9 June 2023

How the Myanmar Crisis Threatens to Destabilize India’s Manipur State

Snigdhendu Bhattacharya

A permanent solution to the problems plaguing India’s violence-torn Manipur state lies in the effective sealing of the international border with Myanmar, India’s Home Minister Amit Shah told a press conference on June 1. He was speaking in Imphal, the capital of the northeast Indian state, where ethnic clashes since May 3 have claimed more than 80 lives and displaced over 40,000 people.

June 1 was the final day of Shah’s four-day visit aimed at brokering peace between the Meitei Hindus, who make up more than half of Manipur’s estimated 3.64 million population, and the tribal people of the Kuki-Chin ethnic group, who make up roughly one-fifth of the population. Shah held meetings with 25 Kuki civil society organizations and 22 Meitei civil society organizations during these four days.

“For a permanent solution, we have already set up wired fencing across 10 kilometers of the Manipur-Myanmar border on a trial basis, work tender has been invited for fencing on another 80 kilometers, and a survey for fencing the rest of the Manipur-Myanmar border is being initiated,” Shah said, adding that biometric data and retinal scans of people coming from neighboring countries are also being recorded.

Manipur shares a 400-kilometer border with Myanmar, most of which is unfenced. The India-Myanmar frontier is an open border with a free movement regime, which permits the tribes residing along the border to travel up to 16 kilometers across the boundary for up to three days without visa restrictions.

According to Athouba Khuraijam, spokesperson of the Coordinating Committee on Manipur Integrity, an umbrella group of several Meitei civil society organizations, the group categorically told Shah during a recent meeting that at the root of the current crisis is “narco-terrorism involving illegal Kuki-Chin immigrants from Myanmar, cross-border Kuki insurgent groups, and Myanmar-based drug cartels.”

“We told Shah that stopping immigration from Myanmar and identifying illegal immigrants in Manipur and deporting them has to be the government’s priority to restore normalcy,” Khuraijam told The Diplomat. “The government needs to hit the drug cartel hard and cancel the suspension of operations (SOO) agreement with the Kuki insurgent groups led by Myanmarese nationals.”

Prevent Pakistan from fueling terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir

Roland Jacquard

Pakistan’s intelligence service, the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) has for years waged a proxy war in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) by aiding and abetting terrorism through terrorist outfits such as Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), Jaish-e-Mohammad (JeM), Hizbul Mujahideen (HM). The service continues to support this proxy war, now being carried out not just through the above mentioned groups but also through their various offshoots like The Resistance Front (TRF), People’s Anti-Fascist Front (PAFF), Jammu Kashmir Gaznavi Force (JKGF), United Liberation Front of Jammu & Kashmir (ULF-J&K) , Kashmir Tigers etc.

The attempt by the ISI, by propping these groups using local names is to project that the militancy in J&K is indigenous and not sponsored from across the border. As per reports, the infrastructure to recruit, train and infiltrate militants into J&K remains intact in Pakistan. Further, there are more than 20 terrorist training camps operating in Pakistan and Pakistan administered Kashmir . Apart from the training camps, there are numerous launching pads along the International border between India and Pakistan to facilitate infiltration of terrorists in J&K. Inputs indicate that around 140-145 terrorists are present in these launching pads, awaiting the right opportunity to infiltrate.

Press releases by the Indian Army and Ministry of Home Affairs indicate that there has not been any major incident of ceasefire violation along the international border after India and Pakistan agreed on Feb. 24, 2021 to abide by the Ceasefire Agreement of 2003. However, Pakistan has continued to facilitate infiltration of terrorists by exploiting gaps in the fencing and through underground tunnels. India’s Border Security Force (BSF), that patrols parts of the Indo-Pakistan border, has unearthed at least five tunnels in last 18 months mainly in the Jammu region. These infiltration attempts are used by the ISI to infiltrate terrorists and smuggle narcotics and contrabands.

Also, in order to augment the shortage of arms/ammunition, being faced by terrorist groups in the valley, Pakistan’s ISI is continuously trying to push in consignments of weapons especially small weapons through drones/quadcopters. During 2021, there were approximately 100 drone sightings along the international border. In 2022, so far, a number of drones were sighted and foiled in various border areas of the Jammu region. Narco-Trafficking has also emerged as one of the means to finance terrorism in the J&K.

The Myth of Rifts in China-Pakistan Relations

Muhammad Shoaib and Syed Basim Raza

China and Pakistan maintain a strong relationship that is credited as a threshold alliance. Established in May 1951, diplomatic ties between the two neighboring states has transformed into a strong friendship and partnership encompassing various areas of cooperation. Both sides, adhering to the norms of sovereignty, formed a strong bond as they sought to assert their role in regional and international arenas. Pakistan faced two full-scale wars in the early decades (in 1965 and 1971) and received critical and much-needed support from China, which cemented the bilateral relationship. China’s support for Pakistan on the Kashmir issue, notwithstanding its changing stance on the dispute, and its decision to fund infrastructure projects in the disputed areas exhibited the depth of its partnership with Pakistan.

In the early 2000s, Beijing and Islamabad broadened their ties by agreeing to develop Pakistan’s Gwadar Port and signing a free trade agreement in 2006. The 2015 launch of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), strengthened their economic ties. Bilateral trade rapidly increased after the signing of CPEC. Although the fanfare that marked early years has been missing from the CPEC discourse in recent Pakistani and Chinese commentaries, and there are indications of differences between the two, leaders on both sides have unequivocally rejected claims of rifts on questions of alignment, bloc politics, and regional issues.

The emergence of a new discourse about rifts in China-Pakistan relations owes to the slow growth of CPEC-based infrastructure projects during the past few years, the rise in terrorism, and political instability in Pakistan. Despite Islamabad’s renewed rhetoric of amplified cooperation, the slow growth of infrastructure projects of CPEC remains evident. Various indicators show that Pakistan cannot afford infrastructure loans due to persistent political crises and a weak economy.

A Breakthrough in Afghanistan-Pakistan Relations?

Ureeda Khan

Since the Taliban recaptured power in August 2021, ties between Pakistan and Afghanistan have encountered a period of uncertainty. Pakistan has particularly been concerned about cross-border militant attacks, which have claimed many lives, especially those of Pakistani security forces.

Pakistan had anticipated that the Taliban would take concrete action against the Tehreek-e-Taliban-e-Pakistan (TTP) or at least prevent the group from launching attacks on Pakistani soil. This hope went unfulfilled, with the TTP increasing their attacks in recent months, further complicating bilateral ties.

However, in a significant step toward enhancing collaboration and resolving security-related concerns, Pakistan and Afghanistan have established a joint committee to facilitate the movement of nationals between the two countries. The Taliban’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Pakistani embassy in Kabul will form this committee, reflecting the Taliban regime’s commitment to practical engagement with Pakistan and ensuring lasting peace. The task team’s establishment will be instrumental in both restricting the movement of militant groups and preventing cross-border incursions, contributing significantly to peace and security along the border.

Additionally, the recent opening of the Spin Boldak-Chaman border trade route further promotes seamless trade between Afghanistan and Pakistan, benefiting the business communities of both countries. These collaborative efforts not only promote economic development but also foster trust and cooperation between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

To address concerns about terrorism, the Taliban authorities in Afghanistan have also announced plans to relocate thousands of Pakistani refugees away from border provinces. This move aims to prevent their involvement in attacks or violence in Pakistan, as alleged by Islamabad. By relocating these refugees to far-flung provinces in Afghanistan, the Taliban aim to ensure that they do not have access to the border regions. This initiative addresses Pakistan’s concerns regarding the presence of TTP leaders and fighters among the refugee population that fled to Afghanistan following Pakistan’s counterterrorism operation in Waziristan in 2014.

Water Conflict: Violence Breaks Out at Iran-Afghanistan Border

Arman Sidhu

Over the past few months, tensions have escalated between Afghanistan and Iran, culminating in recent border clashes that have left both nations on high alert. The crux of this conflict lies in a dispute over shared water resources, with the Helmand River serving as the primary point of contention. This river, essential in this arid region, spans the geopolitical divide, directly affecting the livelihoods and strategic interests of both nations.

Background of the Water Rights Issue

The heart of the disagreement lies in the Helmand River, a waterway spanning over 1,000 kilometers that originates in Afghanistan and extends into Iran’s drought-stricken eastern provinces. Historically, this river has been a vital water source for both countries, supporting agriculture, electricity generation, and sustenance in arid regions.

However, water scarcity, driven by climate change and recurring droughts, has intensified the contention over the rights to the river’s resources. Iran has been particularly affected, enduring a severe drought for over three decades that has left an estimated 97 percent of the country experiencing some degree of water stress, according to the Iran Meteorological Organization. Concurrently, Afghanistan is wrestling with its third year of unrelenting drought, exacerbating the pressure on their already strained water resources.

Further complicating the matter is a bilateral treaty signed in 1973, which defined the rights of both nations to the Helmand River. Yet Kabul’s desire to dam the river for electricity generation and agricultural irrigation has triggered Iran’s ire, sparking a new series of disputes over the treaty’s interpretation and application.

Recent Border Clashes and Diplomatic Accusations

This simmering disagreement recently descended into violence, resulting in a heavy exchange of gunfire at a border post, killing at least three and injuring several others. Iran’s state-run media accused the Taliban of initiating the attack, a claim that has been refuted by Afghan authorities. Central to these narratives is a disputed recounting of events, whereby Iran’s reports suggest “significant damage and casualties,” contrasting with Afghanistan’s more muted language on the severity of the conflict.

Not-So-Great Powers: U.S.-China Rivalry in the Neomedieval Age

Timothy R. Heath

At the same time that the U.S. Congress deliberated on legislation to counter China, it remained gridlocked over national debt limits. The current political acrimony adds to persistent American problems of wavering economic growth, bitter partisan feuding, and record levels of gun violence, among other long-standing issues. Meanwhile, Beijing’s demands that the United States “correct” its policies regarding China occurred alongside news that its own economy is faltering amid slowing global demand. China also continues to grapple with a worsening debt problem, a bleak demographic outlook, and high levels of violent crime. Relative political and economic weakness stands out as a striking and disturbing feature of the current U.S.-China rivalry.

The weakened state of the rival powers ill-fits the pattern set not only by the Cold War but also by all great power rivalries over the past two centuries, including the two World Wars and even the conflicts of the Napoleonic era. The state of technologies differed dramatically, of course, but they shared key social, political, and economic features. Those epic contests involved centralized, unitary states with a high degree of internal cohesion and robust patriotic popular support. Governments enjoyed strong legitimacy partly due to expanding opportunities for political participation and economic advancement. Broad popular support for the governments also owed to industrialization, which took off in the late 1700s and yielded dramatic gains in the material standard of living for many people, especially after 1850. Industrial-age warfare typically centered on strategies of mass mobilization that permitted the fielding of vast armies consisting of citizen-soldiers equipped with standardized uniforms and equipment. When these nation-states fought, they demonstrated an impressive ability to mobilize resources, involve the population, and sustain a war footing for years on end. Their militaries frequently engaged in blood-soaked set-piece battles that generated staggering casualties. The wars often wrought immense destruction and typically ended with unconditional surrender by one side or the other.

It’s Time to Retire the Term “Near-Peer” Competitor When It Comes to China

Mackenzie Eaglen

For years, Pentagon leaders have described China as a “near-peer” competitor—not quite up to snuff when it comes to matching American hard power. The phrase carries an implication a state may possess similar capabilities and capacity to the United States, but never enough to be considered on equal footing.

No more.

China’s continuous and rapid transformation of its military and strategic capabilities means Washington can safely retire “near-peer” as an accurate classifier.

The 2017 National Security Strategy made waves when it declared the dawn of “great power competition” between the United States and assertive powers such as China and Russia. The strategy was quick to cite areas in which the United States had fallen behind and China had developed asymmetric advantages.

Subsequent strategy documents written by the Biden administration have contained similar monikers. The 2022 National Defense Strategy declared China the “most consequential strategic competitor for the coming decades,” and has highlighted strategic competition with China as a serious challenge for the US military for the foreseeable future.

When speaking on the Pentagon’s 2022 report China military power report here at AEI, Michael Chase, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for China, seconded this, emphasizing that China was the “pacing challenge” for the Pentagon in nearly all domains.

So which is it – great power competition, strategic competitor, or pacing challenge? One could endlessly argue over the semantics, but one thing is certain: China’s rapid and substantial investment in the modernization and expansion of its armed forces have are changing the military calculus in the Indo-Pacific.

This shift comes on the heels of a decade where the United States has been focused on other theaters and threats, and long delayed crucial modernization programs to maintain our military’s (rapidly shrinking) edge. The Pentagon has affirmed as much, writing in the 2020 China Military Power Report that “China has already achieved parity with—or even exceeded—the United States in several military modernization areas.”

How to Read Xi Jinping Is China Really Preparing for War?

John Culver; John Pomfret and Matt Pottinger

John Pomfret and Matt Pottinger’s recent article (“Xi Jinping Says He Is Preparing China for War,” March 29) deserves attention for highlighting the rising risk of war between China and the United States. Relations between the two countries, which have the largest economies and the most powerful militaries in the world, are so fraught that experts strain for a comparison short of actual conflict. Each is preparing itself for strategic rivalry, building up military forces, and aligning partners for future economic, diplomatic, and potential military contestation. But the drivers are now long-standing and increasingly structural, not the result of a handful of speeches that the Chinese leader Xi Jinping has delivered since February and that Pomfret and Pottinger focus on in their piece. Indeed, it would be strange if Xi’s authoritative guidance didn’t reflect this reality.

As the authors note, “It is too early to say for certain what these developments mean. Conflict is not certain or imminent.” But the article could leave many readers with the impression that Xi has already made a decision to go to war (he almost certainly hasn’t); that he is confident that his military, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), is ready to fight and win such a war (he’s likely not); and that his country’s population and economy are prepared for years of austerity, combat losses, and damage to infrastructure by missiles, cyberattacks, or crippling resource shortages (they aren’t).


Pomfret and Pottinger write that Xi told his generals to “dare to fight.” The phrase was apparently part of an overall directive upon the opening of China’s legislature on March 6—not a directive just to the PLA. (Moreover, according to Chinese language experts I consulted, a more common translation of the phrase “敢于斗争” is “dare to struggle”; the character used to denote “fight” is not the one typically used to refer to military conflict, 战斗.) Xi has used martial language in speeches to military leadership gatherings since at least 2012. The key phrase is usually translated as “to be able to fight and win battles is the key to being a strong army”—with the unstated implication that “at present, the PLA is not and cannot.’’ Xi’s interactions with the army since he assumed leadership in 2012 is left out of Pomfret and Pottinger’s discussion. He jailed the two most senior officers, prosecuted thousands of officers for corruption, and drove the PLA into a wrenching, and ongoing, reorganization. One might surmise that Xi does not yet trust the military, which has not fought in a major conflict since 1979, and that he still doubts it can “fight and win’’ against a strong military opponent.

Elon Musk’s Success In Navigating US-Chinese Governments And Markets – Analysis

He Jun

Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, is undoubtedly a highly unique personality in today’s world. According to researchers at ANBOUND, in the pursuit of technological advancements that shape human society, against the backdrop of deteriorating U.S.-China relations, in the competition between industry and capital, and in the realm of commercial practices aiming to achieve innovation, Musk’s distinctiveness and influence far surpass his counterparts.

Firstly, he is a maverick and successful entrepreneur. Musk founded or invested in two remarkable companies. In June 2002, he invested USD 100 million to establish SpaceX. Then in 2004, he invested USD 6.3 million in Tesla, a company founded by Martin Eberhard, and currently serves as its CEO. Both companies have achieved significant success. SpaceX not only developed the Falcon rockets and Dragon spacecraft, reclaiming America’s dominance in manned space launches after the end of the Space Shuttle program but also launched the Starlink project, a low Earth orbit satellite internet constellation aimed at providing global high-speed internet coverage. Starlink played a significant role in transforming the nature of warfare during the war in Ukraine. Tesla has become the leading global company in the electric vehicle field, and it has almost become synonymous with Musk himself.

Secondly, Musk has managed to navigate well within the governments of both China and the U.S. As it is widely known, U.S.-China relations have taken a sharp downturn in recent years, with the U.S. designating China as its “long-term strategic competitor”. From the Trump administration to the Biden administration, the U.S. has implemented severe and systematic measures to suppress and sanction China, resulting in the lowest point in geopolitical and economic relations between the two countries since their establishment of diplomatic ties. With the U.S. rallying its allies worldwide to contain China, nations and companies have been forced to take a stance and make public statements when it comes to China-related issues. Many countries/regions (such as Japan, South Korea, the Netherlands, and Australia) and companies (such as ASML, Intel, Tokyo Electron, and TSMC) have had to comply with U.S. government sanctions measures and sacrifice significant economic interests. In response to the U.S. crackdown, China has also launched fierce countermeasures, ranging from diplomatic and trade aspects to sanctions against companies.

How to Read Xi Jinping Is China Really Preparing for War?

John Culver; John Pomfret and Matt Pottinger

John Pomfret and Matt Pottinger’s recent article (“Xi Jinping Says He Is Preparing China for War,” March 29) deserves attention for highlighting the rising risk of war between China and the United States. Relations between the two countries, which have the largest economies and the most powerful militaries in the world, are so fraught that experts strain for a comparison short of actual conflict. Each is preparing itself for strategic rivalry, building up military forces, and aligning partners for future economic, diplomatic, and potential military contestation. But the drivers are now long-standing and increasingly structural, not the result of a handful of speeches that the Chinese leader Xi Jinping has delivered since February and that Pomfret and Pottinger focus on in their piece. Indeed, it would be strange if Xi’s authoritative guidance didn’t reflect this reality.

As the authors note, “It is too early to say for certain what these developments mean. Conflict is not certain or imminent.” But the article could leave many readers with the impression that Xi has already made a decision to go to war (he almost certainly hasn’t); that he is confident that his military, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), is ready to fight and win such a war (he’s likely not); and that his country’s population and economy are prepared for years of austerity, combat losses, and damage to infrastructure by missiles, cyberattacks, or crippling resource shortages (they aren’t).


Pomfret and Pottinger write that Xi told his generals to “dare to fight.” The phrase was apparently part of an overall directive upon the opening of China’s legislature on March 6—not a directive just to the PLA. (Moreover, according to Chinese language experts I consulted, a more common translation of the phrase “敢于斗争” is “dare to struggle”; the character used to denote “fight” is not the one typically used to refer to military conflict, 战斗.) Xi has used martial language in speeches to military leadership gatherings since at least 2012. The key phrase is usually translated as “to be able to fight and win battles is the key to being a strong army”—with the unstated implication that “at present, the PLA is not and cannot.’’ Xi’s interactions with the army since he assumed leadership in 2012 is left out of Pomfret and Pottinger’s discussion. He jailed the two most senior officers, prosecuted thousands of officers for corruption, and drove the PLA into a wrenching, and ongoing, reorganization. One might surmise that Xi does not yet trust the military, which has not fought in a major conflict since 1979, and that he still doubts it can “fight and win’’ against a strong military opponent.

More telling than Xi’s guidance to the army is, as Dennis Blasko has written, that “the PLA’s general assessments of its own capabilities have become, if anything, more acute during Xi’s tenure as Central Military Commission chairman, especially concerning the state of leadership at the operational unit level. The totality of these criticisms implies a lack of confidence in PLA capabilities and a failure of the PLA’s educational and training systems to prepare commanders and staff officers for future war.”

Why is Saudi Arabia going it alone on costly oil cuts?


OPEC+ energy ministers met in Vienna over the weekend, and most of the gathered nations agreed Sunday to maintain previously agreed-upon reduced oil output through the end of 2024. The United Arab Emirates won permission to boost oil production. But Saudi Arabia, OPEC's most important member, announced it will unilaterally cut production by 10%, or 1 million barrels a day, starting in July.

OPEC and its Russia-led allies almost always cut or raise output in tandem, using their official meetings to rubber-stamp production plans agreed to beforehand, but last weekend saw "one of the most contentious production meetings in recent years," The Wall Street Journal reported. Saudi Energy Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman wanted across-the-board cuts to boost oil prices, but other members, especially in Africa, fiercely resisted.

Saudi Arabia's surprise decision to shoulder the entire million-barrel cut by itself did boost oil prices a bit, and it could lead to higher gas prices this summer. But because the Saudis will be selling less oil, a modest price hike will leave the kingdom with less revenue. What's behind Saudi Arabia's go-it-alone production cuts?

What are the commentators saying?

When the Saudis engineered OPEC+ production cuts in October and again in April, it was widely seen as a poke in the eye to President Biden, who had personally asked Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) to increase output amid stubbornly high inflation. But now it seems they maybe just need the money.

Oil revenue accounts for two-thirds of Saudi Arabia's income and global prices are still a fistful of dollars short of what Riyadh needs to even balance its budget, much less pay for "the giga-projects that lie at the heart of its Vision 2030 program to transform the economy," Eoin McSweeney wrote at CNN. The crown prince is trying to diversify the Saudi economy, but "foreign investment isn't anywhere near where Riyadh wants it to be," and there's a tremendous need for cash as MBS's grandiose Vision 2030 projects enter the construction phase.

How Israel Can Solve Its Gaza Problem – Analysis

Yossi Kuperwasser*

Israel has in recent years been living with a dangerous phenomenon, to which it has wrongly become accustomed, without any real debate as to its advisability. Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) are Palestinian terror organizations committed to annihilating Israel, controlling Gaza, and threatening to launch attacks at times of their choosing if Jerusalem does not act as they demand. They use Gaza’s civilian population as human shields to prevent the Israelis from hitting their military infrastructure.

In response, Jerusalem has defined its goals vis-à-vis Gaza as achieving the longest possible intervals of relative calm between major eruptions of violence; in other words, it does not challenge Hamas’s ability to attack Israel. The Israeli government regards Gaza as a de facto state where Hamas is accountable for the use of force, though from time to time, in 2019 and 2022, it preferred to address the PIJ threat directly.

Jerusalem wants Hamas sufficiently weak to be deterred from initiating armed conflict yet strong enough to force its will over any potential competitor, such as PIJ or Salafist groups. The Israelis also seek to keep Egypt on their side as a force that can and will help ensure tranquility and stability. Jerusalem desires to help the Gazan economy because it both prefers prosperous neighbors and hopes this makes Hamas more cautious about commencing hostilities. The Israelis also believe the division between Hamas in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank is beneficial to its interests.

In Gaza, Jerusalem plays a key role in developing the rules that determine what the parties can and cannot do. Such rules are designed to give the Israelis the ability to deter attacks, defend territory, maintain intelligence dominance, and win decisively. These rules assure Hamas that its rule over Gaza will not be challenged and that, in between the rounds of escalation, it will be allowed to continue its military buildup, as the Israelis seldom strike first, and the government’s responses to Hamas’s limited attacks are always measured and proportionate.

The flaws in such an approach are clear: it grants Hamas the ability to develop its offensive capabilities, increase its political power, and condemn Israelis—especially those living within range of the Gaza Strip—to persistent threats from Hamas terrorists.

Thinking About Post-War Ukraine

As the war in Ukraine continues, it is not too early to consider the significant financial assistance that will be required to help Ukraine recover, once the war comes to an end. Henrik Larsen lays out a road map for how to ensure that post-war Ukraine can function as a bulwark against Russia, including imposing clear and measurable conditions for aid.

The transatlantic West has a significant interest in ensuring that Ukraine prevails in Russia’s war of aggression. As the West shows unprecedented levels of solidarity, it is the supply of weapons — which types and how many — that occupies most of the debate about how to best support Ukraine. However, it is not too soon to evaluate the enormous funding that Western countries are committing to give Ukraine in order to ensure that it can continue to function as a state under the considerable duress of war and that it will be able to recover. Macro-financial assistance and the costs of reconstruction may exceed $1 trillion, depending on how long the war will continue and how much further destruction it will cause.

Such a significant financial commitment requires Western supporters to consider how they can achieve a transformed post-war Ukraine that can function as a bulwark against Russian imperialism anchored inside the European Union. In such a scenario, Ukraine would need to embrace the rule of law and start to generate significant economic growth that would enable it to become self-sustaining, rather than in perpetual need of external subsidies. Political realism should guide this thinking. Ukraine’s track record since the 2014 Euromaidan revolution shows the necessity of tackling the fundamental problem of backlashes against reforms. It also highlights that, when it comes to the most crucial issues, the country’s elites have sought to undermine their official commitments to reform. Ukraine surely hopes to avoid the tragic fates of Turkey and the Western Balkan countries, whose prospects of joining the European Union after 15 to 25 years of waiting appear slim.

Making Ukraine’s political-financial elites give up their power base begins with recognizing that supporting Ukraine does not ensure a convergence of interest in transforming its domestic governance. What Ukraine needs is not enhanced technical advice, but conditions that are linked to the enormous financial assistance it will be receiving in the coming years. Western sponsors need a more dedicated and targeted plan for overcoming domestic resistance to change. This will require honesty in both diagnosing the problems and identifying the cure. The key challenge is how to tighten the financial bolts sufficiently and consistently enough over time to prevent backlashes against reform. Tough love, in other words, is needed to make sure that elite incentives do not deviate from an official commitment to economic liberalization and the rule of law.1

U.S. had intelligence of detailed Ukrainian plan to attack Nord Stream pipeline

Shane Harris and Souad Mekhennet

Three months before saboteurs bombed the Nord Stream natural gas pipeline, the Biden administration learned from a close ally that the Ukrainian military had planned a covert attack on the undersea network, using a small team of divers who reported directly to the commander in chief of the Ukrainian armed forces.

Details about the plan, which have not been previously reported, were collected by a European intelligence service and shared with the CIA in June 2022. They provide some of the most specific evidence to date linking the government of Ukraine to the eventual attack in the Baltic Sea, which U.S. and Western officials have called a brazen and dangerous act of sabotage on Europe’s energy infrastructure.

The European intelligence report was shared on the chat platform Discord, allegedly by Air National Guard member Jack Teixeira. The Washington Post obtained a copy from one of Teixeira’s online friends.
The intelligence report was based on information obtained from an individual in Ukraine. The source’s information could not immediately be corroborated, but the CIA shared the report with Germany and other European countries last June, according to multiple officials familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive intelligence operations and diplomatic discussions.

The Discord Leaks

Dozens of highly classified documents have been leaked online, revealing sensitive information intended for senior military and intelligence leaders. In an exclusive investigation, The Post also reviewed scores of additional secret documents, most of which have not been made public.

Who leaked the documents? Jack Teixeira, a young member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard, was charged in the investigation into leaks of hundreds of pages of classified military intelligence. The Post reported that the individual who leaked the information shared documents with a small circle of online friends on the Discord chat platform.

We’re WEIRD and Our Adversaries Know It: Psychological Biases Leave the United States Vulnerable to Cognitive Domain Operations

Julia M. McClenon 

The US Department of Defense originated the concept of a cognitive warfare domain, but the United States is already well behind on defending against others’ cognitive operations and campaigns—let alone effectively countering them or conducting offensive activities. To succeed in the cognitive domain, one must understand the psychological weaknesses, patterns, behaviors, and motivations of the target population in order to effectively disrupt decision-making and other activities in one’s own favor—or at least, against the target’s interests. Not all societies are easy to understand, and by extension, target. Unfortunately, the United States is.

In recent decades, developments in the field of psychology have created a bias toward studying western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic (WEIRD) populations—and particularly their college students—even though they are not representative of most of the global population. This bias leaves the United States and other psychologically similar nations significantly more vulnerable to targeted cognitive operations than their adversaries. In response, US researchers and decisionmakers must better understand and form defenses around their own population’s psychological weaknesses while simultaneously expanding the scope of psychology research to better defend non-WEIRD partners and allies and to counter non-WEIRD adversaries such as China.

Defining the Threat through an Adversary’s Eyes

To unpack the nature of the threat, we must first consider what the terms cognition and cognitive domain mean from the perspective of the people we are interacting with. Because China poses the most urgent adversarial threat to the United States and openly seeks to exploit its enemies’ vulnerabilities and weaknesses, this analysis will focus on the threat of Chinese cognitive warfare.

The 82nd Airborne Division just announced its newest unit. Here's what it will do

Rachael Riley

Paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division are innovators, the command team of the division said.

To capitalize on that innovation, the division created a new company that was formally activated at the end of March, said Maj. Gen. Christopher LaNeve, commander of the 82nd Airborne Division.

“As we switch to large-scale combat operations, we're taking a look at what do we have to build to be able to harness the technology and the ideas, so we created the Gainey Company,” LaNeve said.

Capt. Adam Johnson, the commander of the company, said the company’s namesake is William Joe Gainey, who served in the division and was the first senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff..

Who is in Gainey Company

The company currently has 28 soldiers, comprised of permanent soldiers and paratroopers who join the company on a rotational basis

“We’re continually bringing new blood into the Gainey Company, and we’re pumping them out back into the brigades, the knowledge base of what they just did inside the Gainey Company,” LaNeve said.

Command Sgt. Maj. Randolph Delapena, the senior enlisted leader for the division, said a soldier’s military occupational specialty “doesn’t withhold them” from joining the company.

“Soldiers want to make something to help the formations, and all those little things that they kind of work through, what they talk about in a barracks and in their company, that's where you got to draw that energy from,” Delapena said.

Rotational soldiers from the 2nd Brigade Combat Team were radio operators who were able to train fellow paratroopers on the newest technology before they return to their brigade at the end of June.

Ukraine Wobbles As Its ‘Game Changing’ Weapons – Leopard MBTs, Storm Shadow Missiles, HIMARS – Fail To Change The Game

Since the beginning of Russia’s “Special Military Operation” (SMO) against Ukraine last year, the fortunes of the war have swung back and forth. The dramatic battles around Kyiv and Mariupol, and the new age warfare with drones and PGMs (Precision Guided Munitions), kept us enthralled.

After the initial gains, Russia appeared to be on the back foot in August-September 2022. Then the frontlines settled down in a hard-fought, grinding stalemate.

Attitudes and narratives on both sides hardened to intractable levels. Any hope of an early peace receded along with prospects of a political solution. It was clear that one side had to decisively prevail on the battlefield before there was any probability of a modus vivendi being worked out. That is when started talk of a coming “offensive.” Governments, allies, OSINTs, and “fans” joined the chorus.

First, they told us the Russian offensive would come in winter after Putin announced the autumn draft last September. 3,00,000 men were reportedly drafted, and we waited. Winter turned into thaw, but there was no offensive.

Then they told us there would be a Ukrainian offensive sometimes in winter or, indeed, in spring. We waited for the mud to dry up and the ground to harden so that Ukrainian mechanized formations could maneuver. Now it is the end of May, and summer has come – but no offense came! So, what is the deal here? Where is the action?

Bakhmut saw slaughter aplenty. Ugledar saw the preponderance of “small tactics.” But still no offensive! Some tried to discover a failed Russian offensive. Others are rationalizing the delay in the Ukrainian offensive –waiting for “WunderWaffe” from the West.

First, it was about the artillery – in came the HIMARS. Then it was about the tanks. The Abrams, Challengers, and Leopards. Then the Air defense platforms. The Patriots came in to “make the difference.” But the only difference we saw was the fall of Bakhmut after months of bravado in ruins! So, then the Storm Shadows were supposed to be the game changers. And they, in turn, started getting shot down while the Patriots got hammered! And now, the F16s haven’t arrived yet!

Why the UN Still Matters

Kal Raustiala and Viva Iemanjá Jerónimo

At the Crimean resort town of Yalta in the winter of 1945, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt met with the Soviet leader Joseph Stalin and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill to plan for a “United Nations organization.” Roosevelt’s health was in steep decline, and the grueling journey to Crimea may well have hastened his death weeks later. That he undertook the trip at all showed how central he believed great-power cooperation would be in the coming postwar order. The United Nations, as Roosevelt imagined it, would be the “Four Policemen,” a consortium of the victorious wartime powers: the United States, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and China. This group, with the addition of France, ultimately became the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, the centerpiece of the new order that Roosevelt sought to construct.

Just three years later, however, in response to the revelation of Western plans to unify their zones of occupied Germany, Soviet forces blockaded roads and railways into Berlin. The dramatic move marked a turning point in what was increasingly called a “Cold War” between the Soviet Union and its former allies, principally the United States. By the time of the Berlin crisis, relations between the great powers at the nascent United Nations were already frosty. The vision at Yalta of a cooperative postwar order seemed to have swiftly faded.

Many believe the Cold War scuppered Roosevelt’s dream of a UN that restrained conflict and produced constructive collective action. As the international relations scholar John Mearsheimer has argued, the superpower rivalry made it “almost impossible” for the UN to adopt and enforce meaningful resolutions. The political scientist Francis Fukuyama has insisted that the Cold War “emasculated” the Security Council. In this line of thinking, it was only with the end of the Cold War that the UN could finally engage in the muscular joint action imagined at Yalta. Madeleine Albright, a former U.S. secretary of state and U.S. ambassador to the UN, summed up this view years later when she stated that, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, “the barrier to coordinated Security Council action had come down.”

How the West Can Secure Ukraine’s Future

Eric Ciaramella

Although Ukraine’s long-planned offensive operation is still in its initial phases, it is not too early to begin mapping out what comes next. In the short term, the answer is obvious: the United States and its allies must continue to surge weapons and training to Ukraine to enable Kyiv to liberate as much of its territory as possible this year. But planning for the long term is also needed, and that is far more difficult. As the past 15 months have shown, Russian President Vladimir Putin is not likely to abandon his goal of dominating Ukraine, even in the face of military setbacks. Still, the war will eventually enter a lower-intensity phase, and when it does, security arrangements will need to be firmly in place to protect Ukraine and bind it more closely to Europe.

In the run-up to July’s NATO summit in Vilnius, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has been pressing for his country to be admitted to the alliance, although he acknowledges that this is “impossible” until the war ends. Ukraine also faces a long road ahead in its quest to gain membership in the EU, which offers its own security guarantee. A solution in the meantime would be the creation of interlocking multilateral agreements that can sustain a well-trained and well-equipped Ukrainian military. The West can bolster this arrangement, modeled in part after the U.S. defense relationship with Israel, by making clear, codified, long-term commitments to Ukraine to ensure that Kyiv can plan for its future security needs. This approach would give Ukraine security until it becomes a member of the EU and—perhaps one day—NATO, without closing the door to an eventual détente with Russia.

Washington and its allies will need to forge a strong coalition of like-minded countries to support such a framework to make clear that Kyiv has the West’s long-term support. There are encouraging signs that this process has already begun: the Pentagon has been working with Ukraine to plan its future defense forces, and a portion of U.S. assistance has been earmarked for this purpose. The announcement in May that Ukrainian pilots will begin training on F-16 aircraft in anticipation of the eventual delivery of those planes signals the desire of Ukraine’s partners to build the country’s military capabilities beyond what it requires in the here and now. This must continue. But more is needed to create certainty about the West’s staying power and disabuse Putin of the notion that time is on his side. Legally binding commitments from Ukraine’s partners, especially the United States, would go a long way toward shattering Putin’s war optimism and forcing him to reckon with the fact that Ukraine will never belong to Russia.


Maybe the Ukrainians blew up the Kakhovka Dam?


The Kahovka Soviet-era dam in the Russian controlled part of southern Ukraine was blown on 6 June 2023, unleashing a flood of water across the war zone. Photo: Twitter

For the Russians to have blown up the Kakhovka dam they would have needed to move tons of explosives using boats or underwater equipment, put explosives on the dam facing the reservoir and set off a massive explosion. From the video posted by the Ukrainian government, it looks like the explosions happened below the waterline.The Kakhovka Hydroelectric Dam before the blast

The Kakhovka Dam is a hydroelectric power station. When operating it provided 357 mw of power and cooling water for the 5.7 gigawatt Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. It also supplied water for agriculture in southern Ukraine and northern Crimea.

Emerging Challenges to Extended Deterrence, Assurance and the Future of U.S. Alliances

Keith B. Payne & Michaela Dodge


Extending deterrence to help assure allies of the U.S. commitment to their security is a long-standing goal of U.S. policy. Allied confidence in the U.S. extended deterrent and the assurance that it provides is key to: 1) maintaining alliances that are the critical U.S. advantage over the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China (PRC); and, 2) sustaining U.S. nonproliferation objectives.

Yet, PRC, Russian, and North Korean strategies are aimed at defeating U.S. extended deterrence commitments to allies and undercutting U.S. assurance goals—and thereby destroying the cohesion of U.S. alliances. To do so, Russia and China now include regional nuclear first use threats in their respective bids to defeat U.S. extended deterrence and assurance efforts.[1] Russian regional nuclear first use threats have become increasingly explicit and stark while its non-nuclear forces are underperforming—leading some knowledgeable commentators to suggest that Russia ultimately will employ nuclear weapons in Ukraine.[2] Equally disturbing is the fact that opponents’ nuclear employment could, according to then-Commander of Strategic Command, ADM Charles Richard upset all U.S. operational planning.[3] These realities are extremely distressing for allies in jeopardy and dependent on the credibility of the U.S. extended deterrence for their security.

Extending deterrence and assuring allies requires differing approaches among allies that take into account their varied security positions and perceptions. Allies face varying threat conditions and certainly have mixed threat perceptions that shape their views of the requirements for deterrence and assurance. When considering the requirements for deterrence and assurance, the United States cannot calculate its capabilities and policies based on the “easy” task of deterring attacks on allies who face the least apparent risk and have the lowest level of threat perception—and thus least need assurance. U.S. capabilities and policies must be adequate to deter and assure the “hard” cases, including those allies who are particular targets of revanchist Russia, China and/or North Korea. For Russia, that appears to include those allies who, in the past, were part of the Soviet Union or its imperium. The need to “tailor” deterrence according to the specific needs of the threat context has become a fully recognized requirement for U.S. policy, on a bipartisan basis.[4] The need to tailor assurance according to an ally’s particular context is equally valid, including the needs of the “hard” cases.

Understandable allied concerns about an increasingly severe threat context, including concern about Sino-Russian cooperation,[5] have led to several different, even contradictory responses which call into question the continuing viability of the U.S. system of alliances and U.S. nonproliferation goals. PRC, Russian, and North Korean aggressiveness, for example, has compelled some countries that have been long-time neutrals to seek membership in NATO (e.g., Sweden, and Finland), but to restrict their roles in extended nuclear deterrence so as to have “good neighbor relations” with Russia;[6] others appear increasingly interested in acquiring independent nuclear capabilities or, conversely, endorsing nuclear disarmament as their response to nuclear threats. Still other allies manifest some inclination to placate Russia or China and, correspondingly, distance themselves from the United States. These varied responses to the increasing threat context are emerging simultaneously and threaten the cohesion alliances depend upon.

Buffer States Are Worth a Second Look

Christopher Mott

While it will take years, if not decades, to sort through the wreckage of the Ukraine War to come to any kind of consensus, it does seem clear that the maximalist claims of alliance networks have an immensely destabilizing role in the international system. The failure to set up buffer states— nations that agree not to join the alliance network of any nearby power blocs—between NATO and Russia might have led to the outbreak of war. Often situated at places where potential contention could arise, these countries keep rival power poles from having direct contact with each other. The reasoning is that if two powers can agree that neither dominates a particular smaller country, they can accept that the lessened risk of a hand-off approach to that particular state is the best way to de-escalate rivalry in that region.

The concept of buffer states has been used many times in history, though with admittedly mixed results. The idea is quite rare in modern international relations discourse, however. When it is mentioned, it is often done so in a disparaging manner. This is not only because the most famous example of a buffer state in the modern mind is the extremely ineffective invasion highway known as Belgium in the early twentieth century, but also because alliance networks have become increasingly burdened with values-laden assumptions that they did not have before. NATO, infused with democratist ideology, cannot accept that a country that wishes to join and become part of its network might be better left outside for reasons of geographic cohesiveness and avoiding more potential flashpoints with Russia. Russia, on the other hand, was ostensibly supportive of a neutral Ukraine but probably expected to dominate it indirectly in some capacity. The inability of these outside parties to stay out of the country resulted in a significant conflict that could have been avoided. Diplomats should learn from this and get more serious about the concept of buffer states.

Despite famous failures, there have in fact been numerous successful buffer states in history; places that for long periods of time (geopolitically speaking) served as effective points of no-contact between otherwise rival powers. Some exploited natural geography to further reinforce the natural borders already in place. Nepal, between the British and Qing empires and now modern China and India, is an example of this. Austria in the Cold War, with the victorious powers of World War II all agreeing to a mutual military withdrawal, is another. Perhaps the longest and most surprising of such states to modern observers is that of late-nineteenth through mid-twentieth-century Afghanistan. Not wanting to rule the unprofitable and warlike territory itself, the British Raj nevertheless was consumed by the specter of a Russian invasion through the territory during the height of Anglo-Russian rivalry in Central Asia, often referred to as “The Great Game.” After a succession of fruitless wars there, it was agreed to draw the boundaries of Afghanistan in such a way that Russian and British imperial interests would not directly collide with each other. The arrangement would bring a surprising amount of stability for the tribalistic nation, and only collapse when a series of coups and internal upheavals opened the way for a Soviet invasion in 1979 and subsequent Pakistani and U.S. intervention.

A More Perfect Union: Black Soldiers And The Promise Of America – Analysis

John Nagl and Charles D. Allen*

Well into the third decade of the 21st century, the U.S. military is reassessing its connection to the society that it is chartered to protect and serve. While it is easy to declare and embrace the mission to fight and win the Nation’s wars, it is more challenging to forge and sustain an institution that lives its espoused values and holds its members accountable for the principles put forth in its founding documents.

In 1775, American colonists protested that their rights as British citizens were not protected and subsequently established the fledgling Continental Army. A year later, the Declaration of Independence proclaimed, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Out of necessity the Continental Army would seek manpower from the diverse populations of the colonies—to include enslaved and freed Blacks as well as Indigenous peoples. The Nation began with gathering Soldiers from different races, ethnic groups, and nationalities. They joined in the hope of being members of a free and just society.

This century began with a unifying call to arms following the attacks of September 11, 2001. The Army ranks were subsequently filled with volunteers from across the national landscape of race, ethnicity, and creed. We imagined a post-racial society with the election of the first African American President in 2008 and sought evidence in the photos of “Brothers at War” with the slate of Black general officers at the helm of theater operations in the war on terror. Three Black Army officers assumed the prestigious four-star rank, in charge of unified and subunified combatant commands and a major Army command.1However, although the Army may boast and showcase minority individuals as leaders within the force, diversity, equity, and inclusion achievements cannot be taken for granted.

Accordingly, the Service identified diversity as a strategic outcome in its Army People Strategy, noting that “the Army is committed to equality of opportunity, providing all of our talented people with fulfilling and rewarding professional careers. As an inclusive and representative American institution, we ensure that our people possess a diversity of talent—knowledge, skills, behaviors, and preferences—drawn from all corners of our country and its vibrant, diverse population.”2

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.

6 Swing States Will Decide the Future of Geopolitics

Cliff Kupchan

Last month, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky made a rare foray out of Ukraine, spending almost one week in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, and Hiroshima, Japan. His goal: to win the support of Brazil, India, Indonesia, and Saudi Arabia—four major fence-sitters on Russia’s war in Ukraine. These and other leading countries of the global south have more power today than ever before. The reasons for their newfound geopolitical heft: They have more agency, they benefit from regionalization, and they can leverage U.S.-China tensions.

Governments worldwide grapple with regulation to rein in AI dangers

Charlotte Trueman

Ever since generative AI exploded into public consciousness with the launch of ChatGPT at the end of last year, calls to regulate the technology to stop it from causing undue harm have risen to fever pitch around the world. The stakes are high — just last week, technology leaders signed an open public letter saying that if government officials get it wrong, the consequence could be the extinction of the human race.

While most consumers are just having fun testing the limits of large language models such as ChatGPT, a number of worrying stories have circulated about the technology making up supposed facts (also known as "hallucinating") and making inappropriate suggestions to users, as when an AI-powered version of Bing told a New York Times reporter to divorce his spouse.

Tech industry insiders and legal experts also note a raft of other concerns, including the ability of generative AI to enhance the attacks of threat actors on cybersecurity defenses, the possibility of copyright and data-privacy violations — since large language models are trained on all sorts of information — and the potential for discrimination as humans encode their own biases into algorithms.

Possibly the biggest area of concern is that generative AI programs are essentially self-learning, demonstrating increasing capability as they ingest data, and that their creators don't know exactly what is happening within them. This may mean, as ex-Google AI leader Geoffrey Hinton has said, that humanity may just be a passing phase in the evolution of intelligence and that AI systems could develop their own goals that humans know nothing about.

All this has prompted governments around the world to call for protective regulations. But, as with most technology regulation, there is rarely a one-size-fits-all approach, with different governments looking to regulate generative AI in a way that best suits their own political landscape.

Countries make their own regulations

“[When it comes to] tech issues, even though every country is free to make its own rules, in the past what we have seen is there’s been some form of harmonization between the US, EU, and most Western countries,” said Sophie Goossens, a partner at law firm Reed Smith who specializes in AI, copyright, and IP issues. “It's rare to see legislation that completely contradicts the legislation of someone else.”