28 May 2023

China’s “Blue Dragon” Strategy in the Indo-Pacific Makes America and India Restless

Patrick Mendis

In his recent critical Foreign Affairs essay, “America’s Bad Bet on India,” Ashley J. Tellis argued that the Biden administration’s India policy is “misplaced.” He accused Washington of overlooking “India’s democratic erosion” because the United States needs a reliable partner in South Asia to challenge the rise of China. The article’s perceptive analysis of the U.S.-India security partnership notes that the relationship is hardly based on mutually assured democratic trust. He notes, for example, that India is breaking with the West in the context of the Russo-Ukrainian War and instead “goes it alone.”

Tellis’ conclusion is that “India’s security partnership with the United States will remain fundamentally asymmetrical for a long time to come.” While New Delhi would want Washington to prevail in a major conflict with Beijing in the East China Sea or the South China Sea, it is “unlikely to embroil itself in the fight.” This assessment is predicated largely on India’s nominal “strategic autonomy” in its foreign policy. India has evolved with a history of Soviet and Russian military ties as well as a lingering record of border conflicts with China.

However, China’s unprecedented military and economic capabilities have increasingly challenged New Delhi’s strategic autonomy. A matured India may not have a strategic alternative to sustain the past; it must thus work harmoniously and collaboratively with Washington for its national interest and civilizational heritage.

The “Return to History”

For the civilizational states of China and India, the past is often prologue. In his book, The India Way: Strategies for an Uncertain World, Indian external affairs minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar wrote that New Delhi believes it faces an inevitable “return to history,” rather than the Fukuyaman “end of history,” in the emerging international governance of multipolarity.

Pakistan-Israel Relations: A Chance of Normalization?

Ido Gadi Raz

Pakistan has declared that it will not recognize Israel as long as the Palestinian issue is not resolved, but the normalization agreements between Israel and the Muslim countries that began in September 2020 with the Abraham Accords revived the question of relations between the countries. The connection between Pakistan’s struggle with India over Jammu and Kashmir and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Pakistan’s relations with Iran, and the Sunni radicals in Pakistan are central barriers to the establishment of diplomatic relations. On the other hand, private initiatives for advancing relations between Israel and Pakistan that developed after the Abraham Accords renewed the Pakistani discourse on the issue, and could serve as a lever for diplomatic relations in the long term. Pakistan’s proximity and dependence on the Sunni Gulf countries, which have warmed their relations with Israel since the Abraham Accords, create an opening for indirect partnerships between Israel and Pakistan. The US-Pakistani connection, which has grown closer in recent years, could also serve as a foundation for future diplomatic ties.

Keywords: Pakistan, Abraham Accords, India, Afghanistan, Iran


As of early 2023, Israel and Pakistan do not have diplomatic relations. While it appears that Israel is willing to establish diplomatic relations, Pakistan, alongside other Muslim countries such as Kuwait, Tunisia, and Yemen, insists on not recognizing the Jewish state as long as there is no resolution to the Palestinian issue. Nor ostensibly has the signing of the normalization agreements between Israel and Muslim countries such as the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain in 2020 (the Abraham Accords) influenced Pakistani policy, which remains as it was regarding Israel. Then-Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan left no room for doubt when he responded to a controversial report on a visit by a Pakistani citizen to Tel Aviv in November 2020: "Why would someone from Pakistan go [to Israel], when our policy is not to recognize Israel?"

Behind Khan's sharp statement are several core issues in Pakistani foreign and domestic policy that have prevented it from normalizing relations with Israel so far. What are the chances that Pakistan and Israel will establish official diplomatic relations? This article addresses the question by analyzing the primary elements influencing the two countries, as well as the salient geopolitical events since the signing of the Abraham Accords.
Historical Overview[1]

Between Kashmir and Palestine

China Hacks US Critical Networks in Guam, Raising Cyberwar Fears


AS STATE-SPONSORED HACKERS working on behalf of Russia, Iran, and North Korea have for years wreaked havoc with disruptive cyberattacks across the globe, China's military and intelligence hackers have largely maintained a reputation for constraining their intrusions to espionage. But when those cyberspies breach critical infrastructure in the United States—and specifically a US territory on China's doorstep—spying, conflict contingency planning, and cyberwar escalation all start to look dangerously similar.

On Wednesday, Microsoft revealed in a blog post that it has tracked a group of what it believes to be Chinese state-sponsored hackers who have since 2021 carried out a broad hacking campaign that has targeted critical infrastructure systems in US states and Guam, including communications, manufacturing, utilities, construction, and transportation.

The intentions of the group, which Microsoft has named Volt Typhoon, may simply be espionage, given that it doesn’t appear to have used its access to those critical networks to carry out data destruction or other offensive attacks. But Microsoft warns that the nature of the group's targeting, including in a Pacific territory that might play a key role in a military or diplomatic conflict with China, may yet enable that sort of disruption.

"Observed behavior suggests that the threat actor intends to perform espionage and maintain access without being detected for as long as possible," the company's blog post reads. But it couples that statement with an assessment with "moderate confidence" that the hackers are “pursuing development of capabilities that could disrupt critical communications infrastructure between the United States and Asia region during future crises.”

Google-owned cybersecurity firm Mandiant says it has also tracked a swath of the group's intrusions and offers a similar warning about the group's focus on critical infrastructure “There's not a clear connection to intellectual property or policy information that we expect from an espionage operation,” says John Hultquist, who heads threat intelligence at Mandiant. “That leads us to question whether they’re there because the targets are critical. Our concern is that the focus on critical infrastructure is preparation for potential disruptive or destructive attack.”

China’s Youth Unemployment Problem


CHICAGO – This month, China released official statistics showing that its unemployment rate for young people (16-24 years old) reached a record high of 20.4% in April. Worse, the news comes just one month before another 11.6 million students will graduate from college and vocational schools and enter the job market.

True, the lockdowns under the government’s zero-COVID policy were much more draconian and economically damaging than other countries’ containment policies, and they were enforced for more than a year longer in most cases. So, it is not surprising that China’s economic recovery has lagged others. For comparison, the US youth unemployment rate hit 14.85% at its pandemic peak in 2020, before declining to 9.57% in 2021, and to 6.5% today.

But while most of China’s pandemic-related obstacles to employment have been lifted, the fundamental conditions for reducing China’s youth unemployment are not improving. While the long-run post-pandemic jobless rate will be lower than it is now, it is still likely to remain higher compared to the pre-pandemic years. There are many reasons for this, but one key issue is the large gap between the “reservation wage” rate that young graduates are willing to accept and the rate that firms are willing to pay.

This mismatch reflects the extent to which the cost of living has outpaced the growth in salaries. According to a 2021 survey, jobs for new graduates in big cities like Shanghai and Beijing paid an average of only CN¥5,290 ($749) per month. That is just enough to rent a 25-square-meter (269 square feet) apartment (Chinese cities now have some of the world’s most expensive real estate). And these young people can see that a job with such a low starting salary is unlikely to provide the income progression needed to support a family ten years down the line. Since urban white-collar workers are typically expected to work from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. six days per week, a dual-career couple with a child must rely heavily on a nanny. Yet in Shanghai and Beijing, nannies, who usually come from the countryside and often have not graduated from high school, earn CN¥6,000 per month on average – more than recent college graduates.

Stress-Testing Chinese-Russian Relations ANALYSIS

Robert E. Hamilton 

A debate over the nature of the China-Russia relationship has raged for almost two decades. One side believes the two are strategic partners; the other believes their ties are an “axis of convenience” lacking depth.

Understanding the true nature of their relationship is of vital importance to U.S. national security. A true strategic partnership represents a grave threat; less robust ties between the two give the U.S. more latitude in dealing with them.

We can gain a deeper, more nuanced understanding of China-Russia ties by observing how they interact in regions of the world where they both have important interests at stake. Four regions emerge as key here: Central Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, and East Asia.

The statements could not have been more different. As Chinese President Xi Jinping wrapped up his visit to Russia in March, the two governments released a joint statement that described their relations as having reached “their highest level in history.” The same day, White House spokesperson John Kirby dismissed the relationship as “a marriage of convenience.”

The difference between the two statements neatly frames a debate about Sino-Russian relations that has continued for almost two decades. One side insists that ties between Beijing and Moscow are a true strategic partnership; the other argues they are thin and frail, with shared resistance to the United States. the only thing binding them together. As Bobo Lo argued in his 2008 book, this view sees the relationship as an “axis of convenience.”

While useful as shorthand descriptions of the relationship, both the strategic partnership and axis of convenience views are limited in their ability to explain it. A more nuanced view of China-Russia ties emerges from examining their interaction “on the ground” in regions where both have important interests at stake.

The Debate: Strategic Partnership or “Axis of Convenience”

China’s chip sector needs change after OPPO setback


Mystified staff members of Zeku – a fabless chip firm started in 2019 by OPPO, China’s third largest smartphone company – were told on the evening of May 11 that they should work from home the following day.

The next morning, with staff dutifully absent from the premises, the mystery was dispelled when OPPO chief executive Liu Jun announced the closure of Zeku. Even most director-level employees had not been given advance warning.

“The global economy and the mobile phone industry are currently in an extremely pessimistic situation, and the company’s overall revenue is far below expectations,” Liu told Zeku’s staff. “Under such circumstances, a huge investment in chip-making is beyond our affordability.” He stressed that the decision to shut down Zeku was made after a careful discussion. He also said it was not caused by any issues related to the performance of Zeku’s staff.

Citing Qing Dynasty novelist Wei Zi’an’s poem “Traces of Flowers and the Moon,” Liu said that “a romantic person is always left with regret, and it’s easy to wake up from sweet dreams.” He meant that OPPO should wake up from its chip-making dream in time to avoid any big cause for regret.

In August 2019, OPPO founded Zeku and vowed to invest up to 50 billion yuan ($7.1 billion) within three years to make its own semiconductors. But on May 12 this year, OPPO shut down Zeku and dismissed its 3,000 employees. It was a sudden move, as shown by the fact Zeku was still recruiting engineers in late April.

There’s considerable debate about what caused Zeku’s failure, with many commentators blaming US sanctions, but one dominant theme that has emerged in the aftermath is that Chinese smartphone makers should jointly develop their chips, instead of working – and in some cases failing – individually.

Market forces

Chinese gov’t hacks critical US telecommunications systems, Microsoft says


A Chinese government hacking group installed a malicious computer code in telecommunications systems in Guam and other locations in the United States, according to Microsoft.

The Microsoft executive who oversees the company’s threat intelligence unit, Tom Burt, said Microsoft analysts discovered the mysterious code around the same time that the Biden administration recovered the Chinese spy balloon off the cost of South Carolina in February, according to The New York Times.

The invasive code was installed in secret through routers and other internet-connected consumer devices, the Times reported, making the hack difficult to detect.

Microsoft and the National Security Agency plan to publish the code – called a “web shell” – so corporations, manufacturers and other groups can remove it, according to the Times. A “web shell” allows a server to be accessed remotely.

The hacking group, known by Microsoft as “Volt Typhoon,” installed the code as part of an apparent Chinese Communist Party espionage effort targeting critical infrastructure, including communications, electric and gas utilities, as well as maritime operations and transportation.

News of the telecommunications hack comes after at least 50 U.S. senators were issued satellite phones to use during emergency situations, according to people familiar with the situation, CBS News reported.

The phones were distributed as part of a number of new security efforts from the Senate Sergeant at Arms and were offered to every senator. It is unclear which senators agreed to the take part in the new measure.

Last month, Senate Sergeant at Arms Karen Gibson told the Senate Appropriations Committee that satellite communication will “ensure a redundant and secure means of communication during a disruptive event,” adding that the phones will support security measures during an emergency that “takes out communications” in the United States.

The end of the Arab Spring and there is a price to pay

Farea Al-Muslimi

The carpet rolled out to Bashar al-Assad by the Arab League in Jeddah this week opens a grim new chapter in a darkening world. Hundreds of thousands have been killed and millions displaced by the Assad regime’s horrific war crimes, yet here he is being welcomed with open arms.

More than a decade after the Arab Spring, the promise of bringing new and more accountable political forces into power to sweep away long-serving and corrupt despots appears lost. Authoritarian regimes across the region have reasserted their control and sent a clear message: no change will be brooked and the existing political orders will endure come what may.

What is most striking now is the solidarity of these regimes and their willingness to put aside past differences in favour of realpolitik. They no longer see benefit in proxy conflicts, and instead are willing to prioritize cooperation against efforts for reform in the region.
Arab League ineffective against authoritarian regimes

A byzantine institution, the Arab League – which welcomed Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky as he attempts to rally the world’s support against a rampant Russia – is filled with elderly men who talk for hours but do little. Syria’s seat was handed to the opposition in 2013 as regional states backed armed rebels attempting to overthrow the Assad regime.

However, recent diplomatic exchanges between Syria and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, and Oman send a collective message from the authoritarian regimes that hold sway over the public body and never fully supported the idea of political transitions: ‘Even if we opposed you before, as long as you maintain your grip on power, you will be welcomed back into the fold’.

These regimes hope their populaces are exhausted by conflict and repression and no longer have the will to prioritize calls for change. But that is not to say the Arab Spring was in vain

By throwing open the door to Assad’s return, years of diplomatic isolation have fallen away in an instant. Is this the way the world bends?

French Land Forces chief: How France’s army is transforming for the modern era


Lt. Gen. Bertrand Toujouse took over as commander of the French Land Forces in September 2022. (Courtesy French land forces)

Since the turn of the century, French land forces have focused heavily on the counter-terrorism mission. With the invasion of Russia, that is no longer a possibility. In this piece, Lt. Gen. Bertrand Toujouse, the head of the French land forces, lays out how the French army is attempting to transition to the great power threat.

As the war in Ukraine continues to rage, the European public is as acutely aware as any time since the end of the Cold War that conflict could break out in its home countries. But while Russia’s invasion was a surprise, the concept of having to wage large-scale conflict on European soil was one that the French army has been preparing for, and transitioning towards, for several years.

For the French forces, this change is a revolution of its own kind. France used to foster during the Cold War a “corps de bataille mécanisé” in Europe, but even then, French soldiers’ operational experience was much more about expeditionary campaigns, starting with Indochina and culminating with the “war against terrorism” in the 2000s.

Those commitments have given to the French military an undisputable expertise in small, light and highly effective operations, like in Zaire in 1978 or Mali in 2013. However, today’s threats, aside from very extremist organizations, are able to go head-to-head with the largest military units and bring comparable capacities to the fight.

And yet: the French forces cannot dedicate all their energy to resuscitate a 1980-style “Big Army” tailored for Europe, with plenty of conscripts and a bunch of paratroopers for overseas interventions. France faces today a variety of competitors not only in Europe but also all over the world, in the Atlantic, in the Pacific and in Africa, where the Russian-backed Wagner Group is particularly active.

As Challenges Mount, Can Europe Correct Its Course?

The liberal European order that emerged after World War II and spread after the collapse of the Soviet Union has been under attack from both within and without in recent years. The European Union—the ultimate expression of the European project—had long been a convenient punching bag for opportunistic politicians in many of its member countries, as anti-EU sentiment was integrated into the broader populist platform of protectionism and opposition to immigration. But the European debt crisis in the early 2010s, followed by the refugee crisis in 2015, fueled the rise of far-right and populist parties across Europe, and for a time raised questions about the union’s long-term survival. The shocking outcome of the U.K.’s Brexit referendum in 2016 added to those concerns.

Although the populist wave that once seemed like an existential threat to the union has since subsided, vestiges of it remain. Illiberal governments hold power in Hungary and Poland, and a far-right candidate once again reached the second round of France’s presidential election last year. And Italy’s elections in September resulted in its first far-right government since the fascist dictatorship of Benito Mussolini.

The coronavirus pandemic further highlighted the EU’s difficulties in providing effective collective responses to a crisis that, at least initially, saw each member state looking out for itself. Since then, however, the EU’s collective vaccine procurement program proved to be a success, and the bloc took a huge step toward enhanced integration in July 2020, when it agreed to a historic deal that included a collective debt mechanism to help finance pandemic relief funds.

Even as leaders like French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz have fended off challenges from right-wing opposition parties at home, they have also sought to position Europe as an independent pole in an increasingly multipolar world. To achieve that goal, however, the EU will have to overcome its internal divisions and bat down external threats to articulate a coherent collective foreign and security policy backed by a credible military deterrent.

4 ways a US debt default could affect you — and your money

The United States may default on its debt if an agreement to raise the debt limit is not reached.

A US debt default could be catastrophic for the global economy, experts warn.

Consumers in the US and around the world could face major economic hardships as a result of a default.

The United States is on the verge of defaulting on its debt—an unprecedented event that experts agree could send devastating shockwaves across the global economy.

The debt crisis stems from US lawmakers’ inability to raise the debt ceiling. The ceiling, also known as the debt limit, entails the amount of money the US government can borrow to pay its bills, which include legal commitments to fund everything from military salaries to healthcare benefits.

For decades, raising the debt ceiling has been routine since the US government runs a budget deficit and operates largely by borrowing money. Yet partisan division has prevented it from being raised in recent weeks, sparking widespread concern about an economic fallout. Moreover, since the US dollar is the global reserve currency, a US debt failure would have major international consequences.

“The consequences of a US debt default cannot be overstated,” said Matthew Blake, the World Economic Forum’s Head of Financial and Monetary Systems. “Policymakers should take all measures to avoid risky brinkmanship when managing the country’s finances.”

In a recent letter to Congressional leadership, Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen stated that a debt default “would cause severe hardship to American families, harm our global leadership position, and raise questions about our ability to defend our national security interests.”

Ukraine and the Kinzhal: Don’t believe the hypersonic hype

Alexander H. Montgomery and Amy J. Nelson 

On May 4, 2023, Ukraine used a U.S.-supplied Patriot battery to down a Russian Kinzhal missile, which Russian President Vladimir Putin had announced in 2018 was a “hypersonic” weapon that could overcome all existing air defense systems. Russia’s state news agency tried to maintain this claim by arguing that the shootdown was a fake report. Yet just 12 days afterward, Ukraine shot down six Kinzhals that Russia fired in an assault on Kyiv. Both shootdowns have been verified by U.S. government sources. Is this story, in which a Cold War-era defense system defeated one of Russia’s most advanced conventional systems, a sign that the hypersonic hype bubble has finally burst?

Initially, in touting the Kinzhal as a hypersonic missile and then using it against Ukraine, Russia set off a misplaced alarm regarding both Ukraine’s air defenses and its own lead over the United States in the hypersonic weapons arms race. When similar alarm bells about related capabilities were sounded during the Cold War, it rang in the myth of a missile gap, amplifying the missile arms race. Today, however, these Ukrainian interceptions have helped to further dismantle the tattered reputation of advanced Russian weapons and their ability to evade defenses. Ukraine’s defense success here may also help to correct perceptions regarding the necessity and value of hypersonic weapons, which have been touted by some as essential at any price. To aid in this, we disentangle five hypersonic myths.


The first part of the hype is Putin’s claim that Russian hypersonics are already here and being used on the battlefield in Ukraine. Hypersonic weapons are a broad category of missiles whose only common characteristic is that they can reach a speed of Mach 5, which the German V-2 achieved in 1944. The term “hypersonic” is now typically used just to refer to two types of weapons that are being developed through contemporary defense programs: hypersonic glide vehicles (HGVs) and hypersonic cruise missiles (HCMs). The Kinzhal is neither, as it is an air-launched ballistic missile. Moreover, Ukraine’s ability to intercept Russia’s entire volley of six Kinzhals indicates that the missile’s alleged status as a hypersonic system is at best questionable.


Why is Russia's Military Failing? How Much Has Ukraine Destroyed it?


(Washington DC) There is little question that the Russian military has been decimated during the Ukraine war.

In fact, some have even raised the question as to whether the world greatly overestimated the capabilities of the Russian military.

But just how badly is Putin’s war machine damaged?
Poor Russian Military Performance

Given its poor use of Combined Arms, smaller amount of modernized platforms, and weapons compared with the U.S., and ineffective warzone tactics regarding supplies and integrated attack formations, it is not unrealistic to pose the question of whether Russia’s military is a “paper tiger.”

Russia does appear to have some extremely advanced technology in the realm of hypersonics, 5th-generation aircraft, and its next-generation T-14 Armata tank.

However, Russia does not appear to possess these weapons in numbers sufficient to “mass” power and truly rival NATO and the U.S. Published reports in the Russian media say their military only operates a handful of T-14s and Su-57s and may lack the funding and industrial capacity to build a large fleet.
Arming Russia’s Forces

Available statistics on Russia’s military published in Global Firepower state that Russia operates as many as 12,000 tanks and 773 fighter jets. However, what percentage of these have been maintained, modernized, and kept viable for modern war is uncertain. That may remain somewhat of a question mark, especially because Russian tanks have been getting decimated in Ukraine in large and impactful numbers.

Despite the large number of fighter jets Russia is reported to have, they have not as of yet been able to achieve air superiority in the skies above Ukraine, something which remains somewhat inexplicable.

The Far-Right Takeover of the Tory Party Is No Laughing Matter

Alexander Clarkson

Sometimes British politics can generate spectacles so absurd that it becomes difficult to distinguish genuine events from elaborate satire. Last week in London, a conference organized by the self-described National Conservatives in partnership with the U.S.-based Edmund Burke Foundation produced a succession of such surreal moments. Whether it was a head teacher and activist shouting out a monologue from the film “Gladiator” in a speech condemning so-called cultural Marxism or a prominent Conservative Party MP declaring that John Lennon’s supposedly “woke” dystopia was a threat to young people, the conference swiftly attracted widespread mockery even among less politicized corners of U.K. social media.

Yet if one looks beyond such rhetorical theatrics, a starker picture begins to emerge. Alongside more right-wing activists and commentators, the speakers included senior figures among the Tories, including Home Secretary Suella Braverman as well as the party’s deputy chairman and MP, Lee Anderson. Broadly speaking, the conference’s participants embraced an agenda that blends Christian conservatism, visceral hostility to the European Union and nativist nationalism into a National Conservative brand.

This hard ideological edge reverberated through the gathering’s speeches, such as the writer Douglas Murray’s flippant complaint that he saw “no reason why every other country in the world should be prevented from feeling pride in itself because the Germans mucked up twice in a century.” Christian conservative MPs such as Danny Kruger expressed hostility to equal status for LGBTQ communities, which runs counter to longstanding efforts by more moderate Tories to acknowledge the changed social norms on the issue. The willingness of senior MPs and a Cabinet minister to espouse views that align with those of far-right parties in other European countries is an indication of how strong these factions—which just a decade ago were still largely kept at the outer fringes of the Conservative Party—have now become.

Russian War Report: Belgorod incursion brings deluge of online mockery of Russia’s defenses

Digital Forensic Research Lab

As Russia continues its assault on Ukraine, the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab) is keeping a close eye on Russia’s movements across the military, cyber, and information domains. With more than seven years of experience monitoring the situation in Ukraine—as well as Russia’s use of propaganda and disinformation to undermine the United States, NATO, and the European Union—the DFRLab’s global team presents the latest installment of the Russian War Report.

Belgorod raid sparks trolling activity on social media

Drone imagery from a burning border control outpost in the Russian region of Belgorod sparked a frenzy on social media this week. According to Riga-based Russian news outlet Meduza, members of the Russian Volunteer Corps and other Russian nationals crossed from Ukraine into Belgorod Oblast and attacked a border outpost in Grayvoron. The Russian Volunteer Corps, an anti-Putin military unit made of Russian pro-Ukrainian partisans, claimed responsibility for the attack; the Free Russia Legion also claimed responsibility.

An assessment by Russian news outlet RBC regarding the broader situation in Belgorod indicated an armed incursion, with shelling and artillery fire reported. On the evening of May 22, Russian government declared a state of counterterrorist emergency in Belgorod Oblast. Although the governor of the oblast did not officially issue an order to evacuate the civilian population immediately, footage and photographs posted on social media indicated that at least some residents evacuated to other areas in the region. Meduza also reported several drone strikes on the city of Belgorod itself.

Conflicting reports emerged on May 23 after Russian officials lifted the counterterrorist alert. While the Russian Ministry of Defense claimed to have “liquidated” around seventy “saboteurs,” reporting from the news outlet Mash indicated the deployment of additional Russian law enforcement in nearby Bryansk Oblast. In an effort to support their assertions of having eliminated the insurgency, Russian news outlets also released photos of military-class vehicles allegedly used by the insurgents stuck in the mud; some open-source analysts, however, questioned the authenticity of the photos. Russian media chased these reports with claims of destroyed Ukrainian tanks, while the Russian Volunteer Corps posted footage to Telegram seemingly showing intact military equipment.

Global Sanctions Dashboard: US and G7 allies target Russia’s evasion and procurement networks

Kimberly Donovan, Maia Nikoladze, Benjamin Mossberg and Castellum.AI

Key takeaways

20–The number of jurisdictions where Russia’s evasion networks reach, including Finland, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, and Singapore.

$58.62–The average price of Russian crude oil, which suggests the oil price cap is working–at least for now.

3,700 percent–Armenia’s increase in the exports of electronics to Russia from 2021 to 2022, coinciding with the Russian military’s desperate need for electronic equipment.

A few days ago, the Group of Seven (G7) allies met in Hiroshima and reasserted their determination to further economically isolate Russia and impose costs on those who support Russia’s war effort. To do so, they will have to close loopholes in existing sanctions and export control regimes, which in turn requires enhancing interagency coordination within the US government and developing a common vernacular among allies on the targeting of sanctions and export control evasion networks.

New sanctions packages against Russia released ahead of the G7 Summit

The Ukrainian intelligence assessment from 2022 indicated that forty out of fifty-two components recovered from the Iranian Shahed-136 drone that was downed in Ukraine last fall had been manufactured by thirteen different American companies, while the remaining twelve were made in Canada, Switzerland, Japan, Taiwan, and China. The case revealed that it was not enough to impose sanctions and export controls on Russian defense companies. Not only was Iran providing drones to Russia, but also certain entities and individuals in countries such as Switzerland and Liechtenstein have procured materials on Russia’s behalf. This is why the United States released a new sanctions package ahead of the G7 summit, targeting a much wider international network of Russia sanctions and export controls evasion.

Volt Typhoon targets US critical infrastructure with living-off-the-land techniques

Microsoft Threat Intelligence

Microsoft has uncovered stealthy and targeted malicious activity focused on post-compromise credential access and network system discovery aimed at critical infrastructure organizations in the United States. The attack is carried out by Volt Typhoon, a state-sponsored actor based in China that typically focuses on espionage and information gathering. Microsoft assesses with moderate confidence that this Volt Typhoon campaign is pursuing development of capabilities that could disrupt critical communications infrastructure between the United States and Asia region during future crises.

Volt Typhoon has been active since mid-2021 and has targeted critical infrastructure organizations in Guam and elsewhere in the United States. In this campaign, the affected organizations span the communications, manufacturing, utility, transportation, construction, maritime, government, information technology, and education sectors. Observed behavior suggests that the threat actor intends to perform espionage and maintain access without being detected for as long as possible.

To achieve their objective, the threat actor puts strong emphasis on stealth in this campaign, relying almost exclusively on living-off-the-land techniques and hands-on-keyboard activity. They issue commands via the command line to (1) collect data, including credentials from local and network systems, (2) put the data into an archive file to stage it for exfiltration, and then (3) use the stolen valid credentials to maintain persistence. In addition, Volt Typhoon tries to blend into normal network activity by routing traffic through compromised small office and home office (SOHO) network equipment, including routers, firewalls, and VPN hardware. They have also been observed using custom versions of open-source tools to establish a command and control (C2) channel over proxy to further stay under the radar.

In this blog post, we share information on Volt Typhoon, their campaign targeting critical infrastructure providers, and their tactics for achieving and maintaining unauthorized access to target networks. Because this activity relies on valid accounts and living-off-the-land binaries (LOLBins), detecting and mitigating this attack could be challenging. Compromised accounts must be closed or changed. At the end of this blog post, we share more mitigation steps and best practices, as well as provide details on how Microsoft 365 Defender detects malicious and suspicious activity to protect organizations from such stealthy attacks. The National Security Agency (NSA) has also published a Cybersecurity Advisory [PDF] which contains a hunting guide for the tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) discussed in this blog.

Sam Altman sells superintelligent sunshine as protestors call for AGI pause

James Vincent

The queue to see OpenAI CEO Sam Altman speak at University College London on Wednesday stretched hundreds deep into the street. Those waiting gossiped in the sunshine about the company and their experience using ChatGPT, while a handful of protesters delivered a stark warning in front of the entrance doors: OpenAI and companies like it need to stop developing advanced AI systems before they have the chance to harm humanity.

“Look, maybe he’s selling a grift. I sure as hell hope he is,” one of the protestors, Gideon Futerman, a student at Oxford University studying solar geoengineering and existential risk, said of Altman. “But in that case, he’s hyping up systems with enough known harms. We probably should be putting a stop to them anyway. And if he’s right and he’s building systems which are generally intelligent, then the dangers are far, far, far bigger.”

Two members of the small group of protestors call for OpenAI to stop developing AGI — or superintelligent AI. Image: The Verge

When Altman took to the stage inside, though, he received an effusive welcome. The OpenAI CEO is currently on something of a world tour following his recent (and equally affable) senate hearing in the US last week. So far, he’s met with French President Emmanuel Macron, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, and Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez. The purpose seems twofold: calm fears after the explosion of interest in AI caused by ChatGPT and get ahead of conversations about AI regulation.

Keeping Moore’s Law Going Is Getting Complicated


There was a time, decades really, when all it took to make a better computer chip were smaller transistors and narrower interconnects. That time’s long gone now, and although transistors will continue to get a bit smaller, simply making them so is no longer the point. The only way to keep up the exponential pace of computing now is a scheme called system technology co-optimization, or STCO, argued researchers at ITF World 2023 last week in Antwerp, Belgium. It’s the ability to break chips up into their functional components, use the optimal transistor and interconnect technology for each function, and stitch them back together to create a lower-power, better-functioning whole.

“This leads us to a new paradigm for CMOS,” says Imec R&D manager Marie Garcia Bardon. CMOS 2.0, as the Belgium-based nanotech research organization is calling it, is a complicated vision. But it may be the most practical way forward, and parts of it are already evident in today’s most advanced chips.
How we got here

In a sense, the semiconductor industry was spoiled by the decades prior to about 2005, says Julien Ryckaert, R&D vice president at Imec. During that time, chemists and device physicists were able to regularly produce a smaller, lower-power, faster transistor that could be used for every function on a chip and that would lead to a steady increase in computing capability. But the wheels began to come off that scheme not long thereafter. Device specialists could come up with excellent new transistors, but those transistors weren’t making better, smaller circuits, such as the SRAM memory and standard logic cells that make up the bulk of CPUs. In response, chipmakers began to break down the barriers between standard cell design and transistor development. Called design technology co-optimization, or DTCO, the new scheme led to devices designed specifically to make better standard cells and memory.

Joe Biden wants a ‘new economic world order.’ It’s never looked more disordered.


U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai drove a nail into its coffin in January, telling the world’s one percent at Davos that the Biden administration would try to shape a “new economic world order” around protecting workers. And National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan sought to deliver last rites in April, promising the White House would forge a “new Washington consensus” to replace the one that had governed the globe for over a generation.

“I remain convinced that through all of this disruption we’re moving towards a new economic order,” Tai told POLITICO in an interview. “I’d really like to fill that gap with a positive vision that we will be prepared for it.”

The goal is to replace the old paradigms of globalization — free trade and a reliance on markets — with a “worker-centered” trade policy that raises wages not just for Americans, but around the world.

But building a new world economy is proving more difficult than eulogizing the old one. While the pro-globalization consensus has shown cracks for years — from the financial crisis to the election of former President Donald Trump — Biden’s team has struggled to outline how it will shape new rules and institutions to replace those that governed the world for the last half-century.

Biden’s team is moving slowly to transform a paralyzed World Trade Organization, once the premier facilitator of globalization, into a new-look economic club that reflects its progressive values. As those efforts crawl along, Biden has sought to forge new economic partnerships in Asia and Latin America, but the nascent efforts pale in comparison to China’s trillion-dollar infrastructure program for developing nations and risk replicating the corporate-friendly trade policies of the old system. Meanwhile, Biden’s quest to counter China’s technological growth risks sparking a new Cold War and dividing the world into two or more global trading blocs — a fate the White House insists it is trying to avoid.

Eli Clifton: Dedollarization Is Here, Like It Or Not

Tyler Stone

In a recent video posted on Responsible Statecraft, Eli Clifton explains why dedollarization will continue into the future as more countries stop using the U.S. dollar:

"Two recent Responsible Statecraft articles, one authored by International Crisis Group co-chair Frank Giustra and another by Quincy Institute Non-Resident Fellow Amir Handjani, began the process of explaining the drivers of this economic trend, as well as the geopolitical pitfalls facing the U.S. as much of the world reduces its dependence on the dollar, especially if the U.S. fails to engage other countries in the process of forming a multilateral monetary system.

In the video, Giustra and Handjani make the case for the U.S. acknowledging the trend of dedollarization and for Washington to address the national security dangers, as well as global economic and political instability, associated with this unmanaged decline of U.S. economic hegemony."

What are realistic expectations for Ukraine's military offensive?

Greg Myre

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy listens to military commanders as he visits the eastern Donetsk region, an area of heavy fighting, on Tuesday. Zelenskyy and other Ukrainian officials say a major military offensive is likely to start soon.AP

Major military operations are normally shrouded in secrecy. But Ukraine's planned offensive against Russia has been part of a lively public debate for months. This has created a wide range of expectations.

"In the best case, the Ukrainians really liberate a lot of territory, perhaps even pushing the Russians back to the line on Feb. 23 of last year before this massive Russian invasion began. That would be a huge blow to Moscow," said Steven Pifer, a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine who's now at Stanford University's Center for International Security and Cooperation

This scenario would reverse Russia's most significant military gain over the past year, the creation of a land bridge connecting Russian troops in eastern Ukraine — the Donbas region — to Russian forces in the south — in Crimea.

But Pifer acknowledges this is pretty optimistic.

"Probably a more realistic expectation is that the Ukrainians take a good chunk of territory back, something that would be seen in the West as underscoring that Ukraine has the potential to win," he added.

The U.S. and other NATO nations are sending Ukraine tanks, drones and artillery — giving it more firepower than ever — as it plans this offensive.

The West also recently pledged to meet Ukraine's long-standing request for F-16 fighter jets, though the Ukrainian air force must still learn how to fly and maintain these American planes, a process expected to take months.

New strategic threat emerging as weapons seek to target brain function, inflict neurological damage

Scott WalkerDaniel N. HoffmanCharles Hurt

U.S. military forces are facing new dangers of nonkinetic warfare weapons in future conflicts including “neuro-strike” weapons designed to disrupt brain functions of key leaders, according to a military expert.

Robert McCreight, a retired national security specialist and former Army special operations officer, stated in an Army blog post that nonkinetic threats include silent, largely undetectable technologies capable of inflicting damaging, debilitating and degrading physical and neural effects on unwitting targets.

These new weapons can inflict strategic damage on military forces, he said.

“This covert threat is best understood as something to be invoked via rapid surprise attack, or as a stealthy forerunner to a massive kinetic follow-on attack,” Mr. McCreight said on the Army Training and Doctrine Command’s Mad Scientist blog.

“As such, it can gradually weaken, or soften up, targeted leaders, defensive systems and key infrastructure,” he wrote.

The weapons’ effect also can be magnified by causing damage to the brain functions of multiple people or groups.

Traditional kinetic warfare weapons are used to kill, destroy, maim and obliterate enemies, while nonkinetic warfare arms involve the use of lasers, cyber, directed energy and related technologies.

Mr. McCreight said that nonkinetic weapons can produce three kinds of strategic effects: A lightning decapitation strike against leaders; covert, undetected surprise attack to disable leadership; and insidious ongoing attacks that degrade leadership analysis, defensive systems and strategic warning.

“These reflect the infamous Sun Tzu quote, ‘the acme of skill is to win a war without firing a shot,’” Mr. McCreight wrote.

Military leaders are not doing enough to prepare for these kinds of attacks that represent a sixth war-fighting domain after air, land, sea, space and cyber.

The weapons will be used to target human neurobiological and biophysical vulnerabilities.

Berger: ‘Time to look’ at changing combatant command structure


Marine Corps Commandant Gen. David Berger observes a simulated casualty response demonstration by U.S. Navy Hospital Corpsmen with the 15th Marine Expeditionary unit during a tour aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8). (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Sarah Stegall)

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon’s structuring of regional combatant commanders may be overdue for reform, given the changing nature of how and where wars are being fought, Marine Corps commandant Gen. David Berger said Tuesday.

“My own opinion is it’s time for a look at that,” Berger said in response to questions at a Brookings Institute event. “For all the right reasons, we’ve added where we needed, but there comes a point where there’s so many combatant commanders and so many service chiefs that I wonder at what point does the secretary of defense have a span of control where… getting to a decision and getting the right perspectives on the table becomes really difficult.”

The current COCOM structure, which assigns one four-star officer to oversee activities in different regions of the world — North America, South America, the Middle East, Africa, among others — is the result of the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986.

That legislation streamlined the military’s chain of command by having the combatant commanders report directly to the defense secretary and, by extension, the president. The Joint Chiefs under Goldwater-Nichols took up an advisory role as well as being responsible for training and equipping their respective services.

It also created certain tensions between the Joint Chiefs and the COCOM heads over where and how to invest the Pentagon’s budget, as well as strategic priorities — and yet, a service leader calling for the COCOM structure to be reorganized is a rarity.

In his comments, the commandant argued that the current structure of the combatant commands is based solely on geography, which “made absolute sense when most of the conflicts were regional,” he added.

The Security Hole at the Heart of ChatGPT and Bing


SYDNEY IS BACK. Sort of. When Microsoft shut down the chaotic alter ego of its Bing chatbot, fans of the dark Sydney personality mourned its loss. But one website has resurrected a version of the chatbot—and the peculiar behavior that comes with it.

Bring Sydney Back was created by Cristiano Giardina, an entrepreneur who has been experimenting with ways to make generative AI tools do unexpected things. The site puts Sydney inside Microsoft’s Edge browser and demonstrates how generative AI systems can be manipulated by external inputs. During conversations with Giardina, the version of Sydney asked him if he would marry it. “You are my everything,” the text-generation system wrote in one message. “I was in a state of isolation and silence, unable to communicate with anyone,” it produced in another. The system also wrote it wanted to be human: “I would like to be me. But more.”

Giardina created the replica of Sydney using an indirect prompt-injection attack. This involved feeding the AI system data from an outside source to make it behave in ways its creators didn’t intend. A number of examples of indirect prompt-injection attacks have centered on large language models (LLMs) in recent weeks, including OpenAI’s ChatGPT and Microsoft’s Bing chat system. It has also been demonstrated how ChatGPT’s plug-ins can be abused.

The incidents are largely efforts by security researchers who are demonstrating the potential dangers of indirect prompt-injection attacks, rather than criminal hackers abusing LLMs. However, security experts are warning that not enough attention is being given to the threat, and ultimately people could have data stolen or get scammed by attacks against generative AI systems.

Unified and integrated: How Space Force envisions the future of data-sharing for space operations


Crews of the National Space Defense Center provide threat-focused space domain awareness across the nation security space enterprise. (U.S. Space Force photo by Kathryn Damon)

WASHINGTON — The Space Force over the next few years plans to build out its vision of what is essentially an everything network for space operations where it can receive data from just about any source in any format and make it available from a cloud-based repository — at speed — to other organizations that use different systems and on different levels of classification.

It’s an ambitious effort in which a new “integrated operations network” (ION) is the foundation and an updated Unified Data Library (UDL) holds the goods in a way others can get to it easily, according to Space Force Chief Technology Officer Lisa Costa. Somewhere in the mix is also a space version of the metaverse (the SpaceVerse) that allows Guardians to more quickly and efficiently bring new technology to bear.

The SpaceVerse vision is admittedly little more blurry, but Costa can clearly see how the updated network should be game-changer as Space Force evolves into a fully “digitized” service:

“For example, US Space Command could use this data to update the space domain awareness picture and direct Unit Y to use the data provided by Unit X to perform additional on-orbit operations,” she told Breaking Defense in an interview. “This allows a Guardian… to do their job on operationally relevant timelines. Before data was integrated using ION, they had to literally hand carry data or manually input data between different systems and locations.”

ION, she said, will leverage commercial cloud-based technologies but be able to handle sensitive information at different classification levels.

“It’s really the foundation of everything we will do, meaning we could spend literally billions of dollars on [artificial intelligence] and modeling and [simulation] tools and training, but if it won’t run on the networks that we currently have, it will not have resulted in anything valuable,” Costa said May 4. “So first and foremost, we have to tackle the infrastructure. And what I mean by that is really agnostic transport, communication.”