20 November 2023

When Has War Ever Been ‘Proportional?'

Victor Davis Hanson

Proportionality in war is a synonym for lethal stalemate, if not defeat.

When two sides go at it with roughly equal forces, weapons, and strategies, the result is often a horrific deadlock -- like the four years of toxic trench warfare on the Western Front of World War I that resulted in 12 million fatalities.

The purpose of war is to defeat the enemy as quickly as possible with the least number of causalities -- and thereby achieve political ends.

So, every side aims to find superior strategies, tactics, weapons, and manpower to ensure as great a disproportionate advantage as possible.

Hamas is no exception.

Its savage precivilizational strategy to defeat Israel hinged on doing disproportionate things Israel either cannot or will not do.

First, Hamas spent a year planning a preemptive butchery spree inside Israel. Its ruthless murdering focused on "soft targets" like unarmed elderly, women, children, and infants, mostly asleep at a time of peace and holiday.

Second, it sought to collectively shock Israel into paralysis by the sheer horror of decapitating civilians, burning babies, mass raping, and mutilating bodies.

Another apparent aim of such premodern barbarity was to blame Israel's "occupation" for turning Gazans into veritable monsters, with hopes of derailing the renewed Abraham Accords.

Third, the gunmen took more than 240 hostages back with them to Gaza.

The Ghosts of Lebanon

Sarah E. Parkinson

People now call it Mukhayyam al-Shuhada: the Martyrs’ Camp. Set among picturesque hills and citrus orchards close to the Israeli border, the refugee settlement was home to an extensive social service, political, and militant recruitment apparatus set up by Palestinian organizations. So when the invasion started, the camp was high on Israel’s list. First, Israeli-backed paramilitaries surrounded the community, trapping civilians inside. Then, two dozen Israel Defense Forces tanks arrived. According to witnesses, the IDF tanks fired into buildings’ staircases—often a structure’s weakest point—to destroy escape routes and penetrate into underground shelters. This shelling was followed by intense aerial bombardment. One bomb hit a community center; of the 96 civilians sheltering there, only two lived. Palestinian militiamen in the camp held out for three-and-a-half days. Eventually, the IDF also used white phosphorus to subdue them. Survivors say they remember the cloudy trails the chemical left in the air—along with the black, crater-like burns it left on people’s skin. According to community leaders, the battle killed approximately 2,600 of the camp’s 16,000 residents.

This attack could well be a scene from Israel’s current war in Gaza, where the IDF has used tanks, airstrikes, and (according to human rights groups) white phosphorus in its attacks on Palestinian cities and refugee camps. But the battle actually occurred during a conflict that happened 41 years ago. The assault on Burj al-Shamali, the formal name for the Martyrs’ Camp, was one of the first urban battles during Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon. The war began after a fringe Palestinian group tried to assassinate Israel’s ambassador to the United Kingdom. The invasion’s immediate goal was to eradicate the Palestinian Liberation Organization, its guerrilla factions (among them Fatah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine), and other Palestinian militant groups. But Israeli officials had other ambitions, too. As it targeted Palestinian military and civilian infrastructure in southern Lebanon, Israeli leaders hoped to create a buffer zone along the Israeli-Lebanese border, end Syria’s presence in Lebanon, and install a friendly, right-wing Christian government in Beirut.

The Long Evolution of India-US Space Relations

Noiranjana Kashyap

India’s tryst with scientific and technological advancement can be traced back to its post-independence objective of creating a scientific society that reflects European positivism through technological advances rather than the Gandhian vision of a peasant society. India’s space program is the outcome of this idea, and was embarked upon by some of the country’s most significant technological and visionary minds in the 1960s, namely the physicists Vikram Sarabhai and Homi J. Bhabha, and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

When the Soviet Union launched the world’s first satellite, Sputnik, into space in 1950, it triggered a massive space race between the USSR and the United States. In India, the “Sputnik moment” inspired leaders, particularly Nehru and Sarabhai, who were already avid believers that scientific advancements could solve humanity’s problems, to become obsessed with the prospect of developing communications satellites that could make a real difference in people’s lives.

The early years of India’s space program were crucial for developing an institutional and technological base for space research in the country and showcased the active interest and willingness of the country’s scientists and visionaries. On the world stage, India began forging collaborative ties with different states, including the United States, in order to advance its space program. Although Washington was generally apprehensive of New Delhi’s non-aligned ideology and strategic lean toward the Soviet Union, it respected India’s choices when it came to scientific advancement. India’s scientific elites reached out to world powers for help and were open to all forms of collaborations, which the United States saw as an opportunity. The U.S., being a great power, has a tendency of expanding its influence wherever possible and through any means, whether hard power or soft.

India’s space industry was seen as a chance for the U.S. to utilize its soft power capabilities. Thus, the United States helped India create bases for sounding rockets and developed institutions along the way to shape a space program dedicated to hastening the country’s development. American help in establishing the Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS) was the most crucial contribution of the United States to India’s space program.

Some young Americans on TikTok say they sympathize with Osama bin Laden

Donie O'Sullivan, Catherine Thorbecke and Allison Gordon

Dozens of young Americans have posted videos on TikTok this week expressing sympathy with Osama bin Laden, the notorious terrorist who orchestrated the September 11 attacks, for a two-decade-old letter he wrote critiquing the United States, including its government and support of Israel.

The letter, which attempts to justify the targeting and killing of American civilians, was first published in 2002. It began to recirculate this week on the social media platform, and videos on the topic had garnered at least 14 million views by Thursday. Many of the videos, which supported some of Bin Laden’s assertions and urged other users to read the letter, were shared in the wider context of criticism of American support for Israel in its ongoing war against Hamas.

TikTok said on Thursday that videos promoting the letter violate its rules against “supporting any form of terrorism.” The company said the number of videos promoting the letter were “small” and added “reports of it trending on our platform are inaccurate.”

TikTok declined to provide specific data to support this assertion.

TikTok is hugely popular with young Americans, with a majority of Americans under 30 using the app at least once a week, according to a KFF survey. Many of TikTok’s users were born after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks when 19 men hijacked commercial airliners, intentionally crashed the planes, and killed nearly 3,000 people in New York City, Washington, DC, and rural Pennsylvania. The attack was orchestrated by Bin Laden, the former leader of the al Qaeda terrorist group who was killed in a US special forces raid in 2011.

TikTok’s design makes it difficult to precisely measure how popular or widespread a sentiment is on the platform, but an initial CNN review found a few dozen videos overtly praising or sympathizing with the sentiments expressed in the letter, which is titled “Letter to America.”

Pakistan’s Journey Towards Economic Resurgence

Dr. Sahibzada Muhammad Usman

In recent times, Pakistan’s economy has faced numerous challenges, affecting all strata of society. The high cost of living, stunted economic growth, devaluation of the local currency, and escalating fuel prices have collectively created a pressing situation. This economic strain has not only impacted the poor and middle-class families but also the affluent, signaling a widespread economic downturn.

This period of economic hardship has led to a sense of disillusionment among many of Pakistan’s educated youth. Witnessing the strenuous economic conditions, a significant number of them have contemplated seeking opportunities in developed countries, particularly in the West, viewing it as an escape from the prevailing financial instability.

Despite these challenges, the recent economic downturn in Pakistan appears to be a temporary setback. The federal government, recognizing the gravity of the situation, undertook stringent measures, including securing a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). These tough but necessary decisions were aimed at stabilizing and fortifying the country’s economic foundation.

Now, there are signs that the difficult phase is subsiding, and Pakistan is steadily moving back onto the path of economic recovery. A pivotal development in this journey has been the proactive involvement of COAS General Syed Asim Munir. His engagement with the business community has played a crucial role in boosting market confidence. His meetings with business leaders have sent out a strong message – Pakistan’s economic future is secure, and there will be concerted efforts to prevent any economic collapse.

Social Media Giants Crack Down On Viral Osama Bin Laden Letter Justifying 9/11 Attacks


Social media platforms Instagram and TikTok decided to crack down on Osama bin Laden’s 2002 letter justifying the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon after it went viral Wednesday evening.

Users were reading the letter on Chinese Communist Party (CCP)-linked TikTok and giving positive reactions to it, posting #LetterToAmerica, journalist Christina Buttons reported on X — formerly Twitter. Instagram hid the hashtag #LetterToAmerica while TikTok asserted this content breaches its rules on supporting terrorism and took down the hashtag on Thursday. 

“Content promoting this letter clearly violates our rules on supporting any form of terrorism,” a TikTok spokesperson told the Daily Caller News Foundation. “We are proactively and aggressively removing this content and investigating how it got onto our platform. The number of videos on TikTok is small and reports of it trending on our platform are inaccurate. This is not unique to TikTok and has appeared across multiple platforms and the media.”

When searching for the letter now, results do no not show up on the platform, according to Reuters.

Japan’s ‘Balanced’ Position on Palestine Fails to Impress

Thisanka Siripala

Japan’s diplomatic stance in the deteriorating conflict in Gaza is being tested as civilian deaths continue to mount; over 11,000 have been killed thus far. Public opinion in Japan is tilted toward an immediate ceasefire, and there is mounting criticism over the government’s cautious balancing act between Israel and Palestine.

Since heavy fighting erupted, regular weekly protests have taken place in Tokyo, Osaka, and Nagoya calling for a ceasefire and the lifting of Israel’s blockade on Gaza. The United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres strongly condemned the attacks in Gaza as a violation of international law, which prohibits the targeting of civilians.

In Japan, the largest demonstration to date was held on November 10 where approximately 4,000 protesters gathered in Tokyo’s Shibuya ward. The march was led by local Palestinian residents and was attended by Japanese lawmakers, the Pakistan Association, and the Japan International Volunteer Centre (JVC). The message at the rally was clear: “immediate ceasefire” and “urgent action now.”

However, Japan’s official position has been anything but clear. For instance, Japan says the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip is the highest priority. On October 17 it pledged $10 million in emergency humanitarian aid to civilians in Gaza.

At the same time, Tokyo has expressed support for Israel’s right to self-defense against terrorism. Japan condemned the surprise attack by Hamas and the killing of approximately 1,200 Israeli civilians on October 7. Japan did not criticize the Israeli air strikes in Gaza the following day, which killed approximately 1,300 Palestinian civilians.

Bangladesh To Hold Elections On Jan. 7 Despite Tense Climate

Kamran Reza Chowdhury

Bangladesh will hold national polls on Jan. 7, the Election Commission announced Wednesday, despite a tense atmosphere marked by rolling anti-government protests and mass arrests of opposition activists.

The opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) denounced the plan and called for a two-day strike next week, while the ruling Awami League, which has held power for 14 years, welcomed the decision and mobilized celebratory processions in Dhaka.

“On behalf of the Election Commission, I urge all political parties to avoid resorting to conflict and violence and seek a political resolution,” Kazi Habibul Awal, Bangladesh’s chief election commissioner, said as he announced the date in a televised address.

“It’s not impossible to reach a compromise and resolution through dialogue by avoiding mutual distrust and vengeance.”

Awal noted that the government repeatedly “vowed to ensure free, fair, neutral, inclusive and peaceful elections.”

Reacting within minutes of the announcement, Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, BNP’s senior joint secretary, called it “ridiculous.”

“The government must shoulder the responsibility of the serious conditions,” he said. “The government has been pushing the country toward confrontation. The people’s movement will march on and the government must step down.”

As recently as Monday, a U.S. State Department official’s letter encouraged Bangladesh’s major political parties to engage in dialogue without preconditions.

South Korea bets big on Middle East defence exports

Albert Vidal Ribe

Saudi Arabia may be on the cusp of signing one of the biggest defence-cooperation agreements between a Gulf country and South Korea, underscoring how Seoul has become a new partner of choice in the region.

South Korean companies have signed a flurry of deals in recent years in the Middle Eastern and North African markets, which include some of the world’s biggest arms importers. The export agreements cover everything from ammunition to aircraft. Deals finalised in the past two years alone are valued at more than USD5 billion.

The budding relationship reflects a confluence of developments. Arab Gulf states are looking to diversify their sources of defence procurement and partnerships beyond their traditional Western suppliers. And Seoul can offer increasingly advanced equipment alternatives, often at competitive prices and with shorter lead times.

Gaining pace

Seoul’s efforts to gain a foothold in the Gulf’s lucrative arms market date back more than a decade but have recently gained pace as South Korean companies’ offerings become more credible. One of the early successes came in 2013 when Iraq agreed to buy T-50IQ trainer aircraft from Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), although the programme encountered funding challenges before deliveries commenced.

Deals since then appear to be advancing more smoothly, with South Korea inking major defence-export deals with Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. In February 2022, Korean defence company Hanwha signed a KRW2 trillion (USD1.55bn) deal to sell approximately 200 K9 Thunder self-propelled howitzers to Egypt. Also in 2022, LIG Nex1 signed contracts with the UAE to export a surface-to-air missile (SAM) system worth KRW4.29tr (USD3.32bn). Meanwhile, Hanwha, Poongsan and LIG Nex1 concluded deals with Saudi Arabia, collectively worth around USD989 million, for multiple rocket launchers, ammunition and electro-optical systems respectively.

The battle for the Middle East’s geopolitics

John Raine

External forces, regional powers and non-state actors have all at some stage dictated the course of geopolitics in the Middle East. Prior to 7 October, it appeared that regional states, which had become both more assertive in their foreign policies and more conciliatory towards each other, were wresting control of the agenda from non-state actors. But Hamas’ attack on Israel marked a sudden and violent return to the era in which terrorism dominates the agenda. It remains to be determined whether states, or external actors, will be able to reassert themselves.

Non-state actors ranging from militias to political and religious movements have been powerfully formative for the regional and global security agenda. Palestinian terrorist groups of the 1970s; Islamist terrorism in Algeria and Egypt in the 1990s; al-Qaeda; the Islamic State (ISIS); and, above all, Hizbullah and other Iranian-sponsored groups in the past two decades have all driven and shaped the foreign and security policies of regional states and their external allies. Even when non-state actors have not dominated the agenda, they have remained a permanent feature of the region’s geopolitics. Many have been sustained by moral and material support from state backers or sympathisers. Kurdish and Palestinian groups have been fuelled by nationalist aspirations and decades of grievances, Islamist extremist groups by radical ideologies, and actors within Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen by Iranian financial and operational sponsorship. Sectarianism and identity politics within countries divided along ethnic and religious lines have also played a defining and sustaining role. The result is a region in which, despite the strength of its states, a disproportionately large share of power remains outside of the state-based system.

The persistence of power resting with those excluded from the state-based system has many causes. Firstly, state failure, as in Lebanon and Yemen, has left vacuums into which non-state actors (political and armed) have moved, embedding themselves within the social fabric of communities. They provide public services (otherwise absent), social solidarity and inspiration through their ambitions, often backed by a unitary and zealous armed wing. They also offer salaries and support for families, which are attractive to young men of fighting age in economies where job opportunities and job security are scarce.

Obstacles to the India–Middle East–Europe Economic Corridor

Hasan Alhasan & Viraj Solanki

In September 2023, seven countries and the European Union announced plans to create the India–Middle East–Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC), negotiated on the margins of the G20 Summit in New Delhi. This is the latest in a series of initiatives led by the United States aimed at integrating partners in the Middle East and South Asia into a common geo-economic architecture, while also demonstrating that Washington is funding ambitious international infrastructure projects like China with its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

IMEC partners – the EU, France, Germany, India, Italy, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the US – signed a memorandum of understanding at the G20 Summit stating that they will cooperate to establish two corridors, one connecting Europe to the Gulf and the other connecting the Gulf to India. The corridors will consist of rail links, electrical and data cables, and pipelines for exporting hydrogen. They will also connect with Israel and Jordan, though these countries did not sign the IMEC agreement.


The announcement seemed to suggest that negotiations over Saudi–Israeli normalisation had gathered momentum. But the start of the Hamas–Israel war on 7 October has pushed the issue off the agenda, and it will now be far more difficult to build new economic and political links between Israel and the Middle East. Relations between Israel and Jordan are particularly tense. In a sign of trouble ahead, participant countries failed to convene a meeting within 60 days to develop an IMEC ‘action plan’ as described in the G20 announcement. The war also caused the postponement of a minilateral meeting of the I2U2 – comprising India, Israel, the UAE and the US – that had been scheduled for October.

Putin the Ideologue

Maria Snegovaya, Michael Kimmage, and Jade McGlynn

With the war in Ukraine heading into what will seemingly be a bloody winter for both Russia and Ukraine, there is one person who does not appear to have suffered on the home front: Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose approval rating has remained at a steady high even as casualties from the conflict continue to mount. Putin’s political resilience may come as a surprise to many who assumed that Western sanctions, alongside the human toll of war, would kindle societal opposition to the war and fragment Russian elites, eventually opening the door to Putin’s ouster. But these accounts focus overwhelmingly on the socioeconomic factors underpinning Putin’s grip on power and overlook another key factor that helps explain the Russian leader’s survival: ideology. The Kremlin has succeeded in crafting a worldview that explains why Russians must endure war-related challenges and allows them to make sense of their circumstances. This ideology has become an enduring feature of Putin’s regime.

Many analysts have missed Putin’s ideological drive having assumed that the regime would have little need for it. Rather than building authentic support among the public, the Kremlin could wield such tools as patronage and surveillance technology to control Russian society. Ideology, this thinking goes, can even hem in modern autocrats: leaders can be more flexible in the methods they use to maintain power if they don’t have to adhere to a rigid worldview. Some observers have also pointed to the opportunism behind Putin’s domestic and foreign policy, to the inconsistencies of Moscow’s messaging, and to the plasticity of the narratives spread by Russian propaganda as evidence that Putin holds no coherent ideology, other than one that advances his goals of personal enrichment and power.

In recent months, however, the Kremlin has released a series of documents that seek to codify state ideology. In January 2022, for instance, Putin released a special presidential decree that introduced a list of Russia’s spiritual and moral values. In 2023, the Kremlin updated the Fundamental Principles of Legislation on Culture, a document that regulates Russian cultural heritage and national patrimony, to advocate for a common Russian worldview and establish a cultural consciousness for the nation. Moscow has overhauled the country’s education system as part of that same ideological effort, standardizing modern history textbooks to fit the official propagandist line, requiring that every Russian school have a counselor to facilitate the civic and patriotic upbringing of students, instructing all schools to hold a flag-raising ceremony every week, and other such measures. These steps constitute a widespread effort to inculcate a top-down ideology, anchored by a vision of Russia as a distinct civilization.

Redefining Success in Ukraine

Richard Haass and Charles Kupchan

Ukraine’s counteroffensive appears to have stalled, just as wet and cold weather brings to a close the second fighting season in Kyiv’s effort to reverse Russian aggression. At the same time, the political willingness to continue providing military and economic support to Ukraine has begun to erode in both the United States and Europe. These circumstances necessitate a comprehensive reappraisal of the current strategy that Ukraine and its partners are pursuing.

Such a reassessment reveals an uncomfortable truth: namely, that Ukraine and the West are on an unsustainable trajectory, one characterized by a glaring mismatch between ends and the available means. Kyiv’s war aims—the expulsion of Russian forces from Ukrainian land and the full restoration of its territorial integrity, including Crimea—remain legally and politically unassailable. But strategically they are out of reach, certainly for the near future and quite possibly beyond.

The time has come for Washington to lead efforts to forge a new policy that sets attainable goals and brings means and ends into alignment. The United States should begin consultations with Ukraine and its European partners on a strategy centered on Ukraine’s readiness to negotiate a cease-fire with Russia and to simultaneously switch its military emphasis from offense to defense. Kyiv would not give up on restoring territorial integrity or holding Russia economically and legally accountable for its aggression, but it would acknowledge that its near-term priorities need to shift from attempting to liberate more territory to defending and repairing the more than 80 percent of the country that is still under its control.

Three Takeaways From the Biden-Xi Meeting



Presidents Joe Biden and Xi Jinping both viewed their bilateral summit, adjacent to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting, as an opportunity to prevent a competitive relationship from spiraling into a more contentious confrontation. For Xi, the meeting was also an opportunity to enhance his status at home, which has been weakened by a disappointing post-pandemic economic recovery.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen had earlier noted that the Biden administration was not interested in economic decoupling but was focused on a narrower set of restrictions geared to national security. The administration’s credibility, however, has been undermined by a variety of punitive actions, such as leaving intact the previous administration’s tariffs. That U.S. trade and investment flows with China have declined sharply relative to other trading partners is seen by Beijing as evidence that Washington’s intentions go well beyond normal security concerns.

Beijing’s response to Washington’s punitive measures have been limited mostly to creating a domestic manufacturing capacity for high-tech products that the United States will no longer supply and deepening China’s trade links with other nations. Xi reiterated China’s support for more open trade policies rather than protectionism and noted that the world “is big enough for the two countries to succeed.” He also pressed Biden to lift export controls for sensitive equipment and support stronger bilateral financial and investment links.

Biden, however, cannot afford to appear conciliatory, given the anti-China sentiments of both Republicans and Democrats. He noted U.S. support for a free and open Indo-Pacific, aspects of which Beijing views as a containment strategy. In his press conference, Biden was careful to characterize the discussions as candid and constructive, and in response to a question, he once again described the Chinese leader as a “dictator.”

Before Enlarging, the EU Must Cement Democracy at Home


The lure of the European Union is something special.

For countries bordering the bloc, becoming a member is an aspiration that cannot be underestimated. Those who wrapped themselves in the EU flag during the huge anti-regime protests in Kyiv ten years ago and those who today wave the European flag in Moldova or Georgia do so because they believe joining the EU gives them a democratic future. It brings them to Europe. As if Europe is their final destination.

Yet if Brussels is going to open accession negotiations with Ukraine, Moldova, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and grant Georgia the status of a candidate country, the EU in its current form is unprepared. It cannot defend itself. And it is ambiguous about defending the rule of law in its member states.

When making the announcement on November 8 about the 2023 Enlargement Package, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen avoided any mention of the EU having to deal with its shortcomings before its borders widen. It may be that the commission’s recommendations will meet resistance by some member states at the European Council summit next month. Whatever the outcome, the reality is that the European Union’s project is not finished. Future enlargement needs to be the catalyst that will complete it.

Looking back, the EU was built as a peace project. The wars in the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s should have jolted the EU out of a certain complacency or assumption that that peace didn’t need to be defended. The bloc did establish the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) in 1993. But it lacked teeth, ambition as well as the capabilities needed to defend that peace project.

With Russia’s war on Ukraine, first in 2014 and then a full-scale one launched in February 2022, European governments came to the realization that Ukrainians were not only defending their country, independence, and sovereignty but also safeguarding the security of Europe. That is why this next enlargement has to change the profile—indeed the raison d’ être—of the EU in two major ways.

Azerbaijan Learns Important Lessons From Israel-Hamas War

Rahim Rahimov

On October 29, the Israeli government granted a tender to the State Oil Company of the Republic of Azerbaijan (SOCAR) for gas exploration in Israel’s Exclusive Economic Zone in the Mediterranean Sea (Azvision.az, October 30). The deal came two days after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan gave an anti-Israeli speech at a pro-Palestinian rally in Istanbul, in which he criticized Tel Aviv’s military actions in Gaza (Al Jazeera, October 28). On the one hand, Türkiye is one of Azerbaijan’s closest allies. On the other hand, Israel has provided Azerbaijan with arms that have played a key role in helping Baku achieve its geopolitical goals (see EDM, November 10, 2020). The Israel-Hamas war is challenging Baku’s traditional foreign policy, as close regional allies stand on opposite sides of the conflict.

The gas exploration deal is a massive development for Israeli-Azerbaijani relations. Over the years, SOCAR has received significant state funding but is still in significant debt. This has drawn much public criticism, including from Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev (President.az, August 6, 2020). SOCAR’s overseas activities have been restricted to the downstream industry—namely refining, distributing, and selling oil products. The deal with Israel marks the first step toward the development of overseas upstream operations, including exploration, drilling, and extraction.

SOCAR won the tender as part of an international consortium with BP and NewMed Energy. This will constrain its operations somewhat. The consortium has been granted six exploration licenses for three years that can be extended to a maximum of seven years (Amerikaninsesi.org, July 18; Offshore-Enery.biz, October 30). In addition, SOCAR has reportedly joined BP in acquiring a 50-percent share of Israeli gas producer NewMed Energy. The deal is pending confirmation until the resolution of the war in Gaza (Turan.org, October 12).

The Kremlin Prepares for Winter in Ukraine

Pavel Luzin

Many observers of Russia’s war against Ukraine have been discussing what they term “an impending stalemate” on the battlefield (Kyiv Post, August 28; Euromaidan Press, November 4; The Moscow Times, November 11). Others have pushed for peace talks and formulated a future “Korea scenario” for Ukraine (Kyiv Post, February 13; Uacrisis.org, August 28; TASS, August 30). The Kremlin, however, seems to be losing its demonstrative optimism in pushing back Ukrainian forces, as Kyiv’s slow, but steady counteroffensive presses on (see EDM, November 15; Ukrinform, November 16 [1], [2]). The Russian military is scrambling to prepare for the worst possible scenarios as the winter campaign begins.

Several recent developments highlight Moscow’s heightened concerns. First, local officials in some regions have increased payments for those who agree to sign service contracts with the Ministry of Defense. This measure likely means the number of volunteers has been much lower than expected. Second, more evidence has surfaced that the reported 410,000 contracted soldiers and volunteers recruited in 2023 does not come close to the real numbers. Third, discontent is growing among the wives and mothers of those soldiers mobilized a year ago. They do not demand a stop to the war altogether, but rather call for the regular rotation of troops along the front to allow their husbands and sons to come home for a time. Fourth, Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of the Russian Security Council, recently required regional governors to develop plans for economic mobilization at the local level (Citeam.org, November 8; NGS.ru, November 9; Youtube.com, November 10; Istories.media, November 15; T.me/CITeam; TASS, November 16).

All these developments testify to the fact that the Kremlin assumes a ceasefire will not be accepted in Kyiv. Such a scenario would allow the Russian military to at least partially restore its manpower along the front and improve its defensive fortification for the winter. Russia’s deteriorating position on the battlefield is pushing Moscow to consider extreme domestic measures, including another wave of mass mobilization and full mobilization of the domestic economy to support the war.

Failed State: A Guide to Russia’s Rupture

Janusz Bugajski

Attempts to transform the Russian Federation into a nation state, a civic state or a stable imperial state have failed. The current structure is based on brittle historical foundations, possesses no unified national identity, whether civic or ethnic, and exhibits persistent struggles between nationalists, imperialists, centralists, liberals and federalists. Russia’s full-scale military invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 and the imposition of stifling international economic sanctions will intensify and accelerate the process of state rupture.

Russia’s failure has been exacerbated by an inability to ensure economic growth, stark socio-economic inequalities and demographic defects, widening disparities between Moscow and its diverse federal subjects, a precarious political pyramid based on personalism and clientelism, deepening distrust of government institutions, increasing public alienation from a corrupt ruling elite, and growing disbelief in official propaganda. More intensive repression to maintain state integrity in deteriorating economic conditions will raise the prospects for violent conflicts.

Paradoxically, while Vladimir Putin assumed power to prevent Russia’s disintegration, he may be remembered as precipitating the country’s demise. New territorial entities will surface as Moscow’s credibility crisis deepens amidst spreading ungovernability, elite power struggles, political polarization, nationalist radicalism, and regional and ethnic revivals. The emerging states will not be uniform in their internal political and administrative structures. Border conflicts and territorial claims are likely between some entities, while others may develop into new federal or confederal states.

How Russia Loses: Hubris and Miscalculation in Putin’s Kremlin

Thomas Kent

Vladimir Putin’s efforts to build influence abroad have succeeded in many places, but the Kremlin has also faced numerous snags and defeats. In How Russia Loses, Thomas Kent reviews Russian influence operations around the world where hubris and miscalculation by Putin and his government have led to reversals of Russia’s fortunes. The book’s case studies range from Russian attempts to build influence in Ukraine, Ecuador, South Africa, and North Macedonia to its efforts to promote the Nord Stream 2 pipeline and its Sputnik COVID-19 vaccine. In each case, Russia suffered temporary or permanent setbacks due to its own failings or to nimble responses by Western nations and local activists. Russia tends to ally itself with authoritarian leaders who eventually fall from power; fails to build deep people-to-people ties; overestimates its political and economic strength; underestimates the power of laws, international organizations, and pro-democracy forces; and is often not prepared for concerted resistance to its efforts. Based on its extensive analysis of self-defeating Russian behaviors, the book describes in detail how the West can use this knowledge to respond more effectively to Russian influence.

Ukraine Uses Innovative Drone and Missile Tactics to Combat Russian Dominance in Black Sea

Andrii Ryzhenko
Source Link

Over the past few months, the Ukrainian Armed Forces have relentlessly suppressed Russia’s military presence in the Black Sea and Crimea. On November 9, Ukrainian National Security and Defense Council Secretary Oleksii Danilov announced that Ukraine was making “huge gains” and “having great success in the Crimea direction” (Ukrinform, November 9). Without access to substantial surface warships, Ukrainian forces have carried out a series of high-precision missions using air and naval drones as well as cruise missiles to penetrate Russian defenses and strike multiple targets at sea (Ukrinform, August 4, October 5; Kyiv Independent, October 19, 30, November 10). Although Ukrainian kamikaze drones cause limited damage to most warships, Russian naval forces are gradually losing their combat potential to block Ukrainian grain shipments leaving Odesa and to conduct missile strikes against targets within Ukraine.

Since this past summer, a series of Ukrainian attacks on Russian forces in the Black Sea has pressured Moscow to reconsider its strategy at sea.
  • On July 13, the Kerch Bridge was attacked. The Security Service of Ukraine reported that a new type of kamikaze naval drone was employed during the operation. The two drones used carried around 1 ton of explosives each. As a result, two sections of the bridge were damaged, and its use was restricted for three months (com, July 18).
  • On August 4, a Project 775 Olenegorsk Hornyak landing ship was attacked during a raid on Novorossiysk, 5 kilometers (about 3 miles) from the port’s central infrastructure. The attack was carried out by the same type of kamikaze naval drone used in the attack on the Kerch Bridge. No personnel nor advanced weaponry were visible on the ship, which implies that the Russians felt they were not at risk of an attack at Novorossiysk. The attack itself was catastrophic. With another Russian naval base on the Black Sea compromised, Russian military officials were forces relocate some vessels. The landing ship suffered a large roll to the port side and had to be towed to the port for repair. Full repairs will likely be delayed due to a lack of spare parts on the Russian side (ua, August 4).

Data Brokers, Military Personnel, and National Security Risks

Justin Sherman, Hayley Barton, Aden Klein, Brady Allen Kruse, Anushka Srinivasan

“For sale: data on US servicemembers—and lots of it,” reads a recent Politico headline. The article describes a new report we authored for the data brokerage research project at Duke University’s Sanford School of Public Policy, focused on data brokers, the sale of data about U.S. military personnel, and its risks to national security. It’s the product of a 12-month study, sponsored by the U.S. Military Academy, diving into the multibillion-dollar data brokerage ecosystem and the kinds of data that U.S. companies gather and sell about active-duty military service members, veterans, and their families.

In the course of our study, we were able to purchase from data brokers sensitive data about active-duty members of the military, veterans, and their families. This includes nonpublic, individually identified, and sensitive data, such as health data, financial data, and information about religious practices. We bought this and other data from U.S. data brokers via a .org and a .asia domain for as low as $0.12 per record. Overall, the data brokers we contacted had inconsistent methods for determining the identity of customers and what they might use the data for—suggesting a concerning lack of industry best-practices within a highly unregulated data brokerage ecosystem. For instance, one data broker told us that if we paid by wire instead of credit card for a data set on military personnel, we could skip a customer verification process (which we did).

Amid policy attention to foreign intelligence operations targeting the U.S., the lack of a comprehensive federal consumer privacy law, and the risks of different foreign apps and tech products, foreign and malicious actors could access brokered data to target active-duty military personnel, veterans, and their families and acquaintances for profiling, blackmail, information campaigns, and more.

Is the Fear of Cyberwar Worse Than Cyberwar Itself?

Tom Johansmeyer

Cyberwar is a scary concept. The thought of the grid going down, markets tanking, and mass riots is chilling. Popular media and entertainment accounts of cyberwar would have us believing we’re living right on the edge, with a few keystrokes enough to take the world to a dark place. This alarmism has found some purchase in more sophisticated circles, which seems to lend credence to the belief that cyberwar is right around the corner, if not upon us.

But this hyperbolic characterization of cyberwar is likely a bigger problem than the threat of cyberwar itself. The problem is one of economic security.

The global insurance market has a cyberwar problem. The industry doesn’t understand the associated risks well, which has caused it to seek to avoid involvement with cyberwar altogether. By excluding cyber risks, the insurance industry buys into the culture of fear that has formed around cyberwar. This culture of fear has led insurers to require that their cyber teams hold extra capital out of concern that a major cyber conflict could devastate their balance sheets. This has to change. By refining its understanding of cyber-war risk, the insurance industry will be able to provide more insurance protection and make it more cost-effective. In the end, that would mean more insurance being provided and, as a result, greater economic security for businesses and society as a whole.

Insurers’ Engagement With Cyber Risk

The global insurance market seeks to play a significant role in addressing cyber risk, although the industry’s engagement with cyber risk is still in its early stages. The cyber insurance sector is still small by broader insurance industry standards, with only about $13 billion in worldwide premium and roughly $400 billion in notional protection outstanding (the amount of insurance protection companies have purchased). Recent rapid growth in aggregate worldwide premium has outpaced notional limit outstanding, suggesting a disconnect between the growth of revenue to the industry and the attendant growth of cyber insurance protection available to society. Growth has come from charging more premium per dollar of protection, which is arguably reasonable after the recent “ransomware epidemic.”

Nuclear Strategy “Through a Glass Darkly”

Lawrence J. Korb

The Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States issued its final report in October 2023. Because of the ongoing wars in the Middle East and Ukraine, it did not receive the attention it should have given the critical role of nuclear weapons in our security. The report contends that, although the fundamentals of the U.S. deterrence strategy remain sound, the application of that strategy must change significantly to address the 2027-2035 threat environment. According to the report, the U.S.-led international order and the values it upholds “are at risk from the Chinese and Russian authoritarian regimes,” and the risk of military conflict with those major powers has grown and “carries the potential for nuclear war.” As the Commission argues:

Today the United States is on the cusp of having not one, but two nuclear peer adversaries, each with ambitions to change the international status quo, by force if necessary, a situation which the United States did not anticipate and for which it is not prepared. While the risk of a major nuclear conflict remains low, the risk of a military conflict with either or both Russia and China, while not inevitable, has grown, and with it the risk of nuclear use, possibly against the U.S. homeland.

To meet this and other foreseeable national security challenges, the Commission recommends an ambitious program of nuclear and conventional force modernization, a more resilient space architecture with offensive and defensive elements, an expansion of the U.S. defense industrial base, improved nuclear infrastructure, and, where appropriate, nuclear arms control and-or measures of nuclear risk reduction. In addition, it argues that the United States should ensure that it is on the cutting edge of emerging technologies related to security and defense, including big data analytics, quantum computing, and artificial intelligence (AI).

The AI And (Global South) Multilateralism

Prof Anis Bajrektarevic

The international community should rather energetically and urgently work on a new social contract to tackle new technologies and their disruptive potentials. It is particularly related to artificial intelligence (AI) that must be deployed safely and in conformity with a globally shared ethical standard.

Deepfake, dark web, polarising contents, swarms of bots are expanding all over the cyberterritory. Just recall the events that are still shaking western hemisphere: The 2016 US Presidential elections and Brexit vote are still surrounded with a controversy. Their outcome is frequently connected with an alleged leak of personal data from a world’s leading social platform to an Analytic agency to reportedly manufacture voters’ choices. On the other side, the state (and non-state) actors have deployed huge quantities of motion-tracking and facial-recognition cameras to commodify continuous streams of intimate data about citizens, ostensibly to prepare them for a bonus-malus behavioural grading system.

The bold and commercially promising alliance between the AI and data-ified society has switched most of the contents of our societal exchanges towards the cyberspace. These new masters are already reshaping the very fabric of our realities.

No wonder, our common anxieties are on a rise; Are we losing control to an algorithmic revolution of nanorobots? Is the AI escaping our traditional modes of understanding and collective action? Confidence in our national governance and global stewardship is at breaking point. Popular revolts will follow.

Deterrence and Cyber Strategy

James Andrew Lewis

In the 1930s, France built impressive fortifications called the Maginot Line to prevent German forces from crossing its eastern border. The line was so impressive that it deterred the Germans from a direct assault. Instead, they went around it.

The United States risks repeating this outcome in cyberspace. Deterrence works as well as it ever did in doing what it was designed to do: prevent a nuclear or conventional attack on the United States or its treaty allies. It has not worked well for deterring anything else, in part because U.S. opponents have developed techniques that, like the assault on France, allow them to circumvent it and degrade the security and global position of the United States. Espionage, crime, and cyber-enabled influence operations create tremendous strategic risk that a deterrence strategy is not adequate to manage, much less counter.

An effective international cyber strategy must have three elements: how to build resilience, how to create a collaborative defense, and how to produce accountability in cyberspace (and this should include a discussion of when and how to disrupt opponent operations). Invoking deterrence may make a strategy longer but not more useful.

Even a partial list of the failures of deterrence is impressive. The United States failed to deter Chinese expansion in the South China Sea, Chinese influence in Latin America and Africa, and most importantly, the Chinese technological cyber espionage that undergirds the Chinese military and political challenge to a U.S.-centric world. The United States did not deter Russia from using cyber means to interfere in its 2016 election and the elections of allies, nor did it deter the invasion of Ukraine. The United States did not deter Iran from gaining a predominant role in Iraq or in waging a low-level cyber war with Israel. If the people advocating deterrence were football coaches, they would be fired.