5 January 2024

LANDMIDDLE EASTWAR Israel Withdrawing Thousands of Troops From Gaza: Official


The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) will pull out thousands of its troops from the Gaza Strip as its war with Hamas has reportedly taken a significant toll on the country’s economy.

IDF spokesperson Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari announced Monday that five brigades of several thousand regular troops and reservists will return to their bases to rest or undergo further combat training.

Many older reservists will go home to be with their families after almost three months of battling Hamas militants.

According to Hagari, the armed conflict has negatively affected Israel’s economy as many of its reservists could not go to their regular jobs, run their businesses, or attend school.

“This will significantly ease the burden on the economy and allow them to gather strength for the upcoming activities in the next year, as the fighting will continue and they will still be required,” he told reporters.

Shift to Lower-Intensity War?

Israel’s decision to pull out troops from Gaza came after the US called for a scaled-down offensive against Hamas to reduce civilian casualties.

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said last month that the increasing number of civilian deaths in Gaza has fueled global concerns about the war.

How Is Central Asia Responding To The Israel-Hamas War? – Analysis

James Durso

Israel’s counterattack on the Gaza Strip, in retaliation for the Oct. 7 attack by the Islamic Resistance Movement (“Hamas”), has caused allegedly 20,000 deaths among Palestinian civilians. Every country in the Muslim world has seen popular rejection of Israel’s assault, and the Central Asian republics are no exception.

The Central Asian people identify with their Muslim co-religionists and may also be upset to see Palestinians living under a security regime that reminds them of their experience under the Russian and Soviet empires.

Protests in support of Palestinians were organized in Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, but they were peaceful and not well attended — and the authorities want to keep it that way. Also in Uzbekistan, RFE/RL’s Uzbek Service found the Telegram and Instagram apps were used to provide information on boycotting Israeli products, though the effort misfired when it claimed the soap powder “Ariel” was named after former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon.

Central Asian governments are right to be alert to public disorder in the wake of the Hamas attack on Israel. In Russia’s Dagestan, police had to respond when a crowd stormed an airport looking for passengers from Israel on an arriving flight. The region’s governments are speaking out in defense of the Palestinians caught between the Hamas and Israeli forces, providing financial aid and, at the United Nations (U.N.), voting in favor of support for the Palestinian people.

The governments’ concerns are as follows:

Public order. The administrations want to ensure citizens’ passions aren’t vented on the streets, and avoid outbreaks like the unrest in Kazakhstan in February 2022 following the de-control of prices for vehicle fuel. The violence was quelled by local police and military and Russian troops.

Netanyahu Is Getting Crushed by Gaza War

Nick Mordowanec

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should not be in power following the conclusion of the war in Gaza, according to a new survey of his own people.

Netanyahu was resounding in his conviction following Hamas' October 7 attack on Israel, declaring war on the Palestinian militant group and prompting Israel's heaviest-ever airstrikes on Gaza. Israeli officials have said that 1,200 people were killed in Hamas' assault, according to the Associated Press, while the Gaza Ministry of Health says more than 21,900 Palestinians have died in the conflict.

On Monday, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) announced that thousands of troops would be redeployed from the Gaza Strip while some reservists would return home to their families and jobs as soon as this week. The decision has been linked to the negative economic effects of Israelis leaving their job to fight the war while also causing some to assume that a shift in strategy may encompass a wider region to properly fend off attacks and escalation from Lebanon's Iran-backed Hezbollah.

A poll of 605 men and women taken between December 25 and 28 and published on Tuesday by the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) shows that 85 percent of Israelis want 74-year-old Netanyahu, who has served as prime minister three different times since 1996, to hand over control to someone new when the war ends.

Benny Gantz, a retired army general and former defense minister who is currently serving alongside Netanyahu in the war cabinet, received 23 percent of support. About 30.5 percent of respondents did not provide a preferred candidate.

In a Christmas Day op-ed in the Wall Street Journal, Netanyahu offered three "prerequisites for peace" in Gaza between Israelis and Palestinians: Hamas must be destroyed, Gaza must be demilitarized, and Palestinian society must be deradicalized.

How Hamas Built an Army

Ido Levy

On October 7, 2023, the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas and its allies entered Israeli territory to commit atrocities against civilian communities near the Israel-Gaza border. With about 1,200 dead, including children and the elderly slaughtered in their beds or burned to death, and at least 239 abducted to Gaza as hostages, the day will be remembered in infamy—“Israel’s 9/11,” or worse.

To enable its genocidal atrocities, Hamas created a conventional army able to overrun Israel Defense Forces (IDF) posts on its way to the border communities. Having seized multiple positions as far as 25 kilometers into Israel from the 60-km Gaza border, some of the Hamas cadres held their ground and attempted to defend against the coming IDF counter, which defeated them within several days and initiated a ground incursion into Gaza. The IDF says that at least 278 Israeli soldiers were among the dead of October 7. Indeed, this war has featured a clash of military forces to seize or defend territory and followed defined frontlines and orders of battle. It is now clear that Hamas possesses and is willing to use conventional military power alongside its traditional terrorist tactics.

Hamas acquired its military capabilities through years of fighting experience, training, Iranian tutelage, and resource accumulation. It learned to adapt irregular and terrorist tactics for conventional warfare. I trace the development of Hamas’s conventional warfighting capabilities and place it within a larger pattern of armed nonstate actors seeking to form armies. Because Hamas is now clearly an army, and not only a terrorist group, the ongoing IDF conventional campaign against it must continue until the group can no longer control territory.

This is not to say that Hamas follows international law, nor that it possesses state-of-the-art equipment. None of these is true of Hamas: it does not have tanks, aircraft, or warships. Its members do not all wear distinguishable uniforms, and they certainly do not adhere to the law of armed conflict. Rather, like many nonstate actors seeking control over territory, the group has developed an—albeit limited—capability to dispute, seize, and hold territory openly, which is the key method of conventional warfare. The fact that it is a nonstate actor with no regard for international norms should not obscure this important truth.

How banned terror outfits TRF, Al-Qaeda & IS exploit secret internet forums

Aakash Sharma & Subham Tiwari

Pushed to the margins on mainstream social media sites by repeated bans, The Resistance Force (TRF) – an offshoot of Pakistan’s Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) which has been behind a spree of targeted killings and attacks in Kashmir – has shifted its digital operations to less regulated platforms and forums.

But the TRF is not alone. In an investigation, India Today’s Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) team found several groups and channels of al-Qaeda and the Islamic States (IS) spreading their propaganda and imparting training.

These groups are active on platforms such as Rocket Chat and Matrix, which are decentralised in nature. This means their source code can be modified by any developer, and they can be hosted on a server chosen by the user. This common characteristic makes these apps an ideal digital destination for bad actors intending to execute their nefarious designs, disrupt peace, and challenge nation states.

Inside TRF’s secret digital space

India Today gained access to TRF’s secret chat rooms and groups on Matrix and monitored their conversations for several days. The TRF chat room has a total of 65 members and the conversations are regulated by two admins, who periodically post threats to the Indian state, government officials and vocal pro-India Kashmiris, issue statements, and release video clips and photos of the attacks they claim to have carried out in the Valley.

In a message on December 9, the group admin who goes by the name ‘Kashmir Fight’ claimed that terrorists belonging to the ‘Falcon Squad’ of their outfit had targeted a constable, Hafiz Mohammed Chad, in Srinagar’s Bemina. The user claimed that the police officer was “warned” by TRF terrorists in the past.

India Turns the Page on Ties with Russia After Ukraine War

Mohamed Zeeshan

When India’s External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar went to Moscow last week, he appeared to turn the page in India-Russia ties after two years of tightrope walking.

For the better part of the last two years, even as it had maintained neutrality on Ukraine and rapidly expanded trade with Russia, India had been wary of any perceptions of alignment with an isolated Moscow. There had been a pause in the annual bilateral meetings between India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. India had chosen to hold the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit virtually last year rather than hosting Putin in New Delhi. It had also conveniently escaped hosting Putin at the G-20 Leaders’ Summit.

Throughout that period, India had continued to import oil and coal from Russia in unprecedented quantities, but New Delhi did so under the perception — deliberate or otherwise — that it had few strategic alternatives to trade with Moscow. There were seldom glowing references to Russia as an Indian ally, and Modi had even publicly lectured Putin about avoiding war.

But the world has since changed.

As Israel has waged an appalling war in Gaza, the tables have turned, and U.S. support for the Israeli government in that war has diluted Washington’s moral high ground. Last month, the U.N. General Assembly voted overwhelmingly in favor of an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire” in Gaza. Only 10 countries, including Israel and the United States, voted against it. In the U.N. Security Council, the U.S. had to resort to a veto to kill a near-unanimous resolution.

Washington’s isolation over Gaza coincided with more bombastic rhetoric from New Delhi. After copping criticism from Western observers for meeting with Putin last week, Jaishankar said, “Please look in the mirror and tell me how you were behaving as a democracy.”

India Is Chasing China’s Economy. But Something Is Holding It Back.

Alex Travelli

India’s economy is booming. Stock prices are through the roof, among the best performing in the world. The government’s investment in airports, bridges and roads, and clean-energy infrastructure is visible almost everywhere. India’s total output, or gross domestic product, is expected to increase 6 percent this year — faster than the United States or China.

But there’s a hitch: Investment by Indian companies is not keeping pace. The money that companies put into the future of their businesses, for things like new machines and factories, is stagnant. As a fraction of India’s economy, it is shrinking. And while money is flying into India’s stock markets, long-term investment from overseas has been declining.

Green and red lights are flashing at the same time. At some point soon, the government will need to reduce its extraordinary spending, which could weigh on the economy if private sector money doesn’t pick up.

No one expects India to stop growing, but a rise of 6 percent is not enough to meet India’s ambitions. Its population, now the world’s biggest, is growing. Its government has set a national goal of catching up to China and becoming a developed nation by 2047. That kind of leap will require sustained growth closer to 8 or 9 percent a year, most economists say.

The missing investment could also present a challenge for Narendra Modi, the prime minister since 2014, who has concentrated on making India an easier place for foreign and Indian companies to do business.

Mr. Modi is in campaign mode, facing elections in the spring and rallying the nation to cheer his successes. The sluggish investment is not something executives, bankers or foreign diplomats like to discuss, for fear of looking like naysayers. But investors are playing it safe while the economy is signaling both strengths and weaknesses.

Taliban Accuse Tajik, Pakistani Citizens of Carrying out Attacks in Afghanistan

Catherine Putz

In reviewing the Taliban government’s security achievements in 2023 on December 31, Afghanistan’s acting Defense Minister Mohammad Yaqoob Mujahid said that any attacks that did occur were “all carried out by foreigners, especially the citizens of Tajikistan.”

“Dozens of Tajikistan citizens have been killed in our operations and dozens of others have been arrested. Also, in the second step, Pakistani citizens have been involved in organizing many attacks,” Mujahid said, according to TOLO News. The defense minister did not offer concrete figures, though he did say that more than 20 Pakistani citizens had been killed in Taliban operations and dozens of others captured.

Mujahid meanwhile heralded the efforts fo the Taliban’s security forces, proclaiming that, as TOLO News reported, “the security forces have stopped 99 percent of smuggling of money, precious stones and currencies from inside Afghanistan in the past year” and had seized “tens of thousands of weapons.” He also claimed that there had been a 90 percent decrease in Islamic State attacks over the course of 2023.

The Taliban defense official accused unspecified neighboring countries of being the real centers of production, sale, and smuggling of weapons — accusations that have been lobbed against the Taliban, which arguably inherited quite a stockpile from the previous Republic government upon its collapse in August 2021.

Mujahid also rejected Pakistani claims that Afghan territory is a safe haven for the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP or the Pakistani Taliban), calling those complaints “baseless.”

The veracity of Mujahid’s statements aside (he did not provide any details or evidence, per se), the sharp accusations fit into a sustained pattern of tension between Afghanistan and two of its neighbors: Pakistan and Tajikistan. Curiously, while Pakistani officials — notably then-Prime Minister Imran Khan — welcomed the Taliban’s return to power in 2021, relations between the two countries have become strained, with both sides lobbing accusations against the other of harboring their enemies. In November, Pakistan began a massive effort to deport “illegal migrants,” most of whom are Afghan.

GCAP treaty seeks to avoid past development missteps

Douglas Barrie

This blog was first published on the Military Balance+ on 21 December 2023

The tri-national Global Combat Air Programme (GCAP) treaty signature between Italy, Japan and the United Kingdom provides a solid foundation for the fielding of a next-generation combat aircraft. Political hyperbole – of which there was much – aside, the government-to-government treaty is much harder to walk away from than a more nebulous notion to cooperate that, until recently, underpinned the project.

Triparty party

The 14 December 2023 signature in Tokyo by the three countries’ defence ministers clears the way to formally establishing the GCAP International Government Organisation – in effect, one half of the management structure to run the multibillion-pound endeavour. The other half is a pending joint industrial-management construct. The UK’s Grant Shapps, Italy’s Guido Crosetto and Japan’s Minoru Kihara signed the treaty on behalf of their respective governments. The GCAP International Government Organisation will be based in the UK, with its first chief executive officer from Japan, while an Italian will oversee the joint business organisation.

GCAP intends to develop a next-generation low-observable crewed combat aircraft for the three partner countries, with deliveries to begin in 2035. The demanding development schedule is partly driven by the need to replace Japan’s Mitsubishi F-2 around the middle of that decade, while the Royal Air Force may begin replacing its Eurofighter Typhoon FGR4 aircraft around the same time. Italian defence company Leonardo, Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and the UK’s BAE Systems are the industrial national leads on GCAP.

Key to meeting the 2035 deadline is ensuring that the governmental and industrial organisations have the requisite decision-making authority to manage the programme. One of the problems with the Eurofighter’s development was that actual power rested with the four participating countries, exposing the programme to policy whims in each of the partner countries. Key decisions often were delayed by years as governments bickered internally or with one another.

Military technology is outpacing our diplomatic capacity


In the past month, both the United States and China sent reusable robotic planes into space on secret missions. Russia conducted tests for similar technologies last year and it has now become even more obvious that outer space is a potential conflict zone.

This expensive and dangerous competition is yet another example of technology outpacing diplomacy. In several areas, military-use technology is developing at a breakneck speed and diplomatic efforts to contain the dangers have yet to leave the starting blocks.

It was not long ago when adversaries, recognizing their interests in avoiding nuclear war, engaged in arms control negotiations to provide for predictability in deterrence systems, agreeing to limits and constructing elaborate verification and early warning schemes. Negotiations proceeded and agreements were made despite tensions in other areas.

Military competition in outer space isn’t exactly new, but the launch of reusable spacecraft on secret missions should alarm those who had hoped that conquering the mysteries of space would be a peaceful human endeavor.

The stakes are high as we have become dependent on satellites for everything from monitoring conditions on Earth to global communications networks to intelligence gathering.

In 2023 there were 25,000 operational satellites in Earth orbit of which 11,655 were American. Conflict in space could blind our security systems and collapse the global economy.

Putin Under Pressure to Attack British Military

Nick Mordowanec

Russia is being encouraged by some of its own to target the British military for helping Ukraine carry out a successful attack in the Black Sea last week.

Dozens of Russian servicemembers were declared missing or wounded after the 370-foot Ropucha-class Novocherkassk large landing ship was hit on December 26 in Crimea by Ukrainian cruise missiles. Moscow admitted damage to the ship, which carried a crew of up to 87 service members.

The missiles used by Ukraine were reportedly provided by the U.K. Ministry of Defense, which also aided Kyiv with satellite reconnaissance and target guidance. It has led to some, including Russian political scientist Yuri Baranchik, to encourage Moscow to attack the British warship HMS Diamond.

"This is a blow from Britain/the United States and a desire to interrupt the positive background from the capture of Marinka, as well as the recent successes of the Russian Armed Forces at the front," Barinchik wrote on Telegram, describing the attack as a "training exercise" for a potential future strike on Russia's naval components in the Northern Fleet.

Ukrainian serviceman holds a MANPADS (Man-Portable Air-Defence Systems) Stinger anti-aircraft weapon while scanning for possible air targets, onboard a Maritime Guard of the State Border Service of Ukraine boat as it patrols in the northwestern part of the Black Sea on December 18, 2023. On December 26, dozens of Russian servicemembers were declared missing or wounded after the 370-foot-long Ropucha-class Novocherkassk large landing ship was hit by Ukrainian cruise missiles.

Global Conflicts Expose Dire U.S. Munitions Shortage

Joe Buccino

The United States military is severely short on high-end and artillery munitions at a crucial and strategic moment. As the calendar turns to 2024, Ukraine, using bombs and bullets from the United States, continues its slog of a war with Russia with no foreseeable end. Simultaneously, the U.S. continues sending artillery rounds to Israel amidst the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) assault on Hamas in Gaza. In the Indo-Pacific, American tensions with China remain high as Taiwan prepares for a general election with fears of Chinese interference and Chinese leader Xi Jinping promises the reunification of Taiwan with mainland China. In DC, alarm bells ring regarding the dearth of rounds required for these three distinct kinds of conflict. Central to this issue is an American paucity of rare earth minerals indispensable in producing these bombs, shells, and rockets. To address this shortage and ensure the long-term viability of ammo for high-end conflict, the U.S. must invest in and maintain innovative systems for processing and refinement of rare earth minerals.

An Empty Cupboard: A Paucity of Rare Earth Elements

Rare earth minerals – a set of 17 metallic elements – are the essential materials of bombs, bullets, rockets, and missiles. They are critical in manufacturing powerful magnets used in precision-guided munitions. Some rare earth elements possess temperature stability necessary for some high-tech bombs exposed to intense heat during launch toward target, such as the Javelin missiles so crucial to allowing Ukrainian forces to fend off Russian tanks. Rare earths are in the fuzes of the 155mm artillery shells used in enormous volumes by both the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the IDF. Many air-to-air missiles needed in a fight with China, including the AIM-9X Sidewinder missile, require these materials. Rare earths are used to build actuators for many surface-to-ground rockets.

The rare earth minerals are not particularly rare – these materials are bountiful in the earth's crust. It is rather the production and refinement capability for the use of these materials – turning these elements into usable material – that is scarce within the U.S. The chemical properties of these materials are nearly identical from one another, making it difficult and costly to separate and refine each one for industrial use. The process also incurs environmental hazards that require expensive cleanup, often making large-scale production economically infeasible.

Army preparing for ‘launched effects’ rapid fielding decision based around Altius 700 prototype


The US Army is preparing to make a rapid fielding decision in 2025 for a “launched effects” prototype based around Anduril’s Air-Launched, Tube-Integrated Unmanned System 700 design, or Altius 700, the service recently announced.

Army officials, including those from the Special Operations Aviation Command (USASOAC), have been exploring ways to best deploy such launched effect capabilities — read: small drones that shoot out of something else mid-flight — for several years. In December, the service “successfully” launched a prototype based around Altius 700 from a UH-60 Black Hawk, a “significant risk reduction” event.

“The two flight demonstration yielded positive data that validates the Altius 700’s performance capabilities across all phases of operation, encompassing launch, flight, landing and recovery,” the service wrote. “The insights gained from the demonstration are instrumental to refining the system’s design and operating procedures ahead of the program’s upcoming test flights.”

The service has been working on that prototype for several years and in 2020 awarded 10 contracts for companies to mature technologies. It then whittled that list down and tasked them with collaborating on a prototype. According to the companies involved: Anduril Industries is providing the air vehicle (the Altius 700); Collins Aerospace, the mission system; Aurora Flight Sciences the integrator; and two others are working on payloads.

Ukraine’s Drone Boats Are Now Firing Rockets At Russian Ships


Ukraine’s security service (SBU) claims it used a Sea Baby uncrewed surface vessel (USV) armed with rocket launchers for the first time to attack Russian ships near Sevastopol. The Ukrainian Pravda (UP) news outlet on Monday published a video provided by the SBU that it says shows the system's first use. Still, the practicality of such a concept is questionable, with very limited use cases at best.

The publication, which interviewed SBU head Vasyl Maliuk, reported that the video “shows Ukrainian SBU drones firing at Russian boats that jumped out of one of the Crimean military ports to sink the drones. But the drones, instead of running away, turned around and opened fire in return.”

The 15-second video shows what appears to be 14 munitions fired, presumably from Sea Baby USVs, but it does not show the results of the engagement. The UP story does not explain what happened during this undated battle, whether any damage was inflicted or whether the USVs survived.

Sea Baby drone boats launching rocket attacks.

The publication said “...there is already a flamethrower system on drones, which allows you to conduct a naval battle in the literal sense."

The Sea Baby USV depicted in the UP video was likely armed with unguided RPV-16 thermobaric rocket launchers, Andrii Ryzhenko, a retired Ukrainian Navy captain told The War Zone.

Thermobaric weapons use oxygen from the surrounding air to generate a high-temperature explosion and a much more powerful blast wave over a longer duration than a conventional condensed explosive. Images of Sea Baby drones with what appeared to be rocket six rocket launch tubes have been seen before.

Ukraine May Have to Accept a Cease-Fire

William A. Galston

The word “crisis” is overused, but it accurately describes what Ukraine faces as 2024 begins.

According to a recent report in the Washington Post, troops on the front line are running out of ammunition. Artillery shells are being rationed, forcing the Ukrainians to cancel planned assaults and making it hard to hold defensive positions against Russian attacks. A press officer for a Ukrainian battalion recently said that ammunition shortages had forced his unit to reduce its rate of firing by 90% since the summer. “We lack everything,” a member of another unit said. Although his comrades are highly motivated, he added, “You can’t win a war only on motivation.” He doubted they could hold their position much longer.

USS Carney Sailors Decorated for Red Sea Actions, Maersk Pausing Shipping in Region


Sailors serving aboard guided-missile destroyer USS Carney’s (DDG-64) were recognized for their actions in downing Houthi drones and missiles in October and December, Navy officials acknowledged on Tuesday.

On Tuesday, Naval Forces Central Command commander Vice Adm. Brad Cooper awarded two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals, which included one for Carney commanding officer Cmdr. Jeremy Robertson, and three Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals. Cooper also awarded the Combat Action Ribbon to Carney’s sailors.

The awards come for the crew’s actions on Dec. 16, when Carney shot down 14 Houthi-launched unmanned aerial vehicles in the Red Sea, according to the post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

This is the second award presented to members of Carney’s crew for actions in the Red Sea. For Carney’s actions on Oct. 19, when the crew used SM-2s to shoot down three land attack missiles and several drones fired from Houthi-controlled areas of Yemen, 21 crew members received awards. Robertson received the Bronze Star Medal, a Navy spokesperson told USNI News.

“On Oct. 19, 2023, the Carney crew executed critical air and missile defense duties in the Red Sea, ensuring that the Combined Forces Air Component Commander could effectively deter regional actors from horizontally escalating the crisis in the Levant. The team defended the ship and their Shipmates from a complex air attack, manifested in the form of multiple hostile air threats traversing the Red Sea, spanning a three-hour interception engagement,” a Navy spokesperson told USNI News in a statement on Tuesday.

German Musings About a European Nuclear Deterrent

Michael Rühle

“Depend upon it, sir, when a man knows he is to be hanged in a fortnight, it concentrates his mind wonderfully.” Samuel Johnson’s well-known observation may be over two centuries old, yet it sums up nicely the current mood in parts of the European, notably German, strategic community. Faced with an aggressive Russia to its East and with a United States possibly heading toward a second Trump presidency, some Europeans fear for the worst: the old continent deprived of the US “nuclear umbrella,” left defenceless against Russian nuclear blackmail. Hence, they try to concentrate their minds on what they believe is the only way out of this dilemma: an independent European nuclear deterrent.

In an interview with the German weekly Die Zeit in December 2023, former German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer argued in favour of European nuclear deterrent.[1] This came as a surprise, since it was Fischer who, upon coming into office in 1998, had started a (short-lived) campaign for a NATO “no-first-use policy,” and who, in 2020, had signed a letter asking NATO’s non-nuclear allies to join the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.[2] A few days before Fischer’s about-face on nuclear deterrence, Herfried Münkler, a retired politics professor and well-known author, imagined “a suitcase with a red button” that would rotate among the major EU countries.[3]

The most elaborate case for a European nuclear deterrent appeared in the conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, a paper that over the past years had repeatedly published authors who would make the case for a European or even a German nuclear arsenal. In an article entitled “What will Europe do if Trump wins?,” three of the paper’s best-known journalists painted a dire picture: the US would finally fold its nuclear umbrella for Europe, leaving the continent with no alternative but to build its own nuclear deterrent. However, while presenting their case in detail, the authors revealed their analytical confusion. For example, they claimed that deterrence today depends on the ability to preemptively destroy an opponent’s entire nuclear arsenal. They argued that while the U.S. is capable of exercising such an option, the small British and French arsenals are not. After inconclusive musings about France’s eventual willingness to spread its own nuclear umbrella across Europe, the article concluded with a reference to the US-UK special relationship, which could still ensure a certain US nuclear presence in Europe.[4] One week later, the “Welt am Sonntag” published an article that also predicted the imminent demise of the US “nuclear umbrella,” and argued that, based on a core group of France, Germany and Poland, Europe had to become a true defense union that would encompass the nuclear domain.[5]

The West Badly Needs More Missiles—but the Wait to Buy Them Is Years Long

Alistair MacDonald, Doug Cameronand Dasl Yoon

KONGSBERG, Norway—A factory here west of Oslo produces a missile-defense system that can shoot down drones, helicopters and other airborne threats from almost 25 miles away.

Capable of launching 72 missiles into the sky at once, the National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System, or Nasams, is what protects the airspace over the White House. When first deployed in Ukraine in 2022, it recorded a 100% success rate shooting down cruise missiles and drones in its first few months.

Ukraine War in 2024: How Kyiv Can Improve Its Position Overall

Ilan Berman

These are unquestionably difficult times in Kyiv. With Russia’s war of aggression now nearing its two-year mark and on the heels of a less-than-successful military counteroffensive, Western support for Ukraine’s fight appears to be flagging, leaving the country’s government scrambling to shore up international support and resources. The grim state of affairs was palpable in Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s New Year’s interview with The Economist, in which the Ukrainian president beseeched Western governments not to cede the advantage to Russia.

So, how can Kyiv improve its position? A great deal undoubtedly depends on the political state of play in Washington, where additional support for Ukraine has become an increasingly difficult—and partisan—topic. Nevertheless, there are still a number of concrete things that Kyiv can do to shift the global policy debate in its favor.

Publicize internal reforms. Among the most profound transformations that have taken place in Ukraine since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion has been the start of real, meaningful, and far-reaching domestic reforms. Ukraine’s government, mindful of the need to account for Western aid and eager to eliminate hurdles to eventual EU membership, Kyiv has begun overhauling virtually every sector of its society and economy. This effort includes a drive to root out graft in the nation’s armed forces, revamping the country’s judiciary, and instituting preemptive protections for the post-conflict reconstruction that will inevitably follow today’s war.

Yet those changes are still poorly understood in the West, where the country’s long-running problems with corruption continue to color thinking about its trustworthiness. Changing those perceptions (via a campaign of articles, interviews, and public disclosures) should be a top priority for Kyiv because doing so would go a long way toward dispelling the “Ukraine fatigue” that has set in in many corners and help convince policymakers in Washington and elsewhere that continued support for Ukraine’s cause is a good bet.

Why the Navy isn’t shooting down Houthi drones with lasers yet


The U.S. Navy warships shooting down Houthi drones and rockets in recent weeks have generally done so with guns and missiles that are far more expensive than the threats they head off. And notably absent from U.S. officials' statements about the incidents are the next-generation directed-energy weapons the military has spent years developing to do precisely this job.

A recent Congressional Research Service report offers some clues as to why.

The Navy isn't having much trouble swatting down the Houthis' Iranian-made drones, even when they're launched by the dozen. But the Pentagon is beginning to worry about using $11 million interceptor missiles to take out drones that can cost as little as a few thousand dollars

That price disparity is why the military started seeking lasers and other directed-energy weapons, which promise cheap, all-but-unlimited "magazines" to intercept drones in large numbers. The United States has already deployed lasers aboard ships effectively, beginning with the USS Ponce in 2014.

The U.S. now deploys eight 30-kw Optical Dazzler Interdictor Navy, or ODIN, systems on Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. In 2022, it deployed a high-energy laser with integrated optical dazzler and surveillance, or HELIOS laser, (60-kw to 150 kw) aboard the USS Preble. And there are more lasers in development, such as the High Energy Laser Counter, or HELCAP program, and the Layered Laser Defense, or LLD, program.

In a year of conflict, future of war looks much like its past


Even well into 2022, long after the war in Ukraine had started, the media were still “reporting the last war,” so to speak. The New Yorker headlined a report on the Bayraktar TB2 drone that was widely considered to have won the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war, “The Turkish drone that changed the nature of warfare.”

Little wonder, because the TB2 had proved formidable beyond its size, an unmanned drone that carried laser-guided bombs. Throughout the six-week war, Azerbaijan used the TB2 to startling effect, blowing up tanks and troops and then broadcasting video of the attacks.

For a fraction of the cost of conventional fighter jets, Azerbaijan was able to dominate the airspace above Nagorno-Karabakh and win a swift victory.

The rest of the world noticed, and militaries began to reassess what role small, cheap drones might play in future wars. When the Ukraine war started, the Ukrainian military used the TB2s to devastating effect, taking out Russian tanks, trains and even ships – and gleefully posting the footage to social media.

A new era of war had begun, where a drone costing just a few million dollars could prove highly effective against one of the world’s most powerful militaries. The financial asymmetry was frightening.

Yet the two major wars of this year have shown that, while such asymmetry exists, the future of war is much more similar to its past.

The War in Ukraine Is Not a Stalemate

Jack Watling

Since the failure of offensives in 2023 by both Ukraine and Russia, a narrative is coalescing that the war in Ukraine has reached a stalemate. The perception of an indefinite but static conflict is causing a sense of fatigue in the capitals of Ukraine’s partners: if neither side is likely to make substantial progress, the status quo appears stable, demanding little urgent policy attention.

This perception of stalemate, however, is deeply flawed. Both Moscow and Kyiv are in a race to rebuild offensive combat power. In a conflict of this scale, that process will take time. While the first half of 2024 may bring few changes in control of Ukrainian territory, the materiel, personnel training, and casualties that each side accrues in the next few months will determine the long-term trajectory of the conflict. The West in fact faces a crucial choice right now: support Ukraine so that its leaders can defend their territory and prepare for a 2025 offensive or cede an irrecoverable advantage to Russia.

Uncertainty about the long-term provision of aid to Ukraine risks not only giving Russia advantages on the battlefield but also emboldening Moscow further. It has already undermined the goal to push Russia to the negotiating table because the Kremlin now believes it can outlast the West’s will. Unless clear commitments are made in early 2024, the Kremlin’s resolve will only harden.

What the United States and Europe do over the next six months will determine one of two futures. In one, Ukraine can build up its forces to renew offensive operations and degrade Russian military strength to the degree that Kyiv can enter negotiations with the leverage to impose a lasting peace. In the other, a shortage of supplies and trained personnel will mire Ukraine in an attritional struggle that will leave it exhausted and facing eventual subjugation.

Ukraine’s international partners must remember that the first outcome is desirable not only to Ukrainians. It is necessary to protect the international norm that states do not change their borders by force. A mobilized and emboldened Russia would pose a sustained threat to NATO, requiring the United States to indefinitely underwrite deterrence in Europe. That would constrain the United States’ capacity to project force in the Indo-Pacific and substantially increase the danger of conflict over Taiwan. The West can choose which direction history takes. But first it must acknowledge the gravity of the decision it currently faces.

The World in 2024


In my old job at the US State Department, colleagues often asked me what was likely to happen in this or that situation. Often, there was no way of knowing, and I reminded questioners that I was Director of Policy Planning, not of predicting. That said, prediction can be a useful intellectual exercise that serves us well in the coming year.

The US presidential election in November is almost certain to be 2024’s most significant event. To be sure, US elections are always consequential given America’s power and influence. But what makes this election fundamentally different is that it is likely to be one in which the differences between the major party candidates far outweigh their similarities. Assuming President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump gain their respective parties’ nominations, who wins will matter a great deal, both to the United States and to the world.

To be sure, there are some similarities between Biden and Trump. Neither believes in free trade, although Trump, unlike Biden, is an outright protectionist. Both favor a bigger role for government in the economy. Both wanted to exit Afghanistan. They also agree on the need to take a tough line toward China, especially when it comes to trade and investment in critical technologies.

But the differences are far greater. Biden is a career politician who believes in democracy, embraces its norms, and is ready to work across party lines to forge compromises that benefit the country. Trump is an outsider who is fiercely partisan and rejects political norms (such as accepting electoral defeat), often putting himself before the country’s democracy.

Biden’s foreign-policy approach is centered around America’s allies, which he views as a great source of comparative advantage to the US. Trump regards allies more as economic competitors and a drain on America’s treasury. Whereas Biden has cast this period of history as a contest between democracy and autocracy, and argued that America needs to help democratic friends around the world, Trump gets along far better with autocrats and seems to envy their political control. The list of issues on which the two differ significantly is long, and includes climate change, immigration policy, and access to abortion, to name a few.

The Military’s Phantom ‘Extremists’

Good news: The U.S. military isn’t packed with violent extremists. That’s the gist of a new report commissioned by the Pentagon in 2021 and released quietly with little notice in December. The result won’t surprise Americans who have spent time in uniform, but it should calm the media frenzy about right-wing radicals in the armed forces.

After reports that some service members participated in the Jan. 6 riot, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ordered an independent study to get “greater fidelity” on extremism in the ranks. The think tank tasked with the report, the Institute for Defense Analyses (IDA), “found no evidence that the number of violent extremists in the military is disproportionate” to U.S. society. A review of Pentagon data suggested “fewer than 100 substantiated cases per year of extremist activity by members of the military in recent years,” the report says.

That figure could include a range of conduct and ideological bent, not simply the white supremacy floated in the press. Take court martials. Researchers found that “the prevalence of extremist and gang-related activity that are reflected in court-martial opinions is limited to fewer than 20 cases” since 2012. Gang activity isn’t typically political and, excluding those cases, the number falls to one a year.

One useful conclusion is that the military doesn’t need a new section of the Uniform Code of Military Justice to punish what few “extremist” criminal cases exist. Researchers note that commanders can rely on Article 116 (riot or breach of peace); Article 88 (contempt toward officials); Article 109 (destruction or damage to property); Article 115 (communication of threats), among others such as assault.

Combating Terrorism Center (CTC)CTC Sentinel, December 2023, v. 16, no. 11

Iraq’s New Regime Change: How Tehran-Backed Terrorist Organizations and Militias Captured the Iraqi State

The Path to October 7: How Iran Built Up and Managed a Palestinian ‘Axis of Resistance’

The Future of Terrorist Use of Improvised Explosive Devices: Getting in Front of an Evolving Threat

Overcoming data analytics inertia in defense to win future wars

David Roddenberry, Jr.

Where will tomorrow’s wars be won?

The answer to that question is very different now than it would have been only ten years ago, because the battlespace has expanded into new arenas so quickly – perhaps most notably into the digital realm.

Whether fighting on traditional fronts (land, sea, and air), in cyberspace, or in space itself, victory hinges on our ability to make accurate, lightning-fast decisions based on massive volumes of data generated by sensors, machines, drones, and other digital systems – in addition to the sources of intelligence that have informed defense-related decisions for decades.

Analytics inertia

Ultimately, winning is about having the knowledge and insight to make smarter decisions faster than our opponents. But as quickly as defense organizations may want to move, a myriad of well explored and publicly discussed factors, like large bureaucracies, outdated acquisition processes, antiquated policies, and so on, hinder institutional transformation on the scale and at the rate needed to adapt to the increasingly digital environment.

Meanwhile, today’s opponents are fierce, nimble, digitally enabled and unencumbered by the deliberative, process-oriented environment in which mature defense organizations operate.

Core to unlocking digital capabilities is the application of advanced analytics already in use throughout the business world. But too often, “analytics inertia” is restraining progress and breaking free requires understanding why it exists at all.

Here are a few reasons and insights on how to gain momentum.