5 February 2024

What is Russia’s role in the Israel-Gaza crisis?

Fiona Hill and Kevin Huggard

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting of his Security Council and the government and the heads of law enforcement agencies on the situation in the Middle East and on ensuring law and order in Russia, at the Novo-Ogaryovo state residence outside Moscow, Russia October 30, 2023. 

What was Russia’s approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict before Oct. 7? What was its approach to Hamas?


The Russian approach has changed over time. During the Soviet period and the Cold War, there was a great deal of hostility toward Israel, which was tied to deeply rooted domestic antisemitism as well as the Kremlin’s suspicion of Soviet Jews having divided loyalties after the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. The USSR actively blocked Soviet Jews from leaving the country to settle in Israel, or anywhere else for that matter. There was quite a lot of attention paid inside the Soviet Union to building up relationships with the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) and Arab countries opposed to the state of Israel. The USSR offered educational opportunities to Palestinian and other Arab students. I was a student in Moscow in 1987 and 1988, and, as a “Western” student, lived in a Moscow university long-stay hotel, which was next to several student dormitories. The largest contingent next to us was Arab students, some of whom were Palestinians who went on later to become prominent in organizations like the PLO and Fatah.

In the 1990s, beginning with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev’s co-hosting with U.S. President George H.W. Bush of the March 1991 Madrid conference on the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Russian government played a role in international efforts to move toward a two-state solution, but the relationship with Israel was still very tense. In the 1990s and early 2000s, after the collapse of the USSR, restrictions on leaving the country were lifted. There was a wave of Jewish migration from Russia and other post-Soviet countries like Belarus, Moldova, and Ukraine, and from the Caucasus and Central Asia. Most went to Israel as well as to the United States, and to some extent to Europe. The sustained mass emigration to Israel eventually shifts Moscow’s perspective.

India’s Quiet Push to Steal More of China’s iPhone Business

Alex Travelli

India is quietly grabbing from China more manufacturing of Apple’s iPhones and other electronics gear.

It is happening in South Indian industrial areas on muddy plots that were once farmland.

In Sriperumbudur, people call Apple “the customer,” not daring to say the name of a company that prizes its secrets.

But some things are too big to hide. Two gigantic dormitory complexes are springing up from the earth. Once finished, each will be a tight block of 13 buildings with 24 rooms per floor around an L-shaped hallway. Every one of those pink-painted rooms will have beds for six workers, all women. The two blocks will house 18,720 workers apiece.

It’s a ready-made scene from Shenzhen or Zhengzhou, the Chinese cities famous for their iPhone production prowess. And it’s no wonder.

Sriperumbudur, in the state of Tamil Nadu, is the home of the expanding Indian fortress of Foxconn, the Taiwanese-based company that has long played the largest role in producing iPhones. And as recently as 2019, about 99 percent of them were made in China.

The Battle for Global South Leadership

Manjari Chatterjee Miller

During the G20 summit in India last year, Prime Minister (PM) Narendra Modi hosted a “Voice of the Global South for Human-Centric Development” virtual summit where he declared India would be the voice of the Global South. And, indeed, as part of India’s prerogative as the 2023 president of the G20 to articulate its agenda, it pushed issues important to developing countries such as sustainable lending, food security, health infrastructure, multilateral bank reform and climate finance. India’s positioning as the champion of the Global South was not limited to development and governance issues but also accompanied by a clear desire to play a globally influential role as a bridge between its western strategic partners such as the United States (US) and France, and the developing world. Consequently, a lot of attention has been paid to both the Global South — indeed the Financial Times declared the phrase the word of the year in 2023 — and India’s role in it. But just as the concept of the Global South is not new, neither is India’s aspiration to lead it. Furthermore, India has long competed with China to assume this role. The significant difference between their historical role and today’s positioning is that the geopolitical context has changed and who comprises the Global South and why has evolved. It is also an open question as to whether Global South countries welcome either India or China as their voice.

The Global South is today largely understood to be a grouping of countries classified as low- or middle-income by the World Bank. The term is a geographical head-scratcher given that it includes many countries such as those in northern Africa as well as China and India, all of which fall in the northern hemisphere. But the geographical roots can be traced to a 1926 essay, “The Southern Question”, written by the Italian Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci in which he first raised the idea of a less-developed, southern region. Gramsci compared the industrially developed and wealthier region of northern Italy with its less developed south, and concluded that the latter had been colonised by capitalists from the former. His conclusions were furthered during the Cold War when international society was classified in 1952 by French demographer Alfred Sauvy into worlds separated by both, income and ideology. The capitalist West comprised the First World; the Soviet Union and its socialist allies the Second; and the newly-decolonised and largely impoverished countries, the Third. In 1969, American Left-wing activist Carl Oglesby dubbed this Third World the “Global South”, when he lamented “the north’s dominance over the global south”.

India Boosts Pakistan Border Defenses Over Fears of Hamas-Style Attack

Tom O'Connor

India has doubled down on defenses along its de facto border with Pakistan in the disputed Kashmir region out of concern over a potential surprise swarm attack by militants inspired by the Palestinian Hamas movement's successful infiltration of Israel.

"The employment of innovative means by Hamas while attacking Israel on October 7, 2023, has raised alarm among security agencies across the world," an Indian Army spokesperson told Newsweek.

"Requisite measures have been instituted along the Line of Control and International Border Sectors to thwart any such malafide attempts from across the Western Border," the spokesperson added.

The Line of Control is a sprawling, nearly 500-mile boundary that divides nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan across Kashmir. As is the case with the far smaller 40-mile barrier that separates Israel and the Hamas-held Gaza Strip, the Line of Control has been the scene of frequent insurgent activity as well as a number of high-profile clashes and all-out wars.

But with Hamas' shock October assault sparking the deadliest-ever flare-up of Israeli-Palestinian violence that remains ongoing to this day, the spokesperson outlined some of the steps that have been taken to address emergent threats in the stretch Kashmir it administers, officially known as Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), as growing unrest in the Middle East threatens to spill over into South Asia.

China Is Quietly Expanding Its Land Grabs in the Himalaya

Anchal Vohra

As the U.S. government has spent ever more of its time in recent years preparing to respond to any potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan, Beijing has been busy slicing away parts of the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan. Over the last few years, China has built massive infrastructure with hundreds of concrete structures, military posts, and administrative centers in the region of Beyul Khenpajong, some 12,000 feet in the northern Himalayan mountains. The so-called “hidden valley” is deemed sacred by Bhutanese, with the country’s royal family tracing its ancestral heritage to the area.

Pakistan Is on Edge Ahead of 2024 Elections

Noah Berman and Clara Fong

Pakistan’s military is set to again play kingmaker in elections that will determine how the nuclear-armed country grapples with an economic crisis, political upheaval aggravated by the arrest of Imran Khan, and escalating terrorism.

On February 8, Pakistan’s voters will elect a leader tasked with managing one of the country’s worst-ever economic crises, an escalating terrorism problem that has recently kindled tensions with Afghanistan and Iran, and a long-standing border impasse with India. But with former Prime Minister Imran Khan barred from participating and the military maneuvering behind the scenes, international observers say the elections will likely be neither free nor fair.
Who are the contenders for prime minister?

Three major candidates have announced plans to run in the parliamentary elections in the hopes of leading the next governing coalition as prime minister. However, only two are eligible for election.

Nawaz Sharif. The front-runner, Sharif is a three-time former prime minister who recently returned from exile in the United Kingdom, where he fled in 2019 after losing backing from Pakistan’s influential military and being charged with corruption. Experts including Senior Advisor at the U.S. Institute of Peace and former CFR Fellow Daniel Markey say Sharif has since mended ties with the military and is now acting as its proxy. Sharif is running on the ticket of a party he founded, the center-right Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari. The son and grandson of former Pakistani prime ministers, Bhutto is the candidate for the center-left Pakistan People’s Party.

Chinese narratives on the Israel-Hamas war

Patricia M. Kim, Kevin Dong, and Mallie Prytherch

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi attends a meeting with Saudi, Jordanian, Egyptian, Indonesian, Palestinian, and Organization of Islamic Cooperation delegations at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing, China, November 20, 2023. 

How is China responding to the Israel-Hamas war?1 Since Hamas’ October 7 terrorist attack on Israel and the subsequent Israeli strikes on Gaza, Beijing has positioned itself as an advocate for peace, calling for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza and the establishment of an independent Palestinian state while criticizing the United States’ support for Israel. In the weeks following the attacks, China hosted the foreign ministers of four Arab states and Indonesia. The fact that the delegation chose Beijing as its first stop was heralded by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi as a sign that “China is a good friend and brother of Arab and Islamic countries.”

While more than 10 Chinese nationals have been killed, injured, or reported missing as a result of the crisis, the Israel-Hamas war has not, however, generated much of a public reaction in China. In fact, a close examination of Beijing’s official statements and activities, commentaries in state media, and social media narratives around the Israel-Hamas war reveals that while China seeks to portray itself as a proponent for peace and to signal its alignment with many non-Western states in advocating for the Palestinian cause, it remains reluctant to assume a substantive role in the ongoing conflict.
Parsing official Chinese statements and diplomatic activities

Official Chinese statements on the Israel-Hamas war have centered on expressing broad concern around the conflict’s escalation and its humanitarian consequences. Beijing has not explicitly condemned Hamas’ terrorist attacks while stressing that only a political settlement and a two-state solution can ultimately solve the conflict between Israel and Palestine.

Chinese hacking operations have entered a far more dangerous phase, US warns


China’s cyber activity is moving beyond the last decade’s spying and data theft toward direct attacks on U.S. critical infrastructure, the directors of the FBI, NSA, and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency told lawmakers Wednesday.

The Volt Typhoon hacking group is planting malware on network routers and other internet-connected devices that, if triggered, could disrupt water, power, and rail services, possibly causing widespread chaos or even injuring and killing Americans, they said.

While Russia is known for cyber attacks that cause real-world harm—for example, targeting U.S. political campaigns and Ukrainian power plants—China is viewed as far more risk-averse. It’s best known for cyber theft, of intellectual property or government information, such as the Office of Personnel Management hack uncovered in 2015. But Volt Typhoon, which Microsoft revealed last May, represents something far more threatening.

At a meeting with reporters last week, a senior NSA official put the issue in starker terms.

“They're in places that they are not there for intelligence purposes. They are not there for financial gain. Those are two hallmarks of Chinese intrusions in other sets and other lanes,” the official said.

China is still undertaking those activities, “but this is unique in that it's prepositioning on critical infrastructure, on military networks, to be able to deliver effects at the time and place of their choosing so that they can disrupt our ability to support military activities or to distract us, to get us to focus on, you know, a domestic incident at a time when something's flaring up in a different part of the world and they don't want us facing the foreign aspects of that,” the official said.

The West Did Not Invent Decoupling—China Did

Agathe Demarais

There is a story told among Kremlin watchers: Shortly after Western countries first imposed sanctions on Russia in response to its invasion and annexation of Crimea in 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin summoned his economic advisors. His question was simple: How was Russia doing in terms of self-sufficiency for food? Not very well, came the reply. The country was dependent on imports to feed its citizens. Putin went pale and ordered that something be done, fearing that sanctions could curb Moscow’s access to food staples.

Iran Tries to Avoid War With U.S. After Stoking Mideast Conflicts

Farnaz Fassihi

Iran’s Supreme National Security Council held an emergency meeting this week, deeply worried that the United States would retaliate after an Iran-aligned militia in Iraq killed three American soldiers and wounded more than 40 others in Jordan.

The council, including the president, foreign minister, chiefs of the armed forces and two aides to the country’s supreme leader, debated how to respond to a range of possibilities, from a U.S. attack on Iran, itself, to strikes against the proxy militias that Iran backs in the region, according to three Iranians with knowledge of the council’s deliberations who were not authorized to speak publicly.

They relayed the plans developed at the Monday meeting to the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the people familiar with the discussion said, and he responded with clear orders: avoid a direct war with the United States and distance Iran from the actions of proxies who had killed Americans — but prepare to hit back if the United States struck Iran.

For a repressive, widely unpopular government already struggling with a weak economy, outbursts of mass protest and terrorism, direct conflict with the United States risks not only death and destruction in Iran. It could threaten the theocratic regime’s grip on power.

Is Washington Serious About Leaving Iraq?

Adnan Nasser

So much has been reported on what the United States aims to do in the recent collision of interests between itself and Iraq. Washington’s approval in the region is at an all-time low as it continues to provide Israel with military support in its war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, drawing outrage from much of the world.

Hezbollah from Lebanon has intensified its military strikes on Israel in support of Hamas. Groups aligned with the Gaza-based Palestinian militia are taking potshots at U.S. military targets, including a recent drone strike in Jordan that killed three American soldiers and left over forty injured.

The U.S. Central Command issued a press release confirming the attack and loss of American service personnel on a U.S. military base, “Tower 22” located in northern Jordan. This strike marked the first death blow America experienced since the start of the Hamas-Israel war on October 7. There have been over 150 attacks on U.S.-stationed positions stretching from Iraq, Syria, and now Jordan. President Joe Biden publicly mourned the loss of the three soldiers and told the American people that the government is committed to fighting terrorism—while declaring, “We will hold all those responsible to account at a time and in a manner of our choosing.”

Some hawks on Capitol Hill are calling for blood by suggesting hitting Iran directly as an appropriate form of retaliation. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said in a statement on X that previous U.S. retaliations on Iranian proxies were insufficient and “will not deter Iranian aggression.” He advocated “strik[ing] targets of significance inside Iran.”

Far from Ukraine and Gaza, Another War Just Killed 50,000 People

Matthew Tostevin

Unmarked by global street protests or quarrels over funding in Congress, three years of war in Myanmar have killed an estimated 50,000 people since the army seized power in the Southeast Asian country.

The Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) ranks Myanmar as the most violent of 50 wars it monitors around the world, noting the hundreds of small militias that have formed to fight the junta since the February 1, 2021, coup against elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

The project told Newsweek it estimates a death toll of at least 47,000 in violence in Myanmar since then, including at least 8,000 civilians, but says that figure is conservative and that the total death toll could well be another 12,000 higher, including a further 2,000 civilian deaths.

"The number of attacks by the military over the years has been massive, but there has been kind of an increase with the rebels taking over more and more territory at the end of the year," Andrea Carboni, ACLED's head of analysis, said in an interview.

Fighting in Myanmar intensified late last year as an alliance of insurgent groups made major gains against the forces of junta leader Min Aung Hlaing, who is under Western sanctions and gets weapons principally from Russia and China. The United Nations says some 2.3 million people have been displaced by the war.

Despite the human impact, the war has drawn much less attention than Ukraine or Gaza either from Western governments or from activists and protesters.

While the death toll reported in Ukraine has been higher than that in Myanmar since Russia's full-scale invasion in February 2022, and fighting between Israel and Hamas has been more intense since the Palestinian group's attack on Israel set off the latest round of conflict there on October 7, Myanmar's position also makes it of less strategic interest to the United States and other Western powers than Europe or the Middle East.

The hard truth about Biden’s coming retaliation for the killing of US troops

Kirsten Fontenrose

Ketaib Hezbollah (KH) finally got the picture. President Joe Biden’s statements about US plans for retaliation make it clear that the United States does not have an appetite for war with Iran. But the United States sure has an appetite for KH’s destruction. KH recognizes that the drone attack that killed three US soldiers in Jordan on Sunday puts it squarely in US crosshairs. Oh the impending irony, after years of fighting to push US forces out of Iraq, to be obliterated just months before the United States voluntarily withdraws. To avoid this, KH announced Tuesday night that it is ceasing attacks on US troops in Iraq and Syria. It is a calculated and last-ditch attempt at self-preservation. Based on the immediate KH exodus from its bases after the drone hit, it is plausible that KH did not think the drone would make it past US air defenses in Jordan. The United States should put no stock in KH assurances.

While the threat of US strikes may have KH scrambling, no purely military operation the United States undertakes will “restore deterrence” with Iran. Tehran believes there is no chance the United States will go to war with Iran, not least because the United States keeps saying so. As long as that belief is held, Tehran will continue to cultivate proxies to test the edge of US resolve.

Sunday’s deadly attack hit a nerve in Washington. It is the first time a drone has killed a member of the US military and appears to be the first time a member of the Army or Marines was killed by enemy air power since 1953.

Meanwhile, Iran likely perceived this attack by one of its proxy militias as simply a tit-for-tat retaliation for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) operators killed by the United States’ partner Israel in Damascus a week ago. (From what I’ve heard, Iran believes that it already crossed the rumored US redline about killing Americans in March 2023, when a proxy drone strike in Syria killed a US contractor.)

If the US and EU don’t set AI standards, China will first, say Gina Raimondo and Margrethe Vestager

Katherine Walla

According to US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, the United States and European Union (EU) don’t have a moment to wait in setting standards for the development and use of artificial intelligence (AI). “If the US and EU don’t show up,” she warned, “China will, [and] autocracies will.”

Raimondo spoke at an Atlantic Council Front Page event on Tuesday alongside European Commission Executive Vice President Margrethe Vestager, who cautioned that the field of standardization in technologies is already being “dominated by nonmarket players or Chinese players.” But “we need to be much more present in standardization for us,” she said. “We need to have a presence.”

The leaders spoke shortly after the fifth meeting of the EU-US Trade and Technology Council (TTC) in Washington, where officials touched on everything from AI to climate policy to semiconductors.

In the US-EU relationship, “there are irritants for sure,” Raimondo admitted, “but fundamentally what binds us is massively more consequential than the irritants.”

Below are more highlights from the conversation, which was moderated by Atlantic Council President and Chief Executive Officer Frederick Kempe.


Russia Tomorrow: Five scenarios for Russia’s future

Casey Michel

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 challenged much of the common Western understanding of Russia. How can the world better understand Russia? What are the steps forward for Western policy? The Eurasia Center’s new “Russia Tomorrow” series seeks to reevaluate conceptions of Russia today and better prepare for its future tomorrow.

Imagine Russia in 2030. Will it resemble today’s imperial kleptocracy? Will it be a Western-style democracy? Will the Russian Federation exist at all? As Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine continues, the questions of what comes next have never been more pertinent. However, while questions of future developments in Ukraine continue to dominate discourse in places like Washington and Brussels, far less attention has been paid to what comes next in Moscow, and across the Russian Federation. Indeed, the discussion of developments within—and policy surrounding—Russia’s potential future has been largely muted across the West. Even after former militia head Yevgeny Prigozhin’s failed 2023 putsch, serious discussion regarding potential Russian futures remained largely subdued.

But given the magnitude and fallout of Russia’s invasion, to say nothing of the ongoing threats that a revanchist Kremlin poses to the West and its allies elsewhere, this lack of discussion surrounding Russia’s potential future is increasingly inexcusable. As such, this essay will seek to rectify that inadequate oversight in the broader policy conversations about Russia’s path forward.

These sections include potential developments leading to and through each scenario—imagining what such a scenario would entail—as well as how the West should respond strategically if the scenario comes to pass, as well as potential time horizons.

These scenarios should not be taken as necessarily exhaustive. Instead, these five scenarios should be treated as the five likeliest scenarios moving forward.

Ukraine will spoof GPS across the country to stop Russian drones

David Hambling

Ukraine is deploying a nationwide electronic warfare system to confuse satellite navigation. Known as Pokrova, the system aims to prevent Russian missiles and drones from finding their targets and may already be in operation. It is likely to also affect satellite navigation for people in Ukraine.

Members of the US Naval Institute say military branch is not ‘adequately’ prepared for a cyberwar

Greg Wehner

Jen Easterly, director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, warned about China's hacking threats Wednesday before the House Select Committee on the Chinese Communist Party.

Association members of the U.S. Naval Institute, belief that the military branch is trailing behind China’s advances in cyberspace operations, and if action is not taken, the branch will have "a very bad day" at the start of a cyberwar in 2026, according to reports.

In a piece written for the February 2024 issue of Proceedings, a publication for the U.S. Naval Institute, Retired Vice Adm. T.J. White, Retired Rear Adm. Danelle Barrett, U.S. Navy, and Cmdr. Jake Bebber, wrote that the Navy was not ready for the information war as it had not "adequately planned" for a time when the cyber and maritime domains of war intersect.

"The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel underscore that operational planners need to prepare for information attacks by state actors as well as non-state organizations and civilians," the authors wrote, heeding a warning that the U.S. is not prepared for any cyberwar sparked, hypothetically, in 2026.

The reason, they explain, is that the Navy has not "fully embraced" the benefits of space operations supporting maritime operations, nor has it embraced that it has access advantages to support both cyber and space operations, adding that leaders will need to embrace these things to defeat cognitive warfare campaigns.

Is Europe ready to defend itself without the US? Not yet, but now it knows it has to, and it’s on the right track – just about

The past couple of weeks have witnessed one of the biggest and most consequential shifts in European strategic policy since 1945. A series of top-level military and political leaders in Europe suddenly came out in public to warn about war with Russia in fundamentally different and more serious terms than ever before.

In Stockholm and London, the head of the Swedish Armed Forces and that of the British Army both said that the entire population must be prepared to fight, not far in the future. The Chair of the NATO Military Committee declared openly that a war with Russia is less than 20 years away, again with the implication that civilians will have to be mobilised into the forces. According to the German defence minister, Berlin thinks we only have five to eight years until war comes. The Estonian prime minister, gave it three to five years, and the UK defence secretary similarly talked about a five-year timeline to war. In this same short space of time we also had Norway’s top general as well as Poland’s national security agency warning of war within three years.

All this is quite unprecedented, coming from such high-ranking figures. And beyond these warnings, from Britain to Sweden, Germany, Poland or Romania there are now increasingly strong debates about restoring various forms of conscription. What a change of tone from last year, when Russia was thought to be “losing” and Ukraine was supposed to be raising its flags again over Crimea and the shores of the Azov Sea.

The true meaning of this coordinated and concentrated messaging has been obscured, drowned by the usual media cacophony and hysteria that accompanies any startling statement that impacts the wider public. Make no mistake: this was not just rhetoric or, as some cynics might say, simply more “warmongering” from a Western establishment “obsessed with fighting Russia”. Rather, it indicates that the penny has finally dropped in Europe as regards the true nature of the security challenge ahead – both from an enemy and an allied, i.e. US, perspective. It is quite clear that a high-level decision has been taken, across European establishments, to begin addressing these literally life-or-death issues for real, at long last.

In Ukraine and the Middle East, only force can restore deterrence


By killing three U.S. reservists, Iran and its proxies have forced the questions of deterrence and escalation to the forefront of U.S. policymaking. However, these questions are not confined to the wars now roiling the Middle East, but apply equally to the war in Ukraine, Chinese threats of aggression against Taiwan and in the South China Sea and the increasing danger of a North Korean attack against South Korea.

All of these threats are, to one degree or another, ripostes to our inadequate thinking about escalation and deterrence.

The administration’s view is that Washington and its allies must avoid escalating the situation in the Middle East to a general regional war and turning the conventional war in Ukraine into a potential nuclear war. To that end, it has sought to restrain Israel and push them toward a two-state solution. It has also constrained the shipment of weapons to Ukraine, the consequences of which have already been seen there. Likewise, it has only struck back at Iran’s proxies a few times, despite over 150 attacks on U.S. forces and personnel.

However, these efforts to avoid escalation have been resounding failures. The Houthis and other Iranian proxies are clearly undeterred. Likewise, Russian President Vladimir Putin firmly believes the West is disorganized, demoralized, unwilling to sustain Ukraine’s defense and, in general, an effete society whose time has passed. Therefore, he is or at least professes to be confident in Russia’s victory.

This underscores the point that the issue is not to avoid escalation but to restore deterrence by retaking control of the escalation process and depriving our enemies of that leverage. Sadly, our previous failure to grasp what deterrence in these cases entails has now made the discriminating use of force necessary.

The West Sanctioned Russia to the Hilt. So How Is Its Economy Booming?

Christopher Gavin

Despite a heavy barrage of Western sanctions put in place after its 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Russia's economy has nevertheless persevered — and is now thriving.

In a report released Tuesday, the Russian Central Bank said the nation's banks saw record profits in 2023, generating the equivalent of $37 billion — 16 times higher than the previous year, according to the Financial Times.

Alexander Danilov, the head of the CBR’s banking regulation department, even admitted the cashflow came as "somewhat of a surprise," FT reported.

Meanwhile, as Moscow stands poised to enter a third year of a grinding war in Ukraine, Russia's economy is forecasted to get a 2.6% boost this year – doubling prior expectations set in October, the International Monetary Fund indicated Tuesday.

So, what's driving the numbers?

Bank profits were largely helped by Russians eager to take advantage of government-subsidized mortgages, a program aimed at driving up consumer demand, according to the FT.

Homeowners can get interest rates of up to 8% under the subsidized loans, while rates in the wider market are approximately 14%.

The number of mortgages jumped by 34.5% last year, with the subsidized offerings making up more than half of all new home loans, FT reported.

The mortgage rush was driven by Russians concerned the subsidies would end and those seeking to invest the de-valued rouble into real estate.


The last two years have witnessed significant global developments that brought geopolitics back to center stage and exacerbated global divisions. The CSIS 2024 Global Forecast—A World Dividing—offers insights from dozens of our scholars on the most urgent questions in the year ahead around security, technology, geoeconomics, alliances, and regional influence.

This second installment of A World Dividing examines the rapidly shifting contours of global economic and technology competition. Experts from across CSIS offer their policy solutions to strengthen U.S. competitiveness on trade, manufacturing, and energy and climate security—issues that will define U.S. economic security in the twenty-first century.

This volume follows the first installment of A World Dividing, which explores the myriad issues facing U.S.-China competition in 2024. The issues examined in the next two installments are also of equal importance, with insights on what comes next for the conflict s in Europe and the Middle East and the defining factors in the battle for influence in the Global South.

We invite you to explore the diverse perspectives below to deepen your thinking on these questions.

Why Biden’s LNG Pause Has Allies Worried

Keith Johnson

The Biden administration’s “pause” on future approvals for the export of U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG) has enraged Republicans, spooked overseas allies that are increasingly reliant on affordable U.S. energy, and raised questions about the long-term future of the world’s newest energy powerhouse.

How Ten Middle East Conflicts Are Converging Into One Big War

On Friday, a day after the U.S.-led attacks on dozens of Houthi military sites in Yemen, President Biden took a few shouted questions during a campaign stop at the Nowhere café, in Emmaus, Pennsylvania. “Do you have a message for Iran?” a reporter called out, as Biden waited for a smoothie. “I’ve already delivered the message to Iran,” he replied. “They know not to do anything.” Tehran, he added, did not want a war with the United States. Biden was then asked if he would order more strikes if Houthi rebels—armed, trained, and funded by Iran for years—did not end their drone and missile attacks on commercial and military ships in the Red Sea, a strategic waterway that bridges trade between Asia and Europe. “We will make sure we respond to the Houthis if they continue this outrageous behavior,” he replied.

Yet the U.S.-led strikes on the Houthis appear unlikely to curtail confrontations in the Red Sea—or tensions anywhere else in the Middle East. On Friday, the International Crisis Group warned that “a military response to Houthi attacks may have symbolic value for Western nations and may curb certain Houthi capabilities but will have limited overall impact. They could even make things worse.” The Yemeni rebels are “buoyed by popular support” for siding with Hamas in Gaza and gaining lopsided leverage over international commerce, the I.C.G. concluded. Nearly fifteen per cent of the world’s seaborne trade passes through the Red Sea and the Suez Canal. The Houthi attacks, which have accelerated since November 19th, have already affected almost fifty nations, President Biden said in a statement on the U.S. response.

American and British forces launched a hundred and fifty missiles and bombs that hit sixty military sites in more than two dozen locations in Yemen. Yet the Houthis reportedly still have the vast majority of their military assets. Like Hamas, the Houthis “feel empowered to have their way at a bearable cost,” the I.C.G. said. Both militias are pulling the world into their conflicts—and hyping their causes. On Sunday, the Houthis fired at a U.S. warship in the Red Sea. On Monday, they hit a U.S.-owned container ship. On Tuesday, the Houthis struck another container ship—and the U.S. fired at four more sites where missiles were about to be fired.

Can AI reduce Air Force logistics planning from days to minutes?


The U.S. Air Force’s Air Mobility Command is testing a new tool that uses artificial intelligence to plan moves as the Pentagon grapples with tough logistics challenges in the Pacific.

The cloud-based tool, called Artiv, promises to complete “highly complicated operational wargaming analysis” in minutes instead of days, said Col. Bradley Rueter, who leads the command’s Commander’s Initiative Group.

Built by DEFCON AI, Artiv aims to streamline logistics missions, allowing Air Force planners to compare different courses of action if there’s a disruption, such as an enemy attack or natural disaster.

“Because that feedback happens so quickly, it allows our planners to adjust before we start executing,” Rueter said.

Artiv is just one part of an “ecosystem” of integrated operational planning tools that AMC is developing to predict where the command’s services will be needed, Rueter said, adding that the tools will “succeed together and fail together, and hinge upon organizational change within the headquarters.”

Rueter said the larger network is on track to deliver “revolutionary” operational planning capabilities in 2025.

Scott Stapp, DEFCON’s chief technology and revenue officer, said Artiv could be used to quickly adjust if an aircraft unexpectedly is grounded or needs maintenance and the command can’t move supplies as planned.

Biotechnology in Warfare and Battle – and the Human Body as a Warfighting Domain


RAND researchers in a recently released report explore biology as the platform on which future wars will be fought. Plagues, Cyborgs, and Supersoldiers: The Human Domain of War “examines the existing and potential future uses of biotechnology in warfare and battle – and look at the human body as a warfighting domain: “…a future in which biotechnology is used by both state and nonstate actors…future actors may use pathogens, brain-computer interfaces (BCIs), genomic enhancements, and wearable technology to supplement and strengthen warfighters.” A failure of imagination this report is not.

The report underscores the importance of bioengineering to modern strategy, a theme we have been pursuing for years. This is a recurring OODAcon topic and the subject of our updated series on what executives need to know about bioengineering.
The Future of the Bioeconomy and Biodefense

“‘Biodefense’ referred to…potential catastrophes that could arise from the use of biological agents in warfare or terrorism – and the measures taken to protect people and nations against these biological risks and threat.”

Of all the exponential technologies, we emerged from OODAcon 2023 last year with a renewed respect for the future of biotechnology. Words such as “breathtaking” and “game changer” just do not capture the impact of the bioeconomy in the next ten to twenty years. Biology is considered the” ultimate distributed manufacturing platform” – utilizing DNA and RNA to create bioengineered materials that have application in a variety of new and existing markets and industry sectors The distributed manufacturing capabilities of biology offer immense potential for innovation and “Platform Economy” ecosystems, economies of scale, interoperability, XaaS offerings, and proprietary and open-source applications. It is important to remember that business model innovation and creative value proposition designs are equally as important as the general application technology itself.