8 August 2023

Will the India-US Tech Handshake Foster Digital Trade and Policy Convergence?

Arindrajit Basu and Mira Swaminathan

President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India walk along the Colonnade of the White House, Thursday, June 22, 2023, to the Oval Office following the State Arrival Ceremony on the South Lawn.Credit: Official White House Photo by Cameron Smith

Boosted by much fanfare and bonhomie, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s state visit to the United States in June “affirmed a vision of India and the United States as among the closest partners in the world,” as reflected in the subsequent joint statement. Driven by new levels of trust and mutual understanding, the India-U.S. relationship is clearly overcoming the oft-quoted “hesitations of history” and scripting greater strategic convergence.

A “high-tech handshake” is at the core of this new convergence. Unsurprisingly, this was the title of an event involving the two leaders and CEOs of leading Indian and U.S. technology companies. Acknowledging revitalized convergence in high-tech, defense, climate, and overall strategic ties, what does this handshake mean for digital trade and the regulatory environment for businesses going forward?

Catalyzed high-tech ties in the strategic and defense sector have not and will not automatically lead to domestic policy convergence and a frictionless digital trade relationship. Ongoing forums for collaboration and dialogue such as the U.S.-India Trade Policy Forum and the U.S.-India Commercial Dialogue have to iron out a number of issues before concretely impacting the policy and digital trade landscape. Technology companies that desire a long-term presence in the Indian market have begun to realize the need to separate digital trade policy and high-tech strategic cooperation when building on or deriving value from the rejuvenated technology relationship.

What Is a Tech Handshake?

Should We Expect a Thaw in China-India Relations Soon?

Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan

India and China have been locked in a heightened state of tension since the border conflict flared up in May 2020. The two militaries have yet to disengage fully. In fact, there has been disengagement of forces only in a few places along the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Multiple rounds of military and diplomatic talks over the last three years have yielded little on the ground.

The last round of military talks was held in April 2023 prior to Chinese Defense Minister General Li Shangfu’s visit for the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) defense ministers’ meeting in Delhi. The April iteration, the 18th round of talks, was held after a four-month gap following the 17th round, which was held in December 2022.

That there was no official statement on the outcome of the 18th corps commander-level talks reflects the lack of progress and the rigidity of positions on both sides. There was reportedly no breakthrough in the 17th round of talks either.

At the end of May, the Working Mechanism for Consultation and Coordination on India-China Border Affairs (WMCC) met and the two sides stated that they will hold military commander’s talks at “an early date,” but the two sides have not made much progress even in terms of holding the next round of talks.

Still, there is currently a wave of optimism about China-India relations as President Xi Jinping might travel to India for the G-20 summit in September. The hope is that the summit can provide an opportunity at the highest level to discuss bilateral relations. This comes against the backdrop of a late July meeting between Indian National Security Adviser Ajit Doval and China’s top diplomat Wang Yi in South Africa. According to a statement released by the Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), Doval during his talks with Wang conveyed that the Galwan conflict of 2020 had “eroded strategic trust and the public and political basis of the relationship.” The Chinese readout, on the other hand, laid emphasis on the so-called “important consensus on stabilizing China-India relations” reached between Xi and Indian Prime Minister Modi on the sidelines of the G-20 Summit in Bali, Indonesia last year.

India’s Foreign Policy Progress in Sri Lanka is a Strategic Setback for China

Mark S. Cogan

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hand with Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe after making press statement respectively, in New Delhi, India, Friday, July 21, 2023.Credit: AP Photo/Manish Swarup

It was only a year ago that Sri Lanka dominated international headlines, as its worst economic crisis in more than 70 years contributed to severe domestic strife, including deadly riots, and severe shortages of fuel, food and critical medicine. The crisis was created by a confluence of domestic policy blunders under the Rajapaksa clan, on whose watch Sri Lanka’s burden of foreign debt had grown to nearly insurmountable levels, a significant proportion of it owed to Chinese creditors.

Sri Lanka’s economic troubles had been known for some time, but the Rajapaksas were unwilling to seek assistance from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The source of the trouble came not only the inability to service debt due to limited foreign reserves, but economic mismanagement from legitimacy challenges that compelled the government to implement tax cuts to curry favor with the public. The result is that everything that could go wrong with the economy has: Sri Lanka faces budget and current account deficits, hyperinflation, a devalued currency and massive sovereign debt.

For neighboring India, Sri Lanka’s crisis prompted severe strategic anxiety. Over the past decade, Chinese influence on the island has increased, as after the long civil war drew to a close – in part due to China’s weaponry – Mahinda Rajapaksa began borrowing heavily to pay for the war. The relationship between New Delhi strained by an Indian peacekeeping mission in the late 1980s and a number of votes by India at the U.N. Human Rights Council after the war put pressure on Sri Lanka to be held accountable for its actions and to promote reconciliation with the island’s Tamil minority population. China seized the opportunity to undermine India’s sphere of influence over Sri Lanka, partially through satisfying Mahinda Rajapaksa’s penchant for vanity and pet projects.

A prime example of the Rajapaksa-era obsession with infrastructure projects was the 99-year lease of the strategically-located Hambantota Port in 2017 to the Chinese state-owned China Merchants Port Holding Company for $1.1 billion. Sri Lanka secured loans from Chinese banks to develop the port in hopes of relieving some of the shipping burden on the country’s main port in Colombo. Only the new port failed to generate the much-needed revenue. The Rajapaksa government eventually collapsed under the weight of its debt burden to both Beijing and another $25 billion in debt to private bondholders.

Opinion – Kazakhstan’s Aspirations for Afghanistan Post-US Withdrawal

Pierre-Olivier Bussières

The situation in Afghanistan has not been straightforward since the United States pulled out of the country in 2021. The troubled state continues to face a humanitarian crisis, with almost half of its population – 23 million people – receiving assistance from the World Food Programme last year. According to UNICEF, the number of people in need increased from 28.3 million in January to 29.2 million people in May of this year, mainly due to an increase in the number of people requiring specialized protection services. Worryingly, according to a classified US Pentagon assessment, Afghanistan has become a significant coordination site for Islamic State. There has been a rise in terrorist groups such as Isis-K and al-Qaeda, which threaten stability in the country and cause concern of a spillover of terrorist activity beyond Afghanistan.

Despite these threats and challenges, Afghanistan has been deprioritised by European nations and the United States. The war in Ukraine and relations with China have taken centre stage. As a result, Afghanistan is no longer a key concern for Western countries.

Consequently, countries in the Central Asian region, particularly Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, have had to fill the gap left by the United States and its allies. Central Asia has always paid attention to the situation in Afghanistan, given its geographical proximity, but it has not previously taken a prominent and active role in regional diplomacy. Now, Central Asian states are at the forefront of supporting Afghanistan’s development and regional integration. Most of the Central Asian countries have pursued a strategy with Afghanistan based on the assumption that cooperation and engagement, particularly economic, will promote stability.

Kazakhstan, the largest of the Central Asian republics, has taken the lead in this endeavour. In 2021, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, said Afghanistan should become a stable, sovereign, and united state, living in peace with itself and its neighbours. Kazakhstan has been particularly keen to participate in the development of Afghanistan’s infrastructure, especially in the areas of transport, energy, and agriculture. The ultimate objective is to integrate Afghanistan into the regional economy, then reconnect it fully to global trade.

The Islamic State Threat in Pakistan: Trends and Scenarios

Alexander Palmer and Mackenzie Holtz

On July 30, the Islamic State-Khorasan Province (ISKP) conducted a suicide bombing at an election rally for the Pakistani political party Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam Fazl (JUI-F), killing at least 54 people, including a regional JUI-F leader. The attack took place in Bajaur District, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) Province, which borders Afghanistan. ISKP claimed the attack hours after it occurred.

The attack demonstrates that ISKP’s Pakistani networks remain willing and able to conduct mass-casualty attacks on civilian targets. Islamic State (IS) networks in Pakistan will continue to pose a threat to small groups of security forces in the country’s northwest but are unable to pose a meaningful challenge to the Pakistani state and unlikely to conduct attacks in the United States or Europe absent major changes in Pakistan’s security and political environment.

The main problem for policymakers outside of Pakistan is that the Afghan Taliban and Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) have probably played a major role in weakening ISKP in Pakistan. The role of such groups in containing the threat from ISKP means that policymakers outside of the region have few appealing options for combating ISKP. It also means that counterterrorist activities against the TTP risk strengthening ISKP.

This analysis is focused specifically on the threat that IS poses within Pakistan itself. The group poses an immediate threat to civilians and Taliban members in Afghanistan and maintains its desire to conduct attacks further afield, including in Europe and the United States. The group’s activities in Pakistan have generally received less attention than the threat it poses within Afghanistan, central Asia, or the West, but the July 30 attack demonstrates that the group is also a highly lethal threat to civilians within Pakistan.

Beyond the Narrative of China’s Debt Trap Diplomacy

Alain Tao

This content was originally written for an undergraduate or Master's program. It is published as part of our mission to showcase peer-leading papers written by students during their studies. This work can be used for background reading and research, but should not be cited as an expert source or used in place of scholarly articles/books.

In the last three decades, the People’s Republic of China has seen an astronomical rise from a reclusive economic backwater to a premier global power. Accompanying this rise is China’s emergence as a leader in international development finance (Singh, 2021). This comes at a crucial time for developing nations facing an ever-rising infrastructure-financing gap (Carmody, 2020). In response to the increasing demand, Beijing has helped fund two new multilateral development banks, the New Development Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, along with 13 regional and bilateral funds (Singh, 2021). Chinese banks are also present across the developing world, extending loans to countries that traditional lenders have avoided (Singh, 2021). However, China’s growing footprint in international development financing has also attracted fierce criticism. Former U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson made this damning indictment of China’s dealings with African nations: “China’s approach encourages dependency using opaque contracts, predatory loan practices, and corrupt deals that mire nations in debt and undercut their sovereignty, denying them their long-term, self-sustaining growth […] its approach has led to mounting debt and few if any jobs in most countries. When coupled with the political and fiscal pressure, this endangers Africa’s natural resources and its long-term economic and political stability” (US Department of State, 2018).

More recently, current U.S. Secretary of State Janet Yellen expressed her worries ‘about some of the activities that China engages in globally, engaging in countries in ways that leave them trapped in debt and don’t promote economic development (Baptista, 2023).’ Both officials are, in fact, echoing a claim initially made by Braham Chellaney (2017), the Indian pundit who coined the term “debt-trap diplomacy.” Chellaney claimed in 2017 op-ed that China practices predatory loaning by deliberately ensnaring developing countries in burdensome loans that the recipient will struggle to repay (Chellaney, 2017). By leveraging the debt, Beijing is able to force concessions from the debtor country, such as the acquisition of critical assets and natural resources, and expand the reach of China’s military and navy (Chellaney, 2017). Chellaney (2017) concluded that China’s debt-trap diplomacy aimed to further its ‘neo-colonial ambition’ and cautioned developing countries to avoid Chinese financing or risk falling victim to Beijing’s nefarious design.

The west must match Russia and China in the dark arts of the grey zone

Michael Miklaucic 

The writer is a senior fellow at National Defense University and the editor-in-chief of the PRISM journal

Russia’s unprovoked war against Ukraine grinds into its 18th month. It is a war fought with blood and iron. Shorn of the nuance or ambiguity of the so-called grey zone, this is old-fashioned, heavy metal warfare. Desperate to prevail, Russia has dangled the threat of nuclear retaliation against any western-supported escalation. In these circumstances one might ask if the grey zone remains a valid concept? Are cyber attacks, disinformation and influence campaigns still relevant? The answer is a resounding “Yes”.

Ukraine is but a single front in a larger war on a global scale over what is and is not permissible in international relations. While defending Ukraine’s sovereignty is vital, the war over the future global order is also being fought along many other fronts and Russia is not our only adversary.

Ināra Mūrniece, Latvia’s defence minister, warned recently that it is wrong to think Russia has been weakened by this war and is incapable of strategic surprises. On the contrary, though its military has performed dismally in Ukraine, Russia maintains a robust capacity to subvert our interests with a full range of tools below the threshold of military combat. In 2016 Russian trolls interfered with the US presidential election. In 2017 the Kremlin-backed Sandworm hacker group unleashed NotPetya malware on the online world, costing billions of dollars. Russia’s information warfare machine can sow discord in strong and weak countries alike.

China, too, uses a sophisticated grey zone toolbox, including economic and trade coercion, naval power, a huge fleet of “fishing” vessels to bully neighbours in the South China Sea, militarisation of atolls in the South China Sea, Confucius Institutes at western universities and foreign police outposts which monitor expatriate Chinese. In 2021 China imposed a trade embargo and other sanctions on Lithuania in retaliation for the opening of a Taiwan Representative Office in Vilnius.

A Global Web of Chinese Propaganda Leads to a U.S. Tech Mogul

Mara Hvistendahl, David A. Fahrenthold, Lynsey Chutel and Ishaan Jhaveri

Mara Hvistendahl is an investigative reporter focused on China. David A. Fahrenthold investigates nonprofits from Washington. Lynsey Chutel reported from South Africa and Ishaan Jhaveri from New York.

The protest in London’s bustling Chinatown brought together a variety of activist groups to oppose a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes. So it was peculiar when a street brawl broke out among mostly ethnic Chinese demonstrators.

Witnesses said the fight, in November 2021, started when men aligned with the event’s organizers, including a group called No Cold War, attacked activists supporting the democracy movement in Hong Kong.

On the surface, No Cold War is a loose collective run mostly by American and British activists who say the West’s rhetoric against China has distracted from issues like climate change and racial injustice.

In fact, a New York Times investigation found, it is part of a lavishly funded influence campaign that defends China and pushes its propaganda. At the center is a charismatic American millionaire, Neville Roy Singham, who is known as a socialist benefactor of far-left causes.

What is less known, and is hidden amid a tangle of nonprofit groups and shell companies, is that Mr. Singham works closely with the Chinese government media machine and is financing its propaganda worldwide.

From a think tank in Massachusetts to an event space in Manhattan, from a political party in South Africa to news organizations in India and Brazil, The Times tracked hundreds of millions of dollars to groups linked to Mr. Singham that mix progressive advocacy with Chinese government talking points.

What to make of a surprise shake-up in China’s nuclear force

The last time that China’s supreme leader, Xi Jinping, purged the top tiers of the military elite, he could blame their venality on his predecessors. His two most senior scalps, Generals Xu Caihou and Guo Boxiong, were both accused of taking massive bribes in exchange for promotions. But not on Mr Xi’s watch. The generals had joined the Communist Party’s Central Military Commission, which oversees the armed forces, in 1999 and retired as its vice chairmen in 2012, the year that Mr Xi took power.

The downfall of General Li Yuchao, the commander of China’s Rocket Force, and its political commissar, General Xu Zhongbo, touches Mr Xi more directly. He put them in charge of China’s land-based nuclear and conventional missiles. No reason was given when official media announced on July 31st that they had been replaced. Nor was there any indication of their fate, although there is speculation that General Li and other Rocket Force officials could be under investigation for corruption or leaking military secrets.

On Point: Time for Beltway Admirals to Think About War 2025, Not Paper Fleet 2045

Austin Bay

Last week's column, titled "Confronting China's Rising Strength on the Seas," addressed China's military buildup with specific focus on the huge expansion of the Chinese Navy (PLAN -- Peoples Liberation Army Navy).

The column quoted Sen. Roger Wicker's May 3 speech addressing the U.S. Navy's ability -- or inability -- to deter a war with China in the Pacific.

The column stressed two absolutely important concepts. The first and most obvious was reiterating Wicker's vital strategic statement: We must deter Chinese aggression. In plain language, Wicker said China's expansionist dictatorship must be convinced that the U.S. has military forces strong enough to defeat China should the dictatorship risk a major war in the western Pacific. In part, spending the money and the national effort to create these forces demonstrates America has the will to use them should Beijing try a Putinesque gamble.

Wicker focused on the U.S. Navy (USN) because in the western Pacific the Navy is America's key U.S. offensive battle force. Control the sea and Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and the Philippines stand.

Alas, in sheer numbers of warships, the PLAN already has the world's largest battle fleet. In August 2023, the USN is the laggard. The PLAN is also built to fight a "home game" within air and missile support distance of the Chinese mainland. China's deployment of "carrier killer" anti-ship ballistic missiles is designed to convince the Pentagon it might lose a supercarrier to a long-range weapon, so carrier battle groups will avoid the western Pacific and stay out of range. The strategy is called anti-access/area denial (A2AD).

Which leads to the second important concept in my column and one that also worries Sen. Wicker: Time.

Starting from behind means the U.S. only has so much calendar time to build, train and deploy additional forces -- assuming American leaders have the wisdom to do so.

Five Things to Know About China’s Armed Forces

Andrew Scobell, Ph.D.; Alex Stephenson

The People’s Liberation Army, which celebrated its 96th birthday on August 1, is one of the largest, most potent and fast-growing militaries in the world. Chinese leader Xi Jinping has made it a goal for the PLA to “modernize” by 2035 and to be a “world-class” military power by mid-century. In 2014, China’s Navy overtook the U.S. Navy to become the largest military fleet in the world — although the U.S. Navy is still considered to be more powerful. While China is notoriously opaque about its level of defense spending, it is widely believed that China has the largest defense budget in the world other than the United States.Chinese Navy sailors in Zhanjiang, China. China’s Naval fleet is the largest in the world as of 2014, although the U.S. Navy is still considered more powerful. (Nelson Ching/The New York Times)

USIP’s Andrew Scobell and Alex Stephenson discuss the PLA’s origins, how it’s organized and deployed, and how Beijing's neighbors and the United States should view the threat China’s armed forces pose.

What are the PLA’s origins?

Stephenson: In the mid-1920s, the fledgling Chinese Communist Party (CCP), founded in 1921, was in an uneasy alliance with the nationalist Kuomintang (KMT). This coalition was formed to reunite a patchwork China divided into separate provinces and territories each controlled by a different warlord army. For a time, the CCP and KMT fought side by side as part of the National Revolution Army (NRA) and even established a military academy at Whampoa, where they trained together. However, in April 1927, Chiang Kai-shek and right-leaning forces in the KMT abruptly ended the coalition and set up a nationalist regime in Nanjing and the CCP retreated into the countryside.

Opinion – The World Bank’s Comprehensive Climate-Centric Transformation

Rizwan Basir

The World Bank, the world’s largest multilateral development bank, has faced longstanding criticism for perceived shortcomings such as coercive loan conditions and inadequate environmental safeguards. However, recently, the scrutiny has escalated even further for its failure to mobilize sufficient funds for climate change efforts in vulnerable countries, as well as politicization of the climate change issue, undermining the universality of the challenge at hand. As climate change wreaks havoc on communities worldwide – the planet witnessed the highest temperatures ever recorded in its history during the first week of July – critics demand a fundamental transformation of the World Bank’s approach. They call for prioritizing climate finance to protect the most vulnerable populations and effectively combat the escalating climate crisis.

During the summit for Global Financing Pact in Paris last month, Kenyan President William Ruto expressed his strong criticism of the global lending system operated by the IMF and the World Bank. According to Ruto, the system is unjust, punitive, and lacks equal opportunities for all countries. “We are tired of this story” painting Africans as “victims of climate change” who are “looking for favors” and “complaining,” he said. “We do not want to look for help. We want to participate in the solution,” Ruto said on the summit’s final day.

Last week, the President of COP28, Dr. Sultan Al Jaber unveiled his action plan for the climate summit, with a key focus on overhauling the global climate financing system. The President astutely acknowledged that developing countries face severe devastation from the climate crisis but lack resources for low-CO2 transition. The current climate financing is insufficient, inaccessible, and biased towards wealthier countries. Al Jaber called for a ‘’comprehensive transformation’’ of the World Bank and international finance institutions, including private sector funding to address this pressing issue.

The newly instated president of the World Bank, Ajay Banga, resoundingly echoes this sentiment. As the G20 finance ministers convene in India, he boldly proclaims, “The Global South’s frustration is understandable. In many ways they are paying the price for our prosperity.” Yet, mere acknowledgement is insufficient; the world needs action.

Water Wars: Cooling The Data Centers – OpEd

Binoy Kampmark

Water. Data centres. The continuous, pressing need to cool the latter, which houses servers to store and process data, with the former, which is becoming ever more precious in the climate crisis. Hardly a good comingling of factors.

Like planting cotton in drought-stricken areas, decisions to place data hubs in various locations across the globe are becoming increasingly contentious from an environmental perspective, and not merely because of their carbon emitting propensities. In the United States, which houses 33% of the globe’s data centres, the problem of water usage is becoming acute.

As the Washington Post reported in April this year, residents in Mesa, Arizona were concerned that Meta’s decision to build another data centre was bound to cause more trouble than it was worth. “My first reaction was concern for our water,” claimed city council member Jenn Duff. (The state already has approximately 49 data centres.)

The move to liquid cooling from air cooling for increasingly complex IT processes has been relentless. As the authors of a piece in the ASHRAE Journal from July 2019 explain, “Air cooling has worked well for systems that deploy processors up to 150 W, but IT equipment is now being manufactured with processors well above 150 W where air cooling is no longer practical.” The use of liquid cooling was not only more efficient than air cooling regarding heat transfer, but “more energy efficient, reducing electrical energy costs significantly.” The authors, however, show little concern about the water supplies needed in such ventures.

The same cannot be said about a co-authored study on the environmental footprint of US-located data centres published two years later. During their investigations, the authors identified a telling tendency: “Our bottom-up approach reveals one-fifth of data center servers’ direct water footprint comes from moderately to highly stressed watersheds, while nearly half of servers are fully or partially powered by power plants located within water stressed reasons.” And to make things just that bit less appealing, it was also found that roughly 0.5% of total US greenhouse gas emissions could also be attributed to such centres.

The Unpredictable Dictators

Keren Yarhi-Milo and Laura Resnick Samotin

Until the week before it happened, most people refused to believe that Russia would attack Ukraine. Despite repeated warnings from the Biden administration and widespread evidence that Moscow’s troops were massing on Ukraine’s borders, it was difficult to accept that Russian President Vladimir Putin would try conquering Europe’s largest state. “He won’t be initiating an escalation,” said French President Emmanuel Macron on February 8, just 16 days before the invasion. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was also caught off-guard, saying at the end of January that Biden’s claims of a coming invasion were simply “panic.” The German government

What a counter-drone truck says about US aid to Ukraine


Following a stream of Russian drone attacks that plunged Kyiv into darkness last year, the Defense Department unveiled a plan in early April: send anti-drone gun and missile trucks to Ukraine.

The 19 unidentified trucks were “important capabilities,” a senior U.S. defense official said at the time, listing them alongside more well-known systems like the Patriot surface-to-air missile.

Four months later, the Defense Department has yet to deliver the trucks. They haven’t even been built—because the Pentagon has not yet offered a contract to Northrop Grumman, the company that manufactures them.

The delay shows that even as the Pentagon works to speed up its acquisition procedures, there is room for improvement. And, said some in the defense industry and the think-tank community, it shows the United States must do more and move more quickly to help Ukraine.

The initial concept for supplying Ukraine with anti-drone gun trucks was meant to deal with Russian attacks on Ukrainian power stations, often by means of cheap, Iranian-produced loitering munitions called Shaheds. The push-propeller drones pack a smaller punch than Russia’s ballistic and cruise missiles, yet still helped plunge Kyiv and other cities in Ukraine into darkness during an icy winter.

In response, the Office of the Secretary of Defense tasked an Army office with coming up with a counter-drone solution that could be delivered within 30 to 90 days of a contract award, the Army office involved said in a press conference in July.

The office that ran the test, the Army’s Joint Counter-small Unmanned Aircraft Systems Office, rushed to set up the competition on a “very short” timeline, according to Col. Michael Parent. Trucks firing missiles and at least one truck firing a gun were tested against targets in the same weight class as the Shahed loitering munition.

Ukraine Strikes 2 Bridges Connected to Russian-Occupied Crimea

Matthew Mpoke Bigg, Vivek Shankar and Anushka Patil

Ukrainian forces struck two bridges connecting Russian-occupied Crimea to the rest of Ukraine on Sunday, part of a broader pattern of attacks on and around the peninsula that has sought to scramble critical supply routes for the Kremlin and push the scope of the war into fresh territory.

One of the strikes tore three holes in the roadway of the Chonhar Bridge, which links Crimea to the Russian-occupied Kherson region, forcing it to close to traffic, according to the Russian-backed governor of the region, Vladimir Saldo. The same bridge was struck by Ukrainian forces in June, Russian-backed officials said.

Sunday’s attacks also injured a driver and closed traffic on a second bridge to the east of Chonhar, near the small town of Henichesk, Mr. Saldo said. A gas pipeline near the bridge was damaged, cutting off supplies to more than 20,000 people, he added.

The load-bearing structure of the Chonhar Bridge was not damaged, and traffic on the Henichesk Bridge was to be restored by the end of the day, Mr. Saldo said. His claims about the extent of the damage could not be independently verified.

Ukraine’s armed forces took credit for both strikes on Sunday, in another departure from their typically coy approach as President Volodymyr Zelensky and other top officials emphasize that their new aim is to force ordinary Russians to face up to the Kremlin’s war.

The bridge attacks came the same day that Russian air defenses shot down a hostile drone that had been approaching Moscow, according to a brief statement on the Telegram messaging app posted by the city’s mayor, Sergei S. Sobyanin. The claim has not been independently verified, and Ukrainian officials did not immediately comment. At the same time, the Vnukovo airport, which serves Moscow, temporarily suspended flights for “security reasons,” according to a Telegram post from the Russian state news agency Tass.

Central Asia Comes Out of the Russian Shadow

Erica Marat

In Central Asia, speaking the Russian language used to be a sign of education, high culture, and a marker of the upper class. Its mastery also presented more opportunities in terms of employment. For the region’s most well-educated and prosperous, Russian remained the primary language after the Soviet regime collapsed in 1991.

Now that Russia is fighting a genocidal war in Ukraine to capture territory and impose its identity on the Ukrainian people, speaking the Russian language has turned into a symbol of lasting colonial repression of local identities. Today, more Central Asians, especially in urban areas, are asking themselves: Why do we continue to speak the language of a neighboring country that once occupied us, and not our native languages?

The region’s search for language, historic memory, cultural heritage and – above all – dignity outside of Soviet propaganda started two decades ago, but until recently lived mostly among Central Asian scholars and civil society. In politically freer Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, activists, scholars, and art communities have notably rebelled against old Soviet notions of the region. Criticism of Russian imperialism has spilled over into the mainstream.

Especially in larger cities, numerous public events have openly called for rejecting Russian colonial stereotypes about Central Asian cultures. The topics of these discussions range from recasting Soviet occupation as violent colonialism, to learning to speak regional languages, to searching for indigenous traditions in attire and cuisine.

Decolonial discussions are omnipresent – at conferences, parties, and podcasts. Families grapple with memories of who they lost in the violence under the Soviets, who among their relatives in Russia might have been drafted to fight in Ukraine today, and why some within their communities still blindly believe the Kremlin’s propaganda. Across the region, people ask: Are we, without realizing it, mankurts – mindless slaves who suffered torture in captivity, as described by the famous Kyrgyz writer Chyngyz Aitmatov?

Washington Has No Interest in Pursuing Peace in Ukraine

Dominick Sansone

Foreign Affairs magazine published an insightful piece in its most recent issue, titled “An Unwinnable War: Washington Needs an Endgame in Ukraine.” Written by RAND Corporation senior political scientist Samuel Charap, it is well argued and presents a number of reasonable proposals that prioritize a diplomatic end to the Ukraine War. Three examples—the Korean armistice, U.S.-Israeli security arrangements, and the Bosnia Contact Group—are drawn upon in order to suggest a roadmap to ceasing hostilities.

A number of responses were subsequently published in Foreign Affairs online. All take aim with Charap’s assessment that neither side currently holds the capabilities to achieve ultimate victory, defined in this context as establishing control over the disputed territory in Ukraine. Rather, they contend that Ukraine’s triumph is simply a matter of providing more—and deadlier—Western weaponry. Each argument also rests upon the assumption of a tottering Putin regime. They all cite the Prigozhin mutiny (it is mentioned a total of six separate times throughout the various responses) as irrefutable evidence of a latent contingent of discontented Russians that can and will eventually be mobilized to topple the current government.

The most extreme perspective comes from Dmytro Natalukha, Chair of the Committee for Economic Affairs of the Parliament of Ukraine and a member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Natalukha claims that leaving any territory occupied by Russia will allow Moscow to subsequently use that land as a launch pad for future attacks to capture the rest of the country, as he claims it did after the Minsk agreements of 2014 and 2015—although he conveniently ignores the fact that it was both Moscow and Kiev who consistently failed to implement the terms of both the Minsk Protocol and Minsk II. Ukraine, Natalukha argues, must therefore wage war until all occupied land is seized back from Russia. What is more, the return of the eastern oblasts and Crimea must then be followed by forcible regime change in Moscow and the installation of a Western-approved leader. This will ensure that “post-Putin Russia will have the consent of Ukraine.”

Russia’s Kitchen of Chaos in West Africa

Wesley Alexander Hill

Evgeny Prigozhin, the Kremlin’s chef-turned-warlord, appears to be cooking up trouble in Africa. The leader of the Wagner Group announced on July 19 in a video that Wagner troops should prepare for fighting in Africa. This is consistent with earlier Wagner Group activities. Wagner mercenaries have committed human rights violations and engaged variously in smuggling, disinformation campaigns, and natural resource extraction in Burkina Faso, Mali, Mozambique, Sudan, and across the continent. These smuggling operations have been vital for Russia’s war effort in Ukraine, as while the wider Russian economy buckles under sanctions, the vast amounts of gold and other minerals Wagner is extracting keep the Russian treasury afloat.

Whether or not the recent coup in Niger presents new opportunities for Wagnerian infiltration, the event will have significant geo-economic and geostrategic impacts. Niger is home to 5 percent of global uranium production. European energy production is also dependent on Nigerien uranium. According to Oxfam, “In France, one out of every three light bulbs is lit thanks to Nigerien uranium,” which is vital for broader European energy production. With the new government in Niamey announcing a total closure of its borders for the time being, European energy markets will feel a pinch if regular exports do not resume within several weeks.

This is not the first time Niger has experienced political discord. This week’s coup d’état is the fifth since the country gained independence from France in 1960. Some coups were brazen seizures of powers by the military, others putative defenses of democracy. Now, both sides claim a democratic mandate. Deposed ministers are calling on the civilian population to “rescue hard-won democratic gains.” At the same time, the new junta, some of whom cooperated with Russia in the past, pledged to preserve democracy and restore the rule of law.

If Ukraine Is Any Barometer Of Expenditure Rates In Modern War, America Is Gonna Lose Taiwan

Mackenzie Eaglen

A U.S. Air Force F-35A Lightning II fighter aircraft, assigned to the 421st Fighter Squadron, Hill Air Force Base, Utah, prepares to join formation while en route to Turku, Finland, June 13, 2019. The F-35A flew alongside two Finnish F-18 Hornet aircraft as part of a Theater Security Package. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Jovante Johnson)

U.S. President Joe Biden’s decision to send cluster munitions to Ukraine is important, but it has served up yet another reminder that the U.S. is short on stuff that blows up. Responding to reporters’ questions about the decision to send those shells, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said, “We need to build a bridge from where we are today to when we have enough monthly production of unitary rounds.”

Building a production and manufacturing “bridge” for munitions and mines takes time. These lines and workforces are not light switches that can be turned off and on quickly. From the consolidation of firms and suppliers, to long lead times for parts and energetics, and a number of other issues in between, our inability to produce munitions at scale has numerous causes.
Funding Woes

Dig a little deeper, though, and it is clear that money is the main reason the munitions industrial base lacks surge capacity. And like so much else when it comes to the state of our military today, the insufficient funds are no accident.

When past defense budgets did not provide for real growth, policymakers often allowed munitions to take the hit, choosing to support other underfunded accounts. Flying hours, munitions, sustainment, and workforce are regular bill payers for other defense priorities, according to Pentagon acquisition chief Bill LaPlante.

Drones and the Close Battle

Sergio Miller

This year the Ukrainian MOD intends to procure 200,000 drones.1 That statement should make defence ministries pause and reflect. It is not evident this is the case. At the end of last year, the UK MOD announced a £129 million deal to procure just over 250 drones (mini- and medium UAS), effectively replacing capability lost with the end-of-service life of drones procured to support operations in Afghanistan. The Ukrainian MOD is seeking to acquire such a large number of drones because around 10,000 are reportedly expended or lost every month.2 The recent UK procurement would last less than one day in Ukraine. Or expressed another way, to match the Ukrainian procurement, the UK MOD would have to spend £103 billion on drones, or two-and-a-half defence budgets. The Ukrainian MOD is not spending such a sum of money. It has allocated 20 billion hryvnias, or roughly £400 million.3 This is still a large sum but not tens of billions.

So many drones can be procured ‘cheaply’ due to the remarkable ascent of the recreational drone on the battlefields of Ukraine. The trend was already presaged in the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War (Sept-Nov 2020). Now it cannot be ignored. This article attempts to explain the emergence of a technology that is changing the character of the close battle. It focuses on one aspect of this phenomenon: the tactical, hand-held ‘kamikaze drone’.
‘Kamikaze drones’

The term ‘kamikaze drone’ (‘dronivkamikadze’) has been popularised. These are effectively ‘flying IEDs’. Four broad categories of drones fall under this general term:

These are the original, true kamikaze drones. The development of hand-held, tactical loitering munitions started in the early 2000s. The systems were viewed as a special force capability. They have since spread to conventional forces and are fielded or manufactured by around 30 countries. Leaders are the US, Israel and Turkey. Ukraine is known to have deployed Switchblade (US), Phoenix Ghost (US), ST-35 Silent Thunder (Ukrainian), Scalpel (Ukrainian), RAM II (Ukrainian), Warmate (Polish), and DefendTex D40 (Australian).

Hand-held quadcopters:

Artificial Intelligence and Digital Diplomacy

Lala Jafarova

The coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) has given a strong impetus to the development of science, the general processes of digitalization and the introduction of an increasing number of electronic services. In healthcare, these processes manifested in creating tracking applications, information-sharing platforms, telemedicine, and more. However, the boom in introducing such technologies also showed the need to develop particular policies and legal mechanisms to regulate their implementation, as although they can provide benefits, their use can also pose potential risks, such as cyberattacks. Digital technologies have also become widely used in politics. Due to the lockdowns around the world during 2020 and 2021, many ministerial meetings and meetings between heads of state were held online. International organizations such as the United Nations (UN) have resorted to mixed event formats allowing presidents to speak online.

The possibilities of the Internet and the application of digital technologies are not new. However, their entry into the political atmosphere, where everything is permeated with diplomatic protocols and certain secrecy, causes some concern. Perhaps the most apparent concern is using “Deepfake” technology to digitally manipulate another person’s appearance. With modern AI technology, voice imitation is also possible.

Diplomatic channels may be scrutinized by the intelligence agencies of other countries and potential criminal groups that can gain access to specific technologies, such as wiretapping. Quite often, “secret” data (photos, videos, audio recordings) as well as “fake news,” which veracity an ordinary person cannot verify in any way, appear in the press. Such manipulations pose a significant threat to social stability and affect public opinion. Modern technologies can also be used in the political struggle against competing forces. Therefore, there is a need to rethink the “familiar” political process, considering new realities and possibly developing new “digital or electronic” diplomatic protocols.

Microsoft Says Russia-Linked Hackers Behind Dozens Of Teams Phishing Attacks

(EurActiv) — A Russian government-linked hacking group took aim at dozens of global organizations with a campaign to steal login credentials by engaging users in Microsoft Teams chats pretending to be from technical support, Microsoft researchers said on Wednesday (2 August).

These “highly targeted” social engineering attacks have affected “fewer than 40 unique global organizations” since late May, Microsoft researchers said in a blog, adding that the company was investigating.

The Russian embassy in Washington didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The hackers set up domains and accounts that looked like technical support and tried to engage Teams users in chats and get them to approve multifactor authentication (MFA) prompts, the researchers said.

“Microsoft has mitigated the actor from using the domains and continues to investigate this activity and work to remediate the impact of the attack,” they added.

Teams is Microsoft’s proprietary business communication platform, with more than 280 million active users, according to the company’s January financial statement.

MFAs are a widely recommended security measure aimed at preventing hacking or stealing of credentials. The Teams targeting suggests hackers are finding new ways to get past it.

The hacking group behind this activity, known in the industry as Midnight Blizzard or APT29, is based in Russia and the UK and U.S. governments have linked it to the country’s foreign intelligence service, the researchers said.

“The organizations targeted in this activity likely indicate specific espionage objectives by Midnight Blizzard directed at government, non-government organizations (NGOs), IT services, technology, discrete manufacturing, and media sectors,” they said, without naming any of the targets.

Sprawling Pacific exercise revealed Air Force needs some doctrine ‘refresh’: General


WASHINGTON — Following the conclusion of Air Mobility Command’s (AMC) largest readiness exercise in its history held for the first time in the Indo-Pacific, officials are starting to unpack lessons learned, with a key takeaway being the need to “refresh” Air Force doctrine to better coordinate logistics forces, according to a top service official.

“There’s definitely some refresh that needs to take place… There’s some refreshing of Air Force doctrine, probably some joint doctrine, and that’s some of our intent in getting after the institutionalization of the command and control of GAMSS forces,” Maj. Gen. John Klein, commander of the Air Force Expeditionary Center, said during a virtual discussion hosted by the Air & Space Forces Association on Thursday. GAMSS stands for the Global Air Mobility Support System, the Air Force’s troops and assets that provide ground support for mobility operations.

Klein explained that two of the biggest lessons from the Mobility Guardian exercise last month — involving some 3,000 people and 70 mobility aircraft from US and allied forces, with a total of seven countries participating — largely fall into the areas of commanding and controlling forces and connectivity.

Specifically, Klein said AMC gained insights about simultaneously steering deployments through two air operations centers: the 618th Air Operations Center at Scott Air Force Base, the Air Force’s component of US Transportation Command tasked with global missions, and then the theater-based 613th Air Operations Center at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.

How those two entities coordinate forces might need some tweaking, he suggested, though he cautioned officials should avoid “reinvent[ing] the wheel.”

“So when you have this mix of [major command]-retained [operational control] for those forces coming into another combatant commander’s theater, where he’s got his own theater-assigned forces, you can imagine that there may be some differences,” he explained, though he did not detail exactly how the relationship between the two might change.