2 January 2024

Theories of Victory: Israel, Hamas, and the Meaning of Success in Irregular Warfare

David Ucko

Two months in, what does the war between Israel and Hamas tell us about victory and defeat in irregular warfare? There is no difficulty in identifying those who have lost the most through this conflict: the civilian victims, caught up in a hellish devastation not of their making. In contrast, assessing which of the two combatants is winning is a far more bewildering task. In this war as in so many others, success and failure are polymorphous, unfolding tactically and strategically, locally and internationally, directly and indirectly, and across different timescales. As warfare, with its destruction and loss, is ostensibly justified by the political purpose it is meant to attain, this lack of clarity should be concerning.

Using Israel’s war on Hamas along with past precedents as case studies, this piece seeks to shed light on the question of victory in irregular warfare. It is certainly too early to make definitive statements on the ongoing conflict in the Middle East, but much can be learned by studying what has unfolded to date. With this caveat, the question remains: is anyone winning this war and, if so, how and why? The discussion relates not only to the fighting in Gaza, or to its broader regional politics, but to the future of irregular-warfare strategy and to our continued theorization of what it may achieve. War colleges rightly teach theories of victory as a crucial component of strategy, but do we even know what we’re looking for?

The Case for Hamas

Since its brazen attack on Oct. 7, 2023, Hamas has faced a furious Israeli counterattack. Israel has pummeled Hamas positions across Gaza, devastating its base of operations and seeking thereby to fulfill its war objective of eliminating the group. After just weeks of fighting, casualties in Gaza are some 20,000, the vast majority of whom are civilians. The scale of the offensive indicates that Israel will not be deterred by Hamas’ use of human shields or civilian infrastructure. Hamas, in other words, would appear lost.

I And Thou And Death – OpEd

David B. Kanin

Washington has defaulted to the tried and failed idea of carving a small, stunted Palestinian state out of whatever territory Israel and aggressive Jewish settlers leave for it and encumbered by whatever limited authority over its own security Israel will permit. International supervision likely would be in the mix but would struggle to deal with conflicting dissatisfactions with whatever the new map looks like between and within both sides in the conflict. A two state agreement would produce something like the unresolved, simmering disputes still existing in Bosnia and Kosovo decades after the fighting that took place in the wake of the collapse of Yugoslavia. New rounds of violence might not immediately break out but would be a longer term likelihood.

The current US approach to Gaza reflects a pathology inherent in American diplomacy. Secretary of state Anthony Blinken says the two state solution is the only way forward even though the history of the idea raises doubts as to whether it is a way forward at all. When the US decides on notional end goals to security problems it often tries to close off discussion of alternatives. Whatever problems exist with a US initiative can and must be worked out. Whatever problems come along with any idea not made in Washington automatically are deemed massive enough to scuttle those ideas.

Any durable solution to the deeply embedded and multi-generation dispute between two peoples over one land will require critical feeling as well as critical thinking. Party of the reason we Americans have so much trouble doing this involves a problem with the way we characterize the second person in the English language. Some languages distinguish between how we address people with whom we are intimate and everybody else. “Tu” and “Vous” in French, “Du” and Sie” in German – you get the idea. We actually have words like these but never use thee or thou to distinguish those with whom we have a personal relationship from those with whom we do not.

Israel's alliance with the US needs protection - opinion


There are three pivotal moments among many others in Israeli history that can be credited with boosting the Israeli defense industry.

The first was the embargo that French President Charles De Gaulle imposed on Israel after the Six Day War in 1967, ending an almost 20-year alliance during which France supplied Israel with all of its advanced weaponry, from missiles to fighter jets and even a nuclear reactor.

There were two results of De Gaulle’s embargo. Until then, while Israel had a strong relationship with the United States, it was nothing like it is today. Only five years earlier did the Kennedy administration agree to sell Israel the Hawk missile, the first significant American arms deal with the Jewish state. With France out of the picture, America was able to step up.

The second result was just as important. Without French missiles, avionics, and aircraft, Israel had to find other ways to obtain these systems. One of them was a decision to invest in its own R&D infrastructure and to create companies and laboratories in Israel that could develop and manufacture its own weapon systems.

The second pivotal moment was the decision in 1987 to cancel the Lavi, the ambitious aircraft project undertaken by Israel that was started five years earlier and had cost over a billion dollars.

A depiction of US President Joe Biden smiling on a billboard with the word ''Thanks!'' emblazoned across it, is seen amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, Jerusalem, November 28, 2023.

India-US Relations In 2023: Advancing Amid New Problems – Analysis

C Raja Mohan

United States (US) President Joe Biden’s decision to decline Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s invitation to attend the annual Republic Day celebrations in January 2024 has been interpreted as a ‘snub’ to India amidst the US’ allegations of official Indian involvement in the effort to assassinate a Sikh separatist leader and an American citizen, Gurpatwant Singh Pannu, earlier this year.

Biden’s participation in the prestigious Republic Day was to be followed by a summit of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) forum with the prime ministers of Australia and Japan. It is India’s turn in 2024 to host a Quad summit – in the series that began in Washington in September 2021. Biden’s presence at the Republic Day and the Quad summit would have capped a triumphal season of diplomacy at the end of Modi’s second term as prime minister. His campaign for a third term, starting in the summer of 2024, is all set to roll forward in the coming weeks.

Senior officials from the US have insisted that there was no political motivation in the Biden’s decision not to travel to India in January 2024 and that there was no connection with the Pannu case. Yet, the idea of an American ‘put down’ of Modi has gained much currency in Indian and western media.

The US National Security Adviser, Jake Sullivan, told the media the problem was the tight demand on the president’s time, stating, “Due to scheduling demands, we notified Indian officials that the president would be unable to visit India in late January”. Sullivan, however, made it clear that the visit to India and a Quad summit could take place later in the year.

Sullivan added that he had “witnessed first-hand” the “close personal bond” between Biden and Modi, as well as their “shared commitment to advancing the aspirations of their people for a prosperous future”. “The president remains personally committed to carrying forward this partnership, which he has often described as the most consequential partnership for the US over the century unfolding”, Sullivan said.

Pakistan Stock Exchange, IMF Relations, Foreign Exchange Reserves, Election Schedule – OpEd

Shabbir H. Kazmi

The Pakistan Stock Exchange the benchmark index closed the week ended on December 29, 2023 at 62,451 points, up 1.2%WoW, marking an end to the calendar year 2023. Overall, the benchmark index showed strong performance, particularly during the 2nd quarter of the current financial year.

The gain in momentum was due to the expectations of release of US$700 million tranche by the IMF, bilateral and multilateral inflows, of which US$250 million is approved from the AIIB to aid sustainable growth.

The reserves increased by US$852 million WoW, which was attributable to inflows from the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and bilateral support from Saudi Arabia and China.

In addition, Market Treasury Bills auction showed a continued strong interest in 12-month paper (PKR1.49 billion realized, with yields almost flat as compared to the earlier auction at 21.4%. This depicted market’s ongoing view of an imminent monetary policy easing owing to lower CPI expectations, hence focus remained on locking in longer term papers.

Average volumes and traded value for the week was recorded at 651.76 million shares, down 46.4%WoW and US$81.35 million, down 0.2%WoW respectively.

On the currency front, PKR appreciated against the US$, ending at 281.86, up 0.24%WoW.

Other news for the week were: 1) GoP announced plan to borrow PKR3.88 trillion from banks during third quarter of the current financial year; 2) POL product prices expected to remain unchanged; 3) Profit repatriation during Jul-Nov rose to US$532 million 312%YoY; 4) CPPA asked Nepra why it seeks tariff hike; 5) GoP borrowing rose to PKR2.876 trillion, up 200%YoY; 6) Islamabad, Riyadh agreed on legal framework for Saudi investment; 8) GoP provided PKR200 billion subsidy to power sector to curtail circular debt.

Are China’s actions in the South China Sea a harbinger of things to come for Taiwan?

Mike Chinoy and Peter Enav

One hundred and twenty miles off the coast of Palawan in the Philippines sits the Sierra Madre, a rusting World War II-era landing vessel that hosts a small contingent of Philippine marines and serves as the infrastructural backbone of an atoll called the Second Thomas Shoal.

In 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration at the Hague declared that the shoal belonged to the Philippines and that China has no legal basis to claim historic rights to the bulk of the South China Sea.

Beijing subsequently moved aggressively to underscore its public rejection of the court’s ruling, ramping up construction on numerous man-made islands with military facilities to buttress its assertion of control over almost all the South China Sea.

China’s key tool in all of this has been its huge coast guard – the largest such force in the world.

China Coast Guard ships have rammed, attacked with water cannons, or otherwise forcefully confronted Philippine vessels seeking to resupply or repair the Sierra Madre, and so keep it from breaking up in heavy weather and rough seas – a development that would severely undermine Manila’s continuing hold on the Second Thomas Shoal.

This desperate Filipino race against time has attracted the keen attention of the United States, whose increasingly close ties to Ferdinand Marcos Jr., the Philippines new pro-American leader, have included plans for an expansion of American access to military bases on the Philippine mainland.

As President Biden declared on October 26, “The US defense commitment to the Philippines is ironclad. Any attack on Filipino aircraft, vessels, or armed forces” would automatically trigger Washington’s mutual defense treaty with Manila.

Deep Fakes and Disinformation in Bangladesh

Mubashar Hasan

According to an investigative story published recently in the Financial Times, pro-government news outlets and influencers in Bangladesh are promoting disinformation by using cheap Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools to produce deep fake videos. The FT report identified several AI-generated videos to spread disinformation against the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and the U.S., which has pressured the Bangladeshi government to hold free and fair elections.

Following the publication of the FT report, the controversial videos were either not easily accessible or removed. To close observers of Bangladeshi affairs, what the FT report said came hardly as a surprise.

There have been several reports and investigations in the past that either implicated or alleged that the Bangladesh government and ruling Awami League (AL) members were behind the systematic promotion of disinformation against opposition leaders and critics of the government.

On December 20, 2018, Facebook issued a public statement saying that the company took down nine pages and six accounts for engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior against the opposition in Bangladesh.

Facebook said that the pages were designed to look like a credible news outlet and were posting pro-government and anti-opposition content. In their investigation, Facebook found that the accounts were linked to individuals associated with the Bangladesh government.

In September 2023, Agence France-Press’ fact-checking team in Bangladesh unearthed another coordinated campaign of hundreds of op-eds by fake experts praising the Bangladeshi government’s policies. AFP said that the “articles overwhelmingly endorse narratives pushed by Dhaka, with some posted on Bangladesh government websites.”

China builds up private security to protect overseas interests in hostile, unstable regions

When Wolf Warrior 2 swept through China’s cinemas in 2017, the harrowing war thriller resonated with audiences like no film ever had. Devoted to flag-waving patriotism, it scratched a nationalistic itch by featuring a one-man Chinese army standing up to foreign mercenaries while saving his compatriots.

And aside from smashing box office records, it gave rise to a term known as “wolf-warrior diplomacy”, with official rhetoric and practices that are more confrontational and combative than calm and cooperative.

Subsequent films further cashed in on nationalistic pride by depicting heroic Chinese forces abroad, as in 2018’s Operation Red Sea, which was inspired by the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s evacuation of Chinese citizens during the 2015 Yemen civil war.

These types of blockbusters – carefully edited and released under the scrutiny of state censors – fed into the narrative that China should protect its overseas interests when they are threatened, and by force if necessary.

But in reality, it is less likely to be the People’s Liberation Army swooping in to save the day, and more likely to be a well-paid private security contractor hired to protect the overseas interests of Chinese businesses – especially those with operations in less stable regions.

The Ukraine war and the Israel-Gaza war illustrate the types of dangers that Chinese investors could face in the course of doing business overseas.

And such conflicts may be further reinforcing the need for Beijing to make new contingency plans to safeguard Chinese interests abroad while ensuring that trade routes continue to bring home critical goods such as valuable minerals.

China’s military shakeup: Power play or path to reform?

Jeffrey Neal Johnson

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA), the world’s largest standing military, is undergoing a period of significant upheaval. The sudden disappearance of Defense Minister Li Shangfu, followed by the unexpected appointment of Admiral Dong Jun, a figure with a predominantly naval background, has brought China’s military leadership’s inner workings and intentions into sharp focus. This change is part of a broader pattern of purges and reassignments within the military and defense sectors, signaling a significant shift in the PLA’s structure and strategy.

The PLA is undergoing a significant reorganization, focusing on increasing the role of the Navy and Air Force. This aligns with China’s growing military ambitions as it seeks to project power further in the field. The changes also reflect the increasing importance of technology in warfare as the PLA seeks to develop a more modern and capable military.Get alerts:

The upheaval in the PLA leadership will likely significantly impact the military’s operations. How the new leadership will handle the challenges facing the PLA remains to be seen, but it is clear that the Chinese military is entering a new era.

The purge and its motivations

The recent shakeup in China’s military leadership has raised several questions about the motivations behind these changes. President Xi Jinping’s ongoing anti-corruption campaign, a central theme of his tenure, has expanded into the military, targeting what was once considered an untouchable bastion of power and privilege. The removal of high-ranking officials and their replacement with figures perceived as more loyal to Xi suggests an effort to consolidate power within the PLA. This move may serve multiple purposes: eliminating potential rivals, ensuring unwavering loyalty to Xi, and aligning the military more closely with his strategic vision.

Why China’s rulers fear Genghis Khan

Harshness is a crude metric for judging an unelected regime. To keep power, lots of rulers will crush dissent with an iron fist. A more subtle measure involves thoroughness. Dedicated autocrats use cold, patient repression to bring even the meek and unthreatening into line. Their aim is to snuff out any belief—no matter how harmless—that might divide subjects’ loyalties.

This grim trend may be seen in the Communist Party’s handling of China’s ethnic minorities, a diverse bunch who between them make up around 9% of the overall population. Since Xi Jinping took power in 2012, such groups have lost many of the limited privileges granted to them and faced aggressive campaigns to assimilate into mainstream Chinese culture.

Why Food Security is a Top Priority for China

Genevieve Donnellon-May

At the recent Central Rural Work Conference in Beijing, China, held on December 18-19 and convened by Chinese President Xi Jinping, the challenges and current situation of the “three rurals” (agriculture, rural areas, and farmers) was discussed, with special attention paid to the country’s food security.

This comes amid the growing importance placed on food security by Xi and the country’s policymakers for whom it is a “top national priority” (国之大者). Amid an increasingly complex geopolitical environment, climate shocks, trade disruptions, and an uncertain global food market, China has elevated food security and food supply resilience to the highest level in terms of political priorities in recent years.

At present, China is the world’s biggest food producer, a leading food exporter, and has the world’s biggest food reserve systems. Yet Beijing remains concerned about safeguarding its food security over the long term, aiming to increase self-reliance in agricultural production through various measures.

Increasing Domestic Agricultural Production

To increase domestic agricultural production as part of broader food security efforts, the Chinese government has put in place a wide range of policies.

First, China has initiated various efforts to increase domestic food production and self-sufficiency. While the principle of self-sufficiency in agricultural production continues to underpin China’s overarching food security strategy, there has been a discernible shift in focus from achieving self-sufficiency in grains to ensuring basic self-sufficiency in cereals (wheat, rice, and corn) and absolute security in staple crops (rice and wheat).

First Naval Officer Appointed as Chinese Defense Minister; Predecessor Still Missing


For the first time, China has appointed a naval officer as the Minister of National Defense, state-controlled media reported on Friday.

Adm. Dong Jun, former commander of the People’s Liberation Army Navy, fills a slot left vacant since Oct. 24 when Gen. Li Shangfu was formally dismissed. Li has been missing from public view since August. Some outlets report he had been arrested for corruption in his previous role as Director of the Equipment Development Department of the Central Military Commission.

Dong, 62, has commanded the PLAN since September 2021. He was succeeded by submariner Adm. Hu Zhongming on Monday. Unlike foreign counterparts, China’s Minister of National Defense is a ceremonial role focused on diplomacy with no operational or policy control. China’s military is overseen by the Central Military Commission (CMC) chaired by China’s president. The Minister of National Defense usually is a member of the CMC and it is likely Dong would take the CMC seat previously held by Li before his expulsion.

Dong’s previous appointments include deputy commander of the PLAN in 2021, deputy commander of the PLA Southern Theatre Command, Deputy Chief of Staff PLAN and deputy commander East Sea fleet. There is no information publicly available as to his branch specialization or whether he has commanded any ships during his career. Dong’s appointment surprised a number of PLA analysts who expected PLA Chief of the Joint Staff Department and CMC member Gen. Liu Zhenli to be appointed to the post. Liu spoke with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. C.Q. Brown on Dec. 21 as the U.S. and China resumed high-level communications that had been suspended by China following then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s Aug. 2022 visit to Taiwan.

Battle of the Spaceplanes: How America’s X-37B Stacks Up Against China’s Shenlong


On December 28 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket blasted the U.S. military’s X-37B spaceplane into orbit for its seventh unmanned mission, about two weeks behind schedule due to poor weather and technical issues. It’s not clear where the ultra-secretive spaceplane is headed, but we do know it’s conducting a wide range of research projects, including “operating the reusable spaceplane in new orbital regimes, experimenting with future space domain awareness technologies, and investigating the radiation effects on materials provided by NASA,” per a November press release from the U.S. Space Force.

Two weeks before this most recent X-37B launch, China’s own mysterious new spacecraft took a page from its American counterpart’s playbook, reportedly deploying six objects into low-Earth orbit from its payload bay, a mission the U.S. Air Force’s X-37B has been performing for more than a decade. Had the American launch occurred on schedule, the two vehicles would have entered space at about the same time—making the Chinese effort look like intentional competition.

One thing X-37B and the Divine Dragon have in common: both are excellent platforms for space-based experiments.

“It’s no surprise that the Chinese are extremely interested in our spaceplane. We’re extremely interested in theirs,” Space Force Gen. B Chance Saltzman told Air & Space Forces Magazine earlier this month. “These are two of the most watched objects on orbit while they’re on orbit. It’s probably no coincidence that they’re trying to match us in timing and sequence of this,” he said.

Still, comparing the two isn’t all that easy. Here’s what we know so far about how America’s X-37B stacks up against China’s Shenlong spaceplane.

Prudence Means Fighting the Houthis Now

Steven A. Cook

Yemen’s Ansar Allah—also known as the Houthis—poses a threat to commercial shipping in the Red Sea. From mid-November through mid-December, the group attacked at least 30 merchant ships in the area, prompting most of the world’s major shippers to reroute their vessels around the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa. The economic effects of these attacks have yet to be fully realized, but already insurances rates for shipping lines have doubled. Not only that, but circumnavigating Africa requires more time, fuel, and ships than routes through the Suez Canal, resulting in stretched supply chains and increased environmental damage.

Turkey is a US ally, but should not be a trusted one


Turkey is once again quietly fighting against the United States’s policy goals even as it looks for more U.S. weapons. As the conflict between Israel and Gaza erupted, Turkey escalated its attacks against civilians in Northern Syria. These attacks are the latest example of how Turkey’s antagonistic behavior has created tension with the U.S.

Nonetheless, the U.S. will continue to send weapons and security assistance to its NATO ally, in part with the hope that such reassurances and arms sales will provide the U.S. with leverage over Turkey. Unfortunately, U.S. support for Turkey does the opposite of providing leverage and simultaneously hurts American security while destabilizing a region that Washington seems unable to ignore.

For example, Turkey bought the S-400 (a Russian air defense system that threatens Washington’s F-35 program), nearly upended NATO by threatening to invade Greece, almost hit U.S. troops in Syria, became the safe-haven for the Muslim Brotherhood after it was kicked out of Egypt, served as a financing arm for Hamas and Russia, and is engaging in a battle of threats with Israel over Ankara’s support for Hamas.

Importantly, not all of these things are actually bad for U.S. security. For example, letting Finland and Sweden into NATO certainly needs to receive pushback in the U.S. Furthermore, attempting to prevent Israel from waging a war against Hamas that results in attacks across the globe is also probably something that helps the U.S. avoid another war.

Regardless, while Turkey also does things that neither hurt nor harm the U.S. security but anger Washington — such as helping Russia avoid sanctions — it also often act in ways directly against U.S. interests. For example, by serving as a key funding hub for Hamas and allowing ISIS safe haven in Turkey, Ankara is engaging in actions that will convince U.S. policymakers to commit resources and troops to the region. Relatedly, its aggressive campaign in Syria is increasingly endangering the lives of U.S. troops.

Russia’s Mass Air Attack


A shocking series of Russian massed missile and drone attacks occurred across Ukraine in the past 48 hours. According to Ukrainian government reports, 158 Russian missiles and drones attacked targets in multiple Ukrainian cities including Kyiv, Odesa, Dnipro, Lviv and other locations. Over 30 people were killed and at least 150 injured.

According to the tally of air and missile strikes maintained by Rochan Consulting since the beginning of the Russian large-scale invasion in 2022, this is the largest series of attacks that has taken place. While it has been clear for some time (see graph below) that the Russians have been hording missiles for their winter campaign, it is uncertain whether the 29 December attacks were a one-off surge, or the start of an enhanced Russian winter strike campaign.

Source: Rochan Consulting

What does Putin & Russia aim to achieve by continuing to conduct such attacks, and what do the attacks tell us about the coercive power of strategic air, missile, and drone attacks?

Russian Objectives

The Russian attacks, which have occurred throughout the war, have multiple objectives.

At its most simple, these Russian air, missile and drone attacks are a bigger and more complex version of the attacks on civilian infrastructure that Russia appears to have mastered during this war. The attacks are conducted to terrorize civilians and to degrade civilian morale.

But these attacks are also aimed at responding to the last couple of weeks successes by the Ukrainians. Russian fighter bombers have been shot down in air defence ambushes. Russian naval vessels have been attacked, with the most spectacular being the destruction of the Ropucha class Landing Ship Tank (LST) Novocherkassk. The ship, berthed alongside in the port of Feodosia on the southern coast of Russian-occupied Crimea, was destroyed by a Ukrainian missile strike.

America is unprepared to fight a war on three fronts


In our short-attention-span world, we seem to only be able to comprehend one war at a time. But our moment has thrown up conflicts across the globe: Israel versus Hamas, Russians versus Ukrainians, or Chinese democrats versus the Communist Party. But these disparate battles are in fact part of one whole – a struggle to dominate the future.

The new wider war includes attempts by great powers, notably China, to secure natural resources by securing alliances with authoritarian regimes around the world. In exchange, China provides goods, including military items, to authoritarian regimes in Latin America, the Middle East, and Africa.

This de-facto alliance, a modern version of the World War Two “pact of steel”, is truly global in scope. It extends from Ukraine to the shutting off of the Red Sea by Yemen’s Houthis, and even Venezuelan plans to conquer much of oil-rich Guyana. Rather than Francis Fukuyama’s end of history, we are seeing Samuel Huntington’s bleak vision in his 2011 book, “The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order”.

The wider war pits on one side the revanchist powers – China, Russia, Islamist, Latin American and African countries – who feel they have been wronged by the West and liberal capitalism. On the other side are the West and non-European allies like Japan, South Korea and perhaps most importantly Modi-led India.

The West’s leaders, as in the 1930s, seem more interested in diplomatic maneuvering than confronting a real and present danger. They view the appeasement of Iran as pragmatic, but the creation of a trade deal with Great Britain as marginal. It’s not far from the mark to describe US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, as Tablet recently did, as “Neville Chamberlain with an iPad.”

Putin Lifts The Fog Of War In Ukraine – OpEd

M.K. Bhadrakumar

Russia’s special military operation in Ukraine is entering a new phase. President Vladimir Putin lifted the fog of war and hinted at what can be expected going forward in a landmark speech at the National Defence Control Centre while addressing a meeting of the Russian Defence Ministry Board on December 19.

Russia has gained the upper hand in the proxy war while the United States is struggling to recreate a new narrative. For Putin, this is a moment of triumph where he has no reason to take advantage of the fog of war in Ukraine, whereas, for President Biden, the fog of war continues to serve a useful purpose of dissimulation in the crucial election ahead where he seeks a second term.

Putin’s speech exuded a buoyant mood. The Russian economy has not only regained its pre-2022 momentum but is accelerating toward a 3.5% growth rate by the yearend, marked by rising incomes and purchasing power for millions of its citizens and an increase in living standards. Unemployment is at an all-time low and Russia has beaten back the Western sanctions and the attempts to isolate it in the international arena.

The leitmotif of Putin’s speech is that this is a war that Russia never sought but was imposed on it by the US. Putin had listed last year in February five clear-cut objectives of the Russian military operation — security of the Russian population; de-nazification of Ukraine; demilitarisation of Ukraine; striving for a friendly regime in Kiev; and, non-admission of Ukraine into NATO. These are of course interlocked objectives. The US and its allies know it but continue to pretend otherwise with their focus in the proxy war has been a military victory and regime change in Russia.

Putin’s message is that any new Western narrative on the war is doomed to meet with the same fate as the previous one unless there is realism that Russia cannot be militarily defeated and its legitimate interests are recognised.

Inconsistencies Are Costing The AU Mission In Somalia – Analysis

Maram Mahdi, Moussa Soumahoro and Hubert Kinkoh

In September, a call was made for a technical pause to the African troop drawdown from Somalia, following the initial withdrawal of 2 000 troops in June. The country’s national security adviser, Hussein Sheikh Ali, put the request for a pause to the UN Security Council (UNSC) citing continued terror attacks in the country’s south-central regions.

In May, 54 Ugandan peacekeepers from the African Union (AU) Transitional Mission in Somalia (ATMIS) were killed. In July, 30 Somali forces soldiers died in a Mogadishu military academy suicide attack. The failure of the Somali National Army and ATMIS to retain key villages in the south prompted the call for a pause.

Somalia’s government approached the UNSC without consulting the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC). Despite ATMIS being a UN-authorised and -mandated mission, it is an AU-led mission with command and control from five African troop-contributing countries. The move questions Somalia’s regard for the PSC’s role in ATMIS decision-making. Some regard it as a snub.

However, PSC insiders say only a few members raised the issue during discussions. The PSC in fact strongly supported Somalia’s bid in its 1177th meeting communiqué, endorsing the technical pause.

This PSC decision in turn raised several concerns. Chief among these was the council’s ability to impose itself as a pivotal and respected actor in managing African peace and security. Secondly, it exposed a lack of coordination and cohesion on the drawdown among PSC members, especially as some troop-contributing countries also had already supported Somalia without first tabling the extension at the PSC.

The Somali government’s request indicates doubts in its army’s ability to provide stability

Such a move by troop-contributing countries and members of the Council reflected a longstanding dismissal of the PSC and its role by member states. States have often opted to pursue their interests over PSC’s preference, indicating diverging positions among the AU Commission, troop-contributing countries, PSC and Somali government. This raises concern about the future of peace support operations in the country and region.

Was 2023 the Year of the Global South?

Audrey Wilson

The global south seemed to be top of mind for policymakers and diplomats this year, from the halls of the United Nations to leaders’ podiums. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has called his country the “voice of the global south,” hosting a virtual summit by that name to start the year that elevated the perspectives of dozens of countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. In Vietnam in September, U.S. President Joe Biden exchanged the Cold War-era phrase “Third World” for “global south” as he spoke.

2023 Was Another Record Year for Climate Change

Chloe Hadavas

This year, as global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels reached a new high, the world fell further behind on its emissions targets. As 2023 drew to a close, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that it was set to be the world’s hottest year on record. A report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in March found that the world may breach a critical threshold for warming—1.5 degrees Celsius (or 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above temperatures in preindustrial times—by the early 2030s. As United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said, holding warming to 1.5 degrees will require a “quantum leap in climate action.”

A look back at 2023—and what’s in store for 2024—from the Global Economy and Development program

Brahima Sangafowa Coulibaly, Zia Qureshi, Aloysius Uche Ordu, Arushi Sharma, Jennifer L. O’Donoghue, Rebecca Winthrop, Alexandra Bracken, and John W. McArthur

As 2023 draws to a close, scholars and staff in the Global Economy and Development program are looking back on their work this year and thinking ahead about how to make strides toward a more sustainable and equitable world in 2024.

Vice President and Director Brahima S. Coulibaly kicks us off with a video message reflecting on the state of the global economy and the issues that are top of mind for 2024.
Reason for optimism despite unprecedented global shocks

Message from the Vice President and Director, Brahima S. Coulibaly

Inequality and the transformative power of technology

Zia Qureshi

First, my greetings and best wishes to all colleagues for a happy holiday season. This is also a time to reflect on one’s work over the past year. Besides other activities, my work at Brookings this year has focused on two research projects, both revolving around the theme of how technology is transforming our economies—and societies. Against a background of rising inequality and associated social discontent, the first project examines the opportunities and challenges of promoting a broad sharing of the benefits of technological progress. It analyzes how digital technologies are altering growth and distribution dynamics, within and across economies, and draws implications for public policy to promote more inclusive growth. A book, co-edited with Brahima S. Coulibaly and titled “Harnessing Technology for Inclusive Prosperity: Growth, Work, and Inequality in the Digital Era,” will be published next spring.

The second project addresses how digital transformation and other forces—such as geopolitical developments, resurgence of nationalist industrial policies, and climate change—are shaping the future of globalization. It examines the shifting dynamics in industry, trade, and finance in the global economy and what they mean for national governments and the multilateral cooperation framework. A book, co-edited with Daehee Jeong of the Korea Development Institute (KDI) and titled “New Global Dynamics: Managing Economic Change in a Transforming World,” will be published next summer.

What to watch in Ukraine in 2024

Michael E. O’Hanlon, Constanze Stelzenmüller, and David Wessel

This winter may be a military and/or political turning point in the war between Ukraine and Russia. A stalemate on the battlefield, vacillation by Ukraine’s allies in the United States and Europe, and internal political tensions in Kyiv all threaten Ukraine’s ability to succeed in defending itself from Russia’s all-out attack. Of these, the most consequential for Ukraine’s success may be the vacillation of its Western partners.

The battlefield

With ground fighting largely stalemated for now, and the scourges of mud, snow, and cold complicating operations, the main action is shifting to Ukraine’s skies.

Last winter, as the data collated in the Brookings’s Ukraine Index indicates, Russia bombarded Ukraine’s cities and energy infrastructure with barrages of drones and missiles (many supplied by Iran) all the way into the spring. Air and missile defense systems supplied by allies, as well as Ukrainian ingenuity and improvisational skills, provided a reasonably good layered protective system in Kyiv and other major cities. Still, damage was done, and in some places, successful Russian strikes on civilian targets like train stations and cafés killed substantial numbers of civilians. Ukrainian power and heating infrastructure — major targets of Russian attacks — were significantly affected by the strikes, with outputs often reduced by 50% or more, even as Ukrainians rushed to repair the damage. The country’s citizens, meanwhile, showed extraordinary solidarity and resolve, but a quarter of Ukraine’s prewar population has fled.

Russia’s bombardments this winter have only just begun. But Moscow may be husbanding its stocks of weapons for barrage attacks to swamp defenses and create psychological shock.

South Korea’s military has a new enemy: Population math

Gawon Bae

South Korea, with the world’s lowest birth rate, may soon find itself without enough troops to keep its military fully staffed as it deals with new threats in an increasingly tense Western Pacific region, analysts say.

Always wary of North Korea’s nuclear and missile threats, South Korea keeps an active-duty force of about half a million troops. But with a birth rate of only 0.78 children per woman over a lifetime, the math might be South Korea’s biggest enemy at the moment, and experts say it has no choice but to downsize its forces.

“With our current birth rate, the future is predetermined. Downsizing of the force will be inevitable,” said Choi Byung-ook, a national security professor at Sangmyung University.

To maintain current troops levels, the South Korean military needs to enlist or conscript 200,000 soldiers a year, he said.

But in 2022, fewer than 250,000 babies were born. Assuming about a 50-50 male-female split, that means in 20 years, when those children are of the age to join the military, only about 125,000 men will be available for the 200,000 spots needed.

Women are not conscripted in South Korea, and volunteer females accounted for only 3.6% of the current Korean military, according to Defense Ministry figures.

And the annual number of newborns is only forecasted to drop further, to 220,000 in 2025 and 160,000 in 2072, according to Statistics Korea.

Preparing for two decades

While South Korea’s declining birth rate has been making headlines in recent years, it’s a trend the military had seen coming and prepared for.

The Worst Hacks of 2023

Lily Hay Newman

With political polarization, unrest, and violence escalating in many regions of the world, 2023 was fraught with uncertainty and tragedy. In digital security, though, the year felt more like a Groundhog Day of incidents caused by classic types of attacks, like phishing and ransomware, rather than a roller coaster of offensive hacking innovation.

The cybersecurity slog will no doubt continue in 2024, but to cap off the past 12 months, here's WIRED's look back at the year's worst breaches, leaks, ransomware attacks, digital extortion cases, and state-sponsored hacking campaigns. Stay alert, and stay safe out there.

One of the most impactful hacks of 2023 wasn’t a single incident but a series of devastating breaches, beginning in May, caused by mass exploitation of a vulnerability in the popular file transfer software known as MOVEit. The bug allowed hackers to steal data from a laundry list of international government entities and businesses, including the Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles, Shell, British Airways, and the United States Department of Energy. Progress Software, which develops MOVEit, patched the flaw at the end of May, and broad adoption of the fix eventually stopped the spree. But the “Cl0p” data extortion gang had already gone on a disastrous joy ride, exploiting the vulnerability against as many victims as possible. Organizations are still coming forward to disclose MOVEit-related incidents, and researchers told WIRED that this trickle of updates will almost certainly continue in 2024 and possibly beyond.

Based in Russia, Cl0p emerged in 2018 and functioned as a standard ransomware actor for a few years. But the gang is particularly known for finding and exploiting vulnerabilities in widely used software and equipment, with MOVEit being the latest example, to steal information from a large population of victims and conduct data extortion campaigns against them.

The identity management platform Okta disclosed a breach of its customer support system in October. The company said at the time that about 1 percent of its 18,400 customers were impacted. But the company had to revise its assessment in November to acknowledge that actually all of its customer support users had had data stolen in the breach.