23 July 2023

Washington’s Indian Delusion

Tim Willasey-Wilsey CMG

The US believes it has secured India as a strategic ally in the Indo-Pacific region. There will certainly be mutual benefits from the deepening partnership, but India has no intention of sacrificing its ‘strategic autonomy’ to join the Western camp against China, or of abandoning its friendship with Russia.

By any standard, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Washington in June was a triumph for India. President Joe Biden rolled out the red carpet and heaped praise on both Modi himself and his country. After all, India is now the fifth largest global economy and the world’s most populous nation, and Modi is so dominant in Indian political life that he is certain to be re-elected to a third five-year term in 2025.

Central to the visit were several military deals. India is to acquire fighter jet engines from General Electric and drones from General Atomics. This is an urgent requirement for India, which has been incredibly slow to recognise its military vulnerability after many years of ponderous defence procurement processes and a heavy reliance on antiquated and unreliable Russian (and often Soviet) weaponry.

The performance of Russian equipment in Ukraine has been a wake-up call for New Delhi. The Russian T-72 tanks which now litter the Ukrainian countryside north of Kyiv and in Donbas are broadly the same model as India’s Ajeya main battle tank, and India’s armoured personnel carriers are based on the old Soviet BRDMs. Ukraine has shown that India (along with many other countries) is unprepared for the new nimble forms of warfare based on small units operating with drones and anti-tank missiles and dialling in precision artillery strikes using satellite and mobile phone coverage.

India’s urgent military requirements might suggest that New Delhi is ready to abandon its Russian ally. But this could not be further from the truth. A prominent Indian journalist wrote to me that ‘the only time the Indian Parliament discussed Ukraine, not a single member from any party among the 25 MPs who took part in the discussion supported Ukraine. None. Indians are absolutely thrilled that Modi got a state visit in Washington. But their heart… is with Putin’.

The Indo-Pacific Strategy’s Missing Continental Dimension

Naoki Nihei and Marin Ekstrom

As China continues on its global superpower trajectory, policymakers in Beijing have taken increasingly aggressive measures to affirm their nation’s clout. These efforts have included attempts to expand China’s territorial claims in the East and South China Seas and discussions about a potential annexation of Taiwan. Additional issues include Beijing’s pursuit of partnering countries for the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) project – which has been marred by frequent allegations of “debt trap diplomacy” – as well as the recent Global Development Initiative (GDI) to provide aid for projects in developing countries that promote the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The leading democratic countries that uphold the liberal international order have expressed concerns over China’s attempts to garner international influence. Prominent government and business officials in these countries have accused China of attempting to overturn the current world order in favor of an authoritarian alternative. Consequently, China has emboldened other authoritarian regimes, most notably Russia, to take more forceful action in upending liberal democratic hegemony – with the Russian invasion of Ukraine bringing this growing brazenness to the forefront.

Anxiety over the rise of China and the authoritarian threat to the status quo has driven the G-7 and the world’s other leading democracies to collaborate on an “Indo-Pacific Strategy” to contain China while simultaneously bolstering their authority in Asia as a whole. Notable efforts include the EU’s renewed plan of Indo-Pacific engagement; the Quad, a loose security alliance composed of the United States, Japan, India, and Australia; and the Blue Dot Network, a U.S, Japan, and Australia-led challenger to the BRI.

The New Spy Wars

Calder Walton

The Cold War never ended. That, at least, is Russian President Vladimir Putin’s view. The clearest indication that the Kremlin continued its titanic struggle against the West even after the Soviet Union collapsed can be seen in the activities of Russia’s security and intelligence services. In their operations and in the vast power they wield in Russian society, they have picked up where Soviet intelligence left off. Since 1991, these agencies have been driven by a revanchist strategy to make Russia great again and to overturn the post–Cold War U.S.-led international order. Putin’s war in

Why China Won’t Talk With America’s Military

Yun Sun

This past spring, the United States requested a meeting between Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu and U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. The two were both going to attend the Shangri-La Dialogue—an annual security conference hosted in Singapore in June—where the United States’ and China’s defense chiefs traditionally speak with each other. This year’s gathering was an especially important opportunity for these officials to talk directly, given the growing frequency and intensity of China’s unsafe and provocative behavior in the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait. At the end of May, for example, China flew a fighter jet right in front of a U.S. reconnaissance plane. The two sides needed (and need) a way to lower tensions and create mechanisms that could diffuse any crisis.

But China turned down the United States’ request. Washington, the Chinese government pointed out, had sanctioned Li over China’s procurement of Russian weapons systems in 2018. Li would not meet with U.S. officials until those restrictions were lifted.

The decision was disappointing, but it was not a surprise. Since August 2022, China has suspended a series of talks with the United States among major military commanders and defense policy coordinators. The freeze was announced after then U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan, a trip that outraged China’s leadership. But the reason this rift has endured goes deeper. China has refused to have its military communicate with the United States’ because it believes that silence is a form of leverage. It knows that Washington is concerned about the lack of contact, and it likes that the U.S. military feels uneasy. Beijing wants Washington to worry about China’s provocative military acts, to ask for reassurance, and then not receive it. By depriving U.S. officials of security and certainty, Beijing hopes that it can pressure them to decrease the United States’ military footprint in the waters and airspace near China.

Despite its propensity for aggression in its neighborhood, China does not want to start a war. But Beijing does not seem to be worried that its brinkmanship will provoke one at this time. In China’s view, the risk of a military conflict is low, primarily because the United States is preoccupied with Ukraine and therefore unwilling to open another front in the western Pacific. And although it does not want actual conflict, Beijing appears willing to court the possibility of war. In fact, some Chinese policymakers believe that a military crisis could help them establish ground rules the United States will follow when operating in China’s periphery.

Is Germany shifting its approach on China?

Atlantic Council experts

Is this another Zeitenwende? The German government adopted its first-ever strategy for relations with China on Thursday. Released after months of dispute among Germany’s three-party governing coalition, the strategy calls for measures to “de-risk” Berlin from the national security vulnerabilities of economic dependence on Beijing. The sixty-four page document reflects a wider shift in German foreign policy in the past year toward more strategic thinking—exemplified by Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Zeitenwende, or turning point, speech after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The China strategy arrives a month after the release of Germany’s inaugural national security strategy.

Below, Atlantic Council experts answer the most pressing questions about Germany’s new China strategy and what it will mean for relations between Europe and Asia’s largest economies.

1. Much has been made of the Zeitenwende prompted by Russia. Are we seeing a similar shift in German thinking on China?

Those expecting a Zeitenwende in Germany’s China policy from the country’s first-ever comprehensive China strategy will be disappointed. For China hawks in Washington, Germany’s new strategy will offer too much evolution and not enough revolution in Berlin’s approach to Beijing. The product of a contentious interagency process and partisan divergences in a complex three-way coalition, the new strategy starts with a familiar balancing act between calling out a more aggressive China and keeping Germany’s options open to continue its economic relationship with Beijing. It still tries to square the triangle of China as a partner, competitor, and systemic rival. The strategy acknowledges that “China has changed” and, along with it, German policy toward China must change, but fails to translate this into sufficiently specific or ambitious policy proposals. The document picks up European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s “de-risking” approach but also rules out decoupling. Throughout, it touts a coordinated approach at the European Union (EU) level—something China hawks among fellow member states might throw back at Berlin, which is seen by some as slow-walking a tougher approach to China in Brussels.

Building the Taiwanese ‘porcupine’ an arsenal of shooting quills

Ryan Brobst and Lt. Col. James Hesson

The massive military exercises that China launched over the past year in response to the meetings between Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and U.S. Speakers of the House Nancy Pelosi and Kevin McCarthy demonstrated that the military balance of power in the Taiwan Strait is trending steadily towards Beijing.

The growing quantitative gap between the Taiwanese military and the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) makes competing symmetrically an increasingly difficult task.

Instead, Taipei should seek to deter Beijing asymmetrically by becoming a “porcupine”— an animal that defends itself by inflicting such grievous wounds on the predator that hunting it is not worth the cost. The quills of this porcupine should include cheap and numerous one-way attack drones, similar to the Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones that have seen success in conflicts in the Middle East and Europe.

Both state and non-state actors wrote the playbook on how to use drones against more powerful adversaries over the last decade. Early adopters included ISIS, Iran, Iranian-backed groups like the Houthis, Hamas, Hezbollah and various militia groups in Iraq and Syria.

These groups frequently use drones to attack their targets, including a March 2023 attack that killed a U.S. contractor and wounded five servicemembers. Conventional militaries have increasingly adopted these tactics, as seen in Iran’s use of one-way attack drones during the Abqaiq-Khurais attacks on Saudi oil infrastructure in 2019 and Azerbaijan’s heavy use of Israeli-made drones to help win a clear victory over Armenia in the 2020 Second Nagorno-Karabakh war.

While these drones have been a persistent threat in the Middle East, the first major war in which both sides have used one-way attack drones (also called suicide or kamikaze drones) for strikes at scale is currently underway in Ukraine. Both sides have seen considerable success in using these weapons to strike targets at the front and behind the lines.

A Look Back at Our Future War With China

Carlos Lozada

It is unfair, but tales of war tend to be more exciting than stories of peace. The same is true, perhaps more so, for warnings of wars to come versus assurances of good will. Dire scenarios of risk and escalation are almost always more captivating than those dissenting voices that explain how to avoid a fight. It is a narrative advantage that hawks enjoy over doves, realists over idealists and those believing in nightmares over those who dream of the alternative.

The 360-degree rivalry between the United States and China has yielded a barrage of recent books about the possibility of armed conflict breaking out, with plenty of advice on how to forestall it. If “Who lost China?” was an American preoccupation of the early Cold War, “Who lost to China?” threatens to become its contemporary variant. After five decades of engagement between Washington and Beijing, a period that featured both America’s unipolar triumphalism and China’s ascent to economic superpower status, the two countries are now on a “collision course” for war, many of these books assert, even if the rationales are varied and at times contradictory.

In these works, the antagonists are bound for strife because China has become too strong or because it is weakening; because America is too hubristic or too insecure; because leaders make bad decisions or because the forces of politics, ideology and history overpower individual agency. A sampling of their titles — “Destined for War,” “Danger Zone,” “2034: A Novel of the Next World War” and “The Avoidable War” — reveals the range and limits of the debate.

I don’t know if the United States and China will end up at war. But in these books, the battle is already raging. So far, the war stories are winning.

The U.S. Can Help Ukraine and Deter China

Michael Allen and Connor Pfeiffer

How can the U.S. simultaneously arm Ukraine in its fight against Russia and deter a Chinese invasion of Taiwan? It’s a false choice. A critical look at the weapons that Washington has transferred to Kyiv, what is needed in the Pacific, and when new production might become available reveals that the U.S. has enough resources both to arm Ukraine and to bolster deterrence in Asia.

Ukraine and Taiwan don’t need the same things. There is a large category of U.S. capabilities that are critical in the Pacific and that haven’t been provided to Ukraine. Taiwan is an island. To fight off a Chinese invasion it needs to develop its own undersea platforms and to field sea mines and fast-attack craft. For U.S. forces involved in a potential defense of Taiwan, the most critical capabilities would include bombers, attack submarines, hypersonic missiles and, especially, long-range antiship missiles. By the same token, many capabilities provided for Ukraine’s ground war, such as armored vehicles, counter-artillery radar, air-to-ground rockets and small arms, aren’t at the top of the list of what Taiwan needs from the U.S., according to numerous unclassified expert analyses. Aid to Taiwan and Ukraine isn’t zero-sum.

Where there is an overlap of preferred military capabilities, some prioritization is in order. The TOW antitank missiles, M1 Abrams tanks, and high-speed antiradiation missiles that Washington has supplied to Kyiv would have some applicability in the Pacific, but they are less critical to Taiwan in the short term. Ukraine, however, needs them right now. Similarly, weapons like the Harpoon antiship missile will be crucial to Taiwan’s air-sea battle. Taiwan has so far received Harpoons only from U.S. allies. The U.S. should move delivery of Taiwan’s pending Harpoon orders to the front of the line and, in the meantime, make transfers from its own stockpile of missiles slated for demilitarization or deep storage.

An Immigration Wake-Up Call


NEW HAVEN – For around a week in late June, Western media were obsessed with the fate of the Titan, a small submersible carrying a few billionaires and others to the sunken Titanic and later found to have imploded within hours of beginning its descent. Meanwhile, a boat carrying some 750 economic refugees capsized off the Greek coast, killing hundreds who had boarded in Libya after making perilous journeys from places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Syria. Pakistan declared a national day of mourning for its citizens lost at sea. But the West paid hardly any notice.

Of course, it is unfair to fault the press for responding to the demands of its audience. The relatively scant coverage of the migrants’ tragedy is symptomatic of a larger tendency to ignore the plight of those who happen to have been born in less privileged parts of the world. The mood has changed since the 2015 refugee crisis, when chilling photos of a migrant boy who had washed up on the Turkish coast elicited outrage and a vigorous response from policymakers in rich countries. In the intervening years, the Western public has become inured to such images, more often looking inward, or focusing on other priorities.

True, a cynic might say that the intense coverage of the 2015 refugee crisis was motivated less by idealism than by pragmatic concerns about Europe being overwhelmed by millions of people fleeing from violence. But even if that was the case, the same concerns dictate that advanced economies pay more attention to the developing world’s problems today.

Most governments around the world have recognized that they can no longer ignore climate change and other environmental damage. But ignoring the huge gap in living standards between the Global North and South has similarly become unsustainable. Owing to advances in communications technology and access to social media, the poor today are keenly aware of the vast differences between their lives and those of people living in rich countries. As long as these differences remain, they will keep pushing north in search of a better future. No border, no wall, and no sea will keep them where they are. The ongoing immigration crisis at the United States’ southern border and the continuing drama on the seas around Greece and Italy have made that clear.

Russian War Report: Wagner is still in business in Africa

Digital Forensic Research Lab

As Russia continues its assault on Ukraine, the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab) is keeping a close eye on Russia’s movements across the military, cyber, and information domains. With more than seven years of experience monitoring the situation in Ukraine—as well as Russia’s use of propaganda and disinformation to undermine the United States, NATO, and the European Union—the DFRLab’s global team presents the latest installment of the Russian War Report.

Ukrainian attack damages Kerch Bridge

Russia accused Ukraine of conducting a drone strike against the Kerch Strait Bridge on July 17. The bridge, also known as the Crimean Bridge, connects Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula with Russia’s Krasnodar region. The bridge is used for civilian movement and as an essential logistical route for the Russian army.

Explosions were reported at around 3:00 a.m. local time. Footage of the aftermath indicates that a span of the bridge’s road had collapsed while another suffered damage but remained intact. Traffic reportedly resumed several hours after the explosion, but in the interim, occupation authorities asked civilians to consider alternate evacuation routes. Russian Telegram channels reported extensive traffic jams in Crimea’s Dzhankoi area and in the occupied Kherson region towards Melitopol.

Ukraine defense intelligence spokesperson Andrii Yusov told Suspilne News that damage to the bridge could create logistical difficulties for Russian forces, but said Kyiv would not comment on the cause of the explosion. CNN, citing a source in the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), reported that the attack on the bridge was a joint operation of the SBU and Ukrainian naval forces. Ukrainian media outlet LIGA also reported that the SBU and Ukrainian naval forces were responsible for the attack, citing sources in the SBU. LIGA also noted that the strike was likely conducted with surface drones. The SBU said that information about the incident would only be revealed once the war ended. Some Russian military bloggers, including former Russian officer and pro-war nationalist Igor Girkin, stated that Russian authorities had focused too heavily on road security and not enough on maritime security. Alexander Kots, another prominent blogger and Kremlin-appointed Russian Human Rights Council member, also blamed Russian authorities for focusing too much on land security.

Russia just quit a grain deal critical to global food supply. What happens now?

Atlantic Council experts

That ship has sailed. Just after 8:00 a.m. local time on Sunday, the bulk carrier TQ Samsun pulled out of the Ukrainian port of Odesa en route to Istanbul. It was the last vessel to leave under the United Nations (UN) and Turkey-brokered deal to export grain and fertilizer by sea from Ukraine amid Russia’s full-scale invasion. On Monday, the Kremlin announced that it would halt the deal, curtailing vital Ukrainian food exports that fed four hundred million people worldwide before 2022, according to the World Food Programme.

Below, Atlantic Council experts answer four pressing questions about what just happened and what to expect next.

1. Why did Russia pull out of the deal?

Moscow’s notification to the UN, Kyiv, and Ankara that it was suspending participation in the grain deal and would not renew the deal further is part of a negotiating strategy to loosen sanctions and gain more freedom of maneuver. Russian standard practice is to make humanitarian measures conditional upon concessions that serve its military, economic, and political interests—as it has with earlier negotiations on the grain deal and numerous times over relief and aid deliveries in Syria.

Specific demands in this case include readmitting the Russian agricultural lender Rosselkhozbank back into the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) mechanism, allowing Russia to import repair parts for agricultural machinery, and unfreezing other assets. Moscow claims that the deal, known as the Black Sea Grain Initiative, has not delivered on points that were to benefit Russia, but this round of pressure is certainly about more than the letter of the deal; it is about easing sanctions pressure.

Rich Outzen is a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council IN TURKEY and a geopolitical analyst and consultant currently serving private sector clients as Dragoman LLC.

2. What’s the next move for Ukraine and its Western partners?

Winning the Next War—Virtually

Captain Patrick Molenda

2025: The South China Sea

With a sense of urgency spurred by increasing friction with China over a series of territorial disputes, the U.S. Navy was ready when Chinese leaders decided to take on the U.S. Pacific Fleet. The conflict began when a China Coast Guard vessel aggressively challenged a lone U.S. destroyer conducting freedom-of-navigation operations around Second Thomas Shoal in the South China Sea.

After a series of close crossings, the two ships collided when the Chinese captain tried to shoulder the U.S. destroyer toward a frothing reef. The destroyer’s commanding officer skillfully maneuvered to avoid grounding while the harassing vessel desperately fought to contain catastrophic flooding. Damaged, but still mission capable, the U.S. warship alerted her chain of command while establishing a defensive posture. Chinese high command, insisting the United States infringed on its sovereign territory and caused the collision, escalated the situation by seizing a U.S. survey ship operating in the South China Sea. Major elements of China’s South Sea Fleet put to sea as the Chinese president proclaimed, “Any foreign ship operating without permission in our territorial seas will be sent to the bottom.”
The USS Ranger (CV-4), Saratoga (CV-3), and Lexington (CV-2) steam forward with packed flight decks during Fleet Problem XIX in spring 1938. Fleet Problems included robust experimentation with new concepts and technology and helped develop the doctrine the Navy used to prevail at sea during World War II. U.S. Naval Institute Photo Archive

As People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) forces surged east, the U.S. Pacific Fleet—led by elements of Third and Seventh Fleets and reinforced by 3d Marine Expeditionary Force—sprang into action. U.S. surface action groups and aircraft carriers positioned for combat, their movements masked by a coordinated disruption of Chinese communication and surveillance systems. U.S. Marine Corps mobile missile batteries closed off key choke points while attack submarines formed wolf packs and maneuvered into killing positions.

Ukraine’s Other Allies

Jahara Matisek, William Reno, and Sam Rosenberg

At this month’s NATO summit in Vilnius, the extensive security assistance that the West is providing Kyiv was brought into sharp focus. At the meeting, the United States and its allies announced a plan to train Ukrainian pilots to fly F-16s—a follow-on to the Biden administration’s May 2023 decision to allow NATO allies to send the fighter jets to Ukraine. The French government announced that it was sending long-range SCALP cruise missiles. These announcements build on other recent pledges, including Germany’s promise in May to provide $3 billion in military aid, including tanks, artillery, and antiaircraft guns. Given the size and military importance of these transfers, it may seem that the West is covering Ukraine’s war needs.

But major weaponry and ammunition are only part of the story. Despite its growing access to advanced Western systems, Ukraine continues to face critical deficiencies in many essential areas, including protective equipment, maintenance and logistics, and spare parts for weapons and vehicles. Combined with shortfalls in various forms of nonlethal aid and equipment, these gaps not only significantly limit Ukrainian performance on the battlefield but also blunt the impact of the Western aid packages. Moreover, Western governments, despite their best efforts, are often not able to respond rapidly to these shifting immediate needs.

To address this problem, a veritable army of private actors and nongovernmental organizations have quietly stepped in. Over the past year, such informal assistance has come to play a crucial role in many aspects of the Ukrainian war effort and counteroffensive. For instance, the Sabre Training Advisory Group, a donor-funded NGO based in Ukraine, recently trained platoon and company level tactics for Ukraine’s 68th Jaeger Brigade, transmitting skills and expertise that helped the unit liberate Blahodatne and Zaporizhzhia in early June. Similarly in June, another Ukraine-based NGO, Anomaly, discovered that Ukraine’s 23rd Mechanized Brigade had been sent to the front without any medical supplies. Within three days, Anomaly was able to provide the unit with medical supplies and training. By operating largely out of public view, such support has significantly enhanced Ukraine’s fighting capacity. Nonetheless, some Western governments, including that of the United States, have hindered this work, whether by blocking the private transfer of some nonlethal equipment or by imposing excessive bureaucratic hurdles for export licenses or for requirements for retired U.S. service members who are seeking to train Ukrainian military personnel.

The New Spy Wars

Calder Walton

The Cold War never ended. That, at least, is Russian President Vladimir Putin’s view. The clearest indication that the Kremlin continued its titanic struggle against the West even after the Soviet Union collapsed can be seen in the activities of Russia’s security and intelligence services. In their operations and in the vast power they wield in Russian society, they have picked up where Soviet intelligence left off. Since 1991, these agencies have been driven by a revanchist strategy to make Russia great again and to overturn the post–Cold War U.S.-led international order. Putin’s war in Ukraine is the bloody conclusion of that strategy.

China is also seeking to reverse the outcome of the Cold War. With the “no limits” alliance proclaimed on the eve of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Putin and China’s leader, Xi Jinping, are attempting to upend the international system—and they are leaning heavily on their intelligence organs to do so. Spy agencies can do what other branches of government cannot: execute non-avowed foreign policy. Both Russian and Chinese intelligence have done so in the furtherance of their revisionist goals, taking advantage of the United States while it was distracted by the “war on terror” to damage U.S. national security, undermine Western democracies, and steal as many scientific and technical secrets as possible.


Russia’s intelligence services view themselves as the direct heirs of the KGB. Although the KGB was disbanded in 1991, many of its former officers and all of its tradecraft, files, and even agents in the West were transferred to Russia’s new security service, now known as the FSB, and foreign intelligence service, the SVR. For years after the end of the Cold War, Russian intelligence continued to run former Soviet agents in the West, including the CIA counterintelligence official Aldrich Ames and the FBI agent Robert Hanssen. It was business as usual for Russia. The SVR’s first director, KGB veteran Yevgeny Primakov, continued the Soviet intelligence agency’s traditions of coercion and blackmail—tactics that he himself had fallen victim to as a young man. According to material smuggled from the KGB’s archives, Primakov had been blackmailed into serving the agency while working as a journalist in the Middle East in the 1960s. The founding father of the FSB, Rem Krassilnikov, was also a former KGB officer and communist true believer; his wife was named Ninel, which is Lenin spelled backward. According to an FSB defector who worked under Krassilnikov in the 1990s, the FSB used the same training manuals as the KGB, but with the ideological sections about communism simply ripped out.

Russian command structure ‘confusing at best’ after Wagner mutiny, says top US general


The Russian military’s command structure is “confusing at best” after last month’s failed rebellion led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, chief of the Wagner mercenary group, a top U.S. general said on Tuesday.

Thousands of Prigozhin’s soldiers have been deeply involved in the Ukraine conflict. But those troops are now handing over their weapons to the Russian military, in an apparent end to their operations in Ukraine.

The failed mutiny that ended with Prigozhin’s exile has thrown Russia’s military command structure into disarray, Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. Mark Milley told reporters at the Pentagon.

“The command-and-control apparatus at the strategic level is certainly confusing at best and probably challenging,” Milley said.

The fallout from the rebellion, in addition to logistics problems, “significant” officer casualties and poor training, have contributed to eroding morale among Russian forces, Milley said.

Russian troops have had several months to boost their defenses in Ukraine, including laying complex minefields, installing barbed wire and digging trenches, Milley said. But Ukraine is working through the front lines “slowly and deliberately.”

Kyiv has so far struggled to retake significant territory during the much-anticipated counteroffensive, but Milley explained that Ukrainian forces are “preserving their combat power” and have not sent in their best soldiers.

“This is going to be long, it’s going to be hard, it’s going to be bloody,” Milley predicted. But “it is far from a failure, in my view.”

The main challenge for Ukrainian troops is minefields, which are forcing soldiers to move slowly, Milley said. The coalition is focused on providing Ukraine equipment to help clear and defend against those mines, as well as air defenses to protect against Russian air attacks.

Biden administration goes after two more spyware firms

David DiMolfetta

Below: The United States will soon seek feedback on harmonizing cyber regulations, and a bill that aims to stop warrantless police retrieval of phone data has momentum. First:

Intellexa and Cytrox are latest spyware firms to face U.S. wrath

Greece-based Intellexa and the Hungarian company Cytrox are now on the Commerce Department’s “entity list.” (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

The Biden administration struck its latest blow against foreign spyware makers on Tuesday, placing two Europe-based companies on its list that restricts U.S. companies’ business dealings with them.

As our own David DiMolfetta reported Tuesday with Aaron Gregg, the step is “the most significant since President Biden issued an executive order in March that sets limits on U.S. agencies’ use of spyware and bars the technology’s use when there’s a risk it could be exploited by foreign governments to target Americans or violate human rights.”

Greece-based Intellexa and the Hungarian company Cytrox are now on the Commerce Department’s “Entity List,” alongside related entities in Ireland and Macedonia, respectively. The organizations join Israeli spyware makers NSO Group — the company behind the Pegasus spyware — and Candiru on the list.

Spyware critics say it’s a move that puts the United States ahead of other nations in combating surveillance technology that’s been used to spy on journalists, politicians and activists.

“This rule reaffirms the protection of human rights worldwide as a fundamental U.S. foreign policy interest,” Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves said in a statement. “The Entity List remains a powerful tool in our arsenal to prevent bad actors around the world from using American technology to reach their nefarious goals.”

On the companies

Russian fighter jet flies ‘dangerously’ close to US special forces surveillance plane

Our Foreign Staff

This still from video released by the US Air Force shows a Russian SU-35 near a MQ-9 Reaper drone over Syria CREDIT: US Air Force

A Russian fighter jet flew very close to a US surveillance aircraft over Syria, forcing it to go through the turbulent wake and putting the lives of the four American crew members in danger, US officials said Monday.

The officials said the incident, which happened just before 7am GMT on Sunday, was a significant escalation in what has been a string of encounters between US and Russian aircraft in Syria in recent weeks.

They added that the intercept by the Russian Su-35 impeded the US crew’s ability to safely operate their MC-12 aircraft, and called it a new level of unsafe behaviour that could result in an accident or loss of life.

In recent weeks, Russian fighter jets have repeatedly harassed US unmanned MQ-9 drones, but the latest incident raised alarms because it endangered American lives.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details of a military operation, would not say how close the Russian jet got to the US warplane. The MC-12, which is a twin-engine turboprop aircraft routinely used by special operations forces, was doing surveillance in support of operations against the Islamic State groups in Syria, the officials said.
Increasing Russian aggression

On multiple occasions in the past two weeks, Russian fighter jets flew dangerously close to MQ-9 Reapers, setting off flares and forcing the drones to take evasive manoeuvres. US and Russian military officers communicate frequently over a deconfliction phone line during the encounters, protesting the other side’s actions.

When Will the War in Ukraine End?

TAP FOR SOUNDHouse Republicans passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on July 14, after a debate that highlighted military priorities versus cultural issues. Images: Getty Images Composite: Mark Kelly

Editor’s note: In this Future View, students discuss the war in Ukraine. Next we’ll ask: “After the Supreme Court struck down Biden’s $430 billion student-loan cancellation, the Biden administration is still trying to cancel debt. The Education Department canceled $39 billion in student-loan debt in July for 800,000 borrowers. Is the president overstepping? Should the government cancel student loans?” Students should click here to submit opinions of fewer than 250 words before Aug. 1. The best responses will be published that night.

Vladimir Putin Needs to Go

The war in Ukraine is part of Vladimir Putin’s political immortality project. As a former KGB agent, Mr. Putin is motivated by the prospect of restoring Russia to what he believes is its former Soviet glory.

This would explain Mr. Putin’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and his 2022 invasion of Ukraine, the former of which gave Russia a warm-water port. Mr. Putin wants to provoke the West by expanding Russia’s territory and consolidating power—all under the guise of demilitarizing Ukraine.

The war in Ukraine ends when Mr. Putin loses his power. After he’s gone maybe Russia will become a democratic nation if sanctions and antiwar protests amount to anything consequential. Or maybe an equally corrupt autocrat will replace Mr. Putin and retain the current political system. If Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of Wagner Group, had succeeded in his mutiny, we would likely have seen an end to the war but a continuation of the oligarchy.

Breach and Breakthrough


One of the great privileges of my three and half decades in the Australian Army was being able to command combat engineers. As a Troop Commander, Squadron commander (including in East Timor), Regimental Commander, command of a task force in Afghanistan and combined arms brigade commander, the sappers have been a constant presence in my professional life. Their cunning, professionalism, courage and humour is the right combination of attributes for those who often must sustain the mobility of combat forces at the tip of the spear.

So it is with great interest that I have been been following – where possible – the actions of Ukrainian army combat engineers in the defence of their homeland against the Russians. In the early days of the war, there was the story of the sacrifice of Vitalii Skakun , who stayed and executed a reserve demolition of the Henichny Road Bridge, in Kherson, in the face of a Russian advance. Later, we saw the analysis of a Ukrainian military engineer (Twitter - @kms_d4k) in the wake of the disastrous river crossing debacle by the Russians.

Now, the role of combat engineers has again come to the fore as the Ukrainian Armed Forces seek to break the Surovikin Line in southern Ukraine. The recent article on this topic in The Economist was excellent. And while most armies seek to avoid the very complex and bloody undertaking that is a combined arms obstacle breach, in southern Ukraine the Ukrainians have little choice. They need to take back their territory, and destroy Russian occupying forces. This means finding weak points and attempting to breach the Surovikin Line to then create an operational breakthrough.

Before discussing the Ukrainian efforts to breach and breakthrough in the south, it is worth a quick review of the Russian defensive layout that has been constructed over the past 6-7 months.

The Surovikin Line

How Russian Forces Are Fighting Ukraine's Counteroffensive


Beleaguered Russian soldiers in Ukraine are so far countering "pretty much everything" Kyiv's attacking troops have to offer, according to an American special operations veteran who since 2022 has been training Ukrainian units to root out Moscow's invasion forces.

Erik Kramer, the director and co-founder of the Kyiv-based Ukraine Defense Support Group, spoke to Newsweek from the Ukrainian capital, where he and his team of ex-military volunteers are now preparing to instruct a new batch of Ukrainian troops destined for the front.

Ukrainian forces are now on the offensive at multiple points along the 800-mile front, probing for weaknesses in the Russian lines they hope might be the key to another major defeat for Moscow. But Kramer—who served for 26 years in locations including Afghanistan, Bosnia, Congo, Iraq, and Kosovo—said Kyiv's troops face a daunting task.

"I was saying since day one last fall when they were talking about the big counteroffensive in the spring, that the gains will be limited at best," Kramer said. "It's unfortunately played out just like I thought it would."

A monitor from a drone shows a destroyed Russian tank during a surveillance flight on July 16, 2023 near Bakhmut in the Donetsk region of Ukraine. Ukrainian forces have gone on the counterattack, but Russian defenders are proving dogged.PAULA BRONSTEIN/GETTY IMAGES

"Right now, it looks like the counteroffensive is piecemeal," he added. "It looks like they're probing to see where there's weakness in the lines. And what I think the plan is that, once they find some holes, they'll try to exploit them."

Such an approach is likely to deliver "a couple of breakthroughs," Kramer said, but not necessarily the kind of large-scale defeat of Russian forces as occurred north of Kyiv, in Kharkiv, and in Kherson in 2022.

A Tale of Two Armies: Putin’s Wars

Andrew Forney

When I worked in the Pentagon, I had a boss who liked to print out memes and post them in his cubicle. On bookcases, shelves, wardrobes—you name it, he had posted a hard copy of digital media on it. It felt comfortably anachronistic, a bridge between an era of hard copy guffaws and today’s blink-and-its-gone age of digital laughs and smirks. One of my favorites in his collection captured two images under the title “Current Depictions of the Russian Military.” On the top was Vladimir Putin, firing a submachine gun and with an RPG slung across his back astride a velociraptor that held the Russian flag. A symbol of masculine virility and Russian strength, the image of Putin captured the growing consensus among many in Western defense circles that through a series of strategic investments and reforms, Putin and his advisors had remade the Russian military. While nowhere near as powerful as the Cold War behemoth employed by the Soviet Union, this new Russian military had proven capable of rapid seizures of contested terrain (Crimea); applying force, as needed, to tip the scale in proxy conflicts (eastern Ukraine); and limited power projection (Syria). By 2015, many in the Western defense community believed that the Russian military looked ready to once again cast a shadow across Europe.

The other picture, the one below it, was a stark contrast. In it, young Russian conscripts with freshly shaven heads appear to be practicing small unit tactics with toy rocket launchers made from logs with cloth sacks slung over their shoulders. Here was the inertia of history. Russia’s military has always been a conscript force, the army of human waves and one rifle for two men. This army seemed the one that entered Ukraine in February 2022, was smashed outside of Kyiv, then became its own set of memes: tractors towing tanks, hapless surrendering soldiers, and countless tanks with their turrets blown off.

This latter army, and its apparent destruction, led to high-fives and back-slapping along my old fourth-floor corridor. The Russian Army no longer appears, as it were, ten feet tall and bulletproof. Labeled an acute threat by the U.S. Department of Defense in its 2022 National Defense Strategy, the Russian military in Ukraine revealed itself as the flimsiest of paper tigers, a modern-day Potemkin army meant to prop up a faltering regime and its neo-imperialist visions. Where were the unmanned vehicles and the modernized tanks and the fire strikes employed in eastern Ukraine in 2014? Was that army actually a mirage, with the real army now being bled dry eight years later? There was no way that two disparate things, two photo negatives of each other, could exist at the same time. Can two divergent ideas—or two opposite armies—both be true?

A Battlefield AI Company Says It’s One of the Good Guys

ON THE SCREEN in front of me is a mountain range. Moving toward my troops from the top-right corner is an ominous yellow dot. I suspect it’s an enemy drone, but it could be a bird or a civilian aircraft, so I ask my long-range camera to home in on it. Within seconds, it returns a snapshot of a wide-winged military drone. The incoming dot turns from yellow to red, signifying a threat.

This might sound like a video game, but it’s not. This is a technology designed to be used by real militaries. And it is the first time defense-tech company Helsing AI has shown a journalist what the software it is selling actually looks like. Helsing’s flagship system absorbs huge amounts of data generated by the sensors (electro-optical, infrared, sonar) and weapons systems (fighter jets, drones, helicopters) used in modern warfare. Algorithms then distill that information into a video-game-style visualization to show how events are unfolding in real time on the battlefield. What I’m looking at is a simulation of what I would see if I worked for a military that used Helsing’s system.

Torsten Reil, 49, is one of the company’s two CEOs. With a background in gaming—he previously founded development studio NaturalMotion—Reil is preoccupied with the user experience and making the platform intuitive for its military clientele. Then there’s co-CEO Gundbert Scherf, 41, a former special adviser to Germany’s military of defense, who talks fluently about how European militaries work and what he feels they need to do to modernize. And finally there’s the in-house AI expert and chief product officer, 31-year-old Niklas Köhler, the youngest of the three. Köhler was using machine learning to solve medical problems when he started to be approached by figures in the defense sector—prompting him to change direction. “Applications like detecting drones are, in terms of method, not so dissimilar from how you would find cancer in large CT scans,” he says.

In modern warfare, every second counts. And the Helsing founders say their software can give Western militaries an information edge. Its system, they claim, will help soldiers make faster, better-informed decisions and will be accessible on a variety of devices, so soldiers in frontline trenches can see the same information as commanders in control centers. “Now, all of this is done manually: phone calls, reading things, drawing stuff on maps,” says Köhler. “Understanding how many systems are there, what they are doing, what is their intent—this is an AI problem.”

Forrester’s Top 10 Emerging Technologies in 2023 and Beyond

Esther Shein

The research firm outlines when the average organization should expect a technology to deliver the benefits necessary to justify continued investment.Image: Adobe Stock

In an expansive Forrester report on the top 10 emerging technologies of 2023, it comes as no surprise that generative AI tops the list, followed by autonomous workplace assistants and conversational AI.

These three technologies “… are poised to deliver a return on investment soon,” which Forrester defines as less than two years. “Generative AI and conversational AI (which replace NLP) and autonomous workplace assistants (which replace intelligent agents) now promise short-term results,” the report stated.

1. Generative AI

Forrester defines generative AI as a set of technologies and techniques that leverage massive amounts of data to generate new content such as text, video, images, audio and code in response to natural language prompts or other noncode and nontraditional inputs.

Benefits of using generative AI include improved digital experiences via natural language interactions, rapid knowledge retrieval, faster content generation and improved content quality, according to the report.

Yet, there are risks to be aware of as well. Generative AI is prone to “… coherent nonsense, security threats, and harmful generation,” and “… firms aren’t able to quickly vet the rapidly increasing quantity of new capabilities,” the report said.

“It will take several years to resolve governance, trust, and IP issues in customer-facing or safety-related uses,” the report warns, although generative AI will reap benefits in less than two years.

U.N. Officials Urge Regulation of Artificial Intelligence

Farnaz Fassihi

The U.N. Security Council for the first time held a session on Tuesday on the threat that artificial intelligence poses to international peace and stability, and Secretary General António Guterres called for a global watchdog to oversee a new technology that has raised at least as many fears as hopes.

Mr. Guterres warned that A.I. may ease a path for criminals, terrorists and other actors intent on causing “death and destruction, widespread trauma, and deep psychological damage on an unimaginable scale.”

The launch last year of ChatGPT — which can create texts from prompts, mimic voice and generate photos, illustrations and videos — has raised alarm about disinformation and manipulation.

On Tuesday, diplomats and leading experts in the field of A.I. laid out for the Security Council the risks and threats — along with the scientific and social benefits — of the new emerging technology. Much remains unknown about the technology even as its development speeds ahead, they said.

“It’s as though we are building engines without understanding the science of combustion,” said Jack Clark, co-founder of Anthropic, an A.I. safety research company. Private companies, he said, should not be the sole creators and regulators of A.I.

Mr. Guterres said a U.N. watchdog should act as a governing body to regulate, monitor and enforce A.I. regulations in much the same way that other agencies oversee aviation, climate and nuclear energy.

The proposed agency would consist of experts in the field who shared their expertise with governments and administrative agencies that might lack the technical know-how to address the threats of A.I.

Electronic Warfare Has Become A Defining Feature Of Future Conflict. Here’s Why.

Loren Thompson

The electromagnetic spectrum has become a warfighting domain.ARMY.MIL

The biggest lesson coming out of the fighting in Ukraine isn’t about drones or artillery, it’s about electronic warfare.

Electronic warfare, or EW, focuses on efforts to control and exploit the electromagnetic spectrum for the benefit of friendly forces, while denying that advantage to adversaries.

Without access to the spectrum, most of the tools of modern warfare won’t work, from radios to radars to GPS.

US forces didn’t worry much about securing access during the global war on terror, but with the focus of national defense strategy now shifted to great-power competition it has become a hot topic among military planners.