16 May 2023

Experts react: Former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s arrest and implications for Pakistan

South Asia Center and other experts

On May 9, 2023, former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan was arrested over corruption charges during his court visit in Islamabad. This sparked nationwide protests, leading to internet blockages across the country. The arrest follows longstanding tensions with and attempts to apprehend Khan, adding to Pakistan’s already escalating political and economic crises.

To offer insights about the implications of Khan’s arrest for Pakistan, the Atlantic Council’s Pakistan Initiative asked experts to react to recent developments below.

To learn more about the arrest, tune in below with Pakistan Initiative Director Uzair Younus.

Pakistan’s self-created vortex

Just when one imagined Pakistan could not sink further into an economic and political morass, its leaders, civil and military, appear to have come up with yet another unnecessary crisis. The use of the military to arrest former Prime Minister Imran Khan in the sacrosanct confines of the Islamabad High Court reflects the inability of Pakistani political leaders to provide a coherent strategy to fight its economic and political woes. It also represents the inability of its military leaders to resist political engineering.

If the ultimate aim is to rid Pakistani politics of Imran Khan, then the storm that appears to have been unleashed may produce unintended and unmanageable consequences. The military’s calculations appear to hinge on expectations of a declining trend of Khan’s popularity and an inflated view of its own ability to ride out street unrest. What it may not have calculated is the cumulative effect of unrest on the national economy, currently gasping for air and heading toward hyperinflation and default, as well on its own rank and file. Will schisms emerge within the military? Or, will the unrest and mayhem serve as an excuse to postpone, perhaps indefinitely, the provincial and national elections ordained by the Constitution? Pakistan can ill afford a coup on the Egyptian model. If that were to occur, the country would struggle to survive an extended period of chaos as an economic and political pariah.

Exclusive: Pakistan's 'Entire' Political System Is at Risk, Minister Warns


Speaking to Newsweek, Pakistani Petroleum Minister Musadik Malik has warned that destabilizing economic and political crises surrounding the arrest and subsequent release of former Prime Minister Imran Khan are fueling a vicious cycle of unrest in the nuclear-armed nation.

At a time when the United States is reckoning with the first-ever arrest of one of its own former presidents, Malik argued that faith in Pakistan's political system is eroding among the country's 230 million people, even as the government fights an uphill battle to restore it.

The most recent round of tumult began when Imran Khan was arrested Tuesday in Islamabad while in court for corruption charges. The former premier and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party founder, who was ousted from office by a no-confidence vote in April of last year, has long alleged the existence of conspiracies at the highest levels of government and the military to suppress and even assassinate him, and his arrest sparked nationwide protests that at times have turned into violent clashes with security forces.

Khan was released Thursday after the Supreme Court of Pakistan ruled his arrest to be invalid, and he was put in custody at a police guest house before being released on bail Friday. These latest decisions have further polarized Pakistani politics, and Malik warned they could spark a new trend of aggressive tactics from political and insurgent forces across the country.

"So, all political parties that want to get away with corruption build up this kind of muscle to be on the streets," Malik, who is a member of current Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), told Newsweek.

"And then what about the militias that surround us?" he asked rhetorically. "What when they come on the street? What if the extreme groups that you have in Pakistan, they come on the streets? Would the rest of the world tell us to do the same for the sake of stability?"What people don't see is that these poor social services and this poor economy is a consequence of a very bizarre politics, and unless the politics gets fixed, none of this is going to get fixed.
Pakistani Petroleum Minister Musadik Malik

Islamabad Court Grants Imran Khan Bail

Munir Ahmed

Supporters of Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Imran Khan celebrate after Supreme Court decision, in Lahore, Pakistan, Thursday, May 11, 2023.Credit: AP Photo/K.M. Chaudary

A high court in Islamabad on Friday granted former Prime Minister Imran Khan protection from arrest in a graft case and ordered him freed on bail.

The ruling came as the government and legions of Khan’s supporters were on edge after days of violent confrontations sparked by the arrest of the former prime minister earlier this week. The government has vowed it will find a way to take Khan back into custody, a move that would likely cause a resurgence of riots and mob attacks.

Friday’s ruling by the Islamabad High Court gave Khan protection from arrest on one of several corruption cases against him for a period of two weeks, a form of interim bail that usually is renewed in the Pakistan judicial system.

Khan, however, remained in the court after the decision as his lawyers petitioned the judges for similar protection in a number of other corruption charges, trying to close off a legal avenue for the government to arrest him again.

A short while later, the court said Khan could not be arrested for the time being in other pending corruption cases against him. The former premier was expected to walk out of the court shortly

The government contends that Khan’s release rewards and encourages mob violence. After he was arrested Tuesday, his supporters attacked military installations, burned vehicles, and ambulances and looted general stores in various parts of the country. The government responded with a crackdown, arresting nearly 3,000 people. The violence left at least 10 Khan supporters dead. Dozens of protesters and more than 200 police officers were injured.

Why France and Germany will not ‘decouple’ from China

With China increasingly assertive in pursuing its economic and geopolitical interests abroad, US–China tensions are rising, leading many traditional American allies to consider following Washington’s lead in pursuing economic ‘decoupling’ from China. Their strategy aims to reduce economic reliance on China through extensive export controls and re-ordered supply chains.

Yet in Western Europe, France and Germany are showing an unwillingness to join their allies in decoupling from China. French President Emmanuel Macron’s recent comments that Europe should not get ‘caught up in crises that are not ours’ demonstrate this.

If anything, their relationship with Chinese capital is thriving. China is one of France and Germany’s major trading partners outside of the European Union and a significant export market for goods such as luxury goods and pharmaceuticals.

Exports to China made up 7.4% of Germany’s total exports and 4.21% of France’s in 2019, with these numbers growing over the last three years to record levels. Given China’s growing middle class, the country presents an enormous potential consumer market in years to come.

According to recent reports, France’s bilateral trade in goods with China exceeded US$100 billion for the first time in 2022, an increase of 14.6% on 2021­. The recent signing of 18 cooperation agreements by 46 French and Chinese companies across numerous sectors further emphasises the gathering pace of these trade relationships.

As for Germany, its total trade with China saw an increase of 21% from 2021. While exports increased by a modest 3.1%, Germany’s imports from China accounted for much of the growth, soaring by more than a third.

Specifically, Germany imports from China about two thirds of its rare earth elements, many of which are indispensable in batteries, semiconductors, and magnets in electric cars. This shows that Germany and France will rely more on China as time passes for the critical raw materials needed to fuel their economic growth and energy transitions.

The Dangers of the Global Spread of China’s Digital Authoritarianism

Paul Scharre

Watch the hearing on "Rule by Law: China’s Increasingly Global Legal Reach", held by the United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission.

I. China’s Digital Authoritarianism

Chairman Bartholomew, Vice Chairman Wong, Commissioner Goodwin, Commissioner Helberg, and distinguished Commission members, thank you for the opportunity to testify on the important topic of the Chinese Communist Party’s increasingly global legal reach.

China is pioneering a new brand of digital authoritarianism at home and abroad, which poses a profound threat to global freedoms. The United States must work with other democratic nations to push back on these illiberal uses of technology and develop an alternative vision for using digital technologies that preserves personal privacy and individual freedom.

The Chinese Communist Party is using technology to build a dense web of digital and physical surveillance to track and monitor its citizens.1 Over half of the world’s one billion surveillance cameras are in China.2 Elements of this technology-enhanced authoritarianism in China include:Artificial intelligence tools such as facial, voice, and gait recognition;

Biometric databases consisting of fingerprints, blood samples, voiceprints, iris scans, facial images, and DNA;

Facial recognition scanners in airports, hotels, banks, train stations, subways, factories, apartment complexes, and public toilets;

Physical security checkpoints that include searching cell phones for unauthorized content;

Wi-Fi “sniffers” to gather data from nearby phones and computers;

License plate readers to identify and track vehicles;

Police cloud computing centers to churn through data;

Police software that tracks individuals’ movements, car and cell phone use, gas station and electricity use, and package delivery;

“Minority identification” facial recognition systems that deliberately target minority groups, specifically China’s Uighur population; and

A national “social credit system” consisting of a series of different databases, scores, and blacklists to enhance social and political control over Chinese citizens.3

Is China Planning to Attack Taiwan?

Timothy R. Heath

Is China preparing to invade Taiwan within the next two decades? In the past year, fears that war could break out in the Taiwan Strait have grown palpable, owing in large part to the shock of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Conflict scenarios that once seemed inconceivable have become a frightening reality. Commentators warn that Beijing could be tempted to follow Moscow's example and attack a neighbor which it has long regarded as illegitimate.

U.S. military commanders have issued grim warnings about the possibility of such an attack in the near future. In March 2021, Adm. Philip Davidson, Pacific Fleet commander, warned that China could take military action against Taiwan by 2027. Adm. Michael Gilday, chief of naval operations, added that he could "not rule out" a Chinese attempt to invade as early as 2023. Top specialists on China have lent support to the alarming assessment. In a recent poll, 63 percent of respondents believed an invasion to be "possible within the next 10 years."

These fears have spurred striking political responses in Western capitals. To dissuade Beijing, President Joseph Biden has issued multiple statements clarifying U.S. willingness to help Taiwan defeat Chinese aggression. U.S. military leaders, dismayed by the results of war games that suggested U.S. forces could suffer devastating losses in a cross-strait conflict, have vowed major overhauls of the armed forces. Allied governments have stepped up preparations as well. Japan has increased defense spending amid fears of a potential Chinese attack on Taiwan and Australia has inked a deal with the United States and the United Kingdom for nuclear submarines to patrol farther from its shores.

China: CIA Using Massive Array of Cyber Weapons to Hack and Disrupt World Governments


A joint report from China’s National Computer Virus Emergency Response Centre (CVERC) and cybersecurity firm 360 accuses the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of aggressively hacking China and other countries with advanced cyber weapons, with the goal of fomenting “color revolutions” to install more friendly governments.

The claims come not long after document leaks by a US airman indicated that US intelligence is spying on the internal communications of its allies, including South Korea and Ukraine. The report claims that Chinese researchers have captured an assortment of trojans and malware used by the CIA and that the agency makes use of botnets and zero-days to attack targets around the world.
China claims to have captured CIA cyber weapons

The report claims that the CIA has built a global network of these cyber weapons since 2015, fielding “zombie botnets” and planting “stepping stones” for attacks around the world. The primary goal is what it calls “peaceful evolution” or the formation and support of popular revolutions aimed at regime change in target countries, a charge that is often levied at the US by rivals such as China and Russia.

In terms of specifics, the report points to a tool called “Riot” meant to keep anti-government forces in communication when the internet is not available or is heavily monitored. It calls this a “variable WiFi” tool, presumably some sort of localized mesh network, though there appears to be little to no other public information about this tool to shed more light on the claims. The report also claims that the CIA has tools for monitoring internet communications on foreign soil during rallies and parades, and that it provides encrypted network communication services to protesters in Middle East nations.

The US Must Act Now To Overcome Chinese Cyber Threat

Zachary Wright, Amelia Snyder

The technological capabilities of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) are a top threat to the United States as the CCP is expands its interests at the cost of US influence and power worldwide. This has been made possible by a whole-of-government approach that begins with the Chinese state and spreads overseas through cyber-espionage, attacks, and influence operations. This approach is based on opportunities made exploitable by cyber technology, exacerbated by its ubiquitous presence and enabling of plausible deniability. Differing views which civilian populations hold of cyber threats are another supporting factor for the CCP’s approach.
The extent of US cyber vulnerability

Despite the relatively recent creation of cyberspace in the history of national security, its impact has quickly become ever-present. The United States military depends on internet technology for tasks that run the gamut from maintaining satellites and directing missiles, to checking email, increasing the number of potential cyber risk vectors for the country. In the future, this could even expand to cases such as the technology aims the rifles US soldiers use, as in the case of auto-focusing rifles. Looking beyond military applications alone, both military and civilian Americans depend on cyberspace for their everyday lives, with recent research estimating over 8.4 billion internet-connected items in use around the world in 2017, and 49% of the world’s population online, up from a mere 4% in 1999.

The internet is an easy way to infiltrate the lives of billions and is integral to processes such as communications, financial management, industrial innovation, and national defense. This already ubiquitous but still growing presence gives cyber-actors an ever-increasing reach, allowing them access to both military and civilian targets. The focus of these attacks is not confined to any one size: individuals and larger entities, such as corporations and government agencies, are equally at risk. These risks are especially felt in a country where outdated laws and infrastructure have created a dearth of protection for citizens.

The Chinese administration enjoys plausible deniability

APT Networks: A Force Multiplier in China’s Push for Global Power


Chinese Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) actors constitute a substantial threat towards private and governmental entities from local to global levels. As contemporary geopolitical tensions in the Asia-Pacific region and beyond intensifies, so are the incentives for Chinese operations in cyberspace.

China’s APT network is a large web of intertwined actors capable of conducting sophisticated cyber operations against its opponents. While not every APT group is attributed to the Chinese government, Beijing is known to use APT actors to pursue its national interests. The United States (US) Office of the Director of National Intelligence 2021 Annual Threat Assessment states that China possesses substantial cyber capabilities and presents a considerable cyber threat towards digitised societies [source].

With target sectors primarily focusing on critical infrastructure objectives, hostile operations range from mere espionage activities to disruptions of high-developed systems with potential spillover to other actors in the supply chain. Hence, Chinese APT actors constitute a considerable threat to the ever-evolving digital attack surface.

While not an exhaustive list (at times, accessible information is very brief), this article aims to give a broad and, wherever possible, detailed description of known Chinese APT groups and how they correlate with China’s geostrategic aspirations.
1.1. Disclaimer

Attribution is a very complex issue. Groups often change their toolsets or exchange them with other groups. Therefore, be aware that information published here may quickly need to be updated or altered based on evolving information. Moreover, cyber security companies and Antivirus vendors use different names for the same threat actors and often refer to the reports and group names of each other. However, it is difficult to keep track of the different terms and naming schemes, but below are additional lists of known alternative names for each group.
1.2. Terminology

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

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

Atlantic Council experts

“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.

Watching Iran: the ISR Gulf

While Iran remains the focus of regional security concerns, key elements of the United States’ intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capacity to have ‘eyes on’ Tehran are being drawn elsewhere, as other areas demand even greater attention. The Gulf region’s own capabilities cannot yet replace all the allied resources being re-tasked, and Gulf Cooperation Council countries remain reticent to cooperate on ISR.

Continuity can often be a welcome feature, but in the Gulf region it is also an issue. Iran remains the overwhelming security concern for the Gulf states, while their collective capacity to counter Tehran continues to be hampered by a reluctance to cooperate more closely. Four decades after its founding in 1981, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) has yet to live up fully to its name.

The hesitancy over greater collective engagement in the defence and security realm is not new, but there has not been much progress either. And while this is problematic in and of itself, it is also being compounded by the demands of other regions on the United States, which is still the Middle East’s primary security guarantor. Washington may use the language of optimising force posture, but in practical terms this means a reduction in its regional capabilities as these are drawn elsewhere. Along with redeploying combat capabilities, the US is also shifting the focus of what are sometimes called ‘high-value, low-volume enablers’, including crewed and uninhabited intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) systems. When the region was the United States’ priority, demand for ISR still could not be matched with available assets; even before Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the pull of the Indo-Pacific and concern over China were a draw on US ISR capacity. The war in Ukraine has served only to accelerate this move away from the Gulf region.

Unfortunately, the need to observe Iran to better understand its military activities and to help with intelligence assessments of the threat it poses has not lessened. This paper considers the value of ISR as both a contributor to regional deterrence and an essential element of armed forces’ capacity in the event of war.

Lasting Peace Between Armenia and Azerbaijan Will Reduce Russia’s Influence

Mat Whatley

With so much of its attention consumed by the war in Ukraine, Russia has been unable to attend to much of its historic sphere of influence—particularly in the South Caucasus, where Moscow’s hold is fraying at the seams. On April 11, a new outbreak of violence in the 35-year-old, unresolved conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan in Nagorno-Karabakh left four Armenian and three Azerbaijani soldiers dead as the two sides exchanged artillery and machine gun fire.

Russian Military Debates AI Development and Use

Samuel Bendett

Over the past decade, artificial intelligence (AI) moved front and center in the Russian military’s thinking about new concepts and technologies for current and future wars. Following the Ukraine invasion, and the imposition of IT and high-tech sanctions on the Russian Federation, the Russian government and the Russian Ministry of Defense (MOD) are seeking ways to adapt to the resulting environment. The MOD considers AI as a decision-making tool and a key element in managing uncrewed technologies with a human-in-the-loop as a guiding approach to research and development.

Ultimately, Russia’s military performance in Ukraine and the Ukrainian military’s adoption of new and emerging technologies may likewise inform the domestic debate on the use of AI in combat.

Statements made by the Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government to communicate the importance of AI have reflected the national aim to become an AI RDTE&F (research, development, testing, evaluation and fielding) leader – an ambition that can certainly be thwarted going forward due to sanctions that have affected Russian IT and high-tech industry during the Ukraine war. In his speeches, the Russian head of state notes that AI is pivotal to Russia’s future, noting that the artificial intelligence competition among states is fierce, and Russia’s place in the world, along with the nation’s sovereignty and security depends on AI research and development results. In the wake of its invasion of Ukraine, defining national sovereignty has evolved into arguing for Russia’s “technological sovereignty”, a concept best described as diminished dependence on imported Western technology and growing reliance on the domestic ability to produce key high-tech systems of importance to strategic industries, such as AI.

Read the full article from The Azure Forum.

How the American War Machine Ran Out of Gas

Hal Brands

The arsenal of democracy is in a pitiable state, and so is America’s ability to sustain — or better yet, deter — a great-power war. That fragility didn’t develop overnight; it was the result of decades of deliberate policy choices. Those choices didn’t carry much penalty in a post-Cold War world defined by American dominance. As the conflict in Ukraine has shown, however, they are likely to prove far costlier in the years ahead.

The US once had an unbeatable defense industrial base. By the end of World War I, its shipyards were building more ships than the rest of the world combined. By the middle of World War II, America’s industrial output was four times Germany’s. The (perhaps apocryphal) quip of the German antitank gunner, explaining why he was overwhelmed by American forces — he ran out of shells before they ran out of tanks — illustrated how manufacturing superiority translated into military superiority.

So how did US wind up in its current predicament — needing years to replace the number of antitank rockets and other weapons Ukraine has sometimes used in weeks? Part of the answer involves the changing structure of the US economy.

American economic leadership endures but now rests on primacy in the high-tech knowledge economy rather than primacy in manufacturing. That transition has allowed the US to develop the world’s most sophisticated weapons while also complicating its ability to produce them at scale.

Other post-Cold War changes have compounded the effect.

After the superpower struggle ended, US defense spending plummeted as a share of gross domestic product, from around 6% in the mid-1980s to around 3% in the late 1990s. Even today, defense spending is less than 4% of GDP, compared with an average of 7.5% during the Cold War.

This trend required consolidation within the defense industry, with the number of prime contractors declining from 51 to 5 today, and the number of subcontractors — companies that contribute somewhere in the supply chain — shrinking significantly, too. The post-Cold War industrial base developed higher levels of efficiency, as a matter of survival, but boasted less resiliency and capacity to surge production in a crisis.

U.S.-Thai Relations Have An Alliance Problem

Benjamin Zawacki

This weekend, Thailand will hold its first national election in more than four years, and only its second since a coup d’état nine years ago. Regardless of its outcome, the old adage that “politics stops at the water’s edge” is certain to hold concerning the kingdom’s prevailing foreign policy orientation toward China, and to result in further weakening of its treaty alliance with the United States.

As US shifts its gaze, can anyone keep an eye on Iran in the Gulf?


U.S. Navy Seaman Justice Bryan stands watch aboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) in the Persian Gulf Aug. 28, 2014. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Brian Stephens/Released)

BEIRUT — Iran‘s recent seizure of two merchant vessels from international waters has thrown the spotlight, once again, on the aggressive nature of how Tehran operates around its territory. But with the US shifting its attention from the Gulf region and towards Russia and China, it’s uncertain if there are enough assets to make sure Iran’s movements are tracked regularly.

That’s the question raised by a new report from the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), a London-based think tank. In late April, the group issued a report called “Watching Iran: the ISR Gulf” addressing whether cooperation among the Gulf countries, combined with ISR capabilities with the US fifth fleet in the region, can accomplish regional security goals in Hurmuz Strait, the Gulf of Oman and Arabian Gulf.

“Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance coverage of Iran is and will continue to be a central element of bolstering regional security,” the report warns, adding that “Gulf countries, while holding some ISR capacity at the national level, currently lack the overall resources to fully replace those elements that Washington is redeploying [elsewhere], as do their allies.

“Furthermore, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states continue to struggle in moving beyond national approaches to the challenge of Iran, not only in terms of ISR but also, for instance, ballistic-missile defense, despite Washington’s best efforts to encourage a more collaborative approach.”

The Bid to Dethrone the Dollar

Christina Lu

In the millennia that humans have roamed the earth, the world has cycled through a number of obscure, even unusual, currencies. The ancient Mayans are believed to have used chocolate as money; traders in the Solomon Islands favored dolphin teeth. Yap islanders, at least those with strong backs, tended toward massive stones. The British pound, the oldest global currency still used today, anchored the global economy, until its fall in the early, mid, and late 20th century.

NATO’s Got a New Backbone

Mike Rogers

The NATO alliance is more relevant than ever before, but the threats facing the coalition are quite different than at the time of its founding. The strongest, most successful alliances, however, are those that can adapt to change, and after 14 months of supporting Ukraine in its war against Russia’s brutal invasion, it’s clear that a major realignment is underway. The backbone of NATO, once centered in Paris and Berlin, is shifting eastward and now stretches from Helsinki to the Black Sea. Eastern European nations—namely, Poland, Romania, Finland, and the Baltic states—understand more acutely than their Western neighbors the threat posed by Russia and the imperative for collective resolve in its face.

What is the G7 still exporting to Russia?

Niels Graham

When the Group of Seven (G7) meets in two weeks in Hiroshima, it will be focused on how to further ratchet up economic pressure on Russia. G7 members still export around $4.7 billion a month to Russia, about 43 percent of what they did prior to the invasion of Ukraine. The US wants to go further and has proposed replacing the existing sector-by-sector sanctions regime with a total export ban (with exemptions for food and medical products). If implemented as proposed, it would prohibit two-thirds of the G7’s current exports to Russia.

It will not be easy. After 15 months of conflict, the G7 have implemented nearly all the economic measures against Russia that garnered consensus within the group. The options they have left will be increasingly contentious and will impose higher costs on the G7 countries’ domestic economies. To understand how the debate over a total export ban will play out, it’s important to start with an analysis of what G7 economies still export to Russia.

The G7’s remaining exports to Russia

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, the G7 has implemented the largest sanctions and export controls regime ever imposed on a major economy. Exports from the G7 to Russia have fallen by around $5.7 billion a month from the pre-invasion average, resulting in a 57 percent decline in overall exports. This has led to a substantial slowdown in trade of critical goods such as machinery and mechanical appliances (64.6 percent decline in exports), cars and trucks (77.4 percent decline in exports) and electrical machinery (78.7 percent decline in exports). Aircraft exports have been especially impacted following sweeping sanctions and controls placed on products used by the aviation and space industry with G7 exports declining some 98.6 percent and cutting off an estimated $4.03B in exports.

However, G7 members, led by the EU, continue to export around $4.7 billion a month to Russia. The biggest export categories since March 2022 are pharmaceuticals, machinery, food, and chemicals.

The economic impact of an export ban

From March 2022 to Dec 2022, G7 goods exports totaled around $46.8 billion. US officials hope to change this. Frustrated with the existing regime, which Washington views as too porous and which allows Moscow to continue to import western technology, the US has proposed a total export ban with exemptions primarily for food and medical products. If implemented as proposed, such a restriction could further reduce G7 exports to Russia by roughly 67 percent to just $1.5B a month.

Russia's war on Ukraine latest: Moscow denies reports of Ukrainian breakthroughs

May 11 (Reuters) - Russia's defence ministry on Thursday denied reports that Ukrainian forces had broken through in various places along the front lines and said the military situation was under control.

Moscow reacted after Russian military bloggers, writing on Telegram, reported what they said were Ukrainian advances north and south of the city of Bakhmut, with some suggesting a long-awaited counter offensive by pro-Kyiv forces had started.


* President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Ukraine's long-awaited counteroffensive against Russia's invasion force had yet to start even as his generals claimed some of their biggest battlefield successes in months.

* A Ukrainian brigade commander fighting in the ruins of Bakhmut said Russian mercenary forces have stepped up shelling and artillery attacks in recent days and were not facing a munitions shortage, despite its chief's claims to the contrary.

* Russian mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin said on Thursday that the situation on the flanks near the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut was unfolding in line with the "worst of all expected scenarios".

* A Ukrainian drone attacked an oil storage depot in the Russian border region of Bryansk, the local governor said on Thursday. There were no casualties.

* Russia's military operation against Ukraine is "very difficult" but certain goals have been achieved, Tass news agency cited Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying.


* Officials from Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations on Thursday discussed U.N. proposals on a deal allowing the safe Black Sea export of Ukraine grain, which Moscow has threatened to quit on May 18 over obstacles to its own grain and fertilizer exports.

* The United States envoy to South Africa said he was confident that a Russian ship had picked up weapons in South Africa, in a possible breach of Pretoria's declared neutrality in the Ukraine conflict.

Russia acknowledges retreat north of Bakhmut, Wagner boss calls it a 'rout'

Olena Harmash and Ivan Lyubysh-Kirdey

KYIV, May 12 (Reuters) - Moscow acknowledged on Friday that its forces had fallen back north of Ukraine's battlefield city of Bakhmut after a new Ukrainian offensive, in a retreat that the head of Russia's Wagner private army called a rout.

The setback for Russia, which follows similar reports of Ukrainian advances south of the city, suggests a coordinated push by Kyiv to encircle Russian forces in Bakhmut, Moscow's main objective for months during the war's bloodiest fighting.

"In three days of counter-offensive activity, the Ukrainian Armed Forces in the Bakhmut sector have liberated 17.3 sq. km (6.6 sq. miles) of territory," Serhiy Cherevatyi, spokesman for the "east" group of Ukrainian forces, said on the Telegram messaging app.

Both sides are now reporting the biggest Ukrainian gains in six months, although Ukraine has given few details and played down suggestions a huge, long-planned counteroffensive has officially begun.

Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Ukraine had launched an assault north of Bakhmut with more than 1,000 troops and up to 40 tanks, a scale that if confirmed would amount to the biggest Ukrainian offensive since November.

The Russians had repelled 26 attacks but troops in one area had fallen back to regroup in more favourable positions near the Berkhivka reservoir northwest of Bakhmut, Konashenkov said.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, head of the Wagner forces that have led the campaign in the city, said in an audio message: "What Konashenkov described, unfortunately, is called 'a rout' and not a regrouping".

In a separate video message, Prigozhin said the Ukrainians had seized high ground overlooking Bakhmut and opened the main highway leading into the city from the West.

"The loss of the Berkhivka reservoir - the loss of this territory they gave up - that's 5 sq km, just today," Prigozhin said.

What Happened to Russian Hybrid War?

Kseniya Kirillova

The tactic of hybrid warfare favored by the Kremlin has become known as the “Gerasimov Doctrine” after its creator, General Valery Gerasimov, who now heads the General Staff. The line between war and peace is being erased, and modern wars are also being waged by non-military means, he wrote in February 2013.

Gerasimov even treated the formation of opposition and mass protests as part of the new war – and suggested responding to such “threats” with a combination of military and non-military methods. Non-military activities included bribing or intimidating public officials, fanning the flames of public discontent, and supporting the opposition with illegally planted armed groups.

The following year, Gerasimov’s ideas were further developed and detailed by Andrey Bezrukov, a former spy and member of the Presidium of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy. Like Gerasimov, he accused the West of waging a “multi-dimensional war” combining military and non-military means. As a “retaliatory measure,” he proposed the maximum involvement of civilian populations in a “war of a new type,” with “armies of supporters”, including on social networks.

Bezrukov called for a sharp increase in investment in intelligence and counterintelligence, the active embedding of agents among potential enemies, and a focus on propaganda and hackers. He also proposed the creation of private military companies (PMCs) based on veteran organizations which could operate abroad in order to “buy those who are corrupted and eliminate those who do not stop after a warning.”

Russia actively pursued the tactics of hybrid war, both against Ukraine and the West. However, in 2019, Gerasimov changed tack with a new plan which called for an emphasis on “issues of preparation for war and its conduct by the armed forces.” Gerasimov said Russia’s enemies were also getting ready for a large-scale war, and therefore an “active defense strategy” was needed with “a set of proactive measures to neutralize threats to the security of the state.”

Arms Control for Artificial Intelligence

Paul Scharre and Megan Lamberth

Militaries worldwide are working on how best to develop, integrate, and use AI in their weapons systems. While many of these systems are yet to be realized, breakthroughs in AI could have a significant impact on how militaries operate over time. Concern over military AI systems have led some activists to call for prohibitions or regulations on some AI-enabled weapons systems.

The best illustration of the dynamics of the desirability of arms control is the international community’s response to nuclear weapons versus chemical weapons.

Yet, AI has several characteristics that make it difficult to control. As a general-purpose enabling technology, AI is like electricity or the internal combustion engine and has countless nonmilitary or defense applications. It differs from some military technologies because it is predominantly developed in the civilian sector by engineers in private industry or in research organizations. While the widespread availability of AI makes a complete ban on all military applications of AI unlikely, there may be an opportunity for the international community to work together to regulate or prohibit certain uses of military AI.

Read the full article from the Texas National Security Review.

Informing Decisions on Public-Private Partnerships in the Space Sector

Moon Kim

The rise of public-private partnerships (PPPs) began in the United States space sector in the early 2000s, as public space agencies sought after creative acquisition strategies under budgetary pressure and private companies emerged in the New Space environment. Theories of PPPs suggest that the procurement arrangement can garner the best of both public and private sectors to create favorable outcomes such as cost savings. Uncritical praise of PPPs prevails in the sector based on optimistic theories. In contrast, literature from the industries that have extensive PPP experiences actively engage in discussion around the effectiveness of PPPs with empirical evidence. The critical debate on the effectiveness of PPPs presents evidence that not all PPPs are successful nor the same. Space policy literature lacks such in-depth discussions despite the political popularity of PPPs. Furthermore, the under-investigation of the topic has led to a lack of tools to better inform decision-makers responsible for architecting acquisition strategies in public space agencies. This dissertation presents the first comprehensive set of research on the topic of space PPPs to move forward from the rudimentary discourse to critical discussions and analytical investigations. The dissertation involves 1) a survey of space sector professionals to inquire the awareness and perception of PPPs in the sector; 2) the development of a PPP typology specific to the space sector that enables the classification of the variants; 3) an expert elicitation to characterize various procurement arrangements using a set of procurement attributes; 4) and a proof-of-concept decision analysis tool to demonstrate the operationalization of procurement arrangements data for enhanced decision-making. The findings of this dissertation contribute to the development of analytical investigations and decision tools to improve the ways in which the space sector understands and employs PPPs for exploring the unknown.

The open-source AI boom is built on Big Tech’s handouts. How long will it last?

Will Douglas Heavenarchive page

Last week a leaked memo reported to have been written by Luke Sernau, a senior engineer at Google, said out loud what many in Silicon Valley must have been whispering for weeks: an open-source free-for-all is threatening Big Tech’s grip on AI.

New open-source large language models—alternatives to Google’s Bard or OpenAI’s ChatGPT that researchers and app developers can study, build on, and modify—are dropping like candy from a piñata. These are smaller, cheaper versions of the best-in-class AI models created by the big firms that (almost) match them in performance—and they’re shared for free.

Companies like Google—which revealed at its annual product showcase this week that it is throwing generative AI at everything it has, from Gmail to Photos to Maps—were too busy looking over their shoulders to see the real competition coming, writes Sernau: “While we’ve been squabbling, a third faction has been quietly eating our lunch.”

In many ways, that’s a good thing. Greater access to these models has helped drive innovation—it can also help catch their flaws. AI won't thrive if just a few mega-rich companies get to gatekeep this technology or decide how it is used.

But this open-source boom is precarious. Most open-source releases still stand on the shoulders of giant models put out by big firms with deep pockets. If OpenAI and Meta decide they’re closing up shop, a boomtown could become a backwater.

For example, many of these models are built on top of LLaMA, an open-source large language model released by Meta AI. Others use a massive public data set called the Pile, which was put together by the open-source nonprofit EleutherAI. But EleutherAI exists only because OpenAI’s openness meant that a bunch of coders were able to reverse-engineer how GPT-3 was made, and then create their own in their free time.

“Meta AI has done a really great job training and releasing models to the research community,” says Stella Biderman, who divides her time between EleutherAI, where she is executive director and head of research, and the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton. Sernau, too, highlights Meta AI’s crucial role in his Google memo. (Google confirmed to MIT Technology Review that the memo was written by one of its employees but notes that it is not an official strategy document.)

You’re Probably Underestimating AI Chatbots


IN THE SPRING of 2007, I was one of four journalists anointed by Steve Jobs to review the iPhone. This was probably the most anticipated product in the history of tech. What would it be like? Was it a turning point for devices? Looking back at my review today, I am relieved to say it’s not an embarrassment: I recognized the device’s generational significance. But for all the praise I bestowed upon the iPhone, I failed to anticipate its mind-blowing secondary effects, such as the volcanic melding of hardware, operating system, and apps, or its hypnotic effect on our attention. (I did urge Apple to “encourage outside developers to create new uses” for the device.) Nor did I suggest we should expect the rise of services like Uber or TikTok or make any prediction that family dinners would turn into communal display-centric trances. Of course, my primary job was to help people decide whether to spend $500, which was super expensive for a phone back then, to buy the damn thing. But reading the review now, one might wonder why I spent time griping about AT&T’s network or the web browser’s inability to handle Flash content. That’s like quibbling over what sandals to wear just as a three-story tsunami is about to break.

I am reminded of my failure of foresight when reading about the experiences people are having with recent AI apps, like large language model chatbots and AI image generators. Quite rightfully, people are obsessing about the impact of a sudden cavalcade of shockingly capable AI systems, though scientists often note that these seemingly rapid breakthroughs have been decades in the making. But as when I first pawed the iPhone in 2007, we risk failing to anticipate the potential trajectories of our AI-infused future by focusing too much on the current versions of products like Microsoft’s Bing chat, OpenAI’s ChatGPT, Anthropic’s Claude, and Google’s Bard.

White House addresses AI’s risks and rewards as security experts voice concerns about malicious use

Karl Greenberg

The Biden administration, last week, articulated aims to put guardrails around generative and other AI, while attackers get bolder using the technology.Image: Shuo/Adobe Stock

The White House, last week, released a statement about the use of artificial intelligence, including large language models like ChatGPT.

The statement addressed concerns about AI being used to spread misinformation, biases and private data, and announced a meeting by Vice President Kamala Harris with leaders of ChatGPT maker OpenAI, owned by Microsoft and with executives from Alphabet and Anthropic.

But some security experts see adversaries who operate under no ethical proscriptions using AI tools on numerous fronts, including generating deep fakes in the service of phishing. They worry that defenders will fall behind.

Uses, misuses and potential over-reliance on AI

Artificial intelligence, “will be a huge challenge for us,” said Dan Schiappa, chief product officer at security operations firm Arctic Wolf.

“While we need to make sure legitimate organizations aren’t using this in an illegitimate way, the unflattering truth is that the bad guys are going to keep using it, and there is nothing we are going to do to regulate them,” he said.

According to security firm Zscaler, ThreatLabz’s 2023 Phishing Report, AI tools were partly responsible for a 50% increase in phishing attacks last year, compared to 2021. In addition, chatbot AI tools have allowed attackers to hone such campaigns by improving targeting and making it easier to trick users into compromising their security credentials.

Help! My Political Beliefs Were Altered by a Chatbot!

Christopher Mims

When we ask ChatGPT or another bot to draft a memo, email, or presentation, we think these artificial-intelligence assistants are doing our bidding. A growing body of research shows that they also can change our thinking—without our knowing.

One of the latest studies in this vein, from researchers spread across the globe, found that when subjects were asked to use an AI to help them write an essay, that AI could nudge them to write an essay either for or against a particular view, depending on the bias of the algorithm. Performing this exercise also measurably influenced the subjects’ opinions on the topic, after the exercise.



Meta, the parent company of Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, released its 2023 first-quarter Adversarial Threats Report, offering the latest insights on how bad actors use social media for malicious activities.

The report focuses on three key adversarial trends observed by Meta’s security teams during the first three months of 2023. These include malware campaigns, covert influence operations, and cyber espionage by state-sponsored adversarial threat networks and private for-hire disinformation firms.

Meta’s Chief Information Security Officer, Guy Rosen, discussing these latest threats, said malware operators have taken a keen interest in exploiting public interest in emerging Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies like ChatGPT.

“Our threat research has shown time and again that malware operators, just like spammers, are very attuned to what’s trendy at any given moment. They latch onto hot-button issues and popular topics to get people’s attention,” Rosen said.

“The latest wave of malware campaigns have taken notice of generative AI technology that’s captured people’s imagination and excitement.”

In March alone, Meta security teams uncovered 10 malware families posing as ChatGPT or similar AI chatbot tools, and over 1,000 malicious URLs had been blocked on Meta’s family of social media apps.

“Some of these malicious extensions did include working ChatGPT functionality alongside the malware,” Rosen said. “This was likely to avoid suspicion from the stores and from users.”

The report shared findings on nine adversarial networks using social media for cyber espionage and covert influence operations.

120 Facebook and Instagram accounts were disabled after being linked to a state-sponsored advanced persistent threat (APT) group operating out of Pakistan.

According to the Meta, the Pakistan-based APT group was engaged in coordinated cyber espionage operations, primarily targeting military personnel in India and the Pakistan Air Force.

Google Is Opening the AI Floodgates


GOOGLE WOULD LIKE you to know that it has been at the forefront of machine intelligence for decades, actually. Never mind that it was beaten to the generative-AI hype party by the likes of OpenAI and Microsoft Bing, because Google has big plans. At its I/O developer conference this week, in addition to announcing some new hardware (including a folding phone), Google turned on the firehose of AI. During a two-hour presentation, the company showed how it’s busily building generative technologies into nearly everything it does. Chatbots, text generators, and content-creation tools will soon be embedded in Google’s devices, search pages, Android apps, and Google’s Workspace suite of productivity apps like Gmail, Docs, and Sheets.

This week on Gadget Lab, we talk about the big news from Google’s I/O event and why the company is so dead set on sticking AI into absolutely everything.
Show Notes

Julian recommends going on vacation and also the new Legend of Zelda game. Lauren recommends Janet Malcom’s book Still Pictures. Mike recommends the JBL Reflect Aero earbuds.

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