21 February 2024

Why an Israel-Saudi Deal Won’t Bring Middle East Peace

Paul R. Pillar

The Biden administration continues to give high priority to brokering a Saudi-Israeli diplomatic normalization agreement. The political motivations behind Biden’s seeking of such a deal earlier in his presidency were unsurprising. The previous administration had loudly touted the so-called “Abraham Accords,” which normalized diplomatic relations between Israel and four Arab countries. With Saudi Arabia the big prize yet to be won, Biden could one-up Donald Trump by reaching a similar deal with Riyadh.

Besides, the reflexive inclination to defer to whatever Israel wants, which Biden displayed following the Hamas attack last October, was consistent with an effort to secure a diplomatic plum that the Israeli government has long wanted.

The Israeli onslaught on the Gaza Strip temporarily put such efforts on hold, as the creation of one of the worst manmade humanitarian disasters of recent times made Arab nations disinclined to make positive moves toward Israel.

With the tragic events of the past four months having demonstrated to the administration that it could no longer keep sidelining the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it has repurposed the goal of a normalization deal with Saudi Arabia and made it part of a new and grander strategy for the Middle East. The central idea is that such normalization would be an incentive for Israeli leaders to move, in ways they have not moved before, toward making peace with the Palestinians.

The administration has pushed this idea in trying to defend its policies of deference to Israel and to respond to what many regard as insensitivity to the suffering of Palestinians. Deputy National Security Adviser Jon Finer, when meeting recently with unhappy Arab-Americans in Michigan, argued that a normalization agreement between Israel and Saudi Arabia would be a critical step toward creating a Palestinian state.

In Gaza and the Middle East, India’s Risk Appetite Has Increased

Mohamed Zeeshan

Last week, on the verge of Israel’s military operation against the southern Gaza town of Rafah, Indian media outlets reported that the Israeli army was set to induct Indian-made drones into its burgeoning surveillance and aerial bombing fleet. The development was a stark escalation of India’s role in the Israeli war effort and a sign of its heightened risk appetite in the Middle East.

In recent years, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has overseen a wholehearted pivot toward Israel, driven by a series of strategic, economic, and ideological imperatives.

In the aftermath of the October 7 attacks, Modi was among the first world leaders to issue a statement of “solidarity with Israel,” even before Washington and others had reacted. Several thousand Indian workers then migrated to Israel amid a labor shortage in that country, after Israel had canceled the work permits of Palestinian laborers from Gaza.

Yet, despite this bonhomie, New Delhi’s diplomatic rhetoric on the Gaza war has long been restrained. India has officially maintained a position of neutrality on Israel’s response to the October 7 attacks and has often reiterated its traditional policy in favor of a separate state in Palestine. Last December, India voted at the United Nations in favor of an immediate ceasefire in Gaza — in opposition to Israel and the United States.

A predominant reason for India adopting this diplomatic rhetoric is its relationships with the Gulf. Despite growing ties with Israel for the last several years, New Delhi has been wary of revising its position on Palestine and alienating the Gulf states, which account for a significant proportion of India’s crude oil imports and host millions of Indian expats. While reports of the drone transfer were doing the rounds last week, Modi was on a momentous tour of the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. In Abu Dhabi, Modi inaugurated a Hindu temple, the first in that country. Then, he traveled to Doha for his first state visit to Qatar in eight years.

Ukraine, Gaza, and the International Order

Faisal Devji


The Cold War ended long ago, but our political categories and imaginations still exist in its shadow. We continue to think of international politics in terms of great power competition, for example, and often understand it as a struggle between unipolar and multipolar visions of world order. This is curious, since the end of the Cold War gave rise to powerful new ways of thinking about the international order. Francis Fukuyama’s 1992 bestseller, “The End of History and the Last Man,” for instance, envisioned the future of global politics as a mopping up operation by Western liberalism. And while it 1 was criticized for being triumphalist, his book also betrayed some anxiety about the fate of freedom in a world without real competition. Samuel Huntington’s equally popular 1996 book, “The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order,” on the other hand, foresaw the Cold War’s great power competition being replaced by conflicts over cultural and religious identity occurring within and between states in a kind of global civil war. 2 Whatever the merits and demerits of such visions, they had at least recognized the novelty of the post–Cold War situation and proposed ways in which the United States in particular should both understand and take command of it. And yet the Cold War continues to define our political imagination even when the kind of politics that actually defines the international system belies its concepts and prognostications. Given 3 Russia’s post Cold War reduced economic and political power, for instance, the United States and its Western allies did not see the Ukraine war either as a version of great–power competition or a struggle between unipolarity and multipolarity. Supporting Ukraine in what was meant to be a slam–dunk for a unipolar order, nevertheless, has turned into an intractable conflict even without great–power competition. Similarly, the war in Gaza has redirected Western attention to a region it had sought to set aside in order to focus on the immense economic growth of the so-called Indo–Pacific and therefore on China as a potential great power competitor there.

While the United States remains by far the most powerful country in the world, it no longer helms a unipolar order

Economic fallout of Israel’s Gaza Strip operation threatens growth prospects

Matthias Dietrich

The long-term financial impact of Israel's fighting in the Gaza Strip on the wider economy is coming into sharper focus almost half a year after Hamas launched its 7 October attack on the country.

With Israel’s military response to Hamas’s 7 October attack in its fifth month, there are few indications the fighting – and the strain on Israel’s economy – will ease any time soon.

The Bank of Israel estimated in November that the war would cost about USD53 billion through to 2025 based on forecasts of increased defence and other spending against a backdrop of lower tax revenue.

Israel has not seen this scale of military activity in terms of duration, intensity and cost in recent times. The last conflict that lasted over a month – the 2014 Gaza War, or what the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) called Operation Protective Edge – cost the Israeli economy an estimated ILS7bn (USD1.96bn), not including reservist pay or the cost of air force weapons. In the aftermath, the government cut ILS2bn (USD559m) from all ministries except defence to bring finances back in line.

Personnel costs

The call-up of 360,000 reservists – Israel’s biggest mobilisation since the 1973 Yom Kippur War – is placing considerable pressure on Israeli public finances. The Israeli government estimated that those costs reached USD41 million per day in the early stages of the fighting. Scaling that to reflect the duration of hostilities since then suggests that the extra personnel costs could have reached some USD4.2bn through January.

The 2021 India-Pakistan Ceasefire: Origins, Prospects, and Lessons Learned

Christopher Clary

The February 2021 ceasefire between India and Pakistan along the Line of Control in Kashmir has—despite occasional violations—turned into one of the longest-lasting in the countries’ 75-year shared history. Yet, as Christopher Clary writes, the ceasefire remains vulnerable to shocks from terrorist attacks, changes in leadership, and shifting regional relations. With the ceasefire approaching its third anniversary, Clary’s report examines the factors that have allowed it to succeed, signs that it may be fraying, and steps that can be taken to sustain it.

  • On February 25, 2021, India and Pakistan announced a ceasefire along the Line of Control (LOC) that divides the Indian- and Pakistani-administered parts of Kashmir. It has proven to be the most enduring confidence-building measure between the two countries since 2016 and the most enduring attempted LOC ceasefire in more than a decade.
  • Without ceasefires in place, the LOC has been among the world’s most violent areas, with civilians often paying the price for hyperlocal violence that rarely has an operational or strategic purpose. As media environments in India and Pakistan become increasingly sensationalist, even such localized violence may escalate.
  • Two factors appear essential for an enduring LOC ceasefire: senior level buy-in in both capitals and a heightened third-party threat faced by at least one of the rival states.
  • Despite its endurance, the 2021 ceasefire remains fragile and vulnerable to events and circumstances such as terrorist attacks, changes in political or military leadership, and shifting regional relations.
  • Prospects for bolstering the ceasefire include reopening overt dialogue channels, institutionalizing normalcy on the LOC, and exploring other military confidence-building measures.

INS Vikramaditya: India Bought This Aircraft Carrier from Russia (Mistake?)

Maya Carlin

INS Vikramaditya, Explained - Russia and India have maintained military ties for more than five decades. The exchange of weapons and cooperation between the two countries will only increase, following recent talks between the Russian Foreign Minister and his Indian counterpart in December.

New Delhi and Moscow penned a bilateral investment treaty and a free trade agreement, solidifying the good relations between the two nations. Russia has relied heavily on India in light of the heavy international sanctions imposed following its invasion of Ukraine back in February 2022.

In fact, Indian-Russia trade topped $50 billion in 2023. Additionally, 60% of New Delhi’s military hardware used today is derived from Soviet/Russian-origins.

Perhaps the most recognizable Soviet weapon in service with the Indian Navy is the INS Vikramaditya aircraft carrier.
The history of the INS Vikramaditya:

As the arms race was heating up during the Cold War, Soviet engineers prioritized the development of cutting-edge aircraft carriers to counter America’s fleet.

The INS Vikramaditya, originally constructed as Baku, served with the Soviet Navy following its commissioning in the late 1980s.

Following the dissolution of the USSR, Russia’s post-Cold War budget could not maintain the large vessel.

The Taliban’s Neighbourhood: Regional Diplomacy with Afghanistan

What’s new? 

The Taliban, mostly isolated by Western powers, are looking to build ties with foreign capitals closer by. These countries cannot simply say no: they must deal with the Taliban on security and economic issues. Regional engagement remains limited, however, due to both mistrust and hurdles raised by Western sanctions.

Why does it matter? 

Dysfunction in the relationships between Afghanistan and its neighbours affects lives and livelihoods across South and Central Asia. Kabul and its regional partners should explore ways of expanding trade, managing disputes over water and other shared resources, and combating transnational militancy. Failure could spell instability in a vast area.

What should be done? 

Instead of retreating from the many challenges of dealing with the stubborn Taliban, regional capitals should continue to develop a clearly defined format for broad-based security cooperation and economic integration. Western countries should support such efforts – or, at a minimum, refrain from blocking them.

Executive Summary

As most of the world shuns the Taliban due to their violations of women’s and girls’ rights, countries in the region around Afghanistan are dealing with the regime to address their needs for security and economic stability. This region, as the Taliban broadly define it, spans the “Eurasian continents”, from China in the east to Türkiye in the west and from Russia in the north to India and the Gulf monarchies in the south. It encompasses countries closer in, such as the Central Asian states, Iran and Pakistan. The Taliban, like previous Afghan rulers, view Afghanistan as a bridge connecting all these places. Regional countries’ policies toward the Taliban vary enormously, though all believe contacts with the regime to be necessary, but so far, their engagement is limited. Kabul and its regional partners are struggling to develop a modus vivendi as regards issues of mutual concern, which range from boosting trade to managing disputes over water and halting transnational militancy. It is a fraught endeavour, but a worthwhile one, and Western capitals should not stand in the way.

Telegram’s Role in Amplifying Tehreek-e-Taliban’s Umar Media Propaganda and Sympathiser Outreach

Joshua Bowes


Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) is an Islamist terrorist group that operates under the umbrella of the Afghan Taliban (AT) along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. The media wing of the TTP, known as Umar Media, has published anti-state jihadist propaganda and other Islamic fundamentalist content online since the early 2000s. Contemporary media outputs from the TTP have largely used messaging applications like Telegram and WhatsApp to disseminate information and propaganda, highlighting the outcomes of recent attacks and motivating others to continue their efforts in the holy war (jihad) against the Pakistani state. These online groups appear to serve as mouthpieces of the TTP, circulating content in a manner sympathetic to or in support of the TTP and the greater Taliban organisation. Previous studies have analysed the diverse digital ecosystem of the TTP, but little research has been done on specific supporter groups on Telegram. This Insight analyses TTP-affiliated messaging groups on Telegram and the use of social media in sharing propaganda and mobilising support for the TTP’s cause.

TTP Sympathisers, News Circulation & Propaganda on Telegram

While it is difficult to ascertain the total authenticity of TTP-related groups on Telegram, several established online communities utilising the TTP name have amassed hundreds of subscribers on the app. One group called ‘TTP/تحریک طالبان پاکستان’ (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, written in Urdu) shares messages reportedly from TTP spokesperson Muhammad Khorasani (Fig. 1). A message from 23 December 2023 highlights the results of an attack “last night” on the “Gudagi regime check post” in the Bara district of Peshawar province. The message confirms the killing of seven policemen with “multiple light and heavy weapons” (Fig. 2). At the bottom of the post, hashtags like ‘#TTP, #Umar_Media and #Muhammad_Khorasani’ appear above a link to the Umar Media website. Various Urdu and Pashto comments left under the post read “Alhamdulillah”, or ‘Praise be to God,’ affirming support for the terror attack on Pakistani forces.

Pakistan Under Threat: Why ISKP’s Online Campaign Against Pakistan is a Global Concern

Adam Rousselle


The Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) has increasingly focused on Pakistan in its online propaganda campaigns in recent months. The Afghan-based terror group opposes both the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and the Pakistani government, which it aims to overthrow to create a transnational caliphate. Amid rising levels of violence in the country and its ongoing economic crisis, ISKP continues to pose a substantial and ongoing threat to Pakistan. This Insight explores the physical threat that the ISKP poses to Pakistan, the recent rise in the group’s online activity focused on the country, and how tech companies can do their part to address these threats.

Previous ISKP Attacks

The ISKP has claimed responsibility for multiple violent attacks in Pakistan in recent years. On 30 September 2023, an ISKP suicide bombing killed 52 and wounded dozens in the Mastung District of Southwest Pakistan’s Balochistan province. On 30 July 2023, the ISKP took responsibility for a suicide attack at a political rally for the Jamait Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) that killed more than 60 people in northwest Pakistan’s Bajaur District, which borders Afghanistan. The JUI-F is a Sunni Islamist party with close ties to the Afghan Taliban, with whom the ISKP has been engaged in an ongoing insurgent war. The 30 July attack came after the ISKP published a 92-page manifesto that explicitly stated its intent to attack the JUI-F for its participation in local elections. The Khorasan Diary, an independent research organisation that monitors militant groups in the region, notes that the ISKP has claimed responsibility for at least 23 attacks targeting JUI-F in Bajaur alone.

Earlier ISKP attacks have also resulted in high death tolls. In 2018, the group claimed responsibility for two suicide bombings: one at a political rally in Mastung, Balochistan, that claimed the lives of 189 people and another at a market in Orakzai in the country’s northwest that killed 26 and wounded 55. In the past, ISKP has also targeted Pakistani religious minorities, killing 75 at the Lal Shabaz Qalander Sufi Shrine in Sindh province in a 2017 attack and killing eight in an attack on a Christian church in Quetta in December of that year. Given this trend of demonstrably deadly attacks, mentions of Pakistan in the ISKP’s official propaganda should be taken seriously by officials.

Pakistan’s Middle-Class Rage Against Military Rule


Pakistan’s general election on February 8, marred by allegations of widespread voting irregularities, resulted in a hung parliament and the formation of a coalition government consisting of the country’s two major dynastic parties. Nevertheless, the outcome represents a stunning defeat for the country’s powerful military, as candidates backed by the imprisoned former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf Party (PTI) secured more parliamentary seats than any other political bloc despite a two-year crackdown on its voters and supporters.

Although PTI did not win enough seats to form a government on its own, its unexpectedly strong performance – the party was officially barred from participating in the election – underscores Khan’s popular appeal. In the run-up to the vote, PTI members and supporters have faced imprisonment, harassment, and the destruction of their businesses. On election day itself, cellular services were disabled in a last-ditch effort to disrupt turnout efforts. But despite these obstacles, Pakistani voters delivered a historic blow to the military, whose political interference met little resistance over the last three decades.

More than a competition between political parties, the Pakistani election represented a confrontation between those who oppose the military’s increasingly blatant political meddling and those who collaborate with it to gain personal and professional benefits. But the outcome raises an important question: Why has the regime encountered such widespread opposition now, particularly in regions long considered bastions of military support?

To be sure, PTI’s strong showing can be partly attributed to Khan’s popular appeal as Pakistan’s greatest-ever cricketer and his decision to challenge the military’s authority. This defiance led to his arrest and subsequent conviction on corruption charges, for which he is serving a ten-year prison sentence. But it also represents widespread anger among the country’s middle class, whose economic and political clout has steadily declined, despite its rapid growth over the past 20 years.

Aircraft Carriers: Why Experts Keep Saying they Are Totally Obsolete

 Maya Carlin

Since the Second World War, aircraft carriers have been the premier naval icon. Their ability to project power is unparalleled and they were viewed as virtually unsinkable. The past decade has seen many beginning to challenge that assumption as adversary nations have built up significant stocks of capable anti-ship missiles. This debate was vaulted into the limelight with the 2022 sinking of the Russian missile cruiser Moskva by the Armed Forces of Ukraine.

While this sinking is certainly a data point in favor of anti-ship missiles driving surface ships, including the mighty carrier, into obsolescence, there are several key differences between the Moskva sinking and any attack on a U.S. carrier.

Furthermore, while anti-ship missiles will no doubt reshape the nature of naval actions in future conflicts, they do not mean the end of aircraft carriers.

Moskva vs an Aircraft Carrier:

A few facts from the attack on the Moskva stand out when analyzing the effectiveness of anti-ship missiles: she was operating virtually alone, she did not fire any missiles or activate any countermeasures of her own, and she sank the following day.

When comparing this event against a potential attack against a U.S. carrier, these three assertions are illuminating. Aircraft carriers operate in strike groups with a multitude of air, surface, and sub-surface assets providing a layered defense of the principal ship.

China Is Determined to Sink U.S. Navy Aircraft Carriers in a War

Maya Carlin

Why does China seem obsessed with sinking U.S. Navy aircraft carriers? As tensions between China and America continue to ramp up, all eyes are on the South China Sea.

More specifically, the naval might of both countries will be the most significant factor if a full-blown kinetic conflict arises.

While China may not possess the large quantity of aircraft carriers deployed by the U.S., it remains focused on developing the ability to sink large warships via missiles.

Beijing’s three existing carriers do not hold a flame to Washington’s eleven, making the need for carrier-killing missiles much more important.

Mapping out China’s obsession with America’s carrier capabilities:

America’s naval prowess was perhaps best recognized by China during the Third Taiwan Crisis.

In 1995, Taiwan’s first-ever democratic elections for president were just one year away, a notion that Beijing vehemently opposed. When the sitting president of Taiwan Lee Teng-hui was invited to speak at a U.S. college concerning the Taiwanese identity, the People’s Republic of China decided to respond with threatening behavior.

The PLA conducted military exercises, including the live fire of missiles, in an attempt to intimidate Taiwan as it prepared for that year’s election.To deter Beijing’s hostile behavior, the White House deployed two aircraft carriers (the USS Independence and USS Nimitz) to Taiwan-adjacent waters and the Philippine Sea.

China's J-20 Stealth Fighter: Created with Stolen Technology from F-22 and F-35?

Alex Hollings

Summary: The article discusses allegations and evidence of China's theft of American stealth fighter designs. It outlines how Su Bin, a Chinese national, pled guilty to conspiring with the Chinese military to steal military secrets from the United States, including designs for the F-22 and F-35 stealth fighters.

It’s not uncommon to hear people say that China’s most advanced stealth fighters, the in-service Chengdu J-20 and forthcoming Shenyang FC-31, incorporate stolen design elements from existing American and Russian fighter programs. Russian allegations of copycat technology are born largely out of overall similarities between the J-20 and Russia’s long-defunct MiG 1.44 program. However, although Russian allegations leave at least some room for debate the same can’t be said for China’s theft of American stealth fighter designs.

In March 2016, a 51-year-old Chinese national named Su Bin pled guilty to charges associated with what the American Justice Department described as a “years-long conspiracy” conducted in concert with high-ranking members of the Chinese military to steal American military secrets – most notably, the designs for advanced stealth fighters like the F-22 and F-35.

“Su admitted that he conspired with two persons in China from October 2008 to March 2014 to gain unauthorized access to protected computer networks in the United States – including computers belonging to the Boeing Company in Orange County, California – to obtain sensitive military information and to export that information illegally from the United States to China,” reads the Justice Department release.

Su Bin, who worked in Canada under the name Stephen Su, was a well-regarded businessman and entrepreneur in the aviation industry, serving as the sole proprietor of a small company that specialized in aircraft cable harnesses. This company, called Lode-Tech, was described by the Air Force Office of Special Investigations as a “small player” in the field, with only a handful of employees and limited access to broader aviation programs.



In 2014 IS fighters swept through Iraq and Syria and declared a ‘caliphate’ from the Grand Mosque in Mosul (Figure 1). At the height of their power, IS forces were in possession of advanced weapon systems, could manufacture improvised weapons and explosive devices on a large and sophisticated scale, and were able to tap into regional and international markets to acquire commercial products for the development of explosives.

Following a string of military defeats at the hands of a coalition of international and local security forces, and the collapse of the ‘caliphate’ in March 2019, IS forces learned to operate in a more clandestine manner. Coalition forces assess that current IS capabilities are severely degraded: regular leadership losses, a lack of funds, and limited recruitment capacity prevent IS cells from launching anything but small and opportunistic attacks (DoD IG, 2023)1 . In north-east Syria, however, small cells continue to mobilize, frustrating local security forces and their allies.

On three occasions in 2021 and 2022, these cells attempted to carry out major, complex attacks on detention centres housing IS prisoners and suspected affiliates in Syria.2 All were typical inghimasi operations (from the Arabic word inghamasa, ‘to plunge’). Inghimas are lightly armed operatives—equipped with person-borne improvised explosive devices (PBIEDs)—whose role is to break through battle lines or fortifications and to cause significant damage. Inghimasi fighters differ from most ‘suicide bombers’: although they expect to be killed in action, they may survive and return to their base (Rowley, 2016). Such IS attacks were remarkably successful during the height of the ‘caliphate’ in both Iraq and Syria, while IS affiliates have used this tactic in other locations, including in Europe.

Working on the ground in north-east Syria, CAR field investigators have documented weapons, ammunition, and other relevant materiel that local security forces recovered from each of the three IS inghimasi operations

Americans’ Social Media Use


Social media platforms faced a range of controversies in recent years, including concerns over misinformation and data privacy. Even so, U.S. adults use a wide range of sites and apps, especially YouTube and Facebook. And TikTok – which some Congress members previously called to ban – saw growth in its user base.

These findings come from a Pew Research Center survey of 5,733 U.S. adults conducted May 19-Sept. 5, 2023.

Which social media sites do Americans use most?

YouTube by and large is the most widely used online platform measured in our survey. Roughly eight-in-ten U.S. adults (83%) report ever using the video-based platform.

While a somewhat lower share reports using it, Facebook is also a dominant player in the online landscape. Most Americans (68%) report using the social media platform.

Additionally, roughly half of U.S. adults (47%) say they use Instagram.

The Quad and Submarine Cable Protection in the Indo-Pacific: Policy Recommendations

Brendon J. Cannon and Pooja Bhatt


This policy brief reviews the aims, nature, and scope of the Quad’s response to the protection of submarine communication cables in the IndoPacific. It suggests practical policy prescriptions for the quartet’s members—Australia, India, Japan, and the U.S.—to engender cooperation despite a range of differences, strategic ambits, and structural and systemic limitations within and between individual states.

Enhancing the protection of submarine communication cables (variously known as subsea, subsurface, and undersea cables) is an emerging area of concern for states. Submarine cables lie several hundred meters under the seas and serve as crucial conduits for internet lines as well as oil and gas pipelines across continents. As digital connectivity and energy transportation are growing, several countries are opting for and relying on undersea infrastructure for their development. However, recent incidents, including that involving the Chinese Newnew Polar Bear vessel, indicate that the damage to these cables, inadvertent or otherwise, can disrupt sensitive communications and economies for several days, if not weeks. Disruptions can be exacerbated depending on the capabilities available to certain states to protect this critical infrastructure. The repair of cables is both expensive and technical and involves a degree of expertise and the presence of specialized vessels in the high seas. Recognizing the nature of the problem and the growing threats to submarine cables within the context of rising global tensions, the Quad—Australia, India, Japan, and the U.S.—established a framework for cooperation on the protection of cables in the Indo-Pacific.

Russia's Black Sea Fleet in the "Special Military Operation" in Ukraine

Igor Delanoë


There is no end in sight for the fighting in Ukraine, but some lessons can be already drawn out about the naval side of the conflict. Although the “special military operation” remains essentially a ground conflict, with limited involvement of the air forces, developments at sea have taken place in the Black Sea from the very beginning of the hostilities. As one of the leading naval formations in the Black Sea basin, Russia’s Black Sea Fleet (BSF)—one of Russia’s five naval components[1]—has been involved in the operations. This paper examines the evolving role of Russia’s BSF throughout the conflict.

Whereas Russia’s BSF had a theoretical superiority over the Ukrainian maritime forces when the conflict broke out, it has been unable to exploit this advantage and found itself in a partly defensive posture within a few months. This shift in the BSF’s posture is inherently tied to the balance of power on the front and the evolution over time of the fighting toward an attritional conflict. The analysis of the developments at sea since the beginning of Moscow’s campaign in Ukraine shows that the scope of the missions fulfilled by Russian naval forces in the Black Sea has increased over the past twenty months and that the BSF plays a greater role today than it did at the early stage of the “special military operation.” Although it has adapted to new challenges posed by Ukrainian operations against Russian civil and military naval infrastructures in the Black Sea, the BSF has not been able to overcome all the difficulties emanating from an asymmetric warfare at sea caused by the Ukrainians’ employment of naval drones and cruise missiles. [2]

As the fighting continues, it should be kept in mind for methodological purposes that many uncertainties remain regarding how this conflict will evolve and eventually end. Its outcome—and the scale of Ukraine’s potential territorial concessions—will influence Russia’s posture in the Black Sea basin for decades. Nevertheless, building on this provisional assessment, some possible solutions Russia may consider to enhance its strategic position in the Black Sea region can already be envisaged. Finally, it has been increasingly difficult for experts to work with Russian open sources dealing with Russian armed forces in general, and with the BSF in particular, due to new laws adopted to protect information relating to defense issues.[3]

Equipment losses in Russia’s war on Ukraine mount

Yohann Michel & Michael Gjerstad

As Russia’s losses in its war on Ukraine continue to grow, the IISS assess how long Moscow can sustain its current rate of equipment attrition.

Despite intense armoured vehicle losses since Russia launched its unprovoked full-scale invasion of Ukraine about two years ago, there are few signs they will cause an end to the fighting anytime soon. The IISS will publish its assessment of Russian equipment losses on 13 February with the release of The Military Balance 2024. The losses are estimated to include more than 3,000 armoured fighting vehicles in the past year alone and close to 8,800 since February 2022.

Russia’s losses over the past 24 months raise a key question: how long can Moscow sustain these equipment-attrition rates?

Russia’s offensive on Avdiivka, which began in autumn 2023, is only one example where the assaulting force has suffered heavy equipment and personnel attrition. Still, Russian troops have been able to make inroads there, aided by an advantage in artillery.

Defogging war

Tracking the active fleets of main battle tanks (MBTs), armoured personnel carriers (APCs), infantry fighting vehicles (IFVs) and other equipment for either side in the war in Ukraine is an imprecise science. Unlike the high-profile Black Sea Fleet losses or those Russia’s aerospace forces have suffered, the inventory evolution in the land domain comes with far more variables. Refurbishment and production rates can vary greatly, as can the intensity of losses.

Chapter 1: Era of Insecurity

Renewed fighting between Israel and Hamas, a resurfaced Houthi missile threat, rising tensions in the Indo-Pacific and the Arctic, turmoil in Sub-Saharan Africa, coupled with Russia’s war on Ukraine that is grinding towards its third year created a highly volatile security environment in the past year.

The current military-security situation heralds what is likely to be a more dangerous decade, characterised by the brazen application by some of military power to pursue claims – evoking a ‘might is right’ approach – as well as the desire among like-minded democracies for stronger bilateral and multilateral defence ties in response. At the same time, governments are trying to balance appetite for advanced weapons with the need to rebuild industrial-scale ammunition production capacity. The demise of the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty highlighted a lack of interest in arms control.

Moscow’s military actions have amplified concerns in other parts of the world, particularly the Indo-Pacific, that a militarily powerful neighbour may try to exert its will over others. In Asia, this has driven Japan and South Korea to seek closer defence ties, the Philippines to re-engage with the United States on military cooperation, Taiwan to bolster its defences, and Australia to embark on an unprecedented expansion of its naval capacity, most visibly through the Australia–United Kingdom–US AUKUS partnership with nuclear-powered submarines at its core.

China is becoming more assertive, not just in its immediate vicinity. The country flew a high-altitude surveillance balloon over the US and deployed ships near American shores, while its maritime assets had tense encounters with Canadian and Philippine vessels. Beijing sustained its defence modernisation, while also stepping up diplomatic engagement, brokering an effort at detente between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

The Russian Navy Is Sinking Fast in Ukraine

Peter Suciu

On Wednesday, officials in Kyiv claimed that its forces successfully carried out a seaborne drone strike that targeted a Russian landing warship off the coast of occupied Crimea. Video of the drone approaching the Ropucha-class large landing ship Cesar Kunikov was shared on the Telegram social message app.

According to reports from Ukrainian military intelligence, the drones hit the port side of the ship, which caused the vessel to sink. The Cesar Kunikov is a Project 775 large landing ship that can carry 87 crew members. It was active in the conflicts in Syria, Georgia, and Ukraine.

"Ukraine has disabled a third of the Russian Black Sea Fleet during the large-scale invasion," the Ukrainian armed forces told CNN after Wednesday's attack.

Kyiv claimed last week that its forces had disabled about 33% of the Russian Navy's warships in the Black Sea, amounting to 24 disabled ships and one submarine. The landing ship Caesar Kunikov would be the 25th disabled ship, according to Ukraine's count.

Though the Kremlin has not commented, Russian military bloggers who often publish information about incidents before they are confirmed by Moscow corroborated the reports of an attack against the Cesar Kunikov.

The Project 775 (NATO reporting name: Ropucha-I-class) large landing ship had previously been damaged in late March 2022 in the port of Berdiansk. Both the Caesar Kunikov and Novocherkassk, another Project 775 landing ship, have remained out of action due to a lack of spare parts to repair the ships.

Make No Mistake: Vladimir Putin Killed Alexei Navalny

Alexander J. Motyl

Let there be no mistake: Vladimir Putin killed Alexei Navalny.

Everyone knew that the Russian opposition leader would not survive the harsh conditions of his incarceration in Russia’s inhospitable north.

And yet Russia’s illegitimate president sent him there, knowing what everyone knew. Putin may not have pulled the trigger, but he ordered the contract and bears full responsibility for Navalny’s death.

Killing his opponents is something Putin has practiced for all the years he’s been at Russia’s helm. At least 13 regime critics have met their deaths on his watch. Others have survived after being poisoned or beaten. Up to a score have fallen from windows.

Putin has also killed average Russians in the pursuit of his ends. In September 1999, explosions destroyed apartment buildings in Buynaksk, Moscow, and Volgodonsk, killing more than 300 innocent civilians. They were blamed on the Chechens and served as a convenient pretext for resuming hostilities against them. Experts generally agree that Putin’s minions in the security service carried out the bombings at his behest.

The violence shouldn’t surprise us. It’s part of the tool kit of every fascist leader, and Putin is simply following in the time-honored footsteps of Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler. Killing is effective, saves the regime money, intimidates potential oppositionists, is often greeted with indifference by the broad masses, and rarely elicits international protests. What’s not to like?

Navalny dared to criticize Putin and his corrupt regime and had to be incarcerated, as he was in 2021. Once sentenced, it was clear that he would never be let go. And once sent to a camp in the north, it was obvious that he would be Putin’s next victim.

Cyber Warfighting Model

S. John Spey and Zeeve Rogozinski

This report describes a model that simulates cyber conflicts at the high-tactical or operational level of war. The model’s objective is to allow a cyber force commander with one or more tactical-level offensive aggressor1 cyber units to experiment with different strategies and priorities. The model represents tactical details as simply as possible to avoid any dependence on details about individual networks, cyber defenses, and offensive cyber weapons. The simplistic nature of the model allows it to complete a single simulation in a fraction of a second. Many hundreds or thousands of iterations of the simulation with the same initial conditions and strategies can be done to create a distribution of outcomes. The initial conditions can then be changed before running the model another several hundred or thousand times. This approach allows the model to be used to explore new situations rapidly. The model code is written to be easily modified, allowing a wide range of scenarios and strategies to be explored. 

In its current state, the model can simulate an arbitrary number of combatants. Combatants send aggressor units using offensive weapons into each other’s cyber terrain, seeking to discover and neutralize their enemy’s defensive tools or offensive weapons, or they seek out other high-value locations on an enemy’s network to score abstract points. A single iteration of a given scenario runs until either one combatant accumulates a set number of points or a set number of timesteps have occurred. 

Figure 1 depicts the components and basic actions of the model. It shows two combatants, Blue and Red, at the start of a model run in (a) and after a Blue aggressor unit has penetrated Red’s network in (b). During each model run, each combatant’s aggressor unit maneuvers into the other combatant’s network and seeks out target locations determined by its commander. If an aggressor is detected by enemy defenders, those defenders may kick it out of the network, forcing it to start over with new offensive weapons. 

The Case for Regulating Generative AI Through Common Law


The impending rollout of the European Union’s Artificial Intelligence Act represents the bloc’s latest attempt to cement its status as a regulatory powerhouse. This ambitious legislation, which aims to impose stringent regulations on AI technologies, underscores the EU’s commitment to proactive governance.

Meanwhile, the United States has taken a very different path. Despite the sweeping executive order issued by President Joe Biden in October 2023, the country still lacks a cohesive AI regulatory framework. Instead, a surge of litigation has overwhelmed US courts, with leading AI firms being sued for copyright infringement, data-privacy breaches, defamation, and discrimination.

Given that litigation is expensive and often drags on for years, the EU’s strategy may appear more forward-looking. But the common-law system might actually prove to be a more effective mechanism for tackling the myriad challenges posed by generative AI. This is particularly evident in copyright law, where a growing number of artists, publishers, and authors are embroiled in legal battles against AI giants like Microsoft, OpenAI, and Meta over the use of copyrighted material.

3D Printers Could Be Already Designing the Next World War

Travis Pike

It can be fun watching a 3D printer print almost anything you can imagine right in front of your eyes – I printed a Brotherhood of Steel Paladin from the video game series Fallout on my first opportunity. 3D printers have expanded rapidly and are now affordable enough that for less than $200 you can buy a pretty decent hobby printer. But these printers have also entered the realm of warfare and might be set to change the game. How they’re used now could be a preview of what will come in the future.

In the Marine Corps, we often joked that the motto should be Semper Gumby, instead of Semper Fidelis. Semper Gumby means “always be flexible” and flexibility and the capability to adapt quickly and effectively are invaluable for any organization, but especially so for one that fights wars. A 3D printer offers a degree of flexibility that allows for quick adaptation and improvisation.

For the grunts in the audience, a 3D printer takes an elaborate computer file and turns it into a three-dimensional product. These printers vary in size and style and can print in a variety of materials, including concrete. 3D printers, printers can take up entire garages and can print boats, and more.

The defense industry already uses 3D printers to prototype and produce individual parts or systems. However, 3D-printed items are also affecting the battlefield on the tactical level.


When the thingamabob on your MRAP breaks and it takes 12 weeks for the manufacturer to get you a new one, you have a problem. However, if you can replicate it, print it, or find a fix on the battlefield, then you’re ahead of the curb. To do just that, the United States Army has established Expeditionary Labs. These self-contained labs occupy a simple 20-foot container. Inside, Soldiers utilize 3D printers, CNC machines, routers, welders, and more to rapidly produce military equipment parts.

Killer Robots Are Coming to the Battlefield

Samara Paradine &  Marcus Schultz

Rapid technological change has brought myriad new sources of uncertainty and variability to the modern battlefield, and to public discourse. For millennia, militaries have integrated emerging technologies into evermore practical and impactful weapons. The proliferation of autonomous weapons systems (AWS)—often (mis) labeled ‘killer robots’—is a modern concern.

AWS promise to augment battlefield decision-making, be low-cost and scalable, reduce collateral damage, and better protect service personnel and civilians. At the same time, these systems have immense potential to undermine international security and stability. A key question for governments is whether AWS can be developed and deployed ethically.

It’s generally agreed that an algorithm must not be in full control of decisions to kill or harm humans, regardless of the weapons involved. Following United Nations General Assembly discussions in November 2023, the UN’s first committee (disarmament and international security) heard that ‘even if an algorithm can determine what’s legal under international humanitarian law (IHL), it can never determine what’s ethical’. After 11 votes on provisions, the committee approved a draft resolution on AWS. On 22 December, the UN adopted Resolution 78/241 by 152 votes in favor to four (Belarus, India, Mali, and Russian Federation) against. There were 11 abstentions (China, North Korea, Iran, Israel, Madagascar, Niger, Saudi Arabia, South Sudan, Syria, Türki̇ye and United Arab Emirates).

The resolution’s adoption affirms that the UN Charter, IHL, and international human rights law apply to AWS matters.