22 August 2023

Mounting Cyber Espionage and Hacking Threat from China

Vaishali Basu Sharma

Earlier this month a ransomware attack on America’s Prospect Medical Holdings, which operates dozens of hospitals and hundreds of clinics and outpatient centres across the states of Connecticut, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and Southern California was forced to shut off its centres in several locations as the healthcare system experienced software disruptions. In June India’s premier hospital, the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) faced a malware attack on its systems which was thwarted by its cyber-security systems. This is not the first time that the premier hospital’s data was breached. In November 2022, AIIMS had experienced a cyberattack within weeks of announcing that from January 2023, it would operate on a completely paperless mechanism. The cyber attack which involved ransomware, designed to deny a user or organisation access to files, lasted for nearly a month affecting the profile of almost 4 crore patients – affecting registration, appointments, billing, laboratory report generation, among other operations of the hospital. Regarding the quantum of data that was compromised, the government revealed that “five servers of AIIMS were affected and approximately 1.3 terabytes of data was encrypted.”

Till June this year, Indian Government organisations faced over one lakh cyber security incidents and financial institutions saw over four lakh incidents. Data presented by the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-In), which has the mandate of tracking and monitoring cybersecurity incidents in India, indicates rising Cyberattacks to government organisations. or systems year on year. From 70798 in 2018, to 112474 in 2023 (up to June) incidents of cyber attacks have been on the rise, on a year on year basis. Presenting this data at the Parliament, Minister for electronics and IT Ashwini Vaishnaw said, “With innovation in technology and rise in usage of the cyberspace and digital infrastructure for businesses and services, cyber-attacks pose a threat to confidentiality, integrity and availability of data and services, which may have direct or indirect impact on the organisation.”

Don’t Recognize the Taliban Government Deepening Ties Won’t Moderate Afghanistan’s Brutal Rulers

P. Michael McKinley

Two years after taking Kabul, the Taliban are consolidating their control of Afghanistan even as they remain mostly shunned by the rest of the world. Although much of the Afghan population faces dire economic conditions, an often predicted catastrophic humanitarian crisis has yet to materialize, and the economy is stabilizing somewhat in the face of still formidable challenges. Despite an insurgency spearheaded by the local affiliate of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS), for most Afghans, security is better than at any time since the early years following the U.S.-led invasion in 2001. Reported rifts in the Taliban’s leadership have not significantly affected the grip of the country’s theocratic regime, headed from Kandahar by Supreme Leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, which has imposed ever more draconian restrictions on women and girls, undoing two decades of changes that had brought them basic human rights and access to the public sphere.

Meanwhile, the international community has begun to accommodate itself to the reality of a Taliban-led Afghanistan. Although no country formally recognizes the Taliban government, a number of countries in the region—including China and Russia—have taken steps toward establishing ties. And India, Japan, the European Union, and the United Nations have reopened or retained diplomatic missions in Kabul.

As it becomes clearer that Taliban rule is likely to endure for the foreseeable future, a small but growing number of commentators and analysts have begun to debate whether it is time for the United States to deal more directly with the Taliban—including possibly restoring a U.S. presence in Kabul and even formally recognizing the Taliban government. The analysts Graeme Smith and Ibraheem Bahiss argued in Foreign Affairs that addressing the country’s dire humanitarian situation, confronting terrorist organizations in Afghanistan, and improving regional security all require more official engagement with the Taliban. The Economist suggested that isolation has only strengthened Taliban hardliners. In Foreign Policy, Javid Ahmad, a former Afghan diplomat, and Douglas London, a former CIA operations officer, went further still, calling for the United States to establish official diplomatic ties with the Taliban government.

U.S. and Thailand Co-host Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) Workshop in Bangkok to Strengthen Regional Nonproliferation Coordination

This multilateral workshop brings together civilian and military leaders from Cambodia, Brunei, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Vietnam, Australia, the United States, and Thailand. During the workshop, participants will examine modern weapons of mass destruction (WMD) proliferation pathways, improve understanding of WMD interdiction obligations, explore legal frameworks and the best practices of partners, and enhance the connections of the “Countering WMD” community in Southeast Asia. The workshop also includes briefs, including an expert brief on global and regional proliferation threats from the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs, panel discussions, and a scenario-based tabletop discussion focused on intra-governmental information sharing and decision-making about potential WMD-related proliferation activities in the region.

The PSI was established in 2003 to stop or impede transfers of WMD, their delivery systems, and related materials flowing to and from states and non-state actors of proliferation concern. Thus far, more than 100 states have endorsed the PSI Statement of Interdiction Principles.

Countries that participate in the PSI by endorsing the PSI Statement of Interdiction Principles make a political commitment to take action to impede or stop, individually or in coordination with other partner states, shipments of WMD-related materials to and from states and non-state actors of proliferation concern, consistent with domestic and international laws and frameworks.

Desperate Putin forces migrants to join army as troops perish at 'stunning' rate


Vladimir Putin has allegedly started the forced military registration of migrants with Russian citizenship as Russia continues to suffer staggering battlefield losses, local media reports have claimed.

The Kremlin appears to be rolling out a desperate plan to sign up migrants living in Russia to its military following major police raids, according to local reports.

St Petersburg police carried out a two-day raid at a vegetable warehouse where they detained and delivered about 100 migrants with Russian citizenship to a military registration and enlistment office for their military registration, according to a report in Perlid.

The authorities were checking and sending migrants with Russian passports to the office as part of a so-called “new option” in the framework of migration raids, the report claimed.

They discovered up to one hundred men from Central Asia with Russian citizenship who were not entered registered in the military register.

A police statement read: “From the point of view of the main goal of the raid, this category of citizens is of no operational interest. However, taking the opportunity, the police do not miss the opportunity to further educate the Russians: citizenship gives not only rights, but also obligations. Including the constitutional obligation of military service.”

Meanwhile, several men who had recently received Russian citizenship who were not registered with the military were also detained in Cheboksary and Novocheboksarsk.

They were reportedly taken to the military registration and enlistment offices by force and ordered to enroll.

Russia’s Lunar Lander Crashes Into the Moon

Kenneth Chang, Alina Lobzina and Anton Troianovski

A Russian robotic spacecraft that was headed to the lunar surface has crashed into the moon, Russia’s space agency said on Sunday, citing the results of a preliminary investigation a day after it lost contact with the vehicle.

It is the latest setback in spaceflight for a country that during the Cold War became the first nation, as the Soviet Union, to put a satellite, a man and then a woman in orbit.

The Luna-25 lander, Russia’s first space launch to the moon’s surface since the 1970s, entered lunar orbit last Wednesday and was supposed to land as early as Monday. At 2:10 p.m. on Saturday afternoon Moscow time, according to Roscosmos, the state corporation that oversees Russia’s space activities, the spacecraft fired its engine to enter an orbit that would set it up for a lunar landing. But an unexplained “emergency situation” occurred.

On Sunday, Roscosmos said that it had lost contact with the spacecraft 47 minutes after the start of the engine firing. Attempts to re-establish communications failed, and Luna-25 had deviated from its planned orbit and “ceased its existence as a result of a collision with the lunar surface,” Roscosmos said.

An interagency commission would be formed to investigate the reasons for the failure, it added.

Luna-25, which launched on Aug. 11, was aiming to be the first mission to reach the moon’s south polar region. Government space programs and private companies all over Earth are interested in that part of the moon because they believe it may contain water ice that could be used by astronauts in the future.

The main purpose of Luna-25 was to test technology for landing on the moon, and the loss of the lander during a less risky phase of the mission will add scrutiny to Russia’s space struggles.

China's largest real estate company teeters on the brink of bankruptcy

Simon Leplâtre

Until a few months ago, Country Garden was seen as the strongest link in the Chinese real estate chain, at a time when Evergrande and dozens of other property developers were struggling to pay their debts. But the firm is now "facing the greatest difficulties since our establishment," admitted the group's current boss, Yang Huiyan. A week after missing two repayment deadlines on dollar-denominated debts, the company suspended trading of a dozen of its onshore bonds on Monday, August 14, as they were now considered rotten by the rating agencies. Country Garden was punished immediately when its share price on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange plummeted by 18%. The collapse of China's leading homebuilder in 2022 is likely to further undermine household confidence in this sector, which accounts for around 25% of the country's gross domestic product.

These defaults risk reinforcing the negative spiral in which the construction economy is currently trapped. In July, year-on-year sales recorded by China's top 100 property developers plummeted by 33%, while real estate investment fell by 8.5%, according to the National Bureau of Statistics. With no buyers, private developers are running out of cash and can no longer repay their debts.

Evergrande, which had the highest level of debts, has been insolvent since 2021, facing the equivalent of €310 billion in debts and unpaid bills. Country Garden, with debts of €180 billion, had until now weathered the storm, although the company's boss had to put her hands in her own pocket in late 2022 to lend the group funds. But the problems faced by the sector have gone from bad to worse. Despite the lifting of the zero-Covid policy in late December 2022, the long-awaited recovery has failed to materialize. On the contrary, after a brief upturn in the first quarter, real estate sales have ultimately fallen by 4.7% since the start of the year.

Water in a Multipolar World: China and the Issue of Water Management

 Natasha Hall and Ashok Swain

On July 17, Iranian president Ebrahim Raisi
opened the Chamshir Dam. In spite of vociferous opposition from
environmentalists, who argued that the dam would cut off the water-impoverished and neglected province of Khuzestan from the Zohreh River, construction proceeded—supported by a 244 million USD loan from China. China’s role in the Chamshir Dam is representative of the country’s increasing influence over shared water resources worldwide. Charting its own course in the face of international environmental standards, China’s dam diplomacy is poised to escalate global tensions and threaten water security.

The financing and construction of dams is an important but little-understood component of Beijing’s larger agenda to promote its vision of sovereignty in multilateral fora around the globe. Over a decade ago, China’s Sinohydro, a state-owned dam-building giant, claimed more than 50 percent of the market share of new dams erected around the world. China itself has more large dams in service than every other country combined. Many of these dams (both in China and elsewhere) lack transparent water-sharing agreements between local and regional authorities, or even notification of those affected by such projects. Just last year, Kurdistan’s regional government signed a memorandum of understanding with Power China to build four new dams—unbeknownst to the federal government in Baghdad at the time.

On the international stage, China has sought to block agreements governing the use of international rivers, maintaining that upstream countries must be free to develop their part of shared waterways. For example, in 1997, China was one of only three countries that voted against the UN General Assembly resolution to approve the UN Watercourses Convention. The flexible legal framework sought to establish basic standards and rules for cooperation between riparian states on the use, management, and protection of international waters. Yet despite building numerous dams upstream of the Mekong, Brahmaputra, and Indus, China lacks even a single transparent and binding water-sharing arrangement with the affected downstream neighbors.

Russia Has Lost Over 2,200 Tanks In The Ukraine War. Putin Is Trying To ‘Rebuild’ Tanks As Replacements

David Hambling

Russia has lost over 2,200 main battle tanks in the conflict with Ukraine but still maintains a significant advantage in armor. While Ukraine struggles to find donors to supply small batches of tanks, Russian factories are sending a steady stream of new vehicles to the front – or at least so they claim. In fact, Russia is rebuilding tanks rather than building them, and their capacity to do so may be reaching its limit.
Tank Makers and Re-Makers

Russia has just one tank factory, the once-mighty UralVagonZavod (UVZ) or “Ural Freight Wagon Plant” in Nizhny Tagil, a thousand miles East of Moscow. During WWII it was Stalin Ural Tank Factory No. 183 and turned out an astonishing 1,000 T-34 tanks every month, but years of corruption and bad management have taken a toll on the facility. UVZ’s showpiece T-14 Armata supertank is not in production eight years after it was first unveiled, due to endless technical problems. UVZ is supposed to make twenty T-90M tanks a month, but Sergio Miller, an independent analyst formerly with British Army intelligence, estimates that UVZ has produced perhaps forty T-90Ms since the start of the war.

The vast majority of Russia’s ‘new’ tanks are really rebuilds of old vehicles from storage. This exactly mirrors the situation in the U.S., where the Army’s new M1A2 Abrams were in fact rebuilt and upgraded M1s from the thousands held in storage at Sierra Army Depot in Doyle, California.

Russia has vast stockpiles of old tanks, from T-90s barely twenty years old to rusting T-62s from the 1960s. These offer raw materials for refurbishment by the BroneTankovyRemontnyZavod (Armored Vehicle Repair Plants) or BTRZs. There are currently three such plants for tanks: OmskTransMash, the Omsk Transport Machine Factory, the 61st BTRZ near St Petersburg, and 103rd BTRZ in Siberia. Previously the BTRZs were mainly in the export business, producing tanks for Venezuela, Vietnam, and Nicaragua as well as the Russian army. Now they have one priority: replacing battle losses in Ukraine.

Despite China’s Threats, Taiwan VP’s US Visit Sees Muted Reaction

Brian Hioe

Taiwanese Vice President William Lai, who is the ruling Democratic Progressive Party’s presidential candidate, transited through the United States this week on his way to and from Paraguay for the presidential inauguration of Santiago Peña.

Taiwanese presidents traditionally do not travel directly to the United States, instead conducting “stopovers” on the way to visit diplomatic allies of Taiwan. While Lai previously travelled to the United States directly in February 2020, since he was inaugurated as vice president in May 2020 he has conducted only stopovers. In January 2022, Lai transited the United States while travelling to Honduras for the presidential inauguration of Xiomara Castro, whose administration later broke ties with Taiwan in March 2023.

Lai’s visit to the U.S. this time is a matter of more elevated sensitivity due to his status as the DPP’s presidential candidate and the current frontrunner in the 2024 presidential elections.

China has historically reacted to stopovers in the United States by Taiwanese presidents with military exercises. Beijing has stepped up military activity around Taiwan since then-U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan in August 2022. Following Pelosi’s trip, China launched a set of military exercises that took place closer to Taiwan than during the Third Taiwan Straits Crisis. China conducted military exercises around Taiwan after the meeting between Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen and current U.S. Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy in April as well.

Before Lai’s visit, there were some suggestions that China could engage in military action in response, and even claims that China would potentially attack an outlying island of Taiwan. But China’s reaction was more muted this time. China did announce military exercises, which took place from Saturday until Monday, but this was not on the level of the April 2023 or August 2022 exercises.

China may have been thinking of the upcoming presidential elections, as major military exercises could potentially provoke the Taiwanese public into voting for Lai’s DPP. The August live-fire exercises did not have a significant impact on the 2022 local elections in Taiwan, which led to a KMT victory, but local elections are primarily about domestic issues. This is not the case for presidential elections in which cross-strait issues loom large.

How Will China’s Rare Earth Export Controls Impact Japan?

Nicolas Velez

On August 1, Chinese export controls on its gallium and germanium supplies, coming in the form of stricter export licensing requirements, went into effect. Since their announcement in early July, analysts widely perceived the restrictions as a direct response to U.S., Japanese, and Dutch export restrictions on chipmaking tools to China. Japan doubled down on these restrictions, along with the United States, a few weeks after China’s announcement.

Given the crucial role of gallium semiconductor technology in the defence and energy sectors, and Japan’s ambitions to build up its defence and clean energy capacity, one major question stands: Does Japan’s alignment with the United States’ China policy compromise its defence and energy security priorities?

Gallium is a key component for the production of gallium nitride (GaN), a compound used as the base material for semiconductors. The application of GaN chips is most prevalent in cutting-edge technologies crucial for both Japan’s defence build-up and green transformation strategy.

Not only can GaN more efficiently amplify high-power radiofrequency signals, it also has a higher radiation tolerance compared to its silicon counterpart. This makes GaN chips the preferred choice for technologies such as radars, jammers, and satellite communication. Indeed, GaN is a key component for the AN/SPY-7(V) 1 radar, a Long Range Discrimination Radar (LRDR) that is set to be deployed on two Aegis-equipped vessels in lieu of Japan’s now-cancelled Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defence system.

The importance of these technologies is highlighted in Japan’s latest national security documents. The National Defense Strategy, Defense Build-Up Program, and 2023 Defense Technology Guidelines collectively underscore the importance of developing these technologies, pointing out that they are needed to protect Japan from missile strikes, as well as threats emerging from outer spaces and the electromagnetic domain.

Switching to Japan’s green transformation strategy, GaN may be key to realizing the Japanese government’s clean technology ambitions. Two major projects being undertaken within the Green Innovation Fund, one of Japan’s strategies to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050, are to reduce the cost of offshore wind energy and improve the energy efficiency of “automated driving software and sensor systems.” By converting and transferring the energy generated in wind turbines, and regulating the software in EVs, semiconductors play an important role in determining the cost effectiveness of wind turbines and the energy efficiency of EVs. Compared to silicon semiconductors, GaN chips hold a greater capacity to minimize energy consumption and material requirements within power electronics. In other words, GaN has the potential to decrease wind energy costs by optimizing material requirements and energy output for wind turbines. For EVs, GaN can potentially reduce software power consumption.

So how exactly will China’s stricter gallium export license requirements affect the development of these technologies? Despite China’s 98 percent share of the world’s primary low-purity gallium – a raw material necessary for the production of GaN – the impact of the restrictions will be limited.

In the short term, although Japan’s cheap offshore wind technology might be undermined, the impact of China’s new export restrictions on defense and EV technology advancement will most likely be minimal. Talking to CNBC, trade expert Clete Willems stated that the restrictions will “be more of a price impact than an overall supply impact.”

Indeed, after China initially announced its gallium restrictions in early July, the price of gallium jumped 27 percent as buyers feared a future supply shortage. Though prices leveled off shortly after, the threat of further price hikes in the coming months looms. Such price increases could inhibit Japan’s goal of developing cheaper wind energy, as more expensive gallium would ultimately drive up the levelized cost of energy.

Even as gallium prices rise, however, Japan’s overall ability to meet its gallium demand will most likely be unaffected. This supply-side resilience was demonstrated in the past when China imposed similar critical mineral export restrictions in 2010, a precedent that several experts anticipate will repeat with China’s latest restrictions.

Moreover, a Center for Strategic and International Studies report pointed out that Japan’s gallium supply chain is relatively resilient to Chinese sanctions. Although cheaper gallium would be more ideal, defense and EV tech pursue priorities that outrank affordability; as long as the gallium supply is available to develop these technologies, they will remain mostly unaffected by the restrictions.

It is also key to note that, although vital, gallium is but a small component of these technologies. For instance, the layer of GaN utilized in semiconductors is only about the width of nine strands of hair. This low gallium intensity is further reflected in the fact that despite having the world’s largest number of applications for GaN power devices, less than 5 percent of Japan’s gallium supply is used for GaN production.

In the mid- to long-term, Japan may actually benefit from China’s gallium restrictions, as it can be leveraged by Tokyo to further diversify or even shore Japan’s gallium supply chain. Through the Japan Organization for Metals and Energy (JOGMEC), the government is actively investing in companies to explore new sources of gallium overseas. Should Japanese firms integrated in the global gallium supply chain, such as Dowa Holdings and Mitsubishi Chemicals, perceive China as an unreliable gallium source, there will be a larger incentive for them to participate in government efforts aimed at establishing alternative supply sources.

Japan already has a track record of successfully diversifying its critical mineral supply chains, as it managed to reduce its dependence on Chinese rare-earths from 82 percent in 2010 down to 58 percent in 2018. If the Japanese government can once again de-risk from China, Japan will have gained not only a more stable source of gallium for its defense and energy sectors, but also an economy that is more resilient to Chinese economic pressures.

However, such an outcome largely depends on the willingness of the Japanese government and private companies, considering the time and concerted efforts needed to diversify a country’s supply chain. So far, both the Japanese government and companies are simply observing the situation, waiting to see how China enforces its restrictions. If Beijing is serious about locking Japan away from its gallium supplies, we may see a Japan that is less dependent on Chinese critical minerals in the future.

Twenty of Putin's troops are killed 'when fist-fight between Russian soldiers escalates into battle with grenade launchers and machine guns


A disagreement between Russian units in the occupied Zaporizhzhia region descended into a full-blown conflict in which at least 20 of Putin's troops died after shooting at each other with automatic weapons, it has been claimed.

Ukraine's National Resistance Centre - an organisation that helps to coordinate the operations of pro-Ukrainian movements in occupied territory - reported that Russian fighters from Dagestan clashed with a unit of Chechen troops operating under orders from the head of the Republic of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov, a close Putin ally.

A disagreement between the groups, who encountered each other in the Ukrainian town of Mykhailivka near Melitopol, led to some of the troops getting embroiled in a fist-fight. But the scrap quickly spiralled out of control.

One fighter was stabbed, at which point the violence immediately escalated and the troops drew their guns, blasting each other with automatic weapons and even grenades, according to NRC sources.

Russian fighters from Dagestan clashed with a unit of Chechen fighters operating under orders from the head of the Republic of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov (pictured), a close Putin ally

Russia Says 'Eliminated' Ukrainian Fighters in Border Region

Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) said Wednesday it had "eliminated" a group of four Ukrainian fighters who tried to cross into Russia's western Bryansk region from northern Ukraine, news agencies reported.

The announcement came a day after Moscow said it had prevented Ukrainian militants from infiltrating the Bryansk region, which has regularly seen similar attacks.

"The FSB of the Russian Federation and forces of the Defense Ministry... in the Bryansk region prevented an attempt to infiltrate the territory of the Russian Federation," said the FSB, adding that "four saboteurs were eliminated."

Officials said the incident took place in the Starodubsky district, in the western corner of the Bryansk region, not far from the border with Belarus.

The FSB claimed the group had "foreign weapons and explosive devices" and said they were planning "provocations and sabotage actions on Russian territory."

In June, the Belgorod region saw the largest incursion since the beginning of the war in Ukraine.

Ukraine has usually denied responsibility for such attacks, blaming instead Russian partisan groups opposed to President Vladimir Putin.

China’s Xi Calls for Measures to Mitigate Disastrous Flooding Amid Economic Slowdown

Chinese leader Xi Jinping has called for measures to mitigate the effects of this year’s disastrous flooding, which has left scores dead and inflicted massive damage on crops, homes, and infrastructure, including in and around Beijing.

At least 90 rivers have risen above warning levels and 24 have already overflowed their banks, according to state media, threatening a vast area in northeastern China with flooding, including the Songliao Basin north of the capital, which encompasses more than 1.2 million square kilometers (482,200 square miles) with a population of almost 100 million.

“As China is still in the main flood season, rainstorms, floods, typhoons and other disasters still occur frequently in many places across the country,” the Xinhua News Agency said, summarizing conclusions of Thursday’s meeting of the party’s all-powerful Politburo Standing Committee presided over by Xi.

Participants “urged relevant localities and departments to always prioritize the safety of people’s lives and property, and keep doing a good job in flood prevention and disaster relief,” Xinhua said.

The reinforcement of dams and the efficient use of disaster relief funds to “repair damaged infrastructure such as transport, communications and electricity, and restore farmland and agricultural facilities” is crucial, it said.

Schools, hospitals, and nursing homes must be swiftly restored, along with damaged housing “to ensure the affected residents can return home or move to new homes before the winter.”

The flooding this year has also affected large parts of the central and eastern parts of the country, both in the semi-tropical south and the northern plains.

The Case Against an Israeli-Saudi Deal America Shouldn’t Push for a Hollow Accord

Dalia Dassa Kaye

The United States appears to be seriously probing a Middle East deal that would normalize relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel. According to the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman and other reporting, U.S. President Joe Biden harbors ambitious hopes that such a deal could lead to a more integrated, prosperous, and peaceful Middle East. Visible moves back up the rumors: in mid-July, the head of Israeli intelligence visited Washington to discuss the potential deal with White House and CIA officials, and later that month, Biden sent Jake Sullivan, his national security adviser, to Saudi Arabia to discuss the plan with the kingdom’s de facto leader, Mohammed bin Salman. The Wall Street Journal has reported that Biden wants a deal by the end of the year.

In principle, Biden’s vision deserves support. Israel and Saudi Arabia have quietly expanded ties in recent years, but a formal agreement would significantly boost Israel’s long-standing goal to achieve full acceptance in the Arab world and unleash new economic potential in the region. The reported contours of this deal, however, suggest that it would not genuinely advance peace in the Middle East. In fact, it could make things worse.

Riyadh reportedly wants three key sweeteners from Washington: more advanced arms sales, such as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile system; a NATO-like security guarantee; and U.S. assistance for a civilian nuclear program that might enable Saudi Arabia to enrich uranium domestically.

For all the problems that a new weapons deal in a volatile region would entail, the arms sales would probably be the least controversial element of an agreement. Early in his presidency, Biden pledged to scale back arms sales to Saudi Arabia. But he approved new multibillion weapons sales following a trip to Jeddah in the summer of 2022, and at the time, Congress did not stand in the way.

Saudi Arabia’s other two requirements, though, would likely trigger more significant bipartisan pushback from Congress. Washington does not even have a formal mutual defense pact that commits it to defending Israel, let alone any Arab state. The United States cooperates on civilian nuclear programs with other Gulf states, such as the United Arab Emirates, but those agreements do not allow for domestic uranium enrichment. And in the United States, Saudi Arabia has never been the most popular U.S. partner. Riyadh’s reputation as a harshly authoritarian regime out of step with American values has only sharpened over the course of its brutal seven-year intervention in Yemen’s civil war and after its savage 2018 murder of the Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

With $4.5B investment planned in Organic Industrial Base, a focus on next-gen vehicles


GVSETS 2023 — With the US Army preparing to invest nearly $4.5 billion over the next 15 years to modernize its Organic Industrial Base (OIB) in order to support a next-generation vehicle fleet, an Army officer said Thursday those dollars will be prioritized towards improvements in tooling, machinery, energy consumption and cybersecurity.

Speaking at the 15th Annual Ground Vehicle Systems Engineering & Technology Symposium, in Novi, Mich, Brig. Gen. Michael B. Lalor, head of the Army Tank-Automotive & Armaments Command (TACOM), said the money will also enable the branch “to build [in] some surge capacity.”

The OIB comprises 23 depots, arsenals and ammunition plants owned by the government. Lalor told the audience that some of the OIB infrastructure “dates back 70, 80 years,” and their modernization will enable integrating robotic processes and removing personnel from hazardous work environments.

“We are going to be able to do more of that capability in the future,” he noted.

This improvement effort is part of the Army’s Organic Industrial Base Modernization Implementation Plan, which was established in 2021 and will comprise over 500 initiatives across the OIB.

Thelmina Myles, branch chief for OIB Modernization and Business Development, pointed out that “each of these projects’ objectives is either safety, health, efficiency, quality green manufacturing and industry 4.0 compliance,” which will involve advancing the use of artificial intelligence.

From her perspective, “the implementation of these priorities is important to ensure the OIB sites are compatible as well as versatile enough to support both enduring and signature modernization systems in the future.”

On the Front Line, Ukrainian Commanders Are Buoyed to Be on the Offensive

Carlotta Gall

In 18 months of war, Ukrainian land has mostly changed hands in sudden bursts, with Russia snatching a mass of territory at the start and Ukraine recapturing chunks in dramatic counterattacks. Now 10 weeks into its most ambitious counteroffensive, with heavy casualties and equipment losses, questions have been growing about whether Ukraine can punch through Russian lines.

Despite grueling fighting, Ukrainian forces along much of the 600-mile front are moving forward, and commanders and veteran soldiers say they are in better shape now than six or 12 months ago.

The U.S. Is Beefing Up Alliances Across Asia—But Don’t Expect an ‘Asian NATO’ Anytime Soon

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U.S. President Joe Biden will meet at Camp David in Maryland on Friday with his Japanese and South Korean counterparts for a first-of-its-kind trilateral summit aimed at bolstering security partnerships amid increasing tensions in the Asia-Pacific.

The White House said in July that, aside from addressing the “continued threat” of North Korea’s nuclearization, the leaders will use the meeting to focus on how they can fortify relationships with Southeast Asian and Pacific nations to counter China’s increasing exertion and expansion of its influence in the region. The summit is also expected to touch on maintaining peace in the Taiwan Strait. Two senior Biden officials told Reuters earlier this week that the trilateral alliance will launch “joint initiatives on technology and defense,” and a three-way crisis hotline during the meeting.

The summit is a monumental coming-together for two parties, Japan and South Korea, whose historically strained relationship has been on the mend only in recent months. Some observers have claimed the three-way partnership represents a sort of “mini-NATO,” while others have suggested it could pave the way for a “de facto Asian NATO”—referencing the mutual defense pact formed in 1949 between the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and several European states (since expanding to include almost all of Europe) in response to the security threat posed by the former Soviet Union.

Today, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is most known for its Article 5, which defines an armed attack on any member state as an attack on the entire coalition—and requires a collective response. It’s an appealing concept for some worried about military aggression from Beijing and Pyongyang. But experts tell TIME that a multilateral, U.S.-led Asian defense alliance like NATO “is not feasible,” nor necessary.

The Asia-Pacific is “too diverse politically and economically” to host the formation of a NATO-like construct, Nicholas Szechenyi, deputy director for Asia at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, tells TIME.

Judge Throws Out Confession of Bombing Suspect as Derived From Torture

Carol Rosenberg

The military judge in the U.S.S. Cole bombing case on Friday threw out confessions the Saudi defendant had made to federal agents at Guantánamo Bay after years of secret imprisonment by the C.I.A., declaring the statements the product of torture.

The decision deprives prosecutors of a key piece of evidence against Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, 58, in the longest-running death-penalty case at Guantánamo Bay. He is accused of orchestrating Al Qaeda’s suicide bombing of the warship on Oct. 12, 2000, in Yemen’s Aden Harbor that killed 17 U.S. sailors.

Can a “Suez Moment” Happen for America in Haiti?

Max Morton

This week, UN Secretary-General António Guterres called for an intervention in Haiti to restore democratic governance. He didn’t just call for help; he specifically requested it in the form of military special forces and police to attack and destroy the criminal gangs which have taken over Haiti.

Since the assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moise in 2021, Haiti has been overrun by criminal gangs that have disrupted critical supply chains and taken over control of food and oil imports. Haiti has been a “Mad Max” failed state for more than a year now, with no signs that its internal political and governmental apparatus can regain control.

The United States, having conducted numerous Haitian expeditions over the past 100 years (one of which I participated in during the mid-1990s), has studiously avoided getting pulled into attempting to fix Port-au-Prince. Currently bogged down supplying and advising a losing war in Ukraine, Washington is unable to muster the will or bandwidth to deal with Haiti. Moreover, the optics of white special forces killing brown people in night raids against Haitian gangs is impossible to rationalize given Washington’s current cultural and political environment. Attempts to find a proxy, such as Kenya, will likely not bear fruit in restoring order.

Washington does not want direct involvement in Haiti. Neither the White House nor the Department of Defense is capable of employing the nuanced power required to deal with the problem. But neither can it allow Haiti to continue its Mad Max existence so close to our southeastern coast—and in our hemisphere. Power does not tolerate a vacuum, and there is an immense vacuum in Port-au-Prince.

What then does the future of Haiti look like? One possibility is that China could step into the gap and provide an armed peacekeeping force. Geopolitically, it would be a crushing blow to Washington and put it on the horns of a dilemma. Does the White House change track and send U.S. Marines and special forces to Haiti—with all that goes with such a deployment? There would surely be combat with Haiti’s well-armed gangs, many now populated by former Haitian security forces and military personnel. Or does it allow China to step into Haiti and supplant the U.S. as the new global peacekeeper? China is much less concerned with the optics of killing brown people to restore order in Port-au-Prince. A China peacekeeping deployment to Haiti fits firmly within President Xi Jinping’s Global Security Initiative as a tool to dethrone Washington from its global hegemon role. Realistically, such a deployment would result in a permanent Chinese presence and a new client state for Beijing only miles from the U.S. coastline. This is an exposed flank.

The Japan-South Korea-US Summit Is Bad News for China

Shannon Tiezzi

On August 18, the leaders of Japan, South Korea, and the United States met at Camp David, a presidential retreat in the U.S. state of Maryland. It was a historic moment – while the three countries have held numerous trilateral meetings in the past, such gatherings have always taken place on the sidelines of larger multilateral events (like the NATO Summit or the G-7 Summit). This was the first “standalone” trilateral summit – and it is supposed to be the first of many. One of the major outcomes of the meeting was a commitment to make such gatherings an annual affair.

“[O]ur countries are stronger and the world will be safer as we stand together. And I know this is a belief we all three share,” U.S. President Joe Biden declared as he welcomed Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio and South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol to Camp David.

“…I look forward to working with both of you as we begin this new era of cooperation and renew our resolve to serve as a force of good across the Indo-Pacific and, quite frankly, around the world as well,” he added.

Kishida also expressed high hopes for the summit: “I wish to take this moment to raise the security … coordination between Japan, ROK, and the U.S. to new heights while strengthening the coordination between the Japan-U.S. and the U.S.-ROK alliances as we deepen our cooperation in the response to North Korea.” (ROK is an abbreviation for the formal name of South Korea, the Republic of Korea.)

The historic step is due in part to the overt efforts by Yoon to mend South Korea’s strained ties with Japan – to the extent that the South Korean president has even been accused of selling out his own country to advance the relationship. Throughout, Yoon has emphasized that he sees more intense cooperation with Japan as crucial to his country’s security.

At Camp David, he made clear the point of the trilateral summit: to institutionalize progress already underway. “The stronger coordination between Korea, the U.S., and Japan requires more robust institutional foundations,” Yoon said at the opening of the summit. “Moreover, challenges that threaten regional security must be addressed by us building a stronger commitment to working together.”

Russia Pitches Su-57 ‘Felon’ & Su-75 ‘Checkmate’ To Key Partners; Keen On Co-Production Of Stealth Fighters

Sakshi Tiwari

Alexander Mikheyev, the chairman of Rosoboronexport, told TASS on the sidelines of the Army-2023 symposium that Russia is in discussions with several partners about cooperation on its fifth-generation fighter jets, the SU-57E and the Su-75 Checkmate, including their joint development and manufacturing.

The chairman told the state press, “According to feedback from foreign specialists and experts, the multi-purpose super-maneuverable Su-35 fighter jet is the best aircraft among the fourth and 4++ generation fighters. It occupies a rightful place in Rosoboronexport’s portfolio of orders. Cooperation on SU-57E and Checkmate fifth-generation fighter jets is now being discussed with several of Russia’s partners, including in joint development and production format.”

This announcement comes days after First Deputy General Director of Rostec Vladimir Artyakov told the media that Russia had plans to significantly enhance the rate of production of the Su-57, which is currently undergoing operational trials in Ukraine.

Despite the ongoing war in Ukraine, which has added pressure to Russia’s military-arms complex, the country has been increasing the production of its sophisticated weapon systems. It also simultaneously exhibits them at air shows worldwide- from China to India- to bolster its export potential.

The Su-57 program, which catapulted Russia into the club of elite countries with fifth-gen fighter jets, was supposed to start serial production in 2017. However, it finally delivered the first aircraft in 2021 after one of the planes crashed while being tested in 2019.

Despite the many difficulties faced in development and testing, Russia is unwavering in its attempts to allure foreign customers for the Su-57 fighter jet.

Ukraine Gains New Momentum as Russian Threats Expand

Paul D. Shinkman

Ukraine has gained momentum at several points along its front lines with Russia – on the ground and in the air – defying skepticism in the West that its counteroffensive has stalled while also exposing new obstacles facing forces loyal to Kyiv that portend a long fight ahead.

Several indicators suggest that Ukraine has opened up new fronts in the east and south of the country, particularly in Luhansk – one of the two provinces Russia first invaded in 2014 – and Zaporizhzhia – a key region at the Dnipro River and home to one of Europe’s largest nuclear power plants.

Analysts in Russia, Ukraine and in the West noted late Wednesday that the Ukrainians appear to have advanced several miles along each of the fronts, while continuing to face the deeply entrenched and deadly positions of Russian fighters, who, since stalling their own offensive, have spent the past several months focused on strengthening their defenses.

“The Ukrainian counteroffensive is advancing slowly in southern Ukraine because Ukrainian forces must overcome a three-echeloned Russian defensive line,” the independent Institute for the Study of War wrote in its latest analysis note, citing statements from Ukrainian Col. Petro Chernyk.

5G Spectrum Shortage Threatens U.S. National Security

Tahmineh Dehbozorgi
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Adigital revolution is upon us. 5G, the cutting-edge cellular network standard, promises to reshape our digital world with lightning-fast speed, seamless smart cities, and unprecedented support for autonomous technologies. But behind the allure of progress lies a dark reality—the looming threat of cyber warfare fueled by great power competition.

Recent events have thrust the U.S. intelligence community into action as Chinese hackers deploy sophisticated malware targeting American military operations. This raises urgent concerns about national cybersecurity and telecommunications resilience. As the Biden Administration confronts this escalating digital threat, one name raises red flags—Huawei, the 5G titan with ties to the Chinese Communist Party.

Fears of espionage and intellectual property theft have cast a shadow over Huawei's dominance, forcing Congress to ban the company from operating in the United States since 2017. However, Huawei continues to tighten its grip over the global telecommunications market as Congress remains in gridlock over 5G spectrum allocation, which puts the US in a tight position to compete globally. In addition, Huawei has sold telecommunications equipment to authoritarian regimes violating U.S. sanctions.

This isn't just about Huawei; it's about our core industries, weapons systems, and national security. The scarcity of proper 5G spectrum for the U.S. telecommunications industry presents a significant geopolitical challenge with far-reaching implications. As the digital landscape becomes the new battleground for global supremacy, the lack of American leadership in setting communication equipment standards leaves us vulnerable to such cyber attacks and highlights the urgency of reasserting control over our digital future. According to the latest Center for Strategic and International Studies report, the United States is grappling with a pressing deficiency of vital mid-band licensed spectrum, the bread and butter for 5G technology. Projections indicate a significant deficit of 400 MHz by 2027 and a staggering 1400 MHz by 2032. In stark contrast, China has assigned more than 70 percent additional licensed mid-band spectrum for 5G compared to the United States. This discrepancy presents China with a distinct competitive edge, creating a strategic advantage in sectors crucial for America’s forthcoming technology leadership and, consequently, its security interests.

PLAAF developing new combat methods for UAVs

Akhil Kadidal 

The Chinese People's Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) has been developing new combat tactics and methods of operation for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), including remote take-offs and landings at locations far from home base airfields and potential manned-unmanned teaming (MUM-T).

According to a report by the state-owned broadcaster, China Central Television (CCTV), on 12 August a PLAAF UAV unit in the Western Theater Command (WTC) has been conducting these trials using Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC) Wing Loong II (Gongji-2 or GJ-2) multirole medium-altitude long-endurance (MALE) UAVs.

The Wing Loong IIs were used in a recent exercise in the “deserts of northwest China” to conduct “reconnaissance and strike training in a realistic combat scenario”, CCTV said.

During the exercise, the UAV operators were tasked with operating the Wing Loong IIs at long ranges using mobile ground control stations (GCSs), according to CCTV. Imagery of the three-vehicle GCS showed the employment of a satellite communications (satcom) antenna. Janes assesses that this supports long-range flights and navigation.

Exercise objectives included searching, detecting, identifying, and attacking multiple targets during a single sortie, CCTV said.

“This kind of remote control is a new combat pattern developed by the [unit] this year,” according to CCTV. A unit member told the broadcaster that “when needed, the ground station can connect with the aircraft from anywhere and complete tasks including take-off and landing as well as other missions”.

Russian Official Flees to U.S. to Avoid Military Draft, Becomes a Trucker


Russian news outlet RTVI said that it used facial recognition software to identify an unnamed man who was interviewed on the YouTube channel "New Americans," in which Russian émigrés speak in Russian about living in the U.S.

In the clip, the man said he was a former Russian minister who now worked as a truck driver. He was asked about his thoughts on going from politician to "further down the social ladder."

But the 48-year-old former politician said that during a one-year stint as a student in the U.S. 28 years ago, he realized that Americans "have a different attitude" towards blue-collar work.

This illustrative image shows men being drafted in Moscow for the war in Ukraine on October 6, 2022. A former Russian official has spoken of his new life in the U.S. after leaving to avoid being drafted for the war.GETTY IMAGES

He was appreciative that he no longer had to deal with the intrigues of Russian politics. "Here a working man, no matter what he does, if he does it well, he is respected." He considered himself an "auto tourist" who happens to transport loads and receive a decent salary as he seeks political asylum.

RTVI said that the man was Denis Sharonov and tracked him down to ask him about his new life. Between 2020 and 2022, Denis Sharonov was agriculture minister in Komi, a republic in Russia's federation roughly the size of California, the capital of which Syktyvkar is around 1,200 miles northeast of Moscow.