21 August 2023


Paul Lushenko, Keith L. Carter and Steve Israel

Following the United States’ withdrawal from Afghanistan, political and military leaders have been gripped by the prospect of war with China. As China continues to militarize the South China Sea and expand its presence near Taiwan, the administration of President Joe Biden now identifies the Asian giant as America’s “pacing” threat, aligning US policies, strategies, and military modernization to deter China.

Many senior US officials applaud this approach, claiming that a war with China is inevitable. According to Thomas Friedman, this perspective is shaped by heightened mistrust between leaders in both countries. Though Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley has cautioned that war with China is not a forgone conclusion, the new Joint Warfighting Concept is designed to overcome China’s antiaccess and area-denial strategy in Asia. The apparent intractability of the Sino-US security dilemma, wherein China’s military modernization and expanding regional posture alarms US officials, is also acknowledged by some international relations scholars. Graham Allison cautions that China and the United States may be “destined for war,” drawing a similarity to the way Athens’s rise instilled fear in Sparta, leading to the Peloponnesian War (431–404 BC).

This narrative has encouraged a renaissance of simulations among political scientists and military educators. Indeed, countless simulations have studied the possibility of a Sino-US war and the potential outcomes. Though commissioned by different agencies, departments, and institutes, these simulations share two key features. First, simulations have largely focused on the disputes over the South China Sea and Taiwan. This is perhaps expected, given these two flashpoints are so closely watched by the media, think tanks, and policymakers. China’s ongoing militarization of the South China Sea threatens the integrity of an important sea line of communication, according analysts. And the political status of Taiwan is the starkest reminder for Chinese leaders of what they describe as the century of humiliation (1839–1949), in which China lost control over large areas of its territory, including Taiwan, to foreign invaders. Yet other tensions in Asia could also escalate into conflict, including in the East China Sea. Second, simulations mostly explore the potential for war rather than the prospects for peaceful conflict resolution. These wargames are explicitly designed to study how one country can use its military power to deter another country’s behavior. Analysts largely agree, however, that the costs of a Sino-US war would be high for both countries.

How the US Can Get Its Chips’ Worth With China

Nathan Picarsic and Emily de La Bruyère

The passage of the CHIPS and Science Act one year ago this month was heralded as a monumental step in U.S. efforts to compete with China in the tech domain. “We need our government and our economy to rely on chips made right here in America,” proclaimed Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) last fall. The CHIPS Act was the way to do so. A corresponding White House news release declared that the “CHIPS and Science Act will lower costs, create jobs, strengthen supply chains, and counter China.”

There has been much ballyhoo since. Proposals have been floated by Intel, TSMC and others. But real progress has been stymied. Several weeks ago, for example, TSMC announced a delay in its plans to get a new facility in Arizona up and running.

And as the U.S. effort stalls, China is building. Over the past year, SMIC, a Chinese semiconductor foundry company, has increased its market share of the global legacy chip marketplace, including with growth in sales to U.S.-based customers. The importance of the U.S. market to SMIC — and the company’s confidence that it will continue to take advantage of that market — is reflected in its May 2023 opening of a new office in Irvine, Calif. (For context: the CHIPS Act had passed nine months earlier and SMIC is on the Department of Commerce’s Entity List.)

YMTC, China’s flash memory chip champion, is on the Entity List, too. It is expanding operations thanks to a flush of cash from China’s Big Fund and successfully increasing prices for its 128-layer NAND flash chip. CXMT, China’s DRAM chip champion, is ramping up for an IPO on the mainland. Chinese tech companies, intent to keep pace in processing and data demands from the current wave of artificial intelligence excitement, have been increasing their orders for Nvidia’s cutting-edge chips, which are seen as core to the tech stack for current and next-generation AI applications.

China’s Xi calls for patience as Communist Party tries to reverse economic slump


BEIJING (AP) — Chinese leader Xi Jinping has called for patience in a speech released as the ruling Communist Party tries to reverse a deepening economic slump and said Western countries are “increasingly in trouble” because of their materialism and “spiritual poverty.”

Xi’s speech was published by Qiushi, the party’s top theoretical journal, hours after data Tuesday showed consumer and factory activity weakened further in July despite official promises to support struggling entrepreneurs. The government skipped giving an update on a politically sensitive spike in unemployment among young people.

Xi, the country’s most powerful leader in decades, called for China to “build a socialist ideology with strong cohesion” and to focus on long-term goals of improving education, health care and food supplies for China’s 1.4 billion people instead of only pursuing short-term material wealth.

Since taking power in 2012, Xi has called for restoring the ruling party’s role as an economic and social leader and has tightened control over business and society since taking power in 2012. Some changes come at a rising cost as successful Chinese companies are pressured to divert money into political initiatives including processor chip development. The party tightened control over tech industries by launching data security and anti-monopoly crackdowns that wiped out billions of dollars of their stock market value.

“We must maintain historic patience and insist on making steady, step-by-step progress,” Xi said in the speech. Qiushi said it was delivered in February in the southwestern city of Chongqing. It is common for Qiushi journal to publish speeches months after they are delivered.

Secretive Taiwanese Cruise Missile Able To Strike Deep In China May Have Broken Cover


Anewspaper in Taiwan has published pictures and video clips that it says offer the first-ever look at the Hsiung Feng IIE land-attack cruise missile. This missile has reportedly been in Taiwanese military service for more than a decade, but has never been seen publicly in that time. It is one of a number of secretive counter-strike capabilities Taiwan's armed forces are understood to possess to try to help deter or respond to a Chinese military intervention by holding targets on the mainland at risk.

The report from Taiwan's United Daily News (UDN) says the imagery was captured during a recent nighttime launch from the Jiupeng military base in Pingtung County at the southern end of the island. The Hsiung Feng IIE (HF-2E) missile was "understood" to have subsequently flown for "many hours," according to UDN's report.

A separate report today from Taiwan's semi-official Central News Agency (CNA) says an unnamed "military" source told the outlet that "the Air Force did fire a classified missile on Wednesday, as part of an ongoing three-day live-fire drill" being held at Jiupeng. CNA said the source would not confirm or deny whether the missile in question was an HF-2E.

Though it remains unconfirmed whether an HF-2E was indeed launched from Jiupeng, the base is a known missile test facility. It is also a hub for the National Chung-Shan Institute of Science and Technology (NCSIST), a top Taiwanese military research and test organization that is understood to have been responsible for the development of HF-2E. The base has already been in the news twice this month. On August 3, four people were injured there in an explosion as they were "disposing of missile propellant chemicals," according to a statement from NCSIST. Then, just yesterday, the Taiwanese Ministry of Defense confirmed an unspecified missile exploded unexpectedly in mid-air during a test earlier in the day.

Inside the Russian effort to build 6,000 attack drones with Iran’s help

Dalton Bennett

The engineers at a once-bustling industrial hub deep inside Russia were busy planning. The team had been secretly tasked with building a production line that would operate around-the-clock churning out self-detonating drones, weapons that President Vladimir Putin’s forces could use to bombard Ukrainian cities.

A retired official of Russia’s Federal Security Service was put in charge of security for the program. The passports of highly skilled employees were seized so they could not leave the country. In correspondence and other documents, engineers used coded language: Drones were “boats,” their explosives were “bumpers,” and Iran — the country covertly providing technical assistance — was “Ireland” or “Belarus.”

This was Russia’s billion-dollar weapons deal with Iran coming to life in November, 500 miles east of Moscow in the Tatarstan region. Its aim is to domestically build 6,000 drones by summer 2025 — enough to reverse the Russian army’s chronic shortages of unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, on the front line. If it succeeds, the sprawling new drone factory could help Russia preserve its dwindling supply of precision munitions, thwart Ukraine’s effort to retake occupied territory and dramatically advance Moscow’s position in the drone arms race that is remaking modern warfare.

Although Western officials have revealed the existence of the facility and Moscow’s partnership with Tehran, documents leaked from the program and obtained by The Washington Post provide new information about the effort by two self-proclaimed enemies of the United States — under some of the world’s heaviest sanctions — to expand the Kremlin’s drone program. Altogether, the documents indicate that, despite delays and a production process that is deeply reliant on foreign-produced electronic components, Moscow has made steady progress toward its goal of manufacturing a variant of the Iranian Shahed-136, an attack drone capable of traveling more than 1,000 miles.

The documents show that the facility’s engineers are trying to improve on Iran’s dated manufacturing techniques, using Russian industrial expertise to produce the drones on a larger scale than Tehran has achieved and with greater quality control. The engineers also are exploring improvements to the drone itself, including making it capable of swarm attacks in which the UAVs autonomously coordinate a strike on a target.
Construction of facilities Alabuga later used to establish a drone production line.
Preliminary floor plan for part of the drone assembly line.

Researchers at the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security, who reviewed the documents pertaining to the production process at the request of The Post, estimated that work at the facility in the Republic of Tatarstan’s Alabuga Special Economic Zone is at least a month behind schedule. The facility has reassembled drones provided by Iran but has itself manufactured only drone bodies, and probably for not more than 300 of the UAVs, the researchers concluded. Alabuga is unlikely to meet its target date for the 6,000 drones, they said.

Even so, David Albright, a former U.N. weapons inspector who helped lead the research team that studied the documents, said: “Alabuga looks to be seeking a drone developmental capability that exceeds Iran’s.”

The Post obtained the documents from an individual involved in the work at Alabuga but who opposes Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. The individual decided to expose details of the effort in the hope that international attention might lead to additional sanctions, potentially disrupting production and bringing the war to an end more quickly, the person told The Post.

“This was the only thing I could do to at least stop and maybe create some obstacles to the implementation of this project,” the person said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of safety concerns. “It has gone too far.”

The documents, dating from winter 2022 to spring 2023, include factory-floor blueprints, technical schematics, personnel records, memorandums provided to Iranian counterparts and presentations given to representatives of Russia’s Defense Ministry on the status of the effort code-named “Project Boat.” The Russian-language news outlet Protokol reported on some of the documents in July.

The team led by Albright and senior researcher Sarah Burkhard said the documents “appear authentic” and “go to great length to describe supply-chain procurement, production capabilities, manufacturing plans and processes, as well as plans to disguise and hide the production of Shahed drones.”

The research team found that the project faces challenges — including “doubt about its ability to reach its desired staffing levels” — but cautioned that Russia might be able to overcome those difficulties.

“Russia has a credible way of building over the next year or so a capability to go from periodically launching tens of imported Shahed-136 kamikaze drones against Ukrainian targets to more regularly attacking with hundreds of them,” Albright told The Post.

Albright said the disclosure of the records makes it difficult for Iran — which has publicly declared it is neutral in the war — to claim that it is not helping Moscow develop the ability to manufacture drones at Alabuga.

The Russian government and Alabuga did not respond to requests for comment from The Post. The Kremlin has dismissed reports that it is receiving assistance from Tehran on drones, saying that Russia relies on its own research and development.

Iran’s mission to the United Nations also did not respond to a request for comment.

‘The flying moped’

While Russia has made breakthroughs in air defense and hypersonic missiles, its military was late to prioritize drone technology. To catch up, Moscow has had to turn to Iran, one of the few nations willing to sell it military hardware.

Last summer, Russia began receiving secret shipments of Iranian drones — many of them Shaheds — that were quickly deployed to prop up its flagging war effort, U.S. and other Western officials have said.

Iran’s Shahed-136 — Russia calls the drone the Geran-2 — can carry a 118-pound explosive payload toward a target that is programmed in before launch. Because the drone is powered by a noisy propeller engine, some Ukrainians have dubbed it “the flying moped.”
Length: 11 feet
Max. speed: 115 mph
Approx. weight: 440 pounds
Range: About 1,100 - 1,500 miles

The Iranian Shahed-136
Russia is working toward manufacturing a variant of the Iranian drone, which it calls the Geran-2, to supplement its dwindling stockpile of precision weapons. The drone can deliver small payloads of explosives in self-detonating attacks.

Russia’s drones have struck targets deep inside Ukraine, degrading Kyiv’s precious air defenses and allowing Moscow to preserve its more expensive precision-guided missiles. The attacks, often targeting critical civilian infrastructure, have had a devastating impact on Ukraine’s war effort, knocking critical power grids offline and destroying grain stockpiles, according to Vladyslav Vlasiuk, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

“Those drones are much cheaper to produce compared to the damage they cause, and this is the problem,” Vlasiuk told The Post.

In November, a Kyiv-based think tank became one of the first nongovernmental organizations to examine the wreckage from a Russian Geran-2 drone downed in Ukraine. It found that key parts — the motor and warhead — were produced by Tehran. “We knew the drone was from Iran,” said Gleb Kanievskyi, the founder of the StateWatch think tank.

That month, Iran acknowledged it had provided drones to Russia but said it had done so only before the start of the war.

Ukrainian firefighters work atop a destroyed building after a drone attack in Kyiv on Oct. 17, 2022. (Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty Images)

In the past three months, Russia has attacked Ukraine with more than 600 of the self-detonating Shahed-136 drones, according to an intelligence assessment produced by Kyiv in July and obtained by The Post.

Conflict Armament Research, a weapons-tracking group based in Britain, examined two drones downed last month and concluded based on components it found that the Kremlin has started producing “its own domestic version of the Shahed-136.”

The Post reported in November that Russian and Iranian officials had finalized a deal in which the self-detonating drones would be produced at the Alabuga Special Economic Zone, a government-backed manufacturing hub designed to attract foreign investment. The cooperation included the transfer of designs, training of production staff and provision of increasingly hard-to-source electronic components.

“This is a full-scale defense partnership that is harmful to Ukraine, to Iran’s neighbors and to the international community,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said in June as the Biden administration confirmed plans by the two countries to build a drone production facility. Kirby said the plant “could be fully operational next year.”

Under the deal, the new documents show, Tehran agreed to sell Moscow what is effectively a franchise, with Iranian specialists sharing project documentation, locally produced or reverse-engineered components, and know-how. A document created in February by the project’s chief manager details the parameters of the effort and estimates the cost for some aspects of the project to be 151 billion rubles, more than $2 billion at the exchange rate at the time. Under agreements reached earlier, more than half of that sum was to go to Iran, which insisted on being paid in dollars or gold because of the volatility of the ruble, the individual who provided the documents said.

The effort — at a facility larger than 14 football fields and set to be expanded — is to be separated into three stages, according to a planning document. The first envisioned Iran’s delivery of disassembled drones that would be reassembled at the facility. The second called for the facility to produce airframes — the hollow bodies of the drones — that would be combined with Iranian-supplied engines and electronics. In the final and most ambitious stage, more than 4,000 drones would be produced with little Iranian assistance and delivered to the Russian military by September 2025.

Scarce components

The documents identify the sourcing of components required to build the Shahed-136 as an immediate challenge, after Western restrictions disrupted Russian access to foreign-produced electronics.

A detailed inventory, based on data provided to the Russians by Tehran, shows that over 90 percent of the drone system’s computer chips and electrical components are manufactured in the West, primarily in the United States. Only four of the 130 electronic components needed to build the drone are made in Russia, according to the document.

The research team led by Albright and Burkhard noted that none of the required items appears to be exclusively for use in military drones, and none is listed as a sensitive technology that is subject to export controls by the U.S. Commerce Department. The components would, however, fall under a near-blanket ban the United States recently imposed on the export of electronics to Russia, the team said.

The flight-control unit, used to pilot the drone, comprises 21 separate electronic components manufactured by the Dallas-based company Texas Instruments. At least 13 electronic components manufactured by the Massachusetts-based company Analog Devices are present in all of the drone’s major circuit boards, including an accelerometer critical for the craft’s operation that allows the UAV to navigate along a preprogrammed route if the GPS signal is lost.

One document highlights the need to develop a supply channel for various American components, including a Kintex-7 FPGA, a processor used in the drone’s navigation and communication system, made by a company that was acquired last year by California-based AMD. Without elaborating, another spreadsheet notes the domestic availability of Western-made components inside Russia and lists U.S.-based electronics distributors Mouser and DigiKey as potential suppliers.

AMD, DigiKey, Texas Instruments and Analog Devices told The Post that they comply with all U.S. sanctions and global export regulations and work to ensure that the products they make or distribute are not diverted to prohibited users. Mouser did not respond to requests for comment.

The documents do not suggest that any Western company directly supplied Iran or Russia with components used in production of the drone.

In response to questions from The Post, the White House said U.S. officials have worked to prevent Moscow from obtaining technology that might be used in its war against Ukraine and have imposed sanctions against those involved in the transfer of Iranian military equipment to Russia.

“As Russia searches for ways to evade our actions, the U.S. government, alongside allies and partners, will continue to ramp up our own efforts to counter such evasion,” Adrienne Watson, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, said in a statement.

According to a breakdown of material requirements along with the status of negotiations with suppliers, Alabuga specialists were able to promptly source the materials required for manufacturing the airframe. Most of those components are supplied by Russian or Belarusian companies, and the Chinese company Metastar provided a sample of a material used to make the wings, the breakdown shows.

Other components proved harder to obtain. Documents highlighted a problem that perpetually plagues Russian military production: the lack of a capable domestic engine industry. The Shahed-136 is powered by a reverse-engineered German Limbach Flugmotoren L550E engine, which Iran illicitly obtained two decades ago.

To reach the final stage of the project, Russia would have to come up with its own version of the engine, which engineers described in internal documents as their most complex task. A spreadsheet created by a senior engineer on Nov. 5, titled “Questions asked to Iran at the very beginning of cooperation,” listed a request for a copy of the engine as “the most important point.”

“Better two: one to take apart, and after the chemical analysis it will not be functional; the second one is for comparative tests. The propeller is also needed for testing,” the engineer wrote. “We’ll copy it too.”

The questions — over 120 in total — were separated into thematic categories that include “policy” and “warhead,” and requested details on how Iran achieved mass production. They also asked “which countries are suppliers of electronic components.” The documents obtained by The Post do not show a response to that question.

The Alabuga team also requested a meeting with Mado, an Iranian company that produces engines and other components for UAVs with the help of illicitly obtained Western technology. Western governments imposed sanctions on the company late last year for its contribution to the war in Ukraine.

Subsequent documents include a detailed description of the re-engineered Limbach engine, known as the Mado MD550. The authors indicated that the description was compiled on the basis of the information “provided by Mado specialists.”

Efforts to reach Mado for comment were not successful.

Despite those challenges, Alabuga engineers have worked to improve the drones, the documents show. They have swapped out malfunctioning Chinese electronic components for more-reliable analogues, and they replaced a glue the Russians deemed defective and added waterproofing in a design overhaul of the airframe.

Struggling to staff up

Documents show that Alabuga has struggled to fill specialized positions at the facility, which was to have 810 employees for each of three shifts per day. The production team lacked experts in key and highly complex areas of drone development including electronic warfare systems.

Numerous Alabuga employees have traveled to drone manufacturing centers in Iran to gain expertise, according to personnel documents. Delegations included project managers and engineers, along with students and manual laborers.

While one group was visiting Tehran on Jan. 29, Israeli’s external intelligence service, the Mossad, carried out a strike on a weapons factory in the Iranian city of Isfahan, leaving flames billowing from a site believed to be a production hub for drones and missiles. Alabuga’s managers and engineers were forbidden to leave their hotel as Iranian officials worried that Israel might strike facilities the group was supposed to tour, according to the individual who provided the documents.

The documents also reveal that Central Asian workers who held low-level jobs at Alabuga were sent to Iran because they speak a language similar to Farsi. They were supposed to observe the assembly process on Iranian production sites, interpret for the rest of the delegation and undergo training that would allow them to build drones back in Russia.

By end of spring, an estimated 200 employees and 100 students had received training at the Iranian facilities, according to the documents and the individual.

Students from the local polytechnic university were required to work at the Alabuga factory as part of their curriculum, the Russian news outlet Razvorot reported in July.

Alabuga also has sought to recruit young people for menial assembly-line positions, with glitzy ads promising “a career of the future” and subsidized housing. One ad posted on Alabuga’s Telegram channels invites women ages 16 to 22 to relocate to the site and “build a promising career in the largest center for training specialists in the UAV production,” with a wage starting at $550 a month.

At the same time, the individual said, some workers have been uncomfortable with the idea of developing drones to pummel Ukraine and discontented by what they view as long work hours and poor management. To keep staffers and lure talent from rival manufacturers, Alabuga boosted salaries, budget documents show, with some key workers earning 10 times the median Russian salary. Management created obstacles to prevent employees from quitting, including seizing passports and requiring workers to seek sign-off before leaving their positions, according to the individual.

Damaged drones

The Russians had issues in dealing with the Iranian side. An estimated 25 percent of the drones shipped from Iran for Alabuga’s use and delivered by Russian Defense Ministry aircraft were damaged, according to the documents and the individual who provided them.

One document from February includes a log of damaged or faulty drones received in a second shipment of the UAVs from Iran — separated into the categories of “big boats” and “small boats,” which refer to the Shahed-136 and the Shahed-131, respectively, despite Alabuga’s mainly being interested in the former. The document indicates that 12 of the Iranian drones in the Feb. 15 delivery were inoperable, including one irreparably damaged when it was dropped on the ground.

“That was an interesting moment, because the initial agreement with Iran concerned only big Shahed drones, as the smaller 131 model is pretty useless — its payload is ten times lower compared to the 136 model, and it can maybe blow up a car,” the individual said. “But as you can see, Iran pressed its own conditions for the deal and supplied smaller models, many of them broken.”

The log shows that the Russian team lacked the expertise and replacement parts to repair the damaged or malfunctioning drones.

The team struggled to meet initial deadlines. A February memo shows that project managers warned their higher-ups about a 37-day delay in the schedule as communications with Iran were slowed by the Russian Defense Ministry’s bureaucracy and Iran’s failure to provide some technical documentation.

“Iranians aren’t used to working according to some high European standards, and I suspect they didn’t have a ready set of all documentation,” the person said.

Technicians suggested reverse-engineering a drone already in the possession of Russia’s Defense Ministry to create their own project documentation, but the request was denied as their managers feared it would be perceived as a failure on Alabuga’s part by military officials in Moscow, according to the individual.

“There was a political moment that if we say that we don’t have something, it would show our weakness and inability to implement such a complex project, so all problems were being swept under the rug,” the individual said.

Delivery of the drones and equipment to the production facility also was a challenge. The first Iranian shipments arrived at Begishevo Airport in Tatarstan with little advance notice. Staffers at Alabuga scrambled to sort out the basic logistics of transporting the cargo back to their warehouse, the individual said.

In one instance, after securing trucks to transport the shipment, the staffers realized they did not have a forklift to load the heavy wooden crates full of disassembled drones. An employee was dispatched to a nearby business to find an off-loader, only to realize after finding one that no one was qualified to operate it.

The individual related that boxes of drones were first stored in a nearly empty warehouse as the facility was not yet prepared even for simple tasks such as reattaching parts of the UAV body that had been disassembled for transportation.

“So they just unboxed them and tried to reassemble on the floor,” the individual added. “At the same time, they wanted to show the Defense Ministry that the process was ongoing, the facilities are being built, so they bought some tables and did a photo shoot to show how they are supposedly actively assembling these drones.”

High-ranking officials at Alabuga spent a week taking and retaking photos, according to the individual.

Russia’s ‘General Armageddon’ removed from military leadership, under house arrest: Reports


Russia’s General Sergei Surovikin, believed to be an ally of exiled Wagner chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, has been removed from his leadership role in Moscow’s war on Ukraine and is under house arrest, according to reports circulating among Russian military bloggers and media.

The VChK-OGPU blog, which is considered close to Russia’s security forces, reported late Sunday that Surovikin is now “under a kind of house arrest” where he can’t leave the apartment he is being kept in, but has been permitted visitors, including several of his subordinates.

Surovikin, known as “General Armageddon” for his aggressive military strategies in Chechnya and Syria, has not been seen in public since Wagner’s march on Moscow in June, after reports circulated that he had known about Prigozhin’s planned mutiny.

“There is no official investigation, but Surovikin spent a long time in limbo answering uncomfortable questions,” VChK-OGPU reported, adding that the general has been advised to stay under the radar so that he is “forgotten.” Quoting a person with knowledge of the situation, the blog said a decision on Surovikin’s ultimate fate “must be taken by one person, and the longer this takes, the more this person will cool down” — referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The report came just a few days after Viktor Sobolev, a former Russian lieutenant general who now sits as an MP in the state Duma, told News.ru that Surovikin had been removed from his role as commander of the Kremlin’s forces in Ukraine.

Most say US needs to increase preparations for military threats from China


A majority of Americans surveyed in a poll released Wednesday said the U.S. needs to increase preparations for potential military threats from China, amid rising tensions between Washington and Beijing.

The Reuters-Ipsos poll found 66 percent of respondents believe America “needs to do more to prepare for military threats from China.”

Republican respondents were more likely than their Democratic counterparts to call for additional military preparations, a split often mirrored by their parties’ respective lawmakers. While 58 percent of Democrats in the poll said the U.S. should boost preparations, 81 percent of Republicans said the same.Hurricane Hilary could be first tropical storm to hit California in 84 yearsGoogle fined $32,000 in Russia over Ukraine videos

However, less than half of Americans in the poll — 38 percent — said they would support deploying U.S. troops to Taiwan in the case of a Chinese attack. Another 42 percent said they would oppose sending troops to Taiwan, while 20 percent said they were unsure, the poll found.

Russia’s War-Torn Economy Hits Its Speed Limit

Chelsey Dulaney​ 

The Russian central bank’s jumbo interest-rate increase to halt a tumbling ruble this week points to a new reality for the Kremlin: Russia’s economy has reached its speed limit.

The government has flooded the Russian economy with money to keep its troops in Ukraine supplied and insulate its businesses and citizens from the war. Thanks to the state’s largess, demand in the economy is rising, helping it recover from last year’s sanctions-induced recession. Supply—increasingly constrained by Russia’s isolation and widespread labor shortages—isn’t.

That growing imbalance of Russia’s wartime economy was thrust into focus this week as the ruble fell to its lowest level since the early days of the war. A senior Kremlin official blamed the currency drop on loose monetary policy. A day later, Russia’s central bank hiked interest rates by 3.5 percentage points at an emergency meeting, citing the need to stabilize the currency and bring down inflation, which it said has been growing at an annualized rate of 7.6% over the last three months.

The ruble has staged a rebound, with $1 now buying roughly 94 rubles compared with as much as 102 on Monday. Economists see this week’s volatility not as the beginning of an imminent financial crisis but rather as a symptom of Russia’s sclerotic economic prospects.

In another bid to support the currency, the Russian government struck an informal agreement with exporters to convert more of their foreign earnings back into rubles, according to Russian business newspaper Vedomosti. The central bank implemented a stricter version of that policy shortly after the war began to help prop up the battered ruble

One step Russia’s central bank is now considering to boost the currency would reimpose requirements—used earlier in the war—on exporters to convert foreign earnings back into rubles, according to media reports.

Putin and Xi are the Laurel and Hardy of statesmen – but it’s no laughing matter

Simon Tisdall

It must be tough, being a dictator, when your diktats are ignored, thwarted and scorned. Vladimir Putin is a sad case in point. He ordered the glorious reintegration of Ukraine into his imaginary Russian empire. What he got was an existential crisis that he couldn’t control.

China’s president, Xi Jinping, is another paramount leader with dictatorship issues. Xi presumes to exercise supreme control, channelling Mao Zedong like a card-carrying Communist party Zeus – yet repeatedly messes up. Xi’s signature tune could be the chorus to Moby’s Extreme Ways: “Then it fell apart ... Like it always does.”

One example: Xi’s misjudged “no limits” pre-Ukraine invasion pact with Putin has turned out to be an embarrassing, friends-without-benefits own goal. Another example: his unleashing of confrontational “wolf warrior” diplomacy against the west, which has produced a huge anti-China backlash.

Putin and Xi: a Laurel and Hardy duo for the modern age – except it’s no joke. Both have much to answer for, or would in any open society. If either man were subject to genuine democratic scrutiny or free elections, he’d be booted out without a second thought – then put on trial.

Putin has remade Russia in his image: lawless, vilified, distrusted. Flailing Xi’s offence, if anything, is worse. He’s endangering the Chinese “miracle” – decades of big post-Deng Xiaoping, post-Tiananmen economic and social advances – in a messianic drive to wield unchecked personal power.

Xi hopelessly mishandled the Covid pandemic, ordered draconian lockdowns, then U-turned without a blush. That hasn’t rescued China’s damaged economy, its private tech companies already hobbled by Xi’s control-freak insistence on party oversight and direction.

How Marines could prevent Iranian harassment of commercial ships

Irene Loewenson

Although it’s unclear exactly what Marines would do if placed on commercial ships traveling through the Strait of Hormuz, retired military leaders say they could deter Iranian forces from harassing or seizing the vessels — and quickly loop in the Navy if issues arise.

More than 100 Marines already have gotten training from the Navy and are prepared to be put on commercial vessels transiting the strategically important passage ― which links the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman ― if ordered, the U.S. Naval Institute reported Friday, citing an anonymous U.S. official.

The security teams are made up of between 15 Marines and 19 Marines, according to the U.S. Naval Institute. Training began before the Navy ships carrying them arrived in Bahrain on Aug. 6, the Institute reported.

The teams could prevent Iranian forces from coming aboard the ships, retired Marine Lt. Gen. Dave Beydler said in a webinar Tuesday moderated by the Jewish Institute for National Security of America, a pro-Israel think tank.

“You will not get on a commercial vessel that has a contingent of Marines on board,” said Beydler, the former commander of Marine Corps Forces Central Command.

The Marines could protect against threatening close passes by other ships, Beydler said. They can fend off attacks with their counter-drone and counter-air capabilities. And with their communications capabilities, they could quickly alert the Navy if threats emerge from Iran, Beydler said.

‘Panicked Retreat’: Russia’s Defenses Are Starting To Break In Ukraine

Stavros Atlamazoglou

The situation in the Donbas region is becoming increasingly dire for the Russian military.

Over the past hours, Ukrainian forces have breached Russian defenses around the village of Urozhaine.

In their retreat, the Russian units in the area suffered hefty casualties.

Panicked Retreat in Ukraine

The Russian forces defending the village of Urozhaine suffered a bloody defeat.

Someone in the Russian chain of command evidently believed that the position in Urozhaine was about to be overrun by the advancing Ukrainians and gave the order to evacuate — on foot and in broad daylight, in an area under the cover of Ukrainian artillery.

Once the Russian commanders gave the order to retreat, there was panic.Exposed and lacking any protection whatsoever, Russian forces ran back toward deeper lines of defense.

But Ukrainian forces were ready. Using tactical unmanned aerial systems for reconnaissance, the Ukrainians had a good picture of what was going on in Urozhaine. Once they saw columns of Russian soldiers fleeing on foot, the Ukrainians called in artillery. Carnage ensued.

Coup in Niger Upends U.S. Terrorism Fight and Could Open a Door for Russia

Eric Schmitt, Declan Walsh and Elian Peltier

The military takeover in Niger has upended years of Western counterterrorism efforts in West Africa and now poses wrenching new challenges for the Biden administration’s fight against Islamist militants on the continent.

American-led efforts to degrade terrorist networks around the world have largely succeeded in longtime jihadist hot spots like Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. Not so in Africa, especially in the Sahel, the vast, semiarid region south of the Sahara where groups linked to Al Qaeda and the Islamic State are gaining ground at an alarming pace.

Niger, an impoverished nation of 25 million people that is nearly twice the size of Texas, has recently been the exception to that trend.

Terrorist attacks against civilians there decreased by 49 percent this year, largely because of the 2,600 French and American troops training and assisting Nigerien forces and a multipronged counterinsurgency strategy by the deposed president, Mohamed Bazoum, analysts say. Niger has slowed, but not stopped, a wave of extremists pushing south to coastal states.

Now all that could be in jeopardy if a regional conflict breaks out or the junta orders the Western forcesincluding 1,100 American troops, to leave and three U.S. drone bases — including one operated by the C.I.A. — to be shuttered.

Western-led military operations offer no silver bullet against Islamist militancy in the Sahel, now the epicenter of global militancy. The past decade of French-led operations in the region, involving thousands of troops, failed to stop thousands of attacks.

Even so, a security vacuum in Niger could embolden the militants to ramp up propaganda, increase recruitment of local and even foreign fighters, establish mini-states in remote areas, and plot attacks against Western countries. Removing the relatively small American presence would make it harder for military analysts to identify and quickly disrupt threats as they emerge, U.S. officials said.

The Hard Reality: Ukraine’s Last-Gasp Offensive Has Failed

Daniel Davis

Key Point: The cold, hard truth in the war between Russia and Ukraine today is that Kyiv’s last-gasp offensive has failed, and no amount of spin will change the outcome.

As Part 1 of this series examining the past performance and current capacity of the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) detailed, Kyiv’s troops in 2022 achieved some exceptional and major battlefield successes. Hope was high heading into 2023 that these wins would pave the way to ultimate victory in the war. Unfortunately, the Ukrainian senior leadership suffered from a combination of bad decisions, an overestimation of their own capacity, and – sadly – an overestimation of the efficacy of Western military gear.

As early as January 2023, Western media sources began talking about a Ukrainian “spring offensive.” At that time, the Russians had been badly mauled during battles over Ukraine’s Kharkiv and Kherson. Moscow was four months into its partial mobilization of 300,000 troops – but had stumbled badly at the outset in processing the new conscripts – and unconfirmed reports claimed that up to 700,000 young Russian men fled the country to avoid having to fight. Ukrainian morale was sky-high and Russian motivation was in the toilet.

While the quality of the early Russian conscripts was clearly lacking, as early as November the Kremlin plugged more than tens of thousands of them into the gaping holes created by Ukraine’s autumn offensive, which helped stem the tide. By January Putin increased the offensive operations throughout the 1,000km front line to keep pressure on the UAF, with an emphasis on the twin cities of Soledar and Bakhmut. As opposed to the Russian army generally, Putin chose to give that fight to the PMC Wagner Group – and it was here that Ukraine made its first major mistake of 2023.
Double Disaster at Bakhmut for Ukraine and Russia



In 1924, the Army Industrial College opened its doors for the first time. In the wake of the difficulties in mobilizing the American economy and supporting the expeditionary force in World War I, Congress established the college to lay the intellectual foundation for mobilizing the American industrial base in the next war. Seventeen years later, that war came with Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor. The Army Industrial College proved its value by providing the National Defense Advisory Commission with the baseline for World War II’s economic mobilization. A century after the college’s founding, the lessons that the United States painfully learned on industrial mobilization for great-power conflict have largely been forgotten and a new generation of national security professionals now find themselves in urgent need of its teachings.

Defence planners’ focus on short war scenarios and the commensurate development of a military built around exquisite high-tech platforms has opened the United States to potential strategic failure in conflict, with an inability to sustain the force it has. After a generation of globalization and de-industrialization, the U.S. national security architecture needs a better understanding of the effect of prolonged conflict on the military — and its increasingly advanced platforms — to facilitate the development of an industrial base and supply chain that can be resilient and endure through a long war. This should be accomplished through close cooperation with private industry to establish what the resource requirements of prolonged conflict could be and their ability to satisfy them when global supply chains collapse. Understanding where those chokepoints are provides a guidepost for more precise investments in the industrial base, to both strengthen the backbone of the military in a time of increased budgetary constraints and to better prepare the industrial base for large-scale conflict.

Why new tech hasn’t revolutionized warfare in Ukraine

Stephen Biddle

The Ukraine war is being waged with a host of advanced technologies. Many believe this is transforming warfare, with omnipresent surveillance combining with newly lethal weapons to make legacy systems such as the tank obsolete and to make traditional methods such as large-scale offensive action impractical.

But in other ways this war seems very old. It features foot soldiers slogging through muddy trenches in scenes that look more like World War I than Star Wars. Its battlefields are littered with mine fields that resemble World War II. Artillery has fired millions of unguided shells, straining the production capacity of industrial bases in Russia and the West. Accounts of code-writers developing military software coexist with scenes of factory floors turning out mass conventional munitions lacking only Rosie the Riveter to pass for 1943.

So how different is this war, actually? How can such cutting-edge technology coexist with such echoes of the distant past?

Renewed Tensions in the Persian Gulf: Further War Powers Lessons from the Tanker War

Brian Finucane

For years, Iran has been attacking and seizing commercial vessels in the Persian Gulf, in some cases seemingly in retaliation for U.S. efforts to interdict Iranian oil exports as a sanctions enforcement measure. These moves have raised fears about regional maritime security in the Strait of Hormuz, a narrow waterway that remains critical to the global oil supply. The United States has responded to recent Iranian action by deploying F-16, F-35, and A-10 warplanes to the region, along with additional warships, and U.S. forces, including the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit. According to press reports, the Biden administration is now also deliberating over whether to station U.S. Marines on commercial tankers, whether to expand “collective self-defense” to vessels based on ownership of the ship or cargo (rather than solely based on U.S. registration), as well as potentially delegating further down the chain of command the authority of military commanders to use force.

The intent behind the proposal to station Marines aboard commercial vessels appears to be to use U.S. armed forces as a tripwire, whereby any Iranian attack on these commercial vessels would amount to an attack on U.S. armed forces. The apparent logic is that such a tripwire would deter Iran from further attacks or attempts to seize tankers or other commercial vessels.

The extension of the United States’ defensive umbrella over commercial vessels in the Persian Gulf has historic precedent, most prominently during the so-called Tanker War. In response to Iranian attacks on neutral oil tankers, the United States agreed to reflag Kuwaiti vessels as American and accompany them with U.S. naval convoys as part of Operation Earnest Will. As the Legal Adviser to the State Department argued at the time, “U.S. protection of the vessels is intended to deter rather than provoke military action by Iran.” In the event, this operation led to repeated hostilities between U.S. and Iranian forces in 1987-1988.

Ukrainian ship carrying grain sails from Odessa, testing Russian threat

David L. Stern

KYIV — Officials here said a first ship carrying Ukrainian agricultural cargo set sail Wednesday from the southern port of Odessa — despite threats by Russia to forcibly stop vessels in the Black Sea after Moscow unilaterally terminated a U.N.-sponsored agreement allowing safe passage of Ukrainian grain shipments.

Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said the container ship Joseph Schulte, flying a Hong Kong flag, left the port “and is proceeding through a temporary corridor established for civilian vessels” on its way to the Bosporus.

Kubrakov, posting on Facebook, said the ship was “carrying more than 30,000 tons of cargo, including food products” and had been in the Odessa port since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion nearly 18 months ago.

The announcement came as Russian forces continued their ferocious barrage against Ukraine’s agricultural infrastructure, intent on destroying the country’s ability to ship to global markets and crippling a key sector of the country’s economy.

On Wednesday, the head of the Odessa regional administration, Oleh Kiper, said two waves of self-destructing drones damaged “warehouses and granaries” in a port on the Danube River, which Ukraine established as an alternative route to shipping from ports directly on the Black Sea.

“The main goal [of the attacks] is port and grain infrastructure in the south of the region,” Kiper wrote on Telegram.


Angelica Evans

Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations on at least three sectors of the front on August 16 and advanced in western Zaporizhia Oblast and on the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border, including liberating the village of Urozhaine. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations in the Bakhmut, Berdyansk (Zaporizhia-Donetsk Oblast border area), and Melitopol (western Zaporizhia Oblast) directions.[1] Geolocated footage published on August 16 indicates that Ukrainian forces advanced northeast of Robotyne (10km south of Orikhiv) in western Zaporizhia Oblast and have likely made wider gains in the surrounding areas given weeks of consistent Ukrainian activity in the forested areas northeast of the settlement.[2] Ukrainian officials reported that Ukrainian forces liberated Urozhaine (9km south of Velyka Novosilka) in the Zaporizhia-Donetsk Oblast border area, and the Ukrainian 35th Marine Brigade published footage of their personnel raising the Ukrainian flag in the center of the settlement.[3] Ukrainian reporting on the liberation of Urozhaine is in line with previous statements by Ukrainian officials about the liberation of other settlements in the area and recent reports by Russian forces that Russian units in the area were withdrawing.[4] Russian claims about Ukrainian assaults further south and east of the limits of the settlement further indicate that Ukrainian forces likely control the majority of the settlement.[5]

Russian sources claimed that Ukrainian forces have committed their “main reserves” to counteroffensive operations in western Zaporizhia Oblast, although continued Russian claims of small Ukrainian infantry assaults in the area do not correspond with the alleged commitment of major elements of Ukraine’s mechanized reserves.[6] Russian sources appear to be incorrectly portraying Ukrainian reserves as one large unitary contingent that Ukraine would commit to fighting as a whole and prematurely claiming that Ukraine has committed all of its reserves based on scattered observations of western-equipped Ukrainian units.[7]

Russian forces conducted a series of drone strikes against Ukraine on the night of August 15 to 16, primarily targeting grain and port infrastructure in Odesa Oblast. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian forces targeted port infrastructure in Odesa Oblast with an unspecified number of Shahed-131/136 drones and reported that Ukrainian forces shot down 13 of the drones over Odesa and Mykolaiv oblasts.[8] Ukrainian and Russian sources stated that an unspecified number of Russian drones struck Ukrainian port infrastructure and residential buildings and destroyed a grain silo and elevator in Reni, Izmail Raion, Odesa Oblast.[9]



In a May 2021 memorandum to senior leaders, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks declared that data was a strategic asset, and she issued a clarion call to transform the Department of Defense into a “data-centric organization.” Her memorandum directed the DoD to seek ways to make data more accessible and easier to integrate. To this end, the Army subsequently issued its Data Plan as an outline for moving forward, and this plan describes no less than ten strategic objectives to become “data-centric.” The intent is to use data to make decisions that will “outpace an adversary” and win future conflicts.

A cynic might declare that data-centric operations are nothing more than an old concept made new. As early as 1993, the Army embraced the post-Cold War Force XXI transformation model, which acknowledged that information technology would revolutionize warfare. The revolution was ostensibly the introduction of networked information technology systems that enabled commanders to make decisions faster, dominate the battlespace, and win throughout the full spectrum of operations. TRADOC Pam 525-5 Force XXI Operations was even ahead of its time in 1994 when it identified in one paragraph a trend toward “brilliant systems” that used AI to improve operations, intelligence, and logistics capabilities. The pamphlet even predicted that the health of individual soldiers might be monitored. However, the latest call for transformation is different in that it recognizes that information systems (e.g., Maneuver Control System, All Source Analyst System, Command Post of the Future, etc.) are important but not as important as the data itself.

To fully embrace data-centric operations, however, one must grapple with complex data science terms such as biomes, labeling, big data, clustering, decision trees, neural networks, and the list goes on seemingly ad infinitum. Thus, the complexity of data terms can become overwhelming and make data neophytes of the most seasoned military officers. Indeed, discomfort with data analytics is not only confined to military professionals. In his book Be Data Literate: The Data Literacy Skills Everyone Needs to Succeed, James Morrow cites a 2019 study indicating that a mere 32 percent of civilian business executives were “able to create measurable value from data” and only “27 percent said their data and analytics projects produce actionable insights.” Frustration over data integration, according to Morrow, often leads civilian counterparts to give up data-driven operations in favor of doing things the “old way.” However, this is not an option for military professionals. China is investing heavily in data to create AI-enabled autonomous vehicles, ISR platforms, and predictive logistics capabilities that will enable it to leverage swarm technology, sense U.S. military maneuvers, and sustain operations over long distances more effectively.