18 February 2024

Gaza and the End of the Rules-Based Order

Agnès Callamard

After more than four months of conflict, Israel’s campaign of retaliation against Hamas has been characterized by a pattern of war crimes and violations of international law. Israel’s stated justification for its war in Gaza is the elimination of Hamas, which is responsible for the horrific crimes committed during its October 7 attack on Israel: 1,139 people, mostly Israeli civilians, killed; thousands more wounded; a yet unknown number of women and girls subjected to sexual violence; and 240 people taken hostage, many of whom are still held by Hamas.

In response, Israel forcibly displaced Palestinians, imposing conditions that have left hundreds of thousands without basic human necessities. It has carried out indiscriminate, disproportionate, and direct attacks on civilians and “civilian objects,” such as schools and hospitals. Some 28,000 Palestinians have been killed, the majority of them women and children. Vast sections of Gaza have been pulverized; a fifth of its infrastructure and most of its homes are now damaged or destroyed, leaving the region largely uninhabitable. Israel imposed a prolonged blockade, denying Palestinians adequate food, potable water, fuel, Internet access, shelter, and medical care: action amounting to collective punishment. It is detaining Gazans in inhumane and degrading conditions, and Israel admits that some of those detained have already died. Meanwhile, in the West Bank, violence against Palestinians by Israeli forces and settlers has increased markedly.

The United States and many Western countries have supported Israel, providing military assistance, opposing calls for a cease-fire at the United Nations, stopping funding of the UN Relief and Works Agency serving Palestinian refugees, and rejecting South Africa’s genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), even as the carnage continued to unfold.

While Israel Continues the War in Gaza, Another War Looms | Opinion

Daniel R. DePetris

This week, U.S., Israeli, Egyptian, and Qatari officials met in Cairo to continue discussions on how to hammer out a truce in Gaza. As one might expect, getting Israel and Hamas onboard a plan they can both accept is turning out to be the diplomatic equivalent of the world's most painful root-canal. President Joe Biden has told Americans that he's working around the clock to cement a deal that stops the fighting, frees the rest of the hostages in Hamas' custody, and increases humanitarian aid shipments into the coastal enclave.

The wrench in the gears is that everybody at the table has a different interpretation of a good deal. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government has offered Hamas a six-week cessation of hostilities and more Palestinian prisoner releases in exchange for the remaining hostages, numbered at 136. Hamas is willing to release the hostages, but only on its terms. The Islamist group came back with a draft proposal of its own, a three-stage plan that would be implemented over a period of four and a half months and result in Israel releasing hundreds of Palestinian prisoners (including senior militants), withdrawing from Gaza and ending the war permanently. Netanyahu strongly opposed Hamas' framework, calling it "delusional."

It's not a surprise that the talks in Egypt adjourned without significant movement. That's the bad news. The good news is that despite what looks like an imminent Israeli military offensive into the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where more than half of the entire territory's population now resides, talks haven't broken down yet.

For the sake of Gaza's people, one can only hope the negotiations succeed. Success could also have a positive effect on another conflict more than 100 miles to the north, where the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and Hezbollah have been shooting at each other nearly every day for more than four months. On Feb. 14, Hezbollah fired rockets near the Israeli city of Safed, killing one. The Israelis responded immediately, launching airstrikes on multiple Hezbollah positions in southern Lebanon. Hezbollah's attack came days after Israel attempted to assassinate a Hezbollah commander as he was driving in his car.

'Systemic Rot' in China's Military Should Give Beijing Pause—US Official

John Feng

The series of recent corruption scandals that have rocked the senior ranks of the Chinese military should make Beijing think twice about whether its forces are ready to fight, a senior U.S. defense official has said.

Widespread purges in China's rocket forces as well as throughout its defense industrial complex and defense contractors "should give China's leadership pause about how deep and how systemic that corruption runs," Ely Ratner, assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific security affairs, told the War on the Rocks podcast released on Tuesday.

"And frankly, are they ready? The fundamental question is, will they succeed if they were to choose to employ aggression?" he said.

China's Foreign Ministry did not answer calls seeking comment before publication.

Ratner was responding to a question by show host Ryan Evans about high-profile corruption cases involving the Chinese People's Liberation Army that have emerged since last year, an ongoing saga that has led to senior Chinese officials disappearing in Beijing.

"This question of corruption is significant not only because it shows systemic rot, but also because it does factor into PLA and PRC leadership calculations about the actual capabilities of the PLA," Ratner said, using the country's full name, the People's Republic of China.

President Xi Jinping of China, who has spent 10 years trying to root out a culture of graft in the Chinese government, last month described lingering corruption as "dire and complex." More recently, Beijing has been dealing with a possible major intelligence failure linked Qin Gang, the country's former foreign minister, who vanished from public view last June after just six months in the job.

Exporting Autocracy

Ryan C. Berg and Henry Ziemer

China’s mounting influence in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) has been the subject of study and consternation in U.S. policy circles for well over a decade. In this time, the multifaceted and ever-evolving contours of China’s engagement with the region have been traced and retraced continuously. An especially concerning area of research in this regard has been the possibility that Chinese economic, diplomatic, security, and political activities within the region could be contributing to the democratic backsliding witnessed in recent decades.

This report seeks to more fully enumerate the nature of China’s impact on democracy in LAC. It posits two independent but correlated mechanisms through which China contributes to democratic backsliding. First, the PRC propagates its model of authoritarian governance through its soft power engagements in media, education, and people-to-people diplomacy, as well as through its security assistance, which often features tools enabling mass surveillance and the curtailment of civil and political rights. Second, China protects regimes undergoing democratic backsliding by providing economic and diplomatic cover even as these governments become increasingly isolated from the rest of the international system, in effect extending these governments beyond their natural lifespan. Having recognized the specific risk vectors China’s engagement poses in LAC, the report seeks to articulate the beginnings of a democracy-first grand strategy for the United States to pursue. Such a strategy should proceed along the lines of the “insulate, curtail, compete” framework outlined in a previous CSIS report.

This report is made possible through the generous support of the Smith Richardson Foundation.

The Taiwan Catastrophe

Andrew S. Erickson, Gabriel B. Collins, and Matt Pottinger

Washington and its allies face many potential geopolitical catastrophes over the next decade, but nearly all pale in comparison to what would ensue if China annexed or invaded Taiwan. Such an outcome, one U.S. official put it, “would be a disaster of utmost importance to the United States, and I am convinced that time is of the essence.” That was General Douglas MacArthur in June 1950, then overseeing occupied Japan and worrying in a top-secret memo to Washington about the prospect that the Communists in China might seek to vanquish their Nationalist enemies once and for all. More than 70 years later, MacArthur’s words ring truer than ever.

Then, as now, Taiwan’s geography matters. A self-governing Taiwan anchors Japan’s defense and denies China a springboard from which it could threaten U.S. allies in the western Pacific. But unlike in the 1950s, when Taiwan was under the authoritarian rule of Chiang Kai-Shek, today the island is a full-blown liberal democracy—whose subjugation to Beijing’s totalitarianism would hinder democratic aspirations across the region, including in China itself. And unlike in MacArthur’s time, Taiwan today is economically crucial to the rest of the world, by virtue of its role as the primary producer of advanced microchips. A war over the island could easily cause a global depression. Yet another key difference between MacArthur’s time and today is the flourishing of a wide network of U.S. allies across the Indo-Pacific, countries that rely on U.S. support for their security. A Chinese seizure of Taiwan could trigger a race among nations to develop their own nuclear arsenals as U.S. security guarantees lost credibility.

In recent years, Chinese leader Xi Jinping has shown an impatient determination to resolve Taiwan’s status in a way his predecessors never did. He has ordered a meteoric military buildup, instructing Chinese forces to give him by 2027 a full range of options for unifying Taiwan. These signals are triggering debate in Washington and elsewhere about whether Taiwan is strategically and economically important enough to merit protection through the most challenging of contingencies. But make no mistake: whether one cares about the future of democracy in Asia or prefers to ponder only the cold math of realpolitik, Taiwan’s fate matters.



Annika Ganzeveld, Ashka Jhaveri, Andie Parry, Peter Mills, Alexandra Braverman, and Brian Carter

Information Cutoff: 2:00pm ET

The Iran Update provides insights into Iranian and Iranian-sponsored activities abroad that undermine regional stability and threaten US forces and interests. It also covers events and trends that affect the stability and decision-making of the Iranian regime. The Critical Threats Project (CTP) at the American Enterprise Institute and the Institute for the Study of War (ISW) provides these updates regularly based on regional events. For more on developments in Iran and the region, see our interactive map of Iran and the Middle East.

Note: CTP and ISW have refocused the update to cover the Israel-Hamas war. The new sections address developments in the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, Lebanon, and Syria, as well as noteworthy activity from Iran’s Axis of Resistance. We do not report in detail on war crimes because these activities are well-covered in Western media and do not directly affect the military operations we are assessing and forecasting. We utterly condemn violations of the laws of armed conflict and the Geneva Conventions and crimes against humanity even though we do not describe them in these reports.

Click here to see CTP and ISW’s interactive map of Israeli ground operations. This map is updated daily alongside the static maps present in this report.

Iranian Judiciary Chief Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejei discussed the removal of US forces from Iraq, counterterrorism, and border security with senior Iraqi politicians in Baghdad on February 13 and 14. Iranian judicial officials rarely travel abroad. Acting Iraqi Parliament Speaker Mohsen al Mandalawi claimed that the Iraqi Parliament will pass a law in the coming weeks to “completely” end the US presence in Iraq during his meeting with Ejei.[1] Mandalawi described Iraq as a “strong” country that “does not need foreign forces to protect it.”[2] Prominent Shia cleric Ammar al Hakim separately expressed support for the Iraqi federal government’s negotiations with the United States about the status of US-led international coalition forces in Iraq during his meeting with Ejei.[3] Ejei expressed support for ending the US-led international coalition’s mission to defeat ISIS in Iraq.[4] Facilitating the removal of US forces from the Middle East is one of Iran’s most important strategic objectives and Iran supports Iranian-backed Iraqi actors’ ongoing military and political campaign to expel US forces from Iraq.

The Senate Rejects American Retreat

Sen. Dan Sullivan

The Senate’s 70-29 predawn vote Tuesday approving U.S. aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan was a rare bipartisan accomplishment in Washington. This is a victory for American security that would buttress U.S. defenses and hold the line against compounding dangers abroad.

Some 22 Republicans voted for the bill, up from 17 who supported starting work on the bill last week, and the converts include Jim Risch of Idaho and John Boozman of Arkansas. A yes vote took political courage. Donald Trump and his new GOP establishment are campaigning against Ukraine, and President Biden is incapable of pressing a public case for his own policies abroad.

But China, Russia, North Korea and Iran are mounting an increasingly aggressive and coordinated challenge to U.S. power. Some Republicans grasp the stakes and are acting as a backbone to a weak President, in the best Republican tradition since World War II. Arthur Vandenberg helped Truman establish NATO, and Bob Dole supported Bill Clinton in the Balkans in the 1990s.

Deserving particular credit: GOP Senators Dan Sullivan of Alaska, Susan Collins of Maine, Roger Wicker of Mississippi and Thom Tillis of North Carolina. All shaped the bill for the better and repeatedly explained the U.S. interest in Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan—over angry barrages from the bill’s opponents.

Sen. Sullivan was right when he said on the floor that the measure isn’t so much a foreign aid bill as a down payment on a badly needed American rearmament. About 60% of the bill’s $95 billion in funding will flow to a brittle U.S. industrial base that is straining to produce enough artillery shells, missiles and air defenses for the U.S. and its allies.

On Ukraine’s Front Line, Soldiers Are Forced to Tune In to Washington Politics

Alistair MacDonald

OCHERETYNE, Ukraine—The consequences of politics in Washington are playing out in Oleksander Kucheriavenko’s Humvee on the eastern front of Ukraine’s war against Russia.

On a patrol Wednesday, Kucheriavenko, a sergeant, fired several grenade rounds from his armored vehicle at a Russian assault team—and then stopped, to conserve ammunition. Like many Ukrainian soldiers, Kucheriavenko is concerned that Republican attempts to block additional military aid to Kyiv will strip them of already-scarce ammunition, armored vehicles and spare parts, rendering defense against Russian onslaughts even harder.

A national-security focused bill that includes about $60 billion of funding for Ukraine has been held up in Washington for months as some Republicans use its passage to extract political concessions or to protest the war’s growing price tag. Early Tuesday, the Senate passed the funding plan, which includes additional amounts for Israel and Taiwan, by 70 votes to 29. The bill now goes to the Republican-controlled House, where it faces an uncertain fate amid the greater power of Ukraine skeptics and the influence of Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump, who has opposed more aid.


Angelica Evans, Riley Bailey, Christina Harward, Nicole Wolkov, George Barros, and Frederick W. Kagan

February 14, 2024, 7:50pm ET

Click here to see ISW’s interactive map of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This map is updated daily alongside the static maps present in this report.

Click here to see ISW’s 3D control of terrain topographic map of Ukraine. Use of a computer (not a mobile device) is strongly recommended for using this data-heavy tool.

Click here to access ISW’s archive of interactive time-lapse maps of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. These maps complement the static control-of-terrain map that ISW produces daily by showing a dynamic frontline. ISW will update this time-lapse map archive monthly.

Note: The data cut-off for this product was 12:30pm ET on February 14. ISW will cover subsequent reports in the February 15 Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment.

Ukrainian forces successfully sank another Russian Black Sea Fleet (BSF) landing ship in the Black Sea off the southern coast of occupied Crimea on the night of February 13 to 14. The Ukrainian Main Military Intelligence Directorate (GUR) published footage on February 14 showing Ukrainian maritime drones striking the Caesar Kunikov Ropucha-class landing ship off the coast of occupied Alupka, Crimea.[1] The GUR reported that maritime drone strikes caused the ship to sink and stated that Russian search and rescue operations were not successful. The GUR stated that the Caesar Kunikov was the largest amphibious landing ship of its project 775 type. Ukrainian forces have destroyed or damaged at least five BSF landing ships since the Russian full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.[2] Ukrainian Navy Spokesperson Captain Third Rank Dmytro Pletenchuk stated that only five of 13 BSF landing ships that Russia had at the start of the full-scale invasion remain “in service” and that “four ships are under repair, four are destroyed, and five are still in the ranks.”[3] Ukrainian strikes damaging and sinking BSF landing ships further reduce Russia’s ability to conduct amphibious operations, although ISW continues to assess that Russia is unlikely to conduct an amphibious landing operation in Ukraine since Russian naval infantry are deployed across Ukraine and a Ukrainian strike campaign in summer and fall 2023 successfully sequestered the BSF to the eastern part of the Black Sea.[4]

Opinion Even from a Russian prison, I can see Putin’s weakness

Vladimir Kara-Murza

“SPECIAL REGIME” PRISON COLONY No. 7, OMSK, Russia — If you listen to Vladimir Putin’s propaganda, things couldn’t be going better for him. The Russian president is winning the war in Ukraine, his hold on power is as strong as ever and — most importantly and underpinning all of this — the Russian people are fully united in support of their national leader and his “special military operation,” as the official media invariably refers to the war. Surprisingly, there are even people in the West who take this at face value.

But actions speak louder than words. The Kremlin’s propaganda narrative was shown up last week when the Central Election Commission barred Boris Nadezhdin, the sole antiwar candidate running in Russia’s presidential election, from the March ballot.

The formal pretext was the usual one offered in such circumstances: “technical irregularities” in the small percentage of the voter signatures submitted in support of his nomination (misprints in passport numbers, some of the collectors’ signatures not notarized and so on). The real reason was given by an unnamed Kremlin source, who told Meduza (an independent online media organization) that the Putin administration had underestimated how many Russians are actually opposed to the war in Ukraine — and that Nadezhdin was polling in the double-digits. It was an “unpleasant surprise,” the source candidly admitted.

For many Russians, on the contrary, the sudden takeoff of Nadezhdin’s campaign was not just a pleasant surprise, it was a much-needed morale boost in a society disoriented, demoralized and increasingly repressed since the start of Putin’s full-blown war on Ukraine almost two years ago. The goal of the combined efforts of propaganda and crackdown (there are hundreds of political prisoners in Russia, with a growing number arrested for speaking out against the war) was to make antiwar Russians feel not only afraid but also isolated and shunned by their own countrymen. To a large extent, these efforts have worked. I receive dozens of letters in my prison mail every week from all over Russia, and the prevailing mood in them about the situation in the country was gloom and despair.

I say “was,” because this suddenly changed last month.

Trump’s NATO Threat Reflects a Wider Shift on America’s Place in the World

Peter Baker

When former President Donald J. Trump told a campaign rally in South Carolina last weekend that he would encourage Russia to attack NATO allies who “didn’t pay,” there were gasps of shock in Washington, London, Paris, Tokyo and elsewhere around the world.

But not in South Carolina. At least not in the room that day. The crowd of Trump supporters decked out in “Make America Great Again” T-shirts and baseball caps reacted to the notion of siding with Moscow over longtime friends of the United States with boisterous cheers and whistles. “Delinquent” allies? Forget them. Not America’s problem.

The visceral rejection of the American-led security architecture constructed in the years after World War II serves as a reminder of how much the notion of U.S. leadership in the world has shifted in recent years. Alliances that were once seen as the bulwark of the Cold War are now viewed as an outdated albatross by a significant segment of the American public that Mr. Trump appeals to.

The old consensus that endured even in the initial years after the end of the Cold War has frayed under the weight of globalization, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Great Recession of 2008-09 and Mr. Trump’s relentless assault on international institutions and agreements. While polls show most Americans still support NATO and other alliances, the increasingly vocal objections in some quarters hark back to a century ago when much of America just wanted to be left alone.

The quiet intimacy of a desperate frontline evacuation


Michael has never met me, and likely never will.

But I’ve met him.

I first see him, unconscious, in the back of a speeding ambulance, rushing west along the highway towards Dnipro, a hub for the wounded. Even if he were awake, the 50 year old would not be able to see me: his eyes are covered with bandages.

Two medics work on Michael as the ambulance speeds towards Dnipro.

His body is covered by the marks of violence: his left leg has been amputated. His left forehead and eye have trauma from an explosion.

He’s been pumped full of blood that is not his own, in order to save his life, along with a cocktail of drugs meant to improve his chances of survival: tranexamic acid to help with blood clotting; morphine and fentanyl to help with pain; and a long list of others.

The back of the ambulance is thick with the feeling of concentration, the air empty of sound except for the engine and machines working to keep this man alive. His bed, equipped with stabilizers to reduce movement on the highway, stays steady as equipment showing vital signs works ceaselessly. One medic sits near Michael’s head, the other, closer to his feet.

I’m embedded with MOAS, an NGO that began its work in Ukraine after the full-scale invasion. Since Feb. 2022, they’ve evacuated some 30,000 patients from the frontlines, focusing on only the most difficult cases – serious head trauma, stomach eviscerations, limb amputations, strokes. The drivers often spend 18 hours a day on the road, back and forth, back and forth.

The Little Carriers That Could more is better


When looking at the experiences and lessons of US and allied - but mostly US - actions in the Red Sea to counter the attacks on global shipping from the Houthis in Yemen, here and on Midrats since the invasion of Israel from Gaza back in October, we’ve reviewed a lot of the surface action, and even some of the work from USN nuclear powered carriers in the area. In the background there has been another player in the game, one that echoes some of the topics we’ve covered over the years; utility of smaller carriers/diversified risk/diversity of platforms/flexibility/etc.

PHIBRON 8 and her "big deck” USS Bataan (LHD 5) have spent the last few months in the Mediterranean.

Since July, she has been deployed with USS Carter Hall (LSD 50) and USS Mesa Verde (LPD 19) with their embarked ~2,000 Marines of the 26th MEU and other units.

3 weeks ago, CBS News’ Charlie D'Agata visited BATAAN;

Did you notice that flight deck?

US Intel Reveals Russia's Anti-Satellite Weapons Development, Officials Alarmed

John Lopez

US intelligence has discovered concerning developments in Russia's pursuit of anti-satellite weapons, alarming officials and prompting urgent calls for action, AP reports.

According to intel sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity, Russia's efforts pose a serious threat to the security of US satellites and critical space infrastructure.

The intelligence, described as highly sensitive, has been shared with top government officials, including members of Congress and key allies in Europe.

While details remain classified, it is understood that Russia is advancing its capabilities in space-based anti-satellite weaponry, with potential implications for civilian communications, surveillance, and military operations.

US Officials Alarmed

Rep. Mike Turner, the Republican chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, issued a vague but urgent warning, calling on the Biden administration to declassify information related to the threat. While Turner did not provide specifics, his statement underscored the seriousness of the situation and the need for swift action.

"[We have] identified an urgent matter with regard to a destabilizing foreign military capability," Turner stated, urging the administration to make the information available to Congress and allies for open discussion and response planning.

Space Warfare

The Prospects for Peace in Ukraine


As we approach the two-year mark of Russia’s illegal large-scale invasion of Ukraine, Russia controls almost 18 percent of Ukrainian territory, which is the equivalent of about 25,000 square miles. They have illegally annexed all or part of five Ukrainian regions: Luhansk, Donetsk, Crimea, Zaporizhzhia, and Kherson.

By late summer 2023, Ukraine’s much-anticipated counteroffensive had broken against strong Russian defenses in the east and south with only minimal gains of about 200 square miles, primarily in the Zaporizhzhia region in Ukraine’s south. By December, they were switching to the defensive. Meanwhile, Russian forces made equally minimal territorial gains in the east, near the city of Avdiivka in the Donetsk region.

As ground forces continue slugging it out with little evident progress, action has switched to other areas. In the Black Sea, Ukraine is beating the Russian navy, succeeding in restoring the use of the port of Odesa, and creating a shipping corridor for sea traffic. Ukraine is also successfully launching drone and artillery attacks against Russian territory, including facilities as far from Ukraine as the Baltic Sea. Russia, as they did last winter, is focusing its effort on air attacks against Ukrainian cities and critical civilian infrastructure.

Ukrainian missile defenses, like the U.S.-supplied Patriots, have succeeded thus far in limiting the damage of mass Russian attacks, but if the Patriot supply were to run out, the consequences for Ukrainian civilians would be catastrophic. The fighting continues, but there has been very little exchange of territory in the past year. This has led some to argue the war is at a stalemate. But that perception is inaccurate.
By definition, a stalemate is “a situation in which further action or progress by opposing or competing parties seems impossible.” That is not what exists in Ukraine.

By definition, a stalemate is “a situation in which further action or progress by opposing or competing parties seems impossible.” That is not what exists in Ukraine. If Ukraine receives the promised U.S. and other NATO supplies of weapons and ammunition, Ukrainian armed forces can rebuild and go back on the offensive. Russian President Vladimir Putin also believes he can still win. The key, to him, is simply waiting out the United States and other supporters of Ukraine, who, he believes, will grow tired and frustrated and give up.

The idea of total Ukrainian victory is delusional


The Book of Proverbs, Chapter 26, contains this invaluable insight: “As dogs return to their vomit, so fools repeat their folly. You see those who are wise in their own eyes? There is more hope for fools than for them.” Invaluable because, in connection with the Russia-Ukraine War, the passage powerfully illuminates the current debate about Ukraine’s future strategic prospects.

The past few months have witnessed the dog returning to its vomit in the form of any number of efforts to once again make the case that Ukraine still has a path to total victory in its war against Russia. In professional journals, on influential websites and across the full spectrum of media outlets, observers, analysts and pundits alike continue to inform us that, yes, there is a way for Ukraine to prevail over Russia, expelling the latter from all of its territory, including Crimea.

One might claim that these arguments are being advanced because the facts on the ground warrant them; because the shifting geopolitical and battlefield realities clearly indicate that the military balance is tipping in Ukraine’s favor. As Ukraine acquires more weapons (and more sophisticated weapons), it will inevitably achieve the kind of tactical advantages that will propel it first to operational and then to strategic breakthroughs, culminating in total victory. All that’s required is one more mobilization of Ukrainian youth, one more tranche of Western financial aid, one more delivery of American, French or British wonder weapons.

But the strategic, operational and tactical realities of the war simply don’t support any version of this argument. Ukraine is not prevailing at the tactical level — if anything, Russia’s advantage at there is growing rather than diminishing, as Russia outpaces Ukraine in adapting to the evolving realities of the battlefield. The net result? Russia not only remains capable of sustaining the kind of defense-in-depth that has completely frustrated all Ukrainian offensive efforts, but is increasingly able to mount successful offensives in places like Avdiivka.

How the US is preparing to fight — and win — a war in space

Tim Fernholz 

Capt. Even Rogers had the best job at the first large-scale war games focused on space, conducted by the US military in 2017. He got to be the bad guy.

Most of the military’s work in space had been about maintaining infrastructure in orbit, not reacting to attacks in real time. Worried about deepening tensions with Russia and China in 2016, Congress had asked the Pentagon to up its readiness. Serving in what was then the US Air Force’s 527th Space Aggressor Squadron, Rogers was the Red Team lead — tasked with studying how America’s rivals might fight a war in space and turning those tactics against his comrades to prepare them for potential conflicts.

What Rogers remembers about the first “Space Flag” exercise, modeled after the Air Force exercises that stage aerial combat on a massive scale in Nevada, was that it didn’t reflect the conditions of actual combat as they would have been. To be fair, those conditions would be sitting in front of computer workstations, but these fake workstations weren’t even connected. The US military builds its satellites in siloed programs and hadn’t bothered to ask its contractors for simulators to create realistic combined training scenarios. The joke among participants, Rogers says now, was that they had to cover up the positions of their opponents with sticky notes on a computer screen to avoid cheating.

It would be funnier if the world wasn’t entering a new and more dangerous era of space conflict. The same economic and technological trends that have made smartphones ubiquitous have made access to space cheaper than ever. Thanks largely to low-cost rockets by SpaceX, there were a record 212 launches to orbit in 2023, compared to just 55 in 2005. Government and private investors are spending billions to build new communications and sensor networks in orbit and plotting new activities ranging from in-space manufacturing to tourism. Today, the environment around our planet is teeming with more spacecraft — a term for any vehicle in space, from satellites and robots to crewed vehicles and habitats — than at any time in history.

Ukraine needs better, smarter aid to win the war


Ukrainian soldiers use a launcher with US-made Javelin missiles during military exercises in Donetsk region, Ukraine, on December 23, 2021. Photo: Ukranian Defense Ministry Press Service

As Ukraine approaches the second anniversary of conventional warfare and the 10th anniversary of unconventional conflict against Russia, the situation is less than ideal.

International attention, partially diverted by the war in Gaza, appears to be waning. Furthermore, domestic politics within Ukraine are threatening to undermine its war aims.

But the situation, while bleak, is not as dire as some analysts predict. In what is shaping up to be a critical year in the war, it’s essential that Ukraine’s supporters provide the right aid to the country and that Ukrainian domestic politics don’t undermine the urgent needs of its military.
Russian morale

An initial reading of Ukraine’s strategic position appears grim. There are elements of the war and political situation, however, that work in its favor.

First, the Russian economy, while on a war footing, is not as strong as it appears. The growth in the Russian economy shocked most analysts, but it was primarily due to armament production. Spending in this area is unlikely to bring long-term prosperity.

Crucially, other segments of the economy did not perform as well. Inflation is diminishing the purchasing power of the average Russian citizen.

Instead of Being a Crazy Girlfriend, Why Not Try to Understand Putin?

Rob Smith

We are ruled, indeed lorded over by the prissiest and most adolescent political class in the history of the world. Perhaps they have all been educated at our androgynous elite universities where everyone is expected to have hurt feelings and throw hissy fits, which of course entitles them to throw the good china at those who gave them the sniffles. Once offended, then all members of the Junior Cheer Team must express their sisterhood and goose step their rage in unison. Boo Hoo! I once dated a gal and if she thought I didn’t like her new shoes, well in her mind, that meant I hated her. And then in return, she needed to hate me. If I said anything nice about her ex-husband, in her mind this meant I hated her and wanted to kill her. For me to be on her team, I had to like everything she liked, and I had to hate whoever she hated. But, I don’t hate anybody! That got me in trouble too, merely by keeping my mouth shut and not bad-mouthing others meant that I was a secret agent for the people she hated. In her mind, we likely met in dark alleys wearing trench coats and sunglasses to discuss why we didn’t like her new shoes. I have a lot of knuckle-headed friends. Sometimes they do stupid or immature things (which is probably why I like them). The crazy girlfriend would dislike them for the one less than perfect thing they said or did, and ignore the other 99 good things they did. The unhinged Left is one big CRAZY GIRLFRIEND. If one doesn’t like their new shoes, then that person is Hitler.

Speaking of Hitler, he was a brilliant orator and also a decent artist. Under the Crazy Girlfriend Rule, now the dominant legal tenet of the Left and the “Uniparty,” the utterance of these observable facts based on empirical evidence makes me Adolf Eichman’s evil twin brother. No amount of facts or logic gets in the way of their unhinged emotions and immutable prejudices.

I watched the Putin/Tucker Carlson interview. The Left went apoplectic. It seems it’s a crime to listen to someone else’s viewpoint, especially at certain elite universities. It is my understanding that the Board members of the Harvard Corporation just voted to change the Latin inscription on their moto from “Veritas” to “Insanis Amica Rego.”

Sun Tsu said “know your enemies.” I don’t like referring to Russia as an enemy because if we didn’t have so many Crazy Girlfriends running our government Russia likely wouldn’t be our enemy. In all manner of human relationships, it is critically important to understand what makes people tick. What are their hot buttons, what are their soft spots? I have never had any negotiation with anybody without doing my homework to understand how that person thinks.

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.

Donald Trump will be the next President – and the world should be thankful for it

As extensive a scrutiny as can be conducted from North America of the leading Western European media outlets reveals with distressing clarity that Europe understands practically nothing of American politics. As a veteran of over 20 years of the Bilderberg and Trilateral Commission and other transatlantic gatherings of eminent and influential people from all of the Western European and North American countries, and of the Davos circuses, I did what little I could to make the United States more comprehensible to Europeans. That the Trump era has raised this incomprehension to its highest point is perhaps not entirely surprising, especially as many Americans – and almost all Americans known to Europeans – did not understand how Trump was elected president in 2016.

Per capita income growth in the U.S. declined from 4.5 per cent annually in the last six Reagan years to 3 per cent under President Clinton, 2 per cent under George W. Bush, and one per cent in the Obama years. By 2016, half of Americans had had stagnant real incomes since the Clinton era. In such a pecuniary society as the United States the political consequences of such a trajectory are likely to be fatal.

The fundamental political reality of America is that it is a jungle, which is its strength and its weakness. The America of Walt Disney and Norman Rockwell and Grandma Moses exists, but it is essentially a facade and so are the northeastern and California establishments Europeans know, other than when they produce a political leader of great virtuosity such as Franklin D. Roosevelt or Ronald Reagan.

This unsentimental and instinctive culture of strength and meritocratic/Darwinian success creates tremendous competitiveness, extraordinarily high levels of achievement in almost every field, and has enabled the United States for over a century to operate on a scale that the world had not imagined to be possible.

But it also needlessly and brutally grinds millions of people who deserve better in such a rich country, to powder. Like all jungles, the United States is in constant fermentation and agitation and its most influential inhabitants are the human equivalent of great cats and the largest constricting snakes.

The EU isn’t about to collapse. It’s worse than that

Europe's unknown presidents: Roberta Metsola of Malta's Nationalist Party in the parliament's president© Provided by The Telegraph

Afew days after the Brexit referendum in 2016, I sat watching Martin Schulz, then president of the European Parliament, lecturing British voters about the supposedly terrible decision they had just taken. I remember reflecting: “Thank goodness we won’t have to care very much longer what people like you think.”

Well, it took a bit longer than we wanted, and even now the job is not quite 100 per cent done, but we did it. Indeed, no one here is listening any longer to what the president of the European Parliament thinks. A decade ago, probably some voters at least were vaguely aware of Schulz, even if they couldn’t tell you who exactly he was. I shouldn’t think you could now find one in a thousand who would recognise the name of the current president. (It is Roberta Metsola, from Malta, by the way. There, I told you so.)

I am not writing in praise of ignorance of foreign countries. I don’t think that’s a good thing. But equally, we don’t have the same incentive as before to watch and worry about what’s going on in the EU. For it can’t do anything to us any more, at least directly.

Of course the punishment mentality has not entirely gone away, despite all the concessions our current administration has made. The EU seems to wish to make it unnecessarily difficult and complex to cross its border. Brussels seems to think it is its business that we have brought in minimum service levels for strikes, a measure that clearly does not engage our trade agreement since it does not affect trade between us. We will just have to live with this.

The Progressive International: The “Left of the Left” Goes Global

Robert Stilson

In late 2018, the Sanders Institute teamed up with a similarly new European political association called the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (DiEM25) to issue a joint call for all “progressives of the world to unite” in the face of what they claimed was humanity’s greatest collective threat from the ideological right since the 1930s. Credit: DiEM25. License: https://bit.ly/47MdHZa.

Summary: A persistent problem in contemporary sociopolitical commentary is that groups that aren’t especially radical are nevertheless regularly portrayed as such (often for political expediency), while those that truly exist on the ideological fringes aren’t sufficiently exposed as the extremists that they are. The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) issued a reprehensible response to the October 2023 terrorist attacks upon Israel, finally revealing the group’s true nature to many, but the DSA is itself a member of a far-left global coalition called the Progressive International. The Progressive International’s leadership and membership should be considered every bit as radical as the DSA, and this should invite public scrutiny of both them and their institutional affiliates and funders.

The Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) has received much richly deserved criticism since October 2023 and its reprehensible response to the Hamas-led terrorist attacks upon Israel. This has overshadowed some other interesting news about the DSA, which is that the group has been formally admitted to the Progressive International.

A relatively new coalition, the Progressive International gathers together the radical fringes of global leftism—the ideological outskirts where authoritarian communism is praised, terrorism is justified, Israel’s legitimacy is denied, and the United States is portrayed as the malignant font giving rise to all the world’s evils.

Is Europe Still Relevant?

Emilian Kavalski Maximilian Mayer 

The European Union (EU) began 2024 by introducing new measures to strengthen its economic security by reducing reliance on countries like China while protecting key sectors and emerging technologies. This suggests that Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, is sticking to her geopolitical commitments despite a last-minute appeal from Chinese Premier Li Qiang a week earlier at Davos. At first glance, the move appears to strengthen Brussels’ hand. Yet, events closer to home summon questions regarding the credibility of European geopolitics.

On October 2, 2023, the subsea “Balticconnector” natural gas pipeline connecting Estonia and Finland was damaged. Evidence from the debris indicated the pipeline was ruptured externally —and, allegedly, on purpose—by a ship anchor dragged along the seabed. It soon transpired that a Hong Kong-registered container ship called Newnew Polar Bear, owned by Chinese company Hainan Xin Xin Yang Shipping, was in the area when the pipeline was damaged. The vessel was photographed shortly after the incident, entering the port of Arkhangelsk (in Russia) with its port-side anchor missing. The incident should have forced the European Union to assert its “strategic autonomy” against such a blatant provocation.

Just a month prior, Von der Leyen proclaimed that the EU had already matured into a fully-fledged geopolitical union through its support for Ukraine and its stance toward an increasingly assertive China. In a run-up to the December 2023 EU-China Summit, the Balticconnector incident tested Brussels’ commitment to hold Beijing accountable for challenging European security. The incident lent credence to the argument that Beijing was not merely leaning on Moscow’s side but also providing direct economic and technical support to the Russian war effort. The EU’s response was nowhere to be seen, neglecting to support Estonia or Finland and leaving them to deal with Beijing alone. This development raises serious questions about the EU’s geopolitical outreach at the start of 2024.

Army Refines War Tactics & Weapons for New XM30 Infantry Carrier


Exiting from the back of an armored vehicle while under fire, securing dismounted command and control and responding in real time to fast-emerging new threat dynamics, are merely a few of the tactics now being explored and refined by Army soldiers preparing to deploy in a new, next-generation service infantry carrier.

The Army’s now-in-development XM30 Combat Vehicle Program has been the focus of intense evaluations referred to by the service as “Soldier Touchpoints,” experiments and analyses wherein infantry squads practice combat operation in the new platform to further inform and improve its ongoing development. Referred to broadly as a “Bradley” replacement, the XM30 is being engineered with a new generation of advanced technologies intended to expand the tactical envelope and introduce new concepts of operation for nine-man infantry squads closing with an enemy in combat.

Former Army Futures Command 3-Star Details New Ground War Technologies

The Army is currently testing and evaluating prototype XM30s from both American Rheinmetall and General Dynamics Land Systems in preparation for what will ultimately be a “down-select” and production contract for the vehicles. During and following the “touchpoint” exercises, soldiers provide feedback to the two vendor teams in preparation for what will be an Army decision to move to production with one of the designs in 2027.

“The Soldier, specifically our infantry squads, will be the ones who are using the XM30 on the battlefield of tomorrow. It only makes sense to get their inputs on how the vehicle is designed,” Brig. Gen. Geoffrey Norman, director Next Generation Combat Vehicles Cross Functional Team, said in an Army essay.

As for the specifics, the soldiers will be testing the ease, fluidity and pace of how soldiers dismount from different vehicle design configurations, placement of key sensor technologies and panels and hands-on-practical maintenance questions such as how the engine will be accessible for field-level sustainment.