27 August 2023

India Can’t Cut the Cord From China

Sushant Singh

In the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and despite Western sanctions, India became one of the main buyers of Russian crude oil. Indian refiners have bought more than half of the oil exported by Russia in the current fiscal year. Europe and the United States have largely chosen to look away, but in May, the European Union objected to a direct shipment from Russia’s Rosneft Oil Company destined for India’s biggest state-owned refiner. As a result, the Reserve Bank of India refused to allow payment to Moscow in either euros or U.S. dollars. The state-owned refiner went to another bank, and ended up paying for the Russian crude in Chinese yuan. This gave a boost to Beijing’s efforts to internationalize its currency.

Can BRICS create a new world order?

Nils Adler

They are giant economies, with even bigger populations and still greater ambitions. Starting Tuesday, leaders of the group of nations known as the BRICS – Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa – are meeting for a three-day summit, which is expected to draw eyeballs from capitals around the world.

Russian President Vladimir Putin will not attend the August 22-24 conclave in Johannesburg, South Africa, but will participate via a video conference to save the country the embarrassment of hosting a leader with an International Criminal Court (ICC) warrant against him related to Moscow’s war in Ukraine. South Africa is a member of the ICC and, under international law, would have been obligated to arrest Putin if he were to visit.

Yet, while the conflict in Ukraine and deepening geopolitical tensions between the United States and China serve as the backdrop for the summit, the BRICS meeting is likely to foreground the grouping’s growing standing as a force challenging a long-dominant, Washington-led world order.

The expansion of BRICS is expected to be high on the agenda. It is a club in demand. From Algeria to Argentina, at least 40 countries have shown interest in joining the grouping.

Central to the grouping’s attraction is its rising economic heft. The five BRICS nations now have a combined gross domestic product (GDP) larger than that of the G7 in purchasing power parity terms. In nominal terms, the BRICS countries are responsible for 26 percent of the global GDP. Despite this, they get only 15 percent of the voting power at the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Coupled with grievances over such imbalances are growing concerns in the Global South that the US could weaponise the dollar through sanctions the way it has against Russia. That has led to BRICS nations individually and collectively trying to reduce their dependence on the US currency while increasing bilateral trade in their own currencies.

What Does India Mean by a Multipolar World?

Ved Shinde

It is easy to forget the past when the present is sweet. In times of India-US warmth, it is worth fleshing out how we arrived here.

Since its early days as a young republic, India has tried to navigate the pressures of great-power politics. The slogan Delhi liked to spout during the bipolar contestation of the Cold War was “non-alignment,” a polite way of saying we too want to be counted as a pole. India’s powerlessness did not matter. Bravado was hectoring major powers in the United Nations on how humbug their policies were. The early Indian leadership under Nehru believed in India’s pre-ordained status as a civilizational state.

The cold reality of defeat in 1962 against China represented a stark lesson for Delhi: rhetoric and arguments at multilateral forums do not count for security. After brief balancing towards the U.S., ideological shibboleths and deep suspicion of the Anglo-American motives drove Delhi away from Washington. That the U.S., misguided by the crafty British, was fattening Pakistan in South Asia was the reigning perception, causing angst in Delhi.

By the early 1970s, India realized that balancing was a part of the game, and equidistance from the two camps made for good speeches, but not sound policy. Under Indira Gandhi, India decisively moved toward the Soviet Union. Consequently, India-US relations hit the nadir; there was hardly an issue the sides could not manage to argue on. The U.S. support for Pakistan in the 1971 war left the relationship tattered if there was any of it in the first place—moreover, India’s perceived willingness to go nuclear outraged Washington. Delhi further slammed the door on commerce. It chucked Coke and IBM out of India. Fear of the foreign hand and “neo-imperialism” were deployed to rally the domestic masses.

Meanwhile, the world order was transitioning to a relatively rare unipolar phase, with America at the top. The disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991 also crumbled the foreign policy assumptions Delhi had operated with for decades. It no longer had a benefactor to piggyback on. In 1991, economic ailments at home forced much-needed reform; however, India accelerated trade liberalization before building domestic competencies. Deng Xiaoping’s pragmatism of early internal market reform, followed by trade liberalization after a few years, was not heeded. China had its version of economic reforms 12 years before India.

India Is Pushing Back Against China in South Asia

Derek Grossman

As the intensifying strategic confrontation between the United States and China dominates many foreign-policy debates, another important competition is quietly playing out. The jostling between India and China for influence in South Asia—from the Himalayas to the islands off the subcontinent in the Indian Ocean—will likely prove crucial to the fate of Washington’s strategy to keep the region “free and open” from Chinese coercion. And the good news, at least for now, is that New Delhi—an increasingly close U.S. partner—has been mostly successful in pushing back against Beijing’s rising influence across the region.

Explainer: Why are space agencies racing to the moon's south pole?

India's space agency is attempting to land a spacecraft on the moon's south pole, a mission that could advance India's space ambitions and expand knowledge of lunar water ice, potentially one of the moon's most valuable resources.

Here's what's known about the presence of frozen water on the moon - and why space agencies and private companies see it as a key to a moon colony, lunar mining and potential missions to Mars.

India's much-awaited moon mission Chandrayaan-3 has been scheduled for launch on July 14, 2023. The Soviet Union, the United States, and China are the only three countries that have successfully carried out soft landings on the moon.

As early as the 1960s, before the first Apollo landing, scientists had speculated that water could exist on the moon. Samples the Apollo crews returned for analysis in the late 1960s and early 1970s appeared to be dry.

What Next? The BRICs Global Share of GDP May Overtake the G7 by 2028


While the U.S., Japan and South Korea are convening at Camp David – the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) commence a summit of their own today in South Africa – including a state visit by Chinese leader Xi Jinping “which also includes a summit with leaders of the BRICS emerging economies…[the trip] is only Xi’s second international trip this year – a sharp contrast to his globe-trotting days of diplomacy before the coronavirus pandemic.” (1)

Xi journey to South Africa comes at a time when economic woes – including the potential for a “Lehman moment” in the slumping property sector,- are trending towards a full blown crisis in China. The Chinese people’s waning trust in Xi’s leadership (which is a direct result of the disastrous zero Covid policy) and a lack of consumer confidence are also drivers on the ground in the second largest economy in the world.

As OODA CEO Matt Devost notes: “I think with China, in particular, we need to be cognizant of the full spectrum of conventional strategies – and cyber – but also the economic forces at work as well. As the China economy weakens, do economic aspects become more appealing to use as geopolitical levers?”

Exiled Former Thai Leader Thaksin Shinawatra Trades Democratic Progress for Return Home


For more than 15 years, one man’s shadow has loomed over Thailand from afar. Billionaire former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra may have lived in exile following his ouster in a 2006 coup d’état and subsequent corruption convictions, but the levers of power were never far from his grasp. Populist parties he backed had won every election since 2001 only to be repeatedly ousted by judicial and military coups—turmoil interspersed by bouts of often deadly street protests.

But Thaksin’s grip loosened following May’s general election, when his Pheu Thai party was bested by the upstart Move Forward Party, which secured 38% of the vote with its radical agenda to bridle the nation’s military and monarchy. Pheu Thai briefly allied with Move Forward, but after the coalition’s candidate for Prime Minister was rejected by the military-appointed Senate, the Thaksin proxy instead struck a deal with 10 establishment-leaning parties, including two directly responsible for his sister’s ouster in 2014.

At 9:25 a.m. on Tuesday, Thaksin returned to Thailand for the first time since 2008, arriving at Bangkok’s Don Mueang Airport wearing a navy blue suit and pink necktie. Posting on social media platform X, formerly Twitter, before his arrival, Thaksin said he wanted to “live on the land of Thailand and share the air with my Thai brothers and sisters.” He landed just hours before a scheduled parliamentary vote that looks likely to return a Pheu Thai candidate, property tycoon Srettha Thavisin, as Prime Minister. Pheu Thai insists that the timing of his return has nothing to do with the vote but was determined as auspicious according to astrological charts.


Grace Mappes

Ukrainian forces conducted counteroffensive operations on at least two sectors of the front and advanced near Robotyne. Geolocated footage published on August 19 and 20 shows that Ukrainian forces recently advanced east of Robotyne.[1] The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces conducted counteroffensive operations in the Melitopol (western Zaporizhia Oblast) and Berdyansk directions (western Donetsk-eastern Zaporizhia Oblast area).[2] A Russian milblogger claimed that Russian forces continue to face issues with counterbattery capabilities on all sectors of the front, but particularly in the Zaporizhia direction.[3] The milblogger also claimed that Russian units are facing officer shortages due to manpower losses and that privates command some Russian companies, which should have a junior officer in command.[4]

Ukrainian strikes against Russian deep rear areas are generating discontent in the Russian information space and sparking criticism of the Russian military command, as Ukraine likely intends. Some Russian milbloggers expressed anger at recent Ukrainian strikes on the Kerch Strait Bridge and called for Russian forces to target the families, homes, and other properties of Ukrainian decisionmakers to deter further Ukrainian strikes against Russian deep rear areas.[5] The milbloggers referenced prior Soviet and Russian retaliatory strategies in Lebanon and in the northern Caucasus, and one milblogger claimed that it is easy for Russian officials to disregard the need for retaliation because Ukrainian strikes do not directly impact their livelihoods. Former Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) Ambassador to Russia Rodion Miroshnik claimed on August 20 that strikes against Moscow are becoming normalized following three consecutive days of alleged Ukrainian strikes against the city and called on Russian forces to make retaliatory strikes “personally painful” for decisionmakers who ordered the Moscow strikes.[6] A Russian insider source claimed that Russian air defenses did not activate to defend against an overnight strike against a Kursk City rail station on August 19 to 20, highlighting a frequent milblogger complaint that Russian forces fail to defend against strikes on Russian territory.[7] The UK Ministry of Defense (MoD) assessed that the Russian leadership has likely been pressuring the Russian Aerospace Forces (VKS) command to improve Russian air defense coverage in western Russia, suggesting that both the higher Russian leadership and the ultranationalist information space are placing pressure on the Russian military command in response to the strikes.[8]

China fast encroaching on Germany's share of EU markets - study

BERLIN, Aug 15 (Reuters) - Chinese manufacturers are increasingly giving German manufacturers a run for their money in their home European Union market, especially in the field of advanced industrial goods where Germany is a leader.

A study by the employers' economic think tank IW found that in some sectors China's share of EU imports had risen as much as or more in the two years to 2022 as they had in the preceding decade, prompting the think tank to warn that there was a risk of Germany's economic motor stalling.

After years of growth, Germany's economy entered recession in May as its champion exporters were battered by supply chain woes, inflation and rising energy costs after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, prompting much soul-searching on the industrial future of Europe's economic powerhouse.

"These findings give cause to worry given the challenges of the energy change and problems with Germany's competitiveness," said researcher Juergen Matthes.

Among the challenges the study listed was the role played by Chinese state subsidies in many sectors where Chinese companies were taking an increasing EU market share, and while high energy costs following the loss of Russian gas were weakening energy-intensive sectors like chemicals.

High energy costs were also a drag on automotive exports at a time when Chinese e-vehicle makers were starting to conquer the European market, Matthes added.

China’s blueprint for an alternative world order

James Kynge 

When Xi Jinping, China’s leader, delivered an “important speech” at the UN in September 2021, it appeared to be little more than a list of feelgood clichés. He said that the world needed “harmony between man and nature” and added that economic development should bring “benefits for all”.

So short on specifics was his address that the international media mostly ignored it. Through subsequent elaborations, however, that speech has taken on a crucial significance. This is because Xi used it to propose a new scheme called the Global Development Initiative, which is now gaining recognition as a foundation stone in China’s blueprint for an alternative world order to challenge that of the US-led west.

Ostensibly, the GDI is a Chinese-led multilateral programme to promote development, alleviate poverty and improve health in the developing world. But along with two follow-up initiatives also announced by Xi — the Global Security Initiative and the Global Civilisation Initiative — it represents China’s boldest move yet to enlist the support of the “global south” to amplify Beijing’s voice on the world stage and build up China’s profile in the UN, Chinese officials and commentators say.

“[Xi’s initiatives] show China’s clearest intention yet to update the rules of global governance that were written by the collective west in the aftermath of world war two,” says Yu Jie, senior research fellow at Chatham House, a think-tank in London.

“The initiatives illuminate Beijing’s moves to carve out its own space in international affairs because it is firmly convinced that China’s relations with the collective west will remain turbulent for a decade to come,” she adds.

New Chinese research examines how to get drones to target without GPS


A recent academic paper out of China proposes a new method for controlling drones and steering them to targets in environments where GPS is under attack, a new sign of the growing importance of drones in conflicts where adversaries have advanced electromagnetic jamming capabilities.

The paper, published at the end of July in the journal Engineering, proposes using data from the drone’s cameras to estimate things like how quickly a target is moving (target velocity) and the target’s position.

Using camera data, rather than GPS, to help robots target objects isn’t new. The concept has been around since 1980. But as robot computer processing, algorithms, and camera sensors have improved, so have the things that robots can effectively see. Now, vision-based robot control allows robots to do things like play table tennis, for instance.

But it’s hard to imagine needing to steer drones in a GPS-denied environment for non-military reasons. (U.S. operators have had drones that work in GPS-denied environments for years.) In effect, the formula allows the drone to decide for itself where the target is, but the drone can’t make decisions like whether hitting the target might cause harm to innocent humans. Whether that drone is armed is, of course, up to the operator. But the breakthrough does demonstrate a growing reliance on artificial intelligence and autonomy in drones in order to destroy targets, as advanced hacking and jamming techniques render human-controlled drones less useful on the battlefield, said Peter Singer a strategist at New America and the author of multiple books on technology and security.

Japan Scrambles Jets Amid Russian and Chinese Naval Patrol in Pacific

TOKYO, Aug 18 (Reuters) – Japan said on Friday it scrambled fighter jets after two Russian IL-38 information-gathering aircraft were spotted flying between the Sea of Japan and the East China Sea where Russia is holding a joint naval patrol and exercise with China.

Russian and Chinese navy ships have been jointly patrolling the Pacific Ocean and holding naval exercises in the East China Sea, the Russian Defence Ministry said in a statement on Friday.

“In the East China Sea, an exercise was conducted to replenish ships with water and fuel supplies from support vessels,” the ministry said.

“A detachment of ships of the Russian Navy and the PLA Navy is currently operating in the waters of the East China Sea and has covered more than 6,400 nautical miles since the beginning of the patrol.”

Latin America could become this century’s commodity superpower


The ground approaching the salt flats in Chile’s Atacama desert is pockmarked with white crystals. Underneath sit vast deposits of lithium salts, the ore for the soft, light metal used to make high-capacity batteries. Pumps run by sqm, a Chilean company that is the world’s leading producer of the stuff, hum as they pull up mineral-rich brine. In evaporation ponds, the liquid forms a patchwork of emerald and blue on the blindingly bright crust.

The operation is the start of a supply chain that ends in the lithium batteries that power electric vehicles (evs). The global ev fleet will grow at least ten-fold by 2030, to 250m, according to the International Energy Agency, a forecaster. Since 2018 sqm’s annual lithium output has tripled to 180,000 tonnes, a quarter of the global total, and it will probably rise to 210,000 tonnes by 2025.

Latin America is no stranger to supplying the world with raw materials, but it could be on the verge of a boom. Three forces are pushing the region to become this century’s commodity superpower. The green transition is increasing demand for metals and minerals that Latin America has in large supply, as well as the renewable energy to process them. The region already supplies more than a third of the world’s copper, used in wiring and wind turbines, and half of its silver, a component of solar panels. Its fertile land produces enough grain, animals, coffee and sugar to help feed a growing global population. And lastly, geopolitical tensions between the United States and China are causing countries to look fondly upon investing in a relatively neutral region.

But Latin America’s experience with raw materials is as chequered as it is long. Argentina owes its name to the Latin for the silver shipped from its ports after it was extracted by conquistadors in Bolivia and Peru; Brazil’s descends from the brazilwood tree, exploited by Europeans in the 16th century. The countries’ vast riches subsequently helped spark coups, populist takeovers, crime and corruption. Meanwhile the region’s economies remain lopsided, its gdp per person is worth a quarter of that of the United States, and inequality is high. Can Latin America manage to reap the rewards of this new boom?
Material prospects

Fully 21 of 33 countries in Latin America get more than half their export revenue from commodities; rising to over 60% for all 12 countries in South America (see chart 1). They mainly flog minerals and food rather than energy, which dominates only in Venezuela and Colombia. Being overly dependent on commodities is often a problem, but now it could be more of an opportunity.

Demand fed by the green transition is likely to be more durable than the oil, coal and steel boom of the 2000s. That was fuelled by China’s industralisation, which slowed in the mid 2010s when there were fewer new factories to build. By contrast, the energy transition is global and requires investment over decades. Low-carbon technologies are much hungrier for minerals than their dirtier equivalents. An electric car contains three to four times more copper than a petrol-fuelled one. Installing one megawatt of capacity in an offshore-wind farm requires six times more scarce metal than in a gas-fired plant. cru, a data firm based in London, reckons there could be an unmet need of 7m-8m tonnes per year of copper by 2035

In the race to fill such gaps, Latin America stands out. The region holds vast deposits of critical minerals and metals (see chart 2). Despite mining copper for decades, Chile and Peru together retain 30% of the world’s exploitable reserves of the metal. Latin America is home to almost 60% of known lithium. Bolivia has tin, used as a solder in electrical components. Brazil has graphite, another battery metal. Further discoveries there are likely since only 30% of the country’s subsoil has been studied, says Alexandre Silveira, Brazil’s mining minister.

The metals are often easier to extract in Latin America than elsewhere. It is cheaper to get lithium by evaporation than to drill it from rocks, as is done in Australia and China. Brazil’s magnetic rare earths lie close to the surface. Latin America needs far better roads and ports, but its infrastructure is not as bad as in many mining regions in Africa and parts of Asia.

Mining and processing minerals are energy-intensive. But many countries in Latin America can tap cheap, green electricity for it. Renewables make up 45% of Brazil’s energy use, one of the highest rates in the world, and the infrastructure to transmit this clean energy is growing. Chile aims to produce the cheapest green hydrogen by 2030, thanks to its 6,500km (4,000 miles) of coastline, sunny north and windy south.

Even in hydrocarbons Latin America, which for the last two decades has not been a major oil player, can benefit. A record 60bn barrels of oil were found across the region in the 2010s; another 10bn have since been discovered. Together Argentina, Brazil, Guyana and Mexico could produce the equivalent of 11m barrels per day by 2030, according to Rystad Energy, a consultancy—nearly as much as Saudi Arabia today. The oil will be worth extracting even as demand ebbs: all of these fields are profitable at $45 a barrel or less, while crude trades at $83 today.

The rising demand for Latin America’s food is also likely to be long-lived. By 2050 the global population is forecast to grow by 1.5bn to 9.7bn and its middle class to double to 6bn people. Latin America is the world’s largest net food exporter (see chart 3) thanks to huge tracts of farmland and a relatively small population. The region provides 60% of the world’s traded soyabeans, which China imports to feed its 450m pigs. It also supplies more than 30% of the global supply of maize, beef, poultry and sugar. Net exports are expected to rise by 17% in the next decade to hit $100bn.

Grand expansion plans are visible at the port of Santos, in the Brazilian state of São Paulo. Among rusty buildings, cofco International, the trading arm of China’s state foodmaker, is building a second terminal that will boost its export capacity from 3m tonnes to 14m by 2026. Brazil accounts for 40% of cofco International’s global investment.

 Beefing up production

The third pillar favouring Latin America is geopolitics. As the rivalry between the United States and China intensifies, countries are diversifying where they import from and invest in. Latin America is relatively neutral, peaceful, open to investment, and close to manufacturing sites in North America. The United States’ Inflation Reduction Act mandates that from 2027 80% of the market value of the critical minerals used to make ev batteries must be extracted or processed in the United States or one of the countries with which it has a free-trade agreement, as Chile, Peru and Mexico do.

All this presents Latin America with a huge opportunity. But the region needs to act in order to turn prospects into reality.

Cash is one ingredient. Wood Mackenzie, a data firm, estimates that between now and 2040, at least $575bn of investment is needed to meet global demand for copper. By 2030 nearly $40bn is required for lithium. Last year more money was spent in Latin America than in any other place on exploring for eight green metals. Appian Capital, a London-based private-equity investor in mining, is ready to deploy 70% of its capital in Latin America in the next ten to 15 years.

Yet the region continues to punch below its weight. Even though its pipeline of projects looks decent—amounting, on paper, to some $100bn in capital expenditure on copper alone by 2030—traders complain that mines are always five years away from getting started. Africa has fewer projects on paper but a similar number of “committed” new mines—with all the necessary permits and finance.

Act now

Other obstacles abound. Chile’s copper ores have been reduced to low-grade deposits, forcing miners to dig deeper to produce the same amount. Climate change is making investors anxious. Earlier this year floods forced copper mines to close in Chile and Peru.

Mining projects themselves can endanger the environment, prompting activists and regulators to act. Operations at a Peruvian copper mine that produces 2% of global supply were halted in February by protests. Sonia Ramos of Ayllus Sin Fronteras, an ngo in San Pedro de Atacama, is worried about lithium mining affecting water; her community has struggled with supplies since large-scale copper mining started 50 years ago. Between 2017 and 2021 it took an average of 311 days for new mines in Chile to get approval, compared with 139 between 2002 and 2006. Last year its regulator temporarily blocked a $3bn extension at a site run by Anglo American, a mining giant, because it could affect nearby glaciers. The government unblocked it. But increasingly, politicians get in the way.

Investors need legal certainty because capital invested in new mines or wells is recouped only years into the project. But that is elusive. It is not just the fiery rhetoric of the raft of left-wingers and nationalists in Latin America that is causing jitters. Governments are looking to get more value from their materials by imposing more rules. In May Chile voted to raise the top tax rate on copper miners from 41-44% to nearly 47%, among the highest in the world. sqm paid fully 60% of its profits to the state in 2022. President Gabriel Boric has suggested he wants majority state participation in mining concessions, once the current contracts expire. Mexico’s President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has nationalised his country’s lithium deposits.

If Latin America manages to take advantage of the boom, it may then struggle to manage the risks involved in a sudden influx of riches. Buoyed by current-account surpluses, domestic currencies appreciate, making non-commodity exports less competitive. Labour and capital flow to extractive industries, depriving others of scarce resources. Both make the domestic economy more dependent on a volatile sector. Following the end of the most recent commodities boom in 2013, regional economies grew at an average annual rate of only around 1% compared with 4.1% in the decade before. Swings in commodity prices loom: the green transition is likely to advance in fits and starts, and geopolitical rifts can stem exports overnight.

Tools exist to mitigate such threats. Central banks can intervene in foreign-exchange markets to keep a lid on the currency. Exporters can hedge against price fluctuations by buying futures and options on derivatives markets. Smart fiscal rules can dictate that a share of proceeds be saved when prices are high. Yet governments in the region are more focused on grabbing a share of the proceeds than on planning for the risks. Many lack the technocratic nous to implement fixes. Fiscal rules are often ignored. Only six countries have non-partisan public-finance watchdogs. Save for Chile’s, Latin America’s 24 sovereign funds lack serious guardrails against raids by governments. During the pandemic, the governments of Colombia, Mexico and Peru all exhausted their national kitties, notes Diego López of Global swf, a data firm in New York.

Latin American governments also want to run with the windfall, by developing local processing and manufacturing that uses the materials. Argentina’s first lithium-battery plant is expected to start operations in September. Chile offers a 25% discount on lithium to companies that will use it to develop the local supply chain. That could make sense, but creating new industries is easier said than done.

Refineries are vulnerable to rises in the costs of materials and energy: in December Brazil’s largest copper processor filed for bankruptcy protection. High-value industries require skills and innovation, but Latin America educates too few engineers. The region invests annually just 0.6% of its gdp in research and development, less than a quarter of the average in the oecd, a club of mostly rich countries. Analysts reckon most batteries will be built in or close to the United States, China and Europe, where ev markets are most developed. (ev demand is low in Latin America.)

History counsels caution. Latin America will have to act with savvy if it wants to exploit the resources and to make the most of the income. Prospects look best for a tried and tested trio of Chile, Peru and Brazil. It will not be easy. But with the right approach, the commodities rush presents a historic opportunity to transform not just the face of the Atacama desert but the region’s fortunes. 

The Politics and Geopolitics of Women’s Sport in the Pacific

Patricia O’Brien

Now that the spectacularly successful FIFA Women’s World Cup has concluded with Spain’s La Roja victorious over Britain’s Lionesses at Sydney’s Olympic Stadium on August 20, there is much to unpack. For Australia, which co-hosted the tournament with New Zealand, the success of the nation’s Matildas (they finished fourth) produced a coming of age for women’s sport in the nation. As the Matildas continued to advance, stadiums that had only before been filled to capacity to watch men’s sporting teams were brimming with fans. Those unable to obtain the hottest tickets gathered across the nation thoroughly behind their team.

No one was more prominent in his support of the Matildas than Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. Albanese’s political brand is centered on his men’s rugby league team, the South Sydney Rabbitohs. This team, with its deeply working-class roots, became layered with Hollywood stardust: Actor Russell Crowe and friends rescued the club from near oblivion in 2006 when the Murdoch media empire attempted to commandeer and pare-down the Sydney-based rugby league competition.

During the FIFA Women’s World Cup, Albanese traded the Rabbitohs’ signature logos for Matildas’ swag, which he wore in Parliament. He even prematurely declared he would push for a national holiday if the Australians prevailed and won the championship — only to see the Matildas lose their semifinal match against England.

This act of largesse was met by calls for the government to instead fund women’s soccer and women’s sport generally, a commitment not made in the government’s most recent budget despite earmarking nearly $40 million for sport. Albanese saved what was looking like a political own-goal of not putting government money where his mouth was and came through with an additional $200 million for women’s sport in the final days of the World Cup.

The End of the Russian Idea What It Will Take to Break Putinism’s Grip

Andrei Kolesnikov

On June 17, 2023, Russian President Vladimir Putin staged a special ceremony on the St. Petersburg waterfront to mark the anniversary of three flags: the flag of the Russian Federation, otherwise known as Peter the Great’s tricolor, formally unfurled in 1693; the imperial Russian flag, introduced by Tsar Alexander II in 1858; and the Red Banner, the Soviet Union’s hammer and sickle, adopted by the Soviet state 100 years ago and later used by Joseph Stalin. Putin watched the event from a boat as the National Philharmonic and the St. Petersburg State Choir performed the national anthem, which, thanks to a law Putin enacted in 2000, has the same melody as its Stalin-era counterpart. The portentous rite unfolded in front of the Lakhta Center tower, the country’s tallest building, as well as the $1.7 billion headquarters of Gazprom, the state-run gas company that has become another crucial symbol of Putin’s Russia.

In some respects, the choice of flags was not surprising. Since the launch of Russia’s “special military operation” in Ukraine in February 2022, Stalinist nationalist imperialism has become the de facto ideology of the Putin regime. Tsar Peter I, who styled himself the first emperor of all Russia after his victory in the Great Northern War in 1721, and Alexander II, who was emperor of Russia, king of Poland, and grand duke of Finland, are closely associated with Russia’s imperial aspirations. And Putin has emphasized that the Soviet Union—especially in its triumph over Nazi Germany in World War II, when Stalin appealed to nationalism rather than Marxism to consolidate support and rally the population—carried out Russia’s imperial destiny under a different name. Of course, Putin has not openly referred to Stalin or declared himself Stalin’s heir. But for more than a decade, the Kremlin has presented the Stalinist period as an era of greatness in which imperial traditions were respected and national values cherished. And more recently, in his language of power and his intolerance of dissent, Putin has come to resemble Stalin in his final phase in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Yet the two tsars and Stalin also viewed empire as a means to what they understood to be a modern state. In the early eighteenth century, Peter borrowed Western innovations, including advances in shipbuilding and other technologies, and Western ideas about government management and even styles of dress. A century later, Alexander abolished serfdom and carried out progressive judicial reforms influenced by European examples. As for Stalin, in the 1930s he pushed for Western-style industrialization and catch-up development even as he transformed Marxism, a modern European ideology, into Soviet Marxism-Leninism at the cost of countless human lives. By contrast, Putin’s opening to the West was short-lived, more or less ending in 2003, less than four years after he came to office, when he took full control of parliament and the authorities arrested Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the billionaire investor and one of the symbols of a free market and independent thinking in Russia, on trumped-up charges.

Sorry: F-16 Fighter Jets Won’t Win The Ukraine War

Daniel Davis

Last weekend Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky visited both Holland and Denmark, where government leaders in each country promised to deliver the long-coveted F-16 Fighting Falcon to the Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF). As with a litany of other major Western military platforms that have been given to Kyiv throughout the war, Kyiv supporters hailed the jets as potential game-changers. Just like all the gear that preceded the Fighting Falcons, however, these military aircraft will not alter the course of the war.
Historic, or Useful for the Ongoing War in Ukraine?

In response to the twin announcements, Zelensky said the decision to give F-16s to Ukraine were “absolutely historic, powerful, and inspiring for us.” The Ukrainian president’s enthusiasm was likely tempered, however, when considering the process necessary even to get the aircraft operational and into the air war. Denmark’s Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said that “hopefully” six fighters would be delivered before the end of this year, another eight in 2024, and the rest in 2025.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte didn’t put a number on how many F-16s his country would contribute nor when delivery might be expected. The airplanes, he said, would be delivered when “conditions for such a transfer have been met.” He also did not specify what those conditions were. But Zelensky claimed the acquisition of those fighters would have a significant and meaningful impact on the war.

The F-16s, the Ukrainian leader said, “will certainly give new energy, confidence, and motivation to fighters and civilians. I’m sure it will deliver new results for Ukraine and the entire Europe.”

That is Zelensky’s hope, but the reality will be different. Likely significantly different. Since early in the war, there have been various hopes that the acquisition of modern NATO gear and capabilities would provide game-changing capacity for Ukraine.

Is it safe to release water from Fukushima’s nuclear plant? What to know.

Ellen Francis and Amudalat Ajasa

Large tanks have for years stored contaminated water from the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant, the site of one of the worst ever nuclear disasters. But with space running out, Japan plans to start releasing more than 1 million metric tons of treated water — or more than 500 Olympic-size swimming pools — into the Pacific Ocean this week.

Japanese authorities and the United Nations’s nuclear watchdog have deemed the process, which is expected to take more than three decades, safe. But the plan faces opposition from Japan’s fishing industry and neighboring countries.

Japan said it will send treated radioactive water from Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant into the Pacific Ocean on Aug. 24, despite local and global opposition. (Video: Naomi Schanen/The Washington Post)

Is it safe to release the water from the Fukushima nuclear plant?

Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida pledged Tuesday that the treated water release would be conducted safely and its impact monitored closely. Japanese authorities have described it as a necessary step in decommissioning the Fukushima Daiichi plant some 12 years after a massive earthquake and ensuing tsunami led to a meltdown of three nuclear reactors.

After a two-year review, the International Atomic Energy Agency announced in July that Japan’s approach is “consistent with relevant international safety standards.” The IAEA, which has now opened an office at the plant, said Tuesday it would remain on-site to assess the safety of the release over time.

Delusions of Détente Why America and China Will Be Enduring Rivals

Michael Beckley

With U.S.-Chinese relations worse than they have been in over 50 years, an old fairy tale has resurfaced: if only the United States would talk more to China and accommodate its rise, the two countries could live in peace. The story goes that with ample summitry, Washington could recognize Beijing’s redlines and restore crisis hotlines and cultural exchanges. Over time and through myriad points of face-to-face contact—in other words, reengagement—the two countries could settle into peaceful, if still competitive, coexistence. Talk enough, some analysts contend, and the United States and China might even strike a grand bargain that establishes stable spheres of influence and something akin to a G-2 to solve global problems such as climate change and pandemics.

From this perspective, the dismal state of U.S.-Chinese relations is not an inevitable result of two ideologically opposed great powers clashing over vital interests. Rather, it is a mix-up between partners, blown out of proportion by the United States’ overreaction to counter China’s overreach, as Susan Shirk, a Sinologist and former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state, has put it. For the past two decades, the thinking goes, China has simply been doing what rising powers usually do: flexing its muscles and demanding a greater say in global affairs. Although many of China’s actions, such as its menacing of Taiwan, worry advocates of reengagement, the main target of their critique is the United States—specifically, its relentless pursuit of primacy and the self-serving actors behind it.

In this dark imagining, grandstanding politicians, greedy defense contractors, sensationalizing pundits, overzealous human rights activists, and belligerent bureaucrats fan the flames of rivalry for profit, creating an echo chamber that crowds out different perspectives. Some individuals are supposedly repeating hawkish narratives to protect their careers. The result, the journalist and author Fareed Zakaria has argued, is that “Washington has succumbed to dangerous groupthink on China.” The fact that most Americans also hold hawkish views on China just provides more evidence of how irrationally aggressive U.S. policy has become. “The problem today isn’t that Americans are insufficiently concerned about the rise of China,” the historian Max Boot has insisted. “The problem is that they are prey to hysteria and alarmism that could lead the United States into a needless nuclear war.”

Ukraine’s Reset: A Slow and Bloody Advance on Foot

James Marson

The five troops had left behind their U.S.-supplied armored vehicles, which proved easy targets for Russian artillery. Instead, after walking for hours, they were aiming to retake territory by yards. The company had already seized three trenches in close-quarter combat. Winning in the woods would move them another small step toward the Azov coast, their ultimate goal, which would slice the Russian occupying army in two.

After a brief skirmish, the Ukrainians withdrew, fearful that a larger Russian force could be lurking, two of them recalled. Then they realized one of their comrades was missing. As the Ukrainians moved back, he came crawling toward them, his left leg bloodied and limp. A member of the unit dragged the injured man away as others opened fire.

A 48-year-old journalist nicknamed Reporter brought up the rear. Suddenly, grenades began flying. After one explosion, Reporter cried out, “I’m a 300!” Soviet-era code for a battlefield casualty. By the end of the day, only three of the five-strong team would be able to fight on.

This is what the Ukrainian counteroffensive looks like after two months: a slow and bloody advance on foot.

Mars, a member of the brigade injured in the assault on the woods, recuperates in a hospital. He works for the U.S. candy company, which explains his nom de guerre. 

Units such as this one—part of 2nd Company of the 1st Battalion of the 47th Separate Mechanized Brigade—were trained and equipped by the U.S. and its allies to use heavy equipment to smash through entrenched Russian positions and advance deep into occupied territory. The Russians had prepared, too, by laying dense minefields and digging deep trenches across the patchwork of farm fields.

Ukraine's offensive: is it failing?


The Russo-Ukraine War has reached its eighteen-month mark with no end in sight because neither side, for now, has a convincing route to a military victory. The Ukrainian offensive, which began in June, was presented as a means to liberate a substantial amount of territory from Russian occupation, and potentially cause a crisis in Russian military confidence that might oblige Moscow to recognise that the game was up, and that it was time to cut its losses.

This prospect was always optimistic, not only because of the difficulties of retaking well-defended territory but also because of Putin’s reluctance to admit defeat even when his army suffers setbacks. Recently a new narrative has started to take hold in some commentaries on the state of the war, notably from Pentagon officials, to the effect that the offensive is turning out to be a deep disappointment. Questions are now being raised about whether this is a war that Ukraine can ever win. Perhaps it is Kyiv that should be looking to cut its losses, conceding territory in return for peace.

This gloom is overdone. There is still uncertainty about how the current round of fighting will develop. Ukraine still holds the initiative. But the challenges are real and it does Ukraine no favours to suggest that they can easily be overcome. The basic problem, however, is the one that has been present from the start. Bringing this war to an end is a political as well as a military process, and the political process we understand least is in Moscow.

How the Myth of Colorblindness Endangers France’s Future

Rabah Arezki

The widespread suspicion across France that a teenager’s unprovoked fatal shooting by a police officer on June 27 was an injustice unleashed several days of riots in late June and early July. That situation is compounded by the deep-rooted feeling of marginalization experienced by minorities and in particular those of African descent. These minorities share common economic and social challenges, including insecurity and a lack of educational and economic opportunities. I had firsthand experience with that reality growing up in France as a son of immigrants from Algeria.

Ukrainian Naval Drone Warfare: Some International Political Implications

Vladimir Socor

Ukrainian naval combat drones are demonstrating rapid improvement in their technical characteristics (see EDM, November 8, 2022, June 2, 13). Ukrainian-made drones (uncrewed submerged, semisubmersible or surface vehicles; USVs) have struck several significant Russian targets in close sequence in recent weeks. This unprecedented series of successful hits is a result of a drone-manufacturing project sponsored by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) with the Ukrainian Navy’s participation.

Overnight on July 16–17, two Ukrainian drones hit the Kerch Strait Bridge, damaging its highway section and a support pillar (The Moscow Times, July 17). The SBU initially hinted at its role (Novoye Vremya, July 17), then openly acknowledged it to international media complete with video footage of the drone attack. The bridge has yet to be fully repaired, and traffic on it remains below full capacity (Ukrinform, August 17).

Since then, Ukrainian military and political authorities are openly acknowledging responsibility for naval drone attacks on Russian targets (see below).

During the night of August 3–4, two Ukrainian drones struck, severely damaging the Russian assault landing ship Olenogorsky Gornyak on the outer perimeter of Russia’s Novorossiysk Naval Base. This was the first-ever successful Ukrainian strike within Russia’s internationally recognized territorial waters. No casualties were reported. Russia had transferred this Soviet-era ship from the Northern Fleet to the Black Sea Fleet in early February 2022, anticipating amphibious landings in the imminent war against Ukraine. Since that scenario failed, the Olenogorsky Gornyak has operated as a transport ship, ferrying military supplies from mainland Russia to occupied Crimea (TASS, August 4; Censor.net, Ukrinform, August 5).

Post-Quantum Cryptography Initiative

Critical infrastructure systems rely on digital communications to transmit data. To secure the data in transit, cryptographic technologies are used to authenticate the source and protect the confidentiality and integrity of communicated and stored information. As quantum computing advances over the next decade, it is increasing risk to certain widely used encryption methods. This memorandum outlines my Administration’s policies and initiatives related to quantum computing.

CISA's Post-Quantum Cryptography (PQC) Initiative will unify and drive efforts with interagency and industry partners to address threats posed by quantum computing and to support critical infrastructure and government network owners and operators during the transition to post-quantum cryptography.

Nation-states and private companies are actively pursuing the capabilities of quantum computers. Quantum computing opens up exciting new possibilities; however, the consequences of this new technology include threats to the current cryptographic standards that ensure data confidentiality and integrity and support key elements of network security. While quantum computing technology capable of breaking public key encryption algorithms in the current standards does not yet exist, government and critical infrastructure entities - including both public and private organizations - must work together to prepare for a new post-quantum cryptographic standard to defend against future threats.

In March 2021, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro N. Mayorkas outlined his vision for cybersecurity resilience and identified the transition to post-quantum encryption as a priority. The following year, the U.S. government outlined its goals to maintain the nation's competitive advantage in quantum information science (QIS) while mitigating the risks of quantum computers to the nation's cyber, economic, and national security in National Security Memorandum 10.

CISA, NSA, and NIST Publish Factsheet on Quantum Readiness

Today, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), National Security Agency (NSA) and National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) released a joint factsheet, Quantum-Readiness: Migration to Post-Quantum Cryptography (PQC), to inform organizations—especially those that support Critical Infrastructure—of the impacts of quantum capabilities, and to encourage the early planning for migration to post-quantum cryptographic standards by developing a Quantum-Readiness Roadmap.

CISA, NSA, and NIST urge organizations to review the joint factsheet and to begin preparing now by creating quantum-readiness roadmaps, conducting inventories, applying risk assessments and analysis, and engaging vendors. For more information and resources related to CISA’s PQC work,

No AI Can Learn the Art of Medicine


A 49-year-old female noticed new-onset vaginal bleeding over the past several days. She becomes concerned and seeks advice from her long-time family physician. When she calls, she is surprised to hear responses from an artificial intelligence (AI) platform. The longtime secretary, who knew her well and would quickly arrange appointments or connect her with the doctor, has been replaced by this expensive new AI-based system. The call begins with an extensive library of prompts. When she presses 0 to speak with a human, she is told the next available appointment is in nine weeks. She hangs up and redials to discuss her problem with a pleasant computer voice, which almost sounds like a real person and asks her to describe her problem—eventually responding with a long-winded response with possible explanations for her bleeding. It then utilizes a proprietary algorithm to make recommendations which include lifestyle changes and watchful waiting, with instructions to dial back if the problem persists.

Eventually, she loses patience and decides to visit the office in person. After briefly seeing her in the office, her doctor is concerned and orders a CT scan with the smart scheduler that uses a complex triage algorithm to schedule her imaging in 1-2 days. She then receives the results of the CT scan in an email and again goes through the scheduler system to book her surgery, which is again triaged based on perceived medical urgency. The night before the operation, the pre-operative anaesthesia system automatically calls and asks dozens of questions through various menus, ending with lengthy instructions regarding eating, drinking, and pre-operative care. The program does not offer time to address her fears of going under anaesthesia.

On the day of surgery, everything is increasingly efficient due to new AI-based systems. The operating room team already has her medical history in the electronic record, and she immediately goes to the operating room without needing to meet with the anesthesiologist or surgeon. All goes well, and four days later she gets an email with instructions to call a number and use a six-digit code to get information on the results of an ovarian biopsy. She won’t need to waste any time traveling to the doctor’s office or sitting in the waiting room for her appointment. Instead, a computer-generated AI voice informs her that she has high-grade serous ovarian cancer with metastasis.