2 August 2023

‘Confusing At Best’: Retired Colonel Says No One Was In Charge Of Afghanistan Withdrawa


A retired Army colonel said Thursday that the lack of a leader directing the military and State Department actions on the ground during the Afghanistan withdrawal created confusion and contributed to the perceived failures that marked the war’s end in 2021.

Republican Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, at a Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing on the Afghanistan withdrawal, said the Biden administration had yet answer his request for evidence of an evacuation plan, suggesting that perhaps none existed in the first place. The Biden administration said it accounted for all possible contingencies, but the high-ranking colonels who commanded in Afghanistan testified to Congress that the administration chose an inferior course of action that failed to account for the Taliban’s catapult toward Kabul.

“There’s nobody functionally in charge of our wars on the ground” Retired Col. Christopher Kolenda, a combat leader in Afghanistan who participated in the Doha negotiations with the Taliban, told the panel. (RELATED: Pentagon Did Not Force Family Of Fallen Marine To Foot The Bill For Flight To Arlington Cemetery)

While the President and National Security council made decisions from Washington, the military, State Department and other U.S. organizations worked on the ground without anyone directly negotiating between them, Kolenda said. These “bureaucratic silos” created problems during the evacuation.

“I have not seen an evacuation plan,” McCaul said. “Nobody knows who’s really in charge because there was no plan in place.”

U.S. Central Command provided a selection of plans to senior commanders, and Generals Mark Milley, Austin Miller and Kenneth McKenzie recommended not to withdraw until conditions were met, Retired Col. Seth Krummich said. However, civilian leaders in Washington rejected evacuation recommendations given by the generals in charge of the military dimension of the withdrawal.

The scattered forces opposing the Taliban need support now

David Loyn

It is two years since the United States withdrew its troops from Afghanistan and ceded power in the land to the Taliban. Yet the Taliban’s control of the country remains fragile, and if its administration were to break up, there is a danger Afghanistan would become a failed state of feuding warlords and a crucible for terrorism. The international community is doing little to support a potential opposition to Taliban rule, something that should now become an urgent priority.

It is hard to know what is going on inside the Taliban. But a brief window into the internal tensions opened earlier this year when a number of senior figures, including Sirajuddin Haqqani, the acting interior minister, and Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, the acting deputy foreign minister, were filmed speaking out against the tight control by Hibatullah Akhunzada, the supreme leader who issues edicts from his base in Kandahar. The public expressions of dissent were squashed and Stanikzai left the country, but the tensions have not gone away.

The Taliban face a different country from the one they left in 2001, with a new generation with different aspirations

The principal division is between the Haqqani network, which controls Kabul and is strong in the capital and the east, and the Kandahar leadership in the south. The Haqqani network was founded in Pakistan and is backed by Pakistani intelligence. It has been formally allied to the Taliban for more than a decade, but the relationship is now strained.

Both sides have been courting loyal commanders. Hibatullah is said to have brought a
suicide bomber unit back to Kandahar for his added protection.

The Taliban have found it hard to adapt from being a guerrilla group to a government. Many ministries are headed by poorly educated clerics. While operating in the shadows for most of the past 20 years, the Taliban imposed control through intimidation – killing more than 10,000 tribal elders and religious scholars, according to one military source, and mobilizing opinion against the presidency of Ashraf Ghani, calling it corrupt and westernized.

Dean Cheng on “China and Space: The Next Frontier of Lawfare”


Today we are very pleased to have China expert Dean Cheng share with us his latest thinking on the relationship of three fascinating (and timely!) topics: China, space, and lawfare.

As Dean explains, the Chinese are sophisticated lawfare or “legal warfare” practitioners. Reading how China is utilizing legal techniques at the same time it is making rapid advances in space technology is an eye opener. I learned a lot, and I bet you will too. Here’s Dean:

China and Space: The Next Frontier of Lawfare - by Dean Cheng

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) is one of the most thoughtful practitioners of legal warfare or “lawfare.” For PRC planners, especially those in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), legal warfare is an integral part of the larger effort of “political warfare.” Indeed, legal warfare is embedded in the Chinese conception of political warfare.

From the Chinese perspective, political warfare, including legal warfare, is seen as a form of combat. Military combat preparations include the development and innovation of military political work, alongside more kinetic forms of operations.

Indeed, political warfare is seen as a vital complement for more traditional forms of military operations. While they may not be decisive in their own right, political warfare tactics nonetheless may allow their practitioner to seize the initiative and otherwise multiply the effects of military power.

Political warfare, in Chinese writings, is comprised of a number of different types of activities. These include what are termed “the three warfares” of public opinion warfare, psychological warfare, and legal warfare.

Public opinion warfare is aimed at broadly shaping and influencing domestic and international views of the PRC and other states, while psychological warfare (at the strategic level) tries to influence various economic, political, and other societal leaders to not oppose Chinese actions and even to support them. These complement legal warfare.

Xi Jinping May Be Souring on His ‘Best, Most Intimate Friend’

Ryan Hass

When Xi Jinping ascended to the pinnacle of Chinese power a decade ago, he saw Vladimir Putin as a strong leader who shared his hostility to the Western-dominated international system. They bonded over mutual paranoia about threats to their rule and exchanged best practices for imposing control at home and making the world more accommodating of their authoritarian impulses. Mr. Xi referred to Mr. Putin as his “best, most intimate friend.”

In the wake of the Wagner affair, Mr. Xi’s big bet on the Russian leader isn’t looking so safe.

The disastrous Russian war effort, culminating in last month’s aborted insurrection by the Wagner group’s paramilitary chief, Yevgeny Prigozhin, has exposed Mr. Putin’s Russia for what it is: a weakened, unpredictable nuclear state on China’s border, with a wounded leader whose long-term hold on power is not assured.

Mr. Xi cannot afford to abandon Mr. Putin altogether. He has invested too much in the relationship, and Russia remains useful to China. But the bromance that has caused so much concern in the West has probably peaked.

If Mr. Xi is to achieve his strategic goal of surpassing U.S. strength around the world, he will need to rebalance his foreign policy to account for Mr. Putin’s vulnerabilities. That may mean stronger Chinese support for ending a war that has backfired so severely on the Russian leader and a potentially less confrontational Chinese approach toward the United States and Taiwan.

There are signs the Xi-Putin bonhomie may already be cooling. Beijing offered only a muted response to the Wagner episode, calling it an “internal affair,” but hints of alarm over the failed mutiny have appeared in Chinese state-run media. Mr. Xi would not benefit by giving a blank check of support to Mr. Putin now. Doing so could invite questioning at home about Mr. Xi’s foreign policy judgment, which might only worsen if Mr. Putin were to suffer further setbacks.

The West’s Chinese Crossroads


BERLIN – Last month, Canada suddenly announced that it was freezing all ties with the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, a multilateral lender created by China as an alternative to the World Bank. According to Canada’s finance minister, Chrystia Freeland, the decision comes in response to allegations that the Chinese government has stacked the institution with Communist Party of China officials who “operate like an internal secret police.”

Then, just days later, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó announced that the Chinese company Huayou Cobalt would site its first European factory in Hungary, in the small village of Ács, where it will produce cathode materials for electric-vehicle batteries.

Against the backdrop of the US-China rivalry, it is easy to dismiss these two headlines as trivial. But Canada and Hungary’s leanings are highly relevant to this bigger geopolitical story. While decision-making in Washington and Beijing obviously matters, these strategic bets by smaller countries offer equally important insights into the future of globalization.

Canada and Hungary are among NATO’s less populous member states. And with each undergoing a fundamental change to its strategic outlook, the two countries are somewhat unexpectedly beginning to trade places. Five years ago, Hungary was the poster child of nationalism, and Canada a paragon of free-trading globalization. But now, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his political director, Balázs Orbán (no relation), are betting on a strategy of economic connectivity, whereas Canada is heading in the opposite direction.

Faced with all the talk of protectionism, decoupling, and China’s notion of economically self-sufficient “dual circulation,” Balázs contends that, “If the fragmented, bloc-based international order of the cold war era is restored, it will threaten Hungary’s international relations and trade status.” For a country whose economic model relies on trade with both Germany and China, and on oil and gas from Russia, decoupling is bad news. Thus, the “Orbán doctrine” is about finding a sweet spot between China and the United States, rather than choosing one over the other.

The Dangers of Detachment

Ali Wyne

The past three years have conclusively demonstrated the dangers of excessive dependence. No country can any longer doubt the risks of relying too heavily on another for vital commodities, especially a strategic competitor. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed a widespread lack of essential medicines, even among rich countries such as the United States, and the concerning degree to which China dominates the production of basic protective equipment. Then, in 2022, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine revealed how much the EU had come to rely on Moscow’s gas and oil exports. These events have forced Washington and Brussels to consider various ways of reconfiguring commercial ties with Beijing and severing them with Moscow.

It was not supposed to be this way. In the quarter century after the Cold War ended, Western countries largely believed—or at least hoped—that the Soviet Union’s dissolution would inaugurate a new normal of benign relations between democracies and autocracies. Then U.S. Senator Barack Obama articulated this view in 2006, contending that “competition between the great powers” was an antiquated way of viewing international relations. Obama concluded that “the world’s most powerful nations . . . are largely committed to a common set of international rules governing trade, economic policy, and the legal and diplomatic resolution of disputes.” But that assessment no longer holds. The West increasingly, and understandably, regards interdependence not as a stabilizing factor in its relations with China and Russia but as a potential vulnerability.

Yet the West’s efforts to rapidly shift course could bring new challenges. If an earlier era of globalization led to what the political economists Henry Farrell and Abraham Newman have called “weaponized interdependence”—in which states that control key information and financial hubs coerce and punish others—the years to come could produce what might be called “weaponized detachment,” in which greater economic independence emboldens states to act more aggressively. In other words, Beijing and Moscow could become less fearful of contesting Western influence and more likely to deepen their partnership, especially if they are able to bolster ties with nonaligned powers and countries across the developing world. Western countries, then, should be careful as they adjust economic relations with their main competitors.


Could economic indicators give an early warning of a war over Taiwan?

In the early 1980s, during a tense period in the cold war, the Soviet Union feared that America and its allies were considering a nuclear strike and went looking for warning signs. The kgb’s list of indicators ranged well beyond the military sphere. Big campaigns to donate blood, the slaughter of livestock and the movement of art might signal that an attack was coming.

Today a new kind of cold war pits America against China. And again analysts are looking for signs of a potential conflict. The most likely flashpoint is Taiwan, the self-governing island that China claims and America supports. Were China planning to invade Taiwan, its military preparations would be hard to hide. But before troops begin to muster, other actions, of an economic and financial nature, might signal China’s intent.

Team Biden Outmaneuvered by China?

Eric Rozenman

U.S. policy toward China appears to be suffering from a belief in magic – that, for instance, withdrawing from Afghanistan would be a great idea; that Putin would be happy with a "minor incursion" into Ukraine; that the Chinese spy balloon was "silly;" that the mission of education and the military should be to ensure "equity," leading one veteran to say that the US is "trying to out-pronoun our enemies;" and that America's southern border, with agents trying to process reportedly 8,000 illegal migrants each day, thereby leaving vast swaths of land open to traffickers, smugglers and terrorists, is "secure."

Regrettably, the Biden Administration seems to be letting itself be outmaneuvered in countering the imminent threat of war posed by China's leader Xi Jinping and his ruling Communist Party.

Blinken swallowed the airport insult and met anyway with, among others, his Chinese counterpart and Xi himself. They held what the State Department called "a productive conversation, a real exchange." Chinese officials likewise said the talks were "candid, in-depth and constructive." Oh good! Then we have nothing to worry about!

At home, Xi has continued to tighten party control over the economy even as economic growth has faltered and unemployment climbed. Why pursue antagonistic policies abroad and counter-productive ones at home?

Xi's objectives are not economic growth or good relations but rather to insulate China from outside sanctions and other pressure like that, orchestrated by the United States and NATO against Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. — J. Kyle Bass, founder of Texas-based Hayman Capital Management, July 12, 2023.

"The day Yellen landed in China, Xi told the Eastern Military Command to prepare for war. I think it's highly likely he invades Taiwan." Not by 2027, as estimated by U.S. intelligence, but "in 12 to 18 months." — J. Kyle Bass, July 12, 2023.

Regrettably, the Biden Administration seems to be letting itself be outmaneuvered in countering the imminent threat of war posed by China's leader Xi Jinping and his ruling Communist Party. Pictured: US President Joe Biden meets with China's President Xi Jinping at the G20 Summit in Bali, Indonesia on November 14, 2022. (Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images)

Biden to reverse Trump decision to move Space Command to Alabama


The Biden administration will keep U.S. Space Command in Colorado, reversing a Trump administration plan to move the headquarters to Alabama.

The move seems likely to enrage Alabama Republicans, who have been feuding with the White House and the Pentagon over numerous political issues.

“Locating Headquarters U.S. Space Command in Colorado Springs ultimately ensures peak readiness in the space domain for our nation during a critical period,” Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said in a Monday statement. “It will also enable the command to most effectively plan, execute and integrate military spacepower into multi-domain global operations in order to deter aggression and defend national interests.”

The Associated Press first reported the decision Monday afternoon.

Ryder said the decision to keep the command in Colorado was supported by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, and Gen. James Dickinson, the Army general in charge of Space Command.

Colorado has been home to Space Command since the Trump administration turned the headquarters into a combatant command in August 2019. The state is also home to several Space Force bases used to control satellites flying high above the Earth.

Trump called for moving the command to Huntsville, Alabama. Home of the Army’s Redstone Arsenal, a sprawling military complex with thousands of personnel, the Rocket City has played an outsized role in U.S. space exploration. The vast majority of defense contractors have a presence in Huntsville. Trump’s call was echoed by his final Air Force secretary, Barbara Barrett, one week before she resigned at the end of the Trump administration.

Behind the Demise of the Black Sea Grain Deal

Dr. Hasim Turker

In the midst of the protracted conflict between Russia and Ukraine, a significant diplomatic achievement was realized in July 2022: the Black Sea grain deal. This accord, meticulously brokered by the Türkiye and the United Nations, facilitated the export of commercial food and fertilizers from three pivotal Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea – Odessa, Chornomorsk, and Pivdennyi.

This agreement was not merely a testament to the efficacy of diplomatic negotiations, but also a crucial intervention in the global food market, which had been severely impacted by the ongoing conflict. By ensuring the export of grain and fertilizers, the agreement offered a potential solution to the escalating food insecurity crisis, exacerbated by the persistent hostilities.

However, this diplomatic triumph was ephemeral. In 2023, the Russian Federation unilaterally decided to terminate the agreement. This abrupt cessation of the Black Sea grain deal had far-reaching implications that extended beyond the immediate geographical confines of Ukraine and Russia. The termination of the agreement disrupted the precarious equilibrium that had been established and had a profound impact on the global food market. The reverberations of this decision continue to be felt, underscoring the intricate and complex interplay between geopolitics and global food security.

The Black Sea Grain Deal: A Brief Overview

The Black Sea grain deal, conceived as a strategic initiative, was a meticulously designed solution to a complex problem. It aimed to ensure the export of Ukrainian grain via the Istanbul Strait, a critical waterway connecting the Black Sea to the Mediterranean. This initiative was necessitated by the limitations and logistical challenges associated with alternative methods of transport. Road or rail transport through Poland, or canal and river transport through Romania, were deemed less efficient and more susceptible to the vagaries of the ongoing conflict.

Amid the Counterattack’s Deadly Slog, a Glimmer of Success for Ukraine

Carlotta Gall

For 10 days, Ukrainian marines fought street by street and house by house to recapture the southeastern village of Staromaiorske, navigating artillery fire, airstrikes and hundreds of Russian troops.

The Russians put up a ferocious defense but that ended on Thursday when they folded and the Ukrainians claimed victory. “Some ran away, some were left behind,” said an assault commander from Ukraine’s 35th Marine Brigade, who uses the call sign Dikyi, which means Wild. “We were taking captives,” he added.

The recapture of Staromaiorske, a small village that is nonetheless critical to Ukraine’s southern strategy, was such a welcome development for Ukraine that President Volodymyr Zelensky announced it himself.

The counteroffensive has largely been a brutal lesson for Ukrainian troops, who have struggled to seize back territory across the southern region of Zaporizhzhia. In two months, Ukrainian troops have advanced less than 10 miles at any point along the region’s 100-mile front.

Victories, like the one at Staromaiorske, represent a potential breakthrough in the fighting, Ukrainian officials said, perhaps opening the way for a broader push by their country’s forces.

A view from inside a military vehicle driven by a soldier. A severely damaged building can be seen through the windshield.

A Ukrainian soldier with the 35th Marine Brigade driving a Humvee in the Zaporizhzhia region.Credit...Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

Why the Niger coup matters — and what the U.S. should do about it

Gen. Abdourahmane Tchiani

In April 2021, Niger’s Mohamed Bazoum made history by becoming the first democratically elected president to take power from a popularly elected predecessor since the country’s independence. Now, Mr. Bazoum is said to be holed up in the presidential palace, thankfully still able to communicate by telephone, while his leading military man and erstwhile protector, Gen. Abdourahmane Tchiani, has proclaimed himself the new head of state. This follows yet another coup in this landlocked, strategically important country and continues a disturbing pattern in coup-prone West Africa.

This outrageous power grab cannot be allowed to stand. Secretary of State Antony Blinken was correct in giving his “unflagging support” for Mr. Bazoum and condemning this illegal and unconstitutional military takeover. The United States has about 1,100 troops in Niger, including a drone base, helping the country’s military battle Islamist insurgents linked to the Islamic State and al-Qaeda. The United States also provides hundreds of millions of dollars in nonmilitary foreign assistance. The coup-makers need to know that U.S. support will be withdrawn unless Mr. Bazoum is restored to the presidency.

Few Americans have likely heard of Niger, a country larger in size than Texas and rich in uranium but whose people are among the world’s poorest. It shares with many of its African neighbors a history of military men meddling in politics, having suffered through four previous coups and many other attempts since its independence from France in 1960.

The country also sits in the middle of the unstable semiarid Sahel region south of the Sahara desert that unfortunately has become known as Africa’s “coup belt.” Neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso recently also saw democratic governments toppled in coups, ostensibly for the same reason cited by Niger’s generals in their power grab — the supposed failure of civilian leaders to crack down hard enough on the Islamist insurgents and bring security to the population. Niger’s newest would-be military leader specifically blamed the deposed president for failing to cooperate more fully with Mali’s military regime.

The BBC and the Decline of British Soft Power

Simon J. Potter

During a civil war, sometimes the most reliable news comes from very far away. As Sudan became a conflict zone last April, the BBC World Service launched an emergency “pop-up” news outlet to keep local listeners informed about the deteriorating situation in the country, providing bulletins in Arabic from London, Amman, and Cairo. The global news channel deployed old and new technologies side by side: shortwave radio, the medium of choice for international broadcasters since the 1920s, was combined with feeds on digital and social media channels. The aim, according to the director of the World Service, was to bring “clear, independent information and advice at a time of critical need.” Such language, perhaps unconsciously, built on a conceit that dates to the eve of World War II: that the BBC altruistically and impartially presents its global audience with truthful, trustworthy news. Indeed, the UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan described the World Service in 1999 as “perhaps Britain’s greatest gift to the world this century.”

The World Service currently broadcasts in more than 40 languages, reaching an estimated 365 million people each week through radio and digital outlets. It is operated by the United Kingdom’s biggest public service broadcaster. The BBC is, in theory at least, independent from day-to-day government intervention, protected by a royal charter that makes it responsible to the British Parliament rather than to government ministers or officials. It is funded mainly by a television license fee, which everyone in the United Kingdom who watches BBC programs, broadcast or online, is legally obligated to pay.

Today, the BBC claims that an unprecedented number of people around the world consume its news, with some estimates placing its global audience upward of 500 million. The World Service brings in the lion’s share of this audience and can claim with some justification to be one of the ways the United Kingdom still maintains an outsized role in the lives of people around the world. And yet, despite its obvious importance at a time of rising international tensions, the World Service has recently found itself in financial peril. In September 2022, the BBC announced a major retrenchment at the World Service, with the projected loss of almost 400 jobs and the winding down of broadcast radio services (digital offerings would continue) in a range of Asian languages. In January, the World Service ended its Arabic-language broadcasts, which had been in operation for 85 years. Seen in this light, the creation of a pop-up service for Sudan seems less a mark of the World Service’s strength and more a recognition of the damage caused by recent cuts.

Starlink has become the 'blood' of Ukraine's communication infrastructure, but officials are reportedly growing concerned about relying on Elon Musk's tech

Katie Hawkinson

Residents of Kherson, Ukraine gather to use Starlink internet in November 2022. Valentyn Ogirenko/ReutersA Ukrainian official told The New York Times that Starlink satellites are vital to their communication systems.

But he also voiced concerns about Ukraine's overdependence on Musk's global satellite system.

Ukraine's digital minister has reported concerns about the country's overreliance on Elon Musk's Starlink satellite internet system amid the war with Russia, The New York Times reports.

Mykhailo Fedorov told The Times that Starlink has become the "blood" of Ukrainian communication infrastructure. Starlink satellites make up the majority of satellites orbiting Earth, and the network is often useful for accessing the internet in war zones or regions struck by extreme weather disasters, The Times reports.

Starlink satellites, then, are invaluable resources — but also ones that Fedorov told The Times he's worried Ukraine has become overdependent on.

Capability development is critical for businesses who want to push the envelope of innovation.

Starlink internet has not always been available to aid Ukraine in the war effort. In September 2022, Ukrainian officials revealed Musk had blocked Starlink internet access in Russian-occupied Crimea, citing concerns about escalating the conflict. Around the same time, Musk also asked the US Pentagon to fund for their internet services to Ukraine because they could no longer afford to foot the bill, Insider reported.

In February, Ukrainian presidential advisor Mykhailo Podolyak said SpaceX — Musk's company that houses Starlink — needed to pick a side in the war with Russia after Musk announced Kyiv could no longer use Starlink to control military drones.


Travis Reese and Dylan Phillips-Levine

This is the third and final part of Travis Reese’s CIMSEC Readiness Series. Read Part 1 on properly defining joint readiness, Read Part 2 on how Defense Department planning horizons can better avoid strategic surprise.

The False Dilemma

“Necessity, especially in politics, often occasions false hopes, false reasonings, and a system of measures correspondingly erroneous.” —Alexander Hamilton, Federalist 35, 1788.

“Innovation is [sic] an exercise in risk management, a balancing act between the promises of a new capability and the perils of losing older ones.”—Kendrick Kuo of the Naval War College.

Current readiness and future requirements can be synchronized in DoD, reconciling the tension between contemporary force employment and future force design with the proper framework. The debate on how to balance the paradigms and viewpoints of what are often termed “traditionalists” and “futurists” is something which many national security practitioners appreciate, but little has been done to rectify. Both paradigms of traditionalists and futurists are equally unhelpful to delivering a clear-eyed assessment of the security environment when looked through that singular lens. The misunderstanding between these diametrically opposed paradigms has been historically regarded as an “either-or” statement: the choice is adaptation of existing and legacy means or developing future-minded innovation which may be at the root of this phenomenon. Both camps staunchly dig their heels into the sand and are either reticent to change existing solutions to answered problems or overly enthusiastic about advocating for solutions to potential problems based on the allure of technological promise.

The whole concept of traditionalists and futurists is a little comical given the fact that what is tradition now was once future and what is future assumes that older solutions are merely inadequate because they are old. People in one camp or the other are either reticent to change by disposition or overly enthusiastic about the future sometimes suppressing discussion of risk by overvaluing opportunity.

Hunter Biden, FARA and Unequal Justice

The Editorial Board

Unequal justice has emerged as a theme in the Hunter Biden plea deal, and one example came last week when Judge Maryellen Noreika asked the prosecution and defense in court if their agreement meant the President’s son could still be prosecuted for violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Hunter’s lawyers said no, but the prosecutor said yes, and Hunter can thank Robert Mueller if he is prosecuted under that statute.

FARA is a long-ignored law dating to 1938 that special counsel Mueller brought out of mothballs in an attempt to pry information out of Donald Trump’s associates. It requires Americans acting as an “agent of a foreign principal” under most circumstances to register with the U.S. government. As we noted at the time, in the nearly half-century up to 2016 the Justice Department brought only seven criminal FARA cases and won three convictions. The rarity of prosecutions created much confusion about how and when the law applies.

That didn’t stop Mr. Mueller. As special counsel investigating nonexistent Russia collusion, he used FARA to prosecute Trump associates who were mostly accused of lying about their work on behalf of foreign governments.

This is how he nailed Paul Manafort, who took money from the Ukrainians. Michael Flynn admitted to making false statements in documents filed pursuant to FARA regarding his work on behalf of the Turkish government. FARA also ensnared Greg Craig—a high-powered Democratic lawyer and former White House counsel to President Obama—who was prosecuted as an offshoot of the Mueller investigation into Mr. Manafort’s deals with Ukraine.

As long as FARA was targeting people in the Trump orbit, Democrats cheered these prosecutions. They weren’t even fazed when a federal jury acquitted Mr. Craig on FARA-related charges that we and others believe should never have been brought.

They may regret that legal standard now that federal prosecutors have confirmed to Judge Noreika that FARA charges could still be lodged against the President’s son. Based on Mr. Mueller’s prosecutions, Hunter is vulnerable.

Edward Luttwak: The U.S. Must End the Russia–Ukraine War


When Edward Luttwak speaks, world leaders listen — and now they must consider heeding his advice on Ukraine.

Luttwak has been advising world leaders, including U.S. presidents, since the 1980s. He is the author of seminal books on history and strategy, including The Grand Strategy of the Roman Empire, The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire, The Rise of China vs. The Logic of Strategy, Strategy: The Logic of War and Peace, and Coup d‘État: A Practical Handbook. Most recently, he has been writing about the Russia–Ukraine war and about China for the online journal UnHerd, and he recently appeared in an hour-long podcast on UnHerd’s website.

Luttwak believes that despite all the talk in Washington and in other Western capitals about “unwavering support” for Ukraine, Western leaders, including President Joe Biden, seek a negotiated settlement with Russia. The much-anticipated Ukrainian offensive has stalled. Russia’s government survived a scare by the Wagner Group, and its troops are fighting better now than in the first year of the war. Historically, “when Russia goes to war they always mess up” at first, Luttwak says, but “as the war goes on Russians fight better,” and that is what is happening now. Top U.S. officials, like CIA Director William J. Burns, recognize this fact and have advised Biden accordingly, which is why Biden poured cold water on the Ukraine-in-NATO suggestion. Putin, Luttwak noted, has also publicly pulled back from the “nuclear threat” in a signal to Ukraine and the U.S. that a negotiated solution is possible. Luttwak also contends that Ukraine’s leaders also know that a negotiated peace is the most realistic scenario for ending the war.

U.S. leaders, according to Luttwak, want a Russia–Ukraine settlement precisely because of the more significant geopolitical threat of China in the western Pacific. This is in line with what former Pentagon official Elbridge Colby has suggested. That threat, Luttwak says, is centered around the person of Xi Jinping, who Luttwak believes is “obsessed” with China’s “rejuvenation” and who thinks China’s “rejuvenation” demands reunification with Taiwan — if necessary, by force. Xi is preparing China for war.

Own goal: How Russia’s gas war has backfired

Szymon Kardaś

In 2022, Russia, for the first time in history, decided to drastically reduce gas supplies to customers in the European Union. Its aim was to aggravate the existing energy crisis in Europe and push European countries to reduce the political, military, and economic support they were supplying to Ukraine. Paradoxically, however, Moscow’s weaponisation of its gas supplies has, for the time being, had the most significant effects on Russia itself.

Crucially, Russia has lost its position as the main gas supplier to the EU. Its gas exports via pipeline to EU customers fell from almost 146 billion cubic metres (bcm) in 2021 to between 61 and 62 bcm in 2022. Russian gas continues to flow to Europe via pipelines running through Ukraine (based on transit agreements in place until the end of 2024) and through Turkey via the TurkStream pipeline, but in ever smaller quantities. In the first five months of 2023, Russian gas exports via operating pipelines amounted to only 10 bcm, compared to 62 and 42 bcm respectively for the same period in 2021 and 2022. It is highly unlikely that Moscow and Kyiv will extend the agreement for the pipeline running through Ukraine after 2024 – and Russia has repeatedly threatened to cut off supplies even before it expires – meaning the quantities of Russian gas arriving to the EU via pipeline will likely fall even further.

The drastic drop in supplies to Europe forced Gazprom to cut gas production by 20 per cent year-on-year in 2022. And while export revenues were still relatively high in 2022 due to the very high gas prices in Europe (especially in the first half of 2022), the decline in exports to the EU will take a heavy toll on Gazprom’s revenues in 2023.

To make matters worse for Moscow, European countries have found new suppliers, meaning that Gazprom may never regain its status as the EU’s primary gas supplier. After the invasion, EU member states began or intensified efforts to diversify their sources of gas. As of 31 March 2023, agreements related to gas supplies from third countries accounted for more than half of all energy deals concluded by EU countries since the outbreak of the war. According to ECFR’s research, 56 of the 110 energy agreements that they had signed by then related to natural gas.

The Primacy Trap

Mohammed Soliman 

In the 2010s, the global landscape changed. The Arab Spring, the Russian occupation of Crimea, and China’s national security law in Hong Kong were indicative of a profound change in the global system. The era of the unipolar moment, when the United States was the world’s sole dominant power, has ended. This is not to say that America’s decline is inevitable, but rather that the balance of power in the world is changing gradually, and Washington is no longer dictating the full course of geopolitical events around the globe.

In the 2020s, and against the backdrop of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, increasing tensions around Taiwan, and the growing strategic partnership between China and Russia, the United States and its foreign policy intelligentsia are pursuing a multifront containment strategy. Furthermore, the success of helping Ukraine not fall into Russia’s hands boosted America’s confidence after a hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan that had put it into question by allies and partners from Europe to the Middle East and Asia. However, the early success in Ukraine tempts Washington to seek global primacy and the unrealistic conquest to defy the new emerging multipolar order rather than a sober foreign policy that is actively grappling with crafting a new role for the United States in the twenty-first century that balances between the nation’s strategic resource scarcity and more defined national interests that is tied to the welfare of the American people, or as the Biden intellectuals call it, a “foreign policy for the middle class.”

The Ukraine Temptation

Before the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Biden administration prioritized and directed its resources toward the Chinese threat in the Indo-Pacific by revitalizing the Quad, inking AUKUS, and stepping up its strategic alliances and partnerships with Australia, Japan, and South Korea—moves that reflect Biden’s “Asia-first” strategy. With Putin’s tanks rolling into Ukraine, the United States changed course, arming Ukraine, which is not a formal US ally, providing Kyiv with intelligence and economic assistance, and imposing draconian sanctions on Russia that crippled Moscow’s economy. After a hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan, America’s success in Ukraine not only regained the lost confidence in its capabilities and competence but also ushered in a new conquest to save Washington’s self-defined rules-based liberal international order, or in other words, global primacy. US diplomats went on a mission to convince partners and allies in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America to align with the United States on its position on the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Ukraine became front and center to US diplomatic and political engagement with everyone, everywhere.

"A World Transformed and the Role of Intelligence"

Director William J. Burns Ditchley

Good afternoon. 

And thanks so much for that kind introduction, and for welcoming back to Ditchley. I first came here in 1979, as a young and unformed Marshall Scholar at Oxford, with just enough cash to rent a black tie for the formal conference dinner and buy a bus ticket. I must admit that my memory of the conference itself is hazy, but the effect it had on me was profound. It gave me an enduring appreciation of the power and purpose of the Transatlantic Alliance, and of the particular significance of Anglo-American partnership. 

A decade later, I was a career American diplomat, working for Secretary of State James Baker. It was one of those rare "plastic moments" in history, moments which come along only a few times each century. The Cold War was ending, the Soviet Union was about to collapse, Germany would soon be reunified, and Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait would soon be defeated. It was a world of uncontested American primacy. History's currents seemed to flow inexorably in our direction, the power of our ideas driving the rest of the world in a slow but irresistible surge toward democracy and free markets. 

Our sometimes overbearing self-assurance seemed well-founded in the realities of power and influence, but it also obscured other gathering trends. Our moment of post-Cold War dominance was never going to be a permanent condition. History had not ended, nor had ideological competition. Globalization held great promise for human society, with hundreds of millions of people lifted out of poverty, but it was also bound to produce counter-pressures. 

In a transition memo that I drafted for the incoming Clinton Administration at the end of 1992, I tried to capture the dim outlines of the challenges ahead. "While for the first time in fifty years we do not face a global military adversary," I wrote, "it is certainly conceivable that a return to authoritarianism in Russia or an aggressively hostile China could revive such a global threat."

Wagner troops moving towards Polish border and could try sneaking across, PM says

Martin Goillandeau, Sharon Braithwaite and Oleg Racz

More than 100 troops from the Russian mercenary group Wagner are moving towards a thin strip of land between Poland and Lithuania, Poland’s prime minister says, who warned they could pose as migrants to cross the border.

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Saturday that his government had received information that the Wagner mercenaries were not far from Grodno, a city in western Belarus close to the land, which is also known as the Suwalki gap or corridor.

Thousands of Wagner troops are reportedly in Belarus following a failed military uprising in Russia.

Morawiecki repeated allegations that Belarus, a key ally to Russia, has been sending migrants westward in an attempt to overwhelm Polish border forces.

The troop movements, Morawiecki said, appeared to be another element in this campaign to destabilize the border.

“They will probably be disguised as Belarusian border guards and will help illegal immigrants to enter Polish territory, destabilize Poland, but they will also probably try to infiltrate Poland pretending to be illegal immigrants and this creates additional risks,” he said.

So far this year, there have been about 16,000 attempts by migrants to cross the border illegally, “pushed to Poland” by Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Morawiecki said.

What exactly Wagner troops are doing in Grodno is unclear, as Wagner has not commented on the reports. But deploying Russian-allied forces near the Suwalki corridor would represent an escalation that could rattle NATO and EU members.

Though just 60 miles long, the corridor is strategically important to NATO, the EU, Russia and Belarus. The border region connects the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad to Belarus and it is the only overland link between the Baltic states and the rest of the EU.

Why business is booming for military AI startups

Melissa Heikkilä

Exactly two weeks after Russia invaded Ukraine in February, Alexander Karp, the CEO of data analytics company Palantir, made his pitch to European leaders. With war on their doorstep, Europeans ought to modernize their arsenals with Silicon Valley’s help, he argued in an open letter.

For Europe to “remain strong enough to defeat the threat of foreign occupation,” Karp wrote, countries need to embrace “the relationship between technology and the state, between disruptive companies that seek to dislodge the grip of entrenched contractors and the federal government ministries with funding.”

Militaries are responding to the call. NATO announced on June 30 that it is creating a $1 billion innovation fund that will invest in early-stage startups and venture capital funds developing “priority” technologies such as artificial intelligence, big-data processing, and automation.

Since the war started, the UK has launched a new AI strategy specifically for defense, and the Germans have earmarked just under half a billion for research and artificial intelligence within a $100 billion cash injection to the military.

“War is a catalyst for change,” says Kenneth Payne, who leads defense studies research at King’s College London and is the author of the book I, Warbot: The Dawn of Artificially Intelligent Conflict.

The war in Ukraine has added urgency to the drive to push more AI tools onto the battlefield. Those with the most to gain are startups such as Palantir, which are hoping to cash in as militaries race to update their arsenals with the latest technologies. But long-standing ethical concerns over the use of AI in warfare have become more urgent as the technology becomes more and more advanced, while the prospect of restrictions and regulations governing its use looks as remote as ever.

McKinsey's technology trends for 2023

NEW DELHI: Lately, in 2023, there has been a resurgence of enthusiasm in people around the development of technology and its potential to uplift businesses and catalyze processes. In this process, generative AI is occupying center stage currently and is primarily responsible for this technological renaissance. This can further develop sustainable and inclusive growth which can then solve global complex challenges.

Amongst the new and notable trends, Generative AI is a trend that has made a loud entrance and has already proven how transformative it can be for businesses. It represents the frontier of AI and builds upon technologies such as applied AI and machine learning. According to McKinsey Technology Council, “Generative AI is poised to add as much as $4.4 trillion in economic value.” The report also mentions that trust architectures and digital identity grew the most out of last year’s 14 trends, increasing by nearly 50 percent. Investments in other trends such as applied AI, advanced connectivity, and cloud and edge have declined. Since these technologies have applications in most industries their mainstream adoption will continue to grow.

Register NowAccording to the report, cloud and edge computing are the future of bioengineering and have shown steady increases and have expanded use cases across industries. Currently, edge computing has over 500 use cases across industries and is expected to show further growth. Quantum technology is also growing but it is a nascent technology. The four industries that will see the earliest impacts of quantum computing as per the report are automotive, chemicals, financial services, and life sciences. These industries can stand to see a growth of $1.3 trillion by 2035 by strategically investing in quantum computing as per the report.

Over the years the talent dynamics in tech have changed considerably. There is a gap between available talent and the demand for talent with a particular skill set. According to a survey conducted by McKinsey, 3.5 million job postings in these tech trends of the skills in greatest demand have less than half as many qualified practitioners, for each posting as the global average. According to the report, “In the coming decade, 20 to 30 percent of the time that workers spend on the job could be transformed by automation technologies, leading to significant shifts in the skills required to be successful.” Job postings in fields related to tech trends grew 15% between 2021 and 2022 even though overall global postings decreased by 13%. Applied AI and next-gen software development collectively posted over one million jobs between 2018 and 2022.

HackerOne: How Artificial Intelligence Is Changing Cyber Threats and Ethical Hacking

Megan Crouse

Security experts from HackerOne and beyond weigh in on malicious prompt engineering and other attacks that could strike through LLMs.Image: NicoElNino/Adobe Stock

HackerOne, a security platform and hacker community forum, hosted a roundtable on Thursday, July 27, about the way generative artificial intelligence will change the practice of cybersecurity. Hackers and industry experts discussed the role of generative AI in various aspects of cybersecurity, including novel attack surfaces and what organizations should keep in mind when it comes to large language models.

Generative AI can introduce risks if organizations adopt it too quickly

Organizations using generative AI like ChatGPT to write code should be careful they don’t end up creating vulnerabilities in their haste, said Joseph “rez0” Thacker, a professional hacker and senior offensive security engineer at software-as-a-service security company AppOmni.

For example, ChatGPT doesn’t have the context to understand how vulnerabilities might arise in the code it produces. Organizations have to hope that ChatGPT will know how to produce SQL queries that aren’t vulnerable to SQL injection, Thacker said. Attackers being able to access user accounts or data stored across different parts of the organization often cause vulnerabilities that penetration testers frequently look for, and ChatGPT might not be able to take them into account in its code.

The two main risks for companies that may rush to use generative AI products are:Allowing the LLM to be exposed in any way to external users that have access to internal data.
Connecting different tools and plugins with an AI feature that may access untrusted data, even if it’s internal.

How threat actors take advantage of generative AI

Army Advances Future Tank Weapons & War Concepts in New "War in 2040" Effort


Lighter, faster, expeditionary and lethal, networked, drone-controlling, potentially unmanned ...yet survivable and capable of heavy mechanized combat .. are a few seemingly contradictory attributes sought after by the Army as it explores and develops tanks for the future.

Finding the optimal balance between survivability, speed and deployability is not an easy task, yet the Army has been making progress for years working on this complex equation. Generally speaking, the approach seems triple pronged in a way, as it seems to include a continuation of heavy armor with massive upgrades and lighter weight materials, much lighter weight, deployable new platforms such as Mobile Protected Firepower and networked unmanned systems.

Much of the Army's work in recent years has involved the exploration of fast-deployable armored platforms likely to be lighter, faster and engineered for new kinds of networking, maneuver formations and manned-unmanned teaming. This third trajectory, it could be posited, involves the extensive use and development of unmanned platforms or "optionally" unmanned platforms uniquely able to perform high-speed, high-risk missions in a faster, lighter, more survivable yet extremely lethal way.

“We need lighter formations that are more lethal and survivable and heavy formations that are lighter …. all with a reduced logistical footprint,” William Nelson, Deputy Commander, Army Futures Command, told Warrior in an interview.

One clear way to think about it is the Army appears to be exploring the possibility of a mix of manned and unmanned platforms designed to achieve deployability, lethality and survivability across a networked, highly maneuverable force. Essentially, there will likely be future tactical combat circumstances which indeed require all three of the attributes described by Nelson to achieve optimal lethality, using manned-unmanned integration, speed and deployability and also heavy armor in certain scenarios. The most cutting edge applications of manned-unmanned teaming are already being built into upgraded and new platforms increasingly able to launch and operate a range of aerial and ground unmanned systems.

Tanks & Drones Attack Together