9 May 2023

Outlining Inconsistencies in the Indian Space Policy 2023

Sandeepa Bhat B.

Key Words: Authorisation – IN-SPACe – Liability – Non-appropriation – Space resource

The Indian government made a new beginning in 2020 with respect to the commercialisation of the space sector in India. The gates were opened for private sector participation in all aspects of space activities by the Government of India (GoI). This is a departure from the earlier scenario of allowing private sector participation only in the manufacturing segment related to space but not in the space services sector. Such a move was found essential for boosting the Indian economy, which was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Indian National Space Promotion and Authorization Centre (IN-SPACe) was also hurriedly established by GoI in June 2022 for licensing private space activities. This is further followed by the Indian Space Policy 2023 (2023 Policy), which clearly unveils the intention of GoI to extensively commercialise and privatise space activities in India. While the 2023 Policy has been hailed as futuristic and a welcome step during the last couple of days after it has been unveiled, its implementation in the absence of a national space law in India is on shaky grounds. In addition, some provisions of the 2023 Policy also raise suspicion regarding their compatibility with international treaty obligations of India.

Essence of the 2023 Policy

The key aspect of the 2023 Policy is reflected in its vision statement, which advocates for a flourishing commercial presence in space. In order to achieve this, the 2023 Policy attempts to encourage greater private sector participation in space activities by promising a stable and predictable regulatory framework. IN-SPACe is showcased as a single window for all aspects of authorisation for space activities. The 2023 Policy attempts to provide clearly defined roles for different agencies relating to space activities in India. The Department of Space is entrusted with the overall responsibilities to implement the 2023 Policy, interpret and clarify ambiguities in the 2023 Policy, distribute the responsibilities under the 2023 Policy, coordinate international cooperation, create a suitable space dispute settlement mechanism etc.

India is now the world’s most populous country. Can its economy keep up?

Irfan Nooruddin

The United Nations (UN) estimates that India has become the world’s most populous country, surpassing China for that dubious distinction. This is bureaucratic confirmation of an inevitable transition as China’s economic growth and family planning policies have slowed its population growth to near zero in recent years, even as India’s population grows. While India and China have long been the sole members of the billion-plus population club, and with no other states in striking range, the UN’s announcement is both the making of a trivia question and an occasion to consider again the reality that the twenty-first century is Asia’s. But bigger populations come with bigger problems. As the United States and other Western powers come to grips with their relative decline, hitching their star to India will not be a straightforward proposition.

Why does population matter for global politics? After all, a Malthusian perspective would warn that more mouths to feed will strain a country’s capacity to provide for its citizens, and that failure to do so will engender political instability and economic impoverishment. Yet, with all due respect to the reverend, the empirical record of the past two centuries makes clear that the opposite is true. Large populations fueled the Industrial Revolution and the incredible economic growth enjoyed by the West. While vast inequalities persist—even grow—global economic productivity has expanded unimaginably over the period, allowing more people to live longer, healthier lives than ever before.

If you are bullish on India’s prospects in the coming century, as indeed it appears the consensus in US government circles is, then India’s rise to number one on the population charts is evidence that its best days are yet ahead. If that is the case, then by pursuing a strategic partnership with India, above all other considerations, the United States is backing the right horse to maintain its own relevance. It is commonplace for policymakers to laud India’s “demographic dividend,” which is a wonky shorthand for the fact that India’s huge population is also a young population, with 52 percent of its citizens under the age of thirty. Young people are a valuable resource for any economy. They are in the prime of their working lives, they are avid consumers and fuel the larger economy, and eventually they will have children of their own and buy even more stuff. Countries in Western Europe, as well as Japan and increasingly China, are increasingly skewing older and facing tighter labor markets and greater pressures on public-sector entitlement programs such as pensions (see the turmoil in France) or health care. But India’s younger population promises a huge—and growing—consumerist middle class and a seemingly unending supply of college graduates itching to enter the workforce.

India-Russia Ties ‘Nose Dive’; After S-400 Shipments, Russia Could Now Suspend Oil Exports To India

Vijainder K Thakur

Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov, while answering a reporter’s question during his press conference in Goa on Friday, May 5, 2023, bluntly implied that in its dealings with Russia, India wants to eat the cake and have it too.

India, which has been lapping up cheap Russian oil for domestic consumption as well as export as refined commodities, hasn’t been compensating Russia for its oil imports.

Lavrov pointed out that Russia has accumulated billions of rupees in Indian banks that Russia cannot use.

“This is a problem. We need to use this money. But for this, Rupees must be converted to another currency, and this is now being discussed.”

India and Russia have been exploring options for settling their trade in rupees or rubles since the start of the Russian Special Operation (SMO) in Ukraine in February 2022, but they have made little headway even after more than a year.
Trade Imbalance Between India & Russia

The problem is – India’s imports from Russia far exceed its exports. As a result, Indian rupee payments to Russian bank Vostro accounts in Indian banks are of no use to Russia.

The obvious solution is for India to step up its exports to Russia. Unfortunately, Indian exports are severely constrained by the lackluster quality of Indian goods. Also, Russia is a resource-rich country, so India doesn’t have the option to export commodities to Russia.

India could pay the accumulated billions of rupees to Russia by converting them to a currency like the Chinese Yuan, however, that would entail bearing the cost of conversion. China’s massive trade surplus with India makes the rupee particularly weak against the Yuan.
Suspension of Rupee-Rouble Trade

According to Reuters, rupee-rouble trade between India and Russia has now been suspended. The suspension will likely restrict, if not end, the import of cheap Russian oil since the start of the Ukraine war.

No, China Is Not Planning to Spend $58 Billion on a Railway Connection to Pakistan

Adnan Aamir

The China-Pakistan border at Khunjerab pass. The proposed railway would have to pass through this inhospitable terrain.Credit: Depositphotos

An article published by the South China Morning Post on April 27 reported that a feasibility study had deemed the China-Pakistan railway, costing $58 billion, as “worth it.” This news was picked up by various media platforms in Pakistan, India, and the United States, with supporters of the current Pakistani government touting it as a huge success and the revival of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

However, upon further analysis and investigation, it has been revealed that this claim is not accurate. China has not expressed any intention to proceed with the plan, nor has any new feasibility study been completed.

The SCMP story was not based on a feasibility study at all, but on a journal article titled “Research on the Investment and Financing Operation Mode of Railway’s Go Global Projects,” which was published in the Chinese Journal of Railway Transport and Economy. This author has a copy of the article in Chinese language.

The article, produced by two staff members of China Railway First Survey and Design Institute Group, a government-owned national survey and design company, stated that the proposed China-Pakistan Railway is currently in the pre-feasibility study stage. It also stated that the railway line would connect Kashgar in Xinjiang, China, to Gwadar in Balochistan, Pakistan, with a total length of about 3,000 km, requiring a total investment of 400 billion yuan ($58 billion).

However, the focus of the article was on the financing mode of the proposed project, rather than a feasibility study commissioned by the Chinese government.

Pakistan’s Economic Crisis: What Went Wrong?

Mariyam Suleman Anees

Farmers clear out debris in an apple orchard damaged by floods ahead of the harvesting season in Quetta, Balochistan, April 10, 2023.Credit: Twitter/WFP Pakistan

In March-April, the Pakistan government set up distribution sites across the country to provide sasta aur muft aata (low-cost and free flour) to people to ease their burden amid spiraling prices and the ongoing economic crisis in the country. But instead of doing good, the initiative caused trouble in several places where stampedes broke out, killing and injuring people.

Pakistanis are putting their lives at risk to collect something as basic as a sack of flour. It illustrates how the rising cost of food and other necessities is driving desperation and impacting the masses.

With inflation running at over 30 percent – a 50-year high – putting food on the table for the poorest, who comprise one-third of Pakistan’s population, has become harder than ever before.

When the recent stampedes over food flooded social media, so did the deeper questions: How did the country end up here? What does this economic crisis mean for the majority of the Pakistani people and for Pakistan’s international projects, especially those with China under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), which Pakistan considers vital for its future economic growth?

Pakistan’s current GDP, per capita income, and GDP growth are the lowest in its neighborhood; only war-torn Afghanistan’s economy is weaker. Likewise, its unemployment and inflation rates are one of the highest in the region. The Human Development Index, which measures a country’s achievements through three basic dimensions – health, knowledge, and standards of living – placed Pakistan in the 161st position out of 185 countries in 2022. In other words, Pakistan is among the 25 countries with the lowest human development in the world.

Washington isn’t listening to business on China any more

The waning of the ‘peace interest’ leaves multibillion-dollar investments hanging by a thread ADAM TOOZEAdd to myFT Henry Paulson, then Treasury secretary, left, meets with China’s then minister of finance Xie Xuren in Beijing in 2008 © Oded Balilty/Pool/Getty Images Washington isn’t listening to business on China any more on twitter (opens in a new window) Washington isn’t listening to business on China any more on facebook (opens in a new window) Washington isn’t listening to business on China any more on linkedin (opens in a new window) Save current progress 0% Adam Tooze MAY 5 2023 368 Print this page Receive free US-China relations updates We’ll send you a myFT Daily Digest email rounding up the latest US-China relations news every morning. 

The writer is an FT contributing editor and writes the Chartbook newsletter The US is not eager for war with China. This is the message prominent spokespeople for the Biden administration have been sending in the past few weeks. The fact that this needs saying tells you something about the state we are in. In Washington today, it can seem as though war is just over the horizon. Perhaps as soon as 2025. It has become a cliché that the one thing that America’s divided democracy can agree on is policy against China. But if the dogs of war are in full cry, what is worth noting is the dog that no longer barks. 

The “peace interest” anchored in the investment and trading connections of US big business with China has been expelled from centre stage. On the central axis of US strategy, big business has less influence today than at any time since the end of the cold war. The idea of a “peace interest” — a transnational social and economic constituency opposed to war — was coined by the economist and social theorist Karl Polanyi, who used it to explain the long era of great power peace in Europe between 1815 and 1914. The make-up of the peace interest can change. After the shock of the French Revolution and Napoleon, it was Europe’s conservative dynasts who opposed war. 

China and Russia’s Long Dance


HONG KONG – Since around the start of this century, Chinese leaders visiting Moscow and Russian leaders visiting Beijing have spared few superlatives. Sino-Russian relations, they have proclaimed, have entered “their best period ever,” soared to “unparalleled heights,” and attained an unprecedentedly “high level of mutual trust.”

Such claims tell us something about the Sino-Russian relationship as it is today. But to understand how it evolved to this point, and how it might change in the future, we must examine the past, starting with the two powers’ first encounters in the seventeenth century.

After the Qing (Manchu) dynasty conquered China in 1644, it was confronted with what it saw as two distinct types of Russians: members of trade and diplomatic missions who arrived from the west; and Cossacks who had crossed Siberia and started marauding along the northeastern fringe of Qing territory, in the Amur River valley. The Qing called the first cohort Eluosi (an attempt at “Rus”) and the second one Luocha (“flesh-eating demons”).

Yet by 1670, the Qing had concluded that the Eluosi and Luocha were both associated with a formidable new power to China’s west and north. The Qing emperor, Kangxi, committed himself to driving out the Cossack marauders, first by besieging their outpost at Albazin in 1685-86. But he also took pains to put Sino-Russian relations on a stable and peaceful footing, acknowledging that, “If we advance and they retreat and we retreat and they advance there will be no end to the conflict and the border people will not be at peace.”

Kangxi therefore made overtures to the czar in Moscow, leading to the Treaty of Nerchinsk in 1689. The Russians agreed to withdraw from the Amur valley in exchange for access to the Beijing market for their merchants. Remarkably, this was the first-ever case of a Chinese government signing a document with a foreign power on approximately equal terms (a development partly explained by the fact that the Qing were not ethnic Han Chinese). The stage was set for a prolonged period of equilibrium.


Shaky Signal Qualcomm is optimistic about its China business. Should it be?0


Last month, Cristiano R. Amon, the amiable young chief executive of Qualcomm, took the stage at the 2023 China Development Forum, an annual gathering of multinational CEOs and government officials in Beijing. The American business community — wary of awkward optics during a time of grim congressional hearings, industrial sanctions and exploding spy balloons — largely kept their heads down at the press-heavy gathering. But Amon, beaming in a sponge-yellow tie, sounded a decidedly upbeat note for his American wireless firm.

“We are proud of the deep relationships we have built over the past 30 years [in China], and the new partnerships we are building today,” he said, before going on to praise China’s “digital transformation.”

The fact that Qualcomm — a $130 billion1 behemoth in the telecom industry — was able to strike this celebratory mood is a testament to both its political savvy and its all-encompassing innovations. Today, virtually every smartphone on the planet relies on the semiconductor technology created and owned by the San Diego-based company. It is, in other words, in the crosshairs of not one, but two of the most contentious issues in the ongoing ‘tech war’ between the U.S. and China: semiconductors and telecoms.

Qualcomm — an amalgamation of the words “quality communication” — has been the largest fabless2 semiconductor company on earth for more than a decade. Its golden portfolio boasts some 140,000 patents across over 100 countries, with many of these showcased on the first floor of the company’s glitzy headquarters. Royalty payments for the company’s wireless intellectual property constitute the bedrock of its business model, with fees for manufacturers using Qualcomm’s intellectual property typically constituting around 4 percent of the total sale price of a handset.

The Renminbi’s New Role: Sanctions Busting


A clerk counts renminbi banknotes at a branch of Bank of China in Nantong, Jiangsu province, July 23, 2018. Credit: Imaginechina via AP Images

The opening of the Rooppur nuclear power plant in eastern Bangladesh next year will provide the largest boost to the country’s energy production capabilities in decades. But it will carry another distinction relevant to international finance — it will have been paid for, in large part, with renminbi, even though China has barely been involved in its construction.

Using China’s currency has helped solve a long stalemate between the government in Dhaka and Russia, which initially agreed to finance the $12.7 billion project in 2016. Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, the U.S. effectively shut it off from the dollar-dominated global financial system, making it nearly impossible for Bangladesh to make loan-related payments in greenbacks; Bangladeshi officials, meanwhile, refused to settle the transaction in Russian rubles.
The Rooppur nuclear power plant currently under construction in Rooppur, Bangladesh, June 29, 2022. Credit: Energy & Power

Inspired By Russia-Ukraine War, China Puts Out A Contract For Heavier, Long-Range 203mm Artillery Cannons

Tanmay Kadam

China could soon start testing the 203-millimeter artillery cannons, which are bigger and more powerful than anything in the American arsenal, as per a recent contract awarded by the People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

Chinese PLA’s Strategic Support Force (PLASSF) put out a contract for test-firing 203mm shells on the country’s official Weapons and Equipment Procurement Information Network, a clearing house for Chinese military contracts.

The actual post revealing this contract is now deleted. It appears to have been discovered by Peter W. Singer, an American international relations scholar, and Ma Xiu of BluePath Labs, LLC., who studies the PLA Rocket Force.

While there is nothing new in 203-millimeter cannons, as many militaries fielded them in the 20th century, most have retired them in favor of 155-millimeter guns.

Currently, the 203-millimeter-types fielded are the Russian 2S7 Pion/2S7M Malka, built between 1975 and 1990, and the old US M110 self-propelled howitzer based on a cannon designed in 1919. While the US military used the M110 from 1963 to the 1990s, several nations to which it was exported continue to use it.

China also tried developing the 203-millimeter artillery in the late 1980s, when China North Industries Group Corporation or Norinco hired Gerald Bull, a Canadian inventor and one of the world’s leading artillery experts, who was also involved in Saddam Hussein’s ‘Project Babylon’ supergun artillery project, as discussed at great length by EurAsian Times here.The W-90 203mm self-propelled gun (GlobalSecurity.org)

China’s Emerging Approach to Taiwan: Blockade and Disinformation

Chihwei Yu

It has been suggested that China intends to unify Taiwan through a military operation within the next five years. However, based on the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) actions during the 1945-1949 civil war, military means may not be the most effective way for the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to achieve its longstanding goal of unification with Taiwan. Since its inception in 1921, the CCP has relied on producing and disseminating disinformation to advance its policy objectives. This strategy is also frequently employed by China towards Taiwan, with the aim of undermining the morale of Taiwanese society through the spread of certain kinds of false information, for example, by claiming that the U.S. will eventually betray Taiwan.

In fact, the CCP’s military tactics during the civil war share some similarities with its current Taiwan policy, particularly with regard to the so-called “Peiping Mode” (北平模式). This approach seeks to achieve its goals through a combination of deterring the opponent through superior force and employing United Front work, including deploying agents and spreading fake news to persuade opponents.

Can Blockade and Disinformation Succeed?

While more and more analysts and even some foreign officials argue that the probability of China launching an amphibious invasion of Taiwan is increasing, it would be highly irrational for the PRC to move to invade under the current conditions. Considering the risks entailed, it would be impossible for the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to adequately prepare for an invasion without a general notification of personnel. Preparations would take at least six to ten weeks, not only because the PLA would have to concentrate its forces in southeastern China but also because Beijing would need to ensure sufficient munitions and supplies for a long fight. Furthermore, even if China could successfully launch a surprise attack without triggering global alarm, an occupation would provoke the Taiwanese population and hence, tremendously increase the cost to the CCP of governing Taiwan.

“Joint Sword” Exercises Around Taiwan Suggest a Shift in PLA Operational Doctrine

David Chen


Early assessments of the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) April exercises in the waters and airspace around Taiwan have focused on the diplomatic and political ramifications of yet another episode of saber-rattling by Beijing, but the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) own after-action assessments suggest growing self-confidence in their joint capabilities and the validation of a shift in operational doctrine that has been years in the making. Doctrine [1], or guidance on military thought, is currently provided in the “Chinese PLA Joint Operations Outline” (中国人民解放军联合作战纲要), which remains closely held, but doctrinal concepts and methods of operations are freely discussed by PLA academics and commentators, helping to illuminate the underlying precepts (PRC Ministry of National Defense [MND], January 5, 2022). As Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), Xi Jinping has also provided authoritative guidance in the form of “Military Strategic Guidelines” (军事战略方针) that emphasizes three major points: “innovation” (创新性), “agility of integrated offense and defense” (攻防结合的灵活性) and “active seizure of [battlefield] initiative” (争取主动的积极性). [2] Xi has continued to emphasize these themes into his third term under various political slogans, including “completion of army building, the objective of one hundred years of struggle” (实现建军一百年奋斗目标), a reference to the approaching centenary of the Red Army’s founding in 1927 (PLA Daily, November 5, 2022). The April exercises can be seen as one more step on the way to 2027.

The “Joint Sword” (联合利剑) exercise began on April 8 and ended on April 10, along with other separate and continuing operations surrounding Taiwan. Over three short days, Joint Sword effectively demonstrated new doctrinal concepts of speed, agility and dynamic control, which align with both Xi’s overarching guidelines and years of vigorous internal debate within PLA academic circles. Joint Sword was a demonstration exercise for both a worldwide audience and validation to the CMC and Xi that the PLA can perform up to expectations.

Achieving Decision Dominance

Chinese spy bases on Myanmar’s Great Coco Island? Here we go again


On 31 March, Chatham House published a report titled “Is Myanmar building a spy base on Great Coco Island?”.The tone of the report was measured and its conclusions sensible but, predictably perhaps, it has since given rise to a rash of speculative and tendentious articles about a supposed Chinese military facility on a remote island in the Andaman Sea.

It is worth looking at the history of this story, if only to provide some context and inject a little balance into the public debate.

Back in 1992, an article “Government said helping to build naval base in Burma” published by the Kyodo News Agency claimed that China was building a “radar facility” on Myanmar’s Great Coco Island, just north of India’s Andaman and Nicobar group. This item caught the attention of other journalists and commentators, who published a series of increasingly alarmist stories in the mainstream press. As they tried to outdo each other, the narrative became ever more bizarre.

Without citing any evidence, the authors of these articles referred to antennae farms, radomes, giant telescopes and other specialised intelligence collection equipment. The small radar installed to service the airfield on the island was soon being described as a Chinese signals intelligence (SIGINT) station that could eavesdrop on Indian naval traffic, and an electronic listening post that could monitor Indian missile launches. It was also supposed to be able to intercept deep sea communications from Indian submarines.
Myanmar’s generals are very pragmatic, and will do whatever they have to do to survive, but they are also intensely nationalistic.

This nonsense was given greater credibility by some extraordinary statements by the Indian Foreign Minister, George Fernandez. In 1998, he claimed that China had leased Great Coco Island from Myanmar and was building a SIGINT base there to “encircle” India. His pronouncements seemed to be supported by late ANU Professor Des Ball, on record as stating that the reputed Great Coco Island facility was “one of the most important listening stations which China operates outside of China itself”.

Mao’s Legacy Is a Dangerous Topic in China

Tania Branigan

“For Chinese people, history is our religion,” the intellectual Hu Ping has argued. “We don’t have a supernatural standard of right and wrong, good and bad, so we view History as the ultimate judge.” The Chinese Communist Party has finessed this tradition. It sees history not as a record, still less a debate, but a tool. It can be adjusted as necessary yet appears solid and immutable: Today’s imperatives seem graven in stone, today’s facts the outcome of a logical, inexorable process. The contingencies and contradictions of the actual past are irrelevant. The truth is what the Party says, and what the Party chooses to remember.

China issues report on U.S. CIA's cyberattacks on other countries

China on Thursday released an investigation report revealing an "empire of hackers" of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of the United States, one of the major intelligence agencies of the country's federal government.

Over a long period, the CIA has been secretly orchestrating "peaceful evolution" and "color revolutions" around the world, continuously conducting espionage activities, said the joint report by China's National Computer Virus Emergency Response Center and Beijing-based internet security company 360.

The report disclosed important details of the weapons the CIA used for cyberattacks and details of specific cybersecurity cases taking place in China and other countries.

The CIA has been involved in overthrowing or attempting to overthrow more than 50 legal governments of other countries, though it only admitted involvement in seven, causing turmoil in relevant countries, the report said.

Cyberspace hegemony

In 2020, the 360 company discovered an unknown cyberattack organization, which carried out a slew of cyberattacks toward China and other countries by utilizing cyber tools related to "Vault 7" – a series of documents that WikiLeaks began to publish in 2017 to expose the CIA's activities and capabilities in electronic surveillance and cyber warfare.

Such cyberattacks can be traced back to the year 2011, and continue to this day. The targets of such espionage actions expand to fields such as countries' key information infrastructure, the aerospace sector, scientific research institutes, the petroleum industry and tech companies, as well as government agencies.

Turkey’s Resilient Autocrat

Soner Cagaptay

In late February, after a huge earthquake devastated a large swath of his country, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan faced one of the greatest challenges of his political career. With a presidential election three months away, the government’s response to the humanitarian disaster was feckless and chaotic. On top of that, Erdogan’s economic policies had caused runaway inflation and many of Turkey’s citizens were fed up with his strong-arm rule. And as Erdogan’s popularity tumbled, a newly formed alliance of six opposition parties, led by Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the chair of the Republican People’s Party (CHP),

Senior Ukrainian officials fear counterattack may not live up to hype

Siobhán O'Grady, Isabelle Khurshudyan, Laris Karklis and Samuel Granados

KYIV, Ukraine — The Ukrainian military has spent nearly 15 months exceeding the world’s expectations. Now, senior leaders are trying to lower those hopes, fearing that the outcome of an imminent counteroffensive aimed at turning the tide of the war with Russia may not live up to the hype.

“The expectation from our counteroffensive campaign is overestimated in the world,” Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said in an interview this past week. “Most people are … waiting for something huge,” he added, which he fears may lead to “emotional disappointment.”

The planned counterattack — made possible by donated Western weapons and training — could mark the most consequential phase of the war, as Ukraine seeks to snatch back significant territory and prove it is worthy of continued support.

Offensive military operations typically require overwhelming advantage, and with Russian forces dug into heavily fortified defenses all across the 900-mile-long front, it is hard to gauge how far Ukraine will get.

The buildup ahead of the assault — the details of which remain secret — has left Ukrainian officials grappling with a difficult question: What outcome will be enough to impress the West, especially Washington?

Some fear that if the Ukrainians fall short, Kyiv may lose international military assistance or face new pressure to engage with Moscow at a negotiating table — not on the battlefield. Such talks would almost certainly involve Russian demands for a negotiated surrender of sovereign territory, which Ukraine has called unacceptable.

As Putin Bides His Time, Ukraine Faces a Ticking Clock

Paul Sonne and Andrew E. Kramer

Both armies have tanks, artillery and tens of thousands of soldiers ready to face off on the battlefields of Ukraine in a long-anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive against Russia. But one thing clearly sets the two sides apart: time.

Ukraine is feeling immense short-term pressures from its Western backers, as the United States and its allies treat the counteroffensive as a critical test of whether the weapons, training and ammunition they have rushed to the country in recent months can translate into significant gains.

If the Ukrainians fall short of expectations, they risk an erosion of Western support. It is a source of anxiety for top officials in Kyiv, who know that beyond battlefield muscle and ingenuity, victory may ultimately come down to a test of wills between the Kremlin and the West — and which side can muster more political, economic and industrial staying power, possibly for years.

As a result, there is a sense in Ukraine that its war effort faces a ticking clock.

“In countries that are our partners, our friends, the expectation of the counteroffensive is overestimated, overheated, I would say,” Ukraine’s defense minister, Oleksiy Reznikov, said in an interview this past week in Kyiv, the capital. “That is my main concern.”

The expectations of military success are only one pressure point for Ukraine. A presidential election in the United States looms next year, with the potential for a new, less supportive Republican administration.

In Russia, President Vladimir V. Putin faces his own challenges but is showing signs of operating on a much longer timeline, encumbered by economic and military limitations but free from the domestic political pressures that make continuing Western support for Ukraine so uncertain.

Having already mobilized some 300,000 recruits last September, Mr. Putin is laying the groundwork for a possible new round of conscription, having changed the law so Russian authorities can draft men by serving them with a “digital summons” online.

Defenses Carved Into the Earth

Marco Hernandez and Josh Holder

Russia is building a vast network of trenches, traps and obstacles to slow Ukraine’s momentum. Will it work?

Trenches are not new to Ukraine. Trench warfare has long been a feature of the battle in eastern Ukraine for the Donbas region. Ukrainians fight from their own trenches on their side of the line near Popasna, where Russians are waging an intense campaign to dislodge Ukrainian troops from the city of Bakhmut.

But the pace and the scale of Russian construction over the last couple of months is unmatched. All of the structures in the image above appeared within six days.

The fortifications show how Russia’s military is trying to set up more robust, defensible positions against Ukrainian pressure, often with the help of natural obstacles like rivers.

Last month, Ukraine recaptured a large amount of territory in the south, including the regional capital of Kherson, pushing Russian forces across the Dnipro River. The river serves as a natural barrier, and Russia has built an enormous series of defensive obstacles south of the river to discourage Ukraine from crossing it.

Biden to Tap Air Force General as Next Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff

Gordon Lubold and Andrew Restuccia

WASHINGTON—President Biden is expected to nominate Air Force Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, succeeding Army Gen. Mark Milley and becoming the second Black general in the post, according to U.S. officials.

Gen. Brown is currently the chief of staff of the Air Force. If he is nominated and confirmed by the Senate, two Black men would lead the Pentagon for the first time ever. Lloyd Austin is serving as the first Black defense secretary.

Russia’s IT squad


The long expected Ukrainian offensive that will attempt to push Russia back from its territories will likely begin in the next few weeks. If this offensive makes gains in Crimea or the Donbas, Western leaders are braced for Vladimir Putin to respond with whatever he’s got left. Former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev has warned that Russia would use “absolutely any weapon” if Crimea were threatened and fears over nuclear escalation are increasing, as are concerns around NATO being dragged into direct conflict with Russia.

Yet, there are other weapons we should be equally worried about that have the potential to cause mass destruction. Though we may have missed it, they have already dragged NATO into direct conflict with Russia. The weapons are some of the most powerful cyberweapons the world has ever seen, and the conflict is in cyberspace, where a cyber war has been actively fought between the West and several hostile states over the last decade.

Cabinet Office minister Oliver Dowden recently warned of a threat to our critical national infrastructure from the “cyber equivalent of the Wagner Group” – the mercenary army responsible for some of Russia’s worst actions in Ukraine. This warning, made via an “official threat notice” from the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) was welcome, if a little belated. What Dowden did not mention, though, was that our cyber adversaries are likely to be using American weapons to cause their chaos.

Post 9/11, lawyers for the US National Security Agency (NSA) set about aggressively re-interpreting the Patriot Act. This allowed the NSA to rapidly develop and expand its capability for large-scale digital espionage. They sought out every vulnerability in every layer of the digital universe they could, and implanted themselves there. When they could not solve the problem internally, they reached out to the hacking community, often through a shady network of middlemen, to offer increasingly large bounty payments for what they needed. This created a huge black market in what are called cyber “zero days” (vulnerabilities in a piece of computer software that its creator was unaware of, allowing hackers to exploit it by altering a program, the data it collects and the computers – or even whole networks – using it).

Swedish Army chief on Ukraine, artillery gaps and the need for industry to ‘cooperate’


WASHINGTON — Following Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea in 2014, few countries reacted as quickly and cohesively to change their defensive posture as Sweden. In addition to the drafting of a whole-of-government strategy, spending on defense began to increase — particularly for the Swedish army. That trend has only been enhanced with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

Maj. Gen. Karl Engelbrektson has served as Sweden’s top army officer since 2016. During a recent visit to the US, he sat down with Breaking Defense to discuss his views of the war in Ukraine (it’s a “waiting game,” for now), what Sweden is doing to build up its own military (a lot) and his biggest areas of need.

This interview has been edited lightly for clarity and length.

Breaking Defense: From where you sit, as head of Sweden’s land forces, what is your assessment of the state of the war in Ukraine?

Maj. Gen. Karl Engelbrektson: Well, in the long run, that’s hard to say. But the next step — according to what you can read in all the open sources — is that it looks like one party is going on the defense and one is preparing for an offense. When and how that will turn out? I don’t know. And if I know, I [can’t say] either. But it’s a substantive build up of Western support to Ukraine. And right now, it seems like the war is sort of a war of attrition, and not really much is happening when it comes to gaining ground on either side now. So now it’s a waiting game and the Western support of Ukraine, to build up their forces, is what’s ongoing and quite substantial.

What do you think could bring up that logjam? Because it’s been effectively frozen for six or seven months, give or take.

The future of jobs is green: How climate change is changing labour markets

Suzanne Duke

LinkedIn data shows hiring for green jobs consistently outpaces overall hiring.

Companies face pressure to accelerate their green transition as just over 1 in 4 adults say sustainability is one of their top non-negotiables for a new job.

Everyone has a role to play in tackling climate change – from learning new green skills to making business strategies more sustainable.

The World Economic Forum's Future of Jobs Report 2023 maps the jobs and skills of the future, analysing how macrotrends as well as technology adoption are likely to reconfigure labour markets and shape the demand for jobs and skills in the 2023-2027 timeframe.

The future of work and the future of jobs continue to generate a huge amount of discussion. From the pandemic upending how, where and why we work, to the rise of automation and generative AI, people have rightly dived into conversations on everything from “quiet quitting”, “rage applying” to “the great reshuffle”.

But while these topics have caught the cultural zeitgeist, there’s an area relating to jobs that’s not talked about enough: the climate. We have no choice but to fundamentally change how we work if we’re going to save the planet and our way of life.

Countries around the world have set ambitious targets to reach net zero by 2050 – requiring a seismic shift across global economies and industries to change the way we do things. Both governments and businesses are looking hard at how to drive this green transition further and faster. Governments are setting the national direction and organizations are reinventing their business models in order to play their part. The good news is that we are seeing this progress reflected in hiring for green jobs.

‘The Godfather of A.I.’ Leaves Google and Warns of Danger Ahead

Cade Metz

Geoffrey Hinton was an artificial intelligence pioneer. In 2012, Dr. Hinton and two of his graduate students at the University of Toronto created technology that became the intellectual foundation for the A.I. systems that the tech industry’s biggest companies believe is a key to their future.

On Monday, however, he officially joined a growing chorus of critics who say those companies are racing toward danger with their aggressive campaign to create products based on generative artificial intelligence, the technology that powers popular chatbots like ChatGPT.

Dr. Hinton said he has quit his job at Google, where he has worked for more than a decade and became one of the most respected voices in the field, so he can freely speak out about the risks of A.I. A part of him, he said, now regrets his life’s work.

“I console myself with the normal excuse: If I hadn’t done it, somebody else would have,” Dr. Hinton said during a lengthy interview last week in the dining room of his home in Toronto, a short walk from where he and his students made their breakthrough.

Dr. Hinton’s journey from A.I. groundbreaker to doomsayer marks a remarkable moment for the technology industry at perhaps its most important inflection point in decades. Industry leaders believe the new A.I. systems could be as important as the introduction of the web browser in the early 1990s and could lead to breakthroughs in areas ranging from drug research to education.

But gnawing at many industry insiders is a fear that they are releasing something dangerous into the wild. Generative A.I. can already be a tool for misinformation. Soon, it could be a risk to jobs. Somewhere down the line, tech’s biggest worriers say, it could be a risk to humanity.

Lifting the Veil: Cyber Insight for the Conventional Warfighter

Lieutenant Commander Dusty McKinney, U.S. Navy

In 2011, retired Air Force General Michael Hayden asserted that rarely has anything been so important and so talked about with less clarity and less apparent understanding than cyber. Today, little has changed from a conventional warfighter’s perspective.

A wide array of objectives encompasses the term “cyber,” but the focus here will go toward the most practical application to the conventional warfighter—cyber effect operations (CEOs). One definition of CEO is a cyber operation with an aim to disrupt, deny, degrade, and/or destroy a target device, system, or network.1 This is likely the type of operation most people envision when they hear the term cyber; a computer hacker from across the globe disabling an adversary’s device.

Acclaimed author and cyber policy expert Max Smeets has crafted a simple yet encompassing framework of the five requirements to create and maintain a state cyber capacity: people, exploits, tools, infrastructure, and organization, also known as PETIO.2

Describing the components of the PETIO framework would do little without the context in which they are utilized and the challenges within each dimension. Several categories of CEO exist, such as denial of service, data manipulation, and system manipulation.3 Analyzing these dimensions through the PETIO framework can provide a greater level of understanding to conventional war fighters, leading to a significant improvement in future coordination.
People and Organization

Resource allocation, planning, and objective alignment occurs long before a CEO is conducted. Without a high level of experienced personnel to shape the confines in which orders are written, tasks may be given that are unfeasible or improbable. Cyber professionals with experience in strategy from a technical and national level must deliver sound recommendations during planning. CEO implications, political recourse, and future retaliation from the targeted entity must be weighed. Legal advisors also must offer critical feedback to ensure orders are within the scope of our legal framework. If any of these elements fail to provide proper recommendations, the result could be months or years of unproductive manpower and monetary expenditure.

The Next Fear on A.I.: Hollywood’s Killer Robots Become the Military’s Tools

David E. Sanger

U.S. national security officials are warning about the potential for the new technology to upend war, cyber conflict and — in the most extreme case — the use of nuclear weapons.

In his 40 years at The Times, David Sanger has written extensively on the intersection of geopolitics, nuclear weapons and arms control. He reports from Washington.

When President Biden announced sharp restrictions in October on selling the most advanced computer chips to China, he sold it in part as a way of giving American industry a chance to restore its competitiveness.

But at the Pentagon and the National Security Council, there was a second agenda: arms control.

If the Chinese military cannot get the chips, the theory goes, it may slow its effort to develop weapons driven by artificial intelligence. That would give the White House, and the world, time to figure out some rules for the use of artificial intelligence in sensors, missiles and cyberweapons, and ultimately to guard against some of the nightmares conjured by Hollywood — autonomous killer robots and computers that lock out their human creators.

Now, the fog of fear surrounding the popular ChatGPT chatbot and other generative A.I. software has made the limiting of chips to Beijing look like just a temporary fix. When Mr. Biden dropped by a meeting in the White House on Thursday of technology executives who are struggling with limiting the risks of the technology, his first comment was “what you are doing has enormous potential and enormous danger.”

It was a reflection, his national security aides say, of recent classified briefings about the potential for the new technology to upend war, cyber conflict and — in the most extreme case — decision-making on employing nuclear weapons.

Google and ChatGPT face major threat from open source community, leaked document warns

Andrew Griffin

Google and ChatGPT creator OpenAI are facing a major threat from open source artificial intelligence researchers, according to a leaked Google document.

The two companies have spent time “squabbling” and “looking over our shoulders” at each other, while missing the real threat to their dominance in artificial intelligence, the document warns.

That comes from open source researchers, working as communities on the internet, who are building artificial intelligence technology that is more powerful than those big companies are developing, it says.

“The uncomfortable truth is, we aren’t positioned to win this arms race and neither is OpenAI. While we’ve been squabbling, a third faction has been quietly eating our lunch,” it reads.

“I’m talking, of course, about open source. Plainly put, they are lapping us.”

Open source researchers are creating systems that are able to do things with $100 that Google struggles with for $10 million, the report warned. “And they are doing so in weeks, not months.”

Neither of the companies has a “moat” or “secret sauce that means others are not able to overtake them, it notes. As such, the document warns that the best thing to do is to try and learn from and collaborate with people who are working outside of Google.

It also notes that people are unlikely to pay for a service that they are able to get similar offerings for free and without restrictions through those open source researchers.

Pentagon chief AI officer ‘scared to death’ of potential for AI in disinformation


TECHNET CYBER 2023 — While the US military is eager to make use of generative artificial intelligence, the Pentagon’s senior-most official in charge of accelerating its AI capabilities is warning it also could become the “perfect tool” for disinformation.

“Yeah, I’m scared to death. That’s my opinion,” Craig Martell, the Defense Department’s chief digital and AI officer, said today at AFCEA’s TechNet Cyber conference in Baltimore when asked about his thoughts on generative AI.

Martell was specifically referring to generative AI language models, like ChatGPT, which pose a “fascinating problem”: they don’t understand context, and people will take their words as fact because the models talk authoritatively, Martell said.

“Here’s my biggest fear about ChatGPT,” he said. “It has been trained to express itself in a fluent manner. It speaks fluently and authoritatively. So you believe it even when it’s wrong… And that means it is a perfect tool for disinformation…We really need tools to be able to detect when that’s happening and to be able to warn when that’s happening.

“And we don’t have those tools,” he continued. “We are behind in that fight.”

Martell, who was hired by the Defense Department last year from the private sector, has extensive AI experience under his belt. Prior to his CDAO gig, he was the head of machine learning at Lyft and Dropbox, led several AI teams at LinkedIn and was a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School for over a decade studying AI for the military.

He implored industry at the conference to build the tools necessary to make sure information generated from the all generative AI models — from language to images — is accurate.

Military Drones: A Simple and Detailed Guide 2023

Nick Cast

Drones have been in operation for many years now. Their initial use was in 1839 during a war in the City of Venice. The father of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) was Sir George Cayley. Over the years, many drones have been developed with different capabilities.

More and more countries and military forces are using them in their everyday activities.

The four main types of drones are:Single-Rotor Drones
Fixed-Wing Drones
Multi-Rotor Drones
Fixed-Wing Hybrid VTOL.

However, the other classifications are based on their size and range and include small, very small, medium, and large drones. We also have close, medium, and high-range classifications.

General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper stands out as the most advanced military drone.

Military drones work through remote operation; sometimes, the pilots guide them autonomously or using both ways.

Inside DARPA’s Plan to Power Distant Military Outposts With Laser Energy


The Pentagon’s frontier-busting scientists want to use lasers to transit energy into war zones.
Electrical power would be converted into laser energy, and then beamed to remote U.S. military bases.
This technology would make the military far less reliant on diesel generators, and the logistics network that sometimes has to dodge enemy fire to supply them with fuel.

Wireless transmission of energy through thin air is a dream that dates back at least a century, and the Pentagon wants to be the first to make it a wide-scale reality.

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)—the research and development arm of the U.S. Department of Defense, which has conducted work on everything from the internet to the science behind COVID-19 vaccines—wants to use laser technology to beam electricity to distant U.S. military bases. The inspiration comes from America’s 9/11 wars, and the need for uninterrupted energy at distant, dusty forward operating bases.

The Era of Wireless Energy