2 October 2023

The India-Middle East-Europe Corridor: Challenges Ahead

Dr. Mohamed ELDoh

The India-Middle East-Europe Corridor (IMEC), announced during the 2023 G20 Summit, holds significant potential for enhancing economic integration, trade, investments, and fostering cooperation among the participating countries on multiple fronts. This ambitious project aims to establish a seamless trade route connecting India, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA), Jordan, Israel, and Europe, with the potential to revolutionize global trade dynamics. The IMEC is expected to facilitate international trade by creating a consolidated trade route that will reduce trade costs, promote market access, and encourage investment opportunities between the participating countries. It is also expected that such a gigaproject will enhance regional connectivity by improving transportation infrastructure, cross-border cooperation, energy supply, and logistical efficiencies. This connectivity will foster closer economic ties and allow for the movement of goods, services, and labor more smoothly. More importantly, the establishment of this corridor may serve as a catalyst for increased diplomatic collaboration and geopolitical stability among the participating nations. Close economic ties resulting from the corridor will incentivize collaboration on various fronts, including security, counterterrorism, and regional stability. Additionally, a shared economic interest will create avenues for stronger diplomatic relations, security cooperation, facilitating dialogue, and fostering geopolitical equilibrium.

Even though the IMEC, announced during the recent G20 Summit, holds significant potential for the participating countries, it may face several critical challenges and obstacles that must be addressed to ensure its successful implementation and maximize its benefits. One of the foremost challenges for the IMEC is navigating the complex geopolitics of the region. The corridor spans diverse nations with varying political dynamics, interests, and previous tensions.

BRICS+6: The More the Un-Merrier?

Toufic Sarieddine

Much jubilation was made following the admission of six new member states into the BRICS bloc. While it is understandable to assume that more members mean a more powerful stance against Western imperialism/dominance and a closer step towards the oft-spoken “multipolarity,” what divisions and vulnerabilities existed prior to this expansion have arguably increased and common ground shrunken. Moreover, one cannot help but question the – to put it bluntly – utility of the new members given each state’s vulnerabilities and relationships to the Western order.

The Myth of Multipolarity

On the notion of BRICS heralding a multipolar order, one must first determine how many poles there seem to be forming and for this one need only examine trade patterns. A multipolar order means that, instead of one unipolar hegemony, the US, exerting power and influence, Brazil would become the hegemon of South America, China of East Asia, and South Africa of (at least) Sub-Saharan Africa, and so on. According to world-systems analysis, a feature of hegemony has been the achievement of a trade surplus with peripheries, resulting from the unequal trade of raw materials and finished products, and resulting in a net flow of revenue to the hegemon/core. Applying this to BRICS reveals that South Africa has been usurped by China (and the US) in its own turf of Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA).

Global Engagement Center Special Report: How the People’s Republic of China Seeks to Reshape the Global Information Environment

Every country should have the ability to tell its story to the world. However, a nation’s narrative should be based on facts and rise and fall on its own merits. The PRC employs a variety of deceptive and coercive methods as it attempts to influence the international information environment. Beijing’s information manipulation spans the use of propaganda, disinformation, and censorship. Unchecked, the PRC’s efforts will reshape the global information landscape, creating biases and gaps that could even lead nations to make decisions that subordinate their economic and security interests to Beijing’s.
PRC Information Manipulation

The PRC spends billions of dollars annually on foreign information manipulation efforts.2 Beijing uses false or biased information to promote positive views of the PRC and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). At the same time, the PRC suppresses critical information that contradicts its desired narratives on issues such as Taiwan, its human rights practices, the South China Sea, its domestic economy, and international economic engagement. More broadly, the PRC seeks to cultivate and uphold a global incentive structure that encourages foreign governments, elites, journalists, and civil society to accept its preferred narratives and avoid criticizing its conduct.

China Uses ‘Deceptive’ Methods to Sow Disinformation, U.S. Says

Steven Lee Myers

The State Department accused China on Thursday of using “deceptive and coercive methods” to shape the global information environment, by acquiring stakes in foreign newspapers and television networks, using major social media platforms to promote its views and exerting pressure on international organizations and media outlets to silence critics of Beijing.

The accusations, detailed in a report by the department’s Global Engagement Center, reflect worry in Washington that China’s information operations pose a growing security challenge to the United States and to democratic principles around the world by promoting “digital authoritarianism.”

China not only pushes its own propaganda, the report said, but exports digital surveillance tools to police information and people online. Although many of the tactics detailed are not new, the report warned that they could “lead nations to make decisions that subordinate their economic and security interests to Beijing.”

“Every country has the right and every right to tell its story to the world, but a nation’s narrative should be facts, and it should rise or fall on its own merits,” James P. Rubin, the coordinator of the Global Engagement Center, said at a briefing. Referring to the People’s Republic of China, he went on: “By contrast, the P.R.C. advances coercive techniques and increasingly outright lies.”

The report echoes a raft of recent studies detailing the growing — and shifting — scope of China’s information campaigns. It came a day after officials disclosed in a Senate briefing that Chinese hackers who gained access to the email accounts of Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and other officials this year stole 60,000 emails from the State Department alone.

The Dysfunctional Superpower Can a Divided America Deter China and Russia?

Robert M. Gates

The United States now confronts graver threats to its security than it has in decades, perhaps ever. Never before has it faced four allied antagonists at the same time—Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran—whose collective nuclear arsenal could within a few years be nearly double the size of its own. Not since the Korean War has the United States had to contend with powerful military rivals in both Europe and Asia. And no one alive can remember a time when an adversary had as much economic, scientific, technological, and military power as China does today.

The problem, however, is that at the very moment that events demand a strong and coherent response from the United States, the country cannot provide one. Its fractured political leadership—Republican and Democratic, in the White House and in Congress—has failed to convince enough Americans that developments in China and Russia matter. Political leaders have failed to explain how the threats posed by these countries are interconnected. They have failed to articulate a long-term strategy to ensure that the United States, and democratic values more broadly, will prevail.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin have much in common, but two shared convictions stand out. First, each is convinced that his personal destiny is to restore the glory days of his country’s imperial past. For Xi, this means reclaiming imperial China’s once dominant role in Asia while harboring even greater ambitions for global influence. For Putin, it means pursuing an awkward mixture of reviving the Russian Empire and recapturing the deference that was accorded the Soviet Union. Second, both leaders are convinced that the developed democracies—above all, the United States—are past their prime and have entered an irreversible decline. This decline, they believe, is evident in these democracies’ growing isolationism, political polarization, and domestic disarray.

Time For An Asian NATO: Meet The Indo-Pacific Treaty Organization

Kaush Arha

U.S. Air Force Maj. Kristin Wolfe performs a demonstration in the F-35A Lightning II during at the Reno Air Races in Reno, Nevada, September 19, 2021. The F-35 Lightning II Demonstration Team is based out of Hill Air Force Base, Utah. 

The United States is bolstering defense and security alliances across the Indo-Pacific at a determined pace. Chinese provocations appear to be a major catalyst for this effort. Indeed, those provocations are reflected in China’s new national map, which includes territories within the national borders of India, Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, and others. China is following the autocratic Soviet/Russian playbook, laying claim to its neighbors’ territories.

A collective defense arrangement for the Indo-Pacific is the most effective deterrent to Beijing’s hegemonic designs. It is time to give serious thought to an Indo-Pacific Treaty Organization. This IPTO would draw on lessons from NATO, whose relevance has been renewed and whose strength is now bolstered by Finland and soon Sweden.

Making It Formal in the Indo-Pacific

Several Indo-Pacific nations explicitly or tacitly rely on the United States as the guarantor of their security and territorial integrity. Many nations are acutely aware that U.S. security assurances and U.S.-enforced freedom of navigation shields them from greater Chinese economic coercion. Meanwhile, U.S. domestic politics over the last half-decade appear more amenable to expanding defense and security partnerships in the Indo-Pacific, rather than focusing on trade alliances. Consequently, the same idea is trending upward across the Indo-Pacific itself.

China: a superpower’s slump

China’s debt is now nearly four times bigger than its GDP

After 40 years of explosive growth, China’s economy is now in deep distress — with no turnaround in sight. Here's everything you need to know:

What’s going wrong in China?

The country’s economy has hit a wall, ending the longest-running boom in history. Since the ruling Communist Party embraced Western-style trade, investment, and market forces in the late 1970s, China has doubled the size of its economy every decade. Some 800 million Chinese have been lifted out of poverty, and the once largely rural nation has been transformed into a manufacturing colossus and America’s only superpower competitor. But China’s economy is now decelerating sharply, with gross domestic product growing at 3% last year — dropping from 7.4% a decade earlier. Exports are sagging, consumer spending is down, private investment has dropped by a quarter since 2020, and fears of a deflationary spiral are rising. China’s debt is now nearly four times bigger than its GDP, and a burst housing bubble has left up to 80 million apartments unoccupied, threatening the savings of millions of Chinese who invested in the real estate market. “We’re witnessing a gearshift in what has been the most dramatic trajectory in economic history,” said Columbia University economic historian Adam Tooze. Young people have been hit especially hard by the slowdown.

How are young Chinese affected?

EU talks tough on trade in China as it looks to play defense


EU trade chief Valdis Dombrovskis came to China vowing to be assertive in his calls for Beijing to give European businesses a fair shot at doing business there and close a yawning bilateral trade deficit.

But his host, Vice Premier He Lifeng, gave as good as he got, reiterating Beijing's "strong concern and dissatisfaction" over a recent investigation launched by the EU into Chinese electric vehicle subsidies and, disapprovingly, rattling off a list of measures that Brussels is working on to strengthen Europe's trade defenses.

“China hopes that the EU would exercise restraint on the use of trade remedies, and to keep the expectation of the development of EU-China trade stable," He told a joint news conference after a round of high-level talks on trade and the economy in Beijing.

The comments by He, who is widely considered to be one of Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s closest confidants, didn't bode well for Europe's hopes of rebalancing the trading relationship at a time of deepening geopolitical tensions.

“We are concerned about [the] imbalance in our relationship. The EU is having a trade deficit with China of almost €400 billion,” said Dombrovskis, who is executive vice president of the European Commission. “Addressing these concerns will help China to retain its capacity to attrac

How Armenia and Azerbaijan’s conflict could still destabilize the region

Ellen Ioanes 

A decades-long conflict in the Caucasus flared up last week — only to seemingly finally be decided.

Azerbaijan on September 19 launched an “anti-terror” strike aimed at Nagorno-Karabakh, the semi-autonomous, majority-Armenian region within its internationally recognized borders. One day later, the breakaway government agreed to disarm and dissolve its military. It was the second time in three years that Azerbaijan’s government made decisive gains in a conflict with Nagorno-Karabakh.

Now, many of those ethnic Armenians are fleeing the territory — 100,000 according to Filippo Grandi, the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, more than 80 percent of the population of the region. The breakaway region’s leaders told Reuters that as many as 120,000 people — essentially the entire population of Nagorno-Karabakh — would leave, out of fear of ethnic cleansing by Azerbaijan’s government after the region’s de facto government capitulated to Azerbaijan last week.

A member of Nagorno-Karabakh’s former government, Ruben Vardanyan, has also been taken into custody by Azerbaijani border guards while trying to flee to Armenia, Al Jazeera reported Thursday. Armenian outlets have reported that David Babayan, an adviser to the region’s former president, has also turned himself in to authorities.

The EU and Azerbaijan: Time to Talk Tough


The events of the last week are triggering a debate on the need for a deep reset of Europe’s policy toward Azerbaijan.

On September 19, Azerbaijan used military force to retake the Armenian-populated territory of Nagorny Karabakh, crossing a red line drawn for it by both the European Union and the United States.

The consequences are cataclysmic. The eventual casualties will run into the hundreds. Fearful for their future, thousands of Karabakh Armenians are now making a mass tragic exodus from their homeland to Armenia.

Many in Brussels and Washington feel shocked and betrayed by Azerbaijan’s use of force. Up until the last minute, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev was reportedly assuring high-level interlocutors—including European Council President Charles Michel and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken—that he would not launch a military operation.

At the United Nations, German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock, said it most clearly: “Baku broke its repeated assurances to refrain from the use of force, causing tremendous suffering to a population already in dire straits.”

An egregious aspect of this is that Azerbaijan was getting pretty much everything it wanted at the negotiating table. After years of deadlock and many equivocations, the Karabakh Armenians had agreed to talks with Baku, which would have resulted in a deal on some kind of integration into Azerbaijan. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan had acceded to the international norm in acknowledging Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity, including Nagorny Karabakh.

Iran’s Influence Operation Pays Off

Graeme Wood

When news comes out that someone has suffered an email breach, my first instinct is to pity them and practice extreme charity. I don’t remember any emails I wrote a decade ago, but I’m sure there’s something in there appalling enough to sour my relationships with every friend, ex, or co-worker I ever had. Give me your email password, and I will ruin your career.

This week, the careers in jeopardy belong to a handful of Americans and Europeans who were, by the looks of their emails, groomed by the Iranian government to promote conciliatory policies toward Tehran. According to reports by Semafor and Iran International, Iranian foreign-policy bigwigs such as Mohammad Javad Zarif identified think-tank staffers of Iranian origin, sponsored meetings with them, and used the group to coordinate and spread messages helpful to Iran. The emails, which date from 2014, suggest that those in their group—the “Iran Experts Initiative”—reacted to Iranian outreach in a range of ways, including cautious engagement and active coordination. The Iranian government then paid expenses related to this group’s internal meetings; cultivated its members with “access to high-ranking officials and extended invitations to visit Tehran,” according to Iran International; and later gloated over how effectively it had used its experts to propagate the Islamic Republic’s positions.

The Past, Present, and Future of U.S. Assistance to Ukraine: A Deep Dive into the Data

Elizabeth Hoffman , Jaehyun Han , and Shivani Vakharia

In early August, the Biden administration sent a supplemental appropriations request to Capitol Hill for $24 billion in assistance for Ukraine. Supplemental appropriations provide additional funding during the course of a fiscal year outside of the regular appropriations process. This mechanism is typically used to respond to urgent and unanticipated needs. The fate of this request is in flux as House Republicans are struggling to agree on a broader approach to keep the federal government open past its quickly approaching funding deadline on September 30. Even if House Republicans manage to come to an agreement, they are miles apart from the Senate and the administration—including Senate Republicans.

Q1: Since the start of the war, how much funding has Congress appropriated for Ukraine?

A1: To date, Congress has passed four spending packages in response to Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine— $113 billion in total. The $113 billion spans agencies and bureaus and provides for much-needed support in areas including military equipment, migration and refugee assistance, energy, and countering disinformation.

The Department of Defense (DOD) has received a majority—54.7 percent, or $61.8 billion—of the appropriations across the four supplemental packages, to date. The DOD has received the most funding in every supplemental cycle, ranging from 47 to 63 percent each time. The second-largest sum of funds went to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) at 32.3 percent of appropriated funds. Only 8.8 percent of the total funds appropriated have gone to the Department of State—primarily for refugee assistance and foreign military financing. The remaining funds appropriated to other U.S. government agencies makes up less than 5 percent of the total. The Department of Commerce and the U.S. Agency for Global Media are the only two agencies for which no funds were allocated after the first supplemental.

The Promise and Peril of EU Expansion

Carl Bildt

Over the last six decades, no part of European integration has been as transformational as the gradual enlargement of what is now the European Union. The EU’s expansion brought democracy to places that knew only authoritarian rule. It turned what was a perennially conflict-ridden continent into one of the most prosperous regions in the world.

From the beginning, the number-one aim of integration was to reconcile France and Germany, which had fought three wars within less than a century. To do so, the two countries tied together their steel and coal industries in July 1952—the symbols and substance of power in those days. In the following years, multiple European states continued to merge their economies in various ways, forming the institutions that eventually turned into the EU. Each wave of enlargement had a different aim. After the dictatorships of Greece, Portugal, and Spain fell in the mid-1970s, these countries joined the entity in a successful effort to stabilize their fragile democracies. After the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, the bloc naturally admitted Europe’s previously neutral nations, Austria, Finland, and Sweden. Over the following decade, it welcomed the ex–Warsaw Pact countries of Europe and the Baltic states, as well as parts of the Balkans.

During each round, many analysts feared that expanding the bloc would dilute it. But these concerns never came to pass. Instead, growth has gone hand in hand with deepening ties and connections. Originally, for example, all the bloc’s decisions had to be unanimous, which inhibited collective action. But when the EU introduced the integrated single market in 1993, it began making most of its decisions by a supermajority in most of the different councils of ministers (although still many decisions in practice are taken by consensual.) There is of course, a co-decision mechanism with the European Parliament on all legislative issues. There are also important domains where decisions must still be unanimous, notably on foreign affairs, and there are wide areas in which policymaking still lies primarily with different member states. But the EU today has far more power within its members than ever before.

Russian lines stronger than West expected, admits British defence chief

George Grylls

Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, chief of the defence staff, said a Ukraine victory depended on it being able to outlast Russia

Russian defences in Ukraine have been stronger than the West anticipated, the head of the British armed forces has admitted.

Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, the chief of the defence staff, suggested expectations may need to be “adjusted” about what Kyiv can achieve in the short term after the counteroffensive failed to deliver the decisive breakthrough many hoped for at the beginning of the summer.

Radakin yesterday accompanied Grant Shapps, the defence secretary, to Ukraine. It was Shapps’s first visit to Kyiv since he replaced Ben Wallace earlier this month.

Tank battles of the kind the Abrams was built for are rare in Ukraine, where tanks aren't often killed in fights with enemy armor

Chris Panella,Ryan Pickrell

U.S. Army M1/A1 Abrams tanks from Charlie company of the 464 Armored Battalion are deployed during task force maneuvers on December 18, 2002, near the Iraqi border in the Kuwaiti. Scott Nelson/Getty ImagesUS-made M1A1 Abrams tanks have arrived in Ukraine, but the war may not give it the opportunity to do what it does best.
The Abrams was designed to defeat Soviet-built armor.

American-made M1A1 Abrams tanks have arrived in Ukraine, but these powerful tanks with a combat-proven ability to defeat Soviet-built armor may not see much of the tank-on-tank combat for which they were built.

Ukrainian officials told The Wall Street Journal that fewer than 5% of tanks destroyed since Russia's full-scale invasion have been killed by other tanks. An overwhelming majority have been wrecked by land mines, drones, anti-tank missiles, and artillery. Tank battles aren't happening often, the report said.

Tank battles do still happen, as recently released battlefield footage has showed, but they are uncommon. Land warfare experts at the Royal United Services Institute noted that earlier this year, writing in a report that "tank-on-tank engagements have become relatively rare."

In this environment, the Abrams may have less opportunity to do what it does best. As a former Army officer told Insider, the Abrams "can do other things, but it's built to kill tanks."

Cyber-Attacks on Ukraine Surge 123%, But Success Rates Plummet

Kevin Poireault

Russian cyber-attacks against Ukraine skyrocketed in the first half of 2023, with 762 incidents observed by Ukraine’s State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection (SSSCIP).

This represents a 123% surge compared with the second half of 2022.

However, the SSSCIP also found that these attacks were significantly less successful than in the past, with critical incidents dropping by 81% and the number of what the agency tracks as “incidents with impact” falling by 48% in H1 2023 compared with H2 2022.

How Russian Cyber Tactics Are Changing

These changes can be attributed to a shift in tactics used by the attackers from sophisticated tactics and tools like wiper malware to employing a simpler ‘spray and pray’ approach with a growing use of ‘living off the land’ techniques.

For instance, malware distribution has decreased by 52.41%, largely replaced by less sophisticated phishing attacks and leveraging open source email systems with known vulnerabilities.Source: SSSCIP

US National Security Agency unveils artificial intelligence security centre

The United States National Security Agency (NSA) has announced the creation of an artificial intelligence security centre that will oversee the development and integration of AI capabilities within US defence and intelligence services.

Director of the NSA and US Cyber Command, General Paul Nakasone, said on Thursday that US officials were aware of the increasing importance of AI in the national security landscape and the opening of the new centre was part of steps to “shape the future” of AI technology in the security, defence and intelligence sectors.

“We maintain an advantage in AI in the United States today. That AI advantage should not be taken for granted,” Nakasone said at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, where he spoke about the opening of the centre and the growing threat that China posed.

The AI centre will be incorporated into the NSA’s current Cybersecurity Collaboration Center, Nakasone said, where it will become the focal point for “promoting the secure adoption of new AI capabilities across the national security enterprise and the defence industry base”.

“AI will be increasingly consequential for national security in diplomatic, technological and economic matters for our country and our allies and partners,” Nakasone said, according to a statement from the US Department of Defense.

The NSA chief said it was imperative that the US maintains its leadership in AI development and that malicious foreign actors be prevented from obtaining US innovations in AI.

“We must build a robust understanding of AI vulnerabilities, foreign intelligence threats to these AI systems and ways to encounter the threat in order to have AI security,” he said.

Asked about the US using AI to automate the analysis of threats, Nakasone said that US intelligence and defence agencies already use AI though final decisions are still made by humans.

“AI helps us, but our decisions are made by humans. And that’s an important distinction,” he said. “We do see assistance from artificial intelligence. But at the end of the day, decisions will be made by humans and humans in the loop.”

Responding to reporters’ questions, Nakasone said the US security agency had not “yet” detected attempts by either Russia or China to influence the 2024 US presidential elections.

A number of elections will take place in other parts of the world before the US presidential vote, he said, and the US will work with partners and allies to help deter any such manipulation efforts.

The establishment of an AI security centre follows an NSA study that identified securing AI models from theft and sabotage as a key national security challenge for the US, especially as generative AI technologies emerge with immense transformative potential for both good and bad actors.

Cybersecurity researchers also say that China has in recent months stepped up cyber operations focused on US and allied institutions that may include pre-positioning malware designed to disrupt military communications.

On Thursday, the US and Japan issued an alert saying Chinese hackers were targeting government, industrial, telecommunications and other entities that support their militaries.

Drones Everywhere: How the Technological Revolution on Ukraine Battlefields Is Reshaping Modern Warfare

Yaroslav Trofimov

CASIV YAR, Ukraine—Wearing video goggles, a Ukrainian trooper crouched on the top floor of a gutted high-rise and piloted a small drone into the nearby Russian-occupied city of Bakhmut.

With a swoosh, the first-person-view drone—which cost roughly $300 to assemble—sped after a target of opportunity, blowing up a pickup truck full of Russian troops.

“Before we started flying here, the Russians had so much movement that there were traffic jams in Bakhmut,” said the pilot, a member of the Special Operations Center “A” of the Security Service of Ukraine. “Now, all the roads in Bakhmut are empty.”

With thousands of Ukrainian and Russian drones in the air along the front line at a given time, from cheap quadrocopters to long-range winged aircraft that can fly hundreds of miles and stay on target for hours, the very nature of war has transformed.

The drones are just one element of change. New integrated battle-management systems that provide imaging and locations in real time all the way down to the platoon and squad levels—in Ukraine’s case, via the Starlink satellite network—have made targeting near instantaneous.

A drone pilot steers a first-person-view drone laden with explosives into Bakhmut, eastern Ukraine.

“Today, a column of tanks or a column of advancing troops can be discovered in three to five minutes and hit in another three minutes. The survivability on the move is no more than 10 minutes,” said Maj. Gen. Vadym Skibitsky, the deputy commander of Ukraine’s HUR military intelligence service. “Surprises have become very difficult to achieve.”

Ukraine Getting ATACMS Cluster Variant Would Be A Big Problem For Russia


In the course of the discussions about what Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) ballistic missiles could offer Ukraine, much of the focus has been on variants of these weapons equipped with unitary (single high-explosive) warheads. However, versions loaded with cluster munitions could introduce a whole other set of dire complications to Russian forces.

ATACMS, a late Cold War-era American short-range ballistic missile, comes in two primary flavors. The first two variants of this missile were cluster munition dispensing models loaded with 950 and 275-300 submunitions and with maximum ranges of 165 kilometers (102 miles) and 300 kilometers (186 miles), respectively. The two missiles are known variously as the MGM-140A and B, the Block I and IA, and the M39 and M39A1.

A composite image of ATACMS releasing its deadly payload of bomblets. 

Influenced by Disinformation: What the U.S. Can Do to Counter Disinformation Operations

Del Sanders & Peter Roberto

In February and March of 2022, as Russian troops crossed into Ukraine, Russian misinformation concurrently crossed over social media platforms to support them. Russia attempted to promote the idea that Ukraine housed bioweapons plants for the U.S. While the idea was swiftly debunked, it gained traction amongst conspiracy theorists in the U.S. The prevalence of these conspiracy theories in public debate eroded the public’s faith in U.S. institutions, capitalizing on disunity amongst Americans, lack of government efficiency, and lack of institutional transparency. The ability to influence a myriad of population sectors worldwide is the “go-to” tool of 21st century warfare for U.S. competitors. The U.S. must recognize that refilling stockpiles, maintaining nearly 800 bases in 70 countries, and reorganizing the Navy’s carrier posture is not enough to compete in 21st century warfare. Irregular warfare strategies replaced the overt wars of the 20th century. Although the U.S. outspends any country in defense expenditure, increased global connections evened the playing field, enabling irregular warfare operations, especially disinformation campaigns, that cause as much or more damage than a HIMARS barrage. The U.S. must engage Russia, and eventually China, in the information realm, which it all too often confronts from a cyber defense context and not offensive cyber or influencing sentiment. With new tools like “deep fakes” becoming increasingly common on social media, the U.S. must reorganize its efforts to protect and actively cultivate its reputation and control its influence against its competitors. This article outlines three ways to enable the U.S. to effectively compete against adversaries in the information wars.

Russia is a prominent player in the information domain and China is an active learner, both taking advantage of the U.S.’s lack of preparation in the field. Russia has implemented disinformation campaigns since the Cold War, and these activities were revived amidst the various Russian incursions into Ukraine. Russia uses different online groups to implement its recent campaign of lies, including hacktivist groups and the aptly named “Internet Research Agency” formerly owned by notorious Wagner Group founder Yevgeny Prigozhin. In addition, China launched numerous disinformation campaigns against the U.S. and its allies via the People’s Liberation Army.

Rep. Ken Calvert: A hedge strategy for US military superiority


Capt. Mike Aiena, left, commanding officer of Naval Surface Warfare Center, Corona Division, and U.S. Rep. Ken Calvert, 42nd District of California and chairman of the Defense Subcommittee in the House Appropriations Committee, engage in a tour of the warfare center in Norco, California, Nov. 2, 2022. 

On Tuesday night, the House agreed after two failed attempts to move forward with debate on the defense appropriations bill. The man in charge of crafting that legislation is California Republican Rep. Ken Calvert, the Chairman of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. In an op-ed exclusive to Breaking Defense, Calvert lays out how the language can help drive military technological innovation.

Maintaining the status quo in our defense posture will ensure that the Chinese Communist Party’s whole-of-government effort to erode American influence and power will become a reality. It is no coincidence that the first congressional delegation I led as Chairman of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee was to the Indo-Pacific, and that the first defense funding bill I am advancing to the House floor this week prioritizes our military superiority through technological innovation. Heightened tensions around the globe, along with the need for greater fiscal responsibility, require meaningful change to our national security enterprise.

Decades ago, US government spending was the leading driver for new technological advancement, but today, private capital for commercial technology eclipses government funding to technology development. Unfortunately, a multi-decade persistence of a culture at the Department of Defense that incentivizes near-term risk avoidance through slow bureaucratic processes has accrued long-term strategic risk to American world leadership.

Tuberculosis Could Be the Next Global Health Crisis. Is the World Ready?


For those living in affluent countries, it’s easy to forget about tuberculosis, which seems like a disease of the Victorian era. In the U.S., thanks to investments in public health and TB surveillance infrastructure, less than 600 people died from the disease in 2020. Compared to COVID-19, which caused 350,000 deaths that same year, it’s understandable why it's not at the top of the U.S. public health agenda.

But if you zoom out and look at global public health, TB gets much more scary. It is the world’s most deadly infectious disease, killing approximately 1.5 million people per year, reclaiming the top spot from COVID-19 in October 2022. Experts warn that while the spread of TB might seem confined to developing countries right now, its unchecked spread could lead to mutations which result in more drug resistant versions of the disease. That’s something that could be highly disruptive to rich countries, too.

As a result, the world health community is mobilizing, and last week concluded the second-ever United Nations high-level meeting focused on taming the disease. In a major breakthrough, a manufacturer of testing equipment agreed to lower the price of its devices, expanding testing to millions more.

A highly contagious disease

TB is caused when the tuberculosis bacteria spreads in the lungs. Anyone can get the disease, including healthy people, but those who are malnourished, living in crowded living conditions, or are immunocompromised are most susceptible. If untreated, a person with TB will spread the disease to an average of 15 people per year. Most often, patients will first notice that they are sick when they begin experiencing a persistent cough that lasts weeks, sudden weight loss, or a high fever. Without treatment, approximately half of those with TB disease would die within five years.

Ukraine’s Slow-Moving Counteroffensive: Russian Defense Continues to Adapt (Part Four)

Hlib Parfonov

On September 23, the Ukrainian Armed Forces announced a breakthrough in Russian defenses around Verbove in the Zaporizhzhia region (Ukrainska Pravda, September 23). This represents a significant moment for Ukraine’s counteroffensive, which has only made incremental gains in the past few months. The slow-moving advance has run into stiff Russian resistance, especially as Ukrainian units begin to encounter Russia’s second and third defensive lines. The Russian military has effectively adapted much of its defensive posturing and electronic warfare capabilities based on lessons learned from the Ukrainian counteroffensive of September 2022 (Vm.ric.mil.ru, April 22). These changes have led to stalemates along portions of the front.

Russia was largely unprepared for the Ukrainian mechanized units equipped with modernized main battle tanks and armored vehicles. Russian units sought to disrupt the advance of tanks and mechanized units with sustained artillery fire on areas where Ukrainian groupings were concentrated. Medium-caliber multiple launch rocket systems (MLRS) fired 9M27F rockets with high-explosive warheads at the mechanized echelons and 9M27K2 rockets with cluster warheads to mine the terrain remotely in front of advancing Ukrainian columns. The Tornado-S MLRS was used to disrupt the initial Ukrainian advance with strikes at a range of up to 50 kilometers (31 miles) from the front. Overall, this approach was minimally effective due to a shortage of munitions compounded by a high rate of fire (T.me/milinfolive, September 2, 2022).

Russia prepared ambushes at road junctions, bridge crossings and other areas to slow Ukrainian units. (See Figure 1.) Their distance from the front depended on the ability of Russia’s reconnaissance equipment to identify and map out the Ukrainian approach to the designated ambush points (Vm.ric.mil.ru, April 22). Russian fire concentrated on stationary armored objects using 122-millimeter and larger high fragmentation munitions. The Krasnopol-M2 guided artillery shell was used to destroy tanks, BMPs and armored personnel carriers, provided targeting coordinates could be accurately relayed from the Orlan-30 reconnaissance drones.

Nagorno-Karabakh and the long death of the Soviet empire


One conflict that has alternately simmered and flared since the last years of the Soviet Union is over. The predominantly Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh is in the process of being completely absorbed by Armenia’s neighbour, Azerbaijan. Many if not most of its over 140,000 inhabitants have either left or are preparing to leave. Since last week, convoys of cars, lorries and buses have been making their way to the Armenian border, with many of those onboard sorrowfully – and probably correctly – lamenting that they will never see their homes again.

Nagorno-Karabakh had become an archetypal frozen conflict – a long-standing dispute reopened by the weakening of Soviet power and left unresolved after the Soviet collapse. The territory was populated mainly by Armenians and was regarded by Armenia as ancestral land. Although quasi-autonomous since the Soviet break-up and administered by Armenians, it had one crucial vulnerability. It was inside Azerbaijan and recognised by the UN as part of Azerbaijan. Just a narrow corridor linked it to Armenia.

The end, when it came, came suddenly. Two weeks ago, Azerbaijan launched what appeared to be an opportunistic attack on Nagorno-Karabakh’s capital, Stepanakert, and seized power. There was little resistance; there was no point.

The New American Way of Trade

Robert E. Lighthizer

In December 2019, in the middle of one of the most toxic political environments in U.S. history, the House of Representatives cast the most significant vote on trade matters in decades. By a vote of 385 to 41, the House of Representatives changed the course of trade policy by approving the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA), upending the unbridled free trade philosophy that had been conventional wisdom for 70 years. Significantly, more than 90 percent of both Democratic and Republican members supported the agreement.