30 June 2023

India’s Strategic Imperative: Internal Military Balancing Against China

Rahul Jaybhay

India and China have locked horns in recent times. Recent clashes at the border have added to India’s insecurity against the looming Chinese threat. In managing Beijing’s revisionism, India’s approach rhymes with its Cold War strategy: a squeamish reluctance to rely on external powers to manage the threat unless it becomes an existential challenge. India believes that entanglements in alliances would only limit its great power ambition. This reasoning drove India to relinquish the external balancing act while relying on internal efforts to build capacities with active support from like-minded nations.

As India’s relative capabilities vis-à-vis others in the international system improve, it remains cautious in seeking alliances to tackle China. Rising powers are always “allergic” to maintaining alliances. Partnerships envisioning certain preferences for the global distribution of capabilities come with costs to secondary partners as they have to adhere to the strategic template outlined by the stronger ally. Avoiding such a step of strategic entanglement, Indian efforts are primed to focus on acquiring military arms and building indigenous capacities. Even as India’s relationship with Western countries, especially the United States, has warmed recently, with significant military dividends, India remains reluctant to embrace a formal alliance. Instead, India’s effort to push for internal self-strengthening mechanisms to checkmate China’s growing invincibility has gained momentum.

The recent deal to transfer advanced technology of fighter jet engines from the United States remains the highlight of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit. There are real dividends from such technology transfers. Not only will it advance the U.S. long-term goal of weaning India away from Russia, but India’s own indigenous intent for defense production also gets a boost.

Recent Indian efforts to launch Pralay and other indigenous missile capabilities point to New Delhi’s efforts to rectify the growing imbalance that consolidated post-1990s when Beijing eclipsed India’s economic growth. The entanglement of conventional and nuclear delivery systems bequeaths intentional ambiguity that obscures the distinction in missile strikes. Such efforts signify India’s tendency to bridge the power deficit with China and pursue self-help mechanisms to tackle Chinese aggression, focusing on acquiring foreign armament that buttresses India’s internal strength.

The Taliban’s Unsustainable War on Drugs

Shanthie Mariet D’Souza

According to multiple media reports, Taliban anti-narcotics units have managed to effect a drastic reduction in opium cultivation in Afghanistan. Assisted by armed Taliban soldiers, stick-wielding personnel are hopping from one opium-growing field to another, destroying standing crops in a large number of provinces. Overseen by international media, such operations may have resulted in an almost 80 percent reduction in opium cultivation this year in the country, which not long ago accounted for 85 percent of the world’s opium. Notwithstanding the hope this has generated of significantly reducing the availability of opium in the market, sustaining the tempo may be difficult for the Taliban in the medium to long term.

These operations have followed a decree by Taliban supreme leader Haibatullah Akhundzada in April 2022 outlawing the cultivation of drugs, including opium poppy, across Afghanistan. The Taliban Interior Ministry held a news conference in Kabul to announce the order and warned, “If anyone violates the decree, the crop will be destroyed immediately and the violator will be treated according to the Sharia law.”

At that time, many doubted the sincerity of the Taliban to implement the decree, which in effect would hit the group’s own revenue generation. However, its far-reaching implementation points to the unquestionable supremacy of Akhunzada and the weight Kandahar shura carries in the decision-making of the Islamic Emirate. Other factions including the Haqqanis, who control the interior ministry, have fallen in line, at least for now.

The Taliban have made all the right noises regarding the ban, trying to showcase their ability to bring down poppy cultivation quickly, not just because it is unacceptable in Islam, but also because of their genuine responsibility to address the drug addiction epidemic in the country. Afghanistan is estimated to have at least 3.5 million drug addicts. This is somewhat ironic given the fact that the Taliban have mostly failed to govern the country in any sense of the term and have remained rooted in their regressive policies against girls and women.

Are ‘Water Wars’ Coming to Asia?

Genevieve Donnellon

A recently published study by a team of scientists from the University of Texas in Austin, Penn State, and Tsinghua University in Nature climate change journal found that terrestrial water storage (TWS) in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in China is expected to sustain significant net declines by 2060. The study analyzed seven river basin systems – the Amu Darya, Indus, Ganges-Brahmaputra, Salween-Mekong, Yangtze, and Yellow river basins – and found that the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, also known as Asia’s “water tower” or “the roof of the world,” is threatened by climate change-induced water loss.

As the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau’s glacier melt and mountain springs provide a significant supply of water flowing out of China to many downstream countries in Asia, this study reinforces that climate change effects are exacerbating water insecurity in Asia. While the water challenges in Asia are due in part to poor water management, they are made worse by other pressures. These include rapid population growth, urbanization, growing water demands, upstream-downstream disputes, and geopolitical tensions over water resources. To avoid further water insecurity concerns and fears of a “water war” or water crisis, governments in Asia should rethink their approach to water security by improving their management of water resources.

Climate Change

In recent decades, climate change has caused a severe depletion in TWS (surface and subsurface water), which is essential in determining water availability. Water storage is affected by climate change impacts (such as climate change-induced extreme weather events) and is linked to global sea-level rise.

Can China Achieve Semiconductor Self-Sufficiency?

Marina Yue Zhang

Recently, Japan unveiled new export control measures for chipmaking equipment, encompassing twenty-three items across six categories, including lithography, etching, cleaning, deposition, and masking. While the specific targets of these measures were not explicitly mentioned, it is evident that China, being the largest importer of chipmaking equipment since 2020 and accounting for close to 40 percent of Japanese chipmaking equipment exports in 2021, is likely one of the intended targets.

The actions taken by Japan can be interpreted as a strategic alignment with the U.S.-led “Chip-4 Alliance,” aiming to curb China’s semiconductor industry. An important question emerges: Will these measures effectively contain China, enabling the U.S.-led chip alliances to maintain their strategic advantages, or will they trigger a new crisis for the chip industry by inadvertently providing China with an opportunity to accelerate its collective efforts toward achieving chip self-sufficiency?

Chips are pivotal to a nation’s economic growth, societal advancement, and national security, acting as the “brains” or controlling units of modern society. They are especially critical for emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and big data analytics, which are key determinants of a country’s future technological competitiveness. Moreover, chips embody military-civil fusion technologies that can be employed in the development of advanced weaponry. Consequently, mastery over chipmaking supply chains has emerged as a central point of contention in the intense competition between the United States and China, two global powerhouses in a race for technological supremacy.

Will China’s Private Security Companies Follow the Wagner Group’s Footsteps in Africa?

Jong Min Lee and Samuel Wittman

In April, the Wagner Group, a Russian-based private military company (PMC), caught the attention of the world for its offensive against the Ukrainian town of Bakhmut. This assault put the name of this group and its Kremlin-linked founder, Yevgeny Prigorzhin, on the lips of journalists and the news-conscious public around the world. However, to observers of the African continent, Wagner has been a source of concern for several years.

Wagner’s extensive deployments across the continent have made the company into Africa’s most prominent PMC, and allow it to act as an extension of Russian influence. However, Russia is not the only authoritarian giant casting an eye toward Africa. Chinese investment and trade with African countries have been among the defining features of the continent’s 21st century economic growth. Much as China has studiously watched the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Chinese actors have begun to imitate certain aspects of the Wagner Group’s strategy.

With the decision to expand its economic outreach in Africa as part of the Belt and Road Initiative in 2013, China has been drastically expanding the size of its private security companies (PSCs) since the mid-2010s, based on the pre-existing model of Wagner and Western PMCs. Thus far, Chinese PSCs have pursued a reserved strategy. However, as Wagner begins to shift resources to the Ukraine conflict and China’s engagement with Africa continues to become more robust, it is likely that Chinese actors will gradually come to play a more significant role in the security sector – especially in African states on tense terms with the West.

Post-independence African countries have long proven to be an ideal environment for private military companies. Weak states lacking the revenue raising capacity to fund major standing field armies combined with the relative frequency of violent regime change and internal conflict made 20th century Africa a rich field for mercenaries. In the Congo Crisis of the 1960s, mercenaries, primarily of French or South African origin, were used extensively, first by Katanganese separatists and then by the Tshombe government in its campaign against the Simba Rebellion. In the decades that followed, mercenaries, mostly from Western Europe or White-dominated areas of Southern Africa, played crucial roles in conflicts and coups across the continent including in Angola, Comoros, and Nigeria.

Putin needs Xi

Joe Webster

The Chinese and Russian leaders, Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 and Vladimir Putin met in person for the first time in the post-Ukraine-invasion era when they greeted each other in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit. It was also the first time that Xi had left China in 970 days — his last trip abroad was to Myanmar, from where he returned on January 18, 2020.

The Xi-Putin meeting was relatively cool. While Xi said he was happy to meet his “old friend” again, neither side appears to have released a joint photo op or a bilateral handshake, at least as of this writing, and Russia’s authoritative state media headlined “SCO as platform for constructive interaction” — not bilateral ties with China.

Putin hinted at Beijing’s disquiet at the invasion in the Kremlin’s readout, saying, “We appreciate our Chinese friends’ balanced position in connection with the Ukraine crisis. We understand your questions and your concerns in this regard. During today’s meeting we will certainly explain in detail our position on this issue, although we have spoken about this before now.” As scholar Jakub Jakóbowski points out, Putin’s voicing of Chinese concerns is a visible sign that Xi is the dominant, senior partner in the relationship.

Xi and Putin also met with their Mongolian counterpart, Ukhnaagiin Khurelsukh, as part of a trilateral Russia-Mongolia-China summit. While Khurelsukh said he supports additional Russia-to-China oil and gas pipelines transiting Mongolia, there has been no announcement regarding the Power of Siberia-2 Russia-to-China natural gas pipeline. The prospective pipeline suffers from severe problems, including weak project economics; a target in-service date of 2030 (at the earliest); and the possibility that the pipeline could become obsolete, leaving Russia with an expensive stranded asset.

Is China Breaking With Russia Over Ukraine?

Shannon Tiezzi

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, gestures while speaking to Chinese President Xi Jinping during the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, Friday, Sept. 16, 2022.Credit: Sergei Bobylev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP

During Chinese President Xi Jinping’s first trip abroad since January 2020, the most closely watched development was not his interactions with officials from his host countries, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Rather, the world’s attention was on his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Samarkand – the first in-person meeting between the two since Russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine began on February 24.

The last time Xi and Putin shook hands was on February 4 in Beijing, where Putin was attending the Opening Ceremony of the Winter Olympic Games. Back then, their joint statement famously declared that “friendship between the two States has no limits.”

Much has changed since the first week of February. Most notably, Russia is actively at war with Ukraine after sending masses of troops across the border just three weeks after the Putin-Xi meeting in Beijing – and the war is going badly for Moscow. Meanwhile, Russia is under unprecedented sanctions from the U.S., European Union, Japan, Australia, and others, and China’s perceived support for Putin is taking a steep toll on Beijing’s image in Europe.

One thing has not changed: Xi and Putin are still positioning their countries as close partners. “In the face of changes of the world, of our times and of history, China will work with Russia to fulfill their responsibilities as major countries and play a leading role in injecting stability into a world of change and disorder,” Xi told Putin, according to the Chinese Foreign Ministry readout. As my colleague Catherine Putz noted, Xi and Putin are aligned in seeking to replace the U.S.-led world order with a new, more “democratic” and “just” one. This basic interest has not changed, and there is no explicit indication of Chinese displeasure with Russia in the Chinese summary of the meeting.

China throws support behind ‘strategic partner’ Russia after Wagner insurrection challenges Putin

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. Sign up here.
Hong KongCNN —

China has voiced support for Russia after a short-lived insurrection posed the gravest challenge to the 23-year rule of Vladimir Putin, a close partner of Chinese leader Xi Jinping in his push for a new world order and strategic alignment against the United States.

The brief mutiny by the Wagner mercenary group reverberated beyond Russia, including in neighboring China, where Xi has forged a strong rapport with fellow authoritarian Putin thanks to their mutual distrust of the West – a strategic bond that has only deepened in recent years, even after Moscow’s stumbling invasion of Ukraine.

“There’s probably some scrambling around in Beijing to figure out what this means for Putin going forward, especially if it means a more fractured Russia or a Putin who is very much weakened,” said Chong Ja Ian, an associate professor of political science at the National University of Singapore.

Beijing finally broke its silence late on Sunday night, backing Russia with a terse statement that brushed off the incident as “Russia’s internal affair.”

“As Russia’s friendly neighbor and comprehensive strategic partner of coordination for the new era, China supports Russia in maintaining national stability and achieving development and prosperity,” a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said in the online statement.

US Aircraft Carrier Makes Da Nang Port Call as America Looks to Strengthen Ties with Vietnam

David Rising

In this photo provided by the U.S. Navy, the United States and Vietnam national ensigns are raised in unison on the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) in Da Nang, Vietnam, for a port visit, Sunday, June 25, 2023. The American aircraft carrier made a port call in Vietnam on Sunday — a rare visit by one of the U.S. Navy’s biggest ships that comes as Washington and Beijing both step up efforts to bolster ties with Southeast Asian nations.(Mass Communication 3rd Class Eric Stanton/U.S. Navy via AP)

BANGKOK — A U.S. aircraft carrier and two guided missile cruisers were visiting Vietnam on Monday, a rare port call that comes as the United States and China increasingly vie for influence in Southeast Asia.

The USS Ronald Reagan, along with the guided missile cruisers USS Antietam and USS Robert Smalls, arrived in Da Nang on Sunday for the visit.

Neighboring China is Vietnam's largest trading partner but Beijing's sweeping maritime claims in the South China Sea have led to increasing friction with Vietnam, as well as with Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia and the Philippines.

The U.S., meantime, has been on a diplomatic push to strengthen economic and military ties in the Indo-Pacific region.

The aircraft carrier's port call — only the third such visit since relations were reestablished after the end of the Vietnam war — follows visits to Vietnam this year from U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai and USAID Administrator Samantha Power.

What Does Lukashenka’s Role As Mediator In Russian Crisis Imply? – Analysis

Yauheni Preiherman*

As the entire world watched in disbelief during the rapidly unfolding mutiny in Russia organized by Yevgeny Prigozhin and the Wagner Group on June 23 and 24, hardly anyone could imagine how its endgame would ultimately play out. In particular, the factor of Belarus seemed nowhere close to the conflict’s equation and, yet, in the end, it suddenly proved decisive for how tensions deescalated. The role that Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka played in this context carries several key implications that the West would do well to take seriously.

On the morning of June 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin issued an ominous video address to the nation calling the rebellion an act of “treason” and “a deadly threat to our statehood” (Kremlin.ru, June 24). He promised that “all those who prepared the rebellion” would “suffer inevitable punishment.” In response, Prigozhin released an audio message in which he asserted that “the president was deeply wrong” and that “no one is going to turn themselves in at the request of the president, the FSB [Federal Security Service] or anyone else” (RTVI, June 24). He added that the Wagner fighters “do not want the country to live on in corruption, deceit and bureaucracy.” This indirect exchange made things clear: The conflict was no longer just between Prigozhin and the top brass of the Russian Ministry of Defense (as had been portrayed by all sides beforehand); it had effectively transformed into Wagner’s “deadly threat” to the Putin regime.

At that point, as the rebel troops were marching toward Moscow, it appeared inevitable that the confrontation would result in intense fighting and bloodshed. However, when their most advanced units were only about 200 kilometers away from the Russian capital, a breaking news statement came from the press service of the Belarusian president (President.gov.by, June 24). It announced that Lukashenka had been in talks with Prigozhin “for the entire day” and that the latter accepted Lukashenka’s “proposal on stopping the advance of Wagner’s armed units in Russia’s territory and on further steps meant to deescalate tensions.” The statement underlined that “an absolutely advantageous and acceptable variant to defuse the situation is available, including safety guarantees for fighters of the private military company Wagner.”

Twenty-Four Hours That Shook the Kremlin


Russian President Vladimir Putin’s response to the rebellion by Wagner Group boss Yevgeny Prigozhin was hardly that of a powerful leader or even a skilled tactician. Though Prigozhin turned back before reaching Moscow, Putin’s rivals are probably eyeing his throne.

MOSCOW – Yevgeny Prigozhin may have called off his attempted coup just before his Wagner Group mercenaries reached Moscow, but the rebellion may nonetheless have fatally undermined Vladimir Putin’s regime. Days, weeks, or even months might pass before the cracks are fully exposed, but make no mistake: every crisis that ends with only the thinnest of resolutions, or none at all, further diminishes Putin’s stature, and thus whatever support he has left among Russia’s elites. His rivals are probably already eyeing the throne.

In the short run, Putin could spin the uprising’s failure in his favor. After all, the masses did not rise up to join the rebellion, as Prigozhin predicted, and Russia’s armed forces stood with the Kremlin, though only half-heartedly, as demonstrated by the fact that Chechen troops had to be sent to Rostov-on-Don to confront Prigozhin’s mercenaries. But, in time, it will become clear that none of this reflects the Putin regime’s strength.

Neither side, it seems, was confident that it could defeat the other. Though Prigozhin vehemently criticized Russia’s military brass, he denied that he was attempting a coup. Instead, he insisted that the Wagner advance on Moscow was a “march of justice” for the soldiers who had died in Ukraine because of the Russian military’s poor leadership – and even that mission was quickly cut short. Prigozhin knew that he could not sustain an assault on Moscow.

Russia’s Dangerous Nuclear Consensus


The war in Ukraine has raised the specter not only of Russia’s disintegration into warlordism, as Yevgeny Prigozhin’s recent rebellion showed, but also of a catastrophic nuclear confrontation with Vladimir Putin. Given the stakes, the West must use every tool at its disposal to take the temperature of Russian domestic discourse.

MADRID – Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin’s weekend rebellion has shone a harsh spotlight on the apparently fragile state of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s regime. While Prigozhin soon agreed to stand down, and ordered his mercenary army to halt its advance on Moscow, the warlord-led uprising highlights, yet again, the imminent and existential risks that an aggressive and unstable nuclear power poses to the world.

Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine began last year – and especially since it became clear that Putin would not secure the quick victory he apparently expected – a nightmare scenario has loomed. Putin could be driven from power, leaving behind a fragmented Russia where various “warlords” compete for power – including control of the world’s largest nuclear arsenal.

When Prigozhin accused Russia’s military of attacking Wagner Group encampments, seized control of Russia’s Southern Military District headquarters in Rostov-on-Don, and ordered his mercenaries to march on Moscow, this scenario appeared likely. But though this particular coup did not materialize, there is no guarantee that another will not follow, especially in light of the support Prigozhin seems to enjoy among some segments of Russia’s population.

The Return of the Warlords


OXFORD – The turmoil in Russia unleashed by Yevgeny Prigozhin’s Wagner Group has drawn rapt attention in capitals throughout the world, but probably nowhere more so than in Beijing. The reason is not only that Russia is a trusted partner for China, but also that there are clear historical parallels between Russia this insurrectionary weekend and events a century ago that weakened China and left it vulnerable to invasion.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s response to the rebellion by Wagner Group boss Yevgeny Prigozhin was hardly that of a powerful leader or even a skilled tactician. Though Prigozhin turned back before reaching Moscow, Putin’s rivals are probably eyeing his throne.

Today, Russia runs the risk of being split between four or five factions, each with its own army. Aside from the Russian army and the Wagner Group, there are smaller forces under the control of the mayor of Moscow, the local militarist Ramzan Kadyrov in Chechnya, and a National Guard officially under President Vladimir Putin’s command but outside the chain of command of the Russian army. Various other armed forces protect the private business interests of a select group of Russian oligarchs.

A hundred years ago, it was China that was split between “warlords.” The collective memory of that period is one reason why China’s leaders are determined to keep military force firmly under the ruling Communist Party’s control.

In 1911, an unplanned revolutionary alliance ousted China’s last emperor, a five-year-old boy, and declared the establishment of Asia’s first republic. Yet the new state was extremely unstable. Its constitutional president, Sun Yat-sen, lasted only a few weeks in office before being ousted by Yuan Shikai, a military leader with a massive army loyal to him, not the state.

Prigozhin’s Uncertain Future Could Help United States Dislodge Wagner Group in Africa

Catrina Doxsee

The crisis in Russia is over for now, but the fight to control the Wagner Group has only just begun, creating an opening for the United States and its allies to dislodge Russian influence in places such as Africa. The standoff between Yevgeny Prigozhin and Vladimir Putin has left Wagner’s African clients confused about the future of their most important security partnerships. U.S. and allied decisionmakers have a fleeting opportunity to present such nations with alternative, stable forms of assistance and, in doing so, counter Moscow’s growing footprint on the continent.

Having achieved—at high cost—the existential goal of securing partial Wagner autonomy ahead of the July 1 deadline for Wagner troops to sign contracts with the Russian Ministry of Defense, Prigozhin will likely focus on safeguarding control of the rest of his business empire. Despite recent focus on its role in Ukraine, the bulk of Wagner’s operations are centered in Africa in countries such as Mali, the Central African Republic, Sudan, Libya, and Madagascar. There, Wagner routinely exchanges paramilitary services for access to natural resources such as gold and gemstones.

Yet Moscow is unlikely to let Wagner go that easily. Wagner's paramilitary activities are a cornerstone of Russia's efforts to expand its geopolitical and military power on the African continent, and the exploitation of natural resources allows Moscow to lessen the impact of international sanctions. Although Wagner is not the only Russian private military company, the alternatives cannot yet rival Wagner’s connections and name recognition.

There is tremendous uncertainty regarding the future of Wagner, Prigozhin, and perhaps even Putin. Although Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov confirmed Monday that Wagner would continue to operate in Africa, it is unclear what “Wagner” will mean. Assuming Prigozhin survives, Wagner and the various shell companies linked to Prigozhin could split into two or more factions, with Prigozhin retaining control of one faction and one or more either absorbed into the Russian military or subordinated to new leadership while remaining a quasi-independent entity. It is also possible that Wagner entities could be merged with another private military company such as Convoy, a relatively new group led by Sergey Aksyonov, the pro-Russia leader of Crimea, and Konstantin Pikalov, who formerly worked closely with Prigozhin and oversaw much of Wagner’s activity in Africa.

The Guns of Europe: Defence industrial Challenges in a Time of War

Twenty-five years of declining defence budgets led to the downsizing of Europe’s defence-industrial capacities. The challenge now is to ramp up production quickly.

Defence planners and industrialists expend a lot of effort trying to avoid preparing for the last war. And yet, the uncomfortable truth emerging from the ongoing war on European soil is that European countries have barely prepared for war at all. Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine has revealed significant shortcomings in the capacity of European NATO governments to supply and arm a neighbouring partner, much less fight a major war themselves. The armed forces in European NATO and European Union member states are hollowed-out, plagued by unserviceable equipment and severely depleted ammunition stocks. Policymakers in many nations have responded by announcing significant increases in defence spending. The new money is intended to address long-standing capability shortfalls, support the modernisation of armed forces and in some cases their growth, replenish stocks, and fill gaps created by the transfer of equipment and munitions to Ukraine. As Morten Brandtzæg, CEO of the Norwegian defence company Nammo, has observed, ‘it’s a war about industrial capacity’. Yet it has very quickly become apparent that Europe’s defence-industrial base will struggle to meet this increased demand in the short term. This raises urgent questions about European industry’s ability to continue supporting Ukraine militarily at scale and at speed, and its ability to recapitalise forces in NATO and the EU.

The approximately 25 years of decline in European defence budgets between the end of the Cold War and Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 inevitably led to the downsizing of Europe’s defence-industrial capacities. During the Cold War, European governments were willing to finance a degree of defence-industrial overcapacity to ensure reliable access to equipment and munitions at scale. When the Cold War ended, the emphasis changed from readiness to efficiency – to doing more with less. The defence industry had little choice but to take business decisions that reduced capacity. The war in Ukraine is prompting a rapid reassessment of priorities. The challenge now is to ramp up production quickly.

Why Prigozhin Blinked

Trevor Filseth

For a moment, it seemed as though the Russian government would fall. On June 23, Yevgeny Prigozhin, the thuggish leader of Wagner Group, a Russian mercenary outfit, raged against the Russian military and threatened retaliation after it allegedly bombed a Wagner training camp. The Kremlin denied the incident—and opened a criminal case against Prigozhin for attempting to incite an armed rebellion. In response, Prigozhin launched an open war against Russia’s military leaders, seizing the city of Rostov-on-Don and vowing to march on Moscow to remove them from power.

Chaos ensued. Wagner advanced. Vladimir Putin’s plane departed from Moscow; the Kremlin’s press service insisted that the president remained behind. The roads to the capital were blocked. The Russian internet was censored. Russian military units between Prigozhin and Moscow offered little resistance, and rumors of defections flew. The vast majority of soldiers remained stationed along the battle lines in Ukraine, even as the rogue mercenary group drove by behind them. Chechen fighters loyal to pro-Putin strongman Ramzan Kadyrov appeared ready to enter the fight from the south.

Then Prigozhin blinked. He issued a statement backpedaling—declaring that he had not sought to overthrow Putin, only to “march for justice,” and claiming that he would not attack Moscow to avoid spilling Russian blood. (By this point, more than a dozen Russian soldiers had been killed during the push north, though it is clear that the offensive could have been far more violent.) Through the mediation of Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, a deal was reached whereby Prigozhin would leave the country and enter exile in Belarus. Wagner units would return to their posts in occupied Ukraine. The crisis was defused. Putin survived. The “end of history” was once again averted.

The eleventh-hour deal came as a surprise to many Western observers, who noted that the Kremlin’s early statements seemed to reject the possibility of a compromise. Putin, who had a decades-long relationship with Prigozhin and had supported him throughout the war, could have extended an olive branch. Instead, he gave a televised address condemning Prigozhin and his followers as traitors—seemingly giving the Wagner leader no choice but to seize Moscow and overthrow the government. The agreement gives both sides an alternative.

Andriy Zagorodnyuk: How Ukraine’s counteroffensive will affect Russia’s army, future of the war

Andriy Zagorodnyuk

Editor’s Note: This is an analysis by Andriy Zagorodnyuk, ex-Defense Minister and the chairman of the Center for Defense Strategies, a Kyiv-based think tank. It was originally published in Ukrainian by Ukrainska Pravda on Sept. 14. The Kyiv Independent has translated it and is republishing it with permission.

The remarkably successful actions of Ukraine’s Armed Forces over the past week, including the defeat of Russian military units in Kharkiv Oblast, have great strategic and, without exaggeration, historic importance.

They have substantially changed Russian forces’ capabilities to further hold occupied territories.

In this analysis, we reveal the consequences of these events, the further development of the war as a result of Russia’s defeats, and whether Russia will be able to effectively engage in warfare going forward.
Consequences of Russia’s defeat

It is hard to overestimate the importance of events at the front line in the past several days. Information about Ukrainian forces defeating Russian forces has spread all across the world.

We are in particular talking about the frantic withdrawal of the Russian units, the panic among its personnel, the lack of intention to show any resistance at the front line and the rapid advance of the Armed Forces of Ukraine stretching dozens of kilometers.

The Ukrainian counteroffensive has ultimately ruined the image of the Russian army as strong and capable of creating a serious, immediate threat to the democratic world.

With Wagner’s Future in Doubt, Ukraine Could Capitalize on Chaos

Julian E. Barnes and Thomas Gibbons-Neff

To some Ukrainian forces, soldiers from the Wagner Group were the best-equipped fighters they had seen since Russia invaded last year. To others, it was their training that distinguished them: Ukrainian soldiers recalled battlefield stories of aggressive tactics or a sniper downing a drone with a single shot.

But after the short-lived mutiny led by the head of the group, Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, it is not clear whether Wagner will still be a fighting force on the battlefield with its fate now in question.

For now, the uncertain status of Wagner is bound to be a relief for Ukrainian soldiers. Though the front lines in Ukraine are likely to remain unchanged in the short term, depending on how events unfold in Russia, the Ukrainian military may be able to capitalize on the chaos and weakening morale to try to make some gains, according to independent analysts and American officials.

Still, it is too soon to determine the long-term implications of the feud between Mr. Prigozhin and the Russian military establishment, American officials said. In Bakhmut, Wagner played an outsize role in the campaign to take the eastern city, Moscow’s one major battlefield victory this year, and solidified an uneasy alliance with the Russian military — only to see the partnership break once the city was captured.

“The previous relationship between Wagner and the Russian government is likely over,” said Rob Lee, a senior fellow with the Foreign Policy Research Institute. “Even had this not happened, it was unclear if Wagner would have played the same role in this war as it had in the battle for Bakhmut.”

With Russia revolt over, mercenaries’ future and direction of Ukraine war remain uncertain


The rebellious mercenary soldiers who briefly took over a Russian military headquarters on an ominous march toward Moscow were gone Sunday, but the short-lived revolt has weakened President Vladimir Putin just as his forces are facing a fierce counteroffensive in Ukraine.

Under terms of the agreement that ended the crisis, Yevgeny Prigozhin, who led his Wagner troops in the failed uprising, will go into exile in Belarus but will not face prosecution.

But it was unclear what would ultimately happen to him and his forces. Few details of the deal were released either by the Kremlin or Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who brokered it. Neither Prigozhin nor Putin has been heard from, and top Russian military leaders have also remained silent.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken described the weekend’s events as “extraordinary,” recalling that 16 months ago Putin appeared poised to seize the capital of Ukraine and now he has had to defend Moscow from forces led by his onetime protege.

“I think we’ve seen more cracks emerge in the Russian façade,” Blinken said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“It is too soon to tell exactly where they go and when they get there, but certainly we have all sorts of new questions that Putin is going to have to address in the weeks and months ahead.”

It was not yet clear what the fissures opened by the 24-hour rebellion would mean for the war in Ukraine. But it resulted in some of the best forces fighting for Russia being pulled from the battlefield: the Wagner troops, who had shown their effectiveness in scoring the Kremlin’s only land victory in months, in Bakhmut, and Chechen soldiers sent to stop them on the approach to Moscow.

The Wagner forces’ largely unopposed, rapid advance also exposed vulnerabilities in Russia’s security and military forces. The mercenary soldiers were reported to have downed several helicopters and a military communications plane. The Defense Ministry has not commented.

Putin says the aborted rebellion played into the hands of Russia’s enemies


Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday blasted organizers of a weekend revolt, the gravest threat yet to his power, as traitors who played into the hands of Ukraine’s government and its allies.

Speaking in a stern tone and looking tired in a five-minute TV address near midnight, Putin sought to project stability. He tried to strike a balance between criticizing the uprising’s perpetrators to prevent another crisis, and not antagonizing the bulk of the mercenaries and their hardline supporters, some of whom are incensed at the Kremlin’s handling of the situation.

Putin, whose troops are stretched thin in the face of a Ukrainian counteroffensive, praised the rank and file mercenaries for not letting the situation descend into “major bloodshed.” And he said the nation had stood united, although there had been localized signs of support for the uprising.

Earlier in the day, the head of the mercenary Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, who led the rebellion, defended his short-lived insurrection. He again taunted Russia’s military, but said he hadn’t been seeking to stage a coup against Putin. On Friday, Prigozhin had called for an armed rebellion to oust the military leadership.

Putin’s address was announced by his spokesman in advance and billed by Russian state media as something that would “define the fate of Russia.” In fact, the address didn’t yield groundbreaking developments.

Abbas Gallyamov, a former Kremlin speechwriter turned political analyst, called the address weak. In a Facebook post, he said it was a sign that Putin is “acutely dissatisfied with how he looked in this whole story and is trying to correct the situation.”

Washington Needs to Get Ready for Russian Chaos

Luke Coffey

Although the deal between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Wagner Group head Yevgeny Prigozhin succeeded in calling off the latter’s military insurrection, preventing a Russian civil war, and restoring order for now, one thing is certain: This drama is far from over. Putin’s disastrous decision to invade Ukraine has come full circle and set off an unstable power dynamic within Russia. Prigozhin’s quick alleged takeover of two major Russian cities and his warriors’ march on Moscow against virtually no resistance have shown that anything is possible, including Putin’s downfall and civil war.

The Global South Is Keeping Russia’s Energy Economy Afloat

Eugene Chausovsky

As villages and towns change hands in Ukraine during the counteroffensive operations against Russian forces and Moscow grapples with internal instability following Wagner’s failed mutiny, the global energy map is also being redrawn. The war has not only dramatically reduced oil and natural gas flows between Russia and Europe, but it has reshaped energy connections around the world. This evolving shift in energy connectivity could play a significant role in shaping the outlook of the standoff between Russia and the West, as well as Ukraine’s own future.

Greenwald: If Western Press Admits Ukraine's "Counteroffensive" Is A Failure, Imagine How Bad It Really Is

Tim Hains

GLENN GREENWALD: Earlier today, CNN (a very emphatic booster and supporter of Biden's war policy in Ukraine that has been cheerleading it from the start and barely includes any dissent from opponents)... Even CNN and its national security correspondent Jim Scuitto, are starting to admit that this counteroffensive is a failure by every metric, at least so far.

Here today is an article on CNN: Early Stages of Ukrainian Counteroffensive "Not Meeting Expectations" - "In its early phases, Ukraine's counteroffensive is having less success and Russian forces are showing more competence than western assessments expected, two western officials and a senior US military official told CNN. The counteroffensive is 'not meeting expectations on any front,' one of the officials said. According to Western assessments, Russian lines of dense have been well-fortified, making it difficult for Ukrainian forces to breach them. In addition, Russian forces have had success bogging down Ukrainian armor with missile attacks and mines and have been deploying air power more effectively. Ukrainian forces are proving 'vulnerable' to minefields and Russian forces 'competent' in their defense, one of the Western officials said... Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky admitted Wednesday that progress had been 'slower than desired.'"

If CNN is telling you that this counteroffensive is a "failure by all metrics" and even Zelensky is admitting that progress has been "slower than desired," imagine the truth of what a debacle this actually is.

If you look at the images of what the Russians have spent the last year doing, with their fortifications and the landmass that they control, digging like World War One-style trenches that would prevent even tanks from doing anything other than just falling facedown into them and all kinds of zigzag trenches that make it impossible to attack with artillery, they're very dug in. The Russians know how to fight these wars, they were very much major participants in World War One and World War Two. They know how to fight these land wars in Europe. They very much know Ukraine, Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union for the entire 20th century.

And the ability of the Ukrainians to break through those lines and be able to blow apart highly fortified Russian positions, if it is possible at all, is going to take months if not years, and tens and tens of thousands of lives, if not hundreds of thousands of lives. For a country, Ukraine, that has a much smaller population than Russia does, and therefore a much smaller supply of men of fighting age, just that alone is gigantic.

Escalation Management in Ukraine: “Learning by Doing” in Response to the “Threat that Leaves Something to Chance”

The article analyses a process of escalation management over time between nuclear states under conditions of radical uncertainty. After Russia invaded Ukraine, President Vladimir Putin manipulated uncertainty to manage escalation and to deter NATO support of Ukraine. President Joe Biden was determined to avoid a war between NATO and Russian forces that he feared could escalate and was simultaneously committed to helping Ukraine repel Russian aggression and defend itself. These two objectives, often in tension with one another, defined the boundaries of the strategy of escalation management that the United States developed to reduce uncertainty. This contest between a strategy to manipulate uncertainty and a strategy to reduce uncertainty frames the analysis of escalation management and raises important issues of theory and policy. The article finds that the U.S. strategy of “learning by doing” has succeeded thus far in managing escalation but concludes with four challenges that could jeopardize future success.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has pushed the difficult question of escalation management between nuclear powers back to the top of the agenda.1 For the last three decades, leaders in Washington and Brussels have believed that the complex strategic challenges of managing nuclear escalation had been relegated to history, at least in Europe. Russia’s brutal attack on Ukraine destroyed that belief. It also shattered the norms and rules that had governed the relationship between Washington and Moscow for the last five decades. The United States made clear its support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence, even though Ukraine is not an American ally. It is difficult to make commitments to a partner credible, but in the months preceding Russia’s invasion, Washington extended deterrence to Ukraine. It warned Russia repeatedly not to attack and threatened grave consequences should it do so. Deterrence nevertheless failed.2 After it failed, the United States immediately confronted the challenges of escalation management.

It is no coincidence that the day before the invasion, Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a vague order to move to a “special regime of combat duty,” an unknown level of strategic preparedness.3 A week before the attack, Russia also conducted previously planned exercises of its nuclear launch systems. Finally, as the invasion began, Putin warned that any outside country standing in Russia’s way would face “consequences such as they have never seen in their history,” a thinly veiled nuclear threat.4 Putin manipulated uncertainty to deter NATO engagement on behalf of Ukraine. President Joe Biden was determined to avoid a war between NATO and Russian forces — a war he feared could escalate to World War III — and was simultaneously committed to helping Ukraine defend itself and repel Russian aggression. These two objectives, often in tension with one another, defined the boundaries of the strategy of escalation management that the United States developed to reduce uncertainty. This contest between a strategy to manipulate uncertainty and a strategy to reduce uncertainty sets the framework for an analysis of escalation management and raises important issues of theory and policy.

The tech flaw that lets hackers control surveillance cameras

BBC Panorama

Chinese-made surveillance cameras are in British offices, high streets and even government buildings - and Panorama has investigated security flaws involving the two top brands. How easy is it to hack them and what does it mean for our security?

In a darkened studio inside the BBC's Broadcasting House in London, a man sits at his laptop and enters his password.

Thousands of miles away, a hacker is watching everything he types.

Next, the BBC employee picks up his mobile phone and enters the passcode. The hacker now has that, too.

A security flaw in the surveillance camera on the ceiling - manufactured by the Chinese firm Hikvision - means it's now vulnerable to attack.

"I own that device now - I can do whatever I want with that," says the hacker. "I can disable it… or I can use it to watch what's going on at the BBC."

Why is it so rare to hear about Western cyber-attacks?

Joe Tidy

A cyber-attack that took over iPhones at a Russian technology company is being blamed on US government hackers. Could the attack, and the response from the Russian government, be rewriting the narrative of who the good guys and bad guys are in cyber-space?

Camaro Dragon, Fancy Bear, Static Kitten and Stardust Chollima - these aren't the latest Marvel film superheroes but the names given to some of the most feared hacking groups in the world.

For years, these elite cyber teams have been tracked from hack to hack, stealing secrets and causing disruption allegedly under orders from their governments.

And cyber-security companies have even created cartoon images of them.

Camaro Dragon - Checkpoint's latest illustration for an alleged Chinese group hacking European foreign affairs workers

With dots on a world map, marketeers at these companies regularly warn customers about where these "advanced persistent threats" (APTs) are coming from - usually Russia, China, North Korea and Iran.

But parts of the map remain conspicuously empty.