8 June 2023

Crypto Mining in the Himalayas: Bhutan’s Gamble With Bitcoi

Joe Wallen and Tushar Shetty

For the very first episode at our new home, The Diplomat, Beyond the Indus podcast hosts Joe Wallen and Tushar Shetty explore how Bhutan, an isolated kingdom tucked in the Eastern Himalayas, is quietly gearing up to become the world’s next Bitcoin superpower. We speak to Tenzing Lamsang, editor of Bhutan’s largest private newspaper, The Bhutanese, to understand how the former hermit kingdom decided to leapfrog into the fourth industrial revolution by aiming to become the world’s largest per capita producer of cryptocurrency.

We also discuss the political controversies surrounding the recent opening of the new Indian Parliament, as well as Rahul Gandhi’s visit to the United States.

India Apprehends American, Canadian Nationals Crossing Border Into Myanmar

Rajeev Bhattacharyya

A pedestrian border crossing between Myanmar and India in the small village of Rihkhawdar, Myanmar, as seen in May 2017.Credit: Depositphotos

Four foreign nationals – two Americans and two Canadians – were apprehended by Indian security forces as they were trying to cross into Myanmar from India.

They were held over the past six months at the border district of Champhai in India’s northeastern state of Mizoram on hilly routes that connect the two countries. They were quizzed by government authorities and instructed to return to New Delhi from where they had arrived in Mizoram.

“All of them wanted to cross over to Myanmar, which they admitted during the interrogation,” a government official said, adding that while the case of the Canadian nationals is “understandable,” that of the U.S nationals “remains a bit of a puzzle.”

The Canadian nationals – Soe Nin Latt Sai and Victor Biak Lian – emigrated from Myanmar’s Chin State to Canada many years ago. It is likely that they were on a visit to their native villages or towns in Chin State, which is easier to reach from Mizoram than landing at an airport in Myanmar and traveling by road all the way through disturbed areas to reach their destination.

India and Myanmar have a “free border regime” along the entire stretch of the 1,020- mile border, which means that citizens from one country can cross over to the other side up to a distance of 10 miles (16 kilometers). The arrangement has allowed the continuation of social and economic ties among the communities that inhabit the areas along the international border.

According to Salai Mang Hre Lian, program manager of Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO), around 120,000 Chin people from Myanmar have settled in Europe, the United States, and Canada over the past several decades. The primary reasons for their emigration to Western countries are poverty and unemployment in Chin State, which is one of the least developed regions in Myanmar.

The two U.S. citizens apprehended along the Indian border with Myanmar are David Clair Williams, who hails from Illinois and Taylor McCall Landis from New York.

Pakistan PM hopeful of IMF deal this month amid escalating crisis

Abid Hussain

Islamabad, Pakistan – Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif is optimistic the country will be able to finalise a critical loan deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) this month.

“We are still very hopeful that the IMF programme will materialise. Our ninth review by the IMF will match all terms and conditions and, hopefully, we’ll have some good news this month,” the 71-year-old leader told the Anadolu Agency in an interview on Monday.

Sharif talked to Anadolu while on a visit to Ankara to attend Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s inauguration after his recent electoral win.

The prime minister’s statement came as Pakistan seeks the immediate release of $1.1bn, part of a $6.5bn bailout package the country signed up for in 2019.

Pakistan last received an IMF tranche as part of the programme in August last year. Despite a 10-day visit by the lender’s delegation earlier this year, the programme, which is set to expire by the end of June, remains stalled.

The country is facing an acute balance of payment crisis as it prepares to announce its annual federal budget on June 9.

Sharif, who also spoke to IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva last month to revive the programme, told Anadolu that Pakistan has met the requirements the global lender asked for.

“We have met all conditionalities. I repeat, each and every requirement of the IMF as prior actions has been met,” he said. “Some of those actions are usually met after the board’s approval, but this time the IMF required that those actions be met before the board’s approval, so we have met them.”

“Combined with that, we are facing galloping inflation because of the international situation,” he said, mainly referring to the war in Ukraine.

Inside the Taliban's war on drugs - opium poppy crops slashed

Yogita Limaye

Balancing an AK-47 assault rifle slung around his left shoulder and with a large stick in his right hand, Abdul hits the heads of poppies as hard as he can. The stalks fly in the air, as does the sap from the poppy bulb, releasing the distinctive, pungent smell of opium in its most raw form.

Within a matter of minutes, Abdul and a dozen other men raze the poppy crop which covered the small field. Then the armed men, all wearing a shalwar kameez (a traditional Afghan tunic with loose fitting trousers), most with long beards and some with kohl-lined eyes, pile into the back of a pickup truck and move on to the next farm.

The men belong to a Taliban anti-narcotics unit in the eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan, and we've been given rare access to join them on one of their patrols to eradicate poppy farming. Less than two years ago the men were insurgent fighters, part of a war to seize control of the country. Now they've won and are on the ruling side, enforcing the orders of their leader.

In April 2022, Taliban supreme leader Haibatullah Akhundzada decreed that cultivation of the poppy - from which opium, the key ingredient for the drug heroin can be extracted - was strictly prohibited. Anyone violating the ban would have their field destroyed and be penalised according to Sharia law.

A Taliban spokesman told the BBC they imposed the ban because of the harmful effects of opium - which is taken from the poppy seed capsules - and because it goes against their religious beliefs. Afghanistan used to produce more than 80% of the world's opium. Heroin made from Afghan opium makes up 95% of the market in Europe.

The BBC has now travelled in Afghanistan - and used satellite analysis - to examine the effects of the direct action on opium poppy cultivation. The Taliban leaders appear to have been more successful cracking down on cultivation than anyone ever has.

We found a huge fall in poppy growth in major opium-growing provinces, with one expert saying annual cultivation could be 80% down on last year. Less-profitable wheat crops have supplanted poppies in fields - and many farmers saying they are suffering financially.

Pakistan Turns to Barter Trade With Russia, Iran and Afghanistan

Umair Jamal

Iranian President Dr. Ebrahim Raisi (left) says goodbye to Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif at the Pakistan-Iran border at the conclusion of the latter’s visit to Iran, May 18, 2023.Credit: Twitter/Prime Minister’s Office

Pakistan has approved barter trade with Iran, Afghanistan, and Russia to stabilize its economy and reduce the country’s dependence on dollar trade.

According to the Ministry of Commerce, the Barter Trade Mechanism will allow public and private entities to engage in Business to Business (B2B) trade with all three countries. “Trade of goods under a B2B BT [barter trade] arrangement shall be allowed on the principle of import followed by export. The export would be made to the extent of the value of imported goods, subject to the tolerance mechanism provided hereinafter for any exigency,” the notification said.

By engaging in barter trade with Iran and Russia, Pakistan can access goods and services it needs without having to depend on the U.S. dollar for transactions. That could increase Pakistan’s overall volume of trade with regional countries by providing a more efficient way to exchange goods and services without relying on cash transactions. Furthermore, it will enable Pakistan to eliminate barriers resulting from a lack of banking relationships with Iran and Russia. This is especially important since Islamabad plans to shift a large part of its oil imports to Russia.

Smuggling across Pakistan’s borders with Iran and Afghanistan is going on at a massive scale. Much foreign exchange is lost to this illegal trade. Reports indicate that smuggled Iranian oil has captured 25-30 percent of Pakistan’s diesel market.

The smuggling of fertilizer, sugar, and wheat to Iran and Afghanistan has become another problem for Pakistan. The Afghan Taliban’s ban on Pakistan’s rupee as legal tender in Afghanistan has contributed to this smuggling problem, which has forced exporters to trade in dollars. By reducing the costs associated with traditional trade, the barter system can reduce smuggling. It could emerge as a more attractive option to traders in both countries.

To increase its exports, Pakistan needs to think creatively and explore alternative means of trading with regional countries like Iran and Russia.

This is especially important given Pakistan’s current economic situation. The country is facing one of its most severe economic crises in recent years. With only a month’s worth of import cover, Pakistan could be pushed into a situation where it will not have enough money to pay its debts or provide basic services to its citizens. This would have far-reaching implications on the economy and people’s livelihoods.

A Convocation of Spies

George Friedman

Over the past weekend, major global media outlets revealed that the heads of intelligence of about two dozen countries held a (formerly) secret meeting in Singapore and had in fact been held annually for several years. The venue for the talks was the Shangri-La Hotel, also the meeting place for a large, widely known conference called the Shangri-La Dialogue, involving about 600 representatives from around the world. Such conferences, perhaps usually smaller, are common gatherings of government officials and others who want to be and are allowed to be there.

Among the roughly 24 intelligence chiefs at the informal meeting were the heads of U.S. and Chinese intelligence. India’s top intelligence chief was also present, as were chiefs from the Five Eyes network (the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Australia and New Zealand), but no other attendees were identified. It was noted that Russia was not represented – whether by its choice or by the organizers’ exclusion is unclear.

According to Reuters, the source of the information was five separate (and I assume unconnected) people. When one person leaks information, it is one of those things. When five leak the same information simultaneously, it is the equivalent of a press release. The existence of these meetings, and the revelation that the U.S. and China were both there and Russia was not, is important. What is fascinating is that there was an organized attempt by someone to blow the cover off the meeting. That the leakers seem not to have identified the others present is interesting, since it suggests the leak came from official sources who respected requests for anonymity – and indicates that those named didn’t mind it being revealed that they had attended secret meetings with major powers for some years.

Equally interesting is that the meeting of two dozen heads of intelligence could have been kept secret. A meeting of such people requires several weeks of logistical planning, security preparations, and exchange of proposed agendas and position papers. Heads of intelligence need to know what they will be dealing with, at least generally. Intelligence chiefs know secrets that their governments don’t want blurted out, and they aren’t casual about this. Their briefings on official positions and authorized threats that might be made require weeks of preparation for the chief and some staff. The American head of intelligence can’t be casually chatting with the Chinese. Obviously, preparations for the Shangri-La Dialogue mostly would have covered the smaller conference. But it is hard to believe that 24 national intelligence heads, plus other officials in each country who had to know of the preparations, could for years fail to leak a conference such as this.

The focus on security might seem less important than the reasons for the leak, but in this case, they are closely linked. The cover of the meeting was blown simultaneously by five sources. The loss of secrecy will raise public concern in at least some countries as to why the meetings were held, why they were kept secret, and what was discussed and agreed to. In democratic countries like the United States, intelligence agencies are already distrusted by many.

Geopolitical Challenges To Southeast Asian Development Strategies – Analysis

Natasha Hamilton-Hart*

Assessments of Southeast Asia’s economic outlook published by the Asian Development Bank and the International Monetary Fund in 2023 find reasons for optimism. ‘Developing’ Asia will lead the world in economic growth over the next two years.

Southeast Asian economies weathered the pandemic relatively well, notwithstanding hardship due to lockdowns. The geopolitical challenges brought by increasingly antagonistic competition between the United States and China are a looming threat to the region’s prosperity, but so too are the perverse growth effects of protectionist policies.

Southeast Asia has benefited from limited decoupling between the Chinese and US economies, as manufacturers move some production processes out of China to avoid tariffs and blacklists. Although some relocations have taken the form of ‘re-shoring’, more investment has moved to other Southeast Asian countries. Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia registered relatively strong inflows of FDI in the last two years. Competition among external powers has also provided Southeast Asian elites with bargaining leverage in infrastructure projects and access to finance.

Beneath these recent developments, there is a deeper structure that will shape the Southeast Asian experience of increased geopolitical tension.

First, there is the basic openness of economic development in Southeast Asia. The region’s growth and industrialisation depends on external markets and foreign investment. High growth has mostly occurred when ‘internationalist’ coalitions advanced their core interests and create access to international markets and investment.

Southeast Asian countries also showcase a tremendous variety of domestic institutions — the structures and embedded rules that guide action and make it more or less possible to carry out different development tasks. Specifically, state and private sector institutions shape the ability of individuals and companies to overcome problems of coordination, commitment and collective action. Countries that fail to overcome such problems typically fail to provide sustainable economic development.

Mustang: the heart of Nepal’s China dream


In March this year, Nepal’s opposition leader K.P. Oli lashed out at the government for allowing India to open a Buddhist college in Mustang, a Himalayan region bordering China. The Indian mission often assists Nepali municipalities under a small grants outlay, and the Buddhist college had been requested by a local Mustang municipality. Oli, however, did not see it as such. Instead, he said, ‘Establishing a Buddhist college in Mustang to placate foreigners is an assault to our nationality and betrayal of China, which is our friendly nation.’

How did a remote Himalayan border region come to acquire such prominence in Nepal’s relations with China? The answer lies in Mustang’s history of Cold War intrigue and China’s perpetual anxieties over Tibet.

Mustang is a cold desert, shaped by the forces of wind and snow as an extension of the Tibetan plateau. Through most of its history, it was an independent Tibetan kingdom owing allegiance to Himalayan power centres as far as Ladakh and Ngari before it came to be part of Nepal in the eighteenth century. During the Cold War, Mustang was the site of the CIA’s Project ST Circus, under which the agency funded an armed Tibetan guerrilla movement known as Chushi Gangdruk. Almost 50 years later, the Chushi Gangdruk has been all but forgotten elsewhere, but in Nepal, its memories remain as fresh as that day in July 1974, when the Nepali army faced off with a ragtag group of guerrillas with better weapons than them.

Although the Tibetan guerrilla movement passed into oblivion with the death of its commander Gyato Wangdu in a firefight with Nepali forces, Mustang’s proximity and cultural affinity to Tibet has shaped both Nepal’s and China’s perceptions of the Himalayan district. Oli invoked the history of the Khampa movement, as the guerrillas were colloquially known, inside Mustang as to why the India-funded Buddhist college must be opposed, seeing it as an ‘attempt to repeat 1974 [when the Khampa movement came to an end] on a bigger scale… The government is trying to turn Mustang into a playground for foreigners’. It is not uncommon to hear Nepali officials and commentators regularly recall the Tibetan guerrillas as a security concern, despite Nepal’s grand ambitions for an economic corridor between India and China via Mustang.

A New Strategic Deterrent Paradigm

Peter Huessy


The nuclear age is now entering its 79th year. Throughout this era, the US nuclear deterrent strategy has been updated and fine-tuned, primarily to sustain a highly credible deterrent in a changing world. According to the former Commander of US Strategic Command, Admiral Charles Richard, and his top-notch successor, the United States and its allies are now facing some formidable nuclear challenges, not the least of which is confronting for the first time in its history, two peer nations both armed with nuclear weapons.

The bad news is the nuclear threats the US faces are indeed growing. The good news is the United States has the means to maintain current and sustain future deterrent requirements if the country follows these two commander’s wise counsel.
A New Nuclear Deterrent Strategy

From their 2021-3 Congressional testimony, respectively, one can organize a new deterrent strategy around six planks. These are (1) conventional deterrence will not hold if nuclear weapons are part of the mix of weapons used by our adversaries; (2) theUS would be out of the nuclear deterrent business if nuclear modernization does not smartly proceed not the least of which is due to our legacy nuclear systems being between 40-60 years old and cannot be sustained over time; and (3) the insurance hedge the US adopted in 2010 reflected conditions at the time and needs to be changed, as especially China is expanding its nuclear deterrent at a “breath-taking “ pace.

The further planks are: (4) Putin and Xi both appear to have adopted an “escalate to win” strategy of threatening to introduce the limited use of nuclear weapons into a conventional conflict which as Robert Haffa warned is precisely what the US needs to avoid, because in the view of Russia and China, the introduction of nuclear weapons is the best means of forcing the US and its allies to standdown; (5) arms control, while valuable at times, does not adequately address any of these challenges and as such can be a serious distraction especially if the objective is global zero or nuclear abolition; and (6) space dominance and robust missile and air defenses have both emerged as critical to enhanced deterrence, necessary for the United States to adopt in order to maintain its leadership of the free world.
Can Deterrence Hold?

Can China Compensate Russia’s Losses on the European Gas Market?

Sergei Vakulenko

Before its invasion of Ukraine, Russia sold over 150 billion cubic meters of gas to the West per year, earning on average $20–30 billion in resource rent on top of the normal rate of return from gas production. Gazprom wasn’t just an important source of budget revenue; it also provided the Kremlin with leverage over the EU. Since the start of the war, however, exports to Europe have dwindled to virtually nothing, and Russia needs to find a venue for monetization of the huge production-ready gas reserves in its Yamalo-Nenets region.

The only alternative to the European market is China. Negotiations with Beijing on building a gas pipeline from the Yamal Peninsula to the Chinese market have been under way for two decades, but now that Russia is at war, those talks may well accelerate and even culminate in the signing of an agreement.

It was Russia that made the first move in the gas war: after sending troops into Ukraine, it began to drastically reduce gas supplies to Europe on a number of thinly veiled technical and commercial pretenses in an attempt to force EU countries to withdraw their support for Kyiv. But the EU had already been preparing to reduce its dependence on gas: in the summer of 2021, Brussels unveiled its Fit for 55 plan, which envisaged a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 and, accordingly, a decrease in the use of fossil fuels, including Russian gas.

Even before Russian troops entered Ukraine, therefore, it was clear that new markets had to be found for Yamal gas, and China was the obvious candidate. A memorandum on the construction of a pipeline from Yamal to China was signed back in 2006 during Putin’s visit to China, but little progress was made on agreeing the project’s parameters until 2022, when it went from being an opportunity for business expansion to a necessity.
A Pale Imitation

Even if Power of Siberia 2 is successfully implemented, it will not be able to compensate fully for the loss of the European market. In 2019, Russia sold 165 billion cubic meters (bcm) of pipeline gas to Europe and Turkey. Power of Siberia 2’s potential capacity is far smaller, at just 50 bcm.

China Establishing 'Commanding Lead' with Key Military Technologies

Jeff Seldin

Chinese research on some key military technologies is so far ahead that the United States and its key allies may never be able to catch up, according to a new analysis by an Australian think tank.

The Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) issued its findings Tuesday based on a review of the top 10% of the most highly cited research papers, concluding China leads in 19 of 23 key categories, including some that are likely to play a major role in Beijing’s push for military prominence in the Indo-Pacific and beyond.

China “has a commanding lead in hypersonics, electronic warfare and in key undersea capabilities,” the ASPI study found, further warning, “China’s leads are so emphatic they create a significant risk that China might dominate future technological breakthroughs in these areas."

The analysis further found that for hypersonics, nine of the 10 leading research institutions are based in China, while China is home to all 10 of the top research venues for undersea drones.

Unlike ballistic missiles, which fly at hypersonic speeds but travel along a set trajectory, hypersonic weapons are highly maneuverable despite flying at Mach 5, or five times the speed of sound.

And the gaps between China and everyone else are significant. With some technologies, like hypersonics, China produces more than 73% of all high-impact research, more than the U.S. and the next eight countries combined.

The analysis also found indications that China is using Western research institutions to its advantage.

More than 14% of “high-impact” Chinese authors — those who wrote the works cited most often — did their post-graduate training in the U.S., Australia or Britain, ASPI said, noting the percentage is close to 20% for researchers writing about hypersonic detections and close to 18% for electronic warfare.

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.

Joseph S. Nye, Jr. Says More…

Project Syndicate: A pivotal moment in the emergence of “soft power” – a term you coined – as a widely accepted foreign-policy concept occurred in 2007, when then-Chinese President Hu Jintao told the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) that the country must develop it. Chinese officials then contacted you privately to seek advice on how to go about it. To what extent did China heed your advice, particularly with regard to the developing world, and is that changing under Xi Jinping?

Joseph S. Nye, Jr.: Soft power is the ability to get what you want through attraction, rather than coercion or payment. China derives soft power from its traditional culture, its impressive economic performance, and its aid programs. But it has at least two liabilities that are undermining its ability to generate soft power.

First, China lacks an open civil society – a key source of attractiveness – owing to the CPC’s insistence on maintaining tight control over people’s lives and opportunities for independent voluntary association. Second, China maintains – and stokes – tensions and conflicts with its neighbors, often over territorial issues. A Confucius Institute in New Delhi can do nothing to boost China’s attractiveness if Chinese troops are killing Indian soldiers on their disputed Himalayan border.

PS: Last October, you examined the “deep, intermediate, and immediate causes” of the Ukraine War, and emphasized that having all the ingredients for a bonfire does not guarantee that there will be one. Since Russia invaded Ukraine, fears of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan – and, potentially, a war between China and the United States – have intensified. Recognizing that “there is no single future, but rather a range of futures with different probabilities which our actions can affect,” what are the most likely “deep, intermediate, and immediate causes” of a conflict over Taiwan?

JSN: The deep causes of a potential war over Taiwan lie in the Chinese Civil War (1927-49). Communist forces defeated the Kuomintang-led Nationalist government on the mainland, but did not capture Taiwan, which the CPC regards as a renegade province. US President Richard Nixon and Chairman Mao Zedong settled on the “one China” formula to defer resolution of the conflict. To uphold this status quo, the US has attempted not only to deter China from using force, but also to deter Taiwan from provoking China by issuing a formal declaration of independence.

Remembering D-Day: Key facts and figures about epochal World War II invasion

OMAHA BEACH, France (AP) — The D-Day invasion that helped change the course of World War II was unprecedented in scale and audacity. As veterans and world dignitaries commemorate the 79th anniversary of the operation, here’s a look at some details about what happened:


Nearly 160,000 Allied troops landed in Normandy on June 6, 1944. Of those, 73,000 were from the United States, 83,000 from Britain and Canada. Forces from several other countries were also involved, including French troops fighting with Gen. Charles de Gaulle against the Nazi occupation.

They faced around 50,000 German forces.

More than 2 million Allied soldiers, sailors, pilots, medics and other people from a dozen countries were involved in the overall Operation Overlord, the battle to wrest western France from Nazi control that started on D-Day.

The sea landings started at 6:30 a.m. local time, just after dawn, targeting five code-named beaches, one after the other: Omaha, Utah, Gold, Sword, Juno.

The operation also included actions inland, including overnight parachute landings on strategic German sites and U.S. Army Rangers scaling cliffs to take out German gun positions.

Around 11,000 Allied aircraft, 7,000 ships and boats, and thousands of other vehicles were involved in the invasion.


A total of 4,414 Allied troops were killed on D-Day itself, including 2,501 Americans. More than 5,000 were wounded.

What we know about Nova Kakhovka dam incident

A huge dam in the Russian-controlled area of southern Ukraine has been destroyed, unleashing a flood of water.

Ukraine's military and Nato have accused Russia of blowing up the dam, while Russia has blamed Ukraine.

Thousands of people are being evacuated from communities in the surrounding areas, with fears that any flooding could be catastrophic.

Here's what we know so far.

Where is the dam?

The Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant is in the city of Nova Kakhovka in Ukraine's Kherson region, which is currently under Russian occupation.

It was built in the Soviet era and is one of six dams that sit along the Dnipro river, which stretches all the way from the very north of the country into the sea in the south.

It's huge - locals call it the Kakhovka Sea as you cannot see the other bank in certain places. The dam holds water equal to the Great Salt Lake in the US state of Utah, according to Reuters.

What happened?

Stills and video show a massive breach in the dam, with water surging through it and flooding downstream in the direction of Kherson.

It's unclear when exactly the dam was first damaged, but satellite images suggest its condition has deteriorated over a number of days.

Key Ukrainian dam blown up, Kyiv blames Russia


KYIV — Ukraine blamed Russia for explosions at a key dam, which unleashed massive flooding and threatened 80 settlements in what Kyiv says is a last-ditch attempt to derail its counteroffensive.

In a statement, Ukraine's Southern Operational Command said "Russian occupation troops blew up the dam" at Nova Kakhovka, in the Kherson region in eastern Ukraine.

EU and Ukrainian politicians have labeled the attack, which could lead to an ecological catastrophe in the region and has raised concerns about safety at the nearby Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, a potential war crime.

Blaming "Russian terrorists," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Twitter that "the destruction of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant dam only confirms for the whole world that they must be expelled from every corner of Ukrainian land." He added that "all services are working," and said he had convened his National Security and Defense Council.

The Soviet-era Nova Kakhovka dam bridges Ukraine's Dnieper River, holding back as much as 18 cubic kilometers of water — equivalent to Utah's Great Salt Lake. Nova Kakhovka also supplies water to the Crimean peninsula, which Russia illegally annexed in 2014. The dam serves as one of three major crossings along the Dnieper.

The operator of the plant, Ukrainian state-owned Ukrhydroenergo, confirmed in a statement that “as a result of blasts in the machine hall, the Kakhovka hydroelectric power station is completely destroyed. It is not recoverable.”

According to the company, the loss of water from the reservoir is also a new threat to Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, where there have been repeated warnings that fighting could trigger a major catastrophe.

“Water from the Kakhovka reservoir is necessary for the power station’s turbines and safety systems,” Ukrhydroenergo said. “The stationary cooler pond is currently filled. The Ukrainian staff of the nuclear power station are monitoring all indicators.”

The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed its “experts at Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant are closely monitoring the situation.” But the agency assured that there is “no immediate nuclear safety risk at the plant.”

Sudan is bleeding to death and current triage is useless

Alex de Waal

Sudan is bleeding to death and its state failure is approaching the point of no return. The question is bigger than a civil war, more than a humanitarian calamity — it’s whether there can be any life in the Sudanese state for the coming decades.

Yet diplomats at the U.S. State Department, Saudi Arabia, the African Union and the United Nations still treat Sudan as a containable conflict susceptible to a package of off-the-shelf inducements and castigations. They are producing yesterday’s treatments for yesterday’s ailments — which didn’t succeed then and have zero chance today.

The formulae of ceasefires and humanitarian aid simply don’t do justice to the reality of state collapse in a country of 45 million people.

Strong statements from, among others, African heads of state and Secretary of State Antony Blinken, have stressed that the future of Sudan lies with civilian leadership. But there’s no practical plan to make this happen.

It falls to Sudan’s civilians to set the agenda. The civilian parties have the legitimacy to claim what is theirs — the government — and demand recognition, funds, and the authority to convene. It’s bold, better than the worn-out options on the international table, and could change the political landscape. The U.S. should change its nickel-and-dime policies towards Sudan and put its weight behind civilian institutions of state, independent of the warring parties.

Sudan’s most recent war erupted on April 15, pitting the Sudan Armed Forces, headed by General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, against his erstwhile deputy and head of the Rapid Support Forces, General Mohamed Hamdan Dagolo, known as Hemedti. Seven weeks of intense combat in the national capital Khartoum have seen hundreds dead, massive damage to the infrastructure of the city, the emptying of that city of most of its middle class, and an escalating humanitarian crisis. The 100,000 who have fled abroad — thus far mostly to Egypt, to South Sudan and Chad — are but a small harbinger of what is to come as the national economy collapses. In the crisis before the crisis, there were already 13 million people — almost one third of the population — in need of food assistance to meet basic needs. That number is climbing by almost one million every week.

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.

Russian Proxy Strategy


Marnix Provoost and Pieter Balcaen

“What is of supreme importance in war is to attack the enemy’s strategy.”— Sun Tzu

Churchill famously described Russia as “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.” More than eighty years on, perhaps this same sense of mystery obscures the Kremlin’s reasons for invading Ukraine and annexing parts of it. Much has been written and said about what Russia’s leadership is trying to achieve in Ukraine and how these objectives are pursued. But what is Moscow’s fundamental strategy?

Some argue that the current full-scale invasion is a clear example of Russian imperialism, while others maintain that the annexation is aimed at recreating the so-called Novorossiya. Although imperialistic and revisionist motivations cannot be ruled out and can, to some degree, influence both strategic thinking and individual decisions, this view might be rather simplistic. Furthermore, it ignores a Russian tradition of rational yet idiosyncratic strategic thought concerning its decision-making in foreign policy.

Yet despite the Kremlin’s misleading rhetoric, opportunistic changing of declared goals, and general ambiguity, it is imperative that Ukraine and its Western backers understand Russia’s likely driving political objective and how this is pursued. Misinterpreting Russia’s strategy in Ukraine obscures what needs to be done to attack it, which is essential to denying the Russian leadership the chance to declare a political-strategic victory and to securing Ukraine’s future as a sovereign, economically viable nation. Ukraine and its Western backers must understand Russia’s strategy to counter and defeat it and force Russia to seriously negotiate with Ukraine, taking the latter’s terms into consideration.

At a basic level, Russia likely fears that an economically prosperous, democratic Ukraine might offer the Russian population the prospect of an alternative political and economic system other than an authoritarian-ruled kleptocracy. This might be partly why Russian President Vladimir Putin tends to characterize the war in Ukraine as existential in nature, which in turn enables the Kremlin to further mobilize the population against what it claims are the military and cultural threats of the eastwardly expanding NATO and EU.

Marines Will Restructure Infantry Battalions by September


The Marine Corps will reconfigure all of its infantry battalions and shrink them from roughly 900 to just over 800 Marines by this fall as part of the service’s ongoing Force Design modernization effort.

The units will also have more medical and reconnaissance capabilities, as well as loitering munitions—changes that came out of the service’s Infantry Battalion Experiment as it prepares for future conflicts. The changes were announced Monday as part of the service's Force Design Annual Update.

The Marines in 2020 began the Infantry Battalion Experiment, or IBX, to see if they could rework infantry battalions to be smaller while at the same time having Marines trained to use a variety of weapons in a distributed environment. Commandant Gen. David Berger has said Force Design 2030 was necessary to get the force ready for potential operations in the Pacific and elsewhere.

The service used three existing battalions to test a variety of configurations, including one with just 735 Marines. During Phase I of the experimentation, which included 13 “live-force experiments” in different locations—they realized that was too small.

“We essentially broke the battalion. I mean, those are my words,” Lt. Gen. Karsten Heckl, the deputy commandant for Combat Development and Integration, told reporters Friday ahead of the update’s release. “But that's what we wanted, right? So we found our far left, left lateral limit, right? And then we came back. So we—the commandant made the decision to bring the infantry battalion number back up to 811.”

The Force Design update released Monday directs the deputy commandant for manpower and reserve affairs to “implement the 811 Marine battalion structure across all active and reserve component infantry units” by September 1.

This is the third and final update to the plan under Berger, who is retiring this summer. Berger has faced criticism from retired Marine leaders for some of the modernization effort’s major changes, but has also received support in Congress for the overhaul.

Despite critics saying that “we don’t listen,” Heckl said Berger “didn’t even balk” at the recommendation given by senior commanders to increase the size of the battalions from the proposed 735 level.

“This is what Marines do better than anybody,” he said. “We're small enough that we can be agile, and quick, and make changes quickly and efficiently. And that’s exactly what is happening here.”

AI poses national security threat, warns terror watchdog

Mark Townsend 

The creators of artificial intelligence need to abandon their “tech utopian” mindset, according to the terror watchdog, amid fears that the new technology could be used to groom vulnerable individuals.

Jonathan Hall KC, whose role is to review the adequacy of terrorism legislation, said the national security threat from AI was becoming ever more apparent and the technology needed to be designed with the intentions of terrorists firmly in mind.

He said too much AI development focused on the potential positives of the technology while neglecting to consider how terrorists might use it to carry out attacks.

“They need to have some horrible little 15-year-old neo-Nazi in the room with them, working out what they might do. You’ve got to hardwire the defences against what you know people will do with it,” said Hall.

The government’s independent reviewer of terrorism legislation admitted he was increasingly concerned by the scope for artificial intelligence chatbots to persuade vulnerable or neurodivergent individuals to launch terrorist attacks.

“What worries me is the suggestibility of humans when immersed in this world and the computer is off the hook. Use of language, in the context of national security, matters because ultimately language persuades people to do things.”

The security services are understood to be particularly concerned with the ability of AI chatbots to groom children, who are already a growing part of MI5’s terror caseload.

As calls grow for regulation of the technology following warnings last week from AI pioneers that it could threaten the survival of the human race, it is expected that the prime minister, Rishi Sunak, will raise the issue when he travels to the US on Wednesday to meet President Biden and senior congressional figures.

Back in the UK, efforts are intensifying to confront national security challenges posed by AI with a partnership between MI5 and the Alan Turing Institute, the national body for data science and artificial intelligence, leading the way.

AI chatbots lose money every time you use them. That is a problem.

Will Oremus

The enormous cost of running today’s large language models, which underpin tools like ChatGPT and Bard, is limiting their quality and threatening to throttle the global AI boom they’ve sparked.

Their expense, and the limited availability of the computer chips they require, are also constraining which companies can afford to run them and pressuring even the world’s richest companies to turn chatbots into moneymakers sooner than they may be ready to.

“The models being deployed right now, as impressive as they seem, are really not the best models available,” said Tom Goldstein, a computer science professor at the University of Maryland. “So as a result, the models you see have a lot of weaknesses” that might be avoidable if cost were no object — such as a propensity to spit out biased results or blatant falsehoods.

The tech giants staking their future on AI rarely discuss the technology’s cost. OpenAI (the maker of ChatGPT), Microsoft and Google all declined to comment. But experts say it’s the most glaring obstacle to Big Tech’s vision of generative AI zipping its way across every industry, slicing head counts and boosting efficiency.

The intensive computing AI requires is why OpenAI has held back its powerful new language model, GPT-4, from the free version of ChatGPT, which is still running a weaker GPT-3.5 model. ChatGPT’s underlying data set was last updated in September 2021, making it useless for researching or discussing recent events. And even those who pay $20 per month for GPT-4 can send only 25 messages every three hours because it’s so expensive to run. (It’s also much slower to respond.)

Those costs may also be one reason Google has yet to build an AI chatbot into its flagship search engine, which fields billions of queries every day. When Google released its Bard chatbot in March, it opted not to use its largest language model. Dylan Patel, chief analyst at the semiconductor research firm SemiAnalysis, estimated that a single chat with ChatGPT could cost up to 1,000 times as much as a simple Google search.

In a recent report on artificial intelligence, the Biden administration pinpointed the computational costs of generative AI as a national concern. The White House wrote that the technology is expected to “dramatically increase computational demands and the associated environmental impacts,” and that there’s an “urgent need” to design more sustainable systems.

Army Follows Other Branches in Reorganizing IT Efforts


PHILADELPHIA—The Army’s shop for enterprise IT services is paring its portfolio, sending the service’s network and defensive cyber efforts to other offices.

“The other services used to have business systems and networks under one PEO, and, years ago, they changed that,” Ross Guckert, the Program Executive Officer for Enterprise Information Systems, told Defense One. “So we're finally following suit.”

The reorganization has been underway for about a year with the aim of simplifying leadership and budgeting for network programs and cyber programs. By Oct. 1, the Army’s network efforts will fall under Program Executive Office Command, Control, Communications-Tactical while defensive cyber efforts will go to Program Executive Office Intelligence Electronic Warfare & Sensors.

The latter already has the offensive cyber portfolio, so having all cyber in the same organization promises better collaboration and simplified funding management, said Col. Mark Taylor, program manager for defensive cyber operations.

“While the offensive and defensive missions are very different, some of the processes we use to put out product—there's an overlap there,” Taylor said.

The move also comes as U.S. Cyber Command prepares to take more control of budget and acquisitions, so having defensive and offensive cyber together “and just the coordination that has to occur with enhanced budget control, having us more tightly coupled under one PEO will be helpful.”

Overall, the Army wants the move to be frictionless: no personnel cuts, no relocating, and no changes to existing contracts.

“Contracts are not gonna change; they're gonna remain in place. No one's gonna lose their job,” Guckert said.

Can Democracy Survive the Polycrisis?


NEW YORK – We are living in troubled times. Too much is happening too fast. People are confused. The Columbia University economic historian Adam Tooze has, indeed, popularized a word for it. He calls it a “polycrisis.”

The polycrisis has many sources. In my opinion the main source of the polycrisis afflicting the world today is artificial intelligence. Climate change comes second, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine qualifies as the third. The list is much longer but I’ll focus on these three. That should help reduce the confusion.


AI shocked the world when Microsoft made ChatGPT freely available to the public through an associated company called OpenAI. That was in November 2022. ChatGPT posed an existential threat to Google’s business model. Google went into overdrive to release a competing product as soon as possible.

Shortly thereafter, Geoffrey Hinton, who is generally considered the godfather of AI, resigned from Google so that he could speak openly about the risks posed by the new technology. Reversing his previous position, he took a very dim view of AI. He said that it could destroy our civilization.

Hinton pioneered the development of neural networks that can understand and generate language and learn skills by analyzing data. As the data grew, so did the capacity of AI’s so-called large language models.


David Maxwell

Unconventional Warfare (UW). What is it? For some nuclear weapons are unconventional weapons employed for “unconventional warfare,” because, obviously, it is not conventional warfare., For many others, anything that is not conventional is unconventional: unconventional ideas, doctrine, equipment, tactics, techniques, and procedures, campaigns, policy, and strategy. Or anything executed by indigenous resistance forces is, by definition, unconventional.

The DOD Dictionary of Military Terms defines UW as “activities to enable an insurgency or resistance to coerce, disrupt, or overthrow a nation or occupying power through and with an underground, auxiliary, or a guerrilla force in a denied area.” I can talk in detail about this definition and how it was developed because I was part of the painful working group in 2009 when it was approved by Admiral Olson who was heavily influenced by CSM Tommie Smith, then the USSOCOM SEA.

Again, what is UW? For many others it is a subordinate element of irregular warfare. In fact, irregular warfare has become the new comprehensive term since it was (re-)introduced in 2007. DOD is currently working to revise the definition, but it has traditionally included five missions: Unconventional Warfare, Foreign Internal Defense (FID), Counterinsurgency (COIN), Counterterrorism (CT), and Stability Operations (STABOPS) thus making UW subordinate to IW.

However, I am not going to get into a doctrinal discussion. We can talk ourselves into doctrinal and terminology paralysis. What I want to talk about is our Special Forces (SF) philosophy. By philosophy I mean the “the theoretical basis of a particular branch of knowledge or experience” as in "the philosophy of unconventional warfare and Special Forces." Philosophy is the collective assemblage of wisdom. And there is no greater assembly of Special Forces and unconventional warfare wisdom than the Special Forces Association.

Now there are two schools of anti-UW thought – First, UW is an anachronism and obsolete or will rarely ever be conducted and maybe not ever again. UW also has severe antibodies within DOD, at embassies, and in the national security community. Some believe no government official or political leader wants to approve let alone direct a UW campaign plan. The second idea is UW needs to be replaced with modern concepts such as the new triad of SOF, Cyber, and Space. To the second, I would argue that the UW philosophy can and must have a positive influence.