16 February 2024

Understanding the Hezbollah threat, by the numbers - analysis


Israel is now focused on the threat from Hezbollah, which has fired more than 2,000 rockets and dozens of anti-tank guided missiles and drones at Israel from October 8 to January 9.

The Hezbollah threat is also changing.

The group has embedded itself within communities in southern Lebanon over several decades. It has built tunnels and bunkers, and has built observation posts.

On February 3, IDF spokesperson R.-Adm. Daniel Hagari delivered an extensive assessment of the Hezbollah threat. The data he provided and other data underscore the issues facing northern Israel.

First of all, Israel has evacuated 80,000 residents of communities along the northern border, and both Defense Minister Yoav Gallant and Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Herzi HaLevi warned in late January that the likelihood of conflict had increased.

HEZBOLLAH LEADER Hassan Nasrallah addresses his supporters during a rally commemorating the annual Hezbollah Martyrs’ Day, in Beirut last month. 

The ministry director-general also visited the north last week and detailed the damage caused to some 430 homes on the border by Hezbollah attacks.

Hagari said on February 3 that three IDF divisions deployed along the border have responded with defensive and offensive operations. Over 3,400 Hezbollah targets have been struck, and 200 terrorists targeted, with 150 terror cells struck and 120 Hezbollah observation posts hit.

Forty weapon stores have been struck along with 40 “command and control” centers.

IDF infantry chief to 'Post': Israel can handle a multi-front war


Despite the loss of over 500 soldiers, including 300 in the infantry, the IDF remains ready to handle threats on all fronts, said IDF Infantry and Paratroopers Corps Commander Brig.-Gen. Eran Oliel.

“I don’t see any gap. They [IDF soldiers] can handle all of the missions assigned to them without any problems,” he told The Jerusalem Post in an exclusive interview.

Addressing his specific command, the infantry, the largest command in the IDF, he stated: “The infantry has fought everywhere and also fought on October 7.

“There are many processes to address the issue” of having lost more troops in a period of months than the IDF has lost in decades.”

According to Oliel, “The ratio of draftees has gone up for the November 2023 draftees’ group. We also kept more people within the career officer track than usual.

“We shifted more people into the combat fighter category and are keeping more combat commanders. More soldiers and officers across the army will stay on for longer. The motivation to serve is very high, and this is very important,” he said.

Israeli soldiers operate in the Gaza Strip, February 8, 2024 

“The number of ground forces we have is very large. Losing over 300 [however tragic] does not affect the missions. Right now, they are operating in Khan Yunis and Shati – they can handle everything” that they are assigned to do.

What’s Behind Qatar’s Decision to Release 8 Indian Nationals Convicted of Espionage?

Seamus Duffy

Over the weekend, Qatar released eight Indian nationals previously arrested on espionage charges, all of whom were veterans of the Indian Navy. The eight suspects were accused by Doha in August 2022 of leaking details of their work for the Qatar-based firm Dahra Global to Israel. Although the details of the case have not been disclosed, the firm’s work advising the Qatari government on the acquisition of Italian submarines had led analysts to theorize that Qatari authorities suspected the eight Indian nationals of passing the details of Doha’s nascent submarine program on to Israeli intelligence.

After the eight were sentenced to death by a Qatari court in October 2023, Indian officials at the Ministry of External Affairs expressed their shock at the decision and announced their intention to “take up the verdict with Qatari authorities.” This weekend’s release of the prisoners represents the culmination of India’s efforts to seek the release of the prisoners after a Qatari court commuted the death sentences of the eight Indian nationals late last year.

Although this saga might seem to be good fodder for a spy thriller, it has played out amid a similarly dramatic shift in India’s Middle East policy over the last few months, namely with regard to Israel. At the outset of the war in Gaza back in October, India was quick to express support for Israel, even while reiterating its usual line of support for a two-state solution. Nonetheless, as Israel’s campaign in Gaza continued, New Delhi’s patience grew thin. In November 2023, India voiced its support for a United Nations resolution that condemned Israeli settlements in the West Bank and offered similar support in December for a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza.

While India has by no means abandoned Israel, the shift away from the more pro-Israel stances espoused by Israeli allies like the United States suggests that, at the very least, India’s approach to Israel is flexible. In light of India’s ongoing spat with Qatar, this should not be all that surprising.

India’s Elite Worries About America - Opinion

Walter Russell Mead

I spoke at the Global Business Summit, a conference organized here by an Indian media group, and spent several days talking to Indian business leaders, journalists and senior government officials. Most were very optimistic about the country’s prospects. India’s economic growth is trending at about 7% a year, and a massive infrastructure push is transforming the country. The flight of foreign (and Chinese) capital from China is driving investment to India, with companies such as Apple moving electronics production here.

From the standpoint of government officials and many in the business world, there’s more. The Bharatiya Janata Party government is heavily favored in parliamentary elections this spring. With an approval rating of 78%, Prime Minister Narendra Modi remains the most popular leader in the democratic world and appears headed for a third term. Businesses like certainty, and even corporate chieftains who don’t share the BJP’s Hindu nationalism support a strong, stable and reasonably pro-business government in New Delhi.

All this good news is a heady brew, but the officials I spoke with were anything but triumphalist. What sobers them is the gathering storm on the international horizon. The near-closure of the Red Sea by the Iran-backed Houthi militia is a direct threat to Indian trade with Europe and North America. Upheavals across the Middle East threaten the economic corridor through the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Israel—a corridor that New Delhi hopes will boost trade and investment. Western efforts to isolate Russia have, in New Delhi’s view, driven it into China’s arms, creating serious problems for India.

Angry Young Pakistanis Give Imran Khan a Future Shot at Power

Omar Waraich

Immured in his prison cell, Pakistani politician Imran Khan could scarcely have hoped for a better result. Just days before the country’s Feb. 8 election, the cricket legend-turned-populist politician was sentenced to more than a decade behind bars in three trumped-up cases. His party was stripped of its signature cricket bat symbol by the Election Commission, denying voters the chance to identify the party on ballot papers—a critical aspect of voting in a country where 40 percent of people are illiterate—and forcing its candidates to run as independents. Its members were beaten, imprisoned, and driven into rival parties or out of politics altogether.

Kishida’s Struggle to Win Over Japan’s Conservatives

Jio Kamata

Japanese conservatives found a trustworthy ally in the late Prime Minister Abe Shinzo. Abe’s conservative bona fides – represented by his revisionist views on historical memory and what should be taught in history classrooms, his hawkish stance toward North Korea, and his relentless attack on the Japanese post-war governing structure, which he scorned as the “post-war regime” – made him an instantaneous celebrity among his fellow conservatives.

While conservatives adored Abe until his death, their relationship with him was not always smooth. As Tobias Harris noted in his masterful biography, Abe as a politician was inclined to “pragmatic statecraft” and believed that Japan “had to make drastic changes to ensure national survival.” And the methods he used to achieve that end were not always in line with conservative preferences.

For example, Abe decided to enact legislation that would open up Japan for low-skilled immigrants and their family members to compensate for the serious labor shortage. The law was slammed by conservatives as a de facto “immigration law” that would worsen Japan’s public safety and put downward pressure on wages. Although fierce at the time, the conservative attacks toward Abe simmered quickly, and in the end, the underlying relationship between them did not change.

It’s a different story for current Prime Minister Kishida Fumio. He was never close to the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP)’s conservative base. Kishida once described himself as a “liberal” and was part of a faction renowned for its “dovish” roots. (Kishida recently announced the dissolution of the faction amid a broader scandal regarding fundraising and kickbacks within the LDP.)

Understandably, Kishida was not the conservatives’ first choice during the 2021 LDP presidential election. They wanted Takaichi Sanae, a conservative whose candidacy was supported by Abe.

China’s Zombie East China Sea Policy

Denny Roy

While the Chinese government deals with a stumbling economy, “de-risking” by trade partners, and smoldering crises in the South China Sea, the Taiwan Strait, and the Sino-Indian border, its 12-year-old policy toward disputed maritime territory in the East China Sea continues to maintain high tensions with Japan to no good purpose.

The focal point of the tensions is a tiny island group that both countries claim, known in Japan as the Senkaku Islands and in China as the Diaoyu. China dispatched its coast guard ships to waters near the Senkakus for 352 days in 2023, a record high. Japan’s Kyodo News reported that China plans a daily Coast Guard presence this year, combined with the possibility of inspecting Japanese fishing boats, although Chinese officials have not publicly confirmed this.

In November, China’s top leader Xi Jinping visited the headquarters of the China Coast Guard department responsible for the East China Sea and emphasized the need to “constantly strengthen” China’s ability to protect its own claim. The months of October, November, and December 2023 all saw incidents near the islands in which Japanese Coast Guard ships intervened to back up Japanese fishing boats harassed by Chinese government vessels.

A People’s Liberation Army lieutenant general told Japanese media in December 2023 that China might seize the Senkakus as part of an invasion of Taiwan.

Several worrisome developments occurred in January 2024. PLA warships detected on the edges of Japan’s East China Sea air defense identification zone (ADIZ) prompted the Japanese military to send in a destroyer and an early warning and control system aircraft. Chinese Coast Guard vessels began warning Japanese military aircraft by radio to leave the airspace above and near the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands.

The China Coast Guard announced it had ordered a Japanese fishing boat and several Japanese patrol ships to leave the area near the islands, adding, “We urge Japan to stop all illegal activities in the waters immediately and to ensure similar incidents would not happen again.”

Explainer: what is Volt Typhoon and why is it the ‘defining threat of our generation’?

Helen Davidson

Relations between the US and China – particularly over Beijing’s threats to annex Taiwan – have plummeted in recent years, prompting growing concern about the potential for hostilities or all-out conflict. So recent revelations that a Chinese hacking network known as Volt Typhoon had been lying dormant inside US critical infrastructure for as long as five years have sparked considerable alarm.

The network exploited US technological and security weaknesses. But rather than stealing secrets, US and allied intelligence services said it was focused on “pre-positioning” itself for future acts of sabotage.

FBI director Christopher Wray told a US committee hearing last week that Volt Typhoon was “the defining threat of our generation”.

The Netherlands and Philippines have also recently publicly identified Chinese-backed hackers as targeting state networks and infrastructure.

What is Volt Typhoon?

Western intelligence officials say Volt Typhoon – also known as Vanguard Panda, Brronze Silhouette, Dev-0391, UNC3236, Voltzite, and Insidious Taurus – is a state-supported Chinese cyber operation that has compromised thousands of internet-connected devices. They said it was part of a larger effort to infiltrate western critical infrastructure, including naval ports, internet service providers, communications services and utilities.

The new advisories on Volt Typhoon followed a recent announcement by US authorities that they had dismantled a bot network of hundreds of compromised devices, attributing it to the hacking network.

“CISA [Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Agency] teams have found and eradicated Chinese intrusions in multiple critical infrastructure sectors, including aviation, water, energy, [and] transportation,” US CISA director Jen Easterly told a US House committee hearing earlier this month.

Why China Can’t Export Its Model of Surveillance

Minxin Pei

Over the past two decades, Chinese leaders have built a high-tech surveillance system of seemingly extraordinary sophistication. Facial recognition software, Internet monitoring, and ubiquitous video cameras give the impression that the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has finally accomplished the dictator’s dream of building a surveillance state like the one imagined in George Orwell’s 1984.

A high-tech surveillance network now blankets the entire country, and the potency of this system was on full display in November 2022, when nationwide protests against China’s COVID lockdown shocked the party. 

Saudi Arabia: Silencing critics and Congress


The government of Saudi Arabia has gone to extraordinary lengths to silence its critics, including brutally murdering journalist and U.S. resident Jamal Khashoggi in 2018. Now the Saudi monarchy is hoping to silence its most powerful critic yet: the U.S. Senate.

Tuesday afternoon, fireworks flew in a Senate committee room as consultants for the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) — Boston Consulting Group, Teneo, McKinsey & Company, and M. Klein — were called to explain why they and the PIF had done remarkably little to comply with a Senate inquiry into PIF’s influence efforts in the U.S.

The hearing got heated almost as quickly as it began with Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), chairman of the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations that was holding the hearing, exclaiming that, “It’s outrageous the government of Saudi Arabia is threatening members of your companies with jail time if you provide the documents this Subcommittee has requested.”

The Ranking Member of the subcommittee, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) also expressed disdain for the lack of transparency afforded by the PIF. “I have no sympathy for Saudi Arabia’s claims of sovereign immunity,” he said. “Any foreign entity wanting to do business in the U.S. must abide by U.S. laws.”

Sens. Blumenthal and Johnson’s ire with the witnesses stems from these firms’ and PIF’s stubborn refusal to comply with the subcommittee’s investigation of PIF’s influence activities in the U.S., most notably PIF’s bid to effectively take over the international game of golf via the proposed merger of the Saudi-backed LIV Golf tour with the U.S.-based PGA Tour and the DP World Tour.

Middle East Crisis : Cairo Talks on a Gaza Cease-Fire Are Extended

Vivian Yee and Julian E. Barnes, Victoria Kim and Richard Pérez-Peña, Euan Ward, Hwaida Saad and Adam Sella, Matthew Mpoke Bigg, Lynsey Chutel and Marlise Simons, Raja Abdulrahim, Catie Edmondson and Karoun Demirjian, Michael Crowley, Abu Bakr Bashir

Here’s what we know:

Two officials, one Egyptian and one American, said the negotiations would keep going for three more days.

In a photo provided by the Egyptian presidency, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, center, with the C.I.A. director, William J. Burns, in Cairo on Tuesday.

Negotiations in Cairo over a possible agreement to pause the fighting in Gaza have been extended for another three days, according to an Egyptian official briefed on the talks, after a first day of high-level negotiations on Tuesday ended without an agreement.

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive negotiations, said the tenor of the talks was positive.

The talks over the next three days will involve lower-level officials, who will continue discussing a new framework for a deal, one that would ensure a certain number of hostages would be released and that the fighting would be halted for a certain number of weeks, a U.S. official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss diplomatic talks.

Hamas and Israel have each rejected formulas proposed recently. Last month, a broad framework for an agreement was sketched out in Paris by representatives of the United States, Israel, Qatar and Egypt. That proposal included a six-week cease-fire and the exchange of hostages in Gaza for Palestinian prisoners in Israel.

Hamas came back with a counterproposal that demanded the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip and envisioned trading Hamas’s remaining 136 hostages for thousands of Palestinians held in Israeli jails, including people serving long sentences. The Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, dismissed the counterproposal, saying he would never “surrender to the ludicrous demands of Hamas.”

Zaluzhny firing not even a band-aid as Ukraine strategy bleeds out


President Volodymyr Zelensky’s dismissal of the Ukrainian army chief, General Valery Zaluzhny, is a colossal political gamble for Zelensky and seems to indicate an increasing mood of desperation in Kyiv. The background to this move lies in the failure of last year’s Ukrainian offensive, and the attempts both to shift blame and to draw up a new strategy that could promise Ukraine future victory.

The Ukrainian defeat last year led to a rather discreditable blame game in Washington, with the U.S. military, and some Ukrainians, suggesting that if Zaluzhny had taken their (supposed) advice and concentrated his forces to attack on a narrow front (rather than attacking in several places simultaneously), the Ukrainians could have broken through.

This is a rather odd argument, because it was just such attacks on narrow fronts that the Russian army tried several times immediately following the invasion, and that led to repeated disasters. It ignores the fact that just as U.S. satellite intelligence allowed the Ukrainians to identify local Russian concentrations and to concentrate in turn, so Russian satellite intelligence does the same when it is the Ukrainians attacking.

The truth is that by the summer of 2023 the Ukrainian army simply did not have the superiority in manpower and firepower that would have allowed it to break through heavily fortified lines manned by a numerous and well-armed enemy. To have succeeded against these odds would have been a quite exceptionally unusual event in military history. Nor is there any significant prospect that the Ukrainians will be able to succeed in the future; for even if they receive new Western weaponry over the next year, Russia will be using the year still further to fortify its defensive lines

Russia Will Never Build a Fleet of Aircraft Carriers Like the U.S. Navy

Peter Suciu

A question routinely asked by armchair historians is why Russia never built a fleet of aircraft carriers. The short answer only requires that one looks at a map.

Russia may be the largest nation in terms of land mass in the world today, and historically was even larger in the Imperial Russia and Soviet eras, but it has also largely been a land power.

Its naval history has been one of numerous follies, from the Russo-Japanese War (1904-05) when it lost two squadrons including eight battleships sunk and two more capture; to the ongoing war in Ukraine, which last year saw the sinking of the Moskva, the largest warship sunk in combat since the Second World War.

First World War

Following the destruction of the Russian Navy in the Russo-Japanese War, the naval power of Russia was vastly reduced – so much so that it fell from the second-largest navy in the world to the fourth. Yet, Tsar Nicholas II saw a need for a naval force and launched a massive shipbuilding program.

The First World War broke out before the program was completed, but Russia still had a larger navy than its Central Power adversaries. The Russian Navy wasn’t actually able to play that great of a role in the war effort. Its size wasn't the issue, but rather it was one of the geography of Russia.

During the conflict, Russia’s Baltic Fleet was limited in operation due to the proximity of the German High Seas Fleet, yet Russia still scored a victory at the Battle of the Gulf of Riga in August 1915.

Likewise, the Russian Black Sea Fleet was able to control that body of water during the war, even if it was largely unable to take part in any other operations.

Robots in the Trenches Are Reshaping Warfare. And They Come in Peace.


Robots were on the march in the winter of 2023-2024. Both Russian and Ukrainian forces began using unmanned ground vehicles (UGVs) on a large scale for the first time in the bloody battlefields around the city of Avdiivka. Unlike the gun-toting robot phalanxes of the Star Wars prequals, these wheeled drones were delivering badly needed supplies and ammunition to human soldiers in frontline positions.
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But Ukraine’s skies are already saturated with flying drones—especially cheap but fast loitering munitions guided by operators and used to ram targets. And so, each sides’ flying robots have been attacking the other’s ground robots.
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The war of robot versus robot that was first envisioned by science fiction is becoming a reality. But as drones take on a growing share of military tasks, they will likely not only fight other drones, but help friendly ones perform their missions.

That’s the idea behind the new Elistair Khronos tethered surveillance drone, tested this January in conjunction with a Mission Master-SP ground drone before observers from European militaries.

“We’ve performed a demonstration for European forces. The concept is very simple,” Elistair’s Guilhem de Marliave, with company co-founder Timothée Penet, told Popular Mechanics. “We combine ground and air robots to have this very discrete fully automated reconnaissance system for border patrol and defense use. It’s specifically designed to be integrated into vehicles for convoy protection, patrols, and reconnaissance.”

Why Diplomacy Can’t End the Ukraine War

Andreas Umland

There is a consensus among observers of the Russo-Ukrainian War that it should end as soon as possible. Most Ukrainians couldn’t agree more. Furthermore, many Russians would not mind ceasing the carnage. Why, then, is there still no negotiated finale to the war?

Many reasons hamper the potential for compromise between Kyiv and Moscow. The Ukrainian and Russian constitutions, both country’s domestic politics, Crimea’s peculiar needs, and Eastern European historical memory all present obstacles to a diplomatic settlement. Each of these is a formidable barrier, and their combined challenge for decisionmakers in Moscow and Kyiv will likely prolong the war through 2024.

Pushing for a negotiated ceasefire of some durability—not to mention sustainable peace—between Ukraine and Russia is futile. Following this strategy would not only be inconclusive but also absorb the energy needed to pursue more promising paths toward resolving the conflict.

Ukraine’s and Russia’s Constitutions

The foundations of international law (i.e., the inviolability of borders and territorial integrity of states) are frequently mentioned obstacles to compromise between Kyiv and Moscow. While this is doubtlessly valid, global norms are not the highest legal hindrance to successful Russian-Ukrainian negotiations. In the past, post-Soviet Russia had been engaged in creating or supporting separatist movements, sparking or fanning civil wars, as well as establishing so-called “republics” in its backyard.

After Free Trade

Gordon H. Hanson & Robert E. Lighthizer

Any review that calls the book in question “captivating” and “clear-eyed” and that describes its author as the “most consequential U.S. trade representative of the last 30 years” cannot be all bad, and Gordon Hanson’s review of my book, No Trade Is Free, is no exception. I admire his scholarship on the impact of import competition on American communities, which I cite in the book. I only wish he could further undock himself from academic rigidity and allow current global economic realities to challenge old dogma.

No Trade Is Free lays out a vision for U.S. trade policy and details its implementation during the Trump administration. I believe trade policy should help working-class Americans find and maintain good-paying jobs. But for decades, it has instead centered on price optimization, efficiency, and corporate profits. The result has been the loss of millions of jobs, the destruction of thousands of communities, and the accumulation of trillions of dollars of trade deficits. This policy has made the country weaker and poorer.

The book also raises the alarm about the threat that the Chinese Communist Party poses to the United States. China is an increasingly aggressive, totalitarian, and hostile state that believes it should be number one in the world. It intimidates the U.S. military in international waters and space and challenges American diplomats around the world. It steals U.S. technology, engages in continual espionage, funnels fentanyl past U.S. borders, and effectively funds two proxy wars against the United States—backing Russia’s efforts in Ukraine and providing oil revenues to Iran that end up with Hamas. Worst of all, China has for decades waged an economic war that pulls in trillions of dollars of American wealth through trade surpluses. The Trump administration took on this challenge and set U.S. relations with China on a new course.


Curiously, however, Hanson’s review barely mentions the China-related aspects of my book. Indeed, China’s alarming rise has nothing to do with free trade or such fine notions as comparative advantage. Hanson’s oversight is important because every economic theory must be judged by this dangerous twenty-first-century reality—and every policy must be measured against this existential threat.

Trump’s incendiary NATO remarks send very real shudders through Europe

Nick Paton Walsh

Remarks by Donald Trump normally reverberate in an echo chamber of his own creation, a sort of vacuum that often strips them of any consequence globally. It is white noise, one might think – rhetoric designed to project strength and the rejection of the status-quo, rather than an expression of any actual policy. It is just Trump being Trump.

But when the former president suggested on Saturday that he would let Russia do “whatever the hell they want” to any NATO member that doesn’t meet spending guidelines, the impact was acute.

He recalled what he said was a conversation with a “large” NATO ally – it was unclear who he was referring to or when the conversation took place – which, according to his telling, had declined to spend the 2% recommended equivalent of their GDP on defense, but nevertheless wanted assurances from the US that they would be protected if Russia attacked. Trump said he would not give such an assurance, as the ally was “delinquent,” and Russian President Vladimir Putin should feel free to have his way.

Trump’s opinion of NATO has been known for years – he thinks it is the epitome of everything he despises about of America’s allies, taking advantage of US strength without giving anything in return: a store loyalty club in which you get points without proportionate spending.

As with much foreign policy, the Republican frontrunner radically misunderstood the nature and purpose of this relationship. NATO is not an alliance based on dues: it is the largest military bloc in history, formed to face down the Soviet threat, based on the collective defense that an attack on one is an attack on all – a principle enshrined in Article 5 of NATO’s founding treaty.

It’s purpose which suits the US profoundly: The White House invoked Article 5 after 9/11. And since NATO’s creation, US might has been often packaged globally as the expression of a dozens-strong consensus. NATO helps bolster the US’s ebbing position as the sole hyperpower. Strip away this vast alliance, and its diplomatic and economic might, and the US looks quite lonely on the world stage.

Putin’s Perspective on the Russia-Ukraine War

George Friedman

Russian President Vladimir Putin did something unprecedented last week: He held a two-hour press conference directed at the American public. It was not exactly a press conference, in the sense that Tucker Carlson, a talk show host perceived as sympathetic toward Russia, was the only reporter present. But neither was it, strictly speaking, an interview, as for most of the program, Putin held forth without the benefit of questions. In a sense, this made it more valuable because it allowed Putin to set out his views in an interesting and important way that might not have been possible had Carlson asked questions that were focused on an American perspective.

Instead, we got a genuine Russian perspective on the war in Ukraine, and Putin appeared to be a reasonable and thoughtful man. He made some very dubious claims, but every leader makes dubious claims while appearing statesmanlike, and Putin’s behavior drove home to an American audience that his position is not without some merit. He also made clear that he is a Russian patriot working for Russian interests, and it is in this spirit that we should take his claims. He did not want to appear like Stalin. He also seemed enormously knowledgeable, far beyond most politicians, though he did have the advantage of knowing what was to be said as well as a translator who always stood between him and his audience. But I believe this was Putin, helped by prepackaged questions, providing a sense of his broad knowledge. If this worked, then he showed that Russia was ruled by a sophisticated thinker. However, given the interview’s length and complexity, the American public may have given up early and not listened to the complete interview.

Still, the historical context, the targeting of an American audience, and the extraordinarily detailed description of Russia and Russian history seem to be setting the stage for negotiations. In defense of Russia’s attack, Putin charged the U.S. and NATO with dishonesty and duplicity in facing Russia, which was simply pursuing its historical imperative. This was no ordinary program, nor was it self-indulgent rambling; Putin’s emphasis on the failure of negotiations in Turkey early in the war makes this clear.

The Pentagon is Trying to Rebuild the Arsenal of Democracy

Jack Detsch

If U.S. President Joe Biden wants to check the pulse of the arsenal of democracy, all he has to do is look at Bill LaPlante’s wall in the Pentagon. The U.S. Defense Department industrial chief’s office is covered with production charts for every weapon that the United States is building to fend off a potential war with China while helping countries such as Ukraine and Israel fend for themselves in wars of their own.

Is Anyone Still Afraid of the United States?

Last fall, former U.S. Secretary of Defense Bob Gates took to the pages of Foreign Affairs to issue a warning: with America facing the most dangerous geopolitical landscape in decades, dysfunction in Washington threatened to turn that danger into disaster.

Today, Russia and China are testing the international order. Iranian proxies are attacking U.S. forces on a daily basis. And, as Gates writes, “at the very moment that events demand a strong and coherent response, America cannot provide one.”

Gates worries that such dysfunction at home could prompt America’s foes to make risky bets—with catastrophic consequences for both the country and the world.

End Games: America Strikes Back, Congress Strikes Out On Immigration

While the American reprisal against Iranian proxies across the Middle East is impressive in its harnessing of firepower, technology, and intelligence, does it advance the goals of deterrence and de-escalation? Hoover senior fellows Niall Ferguson, John Cochrane, and H.R. McMaster discuss the pros and cons of the current US strategy and their concerns over the lack of an apparent end game. Following that: a conversation about Donald Trump’s appeal to voters and his detractors’ inability to understand his populist resonance (the subject of a recent John Cochrane Wall Street Journal op-ed); how best to revitalize African nations; plus Niall’s annual abhorrence of Super Bowl Sunday (spoiler alert: he’s not a “Swiftie”).

A long war works against Ukraine – and the West’s own security

James Nixey

Nobody wanted a long war in Ukraine. Russia didn’t plan for it, and the West wasn’t prepared for it.

Ukraine and its Western partners had dared to hope that the successes of autumn 2022 might cause Russia’s army to implode. There was similar vain hope that the late Yevgeny Prigozhin’s coup of June 2023 would succeed – or at least weaken the Kremlin’s grip on its war. These hopes proved naïve.

Russia, meanwhile, expected a short victorious war of weeks if not days, one that would barely be felt by its population, except to glory in the defeat of Zelenskyy and his ‘Nazi regime’. This belief also proved delusional.

But with neither side achieving satisfaction, the alternative – the long war (‘forever war’, say some) grows more likely, and undoubtedly favours the invader.

For Ukraine, the long war is nothing short of disastrous. Even if it were willing to, the country cannot recruit anything like the numbers Russia can press into service. It also places greater value on human life than its opponent, meaning it inevitably suffers more from a protracted war of attrition.

Russia, by contrast, has settled into what Natalie Sabanadze has blackly called its ‘zone of comfort’. To Moscow, the war is manageable, the president and the elite are secure, and most crucially of all, Western resolve seems brittle.

The EU’s hard-fought-for €50 billion funding package has passed on the second attempt, but future funding will surely face similar challenges. Meanwhile vital military aid from the US is still held hostage in Congress.

The Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict demands American diplomacy — without NATO overreach


Early this year, the United States placed Azerbaijan on a watchlist for violating religious freedom after it invaded Nagorno-Karabakh, a region with Christian religious sites. The move, which could include sanctions, is one of several steps the United States has taken to punish Azerbaijan for its unprovoked aggression; in November, the Senate unanimously voted for legislation to reduce military aid to Azerbaijan.

Potential sanctions and limiting military aid are part of a growing consensus that aiding Azerbaijan is not a priority for the United States, if it ever was. But the vote raises questions about the United States’s role in the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict overall.

Reducing conflict abroad is a noble goal in American foreign policy, but the way that Washington has historically approached foreign conflict has often exacerbated it. Lawmakers should acknowledge two realities and act accordingly: first, that the outcome of the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict has limited connections to American interests and security, and second, U.S. involvement in the conflict has typically been a method of combating Russia that could lead to longer-term conflict, both in the Caucasus and between the United States and Russia directly.

Instead of ignoring the atrocities of unprovoked conflict and ethnic cleansing from Azerbaijan or arming either side, the United States should become a mediator.

Reducing arms shipments to Azerbaijan is a necessary start. Azerbaijan has been a crucial supplier of energy to Washington’s European allies after Russia’s war in Ukraine began, but these foreign relationships are not enough of a reason to contribute to a conflict through military means.

Is the U.S. Distracted from East Asia?

Ivan Eland

The wars in Ukraine and the Middle East have captured international media attention. In the past, such “international crises” have pressured U.S. presidents to “do something” about them. President Joe Biden—who is a veteran of the Cold War and the War on Terror—has reflexively and zealously enmeshed the United States within them. Yet he has also verbally gone beyond deliberate past ambiguity on U.S. policy toward Taiwan and pledged multiple times to defend the island from an attack or invasion by China. This interventionist policy in multiple regions—Europe, the Middle East, and East Asia—is a dangerous overstretch.

Whether U.S. policymakers admit it or not—they don’t—the United States has acted as the world’s policeman since the end of World War II. Back then, the other great powers had suffered catastrophic damage to their economies and societies. In contrast, the largely damage-free United States accounted for half the world’s remaining economic output. The United States became the world’s policeman not because of its security needs but because it could. After the war, the principal potential U.S. adversary, the Soviet Union, had tempered its revolutionary expansionism and sought to rebuild its industrial capacity torched by the Nazi invasion. Also, the United States developed a lead in new potent nuclear weapons technology.

However, the world has changed much since the Allied victory in the World War and the end of the Cold War. Today, the United States only accounts for about 15 percent of global GDP but nearly 40 percent of the world’s military spending. That global overstretch is currently unsustainable and unnecessary.

The Hidden Injustice of Cyberattacks

Nicole Tisdale

Talk about the promise and the peril of artificial intelligence is everywhere these days. But for many low-income families, communities of color, military veterans, people with disabilities, and immigrant communities, AI is a back-burner issue. Their day-to-day worries revolve around taking care of their health, navigating the economy, seeking educational opportunities, and upholding democracy. But their worries are also being amplified through advanced, persistent, and targeted cyberattacks.

Cyber operations are relentless, growing in scale, and exacerbate existing inequalities in health care, economic opportunities, education access, and democratic participation. And when these pillars of society become unstable, the consequences ripple through national and global communities. Collectively, cyberattacks have severe and long-term impacts on communities already on the margins of society. These attacks are not just a technological concern—they represent a growing civil rights crisis, disproportionately dismantling the safety and security for vulnerable groups and reinforcing systemic barriers of racism and classism. The United States currently lacks an assertive response to deter the continued weaponization of cyber operations and to secure digital access, equity, participation, and safety for marginalized communities.

Health Care

Cyberattacks on hospitals and health care organizations more than doubled in 2023, impacting over 39 million people in the first half of 2023. A late-November cyberattack at the Hillcrest Medical Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, led to a system-wide shutdown, causing ambulances to reroute and life-saving surgeries to be canceled. These attacks impact patients' reliance and trust in health care systems, which may make them more hesitant to seek care, further endangering the health and safety of already vulnerable populations.