5 June 2023

India: America’s bridge to the Global South


India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, left, shakes hands with Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese following a joint press conference at Admiralty House in Sydney, Australia, Wednesday, May 24, 2023. Modi is the only leader of the so-called Quad nations to continue with his scheduled visit to Australia after U.S. President Joe Biden pulled out of a planned meeting of the group in Sydney to return to Washington to focus on debt limit talks. (Dean Lewins/Pool Photo via AP)

In a last-minute change of plans due to the debt ceiling crisis in Washington, Biden cut short his trip to Asia with just the G7 and the Quad meetings in Hiroshima. He had to skip the meetings in the Pacific Islands and Australia, where the initial Quad leaders meeting was scheduled, to attend to the Republican gridlock on increasing the debt levels.

The old saying “one man’s loss is another’s gain” turns true in Biden’s case. Nonetheless, for the U.S. engagement with the Global South, it does not have to be a zero-sum endeavor. While Biden returned to Washington, the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi went on with his scheduled trip to Papua New Guinea and Fiji to co-host the third iteration of the India-Pacific Islands Cooperation Forum, gaining much of the spotlight.

New Delhi can be Washington’s bridge to the Global South.

Leaders of the Global South certainly share that view. The Indian prime minister was greeted by the prime minister of Papua New Guinea, James Marape at the airport with a respectful touch of the feet, an Indian/Hindu tradition to seek the blessings of the elderly. Later at the India-Pacific Island Cooperation Forum, the PM of Guinea went on to elevate India as the “leader of the Global South.” Notably, taking a subtle jab at the U.S. and China, he said, “We are victims of global powerplay. You (Modi) are the leader of Global South. We will rally behind your leadership at global forums”

Marape labeling Modi this way is not just a complimentary welcome message. There are three major reasons for the leader of the Pacific Island nation to position Modi as such.

India’s Female Wrestlers Are Saying #MeToo


Sakshi Malik tearfully held her Olympic medal close to her chest as she prepared to immerse it in the waters of the Ganges River on Tuesday as part of an ongoing fight against sexual harassment in Indian wrestling. The 30-year-old became India’s first female wrestler to win an Olympic medal in 2016, but seven years later, Malik, along with a group of Indian wrestlers, is calling for the arrest of Brij Bhushan Singh, the head of the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) and an influential Member of Parliament from the Bharatiya Janata Party—whom they allege of pervasive sexual misconduct over the years. (Singh has denied the allegations.)

“For us, our medals are sacred, and so is the river Ganges,” the wrestlers said in an official statement on Tuesday. “This holy river is the perfect custodian of our medals, not the system that shields the offender.”

The dramatic scenes continued to unfold in the holy city of Haridwar in northern India until Naresh Tikait, an influential farm union leader, met with the wrestlers later on Tuesday to convince them to postpone the medal immersion until next week. “Because of them, we hold our head high in the international sports arena,” Tikait told the local press.

On Tuesday night, the controversy escalated further when United World Wrestling (UWW) officially condemned the treatment of Indian wrestlers and called on authorities to “conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into the allegations.” The governing body also reminded the Indian Olympic Association to hold fresh elections for a new leader of WFI within 45 days, as it had promised in April, and warned that failing to do so may lead UWW to “suspend” the federation and force the athletes “to compete under a neutral flag.”

Taliban moving captured US military vehicles and Soviet tanks to Iranian border


Video shared on social media shows the Taliban sending U.S. military vehicles captured from the former Afghan National Defense and Security Forces along with some ancient Soviet-era tanks to Afghanistan’s border with Iran following a recent skirmish about access to the Helmand River.

On May 27, fighting broke out in Nimroz province in southern Afghanistan between the Taliban and Iranian border guards. At least three people were killed in the exchanges of fire.

Should hostilities increase between the two sides, Taliban fighters will have thousands of vehicles at their disposal that were paid for by American taxpayers.

A May 27 video of fighting near an Iranian border outpost was taken by a Taliban fighter from inside the turret of an M240 machine gun mounted on a Humvee. More recent videos posted to Twitter purportedly show Taliban convoys of American-made Humvees and M117 Armored Security Vehicles enroute to Afghanistan’s Iranian border.

In addition to M117s and Humvees, the Taliban also uses American-made MaxxPro Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected Vehicles and M113 armored personnel carriers, said Vishal Sengupta, a research analyst at Janes, a defense intelligence firm.

It is difficult to determine how many of the U.S.-made military vehicles that the Taliban captured are still operational, Sengupta told Task & Purpose. Open sources indicate that the Taliban keeps its fleet of vehicles running by cannibalizing parts from other vehicles.

A top Taliban official told reporters in February 2022 that Taliban fighters had captured roughly 61,000 military vehicles and 26,000 heavy weapons in the final days of the Afghanistan war, according to Al Jazeera.

Australia PM says breakdown in US-China relations would be devastating

Joe Brock and Kanupriya Kapoor

SINGAPORE, June 2 (Reuters) - Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Friday called for greater engagement between the United States and China, saying a breakdown in dialogue between the superpowers could have devastating consequences for the world.

The relationship between the United States and China is at its lowest point in decades, as they remain deeply divided over everything from the sovereignty of Taiwan to cyber espionage and territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

Speaking at the opening of the Shangri-La Dialogue security summit in Singapore, Albanese said he supported U.S. President Joe Biden's efforts to open channels of communication with China.

"If you don’t have the pressure valve of dialogue ... then there is always a much greater risk of assumptions spilling over into irretrievable action and reaction," Albanese told a ballroom packed with defence officials and diplomats from around the world.

"The consequences of such a breakdown – whether in the Taiwan Strait or elsewhere - would not be confined to the big powers or the site of their conflict, they would be devastating for the world," he added.

Intensifying competition between the U.S. and China is expected to dominate proceedings at the summit. China's Minister of National Defence Li Shangfu had this week declined an invitation to meet there with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

On Friday, the two shook hands on the sidelines of the conference but the two did not have a "substantive exchange," the Pentagon said.

Austin is set to address the summit on Saturday before Li delivers his own speech on Sunday.


Albanese's comments come as Australia is seeking to stabilise its own relationship with China after a three-year diplomatic freeze and trade blocks that Beijing is now easing.

AI and China are ‘defining challenges of our time,’ CISA director says

Edward Graham

The head of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency warned on Wednesday about the security risks posed by generative artificial intelligence technologies and an increasingly bellicose China, calling them “the two epoch defining challenges of our time.”

During an event hosted by Axios, CISA Director Jen Easterly outlined her concerns about Beijing’s aggressive cyber posture and the rise of largely unregulated generative AI tools and called for tech firms and critical infrastructure operators to prioritize enhanced security practices.

Easterly cited, in part, the intelligence community’s 2023 annual threat assessment — which was publicly released in March — and noted that it outlined how “in the event of a conflict, like an invasion or a blockade of the Taiwan Strait, we will almost probably see aggressive cyber operations here in the U.S.” She said that these cyberattacks would likely be designed “to delay military deployment and to induce societal panic” and would rely on digital intrusions “capable of disrupting transportation, oil and pipelines.”

CISA, in collaboration with its Five Eyes intelligence-sharing partners, published a joint cybersecurity advisory last week that shared technical details about a Beijing-linked cyber threat actor, known as Volt Typhoon, that is targeting the networks of critical infrastructure operators. Easterly said the advisory was “a real wake up call for our concerns about why we need to increase the security and resilience of our critical infrastructure.”

“These are the types of threats that we need to be prepared to defend against, and that's why continuing to resource our budget is so incredibly important,” she added, citing the White House’s proposed 2024 fiscal year budget that would allocate $3.1 billion to CISA — an increase of $145 million to the agency’s current budget.

Easterly — who has been pushing in recent months for tech firms and software manufacturers to prioritize security when developing new products — also reiterated her call for companies to take a more active role in securing their services from growing cyber threats, but reframed it to address growing concerns about the unchecked rise of generative AI technologies.

US allies in the Indo-Pacific align on China

In February 2023, in remarks before the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs Ely Ratner stated that 2023 had already been ‘a ground-breaking year for US alliances and partnerships’ in terms of regional deterrence capabilities. At the 20th IISS Shangri-La Dialogue, convening on 2 June 2023, the various keynote and plenary speeches will likely further confirm Ratner’s point, given that additional defence agreements have since been struck between the US and its allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific as they respond to China’s growing defence capabilities.

Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who will deliver the dialogue’s keynote address, will undoubtedly reference worsening regional-security conditions and how Canberra’s recent Defence Strategic Review will affect the country’s future defence posture. The review states that Australia should pursue cooperation with China where possible but also that it will ‘vigorously pursue’ the Australian national interest in the face of a ‘radically different’ security environment. This refers to the scale and ambition of the Chinese military build-up, which is unprecedented since the end of the Second World War. The review calls for forging a closer relationship with the US and also for strengthening undersea-warfare capabilities, long-range strike capabilities and integrated air and missile defences. This is all in addition to AUKUS, a defence partnership with the United Kingdom and the US that will see British and American nuclear-powered submarines enter rotational deployments from an Australian naval base as early as 2027, as the AUKUS submarine-development programme gets underway.

Japan, too, recently engaged in a fundamental review of its security and defence posture. In December 2022, Tokyo released an ambitious trio of documents: the National Security Strategy, National Defense Strategy and Defense Buildup Program. The security strategy stated that ‘China’s current external stance, military activities, and other activities have become a matter of serious concern for Japan and the international community, and present an unprecedented and the greatest strategic challenge in ensuring the peace and security of Japan’. In January 2023, Minister for Foreign Affairs Hayashi Yoshimasa reiterated this sentiment during the Japan–US Security Consultative meeting (or ‘2+2’), with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken highlighting the alignment between Tokyo and Washington in considering China to be the ‘greatest shared strategic challenge’ that they and their partners face. Like Australia’s review, Japan’s new strategies flag China’s ‘intensifying’ military activities around Taiwan in particular, which include the launch of ballistic missiles into waters around Japan.

China stands to gain from a weakened Russia. The West should prepare now.

Andrew A. Michta

As the war in Ukraine enters yet another phase with the coming Ukrainian offensive, it is clear that China is positioning itself to benefit from the outcome regardless of which side ultimately prevails. China has already been able to pocket significant gains in its relations with Russia as Moscow has grown more dependent on Beijing for its economic survival and for political support. China also has gained ground in its relations with the European Union, especially with Germany and France, which appear to have recognized Beijing’s growing role in shaping relations between Kyiv and Moscow. Although there is no consensus in Europe on relations with China going forward, the series of recent high-level visits to China by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock have driven the point home that, though geographically distant, China is increasingly a power in Europe.

How China has stood to benefit from Russia’s war has changed over the last year and a half. In early February 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping met shortly before Russian forces launched their full-scale invasion of Ukraine. If Putin divulged his plans then, Xi evidently did not dissuade him from launching the brutal attack. The joint statement coming out of this meeting proclaimed a “no limits” partnership. Had Russia succeeded in its initial invasion and taken Kyiv in the first days, the rules-based international order would have been weakened. Having extended support to Ukraine for so long, the United States and its allies and partners would have had their commitments called into question. Autocratic might would have won the day. All of this, of course, would have been music to Xi’s ears, and all without Beijing firing a shot.

How Beijing benefits now

Today, it’s a different story, but China nonetheless stands to benefit. A protracted war of attrition in Ukraine serves Beijing’s interests in that it will lead to the long-term weakening of Russia, thereby fundamentally shifting the Sino-Russian power balance decisively in China’s favor for years to come. China is also benefitting from cheap Russian energy, which is supporting its economy and improving China’s competitive position in world markets. Measured by value, Russia’s pipeline gas exports to China increased two-and-a-half times in 2022, while its liquefied natural gas exports to China more than doubled. Last year China also increased its volumes of Russian coal by 20 percent.

Stop Worrying About Chinese Hegemony in Asia

Stephen M. Walt

The United States and its Asian partners want to maintain a balance of power in the Indo-Pacific, ostensibly to prevent China from becoming a regional hegemon there. They worry that Beijing will gradually persuade its neighbors to distance themselves from the United States, accept Chinese primacy, and defer to Beijing’s wishes on key foreign-policy issues. In 2018, for example, then-U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis warned that China is “harboring long-term designs to rewrite the existing global order. … The Ming Dynasty appears to be their model, albeit in a more muscular manner, demanding other nations become tribute states, kowtowing to Beijing.” Former U.S. officials such as Rush Doshi and Elbridge Colby and prominent realists writing on U.S. grand strategy—myself included—have made similar arguments, and China’s stated desire to be a “leading global power” and its efforts to alter the status quo in the South China Sea and elsewhere appear to justify these concerns.

In fantasy of multipolarity, new world order would be dominated by Chinese Communists

Charles Hurt, Scott Walker

At the conclusion of its summit in Hiroshima, Japan, earlier this month, the Group of Seven issued a communique calling attention to China‘s “malign practices.” That prompted spokesmen for the Chinese Communist Party to complain about the G7‘s “Cold War mentality.”

Xi Jinping, the most powerful Chinese ruler since Mao Zedong, is building his military capabilities at breakneck speed. He formed a “no limits” alliance with Vladimir Putin days before Russian tanks invaded Ukraine.

He stripped Hong Kong of its freedoms in violation of Beijing’s treaty obligations. He persecutes Tibetans, Uyghurs and other minorities. He threatens Taiwan.

He steals billions of dollars in American intellectual property, inserts malware into the computer systems of critical U.S. infrastructure, flies spy balloons over American military bases, and helps traffic fentanyl into the U.S., resulting in the deaths of tens of thousands.

But he would have the world believe that it is the G7 — the U.S., Japan, Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Canada — that is bellicose.

President Biden last week wishfully predicted there will be a “thaw very shortly” in Sino-American relations. A spokeswoman for Beijing’s Foreign Ministry said that’s not happening so long as the U.S. is “resorting to any means to suppress and contain China.”

But how is China being suppressed and contained? The G7 communique stated: “Our policy approaches are not designed to harm China nor do we seek to thwart China’s economic progress and development.”

Nor has there been any serious effort to curtail Beijing’s growing influence in Africa, Latin America, Central Asia, the South Pacific and the Middle East.

Instead, the U.S. is becoming dependent on China for key components of a Washington-mandated-and-subsidized “fundamental transformation” of America’s energy sources. Why? To “address” — not impact — the “climate crisis.” (Was nothing learned from Germany’s disastrous decision to depend on Russian energy?)

The show of unity at the G7 notwithstanding, Mr. Xi hopes to divide the nations of Europe and Asia from the U.S. One useful wedge: “multipolarity,” a fantasy assiduously promoted by Beijing.

Stop Worrying About Chinese Hegemony in Asia

Stephen M. Walt

The United States and its Asian partners want to maintain a balance of power in the Indo-Pacific, ostensibly to prevent China from becoming a regional hegemon there. They worry that Beijing will gradually persuade its neighbors to distance themselves from the United States, accept Chinese primacy, and defer to Beijing’s wishes on key foreign-policy issues. In 2018, for example, then-U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis warned that China is “harboring long-term designs to rewrite the existing global order. … The Ming Dynasty appears to be their model, albeit in a more muscular manner, demanding other nations become tribute states, kowtowing to Beijing.” Former U.S. officials such as Rush Doshi and Elbridge Colby and prominent realists writing on U.S. grand strategy—myself included—have made similar arguments, and China’s stated desire to be a “leading global power” and its efforts to alter the status quo in the South China Sea and elsewhere appear to justify these concerns.

Ethnic conflict in Kosovo: Cutting the Gordian Knot

Anatol Lieven

In the appallingly complicated politics of the western Balkans, one thing at least is abundantly clear: that without the presence of Western troops, and the threat of NATO military intervention, much of the region would return to the full-scale ethnic warfare of the 1990s. If there were any doubts about that, they should have been dispelled by the latest clashes between Serbs and Albanians in northern Kosovo.

These clashes, in which 30 soldiers of NATO’s peacekeeping Kosovo Force (KFOR) were also injured, originated in a boycott by Serbs in Mitrovica, of municipal elections last month in protest against the refusal of the ethnic Albanian government of Kosovo to grant their district greater autonomy. The voting stations had to be guarded by ethnic Albanian police after the local Serb police force resigned last autumn in protest against the decision by the Kosovo government to replace Serbian automobile license plates with Kosovar ones.

Mitrovica is the last remaining major ethnic Serb enclave in Kosovo, and the government fears, with reason, that the population there would use greater autonomy as a way of eventually separating from Kosovo and re-uniting with Serbia. The Serbs of Mitrovica fear, with equally good reason, that the establishment of full government control of Mitrovica would eventually lead to them sharing the fate of ethnic Serbs elsewhere in Kosovo, who were driven out after the NATO air campaign of 1999 forced the Yugoslav army to withdraw and established the rule of Albanian nationalists in Kosovo.

Kosovo’s independence was recognized by the United States and most Western countries after 2008, but almost half of the members of the UN (48 percent) continue to refuse to do so. Serbia has never recognized Kosovo independence, and in this refusal has the backing of Russia. Western-brokered negotiations between Serbia and Kosovo over the past two decades have led nowhere.

The result of the Serb election boycott was that ethnic Albanian mayors were elected in Kosovo with the support of only four percent of the local population. NATO and Western countries questioned the validity of the election, and asked the Kosovo government not to install the new mayors. The government rejected this, and sent armed police to take over the municipal offices, resulting in violent Serb protests. An intensification of violence was halted with difficulty by KFOR, which has been reinforced by an additional 700 troops.

The U.S. and Russia: Competing Proxy Strategies in the Russo-Ukrainian War

Amos C. Fox

Thanks to near-real time reporting from the battlefield, open-source intelligence, and many good streams of analysis—to include reports from the Institute for the Study of War and assessments from Michael Kofman and Mark Galeotti—the Russo-Ukrainian War provides a rare and information-rich occasion to compare competing proxy war strategies.

When examining proxy strategies, it is important to remember that a proxy is simply an actor (Actor B) who a principal (Actor A) relies on as an in-lieu-of actor to advance its own political-military interests. In Ukraine, Russian proxy strategy resides on one side of the spectrum and the U.S. proxy strategy on the other. While Ukraine is fighting for its national sovereignty and the restoration of its territorial integrity, the U.S. is relying on Ukrainian military operations to defeat Russia. The defeat of Russia serves multiple U.S. interests, aside from just helping Ukraine remain a sovereign state. These interests include advancing both the relevance and importance of NATO and the European Union, continuing to spread Western idealism and democracy at the expense of balance-of-power politics and single-party authoritarianism, and strategically weakening Russia’s standing within the international system. In the sad irony that accompanies war, both strategies feed off one another, having transformed the conflict into a grinding war of attrition.[1]

This point is important because it tends to be lost in the castigation of Russia’s poor tactics and in the goading of Ukrainian forces by the U.S. to adopt maneuver-centric tactics.[2] In reality, the competing Russian and U.S. proxy strategies create a circular logic. Understanding that a proxy is an in-lieu-of actor, the purveyor of a proxy strategy can mold that strategy to fit their needs, goals, resources, risk considerations, and the type of proxy available (or any combination thereof). Accordingly, the firepower-centric proxy strategy of the U.S. contributes to Russia’s human wave proxy strategy; and Russia’s human wave strategy contributes to the firepower-centric, technology diffusion proxy strategy of the U.S., which, when cycled over time, creates the devastating war of attrition that is playing out in eastern Ukraine.

The goal of this essay is not to vote one way or another on whose strategy is better or more ethical. Moreover, the goal is not to inject emotion or virtue-signaling into this paper. The purpose of this paper is to provide an objective comparison of proxy strategies, while not advocating for, or against either of the involved participants. The ultimate goal of this paper is to illustrate, as objectively as possible, how the Russian and US proxy strategies feed off one another to fuel a war of attrition.



The war in Ukraine has provided a bleak backdrop for discussions about international security ever since the Russian invasion in February 2022. While the conflict has affected many aspects of security and defence in the Asia-Pacific, the region has its own dynamics, and important security-related developments have occurred there since the invasion. As the Asia-Pacific recovers from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, China’s economic and military power continues to grow. In response to the Chinese leadership’s increasingly determined rhetoric emphasising the inevitability of Taiwan’s ‘reintegration’ with the mainland, concerns have mounted over the threat posed to the island’s security. With the support of some European states, the United States and its close regional allies – Australia and Japan – have intensified their efforts to balance China by increasing and coordinating their military power and diplomatic efforts throughout what they call the Indo-Pacific. 

Many Asian states have, to a greater or lesser degree, remained ‘on the fence’ as relations have become increasingly strained between China on one side and the US and some of its allies on the other. Such ambivalence is evident in the strategic postures of India (despite its membership of the ‘Quad’ alongside Australia, Japan and the US), most Southeast Asian states and even South Korea, a major US ally. The latter has remained acutely focused on the threat from North Korea, which stepped up significantly its missile testing in 2022. In Southeast Asia, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member states have maintained the grouping’s consensus-based approach to regional political and security challenges. However, continuing conflict across Myanmar – provoked by the February 2021 military coup – has brought growing intramural strains.


Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has given rise to the most significant military conflict in Europe since the end of the Second World War. Its effects have reverberated around the Asia-Pacific, providing lessons on the nature of potential future armed conflict in the region and prompting geopolitical realignments that could substantially alter elements of the regional balance of power.


The diplomatic response to the conflict has revealed a series of global geopolitical fault lines and raised issues from the potential use of nuclear weapons and the effectiveness of deterrence to the use of pre-emptive intelligence disclosure in the run-up to conflicts.


The war offers potentially important lessons for future conflicts in Asia, in areas including maritime security, information warfare, logistics and military capacity-building, among others.


Russia’s military fortunes in Ukraine have implications for its status as an Asia-Pacific security actor. Its rapidly deepening relationship with China and its changing military ties to countries like India and Vietnam could affect the regional balance of power.


The Ukraine war has sharpened concerns about the ability of the United States and its European partners to manage commitments in both the Euro-Atlantic and Asia-Pacific theatres.

Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio used his keynote address at the 19th IISS Shangri-La Dialogue in June 2022 to deliver a warning about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, arguing that ‘Ukraine today may be East Asia tomorrow’.1 Since the conflict’s outbreak in February 2022, defence establishments across the Asia-Pacific have watched it closely to glean operational and strategic lessons and assess consequences for the global and regional balance of power. This chapter provides a preliminary analysis of those lessons and consequences. The fact that the war is ongoing means any lessons must be drawn with caution; its implications, both in Europe and in the Asia-Pacific, will depend on whether Russia or Ukraine is ultimately seen to have prevailed. Moreover, there are obvious differences between the two theatres, not least the fact that the conflict in Ukraine is largely land-based while many Asia-Pacific flashpoints are maritime in nature. Broadly speaking, however, the lessons offered by the Ukraine war that are relevant to Asia-Pacific states may be divided into four categories. Firstly, there are diplomatic and strategic lessons – regarding the role of deterrence, nuclear signalling, capacity-building and intelligence disclosure. Secondly, there are operational and tactical lessons, including in the maritime and information domains. Thirdly, there is the geopolitical impact of the war with respect to Russia’s ties to India and China. In the case of the latter, there are also possible implications with respect to Taiwan. Finally, there is the likely impact of the war on the Asia-Pacific strategies of the United States and larger European countries, including France, Germany and the United Kingdom.

The legacy of the war in Ukraine: will a ‘Silk Curtain’ fall?

It is too early to say when and how the war in Ukraine will end but the outlines of its geopolitical legacy are already visible. The United States, NATO and Europe have shown remarkable cohesion and consistency in supporting Ukraine’s war efforts and have configured for a long struggle against Russia and in defence of an order based on universalism and collective security. But fluidity, variability and assertiveness have marked the policies of actors across the rest of the international community, particularly those whose markets and policies are orientated towards the East.

While many actors, both governmental and commercial, will strive to keep markets open and security collective, there is a risk that policy choices over both Russia and China deepen into a polarisation between a broadly Western and Eastern bloc. Although separation into blocs is neither economically nor politically desirable for either side, there is the risk of a virtual border emerging between East and West. Will such a Silk Curtain fall?

RecalibrationThe divisions exposed by the war are not confined to policy differences over the conflict itself, but extend to the nature and remit of the international order led and guaranteed by the US. In this period of adjustment, while the positions of China and Russia are predictable, including the closeness of the alliance between them, the policy choices of the middle powers of Asia and the Middle East are negotiable and influential. They could prove decisive in determining whether polarisation deepens or is mitigated into a manageable but qualified globalism.

These choices are manifesting already in the form of recalibrations of foreign policy rather than of wholesale changes in ideological alignment. There have as yet, for example, been no formal secessions from defence agreements with the US or its allies and no military assistance provided to Russia other than by states already heavily sanctioned. But the recalibrations over – in particular – ongoing relations with Russia are already posing challenges to traditional US domination in the ‘three Ds’: defence, diplomacy and the dollar. The recalibrations are short of a frontal challenge to the US, which even China has been careful to avoid. This is partly because the middle powers lack cohesion around a shared agenda, but also because the benefits of access to the US, for the majority, outweigh those of alienation. Investment levels by sovereign-wealth funds in the US, for example, far exceed those in Asia. But the challenges have been intensified and fuelled by the war in Ukraine. The trend-line is upwards.

BRICS ministers put on show of strength as Putin arrest warrant looms large

Wendell Roelf

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) -BRICS foreign ministers on Thursday asserted their bloc's ambition to rival Western powers but their talks in South Africa were overshadowed by questions over whether Russia's president would be arrested if he attended a summit in August.

South Africa's foreign minister Naledi Pandor said her country was mulling options if Vladimir Putin, the subject of a war crimes arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC), came to the planned BRICS summit in Johannesburg.

As a member of the ICC, South Africa would theoretically be required to arrest Putin, and Pandor was bombarded with questions about that as she arrived for a first round of talks with representatives from Brazil, Russia, India and China.

"The answer is the president (Cyril Ramaphosa) will indicate what the final position of South Africa is. As matters stand an invitation has been issued to all (BRICS) heads of state," she said.

At a news conference later, the ministers side-stepped a barrage of questions about the Putin issue.

The ICC accused Putin in March of the war crime of forcibly deporting children from Russian-occupied territory in Ukraine. Moscow denies the allegations. South Africa had invited Putin in January.

Putin has not confirmed his plans, with the Kremlin only saying Russia would take part at the "proper level".

The ministers sought to focus attention on their ambition to build up their influence in a multi-polar world.

U.S. allies look for their place in the emerging global order


From May 22–23, the Toda Peace Institute convened a brainstorming retreat at its Tokyo office with 16 high-level international participants.

One of the key themes was the changing global power structure and normative architecture, with the resulting implications for world order, the Indo-Pacific and the three U.S. regional allies Australia, Japan and South Korea. The two background factors that dominated the conversation, not surprisingly, were China-U.S. relations and the Ukraine war.

The conflict in Ukraine has shown the sharp limits of Russia as a military power. Both Russia and the U.S. badly underestimated Ukraine’s determination and ability to resist (“I need ammunition, not a ride,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy famously said when offered safe evacuation by the Americans early in the war), absorb the initial shock and then reorganize to launch counteroffensives to regain lost territory. Russia is finished as a military threat in Europe. No Russian leader, including Vladimir Putin, will think again for a very long time indeed before attacking a NATO ally in Europe.

That said, the war has also demonstrated the stark reality of the limits to U.S. global influence in organizing a coalition of countries willing to censure and sanction Russia. If anything, the U.S.-led West is more isolated from the rest of the world than at any time since 1945. The “Global South” in particular has been vocal in saying, firstly, that Europe’s problems are no longer automatically the world’s problems, And, secondly, that while they condemn Moscow’s aggression, they also sympathize quite heavily with the Russian complaint about NATO provocations in expanding to Russia’s borders.

U.S. global leadership is hobbled also by rampant domestic dysfunctionality. A bitterly divided and fractured America lacks the necessary common purpose, principle and the requisite national pride and strategic direction to execute a robust foreign policy. Much of the world is also bemused that a great power could once again present the choice between Joe Biden and Donald Trump for president.

Has Russia Lost The War In Ukraine?

Stavros Atlamazoglou

Ukraine Attack on Russian Missiles

After an offensive operation that cost more than 100,000 men, Russia once more ceded Ukraine the strategic initiative.

With the war in its 16th month, Kyiv now has the opportunity to deliver a blow on the Russian forces.
Russia Has Ceded the Strategic Initiative

The year began full of promise for the Kremlin. In January, the Russian forces launched a large-scale offensive operation in the Donbas in an attempt to capture Bakhmut and achieve an operational breakthrough.

Despite losing more than 100,000 men killed, wounded, and captured in the span of a few weeks, the Russian forces failed to break the Ukrainian lines, though they captured Bakhmut after much blood and sweat.

The Russian offensive has ended, and with it, the Russian military has ceded the strategic initiative to Ukraine. Since the start of May, the Russian forces have done little to advance the Kremlin’s strategic objectives.

“Russia has had little success in its likely aims of neutralising Ukraine’s improved air defences and destroying Ukrainian counter-attack forces. On the ground, it has redeployed security forces to react to partisan attacks inside western Russia,” the British Military Intelligence assessed in its latest estimate of the war.

US Pentagon integrates directed-energy air defence systems

John Hill

The US Department of Defense (DoD) has issued two contracts yesterday, 31 May, to adopt directed-energy weapon (DEW) systems for air defence and commit to funding pulsed laser research.

The first contract tasks the Alabama-based defence company, Kord Technologies, to develop, integrate, test and sustain directed-energy short-range air defence systems for the US Army.

Kord’s ‘Other Transaction Authority’ agreement – which gives the DoD flexibility to adopt business practices that reflect commercial industry standards – is worth $158.1m.

The second contract awards the University of Rochester Laboratory for Laser Energetics $14.9m to support the Missile Defence Agency’s (MDA) innovation, science and technology pulsed laser lethality investigations.

The New York-based institution will explore the lethality modes and utility of pulsed lasers for the DoD services. To be completed by 31 May 2026, the models, simulations, and lethality toolsets developed shall support analysis against a variety of DoD threats across ground, sea, air and space domains.

DEW market

As concerns over the capabilities of peer-level adversaries continue to mount, the pressure to achieve and retain technological advantage continues to drive investment in this sector from a diverse range of military organisations.

GlobalData intelligence tells us that while there is a proliferated use of uncrewed aerial systems, drone swarming tactics and the introduction of hypersonic missiles, these new methods have led some observers to consider the potential of DEW as an effective countermeasure to these emerging technologies.

Army Transforms Integrated Air, Missile Defense Capabilities

Scott R. Gourley

Few arenas in the Army are witnessing more significant transformation than integrated air and missile defense, according to service officials.

Col. Pat Costello, director of Army Futures Command’s Air and Missile Defense Cross Functional Team, said, “Nowhere during my career have I seen such transformation across a branch.”

From new approaches to defending against small handheld drones to the well-established Patriot missile defense system, the Army is changing the way it defends its troops from airborne threats, he said at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Global Force symposium in Huntsville, Alabama.

The Army is “doing it all simultaneously, and then making it all fit together and work together by eliminating some of the long-standing stovepipes we’ve had. And that’s why I really use the word ‘transformation,’ instead of ‘modernization,’ because yes, we are modernizing the materiel solutions, but this is going to fundamentally change the way that we are organized and employed as a branch,” he said.

Col. Curtis King, commandant of the Air Defense Artillery School at the Fires Center of Excellence at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, highlighted the growing threats to troops.

“One thing we’ve seen is no longer do we have one system focused on one threat. We’re seeing this play out in Ukraine, in real-world time now,” he said. “We have to have layered and in-depth defense. In many cases, you’re having to use some of your air and missile defense capability to protect some of your other systems against some of your more advanced threats.”

“This is not just an air defense fight,” he added. “This is not just an Army fight. This is the joint fight.”

Costello said the transformation of air and missile defense is going to not only open new opportunities for the Army but is also going to expose new gaps that it will have to address in the future.

The war in Ukraine was not ‘unprovoked’

There is no fairy tale end to the war in Ukraine, in which Ukraine defeats Russia on the battlefield and then joins Nato. The war can end with a safe and secure Ukraine, indeed with Ukraine a member of the European Union. But it cannot end with Ukraine in Nato. Russia has fought the war over that issue, and could possibly escalate to a nuclear war to avoid Nato enlargement to Ukraine.

A lie the West tells itself is that the war was "unprovoked." The word "unprovoked" is invoked incessantly, in President Joe Biden's major speech on the first-year anniversary of the war, in Nato statements, and in the media. TheNew York Times editorial pages alone have included at least 26 editorials, opinion columns and op-ed pieces that have described the Russian invasion as "unprovoked."

Yet, the war and Russian invasion were provoked by the issue of Nato enlargement, just as leading US diplomats had warned about for decades.

There were in fact two Nato-related provocations. The first was the US intention to expand Nato to Ukraine and Georgia, which would surround Russia in the Black Sea region with Nato countries (Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, and Georgia, in counter-clockwise order). The second was the US role in the violent overthrow of Ukraine's pro-Russian president, Viktor Yanukovych, who had pushed Ukraine's neutrality. The shooting war began nine years ago, with the installation in Ukraine of a US-backed, Russophobic government intent on joining Nato.

The US government refuses to discuss these roots of the war. To recognise them would undermine the Biden administration in three ways. First, it would expose the fact that the war could have been avoided, or stopped early, sparing Ukraine its current devastation, and sparing the US more than $100 billion in outlays to date. Second, it would expose President Biden's own role in the war dating back to 2014 and earlier, as a staunch advocate of Nato enlargement and participant in the overthrow of Yanukovych. Third, it would lead to the negotiating table, which the administration avoids as it continues to push for Nato expansion.

Admitting that Nato expansion provoked the war would also undermine decades of US policy.

What Mao Taught Woke

Forrest Marion

Since 2021 several individuals possessing firsthand experience with brutal Asian authoritarian regimes have spoken out courageously against what they see as similar ideologies and practices taking root in America. One of them, Xi Van Fleet, a Loudon County, Virginia, mother, experienced Mao’s Cultural Revolution (1966-1976).

Another witness, a North Korean defector named Yeonmi Park, fled her homeland in 2007. She endured unimaginable hardships, including being sex-trafficked and walking across the Gobi Desert to Mongolia, eventually coming to America and attending an Ivy League university. Seeing the same kind of indoctrination (or “brainwashing,” her term) and anti-American propaganda that she had grown up with, Ms. Park said bluntly, “You guys have lost common sense to [a] degree that I as a North Korean, cannot even comprehend.” (Apparently, preferred pronoun diktats had not reached Pyongyang.)

In recent years, indoctrination and anti-American propaganda has spread from numerous universities to public schools. The indoctrination of children in Loudon County schools under Critical Race Theory’s (CRT) influence in the last several years reminded Xi Van Fleet “of what she witnessed growing up in Mao’s China.” “The communist regime used the same critical theory to divide people,” she stated. “The only difference is that (they) used class instead of race. This is indeed the American version of the Chinese cultural revolution.”

Senator Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) is among those legislators who have said the same, particularly regarding the woke Pentagon. In a letter to Secretary of Defense Austin in May 2021, Wicker stated: “CRT is a branch of critical theory developed in the 1970s and 80s with deep and explicit roots in Marxism.” While this new form of Marxism looks different from Soviet-era communism, “It still defines people fundamentally as either oppressed or oppressors, thus rejecting the founding premise of this country that all men are created equal.”

While a number of conservative writers have referred to Xi Van Fleet and the Maoist revolution whose indoctrination she endured, not many go beyond alluding in general terms to the destructiveness of the state-sanctioned movement that took or ruined the lives of tens of millions of unoffending Chinese. All that really mattered was maintaining the reputation of Mao, the god of the atheist People’s Republic of China.

Pentagon contracting with SpaceX’s Starlink to provide satellite communication capabilities for Ukraine


The Pentagon is buying satellite communication capabilities from SpaceX’s Starlink to aid the Ukrainian military in its war with Russia, DefenseScoop has learned.

The Pentagon has previously disclosed that “SATCOM terminals and services” have been included in U.S. security assistance packages, although it hasn’t been identifying the companies providing them.

However, on Thursday a defense official revealed that the department is contracting with Starlink.

“We continue to work with a range of global partners to ensure Ukraine has the resilient satellite and communication capabilities they need. Satellite communications constitute a vital layer in Ukraine’s overall communications network and the department contracts with Starlink for services of this type. However, for operational security reasons and due to the critical nature of these systems, we do not have additional information regarding specific capabilities, contracts, or partners to provide at this time,” the defense official said in a statement to DefenseScoop on condition of anonymity.

Commercial space technologies have had a big impact on the Ukraine-Russia war, officials say.

SpaceX had been providing Starlink capabilities to Ukraine on its own dime and from non-DOD funding sources after the war kicked off last year. However, concerns had been raised that at some point Ukraine could lose access to Starlink over funding issues or other complications, and in the fall the company reportedly tried to pressure the Pentagon to start footing the bill.

Starlink satellite internet terminals and associated capabilities have enabled Ukranian troops to stay connected even when their usual comms networks are hindered during the conflict with Russia.

Elon Musk’s Neuralink brain chip cleared for human trials


Since its founding in 2016, Elon Musk’s neurotechnology company Neuralink has had the ambitious mission to build a next-generation brain implant with at least 100 times more brain connections than devices currently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The company has now reached a significant milestone, having received FDA approval to begin human trials. So what were the issues keeping the technology in the pre-clinical trial phase for as long as it was? And have these concerns been addressed?
What is Neuralink?

Neuralink is making a Class III medical device known as a brain-computer interface (BCI). The device connects the brain to an external computer via a Bluetooth signal, enabling continuous communication back and forth.

The device itself is a coin-sized unit called a Link. It’s implanted within a small disk-shaped cutout in the skull using a precision surgical robot. The robot splices a thousand tiny threads from the Link to certain neurons in the brain. Each thread is about a quarter the diameter of a human hair.
Potential benefits

If Neuralink’s BCI can be made to work safely on humans, I believe the potential benefits would make the effort worthwhile.

The company says the device could enable precise control of prosthetic limbs, giving amputees natural motor skills. It could revolutionise treatment for conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy and spinal cord injuries. It also shows some promise for potential treatment of obesity, autism, depression, schizophrenia and tinnitus.

Several other neurotechnology companies and researchers have already developed BCI technologies that have helped people with limited mobility regain movement and complete daily tasks.

BCIs have also been used to help older people train their motor and cognitive abilities to moderate the worst effects of ageing.
The long road to FDA approval for human trials

To Protect Europe, Let Ukraine Join NATO—Right Now

Andriy Zagorodnyuk

In July, the heads of NATO’s 31 countries will convene in Vilnius, Lithuania, for a summit—their fourth one since Russia invaded Ukraine. Like each of the last three, the proceedings will be dominated by how to address the conflict. The countries’ leaders will consider what Kyiv needs to keep fighting and what their states can offer. They will welcome Finland, which joined in April, prompted by the invasion. They will discuss Sweden’s pending application. They have invited Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, so they will discuss Ukraine’s bid as well. If past is prologue, they will affirm that Kyiv is on track to join the organization.

“All NATO allies have agreed that Ukraine will become a member,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in April. “Ukraine’s future is in NATO.”

Ukrainians, however, have heard that many times before. For the better part of the last two decades, Kyiv has sought NATO membership. And for the better part of the last two decades, NATO has left it twisting in the wind. In 2008, the alliance promised to eventually let Ukraine in, but it has never seriously considered Kyiv’s application. Instead, it first concluded that admitting the country was not worth the damage to Western-Russian relations. Then, after the Kremlin annexed Crimea in 2014, NATO decided that Ukraine’s membership would demand too much of the alliance and for too little in return.

But that was before Russia launched its full-scale invasion. In the 15 months since, everything has changed. The West’s ties with Russia have rapidly unraveled. NATO states began pumping Ukraine full of military aid. Kyiv has used this assistance to halt Russia’s attacks and push the country back. It has forced the Kremlin to burn through ammunition and gear at an astounding rate, degrading Russia’s overall strength. In doing so, Ukraine proved that it is not a drain on NATO but, in fact, an incredible asset. NATO exists to help protect Europe, and since Moscow’s invasion began, no other state has done more to keep Europe safe.

And yet there is still no real movement toward letting the country join the organization. European governments may have stopped worrying about maintaining good relations with Moscow, but they are worried about widening the war into their countries, and they view NATO admission as a surefire way to escalate. The organization’s treaty, after all, declares that an attack on one member must be treated as an attack on all. And Russian President Vladimir Putin has made it clear that the organization is his archnemesis. They fear that he might widen the war if Ukraine is brought in.

These fears, however, are completely misguided. Contrary to a popular misconception, NATO’s treaty does not require that members send troops to defend a NATO state that has been attacked. And the idea that Putin would meaningfully escalate because Ukraine joined the alliance reflects a misunderstanding of recent history. European states spent years ignoring Ukraine’s NATO application precisely to avoid antagonizing Moscow—and to precisely zero effect.

What It Takes to Protect Kyiv From Russian Bombardment

Marc Santora

Russian air attacks on Kyiv have come in relentless waves. Yet very little has penetrated the patched-together but increasingly sophisticated air defense network. Here’s why.

Ukrainian servicemen demonstrated working on a mobile air defense system responsible for protecting a patch of sky just outside Kyiv.Credit...Nicole Tung for The New York Times

Find it, target it, shoot it.

The drill is the same for Ukraine’s air defense crews as they work round the clock to combat the relentless barrage of missiles the Russians launch at Kyiv, mostly foiling the most intense bombardment of the capital since the first weeks of the war.

In the month of May alone, Russia bombarded Kyiv 17 times. It has fired hypersonic missiles from MIG-31 fighter jets and attacked with land-based ballistic missiles powerful enough to level an entire apartment block. Russian bombers and ships have fired dozens of long-range cruise missiles, and more than 200 attack drones have featured in blitzes meant to confuse and overwhelm Ukrainian air defenses.

It presents a constant struggle for Ukrainian defenders. Russian assaults can be unrelenting. They come mostly at night, but sometimes in daytime hours, as they did on Monday.

Even when Ukraine manages to blast missiles from the sky, falling debris can bring death and destruction. Early Thursday, Russia sent a volley of 10 ballistic missiles at Kyiv; Ukrainian officials said they were all shot down but that falling fragments killed three people, including a child, and injured more than a dozen others.

Yet overall, very little has penetrated the complex and increasingly sophisticated air defense network around Ukraine’s capital, saving scores of lives.

“We have no days off,” said Riabyi, the call sign of the 26-year-old “shooter” who is part of a two-person antiaircraft missile crew responsible for protecting just one patch of sky just outside Kyiv.