27 December 2023

UN’s Forced Retreat From Countries Mired In Deadly Conflicts Shows Limitations

Arul Louis

While in the outgoing year, attention was focused on the world organisation’s paralysis in Ukraine and Israel, the UN was forced to retreat from other countries riven by deadly conflicts in a stark display of its limitations.

Unlike Ukraine and Israel, these were countries where the UN had an active presence trying to keep the peace as rival factions and insurgencies created havoc of deaths, human rights violations, and destruction.

These setbacks show the limits to what the UN can do, even when the veto-wielding powers free the Security Council to act.

On December 11, the UN ended its mission in Mali, one of its deadliest that has claimed the lives of 310 peacekeepers, bowing to its military rulers who ordered out its 10,000 personnel.

In November, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) signed an agreement with the UN, which has had peacekeeping operations in that country for about 25 years, to fast-track the withdrawal of about 15,000 peacekeepers earlier than the next December deadline.

While a UN official warned of a risk of genocide in Sudan, the Security Council accepted on December 1 the military government’s demand to end its political mission.

Having already witnessed the killings of thousands, these three countries are at risk of the conflicts continuing in the coming months, veiled by a pall of global apathy and away from TV cameras.

There aren’t any fashionable protesters marching around the world against the killings, mutilations and sexual violence perpetrated on a massive scale there.

Iranian Spy Ship Helps Houthis Direct Attacks on Red Sea Vessels

Benoit Faucon, Dov Lieber and Gordon Lubold

Iran’s paramilitary forces are providing real-time intelligence and weaponry, including drones and missiles, to Yemen’s Houthis that the rebels are using to target ships passing through the Red Sea, Western and regional security officials said.

Tracking information gathered by a Red Sea surveillance vessel controlled by Iran’s paramilitary forces is given to the Houthis, who have used it to attack commercial vessels passing through the Bab el-Mandeb strait in recent days, according to the officials.

Earlier this week, the Pentagon unveiled plans for a multinational naval force to protect merchant vessels in the Red Sea. Meanwhile, many of the world’s biggest shipping lines, oil producers and other cargo owners have started diverting vessels from the region, prompting a rise in oil prices and insurance rates.

Many vessels sailing in the strait have been switching off their radios to avoid being tracked online, but an Iranian vessel stationed in the Red Sea is enabling the Houthi drones and missiles to accurately target the ships, the officials said.

The Iranian mission to the United Nations didn’t respond to a request for comment.

A spokesperson for the Houthis said the group didn’t need to rely on Iran to help in its attacks. “It’s strange to attribute everything to Iran as if it were the world’s strongest power,” the spokesperson said. “We have intelligence facilities that have proven themselves over the years of aggression against us.”

The direct involvement by Iranian actors in the attacks raises the stakes for Israel and the U.S., which are eager to contain Tehran’s role in the region, and risks creating a new front in the conflict between Israel and its foes in the region, just as the U.S. is trying to stop it from escalating.

“The Houthis don’t have the radar technology to target the ships,” said a Western security official. “They need Iranian assistance. Without it, the missiles would just drop in the water.”

The case of al-Shifa: Investigating the assault on Gaza’s largest hospital

Louisa Loveluck, Evan Hill, Jonathan Baran, Jarrett Ley and Ellen Nakashima

Weeks before Israel sent troops into al-Shifa Hospital, its spokesman began building a public case.

The claims were remarkably specific — that five hospital buildings were directly involved in Hamas activities; that the buildings sat atop underground tunnels that were used by militants to direct rocket attacks and command fighters; and that the tunnels could be accessed from inside hospital wards. The assertions were backed by “concrete evidence,” Israel Defense Forces spokesman Daniel Hagari said as he laid out the case in an Oct. 27 briefing.

After storming the complex on Nov. 15, the IDF released a series of photographs and videos that it said proved its central point.

“Terrorists came here to command their operations,” Hagari said in a video published Nov. 22, guiding viewers through an underground tunnel, illuminating dark and empty rooms beneath al-Shifa.

But the evidence presented by the Israeli government falls short of showing that Hamas had been using the hospital as a command and control center, according to a Washington Post analysis of open-source visuals, satellite imagery and all of the publicly released IDF materials. That raises critical questions, legal and humanitarian experts say, about whether the civilian harm caused by Israel’s military operations against the hospital — encircling, besieging and ultimately raiding the facility and the tunnel beneath it — were proportionate to the assessed threat.

The Post’s analysis shows:
  • The rooms connected to the tunnel network discovered by IDF troops showed no immediate evidence of military use by Hamas.
  • None of the five hospital buildings identified by Hagari appeared to be connected to the tunnel network.
  • There is no evidence that the tunnels could be accessed from inside hospital wards.

Gaza and Ukraine are very different wars, but they teach similar lessons

Max Boot

At first glance, the wars in Ukraine and Gaza don’t appear to have much in common. The fight in Ukraine is a conventional conflict pitting two states against each other, while the Gaza War pits a conventional military against a terrorist organization. Yet, as I’ve been talking in recent weeks with current and retired U.S. generals and civilian analysts who are studying both conflicts, I have concluded that they actually reinforce many of the same lessons. Those are lessons that the U.S. military urgently needs to internalize.

Hamas isn’t just a terrorist organization, after all. It’s a quasi-governmental entity that entered the war with an estimated 30,000 fighters — and, just like the Russian army in Ukraine, it has engaged in terrible war crimes. In both cases, the brutal violence is intended to terrorize its enemies into surrender. Hamas leaders appear to not care about the terrible costs inflicted on civilians — or even on their own fighters — by the war they started on Oct. 7. (Note that they don’t open their tunnels to shelter civilians from Israeli bombing.) Likewise, the Kremlin has shown a shocking willingness to not only kill Ukrainian civilians but also its own soldiers, who have been sacrificed in “meat grinder” assaults for a few meters of ground.

The wars in both Gaza and Ukraine should remind complacent Western leaders that our adversaries do not share our liberal values and, thus, are much less casualty-conscious than Western militaries are. That gives them a major military advantage.

Ukraine’s commander, Gen. Valery Zaluzhny, recently admitted to the Economist that he was wrong to believe that he could stop the Russian onslaught by inflicting heavy casualties on the invaders. But even though U.S. intelligence estimates that 315,000 Russian troops have been killed or wounded, Vladimir Putin just keeps on attacking. So, too, Israeli commanders are mistaken if they think that inflicting pain and suffering on Palestinian civilians will lead Hamas to stop fighting. This is known to intelligence analysts as “mirror imaging,” and it’s a critical mistake to avoid.

Fighting rages in northern Gaza; Biden speaks with Netanyahu

Nidal Al-Mughrabi and Emily Rose

Israel battled Hamas militants on Saturday in pursuit of its elusive goal of full control of northern Gaza after the U.N. Security Council appealed for more aid for the Palestinian enclave but stopped short of demanding a ceasefire.

Thick smoke hung over the northern town of Jabalia and residents reported persistent aerial bombardment and shelling from Israeli tanks, which they said had moved further into the town.

Hamas' armed wing Al Qassam Brigades said it had destroyed five Israeli tanks in the area, killing and injuring their crews, after reusing two undetonated missiles launched earlier by Israel. Reuters could not independently verify the report.

Israel's chief military spokesperson said that its forces had achieved almost complete operational control of northern Gaza and were preparing to expand the ground offensive to other areas in the Strip, with a focus on the south.

U.S. President Joe Biden discussed the situation with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Saturday, the White House said. Israel's main ally has kept up its support while expressing concern over the growing casualty toll and humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Biden declined to detail his conversation with Netanyahu, telling reporters it was a "private conversation."

But, he added: "I did not ask for a ceasefire."

Biden and Netanyahu talked in detail about Israeli’s military operations in Gaza including “its objectives and phasing,” the need to protect civilian lives and securing the release of hostages being held captive, the White House said.

U.S. officials have said they want and expect Israel soon to shift its military operations in Gaza to a lower-intensity phase during which there will be more targeted operations focused on the Hamas leadership and its infrastructure.

Mega data leaks, war hacktivism and India’s cyber rise: Top trends of 2023

Aakash Sharma, Subham Tiwar

As the curtains close on 2023, the world reflects on a year marked by rising cyber-attacks on critical infrastructure—especially by ideologically motivated and state-backed hacking groups from foreign countries—as armed conflicts expanded into the digital realm. According to a report, India detected an average of 761 cyberattack attempts every minute this year.

The Indian automobile industry emerged as the primary target of cyberattacks in 2023, followed by government infrastructure and the education sector, as reported in the India Cyber Security Threat report published by the Data Security Council of India (DSCI). Another report estimates that state-sponsored cyberattacks against India have surged nearly threefold, or 278 per cent, in three years.

An Android device experienced an average of three cyberattacks per month in India in 2023, the DSCI report revealed. The report notes that Telangana (15%) and Tamil Nadu (14%) were the most affected among all Indian states. Surat, India's diamond and textile hub, along with the tech city of Bengaluru, emerged as the top victims.

Top 10 Indian cities targeted by cyber attackers in 2023.


The first major publicly discussed cyberattack of 2023 targeted the servers of Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in June. However, attackers could not replicate the success they achieved in November '22, when they left the premier health institute's systems paralysed for 15 days—due to the deployment of enhanced security systems.

Bhola Gas Field Redefines Bangladesh’s Energy Dynamics: A Pragmatic Leap In Nation’s Energy Landscape

Syed Raiyan Amir

In a historic milestone for Bangladesh, the Bhola gas field has facilitated the transportation of extracted gas to another region of the country, specifically for industrial purposes, through its conversion into compressed natural gas (CNG). This groundbreaking achievement symbolizes the nation’s prowess in internal production and the seamless connectivity of energy transportation within its borders. The inaugural delivery of Bhola’s gas took place on December 21, when the first set of cylinders, laden with gas, arrived at a garments factory in Gazipur. This event not only marks a significant moment in Bangladesh’s energy landscape but also represents a paradigm shift in the utilization of domestic gas resources.

As of November 28, the overall natural gas output in Bangladesh stood at approximately 2,598 million cubic feet per day (mmcfd), reflecting a 30.5% shortfall compared to the country’s total production capacity of 3,716 mmcfd. The Bhola gas fields, comprising three distinct fields, boast a production capacity of around 200 mmcfd. However, the actual production has been fluctuating between 80 and 85 mmcfd, leaving a surplus capacity of approximately 120 mmcfd untapped across the Shahbazpur, Bhola, and Ilisha gas fields. Faced with the energy demands of various industries, authorities devised a plan to extract 80 mmcfd of gas in compressed form from the Bhola gas fields.

The strategic move is not limited to catering to the immediate needs of Gazipur; there are plans to extend this method of gas supply to other regions, encompassing Dhaka, the southwestern, and northern parts of the country. State Minister for Power, Energy, and Mineral Resources, Nasrul Hamid, revealed this ambitious vision during the official gas supply inauguration at Hotel Pan Pacific Sonargaon. The gas will be primarily utilized in industries by transporting it in the form of CNG via trucks. Furthermore, there are plans to construct a gas pipeline from Bhola to Barishal, and from there, a transmission line will reach Khulna, thereby covering the southwestern and northern regions of the country.

Xi warned Biden during summit that Beijing will reunify Taiwan with China

Kristen Welker, Courtney Kube, Carol E. Lee and Andrea Mitchell

Chinese President Xi Jinping bluntly told President Joe Biden during their recent summit in San Francisco that Beijing will reunify Taiwan with mainland China but that the timing has not yet been decided, according to three current and former U.S. officials.

Xi told Biden in a group meeting attended by a dozen American and Chinese officials that China’s preference is to take Taiwan peacefully, not by force, the officials said.

The Chinese leader also referenced public predictions by U.S. military leaders who say that Xi plans to take Taiwan in 2025 or 2027, telling Biden that they were wrong because he has not set a time frame, according to the two current and one former official briefed on the meeting.

Chinese officials also asked in advance of the summit that Biden make a public statement after the meeting saying that the U.S. supports China’s goal of peaceful unification with Taiwan and does not support Taiwanese independence, they said. The White House rejected the Chinese request.

A spokesperson for the National Security Council declined to comment.

The revelations provide previously unreported details about a critical meeting between the two leaders that was intended to reduce tensions between their countries.

Xi’s private warning to Biden, while not markedly different from his past public comments on reunifying Taiwan, got the attention of U.S. officials because it was delivered at a time when China’s behavior toward Taiwan is seen as increasingly aggressive and ahead of a potentially pivotal presidential election in the self-governing democratic island next month.

After the initial publication of this story, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., issued a statement calling for Republicans and Democrats to work together to deter China.

Defying The ‘End Of China Miracle’ Myth

Yan Liang

While pundits not long ago were debating China’s rise, the emerging consensus is now heralding an end to the ‘China miracle’. China’s old model of credit-fuelled, investment-driven growth has been severely undercut by the real estate crisis, as well as weak consumption and export demand. But recent data suggests that recovery has regained momentum.

China’s real GDP growth rate in the first three quarters of 2023 reached 5.2 per cent year-on-year. Solar cell, service robots and integrated circuits production increased by 62.8 per cent, 59.1 per cent and 34.5 per cent respectively in October 2023. Infrastructure and manufacturing investments expanded by 5.9 per cent and 6.2 per cent in the first ten months, offsetting the 9.3 per cent contraction in real estate investment. Outside of the real estate sector, private investment grew by 9.1 per cent.

Consumption also saw a strong rebound, though exports fell by 6.4 per cent year-on-year in October 2023, marking a six-month consecutive decline in line with weak global demand and the trend towards deglobalisation. Still, China’s automobile exports will likely exceed four million units by the end of 2023 — a milestone in China’s industrial upgrading and its move towards the higher end of the value-added chain.

The real estate crisis has raised concerns about the Chinese economy, revealing the necessity of restructuring the highly leveraged and speculation-fuelled property sector. Beijing’s 2020 ‘three red lines’ policy aimed to accomplish this, with the current slowdown in the housing sector a deliberate policy choice.

TikTok’s content on some political subjects aligns with the Chinese government, study says

David Ingram

A new report from the Network Contagion Research Institute says that TikTok likely promotes and demotes certain topics based on the perceived preferences of the Chinese government.

The group, an independent research organization composed of psychologists, engineers and analysts at Rutgers University, analyzed the volume of posts with politically sensitive hashtags on TikTok versus on its rival Instagram.

The institute’s researchers, who are known for previously publishing an analysis showing a rise in insurrectionist hashtags leading up to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, said that they believe TikTok is likely manipulating public debate not only on China-specific topics, such as the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests and massacre, but also on strategically important topics with less direct ties to China, such as the wars in Ukraine and the Gaza Strip. TikTok is owned by a Chinese company, ByteDance.

“We assess a strong possibility that content on TikTok is either amplified or suppressed based on its alignment with the interests of the Chinese Government,” the report states.

The researchers compared hashtag performance to the average performance of pop culture hashtags, such as #TaylorSwift and #CristianoRonaldo. They found that there were 2.2 posts on Instagram with a top pop culture hashtag for every one such post on TikTok.

That baseline ratio of 2.2-to-1 made sense, they said, because Instagram has a bigger user base than TikTok.

Then, they ran a similar analysis for politically charged hashtags and said they found lopsided differences. For every one TikTok post with a hashtag supporting Ukraine, there were 8.5 such posts on Instagram — a significant discrepancy from the baseline ratio and one that dovetails with China’s support of Russia, the researchers said.

The secret U.S. effort to track, hide and surveil the Chinese spy balloon

Courtney Kube and Carol E. Lee

On a Friday evening last January, Gen. Glen VanHerck, the Air Force commander in charge of defending American airspace from foreign intrusion, called President Joe Biden’s top military adviser, Gen. Mark Milley.

U.S. intelligence officials had just notified the general that for roughly 10 days they had been tracking a mysterious — and enormous — object flying over the Asia-Pacific, VanHerck told Milley. The object had crossed into U.S. airspace over Alaska and VanHerck said he planned to dispatch military jets to fly alongside it and assess what it was.

The previously unreported Jan. 27 phone call between Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and VanHerck, the head of the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, set off an eight-day scramble inside the Biden administration. American officials faced an unprecedented challenge: a Chinese spy balloon the size of three school buses flying across the continental U.S.

The spy balloon exposed an increasingly brazen China’s competitive advances miles above the Earth and brought the most critical relationship in the world to one of its lowest points in recent history.

Nearly a year later, U.S. relations with China have not fully recovered and officials from the two nations have apparently not discussed the incident in detail. And an American effort to create global norms in unregulated spaces above the Earth has largely stalled.

VanHerck, meanwhile, warns that the Chinese balloon program remains active and that the U.S. has failed to develop the systems it needs to detect high-altitude spy balloons before they pose a threat.

To shoot or not to shoot: Chinese-developed ‘golden veil’ could make deadly missiles look like passenger planes

Stephen Chen

A gold-plated camouflage veil that can make a cruise missile look like a passenger plane on a radar screen could “change the face of war”, according to the team of Chinese scientists behind the design.

The low-cost technology can confuse expensive air defence systems and significantly reduce the time available for military commanders to respond – if at all.

Developed by a research team in northwest China, the project is part of an ongoing effort by China to build up a wide range of ways it can penetrate air defence systems in the first island chain, Guam or even the US homeland.

While China’s overall military posture remains defensive, such abilities would serve as an effective deterrence against foreign intervention in regional affairs such as Taiwan or the South China Sea, according to some Chinese military experts.

The veil is made of fine metal threads which are gold-plated, according to Zong Yali and her colleagues in a paper published in the peer-reviewed Chinese Journal of Radio Science last month. The golden threads then form a web of complex geometry to reflect radar signals.

Laboratory testing has suggested the device can boost the radar cross-section of a flying target from less than one to over 30 decibels per square metre, said Zong, who is an associate professor of radar science with the Northwestern Polytechnical University in Xian, Shaanxi province.

This is similar to the radar signature generated by a large aeroplane such as a Boeing 737 or an Airbus A320 when being viewed from certain angles.
Radar reflectors are already being used by the US on some of its missiles, such as the ADM-160 MALD, to make them appear as aeroplanes on radar screens.

China Quietly Rebuilds Secretive Base for Nuclear Tests

William J. Broad, Chris Buckley and Jonathan Corum

In the remote desert where China detonated its first atom bomb nearly 60 years ago, a drilling rig recently bored a deep vertical shaft that is estimated to plunge down at least a third of a mile. It is the strongest evidence yet that Beijing is weighing whether to test a new generation of nuclear arms that could increase the lethality of its rapidly expanding missile force.

For years, U.S. government reports and independent experts have expressed vague concerns about the old base, Lop Nur. The reports point to possible preparations for year-round operations and a “lack of transparency.”

Now, however, waves of satellite images reveal that the military base has newly drilled boreholes — ideal for bottling up firestorms of deadly radiation from large nuclear blasts — as well as hundreds of other upgrades and expansions.

“All the evidence points to China making preparations that would let it resume nuclear tests,” said Tong Zhao, a nuclear expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Siegfried S. Hecker, a former director of the Los Alamos weapons laboratory in New Mexico, described Lop Nur’s rebuilding as unusual. “The Russians and Americans have continued activity at their test sites,” he said, “but nothing like this.”

Analysts say the activity at Lop Nur signals a wide modernization of China’s nuclear establishment, warning that it could speed arms buildups and spark a new age of atomic rivalry.

They add that China’s moves, along with those of other nuclear powers, could undermine the global test ban that began in 1996. The world’s atomic powers signed it after the Cold War as a way to curb a costly nuclear arms race that was spinning out of control.

The Re-Emergence Of The Palestine Question In World Politics

Dr. Dana El Kurd

The events of the past two months have catapulted the Palestinian question back onto to front pages. It took a level of mass violence—over 17,000 Palestinians and 1,200 Israelis killed at the time of this writing—to bring the world’s attention to a deteriorating and already violent status quo, although activists and peace advocates have been sounding the alarm for years.

The United States government in particular has found itself reacting to a state of affairs it has been actively trying to ignore. Now, Washington is allocating time and resources at the expense of other American interests such as Ukraine. The Biden administration’s embrace of Israel’s war has not only left allies like Ukraine stranded and deeply damaged America’s position across the entire global south, but also proven a boon for authoritarian actors such as Iran who have been able to burnish their image without much cost. This dynamic has revealed the level to which American policymakers have not formulated any new ideas or even absorbed lessons from the past when it comes to Israel-Palestine. As a result, American foreign policy and indeed the entire discourse around “what should happen next” for the Palestinians has remained out of touch, unwilling to reckon with the issues at the crux of this violence. This will have a profoundly negative impact that will reverberate beyond Palestine.

For many years, articulating the idea that the Palestinian question matters fell on deaf ears. The reality is, however, that the Palestinian question and its lack of resolution are connected to a wide range of worrying dynamics. This includes not only the escalation of conflict and the use of new methods of violence, as well as the bolstering of authoritarian actors, but the erosion of even the idea of a liberal international order altogether. The Palestinian cause plays a key role in a number of political trends like anti-authoritarian protests, violence and irregular warfare in the Middle East, and the erosion of the liberal international order.

What’s behind the attacks on ships in the Red Sea

Ellen Wald

For years, a Yemen-based Islamist group called the Houthis have periodically attacked ships traversing the Bab el-Mandeb Strait at the opening of the Red Sea. These attacks were focused on Saudi or Emirati vessels, typically carrying medical supplies, weapons, or oil, and they occurred during flare-ups in the ongoing conflict between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on one hand, and the Iran-backed Houthi forces in Yemen on the other. However, since the October 7 Hamas attack on Israel, Houthi attacks on other ships have escalated.

Initially, it seemed the Islamic group, which now controls most of Yemen and receives financial and military support from Iran, was limiting its attacks to vessels affiliated with Israel or Israeli business interests. For example, on November 19, Houthi forces commandeered an empty ship called the Galaxy Leader and are still holding it at the Hodeidah Port in Yemen. The Galaxy Leader is operated by a Japanese company, flies a Bahamian flag, but is owned by Ray Shipping, a British company that is partially owned by an Israeli businessman.

Recently, the Houthis have stepped up their attacks on ships in the Bab el-Mandeb corridor. Since December 9, Houthis have launched drone and missile attacks against commercial ships in the area. Some of these attacks have been thwarted by a US Navy destroyer, the USS Carney, which has been stationed in the region, but some of the missiles have hit commercial vessels and caused damage. Companies are taking note, with four out of five of the world’s largest container-shipping companies suspending routes through the Suez Canal and the Red Sea.

Global seaborne trade will not grind to a halt, but it is going to take longer and be more expensive as vessels take alternate routes and as insurance costs rise. BP, for example, announced that it would no longer send crude oil and petroleum tankers through the Suez Canal due to the risk of Houthi attacks. Meanwhile, the credibility of some of the oldest and most important international conventions, and the ability of nations such as the United States and others to secure those conventions, are at risk.
Why the Suez Canal matters

With Western aid stalled, Ukrainian troops run low on artillery shells

Siobhán O'Grady, David L. Stern and Kostiantyn Khudov

Ukrainian forces are suffering from a shortage of artillery shells on the front line, prompting some units to cancel planned assaults, soldiers said, and stoking fears over how long Kyiv’s troops will be able to hold their ground against continuing Russian attacks.

The ammunition shortage is deepening the already palpable anxiety in the Ukrainian capital, as U.S. and European aid stalls and winter sets in.

“Our gunners are given a limit of shells for each target,” said a member of the 128th Mountain Assault Brigade, which is fighting in the southeastern Zaporizhzhia region.

“If the target there is smaller — for example, a mortar position — then they give five or seven shells in total,” he said in an interview last week, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.

“The guys are tired — very tired,” he said. “They are still motivated — many people understand that they have no other choice.”

“But you can’t win a war only on motivation,” he continued. “You should have some kind of a numerical advantage, and with the weapons and weapons systems, it only gets worse and worse. How long can we last? It’s hard to say, but it can’t be long. Everyone understands this.”

Artem, 31, a gunner in the 148th Artillery Brigade who fires a 155mm howitzer, said his unit found a “dramatic” difference in stocks of shells after recently relocating from the southern front in Zaporizhzhia to positions in the east.

Artem said his unit was now firing just 10 to 20 shells per day at enemy targets, while previously it used an average of 50 shells, and sometimes up to 90. He spoke on the condition that he be identified only by first name in keeping with Ukrainian military rules.

“If the situation doesn’t change, or even worsens, we will not be able to suppress them and they will push us back,” Artem said. “What can you do with 10 shells per day? It is barely enough to respond to their advances — we are not even talking about attacking their positions.”

The Pentagon Is Forging an Airborne Wireless Energy Grid


The U.S. military wants to rethink energy.

The government’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) wants a wireless airborne relay system to “deliver energy into contested environments.” And DARPA is moving toward that goal by awarding a $10 million contract to Virginia-based company Raytheon.

DARPA also wouldn’t mind if that system could harvest energy. If an energy supply could help reduce the military’s dependence on fuel while also shaving down delivery and storage hurdles, that would be great.

“Energy is essential in the modern battlespace, and it is critical to achieving military objectives,” Colin Whelan, president of Advanced Technology at Raytheon, said in a statement. “When operating in contested environments, energy may not always be available or abundant, making the need to generate, store, and redistribute it vital.”

The company’s Persistent Optical Wireless Energy Relay (POWER) program is intended to help with DARPA’s Energy Web Dominance portfolio mission—to establish an energy transport across air space, maritime, land, and undersea domains.

Last year, Col. Paul Calhoun—POWER program manager in DARPA’s Tactical Technology Office—said in a statement that this concept is the internet for energy. It is intended to harness energy flow from abundant sources and transport it to energy-starved locations. “The military faces particularly acute energy challenges,” he said, “which are driving this innovation. We often must operate far from established energy infrastructure and rely on liquid fuels that require precarious supply lines.”

Overcoming a Clausewitz-Centric Mindset in Nontraditional Wars

G.L. Lamborn

Standing in the heat at Gia Lam airfield in Spring 1975, respected author and military theorist Colonel Harry Summers was puzzled. Despite ten years of U.S. support, the deployment of nearly 500,000 U.S. soldiers and Marines, the provision of heavy weaponry and helicopters, and the expenditure of an estimated one trillion dollars, the Saigon government had collapsed in defeat. Summers turned to his North Vietnamese counterpart, Colonel Tu, and stated “You know, you never defeated us on the battlefield.” Colonel Tu thought about that for a minute, then replied: “That may be so. But it is also irrelevant.”

Colonel Summers might have phrased his bewilderment in this way: “How is it that you won the war when we consistently defeated you on the battlefield?” The thoughtful Colonel Tu probably would have replied: “You fought only the enemy you could see, but not the enemy that you could not see. You fought the wrong war.”

Lessons Not Learned

Following Prussia’s crushing defeat at Jena-Auerstedt in October 1806, Carl von Clausewitz became a prisoner of the French at the Chateau de Coppet. There he had ample time to reflect on Napoleon’s political and military victories. Clausewitz studied the factors contributing to Napoleon’s triumphs, such as strategic surprise, rapid forward movement, flanking of enemy forces, and speed of concentration. He also noted the connection between battle and political results, perhaps his most profound observation.

Upon his release from captivity after the Peace of Tilsit, Clausewitz returned to Prussia and worked with King Friedrich Wilhelm and others to reform the Prussian army and state.

Months later in July 1808 at Baylen, Spanish insurgents, including thousands of angry civilians, wiped out a French regular force of 20,000 under General Pierre Dupont. France’s invasion of Spain unleashed powerful political forces—early signs of nationalism and ethno-centrism, which were to flower later in the nineteenth century and shape a new form of war, popular insurgency—the “war of the people.”

Safeguarding Data in a Globalized World

Matthew Flug & David Rader

The U.S. has a glaring national and economic security risk which uniquely looms because of the everyday actions of normal citizens: generating data. That risk is that the U.S. does not currently have any laws or regulations regarding the storage of U.S. persons data on overseas servers or in the cloud. At present, huge quantities of personal data of Americans are unwittingly stored on overseas servers or in the borderless cloud because of cost, infrastructure, or contractual efficiencies. Accommodating frictionless business desires for national and economic security needs should be thoughtfully addressed. To do so, the U.S. should prioritize creating legislation which aims to protect the sensitive data of U.S. persons and obligate both government and industry to adequately safekeep our stored personal data to avoid deliberate or even accidental weaponization by its custodians.

In our current digital landscape, data serves as the cornerstone of our modern economy. The continuous flow of data across borders presents significant challenges in ensuring its security, particularly when it is stored overseas. This complexity is exacerbated by the absence of a comprehensive federal law or regulation specifically addressing the storage and transfer of data beyond U.S. borders. While some countries maintain robust data protection laws, their variations and incapacity to counter the nefarious actions of adversarial state actors magnify the challenge. This issue originates from problems in an already lacking export control regime, which complicates the supervision of U.S. authorities monitoring data transmitted overseas. Intangible remittance of sensitive data overseas should be built into revised export control regulations that sufficiently account for evolving concerns. The complexity here deepens when data is moved to a third-party country, further distancing it from direct U.S. oversight.

For example, the rise of cloud computing empowers businesses to store and handle their data on servers situated in various foreign territories, causing uncertainty regarding the data's location and accessibility. Broadly speaking, data localization is a possible solution in maintaining data assurance; however, it may severely limit commerce in a very interconnected world.

War on a budget: Ukraine becomes hotbed for drone tech

Dominique Soguel

Ukrainian aviator Roman Schemechko loved building model airplanes as a child. Russia’s war on Ukraine has given him an unfortunate pretext to revisit that passion.

Prototypes of attack and surveillance drones built by his company, Besomar (White Demon), fill a spacious room in a bare-bones office building in Lviv.

“Drones save lives,” says Mr. Schemechko, now the CEO. “The more drones we have, the more possibilities we have to strike the enemy.”

The drone industry in Ukraine is booming. A new generation of Ukrainians has had its imagination captured by the beauty and logic of uncrewed aerial vehicles, and been inspired to manufacture drones. Many of them hail from a business and engineering, rather than a military, background. Others are former video gamers who found their groove in military technology. The cost of war fills them all with the same sense of urgency.

Ukraine has become a giant testing ground for drones from all over the world - the United States, Germany, Poland, and other partner countries. Countless new companies are taking shape around the technology; teams of engineers are tinkering on prototypes, trying to clear the Ministry of Defense and NATO checklists of technical requirements, hoping to nail a military contract.

“They come to Ukraine to understand if a drone is a real combat drone,” says Maxim Sheremet, leader of drone manufacturer Dronarnia. “It is not the same as killing in Iraq using powerful UAV drones,” he adds. “In Ukraine, war became not on the front lines but in our minds. You need technology.”

Dominique SoguelView caption

A booming field

Drones became part of Ukrainian defense capabilities against Russia in 2014, when Moscow annexed Crimea and part of eastern Ukraine. They provide many advantages in asymmetric warfare, with low cost and reduced risk to military personnel atop the list. They can be used for surveillance, reconnaissance, and precision strikes without the investment associated with crewed aircraft. Even the most expensive model is several orders of magnitude cheaper than an F-16, and relatively basic ones can carry enough explosives to take down a tank.

The Battle for Bakhmut – Wagner Trench Warfare Tactics

Sergio Miller

The Battle for Bakhmut has turned into the meat grinder battle of the war. The Russian offensive began in earnest in May. Seven months later, thousands of soldiers have been killed and wounded on a front where gains are measured in yards. The Russian obsession with this deserted town defies military logic. The surrounding area now resembles a World War I landscape. In the last week alone, according to Ukrainian Deputy Chief of the Main Operational Department, Brigadier General Oleksiy Hromov, there have been 90 assaults against Ukrainian positions.

Censor.net staff writer Yuri Butusov has recently written an insightful analysis on Wagner trench warfare tactics on the Bakhmut front. According to Butusov, Wagner is both more effective and more wasteful a force than the Russian Army. The reader may judge whether ‘effectiveness’ is drained of meaning in actions little different to the many pointless attacks on the Western Front. Nonetheless, there is some value in understanding tactics employed by Wagner. This article summarises Butusov’s lengthy analysis.

Keep it simple stupid

Wagner uses convicts with minimal training or even military experience. The volunteers receive as little as three weeks training. In Butusov’s words: ‘It should be recognized as an advantage of “Wagner” that the PMK command plans combat operations taking into account the real capabilities of its personnel. The tasks are set as primitive as possible.’ This is one of the main factors for ‘success’, albeit success is relative when the cost is hundreds of casualties.

Ukraine’s soldiers use cheap tech to hide from Russia’s deadly drones


On Ukraine’s frontlines, how fast you can spot a buzzing enemy quadcopter can determine whether you survive an imminent artillery barrage or an attack by the drone itself. That’s driven intense demand for the low-budget drone detectors cobbled together by Ukrainian software engineers-turned-defense entrepreneurs.

“Every smart person uses” drone detectors, said Yaroslav Markevich, a drone commander in Ukraine's Khartia battalion.

But not everyone who wants one can get one. The devices are manufactured primarily by start-up companies that lack the funding and experience to keep up with demand, and that rely on volunteers—like so much of Ukraine’s wartime defense production.

Drones are ubiquitous across the frontline in Ukraine, from sophisticated military-grade surveillance aircraft to cheap suicide quadcopters. Both Russia and Ukraine likely field at least 50,000 first-person-view (FPV) suicide drones per month, said Samuel Bendett of the Center for Naval Analysis. Next year, Ukraine hopes to produce one million FPV drones, which would effectively double Bendett’s assessment of the current monthly rate of production.

The drones are deadly. At least one out of every five Ukrainian FPV drones hits its target, said Ihor Dvoretskyi, a project manager with Ukraine’s Defense Ministry.

And if a Russian Orlan artillery-spotting drone notices you, “you have three minutes to do something,” said Dmytro, a founder of drone-detecting company Kseonics.

Dmytro, like other founders in this article, is referred only by his first name for security reasons.

Jamestown FoundationChina Brief, December 15, 2023, v. 23, no. 23

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New Army chief, looming force structure shakeups and new weapons: Army 2023 in review

Ashley Roque

US Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville bid adieu to the service this summer, handing the baton and a host of imperatives, from a munition production ramp up to a fight for more recruits to his successor, Gen. Randy George.

After serving a stint as the acting chief due to Alabama Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s blanket hold on military nominees, George was sworn in as the 41st Army chief in September and brought with him four focus areas — warfighting, delivering ready combat power, undergoing continuous transformation and strengthening the profession of arms.

“We’re going to have to change how we’re organized … That’s one of the things that we have to go down the focus areas and ask four-star commanders and sergeant majors to take a look at and review,” the four-star general said at the Maneuver Warfighter Conference just days before his swearing in. “How are we structured and what needs to adjust based on the advances that we’re seeing? We are [also] going to have to change how we train.”

Those organizational changes have not yet been formally unveiled but could include force structure changes (i.e., the composition of brigade combat teams) and deciding on just which echelon elements like the multi-domain task force and security force assistance brigade should fall under.

In addition, George stepped into the role in 2023 when his service continues to face a recruitment shortfall with no end in sight. When fiscal 2023 ended on Sept. 30, for example, the service met its end-strength of goal of 452,000 active-duty soldiers thanks to stronger retention numbers. However, it fell 10,000 recruits short of its 65,000 “stretch goal” and from that 55,000 total, 4,600 people would enter the service in FY24 as part of the delayed entry program.

How Putin’s Right-Hand Man Took Out Prigozhin

Thomas Grove, Alan Cullison and Bojan Pancevski

On the tarmac of a Moscow airport in late August, Yevgeny Prigozhin waited on his Embraer Legacy 600 for a safety check to finish before it could take off. The mercenary army chief was headed home to St. Petersburg with nine others onboard. Through the delay, no one inside the cabin noticed the small explosive device slipped under the wing.

When the jet finally left, it climbed for about 30 minutes to 28,000 feet, before the wing blew apart, sending the aircraft spiraling to the ground. All 10 people were killed, including Prigozhin, the owner of the Wagner paramilitary group.

The assassination of the warlord was two months in the making and approved by Russian President Vladimir Putin’s oldest ally and confidant, an ex-spy named Nikolai Patrushev, according to Western intelligence officials and a former Russian intelligence officer. The role of Patrushev as the driver of the plan to kill Prigozhin hasn’t been previously reported.

The Kremlin has denied involvement in Prigozhin’s death, and Putin offered the closest thing to an official explanation for the plane’s fiery crash, suggesting a hand grenade had detonated onboard.

None of that was true.

Hours after the incident, a European involved in intelligence gathering who maintained a backchannel of communication with the Kremlin and saw news of the crash asked an official there what had happened.

“He had to be removed,” the Kremlin official responded without hesitation.

Collision course

Patrushev had warned Putin for a long time that Moscow’s reliance on Wagner in Ukraine was giving Prigozhin too much political and military clout that was increasingly threatening the Kremlin.