6 December 2023

Palestinians Face Harrowing Hunt for Safety as War Intensifies

Chao Deng, Menna Farouk and Omar Abdel-Baqui

The first call came at 1:30 a.m. on Oct. 8. The recorded voice instructed doctor Hussam Abuouda, his wife and five children to get out.

Leave Beit Hanoun, the city at the Israeli border in northern Gaza, Abuouda recalls the unidentified man saying in Arabic.

He had received a call like this before, in the 2014 Israel-Gaza war. That time, he moved out for 45 days, then returned to repair his damaged home. This night felt more urgent. A bomb had obliterated a building hundreds of yards from his home, killing people inside.

“I feared the same would happen to me and my family,” says Abuouda.

At dawn, with explosions all around, the family piled into their green

Fiat, the children crying as they raced along empty roads to Gaza City, as directed, 6 miles south. It was the first of five moves the Abuoudas would make in less than a month as they followed Israeli instructions to get out of the way of airstrikes its military says are aimed at eliminating Hamas, the militant rulers of the enclave.

A truce to free hostages and allow aid into the enclave stopped the bombing for a week late last month. When it expired early Friday, Israel urged Palestinians to make way again.

The resumption of bombing will force the Palestinians to again calculate and recalculate an impossible and potentially deadly equation—whether it is safer to stay put, or keep moving in search of a safe place within Gaza, a territory roughly the size of Philadelphia.

Who will run Gaza after the war? U.S. searches for best of bad options

Michael Birnbaum, William Booth and Hazem Balousha

The Israelis say they don’t want the job. Arab nations are resisting. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas might volunteer, but the Palestinian people probably don’t want him.

As the Biden administration begins to plan for “the day after” in Gaza — confronting problematic questions such as who runs the territory once the shooting stops, how it gets rebuilt and, potentially, how it eventually becomes a part of an independent Palestinian state — the stakeholders face a host of unattractive options.

On a trip to Israel and the West Bank last week, Secretary of State Antony Blinken sought to advance those discussions, but there were few easy answers. The Biden administration is pushing to install a “revitalized” Palestinian Authority as Gaza’s administrator, but it is an unpopular idea with the Israeli government and even among many Palestinians. U.S. officials acknowledge the challenge, but say the group is the best, and perhaps the only, solution among a list of worse options, which include a return to direct Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip.

“We have no illusions this is going to be easy. We’ll surely have disagreements along the way,” Blinken told reporters while in Tel Aviv. But, he said, “the alternative — more terrorist attacks, more violence, more innocent suffering — is unacceptable.”

Following the Oct. 7 Hamas attack that killed at least 1,200 Israelis, Israel vowed to destroy the group as both a military and governing entity.

But after more than 15 years in power in Gaza, Hamas and its supporters are deeply embedded in every sector of society — not only in the government ministries they run, but also in charities, courts, mosques, sport teams, jails, municipalities and youth groups.

3 commercial ships hit by missiles in Houthi attack in Red Sea, US warship downs 3 drone


Ballistic missiles fired by Yemen’s Houthi rebels struck three commercial ships Sunday in the Red Sea, while a U.S. warship shot down three drones in self-defense during the hourslong assault, the U.S. military said. The Iranian-backed Houthis claimed two of the attacks.

The strikes marked an escalation in a series of maritime attacks in the Mideast linked to the Israel-Hamas war, as multiple vessels found themselves in the crosshairs of a single Houthi assault for the first time in the conflict. The U.S. vowed to “consider all appropriate responses” in the wake of the attack, specifically calling out Iran, after tensions have been high for years now over Tehran’s rapidly advancing nuclear program.

“These attacks represent a direct threat to international commerce and maritime security,” the U.S. military’s Central Command said in a statement. “They have jeopardized the lives of international crews representing multiple countries around the world.”

It added: “We also have every reason to believe that these attacks, while launched by the Houthis in Yemen, are fully enabled by Iran.”

The attack began around 9:15 a.m. local time (0615 GMT) in Houthi-controlled Sanaa, Yemen’s capital, Central Command said.

The USS Carney, a Navy destroyer, detected a ballistic missile fired from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen at the Bahamas-flagged bulk carrier Unity Explorer. The missile hit near the ship, the U.S. said. Shortly afterward, the Carney shot down a drone headed its way, although it’s not clear if the destroyer was the target, Central Command said.

About 30 minutes later, the Unity Explorer was hit by a missile. While responding to its distress call, the Carney shot down another incoming drone. Central Command said the Unity Explorer sustained minor damage from the missile.

Bangkok's Plan to Buy High-Cost Warship from China Raises Alarm

Wasamon Audjarint

Thailand’s new civilian-led administration is facing criticism over its plan to go forward with the purchase of a high-cost navy frigate from China in a deal first negotiated by the previous military government.

The purchase of the vessel was negotiated after China reneged on a 2017 plan to sell Thailand a S26T Yuan-class submarine because it could not obtain diesel engines from Germany, which forbids them to be used in Chinese military hardware, according to the Bangkok Post.

However the frigate, which would add to an existing fleet of seven mostly Chinese-built frigates, will cost the country $480 million — $28 million more than the submarine would have cost.

That has been criticized by the opposition Move Forward Party, which argues that the submarine deal should simply have been allowed to lapse.

"Chinese authority should rather take responsibility for failing the agreement," said Move Forward MP Rangsiman Rome, who was quoted by Matichon, a major Thai newspaper and website.

Thai Defense Minister Sutin Klungsang has defended the purchase, saying that revoking the deal or asking for a refund from China “would only impact other aspects of cooperation and relations” between the two countries.

Sutin also said that the submarine deal is being shelved rather than replaced by the new warship deal.

Beyond the Battlefield: China’s Quiet Bid to Sway Taiwan’s 2024 Election (and Future)

Shaoyu Yuan and Jun Xiang

Amid Russia’s recent incursion into Ukraine, there’s a prevailing belief that such actions may foreshadow a potential Chinese military move toward Taiwan. However, this perspective may not fully capture Beijing’s approach. “I do think that Xi Jinping doesn’t actually want to take Taiwan by force. He will try to use other ways to do this,” General Charles Brown, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently opined.

As Taiwan prepares for a pivotal election in 2024, murmurs of China’s intentions have become increasingly deafening. Unlike the prevailing narratives among scholars and analysts, who focus on the security of Taiwan, we think China might lean more heavily on softer, non-military means of influencing the island’s fate, although the possibility of a forceful unification remains on the table. China is likely plotting to employ a multi-pronged strategy that extends beyond the scope of open warfare.

As the election draws near, Taiwanese will be deciding on their next leader while grappling with an intense dance of influence and coercion. The saga of Terry Gou, Foxconn’s billionaire founder and a presidential candidate, exemplifies the subtleties of China’s influence in Taiwan. The emergence of a tax probe into Foxconn by Chinese authorities concurrent with Gou’s campaign initiation may reflect strategic political calculus. Gou’s candidacy – which has since been withdrawn – risked dividing the opposition vote and disadvantaging China’s favored Kuomintang (KMT).

A connection between Gou’s brief candidacy and the Foxconn probe is impossible to prove. Rather, the episode serves as an illustration that Beijing has many potential tools beyond military might to potentially reshape Taiwan’s democratic integrity and geopolitical direction. A dive into three of China’s potential stratagems reveals how they could not only redefine Taiwan’s most important democratic process but also shape the trajectory of Taiwan’s geopolitical stance in the coming years.

China's Military Might Be Far Weaker Than You Think

Paul Dibb

Some of those who want to appease Beijing assert that China’s military superiority would enable it to defeat the US over Taiwan. Like the supposed superior strengths of the Chinese economy, these arguments are based on false premises. The fact is China’s military strength is entirely unproven in practical terms and, like its ally Russia, China has serious military weaknesses.

As the well-regarded Swedish Defence Research Agency has recently observed, a rethink of Moscow’s military capability is clearly warranted to understand the causes of the current malaise in Russia’s military capabilities. The agency says that is needed both for the West to adjust to its demonstrable shortcomings and weaknesses and, equally importantly, to understand their causes and long-term strategic implications. In my view, Western intelligence analysts and policymakers have consistently overrated Russia’s and the Soviet Union’s military strengths. And precisely the same mistakes are now being made about China’s PLA.

What are the reasons for this? First, as Professor Zoltan Barany of the University of Texas has argued: when the adversary is a totalitarian state it is easier to make judgements based on quantitative assessments of counting weapons—tanks, jet fighters, and missiles—and raw manpower, rather than on the qualitative and psychological characteristics that often determine the military’s performance on the battlefield.

Second, because of Russia’s and China’s autocratic systems and pervasive corruption, it has proved difficult for them to bring the kinds of innovation, adaptability, and versatility that tend to produce the best outcomes on the battlefield. The fact is it is easy to concentrate on the material strengths of both China and Russia that can be counted by overhead means of intelligence, while neglecting crucial intangibles such as the quality and experience of their troops.

Meet Gambit: DARPA's New Missile That Could Make China Freak

Alex Hollings

Last year, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) quietly unveiled a new high-speed missile program called Gambit.

The program is meant to leverage a novel method of propulsion that could have far-reaching implications not just in terms of weapons development, but for high-speed aircraft and even in how the Navy’s warships are powered.

This propulsion system, known as a rotating detonation engine (RDE), has the potential to be lighter than existing jet engines while offering a significant boost in power output, range, and fuel efficiency.

The Gambit missile is just one of a number of programs placing a renewed focus on RDE technology, though for the most part, these systems have managed to fly under the media’s radar. That is, except for Aviation Week & Space Technology Defense Editor Steve Trimble, who has covered these recent developments at length. Trimble was kind enough to discuss that work with us as we sought to better understand just how big a deal this technology could be.

Rotating Detonation Engines may not be common in discussion today, but amid the ongoing hypersonic arms race and America’s renewed focus on deterring near-peers, this technology could help offset a number of tactical and strategic advantages presented by America’s opponents in places like Europe and the Pacific…

…And it may be closer than you think.


Rotating detonation engines have been the subject of theory and speculation for decades, but have yet to cross the barrier between theory and practical application.

The Rise and Fall of Confucius Institutes in the US

Bonnie Girard

In 2019, over ​100 American universities and colleges throughout the nation were home to Confucius Institutes (CIs), established in partnership with the Chinese government ostensibly to provide Chinese language and cultural instruction.

It is important to note that the Confucius Institutes were so named by the Chinese government with foreign, particularly Western, sentiments in mind. The name of “Confucius” (孔子, Kong Zi) strikes a positive note outside of China, conjuring the image of a wise sage who wrote pithy sayings. While the Confucius Institute program was launched under President Hu Jintao in 2004, current President Xi Jinping has gone on to further re-introduce Confucius to the Chinese public, helping to make the ancient philosopher relevant and even fashionable again. In fact, in attempting to re-brand the Chinese Communist Party in his own image, Xi has publicly embraced Confucianism as strongly as Mao Zedong rejected it.

For Mao, the father of Communist-led China, Confucian values were the underpinning of China’s inability and unwillingness to modernize. Confucius stressed orderliness and harmony in society, at any cost. Therefore, behavior that disrupted a peaceful and predictable environment was both unwelcome as well as socially unacceptable. Chaos was to be prevented at all costs, even if the price was an antiquated society unprepared to meet the challenges of an ever-encroaching and demanding world.

Mao did his best to remove all traces of Confucian life and ideals from “new” China after his takeover of the country on October 1, 1949. Confucian texts, especially the famous “Analects,” were burned throughout the country. As with all aspects of life before Communism, Confucius was eradicated as a governing social force, and replaced with the tenets of the Chinese Communist Party.

Pentagon: US arms industry struggling to keep up with China


America’s defense industry is struggling to achieve the kind of speed and responsiveness to stay ahead in a high-tech arms race with competitors such as China, an unreleased draft of a new Pentagon report on the defense industry warns.

The first ever National Defense Industrial Strategy, which is set to be released in the coming weeks by Pentagon acquisition chief William LaPlante, is meant to be a comprehensive look at what the Pentagon needs in order to tap into the expertise of small tech firms, while funding and supporting traditional companies to move faster to develop new tech.

As it stands now, the U.S. defense industrial base “does not possess the capacity, capability, responsiveness, or resilience required to satisfy the full range of military production needs at speed and scale,” according to a draft version of the report, obtained by POLITICO.

The document, dated Nov. 27, adds that “just as significantly, the traditional defense contractors in the [defense industrial base] would be challenged to respond to modern conflict at the velocity, scale, and flexibility necessary to meet the dynamic requirements of a major modern conflict.”

It notes that America builds the best weapons in the world, but it can’t produce them quickly enough.

“This mismatch presents a growing strategic risk as the United States confronts the imperatives of supporting active combat operations … while deterring the larger and more technically advanced pacing threat looming in the Indo-Pacific,” the study says.

Speaking at the Reagan National Defense Forum, LaPlante said the strategy will be executed as a “partnership” with industry. For businesses to expand production capacity, they need DOD to be clear about its future purchasing needs for them to invest in new factories and R&D.

Iran’s role in Israel’s conflict


The fighting in Gaza has been going on for two months now, and although there has been a temporary ceasefire, there is still no end in sight to the conflict.

Moreover, there is the possibility of new countries becoming involved. One of the most likely candidates is Iran or the Tehran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah.

Although the government in Tehran remains somewhat cautious without directly calling for a war, pro-Iranian groups have increased their attacks on US military installations.

Between October 17 and November 21, US bases in Iraq and Syria were attacked 70 times, mainly by the pro-Iranian Islamic Resistance in Iraq.

So is a conflict between Iran and Israel inevitable?

Not necessarily. A widening conflict could lead to increased instability in the region and disruptions in the supply chain or even oil production, which is not in anyone’s interest.

This is why Saudi Arabia has offered to invest in the Iranian economy in exchange for Iran restraining its allies to prevent an escalation of the conflict with Israel.

This would probably mean that Tehran would stop arming the “axis of resistance” against Israel, which includes paramilitary groups in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

Poland prepares military response to militarization of Kaliningrad enclave

Dylan Malyasov

Despite Moscow’s continual rhetoric about NATO military base advancements drawing closer to the Russian border, the Kremlin has actively invested in the militarization of the Kaliningrad region on the borders of Poland and Lithuania.

Since 2016, Russia has significantly bolstered its military presence in Kaliningrad by deploying troops, modern weaponry, and forming the 11th Army Corps. The Kremlin even stationed operational-tactical missile complexes “Iskander” in Kaliningrad, capable of carrying nuclear warheads. The military grouping in Kaliningrad was further reinforced with the Bastion coastal missile system.

The heightened militarization of Kaliningrad allows the Kremlin the potential to seize a portion of Poland’s Suwalki Corridor, a strip of land less than 80 kilometers long that separates Belarus from Kaliningrad.

The Suwalki Gap, termed a “strategic point of NATO’s eastern flank” by experts, connects Belarusian territory to the Kaliningrad region, ensuring the Baltic countries’ connection with other NATO members.

Russia Tried and Failed to Build a Nuclear-Powered Aircraft Carrier

Brent M. Eastwood

Russia has always dreamed of having a fleet of aircraft carriers and at least a few nuclear-powered flattops. Here is the story of why some of this never came to pass: The Russians have bad luck with aircraft carriers of all types for decades now, clearly a good thing for the United States and NATO. Its only carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, is cursed with all kinds of problems and deadly mishaps.

But Russia could have perhaps changed all that had they implemented plans for a nuclear carrier in the 1970s. Dubbed the Ulyanovsk, it would have sported around 70 airplanes such as MiG-33s and Su-29s that would have launched from two steam catapults. It would have provided an ample boost to naval morale and grist for the Soviet propaganda mill.

But she never set sail. Here is her story.

Nuclear Super Carrier Would Have Been a Jewel in the Crown

Ulyanovsk was supposed to have been a nuclear-powered supercarrier at 1,000 feet long and 85,000-ton displacement with a ski-jump deck.

The ship would have been armed with 24 launch tubes for cruise missiles with 3,400 sailors serving aboard.

It would have had three elevators planned to serve at least 44-fighters and several early-warning aircraft including helicopters.

The Soviets wanted the Ulyanovsk to have four nuclear reactors. This would have given the carrier true “blue water” capabilities to allow it to steam at 30-knots in many areas of operations to compete with the U.S. Navy.

What Does Multipolarity Mean for Kosovo?

Giorgio Cafiero

Amid Yugoslavia’s break up in the early 1990s, Serbia pursued its “Greater Serbia” agenda based on the belief that all ethnic Serbs in the region should belong to one single Serbian nation-state. Slobodan Milosevic’s regime did not want Serb communities living as minorities in newly established Muslim-majority countries.

To achieve “Greater Serbia,” Belgrade resorted to force. But under Milosevic, Serbia failed to carve “Greater Serbia” out of Yugoslavia’s remains amid the Balkan Wars of the 1990s. Since 1999, the land under Belgrade’s control has been significantly smaller than Milosevic’s government had envisioned at the time of Yugoslavia’s collapse.

This was not because Serbia’s smaller neighbors managed to defeat Serbian/Serb forces on their own. It was because NATO—led by the world’s superpower, the United States—intervened militarily against Belgrade at a specific time in history in which Washington was dominating a unipolar international system. In the late 1990s, Russia and China were much weaker countries; they lacked the ability to deter the United States from expanding NATO’s footprint eastward in Europe or invading Iraq in 2003.

Since 1999, Serbia has not launched any military campaign to retake Kosovo. This is due to the presence of the NATO-led international peacekeeping force, Kosovo Force (KFOR), in Kosovo. As a European Union candidate since 2012 and part of NATO’s Partnership for Peace program since 2006, Serbia knows that starting a fight with KFOR would be extremely unwise. But Kosovo’s policymakers and many average Kosovar citizens worry that new realities in the international geopolitical order could create conditions that eventually encourage Belgrade to resume its pursuit of “Greater Serbia.”

How the U.S. Military Trains Recruits for War

Travis Pike

By the turn of the 20th century, most military forces had moved to centerfire, bolt-action rifles that were firing, what would be considered, small and fast cartridges. However, these rifles chambered centerfire cartridges that were often big, heavy, expensive, and labor-intensive to build. Further, a lot of machine work on these rifles was rudimentary, and hand-fitting was common. All these factors made them bad for training purposes. So cadet rifles came as the solution.

Cader rifles were offered as a cheaper and easier-to-produce alternative in a much cheaper caliber. Most cadet rifles mimicked the basic overall layout of the rifles of the era, however, they were chambered in .22LR which is a very small round that uses a rimfire design. These low-powered rounds are extremely cheap to produce and, even today, cost pennies.


Cheap rifles and cheap ammo mean that a military can inexpensively teach marksmanship skills to new shooters. It is also easier to train a new shooter with a round like .22LR. At the range, this cartridge has much less recoil than a full-powered rifle cartridge, it’s also substantially quieter. New shooters could focus on firearm safety and basic marksmanship rather than concern themselves with recoil and massive booms. Instructors could more easily pass information with the report of a .22 rifle than with that of a .30 caliber battle rifle.

The US used several rifles for that purpose, most famously the M1922, which was a bolt action .22LR rifle designed to mimic the Springfield M1903 rifle. It also used bolt-action rifles from Remington, Stevens, and Winchester for marksmanship training long after the semi-auto M1 Garand had been the rifle of choice.

Swiss have frozen $8.8 billion of Russian assets

John Revill

Switzerland has frozen an estimated 7.7 billion Swiss francs ($8.81 billion) in financial assets belonging to Russians, the government said on Friday, under sanctions designed to punish Moscow for its invasion of Ukraine.

The figure, a provisional estimate, represented a slight increase from the 7.5 billion francs the Swiss government said it had blocked last year after the neutral country adopted European Union sanctions.

The State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO), the agency overseeing sanctions, said the 7.7 billion francs figure was only its latest estimate and was subject to change.

It was difficult to give a precise figure due to new people being added or removed from the sanctions list, as well as legal cases to freeze or unlock further assets.

A more accurate figure is expected by the end of the second quarter 2024 when the Swiss banks report to the government.

The increase in the frozen assets is due to an increase of 300 people and 100 companies and organisations who have been added to the sanctions list over the past 12 months.

It also includes the estimated profits from cash deposits, bonds, shares, as well as properties and luxury cars.

Bern has also blocked the movement of 7.4 billion francs in foreign currency assets belonging to the Russian central bank.

Crimean partisans reveal enemy division of S-300 systems

Crimean partisans have carried out a raid in the rear of Russian troops in the Saky district in the west of the temporarily occupied Crimea.

The relevant statement was made by Ukraine’s partisan movement ATESH on Telegram, an Ukrinform correspondent reports.

“During reconnaissance actions, several hidden places of the enemy’s temporary deployment were revealed, as well engineering structures and an air defense system,” the report states.

According to the partisans, several enemy bases are located near such settlements as Vitino and Molochne. Many Russian personnel and equipment units were spotted there. Fortifications are under construction along the shore. Armed soldiers patrol the perimeter of the territory.

Additionally, to the east of Molochne, Crimean partisans revealed a whole division of Russian S-300 surface-to-air missile systems.

“We know a lot more, and we have transferred all the obtained information to relevant agencies,” the ATESH partisan movement concluded.

The Case for Conservative Internationalism

Kori Schake

It is hard to think of a more chaotic moment in the history of the Republican Party than the present; perhaps only Andrew Johnson’s 1865–68 presidency comes close. The GOP’s de facto leader, former President Donald Trump, faces 91 felony charges in four separate criminal cases. After serving just nine months as Speaker of the House, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California was forced out of the speakership by eight members of his own party, triggering a round-robin tournament that left the House paralyzed for weeks before a little-known member pieced together the votes to replace him. House Republicans have been flirting with shutting down the government and defaulting on the national debt in legislation that has no prospect of winning support even from fellow Republicans in the Senate, while Trump spreads lies about the 2020 election and strategizes about weaponizing the U.S. executive branch against his opponents.

The GOP’s disorder is especially evident—and dangerous—in the realm of foreign policy. For decades since 1952, the Republican Party had a fairly clear international vision: promote American security and economic power while supporting the expansion of democracy around the world. That meant providing for a strong military, cooperating with allies to advance shared interests, and boosting U.S. power in international institutions. It meant advancing free trade, ensuring fair international competition for U.S. companies, and promoting the rule of law in immigration policy. And it meant opposing authoritarianism, especially when autocrats directly challenged U.S. interests.

Republicans’ commitments to these principles have weakened dramatically. Trump whiplashes between a wish to project U.S. power abroad and isolationism; recently, he has vowed to withdraw from NATO, end imports of Chinese goods, deploy the U.S. military onto American streets to fight crime and deport immigrants, and “drive out” “warmongers” and “globalists” from the U.S. government. Other conservative leaders—such as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and the entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy—express outright hostility toward sustaining the United States’ international commitments. Most GOP presidential candidates offered unqualified support for Israel after Hamas’s attack, but Trump appeared to be impressed with it. On Ukraine, the party’s politicians are split, with just over half of House Republicans voting in September 2023 to halt U.S. aid to Kyiv’s defense against Russia’s invasion.

The Russians Are Bolting DIY Drone-Jammers Onto Their Vehicles. The Ukrainians Are Blowing Them Up ... With Drones.

David Axe

Russian marines rightly are terrified of Ukrainian drones. They, like other Russian troops, are trying everything they can to shoot down, ground and deflect the tiny, explosives-laden drones.

But not every improvisation works. It’s increasingly apparent Russian forces are strapping small RP-377 radio-jammers, designed to block the signals that detonate radio-triggered roadside bombs, to tanks and fighting vehicles in the hope of blocking the signals that control speedy first-person-view drones.

It also is increasingly apparent the RP-377 doesn’t work very well against FPV drones. Indeed, there’s an entire subgenre of darkly-ironic videos circulating on social media depicting Ukrainian drones blowing up Russian vehicles sporting these do-it-yourself drone-jammers.

Thematically, the videos are similar to those depicting Ukrainian forces blowing up Russian GPS-jammers with—you guessed it—GPS-guided bombs.

An ungainly T-80BVM tank belonging to a Russian naval infantry brigade—either the 155th Brigade or 40th Brigade—illustrates the Russians’ drone dilemma. The tank sports DIY cage armor that, while potentially interfering with the turret’s traverse, at least should offer some protection from exploding drones.

What’s weirder is the RP-377 radio-jammer that the tank wears on its rearmost cage armor. The RP-377 is a portable jammer that the Kremlin developed to scramble enemy communications and protect infantry and vehicles from improvised explosive devices.

IEDs are a big problem in Russia’s irregular wars in places such as Syria. They’re less of a problem in Ukraine, where most of the combat pits regular forces against regular forces.

The AI military race is led by American tech. Is there a challenger?

Amal Jos Chacko

The B-21 Raider nuclear stealth bomber, the United States Air Force’s pride and joy, recently took to the Californian skies for its inaugural flight on November 10.

This incident, whose timing peculiarly lined up with Chinese Premier Xi Jinping’s visit to the United States, caused China to suddenly change tact and want to talk about nukes and AI.

But why?

More than just a marvel of engineering, the B-21 marks a new frontier in military technology, combining physical prowess with advanced artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities. Experts suggest that the B-21 Raider's AI-driven software is pivotal for its design, testing, and mission flexibility.

Tate Nurkin, a nonresident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council's Forward Defense and Indo-Pacific Security Initiative, spoke to Newsweek, emphasizing the role of digital design and engineering in expediting the bomber's development, calling AI simulations “key” to the program.

“Open architectures also will accelerate upgrades, especially software upgrades, including AI-driven software,” he explained. “[For] mission flexibility, it can also serve as a stealthy sensor or communications/ data fusion node in addition to serving as a stealthy bomber. The data fusion area is where AI is likely to have the most impact.”

West Africa’s Compounding Security Challenge

James Barnett

In the summer of 2023, it looked for a moment that West Africa was at risk of a regional inter-state war of the sorts it had not seen since the 1990s. After a group of military officers overthrew the democratically elected president of Niger, Mohamed Bazoum, in late July, the regional bloc ECOWAS threatened a military intervention, backed by France, to restore Bazoum’s presidency. Niger’s new junta quickly turned to neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso, both military regimes that had turned against France and toward Russia over the previous two years, for promises of protection, resulting in the hasty announcement of an “Alliance of Sahel States” that pledged to defend Niger if the ECOWAS intervention went ahead.

The junta in Niger successfully called ECOWAS’s bluff and the war did not come to pass: ECOWAS nations have their own internal political, economic, and crises to keep them busy, the ECOWAS militaries are ill-prepared for a prolonged expeditionary mission, and the prospect of an interstate war would have been deeply unpopular at home.

But the regional situation remains volatile, and West Africa has avoided an interstate war only to see a continued and now accelerating, degradation of security conditions in the region.

A precarious situation in the “coup belt” and littorals

ECOWAS and Western sanctions remain in effect against Niger’s junta while the French—the former colonial power and traditional security partner for the Sahel states—have effectively been forced out of the region by the three Sahelian juntas. Mali’s regime has gone a step further by also kicking out the UN peacekeeping mission in the country and embracing the Wagner Group as its new partner for counterterrorism and regime security.

An Indo-Pacific Economic Framework

Inu Manak and Manjari Chatterjee Miller

When President Joe Biden launched the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) in May 2022, he declared that the agreement would write “new rules for the 21st century economy.” Modeled on four pillars—trade, supply chains, clean energy, and tackling corruption—the IPEF is the administration’s response to growing Chinese influence in the region and a desire to shore up U.S. presence among key Indo-Pacific partners. However, at a summit this month, IPEF countries failed to conclude an agreement on the trade pillar, leaving the framework with no substantive economic component. Making matters worse, of the thirteen countries negotiating with the United States, only three have an existing trade agreement—Australia, Singapore, and South Korea. This means the collapse of the trade pillar of IPEF is a missed opportunity to deepen economic links in the Indo-Pacific and undercuts U.S. efforts to develop a new architecture for engagement in the region.

The administration did point to the three other pillars of IPEF as achievements. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo finalized the two pillars focused on financing for the green transition and commitments to combat corruption. The third, the supply chain pillar, was concluded in May and established new rules to help governments respond to supply chain disruptions. To read more about IPEF and U.S. efforts to shore up influence in the Indo-Pacific,

“Local” Wars Keep Punishing Global Markets

Jeffrey Kucik

Ukraine’s annual GDP fell by 30 percent in the first year of fighting Russia. Israel's growth projections were adjusted downward by 23 percent in the first month of fighting Hamas. And many other economies—Syria, Myanmar, Ethiopia—bear the lasting scars of longer-term conflict.

But war’s economic damage is not limited to conflict zones. A complete account of war’s costs must include the market shocks felt by global markets, including how conflict undermines economic performance and puts developing countries at risk.

Economists provide a laundry list of reasons why market shocks—defined as sharp, unpredictable fluctuations in trade and investment flows—are toxic at all levels of the marketplace. Shocks can, among other things, inflate budget deficits and destabilize currency values. They can divert trade flows and dampen investment. They can even affect individual incomes through wage suppression and job loss. The harmful effects can be so severe that sustained exposure to instability lowers growth and stunts development.

War worsens these problems. A common misconception is that market shocks come from “acts of God” like natural disasters or pandemics. But political events, including armed conflicts, are far more common causes of day-to-day instability in global markets. There are some straightforward reasons for this. Not least, conflict can interrupt trade and investment relationships by damaging manufacturing infrastructure within countries at war and slowing the production of non-essential goods. For example, a country like Syria, whose economy is heavily focused on agriculture, lost about one-third of its GDP when farming ground to a halt. Similar food security issues have already arisen in Ukraine.

Deadly but tricky to fly, suicide drones have Ukraine putting thousands of soldiers through pilot training


As Ukraine leans on suicide drones to wear down Russia’s invading forces, private, civilian-run training schools are working to supply the Ukrainian army with thousands of pilots.

That’s no mean feat. The drones are extremely hard to fly, requiring weeks of training before a pilot is ready to fight on the front line.

“The chance that you will literally fly into a wall during training is higher” than with other types of drones, said Ihor Dvoretskyi, a project manager with Ukraine’s Defense Ministry who also volunteers with Victory Drones, one of the country’s largest drone education centers.

More formally known as loitering munitions, suicide drones have emerged as a key weapon of the war, with both sides using them in large numbers. Some are sophisticated, purpose-built munitions, but many are hobbyist racing drones adapted to serve as flying improvised explosive devices. Such drones are also known as first-person view (FPV) drones, after the goggles used to fly them.

“In every area, they’re using FPV drones,” said Yehor Cherniev, deputy chairman of the Ukrainian parliament’s Committee on National Security, Defence and Intelligence. “They’re a cheap weapon, and a weapon that сan be used en masse.”

But it takes longer to learn to fly them than, say, the hardware-and-software-stabilized photography quadcopters used across Ukraine’s frontline to coordinate artillery.

“You are literally flying this drone like it was a Cessna [plane] from the 1960s,” said Dvoretskyi.

Ego, Fear and Money: How the A.I. Fuse Was Lit

Cade Metz, Karen Weise, Nico Grant and Mike Isaac

Larry Page and Elon Musk were on opposite sides in the debate over the risks of artificial intelligence.Credit...Hokyoung Kim

The people who were most afraid of the risks of artificial intelligence decided they should be the ones to build it. Then distrust fueled a spiraling competition.

Larry Page and Elon Musk were on opposite sides in the debate over the risks of artificial intelligence.Credit...Hokyoung KimDec. 3, 2023

Elon Musk celebrated his 44th birthday in July 2015 at a three-day party thrown by his wife at a California wine country resort dotted with cabins. It was family and friends only, with children racing around the upscale property in Napa Valley.

This was years before Twitter became X and Tesla had a profitable year. Mr. Musk and his wife, Talulah Riley — an actress who played a beautiful but dangerous robot on HBO’s science fiction series “Westworld” — were a year from throwing in the towel on their second marriage. Larry Page, a party guest, was still the chief executive of Google. And artificial intelligence had pierced the public consciousness only a few years before, when it was used to identify cats on YouTubewith 16 percent accuracy.

A.I. was the big topic of conversation when Mr. Musk and Mr. Page sat down near a firepit beside a swimming pool after dinner the first night. The two billionaires had been friends for more than a decade, and Mr. Musk sometimes joked that he occasionally crashed on Mr. Page’s sofa after a night playing video games.

But the tone that clear night soon turned contentious as the two debated whether artificial intelligence would ultimately elevate humanity or destroy it.

Counter-drone tech need like that of 155mm shells: Pentagon’s LaPlante

Noah Robertson

The Pentagon’s acquisition chief says that the need for drone defenses resembles that for 155mm artillery shells, which are in high demand amid wars in Ukraine and Gaza.

“The production for counter-UAS [has] to go through the roof,” said Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment Bill LaPlante at a panel during the Reagan National Defense Forum here. “It’s like where we were about a year ago when we said 155 is going to have to go to 100,000 a month.”

LaPlante’s comments follow a recent visit to Aerovironment, a defense tech company that makes the Switchblade loitering munition being used Ukraine and reportedly requested by Israel — both wars that have influenced the urgency with which the Defense Department is pushing for advanced capabilities.

The Pentagon has made fielding such systems of its own the target of multiple initiatives, from the rapid acquisition effort Replicator to the tech-focused pillar of AUKUS. In the meantime, the U.S. has seen the effect of these types of drones being used against it. Since mid-October, U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria have come under regular attack from Iranian-backed militia groups, many of whom are firing drone salvos.

Pentagon officials like himself and Heidi Shyu, Under Secretary for Research and Enginerring, have been calling companies that manufacture systems including loitering munitions and counter-UAS capabilities, Laplante said. In these talks, they show industry the chart of 155 production over time and ask similar questions to that of the artillery ramp-up: How many systems can you produce at your max and what do you need to reach it?

“The industrial base has to be able to produce these at high numbers,” he said.