20 September 2023

Pakistan's secret arms sales to US linked with IMF bailout

A secret Pakistani arms sales to the United States helped facilitate a controversial bailout from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) earlier this year, according to a report published by The Intercept, an online American non-profit news organization.

The arms sales were made for the purpose of supplying the Ukrainian military, signaling Pakistani involvement in a conflict it had faced US pressure to take sides on.

Turkey’s Resurgence in the Black Sea Basin

Kamran Bokhari

Russia’s weakening, especially following its invasion of Ukraine, has serious implications for its southern flank. In the years ahead, Moscow’s ability to project power in the Black Sea basin will decline, and one of the main beneficiaries will be Turkey. Though currently overwhelmed by political and economic problems at home, in the medium to long term Turkey can be expected to fill the strategic vacuum left by Russia’s receding footprint in the Caucasus region.


Riley Bailey

Ukrainian forces continued offensive operations in the Bakhmut direction on September 16 and continued to make gains in the area. Geolocated footage posted on September 15 confirms that Ukrainian forces have advanced south of Rozdolivka (about 13km northeast of Bakhmut) and in northern Klishchiivka (about 6km southwest of Bakhmut).[1] Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar noted that fighting is ongoing near Klishchiivka and Kurdyumivka (12km southwest of Bakhmut) and stated that Ukrainian forces continue to be successful in the Klishchiivka area.[2] Ukrainian Ground Forces Commander Colonel General Oleksandr Syrsky posted footage of Ukrainian personnel in Andriivka (8km southwest of Bakhmut) following the Ukrainian liberation of the settlement on September 14.[3]

Crimea Strike Suggests 'Systemic Failures' of Russian Air Defense


Ukraine's successful attack on a Russian surface-to-air missile system in Crimea may be a sign that Moscow is experiencing "systemic tactical failures" within its defense meshwork in the region, reported the Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

The Armed Forces of Ukraine said Thursday that its troops had successfully struck a Russian S-400 "Triumf" system near the city of Yevpatoria—roughly 42 miles northwest of Sevastopol, where Kyiv carried out an airstrike against Russia's Black Sea Fleet earlier this week. According to a report from Ukrainian media outlet Ukrayinska Pravda, Kyiv struck the missile system's radars and antennas using drones, and two Neptune cruise missiles were used to wallop the S-400's launch complexes.

Kendall outlines China threat in stark detail, offers blueprint for effective response

Mixing historical cautions with stark but informed assessments, Department of the Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall presented a detailed tutorial Sept. 11 for why China is America’s preeminent security threat and why the Air Force and Space Force must modernize and adapt quickly to ensure the nation’s security and interests are protected.

While Kendall’s 30-minute keynote address to the Air & Space Force Association’s 2023 Air, Space & Cyber Conference was like previous speeches in its broad themes, his remarks Monday went into a stark and more detailed direction about China’s evolution and what it means in today’s world than he has previously.

China-Linked ‘Redfly’ Group Targeted Power Grid

Ionut Arghire

Symantec has identified a new advanced persistent threat (APT) actor that appears to be focusing exclusively on targeting critical national infrastructure organizations.

Dubbed Redfly, the threat actor has been observed using the ShadowPad remote access trojan (RAT), a successor of Korplug/PlugX, to maintain presence on a compromised national power grid in Asia for as long as six months.

Discovered earlier this year, the attack is the latest in a series of intrusions targeting critical national infrastructure entities, employing tools and infrastructure that overlap with previous activity attributed to Chinese state-sponsored group APT41 (also tracked as Winnti, Wicked Panda, Blackfly, and Grayfly).

The US Is Sleepwalking Through a Geopolitical Transformation

William Moloney

When Napoleon (1812) and later Hitler (1941) launched immense armies to invade Russia, they believed they were compassing the final element needed to give them total mastery of Continental Europe. In fact, they were advancing toward a nemesis where their great armies would perish in the snows of Russia, and they themselves would be in exile or dead within a few years.

As with individuals, nations move through history often unaware of either the nature of their journeys or their likely destinations. Evidence is mounting that strongly suggests the United States is approaching a critical turning point in its historical journey that will lead to a transformation of global geopolitics and a destination far different from what its current leadership believes or hopes for.

How China Can Hurt the U.S. Economy

Cameron Abadi

To mark the two-year anniversary of Ones and Tooze, the podcast we co-host, we dedicated this week’s episode to listener questions—specifically, questions devoted to China. What follows is an excerpt, edited for length and clarity. For the full conversation, look for Ones and Tooze wherever you get your podcasts.

Is the G-20 Useless?

Emma Ashford

Emma Ashford: Happy Friday, Matt! It’s been a busy couple of weeks for the White House, as the president wrapped up a whirlwind tour to India and Vietnam. The media spent most of its time focused on his advanced age, and—of course—congressional Republicans decided to move forward with an impeachment investigation of the president. There’s a looming government shutdown, too.

Am I the only one irritated that no one is actually talking about foreign-policy issues?

Matt Kroenig: Well, the other items are certainly more entertaining (and, in some cases, puzzling) for a broader audience. If you understand President Joe Biden’s repeated references to “lying, dog-faced pony soldiers,” please do explain.

Did India’s G20 just crack the code for diplomatic consensus?

Last month, India successfully landed its Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft on the moon. This weekend, at a futuristic convention center in New Delhi that looks like a flying saucer, another landmark landing was achieved. The Group of Twenty (G20) approved an eighty-three-paragraph leaders’ declaration, covering issues ranging from plastic pollution to terrorism. While consensus among the world’s wealthiest countries is always difficult—and the absence of Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladmir Putin lowered expectations further—Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi guided home the declaration, which welcomed the African Union as a new member to the group, among other important points.

Below, Atlantic Council experts explore the communiqué and other milestones from the G20 Summit, along with the new diplomatic frontiers that lie ahead.

Toward a two-phase US strategy for Ukraine

Michael E. O’Hanlon

Skeptics of U.S. support for Ukraine in its fight for survival against Russia often sound callous, strategically naive, or both. But they are right to question the Biden administration’s approach to the war. Saying we’ll help Ukraine “for as long as it takes” is more of a slogan or exhortation than a strategy, especially as time goes by.

The Missing Escalation in Ukraine

Austin Carson

Since the moment Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, the specter of escalation has loomed over the war. For Ukrainian citizens and soldiers, the war is a grueling, horrific, daily reality that has already escalated in notable ways; in August, Kyiv ramped up strikes in Russia, and Moscow has resumed its campaign against Ukrainian grain exports through the Black Sea. Seen another way, however, many of the most feared escalation scenarios have not occurred, most notably a large-scale conventional war between NATO and Russia and the use of nuclear weapons.

Ukraine’s drone strikes are a window into the future of warfare

Mark Jacobsen

On the night of August 29, Ukrainian kamikaze drones penetrated more than 370 kilometers into Russia in a bold attack on Russian airfields. The attack destroyed two of Russia’s roughly one hundred IL-76 heavy transport aircraft and damaged two other planes. Up to twenty drones may have been involved, reportedly launched from within Russia with either the knowledge or oversight of Ukraine’s Defense Intelligence Directorate. That same week, Ukrainians used cardboard drones from Australian firm SYPAQ to damage a MiG-29 and four Su-30 fighters in Russia’s Kursk Oblast. And this week, Ukraine reportedly used drones as part of a mission to destroy Russian S-400 and S-300 air-defense systems in Crimea.

‘Realism’ for Ukraine includes unrealistic expectations


Garry Kasparov, the renowned Russian dissident, recently observed that the Biden administration may be covertly negotiating with Russia to reach “land for peace” deals and many would-be experts are constantly urging this outcome. Many if not most of the proponents of this argument claim to be adherents of realism, a doctrine of international relations theory so they are not in this for the money.

Nevertheless, the more one scrutinizes the arguments that constantly repeat themselves in their work, the more unrealistic they turn out to be.

How Ukraine Could Take Crimea Back From Russia


Ukraine's military has ramped up attacks on Crimea, launching successful strikes on both land and sea. The increased military effort has inspired discussion about Kyiv possibly reclaiming the region by force, and how they would go about doing it.

"Retaking the peninsula will be hard, but it remains possible," Dr. Scott Savitz, a senior engineer at the RAND Corporation, told Newsweek. "At the very least, Crimea is no longer a secure base from which Russia can attack other parts of Ukraine."

Will Labour's approach change if they win a majority?


The big question in Westminster is the extent to which the Labour party will pivot away, after the election, from super-cautious stances on tax and spending, Europe, and social issues, towards a more radical agenda.

The issue is not that Labour lacks vision. If you take their “missions” literally their pledges are far more ambitious than any other opposition party in recent history. It’s not even that they currently lack the specific policies to achieve these missions. Oppositions rarely work up detailed plans as they don’t have the resources, and in a few areas, like planning and labour relations, they do have some genuinely bold proposals. The problem is that self-imposed constraints, particularly on fiscal policy, make it impossible to see how the missions, or indeed much less ambitious goals for improving public services or reducing child poverty, could be achieved. This is even more concerning when one considers the state of the public finances, as per last week’s post, and that just to stand still any government would likely have to make substantial cuts and/or raise taxes and/or increase borrowing.

US Cyber Warfare Team Conducts ‘Defensive Hunt’ Near Russia


The US Cyber Command (CYBERCOM) deployed a team of cyberwarfare experts near Russia to conduct a “defensive hunt operation” amid the ongoing war in Ukraine.

The operation lasted for almost a month and was held in the Baltic NATO state of Lithuania, which borders Moscow’s heavily militarized Kaliningrad exclave.

Why AI stocks aren’t in a bubble

The explosion of interest in artificial intelligence this year has fueled a major rally in technology stocks, with a concentrated group of large US companies leading the market higher. This slate of “early winners,” including makers of semiconductors needed to build AI technology and cloud service providers with the computing infrastructure to commercialize it, returned roughly 60% through the first eight months of 2023, according to Goldman Sachs Research.

Government Digital Transformation Strategy

Governments typically deploy technology in reaction to needs and challenges as they arise, and the value of these solutions expires swiftly. The future calls for a digital transformation foundation that adapts and grows your capabilities over time.

Challenges to Implementing Digital Transformation in Government and Public Sector

For many government leaders, the benefits of embracing digital transformation solutions such as AI, IoT, cloud computing, and hybrid workforces are obvious, but the paths forward are many and often confusing to implement. Too often, government agencies are persuaded into deploying bespoke solutions designed to solve one problem, and years of legacy implementations stacked together produce multiple disparate systems that are incapable of sharing data or insights. The value of past technology investments is constrained when it should be multiplicative. Global disruptions—past, present, and future—and constituent demands only complicate matters further.

AI Models Under Attack: Protecting Your Business From AI Cyberthreats

Stu Sjouwerman

Machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) are rapidly unlocking new business opportunities and influencing every industry. That said, AI comes with its own set of risks and threat actors are known to employ a range of novel techniques to exploit weaknesses in AI models, security standards and processes, to dangerous effect. Organizations keen on leveraging AI must be aware of these risks so they can build a more robust AI that is resilient to cyberattacks.

In Show of Force, Silicon Valley Titans Pledge ‘Getting This Right’ With A.I.

Cecilia Kang

Elon Musk, left, of X, Tesla and SpaceX and Alex Karp of Palantir were among the tech leaders who met with lawmakers on Wednesday about artificial intelligence.Credit...Haiyun Jiang for The New York Times

Elon Musk warned of civilizational risks posed by artificial intelligence. Sundar Pichai of Google highlighted the technology’s potential to solve health and energy problems. And Mark Zuckerberg of Meta stressed the importance of open and transparent A.I. systems.

China's Malicious Cyber Activity Informing War Preparations, Pentagon Says

James Coker

China’s malicious cyber activity informs its preparations for a potential military conflict with the US, a new report from the Department of Defense (DoD) has claimed.

The agency’s 2023 Cyber Strategy highlighted the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and Russia’s embrace of malicious cyber activity “as a means to counter US conventional military power and degrade the combat capability of the Joint Force.”

The DoD’s report noted that China has engaged in prolonged campaigns of cyber espionage, theft and compromise against US critical infrastructure, including the Defense Industrial Base (DIB). In the event of a war, the DoD believes China is likely to launch destructive cyber-attacks against the US Homeland in order to hinder military mobilization, sow chaos, and divert attention and resources.

Elon Musk: 'Perhaps a department of AI' needed to keep artificial intelligence 'safe'

Ben Werschkul

Tesla (TSLA) CEO Elon Musk suggested that muscular action from Washington on artificial intelligence is needed, even "perhaps a Department of AI."

"We've created regulatory agencies before," Musk said Wednesday after attending a gathering in Washington with other tech CEOs who convened to discuss AI, according to video of the comments to reporters.

US, Australia should use civil aid, not military, to woo Pacific Island states from China: Wargame


SYDNEY — Military training and aid from Australia and the United States alone is not likely to seal the deal with Pacific Island states like Kiribati and the Solomon Islands as the larger countries try to blunt China’s influence operations in the region. Instead, climate change assistance, targeted development help and much improved strategic messaging and engagement are much more likely to be effective in keeping Beijing at bay in the crucial island states that cover a huge portion of the Pacific Ocean, a wargame by the MITRE Corp. found.

Top Army general in the Pacific warns of China’s military threat

Todd South

The top officer for Army forces in the Pacific region challenged soldiers with a “call to action” to look at the challenges in that area and to think hard about where they’ll be in the next five to 10 years and what they’re doing today to prepare.

In a virtual address to attendees at the annual Maneuver Warfighter Conference at Fort Moore, Georgia, on Tuesday, U.S. Army Pacific commander Gen. Charles Flynn said that Chinese political and military leaders are likely to make serious choices on how to use their growing military power at some point in the next decade.