10 September 2023

3 Pakistani soldiers, 1 militant killed in separate shootouts during raids along the Afghan border

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Two soldiers and one militant were killed in a shootout during an overnight military operation against militant activity in the northwest alongside the border with Afghanistan.

A military statement late Friday said that security forces initiated an operation in Miran Shah, the main town of North Waziristan, “to eliminate remaining terrorists” after receiving concrete intelligence reports about the presence of militants.

It said as troops closed in on the location, a group of militants was spotted and intercepted, triggering an intensive shootout, resulting in the death of the army major leading the operation and another soldier. One militant was killed and another was wounded.

The army said they conducted another raid on a militant hideout in Tirah valley in the Khyber district near the border with Afghanistan where a soldier and a militant were killed early Friday.

There has been an increase in militant attacks on security forces in the northwest in recent days. On Thursday, a suicide bomber targeted a security convoy in northwest Pakistan, killing nine soldiers and wounding 20 others. The attack happened in Bannu, a district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Army veteran who served in Afghanistan is named foreign minister in Netherlands’ caretaker Cabinet

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — Hanke Bruins Slot, a military veteran who served with the Dutch army in Afghanistan, was appointed Monday as the Netherlands’ new foreign minister. She replaces Wopke Hoekstra, who is in line to become a European Union commissioner.

Bruins Slot had been interior minister in the caretaker administration of outgoing Prime Minister Mark Rutte. His government will remain in power until a new coalition is formed after a Nov. 22 general election.

Polls suggest Bruins Slot’s Christian Democrat Appeal party will suffer a heavy defeat in the fall election. The party put her forward early Monday to become the country’s top diplomat. The government confirmed her appointment later in the day.

“As an Afghanistan veteran and the secretary of state in charge of (military) intelligence and security, Hanke is more than qualified to make this move to the Foreign Ministry,” Christian Democrat leader Henri Bontenbal said in a statement.

As foreign minister, Bruins Slot will be closely involved in the Netherlands’ support for Ukraine. Another Christian Democrat, Hugo de Jonge, was appointed interior minister to replace Bruins Slot.


Grace Mappes

Ukrainian forces continue to advance in western Zaporizhia Oblast. Geolocated footage posted on September 5 shows Russian forces striking Ukrainian positions northwest and west of Robotyne, indicating that Ukrainian forces have advanced into an area near the settlement that Russian forces previously claimed to control.[1] Additional geolocated footage posted on September 5 shows that Ukrainian forces have also advanced south of Robotyne and northwest of Verbove (about 10km east of Robotyne).[2] Geolocated evidence of Ukrainian forces northwest of Verbove suggests that Ukrainian forces are advancing along the line of Russian fortifications that runs into the settlement. Ukrainian military sources also confirmed that Ukrainian forces have been successful in the Robotyne—Novoprokopivka directions south of Orikhiv, and further reported that Ukrainian forces are pursuing successful offensive operations south of Bakhmut.[3]

Russian sources continue to complain that Russian forces lack sufficient counterbattery capabilities and artillery munitions in the face of ongoing Ukrainian counteroffensive activities, which the Kremlin and the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) are reportedly attempting to combat. Russian milbloggers claimed on September 4 and 5 that Russian counterbattery systems are performing poorly along the front in Ukraine.[4] The milbloggers claimed that Russian forces are relying heavily on Lancet drones and 220mm and 300mm rounds for Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), of which there are limited stockpiles.[5] One Russian milblogger noted that the Russian MoD‘s plans to form five new artillery brigades in each of Russia’s five military districts are in part meant to improve general counterbattery capabilities.[6] It is unclear if the milblogger is claiming that the MoD plans to form five or 25 brigades total. The milblogger claimed that the Russian MoD would equip the new brigades with 203-mm 2S7 Pion and 2S7M Malka artillery systems from Russian stores.[7] The New York Times reported on September 4 that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet at the Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok from September 10-13 and will reportedly discuss North Korea’s supply of artillery shells to Russia.[8] Russian sources have continually complained that Russian forces face problems with counterbattery operations.[9]

Will Putin survive his 'catastrophic' Ukraine war?


When Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his three-pronged invasion of neighboring Ukraine in February 2022, his goal was to erase Ukraine as a sovereign nation in a matter of days. At the time, it seemed a plausible goal, in Russia and in the West. More than a year later, Ukraine's survival is a much safer bet than Putin's.

Ukraine has systemically and strategically taken back half the territory Russia seized, inflicting humiliating loss after debilitating setback. As Ukraine's battlefield victories pile up, the U.S. and its NATO allies are giving it increasingly sophisticated weapons.

"If 2023 continues as it began, there is a good chance Ukraine will be able to fulfill President Volodymyr Zelenskyy's New Year's pledge to retake all of Ukraine by the end of the year — or at least enough territory to definitively end Russia's threat," Liz Sly suggested at The Washington Post.

War is unpredictable, and Ukraine's blood and gifted treasure are not infinite. But if Russia, the erstwhile superpower, does lose its war in Ukraine, will that end Putin's grip on power? Or his lease on life? In other words, will Putin survive his invasion of Ukraine?

There are a number of ways Putin's war can ruin Russia — it is already "turning Russia into a failed state, with uncontrolled borders, private military formations, a fleeing population, moral decay, and the possibility of civil conflict," Arkady Ostrovsky wrote at The Economist — but there are really only three ways it can topple Putin himself: He could die, resign, or be involuntarily retired.

Saudi Arabia extends 1 million bpd oil output cut through December

  • Saudi Arabia’s oil output for October, November, and December will be approximately 9 million barrels per day
  • Aims to reinforce the precautionary efforts made by OPEC+

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia will extend its voluntary oil production cut of 1 million barrels per day until the end of the year, the Saudi Press Agency reported on Tuesday quoting an official source in the Energy Ministry.

The cut which first took effect in July will continue “for another three months until the end of December 2023,” the report said.

With the new decision, Saudi Arabia’s oil output for October, November, and December will be approximately 9 million barrels per day.

The SPA report quoted the source as saying that the decision will be reviewed monthly to consider “deepening the cut or increasing production.”

The source also noted that this cut is in addition to the voluntary cut previously announced by the Kingdom in April 2023, which extends until the end of December 2024.

The report said this additional voluntary cut aims to reinforce the precautionary efforts made by the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, called OPEC+, to support the stability of oil markets.

Azerbaijan-Armenia reconciliation possible if apology offered for past atrocities, Azerbaijan presidential adviser tells Arab News

  • Hikmet Hajiyev rejects allegations that Azerbaijan is deliberately starving ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh
  • Says a peace treaty would change the landscape of South Caucasus, but the ball is in Armenian government’s court
NEW YORK CITY: Tensions between Azerbaijan and Armenia have escalated sharply in recent months, as each side accuses the other of carrying out cross-border attacks in their long-running dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh.

The two ex-Soviet republics have fought two wars, in the early 1990s and again in 2020, for control of the region, which is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but largely populated by ethnic Armenians.

Despite mediation efforts by the EU, US and Russia and a unanimous call by the UN Security Council in August to resolve their dispute, Baku and Yerevan have been unable to reach a lasting peace settlement.

Now Yerevan has accused Baku of deliberately blocking food and aid supplies to Armenian-populated towns in Nagorno-Karabakh via the Lachin corridor, the sole road linking Armenia to the region.

Armenian authorities and international aid groups have warned that the humanitarian situation for the roughly 120,000 Armenians living there is deteriorating, with shortages of food and medicine.

Polish support for Ukraine brings lessons, but also risks


WARSAW, Poland—For Lt. Gen. Wieslaw Kukuła, Poland’s military support for Ukraine isn’t just a matter of national security, but a golden chance to learn about the future of war.

“We never had such an opportunity to gather intelligence and data and really quickly translate that” into military lessons, said Kukuła, who heads the country’s Armed Forces General Command, responsible for training and equipping Poland’s rapidly growing army.

Poland’s key role in supporting Ukraine comes with a catch: it’s also in Russia’s cross-hairs. Officials say disinformation is on the rise since the invasion, and that Moscow is using novel espionage tactics to build networks of spies on Polish soil.

Poland, which was already a NATO and EU leader in defense spending by GDP, has upped its commitment in the past two years. Shortly after Russia’s full-scale invasion, Warsaw said it would seek to double the Polish Army’s size to 300,000 soldiers over five years. This year, the Polish government has said it will raise its defense budget to 4 percent of gross domestic product, more than double NATO’s 2-percent target.

Poland has also been on a buying spree, purchasing 980 K2 tanks and 648 self-propelled howitzers K2, and 48 FA-50 fighter jets from Korea last year. Poland also intends to buy 366 U.S.-made Abrams tanks, as well as 96 Apache helicopters.

Although Poland’s re-armament campaign comes amid inflation of more than 10 percent, its government sees it as a necessity.

Russia's 'Fancy Bear' APT Targets Ukrainian Energy Facility

Earlier this week, infamous Russian cyberespionage group Fancy Bear (aka APT28, Strontium, or Sofacy) was caught attacking a critical energy facility in Ukraine. The attack was ultimately thwarted by a cybersecurity professional working for the organization that was targeted.

Ukraine's Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT-UA) detected and explored the attack, it noted in a report. CERT-UA stated that the MO of the group was to use bulk phishing emails from a fake address that linked to a .ZIP archive, so that it could ultimately gain access to the organization's system and data.

The email CERT-UA shared included a message that read: "Hi! I talked to three girls, and they agreed. Their photos are in the archive; I suggest checking them out on the website." This is notably different from past malicious emails that Russian hackers have used, where the correspondence has included false government documents or illegitimate software updates. The recent email also included a BAT formatted file that would have executed harmful script once opened.

Pentagon Plans Vast AI Fleet to Counter China Threat

Nancy A. Youssef

WASHINGTON—The Pentagon intends to field a vast network of AI-powered technology, drones and autonomous systems within the next two years to counter threats from China and other adversaries.

Kathleen Hicks, the deputy secretary of defense, provided new details in a speech Wednesday about the department’s plans to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to produce an array of thousands of air-, land- and sea-based artificial-intelligence systems that are intended to be “small, smart, cheap.”

The U.S. is seeking to keep pace with China’s rapidly expanding military amid concerns that the Pentagon bureaucracy takes too long to develop and deploy cutting-edge systems.

“We’re not at war. We are not seeking to be at war, but we have to be able to get this department to move with that same kind of urgency because the PRC isn’t waiting,” Hicks said during an interview Tuesday, referring to the People’s Republic of China.

One approach could be to build on the capabilities demonstrated by Task Force 59, the U.S. Navy’s network of drones and sensors designed to monitor Iran’s military activities in the Middle East.

“Imagine distributed pods of self-propelled [autonomous] systems afloat, powered by the sun and other virtually limitless resources, packed with sensors aplenty, enough to give us new, reliable sources of information in near-real-time,” Hicks said during the speech before a conference hosted by Defense News in Arlington, Va.

Other capabilities that are being considered are autonomous ground-based systems to provide logistics, space-based autonomous systems that would be so numerous they would be difficult for an adversary to destroy and autonomous systems that could defend against incoming missiles.

Autonomous systems use artificial intelligence to detect and engage enemy targets, and can include self-piloting air- and sea-based drones. The Defense Department has long invested in such systems—including self-piloting ships and no-crew aircraft.

The Supreme Court’s major questions doctrine and AI regulation

Blair Levin, Tom Wheeler

There is reason for optimism about the federal government stepping up to create a policy framework for artificial intelligence (AI) that will keep us safe while enabling innovations that will improve all our lives. Congressional activity to date has featured serious questions and bipartisan approaches. The White House has negotiated voluntary commitments by major AI players, designed to protect the public, with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charged with enforcing the commitments.

But, beneath the surface, there is a shark in the water, ready to obstruct any congressional or administrative action.

That shark is the Supreme Court’s “major questions doctrine.”

The Court pronounced the doctrine in West Virginia v. EPA, a 2022 decision invalidating the Obama-era EPA’s “Clean Power Plan.” The plan would require existing power plants to shift how they generate electricity. The EPA argued that Section 111 of the Clean Air Act, which mandated the agency to identify and implement the “best system of emission reduction” from power plants, provided sufficient legal authority to adopt the plan.

The Court, however, said that the mandate was too broad and that “administrative agencies must be able to point to “clear congressional authorization” when they claim the power to make decisions of vast “economic and political significance.”

Justice Kagan, in dissent, noted the thin support for the doctrine, writing, “The majority claims it is just following precedent, but that is not so. The Court has never even used the term ‘major questions doctrine’ before.”

Our purpose is not to address the merits of the doctrine. Rather, we seek to analyze the implications of the doctrine to the fledging efforts to regulate AI.

Biden’s Next Regional Nightmare

Dr. David A. Grigorian

A humanitarian crisis in the long-disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh is exposing both the weakness of Armenia’s prime minister, Nikol Pashinyan, and the failure of the Biden administration to deliver on promises to defend Armenians from the risk of another genocide.

Generally ignored by the rest of the world, Nagorno-Karabakh is a sliver of land in the Caucasus Mountains between the Black and Caspian seas. Its people have been tormented for 35 years by on-and-off fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Until recently, both countries claimed sovereignty over the territory, but recently Pashinyan unilaterally gave up Armenia’s claim to the home of some 120,000 ethnic Armenians, a move that is seen as treasonous by most of his constituents.

Meanwhile, Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev has grabbed the upper hand in this conflict by imposing a blockade on the Lachin corridor, the only road connecting Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. The blockade has choked off supplies of food, medicine, and fuel to Armenians in the region.

Russia is nominally Armenia’s ally and responsible for peacekeeping in Nagorno-Karabakh but has allowed Azerbaijan to carry out this aggression. The Biden administration so far has done nothing for the besieged Armenians.

Ethnic Armenians have lived in Nagorno-Karabakh (or Artsakh in Armenian) for millennia. It was recognized as part of Armenia in 1920 by the League of Nations—the precursor of the United Nations—only to be transferred to Azerbaijan on the orders of Joseph Stalin a year later, in 1921, after the independent Armenian Republic was occupied by the Red Army.

The most recent war ended on November 9, 2020, with Armenia’s defeat. Azerbaijan used Turkish special forces and Syrian jihadist mercenaries to force Pashinyan to sign a ceasefire on highly unfavourable terms.

CyberCube report: Nation-state cyber hot zones offer a view into the future of cyber war​

In a new report examining selected nation-state cyber hot zones to gain insight into the potential cyber (re)insurance impacts of future cyber wars, CyberCube monitors these hot zones for evidence of cyber attacks bridging the divide between digital and physical impacts.​ It analyzes state-nexus cyber threat actors in Russia/Ukraine, China/Taiwan, Iran/Israel, and North Korea/South Korea. (Re)insurers can model realistic cyber disasters considering recent state-nexus cyber activities using CyberCube’s Portfolio Manager software solution.​

William Altman, Cyber Threat Intelligence Principal, CyberCube, said: “Nation-state cyber hot zones offer a glimpse into the potential future of cyber war.​ In Q4 2023, CyberCube expects to see nation-state cyber threat actors conduct themselves in ways that push the cyber (re)insurance industry to consider the limitations and strengths of current war-exclusion language​ deeply.”

The research “CyberCube’s Global Threat Outlook: A perspective on the threat landscape for Q4 2023” also highlights how the combination of CyberCube’s Exposure and Security Scores paints a clear picture of industry-level differentiated cyber risk opportunities. The highest-risk sectors to keep an eye on in Q4 include Professional Services and Healthcare, which are both under-secured relative to the threats they face and make attractive targets, with high levels of sensitive data — leaving companies vulnerable to ransomware and extortion tactics.

The report notes that while there has been substantial progress and momentum achieved this year, including, in March, Lloyd’s of London rolling out an exclusion for cyber war and severe state-backed attacks, the reinsurance market is yet to settle on a consistent approach that is acceptable to all stakeholders.

Yvette Essen, CyberCube’s Head of Content, Communications & Creative, said: “The approaches currently being adopted carry significant uncertainty, mainly due to the complexities surrounding the attribution of cyber incidents and the scarcity of historical parallels. By striving for consistency and clarity, we can bolster confidence in the cyber reinsurance sector, shielding it from the impact of outlier events, while reinforcing the overall value of cyber insurance products.”

Why the Pentagon is spending billions to build its own satellite constellation

Low Earth orbit satellite constellations are all the rage, but up to this point they’ve been the prospective domain of commercial entities. Now the U.S. military wants in on the action — thanks in part to inroads made by the likes of Starlink, OneWeb, Planet and more — and it’s spending big, turning to a variety of companies to build a satellite network unlike any the military has built before. Lockheed Martin is one of the major winners so far under the Space Development Agency, or SDA, a part of the U.S. Space Force and one of its three acquisition divisions. SDA is about to launch the second mission of its constellation known as the “Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture,” or PWSA. “It’s a mesh network, an internet in space that allows you to [connect] from any point on Earth and [back down to] any point on Earth,” said Chris Winslett, Lockheed’s program director for building Transport satellites. One key motivator behind the Pentagon building out its own constellation – rather than utilizing commercial networks that are already operational: security. “Any time you’re using an open network, it’s always less secure … the other side is controlling the availability, the quality of service,” Winslett explained. “If you’re just a user, one of many users on another network, you’re subject to whoever owns that network and how they set their priority and the traffic that’s going to be on that network that may not be your traffic.”

Michio Kaku: Quantum computing is the next revolution

Dr. Michio Kaku, the renowned theoretical physicist, walks through the evolutionary journey of quantum computing, from analog to digital to the quantum era. Quantum computers hold immense promise because of their ability to tap into parallel universes, which boosts their computational power exponentially. They could revolutionize agriculture, energy, and medicine, solving complex problems like creating efficient fertilizers, achieving fusion energy, and modeling diseases at the molecular level. The race between major tech companies and intelligence agencies to actualize this power is intense, as they could redefine industries and even global power structures if they succeed. The endeavor isn’t without challenges; we’ve yet to create a fully functional quantum computer. But Kaku envisions a future where quantum computers unravel complex equations, potentially shedding light on profound cosmic mysteries.

Norms plus counter space weapons: RAND recommends holistic strategy to deter space attack


WASHINGTON — While it likely will be impossible to completely deter adversary attacks on US space systems, a strategy that takes a mixed approach — including diplomacy at one end and offensive counterspace weapons at the other — is most likely to be successful, a new RAND Corporation study finds.

“A comprehensive approach to space deterrence—one that seeks to regulate the use of force in space in the interest of stability; ostracizes states that violate agreed-on norms; and allows states to retain some capacity to punish space aggressors in multiple domains and to develop measures to enhance the defenses, resilience, and redundance of space systems—may have the greatest probability of success,” the study, “A Framework of Deterrence in Space Operations” released today, finds.

Stephen Flanagan, the lead author on the study, explained in an email to Breaking Defense that the concept is one of “mixed deterrence,” that works through “a mix of resilience and defensive measures, combined with robust active defenses of space assets and more substantial capabilities to degrade the space systems of other countries.”

This approach includes US Space Command and the Space Force not just highlighting “continued investments in space mission assurance and resilience,” but also cooperation with allies and partners, he added.

Noting that “there is no broadly agreed-on framework in the U.S. or allied governments or the wider analytic community on the nature and requirements of deterrence in space operations,” the study explains that the study’s goal is present suggested guidelines to policy-makers both to understand how other nations think about space deterrence and make decisions.

The study further notes that there is no agreement upon international definition of what constitutes space deterrence or how to achieve international stability among potential adversaries either in peacetime or crisis.

“Various countries have quite different conceptions of what the term means and how it can best be achieved,” the study says. For example, Chinese and Russian writings reveal an aggressive approach based on “intimidation” and threats; whereas those of France and Japan show a more “passive” one. India, where strategic thinking seems to still be in play, falls somewhere in between, it adds.

Ukraine's defence minister Oleksii Reznikov dismissed

Paul Adams

Ukraine's Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov has confirmed that he is leaving his post.

Mr Reznikov had led the ministry since before the start of Russia's full-scale invasion in February 2022.

President Volodymyr Zelensky announced Mr Reznikov's dismissal on Sunday, saying it was time for "new approaches" in the defence ministry.

Rustem Umerov, who runs Ukraine's State Property Fund, has been nominated as Mr Reznikov's successor.

In a post on X, formerly Twitter, Mr Reznikov confirmed that he had submitted his resignation letter to the country's parliament.

Who is Ukraine's new defence minister Rustem Umerov?

Ukrainian media has speculated that he will become Kyiv's new ambassador in London, where he has developed good relations with senior politicians.

The 57-year-old has become a well-known figure since the beginning of the war in Ukraine. Internationally recognised, he has regularly attended meetings with Ukraine's western allies and played a key role in lobbying for additional military equipment.

But his dismissal has been anticipated for some time. Last week, Mr Reznikov told reporters he was exploring other positions with the Ukrainian president.

According to local media, the former defence minister said that if Mr Zelensky offered the opportunity for him to work on another project he would probably agree.

Ukrainian defence advisor Yuriy Sak told the BBC that Mr Reznikov spearheaded the transformation of the ministry, laying the groundwork for future NATO membership.

"His legacy is that he has convinced ministers of defence around the world that the impossible is possible," he said in reference to Mr Reznikov's successful lobbying of foreign governments for arms.

But experts have observed that the cabinet reshuffle is unlikely to lead to any major change in Ukraine's battlefield strategy, with Gen Valery Zaluzhny - the commander of Ukraine's armed forces - overseeing the campaign.

Republicans Must Exorcise The Ghost Of Neville Chamberlain When It Comes To Ukraine

John Bolton

Labor Day is behind us, Congress is returning to Washington, and the 2024 campaign is well underway. For Republicans who stress philosophy and policy over performance art, no issue is more ominous than the opposition within some party circles to helping Ukraine repulse Russia’s unprovoked aggression. In the months ahead, military and diplomatic developments, combined with congressional votes on Ukraine assistance, could have enormous implications for the party’s future direction.

Core Strategic Realities

Thwarting Russia’s continuing assault on Ukraine is a vital US national security interest. Encouraged by Barack Obama’s pathetic response to Moscow’s 2014 attack, and by Donald Trump’s willful inability to see Ukraine except through his own self-interest, Vladimir Putin is seeking to reverse the Soviet Union’s collapse and forge a new Russian empire. If successful in undoing the USSR’s beneficial and liberating disintegration, the Kremlin would again endanger all surrounding regions and prompt China and others to take advantage elsewhere of perceived US weakness and lack of resolve.

Boris Yeltsin, Russia’s first and only freely and fairly elected leader, freely agreed to end the USSR at Belovezha after a 1991 Ukrainian referendum revealed majorities for independence in every region, including Crimea. Moscow’s current attempt to eliminate or severely compromise Kyiv’s sovereignty and territorial integrity manifestly endangers US interests by threatening the cornerstone post-1945 principle that peace and security in Europe are vital to our wellbeing.

An Interview with Mike Kofman


I’d like to start by discussing the special challenges we’ve both faced in trying to follow a closely fought war as it is underway. You were one of the most prominent voices (correctly) warning of the full-scale Russian invasion. But when it came it did not unfold as you and others anticipated. Why do you think this happened and what lessons can we learn from this experience?

There was a range of views in the analytical community: it was not monolithic. Not everyone expected the same type of campaign. In a January 2022 article I proposed three possible variations. If there was something approaching a consensus, it was in the expectation that Ukraine would probably lose the conventional phase of the war, but that Russia would fail in a large-scale occupation of the country. This naturally seems pessimistic now, but at the time there were sound reasons for this view.

The first, and most important reason for the gap in expectations stemmed from an assumption that the Russian invasion would look like a conventional military campaign. Instead, the invasion plan stemmed largely from the Kremlin’s assumptions, driven by a belief that Russian intelligence had set the conditions for a speedy coup de main. Extensive efforts were made at infiltration, subversion, and sabotage, but Russian intelligence failed to deliver. The Russian military structured the invasion assuming the groundwork had been laid, resistance would be weak and isolated, and that combat operations could be swiftly concluded.

The BRICS Summit 2023: Seeking an Alternate World Order?

The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) bloc met for its annual leader’s summit in Johannesburg, South Africa on August 22–24, 2023. The highlight of the fifteenth summit was the agreement to admit six new member countries: Argentina, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, who will officially join the group in January 2024. Ten Council of Councils (CoC) experts from BRICS members and beyond reflect on the future of the grouping and what expansion means for global governance.

The World Should Welcome the New Kids on the Bloc

The fifteenth BRICS summit has gone further than any other in the recent past to modernize and galvanize the grouping. It has sent a strong signal that the post–World War II order should accept the multipolar reality and change with the times.

The slew of applications to join the BRICS is clearly a symptom of a deeper malaise. The West’s proclivity to deploy unilateral financial sanctions, abuse international payments mechanisms, renege on climate finance commitments, and accord scant respect to food security and health imperatives of the Global South during the pandemic are only some of the elements responsible for the growing disenchantment with the prevailing international system.

The expansion of the BRICS to a BRICS+ format and the adoption of guiding principles, standards, and procedures for the same, have potentially made the BRICS a more attractive institution for consensus-building and dialogue in the developing world. Even the profile of the new members suggest that the system is headed for something beyond traditionally “acceptable” partners in the eyes of the West. The presence of Iran especially and the reactions to it in the coming days will be interesting to follow.

Eswatini receives Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen for a four day trip

Taiwan's President Tsai Ing-wen on Tuesday began a four-day trip to the African nation of Eswatini, one of her island's 13 remaining allies.

Tsai, who is serving her last year as president, is visiting the country of 1.1 million people in southern Africa and oversaw the signing of agreements that will set "the milestones for our future relationship," she said.

Since Tsai took office in 2016, China has started putting pressure on countries that have a diplomatic relationship with Taiwan to switch their formal recognition from Taiwan to China.

Beijing has successfully poached 9 countries, leaving Taiwan with just 13 countries that acknowledge its statehood.

Taiwan’s most recent diplomatic loss was Honduras, which switched recognition to Beijing in March.

Taiwan is a self-ruled island claimed by China.

"Transition to cleaner energy cannot be reversed" says US envoy to African Climate Summit, Nairobi

The U.S. government’s climate envoy, John Kerry at the first ever African Climate Summit on Tuesday said that the transition to cleaner energy cannot be reversed even by climate sceptic leaders.

"This transition is going to happen, in my judgment because the private sector gets involved in a much greater degree than today," he said on Tuesday, speaking at a news conference in Nairobi, Kenya's capital.

The first African Climate Summit opened on Monday with heads of state and others asserting a stronger voice on a worldwide issue that affects their continent the most even though its 1.3 billion people contribute to global warming the least.

Kerry said 17 of the world’s 20 countries most impacted by climate change are in Africa — while the world’s 20 richest nations, including his own, produce 80% of the world’s carbon emissions that are driving climate change.

Asked about the Kenyan president’s call for a carbon tax discussion, Kerry replied that President Joe Biden has "not yet embraced any particular carbon pricing mechanism."

China’s biggest homebuilder is fighting for its life. Here’s what you need to know about the real estate crisis

Laura He

Just a few months ago, Country Garden was the biggest property developer in China, with more than 3,000 developments spanning the country.

Now, the company is struggling to survive in a crisis-hit industry, where many others are in the same boat.

On Wednesday, Country Garden reported a record loss of 51.5 billion yuan ($7 billion) for the first half of this year — and confirmed that it is teetering on the brink of defaulting on its vast debts.

“The company felt deeply remorseful for the unsatisfactory performance,” it said in a filing to the stock exchange.

It had been caught “off guard” by the depth and persistence of the slump in China’s real estate market, it said, particularly in smaller cities, and had failed to react fast enough.

Real estate accounts for between a quarter and third of China’s gross domestic product (GDP). What happens next could have huge consequences for the world’s second biggest economy and its financial sector. Here’s what you need to know.

Can Country Garden continue?

Ranked No.1 by sales last year, Country Garden is one of the few major private developers still standing after a liquidity crisis engulfed the property sector two years ago.

But the company has $194 billion in total liabilities, of which $15 billion are due within 12 months. It has only 101.11 billion yuan ($13.9 billion) in cash.

Why Google's Antitrust Case is Becoming Apple's Problem


As U.S. antitrust regulators circle Google, Apple has redoubled its efforts to develop its own technology in the coveted area of search.

In the latest updates to iPhone operating systems, Apple now shows its own search results and links directly to websites when users input queries from its home screen.

This shows advances in Apple's in-house development and could be the building blocks for a more comprehensive attack on Google's dominance, alongside what's currently going on in the halls of power.

The move bolsters the evidence that Apple could be working to build a rival to Google's search engine, according to the Financial Times.

This, however, could be a problem for profit.

On October 20, the Department of Justice filed an antitrust suit against Google, alleging that it had become a "gatekeeper" to the internet and that it had abused its position to prevent the rise of competitors.

Officials were also wary of Google's agreements with Android, where it had required its search tools to come preloaded on devices from those using the operating system.

Other smartphone providers, such as Huawei, have also had a crack at creating their own search engines. Its newly developed "Petal Search" is a swipe at Google as the default search tool.

Criminal enterprise flaunts AI in creepy 'fraud-for-hire' commercial meant for dark web

Chris Eberhart 

A criminologist recently unearthed a video of a multibillion-dollar, transnational criminal organization that has been stealing from the U.S. government since the pandemic and selling generative artificial intelligence tools to other criminals, an expert says.

The 58-second clip, which was meant for the dark web, opens with a person – who goes by "Sanchez" – covered head to toe in black clothing and speaking behind a black skeleton mask with someone else who appears to be digging a grave behind him.

"Yes, I sell Chase bank accounts. Yes, I am one of the first people to sell fake bank accounts four years ago," the man who calls himself "Sanchez" said. "We started with my partner four years ago. Now we are about 30 people in one office."

As he speaks, the camera shifts from a face-to-face point-of-view with "Sanchez" to one looking up from what appears to be a hole with ominous music in the background.

The man who calls himself "Sanchez" posted this commercial on the dark web, which was uncovered by criminologist David Maimon. (Submitted)

This was an "update to some of his concerned customers who haven’t seen him on the online underground market for few weeks," Maimon said.


These groups are behind most of the pandemic fraud that cost the country billions and are now using generative AI to remain hidden while expanding their criminal empire, Haywood Talcove, CEO of LexisNexis Risk Solutions' Government Group, told Fox News Digital.

Army Announces Plans for M1E3 Abrams Tank modernization

DETROIT ARSENAL, Mich. – The U.S. Army announced today the path forward for the M1E3 Abrams Main Battle Tank modernization program.

The Army will close out the M1A2 System Enhancement Package version 4 effort and develop M1E3 Abrams, which will focus on making the capability improvements needed to fight and win against future threats on the battlefield of 2040 and beyond.

“We appreciate that future battlefields pose new challenges to the tank as we study recent and ongoing conflicts” said Brig. Gen. Geoffrey Norman, director of the Next-Generation Combat Vehicle Cross Functional Team. “We must optimize the Abrams’ mobility and survivability to allow the tank to continue to close with and destroy the enemy as the apex predator on future battlefields.”

“The Abrams Tank can no longer grow its capabilities without adding weight, and we need to reduce its logistical footprint," said Maj. Gen. Glenn Dean, Program Executive Officer for Ground Combat Systems. “The war in Ukraine has highlighted a critical need for integrated protections for Soldiers, built from within instead of adding on.”

The Abrams Main Battle Tank is a full-tracked, low-profile, land-combat assault weapon that enables Soldiers to dominate their adversaries through lethal firepower, unparalleled survivability and agile maneuvering. It closes with and destroys the enemy using mobility, firepower and shock effect.