7 June 2023

US defense secretary discusses upgrading ties with India to counter China


NEW DELHI -- U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Monday discussed upgrading partnership with India, a major arms buyer, and set a roadmap for cooperation for the next five years as both countries grapple with China’s economic rise and increased belligerence, officials said.

Austin's visit comes as India strengthens its domestic defense industry by acquiring new technologies and reducing reliance on imports, particularly from Russia, its largest supplier of military hardware despite the ongoing war in Ukraine.

Austin and his Indian counterpart, Rajnath Singh, explored ways of building resilient supply chains, a statement from India's Defense Ministry said. They decided “to identify opportunities for the co-development of new technologies and co-production of existing and new systems and facilitate increased collaboration between defense startup ecosystems of the two countries.”

They also discussed regional security issues and committed to strengthening operational collaboration across all military services, with an eye to supporting India’s leading role as a security provider in the Indo-Pacific, the statement said.

The new roadmap for U.S.-India defense industrial cooperation will fast track technology cooperation and co-production in areas such as air combat and land mobility systems, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, munitions and the undersea domain, said a U.S. Department of Defense press release.

"This initiative aims to change the paradigm for cooperation between U.S. and Indian defense sectors, including a set of specific proposals that could provide India access to cutting-edge technologies and support India’s defense modernization plans," it said.

The discussions also included cooperation in space, cyberspace, and artificial intelligence. Austin also met with India's National Security Adviser Ajit Doval.

Secretary Austin Concludes India Visit

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III traveled to India, June 4-5, to reinforce the major defense partnership, and advance cooperation in critical domains ahead of Prime Minister Modi's official state visit to Washington. The Secretary met with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Minister of Defense Rajnath Singh. During his meetings, the Secretary and his counterparts exchanged perspectives on a range of regional security issues and committed to collaborating closely with India in support of our shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific.

The Secretary and Minister Singh welcomed the conclusion of a new Roadmap for U.S.-India Defense Industrial Cooperation, which will fast-track technology cooperation and co-production in areas such as air combat and land mobility systems; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; munitions; and the undersea domain. This initiative aims to change the paradigm for cooperation between U.S. and Indian defense sectors, including a set of specific proposals that could provide India access to cutting-edge technologies and support India's defense modernization plans. The Secretary and Minister Singh also pledged to review regulatory hurdles impeding closer industry-to-industry cooperation and to initiate negotiations on a Security of Supply Arrangement and a Reciprocal Defense Procurement agreement, which will promote long-term supply chain stability.

The Secretary and his counterparts also discussed the growing importance of defense innovation and cooperation in emerging domains such as space, cyberspace, and artificial intelligence. They praised the recent launch of a new Advanced Domains Defense Dialogue and committed to expanding the scope of bilateral defense cooperation to encompass all domains. They also welcomed the establishment of the India-U.S. Defense Acceleration Ecosystem (INDUS-X), a new initiative to advance cutting-edge technology cooperation. The initiative, which will be launched by the U.S.-India Business Council on June 21, is designed to complement existing government-to-government collaboration by promoting innovative partnerships between U.S. and Indian companies, investors, start-up accelerators, and academic research institutions.

India-Bangladesh Defense Diplomacy – OpEd

Dr. Arpita Hazarika

Defense cooperation between India and Bangladesh has made significant progress in the last few years. It is depicted in the exchange of visits between the leaders of the two countries, as well as the conduct of training programs, joint exercises, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR). India has always cherished its close ties with Bangladesh and at the same time works to strengthen its ties while contributing to Bangladesh’s development agenda. Bangladesh is an important partner under India’s flagship ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy. Cooperation between the two countries is extensive in all areas including trade and commerce, power and energy, transport and connectivity, science and technology, defense and security, maritime affairs, climate change and sustainable development.

Army Chief Gen Manoj Pande on Monday (June 05) embarked on a two-day visit to Bangladesh to hold talks with the top military brass of the neighbouring country to primarily explore ways to further expand bilateral defence and security ties. It is Gen Pande’s second visit to Bangladesh as Army chief. He visited the country in July last year on his first foreign visit after assuming charge of the top post.

”During the visit, the Army Chief will be meeting the senior military leadership of Bangladesh where he will discuss avenues for further enhancing Indo-Bangladesh defence relations,” the Army said.

Other engagements of the Army Chief include formal interactions with the Chief of Army Staff of the Bangladesh Army and the Principal Staff Officer of the Armed forces division. The Bangladesh Chief of Army Staff visited India in April this year and reviewed the passing out parade at the Officers Training Academy in Chennai. ”Frequent visits by senior military leaders and bilateral cooperation events such as joint military exercises contribute to enhancing military-to-military relations between both nations,” the Army said.

However, the army chief’s visit, most importantly, comes at a time when the United States is taking one step after another regarding Bangladesh. The latest step is the new visa policy ahead of the elections.

India Is Stuck in a New World Disorder

Emily Tamkin

When Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made an appearance at the G-7 summit last month in Hiroshima, Japan, he may have been confused by what he heard from one world leader in particular. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine “is a big issue in the world,” Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said. “I will do whatever we can for the resolution of war.”

A Confession Exposes India’s Secret Hacking Industry

In the summer of 2020, Jonas Rey, a private investigator in Geneva, got a call from a client with a hunch. The client, the British law firm Burlingtons, represented an Iranian-born American entrepreneur, Farhad Azima, who believed that someone had hacked his e-mail account. Azima had recently helped expose sanctions-busting by Iran, so Iranian hackers were likely suspects. But the Citizen Lab, a research center at the University of Toronto, had just released a report concluding “with high confidence” that scores of cyberattacks on journalists, environmentalists, and financiers had been orchestrated by BellTroX, a company, based in New Delhi, that was running a giant hacking-for-hire enterprise. The operation had targeted numerous Americans. Burlingtons wondered: could Rey try to find out if Azima had been another BellTroX victim? He said yes.

Researchers at Citizen Lab had learned of BellTroX’s activities from someone that the company had tried to trick with “spear phishing”—sending a bogus message to trick a recipient into providing access to personal data. Citizen Lab spent three years investigating BellTroX, including by analyzing Web sites used to shorten and disguise phishing links, combing through social-media accounts of BellTroX’s employees, and contacting victims. Reuters, in coördination with Citizen Lab, published an exposé on BellTroX the same day as the report. But BellTroX’s owner denied any wrongdoing, the Indian authorities never publicly responded to the allegations, and the accusations remained unconfirmed.

Rey’s investigation into the Azima case shed new light not only on BellTroX but also on several other outfits like it, establishing beyond dispute that India is home to a vast and thriving cyberattack industry. Last year, Rey secured the first detailed confession from a participant in a hacking-for-hire operation. In court papers, an Indian hacker admitted that he had infiltrated Azima’s e-mail account—as had employees at another firm. Moreover, there were countless other Indian hackers for hire, whose work was often interconnected. John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher at Citizen Lab, who helped lead the BellTroX investigation, told me that the admissions Rey obtained are “huge” and “move the whole conversation forward.” He added, “You know how in some industries, everybody ‘knows a guy’ who can do a certain thing? Well, in hacking for hire, India is ‘the guy.’ They are just so prolific.”

Taiwan’s Imported Wolf Warriors – OpEd

Lim Teck Ghee

China’s State Councilor and Minister of National Defense Li Shangfu shared with a world audience what can be considered as the country’s definitive Taiwan policy position going forward. Speaking at the 20th Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore on 5 June he emphasised that the “one-China principle has become the consensus of the international community and the basic norm governing international relations” and that “any attempt to fudge and hollow out the one-China principle is absurd and dangerous.”

He also reiterated that China is willing to strive for peaceful reunification “with utmost sincerity” but will not renounce the use of force to “safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

Further he identified the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) authorities’ attempts to seek independence and external forces’ interference in China’s internal affairs as the root cause of tensions across the Taiwan Straits.

A recent social media expose by Taiwanese journalist Andy Lee helps to identify some of the external forces. According to his Tik Tok presentation, “Taipeh journalist reveals truth about Liz Truss’s Taiwan trip”, Taiwan’s “Prospect Foundation” can be seen as the godfather behind the trip of UK’s shortest-serving and discredited prime minister, Liz Truss, to Taiwan.

Lee revealed that the foundation has spent millions in taxpayers’ money to have high-profile anti-China politicians visit Taiwan. To him, this has threatened the stability of the Taiwan Straits, and ordinary Taiwanese are very unhappy about it (https://vt.tiktok.com/ZSLNYDjLx/).

Liz Truss is not the only highly paid “wolf warrior” visiting Taipei.

An entire pack of wolves has appeared especially from the West to ‘protect’ Taiwanese from the new Yellow Peril associated with the rise of China and its challenge to western hegemony and dominance of the world order.

Analysis of Chinese Cruise Missiles .. How Dangerous is their arsenal

Christian Orr 

This is the concluding episode in my – and 19FortyFive’s – series on the Chinese People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA’s) missile arsenal. As previously noted, I was inspired to pen this series after attending the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation’s (VOC)’s annual China Forum in Washington, DC, back on 6 December 2022.

In the first three parts of this series, we covered (1) the PLA’s intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), (2) intermediate-range ballistic missiles (IRBMs) and medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBMs), and (3) close-range ballistic missiles (CRBMs) and short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs).

Now we’ll discuss China’s cruise missiles:


A technical differentiation between ballistic missiles and cruise missiles is in order here. For that purpose, a fact sheet provided by the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation is quite useful:

“Ballistic missiles are powered initially by a rocket or series of rockets in stages, but then follow an unpowered trajectory that arches upwards before descending to reach its intended target. Ballistic missiles can carry either nuclear or conventional warheads.”

“Cruise missiles are unmanned vehicles that are propelled by jet engines, much like an airplane. They can be launched from ground, air or sea platforms…Cruise missiles remain within the atmosphere for the duration of their flight and can fly as low as a few meters off the ground. Flying low to the surface of the earth expends more fuel but makes a cruise missile very difficult to detect…Cruise missiles are self-guided and use multiple methods to accurately deliver their payload, including terrain mapping, global positioning systems (GPS) and inertial guidance, which uses motion sensors and gyroscopes to keep the missile on a pre-programmed flight path.”

YJ-63 Land Attack Cruise Missile (LACM)

TikTok and Beyond: How China’s Ascendancy in Digital Technology Challenges the Global Order

Marina Yue Zhang

When social media users create and share viral dances and awe-inspiring stunts, they may not be aware that these same digital platforms are at the epicenter of a geopolitical power contest. In particular, the rise of TikTok, a platform owned by Chinese tech giant ByteDance, has added a new dimension to the complexity of the “world order.”

The saga of TikTok, which underwent a security review in the United States and made it onto the list of apps banned from government devices in Canada and Australia, underscores developing lines of conflict being drawn around data sovereignty and the necessity for data governance. This isn’t just a feud between two great powers; it’s a competition for a new world order in cyberspace.

Why TikTok?

TikTok is essentially a sibling version of Douyin, a video-sharing platform developed by ByteDance. ByteDance started its journey through content aggregation across various internet portals and platforms within China. The company has perfected its AI algorithms to optimally match content with its intended audience, continuously improving the algorithms based on the feedback of almost 1 billion users. On the various ByteDance platforms, content is “intelligently” pushed toward the audience most likely to appreciate it, creating a potential addiction to the content being presented. Similar algorithms have been implemented on the Douyin platform.

TikTok was established as an independent entity to distance itself from its parent company. It was tested and found successful in Asia, including Japan, a market typically challenging for foreign internet businesses to penetrate and survive. ByteDance’s algorithms have revolutionized the traditional social media business model. It has shifted from the model of “audiences searching for the right content” to “content searching for the right audiences.” This paradigm shift disrupts the established hierarchy, where content created by more well-known creators is more likely to be found by audiences in their searches.

Elon Musk’s Chinese Odyssey

Marina Yue Zhang

Entrepreneur Elon Musk – the CEO of electric vehicle (EV) company Tesla – recently undertook a brief yet impactful visit to China, during which he met with senior officials, including Foreign Minister Qin Gang, and the ministers of commerce, industry, and information technology – all critical figures for Tesla’s operations within China. Additionally, he toured Tesla’s Shanghai Gigafactory and expressed his appreciation for the collective efforts put forth during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Unofficial images of Musk with CATL’s chair, Zeng Yuqun, spread on social media. China’s CATL is a global leader in EV batteries, and during the meeting Musk likely reviewed investment strategies for Tesla’s Megapack energy storage. While in China, Musk also likely discussed deploying Tesla’s autopilot technology in the country, while addressing issues of keeping Tesla’s driving data within China and potential military implications of its Starlink Project.

In contrast to the U.S. government’s intent to repatriate capital and manufacturing, Musk aims to increase Tesla’s footprint in China’s EV and power battery sectors. Tesla’s share price soared during Musk’s visit.

This visit underlines China’s pragmatic diplomacy, engaging with American industry leaders despite tense China-U.S. relations, signifying its differentiation between the U.S. government and its business community.

From Decoupling to De-Risking

Musk has been quoted as likening China and the United States to conjoined twins, implying that decoupling the world’s two largest economies is not just costly, but potentially destructive. The significance of China to Musk is clear: China is not just Tesla’s second-largest market, but it also plays a crucial role in Tesla’s production capacity, contributing more than half of its global output. In 2022, Tesla’s Shanghai Gigafactory exported 271,000 vehicles, accounting for one-third of the factory’s total production.

The Shanghai government provided special policy and financial support to Tesla’s Gigafactory on one condition: the EVs sold in China had to incorporate at least 90 percent Chinese-made parts and components. Tesla achieved the goal by raising the percentage of its locally-sourced components, from 50 percent in 2019 to 70 percent in 2020, finally exceeding 95 percent in 2022.

The High Seas Treaty: A Tall Order for Implementation?

Troy Han

Under the 1994 U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the high seas constitute the waters that lie beyond the 200-mile exclusive economic zone of any littoral country. While UNCLOS established principles mainly related to freedom of navigation, it lacks detailed provisions on environmental conservation and stewardship of the high seas. The Treaty on Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ) — which is the third internationally binding implementing agreement under UNCLOS — is arguably the most significant multilateral environmental convention since the Paris Climate Agreement of 2015.

According to a U.N. Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) report, ocean-based industries were valued at a total of $2.5 trillion annually (based on 2018 data), while more than estimated 3 billion people worldwide depend on oceans for their livelihood. Undeniably, the open ocean also possesses a wealth of biodiversity and is a provider of crucial ecosystem services, including living resources such as seafood, which many littoral states depend on for food consumption and export.

Despite existing legislation, fisheries in the high seas continue to remain vulnerable to widespread illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Thirty-five percent of the fish stocks are fully exploited in the Western Indian Ocean, while IUU activities have also decimated fish stocks in the South China Sea and ravaged the Coral Triangle. While deterioration of ocean health has been traditionally attributed to fisheries, tourism, and maritime transport, other technology-enabled activities, such as marine renewable energy and biotechnology exploits, have also led to rapid depletion of marine resources.

Notably, environmental NGOs have increasingly lobbied against excessive anthropogenic activities, such as deep-sea mining, that could disrupt marine life and habitats, resulting in irreversible biodiversity loss. Coupled with climate stressors such as ocean warming, acidification, deoxygenation, and marine heatwaves, the need for collective action over ocean resilience has never been more urgent as a shared vision for the “ocean commons” gather pace. Unfortunately, only roughly 7 percent of the world’s ocean today are protected.

The BBNJ Treaty addresses this gap by designating Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the high seas, with a global target of protecting 30 percent of the world’s oceans by 2030 (30×30) – a pledge committed by countries under the U.N.’s Global Biodiversity Framework in December 2022. Signatory countries will have to abide by these MPAs, which will delineate the extent of fishing activity, as well as shipping lanes and commercial exploration activities.

Why Biden’s China Reset Is a Bad Idea

A. Wess Mitchell

Now is not the time for the United States to pursue détente with China, as the Biden administration has been trying to do for several weeks now. U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan held intensive talks with senior Chinese official Wang Yi in Vienna in mid-May, followed by a flurry of U.S. attempts at engagement in the military and commercial fields, as well as at the presidential level. Today, a secret visit by CIA Director William Burns to Beijing in May also became public.

The U.S. and China Are Caught in a Technology Trap

Rishi Iyengar and Robbie Gramer

Ever since the Biden administration sought to hobble China’s semiconductor industry with export controls last October, one of the big questions has been how Beijing would retaliate. More than seven months later, it finally made a big move.

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.

NYT hypes China threat: They’re reading the internet

Ben Armbruster

China threat inflation is all the rage these days in Washington, particularly among lawmakers, administration officials, or policy experts who either want to look “tough” on Beijing, provide fodder to throw more money at the Pentagon to sustain or build local defense industry jobs, or maintain weapons company money flowing to many DC think tanks.

You might think that the fourth estate should serve as a check on some of this anti-China hysteria but oftentimes the U.S. mainstream media joins in. This week, the New York Times was the latest to fear monger about the Chinese threat. The Times reported on Thursday (June 1) that Beijing is mining “open-source intelligence” from the United States — or in other words, reading American newspapers and publicly available academic or think tank reports — that it can “use to help plan for a potential conflict with the United States.”


The Times was passing on findings from an analysis by threat intelligence company Recorded Future, which says a Chinese open-source intel company has been mining publicly available information from the Office of Net Assessment, a Pentagon think tank, and the U.S. Naval War College.

“The P.L.A. very much assumes the United States will in some form intervene in a Taiwan conflict, and they work very hard to prepare for that type of scenario,” said Recorded Future’s Zoe Haver.

But of course, none of this is new information or surprising. Everyone knows the Chinese military is preparing for the possibility that the United States will intervene in any Taiwan conflict. And anyone playing even the slightest bit of attention to U.S.-China relations would assume Beijing is mining open-source data, just as the United States does with friends and foes alike.

“Powerful countries collecting intelligence on other powerful countries (including their own allies) is a universal and banal feature of international relations, and it only becomes a danger to national security if the other country is a committed enemy,” said Jake Werner, who specializes in U.S.-China relations as a Research Fellow at the Quincy Institute. “China is not today a U.S. enemy, but feverishly hyping supposed threats from China is driving a confrontational approach to U.S.–China relations that risks turning China into such an enemy.”

The Arab Spring Is in Its Death Spiral. Does the West Still Care?

Kim Ghattas 

The past few months have brought despair to millions of Arabs as they’ve watched the rapid and seemingly definitive restoration of an old, dictatorial order throughout a region that was not long ago full of promise. The end of the Arab Spring has been forecast many times already. Now the last stubborn buds have been crushed.

Tunisia, the country that started the wave of democratic uprisings in December 2010, served for more than a decade as a model for other states contemplating the transition from dictatorship to democracy. Now it’s sliding back toward autocracy, with President Kais Saied, elected in 2019, appearing to outdo the country’s previous dictator, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, in repression. Since assuming office, Saied has imposed an emergency regime, suspended Parliament, and rewritten the country’s constitution. In recent months, he’s taken to cracking down on any whiff of criticism of his rule by arresting journalists and union and political leaders.

Sudan renewed hopes for a democratic wave when a year-long movement of protest, led mostly by women, brought an end to the two-decades-long dictatorship of Omar al-Bashir in 2019. A 22-year-old woman named Alaa Salah, standing atop a car, dressed in white with large gold earrings and leading men in a chant about freedom, became the image of that democratic revolution. But last month, two of the generals who helped remove Bashir went to war against each other in an all-out battle for control of Khartoum. The conflict has already killed more than 500 people and led tens of thousands to flee the capital, with no end in sight.

Then there is Syria, whose revolution was the bloodiest of them all. For 10 years, world leaders shunned President Bashar al-Assad for his ruthless repression of what began as a peaceful uprising in March 2011 and became a bloodbath in which 500,000 Syrians were killed, an estimated 90 percent of them by Assad’s regime and its allies, Iran and Russia. Assad, who also used chemical weapons against his people, has now come in from the cold, at least in the Arab world. His neighbors have turned to him for help resolving a host of problems that he himself created, such as huge outflows of refugees and a lucrative trade in a highly addictive synthetic amphetamine called captagon, produced in Syria under the control of the Assad family.

Army Seeks Bomb-Carrying Drones Like Ukraine’s


The U.S. Army wants to develop bomb-carrying drones similar to the jury-rigged commercial drones widely used in Ukraine, according to a service solicitation to industry.

The proposal-submission solicitation notes the drones’ utility to infantry, suggesting that lethal drones may one day be a common tool in the average infantry platoon’s kit.

U.S. Army Special Operations Command already operates a variety of smaller drones, most prominently the Switchblade suicide drone.

The wider Army, however, only operates the Skydio X2D unarmed reconnaissance drone at the small-unit level, according to the early-May posting by the Army Applications Laboratory. Skydio won a five-year fixed-price contract from the Army in early 2022, valued at $20 million per year.

Developing small, lethal drones is “vital for Army future combat operations,” the lab wrote in its call for submissions. Created in 2018 under Army Futures Command, the lab identifies commercial tools of potential use to soldiers.

The solicitation says drones must come from the Defense Department’s vetted list. Known as the Blue UAS list, it includes a mix of quad-copters—similar to the DJI Mavic 3 that is widely used in Ukraine—and winged drones. The proposal specifically disallows WingtraOne, a 4-foot winged drone, but does not say why.

The solicitation also says soldiers must be able to drop munitions using the drones’ controller—and that suppliers should eventually integrate this feature into “ATEK.”

The Army Applications Laboratory did not respond to questions about “ATEK” by publication time, but it may be a reference to ATAK, an Air Force-designed Android app used for live video feeds and geospatial mapping, among other things.

Exclusive: World's spy chiefs meet in secret conclave in Singapore

Xinghui Kok , Raju Gopalakrishnan and Greg Torode

SINGAPORE, June 4 (Reuters) - Senior officials from about two dozen of the world's major intelligence agencies held a secret meeting on the fringes of the Shangri-La Dialogue security meeting in Singapore this weekend, five people told Reuters.

Such meetings are organised by the Singapore government and have been discreetly held at a separate venue alongside the security summit for several years, they said. The meetings have not been previously reported.

The U.S. was represented by Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, the head of her country's intelligence community, while China was among the other countries present, despite the tensions between the two superpowers.

Samant Goel, the head of India's overseas intelligence gathering agency, the Research and Analysis Wing, also attended, an Indian source said.

"The meeting is an important fixture on the international shadow agenda," said one person with knowledge of the discussions. "Given the range of countries involved, it is not a festival of tradecraft, but rather a way of promoting a deeper understanding of intentions and bottom lines.

"There is an unspoken code among intelligence services that they can talk when more formal and open diplomacy is harder - it is a very important factor during times of tension, and the Singapore event helps promote that."

All five sources who discussed the meetings declined to be identified because of the sensitivity of the matter.

A spokesperson for the Singapore Ministry of Defence said that while attending the Shangri-La Dialogue, "participants including senior officials from intelligence agencies also take the opportunity to meet their counterparts."

An Unwinnable War Washington Needs an Endgame in Ukraine

Samuel Charap

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 was a moment of clarity for the United States and its allies. An urgent mission was before them: to assist Ukraine as it countered Russian aggression and to punish Moscow for its transgressions. While the Western response was clear from the start, the objective—the endgame of this war—has been nebulous.

This ambiguity has been more a feature than a bug of U.S. policy. As National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan put it in June 2022, “We have in fact refrained from laying out what we see as an endgame. . . . We have been focused on what we can do today, tomorrow, next week to strengthen the Ukrainians’ hand to the maximum extent possible, first on the battlefield and then ultimately at the negotiating table.” This approach made sense in the initial months of the conflict. The trajectory of the war was far from clear at that point. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was still talking about his readiness to meet his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, and the West had yet to supply Kyiv with sophisticated ground-based rocket systems, let alone tanks and long-range missiles as it does today. Plus, it will always be difficult for the United States to speak about its view on the objective of a war that its forces are not fighting. The Ukrainians are the ones dying for their country, so they ultimately get to decide when to stop—regardless of what Washington might want.

But it is now time that the United States develop a vision for how the war ends. Fifteen months of fighting has made clear that neither side has the capacity—even with external help—to achieve a decisive military victory over the other. Regardless of how much territory Ukrainian forces can liberate, Russia will maintain the capability to pose a permanent threat to Ukraine. The Ukrainian military will also have the capacity to hold at risk any areas of the country occupied by Russian forces—and to impose costs on military and civilian targets within Russia itself.

These factors could lead to a devastating, years-long conflict that does not produce a definitive outcome. The United States and its allies thus face a choice about their future strategy. They could begin to try to steer the war toward a negotiated end in the coming months. Or they could do so years from now. If they decide to wait, the fundamentals of the conflict will likely be the same, but the costs of the war—human, financial, and otherwise—will have multiplied. An effective strategy for what has become the most consequential international crisis in at least a generation therefore requires the United States and its allies to shift their focus and start facilitating an endgame.


The Quadruple Axis And Its Nemesis

The world’s Flat Earthers and History Enders such as Thomas Friedman and Francis Fukuyama must be devastated these days as their dream of a global kumbaya free of value confrontation and ideological struggles has unmistakably slipped into a violent nightmare replete with bloody killings in Ukraine.

The world’s Flat Earthers and History Enders such as Thomas Friedman and Francis Fukuyama must be devastated these days as their dream of a global kumbaya free of value confrontation and ideological struggles has unmistakably slipped into a violent nightmare replete with bloody killings in Ukraine, solemn vows of nuclear provocations on a weekly basis, and threatened obliterations of the democratic Taiwan, South Korea, and Israel.

What we are witnessing is a slow but steady formation of an alliance system that pits one group of powerful nations against the other, eerily reminiscent of the situation leading up to the eruption of guns in August 1914 that would bloody humanity in a prolonged war at the cost of tens of millions of lives.

This emerging alliance system is composed of a cluster of four rogue states, namely China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea, and another cluster of widely spread democracies in North America, Europe, Asia, and elsewhere.

The existence of the four rogue states as the world’s primary source of trouble and instability is not a recent phenomenon. Both the U.S. National Security Strategy and the National Defense Strategy in the early months of the Trump administration correctly identified exactly these four as the primary sovereign threats to global security. However, it is Russia’s war on Ukraine since last year that has served to solidify them as a coordinated Quadruple Axis of aggression and revanchism.

Equally important is that the Ukraine war has also solidified the rapid formation of a global coalition against this newly formed Quadruple Axis of evil. At no time since the end of the Cold War has the line been drawn so clearly and decisively between two opposing clusters of powerful countries, between tyranny and aggression on one side, freedom and independence on the other.

Despite the clearly drawn line, however, there are still quite a few major countries refusing to join the Washington-led coalition of democracies against the Quadruple Axis. The most notable cases in this category are India, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia. It is the inability of the Biden administration to bring them along on the right side of history as America’s unambiguous allies against the Quadruple Axis that has formed another link in the chain of diplomatic embarrassments and humiliations of the Biden administration.

Measures Of Performance And Measures Of Effectiveness

Darin Gaub

I continue to revisit many of the topics on which I instructed during my time as a leader and trainer in the U.S. Army. I was also able to apply what I taught in a classroom or training environment in the real world on numerous occasions and prove through experience what worked and what did not. Though I have been retired for four years now, my work as an executive coach and in the non-profit universe has me going back to my active-duty time and continuing to coach on some of the same topics. One of those topics is to show the difference between Measures of Performance and Measures of Effectiveness.

As you see the road stretch out in front of you, flat, smooth, and void of all traffic, you decide to push your Ford Mustang to the limit. You reach 150 miles per hour, and it still feels like you are only going sixty. You decide that this is fast enough and as you slow down you become aware of the sirens intruding on your peace and quiet. You pull over and come to a full stop fully aware of the fact that this could result in more than just a ticket. The Highway Patrol Officer is not impressed with the fact that your car performs so well, she is only concerned about your breaking the law.

Just because your car is capable of certain measures of performance (tuned, timed, powerful, good tires) does not mean you were effective and did things right (acted safely, followed the law, exercised good judgment).

There are many simple lessons we can apply if we ask ourselves and our organizations if we are measuring performance or effectiveness in what we do.

The first time I saw a large group recognize the difference between these two measures was when training U.S. Army Combat Brigades at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California. One of the many “hats” I wore was as a trainer and coach for Unmanned Aerial Systems, or drones. Whether it is a Global Hawk that flies between continents or a quadcopter that flies between hill tops the lesson is the same. Measuring how many times you safely launch and recover the aircraft, and the number of hours flown is a simple measure of performance.

Ukraine war: Russia says it thwarted major Ukrainian offensive

Russia's defence ministry says it has thwarted a major Ukrainian attack in Donetsk, in the latest sign that a wider counter-offensive may have begun.

Video of what Russia says is the battle shows military vehicles under heavy fire in fields. Russia claims it killed 300 troops and destroyed 16 tanks.

However Moscow's claims have not been independently verified.

And on Monday, Ukraine's military said it had no information about a major attack in the region.

"We do not have such information and we do not comment on any kind of fake," a Ukrainian army spokesperson told Reuters.

A major Ukrainian counter-offensive has been long awaited but Kyiv has already said it would not give advance warning of its start.

However with Ukraine claiming to have made marginal gains elsewhere on the front line, there has been a notable increase in military activity.

The latest reports are therefore being seen as a fresh sign that the expected Ukrainian push may have begun.

The Russian defence ministry said Ukraine had launched the "large-scale offensive" in the Donetsk region on Sunday using six mechanised and two tank battalions.

It claimed the Ukrainians tried to break through Russian defences in what Kyiv saw as the most vulnerable part of the front line - but that it "did not achieve its tasks, it had no success".

Is Europe Serious About Self-Defense, or Free-Riding?

Emma Ashford

Matt Kroenig: Hi Emma! I hope you are enjoying this lovely spring weather. I just returned from Stockholm where I had some fascinating discussions with officials in the foreign ministry and the new national security council.

Why Is the Russian Regime Ignoring the Moscow Drone Attacks?

Tatiana Stanovaya

In the Russian power system, resources are focused not on repelling attacks or assessing the level of danger, but on shirking any responsibility.

The Russian government’s reaction (or lack of) to what appear to be Ukraine’s increasingly audacious attacks on Russian territory is extraordinary. In addition to the repeated shelling of border regions, last week paramilitaries launched a cross-border raid of the Belgorod region, and now Moscow itself is under attack from drones. Yet none of this apparently warrants a public response.

President Vladimir Putin is silent as usual; his spokesperson refers all questions to the Defense Ministry; and the Defense Ministry responds with endless reports of its successes that everyone stopped believing long ago. The overall impression is that the Russian leadership does not fundamentally understand the danger the country is in right now.

It’s interesting to observe how the Russian authorities’ explanations of their defeats have evolved over the last fifteen months of war. Until about the end of last summer, the most popular refrain was to quote Putin from his July 7 meeting with parliamentarians: “We are only getting started.” Back then it seemed like the Kremlin knew what it was doing, that it still had some aces up its sleeve.

At the same time, there was a lot of talk about red lines, which if crossed would result in merciless and devastating retribution. But then came a seemingly endless stream of bad news: the assassination of the pro-war journalist (and daughter of the far-right political philosopher Alexander Dugin) Darya Dugina, the retreat from Ukraine’s Kharkiv region, the attack on the bridge linking Russia to Crimea, the withdrawal from the city of Kherson, the deadly missile strike on the temporary Russian military base in Makiivka, and so on.

Within a few months, it seemed that the Kremlin’s red lines had either never existed or had become extremely mobile. The reaction of the authorities was more or less the same every time: downplay the significance of the event, present Russia as the victim, and depoliticize the problem—all without any public involvement from Putin.

The Indo-Pacific Has Already Chosen Door No. 3

Kelly A. Grieco

Like Cinderella forced to leave the ball early, U.S. President Joe Biden had to cut short his May trip to the Indo-Pacific region, scrapping a historic visit to Papua New Guinea and a summit of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (or, the Quad) in Australia so he could return to Washington for debt-limit talks before the clock ran out on a potential default.

The Stans Can’t Play Both Sides Anymore

Raffaello Pantucci

Central Asian countries have always made a strong play for being the master of their own destinies. Policymakers in the region tout their ability to sit in the driver’s seat and navigate international relations through balancing everyone against each other. Yet last month’s high-level engagements with China and Russia have instead served to highlight Central Asia countries’ growing bonds with both powers and the shrinking room for maneuver they have in international relations.

Interview Feature – Europe and War: A Conversation with Alain Finkielkraut

Petar Popović

The Russian aggression in Ukraine and its implication for Europe’s future are regularly debated by political scientists, security and military experts, and economists. While the opinions of philosophers usually do not fit the category of expert-opinion, their voice is no less relevant. Thus, I decided to engage in the discussion with Alain Finkielkraut, a philosopher who has been a controversial voice in French public discourse for several decades. Associated with the intellectual movement the Nouveaux Philosophes (New Philosophers), Finkielkraut’s views are often characterized by his critical stance toward modernity and his emphasis on the crisis of cultural identity, multiculturalism and nationalism. His main philosophical endeavor has been to overcome the antimony of universalism and particularism, which reflects his political-theoretical position of reconciling the civilizational universalism and national particularism (Rachlin, 1995). Some of his notable works include The Imaginary Jew ([1981] 1997); The Crime of Being Born (1997); L’Imparfait du présent (Present Imperfect)(2002); and L’identité malheureuse (The Unhappy Identity) (2013).

We began the discussion on the broad assumption that the liberal international order is in the process of deep transformation, and that the change would inevitably affect Europe. My premise is based on Ulrich Beck’s claim that the European Union is an “American-European synthesis” (2007: 25-27), which makes it a liberal/Enlightenment project par excellence. The US and European nation-states can survive the collapse of liberal international order, but the EU cannot. So, the preliminary question is, can the liberal international order overcome the crisis of its legitimacy, caused by the decade long process of deglobalization which culminated with the Covid-19 pandemic and the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“I don’t think that we are witnessing the collapse or the end of the liberal order”, says Finkielkraut. His simple observation is categorical: “First, the pandemic did not ‘end’ anything. It did slow the supply chains, and it did bring old geopolitical rivalries back. But Western countries took measures to protect their populations. In fact, we have witnessed the renaissance of the sovereign state in this postmodern era. The public health measures were not illiberal! They were common sense. Bolsonaro in Brazil was ‘punished’ precisely because very many people died due to his irresponsible policies. The Covid-19 is now overcome, defeated, and everything is back to normal”. As for the second point, the war in Ukraine, and what it means for Europe, Finkielkraut had more complex, thought-provoking observations.

U.S. Foreign Policy Under Biden

President Joe Biden took office with an ambitious U.S. foreign policy agenda summed up by his favorite campaign tagline: “America is back.” Above all, that meant repairing the damage done to America’s global standing by his predecessor, former President Donald Trump. During his four years in office, Trump strained ties with America’s allies in Europe and Asia, raised tensions with adversaries like Iran and Venezuela, and engaged in a trade war with China that left bilateral relations in their worst state in decades.

In principle, Biden’s agenda is rooted in a repudiation of Trump’s “America First” legacy and the restoration of the multilateral order. That was reflected in his early moves to rejoin the Paris Climate Accords and the World Health Organization, and reestablish U.S. leadership on climate diplomacy. The COVID-19 pandemic also offered Biden an opportunity to reassert America’s global leadership role and begin repairing ties that began to fray under Trump.

But in practice, some of Biden’s priorities bear a close resemblance to Trump’s agenda. His “foreign policy for the middle class,” which ties U.S. diplomacy to peace, security and prosperity at home, has been described as a dressed-up version of Trump’s emphasis on putting U.S. interests above its global commitments. Biden also followed through on Trump’s deal to withdraw from Afghanistan without consulting or coordinating with Washington’s NATO allies—and paid a political cost for the collapse of the Afghan government and chaotic evacuation that ensued. And on other issues, like his approach to immigration and border policies, Biden has not demonstrated any urgency to make immediate changes. Similarly, he only belatedly lifted controversial tariffs on European steel and aluminum imports as well as the most draconian of Trump’s sanctions on Cuba.

Despite the rhetorical commitment to repudiating Trump, Biden may find it difficult to fully restore a pre-Trump status quo. Countries may no longer be willing to follow the U.S. lead on democracy promotion after the erosion of America’s democratic norms during the Trump era. And Europe, in particular, has recalibrated its relationship with the United States and may no longer be willing to align with America’s approach, particularly the hardening of relations with China. Nevertheless, as the war in Ukraine has highlighted, there is still high demand among allies, partners and other countries around the world for decisive U.S. leadership in times of crisis.

Henry Kissinger’s Latest Intellectual Conquest: Artificial Intelligence

Mohammed Soliman

Now at 100, Henry Kissinger remains a larger-than-life statesman, strategist, and scholar. Alongside intellectual titans such as George Kennan and Zbigniew Brzezinski, his story intertwines with post-World War II American foreign policy. A recent flurry of articles and editorials that spanned news outlets, think tanks, and policy platforms were put out to celebrate Kissinger’s centennial and commemorate his legacy.

Kissinger, despite now being a hundred, is still known for his unending intellectual curiosity and scholarly pursuits, and he constantly demonstrates his exceptional ability to adapt and delve into new subjects, keeping himself dynamically engaged with the world. Nowhere is this more evident than in his most recent book, The Age of AI: And Our Human Future. In it, Kissinger teamed up with Eric Schmidt, the former executive chairman of Google, and Daniel Huttenlocher, dean of MIT’s College of Computing, to grapple with the latest challenge to our conventional lives: artificial intelligence, or AI as it is more commonly known.

Kissinger’s expertise in global politics and security lend credibility to the book’s analysis. Overall, the tome is an attempt to articulate a framework for the transformative nature of AI and its potential to reshape the dynamics of military engagements beyond merely augmenting existing capabilities, as AI itself fundamentally alters the strategies, tactics, and doctrines employed by armed forces worldwide.

However, what distinguishes The Age of AI is its profound exploration of how AI shapes human understanding and perception. Kissinger and his co-authors propose that AI’s capacity to access realms of reality beyond human comprehension carries significant implications for our traditional notions of reason, knowledge, and choice. They contend that the technology’s subtle influence on these foundational aspects of human cognition challenges the established worldview of the Enlightenment era and necessitates a reevaluation of our philosophical and ethical frameworks.

Not a Rose by Any Other Name: Dual-Use and Dual-Purpose Space Systems

Almudena Azcárate Ortega 

The dual nature of many space systems is considered by many members of the international community to be a significant issue of concern that can pose challenges to space security, hampering efforts to protect space systems from possible threats. As states work to establish international legal and regulatory frameworks for space security, this duality presents an important block in the road that has states disagreeing on how best to regulate them. The nature of these systems blurs the conceptual boundaries of weapons, making control through restrictions on hardware—the traditional approach to arms control for Earth systems—difficult.

But what exactly are these dual-natured objects, and why are they cause for concern? The term “dual-use” is utilized in space security discussions at the multilateral level to refer indistinctly to two distinct categories of objects, which has caused confusion among members of the international community as well as other stakeholders.

The term “dual-use” is often used in arms control and disarmament discourse. Traditionally, it has been understood to mean objects and technologies that can be used for both military and nonmilitary (civilian or commercial) applications or functions. This definition is deceptively simple, as the understanding of when something may be dual-use is highly dependent on the lens through which it is being analyzed. In this sense, when examining an object from an export control perspective, the term “dual-use” refers to any item that has the potential—even hypothetically—to be used for military applications, including, and particularly, weapons. In the context of nuclear weapons, the term can hold the same meaning as in export control, however, it can also be used to differentiate an asset that has both nuclear and nonnuclear uses (this is also known as dual-capable).

From an international humanitarian law perspective, “dual-use” holds yet another meaning. An object that is used for both military and civilian applications could be targeted if it is considered to be a “military objective” (provided certain conditions are met). In this sense, when conducting a targetability assessment, there is no such a thing as a dual-use object. An object is either a military objective—which could be targetable—or it is not. A military objective is determined by its nature, location, use, or purpose. The criterion of use in this context refers to objects that are actively being used for a military function in the present time, rather than having a potential use, or even hypothetical future use, as is the case in export control.

Artificial Intelligence Will Entrench Global Inequality

Robert Muggah

The artificial intelligence race is gathering pace, and the stakes could not be higher. Major corporate players—including Alibaba, DeepMind, Google, IBM, Microsoft, OpenAI, and SAP—are leveraging huge computational power to push the boundaries of AI and popularize new AI tools such as GPT-4 and Bard. Hundreds of other private and non-profit players are rolling out apps and plugins, staking their claims in this fast-moving frontier market that some enthusiasts predict will upend the way we work, play, do business, create wealth, and govern.