3 October 2023

India Won’t Be Bullied In Multipolar Setting

M.K. Bhadrakumar

The sombre mood at the Council on Foreign Affairs in New York during External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar’s talk on Tuesday was only to be expected against the backdrop of the India-Canada diplomatic spat over the killing of a Sikh secessionist in Vancouver in June, which, reportedly, was “coordinated” on the Canadian side with Washington based on intelligence inputs from the Five Eyes.

However, the event’s main thrust took an overtly geopolitical overtone with the CFR hosts calling out the Indian minister to weigh in on India’s growing assertiveness on the global stage and its perspectives on the international situation involving Russia and China, and the “limits” to the US-Indian relationship.

It is no secret that the Canadian-Indian spat into which Washington has inserted itself has a deeper geopolitical agenda. The Financial Times, the western daily perceived as closest to the Biden administration, in fact, carried a report last week entitled The west’s Modi problem with a blurb that neatly caught its main theme — “The US and its allies are cultivating India as an economic and diplomatic partner. But its prime minister’s authoritarian streak is becoming harder to ignore.”

India’s Stake in the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict

Seamus Duffy

When it comes to Armenia and its ethnic exclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, India has staked out a fairly defined position over the last few years, from arms sales to transcontinental rail lines to condemnations of Azerbaijan’s aggression in the region. Certainly, this was not without reason. For one, Azerbaijan’s long-time association with Pakistan had turned the conflict into one of the world’s more obscure proxy wars. Additionally, the South Caucasus region has become key for India’s ambitions to build a transportation corridor linking it to Europe through the Iranian plateau (called the International North-South Transportation Corridor, or INSTC), a plan Armenia was all too eager to support.

All of this might suggest that in light of the collapse of Armenian lines in Nagorno-Karabakh last week, and the separatist government’s surrender this week, India would be quick to emphasize its interests in the region. Yet the silence from the External Affairs Ministry speaks volumes about India’s estimation of the future of the South Caucasus.

India’s involvement as late as this summer in Armenian affairs was, if anything, progressing toward greater support for Armenia. India sold arms to Armenia, including rocket launchers, artillery, and radar systems, despite loud resistance by Azerbaijan. India also sought to continue a years-long process of developing business ties with Armenia by signing several new MOUs with Armenia on digital infrastructure, in anticipation of the increased commercial connection between the two countries via the INSTC. In this regard, India actually appeared to be doubling down on developing parts of the transport corridor, with increased investments being made and new contracts being drawn up over the summer for Iran’s Chabahar port, an important piece of the INSTC.

Russia Hosts Taliban for Talks on Regional Threats and Says It Will Keep Funding Afghanistan

Moscow will keep helping Afghanistan on its own and through the U.N. food agency, Russian officials said Friday as they hosted Taliban representatives for talks on regional threats.

The talks in the Russian city of Kazan came as Moscow is trying to maintain its influence in Central Asia even as it wages war on Ukraine. The discussions focused on regional threats and creating inclusive government, Russian state news agency Tass reported.

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s special representative for Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, attended the gathering and said Russia is inclined to keep helping Afghanistan independently and through the World Food Program.

A letter from Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov was read at the talks, accusing Western countries of “complete failure” in Afghanistan, saying they should “bear the primary burden of rebuilding the country.”

The Taliban seized power in Afghanistan in mid-August 2021 as U.S. and NATO troops were in the final weeks of their pullout from the country after 20 years of war.

Winds Of Change Or Status Quo In Pakistan? – OpEd

Nilesh Kunwar

It was the promise of creating a ‘Naya [new] Pakistan’ on the lines of ‘Riyasat-e-Madina’ [a model Islamic welfare state] plus a discreet ‘push’ from Pakistan’s powerful army that saw Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf [PTI] chief Imran Khan becoming the ‘selected’ prime minister of Pakistan in August 2018.

Unfortunately, despite Khan’s grandiose assurance of ushering-in winds of change by bringing about all-around prosperity, what actually came Pakistan’s way was an unprecedented financial crisis of gargantuan proportions. And once Khan lost the army’s confidence, he was promptly ousted through a no confidence motion orchestrated by Rawalpindi.

However Khan wasn’t the only one to have promised a change for the better in Pakistan. During his farewell speech in November last year, former army chief Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa too gave a similar assurance to the people sick and tired of Rawalpindi’s unsolicited interference in the country’s governance, foreign policy and even judicial matters.

Accepting the fact that Rawalpindi had earned public ire due to “the military’s interference in politics for the past 70 years, which is unconstitutional,” Gen Bajwa promised that the Pakistan army “would never again interfere in any political matter in future” and pledged that the army is “strictly committed to it.” A year has gone by but there are no indications to suggest that the Pakistan army has in any way [to use Gen Bajwa’s words] gone into a “political quarantine” mode!

Stop Trying To ‘Contain’ China In Southeast Asia

Jeremy Powell

It was a laughable moment when President Joe Biden said at a press conference during his visit to Hanoi that the United States wasn’t seeking to contain China. Despite efforts by the Biden administration to send its top officials to quell any suspicion that Washington, DC, was trying to contain China, Beijing has realized that the efforts were merely a cover-up. By restricting access to chips and their manufacturing components as well as spending billions on subsidies for semiconductor manufacturing and rare earth mineral refineries (similar to how Beijing treats its tech sector)—combined with numerous high-ranking members of the Beltway wanting containment, including Mike Pompeo, Nikki Haley, and others in Congress—it doesn’t take long to realize that the containment of China is Washington’s top goal.

However, outside of the Western bloc, many have been sitting on the fence with anxiety over an increasingly factionalized world. When the invasion of Ukraine started, more than 140 countries condemned it compared to over thirty that abstained from the vote, with only five backing the invasion. Over the past year, however, the ambivalence toward the invasion has been starker, with only the countries that are part of the Western bloc consistently maintaining their opposition to the Kremlin. With China lumped together with Russia as a challenge to the West, the Global South has to tiptoe around China and the West, hoping to maximize foreign investments while not getting caught in the bad parts of a geopolitical campaign between China and the West or incur the wrath of Western sanctions and potential political machinations.

China’s Economic Collapse Carries a Warning About Our Own Future

EJ Antoni & Peter St Onge

  1. China’s state-dominated economy is going the way of all centrally-planned economies—down the drain.
  2. The cause, in short, is an incompetent government that routes trillions to politically-favored industries and state-owned enterprises.
  3. One cannot help but notice the striking parallels between China’s mistakes and increasing U.S. government intervention in our own economy.
Christmas is coming early to America, but in the form of a warning, not a gift.

Just as Ebenezer Scrooge was shown his future, enabling him to change his ways, America is seeing its own future in China’s ongoing economic collapse. This specter from across the Pacific should scare us into correcting course before it’s too late.

China’s state-dominated economy is going the way of all centrally-planned economies—down the drain. With many in the media loudly proclaiming that “China’s 40-year boom is over,” it’s worth contemplating why this is happening, if for no other reason than to avoid the catastrophe here at home.

China’s manufacturing base, the mainstay of its economy for decades, is hemorrhaging. Its trillion-dollar homebuilding industry is collapsing under unsustainable debt levels. And its unprecedented infrastructure campaign has been a crash course in malinvestment.

The Chinese Communist Party’s panicked response has been to order banks to buy stocks in an attempt to buoy falling stock prices and the Chinese yuan. For its own part, the CCP has finally given up on publishing phony economic statistics and now just refuses to publish them at all. One way to deal with historically high youth unemployment is to ignore the problem.

How Huawei Defeated U.S. Semiconductor Sanctions

Megha Shrivastava

China’s Huawei, a technology giant that has been facing Western-led sanctions for years, has unveiled its Huawei Mate 60 Promade, a breakthrough development in the ongoing chip war between the United States and China, According to the analysis of TechInsights, the smartphone is powered with a 5G chip Kirin 9000S processor based on the 7nm (N+2) technology. The chip is designed by Huawei’s division HiSilicon and is developed with Semiconductor Manufacturing International Corporation’s (SMIC) N+2 technology.

Both Huawei and SMIC are Entity List companies. The U.S. Bureau of Industry Standards (BIS) in October 2022 updated the U.S. Entity list that names companies that are scrutinized. For American companies to do business with the listed companies requires a prior license by U.S. government authorities. Experts anticipated a sharp cut in the flow of technology and equipment from the United States to China that will effectively limit China’s growth in the chip industry and throw Chinese chip capability decades behind the United States’ advanced chip capabilities. However, Huawei’s resurgence with a 7nm chip capability raises doubts about the efficacy of Western sanctions among those who discounted China’s capability in microchip manufacturing and now wonder how China has been able to mass produce 7nm leading-edge semiconductor technology despite embargos.

Biden’s China Policy: Hoping for the Best, Preparing for the Worst

Ryan Bercaw

President Joe Biden’s approach toward the People’s Republic of China carefully balances on a knife’s edge. On the one hand, Beijing is the pacing threat for national defense and a long-term strategic competitor. On the other, it is an essential partner for tackling existential global challenges like climate change. The White House has paradoxically positioned itself to embrace Beijing in a narrow set of cooperative areas while simultaneously preparing for a protracted security contest because the future is clear as mud.

The United States and China have never “solved” their differences, but they always found ways to manage them. This system no longer operates because China has lost interest in playing, exposing the relationship to increased turmoil and uncertainty. The White House is trying to make the best of a very bad situation and remain flexible to prepare for any scenario that strategic competition may yield, up to and including war.

Diplomacy is the bedrock of international relations. Washington is thus prioritizing strengthening communication channels with Beijing in a bid to help stabilize their turbulent relationship. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken’s initial March 2021 summit with China was more akin to a verbal fighting match than a diplomatic meeting, ominously setting very low expectations for how relations would unfold over the coming years. Biden’s lone meeting in office with Chinese President Xi Jinping in November 2022 similarly did little to alter this bleak outlook.

For the US, Fentanyl Is All About China

Allison Fedirka

While many governments around the world are focused on securing supply chains, there’s at least one the U.S. government desperately wants to break up: the fentanyl supply chain. Nearly a dozen U.S. government agencies are working together to choke off illicit flows of the drug. In addition to saving American lives, Washington wants to reduce insecurity in Latin America and highlight China’s role in the fentanyl trade to introduce an anti-China element into its security cooperation, particularly with Mexico and Colombia.

China’s rapid growth has over the past two decades helped it develop its economic influence in Latin America – aided in no small part by the absence of a U.S. counter-strategy. At first, Washington saw Beijing’s growing presence as simple economic diversification, and thus no threat to hemispheric security or U.S. security and military relationships with Latin America. Only recently has the U.S. started to see China’s commercial activities in the region as a potential threat, especially as it relates to U.S. access to rare earth elements and the security of allies’ ports and 5G technology.

At the same time, China’s economy is in secular decline. This slowdown, combined with the United States’ drive to decouple supply chains from China, is naturally steering Mexico back toward its northern neighbor. Mexico is an obvious destination for multinational firms that want to manufacture close to the U.S. market at a relatively low cost. For its part, Colombia – for years a beneficiary of Chinese trade and investment – has gotten closer to Beijing politically since the inauguration in 2022 of President Gustavo Petro. However, it too is questioning the future of Chinese foreign investment and trade, leading it to consider alternatives such as the United States.

The myth of Chinese imperialism


When President Xi Jinping first announced his plan to revive the ancient “silk road” between Europe and China in a speech in Kazakhstan 10 years ago, Western leaders paid little notice. There was no indication that the man on stage reciting Kazakh poetry was planning to build an unprecedented global economic network in which all roads ultimately led to Beijing. The Belt and Road Initiative, as it was later christened, would become a symbol of China’s cosmic ambition.

In the decade since, more than a trillion dollars of investment have poured into BRI projects, a figure that rivals what Western countries together put into their aid budgets. That China found eager suitors around the world for its new largesse is no surprise, not least because Western countries had started pulling in their horns — with Britain, for instance, recently cutting an aid budget that had been a pillar of its soft power in order to build an aircraft carrier.

But in filling that vacuum, China has unsettled Western nations and few of them will attend when representatives from more than 100 countries gather in Beijing for the third Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation. Increasingly, especially in the American foreign policy community, we hear talk that China is using the BRI to build a rival bloc to the West.

In an apparent response to the BRI, at the recent G20 Summit, the US and some of its partners announced an infrastructure programme to connect Asia and Europe. But if they’re hoping to go head-to-head with China, they may want to reconsider their tactics because one thing China is really good at is building infrastructure. In the time we’ve spent trying to make up our minds about whether to dig a short tunnel to Euston station, China has installed nearly 40,000 kilometres of high-speed railway.

The slow, tragic death of the Oslo Accords

Shlomo Ben-Ami

Peace processes tend to be riddled with uncertainties, especially when conflicts are protracted and each side’s intentions, willingness and capacity to comply with any agreement remain unclear. The significant political costs associated with making concessions to a mortal enemy often doom negotiations before any agreement is reached.

This is evident in the recently declassified protocols of the 1993 Israeli cabinet meeting that approved the first Oslo Accord with the Palestine Liberation Organization. The records reveal that the signs of eventual failure were apparent from the very beginning.

At the time, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin hoped that PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat could stem the rise of Hamas and Islamic Jihad and assist in quelling the intifada that had been raging in the West Bank and Gaza since 1987. But Arafat, wary of being perceived as a ‘collaborator’, refused to become Israel’s security subcontractor. Rabin’s fatalistic foreign minister, Shimon Peres, warned that ‘the whole PLO business’ could ‘fall apart’ and that an ‘Iran-like Hamas’ could take its place. Meanwhile, Israel Defense Forces’ Chief of General Staff Ehud Barak famously remarked that the agreement had ‘more holes than Swiss cheese’.

Nevertheless, the 1993 accord represented a historical shift, symbolising the mutual recognition of two national movements that had been fighting for control over the same piece of land for more than a century. It also served as an interim agreement, establishing Palestinian autonomy in Gaza and parts of the West Bank occupied by Israel since 1967. And it provided a roadmap for addressing the conflict’s core issues, including borders, the status of Jerusalem, and the plight of Palestinian refugees who fled their homes during the 1948 war.

Inside America’s plans for an autonomous, AI-powered military


The United States is accelerating an effort to revolutionize modern warfare by fielding swarms of self-operating drones and weapons systems. The push will shape the next generation of war and, military leaders hope, give America a leg up on China in the new global arms race.

With the Pentagon’s new Replicator initiative, the U.S. is moving fast toward an ambitious goal: propping up a fleet of legacy ships, aircraft and vehicles with the support of weapons powered by artificial intelligence (AI), creating a first-of-its-kind class of war technology. It’s also spurring a huge boost across the defense industry, which is tasked with developing and manufacturing the systems.

For those watching the U.S. defense and security field closely, Replicator was greeted with a sigh of relief — though it’s also raising a host of concerns related to accountability and the human cost of autonomous warfare.

“This is the same as the transition from crossbows to guns, from cavalry to tanks,” said Steve Blank, co-founder of the Gordian Knot Center for National Security Innovation at Stanford University. “Thousands of these things that are semi-autonomous or autonomous is a major transformation in warfare. Period. All nations will eventually get here.”

The U.S. is hoping that Replicator, designed to field thousands of fully autonomous systems within two years, will get the military ahead of foreign adversaries who are also pursuing this technology, particularly China.

Russia’s Gray Zone Threat after Ukraine

Daniel Byman & Seth G. Jones

Russia is spent. Foreign investors and some of the country’s best minds have fled, the economy is hobbled by sanctions, and its military is bogged down in Ukraine, with many of its elite soldiers dead and best equipment destroyed. The revolt of Yevgeny Prigozhin and his Wagner Group in June 2023 seemed a final humiliation, revealing a once-feared dictator reduced to bargaining with individual commanders. This weakness is real: if Russian president Vladimir Putin could turn back the clock, it is hard to imagine he would again choose to invade Ukraine.

Russia’s massive losses will probably make Putin cautious about conventional military operations in the foreseeable future. Even if Putin were tempted, the United States has increased the number of its ground forces in Europe to their highest level in nearly two decades, and NATO’s conventional and nuclear deterrence is robust. Nor would the Russian people and elite be eager to support an invasion of a NATO country and risk escalation to nuclear war.

Yet Putin shows no sign of leaving power. He continues to harbor revisionist aims and expresses admiration for Russian conquerors like Peter the Great. Russia still seeks influence in Central Asia, the Caucasus, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. As long as Putin is in power, he will undermine any future Ukrainian government and attempt to deter and punish Western countries that support Kyiv. The expansion of NATO to include Finland and eventually Sweden, the military build-up of NATO forces in Eastern Europe, and continuing military aid to Ukraine are particular affronts to Putin,

Pentagon Discloses Plan For Defending Space Systems

Loren Thompson

America’s military has become steadily more dependent on space systems since the first satellites were launched in the 1950s. As science-fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke described in a seminal 1945 article, space affords a unique vantage point from which to support and shape activities on or near the Earth’s surface.

Today, the Pentagon can barely function without the links provided by communications satellites, the navigation and targeting data generated by the Global Positioning System, and the situational awareness made possible by reconnaissance spacecraft. Warfighters wouldn’t even know what kind of weather to expect in war zones without overhead support.

However, the joint force’s growing dependence on orbital systems has not gone unnoticed in Russia and China. Not only are they orbiting their own military satellites, but they are actively pursuing means of disabling critical U.S. space systems in a future conflict.

Military planners traditionally gave little thought to the potential vulnerability of satellites. The most important spacecraft, operating over 22,000 miles above the Earth in geostationary orbits, were thought to be too far away to be easily threatened.

Now that has all changed. China has developed both kinetic and non-kinetic tools for conducting “counterspace” operations—everything from electronic jamming to high-power lasers to cyber exploits. Much of this is classified, but there is a consensus among Pentagon leaders that the security of U.S. satellite constellations can no longer be assumed.

Lessons from Ukraine: U.S. Army using conflict in Europe to prepare soldiers for the next war


In the foxholes of World War II, lighting a cigarette at night could mean death by a sniper’s bullet.

In the battlefield of the future, the equivalent may be a soldier's phone connecting to a cell tower.

“The thing we struggle the most with is this business of a transparent battlefield,” said Brig. Gen. Curtis Taylor, head of National Training Center, or NTC, in California. “We've all got to learn how to operate in that context.”

This lesson is among the many the NTC and its counterpart, the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC), are learning from watching Ukraine and fielding their own experiments, the commanders of the two centers said.

One of the top problems is concealment, said Taylor and his counterpart at the JRTC, Brig. Gen. David Gardner. The NTC and JRTC both provide realistic training lasting around a month to troops about to deploy.

Drones, electronic surveillance, and satellites allow adversaries to easily identify U.S. formations, Taylor said—and combining that data with artillery or missiles means the enemy can strike anywhere, anytime.

At JRTC, forces playing the “opposing force,” called OPFOR, have learned to fly drones that use apps to scan for Bluetooth or WiFi signals, Gardner said.

Russia concedes Karabakh for stake in new regional order

Laurence Broers

In a military offensive on 19 September, in 24 hours Azerbaijan finally forced the surrender of the Karabakh Armenians – after 31 years of local, internationally unrecognized rule.

The terms of surrender include the disarming of the Karabakh Armenian armed forces and the dissolution of the territory’s three decades-old de facto political institutions.

A mass exodus of the civil population ensued, even as Karabakh Armenian representatives engaged in a long-delayed dialogue with Azerbaijani officials over the terms of their integration as Azerbaijani citizens.

Few believe, however, that significant numbers of Armenians will remain after the protracted hardship of blockades, shooting at agricultural workers, intimidating rhetoric, repeated escalations, and a large-scale military assault.

Russia’s acquiescence to Azerbaijan’s attack tore up the ‘Putin’s frozen conflicts’ script, the prevalent geopolitical narrative that stresses Russia’s instrumentalization of legacy conflicts in the South Caucasus and Moldova.

For the first time (with the exception of its own conflict with Chechnya, and arguably Aslan Abashidze’s regime in the Georgian region of Ach’ara in 2004), Russia has taken the side of the ‘parent state’ and forsaken the ‘de facto state’ challenging it.

Russia’s Karabakh policy: the avoidance of choice

As a local joke in the Caucasus put it, if Russia was to choose a side in the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, it would always ‘choose the conflict’.

Nagorno-Karabakh: 'The worship of power could deal a fatal blow to Armenian democracy'

Michel Marian

Azerbaijan's lightning victory in Nagorno-Karabakh, which cost at least 200 Armenian lives including 100 civilians, has given rise to both relief and unease in the West. The relief stems from the prospect of a thorny and explosive quarrel drawing to a close, at a time when engaging in a second war, following Ukraine, would be perilous and under conditions close to international law. It's worth noting that, on this matter, international law has not acknowledged the primacy of self-determination over territorial integrity since 1994 and in general remains quite vague on minority rights.

Nevertheless, there is also a great deal of unease because in this case, respect for the law poorly conceals the blatant injustice inflicted on a people who did not adopt a "separatist" ideology 30 years ago, but have lived on this land for 20 centuries. What's more, they have suffered a genocide that remains unrecognized by the state descended from the one that committed it: Turkey, the main supporter of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, who now openly aims to purge the Armenian presence from "his" land through fire, famine, cold and fear.

In the eyes of realpolitik, there is a clear division: The relief is for today, the unease for tomorrow, when persecution or destruction occurs, or when the traces of crimes resurface at a time when the mass exodus will have rendered any doubts about the merits of the enclave's "re"-integration into Azerbaijan irrelevant.

America’s Budget Dysfunction Has Geopolitical Costs

Daniel B. Baer

The basic geopolitical strategy puzzle faced by the United States today is how to manage the relative decline of U.S. economic and military power, while maintaining U.S. leadership and influence to protect the country’s security and prosperity. After a long era of unquestioned global primacy, the United States needs to figure out how to continue to lead with fewer of the tools of hegemony than it once had at its disposal.

The EU Is Letting Hungary and Poland Erode Democracy

Edit Zgut-Przybylska

Media capture is one of the great causes of democratic backsliding in Central and Eastern Europe. Next month’s elections in Poland, despite a burgeoning cash-for-visas scandal rocking the incumbent administration, is largely being framed around a nonsensical referendum question on supposed EU efforts to push illegal migrants into the country.

The United States and NATO at a Crossroads regarding the War in Ukraine

Eldad Shavit Shimon Stein

How can a toll be exacted from Russia, without deteriorating into an all-out war? Western leaders must now tackle this challenging question, following the escalation in the Ukrainian theater, Putin’s annexation announcement, and Russia’s threat to use nuclear weapons on the battlefield. What dilemmas confront the NATO members, first and foremost the United States, and what is Israel’s role in this inter-bloc struggle?

President Putin’s decision to annex four regions of Ukraine and his definition of his struggle against the Western elites as an existential struggle, while avowing his determination to defend the annexed territories and making implicit threats about the possibility of using unconventional weapons, significantly increase the risk of escalation. Consequently, the United States and its allies are now at a crossroads. It seems that Russia’s conduct will compel them to formulate a follow-up strategy that will heighten the challenge of supporting Ukraine without getting dragged into war with Russia. Thus far, aside from the threat of a serious and “decisive” response, the United States and NATO have maintained a veiled response to Russia’s potential use of unconventional weapons. The response could be political (cutting off relations) and economic, but a conventional military response cannot be ruled out. The official statement by Israel – which so far has refrained from responding to Ukraine’s request to provide it with military aid – that it will not recognize Russia’s annexation of the Ukrainian regions is a positive step, but insufficient. The Israeli government should stand clearly by Ukraine’s side, including responding to its military requests. In addition, it should unhesitatingly stand by the side of the US in the struggle, which will influence the shaping of the future world order and the leading role of the United States.

Russia’s Gray Zone Threat after Ukraine

Daniel Byman Seth G. Jones

Russia is spent. Foreign investors and some of the country’s best minds have fled, the economy is hobbled by sanctions, and its military is bogged down in Ukraine, with many of its elite soldiers dead and best equipment destroyed. The revolt of Yevgeny Prigozhin and his Wagner Group in June 2023 seemed a final humiliation, revealing a once-feared dictator reduced to bargaining with individual commanders. This weakness is real: if Russian president Vladimir Putin could turn back the clock, it is hard to imagine he would again choose to invade Ukraine.

Russia’s massive losses will probably make Putin cautious about conventional military operations in the foreseeable future. Even if Putin were tempted, the United States has increased the number of its ground forces in Europe to their highest level in nearly two decades, and NATO’s conventional and nuclear deterrence is robust. Nor would the Russian people and elite be eager to support an invasion of a NATO country and risk escalation to nuclear war.

Yet Putin shows no sign of leaving power. He continues to harbor revisionist aims and expresses admiration for Russian conquerors like Peter the Great. Russia still seeks influence in Central Asia, the Caucasus, the Middle East, Africa, and Europe. As long as Putin is in power, he will undermine any future Ukrainian government and attempt to deter and punish Western countries that support Kyiv. The expansion of NATO to include Finland and eventually Sweden, the military build-up of NATO forces in Eastern Europe, and continuing military aid to Ukraine are particular affronts to Putin, even though they are justified as necessary responses to Russian aggression. Putin sees the United States, which he refers to as the “main enemy” (or glavny vrag), engaged in both hard and soft power actions to encircle and overthrow his regime.

In the Shadow of Ukraine

Seth G. Jones

This report asks two main questions. How is the Russian military thinking about the future of warfare? How is the Russian military thinking about force design over the next five years? The report has several findings. First, Russian military thinking is dominated by a view that the United States is—and will remain—Moscow’s main enemy (главный враг) for the foreseeable future. This sentiment will likely drive Moscow’s desire to reconstitute its military as rapidly as possible, as well as strengthen nuclear and conventional deterrence. Second, Russian analyses generally conclude that while the nature of warfare is unchanging, the character of future warfare will rapidly evolve. Adapting will require Russia’s cooperation with other countries, such as China, in areas like long-range, high-precision weapons; unmanned systems; emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence; and the utility of hybrid and irregular warfare. Third, Russian political and military leaders are committed to a major reconstitution of the Russian military—including the army—over the next several years.

This publication was funded by the Russia Strategic Initiative, U.S. European Command. The views expressed in this publication do not necessarily represent the views of the Department of Defense or the United States government.

Ukraine darkens Russia’s naval prospects in the Black Sea

Ukraine’s audacious pre-dawn cruise-missile strikes on Sevastopol on 13 September did more than severely damage a Russian Black Sea Fleet Improved Kilo-class submarine and a Ropucha-class amphibious landing ship and potentially put out of commission an important dry-dock complex. They reinforced a sense of the rising naval stakes in the war in Ukraine and undermined the narrative that Russia still holds a strategic advantage in those waters.

Maritime stakesThe maritime aspects of this conflict have long been widely underappreciated. But with uncertainty over the immediate prospects for Ukraine’s grinding counter-offensive on land, the Black Sea and the wider maritime domain are becoming more central to the warring sides in their battle to undermine each other’s staying power and to gain a strategic advantage.

Russia sparked a new phase in the war at sea with its 17 July 2023 withdrawal from the internationally brokered Black Sea Grain Initiative. That move was accompanied by Moscow threatening to attack vessels of any nationality trading with Ukraine, reviving international concerns about the safety of shipping in the Black Sea. As if to underline its threat, Russia launched a missile and drone onslaught on Ukrainian port and storage infrastructure associated with its grain exports around Odesa and Izmail. Clearly, a key Russian aim was to strengthen the stranglehold on Ukraine’s economy and perhaps to pressure Kyiv’s Western backers.

Navies get their feet wet with UMVs

Although uninhabited maritime vehicles (UMVs) are not exactly new, Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine is emerging as the same kind of catalyst for their adoption that the war in Afghanistan was for uninhabited aerial vehicles (UAVs). Ukraine has shown the asymmetric advantage a smaller navy can gain from innovative use of UMVs to fend off larger, more conventional platforms. While such technology is proving positive for Ukraine in menacing Russia’s navy, the tactics Kyiv is employing also illustrate the headache such systems pose for top-tier navies in regions such as the Gulf, where the potential for UMVs to act as loitering torpedoes or overwhelm a ship’s defences via a swarm attack pose a threat to both commercial shipping and military vessels.

Navies around the globe – from the Black Sea to the Gulf, to the Indo-Pacific, to the United States – are embracing the technology across a diverse mission set. While UMVs appear to be completely different entities from their traditional ship counterparts, they are increasingly being used alongside each other. The US Navy’s Task Force 59 in the Gulf and the Red Sea, for instance, is showing the synthesis between uninhabited vehicles and crewed ships in delivering on operations.

Ukraine’s drone army is bringing Putin’s invasion home to Russia

Mykola Bielieskov

One of the most striking aspects of the Russia-Ukraine War over the past six months has been the intensification of Ukrainian drone strikes against targets throughout the Russian Federation. While the Ukrainian authorities remain reluctant to officially acknowledge responsibility for these attacks, there is little doubt that they reflect the steadily expanding capabilities of Ukraine’s increasingly impressive drone army.

The growth in Ukrainian drone attacks has helped to address one of the great imbalances of the country’s war with Russia. During the first year following Russia’s full-scale invasion, hostilities were almost exclusively confined to Ukraine itself, with neighboring Russian territory remaining virtually untouched. Russian and Ukrainian troops clashed along a front line running for more than 1000 kilometers through eastern and southern Ukraine, while Russia carried out air strikes against civilian targets across the country with apparent impunity.

Ukraine’s ability to retaliate was severely limited due to restrictions imposed by the country’s partners regarding the use of military aid. Fearful of provoking a Russian response against their own countries, Western leaders sought assurances from their Ukrainian colleagues that any weapons they provided would only be used within Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders. This led to the bizarre situation where Russian commanders were able to bomb Ukrainian residential areas, port facilities, energy infrastructure, and other civilian targets without fear of retribution.