To serve an expanding space economy, nearly 7,500 active satellites orbit Earth and about 50 on average are taking to the skies every week.1 Many operate as part of multi-satellite constellations—serving commercial applications from remote sensing to communications to navigation. Governments are also expanding their satellite fleets for multiple missions. In the future, greater space exploration, the launch of commercial space stations, and even tourism could further increase launch needs. New companies are constantly entering the market and much uncertainty persists about their ambitions, as well as those of more established players. Forecasts for the number of constellations, and therefore required launch capabilities, thus vary widely.

In tandem with this rise in activity, the space industry is transitioning to a new generation of launch vehicles, leading to a range of possibilities in terms of availability and capacity. In light of these dynamics, both customers (commercial and government satellite owners) and suppliers must make tricky calculations to balance short-term opportunities against the imperative to control costs and flex to longer-term demand.

While government (military and civil) space activity remains a significant and growing source of launch demand, the private sector is the fastest-growing segment, amid technological advances and declining costs that have spurred innovation and commercial activity. The price of heavy launches to low-Earth orbit (LEO) has fallen from $65,000 per kilogram to $1,500 per kilogram—more than a 95 percent decrease.2 In part due to these efficiencies, companies and governments are putting thousands of new satellites into orbit.3 Elon Musk’s SpaceX is leading the way, with its Starlink program planning to launch as many as 42,000 satellites to provide global broadband and other services.4

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.

Safer Together Inclusive Cybersecurity

Camille Stewart Gloster, Samantha Ravich
Source Link

“To err is human,” Alexander Pope, poet of the Enlightenment, said in his 1711 treatise An Essay on Criticism. Pope understood that error is the basis of human nature, and civilization would be stronger if it recognized and mitigated such fallibility rather than dismissing it. The world of cybersecurity would be wise to relearn Pope’s observation.

In today’s world, a vast, globally connected, digital platform is the foundation of an individual’s ability to participate in society and prosper. From ensuring one’s shelter, food, utilities, communications, education, medical care, and income to casting a vote, driving a car, or receiving government benefits, internet-enabled technology is indispensable to modern life. At the same time, this digital network is extraordinarily vulnerable to the actions of any one person. This is not hyperbole or a theoretical risk. It is a reality that shows itself every day.

In 2014, an IBM Security Services report concluded that human error was a contributing factor in 95 percent of all cyber incidents.1 Human error today can have serious national economic and security consequences.

In the spring of 2020, a large-scale spear-phishing campaign tricked numerous employees of U.S. defense and aerospace contractors into opening emails disguised as job offers. Malware infected their devices, and North Korean hackers exfiltrated defense technology.2 A single person could have allowed a hostile foreign government to gain critical intelligence on the F-22 fighter jet program. The targets of this cyberattack were experienced technicians and engineers, well versed on operational security and aware they could be under foreign surveillance. And even they erred.

Cyberattacks are growing in volume and intensity. Governments and companies are spending billions of dollars to create and deploy new layers of cybersecurity technology. But not enough attention or resources are deployed to understanding the human element in this equation. Employees will yearn for better jobs and continue opening emails that suggest such an opportunity is in the offing. People, tired of the dozens of passwords they are forced to create, will continue to select passwords they can remember.

Big Centralization, Small Bets, and the Warfighting Implications of Middling Progress: Three Concerns about JADC2’s Trajectory

Travis Sharp, Tyler Hacker

Warfare has always been a contest of incomplete information and imperfect control, with each side straining to find the enemy in an unfavorable position and coordinate his destruction. Although the technologies used to surveil, communicate, and attack have changed throughout history, the advantages gained from scouting and synchronizing more effectively than one’s opponent have endured. Stripped of its jargon, the Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) vision of integrating sensors and shooters comprises merely the latest Pentagon effort to provide U.S. forces with the timeless military advantages of superior information and control. This basic thrust of JADC2 represents a vital objective worth pursuing – even if the idealized outcome, fully integrated C2, likely remains as unattainable today as when the epigram appeared 60 years ago.

Despite JADC2’s worthy goal, its programs and governance present great difficulties. Commonly cited problems include ambiguous concepts, disjointed programs, and overemphasis on technology. To spur constructive dialogue, this policy brief raises three additional concerns that have received less attention.Although the Pentagon has steadily added centralized controls to focus JADC2 efforts, further centralization risks curtailing the messiness essential to innovation and transforming stakeholders into opponents.
JADC2’s annual funding, which we estimate at $1.4 billion to $3.5 billion in the fiscal year 2024 request, appears modest relative to its colossal ambitions, indicating a potentially risky reliance on small bets to produce large payoffs.
If JADC2 ultimately makes only middling progress, a realistic outcome regardless of how the Pentagon handles centralization and funding, policymakers should ensure that the U.S. military is not meaningfully worse off relative to potential adversaries than it would have been otherwise. Put differently, any changes introduced by JADC2, no matter how piecemeal, should adhere to a “first, do no harm” principle with respect to future warfighting. Modeling, simulation, and wargaming can help policymakers understand the potential consequences of varied levels of JADC2 realization.

Politicized Intelligence Community: Danger to a Democracy

Pete Hoekstra

Teixeira, if convicted, is facing a lengthy prison sentence. Morrell, meanwhile, remains an esteemed national security figure who has members of the press defending his actions, even though they had an impact on the last election. Beyond Morrell, none of the other signatories of the letter has suffered any negative consequences for choosing to use the stature they gained by virtue of being high ranking, cleared individuals to politicize national security.

While one cannot condone the alleged activities of Mr. Teixeira, one can understand his confusion at being a part of an Intelligence Community where the leadership has allowed itself to become a partisan appendage of the Democratic Party and, instead of suffering consequences, is rewarded.

Former Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe called the letter "election interference," said it had damaged national security by unjustly framing another country, Russia, and stated that Secretary of State Antony Blinken should either resign or be impeached.

Why then are we surprised when a 21-year-old leaks classified information? The big shots are not afraid to trade on their reputations or access to highly classified information, and they are not held accountable for their actions. Even though he should have known better, maybe Teixeira thought he would not be held accountable either?

The deception and political activities of these intelligence professionals — and their complicit media enablers — need to be exposed and reported. Every single one of these 51 individuals who signed the Hunter Biden laptop letter should lose their security clearance if they still have one.

Those serving in government or on appointed federal boards or commissions should be removed from those positions immediately. Lastly, Congress needs to hold hearings into the culture of the Intelligence Community that lets these types of individuals serve without fear of accountability. It then needs to expose and rip out the rot that has infected the Intelligence Community and get it out of domestic politics and refocused on foreign threats to our great nation.

Military cyber directors: Help us better leverage AI to gain the ‘high ground’


Navy Commander Kevin Blenkhorn, a computer sciences professor at the U.S. Naval Academy, works with his Joint Services teammates during the U.S. Army’s ‘Cyber Center of Excellence’ Tuesday, June 10. (Georgia Army National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Tracy J. Smith)

TECHNET CYBER 2023 — The military services need to figure out how to better integrate and leverage disruptive technologies like artificial intelligence into data-driven decision making, and senior cyber officials said today they need industry’s help to do it.

Using current technology right now, Lt. Gen. Maria Barrett, commanding general of US Army Cyber Command, said that work is “tremendously complex.”

“Anything we can do to buy down that complexity by leveraging AI and [machine learning] would be absolutely fantastic and essential for, I think, the challenges that we face in the future,” she told the audience at the AFCEA’s TechNet Cyber conference in Baltimore. “I think we have the underpinnings of starting to be able to take advantage of it from an Army cyber mission standpoint.”

The military services and, more broadly, the Defense Department have been exploring ways that AI can be used in the future. As a part of that push, DoD stood up the Chief Digital and AI Office and, in January, the Pentagon announced it updated its decade-old guidance on autonomous weapon systems to include advances made in AI.

In a sign of how ubiquitous AI has become recently, Director of the Defense Information Systems Agency Lt. Gen. Robert Skinner began his keynote not speaking himself, but with a generative AI that cloned his voice and delivered the start of his remarks.

“Generative AI, I would offer, is probably one of the most disruptive technologies and initiatives in a very long, long time,” Skinner said after becoming himself again. “Those who harness that and can understand how to best leverage it, but also how to best protect against it, are going to be the ones that have the high ground.”

Evolving towards military innovation: AI and the Australian Army

Alex Neads, Theo Farrell & David J. Galbreath

Established theory views military innovation as extraordinarily difficult, resulting in painful if infrequent revolutionary transformations. This article presents a divergent view, in which military innovation occurs progressively in an evolutionary fashion. Drawing on New Institutionalism and the Sociology of Science and Technology, we explore processes of professional debate and consensus-building among military officers, which can lead to evolutionary innovation. Examining the future application of artificial intelligence to command-and-control in the Australian Army, we find that officer attitudes to automation are rooted in shared experience of existing digitisation programmes, creating an emergent consensus over the evolutionary trajectory of future military innovation.

Established theory views military innovation as an extraordinarily difficult undertaking. Armed forces are seen as conservative and risk averse organisations whose institutional cultures naturally resist change. According to this logic, armed forces can only be cajoled into innovating with great difficulty, typically requiring a high level of external pressure to overcome internal inertia. As a result, military innovation is often characterised as an abrupt and destructive process that occurs via sudden and painful ruptures – described by Sapolsky et al as moments of ‘creative destruction’ – that emerge when the momentum for change finally overwhelms resistance.Footnote1

This article presents a divergent understanding of military innovation as a constant evolutionary process, rather than one characterised by episodic revolutionary upheavals conditioned by otherwise implacable opposition to change. Drawing on insights from New Institutionalism and the Sociology of Science and Technology, our account focuses on the role of officer perspectives in determining the degree of resistance or acceptance to innovation. By situating internal professional military discourses on innovation in the context of wider patterns of socio-technological development and prior organisational change, we highlight the ways in which armed forces gradually generate a degree of internal consensus over the uses, applications and limitations of new military ideas and equipment. In so doing, they can avoid eliciting the ferocity of resistance that is traditionally held to result in organisational stagnation, external intervention, and dramatic ruptures in policy and practice. This does not mean that evolutionary innovation is somehow less transformative that other forms of change, or that change never occurs via revolutionary schism. Rather, we conclude that through a process of collective assessment, debate, and consensus-building, armed forces do sometimes evolve towards military innovation.

Trends in World Military Expenditure, 2022

Xiao Liang, Lorenzo Scarazzato, Dr Lucie Béraud-Sudreau, Ana Assis, Dr Nan Tian and Dr Diego Lopes da Silva

World military expenditure rose by 3.7 per cent in real terms in 2022, to reach a record high of $2240 billion. Global spending grew by 19 per cent over the decade 2013–22 and has risen every year since 2015. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was a major driver of the growth in spending in 2022. Military expenditure in Europe rose by 13 per cent during the year, which was the largest annual increase in total European spending in the post-cold war era. The exceptional growth was largely accounted for by substantial increases in Russian and Ukrainian spending, but many other European countries boosted their military budgets in 2022. Spending increases in parts of Asia and Oceania also contributed to the global growth in 2022.

This SIPRI Fact Sheet examines key regional and national military expenditure data for 2022 and trends over the decade 2013–22. The data, which replaces all military spending data previously published by SIPRI, comes from the updated SIPRI Military Expenditure Database.