29 July 2023

The Zojila Tunnel: A Strategic Lifeline to Ladakh

Numan Bhat and Mehroob Mushtaq

In a strategic push to enhance connectivity and strengthen border infrastructure, India is undertaking the ambitious Zojila Tunnel project near the tense China border. Nestled amidst the rugged terrain of the Himalayas, the tunnel aims to provide year-round access to the army and residents of the region, ensuring safer and more secure transport.

The Zojila Pass, situated between Srinagar and Leh, has long been a crucial route for the movement of military troops and goods, especially during winter, when heavy snowfall makes other passes inaccessible. However, the pass remains highly vulnerable to avalanches and landslides, leading to frequent disruptions in connectivity.

The project to construct the Zojila Tunnel was inaugurated in May 2018 by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It is being implemented by the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation. The Zojila Tunnel will be a two-lane highway 9.5 meters wide and 7.57 meters high in the shape of a horseshoe. The New Austrian Tunnelling Method, an advanced technology, is being used.

The 14.15-kilometer-long Zojila Tunnel, situated at an altitude of over 11,500 feet, is an engineering marvel, piercing through the daunting Zojila Pass and ensuring connectivity remains uninterrupted even during extreme weather conditions. It is expected to be completed by 2026.

The project is estimated to cost around 68.09 billion Indian rupees. The construction of the tunnel is a herculean task, with workers confronting treacherous terrain and extreme weather conditions. The terrain is characterized by steep slopes, rocky surfaces, and unstable glaciers, making the construction process challenging. Despite these difficulties, the workers are determined to accomplish their mission and provide a lifeline to the region.

Why India is Successful in Bilateral Diplomacy, Not in Multilateral Forums

Muqtedar Khan

The year 2023 was expected to establish India as a major diplomatic power. The fortuitous alignment of India’s presidency of the G-20 forum and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) was expected to give the country the opportunity to not only showcase the progress that it has made but also to stamp its preferences on the global agenda through leadership of these two critical forums.

As I have argued on my YouTube show, Khanversations, this was to be a taste and a test of global leadership. While the G-20 is a global forum, the SCO is a China-centered group of non-western nations, a third of whom (China, Russia, and Iran) have adversarial relations with the U.S. The pomp and ceremony, the sequence of high-power meetings and finally the grand finales – the summit of heads of states and governments – were expected to rivet all eyes upon India, establish it as a major power in the multipolar world, and project Prime Minister Narendra Modi as a truly global leader.

But history is not unfolding as India desires.

India itself diminished the potential of the SCO summit and reduced it from a two-day in-person prominent event to a few hours-long virtual summit. According to Shyam Saran, a former foreign secretary of India, Chinese experts feel that India downgraded the SCO Summit to undermine China.

China’s new scientists

Dr Yu Jie

The appointment of five prominent scientists to the Politburo of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in October 2022 confirms a fundamental shift in policy emphasis within the party leadership from maintaining double-digit economic growth to building resilience against external shocks.

President Xi Jinping has long held the ambition for China to achieve economic, scientific and technological self-reliance. The current intense focus on addressing technological ‘chokepoints’ reflects Beijing’s concerns about the extent of the country’s dependence on overseas suppliers for semiconductors and other critical components.

The five scientists featured in this research paper all had significant successes in their respective fields – ranging from space to environmental and nuclear sciences – prior to embarking on their political careers, and have built important connections abroad. Their elevation to the Politburo rewards not just their scientific accomplishments, but also their loyalty to Xi. At a time of deepening geopolitical rivalries, as well as a shrinking of the space for individual freedoms and creative thinking within China’s institutions, the expectations on them to drive innovation at home and grow the digital economy in line with the CPC’s own governance standards are high.

China’s Politburo has long been dominated by economic technocrats, but a change in its overall composition confirms an important new direction in the policy intentions of the political leadership, with a much greater focus on science and technology. The appointment of five prominent scientists to the 24-member Politburo at the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China (CPC) in October 2022 reflects the determination of President Xi Jinping, the party’s general secretary, to ensure the country’s economic, scientific and technological self-reliance and boost its resilience to external shocks.

Xi’s long-held ambitions to boost China’s domestic industrial base and achieve scientific self-reliance have been accelerated, at a time of intensifying geopolitical and geo-economic competition, by efforts on the part of the US and its allies to curb Chinese access to critical technologies and research partnerships.

Why America Forgets—and China Remembers—the Korean War

Mike Gallagher and Aaron MacLean

Seventy years ago this week, the armistice that froze the Korean War was signed. During a year of savage battlefield maneuvering and two more of bitter stalemate, nearly 40,000 American troops gave their lives. Several thousand more allied troops also died, as did millions of Koreans, many of them heroically in combat against communist aggression, and even more as its civilian victims. The southern half of the Korean peninsula, now a thriving democracy, took decades to recover. The northern half never has, remaining impoverished, oppressed, and a source of instability.

The median age of surviving U.S. Korean War veterans is around 90. Recognition of their service has been unforgivably muted despite their valor in some of the most grueling combat American troops have ever faced. But the more general U.S. lack of interest in the war’s strategic lessons is also remarkable—and dangerous.

In China, by contrast, the “War to Resist America and Aid Korea,” as it is officially known, has never been forgotten. And in recent years, the Chinese Communist Party has been aggressively seeking to revive the public’s interest in an idealized version of it. In March, an essay in the CCP’s top theoretical journal praised how the Chinese army “defeated the world’s No. 1 enemy armed to the teeth on the Korean battlefield and performed mighty and majestic battle dramas that shocked the world and caused ghosts and gods to weep.”

In a disturbing 2020 speech commemorating the anniversary of China’s entry into the war, Chinese leader Xi Jinping made it clear that its legacy is central to his dark vision of China’s role in the world. Claiming that Beijing’s intervention began when “a war started by the imperialist aggressors reached China’s door,” Xi drew lessons for the present. In the Korean War, he said, China resolved to send those “aggressors” “a message they will understand.” Today, such aggressors can be reminded that “with an iron will,” China “wrote an earth-shaking epic defeating an enemy rich in steel but weak in will.”

In the view of the CCP, from 1950 to 1953, an immensely weak China, reeling from its own recently concluded civil war, fought the titanic power of the United States and its Western allies to a standstill, establishing that Beijing’s strategic demands could not be ignored. For the party, this conviction remains unshakable, even though the truth is that Communist aggression triggered the war and the performance of Chinese troops, hundreds of thousands of whom died, was vastly worse than CCP propaganda suggests.

The Irresistible Rise of the Rest


HONG KONG – Will the United States be number three in the new world order? In his forthcoming book, former journalist Hugh Peyman argues that it will: China’s economy has already surpassed that of the US by some measures, and India’s will do the same by mid-century. He also argues that “the Rest” more broadly will pose a growing challenge to the West, which in turn continues to underestimate the challengers.

Peyman is hardly the first to predict the rise of countries that are not included in the geopolitical West (a group that includes Japan). The British economist Angus Maddison knew back in 2007 that China’s GDP would soon overtake that of the US (in purchasing-power-parity terms at constant 1990 US dollar prices), with India at number three. And the OECD estimates that India will overtake the US in GDP by 2050, and that, by 2060, the combined GDP of China, India, and Indonesia will equal $116.7 trillion – 49% of GDP – making it three times larger than the US economy.

This should not be particularly surprising, not least because non-Western countries are home to far more people. As Peyman points out, China and India each have populations four times larger than the US, so their combined GDP would be twice that of the US, even with one-quarter America’s per-capita income. As he puts it, “Population numbers dictate that the West is only 10%, the Rest 90%.”

To be sure, when it comes to GDP, the West has often punched well above its demographic weight. In 1950, the West (including Japan) accounted for just 22.4% of the world’s population, but 59.9% of global GDP. Meanwhile, Asia (excluding Japan) accounted for just 15.4% of world GDP, despite being home to 51.4% of the world’s people.

The Industrial Revolution, which afforded the West major economic advantages, together with colonial exploitation, help explain this discrepancy. In 1820, the shares were far more balanced: Asia (excluding Japan) had accounted for 65.2% of the world’s population and 56.4% of global GDP.

(Re)assessing the near-term Chinese carrier threat in a Taiwan scenario


Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning arrives in Hong Kong waters on July 7, 2017, less than a week after a high-profile visit by President Xi Jinping. (Photo credit should read ANTHONY WALLACE/AFP via Getty Images)

With the fast approach of the Davidson Window, which sets the date for a potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan as soon as 2027, much attention has been focused on Beijing’s aircraft carriers and how they could come into play. In the following analysis, Ben Ho of IISS looks at two prevailing theories about how effective the carriers may be in an invasion, before raising a new way of looking at the issue.

In the past decade, there has been much talk over China’s staggering pace of defense modernization. Of note would be Beijing’s aircraft-carrier program, and this aspect of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) has spawned a bustling cottage industry. There have been additions to this conversation in recent months. For instance, in a May Reuters article, various experts maintained that the Chinese carrier force is still embryonic and poses “little threat yet” despite 10 years of development and counting. The story came on the back of the early-spring deployment of the PLAN’s second flattop, the Shandong, into the western Pacific and approaching Guam.

The Reuters piece added that there are questions over the value of Chinese carriers during a Taiwan contingency, at least in the short term (read within the next few years or within the timeframe of the “Davidson window.”), and such doubts are largely due to the limited capabilities of the Liaoning (China’s first flattop) and Shandong. (While China’s third carrier, the Fujian, is much more capable owing to its catapult-assisted takeoff and barrier-arrested recovery, or CATOBAR, flight-deck configuration, the ship will probably be operational only in the late 2020s given the “first-in-class” issues that will invariably surface). In response to the Reuters article, military analyst Rick Fisher warned of underestimating the Chinese carrier threat because of the protective cover of Beijing’s shore-based anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) edifice. The arguments both sides put forth have merit, but need more nuance. What is more, that PLAN carrier airpower could adequately menace Taiwan’s east coast — an argument which seems to be gaining traction — needs to be addressed.

How China Overreached

Andrew Latham and Shweta Shankar

In the last three decades, China has become the focus of intense debate within U.S. foreign policy circles. Beijing’s peaceful rise to power has turned into an aggressive overreach of power over the last few years, sparking concerns about China’s future behavior as a great power. A deeper look into the relationship between the Chinese Communist Party and the United States reveals a number of dynamics that could be detrimental to global peace.

In her newly released book, Overreach: How China Derailed Its Peaceful Rise, Susan L. Shirk, founding chair of the 21st Century China Center, wades into the debate, writing that “China’s aggressive posture in world affairs and its relentlessly tight grip on domestic society are leading to what it most fears — a return to the politics of containment.”

Specifically, Shirk argues that Chinese President Xi Jinping “is quite comfortable using China’s huge market power and deep pockets to suck up advanced technologies from abroad and into China. The aim of achieving self-reliance in semiconductors, batteries, and other crucially important technologies has become increasingly overt. With the hands of the state so obviously orchestrating this massive effort, it is no wonder that China is provoking a backlash in the United States and Europe.”. This and similar political realities, Shirk concludes, exert a considerable burden on China’s power, limiting its potential to display itself as a peaceful actor.

How China Has Evolved as a Power

This is good as far as it goes, but it is with respect to the tumultuous history of China’s rise that Shirk’s book really shines. On this theme, the author’s main argument is that the ease with which Xi reversed 30 years of institutionalization reveals the opacity of the Chinese political system.

The Case for a Hard Break With China

Oren Cass and Gabriela Rodriguez

Never in human history have nations with such radically different economic and political systems as the United States and China attempted economic integration. Before the modern era, neither the markets nor the technology existed to facilitate such a project. During the Cold War, facing similar differences, Washington and Moscow stayed economically far apart. PepsiCo’s opening of a Soviet bottling plant was front-page news in 1972, and because rubles were not convertible to dollars, the Soviets paid for the bottling equipment with vodka. No wonder that globalization gained steam only after the Berlin Wall fell.

In the early post–Cold War years, U.S. theorists and policymakers ignored the potential risks of integration with an authoritarian peer. Globalization was predicated on liberal economic standards, democratic values, and U.S. cultural norms, all of which were taken for granted by economists and the foreign policy establishment. The United States set the rules for international institutions and multinational corporations, most of which were either American or heavily reliant upon access to U.S. technology and markets. Under these conditions, economic entanglements were regarded as opportunities for Washington to exert leverage and impose its rules. Incursions in, and distortions of, one market by another were Washington’s strategy, not its problem.

When welcomed into the international community in the late 1990s, China was still a developing nation. Its GDP was roughly one-tenth of the United States’ GDP, and in 1999, it was still one of the world’s poorest countries per capita, ranked between Sri Lanka and Guyana. U.S. leaders across the political spectrum were confident that by encouraging China’s integration into the global economy, they could ensure that the country would become a constructive participant in a U.S.-led world order. U.S. President Bill Clinton spoke for many when he declared that China’s accession to the World Trade Organization was about “more than our economic interests; it is clearly in our larger national interest.”

America can’t afford to ignore the logistics triad

Marcos A. Melendez III, Michael E. O’Hanlon, Jason Wolff

Logistics do not fit prominently into any of the military identities that Carl Builder, the famous RAND author, described for each of the nation’s three largest services in his masterful 1989 book, “Masks of War.” The Air Force prioritizes high technology. The Navy cherishes autonomy and thus the forward-deployed combat ships. The Army understands that it has many roles, but it still glorifies the great fights of World War II. By contrast, transports and tankers, refueling hubs and maintenance hangars, and the computers that link them all into a single network are often regrettably forgotten — even by the very generals and admirals who, according to the adage, supposedly think about them constantly. Since those fancy weapons and combat formations cannot function without logistics, that is a big problem. Since logistics in today’s world would be contested by the adversary in any high-end war against Russia or China, the penalty for undervaluing logistics could be even greater than before.

In the modern American defense debate, with its emphasis on great power competition and, most specifically, the deterrence of China, a number of military capabilities are getting lots of attention. They include hypersonic missiles, artificial intelligence, precision munitions, long-range stealth bombers, and submarines. Less sexy, but just as crucial are military logistics — the systems that deploy forces around the world and supply them with the water, fuel, ammunition, food, spare parts, medical care, and other essentials needed to make them effective in combat. If the United States fights China in the Western Pacific, the Chinese can fight from “home station.” That advantage drastically reduces their logistics challenges relative to those faced by the United States (though if the United States can transform the conflict into a broader regional fight over control of the sea lines of communication, the challenges faced by the two sides may be comparable). We need to make the logistics triad — transport systems, physical military infrastructure, and digital/cyber infrastructure tying everything together — a top priority in our defense modernization efforts as well.


Considering Maskirovka

George Friedman

Soon after Josef Stalin signed a mutual defense pact with Adolf Hitler, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill said that Russia was a mystery wrapped in an enigma. Russian military planners were undoubtedly pleased by what they might have taken as praise. One of the foundations of their military doctrine is the principle of maskirovka, or the use of various deceptions and denials to mask their true intentions. Maskirovka doesn’t always work, but when it does, it can utterly transform a battle, even a war.

Trusting in the common perception of the state of the Russian military can be designed to be fatal. I have long wondered about the chaotic structure of Russian forces in Ukraine and about the amount of time and resources Russia devotes to secondary targets. It’s tempting to assume that Moscow is foundering or that it was fated to defeat, but the fact that maskirovka is embedded so deeply in the Russian military psyche makes it necessary to periodically rethink Russian plans and resources. These things are unknown by design, but what if it turns out that the Russian bungling is a ploy, its real force and intention hidden, waiting to strike? When thinking about the Russians, creating a model diametrically opposed to what you believe, and then taking it apart, is essential.

The current consensus is that Russia has lost the organization, resources or trained manpower necessary to do more than hold its ground or perhaps advance with very limited objectives. This view is based on command confusion in which the Russian armed forces are competing with the Wagner Group, rather than commanding it. It would explain the extended battle in Bakhmut – to say nothing of Russia’s general inability to cripple Ukrainian forces and penetrate deeper into Ukraine. Penetration and destruction are the essence of warfare. A divided chain of command could explain the failure, and the inability to repair it could easily lead an enemy to assume that a Russian victory is all but impossible.

5 Things to Know About Israel’s ‘Reasonableness’ Judicial Refor


1. Less Subjectivity in the Courts

Without a written constitution, Israeli Supreme Court justices are forced to rule on ‘reasonableness,’ basing their outcomes not on established precedents but on what they believe is fair. This has given the court more power than any in the Western world. Going back to the 1980s and 90s, the “reasonableness” concept that crept into the Israeli judicial system began at the local level, moving to the Supreme Court, preventing the government from acting in its democratic role in public appointments, military actions, and domestic policies. One example is that the Israeli Supreme Court found it was unreasonable for one government to attack future Israeli governments by appointing low-level officials but did find it reasonable for a different government to propose a final-status peace deal with the Palestinians. This latest reform seeks to rectify this issue, stopping the high court from being able to interfere with government appointments and decisions on a quick whim because it disagrees with the current governing coalition.

2. Improves Israel’s Democracy

Like the United States and other Western nations, the judicial system in Israel has been able to expand its powers and act as a secondary legislative system, circumventing the Israeli Knesset and the Israeli citizenry. Experts say that the judicial reforms will improve the balance of the two branches and defend the rights of different parties and minorities in Israel. With the latest reform passed by the government Monday, experts say this will set parameters between the two branches, improving Israel’s government and shaping the country into an American-republic governance system. Yet, judges have not lost their power over appointing new justices and can still hear almost any case, even on a political question where the petitioner has not been hurt. Should the Knesset continue its proposed judiciary reforms, experts say that the Israeli courts could become like America’s judicial system, where lawmakers can vote on judicial nominees and act as duly elected lawmakers.

3. Allows Knesset to Function

Putin Is Running Out of Options in Ukraine

Lawrence Freedman

Governments start wars in pursuit of various objectives, from conquering territory to changing the regime of a hostile state to supporting a beleaguered ally. Once a war begins, the stakes are immediately raised. It is one of the paradoxes of war that even as its original objectives drift out of reach or are cast aside, the necessity of not being seen as the loser only grows in importance—such importance, in fact, that even if winning is no longer possible, governments will still persevere to show that they have not been beaten.

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.

No one can totally dismiss the possibility that Ukraine can still do this. Putin’s problems with Yevgeny Prigozhin and the Wagner Group highlight his political challenges. Russia remains largely on the defensive and the lack of any clear Russian path to a shift to the offensive all illustrate Russia’s limits. War is not predictable, and a real, sustainable Ukrainian breakthrough might occur. Russia might be driven into a sustained retreat, and Putin might lose power or must negotiate a peace that Ukraine would willingly accept.

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.

Key developments

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.

How Franchetti’s experience made her Biden’s pick to lead the Navy

Megan Eckstein and Geoff Ziezulewicz

WASHINGTON — Adm. Lisa Franchetti was five weeks into leading U.S. 6th Fleet when she oversaw the first-ever Tomahawk missile strike by a Virginia-class attack submarine.

Days after Syrian President Bashar Assad launched a chemical weapons attack on his people in April 2018, then-President Donald Trump threatened to use military forces to destroy the Syrian chemical weapons facilities.

Franchetti, then a three-star admiral still settling into her new office in Naples, Italy, was tasked by Defense Department leadership with striking Syria from European waters using naval vessels.

The target was complex: Three facilities in Damascus and near Homs were close to Russian forces and air defense systems, which the U.S. wanted to avoid hitting.

Franchetti and her 6th Fleet team both successfully used the new submarine John Warner to fire upon Syria from the Eastern Mediterranean and rearmed the boat afterward, marking two firsts.

“There were some real challenges there,” retired Adm. James Foggo, then the commander of Naval Forces Europe and Franchetti’s direct superior, told Defense News. “Afterward, we all kind of breathed a sigh of relief because all the elements of that strike mission directed by the president were met: The targets were destroyed, minimal collateral damage, didn’t bring the Russians into it, a strong message sent to Assad, and then the reload afterwards.”

Five years later — and after completing her tour as 6th Fleet commander, serving as the director for strategy, plans and policy on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and then becoming the vice chief of naval operations — Franchetti is now President Joe Biden’s nominee for chief of naval operations.

Oppenheimer and the Dharma of Death


EARLY IN THE morning of July 16, 1945, before the sun had risen over the northern edge of New Mexico’s Jornada Del Muerto desert, a new light—blindingly bright, hellacious, blasting a seam in the fabric of the known physical universe—appeared. The Trinity nuclear test, overseen by theoretical physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer, had filled the predawn sky with fire, announcing the viability of the first proper nuclear weapon and the inauguration of the Atomic Era. According to Frank Oppenheimer, brother of the “Father of the Bomb,” Robert’s response to the test’s success was plain, even a bit curt: “I guess it worked.”

With time, a legend befitting the near-mythic occasion grew. Oppenheimer himself would later attest that the explosion brought to mind a verse from the Bhagavad Gita, the ancient Hindu scripture: “If the radiance of a thousand suns were to burst at once into the sky, that would be like the splendor of the mighty one.” Later, toward the end of his life, Oppenheimer plucked another passage from the Gita: “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.”

Christopher Nolan’s epic, blockbuster biopic Oppenheimer prints the legend. As Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy) gazes out over a black sky set aflame, he hears his own voice in his head: “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” The line also appears earlier in the film, as a younger “Oppie” woos the sultry communist moll Jean Tatlock (Florence Pugh). She pulls a copy of the Bhagavad Gita from her lover’s bookshelf. He tells her he’s been learning how to read Sanskrit. She challenges him to translate a random passage on the spot. Sure enough: “Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.” (That the line comes in a postcoital revery—a state of bliss the French call la petite mort, “the little death”—and amid a longer conversation about the new science of Freudian psychoanalysis—is about as close to a joke as Oppenheimer gets.)

Dispatch from Odesa: Russia escalates its naval war against Ukraine

Michael Bociurkiw

In recent days, the front line of Moscow’s aggression against Ukraine appears to have shifted south toward the Black Sea—placing major port cities such as Mykolaiv and Odesa directly in the crosshairs of a Russian naval buildup that began just before its full-scale invasion in February 2022.

While exact numbers are difficult to come by, the bulk of recent missile strikes on Ukrainian targets such as Odesa have originated in the Black Sea. One estimate put the Russian amphibious assault ship increase at the start of the full-scale invasion as equivalent of an additional one-and-a-half battalion tactical groups. Earlier this week, Russia carried out a live fire “exercise” against potential maritime targets in the northwestern part of the sea.

Russia’s daily strikes on Ukrainian targets along the Black Sea coast represent an extraordinary escalation. They mark a shift in Russian strategy toward leveraging missile batteries in occupied Crimea with Kh-22 and P-800 Oniks anti-ship cruise missiles, which typically fly at extremely high speed and, as they reach their targets, can descend to low altitude (as low as thirty-two feet) along the water or land, making them difficult to intercept.

Some residents here in Odesa have responded by heading to safer ground in the countryside or overseas, but for the most part I’m detecting the same irrepressible resilience that was on display in the earlier months of the war.

While it’s doubtful Russia plans to decimate Odesa to the extent that it laid waste to Mariupol, the force with which it is pounding the southern port region has folks here worrying. After all, in one night alone, Russian forces launched at least thirty cruise missiles, primarily from ships in the Black Sea, according to the Ukrainian Air Force. One strike came dangerously close to the Chinese consulate and damaged a wall of the building. Some residents here in Odesa have responded by heading to safer ground in the countryside or overseas, but for the most part I’m detecting the same irrepressible resilience that was on display in the earlier months of the war.

Why globalism failed

Not so long ago, the West was captivated by visions of the ‘end of history’. Francis Fukuyama, Thomas Friedman, Kenichi Ohmae and others envisaged the permanent triumph of a global neoliberal order. They foresaw the emergence of a system controlled by an ever-expanding army of technocrats and professionals, concentrated in a handful of great cosmopolitan cities, riding on ‘advanced’ industries and services.

That world has been turned upside down. Today’s world – divided by geopolitics – looks closer to the one conceived by Samuel Huntington in his 1993 essay, The Clash of Civilisations.

Nations, it turns out, do not share the same worldview. Russia has turned inwards, adopting an ever more quasi-Tsarist, Orthodox pose. China, having used capitalism and capitalists to achieve its greatest power for a half-millennium, is now reverting to a model indebted to both the imperial past and Chairman Mao. In other parts of the world, primitivist urges, whether Islamic or evangelical Christian, have reasserted themselves.

It is countries like China, not the avatars of liberalism, that are now clearly ascendant. Over the past 20 years, the share of the world economy controlled by the G7 (Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US) has shrunk from 65 to 44 per cent. Today, China produces almost as many manufactured goods as the US, Japan and Germany combined. This is one reason why there are now more billionaires in Beijing than in New York City.

Redeveloping Regimental Combat Teams (RCTs) for Large-Scale and Mega-City Combat Operations

Justin Baumann


“As USARPAC [United States Army Pacific] reminds us frequently, is that wars may start at sea, but they finish on the land” [1] – Brigadier General Pat Ellis

In his commencement address to West Point graduates in 2022, describing the battlefield of tomorrow, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army General Mark Milley stated, “Additionally, the battlefield will be highly complex and almost certainly decisive in urban areas, against elusive ambiguous enemies that combine terrorism and warfare alongside conventional capabilities, all embedded within large civilian populations. In this world, your world, you’re going to have to optimize yourselves for urban combat, not rural combat. That has huge implications for intelligence collection, vehicles, weapons design, development, logistics, commo, and all the other aspects of our profession. The battlefield is going to be non-linear, compartmented, and units are going to have non-contiguous battle space, with significant geographical separation between friendly forces … This type of battlefield is going to place a very high premium on independent, relatively small formations that are highly lethal and linked to very long-range precision fires.” [2]

The main thesis of this article is that the US Army’s force development doctrine for large-scale combat operations reached its culmination near the end of the Korean War and that the lessons learned from that conflict can significantly benefit Army force design into the future. [3] The leaders and Army at that time, especially General Ridgway, were personally familiar with large-scale combat operations across the European and Pacific theatres of WWII, [4] and they incorporated the difficult lessons learned into their force designs when fighting in Korea to great effect, reversing early defeats and turning the Army into a more efficient fighting force before the armistice was signed in 1953. [5] [6]

Ranger Selection Training: Prepare to Run 2 or 5 Miles? Here's the Scoop.

Stew Smith

Future soldiers want to know whether they should prepare for the two-mile Army Physical Fitness Test timed run, the Ranger five-mile timed run or rucking 6-12 miles.

The short answer is: All of the above. If you are considering becoming an Army Ranger, your journey not only means you have to do the above fitness tests, but you will also include pull-ups and take the new Army Combat Fitness Test. You are wrong if you think you can get by on your athletic history without specifically preparing for all of the fitness tests in your path to becoming an Army Ranger. Preparing for this journey requires significant time during your daily workouts because rucking takes time, but building the necessary strength, endurance and durability over a training year is important

The Anatomy of Prigozhin’s Mutiny and the Future of Russia’s Mercenary Industry (Part Two)

Sergey Sukhankin

On June 23 and 24, the notorious Wagner Group and its founder Yevgeny Prigozhin conducted an unsuccessful revolt against the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) and its ultimatum that Wagner, and other entities like it, had to sign a contract (by July 1) to forfeit its autonomous status (see Part One). Assuming that the mutiny came as a result of intensifying competition between the so-called “Kremlin towers”—forces close to President Vladimir Putin struggling for power in a new environment shaped by the unsuccessful war against Ukraine and growing economic difficulties (Moskovskij komsomolets, July 4)—it is therefore pertinent to explore which actors could have stood behind Prigozhin’s actions. Overall, three scenarios underline the possible forces supporting Wagner’s moves.

First, Prigozhin’s mutiny was the result of the mounting fragmentation of the Russian elite and preparations for a post-Putin Russia. According to Mykhailo Samus, director of the New Geopolitics Research Network and a Ukrainian military expert, the “show” (Prigozhin`s mutiny) was planned and orchestrated by “people from Putin’s circle” to demonstrate his weakness. “These people [i.e., Secretary of the Russian Security Council Nikolai Patrushev and First Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Administration Sergey Kiriyenko] do not want to end up with Putin”; thus, they “may already have started communicating with the West, simultaneously considering way(s) of taking power” (RBK, June 26).

A somewhat similar idea—that the mutiny was masterminded by Kiriyenko and the Kovalchuk brothers (Yury and Mikhail) —was supported by Russian “military-patriotic” blogger and former “defense minister” of the self-proclaimed Donetsk “people’s republic,” Igor Girkin (Strelkov) (Kp.ua, June 29). Girkin, who took an aggressive and public anti-Kremlin stance after Russia’s losses during the Ukrainian counteroffensive last year, has been quite vocal against the oligarchs and Prigozhin. He openly accused Prigozhin of “not being a Russian person,” pointing to his Jewish ancestry (Vk.com, accessed July 17) and berated the oligarchs for selling out Russia—two groups that have been widely blamed in Russia for the collapse of the Soviet Union. However, most recently, Girkin was arrested and charged with “extremism” based on his open criticism of the Kremlin’s response to the mutiny and ongoing struggles in Ukraine (Meduza, July 21).

The AI-Powered, Totally Autonomous Future of War Is Here

A FLEET OF robot ships bobs gently in the warm waters of the Persian Gulf, somewhere between Bahrain and Qatar, maybe 100 miles off the coast of Iran. I am on the nearby deck of a US Coast Guard speedboat, squinting off what I understand is the port side. On this morning in early December 2022, the horizon is dotted with oil tankers and cargo ships and tiny fishing dhows, all shimmering in the heat. As the speedboat zips around the robot fleet, I long for a parasol, or even a cloud.

The robots do not share my pathetic human need for shade, nor do they require any other biological amenities. This is evident in their design. A few resemble typical patrol boats like the one I’m on, but most are smaller, leaner, lower to the water. One looks like a solar-powered kayak. Another looks like a surfboard with a metal sail. Yet another reminds me of a Google Street View car on pontoons.

These machines have mustered here for an exercise run by Task Force 59, a group within the US Navy’s Fifth Fleet. Its focus is robotics and artificial intelligence, two rapidly evolving technologies shaping the future of war. Task Force 59’s mission is to swiftly integrate them into naval operations, which it does by acquiring the latest off-the-shelf tech from private contractors and putting the pieces together into a coherent whole. The exercise in the Gulf has brought together more than a dozen uncrewed platforms—surface vessels, submersibles, aerial drones. They are to be Task Force 59’s distributed eyes and ears: They will watch the ocean’s surface with cameras and radar, listen beneath the water with hydrophones, and run the data they collect through pattern-matching algorithms that sort the oil tankers from the smugglers.

A fellow human on the speedboat draws my attention to one of the surfboard-style vessels. It abruptly folds its sail down, like a switchblade, and slips beneath the swell. Called a Triton, it can be programmed to do this when its systems sense danger. It seems to me that this disappearing act could prove handy in the real world: A couple of months before this exercise, an Iranian warship seized two autonomous vessels, called Saildrones, which can’t submerge. The Navy had to intervene to get them back.

AI and dot-com bubble share some similarities but differ where it counts

Artificial intelligence (AI) has seen tremendous growth in recent years, exploding into popular culture and industry and leading to comparisons with the now infamous dot-com bubble and crash of the 1990s.

During the late 1990s up until the early 2000s, internet-based companies were the subject of massive hype and investment, with the sector peaking at a value of $2.95 trillion before slumping to $1.195 trillion as capital dried up and investors left in droves, causing many companies in the industry to go bust.

According to data from analytics platform Statista, the AI market has seen steady growth since 2021, with the current market size estimated to be around $200 billion and forecasted to reach $1.8 trillion by 2030.The market cap of AI has seen steady growth since 2021, with forecasts predicting it could reach $1.8 trillion by 2030. Source: Statista

AI is supposed to become smarter over time. ChatGPT can become dumber.


AI models don’t always improve in accuracy over time, a recent Stanford study shows—a big potential turnoff for the Pentagon as it experiments with large language models like ChatGPT and tries to predict how adversaries might use such tools.

The study, which came out last week, looked at how two different versions of Open AI’s Chat GPT—specifically GPT-3.5 and GPT-4—performed from March to June. GPT-4 is the most recent version of the popular AI that came out in March;. Open AI described it as a huge improvement over the previous version.

“We spent 6 months making GPT-4 safer and more aligned. GPT-4 is 82% less likely to respond to requests for disallowed content and 40% more likely to produce factual responses than GPT-3.5 on our internal evaluations,” the company said.

But the Stanford paper showed GPT-4 performed less well than GPT-3.5 on difficult math problems—and that it actually got worse at math between March and June. “GPT-4’s accuracy dropped from 97.6% in March to 2.4% in June, and there was a large improvement of GPT-3.5’s accuracy, from 7.4% to 86.8%,” they write.

This is bad news for the military, for which continual improvement of large language models would be critical. Various senior Defense Department officials have expressed concerns and even terror at the thought of using ChatGPT for military purposes, because of the lack of data security and the sometimes bizarrely inaccurate results. But other military officials indicate an urgent need to employ generative AI for things like advanced cybersecurity. Improved accuracy across versions over time would likely eventually satisfy critics and lead to possible adoption—if not of ChatGPT itself, then similar models.

One of the benefits of generative AI is that it can be useful for writing code, even if the user has very limited programming knowledge. That’s a core concern for the U.S. military, which wants to put coders closer to combat.

Code Kept Secret for Years Reveals Its Flaw—a Backdoor


FOR MORE THAN 25 years, a technology used for critical data and voice radio communications around the world has been shrouded in secrecy to prevent anyone from closely scrutinizing its security properties for vulnerabilities. But now it’s finally getting a public airing thanks to a small group of researchers in the Netherlands who got their hands on its viscera and found serious flaws, including a deliberate backdoor.

The backdoor, known for years by vendors that sold the technology but not necessarily by customers, exists in an encryption algorithm baked into radios sold for commercial use in critical infrastructure. It’s used to transmit encrypted data and commands in pipelines, railways, the electric grid, mass transit, and freight trains. It would allow someone to snoop on communications to learn how a system works, then potentially send commands to the radios that could trigger blackouts, halt gas pipeline flows, or reroute trains.

Researchers found a second vulnerability in a different part of the same radio technology that is used in more specialized systems sold exclusively to police forces, prison personnel, military, intelligence agencies, and emergency services, such as the C2000 communication system used by Dutch police, fire brigades, ambulance services, and Ministry of Defense for mission-critical voice and data communications. The flaw would let someone decrypt encrypted voice and data communications and send fraudulent messages to spread misinformation or redirect personnel and forces during critical times.

Three Dutch security analysts discovered the vulnerabilities—five in total—in a European radio standard called TETRA (Terrestrial Trunked Radio), which is used in radios made by Motorola, Damm, Hytera, and others. The standard has been used in radios since the ’90s, but the flaws remained unknown because encryption algorithms used in TETRA were kept secret until now.

It’s high time for more AI transparency

Melissa Heikkilä

This story originally appeared in The Algorithm, our weekly newsletter on AI. To get stories like this in your inbox first, sign up here.

That was fast. In less than a week since Meta launched its AI model, LLaMA 2, startups and researchers have already used it to develop a chatbot and an AI assistant. It will be only a matter of time until companies start launching products built with the model.

In my story, I look at the threat LLaMA 2 could pose to OpenAI, Google, and others. Having a nimble, transparent, and customizable model that is free to use could help companies create AI products and services faster than they could with a big, sophisticated proprietary model like OpenAI’s GPT-4. Read it here.

But what really stands out to me is the extent to which Meta is throwing its doors open. It will allow the wider AI community to download the model and tweak it. This could help make it safer and more efficient. And crucially, it could demonstrate the benefits of transparency over secrecy when it comes to the inner workings of AI models. This could not be more timely, or more important.

Tech companies are rushing to release their AI models into the wild, and we’re seeing generative AI embedded in more and more products. But the most powerful models out there, such as OpenAI’s GPT-4, are tightly guarded by their creators. Developers and researchers pay to get limited access to such models through a website and don’t know the details of their inner workings.

This opacity could lead to problems down the line, as is highlighted in a new, non-peer-reviewed paper that caused some buzz last week. Researchers at Stanford University and UC Berkeley found that GPT-3.5 and GPT-4 performed worse at solving math problems, answering sensitive questions, generating code, and doing visual reasoning than they had a couple of months earlier.

How Do the White House’s A.I. Commitments Stack Up?

Kevin Roose

This week, the White House announced that it had secured “voluntary commitments” from seven leading A.I. companies to manage the risks posed by artificial intelligence.

Getting the companies — Amazon, Anthropic, Google, Inflection, Meta, Microsoft and OpenAI — to agree to anything is a step forward. They include bitter rivals with subtle but important differences in the ways they’re approaching A.I. research and development.

Meta, for example, is so eager to get its A.I. models into developers’ hands that it has open-sourced many of them, putting their code out into the open for anyone to use. Other labs, such as Anthropic, have taken a more cautious approach, releasing their technology in more limited ways.

But what do these commitments actually mean? And are they likely to change much about how A.I. companies operate, given that they aren’t backed by the force of law?

Given the potential stakes of A.I. regulation, the details matter. So let’s take a closer look at what’s being agreed to here and size up the potential impact.

Commitment 1: The companies commit to internal and external security testing of their A.I. systems before their release.

Each of these A.I. companies already does security testing — what is often called “red-teaming” — of its models before they’re released. On one level, this isn’t really a new commitment. And it’s a vague promise. It doesn’t come with many details about what kind of testing is required, or who will do the testing.

In a statement accompanying the commitments, the White House said only that testing of A.I. models “will be carried out in part by independent experts” and focus on A.I. risks “such as biosecurity and cybersecurity, as well as its broader societal effects.”

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

To effectively move forward with JADC2, the DoD must strengthen joint decision-making to ensure efforts have the funding to succeed.

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

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

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

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

Meta, Google, and OpenAI promise the White House they’ll develop AI responsibly

Makena Kelly

The companies — Amazon, Anthropic, Google, Inflection, Meta, Microsoft, and OpenAI — have all agreed to a series of asks from the White House to address many of the risks posed by artificial intelligence. The promises consist of investments in cybersecurity, discrimination research, and a new watermarking system informing users when content is AI-generated.

The companies have entered into these agreements voluntarily, so there are currently no consequences if they fail to live up to their promises. Many of these commitments are not expected to roll out on Friday, but the companies are expected to work on implementing them immediately.

In a call with reporters Thursday, a White House official said that the Biden administration was currently working on an executive order to address some of the risks posed by AI. The official declined to give specifics but said actions could take place across federal agencies and departments.

Over the last few months, the Biden administration has met with tech executives and labor and civil rights leaders to discuss AI. In May, the White House announced more funding and policy guidance for companies developing artificial intelligence tech, including $140 million to the National Science Foundation to launch seven new National AI Research (NAIR) Institutes. Google, Microsoft, Nvidia, OpenAI, and other companies also agreed to allow their language models to be publicly evaluated at this year’s Def Con.

Friday’s announcement comes nearly a month after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) launched his plan for Congress to regulate the technology without dampening innovation. The plan, the SAFE (Security, Accountability, Foundations, Explain) Framework, doesn’t provide specific policy requests but calls on lawmakers to work together to create rules to address AI’s potential to harm national security, cause job loss, and create misinformation.

The Problem With Twitter Wasn’t the Name


Twitter’s name is changing to X. The permanence of this change is a matter of some question. Will it last forever? Will it last until Elon Musk changes his mind about it? Will it last until he sells Twitter for parts and the new buyer prefers one of the most recognizable company names in the world to … whatever this is? Nobody knows, but for at least the foreseeable future, the bird is about to be out.

It’s an exceptionally rare thing – in life or in business – that you get a second chance to make another big impression. Twitter made one massive impression and changed the way we communicate. Now, X will go further, transforming the global town square.— Linda Yaccarino (@lindayacc) July 23, 2023

It’s probably not a winning idea, something we can only say with confidence because the majority of Musk’s hallmark ideas at Twitter are going quite badly. The paid verification thing has made the blue check mark into a controversial political symbol, to the point that many celebrities (and many left-ish media types) want to be ultraclear that they haven’t bought it. The boosting of paid users’ posts has made Twitter a less enticing place to get into fights online. And none of it even matters much on business terms. Twitter is in financial shambles because Musk’s behavior (crude posts, staffing issues, questionable commitment to content moderation, the broader revulsion he now seems to inspire) has tanked Twitter’s advertising business. All of this for a company that Musk overpaid for ($44 billion, most of that from Musk himself!) and loaded up with crippling debt payments that would have weighed down even a Twitter that still had friends on Madison Avenue.