14 May 2023

India’s ‘Borrowed’ MQ-9 Reaper Drone Keeps An Eye On Chinese Activities Over Remote Myanmar Islands – Media

Ashish Dangwal

Amid emerging concerns over suspicious infrastructure developments on Myanmar’s Coco Islands, an MQ-9 drone, leased by the Indian Navy from the US, has been observed conducting surveillance operations in the vicinity of Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

The Coco Islands have recently captured significant attention after satellite imagery revealed ongoing construction activities.

These developments have sparked worries that China, with whom Myanmar has developed closer ties following the February 2021 coup, could utilize the area for intelligence gathering on Indian military activities through espionage or intelligence collaboration.

The latest report from IndiaToday suggests that India is actively monitoring suspicious activities in the Coco Islands.

The report, citing open-source data, indicated that a drone, possibly the ‘MQ-9B Sea Guardian,’ conducted an approximately four-hour survey of the Coco Islands on April 12. The SeaGuardian drone. (Image: General Atomics)

This activity coincided with a recent visit by Myanmar’s top military leader to the neighboring Coco Islands.

Furthermore, aviation data supports the claim that a Fokker-70 aircraft from the Myanmar Air Force landed on the Coco Islands on April 9. Local media reports have speculated that the aircraft was carrying General Min Aung Hlaing, the leader of the military coup in 2021.

During his visit, the General was quoted by local media, emphasizing the need for officials to take proactive measures against illegal fishing, urging them to enforce relevant laws in the waters of Myanmar.

The visit by the top General to one of the country’s remote areas was reported as a routine meeting with local villagers and government officials. The visit involved the unveiling of a modest victory monument as well.

The Global Climate System’s Himalayan Hotspot


ABU DHABI – In our collective imagination, the Himalayas – the roof of the world – are an archetype: glistening white, distant, even otherworldly. Climbing them is proof of humanity’s daring, courage, and drive – a spirit recently captured in 14 Peaks: Nothing Is Impossible, a Netflix documentary chronicling one mountaineer’s attempt to summit the world’s highest peaks in seven months. And yet, despite rising 6,993 meters (nearly 23,000 feet) above sea level, the summit of Mount Machapuchare in central Nepal resembled a black rock pyramid this winter, devoid of ice and snow. Glaciers near Mount Everest have turned into large lakes.

More than a tourist attraction or a place for high adventure, the Himalayas play a crucial role in regulating the planet’s climate. They are also the source of fresh water for billions of people and for the region’s rich (though increasingly degraded) ecosystems. As a result, rising temperatures and glacial melt are having far-reaching consequences that already pose grave risks to humanity.

The Tibetan Plateau is at the center of High Mountain Asia, an area known as the Third Pole because it is Earth’s third largest store of frozen water, after Antarctica and the Arctic. The region has about 15,000 glaciers that cover almost 100,000 square kilometers of High Mountain Asia, containing 3,000-4,700 cubic kilometers of ice. The glaciers supply the Amu Darya, Brahmaputra, Ganges, Indus, Irrawaddy, Mekong, Salween, Tarim, Yangtze, and Yellow river basins.

The Hindu Kush Himalayas stretch across 3,500 kilometers and span India, Nepal, China, Bhutan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, and Myanmar, all of which have sought to subject the mountains, including their water, air, and ecosystems, to their sovereign control. As the climate crisis makes monsoons more erratic, dries springs, lowers the water table, and threatens the food supply, the lack of cooperation and coordination among these states augurs trouble – and represents a global policy failure that starkly demonstrates the absence of credible international leadership.

China completes warship deliveries to Pakistan as military alliance grows

BEIJING, May 11 (Reuters) - China has delivered two frigates to Pakistan's navy, completing a four-warship deal inked in 2018, Chinese media reported, amid deepening military cooperation between the two nations in one of the world's most complex geopolitical regions.

The vessels - two Type 054A frigates - will be used to safeguard the seas of the China-Pakistan economic corridor (CPEC), state-backed Chinese newspaper Global Times reported late on Wednesday.

CPEC is an ambitious infrastructure project that links Xinjiang in west China to Pakistan aimed at offering an alternative transportation route in the future for goods including gas. Part of the network is Pakistan's Gwadar port, located on a key waterway in the Arabian Sea.

Economic and military ties between the two neighbours have deepened against a shifting geopolitical backdrop, evident from Pakistan's increasing military procurement from China and joint military exercises to safeguard assets and trade routes. For China, Pakistan and its access to the Arabian Sea is key in the event of a maritime blockade in the Strait of Malacca.

China delivered the first batch of six J-10 fighter jets to Pakistan in March last year. Eight Hangor Class submarines that Pakistan ordered from China are expected to be delivered before 2028.

Earlier this week, China's defence minister told Pakistan's navy chief that their militaries, including their navies, should "expand into new fields of cooperation" to bolster their capability in safeguarding regional security.

"The prospects for cooperation between the two sides, in my opinion, is getting stronger and stronger," Song Zhongping, a military commentator with Phoenix TV, told Reuters.

Former Pakistan PM Imran Khan granted bail, leaves court

Asif Shahzad and Ariba Shahid

ISLAMABAD, May 12 (Reuters) - A Pakistani court ordered former Prime Minister Imran Khan's release on bail for two weeks, his lawyer said on Friday, after his arrest in a land fraud case ignited deadly protests and a tussle with the military.

Khan departed the court premises, headed towards his hometown Lahore, amidst high security. He had remained inside for hours after being granted bail, saying he was not being allowed to leave by security officials.

The arrest, which the Supreme Court ruled "invalid and unlawful" a day earlier, has fuelled instability in the nation of 220 million at a time of economic crisis, with record inflation, anaemic growth and delayed IMF funding.

Khan welcomed the court's order and said the judiciary was Pakistan's only protection against the "law of the jungle".

"I must say I expected this from our judiciary, because the only hope now left – the only thin line between a banana republic and a democracy is the judiciary," he told journalists inside the court premises.

Khan added, in answer to questions, that he did not believe the country's security agencies were against him, but he suggested that the position of army chief was all-powerful.

"One man in this country decides whatever and it happens, it's one man. It's not the security agencies, it's one man – the army chief," he said, without naming him.

The army's public relations wing did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

Khan's critics once accused him of being manoeuvred into power in 2018 by the powerful military - a charge both sides denied. But he later fell out with the generals, accusing them of plotting his removal last year. He has since been a vocal critic of current army chief General Asim Munir.

Martial Law again — what other option does Pakistan army have?

Bharat Karnad

The televised attacks by a crowd loyal to Imran Khan and his Pakistan Tehreeq-e-Insaaf (PTI) party, of Imran’s followers running amuck, torching the residence of IV Corps Commander (Lahore) are simply astonishing. General Headquarters (GHQ) Rawalpindi too came under attack, as did the compound of the Peshawar Corps commander. What is unfolding across the border has the feel of a popular uprising — a revolution even. Pakistan looks to be in the throes of what Imran desired: A “jihad for freedom”.

It is the first time in the seven decades of its existence that Pakistan is witnessing the army — the self-professed guardian of the Pakistan Ideology and the Pakistani State which has grown fat feasting on the country’s meagre resources, under direct and immense pressure from the masses, who until yesterday thought the army could do no wrong. The World Bank imposed austerity regime on an imports-fixated Pakistan economy has squeezed the common man with 30% plus inflation rate and a value-depleted Pakistani ruppee (300 P-ruppees today buy one US dollar). Notwithstanding, the Pakistan army still lives high on the hog. Fed up with the military’s long standing puppet master’s role in the politics of the country, the Pakistani people have turned on it.

The immediate provocation was the arrest of Imran Khan by the paramilitary Rangers operating under the direction of the army’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). He was shanghied from the High Court premises, pummelled into an armoured police vehicle, and simply made to disappear. No one knows where he is. The former prime minister is charged with corruption, in the main, for the double-tripping of monies worth Rs 50 billion (190 million pounds) siphoned from the exchequer via UK banks and returned to Pakistan, a transaction facilitated by the real estate tycoon of ill-repute, Malik Riaz. Riaz is known for having army generals in his ample pocket, courtesy gifts of houses and plots in colonies he has developed on land his uniformed friends have helped him secure by fair, but mostly foul, means.

In any case, the 140-odd official charges against Imran announced by the Home Minister Rana Sanaullah, are not important.

Imran Khan’s arrest brings Pakistan closer to the edge

When he travelled from Lahore to Islamabad to appear before the Islamabad High Court on May 9th, Imran Khan may have been expecting an uneventful day in court. It was not to be. Thirteen months after he was ousted as Pakistan’s prime minister in a vote of no confidence, Mr Khan was bundled off the court’s premises and into a car by paramilitary toughs and deposited in the custody of the country’s anti-corruption bureau. Rather than contest early elections, which he has been demanding for months, Mr Khan may have to watch general elections scheduled for later this year unfold from a jail cell—provided they are held at all.

The stated reason for Mr Khan’s arrest is alleged graft. On May 10th, before being taken back into judicial custody, he was charged with and pleaded not guilty to corruption in connection with a land deal. Yet the arrest appears more likely to be related to his escalating quarrel with Pakistan’s armed forces. On May 6th Mr Khan claimed at a public rally that Major-General Faisal Naseer of the army’s intelligence service was plotting to murder him. Mr Khan had earlier blamed Shehbaz Sharif, who replaced him as prime minister, and other senior officials for an attempt on his life in November, when he was shot in the leg.

Pakistan Cracks Down on Former PM Imran Khan’s Supporters, Arresting Thousands

Munir Ahmed

Police officers throw stones towards supporters of Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan during clashes, in Islamabad, Pakistan, May 10, 2023.Credit: AP Photo

With former Prime Minister Imran Khan in custody, Pakistani authorities on Thursday cracked down on his supporters, detaining hundreds in overnight raids and sending troops across the country to rein in the wave of violence that followed his arrest earlier this week.

For this Islamic nation, accustomed to military takeovers, political crises, and violence, the turmoil has been unprecedented. It echoed unrest that followed the 2007 assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto during an election rally in the garrison city of Rawalpindi. Her supporters at the time, outraged by her killing, rampaged for days across Pakistan.

Clashes with police since Khan’s dramatic arrest on Tuesday have killed at least 10 of his supporters and injured dozens. Seven of the deaths were reported in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, two in the eastern city of Lahore, and one person was killed in the southwestern city of Quetta. More than 200 police officers were also injured. Demonstrators burned down a railway station on the outskirts of the capital, Islamabad, on Wednesday night.

Police said Thursday that nearly 1,600 Khan supporters were arrested overnight on charges of damaging public property and attacking military installations, bringing the total of those detained since Tuesday to 2,300. The arrests took place mainly in eastern Punjab province, Islamabad, and northwestern Pakistan, but also elsewhere in the country.

The arrests followed mob attacks on government buildings, military installations, and public places. In one incident — hours after Khan’s arrest — a mob set fire Tuesday to the sprawling residence of a top army commander in the eastern city of Lahore.

Khan was dragged from a courtroom in Islamabad where he showed up to face graft charges on Tuesday. He is now being held at a police compound in Islamabad where, at a temporary court, a judge on Wednesday ordered the 70-year-old opposition leader detained for at least another eight days, raising the prospect of more unrest.

Don’t Sleep on Chinese Tech Investment in Southeast Asia

Ngor Luong and Channing Lee

Chinese tech giants Alibaba, Tencent, and Huawei have built more data centers in Southeast Asia than Google, Amazon, and Microsoft. The rapid expansion of Chinese tech investment has many nuanced implications for China’s presence in the region – especially at a time when the Chinese government exerting more and more control over the country’s tech giants.

China is making headway in Southeast Asia partly because political and industry leaders in emerging economies such as in Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Vietnam are reluctant to take sides between Washington and Beijing. ​​​​Consumer economics also plays a role. While a decade ago, Chinese alternatives to U.S.-made technology were subpar and rarely available, today, in areas such as cybersecurity and information and communications technology, Chinese companies like Huawei and ZTE offer a broad range of high-quality products at a lower price point. Even if governments in Indonesia and other countries are concerned about growing Chinese economic and technological influence, market forces are making Chinese technology harder and harder to resist.

In addition to cloud services, cybersecurity, ICT infrastructure and services, China is also looking to Southeast Asia for its potential in artificial intelligence (AI). The region has some of the world’s fastest-growing digital economies, and nearly every country in Southeast Asia has a strategy focused on AI development and adoption in key sectors like e-commerce, health, finance, and smart cities. Following its own AI strategy, China has been pushing its tech companies and investors to “go out” into the global economy, namely to go after major mergers and acquisitions, invest in promising startups, build research centers, and pursue other opportunities to expand its economic and tech influence around the world.

It is too early to judge the extent to which China’s “going out” strategy has been successful in Southeast Asia. Focusing specifically on AI-related investments, a recent report from Georgetown University’s Center for Security and Emerging Technology (CSET) found an uptick in Chinese private equity and venture capital investment in Southeast Asia’s AI companies and startups over the past five years. Nonetheless, China is a relatively new player in the region’s nascent AI ecosystem, with data on such transactions only dating back to 2011. China’s investment activity and capital input into Southeast Asia’s AI markets still very much lags behind that of the United States.

Sri Lankan Ports Need Investment and China Steps In

Rathindra Kuruwita

Sri Lankan Minister of Ports, Shipping and Aviation Nimal Siripala De Silva (5th from left) and China Merchants Group Chairman Miao Jianmin (6th from left) with other dignitaries at the signing of an agreement with the Sri Lanka Ports Authority to jointly build the South Asia Commercial and Logistics Hub at Colombo Port, Sri Lanka, April 21, 2023.

Despite innumerable warnings from the U.S. and its allies that China is the root of Sri Lanka’s economic woes, and that Chinese infrastructure development projects create security dilemmas for India, Colombo went ahead recently to sign an agreement with a China Merchants Port Holdings (CMPH)-led consortium to build a $392 million South Asia Commercial and Logistics Hub (SACL) at the Colombo port.

This project is said to be South Asia’s largest port-related logistics complex. A press release to mark the agreement said that the project “aligns with Sri Lanka’s national development strategy to transform the country into a major logistics center, identified as a key sector and a driving force for economic development in the National Policy Framework (NPF) 2019.”

Sri Lanka Ports Authority (SLPA) and private sector firm Access Engineering each hold 15 percent stakes in the project as well. The logistics hub is an eight-story, 5 million square foot facility with a storage capacity of 530,000 cubic meters (CBM). The construction of the facility is likely to commence in the second half of this year and be completed by the end of 2025.

The SACL is situated next to the Port City, also funded by the Chinese and the CBD Business Centre. It will also be linked to the Bandaranaike International Airport by the Port Access Elevated Highway.

“The five million square foot complex will offer the full gamut of logistics-related facilities and services such as Less than Container Load (LCL), Multi-Country Consolidation (MCC), Container Freight Station (CFS), General warehousing and various other value-added services,” the press release said.

Chinese arms could revive Russia’s failing war

For decades Russia pumped arms to China. On average it sent $2bn-worth every year between 2001 and 2010, with a bonanza $7bn deal in 2015. Now the tables have turned. Russia has lost over 9,400 pieces of equipment, including more than 1,500 tanks, during its botched invasion of Ukraine. It is desperately short of ammunition. America says it has intelligence suggesting that China is considering whether to supply Russia with weapons. That could change the course of the war. It would also trigger a deeper crisis in China’s relationship with America and Europe.

Russia has repeatedly asked China for arms since the early months of the war. China has repeatedly demurred, sending only non-lethal aid, such as helmets, and dual-use items, such as aircraft parts. American officials have not publicly disclosed details of what they think China is mulling. But on February 23rd Der Spiegel, a German magazine, claimed that Russia’s armed forces were negotiating with Xi’an Bingo Intelligent Aviation Technology, a Chinese firm, to buy 100 attack drones. Russia has used such drones both on the front lines and, since October, as part of regular strikes on Ukraine’s power grid.

Ukrainian Soldiers Risk Their Lives to Keep Weapons From the Black Market

Lara Jakes

Rocket launchers, precision-guided missiles and billions of dollars’ worth of other advanced American weapons have given Ukraine a fighting chance against Russia ahead of a counteroffensive. But if even a few of the arms wind up on the black market instead of the battlefield, a Ukrainian lawmaker gloomily predicted, “we’re done.”

The lawmaker, Oleksandra Ustinova, a former anti-corruption activist who now monitors foreign arms transfers to Ukraine, does not believe there is widespread smuggling among the priciest and most sophisticated weapons donated by the United States over the last year.

“We’ve literally had people die because stuff was left behind, and they came back to get it, and were killed,” she said of Ukrainian troops’ efforts to make sure weapons were not stolen or lost.

But in Washington, against a looming government debt crisis and growing skepticism about financial support for Ukraine, an increasingly skeptical Congress is demanding tight accountability for “every weapon, every round of ammunition that we send to Ukraine,” as Representative Rob Wittman, Republican of Virginia, said last month.

By law, U.S. officials must monitor the use, transfer and security of American weapons and defense systems that are sold or otherwise given to foreign partners to make sure they are being deployed as intended. In December, for security reasons, the Biden administration largely shifted responsibility to Kyiv for monitoring the American weapons shipments at the front, despite Ukraine’s long history of corruption and arms smuggling.

Yet the sheer volume of arms delivered — including tens of thousands of shoulder-fired Javelin and Stinger missiles, portable launchers and rockets — creates a virtually insurmountable challenge to tracking each item, officials and experts caution.

‘We’ll get there’: the Ukrainian drone unit quietly knocking out Russian targets

Luke Harding 

At a secret location in southern Ukraine, Roman Kostenko watched a drone rise into the sky. It ascended to a height of 100 metres, buzzing above a field of yellow rapeseed. The drone dropped a dummy anti-tank grenade on to a pile of tyres. The test worked. That night Kostenko’s team repeated the exercise over occupied territory. Two bombs fell on a Russian armoured fighting vehicle. It blew up, smoke pluming into the darkness.

Kostenko, a decorated special forces colonel, said his unit had destroyed dozens of Russian military objects, including tanks and howitzer guns. These operations took place every night on “a tactical level”, he said, close to the frontline. This stretches for 900 miles (1.450km), from the eastern city of Bakhmut where Ukrainian troops launched a local counterattack this week, to the southern provinces of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson.

There has been intense speculation that Kyiv is about to launch a major counteroffensive. On Thursday night, Russian military bloggers erroneously reported that it had started. Speaking earlier the same day, the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, said his forces needed more time. According to Kostenko, Ukraine’s long-anticipated push should be understood as a rolling “spring-summer campaign” against an entrenched and powerful adversary.

Kostenko said the campaign was already unfolding in stages. The first involved the step-by-step elimination of Russia’s military potential, with strikes against logistical targets such as weapons depots and fuel dumps. This had begun, he said. A second stage involved seeking out and eliminating Russian command and control centres, causing a breakdown of communications with troops in the field. “That’s already happening too, probably,” he said.

Ukraine’s armed forces were unlikely to embark on a major frontal offensive until they had weakened Moscow’s battlefield capability, he indicated. “Our army won’t go forward until this preparation work is done. We can’t win if they have large amounts of ammunition and resources.” He acknowledged that Ukraine was playing a disinformation game about when and where it might strike, with signs that it was working, and that Moscow was beginning to panic.

Kostenko’s comments inject a note of caution into what Ukraine’s army might realistically achieve over the next few months. They raise the prospect that the war could go on for a long time – through 2023, at least, and into next year. Western observers, by contrast, appear to expect a decisive blow. Their optimism comes after Ukrainian operations last autumn in the north-east and south, which liberated large swathes of territory, including the city of Kherson.

Senior Ukrainian officials have warned against exaggerating the likelihood of a repeat breakthrough. In interviews this week, Zelenskiy said some armoured vehicles promised by the west had yet to arrive, and that Kyiv was not prepared to accept a bad peace deal if the counteroffensive failed, or fell short. “We can go forward and be successful. But we’d lose a lot of people. I think that’s unacceptable. So we need to wait. We still need a bit more time,” the president said.

Ukraine’s Hidden Advantage

Alexandra Chinchilla and Jahara Matisek

In the 14 months since Russia invaded Ukraine, analysts have expressed recurring doubts about the strength of Europe’s commitments to Kyiv. Through much of 2022, many noted that Germany dragged its feet in supplying arms to Ukrainian forces and took months to come around on tanks. Others have worried that some European countries facing rising energy costs and other economic stresses would curtail their support and press for a negotiated peace with Moscow. Even now, despite a steady flow of weapons and aid to Ukraine, some commentators have suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin may be calculating that Europe is wavering and that he can simply outlast Kyiv’s Western partners.

But by focusing on weapons and aid, such assessments overlook the full extent of European efforts in Ukraine. The United States deservedly gets credit for providing about half the $156 billion in economic, humanitarian, and military aid that Ukraine received in the first 12 months of the conflict. Yet aid and equipment, though important, are not sufficient to account for Ukraine’s success on the battlefield: much has depended on the quality and training of Ukrainian forces. And in this regard, Europe has been able to play an especially crucial role. In 2022, for instance, the United Kingdom trained about 10,000 Ukrainian soldiers, whereas the United States trained only about 3,100. And with the exception of Austria, every country in the EU, and even Switzerland, has provided some form of lethal or nonlethal aid and training to the Ukrainian military since the war started.

In fact, these European efforts build on training and advising programs that NATO countries provided to Ukraine before the war started: between 2014 and 2022, Canada, Lithuania, Poland, the United Kingdom, and the United States—along with a dozen other Western countries—trained and advised Ukrainian forces on a variety of skills, from combat leadership to operational planning. NATO advisers also helped build Ukrainian special forces to meet NATO standards. These initiatives paid off: in contrast to 2014, when they were disorganized and lacked up-to-date training to counter Russia’s seizure of Crimea and initial war in the Donbas, Ukrainian forces successfully thwarted Russia’s 2022 invasion and have since defended much of Ukrainian territory. In doing so, they have used irregular warfare tactics absorbed from Western advisers to stop Russian forces on the road to Kyiv as well as more conventional tactics based on military strength and discipline to halt Russia’s offensive in the eastern part of the country.

Beyond Ukraine’s Offensive

Michael Kofman and Rob Lee

As the Russian winter offensive reaches its culmination, Ukraine is poised to seize the initiative. In the coming weeks, it plans to conduct an offensive operation, or series of offensives, that may prove decisive in this phase of the conflict. This is not Ukraine’s only remaining opportunity to liberate a substantial amount of territory and inflict a major defeat on Russian forces, but the upcoming offensive may be the moment when available Western military equipment, training, and ammunition best intersect with the forces set aside by Ukraine for this operation. Ukraine is also eager to demonstrate that, despite months of brutal fighting, its military is not exhausted and remains able to break through Russian lines.

Policymakers, however, have placed undue emphasis on the upcoming offensive without providing sufficient consideration of what will come afterward and whether Ukraine is well positioned for the next phase. It is critical that Ukraine’s Western partners develop a long-term theory of victory for Ukraine, since even in the best-case scenario, this upcoming offensive is unlikely to end the conflict. Indeed, what follows this operation could be another period of indeterminate fighting and attrition, but with reduced ammunition deliveries to Ukraine. This is already a long war, and it is likely to become protracted. History is an imperfect guide, but it suggests wars that endure for more than a year are likely to go on for at least several more and are exceedingly difficult to end. A Western theory of success must therefore prevent a situation in which the war drags on, but where Western countries are unable to provide Ukraine with a decisive advantage.

Ukraine may well achieve battlefield success, but it will take time to translate military victories into political outcomes. The West must also prepare for the prospect that this offensive may not achieve the kinds of gains seen during Ukraine’s successful operations in Kharkiv and Kherson. By placing too many bets on the outcome of this offensive, Western countries have not effectively signaled their commitment to a prolonged effort. If this operation proves to be the high point of Western assistance to Kyiv, then Moscow could assume that time is still on its side and that bedraggled Russian forces can eventually wear down the Ukrainian military. Whether Ukraine’s next operation is successful or not, Russia’s leader may have few incentives to negotiate. For Ukraine to sustain momentum—and pressure—Western states must make a set of commitments and plans for what follows this operation, rather than maintain a wait-and-see approach. Otherwise, the West risks creating a situation whereby Russian forces are able to recover, stabilize their lines, and try to retake the initiative.

A Mysterious New Hacker Group Is Lurking in Ukraine’s Cyberspace


UKRAINIAN NETWORKS HAVE been on the receiving end of grimly sophisticated and innovative cyberattacks from Russia for nearly a decade, and Ukraine has increasingly struck back, particularly since the Kremlin's invasion last year. Amidst all of this and activity from other governments and hacktivists, researchers from the security firm Malwarebytes say that they've been tracking a new hacking group that has been conducting espionage operations since 2020 against both pro-Ukraine targets in central Ukraine and pro-Russia targets in eastern Ukraine.

Malwarebytes attributes five operations between 2020 and the present to the group, which it has dubbed Red Stinger, though the researchers only have insights into two of the campaigns conducted in the past year. The group's motives and allegiance aren't yet clear, but the digital campaigns are noteworthy for their persistence, aggressiveness, and lack of ties to other known actors.

The campaign that Malwarebytes calls “Operation Four” targeted a member of Ukraine's military who works on Ukrainian critical infrastructure, as well as other individuals whose potential intelligence value is less obvious. During this campaign, attackers compromised victims' devices to exfiltrate screenshots and documents, and even record audio from their microphones. In Operation Five, the group targeted multiple election officials running Russian referendums in disputed cities in Ukraine, including Donetsk and Mariupol. One target was an adviser to Russia's Central Election Commission, and another works on transportation—possibly railroad infrastructure—in the region.

“We were surprised about how big these targeted operations were, and they were able to gather a lot of information,” says Roberto Santos, a threat intelligence researcher at Malwarebytes. Santos collaborated on the investigation with former colleague Hossein Jazi, who first identified Red Stinger activity. “We have seen past targeted surveillance, but the fact that they were collecting real microphone recordings from victims and data from USB drives, it's unusual to see.”

This European Satellite Giant Is Coming for Starlink


To compete with American rivals, Eutelsat’s Eva Berneke first has to navigate Russia’s war in Ukraine, Brexit politics, and jamming attacks by Iran.

EVA BERNEKE DESCRIBES her first year at the helm of the world’s third-largest satellite company as a “whirlwind.” That’s an understatement. Since she took over the top job at Eutelsat in January 2022, the Danish CEO has become a direct competitor to Elon Musk, been accused by the Ukrainian government of aiding Russian propaganda, and found herself in the thick of bitter Brexit politics—and that’s before you even mention the Iranian sabotage attempt.

Despite all this, Berneke gives the impression that she has everything under control. When she arrived at Eutelsat, the French company’s bread-and-butter business was beaming TV channels into homes using geostationary satellites—which move at the same speed as Earth and so stay in a fixed position. The organization she inherited was stable and solid, she says—but also stagnating in an industry that is undergoing radical change. Although Eutelsat was starting to use its geostationary fleet to offer satellite internet, its TV revenues were dwindling.

The entrance of two of the world’s richest men—Elon Musk with SpaceX’s Starlink network and Jeff Bezos with Project Kuiper—was also beginning to change the way incumbents thought about their future. “When you have two of the biggest business innovators getting interested in your industry, you should expect a little bit of shaking up,” says Berneke.

Undaunted, Berneke responded by initiating her own shake-up. In July, the company announced plans to merge with struggling British satellite provider OneWeb. As part of the deal, Eutelsat absorbed OneWeb’s constellation of 648 low-orbit satellites. At just 1,200 km above Earth, the OneWeb fleet delivers faster internet speeds than Eutelsat’s geostationary satellites, which sit 35,000 km above the planet’s surface.

Unspoken Assumptions

In his introduction to Volume 6, Issue 2, the chair of TNSR’s editorial board, Francis J. Gavin, reflects on the unspoken assumptions during and after the attacks of 9/11. He asks what ideas today might similarly be so widely shared that no one is saying them aloud.

In April 1968, historian of modern Europe James Joll delivered an inaugural lecture at the London School of Economics entitled “1914: The Unspoken Assumptions.”1 He presented his reflections several months after the English language translation of German historian Fritz Fischer’s controversial book, German Aims During the First World War, appeared. Joll had contributed an introduction to the English edition, after having written a review essay on the German language edition.2

Joll’s essay confronted the challenge of surfacing unspoken assumptions — or what is left unsaid when people make consequential decisions.3 When assessing any critical choice — either in the past or present — we analyze the process and debates over policies by looking at written documents and commentary made in public. But many times, the core assumptions and worldviews shaping decisions are not explicitly laid out.

When political leaders are faced with the necessity of taking decisions the outcome of which they cannot foresee, in crises which they do not wholly understand, they fall back on their own instinctive reactions, traditions and modes of behaviour. Each of them has certain beliefs, rules or objectives which are taken for granted; and one of the limitations of documentary evidence is that few people bother to write down, especially in moments of crisis, things which they take for granted. Yet if we are to understand their motives, we must somehow try to find out what, as we say, ‘goes without saying.’4

How do we uncover these unspoken assumptions? Historians regularly examine the mentalities of individuals, institutions, communities, and states that shape how decisions are made. This demands making sense of the intellectual, social, and cultural dynamics within which the decision-maker operates. Joll persuasively argued that it was impossible to understand how decisions were made in European capitals during the summer of 1914 without recognizing the pervasive influence of a “doctrine of a perpetual struggle for survival and of a permanent potential war of all against all” that emerged from a witch’s brew of social Darwinism and popularized, if misunderstood, Nietzschean thought. According to Joll, there was a shared feeling in July 1914 that war was inevitable, which, in turn, produced almost a sense of relief when it finally came. Uncovering these underlying and unspoken assumptions help make sense of actions that, from only reading the diplomatic documents, are hard to fully comprehend.

Marine Force Design: Changes Overdue Despite Critics’ Claims

The Marine Corps’ Force Design 2030, written under the direction of the 38th commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. David Berger, has been the target of much criticism since its release in 2020. In this article, former Undersecretary of the Navy and Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work addresses these criticisms and defends the document’s vision for the future of the Corps. Ultimately, he argues that it’s time for the self-proclaimed Chowderites, who have fought without success to oppose the commandant’s vision, to cede the field.

In the military, as in most public organizations, new leaders need to take stock. They are obligated to determine the state of the institution and its preparedness to execute its current missions, particularly during times of rapid technological change. Leaders must also assess whether the organization is ready to account for evident or anticipated changes in the foreseeable future. If they judge that the institution is not prepared for current or future challenges, then it is incumbent upon them to make the changes deemed necessary to make it so.

As he assumed the role of 38th commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. David Berger, the sitting commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, conducted just such an assessment. Upon completion, he concluded, “Significant change is required to ensure we are aligned with the 2018 National Defense Strategy and [Defense Planning Guidance] and prepared to meet the demands of the Naval Fleet in executing current and emerging operational naval concepts.”1 This was a difficult judgment to make for a decorated leader of a service as fiercely proud of its martial prowess as the Marine Corps. I understand this intimately, having served as a Marine artillery officer for 27 years. But Berger was convinced by the evidence that change was required, and he was intent on doing something about it. The “doing something about it” came in the form of Force Design 2030,2 which is both a case for change and a vision and a plan for a modernized Marine Corps that is ready to take on future challenges.


William Casey Biggerstaff 

Two days after Russia’s renewed invasion in February 2022, Ukraine’s Minister of Digital Transformation announced a call to digital arms on Twitter:

We are creating an IT army. We need digital talents. All operational tasks will be given [on this Telegram channel]. There will be tasks for everyone. We continue to fight on the cyber front. The first task is on the channel for cyber specialists.

Over a year later, the so-called IT Army has accumulated nearly 200,000 volunteers. These cyber operators have targeted the websites and networks of Russian companies and infrastructure through various cyber operations (see, e.g., here, here, here, and here) and used facial recognition software and social media to notify the families of dead Russian soldiers (see my legal analysis here).

Unsurprisingly, Russia’s Foreign Ministry has condemned this private “cyberwar” and warned of “dramatic consequences” for its operators. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has separately expressed concern over the practice of “recruit[ing] civilian volunteers to take part in military cyber operations,” cautioning, “Even though not every form of civilian involvement on the digital battlefield qualifies as direct participation, the danger is that it may be seen as such by the enemy, thus exposing numerous civilians to a grave risk of harm.” In recognition of these admonitions, Ukraine is currently drafting a law “aiming to put an end to uncertainty about [the IT Army’s] status” by formally incorporating its members into the reserve component of its armed forces.

These events raise the challenging issue of the legal status under the law of armed conflict of members of the IT Army. This post examines whether they may be made the object of attack by Russia by virtue of being combatants, members of an organized armed group (OAG), or civilians directly participating in hostilities. It also briefly considers several legal implications if the IT Army’s members join Ukraine’s armed forces.

Combatants and Civilians Distinguished

How the U.S. Fumbled Sudan’s Hopes for Democracy

Robbie Gramer

In late October 2021, a top U.S. envoy met with Sudanese military commanders and Sudan’s top civilian leader to shore up the country’s precarious transition toward democracy. The generals assured Jeffrey Feltman, then the U.S. special envoy for the Horn of Africa region, that they were committed to the transition and would not seize power. Feltman departed the Sudanese capital of Khartoum for Washington early on the morning of Oct. 25. En route, he received news from Sudan: Hours after he left, those military leaders had arrested the country’s top civilian leaders and carried out a coup.

Patriot Missiles Won’t Save Ukraine

Geoff LaMear

Patriot missiles have finally arrived in Ukraine, but the reality may not live up to the hype. Ukrainian air defense operators have been lauded in training, but the threat environment that Ukraine faces poses challenges that are daunting for the Patriot system.

Ukraine faces threats that run the span of Russia’s missile and drone arsenal. Russia’s unmanned aerial systems range from consumer-grade reconnaissance drones to more sophisticated Iranian-made kamikaze drones. Several classes of drones are interceptable by Patriot, but then it becomes both a tactical and economic issue: Drones can use their maneuverability and terrain-hugging flight patterns to remain undetected by Patriot radars. Moreover, it’s questionable to use $3 million interceptors to take out drones that cost orders of magnitude less.

This is particularly the case when Ukraine’s supply of Soviet-era interceptors is slated to run out soon, and U.S. resupply of Stinger missiles remains similarly strained. This would leave Patriot as the sole defense Ukraine has against Russian air supremacy. The United States can’t just throw more Patriot interceptors at Ukraine, either. For one, they’re a precious commodity; Washington only bought 252 PAC-3 MSE interceptors this year for the entire U.S. Army, and many of these will be used to phase out more antiquated interceptors.

Patriot operating on its lonesome is a tenuous proposition at best; while a first-rate system technologically, the Patriot cannot be used to full effect if it is divorced from air defense doctrine. Patriot systems are limited to pinpoint defense of major assets and are designed to operate in tandem with air defenses engaging targets at higher and lower altitudes. Without these additions, Patriot will have too many threats to engage and the result will either be porous coverage that doesn’t protect its defended assets, or coverage that quickly subsides when Patriot runs out of interceptors.

Moreover, Patriot systems are themselves vulnerable. Operating a Patriot radar system gives away its location, making it an open target for Russian attacks. This means that Patriot is not a one-stop-shop for defending Ukraine’s military assets or its people.

Beyond Ukraine’s Offensive

Michael Kofman and Rob Lee

As the Russian winter offensive reaches its culmination, Ukraine is poised to seize the initiative. In the coming weeks, it plans to conduct an offensive operation, or series of offensives, that may prove decisive in this phase of the conflict. This is not Ukraine’s only remaining opportunity to liberate a substantial amount of territory and inflict a major defeat on Russian forces, but the upcoming offensive may be the moment when available Western military equipment, training, and ammunition best intersect with the forces set aside by Ukraine for this operation. Ukraine is also eager to demonstrate that, despite months of brutal fighting, its military is not exhausted and remains able to break through Russian lines.

Policymakers, however, have placed undue emphasis on the upcoming offensive without providing sufficient consideration of what will come afterward and whether Ukraine is well positioned for the next phase. It is critical that Ukraine’s Western partners develop a long-term theory of victory for Ukraine, since even in the best-case scenario, this upcoming offensive is unlikely to end the conflict. Indeed, what follows this operation could be another period of indeterminate fighting and attrition, but with reduced ammunition deliveries to Ukraine. This is already a long war, and it is likely to become protracted. History is an imperfect guide, but it suggests wars that endure for more than a year are likely to go on for at least several more and are exceedingly difficult to end. A Western theory of success must therefore prevent a situation in which the war drags on, but where Western countries are unable to provide Ukraine with a decisive advantage.

Ukraine may well achieve battlefield success, but it will take time to translate military victories into political outcomes. The West must also prepare for the prospect that this offensive may not achieve the kinds of gains seen during Ukraine’s successful operations in Kharkiv and Kherson. By placing too many bets on the outcome of this offensive, Western countries have not effectively signaled their commitment to a prolonged effort. If this operation proves to be the high point of Western assistance to Kyiv, then Moscow could assume that time is still on its side and that bedraggled Russian forces can eventually wear down the Ukrainian military. Whether Ukraine’s next operation is successful or not, Russia’s leader may have few incentives to negotiate. For Ukraine to sustain momentum—and pressure—Western states must make a set of commitments and plans for what follows this operation, rather than maintain a wait-and-see approach. Otherwise, the West risks creating a situation whereby Russian forces are able to recover, stabilize their lines, and try to retake the initiative.


IBM Delivers Roadmap for Transition to Quantum-safe Cryptography

Kevin Townsend

IBM has introduced a quantum-safe roadmap to help the complex organizational transition to post-quantum cryptography at this year’s annual Think conference.

There are deadlines by which federal agencies must complete the transition to quantum-safe cryptography. Business is expected to follow the same path, but it is a long and difficult route. IBM has developed a three-stage solution it calls the IBM Quantum Safe Roadmap.

“This roadmap serves as a commitment to transparency, predictability, and confidence as we guide industries along their journey to post-quantum cryptography. There’s a lot happening at once — new algorithms, standards, best practices, and guidance from federal agencies. We hope that this roadmap will serve as a navigational tool through this complex landscape,” it announced.

The background is the assumption that much of our current cryptography will be easily cracked with the arrival of cryptographically relevant quantum computers, which are expected earlier than general-purpose quantum computers. Even though this may be several or even many years in the future, encrypted confidential data stolen by nation-state or criminal gangs now will become readable at that time. Quantum safety is a pressing concern.

NIST has been running a competition to develop new algorithms capable of withstanding decryption by quantum computers. In July 2022, it announced that it had selected four algorithms for standardization (three of which were developed with IBM involvement). These standards will be published and become official in 2024.

In November 2022, the OMB issued a Memorandum on Migrating to Post-Quantum Cryptography, including details with timelines on the steps required of federal agencies. “This memorandum describes preparatory steps for agencies to undertake as they begin their transition to PQC by conducting a prioritized inventory of cryptographic systems,” it announced.

TikTok shows why social media companies need more regulation

Sanjay Patnaik and Robert E. Litan 

There has been increasing political awareness regarding the national security issues posed by TikTok, the popular social media app owned by Chinese company ByteDance. Lawmakers and the public are right to be concerned—numerous data points are now available, from ByteDance’s connections to the Chinese Communist Party to its potential for social manipulation to its gathering of American personal data. Some efforts have been made to limit the potential risks, for example storing TikTok data on U.S. (rather than Chinese) servers. However, more could be done. Additional measures should also be considered by lawmakers, including the forced sale of ByteDance’s U.S. operations or even a complete nationwide ban on TikTok.

TikTok’s national security threat is only one component of the myriad challenges facing regulators looking to protect citizens utilizing social media platforms. For that reason, TikTok is a useful case study to examine broader issues with social media at large. TikTok and other social media platforms, including Instagram and Facebook, often have adverse effects on the mental health of minors. Unrealistic beauty standards, bullying, and sexual harassment are all very real problems on these platforms, and policymakers should do more to encourage the companies to seek solutions. Additionally, mis- and dis-information often run rampant due to social media companies’ varying and often lax rules on content moderation, which can pose a particular challenge to American democracy when a social media company is under the influence of a foreign adversary.

Holding social media companies accountable is difficult under present law, most notably due to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which provides broad legal liability protections to companies for content their users post. Additionally, ensuring that U.S. user data is secure and cannot be exploited by foreign adversaries may require CFIUS to make a recommendation either leading to the forced sale of TikTok or banning the platform altogether. We explore policy solutions to the aforementioned issues, including passing an updated data protection law, incentivizing the development of better age verification practices by social media companies, and re-establishing a “duty of care” standard requiring companies to take reasonable steps to prevent harm to users.

Download the full policy brief here.

Growth Summit 2023: The impact of AI on growth, according to experts

Kate Whiting

This was the view of Microsoft Corporate Vice President and Chief Economist Michael Schwarz on a session dedicated to generative AI at the World Economic Forum's Growth Summit 2023.

"When AI makes us more productive, we as mankind ought to be better off because we are able to produce more stuff with less: less work, less toil and less use of resources."

AI and the rise of generative AI – and how it will impact the future of work and education – was an overarching theme of the summit, and was touched on again and again during the 60 sessions.

Panellists discussed the opportunities and challenges with the technology, including the need for regulation and how to ensure we avoid doing harm by harnessing the right ethical values, and the potential threat from bad actors.

AI could help to transform work across the globe, said Gilbert Fossoun Houngbo, Director-General, International Labour Organization (ILO), speaking at the session Global Economic Outlook: What Next For Globalization?

"The use of AI and technology is more open to all countries than you'd expect in the past, so it will depend heavily on those countries that are much more prepared to transform their technology modus operandi."

How is the World Economic Forum ensuring the ethical development of artificial intelligence?Show more

The Forum's Future of Jobs Report 2023, released during the summit, found generative AI is expected to be adopted by nearly 75% of surveyed companies.

Everything Google Announced at I/O 2023

THE OPENING KEYNOTE address of the Google I/O developer conference today was stuffed with announcements of new devices and AI-powered features coming to familiar software tools. The company leaned hard into generative computing, loudly characterizing itself as a decades-long leader in AI tech. It also gleefully put AI at the forefront of nearly every service and device it operates, including the new Pixel phones and tablet it unveiled today.

Google’s first folding phone, the Pixel Fold, is here and costs a startling $1,799. It’s thinner than Samsung’s Galaxy Z Fold4, and there’s a wide, full front screen that offers up an almost normal smartphone experience. Open it up and you get a 7.6-inch OLED screen for watching movies, multitasking, or reading. We’ve got a hands-on report where you can read more about the Fold. Preorders are live now—if you bite, Google is tossing in a free Pixel Watch—but it ships in June.

There’s a Pixel Tablet Too

The Pixel Tablet comes with a speaker dock that it magnetically attaches to. PHOTOGRAPH: GOOGLE

Announced at last year’s Google I/O, the Pixel Tablet is finally a reality. Well, almost—preorders are live today (only in 11 countries), and it goes on sale June 20, so you still have to wait a bit more. This $499 tablet isn’t really meant to be a tablet you take with you on the go. Rather, it rests on a magnetic dock (included) when you’re not using it, and the dock wirelessly recharges the slate and doubles as a speaker (the sound quality is purportedly equal to a Nest Hub). When it’s on the dock, it acts as a traditional Google smart speaker, with options to control your smart home devices, and even has a similar microphone array to pick up your “Hey Google” commands. Chromecast is built in, so you can cast to it from your phone or laptop.

When you want to use it, just pop it off the dock and it’s a normal Android tablet—except a bit better, because Google has made some strides in improving the tablet experience on Android, with more than 50 Google apps optimized for the larger screen. It’s powered by the Tensor G2 chipset, and has many of the same software features as other Pixel devices. Sadly, there are no other accessories—no stylus and no keyboard. You can take it out and use it with Bluetooth accessories, but it’s clear Google is really envisioning this as a homebody.
Also a Low-Cost Pixel 7A

The Boring Future of Generative AI


THIS WEEK, AT its annual I/O developer conference in Mountain View, Google showcased a head-spinning number of projects and products powered by or enhanced by AI. They included a new-and-improved version of its chatbot Bard, tools to help you write emails and documents or manipulate images, devices with AI baked in, and a chatbot-like experimental version of Google search. For a full recap of the event, complete with insightful and witty commentary from my WIRED colleagues, check out our Google I/O liveblog.

The appearance last November of ChatGPT—the remarkably clever but still rather flawed chatbot from OpenAI—combined with Microsoft adding the technology to its search engine Bing a few months later, triggered something of a panic at Google. ChatGPT proved wildly popular with users, demonstrating new ways to serve up information that threatened Google’s vice grip on the search business and its reputation as the leader in AI.

The capabilities of ChatGPT and AI language algorithms like those powering it are so striking that some experts, including Geoffrey Hinton, a pioneering researcher who recently left Google, have felt compelled to warn that we might be building systems that we will someday struggle to control. OpenAI’s chatbot is often astonishingly good at generating coherent text on a given subject, summarizing information from the web, and even answering extremely tricky questions that require expert knowledge.

And yet, unfettered AI language models are also silver-tongued agents of chaos. They will gladly fabricate facts, express unpleasant biases, and say unpleasant or disturbing things with the right prompting. Microsoft was forced to limit the capabilities of Bing chat shortly after launch to avoid such embarrassing misbehavior, in part because its bot divulged its secret codename—Sydney—and accused a New York Times columnist of not loving his spouse.

Google worked hard to tone down the chaotic streak of text-generation technology as it prepared the experimental search feature announced yesterday that responds to search queries with chat-style answers synthesizing information from across the web.