27 July 2023

Re-situating the Buffer State in International Relations: Nepal’s Relations with India and China

Bibek Chand

Buffer states have been important in geopolitical thought as they are usually smaller states situated between two (or more) larger contending powers. These buffer states, along with their contending neighbors, are collectively called buffer systems. Such buffer systems offer opportunities to decipher regional dynamics of interactions. Historically, buffer states were used as geographic discontinuities to prevent direct contact between rival powers. In some cases, such states served as early warning systems for the core of empires, signaling invasions and giving the core time to react to them. For example, the Roman Empire created march states using what they termed barbarian tribes on their periphery to cushion threats from the outside.

Thus, the historical concepts of the buffer state emphasized its static geographic importance for its more powerful neighbors, whether as discontinuities between contending great powers or as early warning systems against invading forces. However, with advances in communication and transportation technologies since the early 20th century, geography (while still important) does not offer the same spatial protections as it did previously. Thus, the buffer state concept needed a reworking to better grasp its importance in contemporary International Relations.

In Reframing the Buffer State in Contemporary International Relations: Nepal’s Relations with India and China, I make the argument for recasting the buffer state concept which is more suitable as an analytical tool in contemporary International Relations. I argue that the buffer state needs to be understood as a dynamic political space wherein its agency is important in order to fully comprehend its role in international politics. However, the buffer state’s importance to its neighbors needs to be included in its assessment as its primary function is tied to the strategic value its contending neighbors attest to it.

China Is Helping Modernize the Pakistan Navy. What Does That Mean for India?

Gaurav Sen

Over the last decade, China’s dominance in the Indian Ocean region has gained headlines, with relatively little attention paid to Pakistan’s maritime advances. Surprisingly, despite a financial crisis and political turmoil, Islamabad has continued to improve its naval fleet, which raises concerns for India and other neighboring countries.

Beijing has increased its backing for Pakistan’s navy modernization to boost the capacity of a major ally who will help China confront the security issues that it faces in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR). China has boosted its naval presence in the IOR at the same time, creating its first overseas military post in the Horn of Africa in Djibouti. Over the last two decades, China-Pakistan military cooperation has shifted toward maritime forces.

Pakistan has been proactively procuring technologically advanced naval vessels from China, headlined by a $5 billion deal signed in 2016 for Pakistan to acquire Yuan class Type 039/041 diesel submarines by 2028. Pakistan is all set to acquire eight such submarines from China, with four of them scheduled for delivery by the end of 2023. The first four subs are being built by China Shipbuilding Industry Corporation; the other four will be built in Pakistan by Karachi Shipyard and Engineering Works, further bolstering Pakistan’s indigenous capabilities.

These submarines are equipped with advanced sensors and modern armaments, which tilts the tactical power balance slightly in favor of Pakistan. These diesel attack submarines align with the Pakistan Navy’s offensive sea denial strategy, which prioritizes the use of submarines and missile-carrying maritime patrol aircraft in naval warfare.

Apart from this, Pakistan is also expanding its surface fleet. It has commissioned Zulfiqar-class frigates, based on China’s Type 053H3 vessels, which serve multiple roles, including anti-submarine warfare. It carries YJ-82 missiles for anti-surface warfare and FM-90N short-range surface-to-air missiles for self-defense.

Tehreek-e-Jihad Pakistan, The ‘New Kid On The Block’ Emerges As A Big Threat To China’s CPEC: OPED

KN Pandita

“Baloch insurgency is on resurgence, and its widened targets include CPEC projects and Chinese nationals in Pakistan. The Pakistani security establishment is under pressure from Beijing to respond decisively to the killing of three Chinese citizens on the premises of Karachi University on 26 April.

“And yet, neither a quick military operation, as part of the strategy of annihilation nor an attention diversion tactic in the form of punishment solution to the insurgency needs to be found,” wrote Bibhu Prasad Routray in Maitreyan Analysis of 5 May 2022.

Armed conflict between the Baloch nationalist freedom fighters and the Pakistan army has shown sharp escalation ever since the day the astute scholar wrote an excellently in-depth commentary on the socio-political scenario of the Baluch society.

The News of July 12, 2023, quoting Azim Kakar, the administrative chief of Zhob, reported that four soldiers and at least three gunmen were killed when a group of suspected militants attacked a Pakistani Army outpost in the restive Balochistan region of Pakistan, while a woman bystander caught in the crossfire has also died.

A group of up to 20 gunmen dressed in Pakistani Army uniform launched an attack overnight on the military base in the northern Zhob district of Balochistan.

A new terrorist group Tehreek-e Jihad Pakistan (TJP), claimed responsibility for the terrorist attack in Zhob. The fighters stated that they would continue to attack government forces until Sharia law was established in the country.

China Maritime Report #29: “PLAN Mine Countermeasures, Platforms, Training & Civil-Military Integration”

Brian Waidelich and George Pollitt

Unique insights on the latest PRC military maritime capabilities and trends from two brilliant, cutting-edge researchers, based on one of the very best papers delivered at CMSI’s April 2023 “Chinese Undersea Warfare” conference!

Brian Waidelich is a Research Scientist at CNA’s Indo-Pacific Security Affairs program. His research focuses on PLA organization and Indo-Pacific maritime and space security issues. Brian received a Master of Arts in Asian studies from Georgetown University and Bachelors of Arts in Chinese and English from George Mason University. He has also studied at the Nanjing University of Science and Technology.

A former Air Force navigator, George Pollitt began work in mine countermeasures (MCM) in 1971 as Technical Agent for the Mine Neutralization Vehicle System at the Naval Ship Engineering Center. He programmed MCM tactical decision aids for OPERATION END SWEEP, the clearing of mines in Haiphong, and developed MCM tactics in Panama City, FL before transferring to the Commander Mine Warfare (COMINEWARCOM) Staff, where he worked as an MCM analyst, Advisor for Research and Analysis, and Technical Director. He participated in OPERATION EARNEST WILL, the Tanker War, testing systems in the Persian Gulf to enable warships to detect mines, and he analyzed the DESERT STORM Clean-Up Operation on scene for Commander Middle Eastern Forces. At the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, he led studies on MCM platforms and systems and the Maritime 9-11 Study. Most recently he evaluated the MK 18 Mine hunting UUV system as the Independent Test and Evaluation Agent. George has an ME in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Florida and a BS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Central Florida.


In Race for AI Chips, Google DeepMind Uses AI to Design Specialized Semiconductors

Belle Lin

Researchers at Google DeepMind have discovered a more efficient and automated method of designing computer chips using artificial intelligence, which the lab’s parent company, Alphabet, said could improve its own specialized AI chip.

The focus on building faster, more-efficient chips comes as semiconductor heavyweights like Nvidia and AMD race to provide the computing power for businesses’ ever-growing demand for generative AI capabilities. But cloud-computing giants like Google and Amazon, too, have been designing their own AI chips, and betting that their homegrown hardware can be faster and less costly to run than the competition.

Google said it is exploring the use of its “latest AI breakthroughs” to improve its custom AI chips, called Tensor Processing Units or TPUs. “AI is improving everything we do such as composition, understanding, coding and robotics, and the same is becoming true with hardware design,” a spokesperson said.

For London-based DeepMind, which recently unveiled an AI system that can discover faster algorithms, a goal of using AI techniques like deep learning is to make computing systems—from network resources to data centers and chips—more efficient and sustainable, said DeepMind research scientist Vinod Nair.

“As society is becoming increasingly digital, we need more and more powerful chips, more and more specialized chips for various applications,” he said.

China and the US are finally talking again – but can they really work together?

Simone McCarthy

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China, June 19, 2023.Leah Millis/Reuters

The three top American officials who traveled to Beijing in recent weeks had a challenging brief: stabilize the world’s most consequential — and contentious — bilateral relationship.

Already rocked by the Covid-19 pandemic, war in Ukraine and tensions over trade, tech and human rights, relations between the United States and China had cratered to a historical low over the past year, as Beijing cut multiple lines of communication with Washington after then-US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan last August.

Efforts to restore dialogue after a November summit between Chinese leader Xi Jinping and US President Joe Biden in Bali then sunk alongside a Chinese surveillance balloon that was shot down over the US earlier this year – sending relations into a further spiral.

Sequential visits to Beijing since late last month from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Treasury chief Janet Yellen and climate envoy John Kerry to meet Chinese leaders, including Xi, Premier Li Qiang and top diplomat Wang Yi, have been widely hailed as a significant step forward from that low.

The stakes for such meetings are high.

The success of global efforts to combat climate change may depend on how well the two powers can cooperate – and their relations impact issues from the shape of global supply chains to the risk for conflict in the Indo-Pacific.

But the recent visits — which ended with pledges to continue to communicate, but no concrete agreements — have also spotlighted questions of how much room there is for the two world powers to work together on issues of global importance.

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

China controls the supply of crucial war minerals

In 2014 tom price, a commodities strategist, visited a “funny little building” in China’s south-west. It was a warehouse where Fanya, a local trading firm, stored metals including gallium, germanium and indium. The company’s “stockpiles” simply sat in boxes on shelves. Yet for some of the minerals, these meagre supplies represented the majority of global stocks. A year later Fanya was closed by China’s government, which kept the stash—as well as the reserves and plants to produce more.

Today Western countries wish they, too, could produce some more. On July 4th China announced that it would restrict exports of gallium and germanium, of which it supplied 98% and 60% of global output, respectively, in 2022. Produced in tiny quantities, the metals have little commercial value. They are nevertheless crucial for some military equipment, including lasers, radars and spy satellites. The decision highlights that “critical” minerals are not limited to those which underpin economic growth, such as nickel or lithium. A dozen obscure cousins are also vital for a more basic need: maintaining armies.

Why China should be friendlier to its neighbours

No country has more neighbours than China, with 14 land borders. And its neighbourhood is not just crowded, but also tumultuous. There is a rogue state, North Korea; war-torn ones, such as Myanmar; ones with which it has festering territorial disputes, such as India; others with which it has overlapping maritime claims, such as Japan; and one—Taiwan—which it is constantly threatening to invade. It is a difficult group to get along with under any circumstances, but China’s flawed diplomacy is making the task even harder.

For centuries Chinese leaders thought of the world as a series of concentric circles emanating from the Dragon Throne. The inner ones formed territory under the emperor’s direct rule. Then came neighbouring kingdoms such as Japan, Korea and Vietnam, which acknowledged the emperor’s ultimate authority by paying tribute. Outermost were foreigners whose trade with China was often seen as tribute, too.

Mongolia-SpaceX deal provokes a security stir in China


Mongolia’s recent decision to adopt SpaceX’s Starlink internet services is stirring security concerns across the border in China, both as a potential military threat and a possible way around Beijing’s strict censorship regime on perceived as “harmful” foreign websites.

On July 6, the Communications Regulatory Commission of Mongolia issued special licenses for SpaceX, founded by American billionaire tycoon Elon Musk, to operate as a service provider using low-orbit satellites and for Starlink to provide internet services in the country.

The decision, part of the country’s ongoing digital transformation and New Recovery Policy, was announced ahead of the annual Mongolia Economic Forum 2023 held on July 9-10.

“A network of fiber optic cables already provides wide-reaching access to high-speed internet across Mongolia,” Minister for Digital Development and Communications Uchral Nyam-Osor said on July 7.

“But Starlink’s technology will provide greater access to hard-to-reach areas of the country. Herders, farmers, businesses and miners living and working across our vast country will be able to access and use information from all over the world to improve their lives,” the minister said.

Currently, people in China cannot access foreign websites blocked by the Golden Shield Project, also known as the “Great Firewall of China,” unless they use virtual personal networks (VPNs). China has not adopted Starlink’s internet services due to national security concerns.

Some Chinese pundits have an alarmist view of the satellite deal.

“Mongolia is our neighbor. The satellite cannot provide its services to one area and sharply draw a line and stop providing them in another area,” Chen Jiesen, a Shanghai-based commentator, says in his vlog. “The network capacity can easily spill over to nearby places. Will it break our Great Firewall?”

Why Kissinger Went to China — Again


Daniel W. Drezner is professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and a non-resident fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

The Biden administration has spent most of 2023 trying to restart high-level contacts with their Chinese counterparts after a wayward Chinese military balloon blew up relations beyond the control of both countries. Clearly, the Biden administration wants to see a return to regular diplomatic exchange. In recent months Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, and special presidential envoy for climate John Kerry have all trekked to Beijing.

Results have been mixed. China’s response to these visits has been correct but not warm. Of the three Biden policy principals who recently sojourned to Beijing, Chinese Premier Xi Jinping only met with Blinken.

China is not cool towards all Americans, however. Its leadership rolled out the red carpet this week for former National Security Adviser and Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. He not only met with Xi, but also with China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, and defense minister Li Shangfu, the person Austin was not allowed to see. The praise coming from China’s collective leadership was fulsome. Wang said that Kissinger, “has made historic contributions to breaking the ice in China-U.S. relations, and played an irreplaceable role in enhancing understanding between the two countries.” Xi was even warmer with his words: “The Chinese people never forget their old friends, and Sino-U.S. relations will always be linked with the name of Henry Kissinger.” Kissinger reciprocated the warm vibe, telling his interlocutors that he was a “friend of China.” The BBC went so far as to suggest that, “given his outsized stature in China, [Kissinger] could act as a backchannel for U.S.-China negotiations.”

The State Department threw cold water on that last possibility in their daily briefing, stressing that Kissinger was traveling as a private citizen and not under the aegis of the U.S. government. Still, the contrast was striking between the warmth on display at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse with Kissinger compared to the chillier atmosphere at the Great Hall of the People, where Biden officials met with their counterparts.

Security News This Week: China’s Breach of Microsoft Cloud Email May Expose Deeper Problems


THE CITY OF New York has agreed to pay more than $13 million total to 1,380 people as part of a settlement of a class action related to the New York Police Department’s treatment of demonstrators during protests in 2020 sparked by the murder of George Floyd. Lawyers representing the protesters secured the settlement with the help of a tool that allowed them to comb terabytes of video footage from police body cams, helicopter surveillance, and social media taken during the protests. This quickly produced clear evidence of widespread patterns in police behavior, allowing lawyers to showcase a broad survey rather than focusing on a handful of anecdotes. The tool, developed by SITU Research, a design agency that focuses on protecting civil liberties, is now being used in legal battles around the world.

New findings from researchers in Germany this week underscore longstanding concerns that the cybersecurity defenses of orbiting satellites are woefully inadequate. The researchers found numerous critical vulnerabilities in three different satellite models, underscoring broader problems with satellite security.

Meanwhile, a bill to prevent US law enforcement and intelligence from buying Americans’ data instead of getting a warrant to collect it is gaining traction in Congress as political rivals come together to oppose surveillance overreach.

And there’s more. Each week, we round up the stories we didn’t cover in depth ourselves. Click the headlines to read the full stories. And stay safe out there.

On July 11, Microsoft revealed that a Chinese hacking group it calls Storm-0558 was able to access the email systems of US government agencies, potentially compromising hundreds of thousands of emails. Since then, details of the incident have started to emerge—including reports claiming that the email account of the US ambassador to China and other senior officials were breached. The attackers were able to access the email accounts, according to Microsoft and the US State Department, using a private signing key they had acquired and were using to generate access tokens for the accounts.

Elon Musk revealed new details about Tesla’s highly anticipated Cybertruck

Ananya Bhattacharya

The first of Tesla’s highly anticipated Cybertrucks rolled off the assembly line at the Texas Gigafactory on Saturday (July 15), setting the stage for more updates about the electric pick-up truck during the company’s earnings call yesterday (July 19).

The electric vehicle maker CEO Elon Musk discussed more details about the Cybertruck, which has been creating buzz since it was first unveiled in 2019, including its dimensions. The futuristic-looking sub-19 foot truck will have four doors over a six-foot bed. As bigger SUVs and pickups outgrow household garages, this one “will fit into a 20-foot garage,” Musk said. Yet it will allowing for a more roomy inside compared to its rivals. For instance, the Ford F-150 electric pickup truck, which launched just over a year ago, is 19.25 feet long with a 5.5-foot bed.

Details that were already known about the truck include its design features, like a stainless steel exoskeleton with armored glass, as well as the fact that it would come in three different configurations of 250-, 300-, and 500-mile ranges.

Tesla’s Cybertruck, by the digits

10,000: “Unique parts and processes” in the Cybertruck that has “a lot of new technology in it,” according to Musk

10 million: Amount of 4680 battery cells that have been manufactured at Tesla’s Texas gigafactory. The production of these cells, used in the Cybertruck and other EVs, increased by 80% in the second quarter versus the first

$100: Cybertruck pre-order fee, which is meant to be fully refundable

More than 1.7 million: People who had placed preorders for the Cybertruck by as of January this year

Interview – Christoph Vogel

Christoph Vogel is a researcher, investigator and writer with over 15 years of experience in analysing politics and conflict across Central Africa. He is a co-founder of Ebuteli, a Congolese research institute on politics, governance and violence, and runs suluhu.org, a platform promoting researchers from the Global South. Most recently, he served as Research Director of the Insecure Livelihoods Series, a collaborative project between Institut Supérieur Pédagogique Bukavu, DR Congo and Ghent University, Belgium. Christoph is the author of numerous newspaper articles, analytical reports and scholarly publications, including the book Conflict Minerals Inc. (Hurst Publishers and Oxford University Press, 2022) based on his award-winning dissertation at the University of Zurich. A former UN Security Council expert on the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Christoph has worked for a wide range of academic and other organizations such as New York University, London School of Economics, Cologne University, Rift Valley Institute, World Bank, the United Nations, ICRC and Médecins Sans Frontières.

Where do you see the most exciting research/debates happening in your field?

That’s a tough one to start with, as there are probably as many debates as there are conflicts across the globe. One of the themes that I find fascinating is to understand the multiple motivations and aspirations that participants in conflicts have – whether combatants, elites or civilians. The study of conflict is by definition a complex endeavour, and it is hard – sometimes outright dangerous – to do rigorous research in situations of violence and insecurity. To a certain extent, this has promoted a lot of remote research as well as a tendency to conduct investigations based on our assumptions rather than actual empirical data and authentic voices from the ground. Bearing in mind these challenges of access and reliability, I consider current debates on mixed methods for the sake of triangulation as well as the use of novel methodologies – such as GIS to complement ethnographic insights – highly salient.

Russian S-500 Air Defenses vs. US F-22 & F-35


Back in March, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu revealed that Moscow would complete its missile defense systems modernization efforts by the end of 2023. Russia began prioritizing its aerospace defense capabilities in 2020, when the Kremlin announced its State Armament Program.

Under the latest iteration of the program, dubbed GPV-2027 in Russia, the production of the new S-500 system will be accomplished.

Russia’s latest anti-aircraft missile defense system, “Prometheus,” is expected to become a staple of the Kremlin’s aerospace defense system.

The combat capabilities of the Prometheus reportedly blows its predecessor’s abilities out of the water. However, while Moscow may claim that this new system could easily take down fifth-generation fighters like the F-22 Raptor or the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, little remains confirmed about the S-500.

A brief history of the S-500

Back in 2010, Moscow began developing the successor to the first batch of S-400 systems deployed a few years prior. Like the earlier S-300 and S-400 models, Prometheus was designed to be capable of defeating ballistic and cruise missile threats.

The newer variant, however, was also intended to counter fifth-generation airframes and low orbit satellites- capabilities its predecessors could not achieve. Since the S-500’s design conception, multiple delays have hindered the system’s introduction to service.
Alleged specs and capabilities

Global Sanctions Dashboard: Sanctions alone won’t stop the Wagner Group

Kimberly Donovan, Maia Nikoladze, and Ryan Murphy

Despite sanctions and efforts to curtail the Wagner Group’s illicit activity, the group has successfully evaded financial sanctions through a series of facilitators and front companies around the world.

$5 billion: That's how much the Wagner Group has made since 2017 mainly from mining, illicit gold trade, and forestry business in Africa, as well as funding from the Russian state.

The key vulnerability in enforcing sanctions against Russia is the gap in beneficial ownership information, including in the case of the oil price cap.

On June 23, Russian private military security company the Wagner Group, led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, staged a takeover of the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don and advanced within 125 miles of Moscow. After approximately thirty-six hours, the rebellion concluded with an agreement brokered by Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka. The incident drew widespread international attention to the Wagner Group and its operations in Ukraine, Africa, and the Middle East. Despite being heavily sanctioned in most Western jurisdictions, the group continues to raise, use, and move money around the world.

In this edition of the Global Sanctions Dashboard, we walk you through existing sanctions against the Wagner Group, limitations around enforcing them, and what more Western allies can do to counter Wagner’s influence in Africa. Moreover, we identify gaps in beneficial ownership information as the key vulnerability in enforcing sanctions against Russia, including in the case of the oil price cap.

The Wagner Group is heavily sanctioned but keeps making money

Weary Soldiers, Unreliable Munitions: Ukraine’s Many Challenges

Thomas Gibbons-Neff, Natalia Yermak, Dzvinka Pinchuk and Yurii Shyvala

one of the battalions in Ukraine’s 53rd Mechanized Brigade smells of freshly cut pine trees. The scents are from the wooden support beams in the labyrinth of trenches that make up most of the unit’s rudimentary base outside the embattled town of Avdiivka.

In the main command room, flat-screen televisions, computers and satellite internet pipe in images from small drones, as a cadre of Ukrainian soldiers keeps tabs on their portion of the front line.

What they mostly see is a violent stalemate.

As the war enters its 17th month, the fighting has developed a noticeable rhythm. Russia and Ukraine are locked in a deadly back and forth of attacks and counterattacks. Russian artillery no longer has the clear advantage and Ukrainian forces are struggling with staunch Russian defenses, grinding on in their southern offensive, slowed because of dense minefields.

Small territorial gains come at an outsize cost. Field hospitals that were closed after the battle for the eastern city of Bakhmut have been reopened, volunteers said, and Ukrainian soldiers described a determined foe.

ImageUkrainian soldiers collected empty artillery shells last month after firing from a self-propelled howitzer near a field in the Donetsk region.

U.S. in no hurry to provide Ukraine with long-range missiles

Karen DeYoung and Missy Ryan

The Biden administration is holding firm, for now at least, on its refusal to send long-range Army missiles to Ukraine despite mounting pressure from U.S. lawmakers and pleas from the government in Kyiv, according to U.S. officials.

Disappointment at the slow pace of Ukraine’s counteroffensive against entrenched Russian forces and a newly equivocal tone by President Biden have led to widespread speculation that the missiles will soon follow the path taken by other U.S. weapons systems that were first denied but ultimately approved during the 17 months of the war.

In late May, Biden appeared to alter his previously firm “no” on the possibility of ATACMS, the Army Tactical Missile System, saying for the first time that it was “still in play.” Two weeks later, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that he and Biden had spoken about the missiles at the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, but that no decision had been made.

But U.S. defense and administration officials familiar with the issue said that despite what one called a growing public perception of “some sort of slow, gravitational pull” toward approval, there has been no change in U.S. policy and no substantive discussion about the issue for months. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to address the sensitive subject.

The Pentagon believes that Kyiv has other, more urgent needs than ATACMS, and worries that sending enough to Ukraine to make a difference on the battlefield would severely undercut U.S. readiness for other possible conflicts.

The number of ATACMS in American stockpiles is fixed, awaiting replacement with the next generation, longer-range Precision Strike Missile, called the Prism, for PrSM, which is expected to enter service by the end of this year, officials said. Lockheed Martin still manufactures 500 ATACMS each year, but all of that production is destined for sale to other countries.

Ukraine has said that the ATACMS, with a range of 190 miles, is essential for destroying command posts and logistics areas far behind Russian front lines.

“Without long-range weapons, it is difficult not only to carry out an offensive mission but also to conduct a defensive operation,” Zelensky said at a July 7 news conference in Prague.

Gerasimov’s Defensive Strategy


We must all understand very clearly - as clearly as possible - that the Russian forces on our southern and eastern lands are investing everything they can to stop our warriors. And every thousand meters of advance, every success of each of our combat brigades deserves gratitude.

While the Russian occupying forces in Ukraine have assumed the defensive over the past couple of months, that does not mean that they have been on the defensive at every level and in every part of Ukraine. General Gerasimov, who we assume retains overall command of the Russian special military operation in Ukraine, is implementing a defensive strategy. But concurrently he is conducting offensive activities at the tactical and operation levels.

Gerasimov’s Initial Strategic Options

Before we explore Gerasimov’s defensive strategy, let’s review the range of options that were open to him once Ukraine began its 2023 offensives. In a June 2023 article, I explored three broad courses of action that were available to Gerasimov. His strategic options were quite narrow because Putin sees advantage in drawing out the war. As such, holding territory seized from Ukraine had to be the central element in any Gerasimov strategy.

The three broad courses of action open to Gerasimov I identified in June were as follows:

Option 1: Hang Tough. Gerasimov’s first option was to hang tough for the time being and observe the development of the initial phase of the Ukrainian offensive. As such, Gerasimov probably wanted to wait for as long as possible as see where the Ukrainian main effort would be focussed. Gerasimov, possibly mindful of the Kherson-Kharkiv one-two punch last year, will have been watching for operations that are feints and for other Ukrainian deception. Clearly, his preferred option was to retain all Ukrainian territory currently occupied, absorb the Ukrainian offensives, and demonstrate minimal Ukrainian success. In doing so, Gerasimov would probably have hoped to retain sufficient combat power to undertake some type of Russian offensive operations later this year once the Ukrainian offensives culminate.

Option 2: Hang Tough (plus). Gerasimov’s next option was a variation on Option 1, but with limited offensive jabs at Ukrainian weak spots. This is a more complex option because he would need to assemble the combat and support forces for an offensive operation from his already weakened force. This would probably show up quickly in the Ukrainian intelligence collection plan and be targeted. While it might be an option, the Russians have not demonstrated a flair for making major gains with their offensive operations this year.

‘Now I Am Become Death, the Destroyer of Worlds.’ The Story of Oppenheimer’s Infamous Quote


AS HE WITNESSED the first detonation of a nuclear weapon on July 16, 1945, a piece of Hindu scripture ran through the mind of J. Robert Oppenheimer: “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” It is, perhaps, the most well-known line from the Bhagavad Gita, but also the most misunderstood.

Oppenheimer, the subject of a new film from director Christopher Nolan, died at the age of 62 in Princeton, New Jersey, on February 18, 1967. As wartime head of the Los Alamos Laboratory, the birthplace of the Manhattan Project, he is rightly seen as the “father” of the atomic bomb. “We knew the world would not be the same,” he later recalled. “A few people laughed, a few people cried, most people were silent.”

Oppenheimer, watching the fireball of the Trinity nuclear test, turned to Hinduism. While he never became a Hindu in the devotional sense, Oppenheimer found it a useful philosophy to structure his life around. “He was obviously very attracted to this philosophy,” says Stephen Thompson, who has spent more than 30 years studying and teaching Sanskrit. Oppenheimer’s interest in Hinduism was about more than a sound bite, Thompson argues. It was a way of making sense of his actions.

The Bhagavad Gita is 700-verse Hindu scripture, written in Sanskrit, that centers on a dialog between a great warrior prince named Arjuna and his charioteer Lord Krishna, an incarnation of Vishnu. Facing an opposing army containing his friends and relatives, Arjuna is torn. But Krishna teaches him about a higher philosophy that will enable him to carry out his duties as a warrior irrespective of his personal concerns. This is known as the dharma, or holy duty. It is one of the four key lessons of the Bhagavad Gita, on desire or lust; wealth; the desire for righteousness, or dharma; and the final state of total liberation, moksha.

The Origins of the International Atomic Energy Agency

Bertrand Goldschmidt

On 23 October 1956 in New York, 81 member countries of the United Nations Organization or of its specialized agencies adopted the Statute of the International Atomic Energy Agency, which was to go into formal operation before the end of 1957. A major step towards world-wide control of nuclear energy thus came to be taken more than ten years after the idea of establishing such control had been launched - the first tentative efforts, from 1946 to 1948, having ended in failure. The account which follows is an attempt to retrace this "prehistory" of the IAEA. The Policy of Secrecy Three months after the end of the Second World War, on 15 November 1945, 

The heads of the American, British and Canadian Governments, meeting in Washington, decided to adopt a policy of secrecy in the nuclear field until a system had been established for the effective international control of the new and formidable source of power. By also deciding to buy up all available uranium, they thus created a perfect policy of non-proliferation based on blocking the transfer of the two things essential for nuclear development: the technical knowledge and uranium, both of which are widely dispersed in the world today.

The Positive Organizational Culture of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and the Use of Civilian Drones in the War Against Russia

Måns Mannerfelt

The primary purpose of this report is to describe how the organizational culture of the Ukrainian armed forces has contributed to military innovation, which in turn has proved to be an important factor in success on the battlefield. The way in which the use of civilian drones has increased is testimony, among other factors, to a culture within the armed forces that encourages initiative even in more junior parts of the chain of command. States, such as Sweden, that view Russia as a potential military threat but practice mission command or a similar doctrine should look on Ukraine’s success as a confirmation of the need to decentralize decision making. They should continue to pursue a military doctrine that decentralizes authority, responsibility and initiative. Furthermore, western nations should adopt the use of civilian drones in their defence planning, in the way the Ukrainian armed forces have, possibly through the development of cheap, disposable and accessible military grade drones to be used in a similar way to commercial drones in Ukraine today. The secondary purpose of this report is to describe how these drones are used and their increased prevalence. The use of civilian drones in military conflict is a symbol of modern warfare, and military techniques and technologies based on civilian drones are likely to be a growing feature of future conflicts.


Commercial drones are rapidly becoming a more prevalent tool in contemporary wars and conflicts. In contrast to conventional tactical drones, these cheap and disposable commercial Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) quickly became a symbol of Russia’s war against Ukraine. Even before 24 February 2022, there were well documented cases of the use of civilian drones in Syria, Nagorno-Karabakh and Tigray, but Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has entailed a dramatic surge in the use of commercial drones in armed conflict.[1] This surge is partly due to the increased accessibility of commercial drones.[2] More importantly, however, the increased use was partly enabled by, and exemplifies the application of, mission command – the command principles that the NATO-endorsed reforms of the Ukrainian armed have characterized since 2014.[3] This has created a culture that encourages initiative from all service members, which has in turned enabled the military innovation that has almost certainly made a significant contribution to Ukrainian tactical successes.[4]

How Commercial Drones Are Used

5 Ways ChatGPT Can Improve, Not Replace, Your Writing


IT'S BEEN QUITE a year for ChatGPT, with the large language model (LLM) now taking exams, churning out content, searching the web, writing code, and more. The AI chatbot can produce its own stories, though whether they're any good is another matter.

If you're in any way involved in the business of writing, then tools like ChatGPT have the potential to complete up-end the way you work—but at this stage, it's not inevitable that journalists, authors, and copywriters will be replaced by generative AI bots.

What we can say with certainty is that ChatGPT is a reliable writing assistant, provided you use it in the right way. If you have to put words in order as part of your job, here's how ChatGPT might be able to take your writing to the next level—at least until it replaces you, anyway.
Find the Right Word

Using a thesaurus as a writer isn't particularly frowned on; using ChatGPT to come up with the right word or phrase shouldn’t be either. You can use the bot to look for variations on a particular word, or get even more specific and say you want alternatives that are less or more formal, longer or shorter, and so on.

Where ChatGPT really comes in handy is when you're reaching for a word and you're not even sure it exists: Ask about "a word that means a sense of melancholy but in particular one that comes and goes and doesn't seem to have a single cause" and you'll get back "ennui" as a suggestion (or at least we did).

Meta’s Llama 2 Is an Open-Source Rival to ChatGPT

Megan Crouse 

Meta is making its Llama 2 large language model open source, the Facebook parent company announced on July 18. The update to the model, which had been released as the first-generation LLaMA (also stylized as Llama 1) in February 2023, was first revealed at the Microsoft Inspire event. Microsoft will be a preferred partner with Meta on Llama 2.

What is Llama 2?

Llama 2 is a large language model that can be used to create generative and conversational AI models. Put simply, Llama 2, like GPT-4, can be used to build chatbots and AI assistants for commercial or research purposes.

It runs on a collection of pre-trained and fine-tuned generative text models that vary in scale from 7 billion to 70 billion parameters, and 2 trillion tokens of data from publicly available sources went into its pre-training. Overall, that’s 40% more tokens than were used to train the original Llama.

Where is Llama 2 available?

Llama 2 can be downloaded for research and commercial use from Meta here. The open-source resources available include model weights and starting code for the pre-trained model as well as fine-tuned versions of the conversational AI.

“Opening access to today’s AI models means a generation of developers and researchers can stress test them, identifying and solving problems fast, as a community,” Meta wrote in a blog post about Llama 2. “By seeing how these tools are used by others, our own teams can learn from them, improve those tools, and fix vulnerabilities.”

Developers who already have accounts with Microsoft’s Azure AI model catalog will be able to access Llama 2 from there. It can be found on Amazon Web Services, Hugging Face and other AI marketplaces. AWS customers should look for it in the machine learning marketplace SageMaker.

The World, America, Waze and BigTech

Daniel Mihai

Although he was not among the group of entrepreneurs who founded the Israeli company that created the Waze navigation program, Noam Bardin is largely credited for its remarkable success. He remained at the helm of the company after Google bought Waze in 2013 for an impressive $1.15 billion, beating out Facebook, which was also interested in the acquisition. Under the baton of Bardin Waze, which is also very popular, has currently reached over 140 million users globally. What differentiated Waze from other navigation programs and was a determining factor for its success was the fact that it superimposed on the navigation program that used maps and GPS data the information taken from the network of users, the wazers, present in the area where the vehicle was moving. In this way, those who use the program benefit from a lot of useful information, from signaling the presence of the police on the route to possible obstacles on the road. In addition, in heavy traffic conditions, Waze suggests alternative solutions to reduce travel time.

Noam Bardin recently decided to part ways with Waze and Google and his analysis and observations from an extensive post on the paygo website are extremely interesting because they describe the culture and atmosphere existing in Silicon Valley, especially in large digital corporations such as Google, Facebook, Twitter or Apple, known generically as BigTech. Moreover, they ultimately even have geopolitical relevance because, to a large extent, the global competition in the economy, in the military area, in terms of propaganda and disinformation, of cyber war, takes place in the digital space.

The subject is all the more interesting as we are in a period where the influence and arrogant behavior of BigTech have become an intense topic of discussion on an international level. First, Facebook and Twitter permanently…

'The Perfect Crime': Tech Companies Are Manipulating Our Elections and Indoctrinating Our Children — How We Can Stop Them

Robert Epstein

Big Tech companies are deliberately manipulating the outcomes of our elections and the thinking and beliefs of our children. And they are having an enormous impact.

Consider this: The GOP currently has a slim 10-seat majority in the House of Representatives. Without Google's interference in 2022, it would likely now have a majority of more than three times that size.

If Google had not interfered in the 2022 midterm elections, the GOP would likely have ended up with a Senate majority of at least two seats.

The Big Tech companies that exploded into existence over the past 20 years – as some of their prominent insiders have stated – have undermined our democracy, indoctrinated our children, and increasingly turned our freedom into an illusion.

The techniques we have discovered – the Search Engine Manipulation Effect, the Answer Bot Effect, the Targeted Messaging Effect, and others – can easily shift the opinions and voting preferences of undecided voters by between 20% and 80% after just one manipulation. Google can also repeat these manipulations many times over a period of months prior to an election.

Assuming the effects of these techniques are additive, Google can likely produce even larger shifts in opinions and voting preferences than the ones from a single manipulation used just once.

Google also knows exactly who is vulnerable to these manipulations – who is still undecided before Election Day, for example – so they can target and bombard just the right people on a massive scale 24 hours a day.

An AI Pause Is Humanity's Best Bet For Preventing Extinction


The existential risks posed by artificial intelligence (AI) are now widely recognized.

After hundreds of industry and science leaders warned that “mitigating the risk of extinction from AI should be a global priority alongside other societal-scale risks such as pandemics and nuclear war,” the U.N. Secretary-General recently echoed their concern. So did the prime minister of the U.K., who is also investing 100 million pounds into AI safety research that is mostly meant to prevent existential risk. Other leaders are likely to follow in recognizing AI’s ultimate threat.

In the scientific field of existential risk, which studies the most likely causes of human extinction, AI is consistently ranked at the top of the list. In The Precipice, a book by Oxford existential risk researcher Toby Ord that aims to quantify human extinction risks, the likeliness of AI leading to human extinction exceeds that of climate change, pandemics, asteroid strikes, supervolcanoes, and nuclear war combined. One would expect that even for severe global problems, the risk that they lead to full human extinction is relatively small, and this is indeed true for most of the above risks. AI, however, may cause human extinction if only a few conditions are met. Among them is human-level AI, defined as an AI that can perform a broad range of cognitive tasks at least as well as we can. Studies outlining these ideas were previously known, but new AI breakthroughs have underlined their urgency: AI may be getting close to human level already.

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.

2. Autonomous workplace assistants

Almost 50 Years Into the Crypto Wars, Encryption’s Opponents Are Still Wrong


WHEN I CONTEMPLATE the return of the crypto wars—attempts to block citizens’ use of encryption by officials who want unfettered spying powers—I look back with dread on the late Middle Ages. I wasn’t alive back then, but one feature of those times lingers in my consciousness. Starting around 1337 and all the way until 1453, England and France fought a series of bloody battles. The conflict went on so long it was immortalized by its centenarian length: We know it as the Hundred Years’ War.

The crypto wars haven’t yet reached that mark. (In this column I will be reclaiming the term “crypto” from its more recent and debased usage by blockchain enthusiasts, too many of whom haven’t read my 2001 book called, um, Crypto.) Dating from the publication of the groundbreaking 1976 paper that introduced public key cryptography—a means of widening access to encryption that was developed just in time for the internet—the skirmish between encryption advocates and their foes in officialdom is only just approaching 50 years.

From the start, government efforts to constrain or outlaw secure encrypted communications were vigorous and persistent. But by the turn of the millennium it appeared the fight was over. Encryption was so obviously critical to the internet that it was built into every browser and increasingly included in messaging systems. Government snooping didn’t end—check out Edward Snowden’s revelations—but certain government elements around the world never got comfortable with the idea that citizens, including the most rotten among us, could share secrets safe from the eyes of surveillants. Every few years, there’s a flareup with proposed new regulations, accompanied by scary scenarios from the likes of FBI directors about “going dark.”

The Newest Weapon in Irregular Warfare – Artificial Intelligence

Mohamad Mirghahari

On the morning of 22 May, 2023, an artificial intelligence (AI) generated image of an explosion at the Pentagon surfaced online and spread like wildfire throughout social media. Multiple news sources reported and shared the AI-generated image on their platforms. As a result, markets responded to the reports and image, and the S&P 500 index fell in just minutes after its reporting, causing a $500 billion market cap swing, even though this image was quickly proven as fake.

Artificial intelligence provides an ever-expanding set of new tools that can be applied in irregular warfare, from targeted disinformation campaigns to military deception (MILDEC). In 2012, a Department of Defense (DoD) Joint Publication defined MILDEC as content “intended to deter hostile actions, increase the success of friendly defensive actions, or to improve the success of any potential friendly offensive action.” The Pentagon deep fake (or AI-generated image), which served to negatively impact the U.S. economy and create a substantial amount of confused and misleading reporting, demonstrates that this technology can be used for military deception purposes.

By using artificial intelligence to create different mediums for influence, one can potentially create the illusion of an ongoing war, an attack, a resistance movement, and other versions of collateral for information operations. This use of AI can meet the goals of MILDEC as defined by the DoD.

The image of the explosion at the Pentagon is just the tip of the iceberg of how AI could be used not only to drive disinformation, but also to conduct economic sabotage. Across multiple domains, AI can be an essential part of achieving the objectives of any military operation.

AI can also be used to directly support irregular warfare, such as cyber and influence operations, in a number of ways, both strategically and tactically.