13 August 2023

Pakistani democracy is dead


Life has come full circle for Imran Khan. In 2018, he was elected to be prime minister of Pakistan after his predecessor, Nawaz Sharif, was disqualified over corruption charges resulting from the Panama Papers. Khan stated at the time that he, too, should be ejected if found guilty of anything similar, going so far as to say that he didn’t mind security agencies tapping his phone. Five years later, Khan has got what he wished for. On Tuesday, he was barred from politics for five years, a few days after he received a three-year jail sentence for corruption.

Khan has been found guilty of abusing his privileges, with the court verdict concluding that he provided “false and inaccurate” information about gifts he received as Pakistan’s head of government. But he has been embroiled in over 100 other cases. One arose after the UK’s National Crime Agency returned £190 million to Pakistan, the result of an investigation into real estate magnate Malik Riaz’s money laundering. Khan is accused of returning the money to Riaz, then receiving land worth $24.7 million from him. The trial addressing these allegations saw the former premier briefly arrested in May. Violent protests erupted against the military establishment, which was accused of orchestrating Khan’s arrest.

The Pakistan Army has a long history of meddling with politics. The government here has long been subservient to the military establishment, and the army is uncomfortable with popular civilian leaders such as Khan. By the time he was ousted in a No Confidence vote last April, he had completely fallen out with the army leadership. This was partly a result of Khan’s own antagonistic behaviour; in 2021, for instance, he named a new secret service chief, even though such appointments are only the prerogative of the prime minister in theory, and almost always dictated by the army chief in practice.

And yet, that same military establishment was undoubtedly empowered by Khan. His government extended the tenure of the then-chief of the army General Qamar Javed Bajwa, whom Khan described as the most “democratic and neutral” army chief in Pakistan’s history. In a typical turn of events, Khan’s party now holds Bajwa singlehandedly responsible for his regime’s exit.

The reality of China’s influence in the Middle East


The difficulty in comparing America’s and China’s influence in the Middle East is that the two operate on entirely different planes. [Note: The Chinese use the term Western Asia, rather than the Middle East, to refer to a region that includes the Levant, Iraq, the Gulf, Turkey and Iran.]

Despite China’s impressive naval construction program, China cannot challenge American dominance of the seas within any definable time horizon. There is no indication that China has or soon will develop the capability to put boots on the ground in the region.

At the same time, China’s economic and technological presence has jumped during the past several years, and the United States cannot compete with China in critical areas such as broadband infrastructure.

The military balance

China’s military presence in the Middle East remains small. Its 200 marines at the Djibouti naval base are on standby for anti-piracy and civilian rescue operations. China reportedly has sponsored the creation of a joint maritime force including Saudi Arabia, Iran, the UAE, and Oman, but has committed no ships to the project.

A February 2013 note from the American Enterprise Institute observes, “Current Chinese basing capacity and force commitment in the region seem insufficient to support the level of economic and diplomatic engagement that appears to be Beijing’s new normal, so Washington should prepare for further expansion.”

There have been rumors about plans for a Chinese naval base in the UAE, so far unconfirmed. The latest Pentagon assessment of China’s military does not predict an expansion of China’s expeditionary capability. China has just 30,000 marines versus America’s 200,000, and perhaps 12,000 special forces versus America’s 70,000.

Cyberattack on Civilian Critical Infrastructures in a Taiwan Scenario

James Andrew Lewis

Expressions of surprise that the Chinese military targeted critical infrastructure in Guam for cyber reconnaissance are misleading. Of course the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is conducting cyber reconnaissance; China has been probing U.S. critical infrastructure networks for vulnerabilities since the Obama administration, if not before. From a military perspective, this is the kind of reconnaissance any capable nation would engage in against a potential opponent to identify targets and possibly prepare them for cyberattack. What was misleading in these reports is that critical infrastructure in Guam was not the primary target. The primary targets, particularly those that would support U.S. forces in any engagement over Taiwan, are located in the United States. China is engaged in a major cyber reconnaissance effort against them. If China is willing to accept the risk of broadening a conflict over Taiwan, it may decide that cyber actions against civilian infrastructure in the United States could usefully disrupt communications and the flow of material needed for military operations.

Chinese decisionmaking on the use of offensive cyber operations against civilian critical infrastructure will be shaped less by the likelihood of detection and attribution and more by a desire to manage escalation and retaliation. China may decide not to use wide-scale cyber disruption and reserve its efforts for espionage. A decision on how and where to use cyberattacks will also be shaped by the progress (or lack thereof) in any Chinese offense; a lack of success could lead to more aggressive cyber actions. The broad calculus for China’s decisionmaking will likely involve weighing the relative military advantage gained from cyberattacks on critical infrastructure against the probability that such attacks would provoke a harsh U.S. response or expand the conflict.

Some of China’s decisions will be shaped by resource constraints. Cyberattacks are often tailored for specific vulnerabilities and targets have a greater chance of success but take time (usually a few months) to develop. Even China faces limits on skilled personnel. These two factors suggest some prioritization of targets for cyberattack. A Chinese priority list of targets will be shaped by a balance between the likely military payoff and the political risk of expanded conflict.

China’s Emergence as a Superpower

Anthony H. Cordesman

The Emeritus Chair in Strategy at CSIS is issuing a report written by Anthony H. Cordesman that compares the key trends in civil and military power in the United States, developed democracies, China, and Russia. The report is entitled China’s Emergence as a Super Power: A Graphic Comparison of the United States, Russia, China, and Other Major Powers. A downloadable copy is attached at the end of this announcement, and it is available on the CSIS website at https://csis-website-prod.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/2023-08/230811_Cordesman_China_Emerging.pdf?VersionId=PfyIjoITze29gpLxIY8kFOsuXzqLikV5.

The graphs, maps, and tables in this report only highlight a limited range of the complex changes involved, and reliable data are often lacking for the years after 2020. They still show, however, that the civil and military role of the world’s major powers is in a process of dramatic and unpredictable change.

The Key Impact of China’s Emergence as a Major Global Economic Power

China has emerged as an economic superpower that rivals the United States in many ways, although the total economic power of modern democracies—most of which are strategic partners of the United States—vastly exceeds the size of the Chinese economy, trade efforts, and efforts in technology and research and development. China also faces major internal challenges created by outside restrictions and economic sanctions, its handling of Covid-19, and state interference in its economic development.

Nevertheless, China is already competing with the economies of developed democratic states on a global level. Its “belt and road” efforts to establish economic ties to developing states and control critical minerals and resources. It may succeed in creating a rival economic bloc that can function and grow outside the “rules-based order” democracies created after World War II, and it is already competing in its relations with a number of developing states and other countries.

The Emerging “Cold Tech War” Between the U.S and China

Nicole Robinson & Grace Phillips

The Sino-U.S. “cold tech war” is reaching new heights—or rather depths—as tensions are building under the sea. First it was semiconductors. Now it’s submarine cables.

Undersea cables, unseen and often ignored, are essential to daily life and critical to U.S. national security. Over 97 percent of global data traffic travels through a network of cables that sit atop the seabed of the world’s oceans. Those same cables transmit upwards of $10 trillion in financial transactions every day and are a central component of the American military’s network-centric warfare operations.

In the current geopolitical climate, submarine cable financing and construction is about far more than turning profits. Control of cable networks means control of information—a center of gravity in modern conflict. Now, national governments are inserting themselves in bidding wars between private firms to gain a strategic edge over their adversaries in the information sphere. Nowhere is such competition more apparent than between the United States and China.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) openly monitors and regulates the flow of information between its citizens, and increasingly, the same is true worldwide. In fact, the CCP mandates that Chinese-based fiber-optic companies conduct surveillance on its behalf both at home and abroad. The U.S. government has since limited the use of equipment from these businesses on American shores, stating that its authorization poses “an unacceptable risk to national security.”

In 2018, a consortium including state-backed China Mobile applied to build the “Bay to Bay Express” cable, connecting Hong Kong to California. However, a Trump-era working group assessed that Hong Kong-based cables “would expose U.S. communications traffic to collection” by the Chinese Communist Party. Approvals for cable landings linking U.S. soil to Hong Kong were therefore blocked, forcing China to abandon the project.

Following the collapse of several similar deals in the Pacific, China’s undersea cable industry turned toward Africa and Eurasia—markets that receive low levels of American investment and are therefore open to Chinese capital. Already part of the “Belt and Road Initiative,” President Xi Jinping’s colossal investment strategy to enhance the CCP’s political influence in the developing world, some of these countries were more receptive to becoming part of China’s cable network.

China’s war planners are leaning harder on its militia


A late-June exercise in Hunan Province saw members of China’s militia taking on growing responsibilities, including piloting drones, driving assault boats, and manning command-and-control vehicles. While the People’s Liberation Army has for years relied on its reserve auxiliary force for supplementary support, the recent exercises point toward a larger direct role—even as some sources allude to potential strains in the system.

China’s militia system, which includes up to eight million personnel, dwarfs its uniformed service. It makes heavy use of demobilized veterans and civilian organizations, which have signed cooperation agreements with their local PLA base. During times of emergency, these personnel would be deployed to complement the local PLA force, providing crucial wartime support. For example, in early July more than 400 militia members helped PLA personnel respond to devastating floods in Chongqing. The militia engaged in search and rescue cleared roads, while the PLA troops used boats to transport civilians out of danger.

In 2016, China took a big step to foster militia capabilities and their integration with the PLA: it created the National Defense Mobilization Department or NDMD, which, among other things, inspects various localities, assessing their capabilities and proposing methods for improving military integration during a national crisis. One of its commonly recommended steps to improve PLA access to civilian assets is to use joint-cooperation agreements to more deeply integrate civilian and military personnel.

A recent report by BluePath Labs for the China Aerospace Studies Institute found two key developments for militia. First, it provides ever more critical support to PLA aviation. And, secondly, China’s senior military leaders have come to believe their civilian assets will be key in a protracted conflict.

Why You Should Worry About China’s Missing Minister

Michael Schuman

The disappearance of Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang has generated a torrent of speculation about what might have happened to him. The mystery points to a larger, and disconcerting, truth: We understand very little about the inner workings of Chinese politics at a moment when we need to know more than ever.

China’s Communist regime has always been opaque. But the more China’s global power rises, the more problematic the Communist Party’s secrecy becomes. The decisions made in Beijing influence the wealth and welfare of billions of people, the health of the planet, and war and peace itself. Yet policy makers and diplomats around the world are too often left guessing about how these decisions are made, who is making them, and why.

The current Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, has further narrowed the already small window into the cloistered halls of power. “Secrecy is the default position of the Communist Party anyway, but it has been put on steroids under Xi,” Steve Tsang, the director of the SOAS China Institute at the University of London, told me.

In the strained relationship between the United States and China, the dearth of reliable information about Beijing’s circumstances and decision making could lead to dangerous misunderstandings. “This is a real problem in U.S.-China relations,” Carl Minzner, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who specializes in Chinese government, told me. “You start to lose your appreciation for what is actually taking place in China and why,” with the result that “it is always easy to ascribe the worst narrative” to China’s actions.

The missing minister is a case in point. Qin Gang is a well-known figure in Washington, where he previously served as ambassador to the United States before being promoted to foreign minister in December. He has been widely seen as an up-and-coming politician and a Xi loyalist. He was awarded a seat on the powerful Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party in October.

In early July, Qin failed to appear at several important diplomatic meetings. China watchers took note as Beijing abruptly canceled a planned visit by the European Union’s foreign-policy chief, and as China’s foreign ministry later cited health issues as the reason Qin did not attend a summit with Southeast Asian nations.

China Warns Japan Over ‘Resolve to Fight’ Remarks on TaiwanBeijing blasts senior Japanese ruling party official’s speech

Jacob Gu

China warned Japan against “being led astray again,” after its former Prime Minister Taro Aso said his country, the US and Taiwan must show Beijing their “resolve to fight” to deter any possible invasion.

Aso’s “balderdash severely interfered in China’s internal affairs and undermined stability in the Taiwan Strait,” the Chinese embassy in Tokyo said a statement posted on its WeChat account Wednesday.

The Foreign Ministry in Beijing later issued another statement, slamming Aso for what it called “irresponsible remarks that sought to hype up cross-Strait tensions, stoke antagonism and confrontation, and blatantly interfere in China’s internal affairs.”

Japan has increasingly leaned toward support for Taiwan in recent years and tightened its defense ties with the US, sowing tensions with China, which claims Taiwan. The visit by Aso, who remains a powerful figure in Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party and currently serves as its vice president, comes just months before Taiwan’s presidential election, where ties with the mainland are a central issue.

China has made serious representations to Japan and strongly condemns Aso’s remarks, China’s Foreign Ministry added.

At a security forum in Taipei on Tuesday, Aso said that Taiwan and Japan, along with their allies, need defense capabilities as a deterrence.

“There has never been a time like now when Japan, Taiwan, the United States and other like-minded countries need to resolve to put into action a strong deterrence,” Aso told the forum, according to Japan’s Kyodo News. “This is a resolve to fight.”

Aso’s visit came as a Taiwan coastguard vessel made a rare port call in Japan and docked at Harumi Wharf in Tokyo “for routine maintenance and supply,” the South China Morning Posted reported.

Tourism Industry

New research argues countries could use those exports to counter economic pressure from China

Timothy W. Martin

China has at least a 70% dependence on the U.S. and its allies for more than 400 items, ranging from luxury goods to raw materials needed for Chinese industries, a new analysis of trade data has found.

Countries could potentially use those products to counter economic pressure from China, but it would require a collective effort on a scale they haven’t previously deployed against the world’s second-largest economy, according to an analysis of 2022 global trade data by Victor D. Cha of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington-based think tank.

China has faced criticism for attempting to use its trade heft for political retaliation against countries, targeting a range of products and industries—from Norwegian salmon and Australian wine to South Korean group tourism.

Beijing denies using trade as a weapon. It has also accused Washington of being the real offender, pointing to the U.S. curbs on tech exports to China as an example.

Countries such as the U.S. and Australia have found themselves in one-on-one trade fights with China. That risk has prompted efforts such as de-risking and friend-shoring that seek to create alternative supply chains that bypass Beijing.

Another option, Cha argues, is that the U.S. and other like-minded countries could collectively weaponize their own trade with China. Doing so would demonstrate a clear and immediate cost to Beijing, he says.

China has at least a 70% dependence on about 412 items imported from the U.S. and allied countries, at a value of roughly $47 billion annually, according to the analysis. Beijing lacks ready-made homegrown alternatives for many of the items.

In previous downturns the world turned to China as an engine of growth – this time that driver may not be there

Peter Hannam

When Australia’s central bank released its quarterly economic update last week, China’s “uncertain” economic outlook topped a list of domestic worries for Australia.

The International Monetary Fund too singled out China in its latest world economic outlook as among the “downside” tilts to its balance of risks.

The recovery of the world’s second-biggest economy from the Covid pandemic was faltering, “with cross-border spillovers” likely if it slowed, the IMF said.

Wednesday brought further confirmation of China’s disappointing performance as the economy slipped into deflation for the first time since late 2020.

China’s trends have been out of sync with those of richer nations for some time.

Producer prices, for instance, have been falling for the past 10 months, and now consumer prices have also turned negative compared with a year earlier.

Unemployment, particularly for younger people in cities, has also been on the rise, topping one in five in recent months and reaching a record high.

Real estate prices continue to slide despite recent rate cuts, whereas property values in nations such as Australia are rising even as the central bank there lifts interest rates.

How China’s economy fares will have a major bearing on the fate of countries that rely on it as their biggest trading partner. That club includes most if not all of east Asia, as well as Australia and New Zealand.

When China on Tuesday reported weaker-than-expect trade figures for July – including a nearly 15% fall in exports – iron ore prices were among those to take a tumble.

The world’s farmers also have reason for concern. Cotton imports by China have dropped to their lowest in five years, Rabobank’s research arm notes, citing US data, as exports of garments and footwear fall.

The West and China share the same fate


A simple and easy narrative is often provided to explain our present moment: a new Cold War, we’re told, is dawning between the United States and China, complete with a global ideological “battle between democracy and autocracy”. The future of global governance will be determined by the winner — that is, unless a hot war settles the question early with a cataclysmic fight to the death, much as liberal democracy once fought off fascism.

In some ways, this picture is accurate: a geopolitical competition really is in the process of boiling over into open confrontation. But it’s also fundamentally shallow and misleading. When it comes to the most fundamental political questions, China and the United States are not diverging but becoming more alike, with both superpowers converging on the same not-yet-fully-realised system of technocratic-managerial governance.

This system, described by James Burnham and George Orwell as “managerialism”, is the product of a new class of professional managers bound together by a shared self-interest in the expansion of technical and mass organisations, the further proliferation of managers, and the drawing of society into the meddling embrace of managerial expertise. At its heart is a conviction that all things — even the complexity of society and Man himself — can be understood, managed and controlled like a machine with sufficient scientific technique.

It was managerialism that emerged as the true winner of the 20th century’s ideological battles. As Orwell prophesied in 1945: “Capitalism is disappearing, but Socialism is not replacing it. What is now arising is a new kind of planned, centralised society which will be neither capitalist nor, in any accepted sense of the word, democratic.” China is just a bit further down the path towards this same totalitarian future. The West is following.

US, Iraq defense chiefs discuss post-Islamic State strateg

Jared Szuba

Congress has long sought answers as to how the Pentagon plans to prepare Iraq’s military forces to stand on their own after the defeat of the Islamic State. This week, the Biden administration took a first step.

More than four years after the Islamic State surrendered its final bastion along the Iraq-Syria border, top Pentagon officials sat down with their Iraqi counterparts this week to lay the groundwork for the next decade of US military support to Baghdad.

The meetings, led by Iraqi Defense Minister Thabit Muhammad al-Abbasi and Celeste Wallander, the Pentagon’s assistant secretary for international security affairs, included Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, members of the US Joint Staff, as well as representatives from US Central Command, the National Security Council and the State Department.

Why it matters: This week’s dialogue marked a belated step by the Biden administration toward unifying US government agencies' approaches to enabling Iraq’s military to stand on its own.

“We would want to partner with them as we partner with militaries across the rest of the region,” Dana Stroul, the Pentagon’s Middle East policy chief, told reporters prior to this week’s meetings.

“I think it's fair to say decades into the future, US forces will not be present in Iraq in the current formation that we are today,” Stroul said.

Thus far the Biden administration’s policy approach to Iraq has largely focused on the campaign to defeat IS. But with the jihadi group driven underground, Washington is seeking to bring economic investment into Iraq to help stabilize its economy while drawing it closer to its Gulf neighbors, including with military partnerships.

“It is now time to take that opportunity,” US Ambassador to Iraq Alina Romanowski told reporters ahead of the meetings. “The prime minister is very open to that.”

A U.S. defense commitment could shield Arab states from Iran, as it protects Seoul from Pyongyang.

Eli Cohen

Next month marks the third anniversary of the signing of the Abraham Accords, a groundbreaking peace agreement that reshaped ties between Israel and several Arab nations and offered a beacon of hope for lasting stability in the Middle East.

Since the signing of the peace and normalization accords by Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco—and especially after the establishment of Israel’s new government—Jerusalem has sought to build bridges with additional Arab and Muslim countries. A significant focus has been on forging ties with Saudi Arabia, the powerhouse of the Arab world.

Securing an alliance with Saudi Arabia wouldn’t be merely another diplomatic achievement; it would form the foundation upon which true regional harmony can be built. Such a partnership might inspire other nations to pursue enduring peace.

The U.S. has done a great deal to help facilitate dialogue between Saudi Arabia and Israel in recent months. As part of these efforts, the Saudis made several demands of the U.S., which, in their view, are key to advancing the normalization process with Israel. Most of these requests concern Iranian aggression and the kingdom’s ability to defend itself against this threat.

This underscores Saudi Arabia’s perspective: The primary challenge isn’t Israel but Iran, which is intent on spreading its Shiite Islamic revolution throughout the region by means of violence, terrorism and nuclear-weapons development.

A nuclear-armed Iran is no mere hypothetical threat. If the regime builds a nuclear weapon, it would almost certainly ignite a regional nuclear arms race. Nations such as Saudi Arabia, the Gulf states, Egypt and Turkey might feel pressured to bolster their defenses. While a regional arms race might seem an inevitable response to Iran’s growing might, it would severely destabilize the area, potentially plunging the entire Middle East into conflict.

Migrants and the Mediterranean

Ambassador Mark A. Gree 

Approximately 1,200 people drowned when the Lusitania sank, pulling the US into World War I. 1,500 drowned with the Titanic, bringing changes to how cruise ships were built. Nearly 2,000 migrants have already drowned this year trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea, with no end in sight.

We will likely be talking and reading about the Titanic and Lusitania disasters for many years to come—even though they happened more than a century ago. But how often does the regular—and tragic—occurrence of migrants losing their lives as they attempt to cross the Mediterranean for a more hopeful future get more than a passing mention in the media?

More than 20,000 migrants have perished while trying to sail across the Mediterranean Sea since 2014. These migrants, from places like Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan and Pakistan, are each fleeing home out of desperation—desperation driven by conditions like conflict, oppression, hunger, natural disaster, lack of economic opportunity. And the numbers of those attempting the dangerous journey is on the rise: migrant arrivals to Europe by sea have increased in recent years, and there have been almost twice as many arrivals in Europe during the first half of 2023 than during the same period last year.

But perhaps a better sign of the hopelessness driving these families is that the number of casualties continues to grow despite the high death rates from these journeys. According to the UN Missing Migrants Project, as of July 14, nearly 2,000 have already died or gone missing on the passage so far this year. In April, more than 55 refugees died on a vessel near Libya. Two months later, a fishing vessel capsized on its way to Greece from Libya, and more than 300 Pakistani migrants now are feared dead or missing as a result. And these are just the incidents with higher numbers of deaths…

So why aren’t we paying more attention? Why are these terrible tragedies unlikely to be talked about a month from now, let alone a century from now? Some might say it’s a sign of the difficulty we have in fully processing the rapid release of news during the age of social media. Others say that stories of the war in Ukraine and increasing hostilities with China are taking up all the time and space our media are willing to devote to international affairs. Still others would argue that news consumers simply aren’t stirred by tragedies involving people who “don’t look like us.”

A Front Row View of the NSA: Reflections from General Paul M. Nakasone

Seth G. Jones: It is our distinct honor today to host General Paul Nakasone, who all of you know has had an illustrious career as the dual-hatted lead of both U.S. Cyber Command and the National Security Agency. Following General Nakasone’s fireside chat, Glenn Gerstell, who I’ll mention in a moment, will lead a panel discussion between April Doss, NSA general counsel, and Tom Bossert, former homeland security advisor in the last administration on 702 reauthorization. There will also be a question and answer discussion after that session.

So, Glenn, I will hand this over to you. Glenn served as general counsel of the National Security Agency and Central Security Service from 2015 to 2020. Glenn, it is a great honor that you have joined us at CSIS. So I will turn the floor over to you. Thanks.

Glenn Gerstell: Thank you. Thank you, Dr. Jones. Thank you to CSIS. It’s a delight to be here. And, General, it’s a real honor to be on the stage with you. And for me, it’s a personal treat. You know, most of my former clients don’t want to have any further communication – (laughter) – so I appreciate your being an exception to that rule. So this is a genuine treat for me.

You became the director of NSA and the commander of CYBERCOM a little over five years ago. And before that, when I first had the pleasure of meeting you, you were the head of the Cyber National Mission Force and then head of Army Cyber. You went from being a one-star to a four-star in just six years, which is an impressive sign of how well-regarded you are. And I’d like to use that kind of five-year time period during your tenure at NSA as the framework for our discussion this morning by looking at some of the extraordinary technological changes that have transpired over that period, as well as a whirlwind of geopolitical events which have completely changed the scene, I think, from when you first took office. So – especially in the areas you’re responsible for.

Ukraine and Russia are fighting two different kinds of war


Some commentators have recently suggested that Ukraine’s summer counteroffensive is stalling out, because its territorial gains remain smaller than those of Ukraine’s prior efforts around Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Kherson. Some even are questioning whether the Ukrainians will be able to reclaim a significant additional amount of lost territory.

These writers fail to appreciate that, since the beginning of this conflict, Russia and Ukraine have been fighting two fundamentally different kinds of war. The Ukrainians have never sought to emulate Russia’s boastful definition of success. To the contrary, they have been more than happy leveraging Russia’s obsession with headlines to inflict heavy losses and hasten their own victory.

For Russia, this has always been a public relations war. Other than complaints about Ukraine possibly joining NATO many years in the future, and false propaganda that its Jewish president is a “Nazi,” Russia had no substantive grievances with Ukraine that it was seeking to redress. Instead, Putin launched the war to reassert Russian racial superiority over a people he regarded as inferior, and to stoke patriotic spirit in order to distract the Russian people from the hardships that rampant corruption in Russia have created.

Accordingly, Russia has continually pursued bragging rights regardless of the cost. Once Putin became fixated on the small, strategically insignificant city of Bakhmut, his commanders were ordered to seize it at all costs. It took them seven months of bloody urban warfare to do it, with Russia losing five times as many troops as Ukraine. Along the way, Russia threw away the lives of thousands of conscripts in human wave assaults.

Russian losses are ballooning again as commanders are reportedly being ordered to hold this or that insignificant hamlet “at all costs.”

For the Ukrainians, on the other hand, this has always been a war of national survival. Because Russia has repeatedly broken commitments not to attack Ukraine, the Ukrainians understand that security can only come from defeating Russia. If Russia is allowed to keep any of the territory that it recognized as Ukraine’s in 1994, Putin will claim success and invade again after he has patched up his military. Ukrainians therefore are focused on how to reclaim all their territory, not any particular town.

Putin Is Embarrassed: Russia Withdraws Its ‘Best’ T-14 Armata Tank From Ukraine

Maya Carlin

After a short stint on the front lines, Russia’s “top-of-the-line” T-14 Armata main battle tank (MBT) has been pulled from the ongoing invasion.

Since February 2022, Moscow has deployed several tank variants to aid its offensive efforts in Ukraine. It is fair to say that none of the MBTs have proved to be as capable as the Kremlin frequently boasts. Since the invasion began, analysts estimate that more than 2,000 Russian tanks have been obliterated. This staggering number includes newer MBT models and antiquated Soviet-era armored vehicles.
A brief history of the T-14 Armata

The Armata was initially revealed in 2015, although like many other Russian military equipment experienced several big delays. In 2010, Russia’s Ural Design Bureau began to work on a newer MBT following the cancellation of the T-95 project. Within a few years, Object 148 was in full swing and culminated in the Armata. Notably, when Russia first debuted the T-14 during its annual Victory Day parade in 2015, the tank stopped moving mid-parade and lost power for a short period of time.
Russian tanks have suffered greatly in Ukraine

Right before the COVID-19 outbreak in early 2020, Russia’s Minister of Industry and Trade revealed that the Armata was undergoing combat tests in Syria. However, two years later the same department announced that the platform’s production had been stalled due to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Instead of deploying its newest and reportedly most enhanced MBT, the Kremlin sent over T-72s, T-80s and T-90’s to the frontlines. Storage-ridden T-54s and T-55 were later added to Russia’s war efforts and unsurprisingly have not fared well against Ukraine’s arsenal.

How to navigate the cycle of autonomy hype

Ahmed Humayun

When any new technology with enormous potential emerges, there is a tendency to swing from utopian expectation to profound disillusionment. It is easy to be blinded by the technology’s promise while ignoring the hard work of thinking through the most appropriate method of implementation. It is easier still to see the predictable failures as damning of the technology itself, rather than its inapt use.

We are exposed to this risk in the current autonomy hype cycle, where we see an impulse toward implementing something called “autonomy” anywhere and everywhere as quickly as possible. But while the impulse is understandable, instead of assuming that autonomy will offer an obvious panacea for perennial challenges, it’s smart to take a step back and determine when and how to leverage different types of autonomy for the enterprise.

A good place to start is by asking the right questions:What goals do I want to achieve?
What new autonomous capabilities can I deploy to achieve those goals simply, quickly and at a relatively low cost?
What new goals do autonomous technology make possible that previously were difficult or impossible to contemplate?

Asking these types of seemingly simple questions matters because there is a tendency to conflate the different goals that autonomy can help achieve, which in turn obscures choices and trade-offs.

Will the New EU-U.S. Data Privacy Framework Pass CJEU Scrutiny?

Cameron Kerry

For the third time, the European Commission has issued a decision on the “adequacy” of U.S. privacy protections, enabling continued flows of personal data between the United States and the European Union after three years of uncertainty. Like its two predecessors in EU-U.S. data transfers, the Safe Harbor framework from 2000 and the 2016 Privacy Shield, this new EU-U.S. Data Privacy Framework will face legal challenges that will ultimately be resolved by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU). The next case is likely to test the boundaries of the court’s interpretation of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights in the context of government surveillance.

The CJEU has authority to review the commission’s adequacy decisions involving the U.S as well as EU and member-state legislation for compliance with EU law. It leveraged this authority in the U.S. adequacy cases and in some cases where EU or member-state legislation allowed government access via commercial actors to apply the charter to limit government surveillance and access to information. The U.S. cases reflect the continuing fallout from Edward Snowden’s leaks about National Security Agency surveillance in 2013 and the perception the leaks engendered that U.S. intelligence agencies have broad access to personal data about Europeans. The previous cases compared the U.S. limits on access to information outside of U.S. borders against those under the EU Charter as applied by the CJEU. In both cases, the CJEU faulted a commission adequacy decision for failing on its face to ensure safeguards against surveillance that exceeds “what is necessary in a democratic society.”

Max Schrems, the Austrian privacy activist who instigated the two earlier challenges, immediately announced plans to initiate another. He called the new framework “a copy” of the Privacy Shield and said that “[w]e would need changes in U.S. surveillance law to make this work—and we simply don’t have it.”

Slow counteroffensive darkens mood in Ukraine

Siobhán O'Grady, Kostiantyn Khudov and Heidi Levine

For nearly 18 months, Ukraine has stood against its Russian invaders — rallying support for its troops by embracing last year’s battlefield victories in the Kyiv, Kharkiv and Kherson regions.

Those wins carried beleaguered Ukrainians through a winter of airstrikes on civilian infrastructure and a brutal and symbolic battle for Bakhmut, the eastern city that fell to the Russians in May.

Throughout, Ukrainian officials and their western partners hyped up a coming counteroffensive — one that, buoyed by a flood of new weapons and training, they hoped would turn the tide of the war.

But two months after Ukraine went on the attack, with little visible progress on the front and a relentless, bloody summer across the country, the narrative of unity and endless perseverance has begun to fray.

The number of dead — untold thousands — increases daily. Millions are displaced and see no chance of returning home. In every corner of the country, civilians are exhausted from a spate of recent Russian attacks — including strikes on a historic cathedral in Odessa, a residential building in Kryvyi Rih and a blood transfusion center in the Kharkiv region.

This week, two Russian missiles hit a single block in the eastern town of Pokrovsk — where an evacuation train regularly picks up people fleeing front-line areas nearby — killing civilians and emergency workers who rushed there to save them.

Ukrainians, much in need of good news, are simply not getting any.

Svitlana Zhdanova pauses during a walk in front of a restaurant in Pokrovsk destroyed by Russian missile strikes. (Heidi Levine for The Washington Post)

Quantum interceptor technology showcased for missile defence

Andrew Salerno-Garthwaite

The Patriot missile system is a land-based, mobile missile defense interceptor. Credit: U.S. Army

Quantum computing company D-Wave announced progress in national defence solutions on 7 August, after revealing an interceptor assignment application at the Space and Missile Defence Symposium this week.

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Since August 2022, D-Wave, housed at the USC-Lockheed Martin Quantum Computing Center, has worked in conjunction with aerospace and missile defence company Davidson Technologies to produce a quantum computing technology that is able to take into account missile capability in negating threats, balanced allocation of missiles to threats, and the availability of resources for threat identification and mitigation.

Global missiles and missile defence market is set to reach $67.5bn by 2033, according to GlobalData’s “The Global Missiles & Missile Defense Systems Market Forecast 2023-2033,”

The companies also showcased the use of quantum computing in the management of a phased-array radar, enabling the scheduling of time-limited resources when communicating with moving objects.

As the first commercial provider of quantum computers and the only company to construct both annealing quantum computers and gate-model quantum computers, D-Wave is at the forefront of developing and delivering quantum computing systems, software, and services.

Defense Department stands up generative AI task force


The Pentagon launched a new task force Thursday dedicated to understanding how the Defense Department can effectively and responsibly leverage generative artificial intelligence tools such as large language models.

Called Task Force Lima, the new organization will be led by the Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Office’s (CDAO) Algorithmic Warfare Directorate and will “assess, synchronize, and employ” generative AI technologies throughout the Pentagon, according to a DOD press release.

A key objective for Task Force Lima will be to minimize redundancy in its generative AI efforts across the Pentagon while mitigating potential risks the technology may pose.

“The establishment of Task Force Lima underlines the Department of Defense’s unwavering commitment to leading the charge in AI innovation,” Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks, who directed the organization’s creation, said in a statement. “As we navigate the transformative power of generative AI, our focus remains steadfast on ensuring national security, minimizing risks, and responsibly integrating these technologies. The future of defense is not just about adopting cutting-edge technologies, but doing so with foresight, responsibility, and a deep understanding of the broader implications for our nation.”

Generative AI is a subfield of artificial intelligence that generates content — such as text, audio, code, images, videos and other types of media — based on prompts and data they are trained on.

While viral generative AI platforms like ChatGPT have gone viral in 2023, the Defense Department has been cautious about the viability of commercially available technology that has been known to “hallucinate” and provide inaccurate information.

The Pentagon’s 2023 cyber strategy: What you need to know

C.J. Haughey

In May 2023, the Department of Defense (DoD) released an unclassified fact sheet detailing its latest cyber strategy. This latest update is another indication of the Pentagon’s intent to combat threat actors, coming fast on the heels of the 2022 National Security Strategy and the 2022 National Defense Strategy.

A more complete summary of the strategy will follow in a few months. For now, let’s unpack what we know so far about the Department of Defense’s 2023 cybersecurity strategy.
Reinforcing the “Defend Forward” strategy

Defend Forward is a cybersecurity strategy where organizations adopt an offensive approach to protect their critical infrastructure and data. Rather than reacting to incidents, the goal is to proactively disrupt or stop malicious cyber activities in the earliest stages.

By taking the fight to hackers, companies can limit the damage to their systems and increase costs for attackers.

The success of this concept relies on a few foundational principles:Detect and disrupt malicious activity in the early stages
Develop a deep understanding of the latest tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs)
Gather intelligence on potential adversaries by working outside your network
Focus on persistent engagement to inform allies and partners about cyber threats.

Although the concept of Defend Forward had appeared in defense policies since the early 2010s, years passed before it was fully embraced. In 2018, USCYBERCOM adopted the Defend Forward strategy in response to the escalating problem of state-sponsored cyberattacks.

Today, government bodies and enterprise-level organizations use this cybersecurity strategy to protect their critical information infrastructure and stay ahead of evolving threats. Senior Cybersecurity Reporter Martin Matishak elaborated that the DoD’s newest plan builds on the “Defend Forward” policy established in the previous 2018 version.

The Pentagon just launched a generative AI task force


Generative AI programs like ChatGPT and Google’s Bard have captivated public attention and lawmaker scrutiny, though so far the Pentagon has been reluctant to adopt them. But Thursday, the Defense Department announced a task force to understand how it might use such tools safely, reveal situations where it’s unsafe for the department to use them, and explore how countries like China might use generative AI to harm the United States.

The task force, dubbed Task Force Lima, “will assess, synchronize, and employ generative artificial intelligence (AI) across the Department,” according to a draft press statement viewed by Defense One.

Generative AI refers to “a category of AI algorithms that generate new outputs based on the data they have been trained on,” according to the World Economic Forum. That’s very different from far more simple machine-learning algorithms that just take structured data like numerical values and output the next likely statistical outcome. Public-facing generative AI tools include so-called large language models like ChatGPT that can write new text that is largely indistinguishable from human speech. These tools have already been used to write essays, business plans, and even scientific papers. But because large language models are trained on data corpora as large as the searchable Web, they sometimes lie—or, in the parlance of AI researchers, “hallucinate.” For this reason, Pentagon officials have expressed reluctance to embrace generative AI.

The new effort will be led by Craig Martell, the Defense Department’s chief digital officer. Martell said much is still up in the air, but a main objective will be to find a “set of use cases, internally to the department, where we believe that generative AI can help us do our job and where the dangers, the difficulty of generative AI can be mitigated. For example…if I need to do first draft generation of some document, that's fine, because I'm going to take full responsibility to edit that document, make sure it's actually correct before I pass it up the line, because my career is on the line.”

Data integration challenges persist for Army fires, missile defense modernization


A U.S. Army M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, from 3rd Battalion, 321 Field Artillery Regiment, attached to 41st Field Artillery Brigade, fires a rocket as part of Nordic Strike 22, at Vidsel Test Range, Sweden, Sept. 27, 2022. The Army is putting new emphasis on using technology, including artificial intelligence and machine learning, to speed up the “kill chain” process of locating and firing on targets. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Devin Klecan)

Army leaders in charge of the service’s respective offensive fires and missile defense modernization programs are working through challenges to effectively integrate sensors and harness data for better-informed and faster decision-making.

“We’re finally getting to a point where we can take advantage of multi-mission data that has always been available to us. We’ve always been able to see the data, but we’ve never been able to do anything with it,” Col. Pat Costello, director of the Army Futures Command air and missile defense cross-functional team, said during a panel discussion at the Space and Missile Defense Symposium on Tuesday.

Effectively leveraging data for multi-domain operations has been one of the Army’s top priorities as it looks to deter more modern and technologically advanced adversaries. During events like Project Convergence — the Army’s experiment to test interoperability for the Pentagon’s Joint All-Domain Command and Control (JADC2) concept — service leaders have noted difficulties in standardizing and understanding data so that it can be accurately disseminated across the Army and Joint Force.

Rather than not being able to see data from other mission sensors, Costello described the current integration problem for the AMD CFT as an inability to leverage data in a meaningful way.