15 May 2023

Is the Crisis in Pakistan Good for India?

Krzysztof Iwanek

At the time of writing this, it seems that the current political crisis in Pakistan has entered a lighter phase. Former Prime Minister Imran Khan is appearing in courts for many cases that have been slapped against him (instead of refusing to come, as he had been doing before). He is also no longer being held incommunicado by the paramilitary forces; he is now instead held in a guesthouse and is at liberty to hold meetings there. With this fragile ceasefire reached, Khan’s supporters are no longer protesting violently, although the army is still on the streets.

Yet there is little doubt the crisis will unfold further this year.

As elections should be held later in 2023, and as Khan and his party’s popularity is growing again, the Shehbaz Sharif government is apparently trying to block Khan from entering the electoral battle. The current Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) coalition government and the military that is backing it seem obstinate in their attempts to get Khan disqualified from contesting future elections by having him convicted in at least some of the current court cases. If his supporters’ protests continue, the government may even term his party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), a terrorist entity and thus bar it from taking part in elections at all. This, by the way, would guarantee a victory for the parties of the ruling coalition, while disqualifying Khan would not; his party could still contest elections even in case of his conviction and personal disqualification. Thus, we can expect more pro-Khan protests if, and when: (1) Imran Khan is convicted and disqualified, (2) the PTI is barred from elections , and/or (3) the current coalition government wins the elections, applying all means necessary to do so.

Such protests may lead to clashes not just with police or paramilitary forces but even with the military. It is Pakistan’s generals who have orchestrated the deposal of their former protégé, Imran Khan. These circumstances mean that throughout 2023, not only the Pakistani political system and economy, but even a part of the armed forces may remain weakened by these recurring and intersecting crises.

There are two main aspects that Indian commentators focus on. On the one hand, they highlight the idea that internal struggles in Pakistan brings India’s own military forces some relief; on the other hand, the chaos in Pakistan may cause dangers for India as well.

The Enemy’s Weakness Is Our Strength

Imran Khan Versus Others: A ‘Fixed’ Match? – OpEd

Nilesh Kunwar

The arrest of former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan has triggered an unprecedented public backlash with his supporters running riot destroying public property as well as attacking military installations and houses of senior army officers.

Though the Supreme Court of Pakistan has paved the way for Khan’s release by ruling that his arrest is illegal, things are from over; au contraire, battle lines have only hardened and could well be the beginning of fight to the finish between Khan and the legislature-military combine.
Absolving Rawalpindi

With former Pakistan army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa announcing that the army’s “institutional resolve to remain apolitical will remain steadfast,” one had expected Rawalpindi to walk Gen Bajwa’s talk. Unfortunately, this doesn’t seem to be the case since Khan has consistently accused the army of not only sabotaging his party’s political activities but even orchestrating his assassination. So, suspicions that this move was the result of Rawalpindi’s behind-the-scenes manipulations was but natural.

However, in its news report on Imran Khan’s arrest by the National Accountability Bureau [NAB], Geo News has stated that “government sources have confirmed that the country’s military forces have nothing to do with the arrest of the political leader.” While there may well be no ulterior motive on Rawalpindi’s part on this issue, but considering the timing and unusual manner in which the former Pakistani prime minister was arrested, serious suspicions to the contrary do arise.

ISPR’s Overreaction

For one, Khan’s arrest came just a day after Pakistan army’s media wing Inter Services Public Relations [ISPR] issued a strongly worded statement dismissing the PTI chief’s allegation that a two star General serving in Pakistan army’s spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence [ISI] was devising his assassination. Rawalpindi’s angst is understandable and dismissing Khan’s allegation for being “highly irresponsible and baseless” would have been a good enough rebuttal.

Imran Khan’s arrest has exploded Pakistan’s reservoir of rage

Zarrar Khuhro

Hyperbole is something that comes easy to Pakistanis, especially when it comes to politics, and in the political lexicon of Pakistan, the word ‘unprecedented’ has been overused to the point of becoming meaningless. Every once in a while though, it fits.

After the dramatic arrest of wheelchair-bound former prime minister and chairman of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Imran Khan from the premises of the Islamabad High Court by a large contingent of paramilitary troops, it was as if a reservoir of rage had burst open, spilling red onto the streets with the floodwaters inundating hitherto sacrosanct shores.

The rage isn’t new. We have seen many violent protests and will no doubt continue to see them, but the targets this time were those who have historically been off-limits to even the angriest of mobs: the symbols and strongholds of the powerful military establishment.

Protesters ransacked the official residence of the Lahore corps commander, piling his furniture onto the lawn before setting it ablaze and posting the footage on social media. Many were seen walking away with the spoils of their victory, ranging from strawberries stored in the fridge to paintings and golf clubs. One protester was even seen making off with the peacock that graced the garden. Then the entire building was set ablaze. Even more significant was a crowd, led by a sole woman, that shook the gates of the nerve centre of the military, the general headquarters in the garrison town of Rawalpindi.

Surprisingly, they met no initial resistance, leading many to wonder whether the protesters were allowed to wreak havoc in order to lay the groundwork for a wider crackdown on the party that, not too long ago, was considered to be very close to the military establishment and had been helped into power by the very forces it was now so bitterly opposed to.

It seems that many PTI leaders are aware of this and are thus taking pains to distance their party from the violence. Others, perhaps even more ominously, attribute the lack of resistance to what may be a split in the ranks of the military, though at this point there is no real evidence to support that supposition.

The Military Disrupts Pakistan’s Democracy Once Again


The arrest of former prime minister Imran Khan on May 9 is another ignominious mark on Pakistan’s democratic record. Khan, who was removed from office last year following a parliamentary vote of no confidence and survived an assassination attempt last fall, has continued to mobilize strong political support across the country.

Khan has been under scrutiny by government agencies, most notably the National Accountability Bureau, since leaving office. Khan and his party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), allege these inquiries are politically motivated—which was the same thing that members of the parties currently sitting in government, including the Pakistan Muslim League–Nawaz (PML-N) and the Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP), said when the same agencies investigated them during Khan’s tenure. But, in effect, Pakistan’s judicial process follows a “guilty until proven innocent” principle, and as in other cases against senior politicians, Khan’s arrest and incarceration occurred before any trial could occur.

James Schwemlein is a nonresident scholar in the South Asia Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

In the hours since the arrest on corruption charges, protests appear to have escalated in Lahore, Rawalpindi, and elsewhere, with a notable focus against army installations and facilities. The crowd’s focus on the Army comes after months of rising tensions between current Chief of Army Staff Asim Munir and General Qamar Bajwa, Munir’s predecessor, whom Khan blamed for his removal. The day before his arrest, Khan again argued that the Army was behind threats against his life and claimed that individual civilian and military leaders were behind ongoing plots against him.

Khan’s arrest is unfortunately business as usual for Pakistan’s democracy. Each of the past five prime ministers have been indicted or imprisoned after leaving office. Pakistan’s political scene has generally been characterized by one rule: where the Pakistan Army’s will exists, it carries, and typically persists no matter the consequences. Khan himself rose to leadership in 2018 with the countenance of the Army and was removed from office in 2022 after he lost that backing.

China pours cold water on bilateral meeting with US defence secretary

Stand-off is latest obstacle to top-level dialogue between Washington and Beijing Chinese defence minister Li Shangfu was placed under sanctions by the US in 2018 in relation to imports of Russian arms when he was serving as a general © Harish Tyagi/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock China pours cold water on bilateral meeting with US defence secretary on twitter (opens in a new window) China pours cold water on bilateral meeting with US defence secretary on facebook (opens in a new window) China pours cold water on bilateral meeting with US defence secretary on linkedin (opens in a new window) Save current progress 0% Demetri Sevastopulo in Washington MAY 11 2023 137 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. 

China has told the US there is little chance of a meeting between the countries’ defence ministers at a security forum in Singapore due to a dispute over sanctions, the latest obstacle to top-level dialogue between the two powers. US defence secretary Lloyd Austin wants to meet Li Shangfu, China’s new defence minister, at the Shangri-La Dialogue security forum in Singapore in June. However, arranging such a meeting is fraught with difficulty because Li was placed under sanctions by the US in 2018 in relation to Chinese imports of Russian arms when he was serving as a general. The US has told China that the sanctions do not prevent Austin from meeting Li in a third country. But several people said it would be almost impossible for China to agree to a meeting while they remain in place. Li became defence minister in March. 

There was no prospect of the Biden administration removing the sanctions, some of the people said. The White House declined to comment. The latest stalemate in US-China relations comes as the countries struggle to arrange high-level visits by American cabinet secretaries to Beijing. Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping agreed that the countries needed to stabilise relations when they met at the G20 summit in Bali in November. But early efforts to kick-start high-level engagement were derailed after a suspected Chinese spy balloon flew over North America in early February. 

China’s support may not be ‘lethal aid,’ but it’s vital to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine

Markus Garlauskas, Joseph Webster, and Emma C. Verges

It’s the conventional wisdom in Washington and in most European capitals: China is only providing limited support to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. In Beijing, meanwhile, officials attempt to portray neutrality, emphasizing that the People’s Republic of China (PRC) is not providing weapons to Russia. As PRC leader Xi Jinping told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in a recent call, according to state media, “China has always stood on the side of peace.”

Whether or not the PRC crosses the threshold of providing weapons and munitions, often termed “lethal aid,” has become the primary measure of its support for Russia’s war—and the Western rhetoric around this threshold has hardened to the point of becoming a red line. In recent weeks, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan specifically warned the PRC against providing lethal aid. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken then testified before Congress that “we have not seen them cross that line.”

In any event, this focus on lethal aid has come to mean that the vital support the PRC is already providing to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war effort, directly and indirectly, is receiving far less attention. This is fostering de facto US and NATO acceptance of such support, barring the direct provision of military equipment. Let’s be clear: Beijing’s provision of lethal aid would be a new level of escalation, and it should be deterred. However, it benefits Beijing and Moscow for Washington and its allies to focus so intensely on that red line that they fail to stem—or to even fully catalog and condemn—the other support that the PRC provides.

Beijing’s direct provision of equipment and materials critical for military uses, such as transport vehicles and semiconductors, enables Russian military forces to sustain their offensive. The evidence shows that the PRC is already providing critical support for Moscow’s war aims by counterbalancing US and NATO support to Ukraine.

Oil goes out, trucks come in

How China’s Echo Chamber Threatens Taiwan

Tong Zhao

The risk of a military conflict in the Taiwan Strait is becoming dire. On Feb. 2, CIA Director William Burns stated that Chinese President Xi Jinping had ordered China’s military to be “ready by 2027 to conduct a successful invasion” of Taiwan. Although Burns added that this did not mean that Xi has decided to invade Taiwan, he described Xi’s move as “a reminder of the seriousness of his focus and his ambition.”

But the main factor that will determine whether Washington and Beijing come to blows over Taiwan is not necessarily Xi’s strategy for unification but the idiosyncrasies

The New ISIS: How a Branch of the Terrorist Group Is Becoming a Top Threat

Drew F. Lawrence

The Islamic State's Khorasan Province, also known as ISIS-K, has rapidly become the new boogeyman in the Middle East -- specifically in Afghanistan, where the overall ISIS apparatus has spread its influence.

The State Department has issued warnings about the group and has previously designated its leaders as top-priority terrorists. Over the last few years, top military generals have said that the group must be eradicated. And perhaps most recent in Americans' minds is the group's claim to the Abbey Gate suicide bombing, an explosion that killed 13 U.S. service members and at least 160 Afghans during the chaotic military withdrawal from Afghanistan almost two years ago.

Last month, the Taliban -- the reigning draconian regime in Afghanistan that the U.S. fought over the last 20 years of conflict in the country -- claimed that they had killed the ISIS-K leader behind the Abbey Gate plot.

The claim marks renewed attention in a new era of conflict for the region. Our guest, Andrew Mines, spent years as a researcher with the George Washington Program on Extremism warning of ISIS-K's rise, as did other academics. And reporters like Dan Lamothe with The Washington Post have uncovered U.S. documents that indicate Afghanistan is once again a staging ground for global terrorism -- this time, with ISIS-K.

Main TopicsDrew F. Lawrence and Rebecca Kheel interview extremism researcher Andrew Mines and Washington Post military reporter Dan Lamothe.

#WavellReviews Deception Operations, by Rémy Hémez

Michael Shurkin

French colonel Rémez Hémez’s book, Les Opérations de Déception: Ruses et stratagems de guerre (Deception Operations: Ruses and War Stratagems), published in 2022 by the French Armed Forces Ministry and Perrin, is one worthy of the attention of the English-speaking world. Besides providing an illuminating survey of deception operations and insights into French military perspectives on the issue, Hémez provides an up-to-date analysis of the role of deception in contemporary warfare and a look into its future. The bottom line is that ruse and deception are essential tools made all the more critical by the technological advances of modern warfare.

Most of the book consists of a historical survey with fascinating accounts of how various armed forces worldwide have effectively used ruse and deception. Hémez offers several case studies from different periods. These include the rise of camouflage in World War One and efforts to use deception to achieve surprise on the Western Front. He writes at length about the famous episode in which a British officer in Palestine deliberately left behind a satchel with fake documents intended to deceive the Ottomans regarding British intentions. (The story is true, but Richard Meinertzhagen, the officer usually credited with the operation, was, he says, a fraud.) Of note also is Hémez’s discussion of the WWI “Q-boat” program, in which the British placed weapons on commercial ships of various kinds and used them as bait to attract U-Boots, waiting until the submarines came close enough before unveiling the weapons and firing on them.

Turning to World War 2, Hémez describes British efforts to deceive Rommel regarding British military moves in North Africa and allied efforts to deceive the Germans regarding the invasions of Sicily and Normandy. He details allied measures to create phantom units through fake radio broadcasts that inflated enemy assessments of allied orders of battle and British methods to trick German air defence radar. Pushing into the Cold War, he writes of American efforts to deceive the North Koreans about the Inchon Landing, French efforts to achieve surprise in Indochina, and later American effort to trick North Vietnamese air defence systems, which, he writes, became adept at tracking F-105 fighter-bombers. In later chapters, he details British deception efforts in the Falklands war, Serbian measures to deceive NATO, and American deception efforts in the two Iraq wars, among many examples.

The Turkish Election Could Reset Ankara’s Relations With the West


When Türkiye heads to the polls on May 14, all indicators show that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will be up against the most serious political challenge of his career. Opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu is neck and neck with the longtime leader, but his victory is no foregone conclusion. The rhetoric is sharpening on both sides, and an opposition rally was interrupted and marred by violence over the weekend when Istanbul mayor Ekrem Imamoğlu was pelted with stones, which also wounded at least a dozen people. Erdoğan’s ratings may no longer be as high as before, but his core base mostly remains loyal, and he will use all his advantages as the head of Türkiye’s politicized executive presidential system to win.

Analyses on the foreign policy implications of the elections have primarily focused on what changes can be expected in Ankara’s approach to international relations after the votes are tallied. Western capitals should also be contemplating their own approach to postelection Türkiye. The United States and the European Union must be prepared to seize any new opportunity that may present itself to improve relations with Türkiye and encourage it to come back into the fold.


The margin for creative thinking will be limited if Erdoğan prevails. Twenty-one years of experience with the incumbent government has mostly exhausted the West’s expectations for a qualitative improvement in relations, leaving little room for pleasant surprises. Should he emerge victorious, Erdoğan and his sense of invincibility will reach new highs, which will further fuel his fiery mannerism.

But the realities of his self-created economic disaster—as well as Türkiye’s parliamentary dynamics, which will almost certainly no longer be as favorable for him postelection—could temper his actions. Türkiye will be in dire need of foreign financial flows, and Erdoğan will have to conduct foreign policy within the constraints of that reality, which will require less adventurism and more stability. But relations with the United States and European countries will remain transactional, rendering them void of resilience and vulnerable to circumstantial crises.

Saudi Arabia Is Extremely Popular in the Middle East

Steven A. Cook

Over the last year, Saudi officials and their spokespeople have been telling anyone who would listen that their country is central to the global economy, a geopolitical power, dynamic, and the undisputed leader of the Middle East. The response within the U.S. foreign-policy community, especially among Middle East analysts, has been a general collective eyeroll.

Experts react: Israel strikes Gaza. How far will this conflict go, and how will it impact the region?

“Operation Shield and Arrow” harkens back to an older form of warfare, but its methods are modern. Early Tuesday, forty Israeli aircraft launched a targeted attack on sites in northern and southern Gaza. The strikes killed three senior commanders of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) militant group and ten others, including children. Israel struck again later Tuesday, stopping what it said was an attempted retaliation. Will this conflict escalate further? What does it mean for Iran, Saudi Arabia, and other regional players? Below, Atlantic Council experts share their insights.

The targeted killing of three senior PIJ leaders by Israel early Tuesday is likely to spark at least a temporary resumption of hostilities with PIJ, one of the more prominent terrorist groups operating out of the Gaza Strip. The Israeli strikes follow PIJ’s firing of 104 rockets into Israel after the death of one of the group’s senior members, who had been on a hunger strike in an Israeli prison. Israel’s actions are not unusual, but they come during a confluence of challenges, both domestic and international.

The strikes will temporarily unite Israeli political leaders on the left and right. Both opposition leader Yair Lapid and far-right coalition member Otzma Yehudit—a political party led by National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir—are supporting the strikes. But the temporary national coalescence is likely to be short lived. The strikes will probably push the judicial reform debate that has torn Israeli society apart a bit farther down the road. But the history of these skirmishes, especially when they do not include Hamas directly, suggests that a conflict with PIJ is more likely to last in the range of seven to fourteen days, rather than multiple weeks or a month-plus. And once operations are complete, the focus will again revert to the domestic judicial crisis.

At the same time, senior White House officials are in Israel to back-brief Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on last weekend’s conversation in Riyadh between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan. Reporting indicates that normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia was a point of discussion. In striking PIJ, however, Israel is attacking a terrorist group directly supported by Iran at a time when Riyadh is seeking to restore diplomatic relations with Tehran. Undoubtedly, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Iran will all seek to compartmentalize these issues. But Iran’s malign influence in the region ensures that such compartmentalization is not a permanent answer. Like Israel’s domestic challenges, it just pushes the real issue further down the road.

Analyzing Wagner: The Current Situation In Ukraine

Can Kasapoğlu*

1. Prigozhin’s Shadow Army

Western analysts tend to assess the Wagner Private Military Company through a Cold War–era lens, hearkening back to the days when Soviet leaders dispatched military advisory missions to Egypt and Syria. Today, the Western intelligence community often considers Wagner’s presence in the Middle East and Africa to be yet another Russian military advisory effort in the third world. These assessments miss the mark.

The invasion of Ukraine has unveiled the truth about Wagner: it is not an organization that allows Russia to act abroad with plausible deniability, but a shadow army working in parallel with the Russian military.

An examination of its warfighting arsenal illustrates this clearly.In Ukraine, Wagner is operating an air deterrent consisting of Su-24M frontline bombers and Su-25 attack aircraft. Yevgeny Prigozhin, Wagner’s founder, attracts high-ranking officials from the Russian Aerospace Forces—even generals—to fly combat sorties.

Wagner’s capabilities have also grown to encompass newer and more advanced Russian weapons systems. In 2020, the US Department of Defense publicly revealed the presence of the SA-22 (Pantsir), a short-to-medium-range air defense system, in the hands of Wagner’s forward-deployed combat groups in Libya. Recently, sources spotted Wagner crews operating advanced T-90 main battle tanks and T-80BVMs. Wagner even recently employed incendiary munitions propelled from multiple-launch rocket systems on the Bakhmut frontier.

Its force generation efforts also signify advanced capabilities. According to official US estimates, Prigozhin has combat-deployed some 50,000 Wagnerites in Ukraine: 10,000 professional fighters and 40,000 freshly recruited convicts. In other words, the Wagner troop concentration in Ukraine equals roughly two-thirds of NATO nations’ standing armed forces.

While Wagner’s recruitment prowess in Russian prisons has attracted attention, the mercenary army’s ability to incorporate paramilitaries from Ukraine’s separatist entities is also noteworthy. Prigozhin uses the most reliable leverage—money—to draw fighters from the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Open-source intelligence shows that while fighters from these regions can make up to $240 a month serving in local paramilitary groups, Wagner’s professional fighters make $1,300 a month during their training phase and $1,900 a month during their combat deployment. While serving in action, Wagnerites make $960 per week, with a death benefit for a fallen fighter’s family between $32,000 and $48,000.

Aqueous Matters: Europe’s Water Crisis – OpEd

Binoy Kampmark

Europe is joining a number of other regions on the planet in suffering a prolonged water crisis; and it is one that shows little sign of abating. To this can be added the near catastrophic conditions that exist in other parts of the globe, where ready and secure access to water supplies is more aspiration than reality.

Since 2018, according to satellite data analysed by researchers from the Institute of Geodesy at Graz University of Technology (TU Graz), the continent has been enduring increasingly dire drought conditions. Groundwater levels have been, according to the institute, low, despite the occasional dramatic flooding event. Even through winter, there has been no relief.

In a piece published in Geophysical Research Letters, Eva Boergens and her fellow authors picked up on sharp water shortages in Central Europe during the summer months of 2018 and 2019. “In the summer months of 2018, Central and Northern Europe experienced exceptionally dry conditions […] with parts of Central Europe receiving less than 50% of the long-time mean precipitation”.

In July and August that year, vicious heatwaves aided in inducing drought conditions. Much the same pattern was repeated in 2019: below-average precipitation, beating heatwaves in June and July. The consequences for such deficits in water, the authors note, are severe to “agricultural productivity, forest management, and industrial production, with the latter cut back by disrupted transport on inland waterways due to extremely low water levels.” Levels since have barely risen.

The researchers from TU Graz also note the bleak picture from prolonged drought, one all too familiar to those inhabiting dry swathes of land on such continents as Africa and Australia. The dry riverbed and bodies of stagnant water are becoming more common features of the European landscape. Aquatic species are losing their habitats and ecological disruption is becoming the norm.

Ukraine’s Long-Expected Offensive: Why It Won’t Beat Putin

Daniel Davis

The Biden administration appeared poised to approve sending the M1 Abrams to Ukraine.

Ukraine has a complex reality it must face: U.S., UK, and EU senior leaders have voiced over the past few days strong support for Ukraine and their widely reported upcoming offensive. Reading some of the off-headline comments they’ve made, however, exposes the growing realization in the West that the hope of Zelensky accomplishing his stated objectives of driving Russia entirely out of Ukraine has a low probability of success.

A change in Western policy, therefore, is urgently needed – before Kyiv suffers more combat losses that are unlikely to alter the fact that the war will most likely end with a negotiated settlement.

Recent Developments in Ukraine War

In just the past few days, a bevy of senior Western political leaders have made strong declarations of support for Ukraine and the embattled country’s looming offensive. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, UK Foreign Secretary James Cleaverly, and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg have all issued strongly worded statements of support for Ukraine. The question, however, is whether the West can make good on its claims.

There is growing evidence that for the remainder of 2023, the West in general and the U.S. in particular likely do not have sufficient on-hand stocks of key weapons and ammunition to match what has been provided to Ukraine over the first 14 months of the war. On Tuesday, the United States announced yet another tranche of military support to Ukraine, this time in the form of a $1.2 billion package.

US Military Now Has Voice-Controlled Bug Drones


TAMPA—Tomorrow’s missions may take U.S. special operators into places where they’d rather not control drones by hand, so the maker of the popular Black Hornet nano-drone has added a way to steer it by simple voice commands.

U.S. operators began using the Black Hornet after seeing British forces flying them in Afghanistan in 2011. Years of experiments with optical and thermal cameras have turned the nano-drone into a key element of the U.S. Army’s soldier-borne sensor program. Now its manufacturer, Teledyne FLIR, has teamed up with AI startup Primordial Labs to add voice control.

At the Global SOF Foundation’s SOF Week event here, a drone operator used a book-sized computer and a few quick voice commands to send a drone to a series of locations in a noisy conference hall.

The software could be used for just about any kind of drone or system, said Mick Adkins, who runs product and business development for Primordial Labs. He said U.S. Special Operations Command had asked for a demo on seven types of drones, using “a whole inventory of discrete commands,” including “manipulating the sensor, looking at things, moving elevation, interacting with waypoints.”

The mission-level commands, the mission-type orders that we're supporting right now are things like route, area, and zone reconnaissance, searching between a point, orbiting a point, conducting different scan patterns within a given area. And we're actually on contract with [U.S. Army Special Operations Command] to add 100 autonomous behaviors this year,” he said.

Because ordering a flying bug drone around is potentially more complicated than steering it with a joystick, the Primordial Labs team worked to make sure the software could understand the user’s intention across a variety of different ways to order the drone to do something. That’s key as multiple operators may need to issue commands to the drone depending on the situation.

Cold Wars, Grey Zones, and Strategic Competition: Applying Theories of War to Strategy in the 21st Century.

Peter L. Hickman 

Lt. Col. Peter L. Hickman is an Air Force Weapons Officer with an MPhil in Military Strategy from the School of Advanced Air and Space Studies, an M.A. in Political Theory, and a Ph.D. in International Relations from Arizona State University. He is currently a Strategist for the Director of the Air National Guard; past assignments include Air Combat Command Headquarters, National Guard Bureau Headquarters, the U.S. Department of State, and the staff of a member of the House Armed Services Committee.
Disclaimer: The perspectives presented are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Defense, United States Air Force, Air National Guard, or any other office or organization.

In 1947 Bernard Baruch warned the United States “not to be deceived” by the post-WWII “peace.” He described the emerging rivalry between the U.S. and the USSR as a “Cold War” that was not quite war but was also not quite peace.[i] Echoes of this concept of a Cold War are evident today in the somewhat ambiguous phrase “Strategic Competition” that the Biden Administration uses to describe relations between the United States and China.[ii] Though strategic competition is not a state of war, the rivalry between the U.S. and China is a precarious kind of peace in which both sides are also preparing for the possibility of future significant military escalation, major war, or even nuclear exchange.

U.S. foreign policy in the grey zone between war and peace has become the norm rather than the exception since Baruch’s warning in 1947. Though the U.S. Congress declared war eleven times between 1812 and 1942,[iii] Congress has not declared war in the last eighty years despite nearly 100,000 U.S. battle deaths in that same period.[iv] The conflicts in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan are all frequently referred to as “wars,” yet none drew a declaration of war from Congress. All are individually understood as instances of broader “wars”; the Cold War and the War on Terrorism. “Wars” on social ills further subsume the conceptually elegant definition of war as an “act of force to compel our enemy to do our will”[v] into an ill-defined aspiration to change a social or political status quo. Today’s interest in “grey zone” conflict illustrates that even in foreign policy, the concepts of war and peace have lost saliency for describing political reality and are more likely to be seriously encountered in academic environments than in the practice of grand strategy.[vi] The normalcy of “military operations other than war” since the 1950s has even led some military leaders to try to remind American service members that war at the scale of World War II remains a possibility in the future and is not simply a thing of the past.[vii]

The Five Bears: Russia’s Offensive Cyber Capabilities


The Five Bears constitute an integral part of Russia’s offensive capabilities. Russian state-sponsored Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) groups are part of a network, making Russia one of the strongest actors in cyberspace today [source]. A combination of advanced tools and solid infrastructures enable sophisticated operations of unprecedented levels targeting nations in war and peacetime.

However, even though at the forefront of war-fighting capabilities in the digital environment, the 2022 war in Ukraine suggests a limited significance of offensive cyber operations than estimated. Cyber operations alone have yet to prove sufficient to gain strategic advantages on the physical battlefield. Still, since the digital environment does not know state borders, the Russian APT actors make up an evolving threat on a global scale not only in terms of espionage but physical disturbance calling for proportionate counter- and preventive measures among nations in both peacetime and war.

2.0. Background

Since at least the 1990s, Russia has engaged in a wide range of hostile cyber operations, from espionage to sabotage. Since at least 1996, starting with the Moonlight Maze attacks [source], malicious cyber operations linked to Russia have developed into a complex network of threat actors and operations. Today, Russian state-sponsored threat actors constitute a broad network of skilful groups conducting operations ranging from espionage to sabotage on a global scale. Furthermore, offensive cyber operations are acceptable to achieve foreign policy and security objectives by deterring adversaries, controlling escalation and prosecuting conflicts [source]. Hence, Russia’s offensive cyber capabilities make up a crucial element in its global power strategy.

2.1. Disclaimer

Exploring "White Sun War"


At the end of April my next book will be published by Casemate Publishers. Called White Sun War, it is a fictional account of a war over Taiwan that takes place in 2028. The narrator for the story is a future historian, looking back from 2038 on the tenth anniversary of the beginning of the war.

In this respect, it is similar in structure to the Pulitzer Prize winning book, The Killer Angels, which was written by Michael Shaara and published in 1974. In that book, Shaara explores the 1863 Battle of Gettysburg through the lens of key participants on both sides. The Killer Angels is a powerful narrative of higher-level military leadership and the impact of close combat in the mid-nineteenth century and features on the reading lists of many military institutions.

White Sun War is also a story told through the perspectives of its participants. Its key characters include:

A young US Army captain who commands a Cavalry Troop that is newly organised unit with a mix of humans and robotic ground combat systems (human-machine teaming).

A Taiwanese soldier working in the headquarters of a mechanised brigade from the Republic of China Army.

A US Space Force Technical Sergeant whose speciality is orbital warfare.

A Chinese Colonel who commands one of the People’s Liberation Army’s Marine Brigades that is sent to Taiwan.

A Colonel in the US Marine Corps commanding one of the new Marine Littoral Regiments in the Western Pacific that is dispatched to Taiwan.

These characters provide a mix of different viewpoints on modern and near future warfare, from both old and new military organisational constructs.

Why Fiction?

Opinion Taiwan is urging the U.S. not to abandon Ukraine

Some Republicans want to scale back U.S. military support for Ukraine, insisting that Taiwan’s defense should take priority. But those who claim to be for protecting Taiwan ought to listen to its leaders. They say the island’s security depends on Washington standing firm in its support for Kyiv.

The notion that the United States must choose between fully supporting Ukraine or building up the defense of Taiwan has migrated from Fox News into the mainstream Washington foreign policy discussion. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) has led the charge by arguing that extensive U.S. military aid to Ukraine detracts from the more urgent task of arming Taiwan to deter a Chinese invasion.

But if Taiwanese leaders don’t agree that that’s true, shouldn’t U.S. policymakers factor that into their analysis? Do these Republicans really think they understand Taiwan’s interests better than the Taiwanese?

“Ukraine’s survival is Taiwan’s survival. Ukraine’s success is Taiwan’s success,” Taiwan’s representative in Washington, Bi-khim Hsiao, told the McCain Institute’s Sedona Forum last weekend. “Our futures are closely linked.”

The Taiwan argument is only the latest justification made by those on the right who want to reduce U.S. support for Kyiv. During a recent speech calling for the defense of Taiwan, Hawley said that as a first step, “We should cut off U.S. military aid to Ukraine.” Following Hawley’s lead, self-proclaimed “realist” think-tankers assert that U.S. support for Ukraine has no deterrent effect on Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“Ukraine is not going to drive Beijing’s decision whether to attack Taiwan. Instead, what’s most critical for deterring a war over Taiwan is the military balance in Asia,” former Trump administration Pentagon official Elbridge Colby argued during a recent Hudson Institute debate.

Again, Taiwan’s leaders beg to disagree. Hsiao said Taiwan doesn’t want to be an “excuse” for pulling the plug on aid to Ukraine. If the West abandons the Ukrainians now, she said, that will signal to the Taiwanese people that they are alone, which plays into Beijing’s propaganda.

Ukraine Makes Gains Near Embattled Bakhmut, a First in Months

Carlotta Gall, Anatoly Kurmanaev and Traci Carl

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian troops have broken through Russian positions outside the embattled eastern city of Bakhmut and forced Russian units back from a key position near a canal, military commanders on both sides said, in the first gains since March for Kyiv’s forces in the brutal fight for the city.

The advance was not large — roughly three square miles, southwest of the city, in an area of fields, ravines and thickets of trees — but it was acknowledged on Tuesday by Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner militia whose forces have been at the forefront of Russia’s fight for Bakhmut, and it was described on Wednesday by multiple Ukrainian military officials. Russia’s Defense Ministry did not comment on the reports.

Ukraine’s forces had not won any ground in the fight for Bakhmut since pushing Russian forces off a key access road two months ago, and it is far from clear that they can hold the terrain they captured this week or that it was a turning point.

But the 11-month battle for Bakhmut has taken on a symbolic significance that goes far beyond the city’s immediate strategic value and has come at devastating human cost for both sides. Both countries have invested resources and sacrificed soldiers in a high-stakes effort to wear each other down, with Russian forces slowly gaining control of most of the city and its surroundings.

The recent fighting there came amid an uptick in Ukrainian strikes behind Russian lines and reports of increased attacks in Russian regions bordering Ukraine, in advance of a major counteroffensive that Kyiv has said will begin soon. Ukrainian military officers said the advance near Bakhmut was an opportunistic strike as Russian Army troops were moving into position, one of several indications that it was not part of the broader push to retake Russian-occupied territory.

Zelensky says Ukraine needs more time for counter-offensive

Hugo Bachega

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky has said his country needs more time to launch a much-anticipated counter-offensive against Russian forces, as the military awaits the delivery of promised aid.

The expected attack could be decisive in the war, redrawing frontlines that, for months, have remained unchanged. It will also be a crucial test for Ukraine, eager to prove that the weapons and equipment it has received from the West can result in significant battlefield gains.

Speaking at his headquarters in Kyiv, President Zelensky described combat brigades, some of which were trained by Nato countries, as being "ready" but said the army still needed "some things", including armoured vehicles that were "arriving in batches".

"With [what we already have] we can go forward, and, I think, be successful," he said in an interview for public service broadcasters who are members of Eurovision News, like the BBC. "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."

When and where the Ukrainian push will happen is a secret. Russian forces, meanwhile, have fortified their defences along a frontline that runs for 900 miles (1,450km) from the eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, to Zaporizhzhia and Kherson in the south.

Ukrainian authorities have tried to lower expectations of a breakthrough, publicly and in private. Earlier this month, a senior government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the country's leaders "understood that [they] needed to be successful" but that the assault should not be seen as a "silver bullet" in a war now in its 15th month.

The president, however, expressed confidence that the Ukrainian military could advance, warning of the risks of a "frozen conflict" which, he said, was what Russia was "counting on".

For Kyiv, any result that is seen as disappointing in the West could mean a reduction in military support and pressure to negotiate with Russia. With nearly a fifth of the country under Russian control, and President Vladimir Putin declaring the annexation of four regions his forces partially occupy, this would possibly include discussing land concessions.


Collin Meisel 

The rack and stack of Russian and Ukrainian forces prior to Vladimir Putin’s February 2022 invasion of Ukraine left many analysts, myself included, convinced that by this time last year Putin and pals would be celebrating under a white, blue, and red flag in Kyiv’s Independence Square. This isn’t the first time that a material-based understanding of national power has failed.

Many military professionals and analysts of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries attempted to quantify the battlefield and also largely failed. From Lanchester’s laws of relative military force strength to Dupuy’s Operational Lethality Indices to the US Army’s weapon effectiveness index / weighted unit value metric and beyond, many creative attempts to quantify military power have successively been championed and abandoned.

Now, the pendulum appears to have swung in the opposite direction, with analysts heeding the “alchemy of combat effectiveness” and dismissing comparisons of equipment and personnel counts as “bean counting.” Today’s critics of material measures of power have a point—if the goal is to measure combat outcomes. As military analysts Michael Kofman and Rob Lee often remind us, combat is contingent upon a myriad factors, some of which involve pure chance, even luck.

But material measures continue to offer an important guide to measuring power at the national level. In a more limited sense, they continue to be informative on the battlefield, provided such measures are assessed within broader situational contexts. Put simply, materials—and mass—still matter.

Mass in the Donbas

The war in Ukraine has been one of innovation, inspiration, and intrepidness. It has also been one of surging and dwindling inventories of ammunition, equipment, and personnel.

This European Satellite Giant Is Coming for Starlink


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.

OneWeb is Eutelsat’s ticket to the booming low-orbit satellite market. Rural homes, ships, airlines, militaries, and autonomous vehicles are turning to satellite internet to stay connected in places previously considered dead zones.

“Even in France, a country with very high fiber and 5G coverage, it’s estimated that around 4 percent of households are without good connectivity,” says Berneke. She expects this figure to rise to 15 percent of households in countries with less fiber and 5G. “So it’s not that small a niche.”

The Snake, The FBI, And Center 16: Why The Takedown Of A ‘Most Sophisticated Cyber-Espionage Tool’ Is Important – Analysis

Mike Eckel

(RFE/RL) — For more than a decade, a unique bit of malicious computer code was burrowed in the deepest corners of Internet servers in more than 50 countries, secretly gathering data and even records of what a person might be typing on a keyboard. Important information was extracted and covertly sent via a network of other infected computers, hiding its tracks from easy detection, back to the code’s creators.

Called various names — Snake, Uroburos, Venomous Bear — the malware was suspected in a damaging hack of Germany’s Foreign Ministry in 2017. NATO computers were reportedly compromised. The personal computer of a journalist who worked for a U.S. news organization and reported on the Russian government was reportedly targeted.

This week, authorities in the United States, Britain, Canada, and two other countries announced they had effectively unplugged the malware, disrupting a powerful surveillance tool that, they said, had been developed by Center 16, a cutting-edge cyber-unit of Russia’s main intelligence agency, the Federal Security Service (FSB).

Snake was “the most sophisticated cyber-espionage tool designed and used by Center 16 of Russia’s Federal Security Service for long-term intelligence collection on sensitive targets,” the U.S. government’s cyber-agency said.

The developers of the malware “were really good,” said Paul Rascagneres, an IT security researcher who was among the first to identify Snake in 2014. “The design and the malware architecture was extremely advanced, with security bypasses that were not documented at this time…. It was serious code developed by a serious team.”

Adam Myers, head of intelligence at the U.S. cybersecurity company Crowdstrike, says the decision by the U.S. government and partner agencies in the other countries to release so much information on the FSB unit, as well as arcane details of the code and programming behind the malware, was meant to send a message.

A Quintessential Factor in Strategy Formulation: The Unequal Dialogue

Arnel P. David 

Colonel Arnel P. David is a US Army Strategist attending the Joint Advanced Warfighting School. He is a graduate of the Local Dynamics of War Scholars Program at the Command and General Staff College and is a Ph.D. candidate at King’s College London. He has a mix of six conventional and special operations combat deployments to the Middle East, Pacific, and Central Asia. His books include Military Strategy in the 21st Century (2018) and Warrior Diplomats (2023). He is a co-founder of Fight Club International.
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect any official capacity or position.

“At the summit, true strategy and politics are one.”

—Winston Churchill[i]

Strategy formulation requires the full engagement and involvement of political authority to bound policy effectively. Policy frames objectives, but the constant interplay of myriad forces create strategy. Strategy remains the mediating implement to connect national instrument (diplomatic, military, informational, economic) objectives to political ends. What has been described as an “unequal dialogue” is a quintessential factor in developing strategic ends (i.e., a nation’s policy).[ii] In the U.S., elected leaders solicit input across the interagency and the military to determine the nation’s ends, but ultimately, civilians make the final decision. The dialogue across the national security apparatus is both essential and, purposefully, unequal. This article argues the relevance and critical relationship of Carl von Clausewitz’s theory of war with Cohen’s unequal dialogue to illustrate how a republic can create an environment where strategy emerges from the interactive participation of its leaders. Historical and contemporary examples are woven throughout to support this argument.

Analyzing On War, Brodie describes Clausewitz’s desire of statesmen to understand the language of war to ensure its proper execution.[iii] Expressed this way, it is political leaders, who must influence the direction of war. There has been a negative perception that political influence in war is wrong. Set the policy and let the generals fight the war some have said.[iv] If there are issues, military leaders have wrongly argued, it is the level of political influence to blame.[v] However, it is not the statesman’s influence but the policy itself requiring a re-examination. This responsibility is not the statesman’s alone; repeated attempts to divorce war from its political primacy have been costly. Take the experience of Vietnam, for example.

Will Artificial General Intelligence Change the Nature of War?


The idea of the immutability of the nature of war, as formulated by Clausewitz, is an article of faith that is constantly put to trial. The latest development in human history that can potentially change the nature of war is Artificial Intelligence (AI). In a recent article published in this magazine, Alloui-Cros argued that the nature of war will not change.[i] He based this conclusion on three points: AI is just a tool that compresses timeframes but is unable to make complex decisions, AI has human biases and is designed to solve human problems, and war is a human activity, and we will always have a choice to determine its course. Looking at the AIs that are currently available, he is probably correct and AI will not change what war is or break the trinity of passion, chance and policy that defines its nature. His conclusions are aligned with those of other scholars that discussed how military revolutions changed war. For example, Gray concluded that ‘some confused theorists would have us believe that war can change its nature’.[ii] Echevarria investigated the relation between RMA, globalisation, and the nature of war and concluded that, although it is changing, the Clausewitzian framework remains ‘more suitable for understanding the nature of war in today’s global environment than any of the alternatives’.[iii]

On one hand, Alloui-Cros’ article has merits because it recognized that Clausewitz’s theory of war is still the point of reference for any discussion and updated to AI past conclusions on the effects of technological revolutions on the nature of war.

On the other hand, he did not consider if an AI with human-like capabilities, so-called Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), of whose capabilities far surpass human comprehension can falsify this theory. Vinge called this AI a ‘singularity’, a mathematical term used to label a point where a function degenerates and changes its nature becoming qualitatively different from what was before. Vinge concluded that ‘it is a point where our models must be discarded and a new reality rules’.[iv] An AGI that far surpasses human capabilities is thus called a singularity because, once it appears, the past will not be a guide to forecast or understand the future. Some authors portrayed this possibility as the end of the world.[v] The implicit conclusion is that it is not worth studying what comes after because the AGI singularity will annihilate us. This position is disputable because if we have no way to know how this new reality will be, then it is impossible and equally useless to conclude that the singularity will destroy instead of saveing us. Furthermore, as Vinge argued in his seminal paper, as time passes, we should see the symptoms of the singularity advent.[vi] Hence it is worth studying how the nature of war will be altered by this new evolving reality. Alloui-Cros answered the question on AI and the nature of war for the reality we know. The purpose of this article is to add to this discussion by speculating what might happen to the nature of war when we approach the AGI singularity.