13 September 2023

Afghan Taliban criticise closure of main border crossing with Pakistan

Michni checkpost after closure of main Pakistan-Afghan border crossing 

The Afghan Taliban criticised the closure of its main border crossing with Pakistan this week after clashes between security forces, saying the halt in trade would see heavy losses for businesses.

The busy Torkham border crossing was closed on Wednesday after Pakistani and Afghan Taliban forces started firing at each other, according to local officials.

"The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan deems the closure of Torkham gate and opening of fire on Afghan security forces by the Pakistani side contrary to good neighbourliness," Taliban administration's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement late on Saturday.

French President Macron visits Bangladesh to ‘consolidate’ Paris’ Indo-Pacific push

Nishtha Badgamia

French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Bangladesh for a two-day visit and met Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Photograph:(Reuters)

French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Bangladesh after attending the G20 Summit in New Delhi, in a bid to “consolidate” the country’s Asia-Pacific strategy and counter the “new imperialism” where Chinese influence is increasingly being extended. The move is also being seen in Macron’s new offensive in Asia where he is pitching Paris as a useful alternative to bigger powers.

Macron’s visit to Dhaka

The French president landed in the Bangladesh capital city of Dhaka, for a two-day stopover as a part of the country’s new reported strategy to target mid-sized countries in a region where countries such as China, Russia and the United States are competing for influence.

“Bangladesh is progressively retrieving its place on the world stage,” said the French president as he arrived in Dhaka on Sunday night (Sep 10) after wrapping up meetings at the G20 Summit.

Maldives likely heading for round 2 of presidential elections as no winner emerges

Vikrant Singh

The incumbent President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih of Maldives.

The Maldives looks all set to hold round two of the presidential elections after none of the top two candidates managed to secure more than 50 per cent of the vote in round one, reports in local media indicated.

Opposition leader Mohamed Muiz, who is often viewed as heavily pro-China, surprisingly secured 46 per cent of votes, ahead of the incumbent President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, who received just 39 per cent of votes. Solih is generally viewed as a pro-India leader in the South Asian archipelago.

This is the islands’ fifth election after its transition to a multiparty democracy in 2008. A total of eight candidates are in the fray, with the India-China rivalry bulking larger in the form of a tight contest between the top two leaders.

China may never become the world's biggest economy and has thrown out its old playbook

Filip De Mott

Bets that the Chinese economy still has a shot at reaching the top might have to be reconsidered, Mohamed El-Erian wrote in the Financial Times.

Though blowout growth of past decades has helped China become the second-largest economy in the world, Beijing's approach towards the current slump has dampened views that it will overtake the US.

"It is time for the markets to recognize that China is not reverting to its old economic and financial playbook, and its return as a powerful driver of global economic growth is unlikely in the near future," El-Erian wrote. "Economic performance is likely to remain lackluster for the remainder of 2023 and the first half of 2024."

After China lifted pandemic restrictions late last year, the economy saw a brief rebound early this year. But since then, consumption, industry activity, investment, and exports have been disappointing, while youth employment hit record highs and prices have tipped into deflationary territory.

Though analysts and investors have loudly voiced hopes that China's authorities implement a large-scale stimulus program to uplift its economy and fuel domestic spending, Beijing is unlikely to do so in the face of larger structural issues, El-Erian wrote.

Apple Becomes the Biggest U.S.-China Pawn Yet

Dan Gallagher

Apple AAPL -2.92%decrease; red down pointing triangle might be the king of tech. But in the growing cold economic war between the world’s two biggest economies, it is becoming just another game piece—albeit a big one. Still the world’s largest public company by market value, Apple has seen that value take a notable hit this week on increasing signs that its business in China might be coming under threat.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that the Chinese government is banning the iPhone and other foreign-branded devices from use by workers at central government agencies. Bloomberg reported Thursday that such a ban might also be extended to state-owned enterprises and other government-backed entities. That could amount to a significant swath of people in a state-led economy with a population totaling more than 1.4 billion.

According to China’s National Bureau of Statistics, about 56.3 million urban workers were employed by “state-owned units” in 2021. Those jobs commanded an average wage about 8% above the national urban average—an attractive segment for a company specializing in premium devices. And because Apple now ships roughly 230 million iPhones globally every year, 56 million would be a notable chunk to take out of the pool of potential buyers—especially in a mature global smartphone market with low growth prospects.

On top of that, Chinese tech giant Huawei Technologies has launched a new smartphone reportedly delivering 5G-like speed, despite a U.S. ban on the type of advanced chips typically necessary for such devices. The new device called the Mate 60 Pro sold out within hours and has already amassed back-orders. It also conveniently launched just ahead of Apple’s expected unveiling of this year’s iPhone lineup at an event scheduled for next week.


Karolina Hird

Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations near Bakhmut and in western Zaporizhia Oblast on September 7 and made further gains on both sectors of the front. Geolocated footage published on September 7 indicates that Ukrainian forces have made further advances northwest of Verbove (18km southwest of Orikhiv) in western Zaporizhia Oblast.[1] A prominent Russian milblogger claimed that Ukrainian forces made further advances in the area and other milbloggers claimed that Ukrainian forces temporarily advanced to the northwestern outskirts of Verbove on September 6, likely indicating further recent Ukrainian advances northwest of the settlement.[2] Satellite imagery collected on September 6 shows burning foliage in a tree line roughly a kilometer northwest of Verbove, suggesting that Russian forces are firing on advancing Ukrainian forces in the area.[3] Geolocated footage published on September 7 indicates that Ukrainian forces have made marginal gains northwest of Klishchiivka (7km southwest of Bakhmut).[4] The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces achieved unspecified successes south of Bakhmut and near Robotyne (10km south of Orikhiv) and Verbove in western Zaporizhia Oblast.[5]

US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) Director of Analysis Trent Maul stated that there is a “realistic possibility” that Ukrainian forces will break through the entire Russian defense in southern Ukraine by the end of 2023, while a Ukrainian source suggested that upcoming Russian defensive positions are weaker than those Ukrainian forces have previously breached. Maul stated on September 6 in an interview with the Economist that the recent Ukrainian breach of the “first” of three Russian defensive layers in southern Ukraine gives Ukrainian forces a “realistic possibility” to break through the remaining series of Russian defensive positions by the end of 2023.[6] Maul stated that Ukrainian forces have also advanced into the “second” Russian defensive layer, likely referring to recent advances by light Ukrainian infantry past the series of Russian defensive positions that run northwest of Verbove to north of Solodka Balka (20km south of Orikhiv) in western Zaporizhia Oblast.[7] Former Ukrainian Aidar Battalion Commander Yevhen Dykyi stated on September 4 that battles are already ongoing at these Russian defensive positions but that Ukrainian forces have not yet broken through them.[8] Dykyi stated that the minefields ahead of the upcoming Russian defensive layer are not continuous, consistent with previous Ukrainian statements suggesting that Ukrainian forces have already advanced through the densest minefields.[9] Dykyi stated that Russia’s “third” defensive layer in southern Ukraine is primarily comprised of command posts, communication points, and warehouses and mainly acts as a support line for the Russian defensive positions further north.[10] Dykyi argued that Russian forces will not be able to hold back Ukrainian advances at this “third“ series of Russian defensive positions, implying that a definitive Ukrainian breach of the current Russian defensive layer would be operationally decisive. However, Maul notably stated that the bulk of Russian reinforcements are deployed to the “third” Russian defensive layer, contradicting Dykyi’s suggestion that these positions are merely supportive in nature.[11] The subsequent series of Russian defensive positions may be weaker, less mined, and less manned than the defensive layer that Ukrainian forces have breached. Russian defenses are not uniform across the front in southern Ukraine, however, and assessments of the strength of subsequent Russian defensive positions may be extrapolations based on limited information from small sectors of the front. Ukrainian forces are making tactical gains and successfully attriting defending Russian forces and ISW continues to assess Ukraine’s counteroffensive may achieve operational successes in 2023, but subsequent series of Russian defensive positions still pose significant challenges for Ukrainian forces and may in sections be strongly held.

Saudi Arabia mulls opening Investment Ministry office in India


RIYADH: In a sign of deepening economic ties between the two nations, Saudi Arabia is considering “opening an office of the Investment Ministry in India,” said Investment Minister Khalid Al-Falih.

Al-Falih was speaking at the India-Saudi Investment Forum in New Delhi on Monday.

The minister noted that Saudi Arabia will soon send a delegation to India to study the feasibility of opening such an office.

“I will commit today that we will open an office in India for investment facilitation,” said Al-Falih.

He added: “Within the next few weeks, I commit that we will send a strong delegation to GIFT City in Gujarat to look at where we should set up an office for our ministry of investment, whether it should be Mumbai, Delhi or in GIFT City itself.”

Speaking at the forum, Al-Falih also deliberated on the possibility of creating an agreement between Saudi Arabia’s National Venture Capital Fund and India to promote the growth of the VC ecosystem.

“In the next few weeks, we will create a joint agreement between our national venture capital fund and their counterpart here in India to channel venture capital and funding to startups that have the opportunity to leverage our two nations,” added Al-Falih.

Media Oasis in India’s capital New Delhi opens a window on Saudi megaprojects

  • Visitors thrilled by interactive pavilions established on the sidelines of G20 summit in New Delhi
  • Ambassadors, influencers and families could virtually explore Saudi cities and learn about Vision 2030

NEW DELHI: Media Oasis, a hub that welcomed journalists covering the G20 leaders’ summit in New Delhi over the weekend, also drew enthusiastic interest from a wide range of other visitors, from ambassadors to influencers, who were wowed by its high-tech, interactive displays.

Organized by the Saudi Ministry of Media from September 9 to 11, this was third edition of the Media Oasis and the first to take place outside the Kingdom. The three-day event was designed to shine a light on the latest technological advances, architectural developments, and cultural innovations underway in Saudi Arabia, through exhibitions split across 12 pavilions.

On Monday, its closing day, the Media Oasis welcomed a media delegation that was accompanying Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, along with a number of international ambassadors, influencers, and even families who came to explore and interact with its displays.

Organized by the Saudi Ministry of Media from September 9 to 11, this was third edition of the Media Oasis and the first to take place outside the Kingdom. (Supplied)

On state visit to India, Saudi Crown Prince lauds ‘relationship written in our DNA’

  • Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was given a ceremonial reception in New Delhi in honor of his visit
  • Analysts believe the Saudi-India partnership will have far-reaching implications for West Asian region
NEW DELHI: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s state visit to India, following close on the heels of the G20 leaders’ summit in New Delhi, represents a turning point in the region’s strategic dynamics and for the economies of both countries, according to analysts.

The crown prince arrived in New Delhi on Saturday morning to head the Saudi delegation to the G20 summit before commencing a state visit at the invitation of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, marking an important boost to trade and diplomatic ties.

“We are very glad to be in India,” the Saudi crown prince and prime minister said during a ceremonial reception in New Delhi held in honor of his visit. “The relationship between India and the Arabian Peninsula goes back thousands of years in history.

“The relationship between us is in our DNA in Saudi Arabia. India is our friend. They helped us build Saudi Arabia over the past 70 years. There is a lot of Saudi work in India, helping development.

“This trip will highlight the Saudi work done here in India and ensure that our relationship is maintained and improved for the sake of both countries, and, with the leadership of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, I am sure this will happen.

Ukraine offensive could have only 30 days left - US Army chief

Laura Kuenssberg & Emily McGarvey

Ukraine has little more than 30 days left of fighting before the weather hinders its counter-offensive, the top-ranking US military officer says.

Speaking to the BBC's Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg programme, Gen Mark Milley said colder conditions would make it much harder for Ukraine to manoeuvre.

He admitted the offensive had gone more slowly than expected. But he said: "There's still heavy fighting going on.

"The Ukrainians are still plugging away with steady progress."

What To Expect From G20 Leaders’ Summit In India’s Capital New Delhi

Sanjay Kumar and Natalia Laskowska

Leaders of the world’s most important economies are converging on New Delhi for the annual G20 Summit beginning on Saturday.

The Indian capital has had a makeover, with colorful decorative plants, green posts, fountains, sculptures, new streetlights and illuminated logos of India’s G20 presidency visible all the way from the international airport to the city’s center and around the main meeting venues.

Parts of the metropolis of 33 million people also went quiet as some of the main roads were shut and 130,000 security personnel were deployed to guard the event.

The group of the world’s 20 major economies was established in the late 1990s, in the wake of the Asian financial crisis to address such events collectively.

Over the years, it has morphed into a forum for addressing urgent global problems such as food security, climate change and, since the 2021 Russian invasion of Ukraine, the global repercussions of the conflict.

Together, members of the G20 account for 85 percent of global economic output, 75 percent of international trade, and about 60 percent of the world’s population.

The group’s members are 19 countries — Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, South Korea, Turkey, the UK, and the US — plus the European Union.

Every year, the group is led by a different member, which hosts its policy meetings and their culmination — the leaders’ summit. India took over the G20 presidency from Indonesia last year and will hand it over to Brazil.

Blind, See, Kill: The Grand Networking Plan To Take On China


Admiral John Aquilino, commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM), offered remarkably detailed comments on what he sees as critical future capabilities needed to fight and win a high-end conflict in his vast area of responsibility — namely against China.

Aquilino's remarks came from the National Defense Industrial Association's Emerging Technologies and Defense symposium in Washington, D.C. yesterday, which The War Zone attended. Joseph Dunford, a retired Marine four-star general and the ex-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, hosted the discussion with the INDOPACOM boss.

Adm. John C. Aquilino, Commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, has a very ambitious plan to connect all his forces and allies via a 'single pane of glass' interface. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Anthony J. Rivera)

The talk quickly ventured into the topic of how Aquilino is preparing for what could become an unprecedented fight in terms of the speed and the scale that said capabilities will be applied over a vast battlefield. What's clear is that networking and data-fusion remain the centerpiece of America's emerging warfighting strategy in this tense region. At the center of the Admiral's plans is a grand networking scheme that ties everyone in the battlespace together — including regional allies — and offers a single 'pane of glass' God's eye view of the battlefield to everyone from soldiers on desolate windswept islands, to allied warships, to commanders managing the conflict thousands of miles away.

Niger: 'French forces will redeploy only at Bazoum's requests', President Macron

Niger's military regime accused France of deploying forces in several West African countries with a view to military intervention.

Relations with France, Niger's former colonial power, degraded swiftly after Paris stood by ousted President Mohamed Bazoum following the July coup.

"It should be brought to the attention of the public opinion, national and international, that despite the announcement of this withdrawal plan, France continues to deploy its forces in several ECOWAS (ed, Economic Community of West African States) countries as part of preparations for an aggression against Niger, which it is planning in collaboration with this community organization," accused Colonel Major Amadou Abdramane, Niger's regime spokesman.

The Sahel state is also embroiled in a stand-off with the West African bloc ECOWAS, which has threatened to intervene militarily if diplomatic pressure to return Bazoum to office fails.

On August 3, Niger's coup leaders renounced several military cooperation agreements with France, which has about 1,500 soldiers stationed in the country as part of a wider fight against jihadism.

On Sunday, President Macron reiterated France's stance, demanding the release of President Bazoum.

He emphasized that the redeployment of troops would only occur upon request from the deposed head of state.

Earthquake in Morocco: expert says 'not a surprise but infrequent'

Morocco has been struck by its most lethal earthquake in decades, resulting in the tragic loss of over 2,000 lives.

According to Professor David Rothery, an expert in Planetary Geosciences at the Open University, the earthquake is not a surprise even though it is infrequent.

This fact categorizes the disaster as a "once-in-a-century" phenomenon.

"Geologically speaking, it's not a surprise to have an earthquake like this, it's just very infrequent. Africa and Europe are colliding. Most of the action is further north, close to the Mediterranean. But the High Atlas Mountains are uplifted because of this collision between Africa and Europe -- it's still continuing. So there are some earth movements beneath those mountains and that's just what happened last night, and it will continue to happen. But these events on this scale are infrequent, maybe once a century, or even less frequent," explained the Professor to AFP.

In rural areas south of Marrakesh, many homes are hand-built or constructed poorly.

Centuries-old buildings have crumbled, leaving a wide spread of debris and red dust in their wake.

In most instance, the buildings are made from mud bricks unsuitable to withstand an earthquake of this magnitude.

"I think many of the buildings in the area are quite old and certainly haven't been constructed to modern seismic resilience standards. If you build cheaply, buildings fall down more easily. They'll have to think very seriously, now they know that earthquakes of this size can occur in the region, is it worth investing in earthquake-resilient buildings? But there may not be a quake this big in the same area for another century. So it's a very difficult decision to have to make," advised David Rothery.

Sen. Tim Scott: My plan to empower parents


Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C. Scott gives remarks at his presidential campaign announcement event at his alma mater, Charleston Southern University.

Back-to-school should be a season of excitement and optimism for families. But this year, too many parents are worried and anxious.

One big worry is learning loss and academics. Our government K-12 schools spend twice as much per pupil as we did back in the 1960s, but kids are retaining less and less. Reading, math and standardized test scores are the lowest we’ve seen in decades. Fewer than 1 in 3 eighth graders can read at grade level.

Then there is the staggering, underdiscussed crisis in youth mental health. Youth depression and suicidal behavior had already skyrocketed before the COVID lockdowns made things even worse. One physician recently said her ER has gone from seeing 30 kids a month for emergency psychiatric issues to 30 every single day. Some of the patients are as young as six. What is happening in a country and a culture where kindergarteners need professional treatment for anxiety and depression?

And millions of families of faith feel they are being targeted and under siege. The radical left is bringing an aggressive culture war to the doorsteps of families who just want to be left alone. Catholic, evangelical, Orthodox, Jewish and Muslim parents are watching their tax dollars spent on lessons and library books that contradict their deepest beliefs and deny basic truths about human nature that everybody agreed on until just recently.

These circumstances call for an all-out campaign to champion, support and empower parents. But President Biden and his party are doing the opposite. Teachers’ unions, Big Tech, and the Biden Democrats are on a mission to make parents less important.

President Biden recently claimed that kids don’t belong to their parents, they belong to everybody. His Department of Justice and FBI targeted concerned parents who speak up at school board meetings as if they were domestic terrorists. They’ve proposed a government takeover of early childhood that would raise pre-K costs and hurt church daycares. This spring, when the House took up a commonsense parents’ rights bill, zero Democrats supported it and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez called it “fascism.”

America’s broken child care system deserves a permanent fix


Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly holds her granddaughter, Rory, as she signs an executive order establishing a task force on child care issues.

Last fall, voters in New Mexico — a state that ranks at or near the bottom for children’s health — took the unprecedented step of enshrining the right to early child care in their state constitution and established a permanent funding mechanism to ensure that right exists not just on paper, but in practice.

The voters’ message was clear: Every child — regardless of their background, family income level or neighborhood — deserves the healthiest possible start in life, and we intend to give it to them. After all, caregiving makes everything else we do possible: living stable and secure lives, helping children grow up healthy and thrive and making ends meet.

As a nation, however, we have not lived up to this pledge. The 2021 American Rescue Plan provided a major infusion of federal funding for early child care — but those funds are set to expire on Sept. 30, putting that pledge even further out of reach. It is now incumbent upon Congress to move quickly to reinstate these critical funds, without which 70,000 child care centers may close and 3.2 million children may suddenly be without formal care options. But we should also take this moment, as New Mexico has done, to reimagine our approach.

Child care in the United States ought to be accessible in every community, reflect the diversity and unique needs of families, prioritize both home-based and formal child care centers and be informed by equitable policies crafted by those who depend on care alongside those who provide it.

As a mother, pediatrician and public health official, I have seen firsthand how affordable and accessible child care sets children up for lifelong success: improved physical, mental, social and emotional health and well-being, stronger academic performance and greater lifetime earnings potential. Few supports have such a profound impact on families.

A sudden halt to that support will have a devastating impact on children, families and the child care workforce. The Century Foundation projects that one-third of formal child care programs supported by the American Rescue Plan — which helped stabilize a child care system decimated by and still struggling to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic — will close. If that happens, children in every state will lose spots in licensed facilities, from more than 6,000 in Wyoming to more than 300,000 in Texas. Nearly a quarter-million child care providers will lose their jobs.

Janet Yellen ‘feeling very good’ about soft landing for US economy

US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said she’s increasingly confident that the US will be able to contain inflation without major damage to the job market, hailing data showing a steady slowdown in inflation and a fresh influx of job seekers.

“I am feeling very good about that prediction,” Yellen said Sunday when asked about her previous hopes that the US would avoid a recession while still reining in consumer-price gains. “I think you’d have to say we’re on a path that looks exactly like that.”

Speaking in an interview on her aircraft en route back from attending the Group of 20 summit in New Delhi, the Treasury chief also played down any risk from China’s efforts to increase the sway from the separate BRICS grouping of major emerging nations. “The G20 “remains the premier forum for global cooperation,” she said.

Yellen and President Joe Biden attended the gathering, which was skipped by China’s President Xi Jinping, against the backdrop of a raft of positive data on the world’s largest economy. Headline inflation has slowed toward 3 percent — though still above the Federal Reserve’s 2 percent target — without any decline in payrolls or GDP.

“Every measure of inflation is on the road down,” Yellen said. She also highlighted that while the US unemployment rate increased in August after reaching the lowest levels in more than a half-century earlier this year, that jump wasn’t caused by a large wave of layoffs.

The jobless rate hit 3.8 percent last month, thanks in part to an increase in the labor force participation rate to the highest level since February 2020, just as Covid began to spread.

Seeing some easing in the labor market is “important and a good thing,” and “it’s a clear plus” that it’s coming through more people looking for work, Yellen said.

The data mark a validation of sorts for the Treasury chief, who has consistently said over the past year that she sees a path for inflation to get to the Fed’s 2 percent target without a spike in joblessness.

Our Modern-Day Mackinder

Francis P. Sempa
Source Link

The great British geographer and statesman Sir Halford Mackinder wrote compelling books and essays in the first half of the 20th century that urged his countrymen to adjust their democratic ideals to the realities of our earthly home. Those realities included geography, history, and human nature. Mackinder’s works are where all current global geopolitical analyses should begin. He grasped timeless geopolitical realities--the centrality of Eurasia, the sea power-land power dichotomy, relative population distribution, and the importance of economic and social momentum (the “going concern”) --that should still guide our statesmen and strategists in today’s world. Contemporary America is fortunate to have its own modern-day Mackinder: Robert D. Kaplan.

Robert Kaplan, a former Pentagon consultant and the current Robert Strausz-Hupe Chair in Geopolitics at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, is the prolific author of 22 books, but the essence of his geopolitical thought are found in seven of them: Monsoon: The Indian Ocean and the Future of American Power (2011), The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate (2012), Asia’s Cauldron: The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific (2014), The Return of Marco Polo’s World: War, Strategy and American Interests in the Twenty-First Century (2018), Adriatic: A Concert of Civilizations at the End of the Modern Age (2022), The Tragic Mind: Fear, Fate, and the Burden of Power (2023), and his latest tome, The Loom of Time: Between Empire and Anarchy from the Mediterranean to China (2023).

References to Mackinder and other classical geopolitical thinkers such as Nicholas Spykman and Alfred Thayer Mahan are ubiquitous in these books. Kaplan understands that he stands on the shoulders of giants. But not only the giants of geopolitical thought. In The Tragic Mind, Kaplan reaches back to the ancient Greeks and Shakespeare, the novelists Joseph Conrad and Fyodor Dostoevsky, and the chronicler of the rise and fall of civilizations Arnold J. Toynbee to gain insight into human nature and the behavior of states and their leaders throughout history. Those writers teach us about human ambition and frailties, the irrational aspects of human actions, the sin of pride and the dangers of unbounded hubris. They allow us to see tragedy and human realities behind the illusion of progress.

Mackinder cautioned the idealists of his time that they ignored geographical and human realities at their peril. In “The Geographical Pivot of History” (1904), Mackinder showed how modern Europe was shaped by invasions and migrations from inner Asia, and remarkably foreshadowed geopolitical trends that resulted in the two world wars and Cold War of the 20th century. Kaplan in a report originally written for the Pentagon’s Office of Net Assessment, updated Mackinder’s analysis to the 21st century rivalry between the United States and China. Kaplan wrote that China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and growing naval power threatened to make Mackinder’s concept of the “World-Island” (a politically dominated Eurasian-African landmass) a 21st century reality. Mackinder famously warned in 1919: “Who rules the World-Island commands the world.” Kaplan sees Mackinderesque geopolitical design in China’s actions in the South China Sea and Indian Ocean, its naval build-up, its strategic partnership with Russia, its growing nuclear arsenal, and its growing economic and political influence in Central Asia and Africa. “Geography,” wrote Kaplan in The Revenge of Geography, “is the preface to the very track of human events.” Mackinder noted that China’s geography--continental sized landmass with significant oceanic frontage--and vast human and natural resources made it a potential seat of a world empire.

In The Loom of Time, Kaplan makes his strongest case yet for a realist approach to foreign policy based on history, geography, and an understanding of human nature. It is an approach that values “order” over “chaos” and “anarchy.” (Kaplan even has a few good things to say about the “order” imposed by empires of the past). It is an approach that considers the importance of culture, ethnicity, nationalism, and religion in formulating an effective foreign policy that advances America’s interests. And while Kaplan is no fan of former President Donald Trump, he very much favors an “America-first” foreign policy in the tradition of George Washington and John Quincy Adams. He derides the liberal internationalist and neoconservative vision that favors crusades in support of democracy and apologizes for his own abandonment of realism to support the futile and disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Mackinder was a professional geographer who traveled to the many lands that he wrote about. He served as Britain’s envoy to a faction of the “White” forces during the Russian Civil War after World War I. He presciently warned his countrymen then about the threat Bolshevism would pose to the global order should they emerge victorious in Russia. He wrote many books about the geography, history, and peoples of other countries. His foreign policy goal, as he wrote in his last major essay “The Round World and the Winning of the Peace” (1943), was “A balanced globe of human beings. And happy, because balanced and thus free.”

Information Warfare in Russia’s War in Ukraine

Christian Perez

In the lead-up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and throughout the ongoing conflict, social media has served as a battleground for states and non-state actors to spread competing narratives about the war and portray the ongoing conflict in their own terms. As the war drags on, these digital ecosystems have become inundated with disinformation. Strategic propaganda campaigns, including those peddling disinformation, are by no means new during warfare, but the shift toward social media as the primary distribution channel is transforming how information warfare is waged, as well as who can participate in ongoing conversations to shape emerging narratives.

Examining the underlying dynamics of how information and disinformation are impacting the war in Ukraine is crucial to making sense of, and working toward, solutions to the current conflict. To that end, this FP Analytics brief uncovers three critical components:
  • How social media platforms are being leveraged to spread competing national narratives and disinformation;
  • The role of artificial intelligence (AI) in promoting, and potentially combating, disinformation; and,
  • The role of social media companies and government policies on limiting disinformation.
The Role of Social Media and National Disinformation Campaigns

Russia and Ukraine both use social media extensively to portray their versions of the events unfolding, and amplify contrasting narratives about the war, including its causes, consequences, and continuation. Government officials, individual citizens, and state agencies and have all turned to an array of platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, TikTok, YouTube, and Telegram, to upload information. It is difficult to pinpoint the exact amount of content uploaded by these various actors, but the scale of information being uploaded on social media about the war is immense. For instance, in just the first week of the war, videos from a range of sources on TikTok with the tag #Russia and #Ukraine had amassed 37.2 billion and 8.5 billion views, respectively.

At their core, the narratives presented by Russia and Ukraine are diametrically opposed. Russia frames the war in Ukraine, which Putin insists is a “special military operation,” as a necessary defensive measure in response to NATO expansion into Eastern Europe. Putin also frames the military campaign as necessary to “de-nazify” Ukraine and end a purported genocide being conducted be the Ukrainian government against Russian speakers. In contrast, Ukraine’s narrative insists the war is one of aggression, emphasizes its history as a sovereign nation distinct from Russia, and portrays its citizens and armed forces as heroes defending themselves from an unjustified invasion.

Ukraine and Russia are not the only state actors interested and engaged in portraying the war on their own terms. Countries such as China and Belarus have engaged in efforts to portray the conflict on their own terms, and they have launched coordinated disinformation campaigns on social media platforms. These campaigns have broadly downplayed Russia’s responsibility for the war and have promoted anti-U.S. and anti-NATO posts. The mix of narratives, both true and false, originating from different state actors as well as millions of individual users on social media has enlarged tech platforms’ roles in shaping the dynamics of the war and could influence its outcomes.

North Korea hackers going after Russian targets, Microsoft says

Raphael Satter
Source Link

North Korean hackers targeted Russian diplomats and successfully breached a Russian aerospace research institute earlier this year, Microsoft Corp (MSFT.O) said in a blog post published Thursday.

Microsoft did not identify any of the victims by name and provided little by way of details or evidence, but said the hacking took place in March.

"North Korean threat actors may be capitalizing on the opportunity to conduct intelligence collection on Russian entities due to the country's focus on its war in Ukraine," the report said.

North Korea's mission to the United Nations did not immediately reply to a message seeking comment. The Russian embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to an email.

Spying on rivals' military and diplomatic organizations is standard operating procedure for the hacking squads employed by the world's intelligence agencies. North Korea has repeatedly been accused of deploying hackers against defense and diplomacy-related targets in South Korea, the United States and elsewhere.

The International Criminal Court Will Now Prosecute Cyberwar Crimes

FOR YEARS, SOME cybersecurity defenders and advocates have called for a kind of Geneva Convention for cyberwar, new international laws that would create clear consequences for anyone hacking civilian critical infrastructure, like power grids, banks, and hospitals. Now the lead prosecutor of the International Criminal Court at the Hague has made it clear that he intends to enforce those consequences—no new Geneva Convention required. Instead, he has explicitly stated for the first time that the Hague will investigate and prosecute any hacking crimes that violate existing international law, just as it does for war crimes committed in the physical world.

In a little-noticed article released last month in the quarterly publication Foreign Policy Analytics, the International Criminal Court’s lead prosecutor, Karim Khan, spelled out that new commitment: His office will investigate cybercrimes that potentially violate the Rome Statute, the treaty that defines the court’s authority to prosecute illegal acts, including war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.

“Cyber warfare does not play out in the abstract. Rather, it can have a profound impact on people’s lives,” Khan writes. “Attempts to impact critical infrastructure such as medical facilities or control systems for power generation may result in immediate consequences for many, particularly the most vulnerable. Consequently, as part of its investigations, my Office will collect and review evidence of such conduct.”

When WIRED reached out to the International Criminal Court, a spokesperson for the office of the prosecutor confirmed that this is now the office’s official stance. “The Office considers that, in appropriate circumstances, conduct in cyberspace may potentially amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, and/or the crime of aggression,” the spokesperson writes, “and that such conduct may potentially be prosecuted before the Court where the case is sufficiently grave.”

Neither Khan’s article nor his office’s statement to WIRED mention Russia or Ukraine. But the new statement of the ICC prosecutor’s intent to investigate and prosecute hacking crimes comes in the midst of growing international focus on Russia’s cyberattacks targeting Ukraine both before and after its full-blown invasion of its neighbor in early 2022. In March of last year, the Human Rights Center at UC Berkeley’s School of Law sent a formal request to the ICC prosecutor’s office urging it to consider war crime prosecutions of Russian hackers for their cyberattacks in Ukraine—even as the prosecutors continued to gather evidence of more traditional, physical war crimes that Russia has carried out in its invasion.

Musk says he stopped Ukraine attack on Russian navy by withholding Starlink internet

WASHINGTON D.C. – Tech billionaire Elon Musk has said that he prevented a Ukrainian attack on a Russian Navy base last year by declining Kyiv’s request to activate internet access in the Black Sea near Moscow-annexed Crimea.

Satellite internet service Starlink, operated by Musk-owned company SpaceX, has been deployed in Ukraine since shortly after it was invaded by Russia in February 2022.

“There was an emergency request from government authorities to activate Starlink all the way to Sevastopol. The obvious intent being to sink most of the Russian fleet at anchor,” Musk posted Thursday on X, formerly named Twitter.

The city of Sevastopol is the base of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet on the Crimean peninsula, which was annexed by Moscow in 2014.

“If I had agreed to their request, then SpaceX would be explicitly complicit in a major act of war and conflict escalation,” Musk said.

Musk was posting in response to a published excerpt of an upcoming biography of the tech tycoon by Walter Isaacson.

In the excerpt published by The Washington Post on Thursday, Isaacson wrote that in September last year, “The Ukrainian military was attempting a sneak attack on the Russian naval fleet based at Sevastopol in Crimea by sending six small drone submarines packed with explosives, and it was using Starlink to guide them to the target.”

Bring the Naval War College Into the Future

Matt Wright

Navy leaders signaled the importance of in-residence graduate education for career naval officers with its 2018 policy change requiring all “officers in year group 2015 and beyond . . . to graduate from an in-residence (graduate education) program prior to assuming major command.”1 Emphasizing strategically focused graduate education harkens to the interwar period and the 1920 Knox-King-Pye report, which states: “It is considered to be to the highest interest of the government not only to provide for (continuous formal education) but to require it.”2 Furthermore, creating opportunities for advanced education is increasingly important amid calls to rebalance the Navy’s strategic culture.3

Unfortunately, prioritizing graduate education stands in stark contrast to the appeal of the junior and senior war college courses offered in Newport each year. Navy officers filled just 67 percent and 44 percent of the allotted fiscal year (FY) 2022 Naval War College (NWC) quotas for the junior and senior courses, respectively. This continues a trend of reduced interest in NWC from FY21, when just 70 percent of junior and 50 percent of senior NWC naval officer seats were filled.4 The Navy’s Education for Seapower Strategy 2020 acknowledged that “the Department of the Navy must align new education initiatives with the needs of the operating forces.”5

The NWC must adapt its delivery of strategic education programs in response to this impetus for change. COVID-19 mitigation efforts drove innovation that forms a useful framework: remote war college.

Joint Professional Military Education

Under federal law, unrestricted line officers “may not be appointed to the grade of brigadier general or rear admiral (lower half) unless the officer has been designated as a joint qualified officer (JQO).”6 The JQO requirement consists of three steps: joint professional military education I (JPME I; i.e., junior war college), JPME II (i.e., senior war college), and a tour in a qualified joint duty billet.7 Each service maintains its own junior and senior war college programs, including both in-residence and distance education options for JPME I. The National Defense University also offers various in-residence JPME II programs in Washington, D.C., and Norfolk, Virginia.

While the service schools all include distance education options for JPME I credit, they do not equate to in-residence graduate education because students complete their studies in addition to the requirements of their regular “day jobs.”8 During the COVID-19 pandemic, these institutions adapted their full-time war college courses, with students primarily participating online from their homes.9 However, the schools have returned to prepandemic norms and once again require officers to attend in-person classes.

Taiwan Announced a Record Defense Budget: But Is It Enough to Deter China?

David Sacks

Last week, Taiwan announced plans to increase its total defense spending to a record NT$606.8 billion (US$19.1 billion), equivalent to 2.6 percent of GDP. While this might seem like good news, the reality is that this represents only a 3.5 percent nominal increase over last year’s budget of NT$586.3 billion and a smaller increase in real terms with inflation standing at roughly two percent. Most important, the proposed budget still falls far short of what the island should be investing in defense. Ironically, the smallest growth in Taiwan’s defense budget in half a decade is coming at a time when defense spending should be accelerating to confront the growing threat that Taiwan faces.

To give credit where it is due, President Tsai Ing-wen reversed years of stagnant military spending, pushing through seven consecutive increases and nearly doubling Taiwan’s defense budget over the course of her tenure. Just as important, Tsai has extended compulsory military service from four months to one year, prioritized asymmetric weapons such as missiles and mines, invested in Taiwan’s defense industrial base, and initiated an overhaul of Taiwan’s reserve forces. She is leaving a much stronger military to her successor than the one she inherited.

These substantial increases to Taiwan’s defense budget and a heightened focus on improving its military’s combat capabilities reflect the far more dangerous international environment for Taiwan. As noted in our recent CFR-sponsored Independent Task Force report on Taiwan, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine serves as a reminder that war is not a relic of the past but is instead a tool that countries continue to employ to satisfy their territorial ambitions. It also demonstrates that authoritarian leaders with few internal political constraints can and will bear substantial costs to pursue their legacies.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping has employed greater military, diplomatic, and economic pressure on Taiwan and imbued cross-strait issues with greater urgency. Although he has not put an explicit timeline on achieving unification with Taiwan, Xi has repeatedly linked unification to the “rejuvenation of the Chinese nation,” which he has stated must be achieved by 2049. Xi’s report to the Twentieth National Congress of the Communist Party of China in 2022, for instance, noted, “Resolving the Taiwan question and realizing China’s complete reunification is…a natural requirement for realizing the rejuvenation of the Chinese nation.” In his March 2023 speech to the National People’s Congress, Xi asserted that achieving unification “is the essence of national rejuvenation.”

Navy Campaigns of Learning

Captain John T. Hanley

Former Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Admiral Michael Gilday’s Navigation Plan 2022 calls for a “rigorous campaign of learning” as part of a “continuous, iterative force design process to focus our modernization efforts and accelerate capabilities we need to maintain our edge.” He identifies a “learning culture” as essential.

The Navy during World War II developed a learning culture modeled on the Prussian campaign of learning. The Navy’s campaign dissipated following the war, as the national security establishment and the Navy evolved, though the submarine force and the CNO Strategic Studies Group successfully used similar campaigns during the Cold War. An attempt to re-create a campaign of learning for naval warfare innovation failed in the 1990s. The learning initiatives in Navigation Plan 2022 are essential for regaining headway in competition with China.

U.S. Navy Reforms

The Prussian campaign of learning balanced theoretical study and practical experience and exercises, including war games. Leading U.S. Navy reform, Stephen B. Luce sought to follow the Prussian campaign, resulting in the founding of the Naval War College (NWC) in 1884. Luce explained his idea for the college declaring, that “there are no professors competent to teach” warfare. “All here, faculty and class alike, occupy the same plane, without distinction of age, rank, or assumption of superior attainments.”1

The first NWC curriculum included Alfred Thayer Mahan’s theoretical lectures—which lead to books such as The Influence of Seapower upon History and The Problem of Asia—assisted by war games developed by McCarty Little for learning naval concepts. In 1894, games became an integral part of the instruction, with a selected adversary studied each year.

Rear Admiral William S. Sims, president of the NWC following World War I, emphasized the practical over the theoretical and preparing minds versus preparing plans. Using games to test new principles and plans for future operations was secondary to building character and developing leadership skills—grooming officers for command at sea.

In the 19th century, the Secretary of the Navy directed Navy operations. When the Spanish-American War came along, Secretary John Davis Long received competing war plans from the NWC, naval intelligence, and the Bureau of Navigation. As a result, Long created a General Board in 1900, led by Admiral George Dewey and other distinguished admirals, to oversee war plans and manage the disparate Navy bureaus and offices, with the president of the NWC, a senior Navy intelligence officer, and the head of the Bureau of Navigation as ex officio members.

Overcoming congressional fears about creating a Prussian-style general staff and the opposition of Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels, Admiral Bradley Fiske championed legislation in 1915 that created the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO). The Office of the CNO (OpNav) took over war planning from the NWC and General Board, but a web of interactions among the CNO, the General Board, naval intelligence, the NWC, fleet commanders, and technology developers led to an interwar campaign of learning. Under the CNO, this Navy-wide effort orchestrated annual Fleet Problems to develop operational and tactical concepts using emerging technology (Figure 1).2

This learning culture prepared the Navy for victory in World War II. Leaders such as Ernest King, Chester Nimitz, Raymond Spruance, Richmond Kelly Turner, Charles Lockwood, and others learned from every operation.3 They developed the combat information center to allow rapid decision-making and fleet tactics in which short codes instructed task forces to adopt a particular formation.4

Punctuated Evolution

Although war games continued at the Naval War College after World War II, the curriculum shifted from naval strategy and tactics to strategy and policy, with students more often playing the role of national decision makers and less focused on the roles of tactical and operational commanders. Naval History and Heritage Command

Following the war, the national security establishment experienced a punctuated evolution. Contributions from top mathematicians such as Alan Turing and John von Neumann and other scientists led to computers and atomic weapons. The successes of scientists such as Philip Morse and Bernard Koopman supporting the Tenth Fleet created a new discipline of operations research.5

The National Security Act of 1947 created a powerful Secretary of Defense. President Harry S. Truman—fearing a recession as the war wound down—focused on stabilizing the U.S. economy, devoting as little funding as he could to defense.6 Louis Johnson, who followed James Forrestal as Secretary of Defense, believed all the country needed was an Air Force and atomic bombs. He demobilized Army and naval equipment as quickly as he could until the Korean War reversed the process.7

Johnson’s cutting the Navy’s plan for a supercarrier and his attempts to muzzle dissent led to a revolt of the admirals and CNO Admiral Louis Denfeld being fired. Rivalry between the Navy and Air Force was fierce. Conditions were set for competition for scarce budgets, both among the services and the warfare branches within them.8 By the time Arleigh Burke became CNO in 1955, the Pentagon’s focus was finely tuned to budgets and programs.9

In President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s farewell speech, he addressed perils of both the military-industrial complex and the rising influence of defense intellectuals.10 Focusing the techniques developed during World War II for researching operations based on analyzing the cost-benefit of systems, McNamara established the planning, program, and budgeting system (PPBS) that continues today with few modifications.

In 1944, Navy Secretary Frank Knox appointed Vice Admiral William Pye, who had become president of the NWC in 1942, president of a board to study the methods of educating naval officers. Pye had participated on a similar board with Captain Ernest King (then head of the Naval Postgraduate School) and Commander Dudley W. Knox of the NWC in 1920. The board recommended that the NWC include three tiers: a command-and-staff course prior to command of a large ship, a course before commanding a division of ships, and an advanced course for flag officers.11

The NWC was never to achieve a scheme of education progressing with officers’ increased responsibilities over their careers, nor the stature in the Navy that it held before the war. Pushed for by Admiral Ernest King, in 1945, Congress passed legislation making the Naval Postgraduate School a fully accredited graduate degree–granting institution.

CNO Admiral Chester Nimitz made Spruance president of the NWC in 1946. The curriculum shifted from naval strategy and tactics to strategy and policy; games had the students playing the roles of national decision-makers rather than commanders. The curriculum lost its balance between practical reason and theoretical understanding. The web of interactions that had formed the campaign of learning disintegrated. The Pentagon focused on programs and budgets rather than strategies for defeating potential adversaries, and the fleet was organized for continuous deployment.

Because the NWC emphasized policy and strategy, the Navy sent few students who had the potential to become future Navy leaders.

PostWar Navy Campaigns of Learning

Though big Navy lost its culture of learning, several organizations created learning cultures similar to those of the interwar years. Facing demobilization, the submarine force established Submarine Development Group Two to develop antisubmarine warfare (ASW) tactics and technology. It used an open door to laboratories established during World War II and a program of designing frequent exercises using prototype concepts and technology, collecting data during exercises and forward operations, reconstructing engagements, and conducting unvarnished analysis. As a result, the submarine force went from having no ASW capability during the war to being the dominant ASW force within a decade.12

Other programs adopted the submarine force’s methods. Among the successes was finding that the Navy did not have the communications required to employ submarines as an outer screen for a carrier battle group, nor the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance to employ antiship Tomahawk missiles in a cluttered sea environment—resulting in a sole focus on land-attack Tomahawks. Using consistent data collection methods across multiple exercises and carefully reconstructing that data allowed the Navy to make informed tactics, organizational, and procurement decisions.13

In the 1990s, the CNO Strategic Studies Group (SSG) also employed a web of interactions in a campaign of learning that involved study, critical analysis, and war games that led to concepts for the 1986 Maritime Strategy. Many successful innovations came from a practical focus on both combat and other influence operations.

An effort to create a campaign of learning for naval warfare innovation in the 1990s failed. The CNO Executive Panel formulated a process, and CNO Admiral Mike Boorda directed the SSG to focus on concept generation. Unfortunately, Admiral Boorda’s death came as the first SSG he tasked readied to brief him on their concepts. Attempting to make this approach work, CNO Admiral Jay Johnson changed the mission and organization of the SSG to focus solely on naval warfare innovation and the NWC to “provide unity of effort by realigning Navy warfare doctrine development, concept innovation, and fleet experimentation with strategy development and wargaming under the command of the President, Naval War College.”14 (See Figure 2.)

The Naval Doctrine Command became the Naval Warfare Development Command and moved to Newport. However, no changes were made to the NWC curriculum or the relationship between the college’s theoretical academic and practical research sides. While the new organizational structure was consistent with a campaign of learning, absent the coordinating oversight of an organization like the General Board, the necessary interactions did not mature. The next CNO, Admiral Vernon Clark, moved Navy Warfare Development Command back to Norfolk to be closer to the fleet, and the NWC president reverted to a two-star admiral. OpNav provided no funding for demonstration. The Navy is now pursuing many of the SSG’s concepts from the 1990s.15


Each of the Navy’s communities depends on the others—OpNav should not be the focal point for the Navy’s campaign of learning. A modern General Board with the presidents of the Naval War College and Naval Postgraduate School, the Director of Naval Intelligence, heads of systems commands, the Chief of Naval Research, and regional fleet commanders convening to inform the CNO on which problems “big Navy” should focus would accelerate the learning campaign. The Education for Seapower Strategy 2020 should be implemented.16

When the SSG’s mission was making captains of ships into captains of war, of 88 officers assigned, the program produced eight four-star and ten three-star admirals. Absent a course for all flag officers, the SSG should be resurrected with this mission, using a similar program to the one that proved successful during the late Cold War.

The Secretary of the Navy and CNO should implement the recommendations of the two Pye boards, balancing practical and theoretical studies. The Navy should have a curriculum for officers headed to their first commands modeled after Sims’ use of theater-level games to develop character and command skills, learning how to fight outside their warfare specialties.

Officers headed to major command should have a similar curriculum balancing practical studies of specific adversaries combined with higher-level operational considerations, directly addressing Navy component commander roles in combatant commander plans. These courses would meet JPME Phase 1 criteria and satisfy demands for a master’s degree. In addition, the president of the Naval War College should be a post-numbered-fleet command three-star with oversight of the Naval Warfare Development Center to connect the fleet.