19 July 2023

France and India: Two Nuances of 'Strategic Autonomy'

Mathieu Droin , Rajesh Basrur , Nicolas Blarel , and Jyotsna Mehra

“We know India will be a very difficult superpower—like a big France.” This comment by a former deputy national security advisor of Japanese prime minister Abe Shinzo echoes a widely shared sentiment across G7 capitals. This is also certainly what many think in the United States vis-à-vis these two indispensable, yet volatile partners.

In collective fora, France and India indeed take pride in not being free riders, as nuclear powers with robust national militaries and capacities, as well as in being free thinkers, developing an outlook of their own on global issues. French president Emmanuel Macron’s motto “allied, but not aligned” echoes Indian external affairs minister Dr. S. Jaishankar’s insistence that India is “entitled to have its own side” This posture is best encapsulated in a concept that both countries have regularly been using: “strategic autonomy,” defined as the capability to make decisions independent from external pressure, especially from great powers, in the main policy areas. This commonality is regularly emphasized in bilateral encounters between the two states.

The visit of Indian prime minister Narendra Modi as a guest of honor for France’s National Day on July 14, also known as Bastille Day, will be an occasion to showcase the strength and depth of the bilateral relationship. France and India established a strategic partnership in 1998, but this partnership has really gained traction in the past decade, with close cooperation initiated or enhanced on a wide range of issues, including in sensitive and sovereign domains, buttressed by a flourishing defense trade cooperation that has placed France as India’s second-largest arms supplier after Russia. Modi’s visit will be the occasion for new announcements in the fields of defense, space, and nuclear technology.

The visit will also be an occasion for both countries to reaffirm how a shared quest for strategic autonomy is guiding this partnership. Their differing histories and geographies bring nuances and distinct threat perceptions, notably regarding the war in Ukraine and relations with Russia and China. But their overall like-minded vision on multipolarity and multilateralism offers great potential to expand cooperation and advance an original outlook, with one eye in Europe and the other in Asia.

The Roots of French and Indian Strategic Autonomy

The code must go on: An Afghan coding bootcamp becomes a lifeline under Taliban rule

Eileen Guoarchive page

Four months after the Afghan government fell to the Taliban, 22-year-old Asad Asadullah had settled into a new routine.

In his hometown in Afghanistan’s northern Samangan province, the former computer science student started and ended each day glued to his laptop screen.

Since late October, Asadullah had been participating in a virtual coding bootcamp organized by CodeWeekend, a volunteer-run community of Afghan tech enthusiasts, with content donated by Scrimba, a Norwegian company that offers online programming workshops.

On some days, Asadullah took a screen break for a game of pickup soccer, but generally he didn’t see his friends that much anymore. Under the Taliban regime, “old friends are getting so depressed,” he explains, and there was only so much of that he could handle. Instead, he tells me, “my life is on my computer.”

Asadullah is one of the millions of young Afghans whose lives, and plans for the future, were turned upside down when the Taliban recaptured Afghanistan last August. When the capital fell, Asadullah had two semesters of college left, and he was thinking about his post-graduation plans. He wasn’t picky about his first job; anything that let him save up some money would do. But he had bigger plans: Asadullah wanted to start his own software company and share his love of computer science by teaching university and high school students. “When I start coding, I can forget everything,” he says.

Today, those plans are on pause—and no one knows for how long. The country’s economy is in free fall, the United Nations warns of famine, and in the meantime, Afghanistan’s new rulers have offered little by way of solutions to its citizens.

Innovation Lightbulb: Critical Minerals and the U.S.-China Chip War

In this week's Innovation Lightbulb newsletter, we look at U.S. import data regarding gallium and germanium.

Earlier this month, China announced the future implementation of export controls on the minerals gallium and germanium, set to take effect on August 1, 2023. Classified as critical minerals by the United States Geological Survey (USGS), gallium and germanium are essential in the manufacturing and production of semiconductors and advanced electronics. With the most recent USGS data showing China accounts for 98 percent of global raw gallium production and 67 percent of raw germanium production, what effect could these export controls have on U.S. chip supply chain resiliency in chip-making?

Despite China's lofty production numbers, most of its output is geared towards its own domestic consumption, meaning it does not have a monopoly on the global supply chain for these minerals. As detailed in recent analysis from the Defense-Industrial Initiatives Group at CSIS, other allied countries such as Japan, Germany, and Australia have the production capabilities to offset long-term gallium supply chain disruptions, rendering the export controls "mostly symbolic." Looking to U.S. import data and mineral production further illuminates the effect of these controls.

While silicon-based semiconductor wafers are the most widely used in chip manufacturing today, gallium is the critical component of gallium nitride (GaN) and gallium arsenide (GaAs) wafers. Gallium-based wafers have higher electron mobility than silicon wafers and are especially useful in analog integrated circuits and optoelectronics.

As shown in the chart above, China only accounted for just under 4 percent of total U.S. gallium imports in 2020, since over 95 percent of gallium consumption in the United States is in the form of GaAS wafers manufactured in other countries, primarily Germany, Taiwan, and Japan. China, however, is the primary supplier of the raw gallium used to make these wafers. In the case of Germany, China supplies upwards of 55 percent of its raw gallium imports.

Xi Jinping has a Russian albatross around his neck


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 facade, 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-a-vis Russia “will not be changed by any turn of events … no matter how the international landscape may change.”

Xi Jinping’s Vision for the Middle East

Yair Albeck

Chinese leader Xi Jinping clearly aspires to establish a new global economic order centered around Beijing, not Washington. However, a new global economic order cannot be built in a day. The immensity of this challenge has forced Xi to set his sights on a set of interim goals. These include cementing the Communist Party’s control of the Chinese economy and shielding supply chains, capital flows, and strategic bilateral and multilateral relationships from hostile American policies.

These goals equate to the creation of a Sinocentric global economic subsystem. This would be partially integrated into the current Western-led system but would be sufficiently decoupled from the West to protect the pillars of the Chinese Communist Party’s political economy.

In Beijing’s grand design, the Middle East plays an indispensable role. But Western analysts have often misjudged China’s interests in the region as purely commercial. While Xi values the region for its economic potential, he sees it as one of the most important arenas of competition with the United States.

Yet when United States National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan recently discussed American leadership of the global economy, he focused on Europe and the Indo-Pacific and mentioned Africa and Latin America. He did not mention the Middle East once.1

Washington’s persistent blind spot in the Middle East has obscured its view of Beijing’s global ambitions. If the US does not rectify this mistake, it risks losing more influence in the region and aiding China’s effort to supplant the US atop the global economic order.

The Appeal of the Middle East

Xi faces multiple hard facts as he endeavors to construct a Beijing-led economic bloc. The US and its allies continue to dominate key sectors of the global economy, from finance to high-tech industries like robotics, aeronautics, semiconductors, and closed-circuit chips. Additionally, the US dollar remains the international reserve currency.

The Multialigned Middle East

Jennifer Kavanagh and Frederic Wehrey

At the time it was announced, in March 2023, the China-mediated deal between Iran and Saudi Arabia was widely seen as a sign of Beijing’s arrival in Middle East power politics. Although the Biden administration denied that China’s role in brokering the agreement—which reestablished diplomatic relations between Riyadh and Tehran—reflected declining U.S. influence, Washington’s actions since then paint a different picture. Over the last few months, the United States has deployed additional military resources in the region, increased patrols and joint exercises around the Strait of Hormuz, and signaled that it would push forward arms deals with regional partners such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and expand training with Egypt, Kuwait, and others—all in an apparent attempt to reassure Arab partners of its commitment to Middle East security.

But these moves are unlikely to shore up U.S. influence. The pivot of Arab powers toward Beijing is not a result of Washington’s declining military presence. These states are well aware of Washington’s military investments in the Middle East—though they increasingly doubt its willingness to deploy those capabilities on their behalf. Rather, they are engaging China in areas—such as infrastructure and technology—where they perceive that the United States is less able or willing to help them. They are also seeking to acquire certain military systems, such as advanced drones, that the United States has wisely kept off-limits. Moreover, China’s foreign policy tends to be friendlier to authoritarian regimes like their own, and Beijing has managed to stay equidistant from the region’s competing powers, allowing China to portray itself as an unbiased mediator.

Given these trends, the United States needs a new approach to the region. It should accept the more positive aspects of China’s growing presence in the Middle East and encourage—rather than try to contain—Beijing’s contributions to regional development and stability. Washington will also need to adopt a more targeted response to specific Chinese actions that harm U.S. interests.

People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force Order of Battle 2023

Decker Eveleth

The People’s Republic of China is currently in the process of radically expanding its arsenal of conventional and nuclear land-based missile launchers. Over the past decade China has doubled the number of combat missile brigades in the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force (PLARF), and has unveiled a myriad of new capabilities, including missiles capable of firing both conventional and nuclear warheads, and missiles equipped with hypersonic glide vehicles designed to evade missile defenses. The technologies and deployment patterns of these weapons are important indicators of the direction of China’s force posture: they not only indicate China’s military capabilities, but also its fears and its conceptions about how future wars in the region will be conducted. Deployment of particular systems with certain capabilities to certain regions can inform us of what, how, and when China might strike certain targets, which in turn can help us understand what China prioritizes as a threat. The current expansion of China’s missile forces suggests a possible departure from China’s previously restrained second-strike nuclear posture to a posture capable of deterring at multiple levels of conflict and an increased shift towards nuclear warfighting. As the Sino-American relationship becomes increasingly volatile over the status of Taiwan, gaining accurate data on China’s conventional and nuclear missile forces becomes more important than ever.

Since China first established a ballistic missile force, that force has historically been quite small, kept at low levels of readiness, and constrained by a policy forswearing the first use of nuclear weapons. A little over a decade ago, China only possessed around 50 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), of which only the 18 DF-5 ICBMs in silos and 12 DF-31A mobile launchers could reliably reach the contiguous United States. 1 After Xi Jinping elevated China’s missile forces into a full branch of the People’s Liberation Army in 2015, the number of missile launchers deployed by the PRC has increased rapidly. The PLARF, responsible for the operation of all non-tactical ground-based surface-to-surface missile systems in China’s inventory, operates both conventional and nuclear missiles for a variety of strategic missions. This could include utilizing short, medium, and intermediate-range missiles to neutralize Taiwanese defensive installations, striking US warships at long-range while those warships are at sea or in port, or a retaliatory nuclear strike mission. The PLARF is now on track to deploy more than 1,000 ballistic missile launchers by 2028, including at least 507 nuclear capable launchers, 342 to 432 conventional launchers, and 252 dual-capable launchers. At least 320 solid-fueled fixed ICBM silos and 30 liquid-fueled fixed ICBM silos are currently under construction in addition to China’s growing arsenal of mobile ICBM launchers. And this tally does not even touch launchers operated by the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) and the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN).

Chinese Cyberspies Used Forged Authentication Tokens to Hack Government Emails

Microsoft has reported that a Chinese cyberespionage group, known as Storm-0558, used forged authentication tokens to hack government email accounts. The hackers gained access to approximately 25 organizations, including government agencies and consumer accounts associated with the targeted entities. The threat actor exploited a token validation issue in Outlook Web Access and Outlook.com, using a Microsoft account consumer signing key to forge the tokens. Only OWA and Outlook.com were targeted.

Microsoft took steps to mitigate the attack, and impacted customers have been notified. The Storm-0558 group primarily targets government agencies in Western Europe for cyberespionage and data theft. In a separate incident, a Russian threat actor known as Storm-0978 and RomCom exploited a zero-day vulnerability to target defense and government entities in Europe and North America.

The US-China chip war is still escalating

Zeyi Yangarchive page

This story first appeared in China Report, MIT Technology Review’s newsletter about technology developments in China. Sign up to receive it in your inbox every Tuesday.

The temperature of the US-China tech conflict just keeps rising.

Last week, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce announced a new export license system for gallium and germanium, two elements that are used to make computer chips, fiber optics, solar cells, and other tech devices.

Most experts see the move as China’s most significant retaliation against the West’s semiconductor tech blockade, which expanded dramatically last October when the US limited the export to China of the most cutting-edge chips and the equipment capable of making them.

Earlier this year, China responded by putting Raytheon and Lockheed Martin on a list of unreliable entities and banned domestic companies from buying chips from the American company Micron. Yet none of these moves could rival the global impact of the gallium/germanium export control. By putting a chokehold on these two raw materials, China is signaling that it, in turn, can cause pain for the Western tech system and push other countries to rethink the curbs they put on China.

The country aims to restrict the supply of gallium and germanium, two materials used in computer chips and other products. But experts say it won’t have the desired impact.

The Party That Failed An Insider Breaks With Beijing

Cai Xia

When Xi Jinping came to power in 2012, I was full of hope for China. As a professor at the prestigious school that educates top leaders in the Chinese Communist Party, I knew enough about history to conclude that it was past time for China to open up its political system. After a decade of stagnation, the CCP needed reform more than ever, and Xi, who had hinted at his proclivity for change, seemed like the man to lead it.

By then, I was midway through a decades-long process of grappling with China’s official ideology, even as I was responsible for indoctrinating officials in it. Once a fervent Marxist, I had parted ways with Marxism and increasingly looked to Western thought for answers to China’s problems. Once a proud defender of official policy, I had begun to make the case for liberalization. Once a loyal member of the CCP, I was secretly harboring doubts about the sincerity of its beliefs and its concern for the Chinese people.

So I should not have been surprised when it turned out that Xi was no reformer. Over the course of his tenure, the regime has degenerated further into a political oligarchy bent on holding on to power through brutality and ruthlessness. It has grown even more repressive and dictatorial. A personality cult now surrounds Xi, who has tightened the party’s grip on ideology and eliminated what little space there was for political speech and civil society. People who haven’t lived in mainland China for the past eight years can hardly understand how brutal the regime has become, how many quiet tragedies it has authored. After speaking out against the system, I learned it was no longer safe for me to live in China.


I was born into a Communist military family. In 1928, at the beginning of the Chinese Civil War, my maternal grandfather joined a peasant uprising led by Mao Zedong. When the Communists and the Nationalists put hostilities on hold during World War II, my parents and much of my mother’s family fought against the Japanese invaders in armies led by the CCP.

Taiwan Not A Country; US Makes Another U-Turn As Tensions Simmer Between Taipei & Beijing

Sakshi Tiwari

The US State Department suddenly dropped the word ‘country’ from its travel advisory notice for Taiwan when China’s aggression against Taiwan became the major driver of tensions with the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

The website now features a “Taiwan international travel information” page instead of the “country information page” for Taiwan that the travel advisory previously pointed users to.

When contacted by Taiwan News to comment on the latest development, the spokesperson of the American Institute in Taiwan, considered the de facto embassy in the self-ruled island state, said that US policy on Taiwan remains unchanged without giving more specific details.

The spokesperson stated that the US state department updates its factsheets and webpages frequently, reflecting “longstanding, strong, bipartisan US support for Taiwan, in line with our One-China policy.” The US has been arming Taiwan to bolster its military capability in the face of rising Chinese aggression and intimidation in recent years.

China claims Taiwan as a renegade Chinese territory with “secessionist” forces ruling the island. The last couple of years have seen Beijing asserting this more strongly, vowing to unite Taiwan with the Chinese mainland, with force if necessary.

How Sudan Became a Saudi-UAE Proxy War

Talal Mohammad

​​Fighting in Sudan, now in its third month, shows no signs of abating. The country’s two rival generals have flouted multiple cease-fires as they vie for control. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, who first gained power after the 2019 ousting of longtime Sudanese dictator Omar al-Bashir and later cemented his position in a 2021 coup, is fighting Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, known as Hemeti, who heads the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

Cluster Munitions: What Are They, and Why Is the United States Sending Them to Ukraine?

Mark F. Cancian

The United States has announced that it will send cluster munitions to Ukraine after weeks of internal debate and public speculation. Ukraine has asked for these munitions, which are highly effective against area targets such as infantry, artillery, and truck convoys. However, the munitions are controversial because of high dud rates and the resulting danger to civilians. The munitions will help Ukraine’s armed forces as they continue their counter-offensive, but they will not be a game changer.

Q1: What are cluster munitions?

A1: The international Convention on Cluster Munitions defines cluster munition as “a conventional munition that is designed to disperse or release explosive submunitions, each weighing less than 20 kilograms.” Thus, cluster munitions consist of a dispenser and submunitions loaded onto it. Submunitions are essentially grenades with tail fins or a streamer to help them land in the right orientation.

An unexploded cluster munition identified by members of the Mine Advisory Group in a backyard garden in Yohmor, Lebanon on August 21, 2006.

The dispenser releases the submunitions above the target, and the submunitions spread out as they fall. The submunitions explode when they hit the ground affecting a much larger area than a single, concentrated explosion. The picture below shows a dispenser that has stuck in the ground after dispersing its submunitions. The submunitions would be stacked in the rails.

Internal components of a cluster munition remains in a grass field near Lysychansk, eastern Ukraine, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine on May 10, 2022.

The most common alternative to a cluster munition is a “unitary” warhead that has a single explosive package. As an illustration, a Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS) rocket can carry 518 bomblets (M26A1/A2) or a single 200-pound warhead.

Ukraine and the great revival of American empire

Andrew J. Bacevich

Amidst the dross that clutters the New York Times op-ed page on most days, glimmers of enlightenment occasionally appear. A recent guest column by Grey Anderson and Thomas Meaney offers a case in point.

“NATO Isn’t What It Says It Is,” declares the headline. Contrary to the claims of its architects and defenders, Anderson and Meaney argue persuasively that the central purpose of the alliance from its founding was not to deter aggression from the East and certainly not to promote democracy, but to “bind Western Europe to a far vaster project of a U.S.-led world order.” In return for Cold War-era security guarantees, America’s European allies offered deference and concessions on issues like trade and monetary policy. “In that mission,” they write, NATO “has proved remarkably successful.” A plot of real estate especially valued by members of the American elite, Europe thereby became the centerpiece of the postwar American imperium.

The end of the Cold War called these arrangements into question. Desperate to preserve NATO’s viability, proponents claimed that the alliance needed to go “out of area or out of business.” NATO embraced an activist posture, leading to reckless state building interventions in Libya and Afghanistan. The results were not favorable. Acceding to U.S. pressure to venture out of area proved to be costly and served chiefly to undermine NATO’s credibility as a militarily capable enterprise.

Enter Vladimir Putin to save the day. Just as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine provided the U.S. with an excuse to forget its own post-9/11 military failures, so too it has enabled NATO to once more constitute itself as the chief instrument for defending the West—and, crucially, to do so without actually exacting a blood sacrifice from either Americans or Europeans.

In this context, the actual fate of Ukraine itself figures as something of an afterthought. The real issue centers on reviving damaged aspirations of American global primacy. With something like unanimity, the U.S. national security establishment is devoted to the proposition that the United States must remain the world’s sole superpower, even if this requires ignoring a vast accumulation of contrary evidence suggesting the emergence of a multipolar order. On that score, Putin’s recklessness came as an impeccably timed gift.

Ukrainian Attacks 'Deep Inside Russia' Will Increase, Putin Ally Warns


Sergey Mardan, Solovyov Live host and an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, recently warned that attacks "deep inside Russia" will increase amid the country's ongoing war in Ukraine, which was launched last February.

Last month, a number of attacks inside Russia was reported, with Vyacheslav Gladkov, governor of Russia's Belgorod region, claiming that roughly 850 missiles and other projectiles were launched at Shebekino, a municipality in the region located just near the border with Ukraine. The governor added that the strikes injured 16 people, who were treated at a hospital and killed two women from the village of Maslova Pristan.

Buildings in the region, that included office and industrial structures were also damaged, according Gladkov. While Ukraine claimed that it was not responsible for the attacks, Pro-Ukraine Russian rebel groups were reportedly positioned in Belgorod, even though the Kremlin previously said they have been repelled. One of the groups, the Freedom of Russia Legion, posted extensive combat footage online at the time and said it has met with strong resistance from Russian forces.

Ukraine has recently launched its long-awaited counteroffensive, bolstered with military aid from the West to defeat Russia and take back its territories. Though Putin and his allies, including Mardan, were confident that Kyiv would fall very quickly, the war-torn country has shown a strong defense response that exceeded expectations.

Officers of the Russian army and secret services are seen on June 27 in Moscow as Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks. Sergey Mardan, "Solovyov Live" host and an ally of Putin, recently warned that attacks "deep inside Russia" will increase amid the country's ongoing war in Ukraine, which was launched last February.

During a Russian TV segment posted Sunday to Twitter with English subtitles by Anton Gerashchenko, adviser to the Ukrainian internal affairs minister, Mardan said he is worried that Ukrainian drones would reach more places in Russia.

Deep Fakes and National Security


“In 2024, one billion people around the world will go to the polls for national elections. From the US presidential election in 2024 to the war in Ukraine, we’re entering the era of deepfake geopolitics, where experts are concerned about the impact on elections and public perception of the truth.

The Geopolitics of Deepfakes (Project Liberty)

Project Liberty, in a 2023 e-mail newsletter, explored “deepfakes and state-sponsored disinformation campaigns, what it means for the future of geopolitical conflict, and what we can do about it.”

Deception for geopolitical gain has been around since the Trojan horse. Deepfakes, however, are a particular form of disinformation that has emerged recently due to advances in technology that generate believable audio, video, and text intended to deceive.

Generative AI tools like Midjourney and OpenAI’s ChatGPT are being used by hundreds of millions each month to generate new content (ChatGPT is the fastest-growing consumer application in history), but they are also the tools used to create deepfakes.

Henry Adjer, an independent AI expert told WIRED, ‘To create a really high-quality deepfake still requires a fair degree of expertise, as well as post-production expertise to touch up the output the AI generates. Video is really the next frontier in generative AI.’” (1)

Fake vids, real geopolitics

Even if deepfake videos aren’t perfect, they’re already being used to shape geopolitics. The war in Ukraine could have gone very differently had Ukrainian soldiers believed the deepfake video from March 2022 of President Zelenskyy calling on his Ukrainian soldiers to lay down their arms.

Bill Gates isn’t too scared about AI

Will Douglas 

Bill Gates has joined the chorus of big names in tech who have weighed in on the question of risk around artificial intelligence. The TL;DR? He’s not too worried, we’ve been here before.

The optimism is refreshing after weeks of doomsaying—but it comes with few fresh ideas.
Related Story

"Ghost stories are contagious."

The billionaire business magnate and philanthropist made his case in a post on his personal blog GatesNotes today. “I want to acknowledge the concerns I hear and read most often, many of which I share, and explain how I think about them,” he writes.

According to Gates, AI is “the most transformative technology any of us will see in our lifetimes.” That puts it above the internet, smartphones, and personal computers, the technology he did more than most to bring into the world. (It also suggests that nothing else to rival it will be invented in the next few decades.)

Gates was one of dozens of high-profile figures to sign a statement put out by the San Francisco–based Center for AI Safety a few weeks ago, which reads, in full: “Mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war.”

But there’s no fearmongering in today’s blog post. In fact, existential risk doesn’t get a look in. Instead, Gates frames the debate as one pitting “longer-term” against “immediate” risk, and chooses to focus on “the risks that are already present, or soon will be.”

“Gates has been plucking on the same string for quite a while,” says David Leslie, director of ethics and responsible innovation research at the Alan Turing Institute in the UK. Gates was one of several public figures who talked about the existential risk of AI a decade ago, when deep learning first took off, says Leslie: “He used to be more concerned about superintelligence way back when. It seems like that might have been watered down a bit.”

Russia and Ukraine Launch Fresh DDoS Offensives: A Look Into Crowdsourced Cyber Warfare

Russian crowdsourced DDoS attacks are mounting against Ukraine and NATO members’ critical infrastructure. Ukrainian hackers are unleashing similar attacks on Russian invaders. While the damage so far seems limited, the danger for both sides is increasing.

A DDoS attack floods a website or a server with traffic, overwhelming the target and causing it to slow down or crash.

In the run-up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the number of DDoS attacks originating in Russia rose by 450% year on year, according to cybersecurity firm Kaspersky.

Since the invasion, DDoS attacks against US national security targets have soared by a staggering 16,815%, according to NetScout.

A key factor in Russia’s DDoS offensive is a hacker group called NoName057(16). Its manifesto denounces the West for “Russophobia.”

Rather than do the work itself, NoName recruits hackers by offering rewards of thousands of dollars in cryptocurrency for successful DDoS attacks.

The platform automates user registration via the messaging service Telegram.

Launched in early 2022, NoName counted more than 45,000 subscribers as of June 2023.

While Vladimir Putin or Russian security services may or may not run NoName, the group displays unwavering support of the Russian regime.

On June 24, 2023, NoName departed from its usual strategy of targeting multiple sites daily and focused its resources on two sites belonging to the Russian Wagner mercenaries.

This move coincided with the private paramilitary group’s audacious — and failed — mutiny.

Despite their lack of technical sophistication, NoName’s DDoS attacks create significant disruption.

It's Now or Never For Ukraine

Thore Schröder
The Ukrainian counteroffensive has bogged down and soldiers have been able to do little to counter Russia's firepower. At next week's NATO summit, the West must decide how much a victory over Putin is worth and finally get serious about delivering urgently needed weapons systems.

Ukrainian soldiers near Zaporizhzhia in early July: "Too much to die and too little to live." Foto: Libkos / AP

It's a bitter realization: The Ukrainians have thus far fallen far short of the goals they set for their counteroffensive. They don't have the equipment they need for a rapid breakthrough in the southeast – they lack rocket launchers, howitzers, munitions and, especially, air defense systems and modern fighter jets. It turns out it isn't going to be easy to push out the Russian invaders.

With Ukrainian soldiers unable to adequately protect themselves, units have become stranded in minefields and are sitting ducks for combat helicopters, warplanes, drones and artillery fire. Ukrainian soldiers on the front are reporting that they can do little to counter Russia’s firepower, particularly the constant air strikes. It's also now becoming apparent why Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy begged his Western partners to send warplanes.

The much-anticipated counteroffensive has thus descended into a brutal war of attrition. The Ukrainians attack in small infantry units, moving from village to village, from woodline to woodline, suffering terrible casualties in the process. During the past week, the Ukrainians say they reclaimed a total of 38 square kilometers of territory in the southern and eastern part of the country, an area even smaller than Manhattan Island in New York.

Didn't the West give the impression that a rapid victory against a deeply entrenched Russian opponent was possible after delivering modern weaponry to Ukraine and providing its troops with training? Didn’t U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken even say in early May that the Ukrainians had "everything they need" to retake territory occupied by the Russians? And didn’t the Ukrainian leadership believe in their chances for success when they launched the counteroffensive?

The Long, Destructive Shadow of Obama’s Russia Doctrine

Adrian Karatnycky

In an interview with Times Radio in May, Richard Dearlove, the former head of Britain’s MI6, observed that “the policy that [U.S. President Barack] Obama followed in 2014, when there was this initial Russian invasion … the way that this was handled, with the benefit of hindsight, was probably a mistake.” Dearlove was right, but he missed a salient point: The decisions made in the Obama years aren’t just something to observe through the rearview mirror. Obama’s policies continue to exercise a major influence on the course of the Russia-Ukraine war and have resulted in the unnecessary loss of tens of thousands of civilian and military lives.

Small, Hidden and Deadly: Mines Stymie Ukraine’s Counteroffensive

Andrew E. Kramer

It was a grisly scene of bloody limbs and crumpled vehicles as a series of Russian mines exploded across a field in southern Ukraine.

One Ukrainian soldier stepped on a mine and tumbled onto the grass in the buffer zone between the two armies. Nearby lay other Ukrainian troops, their legs in tourniquets, waiting for medical evacuation, according to videos posted online and the accounts of several soldiers involved.

Soon, an armored vehicle arrived to rescue them. A medic jumped out to treat the wounded and knelt on ground he deemed safe — only to trigger another mine with his knee.

Five weeks into a counteroffensive that even Ukrainian officials say is off to a halting start, interviews with commanders and soldiers fighting along the front indicate the slow progress comes down to one major problem: land mines.

The fields Ukrainian forces must cross are littered with dozens of types of mines — made of plastic and metal, shaped like tins of chewing tobacco or soda cans, and with colorful names like “the witch” and “the leaf.”

Elkins: Believing Putin Weak a Dangerous Misread of Events

Daniel Elkins 

Western Media had been brimming with enjoyment over others' misfortunes, as we watched The Wagner Group and Russian media clash.

The speculation of a coup, a collapsed Russian war effort, or general Russian disorder was quashed as quickly as it started.

While dissatisfying to many, media commentators have been quick to find a silver lining; the evil Wagner Group and their Bond-villain leader, Prigozhin, are in exile, and Putin is weaker for it.

This is a dangerous misunderstanding of Russian political theater and it's amisreading of the conclusion to very recent events.

The Wagner Group’s relocation to Belarus is comparable to NATO’s expansion into the Baltic Region. Using Minsk as a proxy, Moscow effectively has pushed Russia’s first line of military recourse closer to NATO pact or allied countries, with the potential to open new fronts on the borders of Poland, Latvia, Lithuania.

From a tactical perspective this also puts Wagner forces within striking distance of Kyiv and is reminiscent of the avenues of approach used in initial invasion of February 2022.

This is advantageous since it effectively bypasses the vast majority of Ukrainian defenses which are set up in eastern Ukraine.

The last week might have been an entertaining show for those living outside the borders of this war, but from the Ukrainian perspective, they will now have to anticipate a second line of defense to protect their capital from a new and formidable force in the north.

An effective strike from Belarus could cut supply lines from Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, and Moldova, thereby starving the Ukrainian war effort of its much-needed supplies.

Politically, Putin may appear weak after the weekend’s "rebellion."

Preparing for the Joint Battlespace: How the DoD Can Increase Transparency, Improve Decision-Making During JADC2 Planning

Amid an increasingly unpredictable battlespace, the Department of Defense is growing more dependent on cross-domain initiatives like Joint All-Domain Command and Control. But to synchronize and execute military capabilities across all domains, the DoD must ensure they are making the best use of taxpayer dollars by investing in technology and resources that align with this new approach to warfare.

“As we look at the global competition today with China, Russia and other actors, the pace and scale of the challenges is bigger now than it ever has been in our nation,” says Aaron Prupas, industry expert and retired Air Force major general. “The complexity is outpacing humans, so new tech should work at the speed of relevance for our decision-makers and planners.”

However, for an organization as large and multi-faceted as the DoD, existing silos and limited transparency is only exacerbated in the face of JADC2 — an effort that requires participation and collaboration from every employee, in every branch, at every level. With thousands of people supporting one cause, it’s all too easy for information to get lost in the fold, as a result individuals may not fully understand the impact of their decisions or how their role fits into the larger joint mission.

Confusion and uncertainty can lead to misaligned priorities and improper allocation of resources during the critical Planning, Programming, Budgeting and Execution process in which the military requests funding from Congress for various activities, including the technology and projects necessary to unify their missions.

Historically, PPBE evaluates branch budgets at a broad, aggregate level without much consideration for initiatives with many intricacies and moving parts like JADC2. If the DoD does not spend funds in a certain amount of time, the money redistributes to initiatives that show faster expenditure. And without engagement from those involved, joint efforts may not be evaluated or initiated fast enough to obtain or maintain the necessary funding, leaving them as unfunded requirements.

“The numbers are so significantly large, and the details of why things aren't being spent are oftentimes at a level of fidelity that can't be comprehended by a single individual or decision authority,” says a former Chief Financial Officer of the Intelligence Community.

Storm-0978 attacks reveal financial and espionage motives

Microsoft Threat Intelligence

Microsoft has identified a phishing campaign conducted by the threat actor tracked as Storm-0978 targeting defense and government entities in Europe and North America. The campaign involved the abuse of CVE-2023-36884, which included a remote code execution vulnerability exploited before disclosure to Microsoft via Word documents, using lures related to the Ukrainian World Congress.

Storm-0978 (DEV-0978; also referred to as RomCom, the name of their backdoor, by other vendors) is a cybercriminal group based out of Russia, known to conduct opportunistic ransomware and extortion-only operations, as well as targeted credential-gathering campaigns likely in support of intelligence operations. Storm-0978 operates, develops, and distributes the RomCom backdoor. The actor also deploys the Underground ransomware, which is closely related to the Industrial Spy ransomware first observed in the wild in May 2022. The actor’s latest campaign detected in June 2023 involved abuse of CVE-2023-36884 to deliver a backdoor with similarities to RomCom.

Storm-0978 is known to target organizations with trojanized versions of popular legitimate software, leading to the installation of RomCom. Storm-0978’s targeted operations have impacted government and military organizations primarily in Ukraine, as well as organizations in Europe and North America potentially involved in Ukrainian affairs. Identified ransomware attacks have impacted the telecommunications and finance industries, among others.

Microsoft 365 Defender detects multiple stages of Storm-0978 activity. Customers who use Microsoft Defender for Office 365 are protected from attachments that attempt to exploit CVE-2023-36884. In addition, customers who use Microsoft 365 Apps (Versions 2302 and later) are protected from exploitation of the vulnerability via Office. Organizations who cannot take advantage of these protections can set the FEATURE_BLOCK_CROSS_PROTOCOL_FILE_NAVIGATION registry key to avoid exploitation. More mitigation recommendations are outlined in this blog.


27% of jobs at high risk from AI revolution, says OECD

More than a quarter of jobs in the OECD rely on skills that could be easily automated in the coming artificial intelligence revolution, and workers fear they could lose their jobs to AI, the OECD said on Tuesday. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is a 38-member bloc, spanning mostly wealthy nations but also some emerging economies like Mexico and Estonia. There is little evidence the emergence of AI is having a significant impact on jobs so far, but that may be because the revolution is in its early stages, the OECD said. Jobs with the highest risk of being automated make up 27% of the labour force on average in OECD countries, with eastern European countries most exposed, the Paris-based organisation said in its 2023 Employment Outlook. Jobs at highest risk were defined as those using more than 25 of the 100 skills and abilities that AI experts consider can be easily automated. Three out of five workers meanwhile fear that they could lose their job to AI over the next 10 years, the OECD found in a survey last year. The survey covered 5,300 workers in 2,000 firms spanning manufacturing and finance across seven OECD countries.

The Next Challengers Joining Nvidia in the AI Chip Revolution

Nvidia has emerged as the leader in powering the early days of the artificial-intelligence revolution, but rivals big and small are looking to close the gap. Heavyweights such as Advanced Micro Devices and Intel are spending billions of dollars to enhance their AI offerings, while startups are attracting investors eager to get into the next possible chip giant. Meanwhile, cloud-computing companies such as Amazon and Google are developing their own chips and becoming bigger players in this area. The current AI boom began late last year, when OpenAI’s ChatGPT tool captured the public’s imagination by generating cogent text in response to prompts. The attention led to a surge of investment in chips that can create and deploy ChatGPT and other so-called generative AI language systems. Nvidia was a leader in producing such AI chips, thanks in part to its background in making semiconductors for videogame graphics that were repurposed for AI years ago. The latest wave of enthusiasm juiced sales for Nvidia, skyrocketing its valuation above $1 trillion and prompting Chief Executive Jensen Huang to declare AI a revolutionary technology on par with personal computers and smartphones.

AI’s Impact on Security, Risk and Governance in a Hybrid Cloud World

AI is a transformative technology that is reshaping the landscape of security, risk management, compliance and governance in hybrid cloud environments. It is emerging as a powerful force, revolutionizing the way organizations safeguard their digital assets and navigate the complexities of modern computing. Hybrid cloud architectures have introduced unprecedented challenges in maintaining robust security measures, ensuring regulatory compliance and managing risks across diverse infrastructure landscapes. AI is emerging as a crucial ally in this rapidly evolving environment, empowering organizations to proactively identify and address threats, streamline compliance processes and establish robust governance frameworks.AI has many different dimensions and use cases. It essentially brings more intelligence to how you do things. It builds insights from gathering, assessing and processing large data sets to track the changing risk and compliance posture resulting from changes to the hybrid cloud environment at scale, enabling humans to take accurate actions. This intelligence creates powerful insights that enable organizations to focus on the risks that matter and, as a result, protect their digital assets.

Review – Terrorism: The Power of Weakness and Fear

Juan Romero

For as long as scholars have been studying terrorism, there has been a struggle to find an agreeable definition of the term to unify the field. Scholars have examined the sheer breadth of definitions that have emerged from practitioners, state agencies, researchers and legal texts to capture the nature of terrorism, and reflected on whether a consensus definition can (or should) be achieved (Schmid 2004, Weinberg et al. 2004, Ramsay 2015, Stampnitzky 2017). One scholar, Alex Schmid (2011, p.74) has identified the most common components present in the multitude of different definitions and the third most common element of these definitions is ‘fear or terror’.

Fear, or the creation of fear, is what gives terrorist violence its influential power. The belief that any one individual may be victimised, or that society will continue to face violence is intended to shape the behaviour of the intended target. Given its centrality to the phenomenon of terrorism, fear is a topic worthy of further study in the academic literature on terrorism, and Juan Romero’s Terrorism: the Power and Weakness of Fear does just that, in an impressively wide-reaching study of how terroristic movements have utilised fear throughout history, how they have attempted to communicate their threat, and how these movements themselves can inadvertently communicate their own fears to a general audience. This latter focus, on the fears experienced by terrorist groups, their propagandists and leaders, is a fascinating and novel insight for those studying terrorism and political violence.

Romero starts the text by arguing that terrorism is an ‘ancient phenomenon which still besets many societies’ (p.1), and accordingly, takes a historically-minded approach in his survey of the power of fear and how terrorist groups strategically apply it. His study engages with a range of actors throughout history from the Sicarii, the Isma’ili Nizaris and the Sunni Muhawwid, to the Nazi regime in Germany, the Algeria GIA and the Islamic State. This broad approach allows the author to draw out a range of comparative insights about the continuities in terrorist strategy, as well as the subtle changes throughout history.

Loss Of Confidence

Brad Miller

I have completely lost confidence in the ability of the Department of Defense’s top officials to effectively and dutifully lead the military.

Military Leaders

The military is currently undergoing a change in some of its top officers, whether at the Pentagon or prominent commands across the force. These changes are routine in nature and don't necessarily signify in and of themselves that something is out of order. Therefore, what is disturbing to many Americans, including military troops and veterans, is not the fact that leadership changes are occurring but rather who these key positions may soon be held by.

After all, many of us are glad to see the top military officers leave their positions, though we may feel that the departure of some of these key leaders should be in handcuffs. I’ve written extensively about my feelings on senior military leadership in a piece appropriately titled Treason and Cowardice. However, I personally brook no illusion that their replacements will be any better. In fact, I assume that it will be more of the same.

Sadly, it's apparent that senior military leaders are passing loyalty tests of some sort, whether formal or informal. These loyalty tests have nothing to do with their oath to the Constitution or their love of country. In fact, these loyalty tests are clearly in direct tension with those ideals and even appear to supersede them.

One couldn't be blamed for wondering if the military actually operates as a type of secret society. On an exoteric plane, everyone is taught that the Department of Defense exists to protect the country, secure our freedoms, and ensure the integrity of the republic. However, perhaps at some esoteric level deep within the inner bowels of the organization, priorities and objectives are deliberately inverted and far more sinister agendas are pushed by individuals whose allegiances have nothing to do with American interests or values.

Grand Tactics and the Modern Battlefield

Justin Baumann


"Military tactics are like unto water; for water in its natural course runs away from high places and hastens downwards. So in war, the way is to avoid what is strong and to strike at what is weak. Water shapes its course according to the nature of the ground over which it flows; the soldier works out his victory in relation to the foe whom he is facing. Therefore, just as water retains no constant shape, so in warfare there are no constant conditions. He who can modify his tactics in relation to his opponent and thereby succeed in winning, may be called a heaven-born captain." - Sun Tzu [1]

In 1772, French General Jacques-Antoine-Hippolyte de Guibert, wrote, Essai général de la Tactique (General Test of Tactics or General Essay on Tactics), which likely contained the first recorded instance of the term “Grand Tactics”. [2] Guibert used his military insight to develop “Guibert columns”, in addition to other advancements in command and control, to help increase the mobility of infantry units just prior to the Napoleonic era. [3] Guibert’s foresight in building the French Army based on the principles in his book helped Napoleon win a significant number of victories throughout the European continent, and the doctrine of this Guibert-designed Grande Armée was instrumental in Napoleon’s early success. [4]

Franco-Swiss military theorist Baron Antoine-Henri Jomini, in his book The Art of War (1836), which many American Civil War officers studied at West Point before the outbreak of hostilities in 1861, described grand tactics as “the art of making good combinations preliminary to battles, as well as during their progress. The guiding principle in tactical combinations, as in those of strategy, is to bring the mass of the force in hand against a part of the opposing army, and upon that point the possession of which promises the most important results.” [5]

In the 20th century, famed American military theorist John Boyd described grand tactics as “[Operating] inside [the] adversary’s observation-orientation-decision-action loops, or get inside his mind-time-space, to create a tangle of threatening and/or non-threatening events/efforts as well as repeatedly generate mismatches between those events/efforts [the] adversary observes, or anticipates, and those he must react to, to survive.” [6]