30 January 2024

Oct. 7 Was Worse Than a Terror Attack. It Was a Pogrom.


Eyal Barad was in the safe room of his home in Nir Oz for more than 12 hours on Oct. 7 while Palestinians went on a rampage of his Gaza envelope kibbutz, eventually kidnapping or murdering more than a quarter of its residents.

Every so often, Barad, 40, was forced to cover his 6-year-old daughter’s mouth with his hand to stifle her squeals. The little girl, who is autistic, thought the whole thing was a game. Most of the time, though, Barad was glued to his phone, watching the live feed of a camera he had recently installed outside his home to monitor speeding cars. Images from the feed, which I obtained, show Palestinian women and children—some appearing as young as 8 years old—taking part in the horror of that day.

Survivors’ accounts, video evidence, and the interrogation recordings of apprehended Palestinians paint a damning picture of the complicity of Gazan civilians both in the Oct. 7 attack, in which more than 1,200 people were murdered and 240 people were abducted to Gaza, and its aftermath. It is one that has sparked a debate in Israel that challenges the inclination to draw distinctions between ordinary Palestinian civilians of Gaza—often referred to in Israel as bilti me’uravim (uninvolved)—and their terror leaders. For many, Oct. 7 reeked of something that Jews have been familiar with for centuries; a phenomenon where not just a vanguard, but a society at large participates in the ritual slaughter of Jews.

Around 700 Palestinians stormed Barad’s kibbutz of Nir Oz—less than a five-minute drive from Gaza—that day, CCTV footage shows. The overwhelming majority of those, estimated by Eran Smilansky, a member of the kibbutz’s security squad, to be around 550, were civilians. They were largely unarmed and not in uniform. Some of those civilians carried out wholesale acts of terror themselves, including rape and abduction—and in some cases, the eventual sale of hostages to Hamas—while others abetted the terrorists. Others still simply took advantage of the porous border to loot Israeli homes and farms, including stealing hundreds of thousands of shekels in agricultural equipment.

How a Group of Israel-Linked Hackers Has Pushed the Limits of Cyberwar


About eight minutes after 3 am on June 27, 2022, inside the Khouzestan steel mill near Iran's western coastline on the Persian Gulf, a massive lid lowered onto a vat of glowing, molten metal. Based on footage from a surveillance camera inside the plant, the giant vessel was several times taller than the two workers in gray uniforms and hardhats standing nearby, likely large enough to carry well over a hundred tons of liquid steel heated to several thousand degrees Fahrenheit.

In the video, the two workers walk out of frame. The clip jump-cuts forward 10 minutes. Then suddenly, the giant ladle is moving, swinging steadily toward the camera. A fraction of a second later, burning embers fly in all directions, fire and smoke fill the factory, and incandescent, liquid steel can be seen pouring freely out of the bottom of the vat onto the plant floor.

Written across the bottom of the video is a kind of disclaimer from Predatory Sparrow, the group of hackers who took credit for this cyber-induced mayhem and posted the video clip to their channel on the messaging service Telegram: “As you can see in this video,” it reads, “this cyberattack has been carried out carefully so to protect innocent individuals.”

A close watch of the video, in fact, reveals something like the opposite: Eight seconds after the steel mill catastrophe begins, two workers can be seen running out from underneath the ladle assembly, through the shower of embers, just feet away from the torrent of flaming liquid metal. “If they were closer to the ladle egress point, they would have been cooked,” says Paul Smith, the chief technology officer of industrial-focused cybersecurity firm SCADAfence, who analyzed the attack. “Imagine getting hit by 1,300-degrees-Celsius molten steel. That's instant death.”

The Khouzestan steel mill sabotage represents one of only a handful of examples in history of a cyberattack with physically destructive effects. But for Predatory Sparrow, it was just a part of a years-long career of digital intrusions that includes several of the most aggressive offensive hacking incidents ever documented. In the years before and after that attack—which targeted three Iranian steelworks, though only one intrusion successfully caused physical destruction—Predatory Sparrow crippled the country's railway system computers and disrupted payment systems across the majority of Iran's gas station pumps not once but twice, including in an attack last month that once again disabled point-of-sale systems at more than 4,000 gas stations, creating a nationwide fuel shortage.

The Hidden Rivalry of Saudi Arabia and the UAE

Arash Reisinezhad

The Israel-Hamas war unfolded amid an apparent regional trend of peaceful coexistence. The Middle East’s transformation along these lines has been represented by the seemingly ever-closer alliance between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as symbolized by the apparent friendship between their respective de facto leaders, Mohammed bin Salman and Mohamed bin Zayed. The two countries united to counter Qatar’s expanding soft power in the Arab world, as exemplified by the unsuccessful blockade they imposed on it in 2017. They have been on the same side in their military campaign against the Iranian-backed Houthis in Yemen since 2014. And they have mutually approached Beijing and Moscow, adopting a more independent policy that diverges from their traditional alliance with the United States.

Why an End to the War in Gaza Is Still Far Off

Aaron David Miller

When it comes to the Israel-Hamas war and the future of the Gaza Strip—or the broader Israeli-Palestinian conflict for that matter—it’s high time we retire the so-called “day after” conceit. It’s well intentioned, to be sure, and suggests a logical transition from active conflict to some new post-conflict reality, marked by significant change in the politics, economy, and security environment for Gaza. But the notion of the day after really doesn’t fit here. There’s unlikely to be a bright line separating Israeli military activities from a post-conflict period in which the focus will be on governance and reconstruction. Indeed, of late I’ve been leaning toward the depressing conclusion of my inestimable colleague Nathan Brown, who argues that there is likely to be no day after at all, only a “long twilight of disintegration and despair.”

Abject Surrender of the State to Armed Militia in India’s Manipur

Snigdhendu Bhattacharya

The Northeast Indian state of Manipur, which has been in the grip of a civil war-like situation since May 2023, when violent clashes broke out between the Meitei and Kuki ethnic groups, stood witness to a new low of lawlessness on January 24, when the chief of an armed militia, the Ararmbai Tenggol, administered an “oath” to 37 members of the state legislative assembly and two members of the Indian parliament.

The MPs were R.K. Ranjan Singh, junior minister for external affairs in the Narendra Modi government, who hails from Manipur, and Leishemba Sanajaoba, a member of the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Indian Parliament. Others who participated in the event included ministers in the Manipur state government as well as former Chief Minister Okram Ibobi Singh.

“I pledge to personally do my part for protecting our community and Sanamahi (religion). I will not betray or let my community and religion down and become a traitor,” goes part of the oath that can be heard in videos circulating online.

The administering of the oath to the legislators happened just a day after a special team from India’s Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) met Arambai Tenggol chief Korounganba Khuman in the state capital Imphal to discuss their demands.

The Arambai Tenggol had called for the meeting with the legislators on January 20, warning that anyone staying away would be considered an enemy of the people. When media reports indicated that some legislators were considering resigning rather than participating in the oath-taking, Khumam issued a statement, saying that anyone who wished to resign could do so only after attending the January 24 event.

A government official claimed that the MHA team had tried to persuade Khuman to cancel or postpone Tuesday’s event but he did not budge. The Diplomat could not independently verify this claim.

The Foreign Policy Angle in India’s Upcoming National Elections

Arvind Mohan

It is traditional wisdom to argue that foreign policy is a negligible factor in Indian elections. While it is undeniable that voters are primarily concerned with quotidian economic issues and questions of identity, it would be unfair to conclude that foreign policy is a mere sideshow that concerns a small group of well-off elites. It is worth remembering that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won the 2019 election on the back of an election campaign that placed questions of national security at the forefront. After the Pulwama attack and the air strikes conducted by the Indian air force, national security and India’s relationship with Pakistan became important electoral issues. A sizable chunk of the electorate was convinced that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had delivered a befitting reply to Pakistan and this perception helped the BJP seal the election with a huge mandate in its favor.

The BJP has consistently relied on its foreign policy credentials to bolster its domestic popularity; foreign policy machismo is central to Modi’s image as a strongman. The government now touts India as a “Vishwaguru” (world teacher), an exemplary state that is a role model for others. With elections round the corner in 2024, it was by design that India’s G-20 presidency last year was advertised by the government as indicating India’s arrival on the world stage as a country in the comity of great powers. The BJP will continue to drive home these messages as it gears up for campaigning.

Moreover, the condition of the Hindu minorities in Pakistan and Bangladesh has always animated BJP’s election campaigns. Regional parties have also made ethnic issues outside national borders into key poll planks. The Sri Lankan Tamil issue played an important role in the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam winning 18 of the 39 states in Tamil Nadu in the 2009 elections. And for people who live in border areas, India’s relationship with its neighbors is always a key electoral issue.

What could be the other foreign policy discourses around this election? India’s biggest strategic challenge at present comes from China. The opposition has vehemently criticized the government’s handling of the border situation with China. It was after all on Modi’s watch in 2020 that 20 Indian soldiers were killed in a clash with China in the Galwan Valley, the first such incident in at least 45 years. The opposition, especially the Indian National Congress and Rahul Gandhi, will likely bring up India’s loss of patrolling rights and the government’s inability to restore the status quo ante in order to dent Modi’s image as a national security hawk.

When Does Welfare Win Votes in India?


Ambitious welfare programs and promises will likely be a central issue in India’s 2024 general elections. Over the past decade, there has been a sea change in how governments deliver welfare benefits to citizens. Technological advancements and state capacity improvements have allowed both central and state governments to transfer benefits directly to voters, weakening meddlesome middlemen. Unlike the discretionary sops of the past, these rule-based direct transfers are supposed to reduce favoritism and corruption. In so doing, they are widely perceived to be popular vote winners. Yet, in actuality, there is limited hard evidence of “schemes translating into votes.” This uncertainty presents a question: how, if at all, have transformative changes in India’s welfare state affected voting behavior?


India has experienced at least three interrelated transformations in the functioning of the welfare state: less discretion in the selection of beneficiaries, the direct transfer of benefits, and a proliferation of benefits.

India’s impressive digital public infrastructure allows the government to reduce discretion in beneficiary selection and transfer benefits directly to citizens. The socioeconomic census data and big data triangulated from multiple sources provide the government with granular, household-level information to frame objective rules and criteria. Near-universal biometric identification via the Aadhaar program allows the government to confirm that the intended recipient of a program is the actual beneficiary. An expansion of mobile banking services has allowed the government to transfer money directly into the accounts of beneficiaries, who can access their funds with the push of a button. The ubiquitous use of mobile phones has unlocked a host of features such as the geotagging of assets and the ability to verify that beneficiaries are using transfers for their intended purposes. All told, the scale of welfare provision is staggering. There are more than 300 programs delivering benefits to citizens across the country, programs that range from a $10 cooking gas cylinder to a $2,000 house. These programs reach nearly 950 million people and have accounted for $270 billion in government spending since 2017.

Why Iran Chose To Provoke Pakistan – Analysis

Dr. Imran Khalid

In the complex landscape of South Asian geopolitics, the recent escalation of tensions between Iran and Pakistan has drawn the attention of global observers. Against the backdrop of a historical relationship marked by mistrust and periodic discord, the current situation raises concerns about the potential ramifications for regional stability.

The catalyst for the latest bout of tensions can be traced to an Iranian cross-border attack on alleged terrorist hideouts in Pakistan’s Balochistan province. The move, projected by the Iranian foreign minister as a retaliatory measure against militant activities emanating from Pakistani soil, triggered a series of responses and counter-responses, bringing the two neighbors to a critical juncture.

From a Pakistani perspective, the swift military action in response to Iran’s violation of its airspace was framed as a targeted operation against militants. Codenamed ‘Marg Bar Sarmachar’ (death to insurgents), Pakistan emphasized its commitment to eradicating terrorist elements that pose a threat to its national security. The operation, as stated by Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, eliminated specific terrorist hideouts within Iran’s Sistan and Baluchistan Province. After this tit for tat episode, the situation between the two countries is apparently moving towards normalization.

The puzzling timing of Iran’s unprovoked attack raises many pricking questions about its strategic objectives, especially amid heightened tensions with the United States in other parts of the region. Interestingly, on the day Iran conducted its strike, the caretaker prime minister of Pakistan engaged in a meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian during the World Economic Forum in Davos. The navies of both nations were also actively participating in a joint military exercise. Additionally, a Pakistani trade delegation was present in Iran, while another Iranian delegation was concurrently visiting Pakistan.

Taiwan and Japan must learn from Russian cyberwarfare

Yuster Yu and Mihoko Matsubara

Cyberwarfare has emerged as a significant element of modern warfare ever since Russia's invasion of Georgia in 2008.

In that campaign and others since, Russia has used cyberattacks to collect intelligence on opponents' military operations and civil services. Cyber operations have also played a role in targeting attacks for bombings and sabotage. For instance, Russia allegedly utilized hacked online surveillance cameras in Kyiv to reconnoiter critical infrastructure facilities for targeting with missiles earlier this month.

Given Beijing's belligerent attitude toward the election of Lai Ching-te as Taiwan's next president and its refusal to renounce using force against the island, it is important that China's neighbors review their cybersecurity defenses and seek lessons from Russia's attacks and Ukraine's responses. Japan in particular could be targeted as a supporter of Taiwan and a treaty ally of the U.S.

It is important to note that Russia's cyberattacks have not been as successful as Moscow likely expected, but both Russia and China are learning from those failures to improve their tactics, techniques and procedures, and this could make future strikes more effective.

Already, Russia's cyberattacks have disrupted critical infrastructure such as telecommunications and electricity networks in Ukraine.

A cyber assault last month on Kyivstar, Ukraine's largest telecom operator, affected 40% of its network infrastructure, temporarily paralyzing air raid alert systems, ATMs and in-store credit card payment terminals. The company later said it incurred a $95 million loss from the attack. In October 2022, a power outage caused by hackers coincided with massive missile strikes against critical infrastructure across Ukraine, in line with Russian military writings that emphasize synchronizing cyber and traditional military operations.

Space warfare: US, China, and Russia are gearing up for the next frontier of armed conflict

Rebekah Koffler

The next big war may be fought in space.

As the Pentagon is gearing up for a future celestial conflict, so are our chief adversaries, China and Russia. Here’s why "Star Wars" is no longer merely a topic of science fiction. The best way to avoid space warfare is to be ready for it.

On Dec. 28, Elon Musk’s Space X launched into space the Pentagon’s highly secretive X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle, an unmanned reusable robotic spacecraft operated by the Air Force, in collaboration with Space Force. Most details about the Boeing X-37B’s payload and missions are top secret, and even its orbital regime is classified.

Former Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson revealed in 2019, however, that X-37B can change its orbit "when it’s close enough to the atmosphere." She boasted that the spacecraft can catch our adversaries off guard because the maneuver takes place "on the far side of the Earth from our adversaries," so they don’t know "where it's going to come up next" and "that drives them nuts."

During my service in the Defense Intelligence Agency, I specialized in foreign space doctrines and operations and participated in war games simulating a conflict in space. I can attest that China and Russia consider the X-37B a counter-space weapons platform and are obsessed with trying to gain insights into its capabilities. Both have space warfare programs, targeting their main perceived enemy, the United States of America.

The combination of China's space station lab module Mengtian and a Long March 5B Y4 carrier rocket is ready for launch on the launch tower at the Wenchang Space Launch Site on Oct. 31, 2022 in Wenchang, Hainan Province of China. Whole-system testing for the upcoming launch of China's space station Mengtian lab module was conducted on Saturday. 

Exclusive: China presses Iran to rein in Houthi attacks in Red Sea, sources say

Parisa Hafezi and Andrew Hayley

Chinese officials have asked their Iranian counterparts to help rein in attacks on ships in the Red Sea by the Iran-backed Houthis, or risk harming business relations with Beijing, four Iranian sources and a diplomat familiar with the matter said.
The discussions about the attacks and trade between China and Iran took place at several recent meetings in Beijing and Tehran, the Iranian sources said, declining to provide details about when they took place or who attended.

"Basically, China says: 'If our interests are harmed in any way, it will impact our business with Tehran. So tell the Houthis to show restraint'," said one Iranian official briefed on the talks, who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity.

The attacks, which the Houthis say are in support of Palestinians in Gaza, have raised the cost of shipping and insurance by disrupting a key trade route between Asia and Europe used widely by ships from China.

The Chinese officials, however, did not make any specific comments or threats about how Beijing's trading relationship with Iran could be affected if its interests were damaged by Houthi attacks, the four Iranian sources said.

While China has been Iran's biggest trading partner for the past decade, their trade relationship is lopsided.

Chinese oil refiners, for example, bought over 90% of Iran's crude exports last year, according to tanker tracking data from trade analytics firm Kpler, as U.S. sanctions kept many other customers away and Chinese firms profited from heavy discounts.

Iranian oil, though, only accounts for 10% of China's crude imports and Beijing has an array of suppliers that could plug shortfalls from elsewhere.

US Secretly Warned Iran Of Threat Within Its Borders Ahead Of Deadly Attack On Soleimani Memorial

The U.S. government provided Iran with a “private warning” about a terrorist threat within its borders ahead of a deadly attack earlier this month that killed more than 80 people, a U.S. official said on January 25.

The official said the U.S. government followed a long-standing “duty to warn” policy to warn governments against potential lethal threats.

“We provide these warnings in part because we do not want to see innocent lives lost in terror attacks,” a U.S. official said on condition of anonymity in an e-mail to RFE/RLconfirming a report earlier by the Wall Street Journal, which was the first to report about the warning.

Two explosions on January 3 at a memorial for U.S. of Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) General Qasem Soleimani in the southeastern city of Kerman were claimed by Islamic State (IS). The group said two of its members detonated their suicide vests, causing the explosions, which injured more than 280 people.

Loose lips can still sink ships: Protect your Critical Information


In the early stages of the Vietnam War, Pentagon officials were puzzled why U.S. bombing missions against northern Vietnam were yielding meager results. Accordingly, the U.S. Government investigated and, in what became known as the Purple Dragon study, concluded that U.S. forces were inadvertently revealing flight plan information to North Vietnam, which could then take evasive action.

Addressing the challenge of keeping information on U.S. military strengths and vulnerabilities away from hostile forces became known as operations security—or OPSEC. Ultimately, in 1988, President Ronald Reagan directed elements of the Executive Branch that support classified or sensitive activities to establish formal OPSEC programs. Since then, OPSEC has been applied not just across the U.S. military and Intelligence Community, but in various private industries and other sectors.

As the digital age has progressed, OPSEC has become more challenging. In 2018, the Defense Department barred its employees from using geolocation features on their mobile devices in operational areas after fitness app data appeared online revealing their exercise routines in sensitive overseas locations. Recently, Russia’s war on Ukraine has highlighted the fatal consequences of poor digital OPSEC. Press reports last year, detailed cases of Russian troops being killed by Ukrainian strikes after using cell phones to contact relatives or post photos online while leaving their geolocation tags on.

With adversaries today targeting not only the U.S national security community, but also extracting data and technology from virtually every sector of our economy, OPSEC is a concept all organizations should embrace. OPSEC is a proven discipline designed to deny adversaries the ability to collect, analyze, and exploit information that might provide them an advantage. It is a process of continual assessment that identifies and analyzes critical information, vulnerabilities, risks, and external threats.

What’s Next for the Palestinians?


Whatever else the Gaza war has done, it has ensured that the masks have fallen on Israeli intentions to make serious concessions for peace with the Palestinians. As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to spar with President Joe Biden over a two-state solution, the upshot is clear: the Israeli political class, across the spectrum, either refuses to give up any land or remains very reluctant to break free from a model of occupation that has prevailed for over half a century.

This model is one that denies Palestinians their minimal demands for a settlement with Israel. It is based on offering them an aborted entity, with none of the attributes of sovereignty, and calling this creation a Palestinian state; legitimizing Israel’s illegal annexation of a significant portion of Arab land occupied in 1967; giving Israel a blank check to intervene militarily inside Palestinian areas; and burying the Palestinian refugee problem for good. These ideas were all, explicitly or implicitly, in the foundational roadmap for occupation, the Allon Plan.

But what is the situation on the Palestinian side? If Hamas can sustain the popularity it earned by attacking Israel on October 7, and if Palestinians are willing to look beyond the devastation that Israel has visited on Gaza as a consequence of this, then it would probably be fair to say that Hamas will have much more of a role to play in defining a political path for Palestinian society. But that implies that the organization will clarify what its real intentions are.

For a time, Hamas floated the idea of a long truce with Israel—in effect a vague form of peace that dared not speak its name. Recently, the party’s leadership abroad went a step further, when Ismail Haniyeh, the head of Hamas’s Political Bureau, declared last November 1, “We are ready for political negotiations for a two-state solution with Jerusalem as the capital of Palestine.” However, given the apparent divisions within the Hamas leadership, it’s unclear whether the statement was authoritative and spoke for the whole organization.

Ukraine’s Black Sea success exposes folly of West’s “don’t escalate” mantra

Peter Dickinson

There is no disguising the disquiet in today’s Ukraine as the country braces itself for what promises to be an exceptionally difficult year. The optimism of early 2023 has been replaced by a far gloomier outlook that reflects the failure of Ukraine’s much-hyped counteroffensive and mounting alarm over delays in vital military aid from the country’s international partners.

This is fueling fresh calls for a negotiated settlement, with advocates arguing that the war with Russia has now reached a stalemate. However, talk of an impasse may be premature. Although the 1000 kilometer front line of the conflict has barely moved for the past twelve months, events elsewhere indicate a military breakthrough could still be a realistic possibility.

While the international media has spent much of the past year firmly focused on the bloody but largely static battlefields of eastern and southern Ukraine, the most dynamic developments of the war in 2023 actually took place at sea. Despite having no warships of its own, Ukraine managed to force Putin’s fleet to retreat from Crimea and succeeded in breaking the Russian naval blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports. This remarkable Ukrainian progress may now offer a blueprint for a more general victory over Russia.

Ukraine has been able to transform the balance of power in the Black Sea thanks to the skill, boldness, and ingenuity of the country’s military, together with ample supplies of Western weapons and the ability to use them without being hampered by restrictions based on misguided fears of a possible escalation. If applied to the wider Ukrainian war effort, this winning combination could pave the way for Russia’s eventual defeat.

On the eve of the full-scale invasion two years ago, Russian mastery of the Black Sea seemed all but assured. Ukraine was even more hopelessly outgunned at sea than on land, and appeared no match for the might of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet. Putin was so confident that he began the blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports under the guise of naval exercises almost two weeks before the start of the land invasion.

Pentagon, under scrutiny, halts work with condemned foreign militaries

Abigail Hauslohner and Alex Horton

The Pentagon has abruptly abandoned plans to train alongside the militaries of several countries either involved in the overthrow of democratic governments or accused of human rights violations, reversing course amid recent scrutiny.

The plans, disclosed to Congress in October and reviewed by The Washington Post, detailed the Pentagon’s intent to hold joint exercises this year with Sudan, Niger, Mali and other troubled African nations. Each is broadly prohibited under U.S. law from receiving American security assistance.

The documents, which have not been made public, account for millions of dollars in projected government spending. They revealed anticipated and ongoing partnerships with scores of foreign militaries, including about a dozen that have been condemned by the Biden administration and other governments for participating in coups or committing grave abuses, including extrajudicial killings and mass rape.

When pressed to explain why it partners with such countries, the Defense Department told The Post that at least six of the abusive militaries — those from Burkina Faso, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mali, Niger and Sudan — were no longer slated to participate in the exercises. It is unclear whether the Pentagon also will sever plans to train with other countries that have experienced military coups or whose human rights records clash with President Biden’s stated commitment to advance human rights and democratic ideals.

One defense official, who like some others spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the situation, said the U.S. military “never had an intention” to train with countries facing restrictions. A second defense official characterized the list submitted to Congress as fluid, saying it is possible other countries’ participation could be canceled, too.

The about-face appears driven, at least in part, by criticism from members of Biden’s own political party who, upon learning of the Pentagon’s plans, implored the administration to change course immediately. It’s the latest instance of fellow Democrats challenging aspects of the president’s foreign policy, having questioned his administration’s steadfast support for Israel amid soaring civilian casualties in Gaza and whether he has the authority to wage a new military campaign targeting militants in Yemen.

Ukraine’s Fate and Europe’s Future: A View from Sweden

Robert Dalsjö

Russia’s war in Ukraine is not only about Ukraine’s freedom and existence as an independent nation-state, or about human rights and freedom from oppression. At its heart, the war is about the future of Europe and the European security order. Russian President Vladimir Putin has demolished the common European house that Mikhail Gorbachev envisioned, brutally trampling the cooperative and democratic security order agreed upon in 1990. In its place, he wants to build a new order where Russia is restored to what Putin presumes is its rightful place as an empire dominating at least half of Europe. Putin and Russia must be externally stopped, deterred and contained. If Russian aggression is not repelled in Ukraine, Moscow will be emboldened and in a strong position to threaten, coerce and disrupt the rest of Europe.

How the war might end

There are three ways in which the war in Ukraine might end: a Russian victory, a Ukrainian victory or some kind of draw.

A Russian victory seemed unlikely after the failure of Russia’s march on Kyiv and its 2022 summer offensive, followed by Ukrainian successes in the autumn. But it seems more plausible after the failure of this past summer’s Ukrainian offensive and clear signs of flagging Western support for Ukraine. Russia’s main chance of winning this war rests on its willingness to keep fighting despite horrendous losses, and to wait for the West to grow tired and Ukraine to become exhausted. Delayed support packages in the European Union and the United States’ Congress are encouraging to the Kremlin, as are the prospect of Donald Trump returning to power and mounting signs of division within Ukraine concerning the conduct of the war.

Russian victory would probably mean the annexation of much of Ukraine, with the rump state subservient to Moscow – much as Belarus is today – and the harsh suppression of Ukrainian nationality and human rights. Tens of millions of Ukrainians might flee to the safety of the EU. Feeling vindicated by victory, Putin would rebuild his forces, poise his armies on the Bug River and look to dominate half of Europe.

The US Re-Engages With Africa

Ronan Wordsworth

After three decades of treating the African continent mostly as an afterthought, the U.S. is adjusting its strategy to curb the growing influence of its biggest rivals. The new approach was detailed in an August 2022 report, “U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa,” which described plans for a more pragmatic Africa policy and greater engagement in the realms of security and economics. Then, in December 2022, U.S. President Joe Biden hosted leaders and senior officials from 49 African countries in Washington. This new U.S. focus on pragmatic engagement across multiple sectors became increasingly evident throughout 2023.

From the Cold War to Wagner

After the first wave of decolonization dislodged European powers from Africa from the mid-1950s until the early 1960s, the global competition between two new superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union, cast a shadow over the continent. To contain Soviet influence and communist ideology, the U.S. formed partnerships and provided financial and security aid to friendly African governments as well as groups opposed to pro-Soviet regimes. When the Cold War ended, Africa tumbled down the list of U.S. foreign policy priorities. In most cases where it became involved, Washington tended to stress adherence to Western ideals like democracy, transparency and human rights, which often clashed with the interests of authoritarian African regimes. With Washington offering less but demanding more, growing numbers of Africans questioned whether the U.S. could meet their countries’ needs.

Into this vacuum stepped Russia and China. The Chinese offered investment, but the Russians offered guns. Initially through the mercenary Wagner Group, Russian forces spread in and around the Sahel – in Mali, Burkina Faso, Libya, the Central African Republic and Sudan – and entrenched themselves in the national security infrastructure (not to mention lucrative mining concerns). Western-led efforts to isolate Russia over its February 2022 invasion of Ukraine spurred Moscow to dedicate even more attention and resources to Africa, where friendly governments help Russia resist international political pressure, evade sanctions and threaten U.S. allies in Europe with energy insecurity and mass migration. For the U.S., it was clear that a new strategy was urgently needed.

Military Leaders Do What Makes Them Look Good

Bruce Fleming

“Leaders to Serve the Nation,” say banners placed all over the Yard of the US Naval Academy, where I have been an English professor since 1987, and that pop up on the Web. This implies perhaps that all graduates are leaders? That leaders cannot be got elsewhere? That only Naval Academy graduates serve the nation? That all of them do? We present ourselves as a leadership institution—though, of course, West Point claims the same. Its website says, “The Preeminent Leadership Development Institution.” I guess “leadership” is what you learn at a military institution.

And everywhere else, it seems. It’s all colleges, as well as most high schools, elementary schools, after-school programs, and even summer camps. Every state university has, and most private ones have a “leadership” program, and some give degrees in it. Google “university leadership”—your eyes will blur if you look at them all. With all these leaders, who will follow?

I have seen many superintendent admirals come and go at Annapolis over more than 30 years. Almost every one was more clueless about where he was than the last, at an educational institution that was strange to them and not on board a ship under deployment (always a “he,” by the way, until 2023). So what would they do if inserted into a world as strange as, say, Afghanistan? I think we saw. But almost to a man they have puffed out their chest, spoken loudly, and exhibited what they call “leadership,” which largely seems to consist of doing what makes them look good.

According to the reports of former students, it’s also the way of the broader military, where your commanding officer can decide that s/he doesn’t like you for whatever reason, or that his or her job is in jeopardy if s/he doesn’t show him/herself pitiless on anything that is in the public gaze. The saying goes that military justice is to justice as military music is to music. That’s not a flattering comparison. I’ve talked to countless young officers, my former students, who were accused of something (today’s hot-button topic is actions with alleged sexual connotations) and even if found not guilty, were hounded and harassed until they left, their superiors unwilling to be seen as soft. No wonder people quickly realize that what makes life in the military tolerable is a happy superior officer, something to be bought at all costs. If s/he isn’t happy, ain’t nobody happy, and you’re the one who suffers. By contrast, if the entire mission fails, say because you didn’t tell them what they didn’t want to hear, the blame is diluted, and you personally are spared.

Marine Corps sees integration challenges for Replicator autonomous systems


Marine Corps leaders see opportunities for the Pentagon’s Replicator initiative to accelerate the delivery of cutting-edge capabilities. However, there will be significant integration challenges once the autonomous systems are ready to be fielded, according to a top officer.

The goal for the first increment is to deliver thousands of relatively low-cost, “attritable” systems to the joint force by early- to mid-2025 to help U.S. Indo-Pacific Command counter China’s military buildup. Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks recently picked the initial set of capabilities for the effort, and it’s now up to the services to put together acquisition plans for specific systems that fit the bill.

“We must get faster. And there’s a bureaucracy out there that kind of retards some of that. But there are ideas that are trying to push it forward faster. You know, Replicator … I look at it as an opportunity to change the way we think about bringing things aboard, and then getting them out to the user and getting them integrated,” Gen. Christopher Mahoney, assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, said Thursday at a Hudson Institute event.

In addition to carrying out the responsibilities of the job he was tapped for, Mahoney has also been performing the duties of commandant while Gen. Eric Smith recovers from a cardiac arrest episode and open-heart surgery.

Marine units such as littoral regiments and other elements of the so-called stand-in force could potentially leverage Replicator tools.

Mahoney did not identify the specific systems that the Corps is proposing for the initiative, but he suggested the service is eyeing four platforms or capabilities.

Expect ‘AI versus AI’ conflict soon, Pentagon cyber leader says


Low-grade “AI versus AI” conflict in which artificial intelligence systems will be used by adversaries to carry out cyberattacks against the U.S. is likely in the near future, Jude Sunderbruch, the Defense Department’s Cyber Crime Center (DC3) director said Thursday.

He spoke at DefenseScoop’s Google Defense Forum alongside Col. Richard Leach, the Defense Information Systems Agency’s intelligence director.

“I think we’re really just at the start,” Sunderbruch said, later adding that the U.S. and its allies will have to get creative and learn how to best use existing AI systems to gain a leg up on competing intelligence giants like China.

AI and machine learning technologies have been frequently hailed as the next phase of cybersecurity, with researchers and officials saying they will heighten capabilities of both novice and nation-state hackers, as well as enable new ways to carry out social engineering attacks and enhance hacking tools.

In the near term, AI systems can be used for threat and vulnerability analysis, as well as system testing, said Sunderbruch.

Defense’s updated cybersecurity strategy released in September says the agency will study how to apply automated and AI-driven capabilities to U.S. cyberspace. The Pentagon blueprint notably takes a more offensive approach for U.S. cyber operations, singling out China and Russia as top cyberspace adversaries and vowing to go after cybercriminals or other groups that threaten U.S. interests.

AI rise will lead to increase in cyberattacks, GCHQ warns

James Pearson

The rapid development of novel Artificial Intelligence (AI) tools will lead to an increase in cyberattacks and lower the barrier of entry for less sophisticated hackers to do digital harm, Britain’s GCHQ spy agency warned on Wednesday.

That lower entry barrier will also likely contribute to the global rise in ransomware attacks, whereby criminals encrypt computer systems for a digital ransom, the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), which is part of GCHQ, said in a report.

“AI will almost certainly increase the volume and heighten the impact of cyberattacks over the next two years. However, the impact on the cyber threat will be uneven,” the report said.

It suggested the biggest increase in capability for malicious actors in cyberspace would go to opportunistic hackers who do not necessarily possess the skills needed to carry out higher-level attacks.

At the very least, the report said, the use of generative AI tools like chatbots can help create more convincing emails or documents used in online phishing campaigns.

On an advanced level, more capable state-backed hackers were “best placed to harness AI’s potential in advanced cyber operations against networks, for example use in advanced malware generation”, said the report, referring to malicious software and computer viruses.

Intelligence agencies across the world are grappling with the rise of potential security problems tied to algorithms that can generate human-sounding interactions - dubbed large language models, or LLMs, such as OpenAI’s ChatGPT, which businesses are incorporating into a wide range of services, including sales and customer care.

Battle Looming Between AI And Counter-AI, Says Pentagon Official

David Vergun

The Defense Department is just at the start of using artificial intelligence. Peer competitors are as well, said Jude R. Sunderbruch, executive director of the DOD Cyber Crime Center, who spoke Thursday at the Google Defense Forum.

Sunderbruch predicted that in the future, there will be a battle between AI and counter-AI, which will lead to the question: “What is the truth in front of us?”

“I would not hesitate to call it an arms race but a strategic competition when it comes to artificial intelligence,” he said.

Sunderbruch said the United States is well positioned to advance in the AI space.

“I’m feeling very confident about betting on the creativity of the United States and our partnerships between the government, industry, academia and small startups,” he said.

The near-term goal is to figure out how to use the currently existing AI tools and to figure out how to apply them to information that the government has layered with other information that is out there, he said, as well as training the AI models with a variety of useful information.

In another near-term goal, the department is probably going to be able to apply some of the AI tools for threat analysis, and also to look at vulnerabilities, he said.

“I think a lot of those capabilities will be able to be applied to actually testing our systems, both in the government as well as the defense industrial base to see how secure they are,” Sunderbruch said.

The 13 Most Cunning and Ruthless Military Leaders of All Time


"Peruse again and again the campaigns of Alexander, Hannibal, Caesar, Gustavus Adolphus, Turenne, Eugene, and Frederick. Model yourself upon them. This is the only means of becoming a great captain, and of acquiring the secret of the art of war."

This was the advice given to officers by Napoleon Bonaparte, whose name would soon join, if not supplant, many of the revered military leaders he listed.

More than two centuries later, the public still has a fascination with Napoleon, as evidenced by the box office success of Ridley Scott's epic new film starring Joaquin Phoenix as the titular general. But Napoleon is hardly the only military leader to endure in the public consciousness. Alexander the Great is expected to get the big-screen treatment once again, this time at the hands of 300 director Zack Snyder. And even Ulysses S. Grant, whose reputation (particularly as U.S. President) was maligned over the 20th century by lost cause revisionism, is now seeing a historical reevaluation via new biographical books.

That's likely because, while the weapons of war have evolved drastically over the centuries, we can still learn so much from the tactics of major military leaders of the past—and continue to reckon with the ethics of some of their choices.

The decisions they made on horseback in battle, or from behind a desk an ocean away, led to decisive victories that shaped the course of human history. But the unintended collateral damage of their decisions also impacted the world we live in today.

Victories and defeats, liberation and oppression, are as much the story of military leaders as they are the armies they commanded. After all, as Alexander the Great once said:



Main battle tanks are playing an important role in the war in Ukraine, and although there have been no major tank battles, as in wars past, both sides have relied on tanks to enable their large-scale offensives or ensure the success of their defensive efforts.

Events from the ground in Ukraine substantiate the efforts of many militaries to improve their tank arsenals.


Many countries are developing or looking to develop a next-generation main battle tank for the conflicts of the future.

The United States military is working on the M1A3 Abrams, ditching an updated version of the M1A2 for a new, more advanced tank. Across the pond, the United Kingdom is planning to replace the aging Challenger 2 with Challenger 3. In mainland Europe, France and Germany have joined hands in the Main Ground Combat System (MGCS) program to replace their Leclerc and Leopard 2 main battle tanks.

Farther to the east, Russia has the T-14 Armata, touted by Moscow to be one of the best tanks in the world. However, the weapon system is problematic and prone to malfunctions. The Russian military only has a handful of T-14 Armatas available, some of which may have seen some small-scale action in the war in Ukraine. China is also working on a new main battle tank in an attempt to enter the fourth generation of tanks and replace its old Type 99 machines.