15 June 2023

Can Germany Help India Overcome Its Submarine Troubles?

Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan

Faced with a worsening naval balance in Asia, India is seeking to build additional submarines, and Germany is its latest potential partner. An Indian-German team will bid to jointly produce six submarines costing around $5 billion (420 billion Indian rupees).

Under Project 75I, India’s Mazagon Dock Shipbuilders Limited (MDL) and Germany’s Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems (TKMS) signed a memorandum of understanding that has the two parties bidding to co-produce the submarines. According to an Indian official who spoke to Indian media, the German partner TKMS “will contribute to the engineering and design of the submarines as well as the consultancy support” while the Indian partner, MDL, is responsible “for constructing and delivering the submarines.”

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius, who was on a visit to India after participating in the Shangri-La Dialogue, said that “India is an important, not to say the most important, strategic partner for Europe and also for Germany.” He sees the submarine deal as a “flagship project” to cement bilateral defense ties as well as a step in reducing Indian dependency on Russia in the long term. Responding to a question during an interview with an Indian newspaper, the German minister said that “we can’t have an interest in the long run that India is so dependent on Russia’s delivery of weapons or other materials. Therefore, we have to think about that, what we can do.”

Others, such as South Korea’s Daewoo and Spanish firm Navantia, are in the competition too. On the India side, it will be either the MDL or a private industry player, Larsen & Toubro, that will be chosen to construct the six stealth diesel submarines.

Under the global tender issued by the Indian government in July 2021, the new submarines will need to be equipped with land attack cruise missiles and air-independent propulsion (AIP) through foreign collaboration. India does not have even one submarine with AIP, which enhances a submarine’s underwater endurance. The AIP requirement will push out both the French and Russian competitors because neither operate submarines with AIP.

The Short Life of India’s 2,000-Rupee Note

Snigdhendu Bhattacharya

On May 19, the Reserve Bank of India announced that it was pulling out of circulation the country’s highest denomination currency, the 2,000 rupee note (worth $24.27 at today’s exchange rate).

Unlike in 2016, when the government announced the demonetization of the 500- and 1,000-rupee currency notes, this time there was neither a speech nor a statement from Prime Minister Narendra Modi or any other minister or government official. The RBI made its announcement on May 19 in a written statement.

The 2,000-rupee note has had a short life. It was introduced in 2016 after the Modi government withdrew 500- and 1,000-rupee notes.

Although the 2,000-rupee note is being removed from circulation, it will remain legal tender. While the RBI has called on the public to exchange/deposit these notes in banks by September 30, people can continue to transact in these notes even after the deadline. However, banks will stop issuing new 2,000-rupee notes.

Although the process of withdrawal of the 2,000-rupee note is gradual, the RBI announcement triggered panic and resulted in thousands queuing up outside banks to exchange the notes. No doubt, the RBI announcement triggered memories of the 2016 demonetization of currency.

Few Indians will have forgotten the night of November 8, 2016, when Modi in a televised speech announced the decision to withdraw all currency notes of 500- and 1,000-rupee denominations from circulation. He laid out the reasons for the sudden move rather dramatically.

“Terrorism is a frightening threat. So many have lost their lives because of it,” he said. “But have you ever thought about how these terrorists get their money?”

“Enemies from across the border [Pakistan] run their operations using fake currency notes. This has been going on for years. Many times, those using fake five hundred and thousand rupee notes have been caught and many such notes have been seized,” Modi said.

Why is Dept of Telecom, like the Defence Ministry, intent on subverting PM Modi’s agenda?

Bharat Karnad

On Feb 15, I posted ” Obdurate defence finance bureaucrats sinking atmnirbharta projects”. It had revealed how the Integrated Financial Adviser (IFA), Ministry of Defence had ousted two Indian defence MSMEs (Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises) — Lekha Wireless Solutions Pvt Ltd and Signaltron, both of which possess 5G patents for radiotelephony from the competition to provide the army with a mobile tactical communications (TACCOM) network, how this was done by relying on an outdated turnover criterion these firms could not meet because, well, they are small and not because they lacked the tech or couldn’t execute the contract, which fact these two companies had made known to the IFA before the bids for the TACCOM tender were opened, how this was done at the crucial tech testing stage so Lekha and Signaltron couldn’t prove their tech, and why this sort of deleterious rule-based regime is what the babus follow when it serves their purpose of furthering foreign tech purchases. The foreign technology involved is Israeli and the Indian front company — Alpha Design, is only a system integrator buying components/technologies from here and there and putting them together, it is not a technology creator or innovator. Worse, because Israel sells its advanced technologies to the Chinese military, who is to say the PLA is not conversant with this Israeli technology and this TACCOM the army is set to use on the disputed border is not fully compromised?

Disappointingly, despite my urging General Manoj Pande in the post — the first combat engineering officer to be COAS, to stop the tender process from advancing, he did nothing. However, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, I understand, took note of my post. But instead of cancelling the trial contract and ordering the tender for TACCOM to be reissued, which is something MOD/Govt of India is entirely within its sovereign right to do at any time, for any reason, with regard to any defence or other capital acquisition deal, MOD chose the limited option of changing the revenue turnover criteria without scrapping the Alpha Design-Israeli contract. So Lekha and Signaltron are still out of the TACCOM contract, notwithstanding their superior INDIGENOUS technology!

Pakistan in Crisis: Imran Khan vs. the Army Chief

Ayesha Siddiqa

People in Pakistan and around the world have been sitting on the edge of their seats for months, and especially since May 9, watching intently the cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan’s political contest with the army. There was hardly an eyebrow that didn’t lift on seeing his supporters damage military properties and attempt to forcibly enter the Army’s General Headquarters (GHQ) in protest against their leader’s arrest for an inquiry in a corruption case.

Scenes of people ransacking and torching military buildings or memorabilia are not common in Pakistan, where the armed forces have been the protagonist in power politics for decades. But after all the drama, the Khan saga seems to be moving toward a happy ending for the politically powerful army, popularly referred as the establishment.

The army turned to an old playbook: cut a recalcitrant politician down to size by attacking both the leadership and the party. The May 9 chaos has now turned into a crisis for the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) as leader after leader is either leaving the party or politics altogether. We may soon see a situation where Khan is proverbially alone – a king without a party.

What is happening in Pakistan is partly a replay of the country’s almost 76-year history and partly unprecedented. Since Pakistan’s geographical-strategic consolidation after the 1971 war with India, in which the eastern wing separated and became Bangladesh, the events of May 9 represented the biggest popular outpouring of anger against the Pakistani military. Though Imran Khan now wants to walk away from the May 9 developments and is even suggesting that his party leadership was not involved in creating chaos following his arrest, the scenes of people barging into a lieutenant general’s house in Lahore and the Army’s GHQ, or pulling down old aircraft memorabilia, denoted fury against years of the military’s overt and covert control of state and society.

Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the founding leader of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), was a populist like Khan, with a capacity to enthrall and excite people. Yet when Bhutto was imprisoned by a military government and then sentenced to death through a stage-managed court case, his party never attacked symbols of state and military power.

Washington is Recalibrating its Asia Strategy

Ved Shinde

Practitioners and commentators have long proclaimed Asia the new center of global geoeconomics. What happens in Asia matters to the world for two simple reasons. First, Asia is home to more than half of the world’s population, and two-thirds of the world’s economic activity occurs here. Therefore, Asia is the engine of global growth.

Asia is also not a beautiful garden with benign actors. It hosts seven of the world’s largest militaries in its geographical expanse. Thus, Asia is a contested space, home to a tapestry of nationalities and ethnicities. Unlike in Europe, nationalism is not taboo in Asia. Most Asian states have decolonized mainly in the last seven decades. They are aspirational and fiercely protective of their identities. The likely result is that Asian politics is dynamic and vibrant. Thus, apart from geoeconomics, Asia is also a critical theatre of geopolitics. China’s rise has further complicated this geopolitical dynamic.

Given this recent churn in Asian geopolitics due to China’s rise, the US is recalibrating its traditional hubs-and-spokes alliance system and augmenting the capabilities of its regional allies and trusted partners.

For long, Beijing was tight-lipped about its ambitions and sweet-talked its way through. Astute Chinese leaders implicitly sold the idea to the Americans that political liberty would be a natural consequence of economic reform. This was music to Washington’s ears. After all, the desire to mold others in your teflon is irresistible.

So after Nixon’s outreach to Mao in 1971, China quietly sided with Washington against the erstwhile Soviet Union. Former Chinese statesman Deng Xiaoping knew well that American capital and technology were the elixirs for China’s economic transformation. Riding pillion with Washington would catapult its teeming millions from poverty to the middle class.

In retrospect, the strategy bore rich fruit. Western capital and Chinese domestic reforms and manufacturing smarts transformed China into a phenomenal economic powerhouse. China’s economic sprint also emerged as an opportunity for other regional actors to develop their economies. Institutions like the ASEAN prospered under the twin benefits of the Chinese economic umbrella and American security shelter. This equilibrium of the US-China bonhomie acted as the base for regional economic prosperity.

Vietnam: From A Country In Ruins To An Economic Giant Of Asia – Analysis

Matija Šerić

The Socialist Republic of Vietnam is a specific country in many respects. It has a unique place on the world map, especially on the geopolitical one. It is one of the few remaining communist totalitarian states, but at the same time a state that possesses a rarely recorded rapid economic growth that delights year after year. It is expected that by 2050 it will be able to compete with the biggest economic giants.

Although it was once America’s most hated enemy, in recent years it has been one of the main partners of the USA in the Southeast Asian region. Although neighboring China is also a communist power, the Vietnamese have bad relations with the Chinese mostly because of territorial disputes in the South China Sea. Contemporary Vietnam is a country of paradoxes and constant changes, but precisely thanks to the changes, the country is becoming an economic giant of Asia and a regional power.

Geographically, Vietnam is the easternmost country of Indochina. On the mainland, it borders China to the north, and Laos and Cambodia to the west. At sea, it borders Thailand in the Gulf of Thailand and the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and China in the South China Sea. The official capital is Hanoi, and the largest city where business life takes place is Ho Chi Minh City, which is better known by its original name of Saigon. As many as 99 million inhabitants live on 331 thousand square kilometers of the state territory. By population, Vietnam is the 9th most populous country in Asia and the 15th most populous country in the world. Growth and progress are visible everywhere. However, it was not always like that. Moreover, it was terrible.

Vietnam wars

Chinese ‘Volt Typhoon’ hack underlines shift in Beijing’s targets, skills


WASHINGTON — For decades, Chinese hackers focused on wholesale and often ham-handed theft of Western trade secrets, what then-NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander called in 2012 “the greatest transfer of wealth in history.” But in recent years, the NSA and independent experts agree, the Chinese have gotten a lot subtler — and some of their best hackers have changed tactics, moving from using cyberspace for theft to using it to prepare the battlefield of a future conflict.

This shift, years in the making, became unmistakable last month, when news broke of a widespread security breach of US critical infrastructure, particularly around the strategically crucial island of Guam. While it’s not not a harbinger of impending apocalypse or a major breakdown in an increasingly fraught relationship, experts told Breaking Defense that the activity serves as a scary sign of a kind of new normal, where both superpowers are using cyber capabilities to prepare for a potential open war.

“Chinese tradecraft has improved,” said an independent cyber expert, James Lewis of the Center for Strategic & International Studies, “[and] the Chinese doing aggressive reconnaissance shows the reality of the bilateral relationship, versus all the [conciliatory] stuff from NVIDIA et al.”

The hack was first announced May 24 by Microsoft, which attributed it to a Chinese group it codenamed “Volt Typhoon.” (Another company, SecureWorks, uses the codename “Bronze Silhouette” for the same hackers.) “Microsoft assesses with moderate confidence that this Volt Typhoon campaign is pursuing development of capabilities that could disrupt critical communications infrastructure between the United States and Asia region during future crises,” the company said bluntly.

A little later that same day, an extraordinary multinational warning was issued not only by the America NSA, FBI, and Department of Homeland Security, but also by Australia, Britain, Canada, and New Zealand, the other members of the “Five Eyes” intelligence sharing network.

A day later, Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro acknowledged — in vague, guarded terms — that Navy networks had been “impacted.” (A Navy spokesman declined Breaking Defense’s requests for further details, saying, “As a matter of policy and for reasons of operations security, we do not discuss the status of our networks.”) The Coast Guard also emphasized the threat in a warning to the maritime transport industry.

Spectrum Allocation for a Contest with China

James Andrew Lewis

The United States is in competition with China over technology and global influence. Success in this competition depends on the United States staying at the cutting edge of technology and innovation. This can only be done by taking advantage of fifth-generation (5G) technologies. But the United States lags far behind the rest of the world in allocations of the spectrum needed for 5G. This undercuts its advantages in the competition for technology leadership, global influence, and national security. A decision to modernize spectrum allocations by shifting away from incumbent uses will be complicated and must be done in a balanced way, but not doing so would mean that China will gain real advantages in economic growth, innovation, and influence.

Economic strength is the foundation of national security. Economic strength now requires staying at the technological edge. Staying on the technological edge creates the income and innovations needed for a strong economy and for national security. While many new technologies will be important for the future economy—artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, cloud computing, Open Radio Access Networks (ORAN), and biotechnology will create the future economy, all of these will depend on digitalization, beginning with 5G wireless networks. This makes progress in 5G networks a strategic issue for the United States.

Some say the world is in a “fourth industrial revolution,” moving to a digital, networked world. Whether it is the fourth one or merely the latest phase of a process that began in the eighteenth century, the analogy is useful. The industrial revolution led to major shifts in power among nations as some fell behind in innovation and investment and lost technological leadership to new powers. Economic decline and reduced innovation damaged some countries’ ability to build and buy new weapons and weakened their international influence. Of the many great powers a century ago, only a few remain, and they face a powerful new challenger in China.

Three Takeaways on U.S.-China Relations After the Shangri-La Summit

Rosie Levine; Alex Stephenson

Defense ministers from around the world gathered in Singapore last weekend for the annual Shangri-La Dialogue, a forum for discussing security challenges in Asia and an opportunity for high-ranking security officials to engage in bilateral talks. However, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin did not meet with his Chinese counterpart, Li Shangfu. Beijing suspended formal military-to-military meetings last August following then-Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan. Since then, U.S.-China tensions have only ratcheted up, particularly following revelations this February that a Chinese surveillance balloon was hovering over U.S. territory. The precariousness of the situation was on full display in the last two weeks, with close calls between U.S.-China fighter jets over the South China Sea and warships in the Taiwan Strait.Fighter jets in Taiwan, Oct. 2017. Recent close calls between the U.S. and Chinese militaries over the South China Sea and in the Taiwan Strait highlight concerns over the absence of crisis management mechanisms. (Bryan Denton/The New York Times)

Those incidents highlight an extremely concerning dynamic between the two superpowers. While a conflict is far from inevitable, the lack of mechanisms to manage crises makes it more likely. Indeed, this issue was a particular point of discussion among numerous countries at Shangri-La, who want to see Washington and Beijing manage their differences, lest they get dragged into a great power conflict.

USIP’s Rosie Levine and Alex Stephenson provide three takeaways from the Shangri-La Dialogue and what it demonstrates about the U.S.-China relationship.
1. U.S.-China military talks remain at an impasse, despite growing risks.

Last year, Austin met with Li’s predecessor at this forum, and spent over an hour discussing key points of friction including Taiwan, North Korea, and the war in Ukraine. But Li, who assumed the role of China’s minister of national defense in March, declined the invitation to speak with Austin in the week leading up to the Shangri-La Dialogue. (He remains under sanctions for his role in the purchase of Russian military equipment in 2018.) The absence of a meeting reflects the ongoing impasse in military dialogues even as high-level discussions have resumed in other areas.

Artificial intelligence: challenges and controversies for US national security

Stephen J. Cimbala, Lawrence J. Korb

Artificial intelligence (AI) has recently taken center stage in US public policy debates. Corporate technical experts and some public officials want to declare a temporary moratorium on AI research and development. Their concerns include the possibility that artificial intelligence will increase in capability faster than human controllers’ ability to understand or control.

An autonomous AI technology that equaled or surpassed human cognition could redefine how we understand both technology and humanity, but there is no surety as to whether or when such a “superintelligence” might emerge. Amid the uncertainty, the United States and other countries must consider the possible impact of AI on their armed forces and their preparedness for war fighting or deterrence. Military theorists, strategic planners, scientists and political leaders will face at least seven different challenges in anticipating the directions in which the interface between human and machine will move in the next few decades.

First, the education and training of military professionals will undergo a near revolution. Historical experiences of great commanders will no longer be available only from books and articles. We will be able to “project” future commanders backward into the AI version of battles fought by great captains and retroactively change the scenarios into “what ifs” or counterfactuals to further challenge students and instructors. What used to be called “war gaming” will ascend to a higher level of scenario building and deconstruction. Flexibility and agility will be the hallmarks of successful leaders who can master the AI-driven sciences of military planning, logistics and war fighting. Since the art of battle depends upon the combination of fire and maneuver supported by accurate intelligence, AI systems will brew the optimal combination of kinetic strikes supported by timely intelligence and prompt battle damage assessment. To be successful, political and military leaders will have to think fast, hit hard, assess rapidly, reconstitute for another punch, bob and weave—in essence, boxing in virtual reality.

Riad Salameh is Now the Face of Lebanon’s Corruption Problem

Alexander Langlois

The unfortunate narrative that has defined Lebanon for much of its existence is one of corruption and conflict, culminating in the country’s current (and worst) economic and political crisis. France’s May 16 decision to issue an arrest warrant, followed by a similar May 23 German arrest warrant, for the embattled Central Bank Governor Riad Salameh and two associates offers no exception to this dynamic—hitting the small eastern Mediterranean country’s former financial paragon with money laundering and fraud charges just months before he steps down after nearly thirty years at the helm of the Banque Du Liban.

Yet Paris and Berlin’s decision is hardly the end of the road for Salameh or Beirut’s deeply rooted corruption problem. Rather, the move represents an ever-growing skepticism amongst the international community of Lebanon’s elites and its capacity to govern in a technocratic and effective manner.

France and Germany are only two of many other states currently investigating the central bank chief. Switzerland, Liechtenstein, and Luxembourg are also investigating Salameh for similar concerns related to money laundering and fraud. Each case focuses on some or all aspects of roughly $300 million in transfers to European banks from Lebanon via the central bank, which was used to buy various properties and other assets. Investigators and other anti-corruption experts assert the funds likely belong to the Lebanese people. In line with these investigations, France, Germany, and Luxembourg seized assets worth $130 million in early March 2022. Swiss media has reported up to $300 to $500 million in assets embezzled into twelve Swiss banks.

Lebanon is also actively investigating Salameh in spite of strong political resistance from the country’s thoroughly co-opted judicial system. Led for some time by Judge Ghada Aoun—who has become renowned within anti-corruption circles for her brave attempts to hold Lebanon’s banking sector accountable—charged Salameh with illicit enrichment in early 2022. Following a year of back-and-forth questioning and obstruction, the Lebanese judiciary’s disciplinary council removed Aoun from office. She is currently appealing the decision, allowing her to remain in office today.

Mercenary group's feud with Russian military heats up as Ukraine offensive begins: Updates

Jorge L. Ortiz

The leader of the mercenary outfit that spearheaded Russia’s capture of the eastern Ukraine city of Bakhmut said his soldiers will refuse to join Russia’s regular forces.

Wagner Group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin said Sunday his fighters will flatly reject a new order by Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu requiring they sign contracts with the ministry by July 1 to integrate into the regular army, a decision believed to target Wagner.

"Wagner will not sign any contracts with Shoigu," Prigozhin said through his press service. "Shoigu cannot properly manage military formations."

Prigozhin’s remarks figure to further intensify his long-running feud with Russian military leaders, at a time when Moscow’s forces have begun to confront Ukraine’s counteroffensive.

Shoigu’s decree was announced Saturday in a Defense Ministry statement that did not mention Wagner, rather saying the requirement was intended to "increase the effectiveness" of Russian forces battling Ukraine and would "give volunteer formations the necessary legal status."

Prigozhin wasn’t buying it. He has assailed the ministry’s war strategy and repeatedly accused it of failing to properly arm his soldiers. In response, the ministry banned him from recruiting imprisoned Russian convicts.

"Wagner Group coordinates its actions with generals and has the best experience and a highly effective structure. Unfortunately, most military units do not have such efficiency," Prigozhin said, blaming Shoigu for the failure.


Russia’s improved weaponry and tactics pose challenges to Ukraine’s counteroffensive

In this photo taken from video released by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Wednesday, June 7, 2023, a Ukrainian military vehicle is hit during combat in Ukraine. Analysts say Moscow has learned from its mistakes so far in Ukraine and has improved its weapons and skills. (Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP, File)

Ukrainian troops are probing Russian defenses as spring gives way to a second summer of fighting, and Kyiv’s forces are facing an enemy that has made mistakes and suffered setbacks in the 15-month-old war. But analysts say Moscow also has learned from those blunders and improved its weapons and skills.

Russia has built heavily fortified defenses along the 1,000-kilometer (600-mile) front line, honed its electronic weapons to reduce Ukraine’s edge in combat drones, and turned heavy bombs from its massive Cold-War-era arsenal into precision-guided gliding munitions capable of striking targets without putting its warplanes at risk.

The changing Russian tactics along with increased troop numbers and improved weaponry could make it challenging for Ukraine to score any kind of quick decisive victory, threatening to turn it into a long battle of attrition.

U.S. Joint Chiefs chairman Gen. Mark Milley said in an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday that while Ukraine’s military is well-prepared, as time goes on, “this will be a back-and-forth fight for a considerable length of time.”

Most attention last week focused on catastrophic flooding in southern Ukraine caused by the destruction of the Kakhovka dam that both sides blame on each other.

At the same time, however, Ukrainian troops have unleashed a series of attacks in several parts of the front that so far have made only marginal gains against multilayered Russian defenses.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Saturday that counteroffensive and defensive actions are underway against Russian forces, asserting that his commanders are in a “positive” mindset about its success. Ukrainian authorities have stopped short of announcing the start of a full-blown counteroffensive.

The Gray Rhino in space: US must update military requirements for satellite cyber defense


The Space Force is moving fast to develop a new set of missile warning/tracking satellites in MEO. (Graphic: Raytheon Technologies)

When it comes to the security of space assets, there is widespread agreement the greatest threat will come in the cyber domain. In the following op-ed, former vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Sandy Winnefeld and former Air Force Materiel Command head Ellen Pawlikowski lay out their vision of how to introduce greater cyber resiliency for space.

Catastrophic events, such as the terrorist attacks of 9/11, sometimes arrive as so-called “black swans.” These are events completely unforeseen, largely due to failures of imagination. Other times, catastrophes have arrived in the form of so-called “gray rhinos” — equally impactful events that were actually envisioned by leaders who failed to take preventive measures.

Inaction can be caused by analysis suggesting a low probability of the event, miscalculation of the resources necessary to address the threat, or simple denial that something so bad could actually occur. It doesn’t take much to find a recent example: the government knew for a long time that a pandemic was a serious possibility, but nonetheless was almost completely unprepared when COVID arrived. These gray rhinos stare us in the face, but we too often find it difficult to do anything about them in advance.

The potential for great power conflict is certainly on everyone’s minds, and some would suggest that the US and its allies are not treating it as a gray rhino this time. While change in the military is maddingly slow due to outdated concepts and sclerotic legacy procurement systems, the military is beginning to shift its focus from counter-insurgency operations to more challenging near-peer competitors.

However, there is at least one element of such a conflict that persists as a gray rhino. It is highly likely that an adversary like China or Russia would use cyberattacks in addition to, or even in lieu of, kinetic attacks to neutralize the satellites on which we depend so much for communications, surveillance, and precision navigation and timing. Whether it involves intrusion in satellite networks’ control links or tampering with the data they move, a successful attack would have a near-catastrophic impact on our ability to fight. Moreover, depending on the target set it would also have collateral effects on capabilities essential to everyday life in Western nations.

How Wars Don’t End Ukraine, Russia, and the Lessons of World War I

Margaret MacMillan

On February 24, 2022, the great Ukrainian novelist Andrey Kurkov and his wife were awakened in their home in Kyiv by the sound of Russian missiles. At first, he could not believe what was happening. “You have to get used psychologically to the idea that war has begun,” he wrote. Many observers of the invasion felt and continue to feel that sense of disbelief. They were confounded by Russia’s open and massive assault and amazed at Ukraine’s dogged and successful resistance. Who, in those first days of the war, as the Russian columns advanced, would have predicted that the two sides would still be fighting well over a year later? With so many more weapons and resources and so much more manpower to draw on, it seemed a foregone conclusion that Russia would crush Ukraine and seize its main cities in a matter of days.

Yet well into its second year, the war goes on, and in a very different way than expected. An invasion of Ukraine, many assumed, would involve rapid advances and decisive battles. There has been some of that, including Ukraine’s dramatic counteroffensive in the Kharkiv region in the late summer of 2022. But by early May, despite talk of a major Ukrainian offensive, the war had long since become a grinding conflict along increasingly fortified battle lines. Indeed, the scenes coming from eastern Ukraine—soldiers knee-deep in mud, the two sides facing each other from trenches and ruined buildings across a wasteland churned up by shells—could be from the western front in 1916 or Stalingrad in 1942.

Before the Russian invasion, many assumed that wars among major twenty-first-century powers, if they happened at all, would not be like earlier ones. They would be fought using a new generation of advanced technologies, including autonomous weapons systems. They would play out in space and cyberspace; boots on the ground would probably not matter much. Instead, the West has had to come to terms with another state-to-state war on European soil, fought by large armies over many square miles of territory. And that is only one of many ways that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine harks back to the two world wars. Like those earlier wars, it was fueled by nationalism and unrealistic assumptions about how easy it would be to overwhelm the enemy. The fighting has taken place in civilian areas as much as on the battlefield, laying waste to towns and villages and sending populations fleeing. It has consumed vast resources, and the governments involved have been forced to use conscripts and, in the case of Russia, mercenaries. The conflict has led to a search for new and more deadly weapons and carries the potential for dangerous escalation. It is also drawing in many other countries.

Good morning. We’re covering a Ukrainian counteroffensive, A.I. risks and “Barbie.”

Retaking land occupied by an enemy during war is a brutally difficult task. But a military trying to do so usually has one big advantage: surprise. The occupying force does not know when or where the attackers will strike.

In 1944, the U.S. and its allies tricked the Nazis into believing that an invasion of France would take place on a different part of the Atlantic coast than it did. Today, Ukraine is similarly hoping to surprise Russia with the start of a spring or summer counteroffensive. The Russians know that a major attack is coming but not the form it will take.

The outcome of that counteroffensive could shape the outcome of the war. A successful campaign by Ukraine, retaking territory that Russia now controls, could cause President Vladimir Putin to fear outright defeat and look for a face-saving peace deal. A failed counteroffensive could cause Ukraine’s Western allies to wonder whether the war is winnable and potentially push Ukraine toward an unfavorable truce.

In today’s newsletter, I’ll preview the coming phase of the war, with help from colleagues covering it. The counteroffensive could start at any point over the next several weeks.

The land bridge

The so-called land bridge that Russia has established in southeastern Ukraine is likely to be the focus:

Japan’s Nuclear Dilemmas In A Challenging New Era

John T. Deacon and Etel Solingen

The contemporary security context has sharpened Japan’s dilemma regarding nuclear weapons. Japan is surrounded by several nuclear-armed neighbours and depends on US extended deterrence rather than its own nuclear deterrent. An opportunity was embedded in Japan’s role as G7 chair for the 2023 summit in Hiroshima, the site of the 1945 nuclear attack and Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s electoral constituency.

The dilemma is one Japan has faced for decades. In 1967, then prime minister Eisaku Sato introduced the Three Non-Nuclear Principles, adopted by the Diet, declaring that Japan will not possess, manufacture or introduce nuclear weapons. In 1968, Sato reaffirmed this goal in his Four Pillars of Nuclear Policy, adding commitments to work toward global nuclear disarmament, nuclear energy’s peaceful use and continued reliance on US extended deterrence.

In 1976, Japan ratified the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and in 1997 the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Japan has consistently submitted draft resolutions supporting disarmament activities to the UN General Assembly and participated in programs such as the Non-Proliferation and Disarmament Initiative.

But internal debate has persisted. A series of senior politicians — including a former minister and vice minister of defence, and a prominent opposition leader — have expressed concern about Japan’s lack of its own nuclear deterrent, especially against China. Former chief cabinet secretary Yasuo Fukuda claimed amending the Three Non-Nuclear Principles was ‘likely’ after his deputy declared possessing tactical nuclear weapons would be constitutional.

A nuclear-armed North Korea sparked similar remarks. In 2006, after North Korea’s first nuclear test, the Liberal Democratic Party’s Policy Research Council Chairman Shoichi Nakagawa proposed a public discussion of nuclear weapons acquisition. In 2017, former defence minister Shigeru Ishiba proposed hosting US nuclear weapons on Japanese soil but was dismissed by the defence minister at the time.

OPEC Has a Russia Problem

Ben Cahill

There is growing speculation that the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allied producers (OPEC+) will agree on June 4 to cut production. Brent crude prices fell below $73 per barrel this week, and price declines in recent weeks erased all of the gains since the last voluntary OPEC+ cuts were announced in early April. The Saudi energy minister recently issued a warning to “speculators” betting on deeper declines, which the market interpreted as a signal of potential cuts. Whether OPEC+ announces a steeper production cut or decides to stay the course this weekend, it faces a dilemma. Russia has failed to dial back production as promised in recent months, and maintaining credibility will be difficult without better compliance from Moscow.

It would be somewhat surprising to see a deeper OPEC+ cut. In early April, several OPEC+ countries abruptly announced 1.16 million barrels per day (b/d) in voluntary cuts just before the group’s scheduled meeting. Those reductions began only in May, and it may be too soon to judge the impact. Both OPEC and the International Energy Agency expect a tighter market in the second half of the year. OPEC anticipates 2.3 million b/d in oil demand growth in 2023, with China contributing 800,000 b/d of that total. OPEC expects an especially strong third quarter, with 2.5 million b/d in year-on-year demand growth. Apparent oil demand in China topped 16 million b/d in April for the first time in history, partly due to domestic refiners taking advantage of discounted Russian oil. Bullish demand forecasts suggest that if OPEC+ maintains its previously agreed production cuts, the market will move into deficit in the third and fourth quarters, supporting higher prices.

Still, a cut remains quite possible. Saudi energy minister Abdulaziz bin Salman has repeatedly argued that price fluctuations are disconnected from market fundamentals. Bank failures and fears of financial sector contagion led to a sharp sell-off in March, prompting Saudi Arabia and others to make surprise voluntary cuts. A similar pattern has taken place in recent weeks, with a sharp increase in short speculative positions as the market remains concerned about economic weakness in the United States and Europe. The April cuts suggested OPEC+ will guard against downside risks, and the group may conclude that without further reductions at this meeting, prices will tumble. More importantly, the talk about “speculators” could be masking deeper concerns about the macroeconomic outlook. In China, for example, a recovery in mobility and a sharp increase in domestic flights have boosted oil demand, but there are ongoing concerns about weakness in the construction and property sectors that could dampen commodity demand.

What Is the Quad?

Blake Berger, Victoria Cooper, Lucas Myers, Shu Uchida, and Gaurav Saini

From left: U.S. President Joe Biden, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi attend a meeting of the Quad Alliance at the Grand Prince Hotel in Hiroshima, Japan, May 20, 2023.Credit: Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

On May 24, the Quad minilateral arrangement between Australia, India, Japan, and the United States was scheduled to hold a fourth leaders’ summit in Sydney, but the debt limit crisis in Washington forced a cancellation. Yet in a signal that the Quad may have finally found its footing, the leaders rapidly reorganized and met on the sidelines of the G-7 Summit in Hiroshima, Japan, on May 20. Although there are clear challenges to the Quad – not least domestic politics – the grouping held together and adapted to the circumstances.

Despite another statement articulating the group’s shared principles and vision for the region, deciphering the Quad’s exact role in the Indo-Pacific prompts significant debate.

On one side, the Quad is viewed as a security-focused grouping, structured to deter Chinese aggression. Others argue that it’s a vehicle for promoting and bolstering prosperity through the provision of public goods. Still others struggle to define the Quad’s purpose as separate or distinct from other regional groupings like the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the Pacific Islands Forum, and the Indian Ocean Rim Association. The most recent statement might even suggest the Quad leaders are self-conscious about the group’s potential to step on the toes of existing regional structures.

What is the Quad? What does it do and what does it do differently from other groupings?

As think tank experts from all four Quad countries, over the past several months, we have engaged, debated, and heard from policymakers, analysts, and each other, reaching our own consensus about defining the Quad and its role in the Indo-Pacific.

Demining Ukraine: An Urgent but Under-Resourced Priority

Daniel Fata

For more than 16 months, the world has witnessed the suffering of the Ukrainian people as the Russian military has intensified their devastating invasion. The international community has seen the mass graves, the suffering from blackouts and power outages, and the flight of thousands who never thought they would be refugees. Yet less obvious—but perhaps far more insidious—are the indiscriminate bombings, fierce firefights, and traps planted by retreating Russian soldiers who leave behind untold numbers of anti-personnel mines, anti-vehicle mines, and unexploded ordnance (UXO) across Ukraine.

Per the UN Human Rights Commission and the International Committee of the Red Cross, these mines, plus unexploded—but still live—munition rounds are causing tragic loss of life across the country among civilians and soldiers alike. Already they have likely killed more than 200 people, with thousands more hurt and maimed, including the elderly as they walk in the forests to go mushrooming, children as they play on abandoned school yards, and farmers trying to clear their fields.

Yes, the G7 nations are rallying Ukraine’s cause against Russia, offering significant financial resources to Kyiv to keep the lights on, pay government salaries, supply food, provide farmers with seed, purchase generators, and, of course, ensure the military has the means to fight the invaders. Yet when talk of reconstruction for Ukraine happens, the discussion focuses on priorities other than mines and UXO.

Per a recent assessment by the Ukrainian prime minister, 174,000 square kilometers—or nearly 40 percent of Ukrainian territory—contains unexploded mines and munitions. Lives literally depend on making the ground in Ukraine safe. Yet the urgent task of demining is consistently either overlooked or understated.

Ukraine government teams are doing the detonation now, but they are a comparatively small group of trained professionals (some being trained on the job) who are doing the best they can against an ever-increasing tide of new mines and munitions. These ongoing efforts are nowhere near the scale required.

From Burden Sharing to Responsibility Sharing

Kathleen McInnis and Daniel Fata

In recent years, initiatives to improve NATO burden sharing—that is, the extent to which allies are sufficiently contributing to the common defense—have resulted in marginal defense spending increases. Yet publics and parliaments remain concerned that most allies are not spending 2 percent of their gross domestic products on defense. The political focus on the 2 percent metric also obscures the many contributions allies are making to transatlantic security that fall outside defense budgets. This brief recommends that allies should therefore spend 4 percent of their GDP on defense and security annually: States should spend a minimum of 2 percent of GDP on defense, though NATO should continue to explore and allow more flexibility in the way those monies are spent nationally, particularly for states that do not have sufficient absorptive capacity to spend 2 percent on their defense capabilities and programs. The balance—between 2 and 4 percent—should be allocated toward activities that are strategically vital to the alliance but are not accounted for in NATO’s methodologies for defense spending, such as peacetime preparedness and resilience.


Soon approaching its 75th anniversary in 2024, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) remains one of the most powerful and critically important alliances in modern history. To name but a few benefits, it is the forum of choice for members’ consultation on a wide range of security matters, it creates mechanisms for building common interoperability standards across members, it allows for multilateral military training, it establishes a common bulwark against which Russian aggression is deterred, and it creates a framework through which terror threats emanating from the Middle East and North Africa region are managed. All these benefits not only allow NATO to be strategically effective but also allow smaller groups of allies to pursue coalition operations independently of NATO. The European Union and the United States can form coalitions for military operations relatively easily, primarily due to the benefits that accrue to allies from NATO membership.

Yet despite these strategically critical benefits, the transatlantic relationship finds itself rehashing an at-times emotional debate on burden sharing, or the extent to which allies contribute to the defense of Europe and whether those contributions are sufficient. For the past decade, at nearly every NATO-related discussion or meeting between U.S. leaders and their NATO-allied counterparts, the question of whether allies are spending enough on their defense capabilities is raised—and with less-than-satisfactory resolution.

The Growing Cyber Threats of Generative AI: Who's Accountable?

Zia Muhammad, Zahid Anwar

Consider a sudden increase in sophisticated malware attacks, advanced persistent threats (APTs), and organizational data breaches. Upon investigation, it is discovered that these attacks are crafted by cybercriminals who have been empowered with generative AI. Who should be held accountable? The cybercriminals themselves? The generative AI bots? The organizations that created these bots? Or perhaps the government that lacks regulation and accountability?

Generative AI technology is a form of artificial intelligence that can generate texts, images, sounds, and other content based on natural language instructions or data inputs. AI-powered chatbots such as ChatGPT, Google Bard, Perplexity, and others are accessible to anyone who wants to chat, generate human-like text, create scripts, and even write complex code. However, a common problem with these chatbots is that they can produce inappropriate or harmful content based on user input, which may violate ethical standards, cause damage, or even constitute criminal offenses.

Therefore, these chatbots have onboard security mechanisms and content filters intended to ensure their output is within ethical boundaries and does not produce harmful or malicious content. But how effective are these defensive content moderation measures, and how much do they align with cyber defense? Hackers are reported to be using AI-powered chatbots to create and deploy malware using the latest chatbots. These chatbots can be "tricked" into writing phishing emails and spam messages, and they even help malicious actors write pieces of code that evade security mechanisms and sabotage computer networks.
Bypassing Chatbot Security Filters

When Dragons Watch Bears: Information Warfare Trends And Implications For The Joint Force – Analysis

Christopher H. Chin, Nicholas P. Schaeffer, Christopher J. Parker, and Joseph O. Janke*

The predominance of the psychological over the physical, and its greater constancy, point to the conclusion that the foundation of any theory of war should be as broad as possible. —B.H. Liddell Hart, Strategy1

Over the past decade, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has watched Russia’s employment of information warfare (IW) with great interest. With the recent conflict in Ukraine and the 2014 Russian annexation of Crimea, the PRC is actively gauging Western nations’ response and associated global implications should it choose to forcefully reunify Taiwan. As the current pacing threat, the PRC seeks to rewrite global norms with the intent to assert supreme influence over Taiwan and the Asia-Pacific region. The parallels between these two Great Powers and their associated aggression toward breakaway republics present an opportunity for the United States and the joint force to map the contours of an evolving Chinese information warfare strategy to build a more comprehensive U.S. response prior to a future conflict in the region. Given the scope, sophistication, and scale of modern information warfare activities, thwarting Chinese information confrontation tactics during crisis and conflict will require a comprehensive approach, one that boldly marshals increased unity of effort from across the whole of government. To compete and win in the 21st-century information environment, the Department of Defense (DOD), in partnership with the interagency community, should endeavor to lead three initiatives across upcoming joint force time horizons:increase the scope and scale of irregular and information warfare to better fit within the modern competition continuum below the threshold of armed conflict (next 1 to 3 years)
advocate to establish a central organization responsible for synchronizing U.S. whole-of-government information-related activities to counter foreign malign influence (next 3 to 5 years)

revive service to the Nation in the digital age with the establishment of a Civilian Cyber Corps as a precursor to a seventh military branch, U.S. Cyber Force, to build the force capacity necessary to execute cyber effects operations at a scale necessary to defend the Nation, its networks, and its traditional military operations (next 5 to 7 years).
Chinese Reflections on Russian IW Activities

Much like their Chinese counterparts, Russian leaders today believe that Western democratic economic prosperity has come at their expense. The concept of maskirovka, or military deception, is not simply a strategic approach to conflict—rather, it is a Russian whole-of-government approach to control international perception of Russian activities to set the conditions necessary to achieve national interests.2 Central to the concept of maskirovka are IW activities designed to distract, overload, paralyze, exhaust, deceive, divide, pacify, deter, provoke, overload, and pressure an adversary.3 These tactics can be employed individually; however, what is compelling is the seamless orchestration of Russian IW activities with military maneuvers designed to seize the initiative, secure the element of surprise, obfuscate malicious intent, and ultimately deflect Russian attribution, thus delaying strategic consequences until it is too late for organized international response.4 Among the most prevalent means by which maskirovka has been executed are false flag operations, employment of proxies to engage in disinformation activities, use of private military/mercenary firms such as the Wagner Group, and employment of third-party hacktivists to obfuscate direct attribution to the Russian government across parts of Eastern Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and the United States. These efforts are often used in concert to prepare the environment prior to exercise or conflict.

Spend More on Defense? Let’s Focus on Spending Better


Included in the bill to extend our nation’s debt limit is a cap on defense spending at 3 percent above last year’s levels, matching President Biden’s budget request of $886 billion but still falling short of inflation. The bill further limits next year’s defense spending to 1 percent above that.

Like most of the provisions of the bill, the defense spending level has come under fire from both sides. But the debate over the top line misses one key point: how much we spend on defense is less critical than how well our investments address the challenges the country faces. And on this point, there should be universal agreement that our current budget does not provide the workforce, the equipment, the technology, or the infrastructure needed to secure our national security interests and keep our global leadership position.

As the Chair and Vice Chair of the Commission on the National Defense Strategy, we are leading a review of the 2022 National Defense Strategy and making recommendations to the President and the Congress on what needs to be done. Included in that review is a mandate to evaluate “the resources necessary to support the strategy, including budget recommendations.” Our report is due next fall.

In 2018, the previous NDS Commission noted that “the security and wellbeing of the United States are at greater risk than at any time in decades. America’s military superiority—the hard-power backbone of its global influence and national security—has eroded to a dangerous degree.” The Commission recommended “that Congress increase the base defense budget at an average rate of three to five percent above inflation” in the coming years.

While spending has increased a bit since then, the strategic environment is no more promising now.

The Defense Department, as indicated in the NDS, has shifted focus from our 20-year wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and recognized that our potential adversaries are far more capable.

Good Strategy Requires Policymakers to Up Their Game

Nikolas K. Gvosdev

As someone who teaches military officers and national security professionals, both at the U.S. Naval War College and at Harvard Extension, I wholeheartedly endorse the points made by Josh Kerbel and Jake Sotiriadis in a recent National Interest column:

…today’s complex strategic environment requires a fundamentally different set of skills. To be sure, we need a strong understanding of strategic foresight, future literacy, and complex systems. We must also acknowledge that today’s hyper-connected strategic challenges are not so much solvable as they are merely manageable. Strategic foresight—which involves the practice of envisioning alternative futures in order to better sense, shape, and adapt to change—can help. It cultivates a tolerance for uncertainty, which cognitive psychology tells us can reduce judgmental bias and promote non-linear thinking.

I would submit, however, that producing better, more innovative strategists capable of providing guidance for navigating this “complex strategic environment” produces a reciprocal charge to policymakers to up their own game. Nothing has frustrated me more over the years than to see creative strategic approaches wither on the vine of policy and political failures.

Reading this essay in conjunction with recent reporting about Washington’s inability to translate wide-ranging, ambitious proposals for Latin American integration and development into concrete policy gains exacerbates my frustration. President Laurentino Cortizo of Panama sums it up: “The speeches are very pretty.” The fault lies not in the strategic thinking, but the dysfunctionality of the U.S. policy process. What makes this so personally painful is for a decade I have seen students coming through our strategic education process chart out how the United States needs to compete using all tools of statecraft against the growing Chinese presence in Latin America—but policymakers are largely unable to act on them, except at the margins. Ricardo Zúniga, who serves in the Biden administration as principal deputy assistant secretary for the Western Hemisphere, acknowledges that the U.S. effort relies on a cobbled-together approach because the big-picture strategic proposals have no way of being translated into action. He told the Financial Times, “Our political reality right now is that there’s not support for expansion of free trade agreements” (which requires Congressional legislation) and instead rested upon “taking advantage of trade facilitation and ... nearshoring opportunities” (by using executive authorities to interpret pre-existing regulations and policies). This is the same challenge Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo faces as she attempts to stretch executive actions to try and capture some of the strategic benefits (in terms of trade and technological cooperation) among U.S. partners in the Indo-Pacific basin—via the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF), which is a poor person’s substitute for the ambitious goal of creating a trading community binding the Pacific rim to the United States.