8 January 2024

Analysis "When the time is right, China may be able to stop the operations of critical infrastructures in Israel"

Sophie Shulman

Is China's deep presence within the Israeli economy beginning to pose a danger? Calcalist received a letter sent to the chairman of the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Yuli Edelstein, in which there is a demand to hold an urgent discussion regarding China's holdings in infrastructure projects in Israel. The main reference is to the dock at Haifa Port which is managed and operated by a Chinese company, but other holdings are also mentioned.

"Despite warnings from the security establishment, in the last decade, the Chinese government has invested extensively in strategic assets in Israel," Dr. Harel Menashri writes in the letter. Menashri is one of the founders of the cyber unit at the Shin Bet and is currently the head of the Cyber Faculty and a senior lecturer at HIT, Holon Institute of Technology. According to him, his concerns began even before October 7, but they have increased since then and in his opinion are not receiving enough attention, even though China is radicalizing its positions towards Israel.

Chinese president Xi Jinping, port in Haifa owned by Chinese company SIPG
"The disaster we experienced on October 7 taught us to heed the warnings of the security establishment and I would like to warn of a similar situation. When it decides the time is right, China may be able to stop the operations of critical infrastructures in Israel."

Menashri also adds that components made in China that are integrated into the police's "Hawk Eye" system have been blacklisted in the U.S. "In the reality that has arisen, Israel must hedge the risks and make orderly and systematic decisions - what can be done with China and what can not. China is an important country, but there are products from China that should not be used by Israel," adds Menashri.

Menashri’s words reinforce American opposition in the past to China's entry into a port in Israel, which also included a statement that the Sixth Fleet would no longer dock at the port.

How the Gaza War Could Shape Global Politics in 2024

Amy Mackinnon

Few matters are able to rile global publics quite like war in Israel-Palestine. Following Hamas’s brutal Oct. 7 attack on Israel, which left more than 1,200 dead, people have taken to the streets around the world to express solidarity with Israel or to condemn its punishing military response in the Gaza Strip, which has killed more than 22,000 Palestinians to date.

The October 7 Massacre And The War In Gaza: Impact On Bahrain And The United Arab Emirates – Analysis

Joshua Krasna

During a recent visit to the Gulf, an Emirates-based analyst told me, “Everyone is asking: ‘Is there a future for the Abraham Accords?’ There is a difference between ‘in a coma’ and dead. They are not dead.” The October 7 massacre in southern Israel and the war in Gaza that ensued placed into sharp contrast two opposing trends existing in the Middle East. On the one hand, there is the recognition of the permanency of Israel’s presence in the region and the need to begin its slow integration into the regional system; on the other hand, there is continued denial of Israel’s right to exist, and implacable hostility to it by the “Resistance Camp.” Hamas’ attack was calculated, among other things, to challenge the dynamic of normalization of Israel, and to wrong-foot the moderate states who have or are developing ties with the Jewish state. It sought to achieve this by highlighting the continued salience of the Palestinian issue, and by inflaming Arab and Muslim public opinion in support of the denial of Israel’s legitimacy and against their leaders’ policies.

The Gaza crisis, therefore, poses an extremely significant challenge for the governments of those Arab states who have diplomatic relations with Israel or that had been considering establishing relations. While it doesn’t seem that the current conflict will lead to a reversal of the Abraham Accords, it may well have significant effects on the prospect for regional economic cooperation and for further formalization of relations with Israel by Arab states.

Common Aspects in Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates

In early December 2023, I visited the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, two of the signatories to the 2020 Abraham Accords, to assess the impact of the present conflict on the two countries’ bilateral and regional diplomacy vis-a-vis Israel. My discussions, during and before the trip, with analysts and former officials in both places revealed that the Israel-Hamas war has complicated their domestic and foreign policies.

In both countries, the ruling regimes have made it clear that there will be no retreat from the decision to implement formal diplomatic relations with Israel—this is due to the continued robustness of the strategic and geoeconomic rationales that brought them to full normalization in the first place (and also to an unwillingness to let radicals dictate their national agenda). However, as one well-connected Bahraini told me, “the past two months have set us back years” in terms of public perceptions and the popular acceptance of normalization with Israel.

Is a Wider War About to Break Out in the Middle East?

Jacob Heilbrunn

Amid warfare, assassinations, and bombings in the Middle East, two developments could ultimately reshape the region for the better. The first is the discrediting of Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The second is the weakening of Iran.

Netanyahu has just suffered a major rebuff from Israel’s high court, which rejected his sinister attempt to create an Orban-style regime. Netanyahu had been touting a “judicial reform,” which was nothing of the kind. It was a power grab. Netanyahu’s gambit would have allowed him to annul the rulings of the judiciary rather than the reverse. He was stymied. The importance of the decision is two-fold. It upholds Israel’s fundamental democratic character. And it demonstrates the limits of Netanyahu’s political sway. The would-be strongman has been revealed to be a weak one.

Ever since the October 7 attacks by Hamas, Netanyahu’s poll numbers have crashed. His vaunted “Mr. Security” reputation proved to be a mirage. In fact, he jeopardized it by building up Hamas as a counterforce to the Palestinian Authority. And his de facto alliance with Russia imploded as President Vladimir Putin feted Hamas in Moscow in late October.

Consistent with his slippery character, Netanyahu has never missed an opportunity to shirk culpability for his serial failures. “I am stunned. I am just stunned. Our soldiers are fighting in Gaza. Our soldiers are dying in battle. The families of the hostages are in a huge nightmare, and this is what you have to do? There will be a time for politics,” Netanyahu declared in response to one questioner. His declaration was, of course, itself a political one.

Now, in an attempt to curry favor with the Israeli far right, Netanyahu is musing about transferring Palestinians to other countries while his finance minister, Bezalel Smotrich, is openly floating plans to engage in ethnic cleansing in the Gaza strip: “If there are 100,000 or 200,000 Arabs in Gaza and not two million, the whole discourse about the day after will be different.” Such statements have already prompted the Biden administration to issue a diplomatic rebuke. On January 3, the State Department declared, “The Secretary has made very clear on a number of occasions that there must be no forced resettlement of Palestinians from Gaza, that Gaza is Palestinian land and should remain so. And we will continue to make that clear to the Government of Israel, and we expect them to make that clear as well.”

Israel-Hamas War: What is Hamas's end game strategy? - opinion


Many ask what the long-term consequences of the fighting in the Gaza Strip are for the Middle East and the world. Let’s take a wider scope to try to answer this question. After World War II, it became clear that democracies had the upper hand for many reasons, including the moral values that characterized them, the technologies, the sciences, and the democratic governance system. Let it be clear that those who live in a democratic regime tend to ignore the shortcomings of the democratic system. Others living in totalitarian regimes or even in meritocratic regimes, such as Singapore, see the shortcomings of democracies and are ready to fight them to prove the superiority of their methods.

Strategists in non-democratic regimes tirelessly searched for a combat doctrine that would provide an adequate response to the superiority of the democratic state. It seems that we are in another chapter in that ongoing cultural confrontation. They studied the history of the wars fought in many places over thousands of years and found a solution that we currently see in the battle in Gaza. In this respect, Gaza is the testing ground of a new combat doctrine against democratic nations. Some call the doctrine that Hamas is trying “asymmetric warfare.” After all, every reasonable person asks: How does Hamas start a war knowing that it will be defeated on the battlefield and that its population will pay a heavy price? In conventional warfare doctrine, no army starts a war when it knows it will be defeated. What do they want to achieve in a war in which thousands will die, and their military power will be reduced beyond recognition in the end? All those who claim that their whole purpose is to show destruction so that the world will feel sorry for them are underestimating the intelligence of the thinking behind it.

It is important to remember that many regional powers are financing this Hamas campaign, and they certainly would not want to see their investment go down the drain. In order to invest so many millions of dollars, they must be convinced that it has a chance of subduing the enemy, which at the moment is Israel; but in the future, these will be other democratic countries.

India’s Quiet Support of the Philippines in the South China Sea

Shambhu Sajith and Aswani RS

Over the past months, the Philippines and China have been involved in repeated risky encounters around the contested Second Thomas Shoal, where the Philippines has a troop detachment stationed on a grounded naval vessel. In 2024, the South China Sea might become a larger hotspot than Taiwan, with major countries having a stake in limiting China’s actions in the region.

The need for an ASEAN-China Code of Conduct to manage disputes is more critical than ever. ASEAN’s efforts to bring peace, stability, and security to the region should be based on coordination between major powers like the United States and China. However, current developments in the South China Sea are far from collaborative.

Both China and the Philippines have documented incidents and presented their perspectives to the world, highlighting what they perceive as unfair encroachments on their sovereign rights. China argues that the Philippines has violated its historical nine-dash line claim and has involved extra-regional players in the region, potentially triggering a war. In contrast, the Philippines, backed by the 2016 arbitral tribunal verdict defining its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the South China Sea and nullifying China’s historical claim, has provided evidence of dangerous maneuvers by the China Coast Guard and actions against Philippine civilian vessels. These actions include the use of water cannons and lasers to blind Philippine crews.

The increasing presence of extra-regional powers in the South China Sea has the potential to shift the balance away from China and its historical claims in the region. This shift could impede the exploration of abundant oil and gas resources in the South China Sea, as well as hinder China’s ambitions to enhance its existing artificial islands and naval basins.

The emergence of AUKUS – a security alliance between Australia, the United Kingdom, and the United States – has exacerbated tensions and contributed to Chinese concerns. China is apprehensive that this trilateral alliance may lead to nuclear proliferation, spark an arms race, and instigate new age sabotage on critical infrastructure, above all fostering a Cold War mentality that threatens peace, prosperity, and stability.

Iran Moves To Seal Borders With Afghanistan And Pakistan After Deadly Blasts

Iran said it is shutting its vast borders with neighboring Afghanistan and Pakistan to increase security after the twin bombing that killed at least 89 people in the southeastern city of Kerman on January 3.

The Iran Students News Agency (ISNA) quoted Interior Minister Ahmad Vahidi as saying his government was prioritizing border crossings along borders with Afghanistan and Pakistan, both of which range for almost 1,000 kilometers.

The bombings in Kerman targeted people attending ceremonies to mark the fourth anniversary of the assassination of the late military commander General Qasem Soleimani, who was assassinated in Iraq in 2020 by a U.S. drone.

The Islamic State (IS) extremist group has claimed responsibility for the blasts saying that two of its members detonated explosive belts in the crowd that had gathered for Soleimani’s memorial. IS has in the past claimed responsibility for some terrorist attacks in Iran.

On January 5, Vahidi told state TV that the country’s intelligence agencies “have found very good clues regarding elements involved in the terrorist explosions in Kerman.”

He said that a number “of those who had a role in this incident have been arrested,” but did not elaborate.

Afghanistan’s Taliban-led government and Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs have yet to react to the announcement of the border closures. Both condemned the attack on January 3.

Opinion: ISIS attacks spotlight the simmering mess growing in the Middle East

Peter Bergen

The Biden administration has gone to great lengths to prevent a larger regional war in the Middle East. Yet, already, there is a de facto regional conflict raging with all the possibilities for screw-ups and escalatory responses that are inherent in such a conflict. Like a frog in a slowly boiling pot of water, the region may wake up one day soon and realize it’s in the midst of an all-out war.

The danger of growing conflict is rising and threatens to entangle the United States. That’s partly why US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is visiting the Middle East this week: to try to stop the widening hostilities.

Consider just the past few days: On Thursday, a US drone strike killed the leader of an Iranian-based militia in Baghdad, the Iraqi capital. Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and Syria have launched at least 118 attacks against US troops in Syria and Iraq since the October 7 attack by Hamas inside Israel.

The strike in Baghdad was a calculated risk by the Biden administration, especially since there are growing calls in Iraq to expel some 2,500 US troops that remain in the country on a mission to counter ISIS. The Baghdad strike has amplified those calls to expel US troops, according to the leading Arabic-language newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat.

In purported support of Hamas, the Houthis, an Iranian-backed militia that controls much of Yemen, have launched 23 attacks at commercial vessels in the Red Sea since November 19 using a variety of missiles, drones and sea-based drones.

China's Biggest Land Grab Carves Into Ancestral Areas Of Bhutan's Royal Family

Vishnu Som

A fresh set of satellite images, less than a month old, indicate the staggering pace at which China continues to illegally carve into northeast Bhutan by constructing townships along a river valley in Beyul Khenpajong, a region with deep cultural significance.

Bhutan, a nation with a population of less than 8 lakh - just one-fourth that of India's National Capital Region - can do little, but to watch China continue to salami-slice into its northern, western and southwestern periphery, a pattern of illegal land grabs evident across the Himalayan frontier.

"This case represents China making a very recent, doubtful claim about an area that is of great cultural significance to a far less powerful neighbour, knowing that the neighbour has few if any options as to its response," says professor Robert Barnett, an expert on Tibetan history at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) at the University of London.

A satellite image from December 21, 2023 shows the construction of a township in Beyul Khenpajong, one of many. An earlier image, from November 9, 2020, shows construction had not begun. High-res pic here

Beijing's construction activity comes despite ongoing border talks with Bhutan, and the extent of the construction here and in the nearby Jakarlung region clearly indicates that Beijing may be too far down the road to contemplate any withdrawal from these areas.

China is not ready to invade Taiwan (yet)


China ended 2023 by doubling down on its military purges, removing nine generals and three officials from companies linked to the aerospace defence sector. Then, in his New Year address, Xi Jinping pledged ahead of presidential elections in Taiwan this month that “reunification is inevitable”.

The problem is that the purge and reshuffle of China’s strategic top command posts demonstrates how far the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is from being able to sustain a war which would likely involve the US. Xi also recently culled leading members of the rocket force, responsible for China’s missile programme. This follows on from the detention and removal of defence minister Li Shangfu in October, as well as the sacking of two generals overseeing China’s nuclear missile programme in August.

As for the motivation behind these actions, there is speculation about corruption, political disloyalty, incompetence and even espionage. It is also possible that Xi has witnessed major shortcomings in his armies and is cleaning house before launching an attack on Taiwan. But regardless of the specific motive, what is clear from the ongoing purge is that despite his assertive tone, Xi is not confident in China’s armed forces. In that light, don’t expect China to engage in larger military operations against Taiwan or the US in the short term.

Understanding China’s Food Priorities for 2024

Genevieve Donnellon 

For decades, safeguarding food security has been a critical priority for China’s central government. Beijing has sought to strengthen its focus on food security through increased agricultural production and diversification of imports, and President Xi Jinping’s recent comments signal continued concerns at the top about China’s food security. Following the approval of the New Grain Security Law last month and ahead of the release of the No. 1 Policy Document (the country’s rural blueprint), there are already several hints regarding what the Chinese central authorities could prioritize in terms of food security for this year and beyond, based on the recently convened the Central Rural Work Conference in Beijing in December 2023.

President Xi’s Role in Promoting Domestic Food Security and Related Policies

The continued role of Xi, China’s “core leader,” in promoting efforts to safeguard food security should not go unnoticed. In 2021, he emphasized that China’s challenges and risks should be addressed with the country’s strategic needs in mind while also calling for more robust measures to guarantee stable agricultural production and supply and steady growth in both the industry and in rural areas. “The food of the Chinese people must be made by and remain in the hands of the Chinese,” he was quoted as saying by state broadcaster China Central Television. Xi has also called for efforts to safeguard grain acreage and protect farmland to encourage domestic production.

While highlighting the necessity of ensuring food security, in 2022, Xi provided reassurances to the public and international community that China will not face imminent risk of grain shortages. The Chinese government publicly pointed to the country’s bumper grain harvests and massive grain reserve systems. Although China has not released details regarding its stockpiles, officials from the country’s National Food and Strategic Reserves Administration noted that the supply in the domestic grain market is “fully guaranteed,” while grain reserves are at a “historical high level.”

Most recently, in his 2023 New Year Address, Xi declared, “Despite a global food crisis, we have secured a bumper harvest for the 19th year in a row, putting us in a stronger position to ensure the food supply of the Chinese people.”

China protests American ‘technological blockade’ amid semiconductor battle


The Chinese government accused the US of “hegemonic and bullying practices” today after reports emerged that Washington had pressured the Netherlands to restrict the export of machinery involved in the production of semiconductors.

“China opposes the US’s overstretching the national security concept and using all sorts of pretexts to coerce other countries into joining its technological blockade against China,” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin told reporters. “Semiconductor is a highly globalized industry. In a deeply integrated world economy, the US’s hegemonic and bullying practices seriously violate international trade rules, undermine the global semiconductor industry structure, impact the security and stability of the international industrial and supply chains, and will surely boomerang.”

The Dutch firm ASML said in a statement Monday that shipping licenses for machinery had been “partially revoked by the Dutch government, impacting a small number of customers in China.” The company said it had discussions with the US government about recent export rules that affect the machinery, known as lithography systems, and is “fully committed” to complying with relevant laws.

The company referred specifically to new export rules announced on Oct. 17 by US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo that were designed to “update export controls on advanced computing semiconductors and semiconductor manufacturing equipment, as well as items that support supercomputing applications and end-uses, to arms embargoed countries, including the PRC [People’s Republic of China]…,” according to a Commerce fact sheet [PDF].

China space warfare includes cyberattacks, jamming and on-orbit grappling, intel survey says

Bill Gertz

China’s plans for space warfare include the use of cyberattacks and electronic jamming to disrupt and disable U.S. satellite systems, while the Chinese military in the future will have small robot satellites for grabbing or crushing U.S. military space sensors, according to a report by a senior U.S. intelligence official.

China’s three types of anti-satellite missiles capable of blasting satellites at all orbits are under the control of the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Military Commission headed by President Xi Jinping and represent a deterrent force, according to Kristin Burke, deputy national intelligence officer for space at the National Intelligence Council, a senior analysis unit.

Ms. Burke disclosed new details of Chinese space warfare capabilities in a Dec. 11 report, identifying the People’s Liberation Army units in charge of space cyber warfare, electronic jamming and directed energy attacks on satellites. The report also revealed the locations of PLA bases and units armed with road-mobile anti-satellite missiles.

The unclassified report is based on PLA military and technical writings. It was written to assist U.S. military planners in targeting Chinese space warfare assets and in war games to better prepare for a possible future conflict with Beijing. The 79-page report, “PLA Counterspace Command and Control,” was published by the Air Force’s China Aerospace Studies Institute.

Mr. Xi declared in a 2012 speech to PLA missile forces that the military must “step up the construction of ground-based anti-satellite operational forces and ensure the on-schedule formation of combat capability.”

China’s most lethal strategic space weapons are three types of satellite-killing missiles identified in the report as the DN-1, DN-2, and DN-3 missiles, one of which is currently deployed on a road-mobile launcher. The missiles can reach all three orbit levels, low, medium and geosynchronous orbits.

China’s Biological Clock

Carmel Richardson

China wants to turn back its biological clock. The Communist Party’s one-child policy, a program which began before I was born and was phased out just two U.S. presidential election cycles ago, has since been replaced with a three-child policy to combat dangerously low birth rates and an aging population. In the years since it introduced the new objective, the CCP has used a variety of tactics—from financial incentives and party lectures on “family values” to phone calls from CCP officials—to attempt to convince women to become wives, wives to become mothers, and mothers of one to become mothers of two or three.

Chinese women are getting fed up with it, apparently. They are too busy with their careers and caring for elderly relatives, some told the Wall Street Journal this week, and the government’s cash incentives for having a baby are too small to outweigh a salaried job.

“Having had one child, I think I’ve done my duty,” one woman, Feng Chenchen, told the Journal. Feng said she would consider having a second child for 300,000 yuan, the equivalent of $41,000. That’s a good bit more than the $80 to $500 per month Chinese women have been offered by the party to procreate.

In other words, all the ham-fisted policies of a totalitarian regime are failing in the face of an economic crisis, and a feminist milieu, caused in no small part by the one-child policy. So far, the new measures have had the opposite of their intended effect: With the exception of a brief increase in 2016, China’s total birth rate has steadily fallen since the end of the one-child policy. It shrunk by more than 40 percent in the last five years. That low birthrate took the pro-natalist question beyond mere talk of labor markets when, for the first time since the Great Famine of 1960-61, the Chinese population hit a net loss in 2022. Early numbers for 2023, which have since been deleted by the CCP, depict an even greater drop in the past year.

Tit-for-tat wargames rumble and churn South China Sea


In another sign that the South China Sea is at the heart of a brewing US-China new Cold War, both superpowers conducted tit-for-tat wargames in the disputed maritime area in the opening days of the new year.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the United States Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) conducted the second iteration of the Maritime Cooperation Activity naval drills in the South China Sea from January 3 to 4 in a clear show of force by the two mutual defense treaty allies.

While the US sent its flagship Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), which was accompanied by a guided missile cruiser and two destroyers from its Carrier Strike Group 1, the Philippines deployed its flagship offshore patrol vessels BRP Gregorio del Pilar (PS-15), which was accompanied by three other warships and two naval helicopters.

The drills focused on cross-deck exercises, fixed-wing flight operations, joint patrols and maritime communication, according to reports.

Color Revolutions: The Most Sophisticated Means Of Warfare – Analysis

Matija Šerić

Color revolutions are political term used to describe turbulent political events: mass street protests and riots in order to achieve a revolutionary change of government. Some revolutionary upheavals are successful and some remain only attempts. However, so far they have taken place in a number of countries at the end of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st century.

Color revolutions broke out in the countries of the former Soviet Union, in the Balkans, in the Middle East, and more recently in other places such as Iran and China. The most popular revolutions ares: the Pink Revolution in Georgia in 2003, the Orange Revolution in Ukraine in 2004, the Tulip Revolution in Kyrgyzstan in 2005, and the Euromaidan Revolution in Ukraine in 2014. Some observers called the events a revolutionary wave whose beginnings can be traced back to 1986 and the Philippine Yellow Revolution.

The world we live in is changing more and more from day to day and so are the means of political struggle. Conquering power by military means is to some extent obsolete because people no longer have the will to die in the trenches like they used to. Classic wars are expensive and long and are being replaced by more subtle ways of conquering a certain area. One of the most important is the colored revolution. Under the guise of a democratic uprising, the removal of an unskilled government or a coup d’etat is actually being carried out.

Most often, external powers (without exception, the West) sponsor, plan, organize and implement “revolutions”. The role of external forces in colored revolutions is crucial and without them they cannot arise. These are revolutions mostly in name only. In fact, it is a sophisticated form of warfare, often an international conflict, although the legal profession does not (yet) recognize it as such.

Ukraine racks up wins against Russia in the Black Sea


Ukraine’s counteroffensive did not go as planned, but 2023 was not entirely a loss in its war against Russia. Kyiv scored a major victory last year in the sea while global attention was focused on ground movements.

In the Black Sea, Ukraine forced the Russian fleet to retreat from the historic headquarters of Sevastopol in Crimea after hitting ships and key buildings repeatedly with drones and missiles. That was a personal blow to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who lauded the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014.

The maritime success also opened a corridor for Ukraine to move grain shipments in defiance of Russia’s decision last summer to cancel an export deal, an economic and symbolic victory in the war.

“Ukraine won in the Black Sea,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said during a trip to Washington last month.

Zelensky has made the Black Sea victories a central part of his pitch to Western allies and supporters in the past couple of months — a sign of Ukrainian strength after the ground counteroffensive launched in June largely failed, delivering a stalemate on the frontlines of eastern Ukraine.

“This is huge,” said Olga Lautman, nonresident senior fellow at the Center for European Policy Analysis. “They literally shifted the balance in the Black Sea. … Besides practically reopening the Black Sea, they’ve taken out Russia’s navy and pushed them out for the most part. And the attacks continue.”

Ukraine has maintained an edge in the waters of the Black Sea since the war began in February 2022 — and Kyiv does not have a naval force, let alone one the size of the Russian fleet.

In the early days of the war, Ukraine secured its hold on Odesa, a Black Sea port city in southern Ukraine, and sunk the Russian flagship the Moskva.

The World’s Biggest Risks for 2024 Are More Than Trump

Robert A. Manning

This is the seventh edition of our annual “Top 10 Global Risks,” an exercise in foresight drawn from our forecasting experience at the U.S. intelligence community’s National Intelligence Council. In our previous forecasts, we have focused on the proliferation of small wars, food insecurity, developing-country debt, and growing climate change impacts—an ongoing polycrisis that is emblematic of our times: The post-World War II global system that the United States engineered is unraveling. Amid this disorder and strife, even more signs of distress will surface in 2024.

The biggest CJADC2 opportunity isn’t AI, it’s true interoperability

Nick Woodruff

Defense is the ultimate collective effort. That’s true within the U.S. military across branches, agencies and echelons, but it’s also increasingly true of working with our allies across the globe.

The conflicts of the 21st century require unprecedented global coordination as threats operate across geographies, borders, and digital platforms - incurring a geo-political complexity that grows with every micro-conflict. At this year’s AFA Conference, Admiral Grady, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm., echoed this urgency when discussing the latest release of the Joint Warfighting Doctrine: “U.S. military forces must ‘sense and make sense’ of their operating environments by fusing information from sensors across multiple domains — including space, air, and land — and make that information rapidly available for decision-makers.”

To be successful in future peer-to-peer warfare, we need to quickly recognize and appreciate that the “decision-makers” the Admiral was referring to are really within all potential permutations of allies and partners. If we aren’t building core command and control (C2) capabilities with this in mind now, we will lose when approached by a real threat.

The multinational nature of that reference is an aspect that often gets minimized in the planning and execution of Combined Joint All-Domain Command and Control experimentation. Decision advantage comes down to information superiority, which is why CJADC2 is so critical—but currently, too much focus is placed on data analysis rather than collaboration.

Emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning hold incredible promise for extracting mission insights, but for those insights to be operationalized we have to focus on a simple concept that’s incredibly difficult: seamless workflow interoperability. From planning to approvals to intelligence sharing to deconfliction - across different nations, branches, roles, and functions - this is an incredibly complex task, and it holds the largest opportunity in terms of accelerating mission agility and, therefore, actual deterrence. There are three primary pillars to realize this new world of global alignment:

Is America the "New" Great Britain?

Francis P. Sempa

Former national security adviser Robert O’Brien, writing in National Review, warns about the “dire state of America’s Navy relative to China’s.” America’s shipbuilding deficit and the “declining trajectory” of the U.S. fleet “endangers our national security.” China has more warships than the United States does. “On a tonnage basis,” he explains, “China’s shipbuilding capacity is 232 times greater than ours.” O’Brien characterizes this as a “national security crisis” because the “future of a free and open Indo-Pacific is at stake.” What is ultimately at stake is who shall be “mistress of the seas.”

The problem, writes retired Army Colonel M. Thomas Davis in Real Clear Defense, is America’s diminished defense industrial base that originated with the so-called post-Cold War “peace dividend.” Since then, Davis notes, “the American shipbuilding industry . . . is largely gone, replaced by Asian shipyards.” China’s navy is already the world’s largest, and its relative lead in shipbuilding places it in a position to replace the U.S. as the world’s leading naval power should current trends continue.

But China doesn’t need to replace America as the world’s leading naval power to take Taiwan, dominate the South China Sea, and change the balance of power in the Indo-Pacific. The Indo-Pacific region, Robert Kaplan noted in Asia’s Cauldron, is a “seascape . . . where the spaces between the principal nodes of population are overwhelmingly maritime.” Kaplan described the South China Sea as the “throat of the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean” and the “heart of Eurasia’s navigable rimland.” The geography of East Asia and the western Pacific invites a naval arms race, but the problem is only one side (China) is racing. It is as if Great Britain in the first decade of the 20th century stood-by as the Kaiser’s navy expanded in an effort to command the North Sea and the English channel. Perhaps that is why, according to NBC News, China’s President Xi Jinping “bluntly told President Joe Biden during their recent summit in San Francisco that Beijing will reunify Taiwan with mainland China.”

The great British geopolitical thinker Sir Halford Mackinder wrote in 1902: “Other empires have had their day, and so may that of Britain . . . The European phase of history is passing away, as have passed the Fluviatile and Mediterranean phases. A new balance of power is being evolved . . .” Mackinder’s premonition that the British empire was in its last years was based on his understanding of geography, economics, demographics, and technology. “In the presence of vast Powers, broad-based on the resources of half continents,” he explained, “Britain could not again become mistress of the seas.” And being mistress of the seas was necessary for Great Britain to maintain her empire because, as Mackinder noted, “The unity of the ocean is the simple physical fact underlying the dominant value of sea-power in the modern globe-wide world.”

The Pillars of Green Wisdom


The ongoing war in Ukraine and the fighting in Gaza following Hamas’s October 7 terrorist attack must not distract the world from our collective priorities: reducing our CO2 emissions, aiming for carbon neutrality by 2050, preserving biodiversity, and fighting poverty and inequality.

This is the doctrine France is implementing at an international level, through the Paris Pact for People and the Planet and the One Planet summits. The cornerstone of our strategy must be to speed up the ecological transition as well as the fight against poverty. After all, it is now crystal clear that no country will work to protect the planet if the price it must pay leads its citizens into a socioeconomic dead-end.

The world’s most advanced economies, which have also been the main CO2 emitters since the industrial revolution, must move away from fossil fuels. If we want to meet the goals of the Paris climate agreement, this is nonnegotiable.

Science has set the trajectory: we must move away from coal by 2030, from oil by 2045, and from gas by 2050. While the G7 countries bear the greatest responsibility, China, which is now the second-largest emitter in history, must be fully committed, too.

The threat posed by coal must be addressed first. Today, the 2,000 gigawatts of installed capacity emit enough CO2 to take us above 1.5°C. While the International Energy Agency recommends withdrawing 92 GW per year, 500 GW of additional capacity is already planned.

While it is the G7’s responsibility to move away from coal by 2030 (France will have done so in 2027), emerging economies are now the biggest coal consumers. In these countries, we need to speed up the financing of renewables, as well as nuclear power, which, as a manageable and a decarbonized energy source, must play a key role.

We must also put private financing and trade at the service of the Paris agreement. The cost of investment must be higher for players in the fossil-fuel sector. We need a green interest rate and a brown interest rate. Similarly, we need a climate clause in our trade agreements, because we cannot simultaneously demand that our industries become greener while supporting the liberalization of international trade in polluting products.

The Ukraine-Taiwan Tradeoff

Michael Poznansky

One of the chief justifications for sending military aid to Ukraine turns on deterrence. Proponents of Western support contend that it is essential for showcasing resolve. The United States and its allies, the argument runs, need to demonstrate to the world, and especially to Chinese President Xi Jinping, that they are willing to put muscle and resources behind efforts to combat unchecked aggression. But a growing chorus of voices argue that continued support to Ukraine is detracting from the real threat—namely, a Chinese invasion of Taiwan. 

The propaganda that damned Ukraine


The way the American media has dealt with the Ukraine War brings to mind a remark credited to Mark Twain: “The researches of many commentators have already thrown much darkness on this subject, and it is probable that, if they continue, we shall soon know nothing at all about it.”

It is a more verbose expression of a better-known maxim: in war, truth is the first casualty. It is typically accompanied by a fog of official lies. And no such fog has ever been as thick as in the Ukraine war. While many hundreds of thousands of people have fought and died in Ukraine, the propaganda machines in Brussels, Kyiv, London, Moscow and Washington have worked overtime to ensure that we take passionate sides, believe what we want to believe, and condemn anyone who questions the narrative we have internalised. The consequences for all have been dire. For Ukraine, they have been catastrophic. As we enter a new year, a radical rethinking of policy by all concerned is long overdue.

This is a consequence of the fact that the war was born in and has been continued due to miscalculations by all sides. The United States calculated that Russian threats to go to war over Ukrainian neutrality were bluffs that might be deterred by outlining and denigrating Russian plans. Russia assumed that the United States would prefer negotiations to war and would wish to avoid the redivision of Europe into hostile blocs. Ukrainians counted on the West protecting their country. When Russia’s performance in the first months of the war proved lacklustre, the West concluded that Ukraine could defeat it. None of these calculations has proved correct.


Paul Maxwell

Recent conflicts such as the war in Ukraine and the 2020 war in Nagorno-Karabakh demonstrate the growing importance of unmanned aerial vehicles. UAVs are a constant threat on the modern battlefield. These platforms conduct reconnaissance, attack ground targets, and perform as loitering munitions. They range from low-cost commercial, off-the-shelf devices to defense industry products such as the Iranian Shahed-131. By some estimates, UAVs are so prolific that the Ukrainian military alone loses over ten thousand platforms per month. Some Ukrainian forces report that it is not unusual to have twenty or more overflights per day by hostile drones. The availability and capabilities of these platforms make the battlefield dangerous in an entirely new way.

Naturally, there have been attempts to defeat this new threat. Some resort to traditional antiaircraft systems, such as ZU-23-2 antiaircraft guns, small arms, or surface-to-air missiles. These approaches are sometimes effective but are not ideal. Hitting a very small, fast target with relatively larger-caliber rounds is challenging. Alternatively, expending many thousands (if not millions) of dollars on each missile to eliminate an inexpensive UAV is an economically losing affair. Other means to defeat this growing threat include devices that use the electromagnetic spectrum. This can vary from jamming systems (GPS denial, communications link denial) to directed-energy weapons such as lasers and microwaves. Though effective at times, these devices come with trade-offs such as interference with friendly systems and the loud invitation to opposing artillery once the signals are detected. No matter the defense mechanism chosen, there just are not enough systems to provide sufficient protection against swarms of UAVs. Air defenses are typically fielded in just enough quantities to defend high-value targets and not much else. The average grunt on the battlefield is left victim to the terror in the skies. The solution for this dilemma is to take the next step in UAV evolution: air superiority drones.

A Page from History

To clearly see why air superiority UAVs (or fighter UAVs) are the natural next step, one only needs to examine the relatively recent history of powered flight in combat. Shortly after the Wright brothers succeeded in demonstrating that powered flight was feasible, the militaries of the world began research into the use of this new technology in combat. Developing aircraft, pilots, and supply chains to make systems at scale became priorities for many nations.

Marines using cheap commercial tech to hide command posts in plain sight


Marines deploying to Asia for recent exercises learned to hide their command posts using local cell phone networks and other commercial tech, part of a growing push within the military to adapt to modern battlefields.

The Marines’ command posts, whose tell-tale radio emissions could give away their position to an enemy, were able to execute most tasks through “host-nation Wi-Fi,” Col. Thomas Siverts said in a press briefing Friday.

Siverts commands Marine Rotational Force - Southeast Asia, which deployed for the second time ever from September to December, training in the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia.

The unit, modeled after other long-established Marine rotational forces, focuses on security cooperation with U.S. allies and partners, but can also respond to regional crises.

Using host nation WiFi allowed the Marines to blend “right into the environment,” Siverts said. Marines took cellphones on the deployment and accessed the mobile network with local SIM cards so their network wouldn’t stand out. “We’re not able to be detected,” he said.

Communicating that way requires encryption and small form factor communications, he added, referring to communications platforms that are much physically smaller than the platforms they typically use.

Another tool in the Marine Corps’ arsenal is commercial radars that are indistinguishable from commercial fishing vessels, Siverts said.

At the same time, the Marines are balancing the trade-offs between a command post being invisible to enemy intelligence collection systems and being effective, added Col. Brendan Sullivan, commander of Marine Rotational Force – Darwin, which deployed concurrently with Siverts’ rotational force.