21 June 2023

Politics, Law, and “Founding Moments” in Late Colonial India


When Benegal Narsing Rau died in 1953 at the age of 66, he was a judge on the International Court of Justice at The Hague and had barely completed a year on the court. Prior to his election to the court, which was supported by the United States, Rau had a stellar career as the Indian Representative at the United Nations during India’s tenure at the Security Council, and as a member of the International Law Commission. The New York Times, reporting his death on November 30, 1953, called him “a lawyer of international renown” and a “world peacemaker,” and referred to most of his adult life as devoted to conciliation and mediation on “a national, regional and local basis.”

Tellingly, left out in this obituary were Rau’s phenomenal contributions to Indian constitutionalism and, more specifically, to the making of independent India’s constitution. In his role as the adviser to the Constituent Assembly, which drafted the Constitution of India between 1946 and 1950, Rau prepared the first draft of the constitution, compiling provisions and recommendations drawn up by various committees in the Constituent Assembly. Rau was also instrumental as an adviser in drafting the constitution of independent Burma. In most legal and constitutional histories of South Asia, Rau is often confined to footnotes (if cited at all) as a member of the Indian Civil Service who worked in the interstices of the colonial state. Arvind Elangovan’s book seeks to correct the record by bringing to light the long-forgotten role that Rau played in the making of Indian constitutionalism through an extremely readable, thought provoking, and archivally rich meditation on the thought and writings of B.N. Rau in decolonizing India.

Histories of Indian nationalism and constitutionalism often go hand in hand, such that the legitimacy of anticolonial nationalism and its object, the democratic nation-state, have often justified sidelining constitutional thinking that did not speak to a tradition of democracy or popular sovereignty. Rau was one jurist and constitutionalist who did not think that a direct translation of popular will was essential for constitutions. This tradition of non-democratic constitutionalism was particularly prevalent among the leaders of the Indian princely states, liberals, and minority religious groups who, like Rau, did not see a centralized, democratic unitary state as the solution to the Indian problem. While Elangovan’s book does not allude to the constitutional tradition in which Rau is situated, it cannot escape notice that what is being presented as the asynchrony of nationalism, colonialism, and constitutionalism is more appropriately understood as a clash of constitutional worldviews, worldviews that sought to draw legitimacy from the popular will on the one hand, and those that sought legitimacy from existing imperial or non-democratic legal and political norms, on the other.

Internal Divisions and Majoritarianism Threaten India’s Claim in a Multipolar World

Gautam Mukhopadhaya

India's capacity to emerge as an independent pole in international affairs will depend on which route it takes to greatness. But it goes without saying that a divided society will face handicaps in dealing with challenges.

It is common to hear of the world order as evolving from the relatively stable equilibrium of the Cold War, through a brief ‘unipolar’ moment after the collapse of the Soviet Union, to one moving towards a new bipolar world with the US and China as the two poles, or a ‘multi-polar’ world characterized by the US, China, European Union and a set of emerging powers, singly or in concert.

But are either of the two characterizations correct? And if not, what is, and where is it heading? What are the attributes of power in the world today?

Whatever the current state of the world order, one thing is certain: that geo-politics is only one of its determinants. At least four other factors and forces will play a major role in its evolution.

The first is the climate crisis. Failure to meet global targets on emissions and greening, as seems likely, runs the risk of climate change overtaking geo-politics in shaping the world order in ways that we simply cannot predict. India has made impressive commitments in moving away from fossil fuels to green energy but its record in protecting its forests, rivers and environment in general is regressive.

The second is new technologies. Countries investing in new technologies will certainly have a head start in the evolving world order, but some technologies like artificial intelligence (think of ChatGPT as the Bell telephone of the AI age) have the potential of getting ahead of humankind’s ability to govern it with potentially swift and apocalyptic consequences.

The Technology Initiative between India and the United States: A New Era, Against the Backdrop of China’s Growing Power

Inbar Noy-Freifeld Jesse R. Weinberg

The inaugural meeting of the initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology (iCET) between India and the United States was held in January 2023. The initiative represents the desire of the United States to deepen its influence in the Indo-Pacific region and weaken India’s ties with China and Russia, notwithstanding the ideological differences between the two countries, This occurs within the framework of the “friendshoring” policy and reliance on the production of critical technological components in friendly countries. The initiative also serves India’s drive to expand its influence in the area between western Asia and the Middle East, as well as to cope with the challenges it faces stemming from its rivalry with China.

In January 2023, following a meeting between senior United States and Indian officials – led by US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and his Indian counterpart, Ajit Doval – a comprehensive cooperation agreement in various fields of technology was launched by the two countries. As part of the initiative, both countries consented to cooperate in sharing information regarding evolving and critical technologies, and as well as in the joint development of technologies and the lifting of regulatory barriers on technological trade. The initiative covers a wide range of technologies, including the supply chains of chips, the provision of US jet engines to India, and cooperation in the development of important dual-use technologies, including artificial intelligence and quantum technologies.

As Modi Preps for US Visit, Mideast Leaders Study India’s Nonalignment


Middle Eastern governments’ interest in the so-called “China model” is real, but it is superficial. They admire China’s three-decade record combining an authoritarian system with the use of state capital to achieve profound economic change while tightly managing social and political change. China’s experience challenges Western insistence that only liberal systems can produce economic growth and stability. Still, while Middle Eastern states like the idea of following the Chinese path, they are often indifferent to the details.

What governments are paying much closer attention to is the “India model.” That model shows that a country can successfully combine diplomatic nonalignment with intimate ties to all of the world’s biggest economies. India has arguably been pursuing a version of the policy since winning independence more than 75 years ago, but has refined it in recent years. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit to Washington next week is another sign that the “India model” is working, and Middle Eastern rulers will be watching closely to see exactly how it is done.

Most Middle Eastern states are united by a sense that while they need a close relationship with the United States, the United States disrespects them. The U.S. government criticizes their heavy hand in domestic politics and second guesses their security strategies. It presses them on issues large and small: to open their financial systems to U.S. government scrutiny, to modify their school textbooks, and to normalize ties with Israel. Feeling as if they are too often treated as vassal states, they are hungry to achieve their own sense of agency.

India has done exactly that, calmly articulating when its interests align with the United States and when they do not. India has boosted its defense cooperation with the United States, increasing bilateral consultations and replacing Soviet-era equipment with modern U.S. technology. Yet India has bristled at the concept of acting in concert with the United States and has said it would only do so under UN auspices.

India’s savvy minister of external affairs, S. Jaishankar, wrote in a recent book that “actual policy in a large country is parallel pursuit of multiple priorities, some of which could be contradictory…Choices have to be made, not just debated. And they cannot be without costs.”

Taiwan’s Defense Dilemma

Jenny Li

Taiwan is now entering a busy season of election campaigns. Replete with its usual excitement and drama, the 2024 presidential election arrives at a moment of heightened anxiety in the Taiwanese political space, with the possibility of a Chinese invasion before mid-century. The defense policies adopted by Taiwan’s next president could make this election one of the most critical in recent history.

Whoever takes office next May will face a paramount dilemma in planning the country’s defense. Namely, Taiwan has limited time and resources to prepare for a cross-strait conflict, but the successful implementation of its current military doctrine requires considerable resources and time.

Under the most optimistic circumstances, fully preparing for a Chinese invasion would be challenging. Now, differing threat perceptions between the United States and Taiwan have slowed the development of a strategy previously regarded as a practical solution to Taiwan’s defense dilemma.

The Porcupine in a Pickle

The porcupine strategy, despite obstacles it faces in becoming fully embraced, remains the most popular solution to Taiwan’s defense problem. The strategy relies on Taiwan’s unique island geography to create localized advantages, allowing Taiwanese forces to repel an otherwise quantitatively superior People’s Liberation Army (PLA).

In 2017, Admiral Lee Hsi-ming, then general chief of staff of Taiwan, developed the “Overall Defense Concept (ODC)” to formally codify the porcupine strategy into Taiwan’s defense doctrine. Unlike Taiwan’s past military doctrines, which sought deep-strike capabilities and the destruction of its adversaries, the ODC redefined its military objectives as denying the enemy a successful takeover of Taiwan. The ODC suggests Taiwan abandon plans to establish sea control and air superiority, taking a more cost-effective and defensive approach in thwarting Chinese aggression.

China Has Become the World’s Indispensable Nation

Dustin Siggins

This week’s China visit by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is being portrayed as a conversation between top leaders of world powers. It’s diplomatic warfare at its finest, with two sides telling stories that they hope will sway observers from nation-states, NGOs, and corporate observers about their preferred narratives.

But the die has already been cast about next week’s visit: China is going to win the battle of nation-state public relations because U.S. and other Western leaders are relying on 20th-century norms that China has broken, stomped on, and thrown into the dust heap of history.

Public relations attempts to convince target audiences of a story, and the best stories are built upon clear evidence. That’s why President Joe Biden’s story of a “thaw” between China and Western nations seems to be a one-way street, while China’s story of strength and dominance is built upon significant economic and military power, expanded diplomatic relations with U.S. allies and erstwhile allies, and pushing international norms.

In the last year, for example, the U.S. has sought to build relations with China by delaying sanctions and disavowing former U.S. House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan. In the same time period, China sent a spy balloon across much of the U.S., threatened Pelosi’s life, spied on the U.S. from Cuba, and – the same week that administration appeared to lighten its critiques about the Tiananmen Square massacre of 1989 – nearly rammed a U.S. military ship.

Other major Western powers seem unable to see that China is remaking the post-World War II norms for nation-states. The World Health Organization parroted Chinese government talking points early in the COVID-19 pandemic instead of conducting independent investigations into the dictatorship’s claims. Last year, the Vatican, just a month after extending a compromise with China’s anti-religious authorities about naming bishops, found out that China approved bishops without consultation. And when China hosted the 2022 Winter Olympics, none of the world’s powers gave any meaningful pushback against the Chinese state’s totalitarian policies and systemic human rights abuses.

In a Cross-Strait Scenario, Taiwan’s Semiconductors are Irrelevant

Michael Turton

In recent months, the flagship Taiwanese tech firm, the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company (TSMC), has been a focus of discussions about a potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan. For instance, Nikkei published a piece by Jared M. McKinney, a professor at the U.S. Air Force War College. McKinney argues that Taiwan should destroy TSMC’s world-leading chip foundries to prevent them from falling into PRC hands.

After China gets its hands on the advanced extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUV) machines, McKinney contends, it could then proceed to develop its own alternative chip-making capacity; “Once it got through short-term disruptions, China could emerge as a semiconductor superpower that is essentially self-reliant.” It follows that threatening to destroy the machines would help deter an invasion, and “It is in Taiwan's interest to make clear that China will not gain access to TSMC's EUV machines and semiconductor foundries if it invades.”

However, the truth is simple: TSMC is irrelevant.

Long before TSMC emerged as a semiconductor colossus, Chinese leaders claimed Taiwan as a sovereign territory of the People’s Republic. The claim exists irrespective of Taiwan’s economic prowess. Although McKinney does not argue the TSMC drives the PRC’s annexation dreams, other commentators like Marc Kennis have argued this explicitly. If TSMC disappeared tomorrow, Beijing would go right on pretending Taiwan has always been part of China.

Prior to 1942, as Alan Wachman observed in Why Taiwan? Geostrategic Rationales for China’s Territorial Integrity both the Nationalist (KMT) and Communist (CCP) leaderships were indifferent to Taiwan during the interwar period. Comments from elites, youth publications, and government intelligence reports treated Taiwan as lying outside China’s traditional domain and assumed that the island’s inhabitants would one day form an independent state.

America Benefits from China in the Middle East

Simeone Miller, Garrett Ehinger

One of the United States’ most pressing interests in the Middle East is maritime security, particularly in the Strait of Hormuz, in which oil tankers move approximately 17 million barrels of oil daily. To protect this vital interest, America has consistently maintained thousands of U.S. troops and military installations in the Persian Gulf. But an increasing Chinese naval presence in the Gulf has some in Washington speculating that Gulf states are shifting away from the U.S. sphere of influence and towards Beijing’s. According to this argument, China will attempt to assert its newfound dominance in the Gulf—similar to its attempts in the South China Sea—and threaten U.S. maritime energy access in the region, causing enormous damage to the U.S. economy.

Yet rather than viewing it as a threat, Washington should recognize there are benefits to Chinese involvement in the Middle East. These include regional stability, as already evidenced by China’s facilitating recognition agreements between Iran and Saudi Arabia. The Middle East also has the potential to become a financial and military liability for Beijing, which could give the United States a leg up in its current Sino-American rivalry.

For one, if China were to become entangled in Middle Eastern conflicts, this would drain resources and reduce its ability to challenge American power on other fronts. For instance, China has invested close to $200 billion in Latin America, which extends its ability to influence regional politics. It has been pressuring South American nations—Argentina in particular—to permit the construction of military bases. But if China were to become preoccupied with problems in the Middle East, it may force them to deprioritize these other projects.

Beijing is already moving in this direction. For example, China’s domestic persecution of Muslims has spawned dozens of militant Chinese Muslim groups in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. There have been bombings in Afghanistan and Pakistan targeting Chinese nationals, and ISIS is putting China in its crosshairs. Moreover, China has also built a naval base in Djibouti—with other potential base sites in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives—and deployed thousands of special forces in Syria. For extremist groups like ISIS, these are rich potential targets.

What Does the West Really Know About Xi’s China?

Odd Arne Westad

Figuring out how policy decisions are made in authoritarian regimes has always been hard. Winston Churchill famously referred to Soviet policymaking as “a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma”—and he was not much wrong. Observers in the West could see the policy output of the Soviet Union, be it under Joseph Stalin or Leonid Brezhnev, by what those leaders said publicly and how they acted. But it was not easy to figure out what was going on inside their regimes, because access to information was so limited and fear prevented insiders from communicating even what they thought

Jack Ma Isn't Back


The iconic Alibaba founder disappeared from view after criticizing China's government. He returned to the country in March—as a teacher, not a businessman.

JUST UNDER THREE years ago, Alibaba founder Jack Ma quoted China’s leader, Xi Jinping, in a speech to a finance conference in Shanghai. “Success isn’t up to me,” Ma said, a phrase Xi initially used to get officials to move away from short-term thinking and do more for the country’s long-term interests. Ma threw this quote back on regulators and state-owned banks who, he insinuated, were holding up the financial technology sector with their “pawnshop mentality.”

Ma is an icon in China’s tech industry, one of its most successful and recognizable figures at home and abroad. He was speaking weeks before Alibaba subsidiary Ant Group, owner of the world’s largest digital payments platform, Alipay, was due to go public in Shanghai and Hong Kong. It would have been the biggest initial public offering anywhere in the world. On November 2, 2020, a week after his speech, Ma was summoned for questioning by the same regulators he’d challenged from the stage. Days later, Ant Group’s $34 billion stock market listing was suspended. For nearly three months, Ma disappeared from public view.

Online, the rumor mill began to churn. There were debates about whether his comments were out of line. Had he been placed under house arrest? Had an exit ban been imposed on him? Or had he already left the country to avoid arrest? When Ma did reappear, it was to go into what many saw as a self-imposed exile. He stopped appearing at conferences and giving talks. He was photographed overseas doing normal billionaire things. There was Jack in a golf cart. There he was sailing a yacht. There he was looking at fish farms. Him again, eating lobster with friends. Reporters tracked him to Tokyo’s private clubs, then to Thailand, where he was spotted holding his fists up with a Muay Thai boxing legend.

Good News! China and the US Are Talking About AI Dangers

Scientists from the world’s two superpowers are concerned about the risks of AI—which may offer a bridge to developing global regulations.

SAM ALTMAN, THE CEO of OpenAI, recently said that China should play a key role in shaping the guardrails that are placed around the technology.

“China has some of the best AI talent in the world,” Altman said during a talk at the Beijing Academy of Artificial Intelligence (BAAI) last week. “Solving alignment for advanced AI systems requires some of the best minds from around the world—and so I really hope that Chinese AI researchers will make great contributions here.”

Altman is in a good position to opine on these issues. His company is behind ChatGPT, the chatbot that’s shown the world how rapidly AI capabilities are progressing. Such advances have led scientists and technologists to call for limits on the technology. In March, many experts signed an open letter calling for a six-month pause on the development of AI algorithms more powerful than those behind ChatGPT. Last month, executives including Altman and Demis Hassabis, CEO of Google DeepMind, signed a statement warning that AI might someday pose an existential risk comparable to nuclear war or pandemics.

This is an edition of WIRED's Fast Forward newsletter, a weekly dispatch from the future by Will Knight, exploring AI advances and other technology set to change our lives.

Such statements, often signed by executives working on the very technology they are warning could kill us, can feel hollow. For some, they also miss the point. Many AI experts say it is more important to focus on the harms AI can already cause by amplifying societal biases and facilitating the spread of misinformation.

BAAI chair Zhang Hongjiang told me that AI researchers in China are also deeply concerned about new capabilities emerging in AI. “I really think that [Altman] is doing humankind a service by making this tour, by talking to various governments and institutions,” he said.

Against the background of Operation Shield and Arrow, perspectives on proportionalit

Anat Shapira

On May 9, 2023, the IDF fired the opening shots in Operation Shield and Arrow, when in targeted killings it killed three senior members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad: the commander of the organization in the northern Gaza Strip, the secretary general of the PIJ military council, and a senior commander responsible for directing terror arracks in the West Bank. Ten other people were killed in the attacks, including women and children. The civilian deaths prompted discussion of the specific operation and whether it met the rules of proportionality. Similar debates are sparked every time Israeli leaders promise that the country’s response to an attack by a terrorist organization will be “disproportionate.” This article contends that a large portion of these discussions and related comments are based on an incorrect understanding of the proportionality requirement in the ethcs of war, and that without making any determination about the current operation, it is important to try to understand this requirement and dispel some of the erroneous assumptions relating to it.

International law and the ethics of war dictate that parties engaged in conflict must differentiate between civilian and military targets and permit attacks on the latter only. This legal and ethical principle, called the principle of distinction, forms the bedrock of morality in warfare. Notwithstanding the criticism that this distinction engenders, it is generally accepted that civilians who are not involved in acts of warfare should be immune from attack and must not be the target of military offensives. Despite the immunity afforded to noncombatants, however, it is generally accepted that the rules of warfare permit unintentional harm to civilians or civilian targets as the result of an attack on a legitimate target – as long as it meets the proportionality requirement . This means that the likely benefit of the operation must be weighed against the potential harm it could cause to civilians and noncombatants. This joins the necessity requirement, which stipulates that there is no other way – less destructive and dangerous – to accomplish the goal of the operation.

The Once and Future Need for SOF in the Great Power Competition

Thomas Trask & Phil Anderson

Congress Must Protect and Expand Special Operations

As the U.S. competes globally in the Great Power Competition (GPC) with China and Russia, Special Operation Forces (SOF) remain the highest return on investment in the entire U.S. military by helping to win the struggle even before direct conflict begins. Sadly, there are crippling SOF manpower cuts being proposed for the FY24 and FY25 defense budgets. Put simply, this move to reduce the investment in SOF must be stopped by Congress. In fact, SOF budgets and rosters should be increased. The history of SOF proves this point.

In 1962 President Kennedy signed the memorandum authorizing the use of the Green Beret for U.S. Special Forces, a recognition of the value of special operations in the execution of the Cold War. Kennedy called special operations the “Subterranean War” and viewed the capability as critical to winning the power competition with the Soviet Union and China. The Cold War effort to stand up to communist expansion by the Soviet Union and China required building military partnerships globally, expanding counterinsurgency capabilities, and developing “Unconventional Warfare” (UW) skills to prevent a major military conflict. Kennedy recognized the importance of robust U.S. engagement with all elements of national power and stood up the U.S. Peace Corps during the same period.

President Reagan doubled down on expanding the nation’s SOF capabilities by establishing the U.S. Special Operations Command in 1987, and most importantly, giving it Military Service-like responsibilities that included its own budget. This move recognized the substantial contribution by SOF to U.S. Cold War efforts, but also set SOF on a path to achieving the exquisite precision strike capabilities that were honed in the Global War on Terror (GWOT).

After the attacks of 9/11, SOF began a classic UW campaign in Afghanistan which quickly led to the fall of the Taliban government. President Bush immediately began to increase the size of the force as SOF efforts shifted to a focus of “finding, fixing, and finishing” terrorist organizations across the globe. Throughout the GWOT, SOF employed both their counterterrorism (CT) and long-term relationship building and training skills, although the CT successes were always more visible.

Sustaining the Japan–ROK rapprochement

Matthieu Lebreton
Source Link

Japan and South Korea have significantly improved their relations in recent months and are attempting to align their regional strategies. Yet there is still room for greater South Korean integration into multilateral groupings to stabilise the trajectory of the rapprochement.

Relations between Japan and the Republic of Korea (ROK) reached a low point in 2019, when diplomatic and public disagreements bled into economic and military ties, triggering a tit-for-tat imposition of trade restrictions and bringing an end to bilateral military information-sharing. Since then, China’s economic coercion, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and a heightened North Korean threat have combined to spur ROK President Yoon Suk-yeol to overcome the many differences with his democratic neighbour; in March 2023 he began a diplomatic push to improve relations with Japan by meeting his counterpart Kishida Fumio in Tokyo. Such a rapprochement has important implications for the security of both countries as well as for the stability of a trilateral relationship that includes the United States. Sustaining the momentum, however, may be a significant challenge.

Political and strategic alignment

Seoul’s rapprochement with Tokyo coincides with its efforts to improve relations with Washington. It also builds on the security overlap between Seoul’s first Indo-Pacific strategy, called the Strategy for a Free, Peaceful, and Prosperous Indo-Pacific Region, and Japan’s new National Security Strategy, which were both released in December 2022. Seoul’s strategy differs from the Southeast Asia-focused New Southern Policy of Yoon’s predecessor, Moon Jae-in, by expanding the scope of South Korea’s engagement to the whole region and beyond. Two ‘core lines of effort’ focus on expanding networks of security cooperation and, importantly, building stronger economic-security networks. The latter in particular aligns Seoul’s regional vision with Tokyo’s. Furthermore, each country’s strategy document lists the other country as a key partner for Indo-Pacific policy coordination.

Both Sides Suffer Heavy Casualties As Ukraine Strikes Back Against Russia

Associated Press

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russia and Ukraine are suffering high numbers of military casualties as Ukraine fights to dislodge the Kremlin’s forces from occupied areas in the early stages of its counteroffensive, British officials said Sunday.

Russian losses are probably at their highest level since the peak of the battle for Bakhmut in March, U.K. military officials said in their regular assessment.

According to British intelligence, the most intense fighting has centered on the southeastern Zaporizhzhia province, around Bakhmut and further west in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk province. While the update reported that Ukraine was on the offensive in these areas and had “made small advances,” it said that Russian forces were conducting “relatively effective defensive operations” in Ukraine’s south.

The Ukrainian military said in a regular update Sunday morning that over the previous 24 hours Russia had carried out 43 airstrikes, four missile strikes and 51 attacks from multiple rocket launchers. According to the statement by the General Staff, Russia continues to concentrate its efforts on offensive operations in Ukraine’s industrial east, focusing attacks around Bakhmut, Avdiivka, Marinka and Lyman in Donetsk province, with 26 combat clashes taking place.

Donetsk regional Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko said that two civilians were killed, with a further three wounded in the past day.

Ukrainian officials said Russian forces also launched airstrikes on other regions of the east and south of the country.

One civilian was killed and four more wounded in Kherson province as a result of Russia’s attacks, said regional Gov. Oleksandr Prokudin, while Zaporizhzhia regional Gov. Yurii Malashko said one person was wounded in Russian attacks that hit 20 settlements in the province.

Ukraine War Highlights a New Threat to the American Homeland

Nolan Peterson

Ukraine has become a proving ground for many of the tactics, techniques, and technologies that will transform that next era of warfare. One recent development foreshadows a novel, potentially strategic threat against the U.S. homeland.

CNN reported last week that pro-Ukraine partisan forces have conducted drone strikes, covertly launched from within Russian territory, against targets of both material and symbolic importance — including the Kremlin, a neighborhood in Moscow, and an oil refinery. While those strikes have, for the most part, caused limited damage, their psychological impact has been more significant, undercutting the myth of Russia’s military superiority, as well as the overall rationale of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s so-called special military operation.

No doubt America’s contemporary adversaries are taking note and imagining how their own covert teams — equipped with small, armed drones — might carry out a nationwide surprise attack against the American homeland. It’s not hard to imagine Chinese agents infiltrating U.S. territory, buying some quadcopter drones from Best Buy, and then arming them with homemade explosives. These operatives would be ready at a moment’s notice to launch a nationwide wave of attacks against American powerplants and airports.

Even if they are armed with relatively weak munitions, small drones offer America’s adversaries a low-cost, plausibly deniable way to spread panic and paralyze our economy. The drone incursions at London’s Gatwick Airport in December 2018 highlighted that threat. By simply flying drones within the airport’s vicinity, the unidentified perpetrators were able to ground traffic and strand more than 100,000 travelers for three days. A similar incident could easily happen in America — and just imagine the propaganda impact of a cheap, armed drone destroying a multi-million-dollar American warplane parked on the tarmac at some Air Force base.

Such a scenario is not far-fetched. Last December, remember, two Ukrainian drone attacks against Russia’s Engels Airbase killed multiple Russian servicemen and damaged at least two bombers. According to news reports, a Ukrainian military reconnaissance unit coordinated those strikes from within Russian territory.

The real reason why Putin put Russian nukes in Belarus

Greg Lane

As if anyone had actually forgotten about Russia’s plans to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko reminded the world this week why this could be a frightening development.

Lukashenko said he wouldn’t hesitate to use those weapons if his country were attacked. But while his comments were certainly disconcerting, the general matter of Russia stationing tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus will not significantly change the current military balance in Europe.

U.S. and NATO forces were already within reach of some of Russia’s tactical nuclear assets, including those stationed in Kaliningrad. Russia’s goals here appear more political than military, and whether comforting or not, the weapons will also remain under Russian command and control.

In pushing some of his country’s nuclear forces westward into Belarus, Russian President Vladimir Putin has a number of predominantly political objectives that he is hoping to achieve.

First, and as it relates to the war in the Ukraine, he wants to again highlight his own unpredictability, specifically his willingness to escalate the conflict if certain red lines are crossed. As always with Putin, there is no small part of theater in this. Like Sheriff Bart in the movie Blazing Saddles who takes himself hostage in order to escape the angry citizens of Rock Ridge, Putin’s repeated threats to use nuclear weapons — presumably even those soon to be positioned on Poland’s border — seem equal parts threat and willingness to commit self harm.

The message Putin is sending is: He isn’t bluffing — or is he?

Highlighting the possibility of a nuclear exchange over the war in the Ukraine also serves a second political goal for Moscow, which is to find and exploit wedge issues that can be used to influence European public opinion. Given their proximity to the conflict in Ukraine and the unavoidable human, environmental, and economic costs that would result from even a limited use of tactical nuclear weapons in that country, the escalation of the conflict is not surprisingly a more real and immediate concern to the residents of Berlin, Budapest, and Bratislava than it is to those in Dallas, Denver, and Detroit.

Russia is Looking for New Economic Partners—in Africa

Vuk Vuksanovic

Western sanctions have isolated Russia from its usual Western trading partners, necessitating its move into new markets. This primarily includes countries and regions where governments have not participated in the sanctions against Russia. Amidst this endeavor to diversify its economic relations, Moscow has demonstrated a keen interest in Africa, where it increasingly seeks to involve itself in a number of industries.

For Western policymakers and observers, the dynamics of Moscow’s engagement with Africa is notable; partially for geopolitical concerns, partially for economic competition considerations, and partially because they help highlight what many in the West believe is a policy failure: the inability to inflict more severe economic damage on Russia is in part driven by the fact that the rest of the world was not willing to follow the West’s lead.

How and What Does Russia Invest in Africa?

In an interview late last year, Russian academic Natalia Piskunova indicated that Russia’s policymaking process regarding African investment is divided into two levels: what the Russian state does and what private Russian businesses do.

According to Piskunova, in the years before 2010, when Moscow started showing more open interest in Africa, Russian companies with interests in the African market such as Rusal, Rosneft, and Lukoil unsuccessfully lobbied for government support for their operations on the continent. It was only after the Russian government gradually began showing interest after 2010 that the state and companies began cooperating more.

Russian companies, regardless of whether they are private, state-owned, or have a level of state participation, receive assistance from the Kremlin in the form of subsidies and tax-free agreements. Aside from making up for lost time, this support enables Russian business interests to better establish themselves and expand operations. This is worth noting, as Moscow is particularly interested in some specific key fields and industries.

Logistics, Finance, and Sanctions Evasion

Interview – Rohan Mukherjee

Dr. Rohan Mukherjee is an Assistant Professor of International Relations at the London School of Economics and Political Science and was previously an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Yale-NUS College. His research focuses on the grand strategies of rising powers and their impact on international security and order, with an empirical specialization in the Asia-Pacific region. His book, Ascending Order: Rising Powers and the Politics of Status in International Institutions, shows that whether rising powers cooperate with, challenge, or try to reform an international order depends on the extent to which its core institutions facilitate symbolic equality with the great-power club. His regional focus is on the Asia-Pacific, particularly how major powers such as India, China, the United States, and Japan, and smaller states in South and Southeast Asia, manage the regional effects of global transitions. Dr. Mukherjee received his Ph.D. from the Department of Politics at Princeton University, holds an MPA in International Development from Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs, and a B.A. in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics from the University of Oxford.

Where do you see the most exciting debates/research happening in your field?

This is a busy time to be studying international order because there’s so much excellent work coming out on it. Scholars are focusing their attention on inequality, exclusion, and injustice in the so-called liberal international order with a greater sense of urgency now. A previous generation of scholarship on international order focused on challenges from ‘without’, i.e., from emerging powers and non-Western states. Ironically, this scholarship has gained more traction today because of the crisis of international order within the West. Anyone interested in all of these subjects can read a host of excellent work today by scholars such as Ayşe Zarakol, Zoltán Búzás, Adom Getachew, Meera Sabaratnam, Matthew Stephen, Matias Spektor, and Courtney Fung, to name just a few.

How has the way you understand the world changed over time, and what (or who) prompted the most significant shifts in your thinking?

The Exploitation of Ukrainians: Additional Consequences of an Armed Conflict

Sylvain Keller

Armed conflict may have terrible consequences for civilians especially when populated areas are directly attacked. Apart from the direct impacts of conflict, the absence of state authorities and protection mechanisms may also increase the presence of human traffickers who target those most vulnerable. Ukraine is one of those regions where human trafficking poses a serious risk for its population and is a major concern for the international community. The most recent UNODC global report on trafficking in persons demonstrated a major relationship between the people forced to flee Ukraine in 2014 and 2015 because of the conflict, and the increased detection of trafficking in persons from Ukraine. Due to the escalation of violence, the number of Ukrainian victims detected in Eastern Europe quadrupled between 2014 and 2016 and, in 2022, following Russia’s invasion and the escalation of the conflict, increased the risks for potential victims since it forced millions of Ukrainians to flee their homes. Consequently, last June and based on the high number of victims reported, Pramila Patten, the U.N.’s special representative on sexual violence in conflict stated that the “humanitarian crisis is turning into a human trafficking crisis”.

The UN’s ‘Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children’ which is the primary international instrument on the issue, defines human trafficking as

the recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of threat or use of force or other forms of coercion, of abduction, of fraud, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation.

In the context of an armed conflict, it may include the use of child soldiers (not directly mentioned in the definition) and it may also define others made to work as porters, cooks, and guards. Young girls can also be forced to marry or have sex with male combatants.

Security News This Week: A Newly Named Group of GRU Hackers Is Wreaking Havoc in Ukraine


PRISON SURVEILLANCE IS now much more than skin deep. A jail in Atlanta, Georgia, has begun rolling out a new tracking system that monitors everything from inmates’ locations to their literal heartbeats, according to documents WIRED obtained through a public records request. Made by Talitrix, the system uses hundreds of sensors installed around a jail that link to a Fitbit-like wristband worn by inmates. Georgia prison officials say the surveillance tech will improve safety inside and help mitigate the impacts of staffing shortages. Privacy experts say it’s the latest erosion of inmates’ rights.

If privacy is virtually nonexistent in jail, it may not be much better before you’re even convicted of a crime. Just ask a family in Indiana’s Monroe County, who are being monitored by probation officers through an app called Covenant Eyes. The app records everything a person does on their device, taking screenshots at least once per minute as well as monitoring network requests, all of which are sent to an “ally.” (The allies, in this case, are two probation officers.) The father, who has been charged with possession of child sexual abuse material, is in jail awaiting trial after the app alerted officers that someone had attempted to visit Pornhub, which would have been a violation of his bond. But thanks to shortcomings in the app, the whole thing may have been a mistake.

Beyond potentially unconstitutional surveillance, there are many other ways government data collection can hurt your privacy. Millions of people in India may have had their data exposed thanks to an alleged breach of CoWIN, India’s vaccination-tracking app. The Indian health ministry says reports of a breach are “without any basis,” and independent security researchers say the breach may not be as widespread as some believed. The government is now investigating.

In the US, a newly declassified report commissioned by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence reveals that spy agencies have been compiling a “large” trove of data about virtually every American simply by purchasing the information from commercial sources, like data brokers. Privacy advocates say the practice is a potential end run around constitutional protections.

The Impact of the Kakhovka Dam Breach on the New Ukrainian Counteroffensive

Riley McCabe , Alexander Palmer , and Joseph S. Bermudez Jr.

On June 6, the Kakhovka Dam on the Dnipro River was breached, releasing a flood of water from Ukraine’s largest reservoir downriver toward the city of Kherson. In addition to severe humanitarian and environmental concerns, the destruction of the dam has implications for Ukraine’s freshly launched counteroffensive. The dam’s breach will not be sufficient to stop a Ukrainian offensive across the Dnipro River in Kherson Oblast this summer, but it will delay such an operation by at least several weeks. Such a delay shifts advantages to the Russian defenders in the neighboring Zaporizhzhia Oblast and complicates the already difficult task that lays before Ukraine to dislodge Russian forces from heavily fortified positions across the front.

Ukrainian operations are ongoing in several areas across the front, with reports of fierce fighting near the border between Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk Oblasts. Although it is too soon to accurately assess the overall course of the offensive, it is clear that Ukraine has not yet achieved the same operational surprise that allowed it to quickly retake the majority of Kharkiv Oblast in the fall of 2022.

Few observers expected Ukraine to replicate its blitz across Kharkiv. In anticipation of Ukrainian attacks, Russia prepared the most extensive fortifications in Europe since World War II across the territory it holds in Ukraine. In Kherson Oblast, Russian forces have relied on the Dnipro River to serve as their first line of defense. The breach of the Kakhovka Dam further enhances Russia’s defensive positions and disrupts whatever planning was ongoing for a Ukrainian offensive in Kherson Oblast.


Daniel Boguslaw, Sam Biddle, Ken Klippenstein

WHEN THE CHAIR of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley enters into his scheduled retirement later this year, one of the perks will include a personal security detail to protect him from threats — including “embarrassment.”

The U.S. Army Protective Services Battalion, the Pentagon’s little-known Secret Service equivalent, is tasked with safeguarding top military brass. The unit protects current as well as former high-ranking military officers from “assassination, kidnapping, injury or embarrassment,” according to Army records.

Protective Services’s mandate has expanded to include monitoring social media for “direct, indirect, and veiled” threats and identifying “negative sentiment” regarding its wards, according to an Army procurement document dated September 1, 2022, and reviewed by The Intercept. The expansion of the Protective Services Battalion’s purview has not been previously reported.

The country’s national security machinery has become increasingly focused on social media — particularly as it relates to disinformation. Various national security agencies have spent recent years standing up offices all over the federal government to counter the purported threat.
“The ability to express opinions, criticize, make assumptions, or form value judgments — especially regarding public officials — is a quintessential part of democratic society.”

“There may be legally valid reasons to intrude on someone’s privacy by searching for, collecting, and analyzing publicly available information, particularly when it pertains to serious crimes and terrorist threats,” Ilia Siatitsa, program director at Privacy International, told The Intercept. “However, expressing ‘positive or negative sentiment towards a senior high-risk individual’ cannot be deemed sufficient grounds for government agencies to conduct surveillance operations, even going as far as ‘pinpointing exact locations’ of individuals. The ability to express opinions, criticize, make assumptions, or form value judgments — especially regarding public officials — is a quintessential part of democratic society.”

The three challenges of AI regulation

Tom Wheeler 

@tewheelsSam Altman, CEO of OpenAI, told the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 16 there was a need for “a new agency that licenses any effort above a certain scale of capabilities and could take that license away and ensure compliance with safety standards,”
Brad Smith, President of Microsoft, who had previously endorsed the idea of a digital regulatory agency, echoed Altman’s call a few days later: “Companies need to step up… Government needs to move faster,”

Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google, on May 23 announced an agreement with the European Union (EU) to develop an “AI Pact” of voluntary behavioral standards prior to the implementation of the EU’s AI Act.

As Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Richard Durbin (R-IL) observed, it is “historic” to have “people representing large corporations… come before us and plead with us to regulate them.”

Just as it began to look as though AI might be the impetus for the lions lying down with the lambs and cats and dogs becoming friends, however, peace and harmony ran up against reality. The difficulty of moving from a generic discussion about AI regulation to its actual implementation was illustrated by what happened next:Nine days after the Senate testimony that garnered Sen. Durbin’s praise, Mr. Altman spoke out against the European Union’s pending AI regulation, warning, “We will try to comply, but if we can’t comply, we will cease operating [in Europe].”

Such a threat was “blackmail,” Thierry Breton, the EU’s Industry Commissioner, quickly responded. “There’s no point in attempting blackmail – claiming that by crafting a clear framework, Europe is holding up the rollout of generative AI.”
Yet, Mr. Pichai’s chatbot AI product illustrates the problem at hand. Google Bard which is available in 180 countries, is not being offered in the EU or Canada reportedly because of those countries’ privacy rules.

The Who, Where, and How of Regulating AI

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During the past year, perhaps the only thing that has advanced as quickly as artificial intelligence is worry about artificial intelligence.

In the near term, many fear that chatbots such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT will flood the world with toxic language and disinformation, that automated decision-making systems will discriminate against certain groups, and that the lack of transparency in many AI systems will keep problems hidden. There’s also the looming concern of job displacement as AI systems prove themselves capable of matching or surpassing human performance. And in the long term, some prominent AI researchers fear that the creation of AI systems that are more intelligent than humans could pose an existential risk to our species.

The technology’s rapid advancement has brought new urgency to efforts around the world to regulate AI systems. The European Union got started first, and this week, on 14 June, took a step forward when one of its institutions, the European Parliament, voted to advance the draft legislation known as the AI Act. But China’s rule-makers have been moving the quickest to turn proposals into real rules, and countries including Brazil, Canada, and the United States are following behind.

The E.U. and the U.K. offer a study in contrasts. The former is regulation-forward; the latter is laissez-faire.