1 February 2024

Why “the Rest” Are Rejecting the West


As the war in Gaza enters its fourth month, many in the Middle East and across the Global South have been struck both by the ferocity of Israel’s military campaign and by Western governments’ unwavering support for it. To them, this is as much US President Joe Biden’s war as it is Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s, and the continuing indifference to the scale of the devastation has reaffirmed how cheap Arab lives appear to be to Western leaders.

For those who lived through the Cold War and witnessed how Western powers dealt with post-colonial states and their peoples, recent events are all too familiar. As I argue in my new book, What Really Went Wrong: The West and the Failure of Democracy in the Middle East, the United States and other Western countries, mainly the United Kingdom, have for nearly a century pursued an interventionist, militaristic, and anti-democratic foreign policy that largely ignores Middle Eastern peoples’ interests. If anything, Western decisions have been driven historically by the desire to roll back communism and secure the dominance of liberal capitalism.

In pursuit of these twin aims, the US offered Middle Eastern leaders a zero-sum choice: either join in Western-led regional defense alliances and open your economy to global capital, or be considered a foe. In the name of maintaining stability and securing an uninterrupted flow of cheap oil, Western powers struck devil’s pacts with Middle Eastern autocrats and actively contributed to the demise of incipient democratic movements.

Notably, in the early 1950s, when the liberal democrat Mohammed Mossadegh became prime minister of Iran and nationalized the country’s oil, the CIA and MI6 orchestrated a coup and replaced him with the Shah. That self-interested intervention arrested Iran’s democratic development and set the stage for the 1979 Islamic Revolution, which ushered in the theocratic regime that rules to this day.

AI-Generated Content Poses a Looming Threat to Women in India and Pakistan

Zohaib Altaf and Nimra Javed

In the digital age, where technological advancements are rapidly reshaping our realities, the emergence of AI-generated explicit images presents a new and disturbing challenge, particularly in regions like India and Pakistan. These countries, where women’s rights are already in a precarious state, face a potential crisis with the increasing capability of AI to create convincingly realistic content, to damaging effect. Recent incidents, such as the viral spread of fabricated images of celebrities like Taylor Swift and Bollywood stars Rashmika Mandanna, Katrina Kaif, Kajol, and Sara Tendulkar, illustrate the severity of this emerging threat.

This trend could significantly exacerbate existing societal challenges faced by women, impacting their employment, education, mental health, and personal safety.

The cultural and social dynamics of India and Pakistan, deeply rooted in traditions that place immense value on honor and reputation, make these societies particularly vulnerable to the damaging effects of AI-generated content. The potential for such technology to be used maliciously to tarnish the reputations of women poses a unique and modern threat to their dignity and standing. In these patriarchal societies, women are already navigating a complex web of social expectations and restrictions. The fear and possibility of being targeted by AI-generated explicit content add a new layer of vulnerability, potentially further curtailing women’s participation in public and professional life.

In India, the decline in women’s participation in the workforce is a worrying trend. From a peak of 35 percent in 2004, women’s workforce participation dwindled to about 25 percent in 2022. In Pakistan, the situation is even more dire, with women’s workforce participation standing at a mere 20 percent. These figures not only reflect deep-rooted gender biases and socioeconomic barriers but also highlight the significant challenges women face in achieving economic independence and professional growth. The emergence of AI-generated explicit content could further deter women from seeking employment or education due to the heightened risk of reputational damage, thereby exacerbating the existing gender gap in economic participation.

Swallowed by Water, in the Sundarbans There Is Nowhere Else to Go

Piya Srinivasan

Panchanan Dolui, who lives on Mousuni Island in the Indian Sundarbans, has shifted homes three times due to floods and river erosion. Each time he moves further from the shrinking edge to avoid displacement. He has watched the river eat away vast tracts of land. “Where do we go? There is nowhere to go,” he laments.

Located in West Bengal, the Sundarbans forest system is a cluster of low-lying islands, and represents the largest mangrove ecosystem in the world. It is home to several endangered species, and acts as a natural barrier against cyclones, storm surges and other environmental hazards. The forests are also natural agents of carbon capture and sequestration.

But things are changing fast.

As Kalyan Rudra, chairperson of the West Bengal Pollution Control Board, says of some of the islands: “They are not safe for human habitation because of erosion.”

The four cyclones that hit the eastern coast of India between 2019-21 – Fani, Amphan, Bulbul and Yaas – point to the increasingly unpredictable weather events in the Sundarbans caused by climate change and sea level rise.

Sundarbans inhabitants have faced climate-induced displacement for decades. Lohachara was one of the first inhabited islands to disappear under the sea in 1996, forcing residents to relocate to neighboring islands, often without documents or property deeds.

In the face of limited livelihood options, and without sufficient development in the region, migration has become a coping strategy for many residents. There have been several waves of migration within the Sundarbans, often on the same island, to avoid flooding from embankment breaches, tidal bores and storm surges.

The Centrality of Security in the Pakistan-US Relationship

Bantirani Patro

On his maiden visit to the United States in December 2023, General Syed Asim Munir, Pakistan’s chief of Army Staff (COAS), was greeted with red-carpet treatment from key government and defense officials, from Secretary of State Antony Blinken to General Michael Erik Kurilla, chief of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM), among others. These high-level visits reaffirmed Pakistan’s status as a major non-NATO ally and sparked discussions about a positive reset in Pakistan-U.S. ties.

In 2024, keeping up with the spirit of continuity, Pakistan’s interim foreign minister, while meeting with the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, emphasized “building on the recent exchanges and the momentum gained in bilateral ties.”

A Marriage of Necessity

Following the hasty U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021, Islamabad’s strategic relevance within Washington’s strategic calculus diminished. The Pakistani establishment’s initial jubilation with the takeover soon dissipated, as an ensconced Taliban government in Afghanistan had emboldened the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Pakistan’s deadliest terror group, which seeks to overthrow the Pakistani state and impose Shariah, or Islamic law.

Today, the United States is putting more onus on developing the non-traditional facets of the relationship, which had long been ignored or remained nascent at best, while Pakistan is keen on reviving the traditional security aspect, especially in the face of a burgeoning TTP threat.

Previously, U.S. drone strikes were paramount in paralyzing the top brass of the TTP, exemplified by the killing of Baitullah Mehsud, the first leader of the Pakistani Taliban in 2009 and his successor, Hakimullah Mehsud, in 2013. To that end, an interim minister in Pakistan, following a terrorist attack in December 2023 orchestrated by a faction of the TTP, had suggested offering the U.S. drone bases to target militant sanctuaries in Afghanistan. During Munir’s visit, reports surfaced that the United States denied his request for military assistance to counter the TTP, despite Pakistan’s attempts at portraying the TTP as a global threat, capable of imperiling the U.S. homeland. It should be noted that the Pakistani Taliban had, in fact, taken credit for a failed bomb explosion in New York’s Times Square in 2010.

The Myanmar Junta Is Losing Its Foreign Backers

Ivan U. Klyszcz and Harold Chambers

In February 2021, the world watched the people of Myanmar revolt as yet another military coup brought a decade of democratic reforms to an abrupt end. While attention has faded in the three years since, the fight has not. Mass protests transitioned into a full-scale armed rebellion. But with the military regime supported by Russia, China, and other states, the pro-democratic front struggled to gather momentum.

On October 27, the Three Brotherhood Alliance launched its dry season offensive against the military junta’s forces (known as the Sit-Tat or Tatmadaw) in northeastern Myanmar. The immediate success of “Operation 1027” inspired similar offensives around the country by other ethnic armed organizations and the National Unity Government’s forces.

The junta, once considered indomitable, is now engaged on all fronts and losing ground.

Since the launch of the offensives, more than 300 military-controlled bases and towns – including crucial border crossings with China, India and Thailand – have been taken by anti-junta forces. The number of regime soldiers who have surrendered is approaching 700. For the first time since the 2021 coup, an end to military rule looks not only plausible, but feasible.

This dramatic shift on the battlefield has reverberated through the international relations of Senior General Min Aung Hlaing’s military regime. In turn, the junta’s precarious situation has revealed the weaknesses of Russia and its junior role to China in regional affairs.

The Junta Looks for Support

After the 2021 coup, Moscow decided to support the junta and bet on its survival. Motivated by an anti-democratic foreign policy, Russia has been keen to support autocrats looking to firm up their grip on power, from Egypt and Syria after the Arab Spring to Kazakhstan in 2022. In Myanmar’s case, what has followed is an intensive bilateral cooperation spanning transfers of arms and counterintelligence know-how, joint army and naval exercises, and diplomatic cover, with Russia vetoing United Nations Security Council resolutions against the Sit-Tat.

China Evergrande, Facing $300 Billion in Debt, Has Been Ordered to Liquidate

Kanis Leung and Zen Soo

A Hong Kong court ordered China Evergrande, the world’s most heavily indebted real estate developer, to undergo liquidation following a failed effort to restructure $300 billion owed to banks and bondholders that fueled fears about China’s rising debt burden.

“It would be a situation where the court says enough is enough,” Judge Linda Chan said Monday. She said it was appropriate for the court to order Evergrande to wind up its business given a “lack of progress on the part of the company putting forward a viable restructuring proposal” as well as Evergrande’s insolvency.

China Evergrande Group is among dozens of Chinese developers that have collapsed since 2020 under official pressure to rein in surging debt the ruling Communist Party views as a threat to China’s slowing economic growth.

But the crackdown on excess borrowing tipped the property industry into crisis, dragging on the economy and rattling financial systems in and outside China.

Chinese regulators have said the risks of global shockwaves from Evergrande’s failure can be contained. The court documents seen Monday showed Evergrande owes about $25.4 billion to foreign creditors. Its total assets of about $240 billion are dwarfed by its total liabilities.

“It is indisputable that the company is grossly insolvent and is unable to pay its debts,” the documents say.

About 90 percent of Evergrande’s business is in mainland China. Its chairman, Hui Ka Yan, who is also known as Xu Jiayin, was detained by authorities for suspected “illegal crimes” in late September, further complicating the company’s efforts to recover.

What Worries Me About War With China After My Visit to Taiwan


Michael Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is concerned enough about the risk of war between the United States and China that he is listening to the audiobook version of Barbara Tuchman’s “The Guns of August,” the classic history of how the major powers in 1914 stumbled into World War I.

“I think this is the most dangerous time since I was a kid in 1962,” during the Cuban missile crisis, he told me. “The world war potential is really, really significant.”

I came to Taiwan to gauge that risk and assess how to manage it better. For what it’s worth, I greatly respect Admiral Mullen — few people know as much about global hot spots and how wars happen — but my best guess is that Americans may be overestimating the risk of conflict, particularly of an all-out invasion of Taiwan by China.

Moreover, I worry that American anxiety about the risk of war with China may inadvertently exacerbate it. “The Guns of August” is, as Mullen noted, a useful prism for reminding us how miscalculation, misunderstanding and escalation created a world war that no one wanted. So we should be alert not only to the risk that China poses to peace in the region but also to the risk we Americans unintentionally pose, and to the possibility that our legitimate efforts to confront China can lead to accidents at sea or air that lead to war.

There is a fine line between deterring China and provoking it. My take is that while we should do significantly more to help Taiwan boost defenses and deter aggression, we should do so quietly, without needlessly humiliating China. Sometimes Americans loudly embrace Taiwan in ways that inflame tensions at times when we should be hoping to lower them.

Let me also make the case that we think too much in terms of an invasion — when the greater risk may be China’s taking lesser nibbles to pressure Taiwan, leading to the possibility of accidents and escalation that could drag us into an unintended world war, as happened in 1914.

Russia projects confidence as it pursues alliances to undermine West

Catherine Belton

Russia is increasingly confident that deepening economic and diplomatic ties with China and the Global South will allow it to challenge the international financial system dominated by the United States and undermine the West, according to Kremlin documents and interviews with Russian officials and business executives.

Russia has been buoyed by its success in holding off a Western-backed Ukrainian counteroffensive followed by political stalemates in Washington and Brussels over continued funding for Kyiv. In Moscow’s view, the U.S. backing of Israel’s invasion of Gaza has damaged Washington’s standing in many parts of the world. The confluence of events has led to a surge of optimism about Russia’s global position.

Officials in Moscow point to growing trade with China, military cooperation with Iran, diplomatic outreach in the Arab world and the expansion of the BRICS grouping of major emerging economies — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — to include Iran, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt and Ethiopia.

The BRICS expansion demonstrated the group’s “growing authority and role in world affairs,” and its work will focus on “sovereign equality,” Russian President Vladimir Putin said in a Jan. 1 statement as Russia assumed the chairmanship of the group. The Kremlin has begun to refer to itself as part of the “Global Majority.”

Internal Russian Security Council documents obtained by a European intelligence service and reviewed by The Washington Post, show that the Kremlin convened meetings in 2022 and 2023 on ways to undermine the dollar’s role as the world’s reserve currency. The ultimate goal, one of the documents stated, was to dismantle the post-World War II global financial system and the power it gives Washington.

“One of the most important tasks is to create a new world order,” one of the documents dated April 3, 2023, states. “Western countries led by the United States have tried to impose their own structure, based on their dominance.”

China Would Need 1.2 Million Troops to Invade Taiwan (It Could Be a Disaster)

Peter Suciu

Could China Really Invade and Conquer Taiwan? During the Korean War, the United States-led amphibious invasion at Inchon in late 1950 involved some 75,000 troops and 261 naval ships. It was actually the largest such military seaborne landing since the Second World War and was dwarfed in scale by the D-Day landings on June 6, 1944 – which involved a total of 156,000 men. In addition, thousands of airborne troops landed deep behind enemy lines before the Normandy beach landings.

In both of those invasions, the local populace was generally friendly to the invading force, which was actually liberating occupied territory.

The situation would have been far different in the planned Operation Downfall, the proposed Allied invasion of the Japanese home islands. Hundreds of thousands of men would have been required for the initial landings to secure a beachhead, and Allied planners projected that more than six million troops would have been required to conquer and defeat Japan.

China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) could likely face a situation far worse than Operation Downfall if it were to actually launch an invasion of Taiwan. While the main island is significantly smaller than the Japanese home islands, it is far more heavily defended. Crossing the nearly 80-mile Taiwanese Strait (at its narrowest point) would be just the first of many problems the PLA would need to overcome.

Japan was essentially a spent force by the end of the Second World War; its navy was nearly destroyed while the Allies maintained air supremacy. The Japanese may have been prepared to fight to the last civilian, but they were expected to be armed with bamboo spears. By contrast, the Taiwanese have large stocks of missiles, thousands of tanks, and a vast network of fortified positions. Much of its population of 24 million is packed into dense urban centers including the capital city of Taipei.

The Defense Department’s China Military Power Report: The Threat is Worse than Advertised

Robert Peters & Wilson Beaver

The Defense Department’s latest annual China Military Power Report gets a lot right. It accurately identifies the scope of China’s global ambitions and many of the structural changes being implemented by Xi Jinping to make China the preeminent military power in Asia and the Pacific. Even so, the report appears to undersell the threat posed by China and what will be required from the U.S. to counter it.

What the Report Gets Right

The report focuses correctly on the extent of China’s military buildup and modernization program. In 2022, the Chinese navy continued to beef up what is already the world’s largest fleet, working on delivering its third aircraft carrier and third amphibious assault ship, as well as additional guided missile destroyers, cruisers, and frigates. Beijing’s navy will soon be able to conduct long-range precision strikes against land targets from both its submarine and surface combatants.

The Chinese air force continues to modernize and produce increasingly advanced, domestically built manned and unmanned aircraft. Together with the Chinese navy’s air assets, it now constitutes the largest aviation force in the Indo-Pacific. Led by its fifth-generation fighter, the Ju-20, Beijing’s air force is on its way to becoming the largest in the world.

Perhaps most worrying, the report documents that, over the last 12 months, China built 100 new nuclear weapons—making it the fastest growing nuclear power on the planet. Beijing is on track to numerically match the U.S. nuclear arsenal by 2032.

The report also notes that China is deploying its growing military power in increasingly provocative ways. Over the last two years, it conducted over 280 coercive and risky air intercepts against the United States and its allies.

Finally, the report documents the growing use of Chinese naval assets to intimidate and coerce fishing fleets operating in international waters—not only in the Western Pacific but as far afield as Latin America. All of this is done against the backdrop of an unprecedented number of air and maritime exercises in the waters and skies around Taiwan.

U.S. Troops Are Dangerously Vulnerable in the Middle East

Adam Weinstein & Steven Simon

Three U.S. service members were killed near the Syrian border in northeastern Jordan by a drone from an Iranian-aligned militia over the weekend. U.S. troops are in the area to support the ongoing campaign against the Islamic State while also monitoring Iranian activity along the land corridor between Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. As tensions escalate in the Middle East, the frequency of attacks on U.S. troops in the region by Iran-aligned militias places American soldiers at greater risk than they have faced in years. With over 100 attacks reported since the onset of the Gaza conflict, it is time to ask whether the risks of maintaining these outposts outweigh their remaining benefits.

Iran’s New Best Friends

Mohammad Ayatollahi Tabaar

Since November, the Red Sea has become the site of escalating attacks by Yemen’s Houthi movement, the armed group that governs most of Yemen’s population. These assaults, which the Houthi rebels say are designed to pressure Israel to end the war in Gaza, mark the emergence of a new conflict zone in the already volatile Middle East. By effectively closing the sea to cargo ships, the strikes have disrupted global trade and earned the Houthis unprecedented international attention.

The attacks have done an especially good job of earning the Houthis attention—and support—from Iran. Traditionally, the militia has been a second-tier partner for the Islamic Republic, which tends to work more closely with Hezbollah and other militia groups that share its anti-American ideology. But Iran desperately wants to increase its power in the Red Sea so it can stop the U.S. Navy from seizing its oil tankers as they evade Western sanctions, and the Houthis have proved that they can project power across the entire body of water. They have also proved they can distract and damage Iran’s three main regional rivals: Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. The Houthis are fast becoming a central part of Tehran’s “axis of resistance.” In fact, they could soon be its most pivotal member.

For the Houthis, this deepening partnership comes at the perfect time. The group has already made itself the sole political and military force in Yemen’s capital, Sanaa. With additional moral and material support, external and internal alike, it could capture the whole country and become a proper state actor. In fact, the attacks on Red Sea ships are part of the Houthis’ state-building mission. By declaring that its strikes are in defense of the Palestinians, the Houthis are trying to bolster their popularity among Yemenis. By holding up global commerce, the group hopes it can transform the Arab world’s most impoverished country into a powerful military force.

Unfortunately, Washington has no easy way to thwart either the Houthis’ or the Iranians’ plans. The current U.S. strategy—launching missiles at Houthi weapons stockpiles and training facilities—may temporarily disrupt the militia’s ability to strike ships. But the attacks unintentionally advance the group’s agenda by allowing it to claim it is fighting imperialism, and they help Iran by fortifying its political foothold in the Middle East. Washington should therefore cease the strikes. It should, instead, work to halt the war in Gaza. The United States should also try to strengthen the region’s diplomatic agreements and shore up its security framework. Otherwise, the Houthi-Iranian partnership will only grow stronger, as will Tehran’s leverage in the region.

Iranian Proxies Kill Three U.S. Troops in Jordan, Injures Dozens More

Zeke Miller & Lolita C. Baldor

President Joe Biden said Sunday that the U.S. “shall respond” after three American troops were killed and dozens more were injured in an overnight drone strike in northeast Jordan near the Syrian border. Biden blamed Iran-backed militias for the first U.S. fatalities after months of strikes by such groups against American forces across the Middle East since the start of the Israel-Hamas war.

Biden, who was traveling in South Carolina, asked for a moment of silence during an appearance at a Baptist church’s banquet hall.

“We had a tough day last night in the Middle East. We lost three brave souls in an attack on one of our bases,” he said. After the moment of silence, Biden added, “and we shall respond.”

With an increasing risk of military escalation in the region, U.S. officials were working to conclusively identify the precise group responsible for the attack, but they have assessed that one of several Iranian-backed groups was behind it.

Biden said in a written statement that the United States “will hold all those responsible to account at a time and in a manner (of) our choosing.” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said “we will take all necessary actions to defend the United States, our troops, and our interests.”

Iran-backed fighters in east Syria began evacuating their posts, fearing U.S. airstrikes, according to Omar Abu Layla, a Europe-based activist who heads the Deir Ezzor 24 media outlet. He told The Associated Press that the areas are the strongholds of Mayadeen and Boukamal.

U.S. Central Command said at least 34 troops were injured by the one-way attack drone, with eight flown out of Jordan for follow-up care. It described the eight as being in stable condition.

The large drone struck a logistics support base in Jordan known as Tower 22. It is along the Syrian border and is used largely by troops involved in the advise-and-assist mission for Jordanian forces.

US troop withdrawal from Syria in exchange for Southern Ukraine?

Dylan Malyasov

While a final decision on the withdrawal has not been made, four sources within the U.S. Department of Defense and the State Department have stated that the White House is no longer investing in support for a mission it deems unnecessary. Currently, active internal discussions are ongoing to determine how and when the withdrawal may take place.

In light of these reports, it is worth considering whether Washington is moving towards reducing confrontation with Iran and signaling to the Kremlin its readiness to negotiate an end to the war in Ukraine.

In today’s complex geopolitical landscape, it is widely known that the political leadership in the Kremlin still adheres to archaic principles reminiscent of the Cold War era. This obsessive inclination can be traced back to their deep-rooted connections as former Soviet Committee for State Security (KGB) operatives, as much of Russia’s leadership comprises individuals with backgrounds in the Soviet-era KGB and its successor, the Federal Security Service (FSB)


Vladimir Putin’s Stasi ID pass from his days in the KGB found in Germany.

When contemplating potential strategies to end the war, it is worthwhile to draw historical parallels with how the United States and the Soviet Union resolved the Cuban Missile Crisis. This historical context can shed light on possible negotiations with the Kremlin today.

How to Kill Russia’s Oil Economy

Anders Aslund

Russia’s economy is not particularly large, adding up to about $1.5 trillion, vacillating with the unstable ruble. It is highly vulnerable because Russia lives on commodities exports that are difficult to transport and are now subject to Western sanctions. The majority of its exports are commodities, especially when petroleum prices are high. Its total export revenues fluctuate with the oil and gas prices from a paltry $382 billion in 2020 to $628 billion in 2022.

Russia has already lost almost all of its 150 billion cubic meters of gas exports to Europe, worth $60-70 billion a year, because of sheer arrogance, proving itself an unreliable supplier. Russia has failed to diversify its gas exports. The dominant gas pipelines go to Europe, and Russia produces little liquefied natural gas (LNG). Only 30 billion cubic meters are exported to China by pipeline. Russia has blown up the gas pipelines from Turkmenistan before, losing its energy appeal in Central Asia. In 2023, Gazprom cut its production sharply, and it cannot be restored easily. Domestic gas sales remain heavily subsidized, so Gazprom may actually go bankrupt. The West has defeated Russia’s gas industry, so it needs to focus on its oil exports instead.

Russia’s oil sector is much more important and professionally managed. Oil has traditionally accounted for more than half of Russia's total exports. The West and Ukraine should focus on minimizing Russia's oil export revenues. In late 2022, the West imposed a price cap on Russian oil. It worked well during the first half of 2023, but then the prices rose. The U.S. government has successfully traced sanctions breakers and sanctioned many of them with increasing efficacy. Russia’s export revenues are projected to stop at $460 billion from $628 billion in 2022, but the West needs to go further.

An additional Russian weakness is that commodity exports require cheap transportation, which means shipping or pipelines, and Russia has limited access to the seas. Ninety percent of Russia's oil exports go through two seas, the shallow Baltic Sea and the Black Sea. In response to Western sanctions, most of it is now being shipped by a shadow fleet of old, substandard tankers with poor or no insurance. Such tankers should not be permitted in these waters for fear of environmental catastrophe.

Ukraine says it uncovered $40 million corruption scheme in weapons procurement

Maria Kostenko, Alex Stambaugh and Christian Edwards

Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) said it has discovered a mass corruption scheme in the purchase of weapons by the country’s military amounting to nearly $40 million (1.5 billion Ukrainian hryvnia).

The SBU said the embezzlement involved the purchase of 100,000 mortar rounds for Ukraine’s Armed Forces in the fall of 2022.

Ukraine’s Defense Ministry paid nearly all of the funds to arms supplier Lviv Arsenal, but the SBU said the ammunition was never received. Instead, it said some of the funds had been transferred to foreign accounts, including in the Balkans.

The investigation found that former and current high-ranking defense officials, the head and chief commercial of Lviv Arsenal, and a representative of a foreign commercial group were involved in the fraud.

The uncovery of a mass corruption scheme will have consequences for Ukraine as it continues to resist Russia’s unrelenting invasion while trying to navigate a path into the European Union, which has made combating corruption a precondition of Ukraine’s future membership.

Yurii Zbitnev, CEO of Lviv Arsenal, told local media that the person responsible for the ammunitions contract has been fired and that the company is working with the defense ministry to return the funds to the state so they can be “used for more appropriate purposes.”

Ukraine’s hopes for victory over Russia are slipping away

Ishaan Tharoor

It’s hard to ignore the sense of desperation in Ukraine’s corridors of power. Nearing two years since Russia launched its full-scale invasion, authorities in Kyiv maintain their long-standing entreaty to partners in the West: Deliver us more arms, more aid, more political commitments.

President Volodymyr Zelensky toured Western capitals at the end of last year, pleading for support amid growing international fatigue with the conflict and paralysis in U.S. Congress over new supplemental funding for Kyiv. Around the same time, his top general, Valery Zaluzhny, bemoaned the “stalemate” that had set into place after the much-anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive in 2023 failed to make strategic headway against Russia’s deep defensive lines.

U.S. officials and their Western counterparts, as my colleagues reported over the weekend, anticipate a lean year ahead, where Ukraine’s increasingly exhausted forces focus more on consolidating their defense than chipping away at Russia’s land-grabs. The Kremlin controls roughly a fifth of Ukraine’s internationally-recognized territory — including Crimea, which it illegally annexed in 2014, and a broad sweep of Ukraine’s southeast. The U.S. view of the course of the conflict undercuts Zelensky’s stated ambition of driving Russia out by this October.

Last week, Pentagon officials came empty-handed to a monthly 50-nation coordinating meeting for Ukraine, with future U.S. money for arms and aid snared by domestic politics. On the front lines, reports indicate stocks of ammunition and artillery shells are running low for many Ukrainian units.

“We get asked what’s our plan, but we need to understand what resources we’re going to have,” Ukrainian lawmaker Roman Kostenko told my colleagues. “Right now, everything points to the possibility that we will have less than last year, when we tried to do a counteroffensive and it didn’t work out. … If we will have even less, then it’s clear what the plan will be. It will be defense.”

Men dig to fill the graves of two soldiers during a joint funeral in a cemetery on the outskirts of Kherson, Ukraine, in November. (Ed Ram for The Washington Post)

What Will the United States Do after the Drone Strike in Jordan?

Jon B. Alterman

On January 28, a drone reportedly piloted by forces connected to Iran killed three U.S. troops at a base in northeast Jordan and wounded more than two dozen more. The strike is the highest casualty event the United States has had in the Middle East in more than a decade.

Q1: What prompted this strike?

A1: The strike did not come out of the blue. Iranian-linked forces have launched more than 150 attacks on U.S. forces since October 17, and U.S. officials considered it only a matter of time before service members died. Iran has funded, trained, and equipped an “axis of resistance” in the Middle East that includes Hamas, which has been seeking to capitalize on the Gaza war to increase pressure on the United States. The long-term goal of these efforts is to push the United States from the region. It seeks to do so partly by increasing regional hostility to the U.S. presence and partly by increasing the U.S. costs of that presence.

Q2: How will the United States respond?

A2: While the United States is likely to carry out military strikes, it is unlikely to change the military situation in the Middle East dramatically, or to change the calculus of Iran or its proxies.

After all, previous U.S. efforts to deter Iranian proxies have failed. Just last week, U.S. forces responded to attacks on the Al-Asad airbase in Iraq with strikes on three sites connected to Iranian-linked forces in the country, and it has conducted more than a week of strikes on Yemen’s Houthi rebels, whose attacks threaten Red Sea shipping lanes.

U.S. Defense Department statements after the U.S. strikes have referred to them as “necessary” and “proportionate,” which is a way of signaling that they comply with international law. Even so, international support for the U.S. use of force has been sparse, even from NATO members such as France and Italy.

Cheap but lethally accurate: how drones froze Ukraine’s frontlines

Luke Harding

For four months, Russian troops have been trying to seize the eastern Ukrainian village of Synkivka. On a map, this looks easy. Their forward position is on the edge of a forest. It is a mere 500 metres away from the Ukrainian frontline and a shattered collection of cottages.

Every few days the Russians attack. Their forays across open ground end in the same way: complete disaster. Armoured vehicles with men perched on top, speed across a landscape of moon-like craters and splintered trees. Soon it goes wrong. Some blow up on mines; others panic and reverse. The Ukrainians pick off fleeing infantry with drones and artillery. Typically, all the Russians die.

“It’s really fucked up down there,” Gleb Molchanov, a Ukrainian drone operator said, showing video he took from above the battlefield four miles north-east of the city of Kupiansk. The images are gruesome. Bodies can be seen lying in a zig-zag trench and frozen hollows. Nearby are the burnt-out carcasses of BMP-1 fighting vehicles, at least 10 of them. Despite this, the Russians keep trying.

Gleb Molchanov, a drone operator, shows a Chinese-made UAV can be fitted with grenades and a thermal camera.

Almost two years after Vladimir Putin’s all-out invasion, Ukraine has abandoned its offensive. Instead it is employing a strategy of active defence: keeping the Russians back, and waging the occasional counter-punch. Moscow, meanwhile, wants to go forward. It has mobilised tens of thousands of troops in the Kupiansk area. Many are former prisoners, recruited directly from jail and serving in “Storm-Z” units.

The United States Needs a New Way to Think About Cyber

Emily Harding

The end of 2023 was marked by two major cyberattacks—one by a terrorist group and the other by a global power, and both targeting U.S. water and power supplies. These audacious attacks are indicative of a shift to a new, more dangerous phase of cyberwarfare, in which adversaries target critical infrastructure and imperil civilian lives. Yet, even though these adversaries have shifted their strategies, the United States has not. To respond effectively and create some modicum of deterrence, U.S. policymakers must rethink how they see cyber as an element of state power.

The two cyber hacks were remarkable. In November, a designated terrorist group that is also the covert action arm of the Iranian government, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), attacked U.S. water plants. The stated target was an Israeli company that makes software for control systems, and the attack was meant to be retaliation for the war in Gaza. While the intent was to embarrass Israel, the facts are undeniable: A terrorist group attempted to impair water delivery to civilians in the United States.

Also at the end of the year, the National Security Agency and cybersecurity researchers raised renewed alarm about China’s Volt Typhoon group, which continues to burrow stealthily into U.S. water, power, and port systems. Put bluntly, this access could give Beijing the capability to severely disrupt daily life, particularly around the U.S. military bases that would serve as the launching pads for U.S. troops in a Pacific fight, like the 14 bases in Hawaii or the more than 30 in California, including Naval Base Coronado, West Coast home of the Navy SEALs.

These two egregious violations received little attention because they were cyberattacks, and “cyber” has been shunted into a silo of what tech people do behind the scenes. It’s separate, “technical,” and an afterthought, not an integrated tool of modern foreign policy. This mindset is a strategic mistake. While U.S. policymakers silo themselves, their adversaries are aggressively pursuing an integrated strategy. The U.S. government has no hope of deterring, defending, and responding unless it begins to integrate cyber offense and defense into its own national security strategy.

When admirals obstruct justice

Jeffrey J. Matthews

A well-known legal axiom has it that the cover-up is often worse than the crime.

President Richard Nixon’s attempts to conceal his administration’s involvement in the Watergate break-in, for example, ultimately led to his humiliation and resignation.

Oftentimes, however, the crime and the cover-up are equally appalling. An ongoing scandal involving the U.S. Coast Guard provides a vivid case in point.

In late June, CNN reported that an internal investigation by the Coast Guard had “uncovered a dark history of rapes, assaults, and other serious misconduct” at the Coast Guard Academy.

Moreover, investigators discovered that the agency’s senior leadership had covered up most of those crimes and then subsequently buried the investigative report that substantiated the grave misconduct.

The Coast Guard’s original investigation, dubbed “Operation Fouled Anchor,” was started in 2014 after a 1998 academy graduate alleged that she had been raped by a classmate years prior. The agency’s exhaustive inquiry extended over five years and the final report was issued on January 31, 2020.

In the end, Coast Guard investigators substantiated sixty-two cases of sexual harassment, sexual assault, and rape between 1988 and 2006.

Adm. Paul F. Zunkunft was the Coast Guard commandant when the probe started and was succeeded in June 2018 by Adm. Karl L. Schultz. At the time of the transition, investigators planned to brief Department of Homeland Security officials and members of Congress on their preliminary findings, and they had already concluded that Operation Fouled Anchor should be “required reading.”

How Russia Stopped Ukraine’s Momentum

Stephen Biddle

Many held high hopes for Ukraine’s 2023 summer offensive. Previous Ukrainian successes at Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Kherson encouraged expectations that a new effort, reinforced with new Western equipment and training, might rupture Russian defenses on a larger scale and sever the Russian land bridge to Crimea. If it did, the thinking went, the resulting threat to Crimea might persuade Putin to end the war.

The results fell far short of such hopes. Although the summer brought some Ukrainian successes (especially against Russian warships in the Black Sea), there was no breakthrough on land. Limited advances were bought at great cost and have now been significantly offset by Russian advances elsewhere on the battlefield. It is now clear that the offensive failed.

Why? And what does this mean for the future of the Ukraine War and the future of warfare more broadly? Robust answers will require data and evidence that are not yet publicly available. But the best answer for now lies in the way the two sides, and especially the Russian defenders, used their available forces. By late spring, the Russians had adopted the kind of deep, prepared defenses that have been very difficult for attackers to break through for more than the last century of combat experience. Breakthrough has been—and still is—possible in land warfare. But this has long required permissive conditions that are now absent in Ukraine: a defender, in this case Russia, whose dispositions are shallow, forward, ill prepared, or logistically unsupported or whose troops are unmotivated and unwilling to defend their positions. That was true of Russian forces in Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Kherson in 2022. It is no longer the case.

The implications of this for Ukraine are grim. Without an offensive breakthrough, success in land warfare becomes an attrition struggle. A favorable outcome for Ukraine in a war of attrition is not impossible, but it will require its forces to outlast a numerically superior foe in what could become a very long war.

Mackinder’s ‘Pivot Paper’ Still Relevant 120 Years Later


Savile Row, located in central London, was once the home of the Royal Geographical Society (RGS). Lord Curzon described the building as “cramped and rather squalid,” but on January 25, 1904, the audience heard a paper read by Halford Mackinder entitled “The Geographical Pivot of History,” which was later published in The Geographical Journal. After the reading, Spencer Wilkinson remarked that he “looked with regret on some of the space that is unoccupied here, and I much regret that a portion of it was not occupied by members of the Cabinet.” It was arguably the most important paper ever written on global geopolitics, and some of Mackinder’s ideas remain relevant to the 21st century world.

It is rare that an article or policy paper on international politics maintains its relevance even for a few years.

Born on February 15, 1861, in Gainsborough in Lincolnshire near the Trent River, Mackinder at an early age was drawn to history and geography and according to biographer Brian Blouet, he “was fascinated by the Franco-Prussian War” of 1870-71. Mackinder studied at Epsom College and in 1880 entered Christ Church in Oxford, where he joined the Oxford University Rifle Volunteers. He later studied geology, historical geography, and law. Mackinder became a member of RGS in 1886, and one year later delivered a lecture there titled “The Scope and Methods of Geography,” in which he noted that “we are now near the end of the roll of great discoveries.” The future work of geographers, he said, was to study the relationship of geography and history and to trace the “causal relationship” between the two. In several papers that foreshadowed his “pivot paper,” Mackinder noted the centrality of Eurasia to global politics and wrote that “the greatest events in the world’s history are related to the greatest features of geography.” (READ MORE from Francis P. Sempa: The Arctic Thaw, Sino-Russian Partnership, and Control of the World-Island)

Mackinder was not just an “armchair” geographer. He participated in the first ascent of Mt. Kenya in 1899. Mackinder wrote a book about the expedition, and a scenic route on the mountain is today named “The Mackinder Valley.” He was instrumental in founding the School of Geography at Oxford. He authored several books on the geography of England, continental Europe, Asia, Africa, and other regions of the globe. He was also a Conservative Member of Parliament between 1910 and 1922. In Parliament, he urged Britain’s government to crush Russia’s newly installed Bolshevik regime which, if left alone to spread its virulent ideology, he predicted, would become a threat to the democracies.

Philosophizing Education Amidst The White Noise Of AI And Chat GPT – Essay

Dr. Azly Rahman

As we continue our journey in this high-anxiety-plagued, prophetic and somewhat technological-poetic-mystical epoch called the post-Millenium of the post-informational age of the Internet of Things, in which we are serenaded by stories of the human and social consequences of technological determinism (as Karl Marx would put it, ) in which Artificial Intelligence is now heralded as yet another major Kuhnian Shift in human evolutions Harvard historian of science Thomas Kuhan once wrote about, as we see the ideology of technological fantasy ala the mystification of “Sofia-the-Saudi-citizened-robot flirts with human intelligence as such as Beauty courting the Beast in all of us, we educators are forced to consider previewing the prospects of “being human in an increasingly digital world”.

I lament in the following paragraphs how we must continue to see these megatrends and “future shocks (borrowing the words of futurist Alvin Toffler in the seventies,) shrinking the definition of what it means to be human and how education and schooling as a conveyor belt if social reproduction will continue to be drowned in the waves of interplay between being human and being digital.

Ways of seeing

Conflicts theorists, among which Critical Theorists and neo- or post-Marxists come into the paradigm of looking at this critical juncture in our development as “conscious beings in the world of technological determinism, have and continue to ask the question of the role of philosophy of education as our guide in this journey. If philosophy means the “love for wisdom” and “education” means the enterprise for “drawing out” our potentials within, what must philosophy of education mean in this yet another Kuhnian shift in learning and teaching?

Must technological determinism be made to engineer uncritically our forward march towards becoming “one dimensional” as American sociologist Herbert Marcuse would say, adding the final victory of the march of advanced post-industrial capitalism which is taking its character as virtual capitalism? In what ways must a humanistic dimension of learning be made to continue to be relevant in our age wherein education is forced to coexist in a technological mode of operation?

Satellites and the specter of IoT attacks

Paul Maguire

In the vast expanse of space, satellites orbit silently, serving as the connected backbone of our modern world. A fast-proliferating network of satellites forms the critical infrastructure that supports global communication, navigation, weather forecasting, defensive operations and more. Today’s global space economy is huge, forecasted to total more than $600 billion annually in 2024.

Internet of Things (IoT) components are integral to next-generation satellites. Designed to optimize efficiency and enhance functionality, IoT satellite devices and systems provide better communication, data transmission, onboard data processing, power management and more. But the interconnectedness of these space-based systems is also one of their primary vulnerabilities. Along with threats from old school signal jamming and interference from terrestrial locations, IoT components make modern spacecraft vulnerable to a new attack vector — other satellites within this massive and growing network.

Similar to how a flaw in one device can compromise an entire network in terrestrial IoT, a security breach in one satellite can have cascading effects on others to which it is connected. That opens doors for malicious actors to exploit weaknesses in satellite communication protocols, command systems or software, potentially causing disruptions or even total loss of control over these orbiting assets.

Challenges in securing satellites from IoT threats

The lack of standardized security protocols across diverse commercial, civil, and military satellite developers exacerbates this vulnerability, and many approaches to satellite cybersecurity come with their own challenges. For example, protecting satellites with onboard hardware-based security solutions is expensive, and the components are physically heavy and add costs to satellite launches and operations.