4 July 2023

Mapping the Indian Ocean Region


The Indian Ocean region has been an important trade arena for centuries. Today, it remains critical to the security and stability of shipping lanes and trade routes, accounting for over one-third of the world’s bulk cargo traffic and two-thirds of the world’s oil shipments and ensuring global access to food, precious metals, and energy resources.1 Stretching from Africa’s eastern coast to Australia’s western coast, the region is home to thirty-three nations and 2.9 billion people. Given the region’s importance, many countries around the world work with regional partners to maintain open access to the Indian Ocean’s critical waterways and natural resources.

For decades, the Indian Ocean region has been erroneously studied through the continental divisions of Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia. But to understand the true importance and strategic advantages of the region, it must be viewed as one continuous theater.

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Indian Ocean Strategic Map does just that.2 Developed by Carnegie’s Indian Ocean Initiative, the map provides a coherent, continuous, and data-driven understanding of the players, security challenges, and other factors that shape the region (see figure 1). The first of its kind, it shows how the Indian Ocean’s economic, political, military, and geographic features interact to create a single geopolitical arena.

Implications for regional stability and security

Arif Rafiq

Pakistan is in the throes of a multifaceted crisis that could result in the collapse of the economy and of the country’s semi-democratic system. Over the course of its history the country has seen three periods of military rule, totalling 33 years. Since 2008, Pakistan has been ruled by a hybrid regime featuring an elected civilian government that informally (and, to some extent, unwillingly) shares power with the country’s army. The army’s role in politics has become more overt since 2018 as both coalition governments that have ruled since then came to power as a result of collaboration with the military against common political foes.

Given Pakistan’s large population, strategic location, and nuclear weapons arsenal, instability in the country may result in cascading negative and disruptive effects not just in South and Central Asia, but also beyond, including in Europe.

The aim of this Brief is to identify the chief drivers of instability in Pakistan today, their potential ramifications beyond the country’s borders, and to provide guidance for EU policymakers on steps that can be taken to help restore economic and political stability in the country. The first section of the Brief examines the simultaneous economic, political and security challenges that have been impacting the country over the past year — what some observers are calling a ‘polycrisis’ (1). The next section looks at the interplay between these three crises and assesses their impact on order, stability and social cohesion in Pakistan. The third section explores how Pakistan’s crises could impact the immediate region, including the stability of the Taliban regime, the behaviour of Islamist terrorist groups in Afghanistan, and the ceasefire along the Line of Control in Kashmir (2) The final section assesses the implications of a meltdown of government and society in Pakistan for the EU, addressing policy priorities such as democracy and human rights, economic stability and migration, competition with China, and climate. It concludes with policy recommendations for the EU as a whole and its Member States.

Why Sanctions Against the Taliban Aren’t Working

Wazhma Sadat

Last month, several Republican senators introduced a bill to impose tougher sanctions on the Taliban. The Taliban Sanctions Act, introduced by Sen. Jim Risch, requires U.S. President Joe Biden to sanction the Taliban for their terrorist activities, drug trafficking, and human rights abuses. Although the bill correctly highlights the Taliban’s undeniable human rights violations, it is utterly misguided. Economic sanctions will only harm the people of Afghanistan, not the Taliban; instead of introducing new sanctions, existing ones should be lifted immediately.


Martin Stanton

In 1988 the Soviet Union began withdrawing from Afghanistan with the last troops leaving the country in January of 1989. The Army of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (DRA) they left behind continued to receive resourcing and material from the Soviets. A small number of Soviet soldiers remained in Afghanistan after the withdrawal in 1989 but they were overwhelmingly logisticians and technicians. The DRA Army in the field faced the Mujaheddin alone. They achieved some notable victories (Jalalabad in 1989) and suffered some notable defeats (Khost in 1991) but did not completely collapse until the Russians (not the Soviets – under new management) cut off funding and resourcing in early 1992. Prior to the loss of Russian resourcing, the DRA Army, with all its imperfections, maintained a degree of combat efficacy.

In 2021 the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA) and Afghan National Defense and Security Forces ( ANDSF) were informed of the final decision on US withdrawal on April 14th. At no time or point was the ANDSF cut off from US/NATO resourcing or material support (which was scheduled to continue until at least 2024). Four months to the day after the announcement of the president’s final decision to withdraw from Afghanistan, the Army that the US and its allies/partners had so painstakingly built over almost twenty years had collapsed (largely without a fight) and the GIRoA had fallen.

It's hard to escape the conclusion that the Soviets were more successful in developing an Afghan Army than we were. It’s not enough to look at our mistakes. We should also look at those who had more success at the endeavor than we did. How were they different? What environmental factors of the times helped them and what lessons transcend specific time periods?

Same country, different times:

To start, we must acknowledge that the Soviets had some key advantages that gave them more of a base foundation to work with. First, the Afghan army they assisted was already established and the Soviets already had a train-and-equip relationship with it prior to the 1979 Invasion. Second, the Afghan Military’s personnel system was based on a large body of high turnover conscripts/enlistees and a small body of professional cadre – in other words, it was a military model like that of the Soviet Army. Lastly (and perhaps most significantly) the Afghan Army the Soviets worked with from 1979 to 1988 was made up of people who had undergone a degree of normal socialization in peacetime. Even the youngest DRA recruit in 1988 at least had a childhood memory of Afghanistan at peace in a time of (relative) prosperity and normality. Afghan national identity (although still relatively weak) was stronger in the 1960s/70s than perhaps any other time in recent history. The soldiers that made up the DRA were from the last generation of Afghans whose socialization process had not been entirely interrupted by war.

Assessing the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapon programme

Tahir Mahmood Azad & Karl Dewey

Although the broad outlines of Pakistan's nuclear weapons' programme are well documented, significant gaps remain in the understanding of the country's nuclear security regime. Nuclear security remains a highly politicised topic, with little robust information available regarding the steps taken to secure the country's nuclear assets. To help “fill the gaps”, this paper places official Pakistani documents, statements, and other open source information, into an analytical framework based on international standards of physical security. Although gaps in understanding remain, this paper finds that, in general, Pakistan has enacted robust security measures to protect its nuclear weapons and nuclear-weapons related infrastructure. Nonetheless, the prevailing perception of Pakistan's nuclear security remains dominated by embarrassing episodes that emphasise the importance of effective nuclear security culture. Based on its findings, this paper also offers policy recommendations which may offer additional confidence about the rigours of the country's nuclear security regime.


Since its first nuclear test on 28 May 1998, Pakistan’s nuclear programmes have faced intense international scrutiny. Much of this has focused on Pakistan’s nuclear command, control, and communications (NC3) arrangements, and when nuclear weapons would be used. However, persistent concerns of non-state actors mean significant questions have also been raised about Pakistan’s ability to defend its nuclear assets against attack, theft, and/or sabotage against internal and external adversaries. Nonetheless, assessing Pakistan’s nuclear security regime is difficult – on one hand, Pakistani officials have sought to reassure the international community that the country has codified its NC3 arrangements and improved its nuclear security record. These reforms have been both broad-based, as well addressing specific threats, such as human reliability. As a result, Pakistani officials often issue high-level assurances that the country’s nuclear assets are safe and secure, and assert that national security plans are “fool proof.”Footnote1 However, on the other hand, Pakistan’s limited transparency means that few details are provided to support such claims, whilst the general incentive for counties to portray themselves as responsible nuclear powers means “official statements by governments [in the area of nuclear security] are often dubious if not outright duplicitous.”Footnote2

Where are the PLA’s other laser dazzling facilities?

China Aerospace Studies Institute

In December 2022, U.S. researchers again updated their analysis of the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA’s) laser research, development, and testing facilities in the desert of China’s Xinjiang province. This time, they described how their review of commercial satellite imagery had led them to hypothesize that “China is utilizing a vehicle-mounted laser system, or seeks to develop one, for more destructive types of laser [counterspace] operations.”[i]

This article seeks to flesh out and redirect that hypothesis with three arguments discussed in more detail below. First, PLA media and academy theorists more often discuss the benefits of laser dazzling and other reversible counterspace laser effects. Second, the PLA highly likely already has a mobile laser dazzling capability, and it would be extremely useful to catch those with satellite imagery, rather than more imagery of the Bohu laser facility in Xinjiang. Third, there are diminishing payoffs from focusing on Bohu for understanding China’s now 15 years of experience with counterspace lasers; in particular other PLA services have used those facilities and have developed truck mounted laser weapons, but not for space or counterspace applications.[ii] Lastly, the report includes imagery to facilitate follow up reasearch.

[i] Arms Control Wonk, “The Bohu Laser Facilty Part 1 and Part 2,” 12/2022, https://www.armscontrolwonk.com/archive/1216848/the-bohu-laser-facility-part-1-history-and-organisation/

[ii] Army Recognition, “China displays new version of its LW-30 mobile laser weapon at AirShow China 2022,” 11/2022, https://www.armyrecognition.com/weapons_defence_industry_military_technology_uk/china_displays_new_version_of_its_lw-30_mobile_laser_weapon_at_airshow_china_2022.html

U.S.-Taiwan Relations in a New Era

Susan M. Gordon and Michael G. Mullen

U.S. policy toward Taiwan needs to evolve to contend with a more capable, assertive, and risk-acceptant China that is increasingly dissatisfied with the status quo.

Executive Summary

A conflict between the United States and the People’s Republic of China (PRC, or China) over Taiwan is becoming increasingly imaginable, a result of China’s growing military capabilities and assertiveness, the emergence and coalescence of a separate Taiwanese identity, and evolving U.S. calculations about its interests at stake in the Taiwan Strait. If deterrence fails and a war erupts, the result would be calamitous for Taiwan, China, the United States, and the world, resulting in thousands of casualties on all sides and a profound global economic depression.

The United States has critical strategic interests in the Taiwan Strait. If China were to successfully annex Taiwan against the will of the Taiwanese people, doing so on the heels of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, it would severely undermine international order by again demonstrating that countries can use coercion or force to unilaterally redraw borders. If China were to station its military on the island, the United States would find it far more difficult to project power, defend its treaty allies, and operate in international waters in the Western Pacific. U.S. influence would wane because its allies would question U.S. commitment to their defense and either accommodate China or pursue strategic autonomy. A war in the Taiwan Strait would also halt the production and shipment of the majority of the world’s semiconductors, paralyzing global supply chains and ushering in a severe economic crisis. Finally, if China were to take control of Taiwan, it would spell the end of a liberal democracy and have chilling effects on democracies around the world. The Task Force thus finds that it is vital for the United States to deter China from using force or coercion to achieve unification with Taiwan.

Russian uprising sparks muted reaction from China; ‘unlimited partnership’ under strain?


SYDNEY — It’s very difficult to read the tea leaves of how China will react to the Wagner Group’s surprisingly fast — if unsuccessful — strike against Vladimir Putin’s regime, but two things seem clear, according to China experts: Xi Jinping is likely to hedge his bets in dealings with Russia, but he’ll maintain the facade of close relations while global stability will be his top priority.

“China has invested much in the ‘unlimited partnership‘ with Russia,” noted Malcolm Davis of the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in an email, “and so the concern of Beijing would be how that partnership would be affected if a new hardline nationalist leader replaced Putin. The second concern would be about Russian stability in coming weeks and months, especially if Putin is weakened. This insurrection by [Wagner chief Yevgeny] Prigozhin failed, but what about a future insurrection by a different figure? The possibility of a Russian civil war, or a fragmentation is no longer off the radar.”

While China, of course, fears nothing more than a so-called color revolution at home, it’s unclear how different a Russia ruled by Yevgeny Prigozhin or his cronies would have been from one ruled by Putin. But the threat of instability could be enough to give Beijing pause.

“We can’t know for sure” how China will react, said Meia Nouwens, China expert at the International Institute for Strategic Studies. “It depends on Beijing’s view of the risk vs. reward of supporting Russia. I don’t think this will convince China to risk secondary sanctions by providing Russia with lethal aid.”

Much of China’s reaction may have little to do with Russia, because, as the IISS expert notes, “China will continue to see the bilateral relationship through the lens of US-China relations.”

The End of Optimism in China

Michael Schuman 

In 1919, Lu Xun, one of modern China’s most influential writers, wrote a short story about a down-on-his-luck Confucian scholar named Kong Yiji. Having failed to pass the imperial civil-service exams, Kong is unwilling to keep a regular job and sinks into poverty. The other villagers show no sympathy for his plight or respect for his learning: “His speech,” recounts the tale’s narrator, the wine-warmer at a tavern Kong frequents, “was so dusty with classical constructions you could hardly understand him.” The villagers taunt and abuse him until, at the story’s close, his legs having been broken in a beating he takes for stealing, Kong drags himself out of the tavern with his hands, never to be seen again.

More than a century later, China’s educated young people have found a special affinity for the unfortunate Kong Yiji. By the official count, one in five Chinese aged 16 to 24 is unemployed, the highest level on record. Their hard-earned college degrees have diminished in value as a result of both the economy’s halting recovery from strict COVID lockdowns and an ideologically driven crackdown on private enterprise. Many educated young people face a choice similar to Kong’s: take a job beneath their credentials or fail to pay the bills.

One commentator on social media compared his college education to “a pedestal I can’t get down from, much like Kong Yiji couldn’t get out of his ‘scholar’s robes.’” An essayist went so far as to blame China’s leader, Xi Jinping, for the distress of today’s Kong Yijis, dropping a reference to another famous fable: “The economy is in the toilet, and unemployment is severe,” the essay read. “Rather than make Kong Yiji take off his scholar’s gown, how about stripping the Emperor of his new clothes?”

Censors scrubbed that essay from the Chinese internet. But the proliferating expressions of empathy with Kong Yiji suggest a mood of disenchantment that is notable in contemporary China. One of the hallmarks of the reform era had been a boundless optimism: Tomorrow would always be better than today. And for the most part, it was. With the economy in hyperdrive, the opportunities ahead seemed limitless, while the emergence of new technologies and easier access to international travel and better education made life feel freer, even under an oppressive Communist security state. The Communist Party was able to capitalize on these good feelings to solidify its grip on the country and build a degree of local support.

The Wagner Group Will Live to Fight Another Day

Molly Dunigan

Over the weekend, the world watched with a mixture of fascination, anticipation, excitement, and horror as the Russian paramilitary Wagner Group appeared to launch a direct challenge to the nuclear-armed Russian military establishment. Still, it is unlikely that Wagner's paramilitary enterprise will be dissolved.

It is nearly impossible to imagine that the Russian leadership will completely disband the corporate underpinnings of the Wagner Group and its overall personnel—they are too significant to Russia's greater geostrategic aims and economic strength.

On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that he would keep his promise to allow Wagner's soldiers to move to Belarus, go home to their families, or sign contracts with the Russian Defense Ministry.

Leading a “march of justice,” Wagner owner Yevgeny Prigozhin led 25,000 primarily Russian fighters from Ukrainian territory into Russia and marched to Moscow, taking over military commands in the towns of Rostov-on-Don, Voronezh, and Lipetsk in their wake.

The Wagner Group is just one of several known Russian private military companies that have operated abroad in the relatively recent past. But Wagner is unique in its scope and scale, having reportedly deployed 5,000 fighters at the height of the Syrian civil war in 2017, and 50,000 fighters in Ukraine as of early 2023. The organization is also active throughout Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America, and is often the tip of the Russian spear in power projection into these areas.
Wagner Group Is an Important Income Source for the Kremlin

Moreover, the organization is a significant source of income for the Kremlin, enabling the Russian government to quietly and securely overtake lucrative mining and extraction sites for a significant profit.

New Hacking Group Takes Down Russian Telecom Satellite in Support of Prigozhin’s Wagner Group


“The information threat vectors and cyber attack surface have been expanded: Be on the lookout for how recent events have ginned up the tactical and strategic activity of Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) and non-state cyber actors in the field – on all sides of this multi-sided hybrid conflict. Early last week, before the events in Russia, White House Deputy National Security Adviser Anne Neuberger at the FT Cyber Resilience Summit in Washington, voiced concern that Ukraine is already experiencing a ‘surge’ in cyberattacks as it executes counteroffensive. Watch this space.”

Yesterday, a new, unidentified non-state actor hacking operation hit a Russian telecom satellite in support of the Wagner Group.

OODA Loop Sponsor

A summary of this development as reported by our friends over at The Record:

“Hackers claim to take down Russian satellite communications provider. Here’s what you need to know:

The Beginning of the End for Putin?

Liana Fix and Michael Kimmage

Russia’s war against Ukraine has destroyed the mystique of Russian President Vladimir Putin as an untouchable autocrat. Before February 24, 2022, Putin may have looked unscrupulous and aggressive, but through his military moves in Syria, Crimea, and beyond, he could seem like a capable strategist. Then, in one stroke, he showed his ineptitude by invading a country that posed no threat to Russia and by failing again and again in his military enterprise—the latest example of which is the short-lived armed rebellion the mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin carried out this weekend, which has just undermined Putin’s autocrat mystique.

Putin abetted the rise of Prigozhin and ignored the warning signs about Wagner, Prigozhin’s out-of-control private military company. As the Russian military struggled in Ukraine, Prigozhin’s star rose, reaching a high point when Wagner took the city of Bakhmut for Russia in May. Prigozhin exploited the last remaining uncensored political space in Russia—the social media app Telegram—to address the Russian public. For months, he had been openly plotting a coup: carrying out public spats with the leadership of Russia’s military forces, offering populist critiques of the war effort, and casting doubt on Putin’s official justifications for the war that Putin himself has articulated. And yet Moscow was nevertheless taken by surprise when Prigozhin asked his soldiers to rise up and join a rebellion against the Russian Ministry of Defense.

Putin’s hubris and indecisiveness have been the story of the war. They are now the story of domestic Russian politics. Whatever Prigozhin’s motives and intentions may be, his rebellion has exposed an acute vulnerability of Putin’s regime: its contempt for the common man. Putin was too clever to let the war affect Moscow and St. Petersburg or to let it adversely affect the elite populations of these cities. Yet his very cleverness imposed a war of choice on the country’s nonelite populations. They have been dragged into a horrific colonial struggle, and when Moscow has not been reckless with their lives, it has often been callous. Many soldiers still have no idea what they are fighting and dying for. Prigozhin came to speak for these men. He has no political movement behind him and no discernible ideology. But by directly contradicting government propaganda, he highlighted the miserable situation at the front and the visible aloofness of an out-of-touch Putin, who enjoys hearing from the Ministry of Defense about Russian military glory.


Stavros Atlamazoglou 

In early June, the Ukrainian military launched its long-anticipated counteroffensive. Over the past few days, the Ukrainian forces have been pushing hard trying to break the Russian defenses but it isn’t an easy task.

Since last summer, the Russian military has been building one of the most extensive defensive lines in recent history, with in-depth fortifications of mutually supporting positions, anti-tank ditches, trenches, strongpoints, and minefields.

The Ukrainian military has been using its Western weapon systems to get an edge in this fight. Although several types of weapons will play an important role in the Ukrainian counteroffensive, long-range fires are up there when it comes to the systems that will define the fate of Kyiv’s offense.

M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS)

In the counteroffensive, the Ukrainian military has continued to significantly rely on the M142 HIMARS. Right now, the Ukrainian military is still searching for a weak link in the Russian armor to take advantage of.

Long-range fires will be particularly important in the success of the Ukrainian counteroffensive as the Ukrainian ground forces are looking to penetrate the extensive Russian armor. The two militaries are engaged in an intense artillery contest to gain the upper hand in the fighting. As the deadliest weapon on the battlefield, artillery is shaping the movements and decisions of the two forces.

There is plenty of footage from the ground in which Ukrainian M142 HIMARS are taking out Russian artillery pieces and counter-battery radars. With the help of unmanned aerial systems, the Ukrainians can find and fix Russian artillery systems and then call in M142 HIMARS strikes to destroy them with precision.

The Wagner 'Coup' Was Staged by Putin—and the West Fell for It | Opinion


By now, everyone has heard about the narrowly avoided coup in Russia: Last Friday night, Yevgeniy Prigozhin, one of Putin's most trusted allies and the commander of the notorious Russian mercinary Wagner Group, marched on Moscow in an apparent coup d'etat, only to come to a swift agreement with Vladimir Putin and decamp for Belarus. While most commentators acknowledged that things didn't quite add up, the "expert" class happily concluded that at least it had weakened Putin in his war against Ukraine.

None seemed to realize the obvious truth: The coup was staged, and completely faked false flag operation.

Think about it: An army invades Russia, race right up to Moscow, and no one gets hurt? With just a few thousand men, it achieved what Hitler with almost a million men wasn't able to? And Putin holds his military back? And then, with Moscow supposedly within his grasp, Prigozhin decides, "Oh well, never mind" and heads to Belarus?

Prigozhin would have had to be an idiot or suicidal to think that with 8,000 men he could invade Moscow. Yet Prigozhin is very smart man, a juvenile delinquent turned convict, then hot dog salesman, then CEO of a multi-million dollar catering business serving the Kremlin, to finally commander of the world's most formidable mercenary force. It is utterly implausible that Prigozhin thought that he could take on Rosgvardia, Russia's National Guard, a 340,000-strong domestic security force reporting directly Putin.

And then there was the footage of Prigozhin sitting a bench in Rostov-on-Don, bantering amiably with Russia's deputy minister of defense, Yunus-Bek Yevkurov and deputy head of the Russian military intelligence, the GRU, Lt. Gen. Vladimir Alekseyev. It was just too chummy for a true rebellion.

The High Price of Dollar Dominance

Michael Pettis

At an April summit of the so-called BRICS—Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa—Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva demanded to know why the world continues to base nearly all its trade on the U.S. dollar. To thunderous applause, he asked, “Why can’t we do trade based on our own currencies? Who was it that decided that the dollar was the currency after the disappearance of the gold standard?”

Lula’s speech echoed one side of a debate that has heated up in recent years about the future of the U.S. dollar as

Deception, Disinformation, and Strategic Communications: How One Interagency Group Made a Major Difference

Fletcher Schoen and Christopher J. Lamb

In this era of persistent conflict, U.S. national security depends on the diplomatic, informational, military, and economic instruments of national power being balanced and operationally integrated. A single instrument of power—that is, one of the country’s security departments and agencies acting alone—cannot efficiently and effectively deal with the Nation’s most important security challenges. None can be resolved without the well-integrated use of multiple instruments of power—a team bringing to bear the capacity and skills of multiple departments and agencies. The requirement for better interagency integration is not, as some have argued, a passing issue temporarily in vogue or one tied only to counterterrorism or foreign interventions in failed states. Interagency collaboration has become a persistent and pervasive trend in the national security system at all levels, from the strategic to the tactical, and will remain so in an ever more complex security environment. 

Because of its resources, expertise, and pool of highly developed leaders, the Department of Defense (DOD) will have an outsized role in the future integration of elements of American power. This makes it vitally important that military leaders gain an understanding of interagency best practices. This study on the Active Measures Working Group provides a window into one little known but highly influential interagency group and its methods. Although the study examines just one case, it makes some intriguing arguments about how and why this interagency process managed to work well. Its historical and organizational insights are immediately relevant to many interagency efforts that the military finds itself involved in today. Along with pointing to best practices, this study disproves some conventional notions about the interagency process. Most notable of these is that small interagency groups need to be far away from Washington to work well.

Russia’s Biowarfare Lies Can’t Go Unanswered

Ivana Stradner
Source Link

The Russian disinformation machine has spun its latest web of lies. Last week, the Russian Defense Ministry accused the U.S. of preparing to target Russian troops with drones carrying malaria-bearing mosquitoes. Russia is setting informational conditions to hold the U.S. accountable for expected Russian casualties from Ukraine’s counteroffensive. While the West may laugh at an absurd claim about biowarfare mosquitoes, many in the Global South may find them credible. Therefore, it is crucial for the U.S. to counteract and flip the narrative on Russia’s disinformation strategy.

On June 6, the Kakhovka hydroelectric power station’s dam in Ukraine collapsed. As a result, water from the dam’s reservoir flooded into the surrounding Kherson Oblast. Igor Kirillov, the chief of Russia’s Radiation, Chemical and Biological Protection Force, claimed “the flooding of the territories of the Kherson region, planned by the Kyiv regime, can complicate the situation, including with regard to arbovirus infections. After a drop in the water level, the formation of foci of diseases transmitted by mosquitoes, primarily West Nile fever, is possible.” Kirillov emphasized how the U.S. has worked with Ukraine to infect Russians with these viruses.

The threat of infectious disease outbreaks from the dam collapse is real. The World Health Organization has warned about the potential for cholera outbreaks in Kherson. The head of Ukraine’s State Environmental Inspectorate explained that inspectors have detected both cholera and E.coli in the water. There are unconfirmed reports from a Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar-led partisan group that Russian soldiers have been seeking help at hospitals, and some of them subsequently have died.

Russia has been bolstering its biowarfare disinformation bona fides. Russia recently hosted biological security consultations with China. Beijing’s wild theories about the origin of COVID-19, including that it came from a U.S. lab in Maryland, were probably welcomed in Moscow.

This is not the first time that Russia has accused the U.S. and Ukraine of plotting a bioweapons attack. At a late October meeting of the United Nations Security Council, Russia accused Ukraine and the United States of a plot to use migratory birds, bats and mosquitoes to spread pathogens. Moscow’s representative asserted that, in March 2022, Russian troops discovered containers that could be used to spray bioagents and that the U.S. would use a drone to distribute infected mosquitoes. The U.S. representative soundly rejected Moscow’s claims.

Confusion, infighting plague Russian military in mutiny’s wake

David R. Sands

Russian President Vladimir Putin appears to have survived — for now — the mutiny launched by onetime ally Yevgeny Prigozhin and his Wagner Group mercenaries last weekend.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and top commanders were already on shaky ground given the poor performance of Russian forces in the now 16-month-old campaign in Ukraine. The invasion has been characterized by confusing lines of command, logistical failings, equipment shortages and deep morale problems in the ranks.

Mr. Prigozhin may have been banished to Belarus with his fighters, but his criticisms of Russia’s military leadership seem likely to resonate for months.

“The Russian armed forces are not monolithic, but consist of a multitude of rival groups competing for position and sources of income,” Mikhail Komin, a Russia analyst with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said in an analysis of the tepid response Mr. Prigozhin’s revolt generated among many in the Russian military. “Prigozhin’s mutiny revealed the scale of the crisis within the Russian Armed Forces, which are disillusioned by constant failures and tired of war, and within the military and security elites more broadly.”

The disappearance from public view of two key Russian commanders — Gen. Sergei Surovikin, a former commander of the Ukraine campaign seen as close to Mr. Prigozhin, and General Staff Chief Valery Gerasimov, the current head of Ukrainian operations and a frequent target of Mr. Prigozhin’s fury — in the six days since the uprising has sparked speculation in Moscow and the West that one or both have been purged.

The opposition Moscow Times and others have unconfirmed reports that Gen. Surovikin, still nominally the deputy commander of Russian troops in Ukraine, had advanced knowledge of the Wagner Group uprising and has been jailed for failing to head it off.

Mr. Surovikin was last seen in a video Saturday appealing to Mr. Prigozhin — with whom he had worked when both were fighting in Syria — to stand down.

Russia’s Options for Theatre Missile Coercion

Dr Sidharth Kaushal and Dr Matthew Harries

Intercepts of Russian missiles in Ukraine suggest that, although it still has a broad range of nuclear options, Moscow’s ability to carry out theatre-level conventional and nuclear coercion may face complications – particularly if NATO is able to implement a more robust integrated air and missile defence capability.

Recent claims by Ukrainian authorities that six Russian KH-47M2 Kinzhal missiles were intercepted by a Patriot missile defence system in an attack on Kyiv led to a flurry of excitable commentary about the potential implications for Russia’s nuclear forces. Much of this is overblown. Russia has many options to conduct a limited nuclear strike if it so wishes, and neither Ukraine nor NATO’s missile defence capabilities could be confidently expected to simply prevent a Russian attack.

Nevertheless, the successful intercept of at least one Kinzhal, alongside the larger number of verifiable interceptions of Russian cruise missiles such as the 3M-14 Kalibr, does pose interesting questions for Russia’s approaches to both conventional and nuclear coercion at the theatre level. In particular, it suggests that better integrated air and missile defence (IAMD) could allow NATO to complicate Russia’s ability to use conventional precision strike and non-strategic nuclear weapons to manage escalation and compensate for conventional military weaknesses.

What We Know

To be sure, we should be cautious about overstating the significance of the intercept. Though described as a hypersonic missile, the Kinzhal does not meet the standard of manoeuvrability at hypersonic speeds that has led other systems – such as the Chinese DF-17 – to be seen as qualitatively new capabilities. The missile is of the same family as the 9M723 aero-ballistic missile which is launched from the Iskander system. However, it still represents a challenging target for missile defence systems. In contrast to traditional ballistic missiles which fly on a parabolic trajectory, Kinzhal’s quasi-ballistic trajectory represents a more complex target for air and missile defence systems to track. Early in the conflict, it became apparent that the 9M723 is capable of deploying six decoys, which complicate the task of target discrimination in the missile’s terminal phase, including by mimicking things such as the radar return of the missile’s warhead. Given that the two missiles are nearly identical, this could be true of the KH-47M2, although the air-launched Kinzhal may also exploit its greater velocity to carry a larger conventional warhead, which uses up more space.

Ukraine’s Counteroffensive Begins: Shall the Leopards Break Free?

Dr Jack Watling

Ukrainian forces are making gains, but the offensive is some way from its decisive phase; we must refrain from premature pronouncements of success or failure.

Ukrainian forces have launched their long-anticipated offensive in an attempt to break through Russian defence lines to liberate the occupied territories. Ukrainian troops have broken through initial fighting positions along a broad part of the front, but remain some distance from Russia’s main defence line. Kyiv has yet to commit the bulk of its forces as its lead elements try to set the conditions for a breakthrough.

The fighting so far has been tough. Russia’s initial fighting positions constituted fox holes and hand-dug trenches, but behind these were complex minefields of anti-tank and antipersonnel mines, covered by Russian UAVs and artillery. The main defence line, still 15–20 km from Ukrainian positions, has properly dug trenches and concrete-reinforced firing posts, tank obstacles, ground-laid cable to coordinate artillery strikes, and even more mines. Behind that are the reserve fighting positions of the third defence line.

The fighting will likely get tougher. As Ukrainian forces penetrate deeper into the defences, they will come into range of more Russian artillery firing posts. Moreover, their own artillery will be able to deliver fewer counterbattery missions, and the Ukrainian lines of advance will become more predictable, as they must follow the breaches identified in the minefields. As Ukrainian troops push forwards, they will also be covered by fewer air defences, and will likely come under greater attack by the Russian Aerospace Forces and aviation.

Given these threats, the Ukrainian military is currently trying to achieve three things. Firstly, there is an intense counterbattery duel being fought, with both sides trying to strike each other’s logistics, command and control, reconnaissance, and artillery systems. The Russians are hunting for Ukraine’s artillery with Lancet UAVs. The Ukrainians are utilising Storm Shadow and GMLRS to try to destroy Russian command and control and munitions stockpiles.

Wagner Group: The Evolution Of A Private Army

In an astonishing turn of events starting 23 June 2023, the Wagner Group’s leader Yevgeny Prigozhin declared all-out war on the Russian state, leading a convoy of mercenaries to march straight toward Moscow. The mutiny, which embarrassed Russian President Vladimir Putin and caught the Russian military and security services completely off guard, developed at lightning speed and ended just as quickly, leading to widespread confusion and chaos. After storming through towns and cities in southern Russia, largely unopposed and in many cases welcomed by locals, Wagner troops announced a sudden return to their field camps, following a deal cut by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. Under the terms of the deal, Prigozhin accepted exile in Belarus, leaving the future of Wagner very much in question. This special report puts the Wagner Group into perspective and foreshadows the factors that will shape what happens next.

Correction: Our report published on June 25, 2023, included an error regarding the Wagner Group’s global footprint. The country of Syria was incorrectly omitted from a map on page 21. A typing mistake was also corrected on page 14. This page provides a corrected version of the special report.

Autonomous Cyber Defense A Roadmap from Lab to Ops

Andrew Lohn, Anna Knack, Ant Burke, Krystal Jackson

The current AI-for-cybersecurity paradigm focuses on detection using automated tools, but it has largely neglected holistic autonomous cyber defense systems — ones that can act without human tasking. That is poised to change as tools are proliferating for training reinforcement learning-based AI agents to provide broader autonomous cybersecurity capabilities. The resulting agents are still rudimentary and publications are few, but the current barriers are surmountable and effective agents would be a substantial boon to society. Download Full Report

Executive Summary

Given the immense economic and societal damage caused by cyberattacks and recent advances in artificial intelligence (AI), interest in the application of AI to enhance cyber defense has grown in recent years. Research is expanding on autonomous cyber defense that can not only detect threats but can engage in defense measures such as hardening or recovery. This report focuses on one promising approach to creating these autonomous cyber defense agents: reinforcement learning (RL).

There is no single agreed definition of autonomous cyber defense, but at its most basic level, these agents would complete some of the tasks of human cyber defenders by protecting networks and systems, detecting malicious activity and reacting to anomalous or malicious behavior, but at the speed of digital attacks.

This report presents a proposed definition for autonomous cyber defense, surveys the current state of autonomous cyber defense and the associated challenges that must be overcome for this technology to become a viable cybersecurity tool. There is no guarantee that autonomous cyber defense will succeed, but the technology is at a stage where policy support is needed to realize the potential benefits and help cyber defenders deal with the speed and uncertainty of modern cybersecurity operations.

Building the Cybersecurity Workforce Pipeline

Luke Koslosky, Ali Crawford, Sara Abdulla

Creating adequate talent pipelines for the cybersecurity workforce is an ongoing priority for the federal government. Understanding the effectiveness of current education initiatives will help policymakers make informed decisions. This report analyzes the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber (NCAE-C), a consortium of institutions designated as centers of excellence by the National Security Agency. It aims to determine how NCAE-C designated institutions fare compared to other schools in graduating students with cyber-related degrees and credentials. Download Full Report

Executive Summary

With an estimated 700,000 open cybersecurity positions, investing in cyber talent and education is critical to U.S. national and economic security. These shortfalls prompted the National Cyber Director to begin creating a National Cyber Workforce and Education strategy in the summer of 2022 to improve cyber talent and education. Given that education and training at the postsecondary level will feature prominently in any such strategy, understanding how effective current programs are will help policymakers make informed decisions moving forward.

This data brief focuses on one such program, the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity (NCAE-C). The NCAE-C program has operated for more than two decades out of a program office housed within the National Cryptologic University. It is a consortium of 365 institutions with cyber or cyber-related degrees or certification programs that meet high federal standards, sponsor cyber education initiatives, and engage in faculty professional development. For this analysis, we focus on nondegree awards (e.g., certificates), associate’s degrees, and bachelor’s degrees, as these comprise the main pipelines for cyber talent coming from institutions of higher education.

Beyond Precision: Maintaining America’s Strike Advantage in Great Power Conflict

Tyler Hacker

The United States' (U.S.) provision of weapons to Ukraine over the last year has raised critical questions about the overall supply of Western munitions and the ability of the weapon industrial base to meet the munitions demands of contemporary conflict. Although war in Ukraine has focused the world’s attention on the munitions issue, a survey of previous U.S. strike operations reveals that the U.S. has struggled to meet PGM demands in nearly every major campaign undertaken since their adoption. Looking to the future, simply producing and procuring more PGMs may not be enough to satisfy the requirements of a near-term great power conflict given current fiscal, industrial, and political constraints.

In Beyond Precision, CSBA Research Fellow Tyler Hacker examines five potential conflict scenarios in the Indo-Pacific region to highlight essential PGM types and identify capability and capacity gaps in the current U.S. PGM portfolio. Finding both insufficient on-hand inventories and inadequate production capacity, Hacker explores several approaches the United States could take to maintain its precision-strike advantage. He also challenges current assumptions about munitions production and consumption and assesses how U.S. strategy may need to adapt depending on conflict duration, operational objectives, and other scenario variables. Finally, Hacker provides near and long-term recommendations to maintain the U.S. precision-strike advantage well into the future.

Download full “Beyond Precision: Maintaining America's Strike Advantage in Great Power Conflict” report.

The Constant Fight: Intelligence Activities, Irregular Warfare, and Political Warfare

Philip Wasielewski

The study of intelligence and nontraditional warfare is essential to fully understand the various, and sometimes indirect, means by which the United States can solve or manage national security threats beyond the traditional tools of diplomacy and military power.

Intelligence and nontraditional warfare activities are conducted daily to bring policymakers information necessary for decision-making, protect secrets, and implement policy decisions below the threshold of significant military action

Unfortunately, the constant fight of intelligence and nontraditional warfare are often not as well studied or understood as other traditional statecraft tools. Therefore, this new center at the Foreign Policy Research Institute will conduct scholarly research on intelligence and nontraditional warfare to facilitate understanding by the general public, as well as government and academic experts, on how these specialties provide for the nation’s security, caveats in their application, and lessons learned from past actions to inform future policy decisions.

Editor’s Note: This is the inaugural article for Foreign Policy Research Institute’s new Center for Intelligence and Nontraditional Warfare.

– Wisdom is better than weapons of war.

Ecclesiastes 9:18

With the war in Ukraine and fears of war over Taiwan, America’s national security focus has turned from the threat of terrorism to the more traditional threats of inter-state competition and conventional or even nuclear war. The concern about threats posed by major state competitors, particularly Russia and China, is understandable. Both are nuclear-armed revisionist powers. Russia’s war in Ukraine aims to overturn the rules-based order in Europe and establish regional hegemony over its former Soviet empire; China’s growing capability to seize Taiwan possibly presages a similar effort in East Asia. Hence, efforts to revive and strengthen America’s strategic and conventional warfighting capabilities and industrial base are wise and overdue.

The World’s Immigration Policies Are Outdated. Here’s How to Catch Up.

Justin Gest

More than a week after a fishing boat overcrowded with asylum-seekers capsized off the Greek coastline, only 104 survivors have been found, and as many as 550 adults and 100 children are now feared dead by the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration. The European commissioner for home affairs, Ylva Johansson, said that the sinking may be the “worst tragedy ever” in the Mediterranean Sea, also warning that such journeys have increased sevenfold compared to last year.

These are the top 10 emerging technologies of 2023: Here's how they can impact the world

Sebastian Buckup, Stephan Kuster

The World Economic Forum's newly-launched 'Top 10 Emerging Technologies of 2023' report lists this year's most impactful emerging technologies.

The Top 10 list includes environmental innovations, such as sustainable aviation fuels and wearable plant sensors.

Other emerging technologies range from innovations harnessing the power of AI to reengineering molecular biology.

Technology is a relentless disruptor. It changes the context for how we live, work and play, redefines businesses and industries, and offers unprecedented solutions for addressing complex planetary and societal challenges.

But in a quick-changing world where ideas come and go, what emerging technologies should raise to the top of the agenda for decision-makers, entrepreneurs and citizen in the years to come?

The World Economic Forum’s 'Top 10 Emerging Technologies of 2023' Report, in collaboration with Frontiers, brings together the perspectives of over 90 academics, industry leaders and futurists from 20 countries around the world, to discover the technologies most likely to impact people and the planet in the next three to five years.

From sustainable solutions that help combat climate change to step-change generative AI models, here are the top 10 emerging technologies most likely to improve our future lives.

The aviation industry generates between 2-3% of global CO2 emissions, but all regions of the world are set to see big increases by 2050. Unlike many other industries, the weight-to-power ratio of batteries makes electrification a challenge. That’s where sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) comes in.

Synthetic fuels are made from biological sources like biomass or non-biological sources like CO2, and can be used with existing aviation infrastructure and equipment. Today, SAFs meet around 1% of aviation industry fuel demand, but this must increase to 13-15% by 2040 to help the industry reach net-zero emissions by 2050, says the report.

Our New Space Race

The current space race extends far beyond Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Richard Branson. There’s a New Zealand tinkerer without a college degree who built a billion-dollar rocket company. A Ukrainian multimillionaire who made his fortune off sketchy dating websites. A soothsaying IT executive who attracted millions in investment through relentless optimism, all while blowing up rocket after rocket.

Ashlee Vance’s latest book, When the Heavens Went on Sale: The Misfits and Geniuses Racing to Put Space Within Reach, is an ode to capitalism, risk, and innovation. As Vance relays, the private sector has created the new rockets and satellites that are spreading the benefits of space commerce across the planet. Though still an important partner, the government lacks the mindset or motive to discard old habits and embrace new technologies. Vance’s book should give pause to anyone who would expunge the profit motive from space, overregulate space or any other tech sector, or rely solely on the government to innovate.

Vance traces the origins of several space companies, starting with the most successful of the new breed, SpaceX. Musk “willed SpaceX into existence” by investing $100 million of his own money and rejecting “the ‘truths’ held evident by the old, government-backed aerospace industry.” Instead, SpaceX created reusable rockets, such as the Falcon 9, that have now launched hundreds of times. Musk’s endeavor was not without risk. After multiple launch failures, Musk “was burning through his personal fortune at an alarming rate” and at one point had to launch his last rocket within eight weeks to survive.

Other companies endured by raising prodigious amounts of money via US capital markets. Rocket Labs had developed smaller rockets that reliably ferry satellites into orbit at a low cost. The company started in New Zealand, of all places, and took off in part because the government was “trying to run a pro-business government and quickly embraced the idea of New Zealand being at the forefront of such exciting technology.” Within a few months, in fact, New Zealand created a pro-market regulatory framework and negotiated bilateral treaties with the United States. Eventually, Rocket Labs set up a second headquarters in Los Angeles to help secure talent and capital. As its founder, Peter Beck, noted, “Goddammit, America gets s— done. There is no other place on Earth where a Kiwi could come into town and walk away with enough money to start a rocket company.”


Zachary Szewczyk

Military leaders have sought hard data to drive their decisions for decades, perhaps most famously beginning with Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara’s so-called Whiz Kids in the 1960s. As retrospective analysis of McNamara’s data-driven approach to strategy made clear, however, data alone does not good decisions make. Errors in collection, transmission, and presentation decimated the efficacy of this initiative. The Vietnam War is a cautionary tale in data-driven decision-making gone wrong, an important reminder that modernity’s insatiable need for ever more data may be no more a silver bullet today than it purported to be sixty years ago.

Reasons for data’s failure to enable perfected decision-making are legion. Careful attention must be paid to the assumptions underlying the trend toward centralized decision-making, a concept that relies on complex, brittle systems of systems, demolishes agility and adaptability, and runs counter to the decentralized mandates of mission command. Here, too, we must not only ask whether or not we can enable certain functions with data, but also whether or not we should. Important questions regarding the efficacy of data-driven decision-making must also be addressed, especially in a world where data overload is not a danger but rather a given. Finally, well-studied biases threaten to make efforts to achieve data-driven decision-making little more than a quest for decision-driven data. Here, however, I deal only with the substantial technical challenges facing the joint force in making data-driven decisions. These challenges fall into three categories: collection, transport, and presentation. They represent the most significant barriers to meeting the threefold requirements for analysis—(1) correct and complete data, (2) in a suitable platform, with (3) the requisite analytics to answer decision-makers’ information requirements. And each challenge is a wicked problem, one for which no perfect solution exists, only progressively better ones.


In the context of data-driven decision-making, collection refers to the acquisition of data. Notably, this diverges from the definition of “collection” in Army Doctrine Publication (ADP) 2-0, Intelligence, which defines it as not only “the acquisition of information” but also the “provisioning” of this information to “processing elements.” In a data context, that secondary step raises its own challenges that are typically less present with other types of intelligence collection, so data transport should be considered independently of collection.

There’s Little Evidence for Today’s AI Alarmism

David Moschella

“Mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war.”

What are we to make of the fact that Geoffrey Hinton, Sam Altman, and many other leading AI experts have lent their names to that one-sentence statement issued by the Center for AI Safety?1 There’s no mention of AI’s benefits, just the word “extinction” and two terrifying analogies certain to excite the media, trouble the public, and cast doubt over America’s technological future. If there was ever a time to defend digital, this is it.

The sentence is worth deconstructing. The priority is “mitigating the risk of extinction.” “Mitigate” typically means that a problem can’t be eliminated, just reduced in the sense of mitigating pain. It’s true that the risks of pandemics and nuclear war can’t currently be eliminated, so we need to mitigate those threats as best we can. But it’s odd that so many scientists believe that the threat of AI-driven human extinction is similarly pressing and permanent. The horrors of viruses and atomic bombs are all too real, but many AI risks are still vague and speculative. Others seem quite manageable and much less deadly. Today’s alarmists have yet to provide compelling evidence to justify their cataclysmic fears.


The pandemic analogy is flawed because AI is not a virus like Mydoom or WannaCry that must be contained or eradicated; it’s an extremely valuable tool that we want to use. Nor was Covid-19 successfully “mitigated”; supplies to treat it were not available; national decisions were chaotic, and many millions died or suffered. Neither the World Health Organization nor the Center for Disease Control acquitted themselves well. The former gave in to political pressures, while the latter sent mixed messages and lost the trust of many Americans. Do we really want similarly powerful organizations—or Congress—to oversee the diverse and fast-moving AI field?