10 January 2024

Israel-Palestinian bitterness deepened by Hamas attack and war

Yolande Knell

Even as war rages on in Gaza, causing huge loss of life, a recent survey suggests there is wide support among Palestinians for Hamas's deadly attacks on Israel which triggered it. Meanwhile, most Israelis are not focused on the killing of Palestinian civilians and back their country's military offensive to crush Hamas and bring home hostages, polls suggest.

Three months into the deadliest round of fighting in the decades-old conflict here, I have been asking Israelis and Palestinians in Jerusalem for their views.

Serving frothy coffees in the winter sunshine, the cafeterias in the west of the city are bustling. But for Israelis, the war raging in Gaza is a constant worry.

"It's always on our mind, we have many friends with children and relatives who are [soldiers] there in Gaza, and we pray for them a lot," says Edna, a religious Jewish woman from Bnei Brak.

"Just yesterday we visited the son of a friend who was very injured. They don't know if he will lose both his legs. By God's will, he won't," she says.

"And we keep on thinking about the hostages. It's like a piece of us is in there."

The families of those who were kidnapped by Hamas have been calling for the release of all the hostages

The attacks of the 7th of October killed some 1,200 people in southern Israel. More than 100 of the 240 hostages who were snatched and taken to Gaza remain in captivity.

Meanwhile, Israel's air and ground assaults in the Palestinian territory have killed about 23,000 people, the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says. The vast majority of Gaza's 2.3 million residents have been forced to flee their homes amid widespread destruction.


Daniel Boguslaw

WHETHER REPORTING FROM the Middle East, the United States, or anywhere else across the globe, every CNN journalist covering Israel and Palestine must submit their work for review by the news organization’s bureau in Jerusalem prior to publication, under a long-standing CNN policy. While CNN says the policy is meant to ensure accuracy in reporting on a polarizing subject, it means that much of the network’s recent coverage of the war in Gaza — and its reverberations around the world — has been shaped by journalists who operate under the shadow of the country’s military censor.

Like all foreign news organizations operating in Israel, CNN’s Jerusalem bureau is subject to the rules of the Israel Defense Forces’s censor, which dictates subjects that are off-limits for news organizations to cover, and censors articles it deems unfit or unsafe to print. As The Intercept reported last month, the military censor recently restricted eight subjects, including security cabinet meetings, information about hostages, and reporting on weapons captured by fighters in Gaza. In order to obtain a press pass in Israel, foreign reporters must sign a document agreeing to abide by the dictates of the censor.

CNN’s practice of routing coverage through the Jerusalem bureau does not mean that the military censor directly reviews every story. Still, the policy stands in contrast to other major news outlets, which in the past have run sensitive stories through desks outside of Israel to avoid the pressure of the censor. On top of the official and unspoken rules for reporting from Israel, CNN recently issued directives to its staff on specific language to use and avoid when reporting on violence in the Gaza Strip. The network also hired a former soldier from the IDF’s Military Spokesperson Unit to serve as a reporter at the onset of the war.

“The policy of running stories about Israel or the Palestinians past the Jerusalem bureau has been in place for years,” a CNN spokesperson told The Intercept in an email. “It is simply down to the fact that there are many unique and complex local nuances that warrant extra scrutiny to make sure our reporting is as precise and accurate as possible.”

The spokesperson added that the protocol “​​has no impact on our (minimal) interactions with the Israeli Military Censor — and we do not share copy with them (or any government body) in advance. We will seek comment from Israeli and other relevant officials before publishing stories, but this is just good journalistic practice.”

What AI Will Do to Elections

Rishi Iyengar

Ahead of India’s last national election in 2019, internal teams at Twitter came across a rumor spreading on the platform that the indelible ink with which the country tags voters’ fingernails contained pig blood.

The Specter of Nationalism

Pratap Bhanu Mehta

The world is embarking on a critical year for the future of democracy. Elections in India, Indonesia, South Africa, and the United States—to name just a few prominent countries headed to the polls in 2024—would normally be routine affairs. But many of these democracies are at an inflection point. Can the strengthening tides of polarization, institutional degradation, and authoritarianism be reversed? Or will democracy reach a breaking point?

China to sanction 5 US manufacturers over arms sales to Taiwan

China will sanction five U.S. military manufacturers in response to the latest round of U.S. arms sales to Taiwan, a foreign ministry spokesperson said on Sunday.

U.S. arms sales to Taiwan are a frequent source of tension between Washington and Beijing. China views democratically governed Taiwan as its territory, a claim Taiwan's government rejects.

The sanctions come ahead of Taiwan's Jan. 13 presidential and parliamentary elections, which China has cast as a choice between war and peace.

The U.S. State Department last month approved $300 million sale of equipment to help maintain Taiwan's tactical information systems.

The spokesperson said in a statement the recent arms sales "seriously undermine China's sovereignty and security interests, seriously jeopardise peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait".

The companies to be that will be sanctioned are BAE Systems Land and Armaments, Alliant Techsystems Operations, AeroVironment, Viasat and Data Link Solutions.

China will freeze the assets of these companies and ban people or organisations in China from engaging them, the spokesperson said.

The U.S. embassy in Beijing did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Taiwan election: China sows doubt about US with disinformation

Tessa Wong

The weeks-old claim followed another: the Taiwanese government was secretly harvesting blood from citizens and giving it to the US to make a bioweapon to attack China.

Both were swiftly debunked.

But this is a narrative that has been blooming in Taiwan ahead of Saturday's presidential and legislative elections.

"Yimeilun" or US scepticism, questions the faithfulness of Taiwan's biggest ally, portraying the island as a pawn exploited by America. Its ultimate goal, say analysts, is to drive a wedge between Taiwan and the US - and push the Taiwanese into the welcoming arms of China.

"There seems to be this narrative that the US will not support Taiwan, or will abandon it if there's a war, or the situation is not advantageous to the US," said Kuang-shun Yang, a disinformation researcher who coined the term in 2018.

Disinformation experts say China has a hand in spreading this message, and may even be creating it. Their evidence also points to Taiwanese close to Beijing.

It's not always conspiracy theories - most of the time it's a highlighting of news that shows the US in a bad light, or points to it as an untrustworthy superpower.

"For China, this is a battle for public opinion," said Puma Shen, a Taiwanese expert in Chinese disinformation and Democratic Progressive Party's legislature nominee.

"To persuade everyone that China is the better country is more difficult, but to persuade everyone that America is problematic is relatively easier… to China that would be considered a success."

How an underground industry is helping migrants flee China for the US

Yong Xiong, Simone McCarthy and David Culver

They come with backpacks carrying a few spare changes of clothes and whatever money and phones they weren’t robbed of by criminals or cartels along the way, arriving at the United States-Mexico border exhausted from the stress of the journey north.

Like the hundreds of thousands of people around them who have also trekked weeks to reach the US, they’re driven by a desperation to escape and make a new life, despite the uncertainty of what’s on the other side.

But these migrants are fleeing the world’s second largest economy and an emerging superpower.

On a recent winter day, dozens of Chinese nationals waited in different makeshift camps scattered outside San Diego, California, just north of the Mexican border.

A group of Chinese migrants gathered at a temporary camp near the US-Mexican border after illegally crossing into the US.

Bundled in hoodies and jackets, they huddled around fires as they, and others there, counted the time before US border control agents would take them away for processing – and what they hoped would be the start to their lives in America.

These arrivals are part of a staggering new trend. In the first 11 months of 2023, more than 31,000 Chinese citizens were picked up by law enforcement crossing illegally into the US from Mexico, government data shows – compared with an average of roughly 1,500 per year over the preceding decade.

Their numbers are still dwarfed by those from regional neighbors like Mexico, Venezuela, and Guatemala, and they are not alone in coming from other parts of the world. But the influx of people from China making that crossing spotlights the urgency many now feel to leave their native country, even in the midst of what leader Xi Jinping has claimed is a “national rejuvenation.”

The End of China’s Period of Strategic Opportunity: Limited Opportunities, More Dangers

Timothy R. Heath

In the early 2000s, Chinese leaders foresaw a period of strategic opportunity that they believed would enable the country’s rapid development. By the 2010s, however, the benign international environment became more hostile as an increasingly powerful China experienced a rise in tensions with the United States and some of its allies and partners. More importantly, China’s domestic situation deteriorated as decades of rapid growth generated destabilizing levels of inequality, corruption, and discontent over official malfeasance. Anxious Chinese leaders have elevated national security as a priority and sought to manage various international and domestic risks.\

The Onset and Decline of the Period of Strategic Opportunity

At the 16th Party Congress held in 2002, the president of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) Jiang Zemin stated, “the first two decades of the 21st century are a period of important strategic opportunities, which we must seize tightly and which offers bright prospects.” He described a “peaceful” international environment and relatively stable domestic situation. The benign environment permitted Beijing to prioritize national development in pursuit of national rejuvenation by midcentury. In Jiang’s words, “The two decades of development will serve as an inevitable connecting link for attaining the third-step strategic objectives for our modernization drive” to be accomplished by the 100th anniversary of the founding of the PRC in 2049.[1] The government did not provide an explanation as to why the period of strategic opportunity would last two decades, but the time frame was likely designed to accord with the policy benchmarks of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), collectively known as a “moderately prosperous society,” set to coincide with the 2021 centenary of the CCP’s founding.[2]

Chinese scholars have explained that the origin of this judgment originated with Deng Xiaoping. In the 1990s, Deng declared that China faced an opportunity to focus on development.[3] The designation of a period of strategic opportunity included several important judgments about the international environment. The first one involved a lack of a major enemy. Throughout the Cold War, China regarded war with either the United States or the Soviet Union as distinct possibilities and prioritized defensive preparations accordingly. But once relations with the United States thawed and the Cold War ended, China no longer faced a threat of major war. Second, Chinese leaders judged the international system as offering many opportunities. Thus, Beijing no longer needed to promote international revolution but could instead develop within a U.S.-led order. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, and China’s entry in the World Trade Organization (WTO) that same year added impetus to this view. The United States focused on fighting international terrorism and accordingly did not apply much strategic pressure on a rapidly growing China. The WTO accession corresponded with a major increase in Chinese economic growth as the world market provided lucrative opportunities for Chinese industry.

'China developing tools to control foreign satellites': Kenny Huang

Namrata Biji Ahuja

On December 12, representatives of India, the United States and Taiwan met in New Delhi, for closed-door discussions on the challenge of cyberattacks on democratic systems, as the three countries are holding general elections in 2024. Eric Garcetti, the US ambassador to India, said technical collaboration was essential to safeguard cyberspace in all three countries. Kenny Huang, CEO of the Taiwan Network Information Centre under the ministry of digital affairs in Taipei, has been on the job ever since. Huang is trying to cement the collaboration between the three countries to defend against a common threat factor―China’s covert cyber warriors.

Being cross-strait neighbours, Taiwan holds the key to some secrets of China, not so well known to militaries in other countries. One such secret is the swift advancement of the People’s Liberation Army in developing advanced cyber weapons that can ‘seize control’ of enemy satellites and threaten to disrupt global communication, navigation and surveillance systems. “The consequences may extend to the manipulation or disabling of crucial infrastructure, including GPS navigation, weather monitoring, communication networks and compromising military surveillance,” said Huang in an exclusive interview. Excerpts:

Q What kind of cyber threat is Taiwan facing from China?

A China poses a significant cyber threat to Taiwan across its military branches. China has developed advanced cyber capabilities in the air force, navy, ground force and rocket force. These capabilities target communication systems, intelligence networks and command structures, potentially disrupting air, naval and ground operations. In the rocket force, cyber tools may aim to secure and disrupt missile defence systems. China integrates cyber capabilities into its broader military strategy, emphasising information warfare. This comprehensive approach includes both offensive cyber operations and defence against potential cyber threats. Taiwan must prioritise cyber security measures to protect against these persistent and sophisticated cyber threats from China. Enhancing defences across air, naval, ground and rocket forces is crucial for safeguarding Taiwan’s military capabilities in the face of evolving cyber challenges posed by China.

US Army & Navy Lauch Massive AI-Focused China-Taiwan WarGame


An upcoming wargame orchestrated by the United States Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM) represents a pivotal juncture in the Pentagon's strategic overhaul of cybersecurity protocols, specifically through the rigorous testing of a zero-trust network security paradigm. This paradigm, a departure from conventional cybersecurity methodologies, is predicated upon the assumption of inherent network vulnerability, necessitating relentless surveillance and authentication to safeguard critical intelligence and operational integrity. The Department of Defense anticipates a complete transition to this zero-trust framework by 2027, underscoring its impending criticality in contemporary and future military operations.

This wargame, situated in the context of rising China-Taiwan tensions and at a period of continued cybersecurity innovation, seeks to validate the zero-trust model's efficacy in mitigating adversarial incursions, preventing unauthorized access by allied entities, and ensuring unimpeded connectivity for combatants in diverse theatres of operation. This initiative encompasses the Pentagon's commitment to preemptively neutralize the multifaceted cyber threats that have burgeoned in complexity and frequency that are typically associated with technological proliferation and geopolitical volatility.

Key figures like U.S. Army Secretary Christine Wormuth and U.S. Indo-Pacific Command Chief Admiral John Aquilino have been highly involved in the preparatory and evaluative phases of these wargames. Their engagement signifies the strategic importance placed to the successful integration of zero-trust principles within the military's operational and strategic framework.

China feels the country isn’t patriotic enough. A new law aims to change that

Chris Lau and Simone McCarthy

On a brisk December day, junior high school students in Fuzhou, southeast China, converged at a country park to study the thoughts of Chinese leader Xi Jinping.

Unfurling a red banner that declared their outing a “walking classroom of politics and ideology,” they sought enlightenment by retracing the footsteps Xi took on his 2021 visit to the neighborhood, according to a state-affiliated local news outlet.

Another group of youngsters in the northern coastal city of Tianjin toured a fort to reflect on “the tragic history of Chinese people’s resistance to foreign aggression.”

The trips are part of a ramping up of nationalist education in China in recent years – now codified into a sweeping new law that came into effect earlier this week.

That “Patriotic Education Law,” aimed at “enhancing national unity,” mandates that love of the country and the ruling Chinese Communist Party be incorporated into work and study for everyone – from the youngest children to workers and professionals across all sectors.

It is meant to help China “unify thoughts” and “gather the strength of the people for the great cause of building a strong country and national rejuvenation,” a Chinese propaganda official told a news briefing last month.

The push for a love of country and the Communist Party is far from new in China, where patriotism and propaganda have been an integral part of education, company culture and life since the People’s Republic was founded nearly 75 years ago.

And Chinese nationalism has thrived under Xi, the country’s most authoritarian leader in decades, who has pledged to “rejuvenate” China to a place of power and prominence globally and encouraged a combative, “wolf warrior” diplomacy amid rising tensions with the West.

Where have all the American China experts gone?

Rory Truex

The United States is running critically low on China expertise.

At a time of heightened competition with Beijing, our education system is not generating enough American citizens with Chinese language ability, meaningful lived experiences in China and deep area knowledge. And despite the ever-present refrain in Congress about the China threat, the U.S. government is actively disinvesting in China studies.

The result is a serious and overlooked knowledge asymmetry that gives China — where fluency in English and U.S. culture is common — the upper hand in understanding its strategic rival.

I took a very well-trodden path to becoming a China scholar. I began studying Chinese in college and went to China every summer to study the language and teach English. After graduating I was accepted into a PhD program in political science and for my dissertation I conducted several months of fieldwork in Beijing and Hunan province over three years, funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation. During one trip, I did a lengthy homestay with a Chinese family in Beijing. Only after all these experiences did I feel I had anything close to a handle on China, and even then, it was only in my narrow area of study at the time — the Chinese legislative system.

This path hardly exists for the next generation of American China scholars, or if it does, it’s filled with so many bumps and potholes, it’s almost not worth going down at all. By most metrics, China studies in the United States is in decline, with fewer American students studying Chinese than before the pandemic and fewer still spending meaningful time in the country.

Enrollments in college Mandarin courses peaked around 2016, then fell by more than 20 percent by 2020, according to data from the Modern Language Association. In 2011-2012, 14,887 American college students went abroad to China. By 2018-2019, that number had declined to 11,639, and by 2020-2021, to just 382. Although some colleges have begun to rebuild their programs in China, the pace is cautious and uncertain.

Pentagon’s Ukraine Coffers Run Dry, Threatening Kyiv’s Grip on Its Territory

Lindsay Wise, Ian Lovett, Doug Cameron and Nancy A. Youssef

The Washington stalemate over U.S. policy at the southern border is beginning to reverberate on the Ukraine battlefield, where Kyiv’s troops are running out of ammunition and the Pentagon says it can’t provide more without emptying its own arsenal.

In recent weeks, the Pentagon has run out of money to send more hardware and ammunition, just as Russia intensified its ground assaults and missile and drone attacks on Ukraine. The White House has asked for $45 billion to fund security assistance for Ukraine, but Senate Republicans are demanding border-policy changes in return.

“We’re out of money,” Pentagon spokesman Maj. Gen. Patrick Ryder said Thursday.

Short of congressional approval of more funding, the White House can either dip into the Pentagon’s arsenal with no guarantee the gear will be replaced, or leave Ukraine to rely on its own growing but still small arms industry and European allies.

Without an influx of weapons and ammunition, Ukraine could soon find itself in a dire situation. Ill-equipped to defend the 600-mile front, Ukrainian generals would have to choose between giving ground or sending outgunned troops into the trenches without artillery cover. In either case, Russia would be well-positioned to take more than the 20% of Ukraine’s territory it already holds. Officials in Kyiv and Washington warn that if Russia succeeds, other authoritarian leaders around the world would be emboldened by what they would perceive as U.S. weakness.

Ukraine’s counteroffensive last summer gained little ground in the country’s southeast at heavy cost. In October, as Ukraine ran low on shells and manpower—and Washington’s attention seemed to shift to the Israel-Hamas fighting in Gaza—the Russians went back on the attack.

Moscow has mobilized Russia’s economy for war against its much smaller neighbor, and Russia’s superior firepower is already yielding results. Its forces are consolidating control over Marinka in eastern Ukraine, a town of a few thousand inhabitants before the war that has been reduced to rubble by Russian bombardments.

Lloyd Austin Owes Americans an Explanation

Tom Nichols

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin was hospitalized this week, and apparently, the president of the United States didn’t know about it—for days.

Austin was admitted to Walter Reed Hospital following complications from an “elective procedure” on New Year’s Day, according to a statement from the Pentagon. “Elective” could mean almost anything that is not serious or urgent, but something went wrong, and Austin ended up in the Intensive Care Unit for four days, NBC News reported. In itself, the secretary’s incapacity is not a crisis; the Pentagon’s chain of command has multiple people who can take over for him. And there might be good reasons to keep such news, at least temporarily, away from the public (and America’s enemies).

But what possible reason could there be for Austin’s failing to inform President Biden and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, as Politico reports he did?

The most benign explanation (based on what little we know so far) would be that Austin’s health issues developed so rapidly that his subordinates assumed he’d be released, when in fact he was being held over repeatedly in hour-by-hour medical decisions for more treatment. Meanwhile, a competent and efficient Pentagon staff might have extended their acting duties beyond the one day they initially expected, while everyone involved mistakenly thought someone else was keeping the White House in the loop.

The more worrisome possibility is that Austin and his staff did not want to release the news that Austin was incapacitated to anyone—including the president and his staff. If Austin’s illness was kept under wraps by his aides to shield him from criticism or scrutiny, that’s evidence of a dysfunctional staff environment, in which actions to protect the boss’s equities overtake both necessary procedures and plain good sense. The fact that Austin’s hospitalization, according to Politico, was “a closely guarded secret, kept from even senior Pentagon officials and congressional leaders,” suggests that this strange episode was the result of more than just an oversight.

Fincantieri taps welding robots to build US Navy frigates faster

Tom Kington

As the builder of the U.S. Navy’s new Constellation frigates tries to ramp up schedules in Wisconsin, it is sending in the robots.

Seeking to shift up a gear and build two of the frigates every year at its Marinette Marine yard, faster than the current schedule of three every two years, shipbuilder Fincantieri says it is getting serious about automation.

“Welding is one of the skills it is hard to find, while the robot welding we plan to introduce triples productivity and increases quality,” said Pierroberto Folgiero, the CEO of the Italian company.

Fifteen years after buying Marinette Marine, Fincantieri is now building the first Constellation-class frigate for the US Navy with a planned completion date of 2026, part of an expected program of 20 vessels based on the FREMM frigate the firm has already built for the Italian navy.

In July Fincantieri unveiled MR4Weld, a tracked welding robot it developed with Italian firm Comau, which is active in the automotive industry. Equipped with a welding torch, the robot also has a video system which can autonomously identify welding joints or be told by a human operator where to weld.

“We are placing orders to start large-scale use of the robot in Italy and we want to export this as soon as possible to the US,” Folgiero told Defense News, adding, “that’s the big priority since we struggle to find welders in the U.S.”

He said, “The fact that Comau is part of the Stellantis group, which has operations in the U.S., should help.”

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin Must Resign

Joe Buccino

The Fallout of the Pentagon’s Lack of Transparency

The news that the U.S. Department of Defense failed to inform the American public that its Secretary of Defense was hospitalized in Walter Reed for four days represents a stunning breach of transparency standards. It is also a measure of reputational damage from which Secretary Lloyd Austin will never recover. He must be forced to resign.

The original admission – dropped at the end of a Friday to minimize exposure – that the Secretary received multi-day treatment for an unidentified elective surgery introduced immediate and intense scrutiny from national security reporters. It drew a formal admonishment from the Pentagon press.

The issue may have died there, but the subterfuge further grew the story. Additional reporting revealed some critical details not released by the Pentagon in its Friday announcement: Austin was in in-patient intensive care, generally reserved for those in immediate danger. Meanwhile, his Deputy Secretary of Defense, Kathleen Hicks, was vacationing in Puerto Rico.

Many questions now must be answered: Who was adjudicating the Pentagon’s support for the war in Gaza? Who was coordinating with Israeli defense minister Yoav Gallant on behalf of the U.S. military? Who approved the Jan. 4 strike into Baghdad that killed a militia leader believed responsible for attacks on American troops? Who coordinated that strike and its aftermath with defense officials in the Middle East? These are the kinds of actions that require leadership from inside the Pentagon. Why did the Deputy Secretary of Defense remain on vacation with the Secretary incapacitated?

Further, still – what is the health status of our Secretary of Defense? Only a severe condition would introduce multi-day hospitalization amidst multiple crises in the Middle East, a log-jammed war in Ukraine, and new Chinese threats against Taiwan. The statement Austin released late Saturday in an attempt to tamp down the controversy reveals he is “on the mend” – whatever that means – and looks forward to “returning to the Pentagon soon.” How long is he out? This seems much more serious than elective surgery – the line the Pentagon press officers are sticking with. What is his medical status at age 70?

This is what 8 U-2 Dragon Lady spy planes look like on an ‘elephant walk’


AU-2 spy plane is by definition not meant to be seen. It’s at its best operationally when it’s in the sky, tens of thousands of feet above the surface, watching its targets.

That said, they also look pretty cool when lined up on a runway as a show of “air power” as the Air Force put it.

On Thursday, Jan. 4 the U.S. Air Force’s units at Beale Air Force Base in California staged an “elephant walk,” essentially bringing out all of its planes for one long showcase of what it can do. It’s a display the military has been doing since World War II, with the Air Force staging one every so often, giving the public a glimpse at the fleet of aircraft.

Those are several U-2 Dragon Lady spy planes with the 99th Reconnaissance Squadron, lined up alongside the 1st Reconnaissance Squadron’s T-38 Talons and the 940th Air Refueling Wing’s KC-135R Stratotankers. Thursday’s showcase was the first elephant walk Beale Air Force Base has done in decades, according to the Air Force. There was no combat mission attached to this, no urgent response, simply a chance for the airmen at Beale Air Force Base to show off what their units are capable of mustering.

The U-2 Dragon Lady has been in use by the Air Force since the 1950s. Last year it got fresh attention after documenting one of the spy balloons that floated over U.S. territory in early 2023. The pilot of one Dragon Lady even managed to get a selfie with the balloon in high altitude.

The Air Force intends to retire the U-2 in 2026, aiming to replace the Cold War-era spy plane with newer technology. However the service has said that until then, it intends to keep the U-2 Dragon Lady in service to avoid a loss of operational capability. So until 2026, opportunities like the U-2 elephant walk this past week are still possible.

Russia maintains upper hand in electronic warfare with Ukraine

Lance Luo

Ukraine and Russia are both deploying sophisticated electronic warfare (EW) capabilities, but Moscow enjoys an upper hand as it heavily invested in these systems prior to the war, an FT analysis published Jan. 7 reveals.

Russia’s relentless barrage of airstrikes on Ukraine over the holiday period has underscored Ukraine's challenges in deploying EW capabilities to jam drones and missiles to protect critical infrastructure.

“The Russians have been producing so many lately that it’s becoming a huge threat. What’s happening here, the massive use of drones, is new , so EW becomes increasingly important," Colonel Ivan Pavlenko, Kyiv's EW chief, told the FT.

“Delivery to Ukraine of a sufficient number of powerful GNSS jammers or at least signal amplifiers could also help counteract enemy air attacks," he said.

Drones have significantly changed the battlefield and experts say is one of the primary reasons Ukraine’s long-awaited counteroffensive this year failed to make any notable gains. Armored vehicles can no longer achieve an element of surprise.

One Ukrainian solder told the FT Russian UAVs were “hitting us like mosquitoes” saying his colleagues were "falling like flies."

Ukraine’s Joint Forces Commander Highlights Importance of Logistics Support Amid Tensions

Rizwan Shah

In a recent rallying call to his troops, Lieutenant General Serhii Naiev, the Commander of the Joint Forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, underscored the importance of providing good field conditions for servicepersons within the northern operational zone. The announcement came as Naiev visited a stronghold involved in combat operations in the Kyiv region to assess combat readiness and logistics support.

Naiev’s Emphasis on Logistics Support

In an update shared on the Joint Forces’ Facebook page, Naiev commended the efforts made in organizing the service and living conditions of the military personnel. He emphasized the goal of making every serviceman as comfortable as possible within the realities of the field. The logistics services are actively working to ensure that support reaches each individual. Naiev noted that the positions and dugouts were designed to be reliable and efficient, taking into account terrain peculiarities and aiming for maximum comfort within field constraints.

Acknowledgment of Adequate Provisions

He acknowledged the adequacy of food provision and the decent living conditions provided, mentioning the shelters were warm and cozy. However, he also stated that there is always room for improvement and committed to continuing efforts to enhance logistics support further.
Reflections During the Epiphany Feast

Tired Zelensky looks too weak to achieve victory


Today Volodymyr Zelensky faces the greatest test of his leadership, greater even than the days almost two years ago when Russian invasion forces rolled across the border. Back then, when he was offered a ride to safety by the West and asked for ammunition instead, he led a country united in a fight for its life.

That’s not so much the case now. There are growing public divisions between Zelensky and other political leaders, such as former President Petro Poroshenko and Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko, as a blame game builds over failures in the war so far. Worse still, Zelensky and the Commander-in-Chief, General Valerii Zaluzhnyi, also seem to be in conflict. When Zaluzhnyi admitted that the war had reached a stalemate, Zelensky publicly rebuked him.

Apart from the overriding need for national unity in war, this suggests that Ukraine lacks a clear strategy for the future prosecution of the conflict. Zelensky continues to insist that Ukraine will regain all its territory taken by Russia; although, after apparently over-promising on the summer offensive, he no longer seems to talk of timelines. Demoralised by the failure of that counter move, some are now talking in terms of some kind of peace accords. It has even been suggested that a potential peace agreement could be put to a referendum.

When I was last in Kyiv, there was certainly discussion among some political leaders about the idea of a peace deal in which Russia would accept Ukrainian membership of Nato in exchange for guarantees that there would be no Ukrainian efforts to re-take occupied territory. Such talk might well be mere exasperation, but it is mana from heaven for Biden and many European leaders who want nothing more than such a peace agreement and as soon as possible.

Russian President Vladimir Putin reveals country’s new ‘enemy’

Jamie Seidel

Russian President Vladimir Putin cannot accept that his incompetent army has failed in its invasion of Ukraine.

So he’s desperately trying to spin a story to his people that they’re already at war with the West.

First, Putin insisted his invasion was to “de-nazify” the Kyiv-based Ukraine government – despite President Volodymyr Zelensky being a Jew.

Then, once his three-day invasion began dragging on for months, his war was recast as a “holy crusade” battling the “forces of Satan”.

Now, as the conflict approaches its third year, Putin is having to find a fresh argument to appease a general public struggling to come to grips with a horrific death toll.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has proclaimed Ukraine “is not the enemy” and has instead set his sights on a new target.

Ukraine itself is not our enemy,” Putin told a soldier while visiting a hospital for war wounded. “Those who want to destroy Russian statehood and to achieve a strategic defeat of Russia on the battlefield are mainly in the West.”

Putin then attempted to recast his war as Russia’s eternal ideological struggle.

“The point is not that they (the West) are helping our enemy. They are our enemy,” he said. “They are solving their own problems with their hands. That is what it is all about. Unfortunately, this has been the case for centuries and continues to be the case today.”

The Myth of Social Media and Populism

Jan-Werner Müller

2024 is a big election year for the world: More than 50 countries are expected to hold national polls, including large but profoundly damaged democracies such as India, Indonesia, and the United States. Anxieties abound that social media, further weaponized with artificial intelligence, will play a destructive role in these elections.

Jan. 6 showed the power of 'networked incitement'


The shocking events of Jan. 6, 2021, signaled a major break from the nonviolent rallies that categorized most major protests over the past few decades. What set Jan. 6 apart was the president of the United States using his cellphone to direct an attack on the Capitol, and those who stormed the Capitol being wired and ready for insurrection.

My co-authors and I, a media and disinformation scholar, call this networked incitement: influential figures inciting large-scale political violence via social media. Networked incitement involves insurgents communicating across multiple platforms to command and coordinate mobilized social movements in the moment of action.

The reason there was not more bloodshed on Jan. 6 emerged through investigation into the Oath Keepers, a vigilante organization composed mostly of former military and police. During their trials for seditious conspiracy, members of the Oath Keepers testified about weapons caches in hotels and vans, stashed near Washington, D.C. As one member described it, “I had not seen that many weapons in one location since I was in the military.”

The Oath Keepers were following Washington law by not carrying the weapons in the district, while waiting for Trump to invoke the Insurrection Act, which gives the president the authority to deploy the military domestically for law enforcement.

The militia was waiting for orders from Trump. That was all that kept U.S. democracy safe from armed warfare that day.

What happened in D.C. on Jan. 6, 2021, does not easily fit into typical social movement frameworks for describing mobilization. The insurrectionists behaved akin to a networked social movement, with online platforms forming the infrastructure to organize action, but its leaders were politicians and political operatives as opposed to charismatic community leaders. On that day in particular, the insurrectionists, who are closely aligned with MAGA Republicans more broadly, functioned like Trump’s volunteer army rather than a populist movement.

Conservatives Blast Mike Johnson's 'Total Failure' in Spending Deal

Maura Zurick

Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson faced backlash from his conservative colleagues on Sunday after announcing that congressional leaders had reached a tentative agreement to fund the government in 2024.

Johnson, a Louisiana Republican, was appointed the 56th speaker of the House of Representatives in October 2023 after Kevin McCarthy was ousted from the position the same month for negotiating with Democrats to avoid a government shutdown.

Senate and House leaders announced a 2024 budget deal of nearly $1.66 trillion on Sunday. Despite the agreement, it's unclear whether Congress will be able to pass it into law in time to avert a partial government shutdown as the deadline looms less than two weeks away.

In a letter that Johnson sent to his Congressional colleagues on Sunday obtained by Newsweek, the speaker said that after weeks of debate, "we have secured hard-fought concessions" to allow the Appropriations Committee to finally begin negotiating and completing the annual appropriations bills. Johnson's letter said the agreement includes $886 billion for defense and $704 billion for nondefense.

The U.S. Capitol is shown in Washington, DC. The inset shows House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Louisiana Republican, is facing Conservative criticism after Senate and House leaders struck a deal on 2024 government funding on Sunday.

"The agreement today achieves key modifications to the June framework that will secure more than $16 billion in additional spending cuts to offset the discretionary spending levels," the speaker said in the letter.

ULA's new rocket took off. But can it challenge SpaceX?


United Launch Alliance successfully launched its much-anticipated heavy-lift rocket, a key step in its plans to compete against launch titan SpaceX.

The first flight test and certification mission for ULA’s Vulcan Centaur rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida at 2:18 a.m. on Jan. 8, company officials said.

Vulcan will be “very competitive” in the space market because it has the capabilities of the Atlas V and Delta IV rockets combined into one system, officials said.

“Vulcan is really designed to support a full range of missions across all the markets that we serve, commercial, civil and national security, and because we do have that adjustability in its configuration can be really tailored to the specific mission,” Mark Peller, ULA vice president of Vulcan development, told reporters Friday ahead of the launch.

But even with Vulcan entering the launch market, SpaceX will still have an advantage over ULA once SpaceX’s Starship mega-rocket becomes operational. Starship will “have an order of magnitude larger payload capacity than Vulcan and a cost per pound that much less than even the Falcon 9,” said Todd Harrison, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

“I don't see any scenario in which Vulcan becomes cost-competitive with Falcon 9 or Starship, and a big reason is that it is not designed for reusability. What will keep Vulcan alive is U.S. military policy that says they want to have at least two launch providers, and commercial customers that want to avoid becoming dependent on Elon Musk—like Amazon. Once Blue Origin's New Glenn enters service and gets qualified to launch military satellites, all bets are off,” Harrison said.

However, ULA is looking at reusing the engines “downstream,” Peller said, maintaining that the current version of Vulcan is competitive regardless.