27 February 2024

Nancy Pelosi on Israel's Gaza War: 'I'm Not a Big Fan of Netanyahu'

David Brennan

House Speaker Emerita Nancy Pelosi is among the U.S. politicians most in the crosshairs of furious pro-Palestinian activists, as they look to force the American political establishment out of its "ironclad" support for Israel's devastating war on the Gaza Strip.

"I understand, for some people their frustration," Pelosi told Newsweek in an exclusive interview on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference last weekend.

Pelosi's San Francisco home has been repeatedly targeted in recent months. Red paint and fake blood have been splashed around it, while severed pigs' heads have been left displayed outside. Last week, a truckload of manure was dumped on her driveway.

The California lawmaker has accused some protesters of being linked to Russia and China, most notably in a January confrontation outside her home in which she shouted at activists: "Go back to China."

"I don't know that this is all organic," Pelosi said. "Much of it is, much of it is organic and spontaneous and sincere. I respect that. I don't think all of it is."

A Reality Check on Afghanistan’s Isolation Under the Taliban

Shanthie Mariet D’Souza

The two-day meeting of regional and national special envoys for Afghanistan convened by the U.N. Secretary General António Guterres in Doha ended on February 19 with consensus among the participants over “what needs to happen.” But there was almost no unanimity about how the international community should engage with the Taliban. The Taliban continue to demonstrate no signs of backtracking on their policies and show no interest in forming an inclusive government and restoring the rights to education, employment, and movement that girls, women, and minorities enjoyed for two decades.

Worse still, beneath the U.N. secretary general’s claims of consensus, a clear division is visible among countries regarding doing business with the present regime.

The meeting provided an opportunity for important stakeholders, regional as well as global, to converse on the future of Afghanistan and the steps required to arrest the country’s downhill slide under the Taliban. More importantly, the meeting aimed to bring the Taliban face-to-face with Afghan human rights and women activist groups on its sidelines, for a frank exchange of views. No such dialogue has been possible in Afghanistan.

The Taliban, however, refused to attend as their demand for recognition as the sole governing entity of Afghanistan in the meeting was not met. This would have amounted to the world body recognizing the so-called Islamic Emirate. In addition, the Taliban refused to meet any of the human rights and activist groups. The Taliban also rejected the idea of a new U.N. special envoy for Afghanistan given that the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) is already functioning in the country.

The Taliban’s reaction was to be expected. The group is seeking to make the international community accept it without conditions. Time and again the Taliban regime has made it clear that it views such recognition as its right and it must not be linked to any improbable change in its policies or Afghanistan’s governing system. Under this view, another U.N. special envoy, one tasked with promoting dialogue between the Taliban and Afghan opposition groups, is unnecessary, as the Taliban have no intention of sharing power with anyone else.

A decent future for Myanmar is within reach — if the U.S. acts now

Keith B. Richburg

What seemed plausible two months ago is now undeniable: Myanmar’s awful ruling military junta is in retreat against the country’s anti-regime insurgents. The rebels include regional militias and self-styled “People’s Defense Forces” or PDFs, the ad hoc armed resistance groups that sprung up in response to the military’s February 2021 coup.

Ethnic armies have been a feature of Myanmar’s fractious political landscape since its independence in 1948. Along with the PDFs, the insurgents have seized hundreds of townships and military outposts since launching an Oct. 27 offensive. In January, the military suffered its most humiliating defeat yet, when soldiers surrendered Laukkaing, a key city and regional command center in Shan state to the rebels. There were conflicting reports as to the fate of six brigadier-generals responsible for the debacle. Local media outlets reported they had been sentenced to death, which the junta denied.

Myanmar’s military is finding its number of troops depleted by battlefield losses, surrenders and desertions. In a sign of its desperation, the junta has announced plans to begin conscripting young people into military service for at least two years. The announcement prompted thousands of people to attempt to flee over the border into Thailand, or to line up for visas outside Western diplomatic missions in Yangon.

But the surprisingly rapid retreat of the military’s forces from key areas doesn’t mean it is on the verge of collapse. By withdrawing to more defensible positions, including to the major cities and the capital, Naypyidaw, the military appears to be digging in for the long haul. While stymied on the ground, the armed forces continue to deploy devastating airstrikes against civilians — likely a war crime. The insurgents’ widespread use of drones, though effective, has not erased the regime’s battlefield advantage. Myanmar’s military is battle-hardened, well-armed and close-knit, living largely isolated from the population. Its soldiers have a reputation for brutality against civilians.

Where the Resistance Rules in Myanmar

Andrew Nachemson

Just over three years ago, Thar Thakhin woke up a wanted man. A prominent political writer, he had authored poems skewering the Myanmar military and a book lionizing Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi. His work had won him admiration, particularly among supporters of Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) party. When the Myanmar military overthrew the NLD government in a coup on Feb. 1, 2021, arresting politicians, activists, and celebrities, it put a target on Thar Thakhin’s back.

The first space war is coming. Here are 3 things the US must do to win

Arthur Herman

Americans got a wake-up call when House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Turner and the White House let us know that the Russians were thinking about sending nuclear weapons into space, to destroy U.S. satellites if we ever wind up in a shooting war with Moscow.

Russian nukes in space is the nightmare we’ve all worried about since the Russians launched their first Sputnik satellite back in 1957. Six and a half decades later, we are learning that international agreements that are supposed to stop that threat mean nothing to a dictator like Russian President Vladimir Putin — and that America needs to get serious about defending its assets in space, including GPS.

We need the capability to deter the growing space threat from both Russia and China, before our perceived weakness triggers a full-scale war in space.

The truth is, whoever controls the space domain will dominate the future global economy. If America was the preeminent space power from Presidents John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan, we’ve let our edge slip away, while China and Russia aim to displace us altogether.

The US needs to work more closely with private companies as part of the space race. FILE: A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches the third pair of O3b mPOWER satellites for Luxembourg-based company SES from pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Cape Canaveral. 

In fact, a State of the Space Industrial Base conference report issued in 2022 predicted that China will overtake the U.S. as the dominant space power by 2032.

What do we know about China's global cyber operations?


Throughout much of former President Donald Trump's administration, national attention was focused on various allegations, insinuations, and affirmations of massive Russian hacking efforts to penetrate and influence various American cyber targets. For many, it was their first real exposure to the shadowy, clandestine world of cyber warfare that has become a major pillar of geopolitical jockeying. But while Russia and its digital sorties may have grabbed headlines over the past decade or so, a tranche of newly leaked files from Shanghai-based data collection firm iSoon has opened a rare window into China's massive cyber warfare operations. The leak, posted this month to GitHub, not only raises questions about Beijing's sprawling digital capacity but also highlights the intricate network of for-hire hackers China allegedly uses to expand its reach throughout the world — and snoop on its own citizens.

While the exact source of the leak remains at the moment unknown, the nearly 600 documents that comprise this breach have been widely verified as legitimate by numerous cybersecurity experts. Although the tranche does not include much in the way of specific data harvested by the Chinese hackers, it does illuminate the otherwise murky contours of who Beijing is watching, and who it's paying to watch.

Based on these new documents, here's what we know about China's global cyber operations.

What did the commentators say?

The leak is an "unprecedented look" inside just one of the many companies the Chinese government contracts with for its "on-demand, mass data-collecting operations," The Washington Post said. It's rare to get "such unfettered access to the inner workings of any intelligence operation," cybersecurity expert John Hultquist said to the paper. While the documents are light on what iSoon uncovered throughout its investigations, it does feature "contracts, marketing presentations, product manuals, and client and employee lists," PBS News Hour said, adding that in total the leak shows how Chinese intelligence agencies "surveil dissidents overseas, hack other nations and promote pro-Beijing narratives on social media."

Corruption and Low Morale Still Plague China’s Military

Victoria Herczegh

It’s early days in the Year of the Dragon, but Beijing’s purge of the People’s Liberation Army shows no signs of stopping. The latest known victim is Wang Xiaojun, one of China’s foremost rocket scientists, who had been working closely with the PLA Rocket Force and Chinese defense companies. Wang was reportedly expelled from the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, the country’s top advisory body, in late January. As with other recent sackings of Rocket Force officials, no reason was given for Wang’s dismissal.

Officially, the Chinese Communist Party is in the midst of a crackdown on corruption. In 2023, 45 senior officials were put under investigation, which Chinese media say is a record. But that is not the full story. Instead, misappropriated funds and a resultant drop in troop morale are fueling worries in the government about unrest within the PLA. Additionally, the Rocket Force officials who were expelled late last year reportedly made weapons acquisitions without the central government’s knowledge, raising questions about President Xi Jinping’s authority among the PLA’s top officials.

Aside from the high-level purges, in January the Communist Party secretaries of three Chinese provinces (Anhui, Fujian and Jiangxi) conducted separate tours of the PLA’s Eastern Theater Command, which oversees Taiwan. All three secretaries met with the theater commander, delivered rousing speeches before the troops, pledged benefits for veterans and soldiers’ families, and promised to contribute to the unification of Taiwan with mainland China. Provincial chiefs rarely do in-person inspections of military commands, so three in one month is highly unusual.

These are unusual times in the PLA. Xi’s government is committed to the force’s rapid modernization, to transform it into a “world-class” military by 2049. Its plans include the expansion and diversification of China’s nuclear capabilities. However, several recent reports have cast doubt on the PLA’s modernization drive. According to former officers, some military departments can hardly afford supplies or new equipment because of rampant corruption and poor budget management. Other reports cite the lack of cross-training among the five services and a critical shortage of professionally trained noncommissioned officers, who ensure that officers’ decisions are communicated to the troops and properly executed.

US officials combing leaked documents from Chinese tech firm for clues about Chinese hacking campaigns

Sean Lyngaas

US officials have been scouring a trove of newly leaked documents from a Chinese tech firm for clues on how the government in Beijing allegedly uses the company in extensive hacking campaigns, multiple US cybersecurity officials familiar with the matter told CNN.

The Biden administration’s study of the leak is ongoing, but private experts told CNN it offers some of the clearest public evidence yet of how they believe China’s powerful security agencies outsource hacking operations to tech firms to target victims around the world.

The documents, posted anonymously online last weekend for anyone to access, include screenshots of chat logs, as well as records of employees and Chinese government clients of the tech firm I-Soon. The company’s hacking victims range from Tibetan exile-run political groups, hospitals in Taiwan and India to Hong Kong’s universities following the city’s mass pro-democracy protests in 2019, according to the leaked data. More than a dozen, mostly Asian, foreign governments are listed as targets.

I-Soon’s clients include China’s police, intelligence service and military, according to a spreadsheet listing 183 contracts signed between 2016 and 2022 by I-Soon’s subsidiary in the southwestern province of Sichuan.

“This is some of the best visibility we’ve had into Chinese hacking operations outside of a government SCIF,” said Adam Kozy, who used to track Chinese hackers for the FBI, using an acronym for classified facilities.

“I’m not aware of the specifics you mentioned. In principle, I want to emphasize that China firmly opposes the unwarranted denigration and smearing against China,” Liu Pengyu, spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, DC, said in an emailed statement when asked for comment.

Beijing Is Expanding Its Territorial Claims Without Firing A Single Shot


After Taiwan’s voters defiantly voted for Lai Ching-te of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) as their next president in January, many people are waiting to see when communist China’s dictator Xi Jinping will attack Taiwan militarily. There are disturbing signs that Xi is already making progress toward taking control of Taiwan through “gray zone” operations, and the Biden administration is unprepared to address China’s aggressive geopolitical expansions.

A “gray zone” operation refers to “coercive actions that are shy of armed conflict but beyond normal diplomatic, economic, and other activities,” according to the Rand Corporation. China has deployed close to 80 different gray zone tactics in recent decades against its Asian neighbors, Rand reports. By gradually altering the regional and international status quo, Beijing has succeeded in expanding its territorial claims without firing a single shot or launching any military attack.

A good example of China’s gray zone operation is its handling of border disputes with Bhutan. China has built three new villages inside the Beyul region, which is internationally recognized as Bhutan’s territory. These villages house hundreds of Chinese residents, a few military bases, and Chinese Communist Party administrative centers. China’s actions violated its promise to Bhutan that “no unilateral action will be taken to change the status quo on the border.” But it was too late when Bhutan noticed what China had done. Beijing points to these Chinese villages inside Beyul as proof that the region has been China’s territory since immemorial.

Xi seems to plan to take control of Taiwan through similar gray zone operations; he is probably concerned that an outright military invasion may be too costly if the United States jumps to Taiwan’s defense. Step one of Xi’s gray zone operations over Taiwan was to gain control of the South China Sea, an essential international water and trade route that China’s Asian neighbors, including Taiwan, rely on.

The Current Red Sea Security Situation – Analysis

Can Kasapoğlu

1. A High-Ranking US Admiral Confirms the Presence of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps in Yemen

The deputy commander of United States Central Command (CENTCOM), Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, confirmed that members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) now have boots on the ground in Yemen, where they are operating alongside the Houthi militia and providing them with targeting assistance. Admiral Cooper’s statement is the most high-profile acknowledgement from the US military of Iran’s direct role in the Houthis’ disruptive campaign against global maritime trade and the US Navy.

Recent reports confirm Admiral Cooper’s assertion and note that high-ranking IRGC General Abdolreza Shahlaei was sent to Yemen some time ago to personally oversee operations. General Shahlaei is a target of the US State Department’s Rewards for Justice program, which is offering $15 million for any information revealing his exact location.

The presence of the Iranian spy vessel Behshad in the Red Sea, where it has been providing intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR) capabilities to the Houthis, further illuminates the scope of Iran’s efforts in Yemen. Marine traffic tracking data suggests that the Behshad has recently moved closer to the Chinese military base in Djibouti to seek protection from US strikes.

According to several news outlets, last week US forces allegedly attempted to conduct a cyberattack to cripple the Behshad and limit its ability to share intelligence with the Houthis. That the Biden administration resorted to a cyberattack rather than any of the military options at its disposal speaks to the staying power of its Obama-era Iran policy, which aims to avoid confrontation but only cedes the reins of escalation dominance to Tehran.

2. Limited Preventive Strikes Are Proving Tactically—But Not Strategically—Important

The Houthis’ disruptive campaign against maritime trade in the Red Sea prompted the United States and United Kingdom to launch Operation Poseidon Archer, a series of preventive and punitive strikes against various tactical Houthi assets.

Navigating the Depths: The Strategic Battle to Secure Undersea Cables

Nima Khorrami

Summary: The crisis in the Red Sea, highlighted by Houthi assaults on commercial ships and Iran's proxy strategies, also brings to light the critical issue of undersea cables' vulnerability. These cables are essential for EU-Asia digital communication and trade, and their disruption could severely impact the global economy and EU's economic security. The article discusses the strategic importance of these cables, the limited repair capacities within the EU, the geopolitical challenges of cable maintenance, and the straightforward methods by which such cables can be targeted. It underscores the necessity for comprehensive maritime security that includes undersea cable protection, urging a unified NATO approach and the exploration of alternative data routes through the Arctic for enhanced digital resilience.

The ongoing crisis in the Red Sea has generated considerable discussions and debates, primarily focusing on the detrimental effects of the Houthis assaults on commercial ships and Iran’s “creative” use of its proxies as part of its forward defense strategy. Amid these discussions, however, an equally alarming prospect has received insufficient attention: the intentional damaging of undersea cables in the Red Sea and its impact on the global economy and the economic security of U.S. allies in the European Union (EU).

The strategic significance of undersea cables in the Red Sea for EU-Asia connectivity cannot be overstated. These cables serve as the backbone for digital communication and trade between Europe and Asia, rendering them prime targets for disruption by hostile actors. From an economic perspective, the EU’s heavy dependence on fast and reliable connectivity underscores the imperative to safeguard undersea cable networks. With over 70 percent of EU-based companies relying on online services like cloud computing, it is evident that any prolonged disruption would have significant repercussions for the EU’s economic security and global trade. Given the central role of social networks in Europe's highly digitalized societies, social life could be severely disrupted if these cables or their landing stations were to come under attack.

The US Is Jeopardizing the Open Internet


Last October, the United States Trade Representative (USTR) abandoned its longstanding demand for World Trade Organization provisions to protect cross-border data flows, prevent forced data localization, safeguard source codes, and prohibit countries from discriminating against digital products based on nationality. It was a shocking shift: one that jeopardizes the very survival of the open internet, with all the knowledge-sharing, global collaboration, and cross-border commerce that it enables.

The USTR says that the change was necessary because of a mistaken belief that trade provisions could hinder the ability of US Congress to respond to calls for regulation of Big Tech firms and artificial intelligence. But trade agreements already include exceptions for legitimate public-policy concerns, and Congress itself has produced research showing that trade deals cannot impede its policy aspirations. Simply put, the US – as with other countries involved in WTO deals – can regulate its digital sector without abandoning its critical role as a champion of the open internet.

The potential consequences of America’s policy shift are as far-reaching as they are dangerous. Fear of damaging trade ties with the US has long deterred other actors from imposing national borders on the internet. Now, those who have heard the siren song of supposed “digital sovereignty” as a means to ensure their laws are obeyed in the digital realm have less reason to resist it. The more digital walls come up, the less the walled-off portions resemble the internet.

Several countries are already trying to replicate China’s heavy-handed approach to data governance. Rwanda’s data-protection law, for instance, forces companies to store data within its border unless otherwise permitted by its cybersecurity regulator – making personal data vulnerable to authorities known to use data from private messages to prosecute dissidents. At the same time, a growing number of democratic countries are considering regulations that, without strong safeguards for cross-border data flows, could have a similar effect of disrupting access to a truly open internet.

The Two-Year Anniversary of Russia’s Full-Scale Invasion of Ukraine : IWI Responds

Sam Rosenberg

As the world marks the second anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, lights are blinking red in Kyiv. Ukraine’s much-anticipated summer offensive petered out with disappointing results, and Russia’s relentless attacks, particularly around Avdiivka, echo the grim tactics seen in Bakhmut, where “meat wave” assaults took a heavy toll on resource-strapped Ukrainian defenders. Amid uncertainty around US security assistance and facing critical shortages in personnel and ammunition, Ukraine is also navigating a significant leadership transition within its armed forces.

Yet, despite the challenges facing Ukraine’s conventional units, Kyiv’s irregular tactics have carved out significant successes, particularly in information and sabotage operations. And as deadlock persists on the frontlines, with no immediate prospect of a decisive edge for either Russia or Ukraine, the role of irregular warfare may become increasingly central to the war’s eventual outcome.

Over the past two years, the Irregular Warfare Initiative has produced in-depth articles, podcasts, and events that analyze these tactics and their wider implications. As we reflect on this anniversary, I take stock of our efforts and set our sights on the year ahead. Our aim since the outbreak of the wider war has been threefold: to grasp the war’s trajectory, highlight lesser-known aspects of the conflict, and offer fresh insights to those on the ground and in policy circles.

Understanding the Course of the War

Our podcast guests and authors have provided important insights into how the war has evolved from a low-level hybrid conflict in 2014 to the largest war in Europe in eighty years, following Russia’s full-scale invasion in 2022. Just a few days after Putin’s invasion began, we enlisted Shashank Joshi from The Economist and Rob Person from West Point to examine how historical events and Russian cultural myths shape Moscow’s worldview. During the first summer of the full-scale war, we brought in Michael Kofman of the Center for Naval Analyses and Kent DeBenedictis, a US Army Special Forces officer and author of the book Russian ‘Hybrid Warfare,’ for a two-part discussion on Ukrainian and Russian approaches to irregular warfare. Taking a broader view of the war, retired US Army Lieutenant General Ben Hodges and Ravi Agrawal, editor-in-chief of Foreign Policy, recently joined the podcast to discuss the evolution of European defense relations and how policies toward Ukraine have changed from before the war to now.

Ukraine is at a critical moment. Does the speaker of the House see?

As year three of its war with Russia begins, Ukraine’s forces are exhausted and depleted, ammunition supplies are running low, and the country just suffered a morale-busting defeat in Avdiivka, retreating after four months of grueling combat to defend the town. The United States had helped Ukraine beat back Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion, yet, at this critical moment, Congress is wavering. At stake is not just the survival of democracy in Ukraine — but the future of Europe, international peace and the United States’ credibility.

House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), can bring a Senate-passed Ukraine aid bill to the floor, where it likely has the votes to pass. His refusal so far — bowing to Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump — is a gross dereliction of responsibility, hurting Ukraine, the United States and the Republican Party.

At the two-year mark, Ukraine is not defeated. When the full-scale Russian invasion began on Feb. 24, 2022, Mr. Putin’s orders included “the murder of Ukraine’s executive branch and the capture of parliament,” while Russian security services and military rehearsed “kill-or-capture” missions to find those behind Ukraine’s pro-democracy Maidan Revolution in 2014. The plans anticipated seizing Ukraine’s national heating, electricity and financial operations to subjugate the population. Mr. Putin assumed Ukrainians would submit in a matter of days. But none of this happened. Despite devastating losses, Ukraine rallied to fight back. Its president, Volodymyr Zelensky, was not murdered, its army has fought with courage and cunning, its air defenses have downed hundreds of missiles, and Ukraine has disabled one-third of Russia’s Black Sea fleet by the use of unmanned naval drones. Russia occupies just under one-fifth of Ukraine’s territory, including Crimea and Donbas taken in 2014.

But Ukraine’s war effort is precarious, as the rushed retreat from Avdiivka showed. Hundreds of Ukrainian solders were reported captured or killed in the chaos. Russia massed troops on three sides of the city and then cut off the last Ukrainian path out. The Russian forces threw wave after wave of assault troops at the Ukraine holdouts, who were outnumbered 7 to 1. A Ukraine major fighting there was quoted by the New York Times as saying in December, “I would say the motto of their attacks is, ‘We have more people than you have ammunition, bullets, rockets and shells.’”

Will the U.S. Abandon Ukraine?

Yaroslav Trofimov

When President Vladimir Putin sent tanks toward Kyiv in February 2022, he bet that Western societies—and especially Europe, so dependent on Russian energy—wouldn’t have the stamina to oppose his attack and would eventually acquiesce to Ukraine’s dismemberment or outright disappearance.

Two years later, Ukraine has proved a formidable foe, regaining half of the land initially occupied by Russia and inflicting staggering casualties on Russia’s much more powerful military. Europe, too, has absorbed the economic shock of severing Russian natural-gas supplies and is boosting its military spending and commitments to Ukraine. This month the European Union passed a new $54 billion aid package for Kyiv, overcoming objections by Hungary.

It’s in the U.S., however, that Putin’s wager appears to be paying off, at least for now, as Moscow has successfully inserted itself into America’s culture wars.

Support for Ukraine, widely deemed a self-evident American national interest two years ago, has become a divisive partisan issue in an election year. A notable part of the Republican right has begun expressing admiration for Putin and even for the beauty of Moscow subways and the quality of Russian supermarkets—while pouring scorn on Ukraine’s embattled government and army.

Workers wave the Ukrainian flag after replacing a Soviet emblem with the coat of arms of Ukraine on the shield of the Motherland Monument in Kyiv, Aug. 6, 2023. 

For months the Republican leadership of the House of Representatives has been blocking legislation that would authorize fresh military assistance to Ukraine, including the latest bipartisan bill passed 70-29 by the Senate. The resulting cutoff has already caused an acute shortage of artillery shells in Ukrainian units. According to President Biden and Ukrainian commanders, it’s the main reason why Russia was able to seize the Ukrainian city of Avdiivka this month, Moscow’s first major battlefield advance since May.

False Alarms: Reflecting on the Role of Cyber Operations in the Russia-Ukraine War

Allison Pytlak

At the start of the Russia-Ukraine war, a series of high-profile cyber operations led many to proclaim the conflict as the world’s first true “cyber war”. Two years on however, cyber operations have had a limited impact on the fighting and are increasingly used for espionage and influence operations. But even if the cyber doomsday scenarios have not played out as some expected, the last two years have brought into focus some important considerations. The war has tested collective understanding about the applicability and enforcement of international law and norms. It is demonstrating the need for a broader approach to measuring cyber harm and violence while also putting to the test some long-standing debates in the cyber community about the effectiveness of cyber as a tool of war.

Two years ago, Russia invaded Ukraine. Amid the global outcry and horror over the brutal impact of physical weaponry, many also took note of the significant role that cyber operations played at the outset of the fighting. Some proclaimed the Russia-Ukraine conflict as the first “cyber war” not least given the intense initial targeting of critical infrastructure in the initial phase of fighting. The high-profile operation against Viasat Inc’s KA-SAT satellite impacted network connectivity not only in Ukraine but also in France and Germany, raising concerns about “cyber spillover” to other countries not party to the conflict while also highlighting the link between cyber- and outer-space security. Early on, Ukraine mobilized a global “IT Army” that raised legal questions about the role of individuals and the private sector in an armed conflict. A series of revelations about Russia-linked cyber operations against Ukrainian targets and allies in the weeks preceding the invasion only added to the popular expectation that a cyber- and artificial intelligence-fuelled revolution in warfare was about to be unleashed.

Except, it wasn’t. As the two-year mark of the war approaches, cyber operations continue to be a relevant dimension of the conflict but not in the transformative way forecasted by some in 2022. The military and strategic effects of cyber operations have been limited while Ukrainian resilience has been stout, bolstered by international support and Ukraine’s decade-long experience in fending off cyber-attacks. For instance, Microsoft observed that nearly 50 percent of destructive Russian [cyber] attacks observed against Ukrainian networks occurred in the first six weeks of the war, often in tandem with kinetic military action. Some analysts have observed a shift towards greater targeting of Ukraine’s allies through various cyber tactics that in 2023 affected Canada, New Zealand, Poland, Switzerland, and NATO, among others. The disinformation warfare game continues to be strong, however, with influence operations increasing as the conflict continues into a third year. Of course, one can’t rule out the possibility of higher-impact operations occurring in the future – the late 2023 incident targeting Kyivstar, Ukraine’s largest telecommunications operator, is a stark reminder of this –but the general trajectory appears to be toward a greater use of cyber tools for influencing and intelligence-gathering.

Who is winning? Gen. Petraeus on Ukraine war, two years in : Opinion

Peter Bergen

Two years into the Ukraine war, the tide has shifted, and Russian forces have some momentum, according to retired US General David Petraeus.

But he said the Russians have suffered staggering casualties and Ukraine can still hold its own in fighting off Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion if it gets the support it needs from the United States.

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which began disastrously for Putin, marks its second anniversary this coming weekend. To get a better insight into the state of the war, I spoke to former CIA director David Petraeus, who was the commanding general during the US-led wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and is co-author with Lord Andrew Roberts of the new book “Conflict: The Evolution of Warfare from 1945 to Ukraine.”

Last weekend Gen. Petraeus was at the Munich Security Conference, the leading global national security conference that was attended by pretty much every European leader and by top American officials – including Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

The atmosphere at the conference was somber, happening as the shocking news of Alexey Navalny’s death emerged and in the shadow of Ukraine’s withdrawal from the key eastern city of Avdiivka, all putting into sharp focus the impassioned pleas from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky for additional military assistance.

Shortly after the conference ended, I spoke with Gen. Petraeus. Our conversation has been lightly edited for clarity.

BERGEN: At the Munich Security Conference, what was the mood like?

PETRAEUS: It was different than any Munich Security Conference I’ve ever been to in the past – and I’ve been going to these since I was a major and a speechwriter for the Supreme Allied Commander of Europe in the late 1980s.

Now the ‘most dangerous time I can remember,’ warns British military’s cyber general

Alexander Martin

Gen. Sir Jim Hockenhull, the head of Britain’s Strategic Command — responsible for the Ministry of Defence’s offensive and defensive cyber capabilities — is warning “we are now in the most dangerous time I can remember in any point of my career.”

Speaking as the full-blown Russian invasion of Ukraine enters a third year, amid conflicts in the Middle East and threats to Western critical infrastructure linked to prepositioning around a potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan, Hockenhull stressed: “That’s not to say that war is either inevitable or imminent. But I think we’re in a different period now.”

This new period demands change in “how we think about national security,” said the four-star, broadening the circle — particularly in the cyber and electromagnetic domain — to bring in industry, academia and international partners without the “traditional, transactional, contractual set of relationships.”

“I truly believe that if things are changing in the world, and it is getting more dangerous and darker, our responsibility is to respond to that and adapt,” said Hockenhull in a speech that was published Friday by the MoD, and originally delivered in London last week.

While the vast majority of the British Armed Forces are “preparing and exercising for conflict, or supporting and conducting operations,” their cyber operators are “on the frontline with our adversaries every single day, and every single night, and every single weekend. This is a 24/7, 365 days a year operation.”

But, he warned, there is a dramatic shortage “of the types of skills that we need for people to have in the cyber and electromagnetic domain.”

His comments came just weeks after several senior and former officials lamented the current state of the British military, with troop levels now at their lowest for 200 years, and amid suggestions that conscription would be necessary in the event of war.

The toll on Russia from its war in Ukraine, by the numbers

Brian Whitmore, Olga Khakova, Olivia Yanchik, Mercedes Sapuppo, Charles Lichfield, Charles Lichfield, Celeste Kmiotek, John Cookson 

The numbers don’t lie. Two years after Russian President Vladimir Putin launched his full-scale invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, the humanitarian and economic costs to Ukraine have been immense. But the war has also wreaked devastating self-inflicted wounds on Russia, including catastrophic casualty rates, growing economic isolation from the West, and the mass emigration of skilled workers. Below, our experts quantify the staggering human and economic toll that the invasion of Ukraine has cost Russia since the war began.

The autocratic regime of Vladimir Putin is doubling down on fear, a trend that has accelerated since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine two years ago. This dynamic was dramatically demonstrated by the suspicious death of opposition leader and anti-corruption activist Aleksei Navalny last week in a Russian prison. It is also borne out by the numbers. According to data from the human rights organization OVD-Info, which compiles statistics on political persecution in Russia, there are currently 892 criminal cases against anti-war dissidents, and a total of 19,855 people have been detained at anti-war protests. The OVD-Info data also show a sharp uptick in Russians being detained for political reasons since the invasion. Of the 3,626 people in Russia subject to politically motivated prosecutions since 2012, more than one third, a total of 1,305, have come in the past two years (728 in 2022, 521 in 2023, and 56 thus far in 2024). The Kremlin’s decision to double down on fear is in fact a function of its own fear. Political change in Russia tends to come when three factors are present: a divided elite, a disaffected public, and an absence of fear. The Putin regime appears determined to assure that for the foreseeable future, fear will not be in short supply.

Launching the full-scale invasion of Ukraine led Russia to lose a significant natural gas market share and revenues in Europe. In 2024, Russia’s projected loss stands between twenty-seven and thirty-four billion dollars (assuming a price of seven to nine dollars per one million British thermal units of Dutch TTF gas). For context, these figures track closely to Russia’s planned spending on education and health care in 2024, allocations that have dropped as funding was diverted toward Moscow’s brutal military campaign.

A Resilient Ukraine Faces Defeat if U.S. Aid Falters

Max Boot

After spending a week in Ukraine in early February, I found that morale has sagged since the last time I was there, in May 2023, but that it still remains high. A regional official from Donetsk province summed up the national mood in a meeting with our American delegation (assembled by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees): “We are tired but not exhausted.”

In public opinion surveys, the number of Ukrainians who express support for making territorial concessions to end the war has roughly doubled, rising from 10 percent in May 2023 (before the start of the big Ukrainian counteroffensive) to 19 percent in December (after its failure). But the vast majority of Ukrainians still want to fight until all occupied Ukrainian territory (about 20 percent of the total) is liberated from Russian control.

While the war has taken a heavy toll on Ukraine’s people and its economy, the country continues to function with a surprising degree of normalcy outside of the front-line areas. We visited major cities including Odesa, Dnipro, and Kyiv, and found all of them crowded and bustling despite regular air raids; Ukrainian air defenses intercept most of Russia’s drones and missiles. Even Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, continues to function despite facing heavier Russian bombardment because it is only twenty miles (thirty-two kilometers) from the Russian border. Most Ukrainians have gotten used to the war and are carrying on as best they can. Surrender isn’t an option. “People are traumatized, but we don’t have a choice,” Deputy Foreign Minister Iryna Borovets told us while an air raid siren wailed. “If the Russians win, there would be genocide.”

Despite the strains, Ukraine has had surprising success against the Russian navy in the Black Sea. Now that Ukraine has a new military commander, will there be a change in tactics?

Ukraine’s unheralded success in the Black Sea is a testament to its ingenuity in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. Ukraine has defeated Russia’s Black Sea fleet without having a navy of its own. Ukraine has relied on sea drones, missiles, and commando raids to push the Russian navy out of its historic anchorage at Sevastopol and reopen the Black Sea for Ukrainian grain exports. On Wednesday, the Ukrainian military reported that it had sunk yet another Russian warship, thereby putting a third of the Black Sea fleet out of action. As a result, exports at Odesa’s three ports are almost back to prewar levels.

The Forgotten Wars


Not long after Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, when I found it difficult to talk about much else, I attended an international conference. There I got into conversation with a woman who worked for one of the large charities providing relief to war zones in Africa. Politely but firmly she complained that the consequence of the fixation with Ukraine was that Africa’s many, ongoing, disastrous wars were once again being ignored. She particularly had in mind Ethiopia’s war in its Tigray province.

A few months after this conversation, in November 2022, this war apparently came to an end with a cease-fire agreement signed in the South African capital of Pretoria. Having briefly paid attention I continued to concentrate on Ukraine. But this conversation continued to bother me. Recently I decided to look again at Tigray and what had happened since the ceasefire. As I did so I came across a recent article by Katie Burton in Geographical Magazine, entitled Tigray: the war the world forgot.

The war in Tigray

Before the cease-fire the death toll in Tigray, a war that lasted two years, was horrendous. Accurate counting is impossible in these conditions, and the numbers for Africa’s wars are notoriously unreliable. The top estimate is that some 600,000 died because of the war, with a lower estimate a third that number, with at least half of this number being civilians who were lost to ‘atrocities, starvation, and lack of healthcare.’ Whatever the exact number this was by far the worst war anywhere in 2022 in terms of casualties, with regular reports of war crimes, including massacres of whole villages and widespread sexual abuse, as well as the inevitable consequences of the spread of famine and disease. It was described by the New York Times at the time of the ceasefire as ‘one of the world’s bloodiest contemporary conflicts’.And unsurprisingly although the situation improved after this agreement the violence did not end.

Navalny’s Death Highlights a New Global Division on Political Violence

Alexey Gusev

Five years before the death of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, the world was shocked by another political murder: the dismemberment of Saudi opposition journalist Jamal Khashoggi in his country’s consulate in Istanbul. While Khashoggi was less famous than Navalny, his brutal killing caused a major chill in relations between the United States and Saudi Arabia, especially when an investigation indicated that the hit had been ordered by none other than Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler.

When bin Salman attended a G20 summit a month after Khashoggi’s murder, most world leaders refused to meet with him. He did share a jovial handshake with Russian President Vladimir Putin, however. It was clear the two dictators wanted to pose in front of the cameras to show the world how little they care about the opinion of Western countries.

Half a decade later, nothing has changed. Not a single leader from a non-Western country has condemned Navalny’s death in a Russian prison. Instead, the issue of whether political murders—and political violence in general—is acceptable if it’s carried out in the interests of protecting a nation’s sovereignty is becoming a new global dividing line.

The locations of gatherings in memory of Navalny were very telling. There were dozens of vigils in European and North American cities, as well as in Israel, Argentina, and even South Korea. But police broke up a gathering in Istanbul, while in Dubai—which has the biggest Russian diaspora in Asia—nothing took place at all. This is explained both by the typical profile of Russians who have moved to Dubai (wealthy and often apolitical) and by the local political system, which prohibits protests and demonstrations.

The post-Soviet space was just as divided: there were large vigils for Navalny in Armenia and Georgia, but nothing in Central Asia. There are quite a lot of anti-war, opposition-minded Russian emigres in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan, but local authorities would be unlikely to allow demonstrations. They are not only afraid of angering their northern neighbor, but are also inherently similar to the Kremlin dictatorship, despite their multi-vector foreign policies. While they may court Western investment, they have zero sympathy for the dead Russian opposition leader.

Sanctions are not the way to fight Vladimir Putin

As russia’s war against Ukraine enters a third year, lawmakers in Washington are arguing over whether to continue sending military aid. America has fewer doubts about its financial campaign against Vladimir Putin. Having targeted Russian entities, it is threatening “secondary sanctions” on their foreign abettors. In December the White House said it would put the dollar system out of bounds for any bank helping Russia gain access to sensitive goods. After the prison-murder of Alexei Navalny, Russia’s main opposition leader, it was due to announce fresh sanctions on February 23rd. Two days earlier the European Union agreed on its 13th round of sanctions against Russia, which also target Chinese firms found to be helping Mr Putin’s war effort. The trouble is, sanctions are not working well.

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