4 August 2023

‘Joint Vision’ With India Raises Concerns in Sri Lanka

Lasanda Kurukulasuriya

In late July, Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe made his first visit to India since taking office. His remarks at an Indian CEOs’ Forum in Colombo ahead of his trip gave a clue to the scope of the agreements to be disclosed in New Delhi. Once the country’s debt restructuring process was completed, he told the businessmen, Sri Lanka’s focus will shift toward a program entailing “a massive overhaul of our economy, legal framework, and systems, aligning our path with that of India.”

After talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on July 21 – a year to the day since Wickremesinghe took office – an identical statement was released, separately, by the Sri Lankan and Indian sides. Described not as a “Joint Statement” but a “Joint Vision” statement, it listed a summary of decisions, reached or anticipated, in five areas of “connectivity” – maritime; air; energy and power; trade, economic, and financial; and people-to-people.

“We have agreed on a Joint Vision of the future India-Sri Lanka economic partnership through enhanced connectivity” Wickremesinghe said, addressing dignitaries and media in Delhi.

The neutral tone and language of the statement gives no hint of the significant revamp taking place in bilateral relations, influenced by recent history. The talks come in the aftermath of an economic crisis that led to bankruptcy, when India came forward with significant financial assistance to allow Sri Lanka to import essential fuel and medicine. As inescapable as the imbalance in the power equation is the dominance of geopolitics in the new phase of India-Sri Lanka relations.

Against this backdrop, the ambiguous language used in the official communications, short on specifics in many areas, gives rise to speculation. Even Sri Lanka’s Parliament is unaware of the contents of the five MoUs exchanged. Opposition Member of Parliament Udaya Gammanpila has called for them to be tabled in the House, and other opposition parliamentarians expressed dismay about the lack of clarity.

In Manipur, Women Are Both Victims and Instigators of Sexual Violence

Kavita Chowdhury

Activists protesting ethnic violence in northeastern Manipur state hold placards in Mumbai, India, July 24, 2023.Credit: AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool

The picturesque northeast Indian state of Manipur, literally the “land of gems,” has been engulfed in a violent ethnic conflict for the past three months. The killings, rapes, and rioting in the state since May, unsurprisingly, did not merit the attention of the national media, until a horrific video from Manipur went viral last fortnight. The 26-second clip showed two Kuki tribal women paraded naked by a mob of men who were groping their genitals and assaulting them. The horrific video has since been removed from YouTube.

Nationwide public outrage followed after the two-month old video surfaced, forcing Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government in the state to break their silence.

The extremely disturbing video of the two women has managed to do what 79 days of bloody conflict could not: put the spotlight on Manipur and on the inaction of the authorities in preventing the ongoing violence. The opposition is now demanding answers from the Modi government on the Manipur violence and has even moved a No Confidence motion against the government in the ongoing parliamentary session.

The gruesome incident took place on May 4. The older of the two Kuki women who were paraded naked now lives in a relief camp. Showing tremendous courage, she narrated her trauma to a reporter from the news portal Scroll, saying, “Everyone should know what happened to us.”

Drone Intrusions Along the India-Pakistan International Border: Countering an Emerging Threat



Over the last three years, ceasefire violations and cross-border infiltrations have ebbed and flowed along the Line of Control (LoC) and International Border (IB) between India and Pakistan. In recent times, a new challenge has emerged in the form of drone intrusions along the International Border. This commentary describes the nature of the threat, the security risks posed, and the countermeasures deployed so far. It argues that this emerging threat needs more attention.


China: The Need to ‘Speak Softly and Carry a Big Stick’

Anthony H. Cordesman

President Theodore Roosevelt’s most famous quote is his advice to “speak softly and carry a big stick.” But it is often taken out of context. Roosevelt made it clear that he was introducing his remarks on foreign policy by quoting a West African proverb. His other major quotes on U.S. foreign policy are far more sophisticated and far less rough rider in character. One key example is his statement that U.S. foreign policy should be “the exercise of intelligent forethought and of decisive action sufficiently far in advance of any likely crisis.” Roosevelt set goals in this latter statement that seem as valid today as when Roosevelt originally said it in 1902.

It is his advice to “speak softly and carry a big stick.” however, that seems particularly valid in the case of the current state of U.S. policy toward China. U.S. national strategy documents are all too correct in noting that the emergence of China as an authoritarian superpower has created a nation that “harbors the intention and, increasingly, the capacity to reshape the international order in favor of one that tilts the global playing field to its benefit.”

The latest U.S. National Security Strategy document is equally correct in stating that

The PRC is the only competitor with both the intent to reshape the international order and, increasingly, the economic, diplomatic, military, and technological power to do it. Beijing has ambitions to create an enhanced sphere of influence in the Indo-Pacific and to become the world’s leading power. It is using its technological capacity and increasing influence over international institutions to create more permissive conditions for its own authoritarian model, and to mold global technology use and norms to privilege its interests and values. Beijing frequently uses its economic power to coerce countries. It benefits from the openness of the international economy while limiting access to its domestic market, and it seeks to make the world more dependent on the PRC while reducing its own dependence on the world. The PRC is also investing in a military that is rapidly modernizing, increasingly capable in the Indo-Pacific, and growing in strength and reach globally – all while seeking to erode U.S. alliances in the region and around the world.

China Was the World's Biggest Economic Miracle and It Will Be Again | Opinion


According to the World Bank, China's real per capita GDP rose from $404 in 1979—the year Deng Xiaoping opened the economy to private enterprise—to $11,560 in 2022 in constant 2015 U.S. dollars. It jumped five-fold since 2001. By contrast, India's real per capita GDP rose from $373 in 1979 to just $2,085 in 2022. By comparison, you can see what a success story China has been, one unique in economic activity.

This is not to say Deng's trajectory is still at play. Deng Xiaoping's economy, which turned subsistence farmers into semi-skilled industrial workers, surely has peaked. The great migration from country to city is slowing, and China's workforce is slowly shrinking.

But China is building a new digital economy powered by AI and high-speed broadband, with 2.3 million of the world's 3 million 5G base stations and download speeds double ours. It has automated ports that can empty a container ship in 45 minutes rather than the 48 hours required at our port of Long Beach. It's also automated mines where no worker goes underground, factories controlled by AI, and warehouses in which robots do the sorting and packaging.

Most of all, nearly two-thirds of Chinese citizens have an education beyond high school, compared to just 3 percent who had one in 1979. China graduates more engineers than the rest of the world combined, and Chinese universities teach at world standards.

China has also extended its economic reach to developing economies. It now exports more to the Global South than to developed markets, doubling its exports to ASEAN and tripling its exports to Central Asia after 2020. It builds broadband, railroads, and ports from Africa to South America, promoting a permanent market for its exports.

The United States Has Countered China's Growing Influence

Joseph Bouchard

China has become America’s greatest competitor and will most likely remain so for the next few decades — and if recent headlines are to be believed, the U.S. is headed to its downfall.

Apparently, the U.S. is losing in the Asia-Pacific, Africa, the Middle East — the entire Global South. This month, Brookings called the U.S. a “losing superpower.”

Such alarmism shouldn’t cloud our judgment. The U.S. has done well pushing for its own interests and advancing its values around the globe. Where it could improve is in using public media to broadcast its successes.

The U.S. has made significant progress combating China in the Asia-Pacific. In the last decade, a number of countries, including the Philippines, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Papua New Guinea, Vietnam, Malaysia, Pacific Island States, and Thailand, have signed new defence commitments and partnerships with the United States. AUKU.S. and the Quad also help the U.S. defend its interests in Asia against China.

Ties between the U.S. and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) couldn’t be stronger. Its mission has expanded beyond trade into security cooperation and democracy promotion, while the U.S. remains the largest investor in ASEAN. Western partners have also made the Asia-Pacific a key region of interest, increasing security and political expenditures while making the fight against Chinese influence an agenda-defining priority. As a result, most countries in the region are growing skeptical of China’s bullish attitude, and turning the tide on strategic ambiguity. Many are overtly choosing to work with the U.S. over China.

The U.S. has also been engaging strategically in Africa’s diplomatic space. Unlike China and Russia, who have intervened in Africa to boost oppressive policies and propagate their own superiority complex, the U.S. has been focused on upholding universal values of freedom, democracy, and development, treating African nations as equal-footing partners.

The End of China’s Economic Miracle

Adam S. Posen

As 2022 came to an end, hopes were rising that China’s economy—and, consequently, the global economy—was poised for a surge. After three years of stringent restrictions on movement, mandatory mass testing, and interminable lockdowns, the Chinese government had suddenly decided to abandon its “zero COVID” policy, which had suppressed demand, hampered manufacturing, roiled supply lines, and produced the most significant slowdown that the country’s economy had seen since pro-market reforms began in the late 1970s. In the weeks following the policy change, global prices of oil, copper, and other commodities rose on expectations that Chinese demand would surge. In March, then Chinese Premier Li Keqiang announced a target for real GDP growth of around five percent, and many external analysts predicted it would go far higher.

Initially, some parts of China’s economy did indeed grow: pent-up demand for domestic tourism, hospitality, and retail services all made solid contributions to the recovery. Exports grew in the first few months of 2023, and it appeared that even the beleaguered residential real estate market had bottomed out. But by the end of the second quarter, the latest GDP data told a very different story: overall growth was weak and seemingly set on a downward trend. Wary foreign investors and cash-strapped local governments in China chose not to pick up on the initial momentum.

This reversal was more significant than a typical overly optimistic forecast missing the mark. The seriousness of the problem is indicated by the decline of both China’s durable goods consumption and private-sector investment rates to a fraction of their earlier levels, and by the country’s surging household savings rate. Those trends reflect people’s long-term economic decisions in the aggregate, and they strongly suggest that in China, people and companies are increasingly fearful of losing access to their assets and are prioritizing short-term liquidity over investment. That these indicators have not returned to pre-COVID, normal levels—let alone boomed after reopening as they did in the United States and elsewhere—is a sign of deep problems.

Is the Middle East’s Makeover a Mirage?

Joost Hiltermann

In mid-July, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan completed a high-profile tour of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, a trip that brought tens of billions of dollars in investment deals in Turkey’s struggling economy. The trip was the culmination of a growing diplomatic thaw between Turkey and the Saudi and UAE governments after nearly a decade of icy relations. In fact, this rapprochement was itself made possible by Turkish ally Qatar’s resumption of ties with Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, after a years-long rupture. In June, just weeks before Erdogan’s visit, Qatar and the UAE had themselves renewed formal diplomatic relations.

These are not the only such deals taking place in the Middle East. In 2020, Israel agreed to open relations with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates in the Abraham Accords—the first such act of normalization between Israel and Arab states since the Israel-Jordan peace treaty in 1994. A few months later, Morocco and then Sudan joined the Abraham Accords as well. In March 2023, Iran and Saudi Arabia agreed to resume diplomatic relations after seven years of mutual antagonism. And in May, even Syria’s dictator, President Bashar al-Assad, was brought in from the cold when he was welcomed back to the Arab League after more than a decade of isolation.

At first glance, the swell of normalization deals rolling across the region seems to mark a break from the decade of turbulence set off by the 2010–11 Arab uprisings. States that had pursued military approaches to some of the region’s conflicts, directly or by proxy, have decided, for now at least, that diplomacy is a better way to advance their interests. A case in point might be Yemen, where, over the past couple of years, Riyadh has engaged in talks with the Iran-backed Houthi rebels in an effort to end the long-running civil war, or at least end Saudi involvement in it. Such are the perceived benefits of normalization that the Biden administration is now suggesting that a rapprochement between Israel and Saudi Arabia might help rescue the moribund Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

Have We Created the Philosopher’s Stone? Policymakers Should Care about Room-Temperature Superconductors

Carlos Roa 

Arecent development has rocked the scientific community over the past two weeks. Advocates proclaim that we now potentially stand on the brink of a transformative age in technology that could render our current power network and level of technology as quaintly outdated as the telegraph.

The harbinger of this new age? Room-temperature superconductors—materials that conduct electricity with perfect efficiency, without the need for deep chilling. If viable, then the arrival of these superconductors is not just a technological leap; it’s a paradigm shift with significant implications for the economy, national security and defense policy, and the future of energy consumption.

First, however, we must determine whether these superconductors can truly be made. Policymakers and experts ought to be aware of the currently unfolding events.

The Quest for the Holy Grail

Let’s start with some basic science. A superconductor, as the name suggests, is a material that can conduct electricity with zero resistance. In other words, it allows an electric current to flow indefinitely without any loss of energy. Compare this to say, contemporary batteries, which can lose up to 25 percent of stored energy over time.

If that sounds astounding, that’s because it is. However, this magic comes with a caveat: traditional superconductors only function in high-pressure, low-temperature environments akin to those found in the deepest recesses of outer space, thus limiting their practical application.

Enter room-temperature superconductors. As the name indicates, these are superconductors that operate at temperatures you would typically find in your everyday environment. The quest for this radical development has been ongoing for decades, with physicists and material scientists around the globe drawn to this scientific holy grail like bees to honey.

Squaring the Triangle: Four Big Ideas from the Latest British Defense Review

Sean Monaghan

The British government has a penchant for defense reviews. It has published four of them since 2015—the same number it conducted throughout the entire Cold War. The latest review, the Defence Command Paper 2023, was published last week. It sets out the Ministry of Defense’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and intensifying U.S.-China competition. It also follows new national security guidance published in March, which taken together update the previous security and defense reviews released in 2021.

Two years is a long time in international politics—long enough for the “competitive age” described in the previous review to have become a “contested and volatile world,” as the full title of the new document describes. Russia’s war of conquest in Ukraine most dramatically demonstrates the transition from competition to conflict and confrontation. As the House of Commons Defence Committee puts it, “For the first time since the end of the Cold War, we have to face the prospect that we could become involved in a peer conflict with Russia, with little further strategic warning or opportunity to scale up our industrial, as well as military capabilities.” This tectonic shift in the United Kingdom’s security landscape justifies a wholesale rethink.

Some will be disappointed the latest defense review does not go that far: it contains no new announcements, no changes to force structure and doubles down on the basic judgements made two years ago. It also offers little new spending, beyond £2.5 billion ($3.2 billion) on munitions stockpiles and £400 million ($500 million) on service accommodation. Such continuity is understandable given the department is led by the same people (although Defense Secretary Ben Wallace will leave his post in September) and a general election is only a year away.

However, what the review lacks in new deliverables, it makes up for in new ideas. Four key ideas in the review—about people, science and technology, productivity, and lessons from Ukraine—show how the United Kingdom is pursuing bold new ideas to solve an old problem in defense strategy: squaring the triangle of trade-offs between readiness, modernization, and force structure.

Putting People First

Japan and NATO in 2023 with Ben Schreer and Tsuruoka Michito

In the eighth episode of Japan Memo Season 3, Yuka Koshino is joined by Ben Schreer and Tsuruoka Michito to discuss the 2023 NATO Summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, the developments around Japan-NATO cooperation and Japan’s responses to Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Yuka Koshino hosts Ben Schreer, Executive Director at the IISS-Europe and Head of European Security and Defence Programme, and Tsuruoka Michito, Associate Professor at the Faculty of Policy Management in Graduate school of Media and Governance at Keio University, as well as Visiting Fellow at the Australian National University Strategic & Defence Studies Centre (SDSC).

Yuka, Ben, and Michito unpack the 2023 NATO Summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, and the developments around Japan-NATO cooperation and Japan’s responses to Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Topics discussed include:

key takeaways from the 2023 NATO Summit and the impact of Prime Minister Kishida’s second attendance at a NATO summit;

assessment of the Individually Tailored Partnership Programmes (ITPP) between NATO and Japan for 2023-26, next steps for implementation;

implications of Japan’s adoption of NATO standards for defence equipment supply chain;

NATO’s approach on China and engagement in the Indo-Pacific, including the debates over the potential opening of its liaison office in Tokyo.The following literature is recommended by our guests to gain a clearer picture of the topics discussed:

Tsuruoka Michito, Abe Shinzo Kaikoroku [Abe Shinzo’s Memoir] (Tokyo: Chuokoron-Shinsha, 2023)We hope you enjoy the episode and please follow, rate, and subscribe to Japan Memo on the podcast platform of your choice.

Getting Smart About Dividing America’s Adversaries

Mark N. Katz

Taking advantage of disputes between adversaries is an attractive idea and the United States has had success at this in the past. The most spectacular example was how Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger were able to take advantage of the growing Sino-Soviet dispute to improve U.S. relations both with China and the Soviet Union in the early 1970s. But there have been other examples as well.

In his 2021 book, The Power to Divide: Wedge Strategies in Great Power Competition, Timothy W. Crawford described how in 1940-41 the United States and the United Kingdom succeeded at dissuading Spanish leader Francisco Franco from allowing German forces into Spain and attempting to seize Gibraltar from Britain by providing food assistance to his civil war-ravaged country. In the late 1940s, the United States was able to take advantage of the growing dispute between two communist leaders—the Soviet Union’s Joseph Stalin and Yugoslavia’s Josip Tito—to help communist Yugoslavia exit the Soviet bloc and be neutral throughout the rest of the Cold War. In the early 1970s, Nixon and Kissinger were able to leverage Egyptian leader Anwar Sadat’s disillusionment with the Soviet Union to facilitate Egypt’s move from being a Soviet ally to an American one. In the mid-1980s, the previously hostile U.S.-Iraqi relationship underwent a dramatic improvement for a few years on the basis of common antipathy toward Iran. A second rapprochement between Washington and Moscow occurred in the late 1980s/early 1990s on the basis of what appeared to be not just a convergence of foreign policy interests but political values as well. In the mid-1990s, the Clinton administration embarked on the normalization of U.S. relations with America’s erstwhile adversary, Vietnam, which has developed into a stronger relationship ever since partly on the basis of their common concern about China. In the mid-2000s, the George W. Bush administration and Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi turned the previously hostile U.S.-Libyan relationship into a cooperative one partly on the basis of their common concern about jihadist forces which both governments regarded as a threat.

Some of these rapprochements lasted for many years or are still in effect while others were far briefer. More recent U.S. efforts at improving relations with adversaries, however, have either failed to make significant progress or have been reversed by subsequent administrations. The George W. Bush administration’s success in improving ties with Libya ended abruptly when the Obama administration worked with several other governments to bring about its downfall in 2011. The Obama administration’s efforts to improve ties with both Cuba and Iran were reversed by the Trump administration. The Trump administration’s attempts to improve relations with Russia, North Korea, and even (oddly enough) Iran also failed. The Biden administration’s efforts to improve ties with Iran enough to restore the Iranian nuclear accord have so far been unsuccessful, though its efforts to improve ties with Venezuela have been somewhat more so.

Historian Tim Snyder: ‘Our misreading of Russia is deep. Very deep’

Sam Jones

Porzellan is crowded with a busy lunchtime crush of convivial Viennese spilling out of the bright, high-ceilinged room on to tables outside, all chiffon summer dresses and open linen shirts. Inside, amid the hum, I spot Tim Snyder looking into the middle distance, like the only motionless object in a long-exposure photograph.

He smiles thinly as we shake hands and I sit down.

Afterwards, I will inwardly curse myself for not suggesting that we postpone our lunch. Snyder has, only moments ago, found out about the death of his friend Victoria Amelina, the Ukrainian writer who was among the victims of a Russian missile strike on a packed restaurant in the Donbas city of Kramatorsk. Twelve others were killed in the same attack, children among them. Dozens more suffering life-changing injuries.

Snyder is visibly at a loss. I venture condolences, wincing at how crass they must sound.

Amelina, a feted novelist, had, since the war broke out, dedicated herself to documenting Russian war crimes in Ukraine, particularly against civilians. Shortly after the war began, she wrote of how Russia’s invasion evoked the destruction of Ukraine’s cultural and intellectual elite by Stalin in the 1930s. That she too has now been murdered, a century later, is the bitterest possible vindication of her warning, Snyder reflects: “It shows Russia’s war for what it is. A genocide.”

You might say that this was grief colouring judgment. But as becomes clear over the course of our lunch — which continues until long after the restaurant is cleared of other diners — Snyder, one of the most eminent historians of Ukraine and central and eastern Europe, does not lightly draw from our darkest well of historical remembrance in his characterisation of Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

Historians, of course, are not supposed to do this: to insert the past so boldly into the present. But then, we might also wonder — and we do, later during our lunch — what are historians supposed to do?

What will happen to the Tories after the election?


I appreciate I’m getting a little ahead of myself with the election over a year away. But the pattern for the next twelve months seems both set and extremely dull. Labour have decided to run the 1997 campaign without the enthusiasm, neutralising all possible Tory attack lines on social issues and economic prudence. No doubt we’ll get a small offering of retail policies at some point, perhaps even on a pledge card.

Meanwhile the Tories seem determined, regardless, to fruitlessly hammer away at these perceived weaknesses, searching around for social and cultural “wedge” issues, while trying to encourage the impression that Rachel Reeves is the second coming of Trotsky. I can’t see any reason why that approach would work better now than it has done over the past six months.

The biggest “known unknown” is what happens to the economy. Inflation has lingered longer than expected but will fall, wages are likely to (finally) rise in real terms which tends to help governments. We’ve been on the edge of recession for a while and may tip over into one, particularly as more families use up their savings and come to the end of their cheaper fixed rate mortgage. Or the economy may continue to stay more resilient than analysts expected – public optimism about their own circumstances is rising, albeit from a low base. For all the noise of the daily media storms, this will decide how bad things get for the government, and is the reason I expect them to hold on as long as possible.

No party is showing the slightest inclination to engage with the numerous long-term problems Britain has (with the honourable exception of Labour’s planning policy). It is in everyone’s interests to pretend the tax burden will not need to rise, and that the government’s fantasy post-election spending plans are viable. Beyond that there is an ever-expanding list of knotty challenges from replacing the fuel tax, to salvaging social care and preventing the higher education sector from collapsing. But, again, it’s not in anyone’s interests to bring those things up now.

Ukraine is ‘extraordinary laboratory’ for military AI, senior DOD official says


The monitor from a drone shows a destroyed Russian tank during a surveillance flight near Bakhmut on July 16, 2023 in Donetsk District, Ukraine. (Photo by Paula Bronstein /Getty Images)

Although Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine is a “horrible thing,” it’s allowing the U.S. military to learn valuable lessons about military employment of artificial intelligence, a top Pentagon official told reporters Tuesday.

Drones with some semi-autonomous capabilities have played a major role in the conflict. And the Ukrainians are increasingly integrating AI into their systems, as noted in recent news reports.

“There is an extraordinary laboratory for understanding the changing character of war in Russia’s unprovoked aggression on Ukraine. Now, to be clear, it is a horrible thing. That said, it is occurring and we have to try to learn from it … And I can tell you there are really robust efforts across the department to ensure that we figure out what, you know, what we’re learning, how and in what ways does it impact how we understand that changing character of war. We also understand other countries are also learning … I think a piece of that is absolutely the role of drones and also artificial intelligence,” Mara Karlin, who has been serving as the assistant secretary of defense for strategies, plans and capabilities and recently took on the role of acting undersecretary of defense for policy, told reporters at a Defense Writers Group meeting.

Relatively low-cost unmanned systems have appeared in previous conflicts, including the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan that began in 2021, she noted.

“Obviously, now we have seen that a whole lot [in Ukraine]. And that’s really, really notable. On the AI front this is also probably the case study. It’s hard to look at kind of other conflicts from the last few years where we’ve seen it being used in the same way at the same level. And that’s really, I think, pushed a real culture change,” Karlin said.

Five Eyes government funds C-UAS company to develop GNSS denial

John Hill

A senior Observer Coach/Trainer fires a Dronebuster Electronic Warfare System at the Counter Unmanned Aircraft System Training in the Rotational Unit Bivouac Area on January 30, 2020. Most recently, DroneShield have launched its latest GNSS denial system and a Five Eyes government has made an initial order for further development. Credit: DVIDS.

The Australia and US listed counter-unmanned aerial system (C-UAS) company, DroneShield, has announced the launch and first order for its area-specific satellite denial system.

There are various Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) around the world; most notably the US GPS, as well as Russia’s GLONASS, China’s BeiDou and Europe’s Galileo system.

GlobalData forecasts the global military GNSS market, valued at $1.3bn in 2022, will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 4.1% in the next decade. The intelligence company expects this to reach $1.9bn by 2032 and cumulatively value $16.6bn over the period.

GPS provides receivers with information for three services – position, navigation, and time – with all three being subject to intentional interference to concerning effect. This interference can be either indirect jamming of the signal in an area or the selective targeting of a specific device with disingenuous signals, known as ‘spoofing’.

An undisclosed Five Eyes government (FVEY, referring to Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and US) has requested that the C-UAS business develop its latest area-specific GNSS denial capability further in a funded research and development (R&D) project.

DroneShield expects this project will be followed by a series of others, each requiring more advanced development, and therefore greater funds. Neither party has divulged the cost of the initial project, but they will be release the amount within the next two years.
C-UAS capabilities

US Army readies new artillery strategy spurred by war in Ukraine

Jen Judson

FORT LIBERTY, N.C. — The U.S. Army is working on a new conventional fires strategy expected by the end of this year, according to Gen. James Rainey, who leads Army Futures Command.

“We did a very deliberate strategic fires study that underpin the long-range precision fires efforts,” Rainey told Defense News in an exclusive July 27 interview on his way to Fort Liberty, North Carolina, to speak to soldiers at the Association of the U.S. Army’s Warfighter Summit.

“We’re doing that same thing now for conventional fires,” he said, adding that “precision fires are critical, but conventional fires are critical also.”

Rainey said the time has come for analysis that can inform the artillery strategy based on both “what’s happening in Ukraine” as well as what U.S. Army Pacific needs in terms of conventional fires.

Indeed, the Army has sent large amounts of artillery to aid Ukraine in its fight against the Russian invasion, including at least 198 155mm howitzers, 72 105mm howitzers, several million artillery rounds and 38 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, according to a July 25 Pentagon fact sheet.

The strategy will determine both capability and capacity of what exists and what the Army may need, Rainey said. The strategy will also consider new technology to enhance conventional fires on the battlefield, such as advances in propellant that make it possible for midrange cannons to shoot as far as longer-range systems.

Robotics is another area that will influence the strategy, such as autoloaders for munitions. The Army has experimented with autoloaders for artillery as well as ways to improve howitzer firing rates overall.

“Some of our NATO allies have some really good kit [and] capability that we’re interested in,” Rainey noted.

The Middle East Deal That Biden’s Considering Is a Bad Idea


President Joe Biden is exploring the possibility of a big deal in which Saudi Arabia normalizes relations with Israel, Israel reopens talks with Palestinians, and the U.S. signs a mutual defense pact with Saudi Arabia.

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has described the deal as “a game changer for the Middle East, bigger than the Camp David peace treaty between Egypt and Israel”—as long as tight restrictions on Israeli settlements are a condition.

Certainly, the package is intriguing. The fact that Biden sent National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan to talk it over with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and the fact that Israel’s intelligence chief came to Washington to talk it over with Biden, indicates that this is being taken very seriously—though Biden has said he hasn’t decided whether he should pursue it, even if all the moving parts (of which there are many) could be fastened into a cohesive contraption.

Here’s why I think it’s a bad idea, however skillfully the diplomacy might be maneuvered.

First, the very idea of a U.S. defense pact with Saudi Arabia—a treaty-bound assurance that the United States will come to the royal family’s defense if their country is attacked, in the same way that we have pledged to defend any member of NATO that comes under attack—is, and should be, a non-starter.

It’s one thing to form alliances of convenience with non-democracies. The U.S. has done this on many occasions, for reasons of realpolitik, good and bad. (The classic case of good: Franklin D. Roosevelt allying with Josef Stalin’s Soviet Union during World War II in order to defeat Nazi Germany.)

The trouble with telling history as it happens

Geoffrey Roberts

Are historians, as Serhii Plokhy suggests, really the worst interpreters of current events, except for everyone else?

As a historian myself, I would like to believe so. It’s a comforting thought at a time of extreme pressure on scholars to pick a side in the Russo-Ukrainian war — to jettison objectivity, pluralism, fairness, and fidelity to evidence.

Professor Plokhy — a world-renowned Ukrainian-American historian and the author of many notable books about Russian, Ukrainian and international history — makes no secret of his sympathies. His new book, The Russo-Ukrainian War: The Return of History, is dedicated to “the many thousands of Ukrainians who sacrificed their lives defending their country,” among them his cousin, Andriy, who fell at Bakhmut.

Plokhy characterizes the Russo-Ukrainian conflict as an imperial war in which Russian elites are attempting to crush Ukraine’s independence as part of their overall project to restore a Soviet or Russian empire.

Plokhy’s bias toward Ukraine’s cause is obvious in his narrative about the course of the war in which readers will find a chronicle of Ukrainian triumph in the face of adversity; the dramatic failure of Putin’s attempted blitzkrieg conquest of Ukraine; the halting of the enemy at the very gates of Kyiv; the defiant defense of Mariupol; the Russians’ summer advance in the Donbass; and the great table-turning Ukrainian counter-offensives of autumn 2022. It’s a compelling story that Plokhy tells very well, sometimes excitingly so.

But Plokhy has no privileged access to sources or material evidence. Like all outside observers of these ongoing events, he must rely on information emerging from a very murky pool fed into by media reports, unsourced anonymous intelligence briefings, uninterrogated witness statements, participants’ post hoc memoirs, internet sources and an incessant stream of propaganda claims.

Ukraine Drone Strikes Cause Fear in Russia, but Can They Change the War?

Dan Morrison and Tom Nagorski

The streets hadn’t been swept clean of the broken glass and twisted aluminum from Monday's drone strike on the IQ-Quarter skyscrapers in Moscow--when another missile came screaming out of the sky Tuesday, blasting a fresh hole in the facade of the office and residential tower complex.

It was the latest in a spate of drone attacks — 120 this year, according to one estimate — to strike inside Russian territory. The Ukrainian government made no claim of responsibility, but the Russian foreign ministry called it a Ukrainian “terrorist attack” and went so far as to compare the strike — which left no one killed or injured — with the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington, which killed 2,996 people.

The 9/11 attacks “caused an enormous number of casualties,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova admitted. “But the methods,” she claimed, “were the same."

While most of the suddenly common drone strikes inside Russia are doing minimal damage, they have shattered the calm in Russia’s capital. Ever since President Vladimir Putin sent 150,000 troops into Ukraine 524 days ago, the Kremlin has taken pains to present a surreal, all-is-well narrative on the home front. Even now, the war in Ukraine remains “a special military operation”; it’s still a crime to call the conflict a “war”.

But with each blast from a Ukrainian flying munition, that sense of normalcy– already broken by the Wagner mercenary uprising in June–becomes more fragile.

"This is a disgusting situation when something flies into the capital and explodes,” Alexander, a resident of Moscow’s central business district who lives near the IQ-Quarter complex, told the BBC.

"No one is safe in this situation," he said. No one knows "what will hit us and where."

The State of the Ukrainian 2023 Campaign Progress and Challenge


Because attritional wars can only be won if the enemy army collapses through depletion and exhaustion, generals prefer to win through manoeuvre, involving bold offences that lead to territory being seized and a victory imposed. This was much to be preferred to waiting for the enemy to give up. Attrition therefore tended to get ‘disparaged as an inferior and undesirable form of warfare, requiring patience and an ability to absorb pain, without necessarily offering a plausible route to victory.’ Yet…it could still lead to victory, by creating the conditions for manoeuvre warfare or by forcing the enemy to recognize that its position could only get worse.

Lawrence Freedman, Comment is Freed, 30 July 2023

Almost two months into the Ukrainian 2023 offensives, the tempo of operations has settled into the pulse and pause of military operations that has been observed in other large wars. Ukrainian ground forces are slowly advancing on their Donetsk axis of advance as well as in their Zaporizhia axis of advance, through ‘bite and hold’ approaches. Some progress is being made around Bakhmut as well.

Ukraine has also continued its operational and strategic strike program. This week, Ukraine launched three drones at Moscow. One advisor to the Ukrainian President noted that these strikes are about signalling to the Russians that they should become “used to a full-fledged war.” While the military impact of these strikes are minimal, they do send a strong political message about the Russian military’s inability to defend its airspace, and Putin’s continuing ineffectiveness in protecting against cross-border threats.

Another part of Ukraine’s deep battle operational strikes is naval drone warfare. This week, the Ukrainians used naval drones to attack Russian patrol vessels in the Black Sea.

Corporate Responsibility in the Age of AI


Artificial intelligence has turbocharged the attention economy and unleashed a new set of risks, the scope of which are far from clear. While calls for regulation are growing louder, when they come from the very people behind the technology, they come across largely as public-relations campaigns and corporate stall tactics.

SEATTLE – In the past year, a cacophony of conversations about artificial intelligence has erupted. Depending on whom you listen to, AI is either carrying us into a shiny new world of endless possibilities or propelling us toward a grim dystopia. Call them the Barbie and Oppenheimer scenarios – as attention-grabbing and different as the Hollywood blockbusters of the summer. But one conversation is getting far too little attention: the one about corporate responsibility.

I joined Nike as its first Vice President of Corporate Responsibility in 1998, landing right in the middle of the hyper-globalization era’s biggest corporate crisis: the iconic sports and fitness company had become the face of labor exploitation in developing countries. In dealing with that crisis and setting up corporate responsibility for Nike, we learned hard-earned lessons, which can now help guide our efforts to navigate the AI revolution.

There is a key difference today. Taking place in the late 1990s, the Nike drama played out relatively slowly. When it comes to AI, however, we don’t have the luxury of time. This time last year, most people had not heard about generative AI. The technology entered our collective awareness like a lightning strike in late 2022, and we have been trying to make sense of it ever since.

As it stands, generative AI companies have no externally imposed guardrails. That makes guinea pigs of all of us. There is nothing normal about this. If Boeing or Airbus introduced an airplane that promised to be cheaper and faster, but was potentially very dangerous, we would not accept the risk. A pharmaceutical company that launched an untested product, while warning that it might be toxic, would be found criminally liable for the sickness or death they caused. Why, then, is it okay for technology companies to bring to market AI products that they themselves warn pose the risk of extinction?

Democracy and the AI Revolution

Francis Fukuyama, Mathilde Fasting

Courtesy of our friends at Civita, American Purpose is republishing an excerpt from Mathilde Fasting’s conversation with Francis Fukuyama. This transcript has been lightly edited, and a recording of the full conversation is available.

Mathilde Fasting: Twenty years ago, you wrote a book called Our Post-Human Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution. How do you see the ability to modify human behavior or biology affecting liberal democracy?

Francis Fukuyama: In the late '90s, I was running a seminar on new technologies and their impact, focusing on both IT and biotech. At the time, I believed that the biotech revolution could have more significant consequences, and I still think that may be true. While we have witnessed the downsides of social media and information technology in the interim, the biotech revolution has the potential to affect human behavior and biology, thus influencing liberal democracy.

The reason I believe biotech could have significant political effects is because it provides tools for certain individuals to control the behavior of others. Totalitarianism in the 20th century demonstrated the attempts of highly centralized governments to control the behavior of their populations using techniques like agitation, propaganda, re-education, and police state enforcement. However, these methods proved insufficient in the long run, as seen with the breakdown of the Soviet Union and China's struggles to control its population.

Biomedical technologies, particularly germline interventions that can alter heritable human characteristics, could have a profound impact on our understanding of human rights. Human rights are based on our implicit or explicit understanding of human nature, and the most crucial rights are those that respond to the core aspects of being human. Manipulating human nature through biotechnology could ultimately change the nature of rights.

AI-enabled social media tool ‘promising’ new tech for Army: Officials


The Army is testing new AI-enabled social media tech to aid decision-making. (DVIDS soldier image, Getty social media graphic)

WASHINGTON — As the military explores how it can best use artificial intelligence to enhance operations on the battlefield, the Army is testing how one specific AI-enabled social media tool can help commanders make better informed decisions.

The technology, called Data Robot, was one of 17 technologies tested during this year’s Cyber Quest, an experiment aimed at emerging technologies, at Fort Gordon, Ga. Led by the US Army Cyber Center of Excellence, soldiers tested several technologies from 11 different industry vendors spanning from electronic warfare to networking to cyber this past month.

“This is our opportunity to make sure that those new technologies will actually work when we take them out to the field,” Maj. Gen. Paul Stanton, commanding general of the US Army Cyber Center of Excellence and Fort Gordon, told reporters July 28. “And over the years I’ve noted that there’s one very distinct difference between capabilities that are designed for industry and commercial purposes, and capabilities that we require in the United States Army. And that has been our enemies are trying to see us constantly in order to kill us.

“So regardless of how sound the science is from an industry or academic or scientific perspective, it oftentimes needs to be tweaked in order to meet some of the fundamental requirements that we have in the Army,” he added.

Data Robot used open-source data to detect bots and deep-fake algorithms, Col. John Agnello, director of the Army’s program officer for information advantage, explained.

The tech could potentially help the service in the information advantage and dominance space by creating an “overlay” for a commander to see and make decisions — a capability the Army doesn’t have yet, Col. Brett Riddle, director of the Army’s cyber battle lab, added.

Hands On With Google Search’s Answer to ChatGPT

LAST WEEKEND, I turned to Google Search for help figuring out how many stamps I needed to put on an 8-ounce piece of mail. (Naturally, I was sending a copy of the latest issue of WIRED!). It’s the exact sort of question that I hoped Google Search’s new generative AI feature, which I’ve been testing for the past month, would solve much faster than I could through my own browsing.

Google’s clunkily named Search Generative Experience, SGE for short, infuses its search box with ChatGPT-like conversational functionality. You can sign up at Google’s Search Labs. The company says it wants users to converse with its search chatbot, which launched to testers in May, to dive deeper into topics and ask more challenging and intuitive questions than they would type into a boring old query box. And AI-generated answers are meant to organize information more clearly than a traditional search results page—for example, by pulling together information from multiple websites. Most of the world’s web searches run through Google, and it’s been developing AI technologies longer than most companies, so it’s fair to expect a top-notch experience.

So goes the theory. It turns out that in practice the new feature is so far more nuisance than aide. It’s slow, ineffective, verbose, and cluttered—more artificial interference than intelligence.

The first thing I noticed about Google’s vision for the future of search was its sluggishness.

This is an edition of Steven Levy's Plaintext newsletter. This week WIRED's Paresh Dave is filling in.

Once you gain access to Google’s test, the search box looks unchanged. But in response to a query like “How many stamps to mail 8 ounce letter,” a new section takes up a good chunk of the screen, pushing down the conventional list of links. Within that area, Google’s large language models generate a couple of paragraphs similar to what you might find from ChatGPT or Microsoft’s Bing Chat. Buttons at the bottom lead to a chatbot interface where you can ask follow-up questions.