17 July 2023

What the Taliban’s Defensive Public Messaging Reveals

Andrew Watkins

In the nearly two years since the Taliban’s takeover, much of the Afghan population continues to struggle to meet basic daily needs amid a severe humanitarian crisis. The Taliban have imposed a raft of draconian restrictions on Afghan women and girls, effectively erasing them from public life. Yet, in a recent public address, the Taliban’s supreme leader, the emir Sheikh Haibatullah Akhundzada, claimed his government has provided Afghan women with a “comfortable and prosperous life.”A Taliban spokesman addresses reporters in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 17, 2021. The group’s public messaging capacity has seen a significant jump since they appropriated the former government’s state media apparatus. (Jim Huylebroek/The New York Times)

Setting aside the controversy of the emir’s brazen claim, his address illuminates some trends that have emerged in the Taliban’s recent public messaging. These trends might shed light on the Taliban’s still-quite-secretive policymaking process, increasingly steered by their reclusive leader.

The Emir’s Eid al-Adha address

For much of the two-decade insurgency against the U.S.-led intervention and partner Afghan state, the emir’s annual Eid addresses (issued for both Islamic holidays, Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha) were the most significant formal public statements issued by the Taliban. The group’s public messaging capacity has grown steadily over the past decade, with a significant jump after the takeover of the country in August 2021, when they appropriated the former government’s state media apparatus. Yet while the Eid addresses are no longer so exclusive, they continue to stand as a some of the only public statements issued by the supreme leader.

As a regularly scheduled formal statement, the emir’s Eid messages have grown relatively repetitious in style and in content over the years. Therefore, new topics or shifts in tone suggest what the Taliban’s leader deems important enough to address.

Xi Jinping’s Russian Albatross


ATLANTA – Wagner Group leader Yevgeny Prigozhin may have played his assigned role by reportedly meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin on June 29. But notwithstanding the contrived show of unity, it will not have been lost on Chinese President Xi Jinping that Prigozhin’s highly public mutiny last month has profoundly weakened the Russian leadership. With Ukraine on a counteroffensive and Russia’s battlefield losses mounting, Xi’s “no limits” partnership with Putin is quickly morphing into a military liability for China.

Of course, China insists that the Wagner Group’s abortive putsch did not threaten its own cooperation with the Kremlin. Just hours after Prigozhin halted his march on Moscow, the Communist Party of China issued a statement dismissing the revolt as an internal matter. Inside China, news of Prigozhin’s uprising has been sparse, because censors have sanitized Chinese social media of any hint that Putin may have been taken down a peg. State media have duly reiterated the regime’s support for Russia, portrayed the Western reaction as overblown, and declared Putin’s position to be secure.

It is understandable that Xi would maintain this façade, given how often he has waxed rhapsodic about China’s ties with Russia and his personal relationship with Putin. The two men have met some 40 times over the past decade, repeatedly avowing a shared worldview. Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine shortly after Xi had announced their “no limits” partnership, and handshake photos during Xi’s visit to Moscow in March – three days after the International Criminal Court indicted Putin for war crimes and issued a warrant for his arrest – conveyed that their bond remained strong.

In the multipolar world that China touts, Russia remains key to constraining the United States and its allies. The “comprehensive strategic partnership” that Xi and Putin announced in March encompasses everything from cooperation on “de-dollarization” to pursuing parallel policies in Iran, Syria, and Africa – where China’s investments and rising profile complement Russia’s growing military and political presence. Notwithstanding the consequences of Russian aggression in Ukraine, Xi has emphasized that China’s strategy vis-à-vis Russia “will not be changed by any turn of events … no matter how the international landscape may change.”

Youths’ desperate ‘four no’ attitude worries China


The Chinese government is being called upon to take action to stimulate the economy and create jobs at a time when young people in substantial numbers have adopted an attitude that’s termed the “four nos”: no interest in dating, getting married, buying a home or having a child.

When National Bureau of Statistics spokesperson Fu Linghui said on June 15 that only about six million people between 16 and 24 in China were still searching for jobs, he did not count the 11.6 million new graduates about to enter the job markets.

His figure also excluded the many in their 30s who’ve been suffering from unstable income. Some of these people now refer to themselves as the youth of “four nos,” a trending term on the internet in China.

“A lot of people expect their partners to be homeowners, but property prices are really too high,” a 30-year-old man says in an interview with a video channel. “It’s not that I did not work hard – my hard work did not produce good results,” he says, adding that he has worked for a small food delivery firm in Beijing since 2020 but is owed 20,000 yuan (US$2,791) in service fees. A decade ago he could afford to date but now he can’t, he says, – and if he has children, they will suffer in this world.

The video was originally posted on a channel called “Under the Moonlight” on Bilibili, a Shanghai-based video-sharing website, in April. It was then blocked. It is still available on social media overseas.

China winning on the Pacific political battlefield


SAIPAN – Seventy-nine years ago, on July 9, 1944, the American military secured the island of Saipan—a key component of Imperial Japan’s defense plan. Tens of thousands died in the battle, and the island was devastated.

Then it was rebuilt for war – with a massive effort to put in runways. Saipan and the neighboring island of Tinian were soon among the busiest airports in the world, as waves of B-29s took off to bomb Japan – which was now in range – and markedly fewer B-29s returned.

On the top of Mount Tapochau, the highest point on the island, you can still see the scars seared in by the war. And from Mount Topachau, you can see the mismatched battlefield of the current cold war.

Out on the horizon, anchored off Saipan, are three US Navy prepositioning ships, fully stocked and ready to respond to war and disaster. The kids of Saipan know that if they suddenly disappear from the horizon, something bad has probably happened. Yes, they respond to natural disasters, but they are also there, waiting, for “kinetic” conflict – a shooting war.

Meanwhile, also from Mount Tapochau, you can see the downtown hub of Garapan. The biggest building in downtown, by far, is the not quite finished massive Imperial Palace casino, backed by Chinese investors. Currently closed and being liquidated, the casino has wreaked havoc on the politics and economy of Saipan. And it’s still not over.

Chinese military’s three-day show of force increases headache for Taiwan

Brad Lendon

China’s military has been on a surge of activity around Taiwan this week, sending dozens of warplanes past the median line of the Taiwan Strait and into the key regions of the island’s air defense identification zone (ADIZ).

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) activity has a range of implications, none of them positive for Taiwan or cross-strait stability, analysts say.

According to figures from Taiwan’s Defense Ministry, 38 PLA aircraft were detected around the island in the 24 hours ending at 6 a.m. local time on Wednesday, 33 in the same period Thursday and 30 during the same period Friday.

Over those 72 hours, 73 PLA aircraft either crossed the strait’s median line – an informal demarcation point that Beijing does not recognize but until recently largely respected – or entered the southeastern or southwestern parts of the island’s ADIZ.

China’s ruling Communist Party claims the self-governing democracy of Taiwan as its territory despite never having controlled it, and has spent decades trying to isolate it diplomatically. Beijing has not ruled out using force to take control of the island.

The PLA aircraft detected this week included fighter jets, H-6 bombers, anti-submarine warning aircraft and reconnaissance drones, Taiwan’s Defense Ministry said.

The ministry said it tasked combat air patrol warplanes, naval vessels and land-based missile defense to monitor the PLA aircraft, along with nine Chinese warships that were present around the island.

Biden admin believes hack gave China insights into US thinking ahead of Blinken’s crucial Beijing visit

Kylie Atwood

The Biden administration believes that a Chinese hacking operation which breached US government email systems, including the State Department, gave the Chinese government insights about US thinking heading into Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s trip to Beijing in June, according to two US officials.

The hack – which Microsoft said was launched in mid-May – was discovered by the State Department right around the time of Blinken’s visit to Beijing, officials said. But it was not immediately clear that China was behind it and it was not widely known about within the department, they said.

The news that the hack allowed China to access information ahead of a crucial visit that US officials hoped would start a reset of relations after months of tensions underlines the complexities of modern diplomacy but it’s unlikely to shock US officials who are well aware that two major global powers spy on each other’s communications.

On Friday, Blinken would not say how the United States intends to respond to China’s hacking operation.

“I can’t discuss details of our response. Beyond that, and most critically, this incident remains under investigation,” Blinken said at a news conference in Jakarta, Indonesia.

“As a general matter, we have consistently made clear to China as well as to other countries, that any action that targets US government or US companies, American citizens is of deep concern to us, and we will take appropriate action in response,” Blinken added.

US officials have consistently labeled China as the most advanced of US adversaries in cyberspace, a domain that has repeatedly been a source of bilateral tension in recent years. The FBI has said Beijing has a larger hacking program than all other governments combined.

China has routinely denied the allegations.

China's exports fall most in three years as global economy falters

Joe Cash and Ellen Zhang

BEIJING, July 13 (Reuters) - China's exports fell last month at their fastest pace since the onset three years ago of the COVID-19 pandemic, as an ailing global economy puts mounting pressure on Chinese policymakers for fresh stimulus measures.

Momentum in China's post-COVID recovery has slowed after a brisk pickup in the first quarter, with analysts now downgrading their projections for the economy for the rest of the year.

Outbound shipments from the world's second-largest economy slumped a worse-than-expected 12.4% year-on-year in June, data from China's Customs Bureau showed on Thursday, following a drop of 7.5% in May.

Imports contracted 6.8%, steeper than an expected 4.0% decline and the previous month's 4.5% fall.
Reuters Graphics

"The global downturn in goods demand will continue to weigh on exports," said Zichun Huang, China economist at Capital Economics, with a further decline in exports seen likely before they bottom out towards the end of the year.

How China is Spreading its Influence at the U.N.


The Chinese Communist government (CCP) has spread its influence throughout the U.N. General Assembly, the Security Council, other U.N. organizations, and has pushed for the employment of nationals in international entities, according to a new report authored by researchers Brett D. Schaefer, a Jay Kingham senior research fellow in International Regulatory Affairs at the Heritage Foundation’s Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom and Morgan Larrine Vina, former chief of staff to United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations Nikki Haley.

According to Schaefer and Vina, China has successfully increased the employment of its nationals in the U.N. system going back to 2009, when the U.N. employed 794 Chinese nationals, to 2021, when 1,471 nationals obtained employment.

Experts say the increased efforts come as Beijing has doubled down on its targeting of international entities and individuals to take advantage of the U.N.’s Junior Professional Officer (JPO) program, granting them access to positions within the U.N.

Schaefer and Vina note that the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) discovered several years ago that America was “underrepresented, based on formal and informal targets, at all five of the U.N. organizations GAO reviewed. This follows general U.S. underrepresentation at most of these organizations from 2006 to 2009.”

When these nationals are elected to head U.N. organizations, Beijing then increases its hiring of Chinese nationals and uses organizations to promote their national interests.

One example is when in 2019, Secretary-General Fang Liu of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) enacted policies ordered by Beijing, including brand new air routes, despite violating ICAO laws. Secretary Liu also hid cyber security breaches connected to the Chinese government, threatening the security of ICAO, member states, and the aviation industry.

ChatGPT: Can China overtake the US in the AI marathon?

Derek Cai & Annabelle Liang

Artificial intelligence has emerged as enough of a concern that it made it onto what was already a packed agenda at the G7 summit at the weekend.

Concerns about AI's harmful impact coincide with the US' attempts to restrict China's access to crucial technology.

For now, the US seems to be ahead in the AI race. And there is already the possibility that current restrictions on semiconductor exports to China could hamper Beijing's technological progress.

But China could catch up, according to analysts, as AI solutions take years to be perfected. Chinese internet companies "are arguably more advanced than US internet companies, depending on how you're measuring advancement," Kendra Schaefer, head of tech policy research at Trivium China tells the BBC.

However, she says China's "ability to manufacture high-end equipment and components is an estimated 10 to 15 years behind global leaders."

The Silicon Valley factor

The US' biggest advantage is Silicon Valley, arguably the world's supreme entrepreneurial hotspot. It is the birthplace of technology giants such as Google, Apple and Intel that have helped shape modern life.

Innovators in the country have been helped by its unique research culture, says Pascale Fung, director of the Center for Artificial Intelligence Research at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

NATO Recognizes China As ‘BIG THREAT’; Russia-Centric Military Alliance Goes Beyond Europe Into Indo-Pacific

Prakash Nanda

The just concluded NATO summit in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius has been dominated by the news related to the war in Ukraine and its quest for membership in what is considered the world’s most formidable military alliance.

But, an aspect of the summit that deserves attention is what NATO heads of government said about China and recorded about it in their communiqué.

NATO is essentially a trans-Atlantic alliance. It was formed in 1949 to meet threats from Moscow. But, in recent years, as Jens Stoltenberg, Secretary-General of NATO, has repeatedly pointed out, China has become hard for the alliance to ignore.

For him, “China is coming closer to us” in all sorts of ways, from the Arctic to Africa and from cyberspace to 5G networks and other infrastructure investments in Europe, not to mention intensified joint exercises with Russia.

It is not surprising to see the Vilnius communiqué giving considerable space to China and “the threats” it poses to the rest of the world. Some of the important paragraphs on China are worth mentioning.

In its 23rd paragraph, the communiqué says, “The People’s Republic of China’s stated ambitions and coercive policies challenge our interests, security, and values.

The PRC employs various political, economic, and military tools to increase its global footprint and project power while remaining opaque about its strategy, intentions, and military build-up.

“The PRC’s malicious hybrid, cyber operations, confrontational rhetoric, and disinformation target Allies and harm Alliance security. The PRC seeks to control key technological and industrial sectors, critical infrastructure, and strategic materials and supply chains. It uses its economic leverage to create strategic dependencies and enhance its influence. It strives to subvert the rules-based international order in the space, cyber and maritime domains.”

How a Cloud Flaw Gave Chinese Spies a Key to Microsoft’s Kingdom

FOR MOST IT professionals, the move to the cloud has been a godsend. Instead of protecting your data yourself, let the security experts at Google or Microsoft protect it instead. But when a single stolen key can let hackers access cloud data from dozens of organizations, that trade-off starts to sound far more risky.

Late Tuesday evening, Microsoft revealed that a China-based hacker group, dubbed Storm-0558, had done exactly that. The group, which is focused on espionage against Western European governments, had accessed the cloud-based Outlook email systems of 25 organizations, including multiple government agencies.

Those targets encompass US government agencies including the State Department, according to CNN, though US officials are still working to determine the full scope and fallout of the breaches. An advisory from the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency says the breach, which was detected in mid-June by a US government agency, stole unclassified email data “from a small number of accounts.”

China has been relentlessly hacking Western networks for decades. But this latest attack uses a unique trick: Microsoft says hackers stole a cryptographic key that let them generate their own authentication “tokens”—strings of information meant to prove a user’s identity—giving them free rein across dozens of Microsoft customer accounts.

“We put trust in passports, and someone stole a passport-printing machine,” says Jake Williams, a former NSA hacker who now teaches at the Institute for Applied Network Security in Boston. “For a shop as large as Microsoft, with that many customers impacted—or who could have been impacted by this—it’s unprecedented.”

In web-based cloud systems, users’ browsers connect to a remote server and, when they enter credentials like a username and password, they’re given a bit of data, known as a token, from that server. The token serves as a kind of temporary identity card that lets users come and go as they please within a cloud environment while only occasionally reentering their credentials. To ensure that the token can’t be spoofed, it’s cryptographically signed with a unique string of data known as a certificate or key that the cloud service possesses, a kind of unforgeable stamp of authenticity.

Guardians of the Nile: No Interstate War, No Peace

Natasha Hall

In 1979, then Egyptian president Anwar Sadat famously declared that the only thing that would lead Egypt to war again was water, specifically the Nile River. Egypt’s dominance over the Nile—which still accounts for 97 percent of the country’s fresh water—has gone unchallenged, and in the hands of his successors, President Sadat’s saber-rattling has remained just that. But times are changing. At the headwaters of the Blue Nile, Ethiopia unilaterally moved ahead with the construction and filling of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). Egypt described the dam as an existential threat. Nevertheless, Sadat’s prediction remains an unlikely outcome, especially when interference in neighbors’ internal politics may achieve the same ends.

Though Egyptian officials threatened to bomb the dam in the past, analysts believe that destroying it would be militarily and politically infeasible now that it is complete and nearly full. However, interfering in any of the protracted disputes along the Blue Nile Basin would run shy of an official declaration of war on water but could effectively weaken a state’s ability to develop water usage and infrastructure development. Indeed, Nile riparian states have long made such allegations. In a 2011 interview, the late Ethiopian prime minister Meles Zenawi accused Egypt of supporting Ethiopia’s rebels and enemies to destabilize the government. In 2016, Ethiopian officials again accused Egypt of sponsoring anti-government protests and armed rebellions.

Nile Basin

Currency, Conflict, and Global Order


America’s pandemic policies and the broader response to Russia’s war on Ukraine have unleashed widespread speculation about the future of the US dollar’s global hegemony. Yet one should not assume that a more divided world will automatically give way to a more multipolar one, especially where reserve currencies are concerned.

TORONTO – In this new era of geopolitical upheaval, business leaders, politicians, policymakers, and academics are anticipating a more fragmented, multipolar world order, with many predicting especially consequential changes in the international monetary system. America’s pandemic policies and the broader response to Russia’s war on Ukraine have triggered widespread speculation about the future of the US dollar’s hegemony, and while warnings about the eclipse of the greenback are not new, some commentators believe that this time is different.

True, high inflation, rising US public debt, and other key developments are unfolding in a strategic environment that is increasingly reminiscent of the Cold War. The most striking parallel is the return of great-power rivalries and policymakers’ preoccupation with security concerns, which are taking precedence over economic efficiency. But while the elevation of security issues is clearly reshuffling some alliances and economic relationships, it is unlikely that these changes will usher in a multipolar currency system in the foreseeable future.

The biggest problem with the narrative about fragmentation and an inexorable drift toward multipolarity is its imprecision. The term “multipolarity” is rarely defined; and even when it is, it is used inaccurately. Moreover, one should not assume that a more divided world will automatically give way to a more multipolar one, especially where reserve currencies are concerned.


America Should Not Follow Europe’s Terrible Example on Tech Antitrust

Jason Reed

In a timely warning about what could soon happen stateside, European Union (EU) regulators are shamelessly weaponizing antitrust in an attempt to dislodge Silicon Valley’s hold over European consumers. Aggressive regulation of technology companies, especially American ones operating in Europe, is nothing new for Brussels lawmakers. The EU has been waging its war against Silicon Valley for some time. It employs an extremely loose definition of “monopoly,” passing sweeping regulations which broadside the U.S. tech industry. Warm words about innovation and competition, which often accompany new European antitrust laws, have not helped its own efforts at such.

The main front in Brussels’ antitrust battle is a pair of bills with innocuous-sounding names: the Digital Markets Act (DMA) and Digital Services Act (DSA). Together, they form a wide-ranging legislative package that aims to tackle past, present, and future problems with Internet use in one fell swoop. The time bombs in these two pieces of legislation are too numerous to name.

They propose, for example, preventing children from viewing adult content by mandating age verification for websites. That obviously won’t protect many young eyes; having grown up in the digital age, many kids are more adept than most adults at using VPNs and other tools to dodge digital obstacles. Standard age verification tools look like Stone Age technology compared to those children use to, among other things, play Fortnite on their school’s Wi-Fi network.

When the EU implements its blanket restrictions on content access, those tools will become even more accessible and sophisticated than they already are in Europe, leaving the law redundant. It could be disastrous for data privacy and security. Adult users will have to comply with ID checks. Criminals trading stolen personal information online is already common. Laws like this, which compel legitimate Internet users to hand over their details, will be a boon for online criminals profiting off it.

How the U.N. Secretary-General Gets Around Security Council Gridlock

How do concerned parties facilitate diplomatic and humanitarian progress on conflict cases when the U.N. Security Council is gridlocked? By explicit design, the Security Council’s powerful permanent five members can deadlock its work with a unilateral veto when they want to — but neither the veto nor the threat of the veto fully end multilateral work on conflict cases that the P5 want to keep out of the Security Council’s ambit. Instead, the prospect of UNSC inaction spurs diplomatic efforts and alternative pathways for action via a range of procedural, negotiated and informal tools at the U.N. General Assembly, in the U.N. Security Council (UNSC) and via the U.N. Secretariat.Antonio Guterres, the U.N. secretary general, visits a destroyed area of the city of Irpin, Ukraine, April 28, 2022. (David Guttenfelder/The New York Times)

This is the second of two pieces mapping three of these pathways. It outlines processes to confront gridlock through the U.N. Secretariat, where the U.N. secretary-general’s personal power and delegation capacity can move humanitarian aid, provide information and support political processes in the absence of clear political resolutions. The previous piece in this series examined processes through the General Assembly, which target the UNSC’s legitimacy and underwrite international justice, and processes through the UNSC, where concerned parties try to break the P5’s monopoly on leadership and information using procedural and practical innovations.

The Secretary-General’s Personal Power

The U.N. Secretariat encompasses the U.N.’s agencies and its international civil service, headed by the U.N. secretary-general. Whether because of the small number of men who have occupied the office or the nature of the office, analysts emphasize how much the UNSG’s personal attributes shape the course of multilateral action at the U.N. As Ian Johnstone writes, “with little formal authority and no material power, the SG’s influence depends largely on his persuasive powers.” How he wields this persuasive power in an institutional and normative context that he helps shape — with a legal role and interpretative power vis-à-vis international law and its implementation — make his personal willingness to act or not act globally consequential.

The Ukrainian Campaign So Far Keep Calm and Measure Success


With the conclusion of the 2023 NATO Summit this week, we turn our attention back to the Ukrainian offensives being conducted across southern and eastern Ukraine. While the NATO Summit did not provide all the outcomes sought by the Ukrainian President, it did result in an ongoing commitment from NATO to support Ukraine as well as the first meeting of the NATO-Ukraine Council. As the official communique for the summit notes:

We reaffirm our unwavering solidarity with the government and people of Ukraine in the heroic defence of their nation, their land, and our shared values…We remain steadfast in our commitment to further step up political and practical support to Ukraine as it continues to defend its independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity within its internationally recognised borders, and will continue our support for as long as it takes.

The Summit also discussed the wider context for this war, ensuring that Ukraine is able to win this war AND establish a durable peace that includes both security and prosperity. Unfortunately, NATO did not provide a clear timeline for Ukraine joining NATO. As the communique describes:

We welcome the strong support in the UN General Assembly for efforts to promote a comprehensive, just, and lasting peace in Ukraine. We welcome and support President Zelenskyy’s commitment in setting out the principles for such a peace through his Peace Formula. We are committed to achieving a just and lasting peace that upholds the principles of the UN Charter, in particular sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence.

But a just and enduring peace is not possible until Ukraine defeats Russian forces occupying its territory, ejects Russian forces and establishes the deterrent regime that ensures the long-term security of its territory and its people.

US cluster bombs for Ukraine – a game changer or a mistake?

Noah Robertson

President Joe Biden’s decision last Friday to send Ukraine cluster munitions didn’t come easily.

It took 42 U.S. aid packages, a request from Ukraine, another from four leading Republicans in Congress, and a unanimous recommendation from the National Security Council before the president was persuaded.

“It took me a while to be convinced to do it,” President Biden said in an interview with CNN last week. “But the main thing is they either have the weapons to stop the Russians now … or they don’t.”

Cluster munitions can be seen as an imperfect response in a war currently lacking perfect answers. Ukraine’s counteroffensive has wrenched free less than 160 square miles after more than a month of fighting. The slow pace needed a jolt and ammunition to sustain it in the long term, say military experts. Cluster munitions will help with both, they add.

But the weapons also carry obvious risks, including to alliance unity. Many of the key countries supporting Ukraine – such as the United Kingdom and Germany – are party to the Oslo Convention on Cluster Munitions, a treaty banning their use. The controversial weapons can be highly dangerous for civilians, and humanitarian groups have already objected to the announcement.

Ultimately, the choice to send cluster munitions, or cluster bombs, to Ukraine could be seen as a kind of resignation. The president decided that Ukraine can best determine how to protect its own civilians and that the risk of more unexploded ordnance is outweighed by the risk of not liberating more territory, and civilians, from the Russians. There’s little moral clarity in such an assessment, but that’s often the case in war.

“There isn’t a good answer here,” says Mark Cancian, a former artillery officer who is now an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank. “Either he gives these weapons, with the humanitarian concerns, or he doesn’t, and the Ukrainian offensive is less effective.”

An ammunition shortage

Meta's Threads wants to become a 'friendly' place by downgrading news and politics

Bobby Allyn

Top Meta executive Adam Mosseri has said that the company's new Twitter competitor Threads does not need the "negativity" of news and politics on the platform.Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Days after the public launch of Twitter rival Threads, Meta executive Adam Mosseri was surprisingly transparent about the company's distaste for the news media: Meta will not be doing anything to encourage hard news and politics on the platform, he wrote.

Amid Twitter's turmoil under Elon Musk, more than 100 million people have rushed to join Threads, making it the most swiftly adopted app in history.

But if Meta executives have their way, Threads will not be where people turn to debate policy issues, or catch up on local political developments and learn about breaking news that could affect their lives.

Instead, Threads is being offered as a text-version of Instagram, where celebrities, influencers and corporate brands dominate. Or as Meta chief Mark Zuckerberg put it, a "friendly" shelter from the noisy and chaotic world of news and politics.

"Will this decision make society dumber?" Solomon Messing, a former Facebook research scientist said in an interview with NPR. "Gosh, it's really hard not to say yes."
News isn't a big social media moneymaker

At Nato, America recaptured Europe


It is now clear that the Russian invasion of Ukraine marked the end of one era in world politics and the beginning of a new one. As with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the collapse of détente following the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979, and the Korean War in 1950, it is too early to predict the outcome of what can only be called Cold War II. One consequence, however, is already clear: the acceleration of the domination of Europe by the United States.

Since the Fifties, there has been support for European strategic autonomy among both Euro-Gaullists seeking to minimise US influence on European defence and Americans who hope to shift the burden of protecting Europe to Europeans themselves. Yet in nearly seven decades, no credible European alternative to Nato has ever been constructed.

After this week’s Nato summit, one can only conclude that the dream of European military independence must once again be deferred, this time for a decade or a generation or even longer. The reaction to Putin’s invasion showed that only the US has the unity and the military infrastructure to coordinate multinational military efforts in or near Europe. The conflict has underlined the dependence of America’s European allies on the US military even more dramatically than the Balkan Wars and the Libyan adventure.

The expansion of Nato to include Finland and Sweden, and almost certainly Ukraine in the relatively near future, will only further strengthen the influence of the US in the transatlantic alliance. As a rule, the closer a Nato country is to Russia, the more favourable it tends to be towards the US. Donald Rumsfeld acknowledged this after the invasion of Iraq, scorning the sceptics in “old Europe” (France and Germany) while praising the “new Europe” formed by countries freed from the Soviet bloc. Today, Poland has embraced its role on the front lines of Cold War II, committing itself to spending at least 3% of its GDP on defence. Such hawkishness strengthens the US while weakening France and Germany, which were more likely to favour good relations with Russia.

5 Phases of Russian Cyber Playbook in Attacks Against Ukraine


Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, followed escalating cyber operations, categorized into six phases, by Russian troops amassed at the border.

Beyond the focus on wipers, Russian military intelligence (GRU) utilizes a unified wartime capability, incorporating cyber and information operations in Ukraine.

Apart from this, to help defenders, the cybersecurity researchers at Mandiant outline the disruptive playbook of GRU.

By understanding the GRU’s playbook, defenders can better defend themselves against these attacks.PlayBook of GRU (Source – Mandiant)

What Ukraine can learn from the ‘Israel model’

Israel has played a peculiar role in American debates on the Russia-Ukraine war. After Russia’s invasion started, Jerusalem faced criticism in Washington for its reluctance to send military support to Ukraine — a reluctance influenced by Russia’s military presence on Israel’s border with Syria.

Now, as NATO punts on the question of Ukrainian membership, the “Israel model” is gaining currency in Washington as a way to think about Ukraine’s long-term defense. Before leaving for this week’s NATO summit, President Biden told CNN that while he wasn’t ready to risk direct war with Russia by extending NATO’s mutual-defense guarantee to Kyiv, Ukraine would receive “the security we provide for Israel.”

Translation: Ukraine will get large-scale weapons, logistics and diplomatic support in perpetuity — but no guarantee of U.S. troops to defend its territory. It’s a testament to Israel’s success at defending itself that friends of Ukraine invoke it as a security model. But the analogy should also temper idealistic Western thinking about the war.

The Israel model implies a long conflict with borders that remain unsettled. Israel’s borders changed throughout a series of wars and peace settlements starting with its 1948 war of independence. The United States is the only country to recognize Israel’s control over the Golan Heights, and only a few others treat Jerusalem as its capital. The status of the West Bank is contested both internationally and in Israel’s domestic politics.

Territorial claims in the Arab-Israeli conflict and in the Russia-Ukraine war are not equivalent. But as with territories in the Middle East, the status of parts of Ukraine, especially Crimea, could be contested for decades. In an ideal world, Kyiv could swiftly inflict so decisive a defeat on Russia that Moscow’s claims on Ukraine would end. But growing Western interest in the Israel model reflects a recognition that this is unlikely and that Ukrainian society might need to remain militarized in a way that sets it apart from the rest of Europe.

Cyber Operations during the Russo-Ukrainian War

Grace B. Mueller , Benjamin Jensen , Brandon Valeriano , Ryan C. Maness , and Jose M. Macias

In the Future . . .Cyber operations will play a supporting rather than decisive role in major theater wars. Great powers will continue to invest in cyber capabilities but see diminishing returns on these investments outside of intelligence and deception efforts once major conflict breaks out.

War will still be a continuation of politics by other means and rely on the more tangible effects of violence than on the elusive effects of compromising information networks. During the transition to warfighting, military commanders will prefer the certainty of lethal precision strikes against high-value targets to the uncertainty of generating effects in cyberspace.
The merits of cyber operations continue to be their utility as a tool of political warfare because they facilitate an engagement short of war that leverages covert action, propaganda, and surveillance but in a manner that poses a fundamental threat to human liberties. Cyber operations will remain a limited tool of coercion. Due to their uncertain effects, military leaders will initiate fewer critical cyber operations against command and control and military targets than currently anticipated. They will also face fewer restrictions on waging information warfare to mobilize and shape discontent.


How central are cyber operations to combined arms campaigns in the twenty-first century? Between the spring of 2021 and winter of 2022, Russian military forces began to mass combat troops along Ukraine’s eastern border. On February 24, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine. It marked the fourth time Russia used military force against a neighbor since the end of the Cold War and the seventh time Russia used cyber operations as part of a larger campaign or independently as an instrument of coercion against a neighboring state.[1]

Pundits and academics alike came out with grand predictions about a coming cyber war.[2] Researchers from the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) even argued during the war that “Russian cyberattacks on government and military command and control centers, logistics, emergency services . . . were entirely consistent with a so-called thunder run strategy intended to stoke chaos, confusion, and uncertainty, and ultimately avoid a costly and protracted war in Ukraine.”[3]

What we know (and don’t know) about the government email breach

Tim Starks

Below: Court documents say Twitter didn’t pay fees to a privacy assessor, and Arizona escalates a probe into alleged efforts to swing the 2020 election. First:

Government emails got hacked in a suspected attack on Microsoft from China. Here’s what we know — and some mysteries.

Every day, more information is coming to light about alleged Chinese hackers’ breach of U.S. government emails by exploiting a flaw in Microsoft’s cloud software. But there’s plenty we still don’t know.

Let’s walk through the knowns and unknowns so far, relying heavily on the reporting of my colleagues Ellen Nakashima, Joseph Menn and Shane Harris.

When did it start, and what’s the timeline?

Microsoft said the hackers gained access on May 15. The State Department first discovered the intrusion on June 16 and told the company that day. The timing of the breach falls about a month before Secretary of State Antony Blinken visited China, which made him the first secretary of state to do so in five years.

Microsoft disclosed the hack in a blog post late Tuesday. The company said it began investigating on June 16 and has “successfully blocked” the hackers, which it described as a “China-based actor Microsoft is tracking as Storm-0558.”

Who’s affected and how?

Among U.S. government agencies, the State and Commerce departments are the only victims we know of, at least so far. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, whose department has imposed stiff export controls on Chinese companies, is the only known Cabinet-level official whose email was breached.

Digital Trenches: Influence Operations and Asymmetry of Values

Riccardo Catalano.

In the rapidly evolving information environment of the 21st century, a new battlefield has emerged, one where influence operations have taken center stage. Transversal to the “Cognitive Dimension” of warfare, and the six domains, the Information Environment is a battleground that knows no geographic boundaries, and is accessible from any point around the globe through a few taps on a smartphone or keystrokes on a computer.

According to NATO’s doctrine, “the information environment is an aggregation of individuals, organizations, and systems that collect, process, disseminate, or act on information”.

While western democracies champion the virtues of a free and open Internet, certain adversarial nations are exploiting this openness to their advantage. China, Russia, and Iran have weaponized social media and press freedom in a sophisticated and strategic influence campaign, while maintaining a tightly controlled media environment within their own borders.

The openness of Western societies provides fertile ground for disinformation campaigns. Adversaries can easily disseminate false or misleading narratives through social media platforms and digital news outlets, exploiting freedom of speech to sow discord and confusion.

In contrast, the highly controlled media landscape in countries such as China, Russia, and Iran, effectively shields them from reciprocal influence operations.

One primary example is Russia’s activities during the conflict in Ukraine and more broadly across western democratic elections. With state-sponsored troll farms and the use of artificial intelligence bots, the Russian government has systematically spread disinformation to create societal divisions and challenge democratic values.

Harnessing the Power of Information: An Introduction to OSINT

Michael Roy

In an age where information is as precious as gold, a concept is rising in prominence in intelligence circles. Open Source Intelligence, often abbreviated as OSINT, refers to collecting information from publicly available sources for intelligence purposes. So, what is Open Source Intelligence? To simplify, OSINT is the art and science of gathering and analyzing data from open and publicly available sources to aid in decision-making.

Unraveling the Concept of OSINT

If you consider information as a giant sea, OSINT is like casting a wide net to catch as many valuable fishes as possible. These fishes, or data, could be found anywhere from social media platforms and online publications to governmental reports and academic papers. Open Source Intelligence leverages these sources to collect data, which is then analyzed to provide valuable insights. The use of OSINT is not limited to intelligence agencies; businesses, journalists, and even private individuals can harness the power of OSINT for their various needs. By tapping into publicly available information, OSINT provides a rich and diverse data pool that can supplement and enrich other intelligence sources.

Significance of OSINT in Today’s World

Consider OSINT as a powerful magnifying glass that can bring into focus details that may otherwise go unnoticed. In a world teeming with data, filtering out the noise and finding valuable nuggets of information is essential. Open Source Intelligence plays a pivotal role in cybersecurity, market research, journalism, and even combating crime. By using OSINT techniques, information can be obtained quickly and accurately, aiding in effective decision-making. Whether identifying potential threats to a company's digital infrastructure or uncovering patterns in consumer behavior, OSINT provides a valuable toolset for gaining insights that can drive success.

Challenges Encountered in OSINT