28 July 2023

The Cost of Uzbekistan’s ‘Pragmatic’ Taliban Policy

Shanthie Mariet D’Souza

On July 18, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Uzbekistan signed an agreement on a tripartite trans-Afghan railway project connecting the three countries. The line will connect Pakistan’s Kurram border crossing Kharlachi with Termez in southern Uzbekistan. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2027, and by 2030 trains may be able to transport up to 15 million tons of cargo annually.

The idea of a railroad running from Uzbekistan deep into Afghanistan has been on the agenda for the past six years. In December 2017, Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev signed an agreement on the project with his Afghan counterpart, Ashraf Ghani. There was an attempt to revive the agreement in a broader form in 2018 by the heads of the state railway companies of Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Russia, and Uzbekistan. In December that year, they met in Tashkent to discuss plans to build a Mazar-i-Sharif-Kabul-Peshawar railway line. The project was, however, delayed and eventually scrapped, for a variety of reasons including the Taliban takeover of power in 2021. On July 19, Mirziyoyev addressed the first Gulf Cooperation Council-Central Asia Summit in Riyadh and asked the GCC member states to participate in the railway project, advertising it as connecting the Gulf countries to Central Asia.

The revival of the trans-Afghan railway project and the Uzbek president eliciting support for it may not necessarily lead to its fruition. Moscow is no longer interested and neither is Kazakhstan. However, what is important to note here is Uzbekistan’s determination to make it a success. On a broader plane, it represents a season for engaging the Taliban, which Tashkent has been willing to revel in. For a country that supported the Northern Alliance in the 1990s against the Taliban, this has been a dramatic overhaul of state policy.

Contrast that with the following incident. So much was the trust between Tashkent and the Afghan administration that immediately after the Taliban takeover, Afghan air force pilots and personnel left the country on planes to third countries. Twenty-two military aircraft and 24 helicopters flew to Uzbekistan. Tashkent refused to return them to the Taliban, saying that the aircraft belonged to the United States.

The break with the past, however, came within a month of the Taliban taking over power in Kabul. On September 20, 2021, Ismatulla Irgashev, Uzbek president’s special representative on Afghanistan, talked of road and railway connections with Afghanistan to ship “food and medical supplies.”

China is serious about winning the new space race

Chinese astronauts, from left, Gui Haichao, Zhu Yangzhu and Jing Haipeng wave as they attend a May 30 ceremony ahead of their manned space mission at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern China. (Mark Schiefelbein/AP)

Of all the potential threats that China poses to the United States, the most worrisome for me is future domination of space. Quietly but persistently, the Chinese are developing an arsenal of weapons to challenge America — the nation that landed the first man on the moon — for preeminence in this domain.

The idea that the heavens are becoming a zone of potential conflict is abhorrent. Looking at the recent photographs taken by the James Webb Space Telescope is a reminder of the majesty and transcendent mystery of space. But, unfortunately, there is abundant evidence of aggressive Chinese military moves on this frontier.

The Chinese tested the first anti-satellite weapon in 2007, which left a field of thousands of pieces of debris that still endanger other satellites. Since then, they have tested satellites that can snatch other craft and carry them to a distant orbit known as the “graveyard zone.” They have flown spaceplanes that can also capture objects in orbit and have talked of building bases on the moon. Their researchers have described ways to use satellites to conduct cyberattacks in space. And then there are the spy balloons in near space.

The point is: Beijing recognizes that space is the ultimate “high ground” and wants to control it.

The United States, the space pioneer, was slow to recognize China’s ambitions. NASA controlled civilian space flight, but when the moonshots ended and the Space Shuttle was retired, the United States seemed to lose interest. The Air Force was responsible for military aspects of space, but its attention was closer to Earth, and it didn’t react adequately to China’s rapid moves. President Donald Trump created a new branch of the military, the Space Force, to respond to the challenge, and it was one of the few solid decisions of his presidency.

Will Africa Rather Than China Be the Peacemaker in the Russia-Ukraine War?

Ovigwe Eguegu

Last month, an African delegation comprising of the presidents of Senegal, South Africa, Comoros, and Zambia, as well as senior officials from Egypt, Uganda, and the Republic of Congo met separately with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin as part of a so-called “African peace initiative” to end the Ukraine war. This initiative was praised by some, dismissed by others, and at times even mocked.

Prominent analyst Stephen Chan from the School of Oriental and African Studies was quoted as saying, “The African initiative will make no difference whatsoever to the situation in Ukraine. Both Putin and Zelenskyy will receive the delegation with protocol and politeness and send it on its way.” Indeed, Putin and Zelenskyy separately welcomed the effort but disagreed with the content. But does that mean the initiative is dead, or other initiatives, such as that proposed by China, were any better?

The 10-point African proposal, while tailored to address some immediate African priorities, offered nothing radically different from proposals presented by other actors like China. But there were some divergences worth mentioning. The African plan – like China’s – called for cessation of hostilities and put forward that sovereignty must be respected in line with the United Nations Charter. However, the African plan explicitly called for Russia to withdraw its military from Ukraine and remove its nuclear arsenal from Belarus, points China did not raise in its own 12-point plan for the “political settlement of the Ukraine crisis.”

On the other hand, the African proposal arguably abstracted from potential explanations of root causes of the war, while China pointed to more international conventions around nuclear risks and use, which some might argue is a more consistent approach with multilateral law.

Why America Is Losing the Tech War with China

David P. Goldman

Western media, for the most part, has ignored a remarkable array of Chinese pilot products in industrial automation, executed primarily by Huawei, the world’s largest maker of telecommunications infrastructure and the target of a global suppression campaign by the United States. Fully automated factories, mines, ports, and warehouses already are in operation, and the first commercial autonomous taxi service is starting up in Beijing. Huawei officials say the company has 10,000 contracts for private 5G networks in China, including 6,000 in factories. Huawei’s cloud division has just launched a software platform designed to help Chinese businesses build proprietary AI systems using their own data.

There’s no indication that the Biden administration’s restrictions on high-end chips and the software and machines that make them have slowed China’s drive for dominance in the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution—the application of AI to manufacturing, mining, farming, and logistics. Although the fog of tech war makes it hard to evaluate China’s progress with precision, available information points to surprisingly rapid progress in China’s efforts to work around technology restrictions.

The Three Potential Outcomes

China’s single-minded goal is to lead the next wave of industrial technology. Former World Bank Chief Economist Justin Yifu Lin, now a professor at Peking University and a councilor of China’s State Council, wrote in a 2021 book:

China’s 5G technology has become the world leader in the new industrial revolution. In the past few years, the US has repeated its old tricks and suppressed Chinese companies with groundless accusations, using all of its national resources. If the US succeeds in suppressing China by means of a blockade in the new industrial revolution, China will not be able to achieve its second centennial goal. How can China break through the US blockade? It can only do this by working hard to lead the new industrial revolution.

Will China end Russia’s war?

Willis Sparks

China can end the war in Ukraine. Xi Jinping is the one major world leader that both Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky would gladly meet with. And China is the one country that has both the carrots and the sticks that can persuade Putin and Zelensky to accept the tough-to-swallow compromises needed to make peace.

China has leverage with Russia. Europe’s post-invasion refusal to buy Russian oil and gas sharply increases China’s importance as an energy buyer. In fact, China bought a record amount of Russian energy over the first half of this year, thanks in large part to the steeply discounted price the war has forced Russia to offer.

But China has more energy suppliers than Russia has alternative high-volume buyers. A Chinese decision to reduce those imports would hurt Russia far more than China. China is also a major supplier of computer chips and other products Russia badly needs and can’t buy elsewhere. These facts give Xi real leverage with Putin if he wants to use it.

Xi can tell his friend Putin that he must accept a peace deal that brings Russia a modest amount of Ukrainian land that he can use to declare “victory” in return for letting the rest of Ukraine go. Even if that means the remainder of Ukraine one day joins NATO and the EU.

Putin, of course, will oppose any such suggestion. But if Xi privately advises his friend that refusal means China will publicly distance itself from Russia’s invasion and apply heavy economic pressure on his government, Putin will have to listen. With China on board, Putin looks much more powerful. Were Xi to publicly back away, Putin would be far more isolated.

Xi can then promise that a peace deal with Ukraine will bring China and Russia economically and politically closer than ever before … and that China will pay to rebuild and modernize Russia’s war-depleted military.

From Xi’s point of view, pushing Putin toward peace isn’t a betrayal. It’s a credible plan to save Russia from a disastrous war before much more damage is done. He’s giving Putin the “off ramp” the Russian president can’t (or won’t) create for himself.

How to end Russia’s war on Ukraine

Short interviews with some of the authors of a new Chatham House report which examines the realities of the current war on Ukraine and the long-term consequences.

As Ukraine continues to fight to liberate its occupied territories and eject Russian invaders, its Western backers debate the likely endgame for the war and its aftermath.

The international response to Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, while impressive in many ways, remains inadequate to the task and dangerously wobbly. Russia’s wider threat to the rules-based international order is also insufficiently acknowledged.

Many proposals have been put forward for how the conflict could, or should, be brought to a close. Some, though well-intentioned, involve concessions that would effectively appease Russia, betray Ukraine and endanger Europe.

Persistent calls for a ceasefire or ‘negotiated settlement’ to end the fighting without tackling its underlying cause – Russia’s ambition to eliminate Ukraine as we know it – will do no more than reward the aggressor while punishing the victim.

This multi-author report takes nine commonly espoused ideas for quick fixes or objections to bolstering assistance to Ukraine, and weighs them against both current reality and their long-term consequences.

The unanimous conclusion of the authors is that the only outcome to the war that can safeguard the future security of Europe is a convincing Ukrainian victory – hence, Western military support to Kyiv should be redoubled before it is too late.

Space Force should offer European allies protection from anti-satellite attacks: Saltzman


Gen. Chance Saltzman, Chief of Space Operations, US Space Force suggested destruction of allied satellites by an adversary should be considered “an act of war.” (Tim Martin / Breaking Defense)

RIAT 2023 — The top US Space Force uniformed official recently put his full support behind the service defending European allied satellites against adversary attacks, warning any destruction of a friendly satellite will be considered “an act of war.”

Gen. Chance Saltzman, chief of space operations, told media at the Royal International Air Tattoo on July 14 that protection on offer to allies by the US should be “no different” to how it currently provides air defense cover by protecting communication nodes “regardless of the country that has contributed to those nodes.”

Defending satellites has become much more of an urgent issue for both the US and European partners since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, with Moscow carrying out non-destructive cyberattacks on Viasat’s KA-SAT and SpaceX’s Starlink networks. In the first case, “tens of thousands of modems” were forced offline by Russia, according to the US, Canada, Estonia, the European Union and the UK, reported Reuters in May 2022.

Underlining China and Russia’s anti-satellite threat, Saltzman expressed growing concern over recent adversary tests.

“I am almost to the point now where there’s not a lot of difference between testing a single article in space and having an operational capability,” he said. “It takes so much to put an actual system on orbit that can achieve test objectives. You’re dangerously close to saying, ‘I have an operational capability’.”

Russia, China and India have undertaken one-off tests of ground-launched anti-satellite missiles, for example — and the US Navy shot down an ailing American spy satellite using a modified Standard Missile-3 in the 2007 Operation Burnt Frost.

Ukraine’s bog warriors brave swamps, stench and Russian drones

Wendell Steavenson

In Kherson locals speak, with a biblical sense of time, of “before” and “after” the flood. When the Kakhovka dam exploded on June 6th, the area around the mouth of the Dnieper river near the city of Kherson, 58km (36 miles) downstream, was inundated. In some places the water rose six metres high, sweeping away houses and causing toxic oil leaks. “The landscape has changed,” a fisherman told me. “Where there were docks, there are now beaches. Where we used to catch fish in the reeds, there are piles of sand.”

The front line runs down the river. It’s a “no-man’s-land, the Berlin Wall”, one soldier said. Russian and Ukrainian reconnaissance teams had been playing a game of cat and mouse among the dozens of islands in this area ever since Ukraine retook Kherson in November 2022. Control of the islands could help the Ukrainians establish footholds on the Russian-controlled east bank, threatening Crimea and forcing the Russians to reinforce the sector with troops from elsewhere along the front. The marshy terrain presents a formidable obstacle before the Ukrainian fighters even reach the Russian defences.

Everyone Wants Ukraine’s Battlefield Data


WEARING A BASEBALL cap and thick, black-rimmed glasses, Cameron Chell is part defense contractor, part tech executive. His company, Draganfly, used to mainly work with emergency services in North America, selling drones and the accompanying software that could deliver medical equipment, or film traffic accidents from above. But since last February, the Canadian has pivoted his business to cater to a market more than 8,000 miles away: Ukraine.

Now, there are 40 Draganfly drones in Ukraine, repurposed for search-and-rescue missions in bombed-out buildings, landmine detection, and other military tasks that Chell declines to detail. The company has demonstrated its tech to the Ukrainian Air Force, the Ministry of Defence, as well as President Volodomyr Zelenskyy’s fundraising initiative, United24. “There isn't a branch of the government we haven’t worked with or interacted with in some way.” Sometimes he gets texts from Ukrainian contacts, saying a friend of a friend needs a drone for their unit, can he help? Draganfly obliges, of course, for a discounted fee.

Since Russia invaded, military aid has been flowing into Ukraine. The US has committed $39 billion since the war started, the UK $37.3 billion, and the EU $12 billion. Chell and his company are part of a scramble of international tech companies rushing into the country to try and benefit. Business has been so good, he’s set up a field office in Ukraine with four full-time employees. But Draganfly is operating in Ukraine not just to support the cause or to collect the cash. It’s also come for the data.

The Empire Factor: The Missing Piece In Narratives Of The Ukraine War – OpEd

Richard E. Rubenstein

Those who study narratives of conflict understand that how the story is told reveals not only the narrator’s biases, but also the existence and limitations of his/her worldview. The opening of the narrative frames the story decisively: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

When it comes to the current war in Ukraine, the story commonly told in the United States, as well as in many European nations, begins “On February 24, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine.” This opening designates the parties (Russia and Ukraine), points to an aggressor (Russia) and a defender (Ukraine), leaves “outsiders” such as the U.S. and NATO out of the picture, and assumes the unity of each party. Moreover, the tale begins at Ground Zero with the Russian invasion, relegating earlier events to a shadowy, contestable, and still largely unknown past.

Even now, after so much blood and ink has been spilled, most Americans and many Europeans do not recall the rebellion in Kyiv eight years earlier that replaced an elected pro-Russian prime minister of Ukraine with a pro-Western leader. Nor do they recollect the civil violence in the ethnically Russian Donbass region that produced two treaties signed in Minsk but never implemented, or the eight years of bloody warfare that followed, with Russia recognizing and Ukraine refusing to recognize the “republics” declared in Donetsk and Luhansk provinces.

Most important, perhaps, the commonly accepted narrative entirely omits the relentless NATO expansion of the prior several decades that moved Russia’s president Putin to demand new negotiations on the security architecture of Eastern Europe. One could just as easily begin the story of this conflict in 2008, when the NATO parties declared their intention to admit Ukraine and Georgia to their militarized ranks; or in 2009 and 2012, when NATO ballistic missile bases were established in Poland and Romania; or in 2021, when U.S. Secretary of State Blinken baldly declared that President Putin’s proposal to negotiate was a “non-starter.”

Ukraine: Prepare for a Longer War and Be Cautious in Pushing for Major Offensives

Anthony H. Cordesman

It is always tempting to push for a quick end to a conflict and to call for decisive action. But the United States may now be calling for far quicker and more decisive action from Ukraine than Ukrainian forces can actually execute. It may also be doing so in ways which ignore the strategic realities of the ways in which war is most likely to evolve. Pushing Ukraine to take the offensive may well do little more than help exhaust it and raise casualties. A war that many in the United States seem to tactically predict will somehow largely end this year, may also go on and on until one side breaks in the face of the strain and attrition or both sides become locked into a near stalemate that neither side knows how to win.

Many in the United States seem to have a degree of optimism that owes more to the past than the present. Earlier in the war, Ukraine was able to take advantage of Russian massive miscalculation in assuming it could repeat its experience in seizing Crimea in 2014 and virtually drive in and take control of the country. Russia was unprepared for serious Ukrainian resistance, failed to understand how limited the success of its effort at modernization of its forces and command and control structure had been, and was not ready at any level to fight a serious war.

Ukraine first successfully held in the face of the original Russian offensive and then sent in effective military forces that could push back Russian forces that were never properly organized for sustained combat, had no recent warfighting experience, and were not prepared to resist. Ukraine scored major gains, and if it had been properly equipped for sustained offensive action during the period in which Russian was being forced to retreat, it might have driven Russia out of far more territory and made some form of a major victory a far more realistic probability.

The Dollar: The World’s Reserve Currency

Anshu Siripurapu and Noah Berman

The dollar has been the world’s principal reserve currency since the end of World War II and is the most widely used currency for international trade.

High global demand for dollars allows the United States to borrow money at a lower cost and use currency as a tool of diplomacy, but that comes with drawbacks.

Extensive U.S. sanctions have driven some countries to transact in other currencies, raising fears of “de-dollarization.”


Since the end of World War II, the dollar has been the world’s most important means of exchange. It is the most commonly held reserve currency and the most widely used currency for international trade and other transactions around the world. The centrality of the dollar to the global economy confers some benefits to the United States, including borrowing money abroad more easily and extending the reach of U.S. financial sanctions.

But some experts argue that high foreign demand for dollars comes at a cost to export-heavy U.S. states, resulting in trade deficits and lost jobs. Meanwhile, the dollar’s dominance could be at risk. Many emerging economies have increasingly sought ways to conduct trade in non-dollar currencies, a process known as de-dollarization, especially given the fallout from the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, few serious contenders have emerged, making it unlikely that the greenback will be replaced as the leading reserve currency anytime soon.

What is a reserve currency?

Declassified Richard Nixon letter to President Clinton proves prophetic on Russia

Chris Pandolfo 

Fox News’ Martha MacCallum attends the Aspen Security Forum, where she sits down with British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly, who says Russia is ‘fragile’ and does not ‘expect’ the U.S. to put troops on the ground.

A month before he died in April 1994, former President Richard Nixon wrote a letter to then-President Bill Clinton offering what Clinton later called "wise counsel, especially with regard to Russia." The contents of that letter have now been declassified by the Clinton presidential library and appear prophetic.

In the seven-page letter, dated March 21, 1994, and discussed by history professor Luke Nichter in the Wall Street Journal, Nixon gave a blunt assessment of the political situation in Russia, predicting accurately that relations between Moscow and Kyiv would deteriorate and that someone like Putin could come to power. Nixon, 81 at the time, wrote the letter after he returned from a two-week trip to Russia and Ukraine.

While the former president is infamous for departing the White House amid scandal in 1974, his legacy includes being the architect of détente with the Soviet Union during the Cold War. In 1972, Nixon became the first U.S. president to visit Moscow, where he signed the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty and the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty with Soviet General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev. Nixon spent the years following his presidency taking foreign trips on behalf of the United States and offering counsel based on decades of experience to guide U.S. policy in the post-Cold War era.

Nixon considered the survival of political and economic freedom in Russia "the most important foreign policy issue the nation will face for the balance of this century." With that understanding, he told Clinton that based on what he saw in Russia, a fledgling democracy under former Russian President Boris Yeltsin was in danger.

President Richard Nixon makes victory speech at a rally shortly after being elected to serve a second term by a landslide. (Bettmann/Getty Images)

"As one of Yeltsin’s first supporters in this country and as one who continues to admire him for his leadership in the past, I have reluctantly concluded that his situation has rapidly deteriorated since the elections in December, and that the days of his unquestioned leadership of Russia are numbered," Nixon wrote. "His drinking bouts are longer and his periods of depression are more frequent. Most troublesome, he can no longer deliver on his commitments to you and other Western leaders in an increasingly anti-American environment in the Duma and in the country."

The Illusion of Great-Power Competition

Jude Blanchette and Christopher Johnstone

It may be a confusing and unpredictable moment in global politics, but there is no shortage of frames and narratives that purport to explain or at least characterize the major developments. For many observers, Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine and the Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s increasingly aggressive saber rattling across the Indo-Pacific have divided the world into blocs, dragging the United States and its allies into a “new Cold War” pitting Washington against Beijing and Moscow. Others see this as an era of competition among great powers, in which the United States and China are the central protagonists in a global struggle. The latest U.S. National Security Strategy reflects this view, concluding that “a competition is underway between the major powers to shape what comes next.”

But these frames are oversimplified and outdated: they overemphasize the unilateral power of the United States and China, underappreciate both countries’ own dependencies, and overlook the vital importance of middle and small powers, as well as commercial entities and other nonstate actors. Although some aspects of the Cold War hold true today, such as the geopolitical rivalry between two powerful countries with dramatically different political systems and ideologies, the integration and interdependence that characterize the international system in this century places today’s policymakers on a vastly different landscape than the one their twentieth-century predecessors navigated.

The competition that confronts the United States is not simply a bilateral contest with another great power. Nor is it one that pits cleanly demarcated authoritarian and democratic blocs against one another. It is instead an ever-shifting competition of coalitions and of informal and often ad hoc groupings of partners that come together to address a specific issue or set of issues. As Hal Brands and Zack Cooper noted in 2020, these coalitions differ depending on the issue at hand; the partners involved in the geopolitical balancing of China’s growing military power in the western Pacific may be different from those that partner to safeguard and promote advanced technologies. Some groupings form naturally, consisting of willing and like-minded partners. Others bring together reluctant partners in relationships formed out of necessity or convenience.

Don’t Give Poland a Pass

Piotr H. Kosicki

When Joe Biden campaigned for president, he called out the democratic backsliding that had taken place in eastern Europe on his predecessor’s watch. “You see what’s happened in everything from Belarus to Poland to Hungary, and the rise of totalitarian regimes in the world,” he told a town hall audience in October 2020. Biden was lumping Poland together with countries where democracy was on life support, if not already dead. Biden’s comments alluded to the fact that Law and Justice, the right-wing populist party that has governed Poland since 2015, had been steadily eroding judicial independence, press freedom, and civic pluralism. That summer, President Andrzej Duda won reelection promising “LGBT-free zones” and a war on “gender ideology.” Two days after Biden’s remarks, Poland’s high court decreed a near-total ban on abortion.

In 2021, when Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko began busing Afghan and Iraqi refugees to the Polish-Belarusian border, Duda likened the moves to “hybrid warfare.” The Polish government had its guards repel the migrants with water cannons, banned media access to the area, and spent over $407 million to build a 115-mile-long steel wall on its border with Belarus.

And yet in March 2022, when Biden traveled to Poland to rally support for the war in Ukraine, he lauded the country as a leader in the global fight for democracy. “Democracies of the world are revitalized,” Biden said, standing before the Royal Castle in Warsaw, which Biden described as having a “sacred place in the history not only of Europe but humankind’s unending search for freedom.” Biden’s 2022 speech in Warsaw was, to say the least, a startling reversal from his campaign trail rhetoric.

In February of this year, Biden returned once again to the Royal Castle, praising his host country for being one of the United States’ “great allies.” But although Biden talked about democracy and Poland in both of his Warsaw speeches, in 2023, he never put the two words in the same sentence. Poland may have demonstrated solidarity with the Ukrainian fight for sovereignty, but democracy belongs to activists in Belarus, Moldova, and of course Ukraine. In reality, Poland has continued its democratic backsliding while supporting its neighbor’s struggle against Russia. Yet Biden no longer criticizes Poland’s growing illiberalism.

Ukraine live briefing: Drone strikes skyscraper in Moscow, Russia says, after attacks on Ukraine’s Odessa region

Kelly Kasulis Cho, Annabelle Timsit, Eve Sampson and Sammy Westfall

A drone struck a skyscraper in Moscow early Monday, shattering glass on the 17th and 18th floors, Russian officials reported. The wreckage of a second drone was found on Komsomolsky Prospect, a thoroughfare in central Moscow. Mayor Sergey Sobyanin said two nonresidential buildings were struck but there were no casualties. Moscow blamed Kyiv for the apparent attack.

In another night of attacks on Ukraine’s Odessa region, drones targeted port infrastructure along the Danube River, an important export route for Kyiv in light of Russia’s exit from a U.N.-backed grain export deal. The attack injured six people and destroyed a grain hangar, said Oleh Kiper, the regional governor. Grain prices rose steeply the morning after the attack.

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

Moscow downed the drones, Russia’s Defense Ministry said, blaming Ukraine for the attack. Drone strikes are a rarity for the Russian capital, and a similar attack earlier this year on two residential buildings there was widely considered a prelude to further escalation in the war. Though Ukraine denied responsibility for the drone attack in May, the event struck a chord among Russians, who for the first time witnessed wartime hostilities trickling into residential parts of the city.

The overnight drone attack in Odessa lasted four hours, Ukrainian officials said on Telegram. It was part of a string of attacks in the southern Ukrainian port city, killing at least one person and injuring 21, including four children.

We’ve Been on the Front Lines. We Know What Ukraine Needs.

Mark Kelly and Tammy Duckworth

Both of us have been the targets of enemy fire. It nearly cost one of us her life. We know a truth every combat veteran learns: For all the planning and consideration that goes into a war, much of it gets thrown out the window the moment the shooting starts. You often learn more about your enemies in the first 24 hours of a conflict than you do from years of studying them.

This has unequivocally been the case in Ukraine. At the outset of the war, Russia had one of the largest militaries in the world, and it was widely assumed Russia would march through Ukraine and take Kyiv in a matter of weeks, if not days. That didn’t happen. The limitations of Russian military hardware, training and discipline became evident quickly — as well as the strength of Ukrainian resolve.

Still, from the earliest days of the conflict, we both saw that military aid from the United States would be critical for Ukraine to win this war. For the past 17 months, we have advised the Biden administration, urging it to continually assess and reassess the shifting realities on the front line to understand what Ukraine needs and then deliver it quickly. We must remain committed to keeping Ukraine supplied with the missiles, artillery shells and other munitions that at this stage in the conflict can be the difference between a commander’s being able to approve an attack or not. And we have to do that while analyzing where new capabilities, like modern fighter jets, can give Ukraine the edge.

The emergent industrial metaverse

MIT Technology Review

The industrial metaverse—a metaverse sector that mirrors and simulates real machines, factories, cities, transportation networks, and other highly complex systems—will offer to its participants fully immersive, real-time, interactive, persistent, and synchronous representations and simulations of the real world.

The emergent industrial metaverse

Existing and developing technologies, including digital twins, artificial intelligence and machine learning, extended reality, blockchain, and cloud and edge computing, will be the building blocks of the industrial metaverse. These will converge to create a powerful interface between the real and digital worlds that is greater than the sum of its individual parts.

Annika Hauptvogel, head of technology and innovation management at Siemens, describes the industrial metaverse as “immersive, making users feel as if they’re in a real environment; collaborative in real time; open enough for different applications to seamlessly interact; and trusted by the individuals and businesses that participate”—far more than simply a digital world.

The industrial metaverse will revolutionize the way work is done, but it will also unlock significant new value for business and societies. By allowing businesses to model, prototype, and test dozens, hundreds, or millions of design iterations in real time and in an immersive, physics-based environment before committing physical and human resources to a project, industrial metaverse tools will usher in a new era of solving real-world problems digitally.

ChatGPT is creating new risks for national security

Christopher Mouton

Large language models like ChatGPT and Claude offer a wide range of beneficial applications. However, there are significant risks associated with their use that demand a coordinated effort among partner nations to forge a solid, integrated defense against the threat of malign information operations.

Large language models can assist in generating creative story plots, crafting marketing campaigns and even creating personalized restaurant recommendations. However, they often produce text that is confidently wrong. This design has profound implications, not only for routine use of artificial intelligence, but also for U.S. national security.

AI-generated content can exhibit a phenomenon known as “truthiness” — a phrase coined by television host Stephen Colbert in the early 2000s to describe how information can feel right. This concept emphasizes that, despite lacking factual accuracy, content with a highly coherent logical structure can influence how smart, sophisticated people decide whether something is true or not.

Our cognitive biases mean well-written content or compelling visuals have the power to make claims seem more true than they are. As one scholar who has studied “truthiness” describes it: “When things feel easy to process, they feel trustworthy.”

Adversaries of the U.S. can manipulate the potential for AI models to sound “truthy” — crafting coherent, well-structured and persuasive sentences, which can mimic human writing — to gain an advantage. The internet, with its global reach, has created a potent medium for foreign interference through subversive incursions of truthiness.

State actors are leveraging digital technologies to execute hostile information campaigns, using online tools and information operations to promote their interests. State actors can manipulate cognitive fluency bias and truthiness to shape the sociopolitical arena, expanding the potential misuse of AI-driven language models for malign information operations, large-scale spear phishing campaigns and increasingly believable deepfake media.

How AI-Enabled Threat Intelligence Is Becoming Our Future

Beenu Arora

Experts are buzzing with predictions that AI will be the driving force behind the entire threat intelligence industry in the next five years. It's like having a cyber-savvy superhero working tirelessly in the background to keep us safe. As a CEO in the industry, I see tremendous applications of AI in cybersecurity soon, particularly in threat intelligence.

AI And Threat Intelligence: The Prospects

With a new era of autonomous threat detection and response coming, I expect that AI will play a pivotal role in collecting, processing and synthesizing threats, transforming the way organizations combat cyber risks. In the next half-decade, the threat intelligence industry is positioned to turn into a high-speed, machine-driven operation. Autonomous systems are already capable of gathering and processing massive quantities of data from a multitude of sources—from network traffic and log files to dark web forums. They can churn through this data at speeds and scales that humans could never match, identifying patterns, correlations and anomalies that hint at potential threats.

Here's the future of the industry as I envision it: The integration of AI in threat intelligence will drive significant changes across the industry. Analysts' workload will be significantly reduced as AI empowers analysts to focus their expertise on complex threats that require human intervention.

The productivity gains brought about by AI in threat intelligence and security operations are expected to be substantial. Analysts will be able to dedicate more time to strategic planning, proactive threat hunting and developing targeted mitigation strategies.

The Great Power Point Panic of 2003

Jacob Stern

The new media technology was going to make us stupid, to reduce all human interaction to a sales pitch. It was going to corrode our minds, degrade communication, and waste our time. Its sudden rise and rapid spread through business, government, and education augured nothing less than “the end of reason,” as one famous artist put it, for better or for worse. In the end, it would even get blamed for the live-broadcast deaths of seven Americans on national television. The year was 2003, and Americans were freaking out about the world-altering risks of … Microsoft PowerPoint.

Socrates once warned that the written word would atrophy our memory; the Renaissance polymath Conrad Gessner cautioned that the printing press would drown us in a “confusing and harmful abundance of books.” Generations since have worried that other new technologies—radio, TV, video games—would rot our children’s brains. In just the past 15 years alone, this magazine has sounded the alarm on Google, smartphones, and social media. Some of these critiques seem to have aged quite well; others, not so well. But tucked among them was a techno-scare of the highest order that has now been almost entirely forgotten: the belief that PowerPoint—that most enervating member of the Office software suite, that universal metonym for soporific meetings—might be evil.

Twenty years later, the Great PowerPoint Panic reads as both a farce and a tragedy. At the time, the age of social media was dawning: MySpace and LinkedIn were newly founded, and Facebook’s launch was just months away. But even as the polarization machine hummed to life, we were fixated on the existential threat of bullet points. Did we simply miss the mark? Or, ridiculous as it may seem today, were we onto something?

Sixteen minutes before touchdown on the morning of February 1, 2003, the space shuttle Columbia disintegrated into the cloudless East Texas sky. All seven astronauts aboard were killed. As the broken shuttle hurtled toward Earth in pieces, it looked to its live TV viewers like a swarm of shooting stars.

AI’s Pugwash Moment


WASHINGTON, DC – Almost exactly 66 years ago, 22 preeminent scientists from ten countries, including the United States and the Soviet Union, gathered in Pugwash, Nova Scotia, to identify the dangers that nuclear weapons posed and devise peaceful ways of resolving conflicts among countries. With that, the international organization known as the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, or the Pugwash Movement, was born. Though the world is hardly free of nuclear weapons, the Movement’s efforts to advance disarmament were powerful enough to win it the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995.

Today, the world needs a new Pugwash Movement, this time focused on artificial intelligence. Unlike nuclear weapons, AI holds as much promise as peril, and its destructive capacity is still more theoretical than real. Still, both technologies pose existential risks to humanity. Leading scientists, technologists, philosophers, ethicists, and humanitarians from every continent must therefore come together to secure broad agreement on a framework for governing AI that can win support at the local, national, and global levels.

Unlike the original Pugwash Movement, the AI version would not have to devise a framework from scratch. Scores of initiatives to govern and guide AI development and applications are already underway. Examples include the Blueprint for an AI Bill of Rights in the United States, the Ethics Guidelines for Trustworthy AI in the European Union, the OECD’s AI Principles, and UNESCO’s Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence.

Instead, the new Pugwash Movement would focus largely on connecting relevant actors, aligning on necessary measures, and ensuring that they are implemented broadly. Institutions will be vital to this effort. But what kind of institutions are needed and can realistically be established or empowered to meet the AI challenge quickly?

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has called for “networked multilateralism,” in which the UN, “international financial institutions, regional organizations, trading blocs, and others” – including many nongovernmental entities – “work together more closely and more effectively.” But to be effective, such multi-stakeholder networks would have to be designed to serve specific functions.

USAF fields General Atomics’ Angry kitten EW system for future UAS

John Hill

The US Air Force will use the electronic warfare system during the next 1-2 years to develop the best tactics, techniques and procedures of future UAS.

US Air Force flies with General Atmoic’s Angry Kitten electronic warfare system on an MQ-9A uncrewed aerial system. Credit: General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc.

The US Air Force (USAF) integrated General Atomic Aeronautical Systems Inc’s (GA-ASI) latest Angry Kitten ALQ-167 Electronic Warfare (EW) Countermeasure Pod onto an MQ-9A uncrewed aerial system (UAS) for the first time in late April, according to a GA-ASI press release on 20 July.

The Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) supplied the Angry Kitten EW pod to the USAF, and the pod has flown on other US Department of Defense (DoD) systems, including F-16 fighter jets.

GA-ASI integrated the EW pod in less than nine months at no cost to the USAF by using a Co-operative Research and Development Agreement.

“It was great to see the Angry Kitten pod on an Air Force platform for the first time,” said GA-ASI Vice President of DoD Strategic Development, Patrick Shortsleeve. “Flying this EW capability on an MQ-9A demonstrates its possible use on future aircraft.”

The USAF plans to continue flying with Angry Kitten Pods over the next 12 to 24 months to develop the best Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures (TTPs), leveraging EW capabilities in support of the Joint Force and partner nations.

The MQ-9A is employed primarily as an intelligence-collection asset and secondarily against dynamic execution targets, the USAF says. Given its significant loiter time, wide-range sensors, multi-mode communications suite, and precision weapons, it provides a unique capability to perform strike, co-ordination, and reconnaissance against high-value, fleeting, and time-sensitive targets.

Army Hopes AI Will Give Soldiers An Information Advantage

Josh Luckenbaugh

The Army in recent years has introduced the concept of “information advantage,” in which soldiers have the ability to make decisions and act faster than their adversaries. The service now believes artificial intelligence is the key to making the strategy a reality.

Artificial intelligence has exploded in popularity and capability, with large language models such as ChatGPT and other AI systems becoming more readily accessible to the general public. Both in industry and the Defense Department, many are exploring the possibility of utilizing the technology for military applications, and the Army is no exception.

Lt. Gen. Maria Barrett, commander of Army Cyber Command, said AI has the “highest potential to really, really drive change … but it also presents for us very, very real challenges as well across the information dimension.”

Army Maj. Gen. Matthew Easley, the deputy principal information operations advisor in the office of the undersecretary of defense for policy, said the service is undergoing a “migration from our legacy information operations, of how do we combine different information effects to create the synergies we want for our operations” to the new concept of information advantage.

The goal of the concept is to ensure the Army has the “initiative” in the information environment and “can see ourselves, know ourselves and act faster,” Easley said at an Association of the United States Army event in June. Information advantage involves five key functions, he said: enabling decision-making; protecting soldiers and the Army’s information; educating and informing domestic audiences; informing and influencing foreign audiences; and conducting information warfare.

“All five of those areas can use artificial intelligence and machine learning to some effect,” he added.

Next Generation Air Dominance Is A Must-Have For American Air Power—And RTX Is Uniquely Positioned To Play

Loren Thompson

Of all the new program starts that the Pentagon plans to pursue in this decade, Next Generation Air Dominance, or NGAD, is probably the most important.

The goal of the program is to assure US forces continue to enjoy air superiority in the 2030s and beyond by fielding a family of airborne systems that countries like China cannot match.

Command of the air, as Italian air theorist Giulio Douhet first explained a century ago, facilitates every other facet of warfare. If you have it, your surface forces can achieve their tactical objectives more easily. If you lack it, surface forces may not be able to accomplish their objectives at all.

In fact, as Douhet predicted, many of the missions traditionally assigned to armies and navies can be accomplished faster and at less risk today from the air, thanks to smart weapons and super-capable sensors hosted on fast-moving aircraft.

But whatever the division of labor in prosecuting a military campaign, friendly forces must command the air to make it happen.

In 2014, military planners began thinking through what would be required to sustain U.S. air dominance through mid-century, in an effort initially called Penetrating Counter-Air.

As the name implies, the idea was to develop capabilities for fighting and prevailing in contested air space—even if adversaries spent heavily on anti-access/area-denial strategies.

US national defense strategy subsequently was revised to focus on China as the driving threat, due to its rising economy, heavy investment in warfighting technology, and persistent violation of democratic norms.

Putting China at the center of US strategy underscored the importance of what came to be known as Next Generation Air Dominance, and largely defined what capabilities the envisioned family of systems would require.

We wouldn’t want Oppenheimer today


The one thing everyone knows about J. Robert Oppenheimer, the man who led the Manhattan Project, was that as the blast of the first atomic test faded away in the desert of New Mexico, he said solemnly: “Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

It’s not true. Oppenheimer never even claimed to have said it. He said that, as the glow faded and the shockwave passed, “a few people laughed, a few people cried, most people were silent”, but that he “remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita … ‘Now, I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.’” He did not say it out loud.

Christopher Nolan has described Oppenheimer, the subject of his latest film, as “the most important man who ever lived”. The brilliant physicist directed the project that, for the first time, made humanity capable of destroying itself. But it is, frankly, remarkable that he was ever appointed.

The Manhattan Project was perhaps the greatest weapons project in history. At its peak, it employed 125,000 people; half a million people worked on it at one point or another. It spent $2.2 billion, equivalent to somewhere between $30 billion and $50 billion today — six or 10 times the cost of the Large Hadron Collider. It was conducted in utmost secrecy: the German, Japanese and Soviet governments all knew that the US or Britain were themselves conducting nuclear research, as they all were, to a greater or lesser degree — the theoretical possibility had been known for years, and nuclear fission was discovered in Berlin.

It’s surprising, then, that the job of project director was given to Oppenheimer, a psychologically troubled, communist-sympathising attempted murderer with little managerial experience and an abrasive interpersonal style. And yet it was and he was brilliant. As a result of his genius and aptitude, the Manhattan Project was a huge success, not just at its stated goal but in driving fundamental science forward vast leaps in a very short time.

Amazon, Google, Meta, Microsoft and other tech firms agree to AI safeguards set by the White House


WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden said Friday that new commitments by Amazon, Google, Meta, Microsoft and other companies that are leading the development of artificial intelligence technology to meet a set of AI safeguards brokered by his White House are an important step toward managing the “enormous” promise and risks posed by the technology.

Biden announced that his administration has secured voluntary commitments from seven U.S. companies meant to ensure that their AI products are safe before they release them. Some of the commitments call for third-party oversight of the workings of the next generation of AI systems, though they don’t detail who will audit the technology or hold the companies accountable.

“We must be clear eyed and vigilant about the threats emerging technologies can pose,” Biden said, adding that the companies have a “fundamental obligation” to ensure their products are safe.

“Social media has shown us the harm that powerful technology can do without the right safeguards in place,” Biden added. “These commitments are a promising step, but we have a lot more work to do together.”

A surge of commercial investment in generative AI tools that can write convincingly human-like text and churn out new images and other media has brought public fascination as well as concern about their ability to trick people and spread disinformation, among other dangers.

The four tech giants, along with ChatGPT-maker OpenAI and startups Anthropic and Inflection, have committed to security testing “carried out in part by independent experts” to guard against major risks, such as to biosecurity and cybersecurity, the White House said in a statement.

FACT SHEET: Biden-⁠Harris Administration Secures Voluntary Commitments from Leading Artificial Intelligence Companies to Manage the Risks Posed by AI

Voluntary commitments – underscoring safety, security, and trust – mark a critical step toward developing responsible AI

Biden-Harris Administration will continue to take decisive action by developing an Executive Order and pursuing bipartisan legislation to keep Americans safe

Since taking office, President Biden, Vice President Harris, and the entire Biden-Harris Administration have moved with urgency to seize the tremendous promise and manage the risks posed by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and to protect Americans’ rights and safety. As part of this commitment, President Biden is convening seven leading AI companies at the White House today – Amazon, Anthropic, Google, Inflection, Meta, Microsoft, and OpenAI – to announce that the Biden-Harris Administration has secured voluntary commitments from these companies to help move toward safe, secure, and transparent development of AI technology.

Companies that are developing these emerging technologies have a responsibility to ensure their products are safe. To make the most of AI’s potential, the Biden-Harris Administration is encouraging this industry to uphold the highest standards to ensure that innovation doesn’t come at the expense of Americans’ rights and safety.

These commitments, which the companies have chosen to undertake immediately, underscore three principles that must be fundamental to the future of AI – safety, security, and trust – and mark a critical step toward developing responsible AI. As the pace of innovation continues to accelerate, the Biden-Harris Administration will continue to remind these companies of their responsibilities and take decisive action to keep Americans safe.

There is much more work underway. The Biden-Harris Administration is currently developing an executive order and will pursue bipartisan legislation to help America lead the way in responsible innovation.

Today, these seven leading AI companies are committing to:

Mass-market military drones have changed the way wars are fought

Kelsey D. Atherton

Mass-market military drones are one of MIT Technology Review’s 10 Breakthrough Technologies of 2023. Explore the rest of the list here.

When the United States first fired a missile from an armed Predator drone at suspected Al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan on November 14, 2001, it was clear that warfare had permanently changed. During the two decades that followed, drones became the most iconic instrument of the war on terror. Highly sophisticated, multimillion-dollar US drones were repeatedly deployed in targeted killing campaigns. But their use worldwide was limited to powerful nations.

Then, as the navigation systems and wireless technologies in hobbyist drones and consumer electronics improved, a second style of military drone appeared—not in Washington, but in Istanbul. And it caught the world’s attention in Ukraine in 2022, when it proved itself capable of holding back one of the most formidable militaries on the planet.

The Bayraktar TB2 drone, a Turkish-made aircraft from the Baykar corporation, marks a new chapter in the still-new era of drone warfare. Cheap, widely available drones have changed how smaller nations fight modern wars. Although Russia’s invasion of Ukraine brought these new weapons into the popular consciousness, there’s more to their story.

Explosions in Armenia, broadcast on YouTube in 2020, revealed this new shape of war to the world. There, in a blue-tinted video, a radar dish spins underneath cyan crosshairs until it erupts into a cloud of smoke. The action repeats twice: a crosshair targets a vehicle mounted with a spinning dish sensor, its earthen barriers no defense against aerial attack, leaving an empty crater behind.