12 September 2023

With ‘One Nation, One Election’ Call, Modi Government Intensifies Efforts to Centralize Power

Snigdhendu Bhattacharya

The Narendra Modi government’s formation of an eight-member committee headed by former President Ramnath Kovind to examine the prospect of “One Nation, One Election” and recommend measures to that end has created a lot of suspense and apprehensions in India.

The idea behind “One Nation, One Election” is to hold parliamentary and state legislature elections simultaneously, a practice that was discontinued in India in 1967.

Since the government has also, rather suddenly, called a five-day special session of Parliament on September 18-22, there are speculations that the committee may submit its recommendations during that session itself. It would require lightning-fast action for the committee to come up with the recommendations in just two weeks.

Opposition parties have rejected the idea. The only opposition member of the committee, Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury of the Congress, the main opposition party, has declined to be a part of it.

“INDIA, that is Bharat, is a Union of States. The idea of ‘one nation, one election’ is an attack on the Indian Union and all its States,” Congress leader Rahul Gandhi wrote in a tweet the day after the committee was formed.

This is not the first time that Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has brought up the issue of unifying elections. This is actually the fifth time, though this time they have made matters more formal with the formation of the former president-led committee, which is to start functioning immediately and submit the recommendations “at the earliest.”

In November 2020, Modi called for simultaneous elections at every level — from the parliament and state assemblies to municipalities and panchayats (village self-government). This is what the Kovind-led committee is to explore.

The ruling dispensation argues that it would help reduce election expenses and free the administrative staff of a lot of election-related work, allowing them and politicians to focus more on “development.”


Karolina Hird

Ukrainian forces continued counteroffensive operations in the Bakhmut and western Zaporizhia Oblast directions and have made gains in western Zaporizhia Oblast as of September 6. Geolocated footage shows that Ukrainian forces have advanced along the trench line west of Verbove (about 20km southeast of Orikhiv), and the Ukrainian General Staff stated that Ukrainian forces achieved unspecified successes in the Robotyne—Novoprokopivka direction south of Orikhiv.[1] The Ukrainian General Staff additionally reported that Ukrainian forces are continuing successful offensive operations south of Bakhmut.[2]

Ukrainian and Russian sources report the Russian defense industrial base (DIB) faces growing challenges in replacing basic supplies in addition to known challenges in rebuilding its stocks of precision weapons. Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence (GUR) Representative Andriy Yusov reported on September 6 that Russia can only produce “dozens” of Kalibr cruise missiles and smaller numbers of Iskander missiles per month, which will not enable Russia to the replenish its pre-2022 stocks.[3] Yusov reported that Russia struggles to obtain modern optical equipment, electronics, chips, and circuits and that “gray imports” and smuggling cannot completely cover the Russian DIB’s needs. Russian sources additionally noted that the Russian DIB cannot produce enough rubber to replace worn tires for military equipment vital to frontline operations, and noted that increasing wear on tires will make it difficult for wheeled vehicles to move in muddy, rainy, and icy conditions.[4] The Russian sources claimed that Russian authorities claimed at an unspecified time that they would find solutions to worn tires by mid-August, but the situation has not changed as of September 5.[5] Poor quality and insufficient tires will impose increasing constraints on Russian mobility in the muddy season and winter.

Russian forces conducted a large missile and drone strike against Ukraine overnight on September 5-6. Ukrainian officials reported that Russian forces launched seven Kh-101, Kh-555, and Kh-55 air-launched cruise missiles from aircraft operating out of Engels airbase in Saratov Oblast; one Iskander-M ballistic missile; and 25 Shahed 136/131 drones from the Primorsko-Akhtarsk direction.[6] Ukrainian air defenses shot down all eight missiles and 15 drones.[7] Ukrainian officials reported that the Russian strike damaged the port and agricultural infrastructure in Odesa Oblast.[8] Romanian Defense Minister Angel Tilvar stated on September 6 that several pieces of a Russian drone fell on Romanian territory near its border with Ukraine.[9] The Romanian Ministry of Defense previously denied the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry’s September 4 statement that a Russian drone fell on Romanian territory.[10]

Russian sources continue to speculate on the current role and future of dismissed Wagner-affiliated Army General Sergei Surovikin, the former commander of Russia’s Aerospace Forces (VKS). Several Russian insider sources and milbloggers remarked that the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) removed Surovikin’s profile from the official MoD website other than his video appeal released during the Wagner rebellion asking the group to stand down.[11] The removal of Surovikin’s profile is not remarkable in itself — Russian military leadership removed Surovikin as commander of the Aerospace Forces (VKS) in August, and the absence of his profile from the MoD website could be a simple reflection of this fact.[12] Some Russian insider sources additionally claimed that State Duma Deputy and retired Colonel General Viktor Zavarzin stated that Surovikin has taken a new position in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).[13] ISW has previously observed a pattern of Russian generals who underperform in command roles in Ukraine (such as former Eastern Military District (EMD) Commander Alexander Chaiko and former Airborne Forces (VDV) Commander Andrey Serdyukov) being reassigned to external theaters and peripheral locations such as Syria as a form of punishment, while not being entirely removed from the Russian military.[14] Appointing Surovikin to a role in the CIS, which does not appear to be a military or command role, suggests that Russian military leadership is likely continuing the practice of shifting disgraced or ineffective commanders to positions not involved in the war in Ukraine.

What the West Still Gets Wrong About Russia’s Military

Zoltan Barany

In the spring of 2022, as the West watched Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine unfold, one of the greatest surprises was what it revealed about Russian military strength. When the assault began, many Western leaders and analysts assumed that Ukraine would be quickly overpowered by Russia’s vast army, powerful air force, and deep reserves of major weaponry. Instead, Russia’s ground forces proved to be disorganized, poorly trained, and lacking crucial supply lines, while Russian planes failed to gain control of Ukrainian airspace. It took weeks for the West to fully recognize these weaknesses and help Ukraine

PLA Social Media Warfare and the Cognitive Domain

Jackson Smith

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has come to recognize the important role of social media in modern conflict and peacetime operations. As such, PLA researchers have begun using the term “social media warfare” (社交媒体战) to describe the extension of non-kinetic military activities onto social media by two or more opposing sides. This term is part of an ongoing conceptual expansion of the scope of warfare in Chinese military thought in which social media is viewed as another space for conflict and not just another channel for distributing propaganda. While the term “social media warfare” does not represent PLA doctrine, its emergence does indicate that the Chinese military finds these activities important enough to raise awareness of them amongst its rank and file. Together with other evidence, this suggests the PLA is working to better incorporate social media into its operations.

This article provides an overview of PLA thinking on social media warfare, including its emergence in PLA literature, its theoretical basis, and PLA lessons derived from observations of foreign examples of social media’s role in modern warfare. This article does not seek to provide a comprehensive review of PLA thinking about social media’s role in military operations, but outlines one part of this conceptual view.


Emergence in PLA Literature

The earliest mention of social media warfare can be traced back to a 2015 PLA Daily that examined social media’s role in global events such as Iran’s 2009 Green Revolution and the Arab Spring protests in 2011. [1] This timeline aligns with broader PLA awareness of social media, especially insofar as it poses a risk to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). [2] The article emphasizes that, due to the key role of online communication in inciting protests and garnering rebel support, both of these cases represent some of the earliest examples in which social media has had a direct impact on national security, which the CCP defines as encompassing both internal and external security interests. [3] 2015 was also the year that the PLA National Defense University’s Science of Military Strategy included its first reference to social media, warning that “Since the beginning of the 21st century, cyberspace has been used by some countries to launch ‘color revolutions’ against other countries… [through] behind-the-scenes operations using social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook as the engine, from manufacturing network public opinion to inciting social unrest.” [4]

The origin of the PLA’s interest in social media thus appears to be primarily defensive, focusing on protecting the CCP regime, rather than offensive, as constituing part of military operations. Given that China was being confronted with similar protests in Tibet (2008) and Xinjiang (2009) around the time this thinking developed, social media’s role in catalyzing the above protests was likely of great concern to the CCP and thus the PLA. [5] However, the PLA’s awareness of and interest in the power and potential of social media has evolved to now seeing it as a component of modern military operations.

Understanding the One China policy

Steven M. Goldstein

Recent Sino-American discussions have sought to reestablish the channels of communication between Beijing and Washington that have frayed since the Trump administration. If these efforts are to have any success, a path must be found to reduce the tensions in the Taiwan Strait that are threatening the peace in the area. One important step that might be taken by the United States to achieve this end would be a return to the policy that has, in the past, guided its approach in the area — the “One China” policy.

This may seem to be a paradoxical statement since adherence to the “One China” policy has been the mantra guiding U.S. policy during the recent periods of high tension in the area. Yet this is not the case. The Biden administration maintains that both its policies and the overall situation in cross-Strait relations are consistent with the practice of the “One China” policy which, in the past, supported a peaceful status quo in the area. However, China rejects this claim, asserting that this policy, which has undergirded the United States approach to this issue, has been “hollowed out.”

Given this situation, how might it be possible to reestablish a working relationship based on the “One China” policy when such differences exist regarding the nature of this fundamental framework intended to manage differences in the Taiwan area? The answer to this lies in an understanding of the origins and past practice of the policy.

The “One China” policy

So, what was the “One China” policy? It is certainly not the “One China” principle by which Beijing claims that Taiwan is an inalienable part of China. The simplest definition of the “One China” policy of the United States is that it recognized the government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as the sole, legitimate government of China in 1979. Still, this is incomplete.

Since the spring of 1979 when Congress passed the Taiwan Relations Act, the scope of the “One China” policy has considerably broadened. The act itself was intended to complement the PRC’s recognition with a commitment to a continued “unofficial relationship” with the “people of Taiwan” and an expression of concern regarding threats from China. Provisions for possible support for the island in the event of such an eventuality were also made. Along with the terms of recognition, it outlined a policy to be practiced with respect to both sides of the Taiwan Strait — that is, not only China, but also Taiwan. In other words, it should more properly be called a “cross-Strait policy.”

Invest in Enlisted Education

Brandon E. Smart

The relationship between education and job performance among enlisted military personnel has been debated for many years, yet little actual research has been conducted on this topic. Studies that have been done focus on the impact of education on the careers of officers, not the enlisted men and women who make up the majority of the armed forces. This is especially surprising considering the military has been offering tuition assistance to enlisted service members since the 1950s; one would think such a significant investment would have sparked more inquiries into the effectiveness of these programs in improving military capabilities.

Our research team at the Naval Postgraduate School recently completed a study examining the relationship between educational attainment and enlisted Marines’ readiness and performance. Our goal was to gather insights that could inform policy makers at the service and national levels. With a better understanding of the connection between education and performance, the Marine Corps—and the military as a whole—may be able to make more informed decisions about developing its enlisted personnel, with the ultimate aim of improving the effectiveness of the force.

Enlisted Education History and Future

Enlisted education typically is given priority only when military organizations are facing dire circumstances. During the Crimean War, for example, English enlisted soldiers were dying because of a lack of information on basic hygiene and the resourcefulness required to sustain themselves in an austere environment. This realization led to servicewide education reform for the enlisted ranks.1 Then, and now, efforts to educate enlisted service members have consistently been reactive in nature.

G20 Summit | India, Brazil to work for expansion of PTA with Mercosur bloc

The issue came up for discussion during the meeting of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva here at the sidelines of the G20 Summit.

India and Brazil on Sunday agreed to work together for the expansion of India-Mercosur preferential trade agreement (PTA) to further promote economic ties, an official statement said. Mercosur is a trading bloc in Latin America, comprising Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay.

The issue came up for discussion during the meeting of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva here at the sidelines of the G20 Summit.

"Expressing satisfaction over the growing trade between India and Mercosur, both leaders agreed to work together for the expansion of India-Mercosur PTA during Brazil’s Mercosur Presidency, to leverage the full potential of this economic partnership," a joint statement issued after the meeting said. The two countries also welcomed the establishment of the India-Brazil Business Forum as a dedicated platform for private-sector collaboration.

"The leaders noted with satisfaction the conclusion of domestic procedures for the entry into force of the India-Brazil Social Security Agreement," it added. India-Mercosur preferential trade agreement (PTA) came into effect on June 1, 2009.

In such agreements, two countries reduce or eliminate customs duties on a limited number of goods agreed between them. Expansion of the agreement would include more numbers of goods and negotiating norms to promote trade in services and boost investment. This PTA has limited coverage and contains only 450 tariff lines or products.

ILO's G20 Sherpa, Richard Samans, advocates for social security coverage for gig workers

Parikshit Luthra

India achieved a significant diplomatic victory during the G20 summit as the participating countries reached a consensus declaration, effectively addressing major disagreements related to the Russia-Ukraine conflict. Richard Samans, the G20 Sherpa for the International Labour Organization emphasised that the G20's New Delhi declaration outlines key policy priorities aimed at extending social protection to workers in the gig and platform economy.

Richard Samans, the G20 Sherpa for the International Labour Organization (ILO), in an interview with CNBC-TV18, emphasised that the G20's New Delhi declaration outlines key policy priorities aimed at extending social protection to workers in the gig and platform economy.

He stressed that even though gig workers may not have formal employee status, it is essential to provide them with some form of social security coverage.

“The declaration was significant and helpful to working people on a number of fronts. I would say that there are some significant outcomes in relation to the agreement on a set of policy priorities for extending social protection to gig and platform economy workers, who in many countries are not covered well by social security systems.

So there is a policy roadmap – a series of actions that countries can pick and choose from but with an agreed, aligned purpose to make sure that those workers even if they are not formal salaried employees, nonetheless are covered by basic social security protections or more is a good step forward,” Samans said.

India achieved a significant diplomatic victory during the G20 summit as the participating countries reached a consensus declaration, effectively addressing major disagreements related to the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

Samans also pointed out that the Indian government placed a strong emphasis on skill development. Moreover, they tasked both the ILO and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) with the responsibility of creating a comprehensive jobs and skills database covering all G20 member countries.

Is the US getting Asia wrong?


At first glance, President Biden’s upcoming state visit to Vietnam this weekend — coming on the heels of a successful trilateral summit last month, where it forged new defense and high-tech cooperation with South Korea and Japan — appears to underscore Biden’s efforts to deepen U.S. ties in the Asia-Pacific.

Hanoi and Washington are poised to declare a “comprehensive strategic partnership,” another Asian partner seeming to line up to counterbalance China. This is part of a larger pattern. For example, earlier this year, the U.S. cemented deals with the Philippines, a treaty ally, to gain access to four military bases, and with Papua New Guinea, as tensions mount over Taiwan and disputed territorial claims in the South China Sea.

But things are more complicated than that. Biden’s stop in Vietnam after the G20 Summit in New Delhi may come at a cost to wider U.S. credibility in the region. Why? Biden is skipping two inclusive institutional summits; the ASEAN Regional Forum and the East Asia Summit. Both are hosted by Indonesia, the world’s fourth-largest nation, a democracy, the largest Muslim state and arguably, the most important actor in Southeast Asia.

Most Asia-Pacific nations want a greater U.S. security and economic role in the region, but fear being forced to choose between the U.S. and China. But a perpetual concern is how reliable America is. As Woody Allen once said, “Ninety percent of life is just showing up.”

With regard to the Asia-Pacific, the U.S. is fighting geography (the “tyranny of distance”) and economics. Though in absolute terms, the U.S. economic role in Asia is growing, it is shrinking in relative terms because Asian economies grow faster than the U.S. China borders 14 countries and is the largest trading partner and major investor in all U.S.-allied and partner nations in the region.

The ASEAN Regional Forum and East Asia Summit are inclusive regional institutions that emerged after the Cold War ended in the early 1990s. While they have been largely process-oriented talk shops, they provide a venue for high-level bilateral diplomacy and a ritualistic comfort level of U.S. engagement.

One reason why Biden’s absence raises hackles in Jakarta and other Asian capitals is that like the elevated ties to Vietnam his visit will cement, and the recent Camp David U.S.-South Korea-Japan trilateral summit, the U.S. is fashioning a network of defense cooperation and new supply chains, eclipsing the forum and the summit.

These include the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (known as the Quad), composed of the U.S., India, Japan and Australia, and AUKUS (U.S.-United Kingdom-Australia), a defense industrial Anglosphere alliance initially created to provide nuclear submarines for Australia.

Unlike existing Asian regional groupings, this new U.S.-driven network is exclusive, aimed at countering China and functional rather than process-centered. Taken together, these and other U.S. bilateral defense upgrades, like the new base access in the Philippines and Papua New Guinea, are a formidable counterbalance to China.

But this gets to the different approaches to world order between the U.S. and many Asia-Pacific nations. Where U.S. efforts are designed to shape a regional coalition to oppose and confront China’s assertive, provocative behavior toward Taiwan, the East and South China Seas and South Pacific islands, ASEAN and others in the region are hedging, multi-aligning with and against both the U.S. and China.

This is in part, the “two Asias,” problem: a U.S.-led “security Asia” of competing nationalisms, Chinese military ascendance and territorial disputes versus “economic Asia.” This is a dynamic, integrating, tech-driven region focused on bolstering market access, trade accord and investment. The business of Asia is business. These two forces are pulling in opposite directions. Hence, Asians impulse to hedge.

Deterrence in Taiwan Is Failing

Hal Brands

“My gut tells me we will fight in 2025,” U.S. Air Force Gen. Mike Minihan wrote in a January memo to officers in the Air Mobility Command. The memo, which promptly leaked to reporters, warned that the United States and China were barreling toward a conflict over Taiwan. The U.S. Defense Department quickly distanced itself from Minihan’s blunt assessment. Yet the general wasn’t saying anything in private that military and civilian officials weren’t already saying in public

How American Institutions Went From Trust to Bust

Gerard Baker

At the heart of America’s political and cultural turmoil is a crisis of trust. In the space of a generation, the people’s confidence in their leaders and their most important institutions to do the right thing has collapsed. The federal government, big business, the media, education, science and medicine, technology, religious institutions, law enforcement and others have seen a precipitous decline.

As public faith in the performance, credibility and integrity of these institutions has collapsed, so too has mutual trust—the social glue that holds the country together. Americans have become suspicious of one another, distrusting their fellow citizens as much as they distrust foreign adversaries.

Think about the controversies that have played out in the past few years—allegations from both parties of stolen elections, false claims by mendacious presidents and other politicians, politically motivated federal law-enforcement decisions, questionable advice and mandates from public-health officials, news coverage that skews in one political direction, a succession of corporate scandals and financial crises, and the various social dysfunctions caused by social media and emerging technologies.

All reflect and exacerbate a climate of deep popular distrust. This rapid loss of confidence is startling and unprecedented. It has ominous implications for the cohesion, prosperity and even survival of the U.S. Trust is the essential feature that allows society to function—more important the more modern and complex society grows.

Since 1979 Gallup has measured trust among the public in the most important American institutions—from the presidency and the Supreme Court to big business, science and the media. Its latest survey, published in July, found that across the nine key institutions Gallup has tracked consistently, the proportion of Americans who said they had “a great deal or quite a lot of confidence” averaged out at 26%. That is the lowest figure ever recorded.

“Confidence has generally trended downward since registering 48% in 1979 and holding near 45% in the 1980s,” the report finds. “It averaged closer to 40% in the 1990s and early 2000s before dropping to the low 30% range in the 2010s. Last year was the first time it fell below 30%.”

Of the 16 institutions Gallup has tracked over the past decade, 11 recorded their lowest-ever level of popular trust in 2022 or 2023. Only two institutions, the military and small business, enjoy the confidence of a majority of Americans.

The Pew Research Center has conducted similar surveys for 30 years. The General Social Survey is conducted by NORC—formerly the National Opinion Research Center—at the University of Chicago and the American National Election Studies at Michigan and Stanford. Both have found the same broad decline in trust.

Middle powers, big impact: Africa’s ‘coup belt,’ Russia, and the waning global order

Theodore Murphy

Coups d’états have returned to Africa. In the 1990s and 2000s, the number of forced takeovers of power on the continent fell; but the figure began to creep back up around 15 years ago. This deterioration has come to particular prominence with the emergence of a ‘coup belt’ spanning from Sudan to Niger (and mostly recently Gabon), where eight coups have taken place in the last three years.

The drivers behind coups range from state fragility to weak economic development. But such factors were also a constant in the decades immediately after the end of the cold war – when Africa experienced fewer coups.

The overlooked factor is the weakening of global order and the coup-enabling international environment it has created. Policymakers should consider, in particular, the role that activist ‘middle powers’ and Russia are now playing in taking advantage of an increasingly lawless international setting.

US retrenchment, selective AU enforcement

As the United States retrenches to pursue its strategic competition with China, its capacity to invest seriously in both strategic imperatives and values-led foreign policy objectives is coming under strain. With the essential taking precedence over the good, upholding democracy in Africa has slipped down the list of America’s strategic priorities.

Africa’s own system for deterring takeovers has also weakened considerably. The African Union’s enforcement of its coup-prohibiting rules grew increasingly inconsistent during the same period, during which time it began to enforce only selectively, due to the whims of powerful AU member states. This started with the coup in Mauritania in 2008, and was followed by President Sisi’s post-coup election in Egypt, and more recently by coups in Chad and Sudan.

Japan’s Defense Ministry Plans to Launch Permanent Joint Headquarters in March 2025

Takahashi Kosuke

Japan’s Defense Ministry has decided to establish a Permanent Joint Headquarters in March 2025 that will centrally oversee the nation’s Ground, Maritime and Air Self-Defense Forces to prepare for any possible emergencies – especially with a Taiwan contingency in mind.

On August 31, the Defense Ministry requested 10.5 billion yen ($71.2 million) for fiscal year 2024 to fund initial costs for setting up the permanent joint operational headquarters at the ministry’s headquarters in Ichigaya, in central Tokyo.

The Defense Ministry explained at its press briefing on the budget request for the next fiscal year that the new permanent joint command will start with about 240 members initially, and that it will be established at the end of fiscal year 2024, which is March 2025 in Japan.

The announcement came after the National Defense Strategy and the Defense Buildup Program, both approved by the National Security Council and the Cabinet in December 2022, called for reinforcing effectiveness of the joint operational posture of Japan’s three Self-Defense Force (SDF) services.

“A Permanent Joint Headquarters will be established in order to build a system capable of seamlessly conducting cross-domain operations at all stages from peacetime to contingency, with the aim of strengthening the effectiveness of joint operations among each SDF services,” the Defense Buildup Program states.

“In this regard, in light of the rapidly increasing severity of the security environment surrounding Japan, MOD/SDF will make every effort to pursue the establishment of a Permanent Joint Headquarters as soon as possible,” it added.

Expanding on the reason for establishing this new joint headquarters, a defense official said at the press briefing in August, “We recognize that it is essential to organically integrate the domains of space, cyber, and electromagnetic waves with the domains of land, sea, and air, and to conduct flexible and sustainable activities through integrated operations.”

The Truth About Pakistan-Russia Ties

Muhammad Sarmad Zia

Pakistan’s relationship with Russia, especially following the outbreak of the Russia-Ukraine war, needs some serious analysis, but not with regards to whether relations have potential or should be improved or downgraded. Rather, it is important to assess the relationship as it is without aggrandizing or relegating any of its aspects.

While working on a research paper some years ago, I sought to probe into the real prospects of the relationship between Pakistan and Russia, two erstwhile adversaries. This was a time when zero-sum relations were being set aside and independent policies were being pursued – tales of another lifetime for another life, perhaps.

Back then, there was a need to establish how Russian policymakers viewed Pakistan and how Russian diplomats were geared toward achieving the targets and objectives set by the Kremlin. As someone who always looks at the practical rather than whimsical side of the story, I inquired into this dynamic of Pakistan-Russia relations. Fortunately, the answers were straightforward and not left to be deciphered or read between the lines.

That Pakistan does not fall into the first, second, or third tier of Russia’s important relationships should be understood and taken as a reality check. As seen in “The Concept of the Foreign Policy of the Russian Federation,” published by the Russian Foreign Ministry in early 2023, Pakistan does not figure in or even get an honorary mention in the rundown of basic principles, strategic goals, major objectives, and priority areas of Russian foreign policy. This information should by no means be seen as disappointing, disconcerting, or a fact to be exploited against the current or former governments. It is just a fact that needs to be appreciated as it is.

Of course, there are plenty who will cite examples of former trade and investment deals, current projects which have long been approved, and military engagement between the two states. And they are not wrong; these elements of Pakistan-Russia ties do exist. That said, it is important that relations are judged by the quality and quantity of interactions, engagements, and shared objectives.

So, what are some of the objectives shared by Pakistan and Russia? These are both short-term and long-term interests, which are placed on different levels of priority or urgency depending on their implications for Russia and for Pakistan. Of these, training against militancy, one of Russia’s main concerns owing to its own domestic security imperatives has helped Pakistan foster friendly ties with the Russian military. Similarly, in 2014 Russia lifted a self-imposed arms embargo on Pakistan, which further opened the room for arms trade and allowed Pakistan to import Mi-35 attack helicopters to meet its defence requirements. Similarly, Pakistan and Russia have a counternarcotics partnership that is facilitating the training of Pakistan officials to prevent the illegal drug trade in the region.

Middle powers, big impact: Africa’s ‘coup belt,’ Russia, and the waning global order

Theodore Murphy

Coups d’états have returned to Africa. In the 1990s and 2000s, the number of forced takeovers of power on the continent fell; but the figure began to creep back up around 15 years ago. This deterioration has come to particular prominence with the emergence of a ‘coup belt’ spanning from Sudan to Niger (and mostly recently Gabon), where eight coups have taken place in the last three years.

The drivers behind coups range from state fragility to weak economic development. But such factors were also a constant in the decades immediately after the end of the cold war – when Africa experienced fewer coups.

The overlooked factor is the weakening of global order and the coup-enabling international environment it has created. Policymakers should consider, in particular, the role that activist ‘middle powers’ and Russia are now playing in taking advantage of an increasingly lawless international setting.

US retrenchment, selective AU enforcement

As the United States retrenches to pursue its strategic competition with China, its capacity to invest seriously in both strategic imperatives and values-led foreign policy objectives is coming under strain. With the essential taking precedence over the good, upholding democracy in Africa has slipped down the list of America’s strategic priorities.

Africa’s own system for deterring takeovers has also weakened considerably. The African Union’s enforcement of its coup-prohibiting rules grew increasingly inconsistent during the same period, during which time it began to enforce only selectively, due to the whims of powerful AU member states. This started with the coup in Mauritania in 2008, and was followed by President Sisi’s post-coup election in Egypt, and more recently by coups in Chad and Sudan.

Ukraine war: Cyber-teams fight a high-tech war on the front lines

Gordon Corera

Ukraine cyber-operators are being deployed on the front lines of the war, duelling close-up with their Russian counterparts in a new kind of high-tech battle.

"We have people who are directly involved in combat," says Illia Vitiuk, the head of the Ukrainian Security Service's (SBU) cyber department.

Speaking inside the heavily protected SBU headquarters, he explains how his teams mix the skills of hackers and special forces - getting inside Russian systems, working alongside snipers and deploying the latest technologies.

The department uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) visual recognition systems to analyse information gathered from aerial drones (alongside intelligence from human sources, satellites and other technical sources) to provide targets for the military.

"We understand which type of military weapons they are about to use and on what direction," Mr Vitiuk says.

His teams will also hack into surveillance cameras on occupied territory to watch Russian troop movements. And they direct kamikaze drones to take out Russian cameras spying on Ukrainian movements. Doing this often requires teams working undercover, close to the target.

Drones - sometimes used for surveillance and sometimes to act as weapons - have been at the leading edge of innovation in this conflict.

We understand which type of military weapons [Russian forces] are about to useIllia Vitiuk
Head of Ukraine's cyber security department

The SBU cyber-team flies its own drones and plays a cat and mouse game to disrupt those belonging to Russia. It deploys sensors to detect drones so operators cannot just jam them but try to take control, sending commands to make them land.

Meet the man leading the front-line effort in Ukraine's cyber war with Russia

Jenna McLaughlin

KYIV, Ukraine — In the first days after Russia launched its full-scale invasion into Ukraine, Illia Vitiuk and his colleagues feared the worst: the fall of Kyiv.

Vitiuk, the head of the cyber department at Ukraine's top counterintelligence agency, had already been battling Russian hackers and spies for years. Inspired by James Bond films and a life of adventure, he says he'd been studying all his life for this kind of work.

But on Feb. 24, 2022, members of that agency — Ukraine's Security Service, or the SBU — took on another role: physically hauling important servers and technical infrastructure away from Kyiv to protect it from Russian invaders.

"Just imagine what happened here on the morning of February 24," he said during an interview with NPR at the SBU's headquarters in Kyiv. "Missiles hit Kyiv, and people were running away from here. We tried to contact some of the ministries and critical infrastructure. And sometimes there were answers like, 'The system administrator is gone because his family is in Bucha and he needs to take them from Bucha,' " he recalled.

"There was the risk of Kyiv to be surrounded," Vitiuk continued. "So we needed to take the most important databases and hardware and relocate it from Kyiv. And so we literally helped to do this with rifles."

The so-called "cyber war" experts foretold in Ukraine may not have come to pass: Despite Russia's best efforts, its hackers were unable to single handedly destroy Ukraine's digital infrastructure in the early days of the war.

However, Ukraine's defenders have been under a near constant barrage of cyberattacks, almost 3,000 this year so far, according to Vitiuk.

Coupled with missiles and drone strikes, those operations have allowed Russia to weaken Ukraine's infrastructure, most concerningly the power grid, as well as steal sensitive information that supports their military campaigns. Vitiuk and his team are constantly investigating and responding to Russian state hackers, and they believe they serve as a "shield to the whole Democratic world," by sharing what they learn with their allies, Vitiuk said.

Future of Defense and Deterrence in 21st Century Security

So, here’s something new. RealClearDefense is partnering with Lockheed Martin on a special series to evaluate the future of defense and deterrence in the 21st century. To make this series mission-focused, we have centered our content on the Department of Defense’s (DoD) 2022 National Defense Strategy. This document lays out the national priorities for strengthening deterrence and maintaining our competitive advantage:

1. Defending the homeland, paced to the growing multi-domain threat posed by the PRC

2. Deterring strategic attacks against the United States, Allies, and partners

3. Deterring aggression, while being prepared to prevail in conflict when necessary, prioritizing the PRC challenge in the Indo-Pacific, then the Russia challenge in Europe

4. Building a resilient Joint Force and defense ecosystem.

How will the U.S. military accomplish these priorities in the context of Joint (Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines, and Space Forces) and Combined (U.S. allies) Multidomain Operations (MDO)? This is a major question for policymakers, strategists, and industry. Whatever the answer, the U.S. military and its allies will succeed only if they demonstrate a capability to operate and communicate without interruption across all domains, no matter the clime or place.

When we discuss JADC2 (Joint All-Domain Command and Control), we’re referring to the systems architecture to provide command, control and communications across all services in a contested environment, both in deterring potential adversaries and defeating them on the battlefield. This is difficult to comprehend in theory, and even harder to effect in practice. As the U.S. military experienced during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, communications between service branches were difficult and often inadequate to the speed and scope of operations. The current Russo-Ukrainian War has further shown the importance of JADC2, as Ukraine has successfully utilized satellite imagery and communications to direct operations on the ground, including through the use of drones or uncrewed systems.

Cybersecurity in the age of generative AI

In the latest McKinsey Global Survey on AI, 40 percent of respondents said their organizations plan to increase their overall AI investment because of advancements in gen AI. Nevertheless, few companies seem fully prepared for the widespread use of gen AI—or the business risks these tools may bring: 53 of organizations acknowledge cybersecurity as a gen AI-related risk, but only 38 percent are working to mitigate that risk. To help your company approach generative AI most constructively, check out the survey results from Michael Chui, Bryce Hall, Alex Singla, Alexander Sukharevsky, and Lareina Yee. Then dive into more insights to help with your cybersecurity strategies, including:
  • prioritizing risk modeling and risk assessment scoring
  • establishing new cyber-incident reporting and regulation requirements
  • partnering with cybersecurity providers to implement next-generation security products
  • tapping new or upskilled talent to build a strong cyberrisk team
  • considering social, humanitarian, and sustainable risks, as well as technology ones

Battle for Semiconductors: Will There Be Winners?

Leonid Kovachich

On the eve of U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo’s visit to China on August 27-29, the White House took some conciliatory steps. The U.S. removed 27 Chinese companies from the so-called Unverified list compiled by the Bureau of Industry and Security at the U.S. Department of Commerce. This list includes companies for which the agency cannot verify information on their transactions and whose exports from the U.S. are restricted in some way. While the Chinese Foreign Ministry certainly welcomed that move, the basis of U.S. technology policy toward China remains unchanged. The regional fragmentation of the semiconductor industry will only increase over time. However, the degree of supply chain interdependence and global division of labor in this area is so great that the creation of technological regional blocs under the influence of geopolitical considerations will inevitably lead to supply chain disruptions, multiplied costs, and possibly a slowdown in the growth of technological capabilities for all parties.

Key players

Semiconductors form the backbone of all modern electronics. They are used not only in computers and smartphones, but also in household appliances, cars, children’s toys, military equipment, etc. In other words, semiconductor circuits are indispensable in the production of almost any modern good containing electronic components. Historically, the semiconductor industry evolved in the United States in the mid-1950s. It was there that the first operable integrated circuit was invented and produced. Up until the mid-1980s, Silicon Valley in the U.S. state of California had retained its undisputed global leadership: the U.S. share in global semiconductor production exceeded 50%. However, gradually, under the sway of globalization and international division of labor, as well as with the growing technological complexity of the semiconductor circuitry, the production chain was lengthened to become dispersed across different countries. In the mid-1980s, Japan took over some of the key production processes in this area. Later, Taiwan secured a strong position in the mass final production of semiconductors. Finally, in the 2000s, the Netherlands became an absolute leader—and later a monopolist—in the production of advanced equipment required for lithography of semiconductor circuitry on a silicon wafer. As a result, the current production chain may involve thousands of suppliers scattered around the world, many of them being absolute monopolists on the market. For example, U.S.-based companies such as Cadence Design and Synopsis control 90% of the market for electronic design automation tools (EDA Tools), essential at the initial stage of microchip design. The Netherlands-based ASML is the world’s only supplier of equipment for ultra-deep ultraviolet (EUV) lithography on silicon slabs or wafers. Japan’s Tokyo Electron supplies state-of-the-art equipment for plasma etching, a necessary process for removing layers of material from the wafer surface after lithography. Finally, Taiwanese companies account for more than 50% of the entire global semiconductor end-market, as well as more than 90% of the market for advanced chips made in the 10nm process and below. Meanwhile, South Korean manufacturers control up to 64% of global production of dynamic random-access memory (DRAM) chips.

It is important to realize that China, too, plays a key role in the global semiconductor industry. First, the country is the world’s largest consumer of chips, as it dominates the global production of electronic products. Approximately one-third of all consumer electronics in the world are manufactured in China. In 2022, semiconductors worth $573.5 billion were produced globally, with China accounting for 53.7% of all sales of these products. It is natural that global chip makers have sought to localize production closer to their markets. Thus, both the largest Taiwanese contract manufacturer TSMC and South Korean SK Hynix and Samsung have their own production facilities in China. For example, Chinese plants produce up to 40% of the total volume of NAND chips (non-volatile memory chips) manufactured by Samsung and 40% to 50% of DRAM chips put out by SK Hynix. In addition, it was profitable for global manufacturers to locate less technologically advanced but more labor-intensive production stages in China. For example, China still accounts for more than a quarter of the global chip testing and packaging market. Intel, Texas Instruments, and many others have located their respective facilities in China. Finally, China is the largest producer and supplier of rare metals (gallium, germanium, etc.) required for semiconductor production.

From globalization to technological sovereignty

Therefore, the semiconductor industry has become one of the most globally dispersed production sectors. At present, no country can ensure the production of a microchip from start to finish by solely relying on its own resources and production base. Until a certain time, such a global mode of division of labor had suited everyone. Moreover, Washington had long winked at China’s development of its military-industrial complex due to interpenetration of civilian and military capacity. The leakage of U.S. technologies to China occasionally worried the United States, only in the context of these technologies being transferred to Iran, which at that time had been under sanctions for decades. That negligence had lasted until the mid-2010s, when China first published its Made in China 2025 import substitution program for key technologies, followed by Next Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan, which recognized the leading role of emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI), in achieving global dominance and developing the military potential. It was then that the issue of China’s technological development and threats to U.S. national interests came to the fore in America’s political and expert community.

Strict export control measures against Chinese technology companies were first adopted in 2018. At that time, the U.S. accused telecommunications company ZTE of supplying Iran with products containing U.S. semiconductor technology in circumvention of the U.S. sanctions. The United States banned ZTE from purchasing chips created with American technology. This brought the company to the brink of bankruptcy, as there were no other alternatives for ZTE: as was discussed above, U.S. technology is used in the production of any modern chip, one way or another. The ZTE case was settled rather quickly after personal talks between Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump. The company was ordered to pay a $1.3 billion fine, replace its top management, and introduce U.S. Compliance officers into the team. It is important to realize that the U.S. sanctions against ZTE had been imposed even before a full-scale trade war between the U.S. and China broke out. Yet, this was a turning point for both the U.S. and China.

The Americans realized that they had a powerful leverage of technological pressure in their hands. China, in turn, realized its own vulnerability. At that same time, in 2018, Keji Zhibao, a newspaper affiliated with China’s Ministry of Science and Technology, began publishing a series of articles reviewing Beijing’s vulnerabilities in key fundamental technologies. Chinese officials also began to speak more frequently about the need to ensure technological sovereignty.

The U.S. has become more active in using the technological leverage for putting more pressure. In 2019, the Trump administration put Huawei on the U.S. Department of Commerce’s blacklist; among other things, the sale of U.S. chips and other components was banned, as well as the use of Android OS for Huawei. However, this measure did not have a serious impact on Huawei’s business.

First, the Trump administration immediately introduced temporary export permits for Huawei so as not to create economic shocks for American companies, which in 2018 alone supplied Huawei with products $11 billion worth.

Second, nothing could deter Huawei from procuring critical components in third countries. Just a few months later, the company announced its own Harmony OS as an alternative to Android. By the end of the year, the company reported revenue growth of 18%. The following year, the Trump administration extended the sanctions imposed on Huawei. The company fell under the so-called Foreign Direct Product Rule, which prohibits the supply of equipment and components, including from third countries, if they contain American technology. At that time, Huawei was cut off from receiving advanced chips in any way, because contractors from third countries refused to cooperate with this company, fearing secondary U.S. sanctions. As a result, Huawei was forced to sell Honor, its smartphone division.

In the meantime, the sanctions imposed on China by the Trump administration were fragmented. A grace period was introduced for most export restrictions, which, in fact, deferred the enforcement of sanctions for a long period. In addition, Trump’s technological crackdown on China was a pinpoint strike. Huawei, whose name was already on the rumor mill, including among U.S. political figures, was hit hard. However, other Chinese technology companies continued to grow relatively unhindered. Sales of Chinese chip makers and developers rose 18% to $150 billion in 2021. China’s largest contractor SMIC reported sales growth. Although SMIC did not escape being blacklisted by the U.S. Department of Commerce, this did not prevent the company from mastering the production of chips in the 14-nm process. In addition, according to some media reports, SMIC was able to master the 7nm process via reverse engineering of a chip from TSMC. Chinese memory chip maker YMTC has caught up with its American and Korean competitors. The company has developed its own fourth-generation 3D NAND chip, consisting of 232 layers. Apple was even going to make YMTC the exclusive supplier of memory chips for the iPhone.

War of technologies

All these factors forced the U.S. to take a new look at the technology standoff, given that China’s progress in semiconductors has since been tied directly to U.S. national interests. In its technology policy, Washington began to focus on two fronts simultaneously: first, restricting China’s access to advanced technologies as much as possible, and second, stepping up government support for its own innovations and encouraging the repatriation of production capacity to the American soil. Washington understands that semiconductors are the basis both for the development of civilian technologies (and hence economic growth) and for the development of modern weapons systems, i.e., ensuring the interests of national defense.

In October 2022, the Biden administration imposed unprecedented export restrictions on China. Under the new rules, U.S. companies are prohibited from supplying China with high-performance chips and computer goods containing such chips (e.g., GPUs used to develop AI systems). In addition, exports of components that are used in the manufacture of supercomputers or for the development of semiconductor manufacturing have been banned. Supplies of certain equipment for chip production are prohibited. The Foreign Direct Product Rule applies to 28 Chinese companies (this list includes China’s all leading technology companies as well as specialized research institutes). Finally, third-country companies operating in China require special licenses from the U.S. Department of Commerce to supply logic chips with FinFET (fin-shaped field-effect transistors) architecture – 14nm and below; with DRAM – 18nm and below; NAND FLASH – with 128 layers and more – if such products are manufactured using U.S.-developed technology. In addition, professionals with U.S. citizenship and green cards are prohibited to perform certain work that directly or indirectly supports the development and production of semiconductors at certain facilities in China.

In August 2023, the U.S. released a draft of new measures aimed at restricting the flow of U.S. capital into China’s technology sector. If these measures take effect, U.S. private and venture capital investors will be prohibited from investing in Chinese companies that are involved in quantum computing, AI and advanced semiconductors. This being said, a complete ban on investments in the AI industry, as follows from the draft decree of the U.S. President, will apply only to Chinese companies that supply products to enterprises of the military-industrial complex. In other cases, U.S. investors will only need to notify the relevant U.S. regulatory authorities of their intention to invest in respective Chinese companies.

In parallel with prohibitive measures against China, the U.S. authorities are introducing incentives to develop America’s own competencies in the semiconductor industry and to build up the national production base. In 2022, the CHPIS and Science Act was passed, which envisages the allocation of $52 billion in government subsidies for the development of production within the United States. These subsidies will be available to all companies, including the ones of foreign jurisdiction, that decide to develop semiconductor production in the United States. An important condition for receiving support: potential recipients must commit not to invest more than $100,000 in China over a 10-year period if these investments result in the expansion of existing production capacity in China by 5% or more. It is also now prohibited to introduce new product lines or expand existing production with mature technologies by more than 10%. Companies that fail to meet these terms will have to repay the subsidies provided to them within 10 years.

Living under sanctions

U.S. technology restrictions would have had a very limited impact upon China unless key semiconductor technology suppliers from other countries had joined them. Therefore, considerable efforts of U.S. diplomacy were aimed at convincing its partners, mainly the Netherlands, South Korea and Japan, to join the technology restrictions. To a certain extent, the U.S. succeeded in doing so. On July 23, 2023, Japan announced export restrictions on 23 types of equipment needed for semiconductor manufacturing. Moreover, unlike the U.S. sanctions, the Japanese barriers apply to the equipment required for the production of chips using more mature technologies starting with the 45-nm process. Following Japan, the Netherlands also joined the export control measures: as early as 2019 it did not only ban supplies of the equipment for ultra-deep ultraviolet (EUV) lithography, but, starting in June 2023, also some machines for deep ultraviolet (DUV) lithography. Taken together, these restrictions should deny China the opportunity to rapidly develop its own semiconductor industry.

Export bans imposed by the U.S. and its allies are seriously hampering China’s technological development. China is being deprived of the necessary equipment to produce chips. Chinese companies have managed to establish mass production of chips in the 28nm process and are actively mastering the 14nm process. Of course, China cannot produce the most advanced chips, which are used, for example, in the latest generation of smartphones. Nonetheless, the bulk of consumer demand for semiconductors falls on the chips of previous generations. It is important, however, that China still produces these chips using foreign equipment. For example, China bought lithography equipment from ASML even in the 28nm process. The development of such equipment is surely underway in China, but a domestic lithography machine for the 28-nm process can only be expected by the end of this year at best. Moreover, Chinese companies do not have sufficient competencies to create automation design tools for the latest generation of electronics. Huawei this year said it has developed its own EDA tools to create chips in the 14nm process. However, the experimental software and hardware still need to be scaled up for mass production, as well as to ensure interoperability and compatibility in process setup.

Consequently, to produce its own chips, even using mature technologies of previous generations, China needs to build the entire supply chain of raw materials, hardware and software support. No other country at the current stage of technology development has been able to accomplish this incredibly complex and costly exploit. China is certainly ready to invest huge amounts of money in semiconductor technology development, but this does not guarantee success. China’s State Semiconductor Development Fund, or the so-called Big Fund, has accumulated more than $30 billion, but it has not been able to grow a single technology startup into a competitive semiconductor company. For example, Wuhan Hongxin Semiconductor Manufacturing Co, which received almost $20 billion, including from the fund, had gone bankrupt before it could launch any production.

Restrictions on chip imports to China also affect the development of related technologies and related industries. In the first half of 2023, China’s semiconductor imports fell by 22%, while imports of chip-making equipment fell by 23%. Inspur, a leading Chinese manufacturer of server hardware used for AI development, has already warned investors about difficulties with chip supply. The company forecasts a 30% drop in revenue as a result of U.S. semiconductor restrictions. Leading U.S. chip makers have responded to the export restrictions by developing chips specifically for China that are not subject to the export ban. NVIDIA, for example, released the A800 and H800 GPUs for China instead of the banned A100 and H100. Chinese companies have purchased $4 billion worth of these processors to be delivered in 2024. However, the development of new AI products, including generative AI, requires more processing power. According to various estimates, a complex model with as many parameters as ChatGPT requires about 30,000 of the most powerful A100 GPUs. No Chinese company currently boasts such computing power. While American tech giants such as Microsoft, Google and Amazon are freely investing billions in artificial intelligence platforms, Chinese companies are bound by both technological and investment constraints.

Nevertheless, containing China does not guarantee the successful evolution of the U.S. semiconductor industry. First, $52 billion in subsidies for all companies in the semiconductor sector is a very insignificant amount. For example, the construction of only the first phase of the TSMC plant in Arizona is estimated at $12 billion, while the entire project is expected to exceed $40 billion. In the meantime, the economic feasibility of building semiconductor plants in the US is questionable. The plant in Arizona, according to the project, will be able to produce up to 600 thousand chips per year by 2026. TSMC put out more than 14 million chips last year. And by the time the Arizona plant is expected to set up the 3nm process in 2026, such chips will have already been produced in Taiwan for two years. It is not known whether massive government subsidies will ensure U.S. technological leadership and independence from Asian partners. In addition, China as a key supplier of raw materials for the semiconductor industry also has serious leverage. For example, China has introduced export licenses for gallium and germanium. With China accounting for about 80% of the world’s total gallium exports and 60% of the world’s germanium exports, restrictions on the export of these metals could already lead to a significant increase in the costs of chip production and will subsequently reduce the growth potential for the entire industry.


The semiconductor industry is one of the most dispersed global industries. No single country currently possesses the full range of manufacturing chains required to manufacture finished semiconductor products. China, as the largest market for semiconductors and the source of raw materials essential for their production, plays an important role in global supply chains. The U.S. and China standoff, mounting export restrictions, and providing incentives for artificial relocation of production facilities will inevitably lead to the transformation of global production chains. Both the pace of development of Chinese capabilities in this area and the economic well-being of U.S. partners depend on the intensity of new export restrictions introduced by the United States. Given that, according to various estimates [1], semiconductor companies around the world are losing from 15% to 40% of their revenue from the existing export restrictions, an increase in U.S. sanctions pressure may lead to the degradation of innovation potential, including among the world’s industry leaders due to a sharp decline in their income levels. On the other hand, dependence on the Chinese market creates strong incentives for companies to seek ways to circumvent existing sanctions, so their fragmentation may limit the effectiveness of U.S. technology policy toward the PRC. In the long run, China will increase investment in basic research and development to ensure technological independence. The U.S. faces the challenge of balancing its technology policy to keep a hold on the existing gap with China in semiconductors for generations to come but, on the other hand, not to destroy key drivers of growing technological competencies for itself and its allies. Yet, as Chinese technological capabilities further evolve, it will become increasingly difficult for the U.S. to keep the right