19 June 2023

India and the US are Grappling with Uncomfortable Truths

Mohamed Zeeshan

Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hands with US President Joe Biden during his visit to the White House in Washington D.C., on September 25, 2021.

When India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi goes to Washington this month, he is expected to be given a rapturous welcome. Modi’s itinerary will include a state dinner with U.S. President Joe Biden, a historic second address to the U.S. Congress, and a now customary sold-out audience with the Indian diaspora.

Given India’s vociferously neutral stance on the Ukraine war, it’s safe to say that Washington is going out of its way to make Modi feel comfortable. The U.S. hopes that in doing so, it would eventually be able to pull India away from Russia and also convince it to provide support to American troops during a potential conflict over Taiwan.

Perhaps just as importantly, India’s defense sector is a singularly lucrative market for American manufacturers. In the run-up to Modi’s visit, both U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan went on separate trips to India to underline that priority. And more recently, India was reported to have signed a deal to buy more than two dozen American drones.

To be sure, this is a largely transactional interaction. India needs U.S. support to shore up its thinly stretched military assets and build capacity. Early this year, the Indian Air Force told Parliament that its air squadrons are operating at about three-fourths of the sanctioned capacity. Last year, India commissioned its first indigenously built aircraft carrier, but owing to painful bureaucratic delays, it entered service almost obsolete.

In that context, India hopes that joint development with the U.S. will help drag its defense industry to more contemporary times. Days before Modi’s trip, reports said that a deal was expected to allow the joint production of engines for Indian fighter aircraft. Deeper cooperation and capacity building are also desperately needed on the intelligence front, especially as India grapples with sudden changes on the border with China.

Modi Comes to Washington: Prospects and Challenges for India-US Relations

C. Raja Mohan, Manjari Chatterjee Miller, Mukesh Aghi, Farwa Aamer, and Meera Gopal

U.S. President Joe Biden greets Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Global Summit on Supply Chain Resilience, October 21, 2021, at La Nuvola Convention Center in Rome.Credit: Official White House photo

As Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi prepares for his highly anticipated visit to Washington, the global stage is set for an important chapter in the India-U.S. relationship. As the United States deepens its Indo-Pacific engagement and India solidifies its regional prowess, the partnership between these democratic powerhouses has the potential to reshape the geopolitical chessboard. Against a backdrop of transformative changes, this pivotal moment prompts a question: What lies ahead for these two influential nations?

In this conversation-style piece, we bring together a group of accomplished experts, each illuminating a different facet of the complex tapestry that is India-U.S. relations. From shared concerns over global security to mutual interests in emerging technologies and sustainable development, our expert commentators dissect the intricate threads that bind these nations together – unraveling fresh prospects and critical challenges that await.

Elevating the Defense Partnership

For nearly two decades and across many administrations, India and the United States have steadily expanded their bilateral strategic partnership. While much progress has been made in the last few years, Modi’s visit to Washington is expected to give the relationship “escape velocity,” in the words of a U.S. National Security Council official and Indo-Pacific coordinator. In boosting their bilateral cooperation amid a convergence of the two countries’ interests in Asia, the visit will focus on consolidating recent efforts to deepen ties in defense as well as the high-technology domain.

The last few weeks have seen intense consultations between the two sides and a series of high-profile visits to finalize the outcomes of the talks between Modi and U.S. President Joe Biden on June 22. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan visited New Delhi earlier in June. India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra were in Washington in January and June of this year, respectively.

Why India and the U.S. Are Closer Than Ever

Rishi Iyengar

“My dream is that in 2020, the two closest nations in the world will be India and the United States,” then-Sen. Joe Biden said on a visit to New Delhi in 2006. They may not be quite there yet, but Biden is doing everything to ensure they end up much closer—especially economically and militarily—after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visits next week.

‘Cornered’ Khan Continues To Seek Diplomatic Intervention

As the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf continues to fall and shatter, party’s chief Imran Khan has made a number of attempts to seek diplomatic intervention from influential countries.

The European countries are keenly observing the overall political scenario but will refrain from issuing any official statement till the dust settles, according to diplomatic sources privy the developments.

Without going into details, they shared that a former premier, in the recent past, tried to approach the officials as he was keenly interested in a meeting. But the ‘aspirations’ expressed through a number of messages for a parley could not get through as these were declined.

On Imran’s military trial, too, they said the foreign countries will be in a position to comment on the issue once a final decision is made. In other words, they said, the countries have opted for a ‘wait and watch’ policy.

In a recent audio, Imran Khan could be heard allegedly seeking help from Congresswoman Maxine Moore Waters.

The PTI chief, who had accused the US of engineering his ouster, had allegedly told Waters, “It’s probably one of the most critical times in our history…we have the most bizarre situation going on in this country.”

“The situation is…why is my life in danger, because [of] military establishment and the current [lot] that is in power”, referring to the coalition of the ruling parties comprising the PML-N, their arch-rivals.

“Maxine, it would be very helpful…if you could verify this by yourself. We have the worst crackdown in our history; no democratic party has ever had such a violation of their fundamental rights,” he had said.

“What we want from you is to simply find out by yourself. We would appreciate it because it goes a long way. When someone like you speaks out, it makes a lot of waves in our country.”

The Future of Geopolitics Will Be Decided by 6 Swing States

Tareq Hasan

The world is witnessing a new era of great power competition between the United States and China, with Russia playing a spoiler role. The outcome of this rivalry will shape the global order for decades to come. But the fate of this contest will not be decided by the actions of Washington, Beijing, or Moscow alone. It will also depend on how a group of influential countries in the global south navigate the shifting geopolitical landscape.

These countries are the geopolitical swing states of the 21st century. They are relatively stable and prosperous nations that have their own global agendas independent of the great powers, and the will and capabilities to turn those agendas into realities. They are more demanding, flexible, dynamic, and strategic than they could have been in the 20th century, when they had to choose between alignment or non-alignment with one bloc or another. And they will often choose multi-alignment, a strategy that will make them critical—and sometimes unpredictable—forces in the world’s next stage of globalization, and the next phase of great power competition.

These geopolitical swing states fall into four overlapping categories:

– Countries with a competitive advantage in a critical aspect of global supply chains.

– Countries uniquely suited for nearshoring, offshoring, or friendshoring.

– Countries with a disproportionate amount of capital and willingness to deploy it around the world.

– Countries with developed economies and leaders with global visions that they pursue within certain constraints.

Six countries stand out as exemplars of these categories: Turkey, India, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Indonesia, and Brazil. These countries have more power today than ever before for several reasons: They have more agency, they benefit from regionalization, and they can leverage U.S.-China tensions.

More Agency

China-US Relations And Global Peace – OpEd

Ambassador Kazi Anwarul Masud

The recent dialogue in Singapore sponsored by British IISS, who has for decades delved into critical foreign affairs-related issues ,held its most recent session on 2-4 June 2023 in Singapore which highlighted the tension caused by the war-like attitude displayed by China, along with the global tension caused by the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Is it possible that the US and China could fall into the trap of Thucydides’ miscalculation that in ancient times Sparta and Greece had fallen into resulting in a war causing death and despair to thousands of people? Foreign Policy Editor-in-Chief Ravi Agarwal expressed his view that in the June meeting US Secretary of Defense U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and his Chinese counterpart, Li Shangfu were talking at each other, not with each other.

Days earlier, Beijing turned down a White House request for a private meeting, citing U.S. sanctions on Li. In his speech at the conference hall, Austin criticized Li’s refusal to meet. “Dialogue is not a reward. It is a necessity,” Austin said. “I am deeply concerned that [Beijing] has been unwilling to engage more seriously on better mechanisms for crisis management between our two militaries.”

Li, who spoke the next day, slammed what he called a “Cold War mentality” and the formation of “small cliques,” referring to the United States’ growing security partnerships in Asia.

It is usual that when a country reaches its height both militarily and economically, which present-day China has achieved, it will seek its seat at the table that lays down the rules for the governance of the world. In the multipolar world of today, the days of the division of defeated Germany in World War II worked out at the Yalta Conference do not exist in the form of the division of Europe worked out by Franklin Roosevelt, Joseph Stalin, and Winston Churchill and China was at the mercy of Japan and the British. Today’s China is a permanent member of the Security Council and has challenged the so-called “rules-based” world that the Western countries want the rest of the world to abide by.

The question is who gets to write the codes—and whether the United States will live up to its own. Harvard luminary Stephen Walt points out the difference between the American and Chinese conception of the rules to be written that will be defined as a ‘rule-based” world. The Americans preferred a system based on multilateralism. But since the Yalta Conference the Americans formed rules that favored the US exemplified by the division of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund between the US candidate and the European candidate.

China eyes Blinken’s imminent visit with deep distrust and low expectations

Nectar Gan

Editor’s Note: A version of this story appeared in CNN’s Meanwhile in China newsletter, a three-times-a-week update exploring what you need to know about the country’s rise and how it impacts the world. 

As US Secretary of State Antony Blinken prepares for his long-delayed trip to China this weekend aimed at stabilizing tense relations between the world’s two superpowers, the mood in Beijing is hardly welcoming.

Days before his departure, the top US diplomat received a stern rebuke from his Chinese host, who squarely blamed Washington for the recent spike in tensions after Blinken scrapped an earlier trip in February over a suspected Chinese spy balloon that flew over the US.

In a phone call with Blinken, China’s Foreign Minister Qin Gang urged the US to “show respect” on Beijing’s core concerns and stop interfering in its internal affairs, according to a Chinese readout.

That statement – which was noticeably more prickly than the readout of the same call from the State Department – speaks volumes of Beijing’s low expectations for the high-stakes visit as well as the deep distrust that swirls over the Biden administration’s push for a “thaw” in frosty relations, experts say.

Chinese state media has stayed largely muted in recent days for what will be the most senior visit by an American official in five years.

“The coverage of Blinken’s visit in China is not nearly as extensive or enthusiastic as it has been in the West,” said Yun Sun, director of the China Program at the Stimson Center, a think tank in Washington.

“After the earlier postponement due to the balloon incident, the Chinese are worried about another potential embarrassment. The expectations are low and carefully managed,” she said.
Low expectations

While the US has been driving recent outreach, it has also played down expectations.

China’s economy is way more screwed than anyone thought

The end of China's economic miracle is going to drive down stocks on Wall Street — and drive up prices for everyone.iStock; Rebecca Zisser/Insider

Entering 2023, the relentless drumbeat of Wall Street consensus was pounding out one consistent rhythm: China is back. After years of lockdowns and suppressed output, economists and investors cheered the end of Beijing's zero-COVID policy and the economic boom that was sure to follow. The colossus-in-waiting that is the Chinese consumer was about to roam freely, analysts said. This was great news for the whole world — everyone would benefit from the globe's second-largest economy getting healthy.

But six months into the year, Wall Street's dreams for the country are turning into a nightmare.

Far from an economic explosion, China's recovery from COVID has been weak. Industrial production has disappointed. Trade — both imports and exports — has slowed markedly. There is debt everywhere, especially in property development, which makes up 30% of the economy. Trading partners are upset for a litany of reasons, from human-rights abuses to concerns about the government's increasing role in the country's commerce. The private sector — which was expected to drive most of China's bounceback — is running scared.

The fizzled reopening isn't just a short-term disappointment, it's a sign that the old China is gone. The mechanisms that drove the "Chinese miracle," a triple-decade transformation that made the country an international force, have broken down. The bubble in China's property market finally popped. And because of real estate's central role in the economy, the painful process of absorbing those losses will continue to suck money away from Chinese households, banks, and China's massive web of local governments. China's working-age population is getting old, and there are fewer young people to replace them than at any time in the country's modern history. Exports remain key to the economy, but countries that once championed free trade have turned from globalism to protectionism.

As opposed to slumps in the past, it also does not appear that Beijing is going to step in and reverse this downward trend. Chinese President Xi Jinping has instead been preparing his people for an era of lower growth, making it clear that's what the economy can achieve in its current state, and it's also the structure he likes.

Renewable energy should not be the next semiconductor in US-China competition

Cheng Li and Xiuye Zhao 

The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is America’s biggest and most significant national policy geared toward combating climate change. The legislation provides an estimated amount of $300 billion worth of subsidies over the next decade to stimulate a low-carbon transition and to onshore renewable energy manufacturing. While it is a significant achievement to bring renewable energy manufacturing back to American soil, it is unclear whether this goal can be achieved without disrupting the global supply chain in which China is a major player.

The question on the horizon for both Washington and Beijing is whether to leave room for collaboration to facilitate the low-carbon transition or to decouple for the sake of strategic competition. Blind dependence creates energy security risks while overt decoupling slows green technological deployment and endangers the global climate agenda. Having witnessed the disruptive decoupling of the semiconductor industry, it is critical that both countries weigh the costs and benefits before making decisions driven by geopolitical impetus regarding renewable energy manufacturing.


The concentration of clean tech manufacturing capacity in China has sounded an alarm in Western capitals about energy security. According to Figure 1, China commands a much bigger lead in renewable energy manufacturing capacity than OPEC does in oil, where 13 separate states control roughly 40% of global oil production. China also produces over 50% of lithium and nickel, as well as roughly 70% of cobalt — minerals critical for renewable energy manufacturing — extending China’s lead upstream. Additionally, Russia’s recent weaponization of energy dependence has exacerbated the anxiety among Western leaders over China’s dominance in renewable energy and its potential national security implications.

Examining China’s Global Port Empire

Christopher J. Watterson

Beijing is now the world’s largest holder of international port assets. Through a network of dozens of state-owned port operators, contractors, investment firms, and banks, the Chinese state has invested upwards of $110 billion in foreign port operation and development projects across eighty port states, a value equivalent to the total outward foreign direct investment (ODFI) stock of Israel.

Figure 1. Locations of port investments by Chinese state-owned enterprises.

The hits and misses in Germany’s new national security strategy

It sounds momentous in German, and it is. On Wednesday, Germany released its first comprehensive Nationale Sicherheitsstrategie, or national security strategy. Chancellor Olaf Scholz called the document a “major change” that seeks to integrate military planning with security issues ranging from climate change to alliances. It also carries forward the chancellor’s announcement of a Zeitenwende, or historical turning point, following Russia’s continent-unsettling invasion of Ukraine and Germany’s years of overdependence on Moscow for energy.

Below, Atlantic Council experts answer the most urgent questions about Germany’s new strategy and the path forward for this major European power.
1. How has Russia’s war in Ukraine changed Germany’s view of its security environment?

Germany’s new national security strategy calls out Russia as “the biggest threat to peace and stability in the Euro-Atlantic area.” For now, that means Germany isn’t at risk of going back to the way things were regarding its relationship with Russia. That is good news.

Rachel Rizzo is a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Europe Center.

Germany’s first-ever national security strategy is one step in Germany security-proofing its politics and policies in the face of Russia’s war in Ukraine and the seismic changes in European security the war has brought. The disagreements, delays, and drawn-out process in finalizing the strategy show how challenging both the “mental” Zeitenwende required of Berlin decision makers and its practical implementation are. For far too long, strategic and security criteria seemed to play too little a role in German decision making. The national security strategy means progress on that front. Germany’s allies should consider the old adage “Der Weg ist das Ziel”—meaning “the journey is the reward,” or “the way is the goal.” Sure, the pace is too slow, and the end product is missing progress on key institutional elements like a national security council. But having undergone this process and attempted more of a whole-of-government and -society approach, Germany and its political decision makers have inched the ball forward on what is needed for the mental Zeitenwende and a more robust strategic culture in Berlin.

Jörn Fleck is the senior director of the Europe Center.

Russian war highlights significance of Middle Corridor


After the Cold War ended, the South Caucasus, Caspian Sea basin, and Central Asia became areas of practical policy focus for Western geopolitical strategists, who recognized their importance for international affairs going beyond the region’s rich energy resources. However, a hiatus of this strategic engagement set in at the end of the first decade of the new century.

Now, a decade and a half later, interest from the US State Department and policymakers and advisers in Washington has been rekindled, accompanied by a new European outreach that has so far been moderate.

Against the backdrop of intensifying diplomatic and economic exchanges between China and the five Central Asian countries, as exemplified by the recent high-profile summit in Xian, the significance of the Middle Corridor stretching across the Caspian Sea has in recent years steadily grown.

Less noticed was the second EU–Central Asia Economic Forum, which was held in Almaty at the same time as the meeting in Xian. The European Union has thus signaled its recognition of the Middle Corridor as a possible counterbalance to reliance on Russian-dominated infrastructure.

The Almaty meeting is an indicator of the EU’s strategic policy direction, adopted by the Council of the European Union in June 2019, seeking to cultivate closer ties with Central Asian nations.

This strategic policy focuses on resilience, including border security and the environment; on prosperity, especially “sustainable connectivity”; and on the promotion of regional cooperation.
Role of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan

This emerging focus from the West intersects with the strategic vision advocated by two key nations, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. That is because these states, pivotal to the implementation of the Middle Corridor, have endeavored to foster the autonomous development of the South Caucasus and Central Asia.

US Chipping Away At Global Semiconductor Supply Chains – Analysis

William A Reinsch and Emily Benson

On 7 October 2022, the US Bureau of Industry and Security issued new regulations on exports of semiconductors and certain semiconductor manufacturing equipment. The rules attempt to block Chinese access to high-end artificial intelligence chips through a combination of new controls on software, people, knowledge transfers, manufacturing equipment and US components integrated into foreign products.

The new rules are a significant shift in an export control policy that the United States has been pursuing for nearly 30 years. The previous policy was designed to keep adversaries, primarily China, one or two generations behind the United States technologically. Under this policy, the United States would raise the level of controls as new technology emerged, before releasing older generations for export.

In other words, the controls were a deliberate moving target. That had three effects. China was denied access to the most advanced technology. US companies were able to sell older technology to China and use the revenue generated for research and development. And the provision of older US technology to China reduced the incentive for the development of Chinese alternatives.

Deteriorating relations between the United States and China as well as the realisation that the third point above had diminishing returns — China embarked on its own path of independent technology development many years ago — led to the new US rules being implemented. The main difference in the new policy is the creation of a technological line of control that the current US administration does not intend to move.

The United States has shifted its policy from simply trying to keep China behind to actively seeking to degrade its military capabilities. Maintaining export controls at the same level regardless of future technology developments means that the universe of controlled items and technologies will become much larger over time. It also means that enforcement will become more difficult and the cost to US producers will increase.

Ukraine Military Situation Report: The Counteroffensive – Analysis

Can Kasapoğlu*

1. How to Assess the Ukrainian Counteroffensive

As the Ukrainian counteroffensive unfolds, the Western strategic community has found itself wading through the Ukrainian Armed Forces’ operational security measures and the Kremlin’s political warfare and information operations efforts. This is how Carl von Clausewitz’s famous fog of war manifests in a digitally connected battle space. While Kyiv strives to avoid the unnecessary dissemination of critical real-time intelligence, Moscow, through military blogs and Telegram channels, deliberately bombards digital networks with evidence of Ukrainian casualties.

Open-source defense intelligence is enjoying its golden age in the twenty-first century. The internet and social networks have profoundly changed the nature of intelligence gathering and analysis. Nevertheless, without a clear analytical framework, an overwhelming flow of raw data can obfuscate more than illuminate.

Hudson Institute’s Ukraine Military Situation Report follows two principles when conveying intelligence assessments. First, we thoroughly vet social media sources. While social media posts showcasing engagements can shed light on tactical trends, they do not offer a complete strategic overview of the fight. Thus, while such sources can indicate the presence of certain weapons systems on a particular front, they cannot tell us whether that system is being used to alter the course of the conflict. We therefore assess them with the strictest scrutiny. Second, our reports emphasize major changes in battlefield geography rather than rapidly evolving minor skirmishes. In a dynamic conflict, small villages can change hands multiple times. So we emphasize significant shifts, such as the breach of a main defensive line or the envelopment of a combat sector.

2. The Combat Operations Assessment

The Ukrainian military is conducting a series of frontal assaults on prepared defensive positions, searching for opportunities to break through Russian lines. These are highly attritional efforts that result in high casualties. Our monitoring of the conflict suggests that several factors are contributing to Ukraine’s personnel and material losses, including the presence of minefields and the prowess of Russian army aviation, defense, and artillery units. At the time of writing, visually documented Ukrainian losses include at least one Leopard-2A4 and three Leopard-2A6 main battle tanks, as well as 16 M2A2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, particularly damaging losses.


Randy Noorman

When Ukrainian forces launched offensives last September in both the country’s northeast and the south, retaking six thousand square kilometers of Russian-occupied territory, it reinforced a narrative about the war in Ukraine that weaved together a series of disparate facts into a concise story of the conflict: Russia’s initial invasion was blunted by a spirited and effective Ukrainian defense, after which Ukrainian forces combined tactical agility, wise operational planning, and international material support to inflict shocking numbers of casualties and persistent battlefield disappointment on their Russian adversaries.

Yet, there are features of the war—and of both sides’ performance—that are lost in this simplified narrative. Among these are the fact that, despite the numerous and obvious shortcomings displayed in Russian military forces’ performance in practice, on a conceptual level they are actually ahead of their time. Tracing nearly a century of Soviet and Russian strategic culture and military thinking makes this clear. More importantly, exploring this history of military thinking in the context of Moscow’s competition for advantage with its Western competitors and adversaries highlights dynamics that evolve in a continuous fashion, influencing the character of warfare today and in the future. In essence, then, by studying the history of ideas that shaped battlefields of yesterday, we can better understand those of today and conceptualize and prepare for those of tomorrow.

Understanding the Evolution of Russian Military Strategy

Foresight and forecasting are concepts in Russian military strategy that are generally associated with predicting the character of future warfare, which is then translated into forms and methods of warfare, like operational concepts, force structures, and necessary military equipment. As a survey of decades of history illustrates, Russian military strategy over the past decades has correctly forecasted a number of implications of advancements in weapons, as well as sensor technologies, that are currently affecting the character of warfare in Ukraine.

The capacity to detect and strike targets at ever-greater distances and with ever-growing precision increases the vulnerability of dense troop concentrations, and therefore limits the ability to conduct large-scale sequenced and concentrated operations. As such, in order to enhance survivability, current battlefield conditions are forcing military units to disperse into smaller formations, dig in, or both, unless these conditions are effectively countered. As a result, the battlefield tends to become more fragmented, offering more independent action to lower tactical formations as the depth of the front is expanding to a considerable extent.

In 1936, Georgii Isserson, one of the key architects of operational art—the effort to organize and align the effects of tactical actions against overarching objectives—within the Soviet Union during the 1930s, described the value of history in recognizing military developments:

Each historical period is pregnant with a new one and displays new rudimentary tendencies and forms.

Germany’s new national security strategy is strong on goals, less so on means

Olaf Scholz 

The danes do it. The Dutch do it. Even Jamaica, Honduras and Papua New Guinea regularly state the formal goals of their defence and foreign policies. And so now does Germany. Long squeamish about flexing its muscles despite being the world’s fourth-biggest economy and a pillar of European stability, the country bit the bullet on June 14th and launched its first-ever national security strategy.

The 76-page document, meant to bring coherence and a sense of purpose across the breadth of government, does not make for exciting reading. Predictably, it stresses Germany’s deep commitment to the European Union and to nato, as well as relationships with key partners such as America and France. Understandably, it fingers Russia as “the most serious threat to peace and security in the Euro-Atlantic area”. And somewhat daringly for a country whose biggest businesses depend heavily on trade with China, it does not shy away from blaming the Asian dragon for “acting time and again counter to our interests and values”, though it insists that China “remains a partner without whom many challenges and crises cannot be resolved.”

A Drawn-Out Ukraine War Should Not Change U.S. Strategy

On Feb. 23, 2022—the day before Russia attacked Ukraine—I wrote in Foreign Policy that if an invasion were to occur, it would represent a strategic opportunity for the United States to sequence the China and Russia threats. By supporting Kyiv against Moscow, I argued, the United States had a chance to deal decisively with the weaker of its two big-power adversaries before the stronger of the pair was ready for a full-scale challenge.

On Feb. 23, 2022—the day before Russia attacked Ukraine—I wrote in Foreign Policy that if an invasion were to occur, it would represent a strategic opportunity for the United States to sequence the China and Russia threats. By supporting Kyiv against Moscow, I argued, the United States had a chance to deal decisively with the weaker of its two big-power adversaries before the stronger of the pair was ready for a full-scale challenge.

A year and a half later, there are growing concerns that this logic no longer makes sense. The longer the war goes on, the greater the costs to the United States, not only in money and armaments but in attention and resources not going to the Indo-Pacific, including to the defense of Taiwan. Some voices in the Biden administration appear to be worried that if the ongoing counteroffensive gets bogged down, U.S. voters will balk at the prospect of extending U.S. support for Ukraine.

At the root of these concerns is a strategic premise: that protracted U.S. support for Ukraine erodes the effectiveness of sequencing. It’s not hard to see the reasoning: The longer a great power puts effort toward Object A, the less bandwidth it has for Object B—and the less ready it will be to handle the latter when it becomes necessary. Resources and political will are not infinite, and geography imposes real limits, even in the 21st century.

But sequencing remains the best strategy for the United States to handle the two-front challenge from China and Russia. Helping Ukraine to defeat Russia by ejecting it from its territory is the best way to pursue such a strategy—for two reasons.

US Army must plan how to manage electric battlefield, lawmakers say

Jen Judson

WASHINGTON — A House draft of the fiscal 2024 defense policy bill would require the Army secretary conduct an analysis for determining which systems could store and distribute electric power on the battlefield.

The service’s reliance on battery-powered capabilities to manage daily operations is increasing. Soldiers need batteries to, for example, operate the Samsung-based Nett Warrior situational awareness system, and to keep command posts and operations centers running.

The Army is also moving toward using electric vehicles on the battlefield and alternative energy power sources for its facilities and bases. The Army’s climate strategy released in early 2022 lays out a plan to field hybrid tactical vehicles by 2035 and moving to all-electric tactical vehicles by 2050.

To get there, the Army told Defense News in the spring of 2022, it was preparing its first-ever operational energy strategy, expected by the end of the year. No such strategy has materialized.

According to legislation proposed by the House Armed Services Committee’s readiness panel, the Army would have one year to conduct its analysis of alternatives following enactment.

“The Secretary shall develop study guidance under which such an analysis is required to include for consideration as such potential alternatives to the full range of military commercially available capabilities for the storage and distribution of electric power,” the draft legislation states.

For each alternative examined, the legislation reads, the Army should include per unit cost, mobility levels, the ability to store and distribute electric power necessary for charging soldier-worn devices, the ability to store or distribute power through a network or microgrid for tactical command posts, and any other capabilities needed to meet operational requirements.

Intelligence Failures and Political Misjudgment in an Age of Ideological Change

Jullian Waller

The Russian political leadership badly misjudged the domestic political environment in Ukraine in February 2022. In contradistinction to its apt and aggressive reading of the ground-level Ukrainian political ecosystem in 2014, Russian intelligence failures in 2022 turned an attempted regime-change operation into a grinding regional war of attrition, with its political objectives forcibly downgraded and its military and economy both substantially degraded by the conflict.[1] Expectations that a sizeable portion of the country’s population were in favor of political decapitation in Kyiv; that a large number of state, military, and security officers were ready to defect or aid in Russian efforts; and that local politicians would be waiting in the wings with sufficient clout, legitimacy, and personal skill to lead post-occupation efforts proved to be wrong on all counts.

Western researchers, regional observers, and local analysts have largely pinned the blame on two primary faults on the Russian side: 1) the operational failure of the Federal Security Bureau (FSB) to collect and properly digest accurate information about the state of the Ukrainian political system and the political-cultural disposition of the population; and 2) the unnaturally constrained information ecosystem and decision-making features of a personalist autocratic political regime in which there are strong disincentives to correcting misaligned and self-harming views at the top of the political system.[2] U.S. and other partner aid to Ukraine, as well as the country’s own preparations, have been noted as important elements to Ukraine’s successful resistance, as well.[3]

These lessons are instructive but of limited use to policymakers and political-military analysts in the United States and among its Western allies. While the prospect of intelligence failures will surely remain a perennial problem for all military-security bureaucratic apparatuses, the Russian case highlights a uniquely siloed internal information environment dominated by a single intelligence branch which does not map well onto the variegated, distributed, and bureaucratically-complex U.S. intelligence community.[4] The U.S. political regime is even more removed, although still ultimately relying on personal decision-making at the presidential level to green-light major military operations. Yet beneath that final decision-point is a vastly different incentive structure determined by domestic audience costs to a responsive electorate, a plural media environment, and an oligarchic matrix of economic, political, and international stakeholders that constraint individual executive initiative. All together, this precludes hyper-personalized and privatized decision-making.[5]

US gov’t agencies targeted in global cyberattack


A global cyberattack hit “several” U.S. federal government agencies, exploiting a vulnerability in a commonly used software, according to the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).

Eric Goldstein, CISA’s executive assistant director for cybersecurity, told CNN in a statement on Thursday that the agency “is providing support to several federal agencies that have experienced intrusions.”

“We are working urgently to understand impacts and ensure timely remediation,” Goldstein added.

It is unclear who is behind the massive attack.

The United States Navy was one of the victims of a cyberattack conducted by a Chinese government hacking group discovered earlier this year by Microsoft, Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro revealed last month.

According to CNBC, Del Toro said the Navy “has been impacted” by the cyberattacks that Microsoft said also involved installing a malicious computer code in telecommunications systems in Guam and other U.S. locations.

Del Toro noted it was “no surprise that China has been behaving in this manner, not just for the last couple years, but for decades.”

Del Toro’s revelations come after the Microsoft executive who oversees the company’s threat intelligence unit, Tom Burt, said Microsoft analysts discovered mysterious code in February, according to The New York Times.

The invasive code was installed in secret through routers and other internet-connected consumer devices, the Times reported, making the hack difficult to detect.

The U.S. is paying billions to Russia’s nuclear agency. Here’s why.

Max Bearak

The Naughton coal plant, outside Kemmerer, Wyo., on May 3, 2023, which is set to be decommissioned in 2025. American nuclear power plants rely on cheap Russian-enriched uranium, which utilities keep buying despite the war in Ukraine. An unusual factory in Ohio could fix that. (Kim Raff/The New York Times) A mural in Piketon, Ohio on May 3, 2023, celebrates Piketon’s gaseous diffusion plant, long ago shuttered, and its role in the local economy. American nuclear power plants rely on cheap Russian-enriched uranium, which utilities keep buying despite the war in Ukraine. An unusual factory in Ohio could fix that. (Brian Kaiser/The New York Times) Inside the American Centrifuge Plant in Piketon, Ohio, on May 3, 2023, where thousands more centrifuges might someday be installed. American nuclear power plants rely on cheap Russian-enriched uranium, which utilities keep buying despite the war in Ukraine. An unusual factory in Ohio could fix that. [Brian Kaiser/The New York Times]

In a cavernous, Pentagon-sized facility nestled in an Appalachian valley, thousands upon thousands of empty holes line the bare concrete floor.

A mere 16 of them house the spindly, 30-foot-tall centrifuges that enrich uranium, converting it into the key ingredient that fuels nuclear power plants. And for now, they are dormant.

But if each hole housed a working centrifuge, the facility could get the United States out of a predicament that has implications for both the war in Ukraine and for America’s transition away from burning fossil fuels. Today, U.S. companies are paying around $1 billion a year to Russia’s state-owned nuclear agency to buy the fuel that generates more than half of the United States’ emissions-free energy.

It is one of the most significant remaining flows of money from the United States to Russia, and it continues despite strenuous efforts among U.S. allies to sever economic ties with Moscow. The enriched uranium payments are made to subsidiaries of Rosatom, which in turn is closely intertwined with Russia’s military apparatus.

Does Putin Have Any ‘Red Lines’ Left in Ukraine?

Russian President Vladimir Putin doesn’t often submit to tough questioning these days, so a meeting on Tuesday with a group of so-called “Z-bloggers,” online military commentators who have provided constant and often critical commentary on Russia's war in Ukraine, was notably candid and even feisty at times. At one point, a visibly irritated Putin responded to a question about when Russia would push back against the West’s violations of its “red lines,” referring to military assistance to Ukraine that Russia has warned against.

Putin’s answer, more or less: We already have.

“The very execution of a special military operation” was a response to the West’s crossing of these lines, Putin said before arguing, as he frequently has, that Western countries started the conflict by backing anti-Russian forces within Ukraine. Putin also said that strikes “against Ukraine’s entire energy system” and an attack on the Ukrainian military’s intelligence directorate were responses to red-line violations.

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with war correspondents in Moscow on June 13, 2023.

“We will continue to act surgically,” Putin said.

In other words, Russia will respond to perceived transgressions by the West by continuing to do what it’s already been doing. It was a far cry from the speech Putin gave immediately after the invasion last year, when he warned any countries that might “hinder us, and…create threats for our country” would meet “such consequences that you have never experienced in your history,” a not-so-subtle reference to Russia’s nuclear arsenal.

Putin’s response Tuesday also raised the question of whether Russia actually still has any “red lines” left.

Shifting lines

The threat that crossing Putin’s red lines might cause him to use nuclear weapons, launch attacks on other European countries, or otherwise escalate has hung over the war since the beginning.

How the Compacts of Free Association Support U.S. Interests and Counter the PRC’s Influence | Indo-Pacific Task Force

Cleo Paskal
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Chair Radewagen, Co-Chair Sablan, and distinguished members of this task force, thank you for the privilege and honor of being invited to testify today. The creation of this bipartisan Indo-Pacific Task Force, under the auspices of the Committee on Natural Resources, is innovative, timely, and important — and heartening.

By its very composition, this task force shows how much the United States is not just a Pacific country but a Pacific Islands country, with its chair from American Samoa, its co-chair from the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), and distinguished members from Guam and Hawaii. There is an enormous depth of knowledge in this room. That combined with the truly bipartisan nature of the task force gives hope that real solutions can be found for some of the critical threats facing region.

The threats are real — and urgent. The Pacific Islands of America (PIA) and U.S. Freely Associated States (FAS) are at the receiving end of a long running, well-funded, focused, and multifaceted attack by the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Beijing’s goal is to undermine these entities’ relationships with the United States, weaken their state institutions, and ultimately to create the conditions in which, as one senior Chinese official told Admiral Timothy Keating: “You take Hawaii east. We’ll take Hawaii west.”[1]

This testimony will describe some of the ways in which China is trying to accomplish that goal, with examples from each of the FAS. It will also describe how, in each of the FAS, what the United States, in partnership with the people of the PIA and FAS, can do to fight back, including adopting a “Block and Build” strategy in which malign influence is blocked while concurrently domestic security (including economic security) is built.

Block and Build

Fundamentally what’s needed is a “Block and Build” approach in which vulnerable entities, with the support of allies if needed, block malign Chinese influence while simultaneously building domestic security (including economic security).

Given the advanced state of PRC influence operations in the region (described in more detail below), one has to assume that any major project designed to give the FAS economic or political independence (build), especially ones that will make them less reliant on China, will be targeted by PRC agents and slowed down through a range of grey zone tactics, from bureaucratic stalling to unfair competition, from information warfare to lawfare. Unless that targeting is blocked, it will be very hard to build.

U.S. Support for Ukraine Does Not Undermine Taiwan’s Defense

Robert Nelson

As the Republican presidential primary intensifies, a burgeoning contingent of right-leaning foreign policy experts has emerged to claim that President Joe Biden’s Ukraine policy is eroding America’s ability to deter a Chinese invasion of Taiwan. Consequently, they recommend drastically reducing, if not outright halting, American support for Ukraine’s defense. Politically, this argument is shrewd—it appeals to an increasingly Ukraine-skeptical Republican primary electorate without compromising its proponents’ credibility within mainstream foreign policy circles. Given the widespread consensus that China poses America’s most significant strategic challenge, framing a rollback of current Ukraine policy this way lends the argument an air of hard truth told by sober-minded adults. However, while certainly politically savvy, geopolitically, this line of reasoning is highly unsound.

At its core, the case for reducing U.S. support for Ukraine is based on a supposed policy tradeoff: every dollar or bullet sent to Ukraine is one less for Taiwan’s defense. Because Taiwan’s security is more strategically significant to Washington than Ukraine’s, critics claim the U.S. must realign its policy to match its priorities.

However, this argument overlooks several factors that challenge its fundamental assumptions. Notably, one doesn’t need to accept the view expressed by the Taiwanese, among others, that the United States must support Ukraine to deter China. Even setting aside concerns about U.S. credibility or resolve, there is ample reason to conclude that the critics of Washington’s current Ukraine policy are mistaken. Similarly, while the most compelling argument for assisting Ukraine is arguably the moral one, even within the framework of tradeoffs, the case for the Biden administration’s current policy is strong.

First, the defense budget does not solely consist of spending on Ukraine and Taiwan. Many other programs, some arguably wasteful, could be reduced or eliminated to increase funding for Taiwan’s defense. Furthermore, Russia is China’s most militarily capable partner and would likely be willing to supply weapons to China during any conflict over Taiwan. Therefore, providing Ukraine with the means to destroy Russian military capabilities is possibly the most cost-effective Defense Department program currently in existence, even when one looks at it through the lens of a Taiwan contingency. And while far from guaranteed, if Russia’s poor performance in Ukraine eventually results in Putin’s overthrow and replacement by a more benign Russian government, the gains to U.S. and Taiwanese security would be even more significant.

Sudan Conflict: Rethinking Pathways for Humanitarian Aid Provision

Hilary Matfess and Susanna Campebell

The outbreak of violence between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) in mid-April has undermined Sudan’s already troubled political transition and thrown the country into a humanitarian crisis. The United Nations estimates that more than a million people have been displaced by the conflict and $2.6 billion is needed to fund the humanitarian response. To support the delivery of humanitarian aid, the warring parties signed a truce on May 20 in Jeddah. The ceasefire has now collapsed, although in spite of repeated violations, it reportedly facilitated the delivery of aid to approximately two million people.

Now that fighting has resumed, medical care and basic goods are increasingly hard to come by for those who remain in Sudan. In early May, the Sudan Doctors Trade Union reported that 70 percent of the hospitals in conflict-affected areas are no longer functional. According to one estimate, the price of basic goods has more than doubled, while fuel prices increased more than tenfold. Given that many wealthier Sudanese citizens have fled the country, the burden of these skyrocketing prices falls upon some of the poorest Sudanese.

Delivering humanitarian assistance in an active conflict is a huge security and logistical challenge, and the international humanitarian response has been unable to keep pace with the scope and scale of Sudan’s crisis. Not only is Sudan competing for resources with the ongoing war in Ukraine and other humanitarian crises, international assistance efforts are increasingly stymied by deadlock within the UN Security Council and competition among different countries for the allegiance of Sudan’s warring factions. Supporting the people of Sudan, thus, requires rethinking standard models of humanitarian aid. It is critical to create alternative pathways of aid provision that prioritize engaging with civilians over fighting factions.

The Current Humanitarian Situation and the International Response

Whoever Blew Up That Dam, This Summer Will Be Tough In Ukraine – Analysis

Arab News

The world woke up last week to shocking images of the Kakhovka dam rupturing. The destruction of the dam on the Dnipro River in southern Ukraine sent torrents of water flooding everything in its path. Dozens of villages and towns, and thousands of people, have been affected. This incident is just the latest tragic chapter in the horror story that is Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

The dam had been under the control of Russian forces for more than a year. Curiously, in the weeks leading up to the breach, Russia filled the Kakhova Reservoir to its highest levels in more than three decades. Unsurprisingly, this contributed to maximum devastation across the region.

Since its invasion, Russia has attacked at least two dams in Ukraine: the Oskil dam in July 2022 and the Kryvyi Rih dam last September. Each side accuses the other of being responsible the destruction of the Kakhova dam. US officials speaking off the record say that American intelligence suggesting that Russia was behind the dam’s rupture will soon be declassified. This would be an interesting development if it happened. When it comes to Ukraine, the US intelligence community has been accurate, even predicting that Russia would invade almost to the exact date. Turkiye has proposed an independent international commission to investigate the origins of the breach, but in the middle of a war zone that would be difficult.

Some have speculated that this incident is connected to Ukraine’s long-awaited counteroffensive to take back territory seized by Russia since the war began in February last year. Militarily, both sides are affected by the flooding. The flood waters have wiped out Russia’s first line of defense along the southern stretches of the Dnipro, but the flooding also makes a Ukrainian river crossing almost impossible. Even so, the damaged dam, and the subsequent flooding, is unlikely to have an impact on Ukraine’s forthcoming military operations.

For weeks, many have speculated where the counteroffensive will take place, but a Ukrainian military crossing of the Dnipro would have been risky even under normal conditions, and therefore unlikely. Instead, it is likely that the main goal of Ukraine’s counteroffensive will be to drive a wedge between the Russian-controlled city of Mariupol and Crimea’s Isthmus of Perekop. This means an attack from the direction of Zaporizhzhia, with the main objective being Melitopol to the south. While this region is in southern Ukraine, it is considerable distance from the flooding.