17 February 2024

The Abraham Accords Still Show the Way Forward

Alex Welz

The current war in Gaza presents the first real challenge to the Abraham Accords. If the Accords prove to be more than a temporary political achievement, it will provide a durable framework incorporating more states into the fold. If not, the regional balance of power may be in greater flux than we think.

The Abraham Accords culminated in the normalization of ties between Israel and a handful of Arab states—the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan. The prevailing hope was that this much-heralded breakthrough would serve as a bridge to the crown jewel of diplomatic normalizations for Israel—Saudi Arabia. It remains an open secret that the Kingdom (custodian of the two holiest sites of Islam and figurehead of the Arab world) and the Jewish state have seen an alignment of interests. The specter of an ever-expanding, Iranian-backed Shia crescent has been enough for these two unlikely partners to thaw relations over the past decade.

The Accords remain intact. Despite frequent public protestations from virtually all Arab states regarding Israel’s conduct in Gaza, the regional status quo doesn’t appear to be in jeopardy—aside from one notable player. Turkey, a non-Arab nation, has adopted an exceptionally harsh posture towards Israel since October 7.

Enigmatic as ever, Turkey remains a wild card pursuing a truly independent foreign policy. Historically, It has served as the base of a mighty Islamic empire and an avowed secular republic. Today, this complexity manifests itself in two rather ambiguous positions.

First, the Turks coordinated with the United States on toppling the Islamic State yet remain fixated on wielding this latitude to strike Kurdish groups throughout the region (who have proven to be some of Washington’s most reliable partners). Tensions escalated when an American F-16 shot down a Turkish drone flying too close to U.S. forces in northeast Syria. The second duplicitous stance is on the war in Ukraine. Turkey is a NATO member, supplying Ukraine with military hardware. Yet Ankara refuses to sanction Moscow.

Abbas urges Hamas to complete Gaza deal with Israel as Palestinian reconciliation looms

Beatrice Farhat

As the mediation talks on a pause in the Israel-Hamas war to allow for the release of Israeli hostages held captive in Gaza are in full swing, Palestinian Authority (PA) President Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday urged Hamas to swiftly finalize a hostage deal with Israel to protect the Palestinian people amid the ongoing Israeli offensive in the coastal enclave.

“We call on the Hamas movement to quickly complete a prisoner swap deal to spare the Palestinian people the scourge of another catastrophe with ominous consequences, no less dangerous than the Nakba of 1948, and to avoid the occupation’s attack on the city of Rafah, which will lead to thousands of victims, suffering and displacement for our people,” Abbas said in a statement carried by the official Palestinian Wafa news agency.

Abbas’ comments come as US, Egyptian and Qatari mediators have been working around the clock in the past days to secure a deal that would see the release of the remaining hostages captured by Hamas during its assault on southern Israel last October.

Hamas militants killed nearly 1,200 people and took more than 240 others hostage during the attack. The group released a total of 110 hostages, and 240 Palestinian prisoners held in Israeli jails were freed during a brief seven-day truce late last November. Israel believes 136 hostages remain inside Gaza, including at least 32 who have been killed since the offensive began.

Cairo hosted an Israeli delegation led by Mossad Director David Barnea on Tuesday, which was also attended by CIA Director William Burns. Hamas is reportedly heading to the Egyptian capital next, a source from the movement told Agence France-Presse, without specifying when.

Artificial Intelligence in the Service of Israel’s Public Diplomacy

Ophir Barel


The presentation of the ChatGPT chatbot by OpenAI Ltd. in November 2022 aroused huge interest worldwide because of the application’s advanced capabilities with the potential to improve the quality of life (for example, by increasing the precision of medical diagnoses) or, conversely, to be used for malign purposes (for example, to conduct more effective phishing attacks with greater ease). The development also has considerable potential significance in the field of international relations, and particularly public diplomacy, since it underscores the ever-increasing relevance of cyberspace for relations between countries, peoples, and individuals—a trend evident for the past two decades. The use of artificial intelligence (AI) to produce deepfake video clips, for example, during the war in Ukraine, could affect public perceptions of events in the war or the overall situation.

Since its establishment, the State of Israel has faced the ongoing challenge of managing its image in the eyes of the world, and over the years has invested considerable efforts and resources in public diplomacy. Nevertheless, many among the Israeli public sense its performance in the perception management field to be sorely lacking, since there are many anti-Israel organizations throughout the world that try to undermine its legitimacy as an independent state.

The use of AI for public diplomacy involves both opportunities and risks. Technological advances on the one hand, together with Israeli society’s concern for its public image, create an opportunity for public diplomacy to promote the use of AI as a means of improving its performance. Improvement could be manifested on three levels. On the strategic level, the use of AI can enable Israel to gain a better insight into possible future global changes that could change the balance of world power and affect how Jerusalem might manage its foreign relations, particularly with the great powers. On the intermediate level, AI could provide a response to the existing bureaucratic maze of the public diplomacy system, which often prevents Israeli influence campaigns from operating effectively. On the tactical level, AI enables the elements engaged in providing information to respond in a faster, better way to attempts by social media anti-Israel influencing campaigns at disinformation and delegitimization, including with actions that are themselves based on artificial intelligence. The article ends with a number of recommendations that could start the process of AI’s absorption into the campaign.

How Pirates Kick-Started India’s Navy Into Action

Keith Johnson

The unexpected and dramatic resurgence of piracy off the east coast of Africa has galvanized the Indian Navy into playing a dominant security role in one of the world’s critical waterways, with its biggest-ever naval deployment to the waters off Somalia in the last couple of months. India’s naval renaissance throws down a marker about its great-power ambitions—and sends a message to Beijing about how it will contest any challenge for dominance in the wider Indian Ocean region.

Pakistan Stands at a Critical Juncture after Contested Election - OPINION

Osama Qayyum

Since the ousting of Imran Khan’s government in an April 2022 vote of no confidence, stability has been the mantra echoing through every corridor of the state’s polity. Questions have been asked regarding the government’s legitimacy and its economic woes, casting a shadow of uncertainty over Pakistan’s future. Yet, the elections held on February 8 have only deepened these concerns, particularly regarding the transparency of the nation’s electoral process – an issue that has long plagued Pakistan’s democracy. Now, these apprehensions have been echoed by international bodies, including the United Nations and the European Union. The elections have merely exposed a systemic failure of state institutions.

To the dismay of the establishment, and indeed many within the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) itself, independent candidates backed by the PTI emerged victorious despite facing a barrage of obstacles aimed at limiting their success. PTI supporters turned out in resounding numbers, creating a precarious scenario where PTI-backed independents now constitute the largest group within the national assembly.

On technical grounds, albeit hotly disputed by various factions, the Pakistan Muslim League, led by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, stands as the largest single political party in Pakistan. However, forming a government would require extending an olive branch to other political entities, notably the Pakistan People’s Party headed by Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, and forging alliances with smaller parties and independent candidates. Negotiations are ongoing, with Bilawal Bhutto’s camp fully aware of their pivotal role in any prospective government formation. Bilawal has expressed reluctance to hold any representation within the federal setup, yet he eagerly seeks to confer the ceremonial presidency upon his father, former President Asif Ali Zardari. Understanding the importance of avoiding close alignment with the PMLN and resisting being a mere pawn in their pursuit of power, Bilawal is keen to forge his own political path. He aims to avoid the perception of being closely associated with or influenced by the PMLN. Nevertheless, Bilawal has openly lent his support to a PMLN-led government, resembling the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) that previously held power, a coalition comprising most major parties except the PTI. Shehbaz Sharif, the former prime minister, has once again been nominated for the premiership.

A Murdered Ambassador, a Closed Embassy: The Tragic History of US Diplomacy in Afghanistan

Freshta Jalalzai

February 14 marks the 45th anniversary of the assassination of U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Adolph Dubs, who was taken at gunpoint off the streets of Kabul on that date in 1979. Today, it’s worth remembering that event as debate continues about whether the U.S. should return in some form to its embassy in Kabul, which has been shuttered since August 2021. The closure of the U.S. embassy and the 1979 murder of the U.S. ambassador together underscore the complexities shaping Afghanistan-U.S. relations over their 103-year history.

Diplomatic engagements between Afghanistan and the United States began with the official recognition of Afghanistan by U.S. President Warren G. Harding in 1921. Diplomatic relations were formalized in 1935, when U.S. Ambassador William H. Hornibrook presented his credentials to the Afghan government. At the time, U.S. diplomacy with Afghanistan was carried out from the U.S. embassy in Tehran.

During World War II, Afghanistan maintained its neutrality, refraining from aligning with any of the warring factions. The American Legation in Kabul was established in 1942 and upgraded to embassy status in 1948. The first U.S. embassy in Kabul was located in a rented house in Wazir Akbar Khan district, not far from the new building.

During the 1950s and 1960s, Afghanistan received substantial assistance primarily from the Soviet Union, while support from the United States was comparatively less. Consequently, the geopolitical scales tilted in favor of the Soviets, granting them greater sway over Afghan politics and affairs.

In November 1963, King Mohammed Zahir Shah visited the United States, meeting with President John F. Kennedy to enhance mutual relations and seek support for Afghanistan’s modernization efforts, including infrastructure development, education, healthcare, and defense strengthening. His request was largely ignored.

Imran Khan Denied (But Perhaps Not Forever): Pakistan’s Other Parties Form a Weak Coalition Government

Joshua Kurlantzick

Several hours ago, Pakistan time, it appeared that the inevitable had finally happened. The two major parties that had enough seats combined to create a parliamentary majority, after Imran Khan’s PTI shocked the military and Pakistani establishment by winning the most overall seats, appear to have made a weak coalition to give them control of parliament.

According to Reuters: “ Former Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif [of the PML-N of military-favored politician Nawaz Sharif] will be the nominee for Pakistan's next premier to lead a very weak new coalition alliance formed between different parties, a spokeswoman said on Tuesday after national elections last week returned a hung parliament.

The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) on Tuesday said it would support Sharif's party to form a minority government, ending a stalemate after inconclusive elections in the nuclear-armed nation led to days of political uncertainty. The PPP and PML-N have a long history of failure to cooperate, and actually despising each other, so the prospect that this coalition, only weakly endorsed by PPP. One of PPP’s top leaders, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, announced at a press conference that the PPP would support Sharif as prime minister, in order to have some stability in Pakistan, but would not actually join the government or have PPP members take ministerial posts, although apparently as part of the deal his father, Asif Ali Zardari, will become president of Pakistan, generally a less powerful office than prime minister.

Who is Prabowo Subianto, the Ex-General Who is Indonesia’s Next President?

Victoria Milko

A wealthy ex-general with ties to both Indonesia’s popular outgoing president and its dictatorial past looks set to be its next president, after unofficial tallies showed him taking a clear majority in the first round of voting.

Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto presented himself as heir to the immensely popular sitting President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, vowing to continue the modernization agenda that’s brought rapid growth and vaunted Indonesia into the ranks of middle-income countries.

“We should not be arrogant. We should not be proud. We should not be euphoric. We still have to be humble. This victory must be a victory for all Indonesian people,” Prabowo said in a speech broadcast on national television from a sports stadium on the night of the election.

But Prabowo will enter office with unresolved questions about the costs of extraction-driven growth for the environment and traditional communities, as well as his own links to torture, disappearances and other human rights abuses in the final years of the brutal Suharto dictatorship, which he served as a lieutenant general.

A former rival of Jokowi who lost two presidential races to him, Prabowo embraced the popular leader to run as his heir, even choosing Jokowi’s son as his running mate, a choice that ran up against constitutional age limits and has activists worried about an emerging political dynasty in the 25-year-old democracy.

Prabowo’s win is not yet official. His two rivals have not yet conceded and the official results could take up to a month to be tabulated, but election night “quick counts” showed him taking over 55 percent of the vote in a three-way race. Those counts, conducted by polling agencies and based on millions of ballots sampled from across the country, have proved accurate in past elections.

To Defend Taiwan, the U.S. Navy Must Retake the Ocean High Ground

Tim Gallaudet

There is a form of high ground in the undersea domain as well. Bathymetric and sedimentary features of the seafloor, as well as dynamical changes in the three-dimensional distribution of seawater properties over time affect the performance of the undersea acoustic and optical sensors used to detect and target an adversary’s assets. Depending upon the impact of these variations on the propagation of sound and light, it may be more beneficial to operate in different regions of the ocean than others, much like the way cloud free skies enable the collection of imagery with reconnaissance satellites.

The U.S. Navy maps and monitors this ever-evolving ocean high ground with a fleet of oceanographic ships, an array of underwater drones, an interagency constellation of environmental satellites, as well as a global network of fixed and drifting sensors on the seabed, the sea surface and within the water column. The primary challenge for these systems is that the global ocean is vast, and large volumes of the maritime domain are unobserved. In fact, we know more about the surfaces of Mars and the moon than we do about the world’s seafloor, of which 75% has not been mapped to modern standards. This tragically came to light in 2005 and 2021 when two U.S. submarines collided with uncharted seamounts.

Compounding the problem is the fact that China has dramatically increased its oceanographic surveying activities in the Indo-Pacific region. A recent report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) revealed that Chinese survey vessels have carried out hundreds of thousands of hours of operations over the past four years. Incredibly, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) has 64 active research and survey vessels compared to the 11 operated by the Naval Oceanographic Office and the University National Oceanographic Laboratory System for the U.S. Navy. Unfortunately, this disparity only mirrors the rapid expansion of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy into the largest navy in the world.

China’s Chronic Zero COVID Trauma

Donald Low

Hardly anyone in China wants to talk about COVID-19 or the zero-COVID policy that the authorities stubbornly pursued throughout most of the pandemic. Zero COVID was abruptly abandoned at the end of 2022, causing more than an estimated million deaths in the subsequent months. The authorities then brazenly declared in March 2023 that the country’s management of the pandemic was “completely correct,” even as they scrubbed references to the policy that had traumatized the economy – and people’s lives – for more than two years.

The initial success of zero COVID likely generated hubris and excessive confidence among Chinese leaders. It seemed to confirm that their approach to governance – an increasingly intrusive, ideologically-driven, and moralistic form of social engineering – was not only superior to Western ideas of governance, but that it could also solve some of China’s long-standing economic problems. Early success with zero COVID emboldened the authorities to intervene in the economy in extreme, heavy-handed ways that have now backfired.

More than a year after China scrapped its zero-COVID policy, it has become clear that most analysts underestimated the adverse impacts on business and consumer sentiment. The initial optimism that greeted China’s reopening in early 2023 has been replaced by deflation and a persistent gloom approaching a crisis of confidence over China’s economic prospects.

Zero COVID as Ideology and Virtue

Just as the Chinese authorities succeeded in suppressing the first outbreak of COVID-19 in Wuhan city and Hubei province in the second quarter of 2020, the pandemic was raging out of control in much of the world. As one government after another bungled their initial responses to the pandemic, government spokespersons and state media in China trumpeted the country’s ability to mobilize resources and public opinion in “the people’s war” against COVID-19. Later, as most countries switched to living with COVID, the Chinese propaganda machinery went into overdrive, denigrating this approach as “lying flat,” callous, reckless, and Darwinian.

China’s Shipyards Are Ready for a Protracted War. America’s Aren’t.

Niharika Mandhana

China emerged as a global power by turning itself into the world’s factory floor. It is expanding that power, and its military might, with another striking industrial feat: becoming the world’s shipyard.

More than half of the world’s commercial shipbuilding output came from China last year—making it the top global shipmaker by a wide margin. The once-prolific shipyards of the West that helped forge empires, expand trade and win wars have shriveled. Europe accounts for just 5% of the world’s output, while the U.S. contributes next to nothing. Most of what China doesn’t build comes from South Korea and Japan.

“The scale [of China’s shipbuilding] is just almost hard to fathom,” said Thomas Shugart, an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security whose research focuses on maritime competition. “The degree to which it dwarfs American shipbuilding is just unbelievable.”

This shipbuilding empire is a symbol of China’s historic transformation from an inward-looking continental nation to a maritime power. But it is more than that. It is a pivotal strategic asset for Beijing as Chinese leader Xi Jinping tries to reshape the world order in peacetime and prepares to prevail over his nation’s rivals during war.

Giant Chinese shipbuilding firms that crank out merchant ships for the world are often the same ones building warships for China’s navy. Their shipyards are thriving, with billion-dollar contracts pouring in not just for warfighting gray hulls but also for containerships, oil tankers and bulk carriers for shipping lines from China, the West and even Taiwan.

With their order books full for years to come, the shipyards have expanded, trained enormous pools of workers and built sprawling supply chains.

The U.S. Navy Could Soon Have 5 Aircraft Carriers In China's Backyard

Stavros Atlamazoglou

As tensions with China in the Indo-Pacific continue to rise, the U.S. Navy will likely deploy almost half of its aircraft carrier fleet into the region.

The move would aim to deter Beijing and encourage America’s allies and partners in perhaps the most important area of the world.

More Aircraft Carriers

Right now, there are three aircraft carriers in the region, with potentially two more heading there.

The USS Carl Vinson and USS Theodore Roosevelt are in the area of operations with their carrier groups. A couple of weeks ago, the two aircraft carriers took part in a large-scale exercise with the Japanese Navy in the Philippine Sea. The two aircraft carriers are expected to remain in the area of operations for the next few months.

The USS Ronald Reagan is also in the region, although in port in Yokosuka, Japan. In November, the aircraft carrier completed a six-month deployment in the Indo-Pacific. The flattop might be in port undergoing maintenance, but it can still deploy in the event of a contingency.

In addition, the USS Abraham Lincoln was seen heading to its homeport in San Diego on February 2 but left port three days later with a full complement. The aircraft carrier is part of the 7th Fleet, which is responsible for the Indo-Pacific area of operations, and is likely heading there.

Finally, the USS George Washington recently completed a mid-life refitting and a change of command. The aircraft carrier is expected to relieve the USS Roland Reagan in the upcoming weeks.

To apply pressure on Iran, the US must sever the ‘Shia Crescent’ in Syria


The United States has officially responded to a series of Iranian-aligned militia attacks on the Tower 22 base in Jordan, on Jan. 28. These strikes landed flat, failing to deter additional attacks on U.S. positions throughout the Middle East because they did not apply enough pressure on Iran. The United States needs to take the recent attack — and longer trend of Iranian actions in the Middle East — much more seriously, hitting the Axis where it hurts in Syria without causing a major regional war.

Honoring a previous pledge, U.S. President Joe Biden announced the operation against Iranian-aligned militias in Iraq and Syria on Feb. 2, claiming the U.S. military targeted 85 positions. The strikes killed an unspecified number of militiamen. Additional strikes on Feb. 7 reportedly killed a Kataib Hezbollah commander in Baghdad — the organization and individual responsible for the Tower 22 attacks.

These decisions are designed to deter additional attacks following the Tower 22 strike that killed three U.S. service members and harmed another 40 — the first such instance in over 165 strikes on U.S. positions since the Oct. 7. Tehran continues to deny responsibility, even as Iran’s stated goal is to pressure a U.S. withdrawal from the region through force.

Thus, the Middle Eastern context continues to intensify, giving a clear signal that leaders must take additional steps to deter Iran and build regional stability. In this context, the Biden administration would be wise take a stronger stance by hitting Iran and the Axis of Resistance where it hurts, especially as the current approach is not working.

The problem is that Team Biden’s strategy is too risk-averse. Indeed, recent attacks on Iran-aligned militias likely reflect an effort to mitigate domestic pressure in an election year as opposed to achieving sustainable deterrence levels. Yet this domestic pressure is necessary because ongoing half-deterrence measures will continue to produce the same outcome: Iranian escalation and severe risks to U.S. service members and interests.

Only American Leadership Can Solve the Middle East Crisis

Ahmed Charai

As the November elections approach, American voters see new threats on many foreign coasts – from the Mediterranean (Gaza), Black (Ukraine), and Red Seas (Yemen) to the Pacific islands (Taiwan).

The situation is ominous but far from hopeless. U.S. diplomats still have time to dissipate the gathering storms if they are creative and bold.

With its new ships and aircraft, China is assembling its military might to expel the United States from the western Pacific and, perhaps, become the world’s preeminent power. For now, the competition in U.S.-China relations is diplomatic, economic, and technological. But this new Cold War may turn hot without warning.

Russia’s trench lines in occupied Ukraine are holding firm. In a war of attrition, Russia’s vastly larger population and economy gives it a decisive advantage, while the declining U.S. military support imperils the future of Europe’s youngest democracy.

Meanwhile, as Russia and China tighten their embrace, they are uniting the vast Eurasian continent against the West. Russia relies on China for ammunition, artillery shells, and sophisticated sensor equipment.

In return, resource-hungry China receives Russia’s oil, coal, wheat, and high-tech weapons. Other Eurasian nations are joining the Russia-China axis, especially North Korea and Iran.

Egypt's Looming Crisis

Russell A. Berman

Stability in the Middle East is vital to American interests. The region remains a crucial source of energy and is located at the crossroads of world commerce. It also acts as an incubator for terrorist movements that have been able to reach well into the West and the United States. In this arena, Egypt, home to a population of 109 million, is a linchpin for stability. The country’s security relationship with Israel and the United States helps buffer serious radical Islamist threats within the region, just as it has impeded Iranian expansionism within the Middle East.

It is, therefore, important for U.S. foreign policy to recognize challenges to Egyptian stability. Most prominently, Egypt has been put in the global spotlight in the past few months because of the ongoing war in Gaza. As Israel prosecutes its campaign against Hamas, developments along the Sinai border near Rafah could be viewed as infringements on Egyptian sovereignty with political consequences in Cairo.

Meanwhile, another conflict is brewing in the south. As Egypt faces increased water scarcity due to the new Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, tensions with Ethiopia are growing after negotiations reached a “dead end” in December. Complicating this conflict is Ethiopia’s recent recognition of Somaliland, an autonomous region of Somalia unrecognized by the Somalian government. Egyptian president Abdel Fattah el-Sisi hosted a press conference with the President of Somalia where he explicitly threatened to support Somalia’s sovereignty with military assistance. This conflict spilled over into the U.S. Congress after Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN) appeared to pledge support to the Somalian government’s claim.

In addition to these potential international conflicts in Gaza and with Ethiopia, a more insidious threat to Egyptian stability is approaching on the economic front. The Houthi attacks on international maritime trade passing through the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait have had a massive impact on global supply chains. There has been a 30 percent decline in global container ship volume passing through the Suez, according to the IMF, and major shipping companies like Maersk have suspended their routes through the canal indefinitely. Though the Houthi impact on global trade is pronounced, the pain is all the more acute for Egypt’s canal revenues.

Accurate Targeting Drives Precision Attacks on Houthi's, Iran-Backed Groups


While most of us are doubtless familiar with the series of responsive military strikes conducted by the Pentagon in response to Houthi and Iranian-backed militia attacks on US and international ships, personnel and installations, few are likely to understand or know the scope of the impact exacted upon the initial attackers in the Red Sea, Syria and Iraq.

Generally speaking, the Pentagon has indicated that the strikes have been both precise and successful, destroying high-value Houthi and Iranian-supported militia high value targets. In recent strikes, the Pentagon has hit 13 locations, resulting in the destruction of 36 Houthi targets such as launchers, air defense systems and radar.

“CENTCOM continues to evaluate the February 3 strikes, but initial assessments indicate that 35 targets at the 13 locations were destroyed or functionally damaged. The targets destroyed include command and control sites, weapons storage, missile systems, UAV storage and operation sites, radars and three helicopters, Maj. Gen. Patrick Ryder told reporters recently, according to a transcript provided by the Pentagon.

Overall, Ryder was clear that the Pentagon has destroyed more than 100 missiles and launchers, to include anti-ship and surface-to-air missiles along with surface and aerial drones and weapons storage areas.

While specific weapons used for the attacks are, in some cases, not likely disclosed by the Pentagon for security reasons, the success of these attacks raises a few interesting variables. This includes key question such as …”what has the impact of these strikes been upon Houthi and other Iranian-backed groups? What weapons and defenses have been used and how has there been such precision?

Vladimir Putin Thinks Joe Biden Is “Predictable”

Jacob Heilbrunn

Is Russian President Vladimir Putin about to become Joe Biden’s “new best friend?”

Speaking with the Russian journalist Pavel Zarubin on Wednesday, Putin suggested that he favored Biden’s reelection “because he is a more experienced person, he is predictable, he is a politician of an old formation.”

Donald Trump was unfazed. He took it as a “compliment,” noting that Putin was right to favor Biden as he, in contrast to Trump, would give the store away to Moscow. An explicit endorsement from the Russian leader would, of course, have further promoted the perception that Trump, who stymied congressional aid to Ukraine, is merely his pliant puppet.

Putin was in a rather chippy mood. He took a shot at Tucker Carlson, who interviewed him last week at the Kremlin. Carlson has been fawning over all things Putin for years, but it didn’t impress the vozhd.

Instead, Putin, who made Carlson cool his heels for several hours before showing up to deliver his tedious history lesson, complained that the interview was something of a dud. “I honestly thought he would be aggressive and ask tough questions,” Putin said. “I wasn’t only ready for that, I wanted that, because it would give me the opportunity to give tough answers back.” For his part, Carlson seems to have devoted his time in Moscow to playing the role of political pilgrim, traipsing around to extol the quality of the subway and wares available in Russia’s capital. Moscow, he said, “was so much nicer than any city in my country.” Will he move there?

The Real Zelensky in the Ukrainian Conflict

Pavlo Kuliuk

Zelensky is the happiest Ukrainian. He's a teenager who uses other people's money to try to look like an adult man. This means that the President of Ukraine does not understand what is happening and what role he plays in what is happening. In modern Ukraine, being absent from the surrounding reality is real happiness!

Ukrainian politicians cannot be called successful. Over the 30 years of independence, Ukraine has turned from a populous and prosperous state into a terrible place! Marvelous. But in the most difficult period, Ukraine was led by a man without political experience. Usually, to successfully overcome the most difficult period, the most experienced person becomes the leader. To achieve this, political elites mobilize their full potential by offering the people candidates with the best skills, experience, and capabilities. But in Ukraine it’s the other way around! There was only a comedian who could find the love of the people. This shows the true essence of the processes taking place in this country.


From the point of view of international law, Ukraine is an independent state. But in reality, Ukraine has never been an independent state! In Ukraine there are no phenomena that enable the state to be viable. Namely. There is no national political elite in Ukraine. There is no unity of the people and the authorities in Ukraine!

Ukrainians did not win their independence in 1991 with guns in their hands. The War of Independence did not become a factor uniting people and politicians as it was in the United States. Ukrainians have historically been divided into two parts, pro-Russian and pro-European. And this increased contradictions among voters and politicians. History of Ukrainian independence is only 33 years old. This is not enough to smooth out contradictions and create a national political elite and culture. The share of Ukrainians born after gaining independence is no more than 15% of the total population. About 85% of the population and all the country's presidents were born in another country and in a different historical reality.

Germany hopes to boost military and deterrence

Ben Knight

German politicians and some sections of the media have reacted to Donald Trump's latest remarks about NATO by demanding that Germany radically boost its defense spending and even consider breaking its taboo on nuclear weapons.

Speaking at a campaign rally in South Carolina on Saturday, the former US president claimed that he had told NATO allies during his presidency that the US would not defend any country being attacked by Russia that did not "pay its bills." "In fact, I would encourage (Russia) to do whatever the hell they want," the presidential candidate said.

The speech caused many appalled German politicians to put even more pressure on Chancellor Olaf Scholz to boost defense spending, sooner rather than later — the €100 billion ($108 billion) special fund that the chancellor announced in February 2022 notwithstanding.

Roderich Kiesewetter, defense spokesperson for the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), has said that this special fund should be tripled, while Andreas Schwarz, budget policy spokesperson in Scholz's own party, the Social Democrats (SPD), told the Süddeutsche Zeitung, "Exempting all defense costs from the debt brake would certainly have its charm."

Meeting NATO's demands

But this debate is hardly new: Most experts agree that the German military needs more money. Indeed, another Social Democrat, parliamentary defense commissioner Eva Högl, said in her official report last March that the Bundeswehr needed €300 billion to meet its needs, not least because Bundeswehr supplies have been depleted in order to help arm Ukraine.

"It's just that the attention-grabbing starkness of Trump at the weekend reminded people of the stakes involved," said Rafael Loss, defense strategy specialist at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR).

Why the US and China Should Work Together to Solve the Global Scam Crisis

Jan Santiago and Alvin Camba

The rise of cyber-scam syndicates in Southeast Asia constitutes a global crisis. CNN and The New York Times recently ran exposés on these operations, which extract billions of dollars from victims across the world, often through cryptocurrency. One type of cyber-scam, the “pig butchering scam” – shazhupan in Mandarin Chinese – involves the grooming of victims over months, a process akin to the fattening up of a pig for slaughter. Their perpetrators lurk in dating apps and social media, often weaving romance and gambling psychology into their modus operandi.

While existing writings focus on the role of the nature of these operations and China’s recent crackdowns, we argue that the U.S. and China, as the world’s two great powers, should come together in combatting these transnational criminal organizations. In working together, they will have greater effectiveness than they would working separately.

We make the following three points. First, the impact of these crime syndicates has been economically, psychologically, and socially devastating to hundreds of thousands of individuals from the U.S., China, and many other countries. Based on voluntary reports to the FBI, at least $2.57 billion was lost in 2022 to pig butchering scams. The victims are commonly driven into borrowing and exhausting their savings, assets, and 401k accounts. California prosecutor Erin West posits that true losses could be three to 10 times higher. In China, police reports of pig butchering scams totaled $5.7 billion in losses in 2020. In both societies, victims are additionally shamed and maligned for falling victims.

Furthermore, many cases of cyber-scams go unreported, ignored, or miscategorized. This is why Chainalysis’ claim that only $5.9 billion was lost in 2022 to all crypto scams, including pig butchering, can be misleading. In the U.S., underreporting is particularly acute among Chinese speakers and immigrants, who often refuse to contact the authorities after falling victim to a scam. Local police often dismiss pig butchering scams as civil disputes with online friends and are generally resistant to taking in cyber, especially cryptocurrency, scam cases.

Russia’s ‘spy hunters’ are modeling James Bond to sabotage Ukraine and NATO


According to an unclassified report from the United Kingdom’s Defense Intelligence, Russia has resurrected a Cold War-era spy-hunting organization called SMERSH, meaning “death to spies.” The SMERSH mission is to hunt down alleged traitors in Ukraine, which is consistent with Russian President Vladimir Putin’s calls for Russian counterintelligence to “raise its game” on the domestic front.

So, Putin’s security and intelligence services continue to rebrand their brutal conflict against Ukraine by nostalgically going back to Joseph Stalin’s dystopian Cold War past.

All of this should be a warning to the United States and NATO that sabotage and shadow networks of saboteurs and spy catchers are not a phenomenon of Cold War fiction.

To put a finer point on the situation, there’s an ongoing regional war in the Middle East, North Korea’s saber-rattling is trending alarmingly upward, China’s threat to invade Taiwan is disquieting and Europe, and NATO partners are deeply concerned about long-term Russian belligerence.

Taken all together, saboteurs and spies are insidious force multipliers that must also be countered by NATO and any other democracies seeking to protect its people.

As I’ve modestly stressed to foreign intelligence partners, alongside the need to bolster Western conventional military capabilities, rethinking counterintelligence for this competition is necessary and urgent. While Putin’s secret services are romanticizing the heady days of the Soviet Union’s Cold War past, today’s Russian intelligence and security services are busy hunting spies in parts of Russian-controlled Ukraine.

Global Order and Stability Are More Important Than Democracy


“Idealists,” wrote Halford Mackinder in his 1919 geopolitical masterpiece Democratic Ideals and Reality, “are the salt of the earth; without them to move us, society would soon stagnate and civilization fade.” But idealism untempered by an appreciation of human limitations and imperfections can be dangerous. The ideologues who envisioned “new worlds” where human beings would ascend to their innate potentialities, and the political leaders who used the coercive powers of the state to attempt to accomplish that end in the face of human resistance, have caused more havoc and destruction than most of history’s autocrats. Today, the ideologues have envisioned a world without autocracy, and some of the West’s political leaders, including President Joe Biden, have portrayed 21st-century world politics as an existential struggle between autocracy and democracy. As Robert Kaplan points out in a new essay in UnHerd, those political leaders and observers who seek to end autocracy in Russia and who are trying to “fix” the Arab-Persian-Israeli conflicts in the Middle East all in the name of “democracy” risk sowing the seeds that will transform regional wars into a global conflagration.

Kaplan’s essay is focused on Vladimir Putin’s Russia and the dangers of imperial collapse. Throughout history, he notes, “empires, as they collapse, leave chaos in their wake,” and “[h]istory has provided no solution to this conundrum.” His point is that those who seek Russia’s collapse are ignoring the order and stability that empires, including Russia’s, often maintain. The Wilsonian strain in American foreign policy that seeks to remake the world in America’s image, however, is strong and resilient despite its past failures. The United States today is waging a proxy war against Russia for the self-determination of the Ukrainian people, just as we are pressuring Israel to permit the creation of a separate state for Palestinians who seek Israel’s destruction. In the western Pacific, the Wilsonians want us to defend Taiwan because it is a democracy, instead of defending it (as we did in the 1950s and 1960s when it was more autocratic than democratic) for the sounder geopolitical reasons of preventing the strategically located island from falling under the control of China.

Nations Agree to Reign in Commercial Spyware- How Serious Are They?


Recently, more than 35 nations have signed a new international agreement to collaborate on reigning in the “hacker for hire” commercial market, in which private interests sell tools and services to support offensive cyber activities. Under the Pall Mall Process, a joint commitment to act against an issue, the signatories will try to discourage irresponsible behavior of these organizations to improve the transparency around their activities while trying to codify ways to compel oversight and instill accountability. In addition to governments, major information technology companies such as Apple, BAE Systems, Google, and Microsoft were also in attendance. The meeting comes at a time when cyber spying and cyber espionage have increased substantially and is being conducted by both state and nonstate actors to support a wide range of surveillance, espionage, monitoring, and other forms of cyber malfeasance. Notably absent was Israel where several leading companies producing this technology are based, countries like Thailand, Mexico, Spain, and Hungary did not sign the agreement.

Per the United Kingdom’s (UK) National Cyber Security Centre, the commercial cyber spying sector is on pace to double in size every ten years. This comes on the heels of a UK Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) warning that more than 80 countries had purchased this type of technology over the past ten years, basing such findings on an aggregation of both classified and unclassified data. Indeed, this industry has proven quite profitable as more countries and organizations seek to outsource an invasive capability to exploit the digital space for their benefit. Granted, some of these purchases supported law enforcement entities, though a substantial number of customers used these tools in questionable human rights violations activities and can be abused by both government and private sector interests to support data theft, and other espionage-related operations.

Worse, the currently unchecked industry as a whole has been estimated to be worth approximately USD 12 billion with no signs of slowing down. The ease of purchasing companies’ tools and services and the various associated price points have lowered the bar considerably for any government, agency, or even private sector organization to have an immediate capability to perform nefarious activities against targets and competitors. The surveillance technologies offered are sophisticated and often leverage current vulnerability information to increase their effectiveness. Given the fact that many of these vendors’ tools exploited 20 of 25 zero-day vulnerabilities Google’s Threat Analysis Uncovered in 2023, it is unsurprising that the appetite to obtain these technologies is substantial.

Decontrol AI to Accelerate Solutions


In a previous post we asked “Is the US Government Over-Regulating Artificial Intelligence?” We followed it with some historical context and a summary of today’s government controls in “Regulations on Government Use of AI.” This post builds on those two to examine an example on how a decontrol mindset can help speed AI solutions into use.

The payoff of AI applied to government missions is just beginning and already there is a long list of successful applications. The government has pioneered the application of now old fashioned AI approaches like expert systems and machine learning and produced systems that have succeeded in ways traditional IT could not have. Some successes recently highlighted by the OMB include:
  • Department of Health and Human Services, where AI is used to predict infectious diseases and assist in preparing for potential pandemics, as well as anticipate and mitigate prescription drug shortages and supply chain issues.
  • Department of Energy, where AI is used to predict natural disasters and preemptively prepare for recoveries.
  • Department of Commerce, where AI is used to provide timely and actionable notifications to keep people safe from severe weather events.
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration, where AI is used to assist in the monitoring of Earth’s environment, which aids in safe execution of mission-planning.
  • Department of Homeland Security, where AI is used to assist cyber forensic specialists to detect anomalies and potential threats in federal civilian networks.
There are so many others, but you get the point. The fact is the government has many use cases for old school AI and will have many more for the new Generative AI capabilities now sweeping the nation.

The exciting thing about these Generative AI capabilities, the thing that makes them significantly different than old fashioned AI like expert systems and machine learning, is that it is not just a technology. It is a profound shift between old and new. For the first time in the co-evolution of humans and technology we are able to elevate our tools to be teammates. Generative AI will change how we produce products and services and how governments serve citizens and support missions. Generative AI uses many previous AI techniques including machine learning but it builds on them to enable generation of new text, audio, images and video. It can create things that never existed before.

AI Is Starting to Threaten White-Collar Jobs. Few Industries Are Immune

Decades after automation began taking and transforming manufacturing jobs, artificial intelligence is coming for the higher-ups in the corporate office. The list of white-collar layoffs is growing almost daily and include jobs cuts at Google, Duolingo and UPS in recent weeks. While the total number of jobs directly lost to generative AI remains low, some of these companies and others have linked cuts to new productivity-boosting technologies like machine learning and other AI applications. Company executives and management consultants are also signaling that generative AI could soon upend a much bigger share of white-collar jobs. Unlike previous waves of automation technology, generative AI doesn’t just speed up routine tasks or make predictions by recognizing data patterns. It has the power to create content and synthesize ideas—in essence, the kind of knowledge work millions of people now do behind computers. That includes managerial roles, many of which may never come back, the corporate executives and consultants say. They predict the fast-evolving technology will revamp or replace work now done up and down the corporate ladder in industries ranging from technology to chemicals. “This wave [of technology] is a potential replacement or an enhancement for lots of critical-thinking, white-collar jobs,” said Andy Challenger, senior vice president of outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Some of the job cuts taking place already are a direct result of the changes coming from AI. Other companies are cutting jobs to spend more money on the promise of AI and under pressure to operate more efficiently. Meanwhile, business leaders say AI could affect future head counts in other ways. At chemical company Chemours, executives predict they won’t have to recruit as many people in the future.

“As the company grows, we’ll need fewer new hires as opposed to having to do a significant retrenchment,” said Chief Executive Mark E. Newman. Since last May, companies have attributed more than 4,600 job cuts to AI, particularly in media and tech, according to Challenger’s count. The firm estimates the full tally of AI-related job cuts is likely higher, since many companies haven’t explicitly linked cuts to AI adoption in layoff announcements.