3 September 2023

Amina Zurmati and Qudratullah Zurmati on Life for Afghanistan’s Women

Catherine Putz

Many Afghan women never experienced the Taliban’s first period of rule in the 1990s. For these women, who “have tasted the sweet flavor of freedom,” as Amina Zurmati and Qudratullah Zurmati told The Diplomat, the Taliban takeover in mid-August 2021 and the subsequent two tears have been “unbearable and hard to digest.”

Amina Zurmati and Qudratullah Zurmati are graduates of political science and public administration from the American University of Afghanistan (AUAF). They are writers and human rights defenders focused on the fight for the rights of women and minorities. In the following interview with Catherine Putz, The Diplomat’s managing editor, they share the voices of the women they’ve interviewed and discuss in detail the difficulties the Taliban’s return have created for Afghans, particularly women, girls, and minorities, and what the international community can do.

For a recent article, you shared the voices of female Afghan salon owners reacting to the Taliban’s latest decree banning their activities. Have salons been a refuge of sorts for Afghan women since the Taliban takeover? What will it mean if they are shut down – both for owners but also customers?

Afghan women in the past two decades have made a steady but significant advance toward fulfilling their human rights. Today’s situation of women in Afghanistan, however, is an affront to all standards of humanity. It is a sobering reminder of how aggressively and quickly the rights of women and 20 years of achievements can be taken away. Having been denied their right to education, work, movement, and visits to parks and gyms, since the takeover of the Taliban, among others, beauty salons have been one of the remaining refuges for Afghan women and a place where women could visit and socialize.

Having been wholly excluded from the public and deprived of almost all their human rights, women spoke to us of feeling strangled, isolated, and invisible in public life, and believing themselves to be living in prison-like conditions. Beauty salons were reported to be one of the last places where women could visit, gather, and enjoy temporary happy moments with other women far from their imprisonment at home.

Beauty salons were separated from the street by dark, thick curtains, and women felt free for a moment there. They were free to take off their black abayas, walk around, have their nails and toes painted, which they aren’t supposed to show in public. They could have their hair cut and coloured while exchanging news and chatting away.

The Taliban’s Afghanistan: Retribution, Refugees, and Violent Extremism

Shanthie Mariet D’Souza

A new report by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) released on August 22 details the systemic human rights abuses carried out by the Taliban against former government officials and former members of the Afghan armed forces. It underlines the sense of insecurity as well as impunity among the Taliban. It also points to the fact that modalities of engagement with the Taliban by any country need to factor in the Taliban’s proclivity to engage in revengeful politics and their tendency to renege on promises made.

Violations detailed by UNAMA pertain to extrajudicial killings, arbitrary arrests and detentions, and torture and ill-treatment. Cases were recorded across all 34 of the country’s provinces, with the greatest number in Kabul, Kandahar, and Balkh provinces. As many as 218 extrajudicial killings of former government officials and Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) personnel at the hands of the Taliban were reported during the period between August 15, 2021, and June 30, 2023. In addition, there were 14 enforced disappearances, over 144 instances of torture and ill-treatment, and 424 arbitrary arrests and detentions. If similar violations against civilians alleged to be sympathizers of the dislodged civilian government were to be included, the scale is bound to increase.

2 years after US withdrawal Afghanistan resistance group yearns for Western help as they take on Taliban

Chris Massaro

The Taliban have doubled down with its extremist rule over Afghanistan since the withdrawal of U.S. forces almost two years ago, but a national resistance movement emerged immediately after with the hope of ending the Islamic regime in Kabul.

The Taliban’s growing repression, contrary to their assurances after seizing power in August 2021, has not stopped the National Resistance Front (NRF) from continuing operations against Taliban rule.

"Today, especially this fighting season, we have been successful in challenging the Taliban in many parts of Afghanistan beyond our base in the remote valleys of the Hindu Kush mountains," Ali Maisam Nazary, head of foreign relations for the NRF, told Fox News Digital.

"We have launched successful guerrilla operations in eastern provinces like Nangarhar, Laghman and Nuristan. The same in the North and Central Afghanistan. The reason for this is that the people of Afghanistan are more convinced today than two years ago that an armed struggle is the only way to bring peace and stability in Afghanistan."

The NRF, led by Ahmad Massoud, remains the most formidable Afghan resistance unit fighting the Taliban, and its leader has vowed to continue the fight even after the loss of its rear base in the Panjshir Valley which the Taliban recaptured shortly after taking power in September 2021. Massoud’s father, Ahmad Shah Massoud, was a prominent Mujahidin rebel who fought against the Soviets in 1980s and was assassinated by al Qaeda operatives just two days before the 9/11 attacks.

Imran Khan Is Just the Beginning of Pakistan’s Democratic Woes

Lynne O’Donnell

Pakistan is living under the pall of authoritarianism as the rowdy circus of political survival pushes the urgent need for reform and accountability into the shadows. Rights activists say successive governments, regardless of political stripe, have consistently used the law to weaken civil society and undermine the democratic ideals they claim to stand for.

Most of the drama of late has surrounded former Prime Minister Imran Khan, ousted from office in 2022 and currently in prison on what he says are trumped-up charges fabricated to ensure he can’t run in the next election. The government was dissolved on Aug. 9 ahead of elections meant to be held within 90 days but which probably won’t happen before February after outgoing Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s administration ordered a redrawing of electoral boundaries following a census that found a significant increase in the population and which is likely to take some months.

The Islamabad High Court on Tuesday suspended Khan’s three-year prison sentence for corruption, though he still faces many charges that could lead to conviction and a ban on standing for election. Since losing a no-confidence vote and the premiership in the spring of 2022, Khan has organized disruptive demonstrations, some of which have turned violent. Even though his four years in office failed to come to grips with Pakistan’s problems, he is still viewed as overwhelmingly likely to win an election if a criminal conviction doesn’t disqualify him first.

But Pakistan’s democratic woes go both further than Khan—and further back. In recent years, different governments have taken several steps to neutralize civil society and muzzle potential sources of dissent and political opposition. By using the census to order that electoral boundaries be redrawn, Sharif has opened himself up to accusations of gerrymandering, an age-old mechanism used by those in power to ensure electoral victory, and just one of the ruses that presiding governments use to stay in power. (It was allegedly deployed in Balochistan in 2013, when minority Hazaras were disenfranchised and the chief minister was elected with just 544 votes.)

The Nepali Guards Caught in the Chaotic US Evacuation of Afghanistan

Jenna Mae Biedscheid

Hearing blasts and gunfire, he could see how horrifying the situation was. From a tower in the U.S. Embassy, he witnessed the chaos ensuing at the airport as evacuations began. Crowds were flooding in. He thought of his family back home in Nepal, and what his future might hold.

These were the recollections of a Nepali was was employed as a security guard in Kabul, Afghanistan, amid the frantic withdrawal of U.S. troops and the Taliban takeover in August 2021.

From one end of the Himalayas to the other, thousands of Nepalis recruited as security guards to protect embassies and compounds in Afghanistan left their families and homes behind for pay of about $4 per hour. During a typical 12-hour shift, they held dangerous positions, risking their lives to guard the perimeters of facilities where U.S. troops and diplomats resided.

The centuries-long history of the recruitment of Nepali people into foreign armies started with the British army in 1815. The tradition created a global perception of Nepalis as strong, loyal fighters. Meanwhile, a lack of opportunities at home makes taking up arms abroad look like an appealing prospect for many young Nepalis.

In a modern manifestation of this phenomenon, Nepal were chosen as a main source for the recruitment of security guards in embassies and compounds across Afghanistan following the U.S. invasion in 2001.

The Return of the Global South

Sarang Shidore

Russia’s war in Ukraine has reminded Western observers that a world exists outside the great powers and their core allies. This world, predominantly comprising countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, has resisted taking clear sides in the conflict. The war has thus shone a spotlight on the global South as a major factor in geopolitics. Indeed, Foreign Affairs recently devoted a magazine issue to understanding the motivations of the “Nonaligned World.” Today’s geopolitical landscape is not just defined by the tensions between the United States and its great-power rivals China and Russia but also by the maneuvering of middle powers and even lesser powers.

The countries of the global South contain the vast majority of humanity, but their desires and goals have long been relegated to the footnotes of geopolitics. In the second half of the twentieth century, groupings such as the Non-Aligned Movement and the G-77 at the United Nations sought to advance the collective interests of poorer and decolonized countries in a world dominated by formerly imperial powers. Their solidarity was substantially grounded in ideals and a sense of shared moral purpose that did not always produce concrete results. Even before the end of the Cold War, the moralism that motivated these states to band together began to dissipate. The unipolar decades after the end of the Cold War seemed to have sidelined the global South for good as a clear force.

Today, however, the global South is back. It exists not as a coherent, organized grouping so much as a geopolitical fact. Its impacts are being felt in new and growing coalitions—such as the BRICS group, which may soon expand beyond its original members, Brazil, China, India, Russia, and South Africa—but even more through the individual actions of its states. These actions, driven by national interests rather than the idealism of southern solidarity, add up to more than the sum of their parts. They are beginning to constrain the actions of the great powers and provoke them to respond to at least some of the global South’s demands.

Russian Nuclear Weapons In Belarus: How To Restore Balance In Nuclear Deterrence And Ensure Ukraine’s Security

Oleksandr Musiienko

At the end of July, the Defence Intelligence Agency (DIA) reported that they have “no reason to doubt” Russian President Vladimir Putin’s claim that Russia has moved a first batch of tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus.

In turn, back in October 2022, the President of Poland, Andrzej Duda, stated that the issue of placing American nuclear weapons on Polish territory, within the framework of the Nuclear Sharing mechanism, is open.

Certainly, such a reaction from the Polish President is justified and is a search for an adequate response to Russia’s decision to move nuclear weapons to Belarus.

Next, I will explain why the concept of nuclear deterrence by Russia needs to be expanded to include Ukraine.

But first, a bit of history to understand why exactly the Russian Federation is responsible for escalating aggression, particularly in the matter of nuclear weapons.”

“Russia against NATO expansion. How many times have we heard such statements from representatives of the Russian government over the years? Moreover, before the full-scale aggressive invasion of Russian troops into Ukraine, President Putin referred to Ukraine as a threat to Russia’s existence. Ukraine, which lacks nuclear weapons, never had any plans to initiate aggressive war against Russia. And, agreed, consciously acting as an aggressor against a nuclear state is sheer madness. Of course, there were no plans to invade Russia, Ukraine, or anywhere else. Just as there were no such plans in the West or NATO.

A Traveler’s Pocket Guide to Chinese Communist Party Doublespea

Since the People’s Republic of China (PRC) re-opened after COVID lockdowns early this year, a steady stream of senior U.S. officials, foreign leaders, and corporate executives have traveled to China or sought other face-to-face engagements with PRC counterparts.
1 The U.S government has emphasized that “intense competition requires intense and tough diplomacy.” Both government and business leaders likely aim to use face-to-face meetings to strengthen their competitive edge in their respective domains and provide a degree of stability amid geopolitical tensions.

More important than the meeting itself, however, is understanding the context and leveraging it for national or business advantage. U.S. and PRC diplomats famously battle over every detail of protocol for these meetings, from negotiating the right government level under which to conduct a meeting, to the logistics surrounding the stairs to plane and deplane from official aircraft. These dynamics are not new: decades of experience negotiating with the PRC since the 1970s should make Americans cognizant of Beijing's skill shaping optics and narratives and wary of taking its words at face value.

With No Good Options, China’s Xi Jinping Turns Up The Temperature In The Taiwan Strait


China’s supreme leader, Xi Jinping, can’t be happy right now with his mounting troubles at home and abroad.

The nation he rules is under increasing economic pressure, much of it made worse by his Bigfooting into both domestic and foreign businesses; it appears uninvited Chinese Communist Party interference is both unwelcome and bad for business.

Internationally, the “wolf warrior” diplomacy he encouraged his ambassadors to unleash on their host nations has backfired spectacularly. Instead of cowing countries in its immediate neighborhood, being bellicose has had the opposite effect, driving South Korea and Japan to work together, and pushing Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia away from Beijing. The Philippines is even working militarily with America once again.

Regarding Taiwan, China’s constant military drills around the island appear no longer able to influence public opinion on behalf of the Nationalist Party, or Kuomintang, the old party of Chiang Kai-shek, which is, paradoxically, the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) favored party in Taiwan.

Taiwan’s next presidential election is slated for Jan. 13, 2024. The candidate of the party Beijing loathes the most, William Lai of the ruling Democratic People’s Party (DPP) and Taiwan’s vice president, just wrapped up a successful trip to the U.S. on Aug. 19. The reaction of China’s armed forces, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), was unexpectedly muted — until a week later, when it sent nine naval vessels and 32 combat aircraft aloft in the vicinity of Taiwan, 20 of which crossed the median line of the Taiwan Strait.

Inside Russia's mega drone plant that could be a game changer in Ukraine war


Russia's mega drone factory could be a game changer for the Kremlin in the war with Ukraine, a leading US weapons expert has told the Express.

Last year Moscow and Tehran signed off on a secret military deal, which would see Russia initially re-assemble imported Iranian Shahed attack drones at a facility in the Alabuga Special Economic Zone in Tartarstan.

According to the agreement, Russia would then proceed to produce airframes that would be combined with Iranian-supplied engines and electronics.

Finally, the Tatarstan plant would start to manufacture UAVs on its own with a target to build 6,000 drones by September 2025.

New documents obtained by The Washington Post show the Kremlin has made good progress towards meeting its production goals.

Engineers at the facility, which when fully developed is expected to measure 100,000 square metres, are said to be using Russian industrial expertise to produce drones at a larger quantity and with a greater quality control than Iran has ever achieved.

Peace With Israel Means War With Iran

Bilal Y. Saab

Policymakers in Washington and the Middle East have been busy talking about the possibility of Saudi Arabia normalizing its ties with Israel in return, in part, for a formal defense pact with the United States. Receiving far less attention is a critical question, at least for Riyadh: Would such a move jeopardize Saudi Arabia’s recent diplomatic accord with Iran?

There’s strong reason to think it would. Iran doesn’t just have adversarial relations with Israel. The two countries have been in a shadow war for decades—one that has escalated over the past seven years. Just last year, it was reported that the Israeli military had carried out more than 400 airstrikes since 2017 in Syria and other parts of the Middle East against targets belonging to Iran and its sub-state allies. One would imagine the number of such attacks has gone up since.

If Saudi Arabia embraces Israel, Iran will likely throw everything but the kitchen sink at the Saudis. It will more aggressively challenge the kingdom’s legitimacy as leader of the Muslim world and most probably threaten its very security—either directly, as it did in September 2019, when it struck Saudi oil facilities with drones and missiles, or indirectly through regional surrogates, including the Houthis in Yemen.

For Tehran, it’s one thing for Riyadh to be friends with Washington—something that the Iranians have gotten used to—but another altogether to partner with Israel, the country that has shown no hesitancy to use military force to counter Iranian plans and influence in the region. Iran also worries about a preemptive attack by Israel against its nuclear program more so than by the United States. So, if Saudi Arabia teams up with Israel, Iran will assume that Riyadh will provide a platform for the Israeli military to launch a swift attack against Iran, even if the Saudi leadership has no intentions of doing so.

The Chinese economy is doing better than you might think

Xie Feng

The Chinese economy has been in the headlines recently. How is it really doing? Better than you might think. Allow me to share some facts with you.

This year, China’s economy continues to recover and grow. Our gross domestic product expanded 5.5 percent for the first half of the year, outpacing most major economies. The World Bank has projected China’s economy to grow at 5.6 percent for 2023. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development expects 5.4 percent, and the International Monetary Fund projects 5.2 percent. As it has for many years, China remains a most important engine of global growth.

One of the highlights in the first half of 2023 is the rebound in consumption, which contributed 77.2 percent of the growth, more than 44 percentage points higher than last year. Notably, people are spending more on services: From January to July, retail sales in transport, accommodation, catering and other services grew 20.3 percent year over year. Some 502 million Chinese went to the movies this summer — more than the entire U.S. population.

China’s economy is also significantly greener and more innovation-driven than in the past. In the first seven months of 2023, investment in high-tech industries and research and technical services rose 11.5 percent and 23.1 percent, respectively. In July, the output of new energy vehicles, wind turbines and charging facilities all increased roughly by one-fourth. China’s renewable-energy-generation capacity has overtaken its coal-power capacity. Its installed capacity of wind and solar power has topped the world for 13 and eight years, respectively.

Female professors sue Vassar, alleging pay discrimination


A group of female professors at Vassar College announced Wednesday they are suing the school over alleged discrimination in pay.

The plaintiffs, consisting of Vassar professors ranging from the English to physics departments, say the college has known for years there was a growing gap in pay between male and female educators.

“Through this action, we seek to achieve what we were prevented from accomplishing through private internal channels: gender equity for ourselves and other female full faculty, and the adoption of fair processes to ensure that future generations of faculty are paid, promoted, and evaluated fairly,” the plaintiffs said in a statement.

The lawsuit alleges women are paid less in their starting Vassar salaries compared to men, that the Poughkeepsie, N.Y., liberal arts school’s merit-rating system is biased and that receiving promotions is more difficult and takes longer for women than for men.

Risks for NATO in Ukraine drone strikes on Russian territory


On August 29, Ukraine launched its most massive drone attack on Russian territory to date, including an attack on Pskov airfield near the Estonian border where at least two and perhaps as many as four Il-76 jet transport aircraft were destroyed.

The Il-76 is a large multi-purpose, fixed-wing, four-engine turbofan strategic airlifter that also can be configured for special missions. It is a workhorse of the Russian Air Force used to transport troops and supplies.

These aircraft have been produced since 1971 and are still manufactured. The Il-76 is also operated by civilian organizations in Russia and abroad. The aircraft in various versions has been sold to more than a dozen foreign operators.

The significance of the attack on Pskov is the location of the airfield in northwestern Russia. It is 38.1 miles (61.3 kilometers) from an Estonian border post Luhamaa. Pskov is some 500 miles (800 km) from Ukrainian territory, which has raised serious questions about where the drone or drones were launched from in the attack.

For drones to operate at long range, they need special communications capabilities. US drones including the RQ-4 Global Hawk, the RQ-1/MQ-1 Reaper and the RQ-170 Sentinel use satellite communications and radio relays.

Drones such as the Reaper carry air-to-ground missiles and are equipped with very sophisticated radars and electro-optical gear. Ukraine does not knowingly have drones like these.

The Russians think that the drone launched on Pskov came either from a clandestine launch on Russian or Belarusian territory or from Estonia. There have been other attacks deep in Russian territory that suggest drones were smuggled into Russia, even close to Moscow.

How U.N. Peacekeeping Accidentally Fuels Africa’s Coups

Jamie Levin and Nathan Allen

On July 26, Gen. Abdourahamane Tchiani detained Niger’s democratically elected president, Mohamed Bazoum, and installed himself as the head of the so-called National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland, a military junta. Less than a week later, on July 30, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) issued the junta an ultimatum: Return the former president to power within one week or face the threat of additional sanctions and military force. The region has experienced a wave of coups in recent years, and ECOWAS is rightly concerned about their spread.

That ultimatum has since expired, with Tchiani remaining steadfast, sparking a crisis for ECOWAS. On Aug. 10, the bloc put its forces on alert, with member states Nigeria, Senegal, Benin, and Ivory Coast all pledging to contribute troops to restore democracy to Niger. Meanwhile, Burkina Faso and Mali—themselves both run by military juntas—have sent “solidarity” missions to Niger, bringing the region to the brink of war.

Not much is known about Tchiani himself, and the junta has been tight-lipped, leading to intense speculation about the motives for the coup. Much has been written about Tchiani’s role as the head of the presidential guard—charged with protecting Bazoum—and his alleged part in a previous foiled coup attempt. Rumors had been swirling that Bazoum had been planning to remove Tchiani, but little attention has been paid to his previous role as a United Nations peacekeeper.

Tchiani’s military career saw him serving on U.N. missions in Ivory Coast, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and Sudan, in addition to several regional multilateral missions. His career is emblematic of a new crop of military professionals with significant international service records. Considering the historical evolution of peacekeeping allows us to contextualize these blue helmets-cum-coup plotters like Tchiani.

A Clash of Worldviews The United States and China Have Reached an Ideological Impasse

Nathan Levine

Leaders in both China and the United States appear genuinely interested in trying to stabilize their relationship, which is now at its rockiest point in 50 years. Both countries recognize that the tension between them has become so acute that they face a real and growing risk of war. In recent months, Beijing and Washington have worked to renew dialogue by resuming regular diplomatic visits and setting up new high-level communications channels; in July, U.S. climate envoy John Kerry suggested that China and the United States may arrange a meeting between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Joe Biden to coincide with this November’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Leaders Meeting in San Francisco. Such a meeting could offer Biden his only significant opportunity to put the U.S.-Chinese relationship on firmer footing before the distractions of the 2024 presidential election campaign set in.

But a fundamental issue stands in the way of truly solidifying this progress: the two countries lack a mutually acceptable narrative to define their relationship. U.S. leaders, in their diplomatic engagements and public remarks, routinely assert that the United States and China are engaged in a great-power “competition.” Fundamentally, the Biden administration’s approach to China is premised on the idea of “managed strategic competition,” a theory that requires both sides to accept the prospect of engaging in sustained and steady strategic competition for the long term. This strategy demands that each party be transparent about its redlines in order to keep competition from spiraling into conflict and to make room for necessary cooperation. It cannot function if one side refuses even to accept that long-term competition is an inevitable and legitimate state of affairs.

But China’s leaders will not let “competition” define the U.S.-Chinese relationship. As Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi put it in an Asia Society speech last year, Beijing sees “so-called strategic competition” as a “win-lose” dynamic that brings “tremendous uncertainty” to the relationship and pushes the two powers further toward “confrontation and conflict.” China instead demands that the United States commit to describing the relationship in terms of “mutual respect,” “peaceful coexistence,” and “win-win” cooperation. When U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Xi in Beijing in June, Xi demanded that neither country “try to shape the other side” and declared that “peaceful coexistence and win-win cooperation” is the only “right way” forward.

Central Asian Connectivity Is Crucial to America’s Strategic Interests

Ibrahim Mammadov

The ongoing conflict in Ukraine, precipitated by Russia’s invasion, has had numerous consequential effects on international affairs. Yet while much of the world has focused on the most pronounced of these—such as economic impact and shifts in energy routes—on particularly important trend has gone unnoticed: the war has spurred Central Asian nations to reconsider existing linkages and trade routes. In fact, the conflict has arguably ushered in one of the most pivotal moments for the connectivity of the Central Asian region with the global trade destinations since the dissolution of the USSR.

Prior to this conflict, the trade activities of Central Asian nations predominantly traversed Russian territory to access international waters. Yet the war has made transport through the Russia/Ukraine border region significantly more challenging. Moreover, sanctions imposed upon Russia by the West have further complicated trade activity through Russian territory. Thus, along with Moscow’s limited capacity to simultaneously engage in Central Asia, means there is a newfound impetus and favorable environment for the diversification and expansion of trade routes in the region.

This moment presents a unique opportunity for U.S. policymakers. Given Central Asia’s geographic and strategic importance, it is imperative for the United States to help facilitate new connectivity routes within the region.

Biden’s caution is Putin’s advantage — and it could be China’s too


To its credit, the Biden administration has essentially followed the Trump national security team’s transformative policy toward communist China. It has gone further by emphasizing multilateralism and alliance-building to bring in support from democratic allies and partners against the common challenge.

But there have been some costly exceptions.

The Biden team revived and revitalized the quadrilateral security relationship known as the Quad, among Japan, Australia, India and the United States. It established a trilateral security arrangement with Australia, the United Kingdom and the U.S., dubbed AUKUS, which enabled the transfer of nuclear submarines and technology to Australia.

The AUKUS arrangement was accomplished, however, by Canberra’s secret collaboration with Washington and London in cancelling Australia’s preexisting conventional submarine deal with France, which precipitated an angry French response. Beyond the economic loss, injured Gallic pride lingered long after the event and may have contributed to President Emmanuel Macron’s dismissive comment in Beijing in April 2022, that Europe should not serve as America’s “followers” on Taiwan or get “caught up in crises that are not ours.”

A year earlier, Biden’s disastrous pullout from Afghanistan shocked not only France but other NATO allies: the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and Canada. It surely encouraged Russian President Vladimir Putin’s quest to reconstitute the fallen Soviet Empire, which he has called “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century.”

The Right to Protest Is Under Assault. Frontline Activists Show How to Fight Back.

Brandee M. Butler

From Israel and Iran to China and France, massive protests are making international headlines. So too are the violent government crackdowns against them.

Around the world, people are taking to the streets to protest on a scale greater than ever before. Converging and overlapping factors—including crises in governance, economic volatility, rising inequality, and the accelerating impacts of climate change—are fueling social unrest and demands for change in nearly every region of the world.

According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), protests began to intensify in the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis. From 2009 and 2019, CSIS found that the average frequency of mass protests increased by over 11 percent. Researchers at the Freidrich-Ebert-Stiftung similarly documented an increasing number of protests from 2006 through 2020. After a temporary lull in early 2020 due to the outbreak of Covid-19, protests surged again as anger mounted over government responses to the pandemic and systemic issues including racism and police violence. Since then, the accelerated pace of protests has continued. In 2023 alone, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s Global Protest Tracker has recorded over 100 notable mass protests to date.

How Western Technology Is Keeping Russia Stocked With Drones

Bohdan Miroshnychenko

KYIV — How many times have we heard about how Russia is forced to fight with Soviet weapons and capture cities exclusively with barbaric, uncoordinated assaults?

This is only partly true.

Russia has numerous weapons that create serious problems for the Ukrainian Armed Forces. One prime example is the Lancet kamikaze drone. It sneaks beneath radars, its electric motor does not make loud noises, and the mass of the warhead is often sufficient enough to damage heavy machinery.

Since the war began, the Russians have used some 850 Lancets. Not all of them hit their targets, but the Ukrainian military considers these drones one of the biggest causes for concern on the front line.

Back in July, Kyiv's military commanders stated that Russia had only 50 Lancets left, but the truth is that these drones are by no means running out. Dozens of kamikaze UAVs are still flying, because the Russians are still managing to produce them. And they are not doing it alone.

"Lancets" are packed with complex electronics, which are not produced in the Russian Federation. There are components that are produced in the West, which still get to Russian military factories without any problems. The flows are so large-scale that Russia can not only maintain the old rates of production of these drones, but also increase them.

While it may seem that technological sanctions are having an impact, there are still many obvious gaps in them.

It’s time to accelerate integration of commercial space tech into the US Department of Defense

David Deptula, Patrick Zeitouni

Commercial space capabilities are playing a crucial role in providing Ukraine an advantage in its fight against Russian aggression. Commercial systems are proving resilience and complicating Russia’s moves. The demonstrated advantages of commercial space call for accelerated integration of these capabilities into the U.S. Department of Defense.

Data from commercial systems is easy to share because it is unclassified. In Ukraine, this shareable, actionable data is one of the commercial defense sector’s most significant contributions.

In the buildup to the conflict, commercial remote sensing data highlighted Russia’s military advances, dispelled Russian disinformation operations, and provided a fact base to unify NATO, other European allies, and global allies.

As the war began, commercial space capabilities became instrumental. Earth observation and imagery, radio frequency intelligence, and broadband networks enabled critical data to be shared in tactically relevant timelines, saving Ukrainian military and civilian lives and altering the course of the war.

After Russia disrupted Ukraine’s primary satellite communication systems, commercial low-Earth orbit satellite constellations powered broadband services so the Ukrainian military could continue critical communications, command, and control. High-resolution Earth observation satellite imagery revealed the movement of Russian troops, equipment, and other critical elements.

An Overhyped BRICS Summit

Mohammed Nuruzzaman

This week, the BRICS group held its fifteenth annual summit in Johannesburg, South Africa. The forum has drawn more public and media attention than usual compared to past summits due to the much-publicized expansion of the group, which is said to bolster its geopolitical weight. Twenty-two states have officially applied for membership, six have been invited to join, and many others have expressed interest in membership of this exclusive club of rising economies. For the candidate states, official membership in the BRICS creates a window of opportunity for coveted goods: development aid, technological cooperation, and the much sought-after wiggle room to avoid or minimize potential or actual Western economic sanctions.

On August 24, the summit announced the six new members: Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. This is an unprecedented development in the history of BRICS. Originally a descriptive economic grouping proposed by a Goldman Sachs economist, the bloc was formally launched in June 2009 (South Africa joined the group in December 2010). The BRICS’ membership expansion drive holds enormous potential benefits for the existing and aspiring candidate states. For China and Russia, a larger roster adds additional weight to their geopolitical agenda to curb the United States’ unilateral dominance.

But despite the crowing headlines, there is substantial doubt whether BRICS can emerge as a credible counterweight to the Western-dominated world order. The real challenges to success in transforming the global geopolitical landscape originate not from without but rather within. Wide internal differences significantly undercut BRICS’ capacity to work as a unified bloc and realize its goal of a multipolar world order.

Goldman Sachs bought US firms with Chinese state cash in $2.5 BILLION 'partnership fund' that invested in drones, AI, cloud computing and supply chains - despite rock bottom relations with Beijing


Goldman Sachs has quietly been using Chinese cash from a $2.5 billion 'partnership fund' to invest in several US companies in the field of AI and computing.

The Wall Street giant is funneling funds from a private equity stash it created with the China Investment Corporation, the Financial Times reports.

Since its launch in 2017, the China-US Industrial Cooperation Partnership Fund has been used for deals with US companies from the fields of cloud computing, drug-testing, global supply chains, and retail tech.

This comes despite increasingly terse relations between the US and China due to disputes about technology, security and Taiwan - and amid Joe Biden signing an executive order to restrict American investments in Chinese companies.

Cybersecurity as a Legal Problem

Josh A. Goldfoot

Cybersecurity law has many silos. If a teenager’s private photo is hacked from Google Drive, lawyers think about anti-hacking statutes like the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. If the U.S. government seeks access to the same photo from the same account, lawyers think about the Fourth Amendment and criminal procedure rules like the Electronic Communications Privacy Act. If the British government seeks access to that photo, lawyers think about mutual legal assistance treaties and the CLOUD Act. If the Russian government accesses that photo, lawyers think about national security law. If Google were to launch a new social network that automatically shares its users’ photos, lawyers would think about privacy policies and privacy statutes. Cybersecurity law is the intersection of all those silos; it is the law of who may control which computer.

As I argue in this article, cybersecurity is both a technical problem and a social problem. Network defense is the technical half of cybersecurity, but law is the social half. While regulating how computers behave is an important part of cybersecurity, regulating how humans and governments behave is just as important. Law is the foundation of cybersecurity because law defines the “security” in cybersecurity, who is entitled to that security, and how human beings and governments should behave to guarantee cybersecurity.

Air Force and Army Collaborate on Air Defense That’s Smaller and Cheaper for the Indo-Pacific

John A. Tirpak

The Department of Defense and the armed services are focused and cooperating like never before on the logistical challenges of operating in the Pacific—exemplified by how the Army and Air Force are working together on air defense, USAF officials said Aug. 29.

The challenge of dispersed operations across the Pacific, in austere locations and under the threat of missile attack and denied communications, has “galvanized” the Pentagon, said Brig. Gen. Michael Zulsdorf, deputy director of resource integration for engineering, logistics and force protection, during a virtual event hosted by the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies.

“I have been in and out of the Pentagon since 2009, and I’ve never seen more galvanized, cohesive teamwork from the Department of Defense, through the respective services,” Zulsdorf added. “This is amazing to see. And it’s awesome that we can work together and fight through typical sister service-specific stovepipes and break that down.”

All the services are in the same predicament and are searching for cost-effective, joint solutions, he noted.

The Army has previously focused on theater-level air defenses like the Patriot and Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) systems. But those weapons are too few and too expensive to defend small operating locations, a key component of the Air Force’s plan for Agile Combat Employment.