30 July 2023

The Workers Behind AI Rarely See Its Rewards. This Indian Startup Wants to Fix That


In the shade of a coconut palm, Chandrika tilts her smartphone screen to avoid the sun’s glare. It is early morning in Alahalli village in the southern Indian state of Karnataka, but the heat and humidity are rising fast. As Chandrika scrolls, she clicks on several audio clips in succession, demonstrating the simplicity of the app she recently started using. At each tap, the sound of her voice speaking her mother tongue emerges from the phone.

Before she started using this app, 30-year-old Chandrika (who, like many South Indians, uses the first letter of her father's name, K., instead of a last name) had just 184 rupees ($2.25) in her bank account. But in return for around six hours of work spread over several days in late April, she received 2,570 rupees ($31.30). That’s roughly the same amount she makes in a month of working as a teacher at a distant school, after the cost of the three buses it takes her to get there and back. Unlike her day job, the app doesn’t make her wait until the end of the month for payment; money lands in her bank account in just a few hours. Just by reading text aloud in her native language of Kannada, spoken by around 60 million people mostly in central and southern India, Chandrika has used this app to earn an hourly wage of about $5, nearly 20 times the Indian minimum. And in a few days, more money will arrive—a 50% bonus, awarded once the voice clips are validated as accurate.

Striking Writers and Actors In New York Weigh In On AI's Impact on Hollywood

India Is Becoming a Power in Southeast Asia

Derek Grossman

The moment has been long in coming, but India is turning into a strategic actor in Southeast Asia. Amid a flurry of regional diplomacy, India has sealed an arms deal with Vietnam, sided with the Philippines over China on sovereignty disputes in the South China Sea, and enhanced defense cooperation with Indonesia. It is balance-of-power politics worthy of an international relations textbook: Even though most Southeast Asian governments have long made it their mantra not to choose geopolitical sides, China's aggressive posture in and around the South China Sea is driving India and its partners in the region together. As yet, none of these relationships are on the level of alliances or include a serious force deployment component, but the trend is clear. And even though the United States and its Asian treaty allies are not involved, India's moves raise the tantalizing possibility that it will increasingly complement the United States' Indo-Pacific strategy to counter China in the coming years.

India's strategic outreach had its humble beginnings in 1991, when New Delhi announced the Look East policy—a recognition of the geostrategic significance of Southeast Asia to Indian security. More a vision than a concrete set of measures, Look East was followed by the Act East policy in 2014, when India began to proactively engage with the region to prevent it from succumbing to Chinese domination. Under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who first announced Act East, India in recent years has steadily strengthened key partnerships across Southeast Asia, particularly with countries along the maritime rim of the Indo-Pacific. These moves are clearly designed to cooperate with Southeast Asian partners who also seek to maintain the rules-based international order and norms of behavior in the face of rising Chinese assertiveness in the region.

Last month, Vietnamese Defense Minister Phan Van Giang visited his Indian counterpart, Rajnath Singh, in New Delhi and announced that India would transfer a missile corvette to the Vietnamese Navy to enhance maritime security. The two sides also reportedly discussed stepped-up training for Vietnamese military personnel operating submarines and fighter jets, as well as cooperation on cybersecurity and electronic warfare. There is also ongoing speculation that Vietnam may soon purchase India's BrahMos cruise missile, which is co-produced with Russia and could complicate Chinese military operations in disputed seas. To strengthen relations further, Hanoi and New Delhi have also been considering a potential trade deal.

Is Pakistan Spreading Islamic Extremism in Africa?

Michael Rubin

On 12 August, 2020, Islamic militants calling themselves Ansar al-Sunnah seized the coastal town of Mocímboa da Praia in northern Mozambique. It was a bloodbath. The Mozambican Army, which had repelled a similar attack just five months previously, disintegrated. Within days, the militants controlled most of northern Mozambique’s Cabo Delgado province and swore allegiance to the Islamic State. Unable to counter the group effectively, Russia’s Wagner Group fled, their first major defeat. In March 2021, the same terrorists emerged from the bush and attacked the port city of Palma, 40 kilometers south of the Tanzanian border, besieging the Amarula Hotel where more than 100 foreign contractors working for a nearby oil concession lived or sought shelter; eyewitnesses say dozens died.

In January 2022, I visited Cabo Delgado to witness firsthand counterinsurgency operations. In Palma, I attended a ceremony marking the opening of school after the Islamic State-mandated closures and watched as the manager of the Amarula Hotel worked to plaster over bullet holes and remove shrapnel left over from rocket-propelled grenades. As I drove south into Mocímboa, the damage was far more devastating. Charred churches, burnt businesses, and ruined houses marked the town. Rusted hulks of vehicles dotted the roadway. The town had been without water or electricity since the Islamic State blew up generators, ripped up pipes, and tore down wires. The Islamic State’s actions in Mozambique differed from what I saw of its occupation in Iraq and Syria. In its Middle Eastern incarnation, the Islamic State held its people hostage in the region’s cities and sought to hijack the local economy to sell oil, wheat, and cement. With the exception of churches, the destruction in Mosul, Iraq and Raqqa, Syria were largely the result of fighting to liberate the cities, not perpetrated by the radicals themselves. In Mozambique, the terrorist destroyed everything and forced the entire population into the bush. The men and teenage boys they forced to become soldiers or face execution. The women and girls they forced into servitude or forced into marriage. Towns remained abandoned.

The Rwandan Army deployed to Cabo Delgado to lead the counterinsurgency fight and help restore Mozambique’s shattered capabilities. The commander in Mocímboa showed me both captured weaponry such as AK-47s, grenades, mortars, and bazookas; electronics such as walkie-talkies, computers, and satellite phones and the literature captured Islamic State fighters carried. Literature is important because it shows the nature of radicalisation. Traditionally, Muslims and Christians lived together in Cabo Delgado down to the town and village. Local traditions, animist influences, and Sufism permeated Muslim practice. Moderation was paramount. This is why literature matters. Notebooks seized from captured fighters, some of whom I met, reflected arguments, radical interpretations, and Quranic citations to sway a largely illiterate population to extremist interpretations that justified terror and the ambitions of the Islamic State. Many of the tracts captured fighters carried originated in Karachi, Pakistan, according to publication data in the books and pamphlets. Stickers and stamps indicated they arrived through Mombasa, Kenya, the largest port in east Africa, 4,300 kilometres away.

China Taking Hard Line on Military Flybys, Freedom of Navigation Operations, Says Panel

John Grady

A fighter jet attached to an aviation brigade of the PLA Air Force soars into the sky during a high-intensity flight training exercise in early Feb. 2023. PLA Photo

Dialing back Western Pacific freedom of navigation operations and military flights runs a “very high risk” of sending the wrong message to Beijing about U.S. intentions in the Indo-Pacific, security experts said Wednesday.

“Beijing would see this as… our hard-line worked,” Josiah Case, a research analyst specializing in China at the Center for Naval Analyses, said Wednesday at the Brookings Institution.

By publicly announcing its intercepts at sea and in the air, Beijing is sending messages not only to the United States and its allies and partners but also to the Chinese public. The Chinese Communist Party “is really concerned in sending the right message to its people,” Case said.

That message often includes pledges to “resolutely safeguard China’s sovereignty and security,” as it did when a Chinese warship cut across the bow of guided-missile destroyer USS Chung-Hoon (DDG-93) while transiting the Taiwan Strait with a Canadian frigate in June.

The Defense Department said the change of course that brought the two vessels within 150 yards of each other, as captured in a video, showed the Chinese were operating in “an unsafe manner.”

In 2018, a PLAN destroyer carried out a series of “increasingly aggressive maneuvers” within 45 yards of USS Decatur (DDG-73). The American destroyer was operating near a recently militarized artificial island created by the Chinese in the Spratlys in 2018.

By claiming to expel ships or aircraft from territory it claims, the CCP is resurrecting memories of its “century of humiliation” that ended with Communists taking power in 1949, Case said.

With rising confidence, Xi Jinping wields the internet as a tool of empowerment and control, speeches reveal

Zhou Xin in Hong Kong Coco Feng in Beijingand Minghe Hu in Beijing

The Chinese government has made technology and innovation key priorities in its development plans for the next five years, as it strives to build a “Digital China” and overtake the US as the world’s No 1 economy. In this third and final part of a series looking at the politicisation of China’s internet landscape, we explain how the views of China’s paramount leader, Xi Jinping, about the internet have evolved into what they are today.

In August 2013, after just five months as China’s top leader, President Xi Jinping held a closed-door meeting with the country’s propaganda officials in Beijing to raise concerns about the Communist Party losing control of the national narrative online.

“The internet is now a key battleground for public opinion,” Xi said in a speech at the time. “Anti-China forces in the West have always tried to ‘topple China’ via the internet … Whether we can hold on and win the fight on the battlefield of the internet matters to our ideological security and regime safety.”

New insight into Xi’s thinking on the role of the internet and its relationship to state power were unveiled with the publication of a new book titled Excerpts of Xi Jinping’s Discourse on Cyberspace Superpower, which contains selections from remarks he gave between early 2013 and the end of 2020. Some of these had been a state secret until the book went on sale in January.

The 171-page book groups Xi’s quotations into nine chapters under themes such as “enhancing the party’s centralised leadership over cyberspace affairs”, “making China a cyberspace superpower”, “winning the battle of online ideological struggle”, and “building up shared destiny in cyberspace”.

The World China Is Building


SHANGHAI — Over the past generation, China’s most important relationships were with the more developed world, the one that used to be called the “first world.” Mao Zedong proclaimed China to be the leader of a “third” (non-aligned) world back in the 1970s, and the term later came to be a byword for deprivation. The notion of China as a developing country continues to this day, even as it has become a superpower; as the tech analyst Dan Wang has joked, China will always remain developing — once you’re developed, you’re done.

Fueled by exports to the first world, China became something different — something not of any of the three worlds. We’re still trying to figure out what that new China is and how it now relates to the world of deprivation — what is now called the Global South, where the majority of human beings alive today reside. But amid that uncertainty, Chinese exports to the Global South now exceed those to the Global North considerably — and they’re growing.

The International Monetary Fund expects Asian countries to account for 70% of growth globally this year. China must “shape a new international system that is conducive to hedging against the negative impacts of the West’s decoupling,” the scholar and former People’s Liberation Army theorist Cheng Yawen wrote recently. That plan starts with Southeast Asia and extends throughout the Global South, a terrain that many Chinese intellectuals see as being on their side in the widening divide between the West and the rest.
“The idea is that what China is today, fast-growing countries from Bangladesh to Brazil could be tomorrow.”

China isn’t exporting plastic trinkets to these places but rather the infrastructure for telecommunications, transportation and digitally driven “smart cities.” In other words, China is selling the developmental model that raised its people out of obscurity and poverty to developed global superpower status in a few short decades to countries with people who have decided that they want that too.

Has China Peaked?

Ravi Agrawal

There’s been a spate of unflattering economic data out of China recently. Growth in the most recent quarter ending in June amounted to just 0.8 percent, dragged down by weak consumer spending. Trade flows have declined the most since the start of the pandemic. And rising geopolitical tensions have led multinational corporations to accelerate moves to shift their manufacturing and supply chains away from China.

Xi Jinping Is Trying to Adapt to Failure

Neil Thomas

Xi Jinping has ruled China for over a decade, but the way he rules it is changing. Xi faces domestic and international environments that are markedly worse than when he took office in 2012 as general secretary. The economy is struggling, confidence is faltering, debt is looming, and strategic competition with the United States and its allies is endangering the future of China’s technological advancement and economic growth.

China is erasing mention of its former foreign minister. But it still hasn’t said why

Simone McCarthy

Five weeks ago, the world watched as China’s Foreign Minister Qin Gang met US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Beijing for high stakes talks between the two powers.

But anyone looking for reference to that important event on the website of China’s Foreign Ministry will be disappointed, as that meeting – and all of Qin’s activities as foreign minister – has been erased from the record following a head-spinning leadership shake-up Tuesday that saw Qin abruptly replaced by his predecessor Wang Yi.

The shock ouster, approved by a top body within China’s rubber-stamp legislature, had followed weeks of questions and speculation about Qin’s fate after he disappeared from public view in late June, without a clear explanation.

The latest twist in the saga – the complete erasure of Qin’s swift, six-month tenure as foreign minister and his replacement by Wang, who held that post for roughly a decade before a promotion late last year – only serves to deepen the mystery.

Qin’s whereabouts, the reason for his removal, and his ultimate fate as a member of China’s Communist Party all remain unknown.

Unanswered questions about official decision-making are standard in China, where the political system is notoriously opaque and has only become more so under Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

Senior Chinese officials have disappeared from public view in the past only to turn up months later in announcements they’ve been under secret disciplinary investigation.

Don’t You Love Me? Cracks in the Iran-Russia Romance

Emil Avdaliani

Since the full-scale war in Ukraine began, Russia and Iran have advanced their ties in the military, economic, and intelligence spheres. The established narrative has been that the two are now nearing the creation of a de facto alliance.

Animated by opposition toward the West, their growing closeness seemed ever-expanding. This still might be true, but recent events have shown how fragile is their all-time high alignment. Iran may be forced to reconsider some aspects of its reliance on Russia.

On July 10, Russia and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states released a joint statement after a meeting in Moscow. It indirectly challenged Iran’s claim to three small Gulf islands (Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb, and Abu Musa) that sit athwart major shipping routes and are claimed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE.) The three have been Iranian-occupied since the pre-revolutionary era (1971.)

Iran’s reaction showed not only bewilderment at the Kremlin’s behavior but also a lack of trust. It summoned the Russian ambassador and the country’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian stated that Iran makes no concessions “to anyone regarding Iran’s independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity.” Other top Iranian officials such as Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani, Ali Akbar Velayati, a top advisor to Iran’s supreme leader, and former Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, all likewise criticized the UAE and Russia.

It is not the first time Iran has found itself in a difficult spot. Last year China and GCC signed a joint statement where the issue of the three islands was also mentioned, and again in a manner not to Iran’s liking. Back then, Tehran expressed dissatisfaction with China though in measured tones, indicating it understood which country has the whip hand. China has served as a pivotal state in Iran’s strategy of balancing the pressure from the United States, and many among the political elite seemed willing to compromise with it.

Yet with Russia, where Iran has a troubled history, Tehran is more vocal. Following initial protests on July 17, the Iranian foreign minister revealed that the Russians had provided some explanations, but said they were inadequate.

Allocation of powers in times of war: Israel’s case


The compounding impact of three events sheds light on Israel’s present upheaval concerning the allocation of power between its legislative and judicial branches.

One was the decision of David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, in 1948 exempting Ultra-Orthodox Jews from military service, which was supposedly to be of short duration but in fact is still in effect.

The second was the Supreme Court venturing into the constitutional void in matters of national security, particularly after the passing of a quasi-constitution (called Basic Laws) in 1992, inventing a fluid “reasonableness” doctrine. This doctrine drew on the legal philosophy of Aharon Barak, president of the Supreme Court between 1996 and 2005, that abstracted from realities of war and altered the meaning of a “Jewish state.”

Ben-Gurion believed that the exemption of Ultra-Orthodox, whose numbers stood then at 400, from serving in the army was justifiable, since the Holocaust had wiped out all the European Jewish centers of learning. Today though, there are 1.3 million Ultra-Orthodox (Israel’s population stands at 9.34 million), 60% under the age of 20, and 70,000 studying in this group’s institutions (called “yeshiva,” which means “sitting”).

It is a poor population, both men and women working few hours, living off grants and subsidies. The men are eternal students. The women take care of children: The group’s fertility rate is 6.6, though they work outside the home too. With such numbers, what started as a marginal issue becomes a serious political one as members of this group vote.

An Azerbaijan-Armenia Peace Deal Is Only Possible with Turkish and Iranian Participation

Alex Little

Despite another round of negotiations in Brussels on July 15, the situation in the long-contested region of Nagorno-Karabakh remains volatile as violence continues to rage between Armenia and Azerbaijan. In an attempt to stabilize boiling tensions, Armenian prime minister Nikol Pashinyan has vowed to recognize Nagorno-Karabakh as Azerbaijani territory. Future U.S.-hosted peace talks between Baku are critical for deciding the region's fate. While peacekeeping proposals focus on the two direct combatants, the involvement of Turkey, which supports Azerbaijan, and Iran, which supports Armenia, will be necessary for potential talks to form an enduring settlement.

Given its shared cultural and ethnic heritage and desire to protect its sphere of influence, Turkey has long supported Azerbaijan’s territorial claims in Nagorno-Karabakh. During the 2020 Second Nagorno-Karabakh War, Turkey grew bolder in its support by providing infrastructure and weapons assistance, including Bayraktar TB2 armed drones, which helped secure Azerbaijan’s overwhelming victory. Ankara’s support has encouraged Baku’s assertiveness and reluctance to grant concessions. This attitude persisted throughout the September 2022 border clashes. Turkish foreign minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu directly intervened, tweeting, “Armenia should cease its provocations and focus on peace negotiations and cooperation with Azerbaijan.”

Iran, meanwhile, played a pivotal role in perpetuating the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The Iranian army and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps have conducted large-scale military drills along its border with Azerbaijan. While Iran has a sizable Azerbaijani population, Tehran is concerned about Israeli influence in the Caucasus. Baku has received high-tech drones and other weapons from Jerusalem. Azerbaijan also supplies 40 percent of Israeli oil consumption. Iran is also concerned that Israel’s support for Azerbaijan is an opportunity for the former to conduct surveillance on Tehran via unmanned surveillance aircraft. Additionally, if Baku were to construct the Zangezur overland transport corridor, which would connect Azerbaijan and Turkey via southern Armenian territory, Iran could be further isolated from the South Caucasus.

Negotiating an End to the Ukraine War

Paul R. Pillar

More than forty years ago, I wrote a book titled Negotiating Peace that analyzed the diplomatic and military dynamics of bringing a war to an end. It drew material from the endings of wars through nearly two centuries, as well as a closer examination of a few major cases that had extended periods of simultaneous combat and negotiations. It also drew on theoretical work, chiefly by economists, about bargaining. Parts of the book got rather technical—it included differential equations—but it also had a more digestible prescriptive side. An appendix titled “Lessons for the Statesman at War” included forty-four pieces of advice for how best to employ diplomatic and military instruments to achieve a peace that will maximize the interests of one’s own nation.

Much of this advice is at least potentially applicable to the current war in Ukraine—from the standpoint not only of decisionmakers in Kyiv and Moscow but also of policymakers in Washington, in terms of what they should expect or hope to promote. The actual applicability of some of my apothegms will depend on events yet to unfold, but the following outlines a few of the major lessons.

The ending of the war in Ukraine will almost certainly entail some form of bargaining between Ukraine and Russia, and will leave a situation that represents a compromise between the interests of the two nations. It is rare in interstate conflicts for one belligerent to eradicate the other so that it has no need for any bargaining or compromise. It is not so rare in intrastate warfare, in which an insurgency might eliminate and replace an incumbent regime or the regime might crush the insurgency solely through military means (such as Sri Lanka’s final eradication of the Tamil Tiger insurgency in 2009).

But the eradication of a nation-state is a different matter and a less feasible outcome. Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein managed to do that temporarily when he used armed force to swallow Kuwait in 1990, but a U.S.-led intervention reversed that outcome the following year. The objective of Russian president Vladimir Putin in launching the current war in February 2022 may have been to eliminate Ukraine as an independent country, either through formal incorporation into Russia or by installing a puppet regime in Kyiv. It now is clear that Russian military force is insufficient to achieve any such outcome. And obviously, Ukraine cannot eliminate the Russian state.

Russia Prepares An ‘Avalanche’ Of FPV Kamikaze Drones

David Hambling

Small kamikaze quadcopters made from modified racing drones have become efficient weapons for both sides in the conflict in Ukraine. The Ukrainians, with a culture of startups and tech knowledge have been far ahead in this arms race, but with official support Russia network of artisanal drone makers is now catching up – and may exceed Ukrainian production.

In Ukraine, groups like Escadrone provide increasing numbers of the miniature loitering munitions capable of taking out a tank. An Escadrone spokesman told Forbes that their production is now up to over 1,500 FPVs per month, including the larger ‘Everstrike’ version capable of taking out the heaviest targets for just a few hundred dollars.

Russian volunteers have also been producing FPV drones. So far their efforts have appeared crude and smaller scale than their Ukrainian counterpart. That may be changing.

“We [Russian forces] will soon see an avalanche-like increase in strikes using this weapon,” claims one Russian Telegram user. “The Lancet will be the long arm and a flagship kamikaze drone at operational depth, while the FPV drones will take over tactical depths.”

As previously noted, ZALA have announced plans to triple production of the Lancet, a military loitering munition with a range of 25 miles. But can production of FPV drones be scaled up even more?

Samuel Bendett an expert Russian drones and adviser to both the CNA and CNAS, told Forbes that at present the FPV production is completely decentralized and none of it is coming through the Ministry of Defense’s official procurement process.

Is the Wagner Group a Terrorist Organization?

Amy Mackinnon

From Mali to Syria to Ukraine, the Kremlin-backed mercenary group Wagner has been accused of torturing, raping, and murdering civilians, prompting an effort on Washington’s Capitol Hill to brand the group as a foreign terrorist organization, putting it on a par with the Islamic State.

But the State Department, worried about the implications for U.S. diplomacy in a host of African countries where Wagner is known to operate, is quietly pushing back, according to congressional sources and former government officials. The concern is that such a move could jeopardize U.S. outreach to a handful of already unstable African countries, such as Mali and the Central African Republic, that could spiral into chaos if the Biden administration goes after Wagner too hard.

The group, which Russian President Vladimir Putin recently acknowledged was funded by the Russian state, has played an integral role in the invasion of Ukraine, spearheading the monthslong assault on the eastern town of Bakhmut. In Africa, where the group has been engaged in a range of activities including security, gold mining, and political campaigns, Wagner operatives have been accused of atrocities against civilians—including rape, torture, and extrajudicial killings.

The tussle in Washington over whether to formally label Wagner a terrorist group underscores the fine line trod by the Biden administration as it seeks to isolate Russia over its full-scale invasion of Ukraine while balancing the global ripple effects of the war. This caution has, at times, prompted critics both in the United States and in Europe to accuse the administration of being overly cautious on pushing back against Moscow. A bipartisan group of senators tabled legislation earlier this year that would force the Biden administration to label Wagner a foreign terrorist organization, an official government designation that seeks to isolate the group and prohibits Americans from providing it with financial or material support.

“War crimes should be punished harshly,” said Republican Sen. Roger Wicker. “While the Wagner Group and Russian military may be struggling, we cannot sit idly by as shadow armies continue murdering civilians and spreading violence. We have a duty to hold them accountable and show our adversaries how we respond to these threats.”

The group, lead by the longtime Putin ally Yevgeny Prigozhin, was labeled a transnational criminal organization by the U.S. Treasury in January. Experts note that there is no singular entity known as the Wagner Group. Rather, it is a sprawling network of shell companies and shadowy operatives whose services range from all-out warfare to troll factories. A terror designation could spur U.S. intelligence agencies and prosecutors to devote more time and resources to cauterizing Wagner’s global networks, according to testimony by Jason Blazakis, who led the State Department’s Counterterrorism Finance and Designation Office for more than a decade.

Bring Us Warriors, Not Warfighters, To Match My Mountains

Scott Sturman

United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) Superintendent Richard Clark's recent congressional testimony epitomized a senior military officer defending blatant sexual and racial discrimination. Under the superintendent's leadership the academy encouraged cadets to apply for the Brooke Owens Fellowship Program that prohibited white male applicants. All other racial and sexual groups, including straight women, were eligible for the 9 weeks paid fellowship at a leading aerospace company.

When pressed to justify the abrogation of fundamental human rights, the general contended that the decision enhanced the development of "warfighters," as if the word stands alone as a talisman to silence critics. The failure to condemn the program's abject bigotry in the public forum exposed an officer who is inured to hypocrisy and blinded by ideology.

The use of the term "warfighter" is ubiquitous in military parlance and is described in the Urban Dictionary as, "...someone in the US special operations community, who have had multiple combat deployments and engagements. They live, breathe, eat, and workout for the sole purpose of the next deployment. They are immensely skilled and bad ass. Fighting wars is their career." Most service members do not meet these standards, as only 10% of the military is engaged in combat or possesses the requisite of attitude and competence.

In 2015 an article appearing in Task and Purpose the author called the validity of the "warfighters" into question and dismissed it as a cliché that is as much manipulative as it is inspirational. The observation was prescient, since the word has become a catchall expression with multiple, ever-changing connotations. To its adherents, its implied meaning is unassailable, and therefore a convenient tool to defend and promote the most specious arguments.

The USAFA Administration declares the importance of training warfighters, but what does this mission mean? In the preface to the academy’s Diversity and Inclusion Plan, Superintendent Michael Gould stated that graduating a diverse corps of cadets is an important as the quality of academic education. He alludes to the known benefits of diversity without supporting documentation and states that diversity is a military necessity.

Russia-Ukraine WarU.S. Says Main Thrust of Ukraine’s Counteroffensive Has Begun

The main thrust of Ukraine’s nearly two-month-old counteroffensive is now underway in the country’s southeast, two Pentagon officials said on Wednesday, with thousands of reinforcements pouring into the grinding battle, many of them trained and equipped by the West and, until now, held in reserve.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss details of the campaign. Their comments dovetailed with reports from the battlefield on Wednesday, where artillery battles flared along the southern front line in the Zaporizhzhia region.

And Igor Konashenkov, the Russian Defense Ministry’s chief spokesman, reported a “massive” assault and fierce battles south of Orikhiv, a town that Ukraine holds about 60 miles north of the Sea of Azov. Vladimir Rogov, an official appointed by Moscow in southern Ukraine, said the assault involved Ukrainian troops who had been trained abroad and were equipped with about 100 armored vehicles, including German-made Leopards and American-made Bradley Fighting Vehicles.

Another Russian occupation official in Zaporizhzhia, Yevgeny Balitsky, said that Ukraine had made 36 attempts to shell settlements in the region since Tuesday. Russian assertions that the Ukrainian attacks had been repelled could not be immediately verified.

Ukrainian troops along the southern front said in interviews on Wednesday that they were steadily pushing Russian troops back, but their progress had been incremental with no major breakthroughs. They have been slowed by minefields, and some said the biggest obstacles were Russia’s withering artillery fire and airstrikes.

Ukrainian officials have told U.S. officials that the enlarged Ukrainian force would try to advance south through Russia’s minefields and other fortifications toward the city of Tokmak, and, if successful, on to Melitopol, near the coast.

Russian Logistics and Sustainment Failures in the Ukraine Conflict

Bradley Martin, D. Sean Barnett, Devin McCarthy

Research QuestionsWhy has the Russian invasion of Ukraine stumbled so significantly?

What are the possibilities for the ultimate outcome in Russia's attempt to challenge a Ukrainian regime?

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 22, 2022, on multiple fronts to establish Russian dominion on several provinces where separatist movements had contested Ukrainian government control. Given the apparent overwhelming imbalance in military size and capability between Ukraine and Russia, this operation was expected — both by Russian leadership and external observers — to last no more than a matter of weeks. The attack failed to achieve its stated objectives, in part because of poor planning and lack of capacity in logistics and sustainment. Similar issues have persisted, up through the time that this report was written in January 2023. In this report, authors examine the issues of logistics and sustainment facing the Russian armed forces throughout this campaign.

Key Findings

Russia's failures in the war with Ukraine were due to poor planning in that Russia did not correctly assess the logistics requirement, even if it possessed the capacity.

However, even if Russia had assessed the threat more effectively, it is not clear that Russia possessed the required force structure to execute its plans to dominate Ukraine.

Is Ukraine’s offensive stalling?

A breakthrough remains possible, but it will take time

Ukraine’s counter-offensive will soon enter its eighth week. It has already liberated more territory than Russia captured during a months-long winter offensive, which took the eastern town of Bakhmut and little else. The majority of Ukraine’s Western-equipped brigades remain intact and uncommitted. But progress has been slower and harder than expected, dashing hopes of an early breakthrough. The offensive has devolved into a protracted battle of attrition, which seems likely to stretch into the autumn.

Russians See Ukrainian Progress Where Others Don’t

Michael Weiss, James Rushton

One of the difficulties in covering the Russo-Ukraine War as a journalist is the tendency of so many in this profession to assemble facts in favor of whatever the prevailing narrative of the day is. Sixteen months ago, it was hard to find many people in prominent Washington think tanks or at major broadsheets who did not think Kyiv would fall in three days. When it didn’t, those wedded to the notion that Russia was a near-indomitable military power still found the conventional wisdom, built up over years of diligent study and perhaps the unconscious assimilation of Russian propaganda, hard to slough off. Just because Kyiv wasn’t sacked and the Russian army was driven out of the capital region, ran this line of thinking, didn’t mean Ukraine hadn’t exhausted its inventory of miracles. It could not claw back more territory. Then Kharkiv happened. A wondrous bait-and-switch operation, to be sure, but a one-off for that very reason. The Russians were learning, adapting and preparing, and the long-shot play to retake Kherson would prove it. Then Russia withdrew from half of that region in November as a “goodwill gesture.” And so on.

Having serially outperformed expectations, Ukraine finds itself in the unenviable position of having gone from scrappy underdog to victim of its own mythologized success. Six and a half weeks into a much-anticipated counteroffensive and there are no dramatic battlefield developments. A handful of settlements have been reclaimed in the southern regions of Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk, and that’s it. An absence of climax has begun to lead to impending anti-climax and the sort of doomcasting that characterized the preliminaries of Russia’s full-scale invasion. The counteroffensive into which Kyiv and its NATO partners have invested so much kit, manpower and money is already a busted flush, we are told. “Ukraine’s counter-offensive is failing, with no easy fixes,” ran one comment piece in The Daily Telegraph. This was preceded four days earlier by an even less sunny prognosis in the same newspaper, “Ukraine and the West are facing a devastating defeat.”

Ironically, such assessments stand in marked contrast to what Russians in the field are saying about the capability of their adversary. But to understand where Ukraine is headed, it’s first necessary to explain where it is.

Moscow drone attack – Buildings opposite GRU Cyber Warfare Unit targeted – Bellingcat

Christo Grozev

“Russian media report that a drone attacked buildings near Komsomolsky prospect 17 in Moscow; traffic down this avenue has been closed,” Grozev tweeted on July 24.

This address is directly opposite the office of the GRU’s cyber warfare unit, specifically FancyBear, he said.

The address also houses the Defense Ministry’s Military University and several highly secretive GRU facilities, including the leadership of their illegal program.

“If Ukraine hit that building complex, the symbolic damage to MoD/GRU will be very significant,” he wrote.

Drones struck Moscow in the early hours of July 24, causing shattered windows and partial damage to building roofs. One UAV fell close to the Russian Defense Ministry, and another struck a business center.

This is not the first drone attack on Moscow. On May 30, drones crashed in five settlements in Moscow Oblast, resulting in damage to at least three high-rise buildings.

Notable figures, including Arkady and Boris Rotenberg, Finance Minister Anton Siluanov, Valery Zorkin chair , and Federation Council speaker Valentina Matvienko, reside in those areas.

The press service of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin claimed on May 3 that Ukraine attempted to strike the Kremlin. According to Russian propaganda, a drone attack caused a fire on the dome of the Kremlin’s palace, which houses the working offices of Vladimir Putin and his Kremlin apartment.

The war in Ukraine is spurring a revolution in drone warfare using AI

John Hudson and Kostiantyn Khudov

LVIV, Ukraine — In an open test field in rural Ukraine, a drone equipped with a bomb lost connection with its human operator after coming under attack by electronic jamming equipment — but instead of crashing to the ground, the drone accelerated toward its target and destroyed it.

The drone avoided the fate of thousands of other uncrewed aircraft in this war by relying on new artificial intelligence software that accounts for the electronic interference now commonly deployed by Russia, stabilizing the drone and keeping it locked on a preselected target. AI capabilities help the drone complete its mission even if its target moves, representing a significant upgrade from existing drones that track specific coordinates.

Such AI technology, under development by a growing number of Ukrainian drone companies, is one of several innovative leaps underway in Kyiv’s domestic drone market that are accelerating and democratizing the lethality of unmanned warfare — especially crucial for Ukraine’s outgunned military, which is fighting a larger and better-equipped Russian enemy.

The improvements in speed, flight range, payload capacity and other capabilities are having an immediate impact on the battlefield, enabling Ukraine to destroy Russian vehicles, blow up surveillance posts and even wreck parts of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s prized Crimean Bridge in an operation last week involving explosive-laden naval drones.

The design and software innovations, as well as mass dissemination of piloting know-how, are also likely to influence the way drones are used far beyond the war in Ukraine, with serious implications for governments confronting separatist militias, drug cartels and extremist groups seeking to gain a technological edge.

“With tens of thousands of people going through drone training on both sides of this war, it is very likely that this experience is spreading far and wide, including to nefarious actors,” said Samuel Bendett, a Russia-focused drone expert at CNA, a Washington-based think tank.

A Punisher strike drone, manufactured by UA Dynamics, is launched on a test flight outside Kyiv on July 15. (Kasia Strek/Panos Pictures for The Washington Post)

US DoD must stop neglecting ‘Agile software development’

John Hill

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found that the US Department of Defense (DoD) does not ensure that all of its weapon system programmes adhere to its new ‘Agile software acquisition’ programme guidelines.

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US DoD must stop neglecting ‘Agile software development’
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The DoD’s ability to respond to threats is increasingly determined by its rapid development and deployment of software, as much as its responsibility to acquire tangible military assets like platforms and ammunition.

The department has been undergoing a modernisation strategy for more readily deployable, or ‘Agile software’. Since 2020, the DoD established six acquisition pathways – or sets of policy and guidance – that are tailored to the type of capabilities being acquired. The department requires programmes on its software pathway to use requirements processes tailored to support this ‘Agile development’.

‘Agile’ is intended to deliver working software to users in less than a year and add capability iteratively based on user needs. In contrast, the DoD’s earlier acquisition model, known as its ‘waterfall approach’, could take over ten years to deliver software and involves greater risk.

However, the requirement processes used by weapon programmes developing software on a different pathway generally do not incorporate the Agile principles. By not incorporating Agile principles into requirements processes, these programmes risk developing capabilities that may not reflect changing user needs or threats.

This neglect comes down to DoD failing to issue corresponding guidance for weapon programmes using Agile software development on other pathways. As a result, programmes on other acquisition pathways, such as those developing new aircraft or ships, may not be positioned to conduct effective oversight of iteratively delivered software capabilities.
Software acquisition as a threat to the Rules-Based Order

Ukraine Admits It Lags Behind Russia in Anti-Drone 'Electronic Warfare'


Russia is significantly ahead of Ukraine in using drone-jamming electronic warfare technology, Kyiv's military said, as unmanned vehicles adopt an ever-higher profile in the ongoing conflict.

Moscow is "far ahead" of Kyiv in the deployment of electronic-jamming equipment to intercept incoming drone attacks, Ukrainian air force spokesperson Colonel Yuriy Ignat told Ukraine's telethon news service, in comments reported by Strana.

With electronic jamming, drones do not "need to be shot down by anti-aircraft missiles or anti-aircraft guns," Ignat said. "You can just force it to land, intercept it with electronic warfare."
A Ukrainian drone operator lands his drone after a surveillance flight on July 16, 2023 near Bakhmut in the Donetsk region of Ukraine. Moscow is "far ahead" of Kyiv in the deployment of electronic-jamming equipment to intercept incoming drone attacks, Ukrainian air force spokesperson Yuriy Ignat told telethon, in comments reported by Strana.

The fast pace of drone development has dominated coverage of the Ukraine war. The technology has progressed at "lightning" speed, U.K.-based drone expert Steve Wright previously told Newsweek, adding that counter-drone systems are maturing along with the unmanned vehicles themselves.

Russia has said it has used electronic jamming to take down drones in attacks on Moscow, which it blamed squarely on Kyiv. Experts say Ukraine has made effective use of anti-drone guns, including large-caliber weapons, and expensive air-defense systems, but that is hard to sustain against swarms of unmanned vehicles.

"Russia today has powerful systems that interfere with the work of our defense forces," Ignat said, adding: "They have enough of these systems."

Inside Five Eyes, the World’s Most Exclusive Intelligence Alliance


After the recent NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, it is anticipated that Sweden will soon become the alliance’s 32nd member.

The heart of this alliance — which was established in the aftermath of World War II to promote the collective security of its mostly Western European members — is Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty, which requires that if one member is attacked, then all of the other members will respond as if they themselves had been attacked.

Its most recent addition came in April 2023, when Finland became the 31st country to join.

At present, NATO currently recognizes Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, and Ukraine as aspiring members.

But NATO isn’t the only alliance that countries across the globe are eager to join.

For more than 75 years, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the U.K., and the U.S. have been sharing intelligence with one another as part of what they call the Five Eyes alliance.

I am a former U.S. Army intelligence analyst who now studies and teaches political science. I know from personal experience that the Five Eyes is still very active in the 21st century, even though it’s not as well known as its younger sibling NATO.

The Origins of Five Eyes

A 1941 document in which U.K. Prime Minister Winston Churchill approved sharing key intelligence secrets with the U.S. Image courtesy of America’s National Churchill Museum, CC BY-ND

In 1940, during the prime ministership of Winston Churchill, a secret effort by U.K. codebreakers to deconstruct Germany’s Enigma machine succeeded, allowing the British to read German military messages. These messages ended up being a major source of intelligence throughout World War II, providing much-needed information about German troop numbers, military maneuvers, and technological developments.

Quantum Sensors Have Potential to Replace GPS

Jan Tegler

Researchers in government and industry laboratories across the globe are in a race to refine technology and methods for detecting changes in motion and electric and magnetic fields at the atomic level.

Spotting minute changes in the known properties of atoms can yield extremely precise and accurate measurements — a technique known as quantum sensing.

While suitable for a range of applications, quantum sensing for navigation is an area of prime interest for the Pentagon. U.S. warfighters routinely train for operations in GPS-denied environments as realization has grown that technologically sophisticated rivals like China or Russia can corrupt or disable the GPS signals the U.S. military relies upon.

Work done by Naval Research Laboratory research physicist Roger Easton was foundational for GPS, leading to the launch of NTS-2, the first satellite to transmit GPS signals in 1977. Today the NRL’s Section Head in Quantum Optics, Adam Black, is among those adapting quantum sensors for an alternative navigation technique that predates GPS — inertial navigation.

“I think that with some of the smallest atomic inertial technologies we might only be a few years out from something like that,” Black said, describing quantum inertial measurement units that could be much smaller than the large, fixed equipment currently used for quantum sensing research and development in laboratories.

Inertial navigation employs accelerometers, gyroscopes and a computer — known collectively as an inertial measurement unit, or IMU — to continuously calculate the position, the orientation and velocity of a moving object without the need for external references. In use for military aircraft and weapons guidance since the 1960s, the technology was supplanted by GPS by the early 1990s.

Less vulnerable to disruption than GPS, inertial navigation using quantum sensors is viewed as a way to navigate with similar or better accuracy than GPS when compromised or unavailable.

AI leaders warn Congress that AI could be used to create bioweapons

Gerrit De Vynck

A trio of influential artificial intelligence leaders testified at a congressional hearing Tuesday, warning that the frantic pace of AI development could lead to serious harms within the next few years, such as rogue states or terrorists using the tech to create bioweapons.

Yoshua Bengio, an AI professor at the University of Montreal who is known as one of the fathers of modern AI science, said the United States should push for international cooperation to control the development of AI, outlining a regime similar to international rules on nuclear technology. Dario Amodei, the chief executive of AI start-up Anthropic, said he fears cutting edge AI could be used to create dangerous virus and other bioweapons in as little as two years. And Stuart Russell, a computer science professor at the University of California at Berkeley, said the way AI works means it is harder to fully understand and control than other powerful technologies.

“Recently I and many others have been surprised by the giant leap realized by systems like ChatGPT,” Bengio said during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. “The shorter timeline is more worrisome.”

The hearing demonstrated how concerns about AI surpassing human intelligence and getting out of control have quickly gone from the realm of science fiction to the mainstream. For years, futurists have theorized that one day AI could become smarter than humans and develop its own goals, potentially leading it to harm humanity.

But in the past six months, a handful of prominent AI researchers, including Bengio, have moved up their timelines for when they think “supersmart” AI might be possible from decades to potentially just a few years. Those concerns are now reverberating around Silicon Valley, in the media and in Washington, and politicians are referencing those threats as one of the reasons governments need to pass legislation.

Strategic Command officially creates Joint Electromagnetic Spectrum Operations Center


U.S. Strategic Command will official establish the Joint Electromagnetic Spectrum Operations Center in a ceremony Wednesday, serving as a key piece of the Pentagon’s implementation plan for its spectrum superiority strategy to gain an advantage over adversaries.

The JEC, as it is known, will aim to raise the readiness of the joint force within the electromagnetic spectrum, serving as the heart of the Defense Department’s EMSO, according to a spokesperson. It will work to restructure accounts for force management, planning, situation monitoring, decision-making and force direction while focusing on training and education with capability assessments.

This new center will also support combatant commands with EMSO training, planning and requirements support.

The organization derives its creation from the implementation plan of the DOD’s 2020 electromagnetic spectrum superiority strategy.

The U.S. military has been on a path of aggressive modernization within the spectrum in recent years after it divested much of the advanced capabilities it possessed throughout the Cold War and waged the post-9/11 counterterrorism campaigns. Now, as sophisticated adversaries have discovered the necessary reliance on spectrum for communications, precision weapons and navigation, the battle for supremacy in this invisible sphere has commenced.

“The activation of the Joint Electromagnetic Spectrum Operations Enterprise Center at Offutt Air Force Base represents a significant achievement and is an important day for the nation,” Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., a retired electronic warfare one-star general with the Air Force, said in a statement to DefenseScoop. “As a career electronic warfare officer in the U.S. Air Force, I entered Congress deeply concerned about the significant decline in the capabilities and readiness of our electronic warfare forces.”

Bacon didn’t believe the DOD had moved fast enough to address those concerns.