26 May 2023

US, Papua New Guinea sign defence agreement as Modi pledges support for Pacific Islands

Kirsty Needham

U.S. aims to deter China-Pacific security cooperation China warns against engaging in 'geopolitical games' India's Modi vows support in talks with 14 Pacific leaders Palau renews COFA with U.S., among three worth $7.1 billion

May 22 (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said a defence cooperation pact signed with Papua New Guinea on Monday would expand the Pacific island nation's capabilities and make it easier for the U.S. military to train with its forces.

Blinken and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi held separate meetings with 14 Pacific island leaders in the PNG capital Port Moresby, pledging support for the region's priorities of health, development and climate change.

The United States and its allies are seeking to deter Pacific island nations from forming security ties with China, a rising concern amid tension over Taiwan, and after Beijing signed a security pact with Solomon Islands.

Pacific island leaders, whose territories span 40 million square km (15 million square miles) of ocean, have said rising sea levels caused by climate change are their most pressing security priority.

Blinken told PNG Prime Minister James Marape that Washington would deepen its partnership across the board with PNG, and that he expected partnerships with U.S. businesses would bring tens of billions of dollars' worth of new investment.

After university students protested against the defence agreement on Monday, Marape told a joint news conference with Blinken "there is nothing for us to be fearful about".

The accord updated an existing U.S. military relationship, he said, and "has nothing to do with China".

"We have a healthy relationship with the Chinese government and they are an important trading partner," Marape said.

How the Taliban are Meeting the IS Threat on Afghanistan’s Campuses

Dr Antonio Giustozzi

This paper examines the understudied presence of the Islamic State for Central and South Asia (IS-K) on Afghanistan’s university campuses and the counterterrorism effort that the Taliban regime has mounted against it, asking how effective the Taliban’s efforts have been and whether IS-K has been able to adapt.

It assesses the performance of the Taliban in one case study of counterterrorism (IS-K activities in the campuses) and the adaptation of IS-K in response. It is based on a series of 25 interviews with IS-K militants, Taliban security and intelligence officials, and university staff and students, carried out after the regime change in Kabul in August 2021. In order to set out the operating environment of Taliban counterterrorism, the paper also describes in detail, with new evidence, the sophisticated IS-K approach to recruitment on Afghanistan’s university campuses, combining face-to-face and remote techniques. IS-K’s recruitment is aimed at a relatively small niche, largely Salafi and Salafi-leaning students, and can yield only a limited number of recruits, certainly not exceeding the low hundreds annually. Nonetheless, these are high-quality recruits, on which the highly ideological and disciplined IS-K must rely to sustain its operations. Indeed, the Taliban seem to have paid considerable attention to the problem.

By denying the space they once had on the campuses to IS-K activists, the Taliban have constrained IS-K’s ability to recruit, but this could well be only temporary, especially as IS-K adapts and refines its recruitment techniques, relying more on private social media channels, moving more of its social media activists abroad, and warning its members and sympathisers about the risk of Taliban infiltrators and provocateurs. Moreover, the underlying conditions favouring IS-K recruitment persist, including serious harassment of Salafi students by some of their Hanafi colleagues; heavy-handed treatment of suspects by Taliban police and intelligence; widespread student frustration at their conditions and lack of prospects; and Taliban pressure on non-violent extremist groups that have roots among students, such as Hizb ut-Tahrir, Jami’at Eslah and others, which might drive some of their members towards IS-K.

The Quad from the Four Corners

Richard Maude, Daniel Russel, Takako Hikotani, C. Raja Mohan

In The View from Australia, Asia Society Policy Institute (ASPI) Senior Fellow Richard Maude argues:Australia’s embrace of the Quad reflects a deep concern over China’s current behavior and its actions to shape the Indo-Pacific region, while also highlighting Australia’s preference to utilize diplomacy to shape regional dynamics.

Australia sees the Quad and its collective weight as a way to foster cautioning power to signal its displeasure with Beijing’s actions while simultaneously serving as a provider of regional public goods.

The Quad’s growing focus on delivering public goods should be seen as supporting regional resilience and sovereignty in the Indo-Pacific and a platform for “enabling choices” for regional partners.

While there are some challenges facing the Quad, especially in how Southeast Asian partners perceive the initiative, Australia will continue to offer reassurances to ASEAN partners and position the grouping as a provider of much needed regional goods.

In The View from America, ASPI Vice President Daniel Russel argues:The Quad has come a long way since its inception in 2004, and under President Joe Biden, the U.S. has moved away from its framing of the grouping as an anti-China effort and refashioned the Quad as a vehicle for partnership and public goods.

The Quad seeks to demonstrate that China is not the only game in town and that democracies can deliver more than security guarantees, including addressing the needs of the region.

While the focus on functional cooperation and providing public goods is a step in the right direction, there is growing disillusionment in the region due to the inadequacies of existing initiatives. Additionally, the grouping will have to continue to contend with divergent interests within the group, for example how to address Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Chinese PSCs in Sub-Saharan Africa: The Case of Anglophone Africa

Sergey Sukhankin

Executive SummaryChina`s strategic interests in Sub-Saharan Africa are diverse and, while still being primarily guided by the need to maintain access to locally extracted raw materials, now go beyond this goal. In fact, growing investments in infrastructure, manufacturing and green energy are likely to see greater involvement from Chinese state-owned enterprises in Africa. This will undoubtedly demand a greater level of protection for China’s material assets and personnel, given the myriad of security risks throughout Africa.

As one of the means to protect the lives of its employees and material assets, Beijing might increase the use of private security companies (PSCs) in Africa. Yet, certain internal factors (objective weakness of Chinese PSCs and some gaps in domestic legislation) and external conditions (African stance on foreign PSCs) might restrict or limit the use of these groups in Africa.

China will approach the use of PSCs in Africa—where it has been able to build a positive image as an actor relying on “soft power” and trade—with a great deal of caution, lest it sours its image as a responsible great power.

In some countries of Anglophone Africa—especially those that are small and greatly indebted—China may attempt to experiment with a blend of state and private (which in the Chinese context is a murky term) forms of security involvement in certain countries as a means to protect its nationals and assets.

Starting from the launch of its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) in 2013, China has increased its presence in Africa. Beijing’s strategic interests in Africa are premised on four main pillars: (1) the continent`s endowment with practically all natural resources that are critical to Chinese economic growth and development; (2) access to African consumers, which helps China diversify its exports; (3) a young population, which would allow China to transfer some elements of its production cycle to Africa at a fraction of the cost otherwise spent on domestic workers; and (4) the geopolitical aspect, in which Beijing views African countries—or rather their voting power in the United Nations and other international organizations—as allies in legitimizing some of its actions on the international stage. Thus, as it was correctly pointed out in the 2020 US-China Economic and Security Review Commission Report to Congress:

The Next Phase in the China-US Confrontation

George Friedman

Last week, I wrote about the major expansion of the U.S.-Philippine alliance, Japanese alignment with Taiwan and possible three-way links with South Korea, and a planned visit by President Joe Biden to Papua New Guinea to forge an alliance there. That meeting didn’t take place, officially because Biden needed to return to Washington to secure a deal on raising the debt ceiling. My guess is that during a week where China’s strategic defense in the South China Sea was hammered and likely fragmented, the U.S. decided not to pile on with a visit, but the agreement with Papua New Guinea will be completed nonetheless.

This week, the focus changed from military deployments to economics. In general, this is far more important to the Chinese than the military balance. China’s military does not reach the level where Beijing could have a high degree of confidence in its success in a conflict, and defeat would be catastrophic. But in point of fact, I regard the Chinese military as weaker than others do. Weapons are important, but so are experience in combat and terrain. The terrain was never favorable for China. Islands block its access to the open seas, and last week’s agreements made the Chinese position as an offensive power untenable. There is an interesting tendency to overestimate potential offensive powers over those with a strong defensive base. Russia in Ukraine is a case in point, but so is China, where an attack on Taiwan has been imminent for years. Russia did not recognize its position, but China does.

Therefore, the Chinese greeted U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan’s invitation to a meeting, which was only as unpleasant as good manners demanded. Sullivan wanted to reassure the Chinese that new initiatives by the administration were not intended to harm China. Most concerning to Beijing is a growing list of U.S. export controls intended to ensure that U.S. firms do not sell to China anything that could be used to strengthen its military. That would appear to be relatively benign, but since just about everything could be perceived as useful to the military, the U.S. was indicating that it could limit the flow of exports to China at will.

Decoupling is just going to happen


I think we’re about due for another update on the China decoupling situation. Decoupling isn’t just a geopolitical or military thing; it’s going to be one of the most important economic trends of the next couple of decades. In other words, whether you’re trying to make money or make policy, it’s something you probably need to follow.

First, let’s talk about what “decoupling” does and doesn’t mean. When some people hear “decoupling”, they think of an Iron Curtain type situation — a world carved into two separate and distinct trading blocs, one led by China and the other led by the developed democracies, each of which trades with each other but not with the other bloc. While I do think something like this is a possibility in the long term, I would be surprised if it happens in the short term. You can see in the trade numbers that we’re not even really headed in this direction yet; Chinese exporters may have lost a bit of profitability, but U.S.-China trade hit an all-time high in 2022.

Where decoupling is likely to happen, and soon, is in the world of investment. In the old economic system of the 2000s and the 2010s, the corporations of the developed democracies made things in China and then sold those things back to the big markets of the developed democracies. That meant they had to invest in China, by building factories and offices there. It’s this system of investment that’s breaking down, and that I expect to break down further.
Investment decoupling has been happening for a while now

In fact, this is not a very bold prediction on my part; it’s already happening. As a percent of China’s GDP, foreign direct investment is down from 4% of China’s GDP in 2011 to just 1% today, and in total dollar terms it has fallen from $300 billion to around $200 billion. And in addition we always have to remember that a lot of “FDI” into China is fake; it’s just Chinese companies investing in China via Hong Kong. When you look at FDI from the developed democracies, the drop in recent years is even starker. FDI from the G7 was $35.3 billion in 2014, but only $16.3 billion by 2020 — and that was before the gigantic drop in 2022. If you look at “greenfield” investment — where a company decides to build some new factories or offices in China — the drop is even more dramatic:

China's 21st Century Aspirational Empire

Robert Odell

How the Chinese party-state chooses to exercise its economic, financial, diplomatic, military and soft power in the next 25 years will make a great difference to U.S. national security and foreign policy, and to developments in the rest of the world. One way to frame China’s power trajectory is to explore whether and how it might become more empire-like—seeking to bolster its own national advantages by eroding or suborning the sovereignty of states in all world regions.

The goal of this paper is to outline an argument that China could pursue a strategy of building and reinforcing an empire-like position in the world in the next 20 years. The paper is intended to offer a view of China’s rising power that is orthogonal to the prevailing set of views in Washington, and so stimulate thinking among U.S. policymakers and analysts on how China could succeed, or fail in this strategy. The paper does not seek to advance an alarmist view of China’s rising power: The Chinese empire-like position that the paper charts would not resemble the British empire of the 19th century or first-half of the 20th century, with territorial control, resident administrations, codified authorities, and intricate commercial and economic ties.

Just as the United States built and maintained such an empire under 20th century conditions, it may pass that China seeks to undertake a similar grand strategy under 21st century conditions. The term American empire carries definite accusatorial or normative uses, but also describes a U.S. position in every region of the world with complex, overlapping forms of power and influence—diplomatic, informational, military, economic, financial, intelligence, and law enforcement. This U.S. position in the world also had a strong values component of support for democracy, civil liberties, and civil rights—not just intended as a counterpoise to the ideology or the Soviet bloc. The U.S. position also included occasional exercise of hard power and coercion—sometimes erupting in war.

Course Correction Charting a More Effective Approach to U.S.-China Trade

Clark Packard and Scott Lincicome

Over the past several years the U.S.-China economic relationship has soured and become subordinated to broader concerns about national security and geopolitics. After a decades‐​long reform agenda in China that lifted hundreds of millions out of grinding poverty, Chinese president Xi Jinping has increasingly turned inward—reembracing Maoist socialism and heavy‐​handed central planning. Washington’s response to these worrisome developments has been reflexively hawkish economically, scattershot, and woefully inadequate for the economic challenge that China presents.

Fearing that China is inexorably poised to become the world’s leading economy, policymakers in the United States have embraced tariffs, investment restrictions, export controls, and massive domestic subsidies to favored industries such as semiconductor manufacturing. These moves have failed to change Beijing’s behavior, but they have counterproductively weakened the U.S. economy and alienated allies that Washington needs to rally in defense of market‐​based democracy against 21st‐​century mercantilism.

This analysis explains that instead of mimicking China’s increasingly interventionist economic policies, the United States should focus on promoting the competitiveness of the American economy and the economies of our allies. Policymakers should rely on the market‐​oriented policies that propelled the United States to unprecedented wealth and power, including openness to international trade and investment; liberalized immigration; lighter‐​touch regulation, particularly in the burgeoning technology industry that sits at the epicenter of the economic competition with China; and smarter tax policies. These policies are not a panacea with respect to all that ails the U.S.-China economic relationship, but they would be much more successful than the failed status quo.


The U.S.-China relationship is increasingly complex and is the top geopolitical issue facing the world today. How the two countries manage this relationship will greatly affect global peace, prosperity, and stability in the 21st century. Concerning economic and trade policy specifically, the United States should focus on affirming the market incentives that boost the performance and competitiveness of American companies and those of our allies. Unfortunately, Washington policymakers have instead embraced economically hawkish rhetoric and policies that are at best superficial and at worst counterproductive. As former treasury secretary Henry Paulson astutely observed, “We have a China attitude, not a China policy.”1

A Struggle of Influence between Iran and Saudi Arabia: The Repercussions of Confrontation and the Likelihood of Peace A Case Study of Yemen

Abdalqader Faeez

The crisis in Yemen has in recent years played a pivotal role in raising the level of tensions and confrontation between Saudi Arabia and the Iran. Moreover, in all its forms, whether directly or through proxies, it has added new dimensions to the competition and the cold war between Tehran and Riyadh in both ideological and geopolitical terms.

Yemen is a fundamental part of Saudi Arabia’s national security. For this reason, it holds a strategic place at the main core of Saudi Arabia’s political belief system. It is a country where an armed offensive by the Houthi movement in Sanaa, its capital, caused intense concerns and represented a major threat to Saudi Arabia, especially as the movement allegedly receives military, financial and security backing from Iran.

This paper examines the different levels of competition and confrontation between Iran and Saudi Arabia in Yemen, and how this competition has turned into bitter tensions that resemble a cold and harsh war between the two regional powers. It also discusses the historical dimensions of these tensions, and how Yemen constitutes strategic leverage for fundamental changes that impact the balance of power and balance of threats governing the historical competition between Riyadh and Tehran.

Parts of the paper discuss the internal and external factors that contributed to transforming Yemen to one of the most important testing grounds for crossing red lines, and how local Yemeni actors have become a mere reflection of the conflict at its regional level. Finally, the paper touches on the deciding factors that prompted Riyadh and Tehran to seriously and practically consider the possibility of ending the cold war between them, and the place Yemen holds in the bilateral agreement that was recently signed under the auspices of China.


UN watchdog: Ukrainian nuclear plant briefly loses power supply again, is ‘extremely vulnerable’


KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Officials say that Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, Europe’s largest atomic power station, spent hours operating on emergency diesel generators after losing its external power supply for the seventh time since Russia’s full-scale invasion of its neighbor. Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said Monday the plant is “extremely vulnerable.” Hours later, national energy company Ukrenergo said on Telegram that it had restored the power line that feeds the plant. But for Grossi, it was another reminder of what’s at stake at the Russian-occupied plant which has seen shelling close by. A disruption of the electrical supply could disable the plant’s cooling systems which are essential for the reactors’ safety.

The Middle East’s Shifting Political Landscape

Dr. Mohamed ELDoh

In the past few months, there have been notable changes in the political orientation of multiple countries in the Middle East. Traditionally, many Arab nations maintained a foreign policy that was closely linked to that of the United States (US), although recent events suggest a divergence in actions. The recent agreement between the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) and Iran received considerable attention due to concerns that were expressed earlier by most members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the Western community regarding Iran’s threat to regional stability and international security. In addition, China, which has always been viewed as the main rival to the US, has played the main role in facilitating the agreement between Iran and KSA, where the latter is considered the US’s most strategic ally in the Middle East.

China’s growing strategic involvement with KSA may potentially impact US influence in the region. Possibly explaining why, the White House national security advisor Jake Sullivan visited KSA earlier this month to meet Saudi officials; this visit follows on the heels of the CIA director’s trip to KSA last month. It is worth noting that China has grown into a significant trading partner for KSA, with a bilateral trade volume of nearly 90 billion USD. This has potentially created economic opportunities for China, despite the longstanding security cooperation and relationship between the US and KSA. Furthermore, China holds a significant position as KSA’s primary purchaser of oil. Moreover, before the Saudi-Iranian deal was finalized, China introduced its “Global Security Initiative” concept, which aims to address conflicts between nations. Thus, it appears that China has a desire to expand its strategic engagement and establish a unique model of global governance that differs from traditional Western models, as evidenced by its efforts to increase economic ties in the region. The proposed model prioritizes economic growth and stability while also considering China’s unique interests, which may differ from those of Western powers. Hence, it poses a challenge to the values of the Western world while also appealing to nations in the Middle East that may have disagreements with the US.

Russia Is Defaulting on Weapons Sales. The US Should Fill the Gap

Michael Rubin

India may be the world’s most populous country and its largest democracy, but for decades, its military has depended disproportionately upon Russian arms. That legacy New Delhi may now regret.

In 2018, India paid Russia $5.4 billion for the S-400 Triumf air defense system. India also depends on Russia for spare parts for both its Sukhoi Su-30MKI and MiG-29 fighter jets. Following the 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Russia halted deliveries, leaving India in the lurch, especially as China threatens India’s territory and Pakistan its security.

India is not alone. While Armenia, like India, has pivoted westward in recent years, its military continues to rely on Soviet and Russian weaponry. Armen Grigoryan, Armenia’s national security adviser, complained last week that Russia was in delivery default on a number of arms contracts for which Armenia had already paid. The silly or the simple can respond to such complaints by repeating as a mantra, “Armenia is a satellite of Russia,” but the reality is more complex.

During the Cold War, the United States sided with Pakistan. Times change. Today, Pakistan is a vassal of China. A leaked document shows Hina Rabbani Khar, minister of state for foreign affairs, arguing Pakistan should “no longer try to maintain a middle ground between China and the United States.” Instead, she argues, the country’s future belongs to Beijing.

Armenia’s democratic revolution and subsequent elections in which the old guard failed to return despite the shock of Armenia’s loss in the second Nagorno-Karabakh War also reflect a new geopolitical reality. As Armenia consolidated democracy, Azerbaijan solidified its autocracy, and as Armenia reoriented itself from Russia to the West, Azerbaijan turned instead to Moscow.

Today, Azerbaijan is ground zero for Russian money laundering. Armenia may be a legacy member of Russia’s defense block, but it participates in NATO peacekeeping missions, drills with the U.S. military, and partners with the Kansas National Guard.

After Bakhmut Russia turned Bakhmut into the graveyard of Ukrainian military power. What comes next?

Douglas Macgregor

Until the fighting begins, national military strategy developed in peacetime shapes thinking about warfare and its objectives. Then the fighting creates a new logic of its own. Strategy is adjusted. Objectives change. The battle for Bakhmut illustrates this point very well.

When General Sergey Vladimirovich Surovikin, commander of Russian aerospace forces, assumed command of the Russian military in the Ukrainian theater last year, President Vladimir Putin and his senior military advisors concluded that their original assumptions about the war were wrong. Washington had proved incurably hostile to Moscow’s offers to negotiate, and the ground force Moscow had committed to compel Kiev to negotiate had proved too small.

Surovikin was given wide latitude to streamline command relationships and reorganize the theater. Most importantly, Surovikin was also given the freedom of action to implement a defensive strategy that maximized the use of stand-off attack or strike systems while Russian ground forces expanded in size and striking power. The Bakhmut “Meatgrinder” was the result.

When it became clear that Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky and his government regarded Bakhmut as a symbol of Ukrainian resistance to Russian military power, Surovikin turned Bakhmut into the graveyard of Ukrainian military power. From the fall of 2022 onward, Surovikin exploited Zalenskiy’s obsession with Bakhmut to engage in a bloody tug-of-war for control of the city. As a result, thousands of Ukrainian soldiers died in Bakhmut and many more were wounded.

Surovkin’s performance is reminiscent of another Russian military officer: General Aleksei Antonov. As the first deputy chief of the Soviet general staff, Surovikin was, in Western parlance, the director of strategic planning. When Stalin demanded a new summer offensive in a May 1943 meeting, Antonov, the son and grandson of imperial Russian army officers, argued for a defensive strategy. Antonov insisted that Hitler, if allowed, would inevitably attack the Soviet defenses in the Kursk salient and waste German resources doing so.

Stalin, like Hitler, believed that wars were won with offensive action, not defensive operations.

What it would mean for the global economy if the US defaults on its debt


WASHINGTON (AP) — If the debt crisis roiling Washington were eventually to send the United States crashing into recession, America’s economy would hardly sink alone.

The repercussions of a first-ever default on the federal debt would quickly reverberate around the world. Orders for Chinese factories that sell electronics to the United States could dry up. Swiss investors who own U.S. Treasurys would suffer losses. Sri Lankan companies could no longer deploy dollars as an alternative to their own dodgy currency.

“No corner of the global economy will be spared” if the U.S. government defaulted and the crisis weren’t resolved quickly, said Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics.

Zandi and two colleagues at Moody’s have concluded that even if the debt limit were breached for no more than week, the U.S. economy would weaken so much, so fast, as to wipe out roughly1.5 million jobs.

And if a government default were to last much longer — well into the summer — the consequences would be far more dire, Zandi and his colleagues found in their analysis: U.S. economic growth would sink, 7.8 million American jobs would vanish, borrowing rates would jump, the unemployment rate would soar from the current 3.4% to 8% and a stock-market plunge would erase $10 trillion in household wealth.

Of course, it might not come to that. The White House and House Republicans, seeking a breakthrough, concluded a round of debt-limit negotiations Sunday, with plans to resume talks Monday. The Republicans have threatened to let the government default on its debts by refusing to raise the statutory limit on what it can borrow unless President Joe Biden and the Democrats accept sharp spending cuts and other concessions.


Russian Aggression Against Ukraine: Impact on Nuclear Issues

SANO Toshio

In this policy brief, Toshio Sano examines the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, particularly its attacks on Ukraine’s nuclear power plants, on various nuclear issues, including nuclear security, IAEA safeguards, nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament efforts, as well as the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Protecting Ukraine’s nuclear power plants should be a priority, as attacks on these facilities could have devastating consequences. There are several measures that the international community can take to safeguard Ukraine’s nuclear power plants and mitigate the risks posed by Russia’s threats. These measures include increasing international support for Ukraine’s efforts to enhance its security infrastructure, providing technical assistance to improve safety measures at its power plants, and strengthening IAEA safeguards. There is an urgent need for action by the international community to protect Ukraine’s nuclear power plants and prevent further escalation of the crisis. This can be achieved through diplomatic efforts aimed at persuading Putin to act, as well as utilizing the UN General Assembly to dispatch peacekeepers. Download the full policy brief.

Default Would Have a Catastrophic Impact on the Economy

Jean Ross

Recent announcements that the nation could face default as early as June 1 have heightened concerns over the impact of default—or even a close brush with default—might have on the economy. On January 19, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen informed Congress that the federal government had hit the debt ceiling—a statutory limit on its ability to borrow to finance the ongoing obligations of governing. The Treasury Department is currently deploying “extraordinary measures” to manage cash flow and keep borrowing within the limit to avert default. Experts across the political spectrum agree that the consequences of default—or even a near brush with default—would be severe for the U.S. economy and the global financial system. Potential economic consequences of default include: recession and a sharp rise in unemployment; chaos in financial markets; and lasting damage to U.S. leadership in the global economy. These consequences and the harm they would cause for Americans and the nation are not inevitable and can and should be averted by swift congressional action to raise, suspend, or eliminate the debt limit.

A number of factors affect the so-called “x-date,” the date when the Treasury Department will exhaust the various cash and debt management options available to stay under the debt limit. While estimates of the x-date are always subject to some degree of uncertainty, this year’s x-date has been subject to greater uncertainty. A number of factors affect the x-date and make accurate projections challenging, including the fact that the Internal Revenue Service has extended the 2022 tax filing deadline to October for a number of states—most notably California—due to weather related disasters.

On May 1, Treasury Secretary Yellen informed House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) that the federal government could reach the x-date as early as June 1. At that point, absent congressional action to raise, suspend, or eliminate the debt ceiling, the nation would default on its legal obligations. On the same day as Yellen’s announcement, the Congressional Budget Office released a statement noting that the projected x-date remained uncertain but that:


Kaia Haney

On April 20, 2023, CNA’s National Security Seminar (NSS) series hosted a virtual panel discussion on the challenges, opportunities, and risks presented by the incorporation of artificial intelligence (AI) into nuclear operations (see recording here). The event was centered on a recently released CNA report exploring this topic. The US State Department’s Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance, Mallory Stewart, provided opening remarks. The event also featured Dr. Timothy McDonnell, research analyst with CNA, nuclear weapons policy expert, and the lead author of the report. He was joined by Dr. Paul Scharre, vice president and director of studies at the Center for a New American Security. After Dr. McDonnell shared key findings from the report and Dr. Scharre presented some initial remarks on the military uses of AI, the two engaged in a robust discussion and answered questions from the audience. The event was moderated by Dr. Larry Lewis, an AI expert and principal research scientist with CNA. Resources referenced during the event and other relevant research are linked below. DOWNLOAD FULL REPORT

Pathways to Disaster: Russia’s War against Ukraine and the Risks of Inadvertent Nuclear Escalation

The risk of inadvertent nuclear escalation due to actions in the conventional domain is a serious, and underrated, feature of the current stand-off between NATO and Russia, following Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine. This brief by HCSS analysts Paul van Hooft, Davis Ellison, and Tim Sweijs notes that NATO leaders and armed forces need to be conscious of unintended signals that can follow the placement of weapons, the movement of forces, and support to Ukraine, especially considering the deteriorating state of Russian armed forces.

The brief’s main conclusions are concerning: there are an increasing number of pathways that could lead to inadvertent escalation. Russia’s expenditure of dual-capable missile stocks, the shifting balance of power in Europe to the advantage of NATO, and NATO’s enlargement bringing it closer to the Kola Peninsula increases the likelihood that Russia faces “use-it-or-lose-it” choices. The Russian armed forces have been overburdened and one could expect civil-military relations to be disturbed. The Russian military is offensively minded, with the nuclear class developing its own parochial ideology. Russian C3I systems are degraded through sanctions and direct attacks. Finally, Russia has launched attacks on Ukraine, and used dual-capable delivery systems, from the same locations as its nuclear arsenal.

As NATO-Europe continues to support Ukraine, we suggest a series of measures to avoid inadvertent escalation. Among others, we stress that caution be taken with NATO’s nuclear and conventional posture, including the placement of conventional missiles within range of threatening Russia’s nuclear capabilities. The authors also argue that positive measures, such as military-to-military contacts, should be maintained.

How the United States Can Support Ukraine Without Compromising Deterrence in the Indo–Pacific

Thomas Spoehr and Maiya Clark

Supporting Ukraine’s self-defense is in America’s interest, but provision of military and financial aid should not undermine U.S. efforts to deter China. Arguments that U.S. support to Ukraine contains no potential risk to efforts to deter China understate the problem. Similarly, proposals to stop aid to Ukraine to prioritize support to Taiwan ignore the danger from an unchecked Russia. Neither is correct. Potential conflict between these two key security interests is looming, and the United States should act now to manage this tension or risk strategic failure. Download Report

Rethinking Russian Hybrid Warfare

Matej Kandrik

Russian hybrid warfare has been prominent in security policy-related debates in recent years. The concept emerged in the military analysts’ community and spread quickly into media, public debate, and decision-makers’ vocabulary. The term attracted a lot of attention. Some praised it as the advent of a new warfighting era while others criticised hollowness and a lack of analytical utility. The purpose of this paper is not to bring final judgment on these debates. Instead, the author’s ambition is to distinguish between two different approaches to Russian hybrid warfare. Exploring Georgia as a case study provides for a different understanding of hybrid warfare than the one that emerged from the events of 2014/2015 in Ukraine. Last but not least, the author would like to find ways to salvage valuable bits of intellectual efforts spent on conceptualizing hybrid warfare before abandoning it. Despite all the controversies and politicisation surrounding the concept and the urgency to refocus on more traditional hard security issues such as conventional warfare or deterrence, threats emanating from the so-called grey-zone area are here to stay. It’s an important part of the intellectual contribution to the national security of scholars and researchers bringing clarity and critical reflection to key policy discussions.

Crimean Origin

While the initial academic conceptualisation of hybrid warfare can be traced back to the First Chechen war or the 2006 Lebanese war, these were very different from the so-called Russian hybrid warfare. For William J. Nemeth, the Chechen insurgency was as a reflection of a hybrid pre-state and modern society. For Frank Hoffman, hybrid warfare consisted of the integration of conventional and irregular methods of warfare. Both, in principle, examine the use of violence, force, and fighting. In striking contrast, the Western imagination of Russian hybrid warfare evolved into a concept centered around the non-military, non-kinetic part of the strategic toolbox of states and non-state actors.

The annexation of Crimea and the subsequent armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine in the Donbas region was especially surprising, shocking, and indeed, confusing to Western observers. To explain the rapid, smooth, and successful Russian actions leading to the Crimea takeover, there was a need to come up with an explanation outside the ordinary. The author will argue that this fundamentally changed the perception of how states use non-military means to achieve dominance. As a result, Russian hybrid warfare was born.

Three Lessons from the Front: Economic Warfare in Russia / Ukraine

James R. Sullivan, CFA

A country’s economy is core to its ability to provide a better life for its people, develop and fund social services, and ultimately create the means for war. Presidents Xi Jinping and Donald Trump both used speeches in 2017 to directly link economic might to the pursuit of national interests. It should therefore come as no surprise that economic warfare tactics are getting a much-needed refresh as we re-enter a multi-polar world with specific challenges to both the United States’ economic hegemony, as well as the international rules-based system.

Sanctions remain the most widely implemented economic warfare tactics. Modern day best practices for sanctions construction and implementation have been outlined by organizations such as the Atlantic Council and the Wilson Center. Summarized, these argue that goals for sanctions must be well identified and explained in advance, that implementing coalitions must be as large and as complete as possible, and that private sector coordination is a critical component to sanctions efficacy. While the guidance is solid, there remain several gaps between these best practices and real-world implementation, as the Russian-Ukrainian conflict illustrates, especially in the finance, energy, and cyber realms.
The gap between theory and practice

Academics and current and former government officials from Nicholas Mulder to Agathe Demarais represent a rising chorus of voices arguing that while sanctions “fill the void between empty diplomatic declarations and deadly military interventions,” their overuse means that “the golden days of U.S. sanctions may soon be over.” Others including Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass have suggested that despite the rising sophistication of economic tools inclusive of a shift from “smart” trade restrictions to targeted financial sanctions, “all too often sanctions turn out to be little more than expressions of US preference that hurt American interests without changing the target’s behavior for the better.” The lack of an immediate collapse of the Russian economy in 2022 after western powers levied sanctions on Russia’s banking, technology, metals, mining, and energy sectors in response to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine is taken by many as a sign that the sanctions regime deployed most recently is having little impact.

But these conclusions are based on flawed (or at least incomplete) analysis. The case studies below will illustrate gaps between best practice and implementation in the current conflict that led to these flawed conclusions.

Lesson #1: The need to balance efficacy and coalition size

The Aftermath of a Great Power War

Miranda Priebe, Bryan Frederick, Anika Binnendijk, Alexandra T. Evans, Karl P. Mueller, Cortez A. Cooper III, James Benkowski, Asha Clark, Stephanie Anne Pillion

Wars between states are rare, and great power wars — conflicts that involve two or more of the most powerful states in the international system — are even less common. Still, such wars have historically been among the most consequential international events, as they lead to massive casualties and destruction and have the capacity to reshape societies and the international system.

A review of historical great power wars shows that prewar predictions about who would fight, how long the war would last, and how the world would look afterward were often wrong. This history underlines the need for defense planners to carefully examine their assumptions and to seriously consider both intended and unintended outcomes of great power conflicts.

As the Department of Defense increasingly focuses on competition with Russia and China, RAND Project AIR FORCE (PAF) examined four scenarios illustrating how hypothetical wars with these countries could produce unwanted consequences for the United States — even if the United States is victorious. This report was finalized in January 2021, before the February 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine. It has not been subsequently updated.

The history of great power conflict is littered with mistaken predictions. An examination of ten great power wars since 1815 found that, in all cases, politicians and military planners held poor assumptions and made inaccurate predictions about critical aspects of the war that would follow (Table 1). Some of those mistakes are described below.

Incorrect predictions about the parties to a conflict and adversaries' will to fight a long war: Great powers have frequently misunderstood other states' interests and therefore failed to predict the likelihood of third-party interventions in a conflict. Noteworthy examples include Adolf Hitler's underestimation of French and British commitments to Poland in 1939 and Kim Il Sung and Joseph Stalin's assumptions that the United States would not fight to defend South Korea in 1950. In other instances, great powers recognized that their actions might provoke another state to get involved but underestimated that state's willingness to sustain a protracted and costly war.

Data portability and interoperability: A primer on two policy tools for regulation of digitized industries

Sukhi Gulati-Gilbert and Robert Seamans 

Scholars and policymakers are excited by the prospect that digitization—the growing use of software across industries—can help boost economic growth in the U.S. and other countries (Furman and Seamans, 2019). However, some have expressed concern that increasing dominance by a few large companies in each sector of the economy means the gains from economic growth will not be equitably distributed. Competition policy—a set of regulations, laws, and other policies designed to lower barriers to entry, leading more firms to enter and compete in a market—may help to address the issue of increasing market dominance. The resulting competition between entrants and incumbent firms could potentially lead to lower prices and more innovative products and services, all of which benefits consumers.

There are a variety of competition policy tools available to policymakers, including sector-specific regulations (some of these are highlighted in President Biden’s “Promoting Competition in the American Economy” executive order) and the use of the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to block mergers and revisit past mergers (as the FTC is doing in its case against Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram and WhatsApp).

In this article we describe two other tools, data portability and interoperability, that may be particularly useful in technology-enabled sectors. Data portability allows users to move data from one company to another, helping to reduce switching costs and providing rival firms with access to valuable customer data. Interoperability allows two or more technical systems to exchange data interactively. Due to its interactive nature, interoperability can help prevent lock-in to a specific platform by allowing users to connect across platforms. Data portability and interoperability share some similarities; in addition to potential pro-competitive benefits, the tools promote values of openness, transparency, and consumer choice.

After providing an overview of these topics, we describe the tradeoffs involved with implementing data portability and interoperability. While these policy tools offer lots of promise, in practice there can be many challenges involved when determining how to fund and design an implementation that is secure and intuitive and accomplishes the intended result. These challenges require that policymakers think carefully about the initial implementation of data portability and interoperability. Finally, to better show how data portability and interoperability can increase competition in an industry, we discuss how they could be applied in the banking and social media sectors. These are just two examples of how data portability and interoperability policy could be applied to many different industries facing increased digitization. Our definitions and examples should be helpful to those interested in understanding the tradeoffs involved in using these tools to promote competition and innovation in the U.S. economy.

Machines of mind: The case for an AI-powered productivity boom

Martin Neil Baily, Erik Brynjolfsson, and Anton Korinek 

Large language models such as ChatGPT are emerging as powerful tools that not only make workers more productive but also increase the rate of innovation, laying the foundation for a significant acceleration in economic growth. As a general purpose technology, AI will impact a wide array of industries, prompting investments in new skills, transforming business processes, and altering the nature of work. However, official statistics will only partially capture the boost in productivity because the output of knowledge workers is difficult to measure. The rapid advances can have great benefits but may also lead to significant risks, so it is crucial to ensure that we steer progress in a direction that benefits all of society.

On a recent Friday morning, one of us sat down in his favorite coffee shop to work on a new research paper regarding how AI will affect the labor market. To begin, he pulled up ChatGPT, a generative AI tool. After entering a few plain-English prompts, the system was able to provide a suitable economic model, draft code to run the model, and produce potential titles for the work. By the end of the morning, he had achieved a week’s worth of progress on his research.

We expect millions of knowledge workers, ranging from doctors and lawyers to managers and salespeople to experience similar ground-breaking shifts in their productivity within a few years, if not sooner.

The potential of the most recent generation of AI systems is illustrated vividly by the viral uptake of ChatGPT, a large language model (LLM) that captured public attention by its ability to generate coherent and contextually appropriate text. This is not an innovation that is languishing in the basement. Its capabilities have already captivated hundreds of millions of users.

Other LLMs that were recently rolled out publicly include Google’s Bard and Anthropic’s Claude. But generative AI is not limited to text: in recent years, we have also seen generative AI systems that can create images, such as Midjourney, Stable Diffusion or DALL-E, and more recently multi-modal systems that combine text, images, video, audio and even robotic functions. These technologies are foundation models, which are vast systems based on deep neural networks that have been trained on massive amounts of data and can then be adapted to perform a wide range of different tasks. Because information and knowledge work dominates the US economy, these machines of the mind will dramatically boost overall productivity.

Moscow: Near-Defenseless Against Drones

Maxim Starchak

On the night of May 3, an unmanned aerial vehicle exploded on the roof of a Kremlin building, causing a small fire. The Russian authorities said two drones had struck the complex.

Moscow and the central area around it have always been the most heavily defended places in Russia. Currently, the protection for the capital and the central district is carried out by the 1st Air and Missile Defense Army.

The capital’s air-missile defense system has a complex structure consisting of two layers. First is the A-135M strategic missile defense system. And the second is the S–50M, which includes the Baikal-1 and Universal-1 automated control systems, S-400 and S-300PM2 complexes, as well as Pantsir anti-aircraft units. All of them are supported by various radar stations that allow for the detection and guidance of defensive air missiles.

However, this large array of systems is primarily against air strikes, cruise missiles, and intercontinental ballistic missile warheads. Protection from drones has never been the task of air missile defense systems in service with the 1st Army.

Neither the National Security Strategy of 2021 nor the Military Doctrine of the Russian Federation of 2014 identify drones as a threat to national security. The Concept of the Development of the Aerospace Defense of the Russian Federation until 2030, dated April 2, 2019, also pays no attention to countering drones. In March, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, speaking about a report on the development of the Russian aerospace forces, mentioned that the modernization of the Moscow missile defense system will be completed in 2023. The drone threat was not mentioned.

The fact that Ukrainian drones have the capability and the intent to attack important targets on Russian territory was clear even in the fall of last year. In November 2022, Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev called for increased air defense forces in the Central Federal District to protect particularly important facilities. Judging by the attacks on Russian airfields in December 2022, this realization of vulnerability came too late.

Federal Debt and the Statutory Limit, May 2023

CBO projects that if the debt limit remains unchanged, there is a significant risk that at some point in the first two weeks of June, the government will no longer be able to pay all of its obligations.

The debt limit—commonly called the debt ceiling—is the maximum amount of debt that the Department of the Treasury can issue to the public or to other federal agencies. The amount is set by law and has been increased or suspended over the years to allow for the additional borrowing needed to finance the government’s operations. On December 16, 2021, lawmakers raised the debt limit by $2.5 trillion to a total of $31.4 trillion. On January 19, 2023, that limit was reached, and the Treasury announced a “debt issuance suspension period” and began using well-established “extraordinary measures” to borrow additional funds without breaching the debt ceiling.

The Congressional Budget Office projects that if the debt limit remains unchanged, there is a significant risk that at some point in the first two weeks of June, the government will no longer be able to pay all of its obligations. The extent to which the Treasury will be able to fund the government’s ongoing operations will remain uncertain throughout May, even if the Treasury ultimately runs out of funds in early June. That uncertainty exists because the timing and amount of revenue collections and outlays over the intervening weeks could differ from CBO’s projections.

Artificial Intelligence for Security Practitioners: A Conversation with ChatGPT

Brent Feller 

Summary: ChatGPT and similar programs have put artificial intelligence (AI) into the hands of everyone with an internet connection. AI will transform how many professional fields conducts day-to-day business. Can AI help the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies (DKI APCSS) carry out its mission? The conversion with ChatGPT provides an overview of its basic capabilities and explores how it can assist DKI APCSS.

ChatGPT provides a glimpse into how powerful a tool artificial intelligence (AI) is and can become in the future. People in many different career fields are finding out how it can improve or even transform their industries. Can ChatGPT and other forms of AI being developed change how security practitioners revamp how they conduct business? At The Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies (DKI APCSS), everyone is focused on its mission: “DKI APCSS builds resilient capacity, shared understanding, and networked relationships among civilian and military practitioners and institutions to advance a free and open Indo-Pacific.” DKI APCSS brings officials and other policymakers from around the world together to discuss the latest security concerns for the Indo-Pacific region and the world. How can ChatGPT help DKI APCSS carry out its mission? Let’s bring ChatGPT into the discussion to find out.

Good morning ChatGPT.

Good morning! How can I help you today?

How can you help security practitioners in 50 words? (ChatGPT can be verbose if you allow it)

As a trained language model, ChatGPT can assist security practitioners by providing information, insights, and recommendations on security-related topics, aiding in scenario planning, and offering resource recommendations. However, it’s important to verify information from multiple sources and use critical thinking in security decision-making.

It is important to point out the advice ChatGPT gave above regarding verifying information and critical thinking. ChatGPT focuses on providing an answer and does not always give a correct response. The term used for this is called hallucination. Everyone using ChatGPT needs to understand this and only use this tool as a starting point.

AI Unleashed: Techno-Sovereignty and the Rules Deficit

Robert A. Manning

The development of artificial intelligence (AI) is racing ahead of rules to control the use of this powerful new technology. While the tech revolution advances exponentially, governance tends to advance linearly and incrementally, at best. The remarkable leap in AI, as displayed by the capabilities of Open AI’s ChatGPT4 — from writing poetry and offering therapy, to passing Bar exams — highlights just the beginning of the AI tech-rules gap.


The Red Cell was a small unit created by the CIA after 9/11 to ensure the analytic failure of missing the attacks would never be repeated. It produced short briefs intended to spur out-of-the-box thinking on flawed assumptions and misperceptions about the world, encouraging alternative policy thinking. At another pivotal time of increasing uncertainty, this project is intended as an open-source version, using a similar format to question outmoded mental maps and “strategic empathy” to discern the motives and constraints of other global actors, enhancing the possibility of more effective strategies.

Although the technology is still in its early stages, Open AI, Google, and a host of other Big Tech companies and startups are intensifying their efforts to commercially deploy not just the best artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot — fueled by $5.9 billion in venture capital since 2022 — but also ever smarter AI. Their ultimate goal is to create and market AGI – Artificial General Intelligence — which, as one prominent technologist and venture capitalist anxiously described it, is:

“A superintelligence computer that learns and develops autonomously, that understands its environment without the needs for supervision and that [can] transform the world around it, with human-level cognition that can solve problems.”

Countering Violent Nonstate Actor Financing

Trevor Johnston, Erik E. Mueller, Irina A. Chindea, Hannah Jane Byrne, Nathan Vest, Colin P. Clarke, Anusree Garg, Howard J. Shatz

Research QuestionsHow do VNSAs finance their operations, and what do they use this financing for?

What kinetic and nonkinetic CTF methods have been successful in disrupting this financing and why?

Which CTF methods have been counterproductive and why?

How can the U.S. Army support efforts to disrupt VNSA financing?

Violent nonstate actors (VNSAs) obtain money from multiple sources, both licit (e.g., donations and legitimate businesses) and illicit (e.g., extortion, smuggling, theft). They use that money to pay, equip, and sustain their fighters and to provide services to local populations, which can help build support for the groups, allowing them to extract resources, gain safe havens, and challenge state authority and territorial control. In this way, financial resources can prolong conflicts and undermine stabilization efforts after the fighting ends. Countering VNSA financing plays a critical role in degrading such organizations.

Various means are available to disrupt financing. These include kinetic means, such as destroying resources or neutralizing leadership, and nonkinetic means, such as targeted financial sanctions and legal remedies. The counter–threat financing (CTF) tools that work best for transnational groups may not work as well for national ones, and some tools may prove counterproductive in certain situations. Which tools to use in a given case is not always obvious.

The authors draw lessons from efforts against five VNSA groups to discover, in each case, how they financed their activities and for what purposes, as well as which methods to counter this financing worked best and which were counterproductive. The authors then consider what the U.S. Army can do to support counter–terrorism financing efforts.

FMS 2023: Retooling Foreign Military Sales for An Age of Strategic Competition

Foreign Military Sales (FMS) are a key U.S. arms transfer mechanism and an important tool of U.S. foreign policy. Overseen by the U.S. Department of State and implemented through the U.S. Department of Defense, FMS is one of many ways the United States promotes interoperability and strengthens our unmatched network of alliances and security partnerships worldwide.

On average, Allies and partners purchase approximately $45 billion annually in U.S. arms, equipment, and training via FMS, and from 2021 to 2022, implemented FMS purchases grew by 49 percent. But amid shifting global security conditions, from Russia’s war in Ukraine, to managing competition in the Indo-Pacific, as well as industrial capacity challenges and global supply change disruptions, the time has come to reassess and adapt security cooperation to meet new and emerging challenges.

Building on the National Security Strategy and the U.S. Conventional Arms Transfer Policy, the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs has undertaken a comprehensive review of the Department’s oversight of FMS. This review complemented DoD’s parallel review of its own FMS implementation mechanisms. The result is FMS 2023: a new 10-point plan of action to re-tool the Department of State’s oversight of FMS for an age of heightened strategic competition.

While 95 percent of FMS cases are evaluated and approved by the Department of State within 48 hours, FMS 2023 examined how the Department’s review process can be improved for the remaining 5 percent of cases, which may entail complex policy issues and extensive interagency coordination. Together with DoD, we will support U.S. industry as it scales up to meet growing global demand among Allies and partners in the years ahead.

FMS 2023 Initiatives are focused on improving the efficiency and competitiveness of Foreign Military Sales at all phases: from strategic planning to case adjudication, to administering implementation of current and future FMS cases.