28 August 2023

BRICS: Six New Countries Join The Bloc

The much-anticipated expansion of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) bloc has gained momentum with the current members having collectively decided to extend invitations to six countries to become full members, effective from January 2024.

“As the five BRICS countries, we have reached agreement on the guiding principles, standards, criteria and procedures of the BRICS expansion process, which has been under discussion for quite a while. We have consensus on the first phase of this expansion process, and further phases will follow.

“We have decided to invite the Argentine Republic, the Arab Republic of Egypt, the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to become full members of BRICS. The membership will take effect from 1 January 2024,” President Cyril Ramaphosa said.

President Ramaphosa said this in his capacity as Chair of BRICS and President of the Republic of South Africa during a media briefing to announce the outcomes of the XV BRICS Summit held at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg on Thursday.

Resurgence and Realities: Afghanistan’s Shifting Terror Threats

Siddhant Kishore

As the world observed the second anniversary of the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan on August 15th, attention has shifted to the changing landscape of terrorism in the region. The two years since Kabul’s fall have raised concerns about the impact on regional stability and security. A complex picture of resurgent extremist groups, human rights abuses, and geopolitical challenges with Afghanistan’s de facto rulers has emerged.

President Biden recently claimed that Al-Qaeda is no longer in Afghanistan and that the Taliban is aiding the US in countering terrorism. However, the situation on the ground doesn’t seem to align with this assertion. Biden’s sentiment was echoed by US diplomats following their first official meeting with Taliban representatives in July this year. While the US State Department acknowledged decreased large-scale attacks in Afghanistan, supporting the Taliban’s counterterrorism efforts may be overlooking broader transnational threats.

The Perception of Security in Afghanistan

The Taliban’s military victory in Afghanistan has emboldened various militant groups in the region, many of which were displaced before 2021. This triumph has granted these groups the freedom to move across the region with complete impunity. According to a report from the UN Sanctions Monitoring Team, Al-Qaeda remains active in Afghanistan with an estimated strength of 2,000 fighters, albeit with a discreet presence. In a display of solidarity with Al-Qaeda, the Taliban has assigned Al-Qaeda members to important administrative and military positions. Notably, Qari Esanhanullah and Agha Hakeem, both Al-Qaeda veterans, have been made governors of crucial eastern provinces—Kapisa and Nuristan, respectively. The most disconcerting appointment is that of Tajmir Jawad Hafizallah, who now serves as the Deputy Chief of the Taliban’s Intelligence wing, GDI. Hafizallah’s association with the infamous Kabul Attack Group, a joint special-operations unit led by Al-Qaeda and the Haqqani Network with support from Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, is a cause for concern. This elevation alone should prompt the Biden administration to reconsider its stance on Afghanistan.

Similarly, the Afghan branch of the Islamic State (ISKP) maintains a significant presence in various pockets of Afghanistan’s eastern and northeastern provinces. Established in 2015, this group is notorious for executing large-scale, intricate attacks in urban areas. Their targets encompass religious and ethnic minorities, as well as high-profile Taliban officials. As seen in the targeting of a senior Taliban leader’s funeral service in the northern province of Badakhshan, which resulted in over 30 casualties, including a provincial police chief.

In addition to countering ISKP, the Taliban also contends with resistance forces within Afghanistan. Recently, groups like the National Resistance Force and the Afghanistan Freedom Front have substantially escalated their operations. Their focus has been on targeting the Taliban’s military infrastructure and eliminating senior Taliban commanders. Despite lacking the necessary operational capabilities to pose a grave threat to the Taliban regime, these groups persist in challenging the Taliban’s narrative of a peaceful Afghanistan.

Regional Threat Landscape

Following the fall of Kabul, Pakistan has experienced a notable surge in attacks, primarily attributed to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), an offshoot of the Taliban. TTP’s operational capabilities have been significantly enhanced and the group has established new support bases as evidenced by attacks extending beyond their traditional strongholds, such as the recent assault on a military garrison in Zhob, Balochistan Province. Moreover, the TTP has successfully united more than 35 fragmented groups and smaller terrorist entities allowing it to diversify targets and escalate kinetic activities within a short timeframe. Despite Taliban disavowals of harboring terrorists, substantial evidence points to the Taliban’s influence over the TTP, including facilitating the movement of TTP leaders across borders. Notably, several senior TTP commanders, starting with the killing of Omar Khorasani, the mastermind behind the 2014 Peshawar Army School Attack, have been killed under mysterious circumstances inside Afghanistan. Additionally, TTP Chief Noor Wali Mehsood made a narrow escape during an attack in Nangarhar province in Afghanistan where he was meeting with the Taliban’s provincial council. The presence of high-ranking TTP operatives in eastern and southeastern Afghanistan sheds light on the Taliban’s connection to the TTP and reveals the TTP’s restructuring with ambitions mirroring the Taliban’s success in Kabul. Concurrently, while the Afghan Taliban’s primary adversary remains the Islamic State’s Afghan affiliate (ISKP), the latter has shifted its focus towards Pakistan. This strategic shift is evident in the escalation of attacks on civilians, as evident in the tragic suicide bombing in Bajaur district of northwestern Pakistan resulting in over 50 casualties.

Beyond Pakistan, other transnational terrorist groups in Central and South Asia have similarly restructured their ranks and revitalized their operational capacities. A UN report from July highlights that East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a Uighur militant group aspiring to gain control over Xinjiang province in China, has established bases across northern and northeastern Afghanistan. Furthermore, the Taliban has facilitated the transfer of Uighur militants from Chinese border areas to different Afghan provinces for training, indicating renewed alliances between the Taliban and various Al-Qaeda-affiliated entities. The Afghan Taliban has also relocated more than 200 Tajik militants from the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Jamaat Ansarullah (JAU) group in Tajikistan to Afghanistan. Additionally, foreign Tajik fighters from JAU have been incorporated into the Afghan Taliban’s ranks.

The Way Forward

The Biden administration’s propensity to downplay the terrorism risks emanating from Afghanistan is worrisome. It’s imperative that the United States should not accept the decrease in large-scale attacks in Afghanistan at its face value, instead, should strive to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the larger transnational threat environment. In light of ground-level realities, the United States should establish specific prerequisites before initiating any formal negotiations with the Taliban. One critical demand should be the removal of Al-Qaeda members from the ranks of the Taliban, along with severing ties with regional jihadist organizations. Moreover, the Taliban’s covert support to the TTP in Pakistan should also cease.

Recognizing the potential for cross-border actions by Pakistan, the U.S. should demonstrate its readiness to support Islamabad in ensuring the effectiveness of such cross-border operations. This strategic posture adopted by Washington has the potential to compel the Taliban to reconsider its ties with the TTP and, to some degree, its relationship with Al-Qaeda. Before embarking on bilateral dialogues, substantive evidence must surface proving the Taliban’s genuine commitment to meeting these specified conditions. This approach not only lays the groundwork for constructive talks but can also allow the international community to pursue further objectives of an inclusive government and reopening of higher educational institutions for women in Afghanistan.

Russian troops are running out of equipment and feel 'at war' with their own commanders

Tom Porter

A Russian serviceman stands guard at the destroyed part of the Ilyich Iron and Steel Works in Ukraine's port city of Mariupol on May 18, 2022, amid the ongoing Russian military action in Ukraine.

  • Russia faces serious problems as it battles Ukraine's counteroffensive, reports say.

  • Its forces are low on morale and equipment, said the Institute for the Study of War.

  • Ukraine is trying to breach Russia's formidable defensive lines.

The Russian military is facing low morale, infighting, and equipment shortages as it battles Ukraine's counteroffensive, according to experts.

Citing Russian military bloggers, an important source of independent information about the Russian military, US think tank The Institute for the Study of War said that the problems extend "along the entire front line."

It reported that in one area, Russian forces lacked light vehicles essential for moving equipment around quickly.

Putin’s chef meets his ‘window.’ What does that mean for the future of Ukraine?


An old joke among Kremlin watchers is, essentially: If you fall out of Vladimir Putin’s favor, stay away from open windows. It’s a reference to the high number of Russian oligarchs and officials who have angered the Russian president and, soon after, died by defenestration.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner mercenary group and a Kremlin insider commonly referred to as “Putin’s chef,” seems to have met his ‘window’ Wednesday. Prigozhin died in a plane crash in western Russia, along with the nine other people on board, according to Russian state media.

The death comes almost exactly two months after Prigozhin staged a baby coup to gain control of the Russian Ministry of Defense. U.S. President Joe Biden, when asked Wednesday about the plane crash, said he had said after the coup attempt that he’d “be careful what I rode in,” adding that while he doesn’t “know for a fact what happened,” he’s “not surprised.”

“There’s not much that happens in Russia that Putin’s not behind,” Biden added.

While the Wagner Group has played a large role in Russia’s offensive operations in Ukraine in 2014 and more recently, analysts who spoke to Defense One offered mixed views on how Prigozhin’s death might change Russian operations there.

The CIA's director predicted last month that Putin would seek revenge on Yevgeny Prigozhin after his failed coup

Rebecca Cohen, Jake Epstein

CIA Director Bill Burns predicted last month that Wagner mercenary leader Yevgeny Prigozhin probably hadn't seen the last of Vladimir Putin's wrath after the warlord staged a failed coup against the Kremlin.

"Putin is someone who generally thinks that revenge is a dish best served cold," Burns said at an annual security forum in Aspen. "In my experience, Putin is the ultimate apostle of payback so I would be surprised if Prigozhin escapes further retribution for this."

Russian state media outlet TASS reported on Wednesday that Prigozhin was a passenger on a plane that crashed in the Tver region right outside of Moscow. All ten people on board the flight are reportedly dead.

Prigozhin — who once earned the nickname "Putin's Chef" after the Russian President began eating at his restaurants and giving his catering business government contracts — had publicly criticized the Kremlin and Russian military leadership for their botched war plans in Ukraine, including apparent misuse of Wager mercenaries.

The feud between Prigozhin and Russian higher-ups came to blows in late June, when Wagner launched a failed mutiny against Russia's military leadership in late June, with Prigozhin marching his mercenary troops toward Moscow.

Putin, Prigozhin and Western Illusions : The Wagner Group leader was Vladimir Putin’s most dangerous rival.

Vladimir Putin’s foes have been turning up dead for years, and the latest is mercenary chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, who was reported to have died Wednesday in a plane crash outside Moscow. This is no coincidence, comrade, as the Soviets used to say.

Russia’s civil aviation authority confirmed Prigozhin was on the flight, while social-media channels said the Embraer jet was shot down by a missile. President Biden told reporters that “I don’t know for a fact what happened but I’m not surprised,” adding that “there’s not much that happens in Russia that Putin’s not behind.”

Prigozhin’s fate was probably sealed after his failed June mutiny against Mr. Putin. Prigozhin’s Wagner Group gained control of the Russian city of Rostov, marched toward Moscow and shot down Russian planes. The mercenary leader claimed that “we did not have the goal of overthrowing the existing regime.” But he demanded the resignation of Russia’s top defense officials “who, through their unprofessional actions, made a huge number of mistakes” in Ukraine.

That was a politically explosive accusation—and true. Mr. Putin has used his own people as cannon fodder, and the U.K.’s Defense Ministry estimates that Russians suffered as many as 200,000 casualties, including 60,000 killed, in the first year of the war.

'Prigozhin BETTER be alive':


Wagner mercenaries have threatened to march on Moscow after it was claimed warlord Yevgeny Prigozhin was among the dead in a plane crash near the Russian capital.

Telegram channels with links to Prigozhin announced his death on Friday night shortly after news of the crash, and claimed it was caused by 'traitors' within Russia.

Russian officials also claimed Prigozhin was on the plane, which crashed in a field, killing all ten onboard, just two months after his failed coup attempt against Putin's regime.

The Federal Air Transport Agency published a list of those it believed were on the flight, including Prigozhin and his deputy Dmitry Utkin.

However, Keir Giles, from the London-based think tank Chatham House, warned: 'It's been announced that a passenger by the name of Yevgeny Prigozhin was on board - but it is also known that multiple individuals have changed their name to Yevgeny Prigozhin, as part of his efforts to obfuscate his travels. Let’s not be surprised if he pops up shortly in a new video from Africa.'

Meanwhile, as the news broke, Wagner supporters laid tributes to its commander outside the former Wagner Centre in St Petersburg. Putin is yet to comment but last night attended a concert.

Did China Colonize Vietnam?

Christelle Nguyen

In this July 24, 2016, file photo, Vietnamese protesters shout slogans while showing an anti-China placard during a rally against China near the Chinese Embassy in Seoul, South Korea.Credit: AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon

Had Xie Yan from Chongqing never studied Vietnamese language and spent time in Hanoi as an exchange student back in 2013, she would not have known that Vietnam was under Chinese occupation for centuries. Nor had she been aware that for most of its history, the entity known as Vietnam today used classical Chinese characters in writing.

In Vietnam, Xie came across the term “nghìn năm bắc thuộc” (a thousand years of Northern occupation) for the first time. In Vietnamese, it refers to the early Chinese rule of northern Vietnam. In Chinese textbooks on Vietnamese history in both Xie’s BA and MA program on Vietnamese studies, this era was mostly called 郡县时期 (junxian shiqi or prefectural period).

“I was in the beginning shocked by the name ‘bắc thuộc,’” said Xie, admitting that her peers did not know that term either – with all it implies about Chinese rule over Vietnam.

Has Xi Jinping bankrupted China?


It is hard to tell when a crisis in a dictatorial regime, such as the sudden breakdown of China’s economic model, is not about this or that, but about the regime itself. My own experience in this regard is very discouraging. In 1984, my book Grand Strategy of the Soviet Union contained many pages about nationalities I claimed were heading towards independence — not just the well-known if still very obedient Baltics, Armenians and Georgians, but others occupying vastly larger territories, the then barely known Kazakhs, Uzbeks, Kyrgyz, Tajik and Turkmen (I readily confess that it never occurred to me that Ukrainians might join them).

The response of every established Western Sovietologist was that I had foolishly confused folkloric categories with actual living and breathing nations — they were just “Soviets” who occasionally wore funny hats, and it was pure and utter fantasy that they might ever want to be independent. That was just seven years before the final and official collapse of the Soviet Union.

It is axiomatic that nations endure while regimes must collapse, but none of the easy Soviet analogies works when it comes to China. Yes, Beijing recognises 55 minority populations, but they account for no more than 9% or so of the total, and some of the nationalities really are only folkloric, unlike the Uyghur, Kazakhs and Tibetans whom the Chinese must actively repress.

As to the economy, it only broke the morale of the Soviet Communist Party after two decades of increasingly demoralising stagnation that had become obvious by 1980 even to casual visitors, who noticed a very distinctive no-hope “Soviet” look on most people’s faces. The Chinese Communist Party, by contrast, emerged from a visibly malnourished and downright dirty state — when I lived there in 1976, human waste was carted through its streets — with tentative growth from the early Eighties accelerating from the Nineties, gloriously enriching China until very recently.

There Was a ‘War’ With China, and the United States Won

Erik Gartzke

The news that China is tipping into deflation poses many challenges. But it could contain at least one unappreciated benefit for the world. The travails besetting China’s economy may well derail what a growing number of observers see as an “inevitable” path to a U.S.-China war.

Scholars and pundits have highlighted a potentially catastrophic dynamic known variously as a “power transition,” “commitment problem” or more recently as “the Thucydides Trap.” This theory predicts war between countries as they transition in relative power. The prospect of China and the United States, the two largest economies in the world, facing off against each other --- with their respective nuclear arsenals --- is more than a bit disconcerting. Fortunately, the danger of war, at least in the form attributed to Thucydides, may just have passed.

The term “Thucydides Trap” was coined by Political Scientist Graham Allison, who shamelessly rebranded an extensively researched phenomenon as his own in a series of articles and a 2017 book. Prior to discovering the China threat, Allison anticipated another form of doom: “nuclear terrorism is not just inevitable, but more likely than not in the decade ahead.” In the almost two decades since Allison wrote these words, we have been fortunate that he was wrong.

A power transition, or Thucydides Trap, is a claim about the timing of a major war. A powerful but declining nation may have strong incentives to attack a rising challenger while there is still time—while the declining state continues to be more powerful than its challenger—rather than waiting and suffering the consequences of its decline. This seems on its face to be an important and salient warning about Sino-U.S. relations. As Allison puts it, “judging by the historical record, war [between China and the United States] is more likely than not.

But let us remain mindful of Dr. Allison’s penchant for “more likely than not” predictions. It is hard to be right when one’s explanation is cursory. Allison commits a leap of logic that is almost pro forma among American academics studying international relations, a combination of post hoc fallacy and conflating necessary and sufficient conditions. Just because something may cause a war, does not mean it must cause a war. Indeed, the conditions Allison refers to (power transition) are ubiquitous, occurring relatively frequently in world affairs, mostly without wars.

Today’s indispensable tool for the Army and Marines is radar for C-UAS and C-RAM

Ground forces and military installations face many threats, with two, in particular, at the top of the list. The first is the threat from ballistic missiles such as those launched at US forces in western Iraq by Iran in 2020. The second is the danger of rockets, cruise missiles, and drones targeted against bases and mobile operations.

To deal with the threat of ballistic missiles, the Army and others have installed large, logistics-heavy but also very effective air-and-missile-defense systems like Patriot to protect bases and installations.

To counter the other threats, the Defense Department counts on continued development of small, affordable, upgradeable hemispheric radars for both perimeter security and vehicle-mounted protection for mobile forces.

It’s the second threat where a company like Leonardo DRS steps in, supplying warfighters with a family of radars that play important roles in the development of a layered, resilient architecture for air and missile defense.

For example, The Leonardo DRS business unit, DRS RADA, develops a family of advanced radars are the system-of-choice for the Army’s Stryker-based Mobile Short-Range Air Defense (M-SHORAD) system that provide enhanced fire control and air surveillance capabilities to detect and track all incoming threats. The Army is in the process of procuring up to 162 M-SHORAD systems. The company’s radar is also on the next phase of the Army’s experimental directed-energy DE M-SHORAD laser weapon.

Could the US Stop a Massive, Sudden "Fait Accompli" Chinese Takeover of Taiwan?


The Pentagon's China reports refer to it as a “fait accompli,” ..... a sudden, massive, catastrophic Chinese ballistic missile attack on Taiwan designed to overwhelm its air defenses, destroy its aircraft and quickly encircle or occupy the island with an amphibious assault.

The potential Chinese thinking, according to Pentagon strategists tracking the Chinese threat, would be to annex Taiwan quickly such that it would become too costly in terms of casualties, war damage and dollars to assemble a force capable of “extricating” an occupying Chinese force from Taiwan.

Looking at available force numbers across the Pacific from countries such as South Korea and Japan, and the number of available 5th-generation aircraft and US Navy assets, it does seem realistic that a US allied force might be able to “remove” or destroy PLA forces occupying Taiwan, yet the question is “at what cost?” Including reserves, Globalfirepower.com’s 2023 force assessments says Japan can mass as many as 1 million forces and South Korea has at least 2 million in manpower. However, what would it take to assemble, stage and launch a multi-national amphibious attack force capable of removing a Chinese force embedded in Taiwan? Getting heavy armor or mechanized formations to the island of Taiwan would also likely prove quite difficult or time consuming. Naval superiority and 5th-generation air attack, coupled with long-range surface and air land strike would seem critical to any effort of this kind. Air superiority would likely be the fastest and most expedient path through which to destroy a Chinese force occupying Taiwan.

Ultimately, the operative question is …. would China take a chance on the possibility that the US and its allies would simply let a “fait accompli” Chinese takeover of Taiwan stand?

Malabar Exercise Brings Quad Navies Together in Australia

Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan

The navies of Australia, India, Japan and the United States kicked off the 27th edition of the Malabar naval exercise off the coast of Sydney earlier this month. This is the first time that Australia has hosted the exercise, which began in 1992 as a bilateral naval exercise between the Indian and U.S. navies. The Malabar series has grown enormously in the last three decades in terms of scope, complexity, and the sophistication of the maneuvers undertaken by the partnering navies. This reflects the greater confidence and sense of purpose among the now-four participating countries.

The present exercise comes against the backdrop of a worsening security environment in the Indo-Pacific, with China and North Korea posing the most consequential challenges in the region. India is still involved in an active conflict with China on their mutual border. The missile and nuclear threat from North Korea for Japan is a live issue. In fact, the recent Japanese Defense White Paper said that “North Korea’s military activities pose an even more grave and imminent threat to Japan’s national security than ever before.” The white paper was vocal about the threats from China too, saying that “China’s current external stance, military activities, and other activities have become a matter of serious concern for Japan and the international community, and present an unprecedented and the greatest strategic challenge.”

The United States and Australia too have their own concerns about China, especially since Beijing has used various tools to restrict the strategic maneuverability of other major Indo-Pacific powers. The U.S. intelligence community told the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee that the Chinese Communist Party continues to be the “most consequential threat” to U.S. national security, with CCP General Secretary Xi Jinping consolidating power in a third term.

Any Saudi-Israeli normalization requires clearing major security, and defense roadblocks


BEIRUT — Despite reports swirling in the media that the White House is in discussions with Saudi Arabia about normalizing relations with Israel, both Washington and Riyadh have been careful to slow-roll the idea that any agreement is imminent.

To be sure, such a normalization would drastically alter the geopolitical dynamics of the region on a historic scale. But several experts and analysts expressed varying degrees of skepticism about what could come of negotiations — if anything — considering the obstacles still in the path to an agreement.

Among the challenges: the need to uphold Israel’s Qualitative Military Edge, the issue of Palestine and Saudi relations with Iran. Perhaps above all else, the biggest factor, some experts said, may be the Kingdom’s understanding that it holds the cards and can try to bleed the Biden administration, desperate for a big foreign policy win ahead of the presidential elections, for major American concessions.

Not much is yet known about the progress of negotiations and framework of prospective KSA-Israel normalization agreement, and this week White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said the administration doesn’t “expect any imminent announcement… on the broader question of normalization.”

“There are a lot of elements to this,” he told reporters Tuesday. “We need to work through all of them, and we will do that… in as effective and systematic a way as we can. And… as and when we have more to report to you, we will report it.”

Before that, White House spokesperson John Kirby offered more caution.

Engaging Generations Z and Alpha: Communicating Effectively with Digital Natives

[Editor’s Note: The Army’s Mad Scientist Laboratory is pleased to feature today’s post by the United States Army War College (USAWC) Team Future Nerds, excerpted from their final report entitled The Rise of the Digital Native: How the Next Generation of Analysts and Technology are Changing the Intelligence Landscape. This report was a group research project for Team Future Nerds’ Master of Strategic Studies degree. This research project occurred for approximately four months, from January 2023 through April 2023, and answered the following questions posed by LTG Laura A. Potter, Deputy Chief of Staff G2, Headquarters, Department of the Army:

How do 18-22-year-old intelligence analysts likely consume, synthesize, and communicate information today?

How is information consumption likely to evolve in ways that will change end-user information consumption habits between now and 2040?

Team Future Nerds consisted of the following diverse and well-rounded military professionals from the United States Army: COL Derek Baird (Field Artillery), COL Nora Flott (Military Intelligence), LTC(P) Tyler Standish (Military Intelligence), LTC(P) Brandon VanOrden (Military Intelligence), and LTC James Esquivel (Civil Affairs).

Today’s post excerpts LTC Esquivel’s informative primer addressing how Generations Z and Alpha (Gen-Z and Gen-A, respectively) — digital natives — consume and share information. As the U.S. Army wrestles with how best to solve its ongoing Accessions Crisis, LTC Esquivel’s piece is essential in understanding how to effectively package, share, and most importantly, communicate the Army Story so that it resonates with our Nation’s youth and encourages them to sign up for National Service. Of equal importance is integrating these findings into our Professional Military Education, tailoring how our Schools and Centers of Excellence educate and train our incoming cohorts of Soldiers, build future Leaders into effective collaborators, and maximize the Army Team’s potential — Read on!]

Uncrewed Vessels and the Digital Ocean

Emma Salisbury

Uncrewed vessels can fulfil different missions than their crewed counterparts. Ships without humans on board can be designed to operate at extreme speeds or to perform sharp turns that would not be possible with a crew. They are also cheaper – both to acquire and to sustain. A lack of crew means that no crew support systems are required in the design and the vessel needs fewer resupplies while on mission. All of this means that an uncrewed vessel can stay out at sea for longer periods at a time – and smaller vessels powered by the sun or wind could potentially remain at sea almost indefinitely. This brings with it huge possibilities to augment maritime domain awareness via intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities – particularly with a large number of small assets spread over the vast expanses of the ocean.

These possibilities are being ably demonstrated by the U.S. Navy’s Task Force 59, the Fifth Fleet’s incubator for uncrewed systems based out of Bahrain and Jordan. Since its launch in 2021, the task force has aggressively experimented with new capabilities, testing a variety of systems including the T-38 Devil Ray, the Saildrone Explorer, and the MANTAS T-12, as well as uncrewed aerial and underwater vehicles. Task Force 59’s success has led the U.S. Navy to announce the creation of similar task forces in other commands.

The Royal Navy is incubating these technologies via NavyX, its autonomy and lethality accelerator, which operates out of the Defence BattleLab and via its sleek “maritime sandbox” ship, XV Patrick Blackett. British personnel have also been working with Task Force 59 as part of Operation Sentinel, including trials of sail drones.

The Ukraine War Isn't Just About Territory, It's About the People

Meaghan Mobbs

Today marks Ukraine’s Independence Day, its second since Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022, and the first celebrated during Ukraine’s touted summer counteroffensive. Much has been said about the anticipated success and realized failures of this military operation, though it must be cautioned that real-time tactical and operational analysis often overlooks long-term strategic implications.

More importantly, the focus on blood spilled on the battlefield has been a distraction from the more critical lifeblood spilling forth from Ukraine’s borders—its women and children.

Ukraine’s resolute resistance against a colossal neighbor and the unwavering spirit of a nation that refuses to bow remains an inspiration. But, amid this tableau of tenacity, a haunting image persists: destroyed neighborhoods, decimated hospitals, and deserted schools.

War is not merely about territorial gains. While the world's powers rally or waver in their support, Ukraine's leadership faces a task that transcends the immediate conflict. Yes, defending their borders and sovereignty is paramount. But equally vital is the crafting of a vision that pulls back their women and children, the heart of a nation, home. This cannot wait until the sounds of gunfire cease.

Even before the war, Ukraine was facing an aging population and a perilous decline in birth rates, with the United Nations predicting Ukraine would lose a fifth of its population by 2050. A diminished population threatens cultural identity and survival in ways that extend past trenches and beyond armed conflict, though the war has been an accelerant.

More Countries Line Up for A BRICS New World Order Outside US Influence


While much has been said about the emergence of a more "multipolar" world order, far less attention has been paid in the United States, and the West more generally, to the actual causes and consequences of a trend that is gaining traction across many parts of the globe.

Most recently, evidence of this shift was apparent during the recent BRICS summit hosted by South Africa alongside fellow member states China, Brazil, India and Russia. Beijing and Moscow predictably used the annual gathering as an opportunity to deliver swipes at the U.S., portraying the country as a hegemonic power unwilling to contend with emerging forces on the world stage.

But perhaps more consequential were discussions held by all five BRICS countries to expand the informal economic coalition.

At least 23 candidates are believed to have applied to join BRICS, reportedly including Algeria, Argentina, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belarus, Bolivia, Cuba, Egypt, Ethiopia, Honduras, Indonesia, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Morocco, Nigeria, the Palestinian National Authority, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, Venezuela and Vietnam.

Of these nations, the six to officially receive invitations to join, as of Thursday, are Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

What an expanded "BRICS+" may look like remains uncertain, as does the bloc's future ability to manage major internal differences among member states. What is becoming clearer, however, is an emerging common vision to establish alternative financial and trade institutions independent of those led by the West.

Ukraine Proves, Once Again, That Our Idea of War Is All Wrong

Lt. Gen. (Ret.) James M. Dubik

U.S. and NATO military strategists are taught that the decisive part of a war resides in the major combat operations phase. America’s post-9/11 wars and the Ukraine War have proven that’s not so. Rather, using force during major combat operations, and after, together form the necessary and sufficient conditions to achieve the strategic political objectives of a war.

For the U.S. and other Ukraine allies this means a full commitment to supplying, on time, what the Ukrainian military needs to succeed in its counteroffensive. It also means an equal commitment to orchestrating all that is necessary to move from the end of major fighting through transitional stability to a durable political, economic and security situation in the region. Without both, neither Ukraine’s nor the allies’ strategic objectives will be realized.

The Zelenskyy administration’s aims of political sovereignty and territorial integrity allowing for self-determination and economic prosperity will not be accomplished merely by fighting to eject Russian troops from Ukrainian soil. It’s also in the allies’ strategic self-interest to continue to provide the aid and support to help Ukraine defeat Russia. The assistance that the U.S., NATO and other allies are providing helps to secure NATO’s borders, deters the war from escalating or widening, prevents an anarchical world in which illegal aggression becomes a norm, and sets conditions for holding Vladimir Putin and Russia accountable for the many heinous war crimes.

Winning in Ukraine is a form of deterrence from which both America and NATO will derive strategic benefit.

To attain Ukraine’s, America’s and NATO’s strategic political war aims, some form of international military force — that can create stability in the immediate post-major combat period, as well as establish the conditions for long-term security, diplomacy, humanitarian assistance, economic and fiscal recovery — will be necessary for a good while after major fighting ends. This international stability force also will be necessary to separate forces and monitor Russia’s withdrawal, assure a proper environment exists to investigate and document the extensive and horrendous Russian war crimes, provide unimpeded movement for returning refugees and evacuees, allow for social/political reconstitution within Ukraine and the region, assist in demining, ameliorate the potential for corruption, and prevent Russia from using “deniable” forces like its special operations units, contractors and criminal gangs to foment instability.

Army cyber officials want to harness AI, but not over-hype


AFCEA AUGUSTA 2023 — Army cyber leaders want to harness the potential of artificial intelligence for a role in future operations, but are trying to balance excitement about the capabilities with caution not to get hopes up on how soon it can make a real difference.

Speaking to reporters Aug. 17 at the AFCEA TechNet Augusta conference, officials said the service is actively exploring ways AI can be used in offensive operations against its networks, while service coders are looking at how it can also benefit them.

“But we’re not developing someone that understands how to write code — what we are developing is someone that understands that artificial intelligence is predicated on the aggregation of a lot of data,” Maj. Gen. Paul Stanton, commander of the Cyber Center of Excellence (CCoE), said.

“And so, separately, within our cyber workforce and specifically coordination with Army Cyber Command, we’re thinking a lot about what does it mean to develop confidence and an externally derived dataset upon which an AI algorithm is run,” he added. “So if I’m pulling in data from lots of different places, what degree of confidence do I have in individual data set that I didn’t generate?”

How DoD is thinking ‘outside the box’ to solve its cyber workforce challenges


AFCEA AUGUSTA 2023 — The Pentagon is taking a new approach to help solve its cyber workforce retaining and recruitment challenges, one that will require thinking “outside the box” and a cultural shift within the department itself, Mark Gorak, principal director for resources and analysis for the Pentagon’s chief information officer, tells Breaking Defense.

At the center of that, he said during an Aug. 16 interview, is the department’s new cyber workforce implementation plan, unveiled earlier this month following the publication of DoD’s Cyber Workforce Strategy.

“The strategy is vague. The implementation plan is where the rubber meets the road, where we actually assign metrics to every single initiative,” Gorak said. “We track that data through time and see if it’s performing or not because I’m not going to spend resources on programs that are not performing…That’s the power behind implementation plans, is you actually can see change, measure it over time.”

The implementation plan [PDF] includes 22 objectives and 38 initiatives all tied to four broad goals: executing capability assessments and analysis processes to stay ahead of force needs; establishing a department-wide talent management program; facilitating a cultural shift; and “fostering collaboration and partnerships to enhance capability development, operational effectiveness and career broadening experiences.”

Without Prigozhin, expect some changes around the edges on Russian influence operations

Tim Starks

Welcome to The Cybersecurity 202! We’re about to go on a little more than a week-long break. We’ll be back Sept. 5. Bye for a minute!

Below: The Tornado Cash founders are charged, and the United Nations forges ahead on a new cybercrime framework. First:

Without Prigozhin, expect some changes around the edges in Russian influence operations

Wagner Group head Yevgeny Prigozhin at a funeral outside St. Petersburg last year. (AP) (AP)

Yevgeniy Prigozhin, who ran Russia’s Internet Research Agency and had an important role in developing the nation’s modern digital influence operations — most notably, interference in the 2016 U.S. elections — was reportedly on board a deadly plane crash Wednesday.

A failed mutiny diminished Prigozhin’s status in Moscow after once being known as “Putin’s chef” for his catering business and closeness with the Russian president, and the Internet Research Agency had declared that it was shutting down. So it’s possible he wouldn’t have had a major impact on Russian disinformation and misinformation campaigns going forward if he was/is alive.

Pentagon preps for $48B tech-research contracts


The Defense Department has started to give the industry some expectations and pointers on how it plans to conduct the on-ramp for a $48 billion technology research-and-development services contract vehicle.

A final solicitation to reopen the Information Analysis Center Multiple-Award Contract, or IAC-MAC, and the associated requirements documents should go live on or after Sept. 5, DOD said in a pre-solicitation notice Monday.

This window to join the contract will focus on its first pool, which is the unrestricted portion, and the second pool that is reserved for small businesses. Both pools are slated to expire in September 2027.

DOD will make up to three on-ramp awards for Pool 1 and a pair for Pool 2. Small businesses may submit bids for either or both pools in the on-ramp process.

Onboard AI: Constraints and Limitations

Kyle Miller and Andrew Lohn

Executive Summary

AI can achieve remarkable performance under ideal conditions that are difficult to replicate in many real-world settings. The AI that often captures headlines typically runs under these conditions, in well-maintained data centers with an abundant supply of compute and power. Currently, most top-performing AI models designed for vision and language applications rely on these abundant resources. However, these resources are highly constrained on many systems in the real world, be it drones, satellites, or ground vehicles.

This is the challenge of ‘onboard AI’: running AI directly on a device or system without additional backend compute support. There are times when running models onboard is optimal or necessary, and doing so can bring a range of advantages. However, onboard computing constraints can introduce significant limitations, or completely inhibit the use of certain models on some systems. This creates a gap between the highest-performing AI systems and those deployed in the real world, which has implications for the performance and robustness of many sought-after applications.

Onboard AI systems are constrained for several reasons, but the primary factor is processing speed. The highest-performing models execute extremely large numbers of computations for each output they produce. These calculations require high-performance processors, often many of them. However, because of their size and power demands, such processors cannot be used in various systems. Practically, this means chips designed for onboard use do orders of magnitude fewer calculations and cannot run AI models quickly enough for many applications.

Onboard AI systems also need substantial working memory. Data center chips have the memory to hold large models, store the results of ongoing calculations, and enable fast communications both on the chip and between chips to split the calculations across several devices. However, many devices are not designed for large-scale computations or equipped with large working memories.

Military-Civil Fusion: China, the US, and Beyond

Mercy A. Kuo

The Diplomat author Mercy Kuo regularly engages subject-matter experts, policy practitioners, and strategic thinkers across the globe for their diverse insights into U.S. Asia policy. This conversation with Dr. Yoram Evron – associate professor of Political Science and Chinese Studies at the University of Haifa, Israel and co-author together with Richard A. Bitzinger of “The Fourth Industrial Revolution and Military-Civil Fusion” (2023) – is the 379th in “The Trans-Pacific View Insight Series.”

What is the correlation between the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) and military-civil fusion (MCF)?

Since the end of the Cold War, many technologies conceived and developed in commercial high-tech sectors became clearly superior to and cheaper than those found in the military-industrial complex. This commercial technological superiority has become even more evident in recent years given the emerging “fourth industrial revolution” (4IR), which revolves around emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), autonomous systems, “big data,” and quantum computing. These technologies and their related products are making the distinctions between military and civilian technologies ever harder to discern.

If militaries want to harness the technological potential of the 4IR, then they must craft a new form of civil-military cooperation in science and technology, which since the late 2010s has come to be known as military-civil fusion (MCF).