2 March 2024

The longer Biden enables Netanyahu, the more his presidency is at risk

Mohamad Bazzi

Benjamin Netanyahu announced his plan on Friday for postwar Gaza, revealing that Israel would maintain indefinite military control and create “buffer zones” in the territory. The Israeli prime minister is planning a military occupation, dressed up under a vague civilian administration made up of Palestinians who would be willing to collaborate, once Israel ends its devastating assault on Gaza. Netanyahu’s plan is slap in the face to Joe Biden, who has insisted for months that the US won’t accept an Israeli military occupation or attempts to seize parts of the Gaza Strip.

Since Biden announced his unconditional support for Israel after the brutal Hamas attacks on 7 October – embracing Netanyahu in a bear hug during a visit to Tel Aviv – Netanyahu has openly defied Israel’s most important ally and paid no price for it. Each week, Biden and his top aides vent at Netanyahu and his handling of the conflict, but they continue to provide US diplomatic cover and weapons shipments that allow Israel to sustain its war.

Last week, days before Netanyahu announced his postwar plan, Washington vetoed the latest UN security council resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. It was the third time the US has used its veto to protect Israel from a UN resolution since October – and only Britain abstained on the latest measure, while the 13 other council members supported it.

A day later, on 21 February, the US once again stood nearly alone to defend Israel’s decades-long occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. A top state department official argued at the international court of justice in The Hague that Israel’s “very real security needs” must be considered before the court calls for its immediate withdrawal from occupied Palestinian territory. The UN general assembly asked the world court in 2022 to review the legality of Israeli policies in the occupied territories, and more than 50 states presented their views at the week-long hearings at The Hague. Only a handful of countries – including the US, Britain and Hungary – sided with Israel.

Wargame simulated a conflict between Israel and Iran: It quickly went nuclear

Henry Sokolski

With the Gaza crisis, a nuclear Rubicon of sorts has been crossed: Elected Israeli officials—a deputy minister and a ruling party member of Parliament—not only publicly referenced Israeli possession of nuclear weapons, but suggested how such weapons might be used to target Gaza. This is unprecedented.[1]

More recently, Iran directly attacked an Israeli-manned intelligence outpost in Iraq. Iran also has inched within weeks of making several nuclear weapons and has made its military ever more immune to first strikes against its key missile and nuclear facilities. Iran and its proxies also now have long-range, high-precision missiles that could easily reach key Israeli targets.[2]

None of these developments is positive. For decades, most security analysts assumed Israel’s undeclared nuclear weapons were only deployed to deter attacks and that Iran would not dare to attack Israel directly. This after-action report describes a war game originally designed nearly two years ago. It directly challenges these assumptions and suggests that military strikes between Israel and Iran—including nuclear ones—are possible.

The Nonproliferation Policy Education Center held the game and its preparatory meetings—five separate sessions—in November and December of 2023. The 35 participants included Republican and Democratic Hill staff; US Executive Branch officials and analysts; leading academic scholars; national security and Middle Eastern think tank experts; and US military personnel.

The game consisted of three moves. After receiving a war brief and instructions from the Israeli prime minister, teams representing the Israeli Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and intelligence community formulated their preferred options for launching nuclear strikes against Iran. The prime minister selected one. Move two begins after the Israeli military carries out this strike. In move two, the teams were reconstituted to represent Israel, friendly Arab nations, and the United States and its European allies. Control played Iran, Russia, and China. Each team responded diplomatically and militarily to Israel’s initial nuclear strike against Iran. The game’s third and final move was a “hot wash” where participants discussed their insights.

Hezbollah Watches as West Pressures Israel over Gaza

Lawrence J. Haas

Advocates of U.S. aid to Ukraine argue that the world should support brave Ukrainians who are trying to fend off an attempted conquest – and that if Vladimir Putin conquers Ukraine, he will feel emboldened to move into the Baltics and Eastern Europe in hopes of resurrecting as much of the Soviet empire as he can.

Meanwhile, the advocates argue, thirsty dictators in Beijing, Pyongyang, and Tehran are working more closely with Moscow and one another in a burgeoning “axis of autocracy,” and they’re looking for signs of Western weakness in Ukraine as they eye their own targets of possible conquest.

But with a similar dynamic at play in the Middle East, Washington and the West are approaching the war between Israel and Hamas much differently, pressuring Jerusalem to agree to a ceasefire and abandon plans to take the fight to Rafah.

U.S. efforts to limit the fighting in Gaza are understandable in light of global concerns about civilian suffering. The enclave’s Hamas-run Health Ministry says Palestinian deaths are nearing 30,000, and the United Nations says 80 percent of Palestinians have fled their homes and a quarter of them are starving.

But as with Ukraine, the dictators in Moscow, Beijing, and Pyongyang are watching events in the Middle East and gauging Western resolve. Watching from a closer vantage point are Tehran and the terror groups it funds, equips, and trains – not only Hamas but, most prominently, Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.

A ceasefire, temporary or otherwise, would leave Hamas in place to rebuild and launch more October 7-like attacks, which its leaders have vowed to do until they destroy the Jewish state. It also would encourage Hezbollah and other terror groups to step up their own attacks on Israel, secure in the knowledge that Washington and the West would soon pressure Jerusalem to limit the scope of its military response.

Hezbollah’s Post-October 7 Strategy: Avoiding yet Preparing for War

Romany Shaker

Just one day after the October 7 surprise attack on southern Israel, Hezbollah, the Lebanese Islamist Shi’ite proxy of Iran, officially entered the war against Israel in an attempt to prevent the defeat of the Gaza-based Hamas.1 Yet, unlike in its previous confrontations with Israel, Hezbollah has not unleashed the full force of its powerful arsenal.

Apparently, Hezbollah believes full engagement in open warfare with Israel will be unpopular among Lebanese due to Lebanon's current political deadlock and economic crisis. Yet, the group is still preparing for such a scenario. This approach reflects Hezbollah's commitment to supporting Iran's Sunni militant proxy Hamas while also ensuring readiness to respond effectively if a broader conflict with Israel erupts.

Hezbollah’s prompt, although for now limited, involvement in the regional conflict underscores the Iranian-backed militia's strategy aimed at preparing Lebanon, albeit unwillingly, for a potential large-scale war with Israel if given the green light from its patrons in Tehran. This strategy hinges on maneuvering across two main fronts, one military and the other political.

Political Maneuvers

Lebanon has long faced an institutional paralysis and is presently reeling from its worst economic crisis in decades. Mass protests swept the country in October 2019 over wildfires, the cost of living, and the government’s proposed new taxes on tobacco, petrol, and telecoms services.2 The situation was further exacerbated by the devastating Beirut port explosion in August 2020, which resulted in at least 218 deaths and 7,000 injuries. As a result, the country's currency has lost around 95% of its value, inflation has surged to triple digits, banks have restricted most depositors from accessing their savings, and 80% of the roughly 6.5 million people in the country has fallen into poverty.34 Rather than trying to prevent this economic meltdown, the recently passed 2024 budget exhibits an incoherent and ineffective economic strategy.5

How Israel’s Assassination Campaign Against Hamas Could Backfire

Riley McCabe

Israel has made no secret of its intent to hunt down Hamas leaders outside of Gaza in response to the group’s attack on October 7, 2023. The chief of Israel’s Shin Bet intelligence agency, Ronen Bar, said in recordings made public on Dec. 4, 2023.

Nepali Nationals Are Fighting and Dying in Russia’s War on Ukraine

Santosh Sharma Poudel

In an article in The Diplomat at the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, I wrote that the conflict would have “hardly any direct impact” on my country, Nepal. I could not have been more wrong.

Nepal is directly entangled in the war. Not only have many Nepali citizens gone to Russia to join the Russian Army, but also several have died fighting on the frontlines.

The estimates of the number of Nepali citizens in the Russian military vary widely. Nepal’s Foreign Minister Narayan Prasad Saud estimated that around 200 Nepalis were serving in the Russian Army towards the end of 2023. The government had received complaints from around 200 families regarding their kin being injured or missing in war. Fourteen citizens are confirmed to have died in the war zone so far.

On the other hand, a recent CNN report, based on testimony from men returning from the war zone, estimated that the number could be as high as 15,000. However, it provides no further evidence to back up the number. Nepali journalists closely following the issue estimate the number to be above 500.

What is driving Nepali nationals to fight in Russia’s war on Ukraine?

On their own volition and against government restrictions, Nepali citizens are heading to Russia on a tourist visa or through third countries to participate in the war as mercenaries. The lack of economic opportunities at home and the lure of big payments in Russia have attracted Nepalis. Therefore, the youths have risked their lives in hopes of better earnings and gaining citizenship/permanent residence in developed countries. Unless the prospects improve in the home country, government restrictions will unlikely stem the flow of young men to war zones.

Myanmar: Operation 1027 Moves Civil War Closer To A Tipping Point – Analysis

Zachary Abuza

Feb. 27 marks four months since the launch of Operation 1027, a game-changing offensive against the Myanmar military regime by the Three Brotherhood Alliance of ethnic armies in the north of the country.

The alliance of three ethnic resistance organizations – the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), and the Arakan Army (AA) – had been broadly supportive of the National Unity Government (NUG), the shadow opposition.

But it was not formally allied with the nationwide opposition network, and until late-2023, the three rebel armies fought the Myanmar military only in self-defense.

However, four months of Three Brotherhood attacks across the north and west of the country have rendered the military junta incapable of achieving its goals as it enters the fourth year after its February 2021 coup in a very weak situation.

The State Administrative Council (SAC), as the junta is formally known, controls significantly less territory than it did prior to Oct. 27, 2023. Militarily, the junta has relied on air assaults and long-range artillery strikes, which is sufficient to terrorize unarmed civilian populations, but insufficient to hold territory.

Junta troops continue to sow fear through acts of utter barbarity, including burning POWs alive. But the military government is unable to deliver basic social services, and healthcare and education have withered even in the regions that are still under military control.

The junta is scrambling to reverse its losses. But manpower is an issue for the military that is spread thin across at least seven distinct battle scapes. An estimated 21,000 troops have been lost and unit-level defections are increasing.

In a sign of just how dire their manpower shortage is, on Feb. 10, the junta invoked the Conscription Law, passed in 2010 but never implemented.

Ethnic Armies in the Myanmar Civil War

Antonio Graceffo

The Myanmar civil war can be traced back to 1948, when the Karen National Union (KNU) emerged as the first ethnic armed organization (EAO) to deploy on the battlefield. With Burma comprising 135 ethnic groups, numerous armed factions have arisen since then, often accompanied by corresponding political wings. Some groups dissolved, rebranded, and reentered the fray. Presently, over 25 armed factions operate, with most opposing the government, and some aligning with it, and others observing a ceasefire. Despite repeated attempts by the government to secure a Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) with resistance armies, many have refused. Some initially signed the NCA but resumed hostilities against the Tatmadaw following the 2021 coup.

The ongoing conflict, characterized by its smoldering, low-intensity nature, occasionally escalates into more intense bouts of fighting before subsiding. However, since the 2021 coup, reported clashes have surged by about 67%. The ‘1027 Offensive,’ launched by the Three Brotherhood Alliance last October, appears to signal a significant shift in the conflict, with resistance forces securing substantial territorial gains and achieving numerous victories. This success has also emboldened other ethnic armed groups (EAO) to join the alliance.

Since the coup, several new EAOs and militias have emerged or reactivated, with many rallying under the National Unity Government (NUG). Comprising lawmakers elected in the 2020 election, the NUG aims to consolidate command over diverse EAOs to counter the Tatmadaw. Its military arm, the People’s Defense Forces (PDF), strives to unify all autonomous PDFs under a single command structure. While tensions persist among some EAOs, the NUG, and PDF, most disputes are set aside to facilitate collective efforts aimed at ending the military dictatorship.

Below is a comprehensive and up-to-date list of current armed groups and political parties, along with brief explanations of their backgrounds and activities. It’s important to note that the fluid nature of conflicts in certain regions means that new groups can form, existing ones may splinter, and alliances can shift over time. While this list provides an overview of the current landscape, the situation on any given day may vary.

China Isn’t Just Spending More, It’s Spending Smarter

Peter Robertson & Wilson Beaver

China’s inflation-adjusted military spending is at least three times larger than it was in the year 2000 and by some counts is hundreds of millions of dollars larger than the official numbers suggest. Yet even these dramatic top-line estimates do not tell the whole story of China’s military rise, because it has also increased efficiencies within its defense budget – meaning that, unlike the United States, China isn’t just spending more, it’s spending smarter.

The headline numbers mask the even more rapid modernization of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA), led by a massive investment in military equipment that far outstrips the growth of rest of China’s defense budget. The PLA has become much more efficient and strategy-driven, with larger percentages allocated each year to the procurement of equipment critical to power projection and 21st-century warfare – especially ships and planes. These increased capabilities have put the U.S. and its allies on notice and raised questions over whether their current defense budgets are postured to counter the challenge from China.

Fewer Soldiers, More Kit

With over four million active personnel in the late 1990s, China’s PLA has always had a large military. But these numbers of personnel have been of declining strategic relevance. A great power conflict in the Indo-Pacific will be primarily fought at sea and in the air, leaving large standing armies with much less of a role to play.

The U.S. military’s crushing defeat of Saddam’s Iraqi army during the first Gulf War made the Chinese question their Stalin-like strategy of weight in numbers. China watched as the modern American military used precision-guided weapons to dismantle the Iraqi Army from the air with minimal American casualties and realized that China’s military doctrine and structure were outdated.

China then began to adapt and modernize the PLA with the aim of developing a modern force potentially capable of projecting force well beyond its borders. To achieve this goal, China reduced the number of military personnel, thus allowing a smart re-allocation away from personnel spending and into equipment procurement spending – most notably, investment in new military equipment. This has included a massive naval build up, the procurement of hypersonic weapons, and large stores of munitions.

China's New AI 'Supermind' Deepens Challenge to U.S.

Didi Kirsten Tatlow

China is building a vast, AI-based intelligence platform dubbed "Supermind" to track millions of scientists and researchers around the world so it can hoover up breakthrough technologies for industry and the military, according to a person with close knowledge of the project and public sources reviewed by Newsweek.

The state-funded platform, which says it uses sophisticated artificial intelligence systems to help find talent for China, is under construction in a new "information and intelligence" center that began work last year in the southern technology hub of Shenzhen. The city is home to global tech brands such as Huawei, ZTE and Tencent— some of which have been sanctioned by the U.S. government on national security and human rights grounds.

The effort, revealed by Newsweek, has been called "Supermind" by the state-controlled Shenzhen Special Zone Daily and the AMiner university fund linked to Tsinghua University that offers grants for it. With $280 million invested mostly by the Shenzhen government, according to the person with close knowledge of the project, it represents a step in China's efforts to win a global technology competition with the United States. Chinese leader Xi Jinping has said China must become "a great power in science and technology" and achieve overall global pre-eminence by 2049.

"They are building a database of 'Who's Who' in different areas," said the person with knowledge of the project, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity. "For example you can ask it, 'I need five particular experts in this area who are top talents.' Then you approach them all," the person said.

Winning the race for world-changing technologies such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing and semiconductors could define the future international balance of power, geopolitical analysts and technology experts say.

Army Is Slashing Thousands of Jobs to Focus on Russia and China

Helene Cooper

The U.S. Army is cutting 24,000 positions as the Pentagon continues to shift its priority to countering Chinese and Russian military might after two decades of focusing on the fight against terrorism, according to a new Army document.

The cuts are in line with the national defense strategy begun by President Donald J. Trump and largely endorsed by the Biden administration that emphasizes rising threats to the United States from an emboldened Russia and China.

Army numbers swelled to almost 600,000 during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but the end of those conflicts has contributed to a steady decrease as soldiers returned to the garrison.

The job cuts, reported earlier by The Associated Press, also implicitly acknowledge the recruiting woes that have plagued the Army — and indeed, other military services — in recent years. The Army, the Navy and the Air Force failed to meet recruiting goals last year. Army officials have been traveling to college campuses in urban areas to try to tap into underrepresented communities for recruits.

The new document says the cuts will “allow the Army to narrow the gap between force structure, which was designed to accommodate 494,000 soldiers, and current active-duty end strength, which is set by law at 445,000.” The goal now, according to the document, will be to bring an Army end strength of 470,000.

Defense Department officials say that several issues have hobbled recruitment. The percentage of young Americans who qualify, and are interested, in military service has dropped, they note. A low unemployment rate has also meant that young people have other options.

U.S. Military Theories of Victory for a War with the People's Republic of China

Jacob L. Heim, Zachary Burdette, Nathan Beauchamp-Mustafaga

A military conflict between the United States and the People's Republic of China (PRC) would entail escalation risks that the United States has not seriously considered since the Cold War. The authors of this paper consider how the United States can prevail in a limited war with the PRC while avoiding catastrophic escalation.

The authors do so by considering theories of victory for the United States in a war with China. A theory of victory is a causal story about how to defeat an adversary: It identifies the conditions under which the enemy will admit defeat and outlines how to shape the conflict in a way that creates those conditions. The authors consider five theories of victory and identify two as most viable: denial (persuading the enemy that it is unlikely to achieve its objectives and that further fighting will not reverse this failure) and military cost-imposition (using military force to persuade the enemy that the costs of continuing the war outweigh the benefits). The authors maintain that denial offers the best chance for delivering victory while avoiding catastrophic escalation, whereas military cost-imposition has lower prospects of success and higher chances for catastrophic escalation.

Beijing’s Post-Election Plan for Taiwan

Craig Singleton

At first blush, the results of Taiwan’s national elections last month read like a clear rebuke of China’s coercive reunification agenda. Despite Beijing’s incessant branding of Taiwan’s ruling Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) as “separatist,” Taiwanese voters extended the DPP’s presidential reign for an unprecedented third consecutive term. International headlines hailed the election as a major “setback” for China, which had warned that casting a ballot for the DPP was tantamount to voting for war with the mainland. Some media even framed the DPP’s victory as an act of defiance by the Taiwanese people, rebuffing Chinese leader Xi Jinping’s assertion in his recent New Year’s address that reunification between China and Taiwan is “inevitable.”

Trump's NATO Comments Trigger Defense Debate in Europe

Markus Becker, Ann-Dorit Boy, Matthias Gebauer, Oliver Imhof, Martin Knobbe, Marina Kormbaki, René Pfister und Britta Sandberg

You certainly can’t accuse Donald Trump of keeping his antipathy for NATO a secret. Even before he was sworn in as president of the United States in January 2017, he called the trans-Atlantic alliance "obsolete." When then-German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited him in Washington for the first time that March, Trump reportedly opened their meeting by saying: "Angela, you owe me $1 trillion."

The sum was the product of a calculation made by Trump’s chief strategist at the time, Steve Bannon, and was rooted in Germany’s failure over the years to invest 2 percent of its economic output in its military, as NATO member states agreed to do in 2014.

NATO, of course, is not a collection agency. It is an alliance rooted in an existential promise as outlined in Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty: An attack on any single NATO member state is an attack on all. This codified pledge of support is the beating heart of NATO. In the most extreme case, countries that are part of the alliance would even risk nuclear war on their own soil in order to defend the alliance – irrespective of how much money and materiel the partners contribute.

For decades, the Americans have been prepared to defend Europe with their weapons, including nuclear warheads. And in doing so, they have accepted the risk that a Russian bomb could ultimately detonate over New York or Baltimore. The mutual nuclear deterrence between the U.S. and the Soviet Union was one of the main reasons that the Cold War between East and West never became hot. And that countries like Germany have been able to live in peace for more than 70 years.

With just a few sentences, Trump – the former president of the U.S. who may soon be moving back into the White House – has now called this certainty into question. At a campaign event in South Carolina several days ago, he went off script. "If we don’t pay, and we are attacked by Russia, will you protect us?" Trump said, allegedly quoting from a conversation with a European leader. "No, I would not protect you," Trump said in response, adding to cheers that he would encourage Russia "to do whatever the hell they want." Even for him, it was rather extreme: Calling on an enemy country to attack a NATO ally should they not spend enough on their military.

NATO’s Confusion Over the Russia Threat

Franz-Stefan Gady

In Europe, not a week goes by without another stark warning about the growing potential of a Russian attack on a European Union member, especially if Ukraine loses the war. “We have to take into account that Vladimir Putin might even attack a NATO country one day,” German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius told the Tagesspiegel newspaper in January. Two months earlier, he had warned that Germany needed to become “capable of fighting a war.” Swedish commander-in-chief Gen. Micael Bydén similarly urged Swedes to “prepare for war,” while the head of the British Army told Britons that they are part of a “prewar generation” that may have to fight Russia in the not so distant future. The fear was driven home by prospective Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, who told a campaign rally that he would “encourage” the Russians “to do whatever the hell they want” to any European NATO member not spending enough on defense.

The Economic Case for Digital Public Infrastructure


Drawing on insights from discussions that took place at the Global Technology Summit 2023 in New Delhi, this commentary delves into the economic case for digital public infrastructure (DPI). We examine the potential it holds, the challenges it faces, and the collaborative efforts required to overcome these challenges.


DPIs offer economic opportunities both globally and at the country level. For example, fast payment systems such as India’s Unified Payments Interface (UPI) and Singapore’s PayNow enable faster domestic as well as international transactions, allowing users to pay merchants in various countries. In this way, by providing a foundational digital framework, DPIs can enable businesses to innovate and expand their reach. For example, the UPI ecosystem also triggered the development of creative products in the financial sector, covering services like P2P transactions and investments. This infrastructure could become a catalyst for economic growth and efficiency, particularly in sectors where digital intervention was hitherto limited.

Under the right conditions of interoperability and incentives for innovation, DPIs could offer a level playing field for small businesses, where they can innovate and compete with larger firms. In this regard, governments and regulators can play a critical role in ensuring fair competition and encouraging private sector participation in DPI. For larger, established businesses, integrating DPI can involve costs and operational changes. This may entail complex interactions between the government, industry, and consumers, which can be resolved by focusing on practical use cases.

Some countries, such as India, Brazil, Singapore, and Estonia, have already successfully adopted DPIs. Beyond payment, identity, and data-sharing systems, multiple use cases of DPI can also be found for improving logistics and delivery systems and building inclusive social protection systems.

Stephen Roach worries that irrational Sinophobia has become America's new bipartisan political orthodoxy

Stephen Roach

FBI Director Christopher Wray recently upped the ante in America’s anti-China campaign. In congressional testimony on January 31, he sounded the alarm over intensified Chinese hacking activity and warned that US infrastructure – telecommunications, energy, transportation, and water – is acutely vulnerable to the Chinese state-sponsored hacker group Volt Typhoon. Front-page coverage by the New York Times added to the sense of urgency.

A few days after Wray’s testimony, a joint report from the FBI, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), and the National Security Agency (NSA) provided detailed documentation of the Volt Typhoon threat. More front-page coverage by the Times duly followed. And then came the outage of a major cellular network on February 22. Suddenly, cyber fears have taken on a life of their own.

Largely ignored in this frenzy is an important conditionality to Wray’s warning. China, he alleged, was “prepositioning” for future conflict. That is not the same as Russian President Vladimir Putin massing troops on Ukraine’s border in late 2021 and early 2022. In Wray’s words, Volt Typhoon could be expected to attack US critical infrastructure, “If or when China decides the time has come to strike” (my emphasis).

Thus, the FBI, in concurrence with CISA and the NSA, is basing its very public alarm purely on conjecture about China’s future intent, not on any concrete information of an imminent cyberattack. Far be it for me to doubt the veracity of the US intelligence community’s evidence on Volt Typhoon; I would merely point out that this is circumstantial evidence that has revealed absolutely nothing about the likelihood of action. For those who remember the dire, but erroneous, warnings about Saddam Hussein’s supposed weapons of mass destruction, which the United States used to justify the invasion of Iraq in 2003, this is no small concern.

Growing Security Concerns In The South Caucasus – OpEd

Dr. Matin Mammadli

The South Caucasus is considered one of the most important regions of the Eurasian space due to its geopolitical and geo-economic significance. The important geopolitical position, geographical location, rich natural resources, energy reserves and other features of this region have made the South Caucasus an important element of modern geopolitical processes.

The main factors influencing the security environment of the South Caucasus are the following: ethno-political conflicts in the region, extreme ethnic heterogeneity (diversity) of the region, conflicting interests of the external actors in the region, complex geographical location, as well as its rich natural and energy resources. Analysis of these factors that we have listed allows us to clearly understand the root causes of the security problems of the South Caucasus region.

“Frozen” ethnopolitical conflicts in the region can be considered as one of the main elements of increasing security risks in the South Caucasus. The protracted conflicts over Abkhazia and South Ossetia remain unresolved till now and they are capable of creating serious threats to regional security. In recent years, in terms of conflict resolution, an important event has occurred that has a positive impact on the security situation in the region, namely the end of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict around Karabakh. In 2020, Azerbaijan liberated its lands (Karabakh and surrounding territories) from occupation during the Second Karabakh War. The war and the processes that took place after that put an end to the largest armed conflict in the region.

However, due to a number of serious problems remaining between the two countries, a final peace agreement between Baku and Yerevan has not been signed yet. And this fact causes spreading rumours over the possibility of a new military escalation between the parties. Let us add here the important point that the failure to sign a final peace agreement, which is the sources of possible new conflicts serves for the interests of certain external actors that want to keep the influence over the states of the region.

Army Sending Innovators Downrange

Sean Carberry

While the war in Ukraine is validating large-scale Army modernization efforts like integrated air and missile defense and long-range fires, the proliferation of small drones and commercial technology on the battlefield has prompted the service to forward deploy personnel to innovate in theater, senior service leaders said.

The Army has begun an initiative called “transforming in contact” to experiment with technologies like 3D printing to develop counter-UAS technology, Gen. Randy George, chief of staff of the Army, told reporters at a Feb. 27 Defense Writers Group discussion.

“We are transforming in contact when it comes to counter-UAS in the Middle East, which means we are getting all of our capabilities forward with users, developers and testers, and we are transforming as we go because the battlefield is changing,” he said.

“We have also selected three brigades and they are going to prototype new formations and we're going to give them new equipment — counter-UAS, Next Generation Squad Weapon and infuse them with the kind of new tech that they need on the battlefield,” he said.

“We are trying to build a culture of continuous transformation where everybody realizes — and our challenge to everybody is — that our formations have to look better,” he said. “This isn't like two or three [Program Objective Memorandum] cycles, we have to look better this next year. We have to look better in a couple of months.”

George said advances in commercial technology are outpacing military development, and the service will phase out its Raven and Shadow drones because they were good systems but for a different battlefield.

The Age of Amorality

Hal Brands

“How much evil we must do in order to do good,” the theologian Reinhold Niebuhr wrote in 1946. “This, I think, is a very succinct statement of the human situation.” Niebuhr was writing after one global war had forced the victors to do great evil to prevent the incalculably greater evil of a world ruled by its most aggressive regimes. He was witnessing the onset of another global conflict in which the United States would periodically transgress its own values in order to defend them. But the fundamental question Niebuhr raised—how liberal states can reconcile worthy ends with the unsavory means needed to attain them—is timeless. It is among the most vexing dilemmas facing the United States today.

U.S. President Joe Biden took office pledging to wage a fateful contest between democracy and autocracy. After Russia invaded Ukraine, he summoned like-minded nations to a struggle “between liberty and repression, between a rules-based order and one governed by brute force.” Biden’s team has indeed made big moves in its contest with China and Russia, strengthening solidarity among advanced democracies that want to protect freedom by keeping powerful tyrannies in check. But even before the war between Hamas and Israel presented its own thicket of problems, an administration that has emphasized the ideological nature of great-power rivalry was finding itself ensnared by a morally ambiguous world.

In Asia, Biden has bent over backward to woo a backsliding India, a communist Vietnam, and other not so liberal states. In Europe, wartime exigencies have muted concerns about creeping authoritarianism on NATO’s eastern and southern fronts. In the Middle East, Biden has concluded that Arab dictators are not pariahs but vital partners. Defending a threatened order involves reviving the free-world community. It also, apparently, entails buttressing an arc of imperfect democracies and outright autocracies across much of the globe.

Biden’s conflicted strategy reflects the realities of contemporary coalition building: when it comes to countering China and Russia, democratic alliances go only so far. Biden’s approach also reflects a deeper, more enduring tension. American interests are inextricably tied to American values: the United States typically enters into great-power competition because it fears mighty autocracies will otherwise make the world unsafe for democracy. But an age of conflict invariably becomes, to some degree, an age of amorality because the only way to protect a world fit for freedom is to court impure partners and engage in impure acts.

Ukrainians are being killed by US tech in Russian weapons, experts tell senators


Advanced weapons components of U.S. origin are being recovered from Russian bombs, drones, vehicles and munitions, experts told senators during a committee hearing Tuesday.

These components, which James Byrne, director of open-source intelligence and analysis at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), calls the “brains” of the advanced weapons, are slipping through export controls and killing Ukrainians.

Failures by both the U.S. and its allies to monitor and control the export of specialized weapon components are enabling adversarial nations, Damien Spleeters, deputy director of operations for Conflict Armament Research, told a Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs subcommittee.

“What is commonly known now could not have been imagined two years ago — Russian, Iranian and North Korean weapons bear the marks of U.S. and European nations,” Spleeters said.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations chair, organized the hearing after traveling with Senate leaders to Ukraine last week. Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky provided the visiting senators with a folder detailing 211 American-manufactured, high-technology products used to kill Ukrainians on the battlefield, Blumenthal said.

“The folder that he handed me was a powerful indictment of our export control system,” he said. “I am appalled that American technology breakthroughs are sustaining Russian belligerence,” he said.

Analysts on the battlefield have discovered Western components, especially U.S. components, compose the majority of weapons “across a huge range of platforms,” Byrne said. Those components are “things that Russia cannot just replace, things that modern technology platforms cannot work without,” Byrne said.

How the Pentagon Learned to Use Targeted Ads to Find Its Targets—and Vladimir Putin


IN 2019, A government contractor and technologist named Mike Yeagley began making the rounds in Washington, DC. He had a blunt warning for anyone in the country’s national security establishment who would listen: The US government had a Grindr problem.

A popular dating and hookup app, Grindr relied on the GPS capabilities of modern smartphones to connect potential partners in the same city, neighborhood, or even building. The app can show how far away a potential partner is in real time, down to the foot.

But to Yeagley, Grindr was something else: one of the tens of thousands of carelessly designed mobile phone apps that leaked massive amounts of data into the opaque world of online advertisers. That data, Yeagley knew, was easily accessible by anyone with a little technical know-how. So Yeagley—a technology consultant then in his late forties who had worked in and around government projects nearly his entire career—made a PowerPoint presentation and went out to demonstrate precisely how that data was a serious national security risk.

As he would explain in a succession of bland government conference rooms, Yeagley was able to access the geolocation data on Grindr users through a hidden but ubiquitous entry point: the digital advertising exchanges that serve up the little digital banner ads along the top of Grindr and nearly every other ad-supported mobile app and website. This was possible because of the way online ad space is sold, through near-instantaneous auctions in a process called real-time bidding. Those auctions were rife with surveillance potential. You know that ad that seems to follow you around the internet? It’s tracking you in more ways than one. In some cases, it’s making your precise location available in near-real time to both advertisers and people like Mike Yeagley, who specialized in obtaining unique data sets for government agencies.

Beyond the hype: Capturing the potential of AI and gen AI in TMT

Venkat Atluri, Peter Dahlström, Brendan Gaffey, Víctor García de la Torre, Noshir Kaka, Tomás Lajous, Alex Singla, Alexander Sukharevsky, Andrea Travasoni, and Benjamim Vieira

The emergence of generative AI (gen AI) presents both a challenge and a significant opportunity for leaders looking to steer their organizations into the future. How big is the opportunity? McKinsey research estimates that gen AI could add to the economy between $2.6 trillion and $4.4 trillion annually while increasing the impact of all artificial intelligence by 15 to 40 percent. In the technology, media, and telecommunications (TMT) space, new gen AI use cases are expected to unleash between $380 billion and $690 billion in impact—$60 billion to $100 billion in telecommunications, $80 billion to $130 billion in media, and about $240 billion to $460 billion in high tech. In fact, it seems possible that within the next three years, anything not connected to AI will be considered obsolete or ineffective.

Some leaders are moving to seize the moment and implement gen AI in their organizations at scale, but others remain in the pilot stage, and some have yet to decide what to do. If companies are to remain competitive and relevant in the coming years, it is essential that executives understand the potential impact of gen AI and develop the strategies necessary to incorporate it into their operations. Such strategies would involve an AI-native transformation, focused on building and managing the adoption of gen AI. McKinsey has conducted extensive research into how to embed gen AI to ensure that the technology delivers meaningful value. We’ve also spent much of the past year working with clients to create and then implement gen AI road maps. That combination of research and hands-on experience has allowed us to identify more than 100 gen AI use cases in TMT across seven business domains.1

Our experience working with clients already indicates the potential for telcos to achieve significant impact with gen AI across all key functions. The largest share of total impact will likely be in customer care and sales, which together would account for approximately 70 percent of total impact; network operations, IT, and support functions would round out the rest. The technology already is showing meaningful impact in enhancing interactions between employees and customers: the personalization of products and campaigns, improvements in sales effectiveness, and a reduction in time to market can spark a potential revenue increase of 3 to 5 percent. Customer care interactions—where as much as 50 percent of activity could be automated—have potential for a 30 to 45 percent increase in productivity while improving the customer experience and customer satisfaction scores. 

The keys to deploying fiber networks faster and cheaper

Anton Lysenko, Tiago Silveira, and Manglam Tewari

Telecom operators are investing heavily to connect more people to high-speed fiber networks. In 2022 in Europe and the United States alone, their networks reached 15.2 million more households than the prior year, compared with the 9.9 million they added in 2018.1 Incumbents, newly formed fiber companies, governments, and private investors are all active in the sector, to the extent that more than one billion homes worldwide now have high-speed fiber access.2

Still, that figure means that some 40 percent of the world’s population remains without fiber access, indicating significant potential for further growth in the fiber-to-the-home (FTTH) market. The extent to which companies capture that potential, however, could hinge on their ability to improve returns on invested capital, as new markets are likely to be those with relatively high costs to serve and low revenue-generating potential. The most attractive markets already have fiber connections.

Reducing costs wherever possible is therefore crucial. But maximizing market share early on is critical too, and this depends upon speed to market. Experience suggests that the first FTTH operator to enter a market—whether overbuilding existing networks with fiber or rolling out new networks—can win significant market share as customers switch from cable and DSL providers. A second, later entrant, however, is likely to capture a significantly smaller share as the pool of customers willing to switch shrinks (Exhibit 1).

WEF Is Waging War on Misinformation and Cyber Insecurity

Katrina Thompson

What is the greatest cyber risk in the world right now? Ransomware? Business Email Compromise? Maybe AI? Well, the last one is pretty close. According to the World Economic Forum, misinformation and disinformation are the most severe global risks of the next two years.

In their Global Risks Report 2024, the WEF posited that the post-pandemic world is at a "turning point," with the two key problems possessing the power to do everything, from challenging mental health to eroding human rights. Also of concern is the coalescing of AI power and technology, which is lowering the bar to entry for would-be attackers.

Misinformation: What You Don't Know Can Hurt You

"It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble," humorist Mark Twain is credited for saying. "It's what you know for sure that just ain't so." The proliferation of convincing generative AI deepfakes has made this statement more relevant than ever.

AI and the Option of Truth

The WEF highlights this trend: "No longer requiring a niche skill set, easy-to-use interfaces to large-scale artificial intelligence (AI) models have already enabled an explosion in falsified information and so-called 'synthetic' content, from sophisticated voice cloning to counterfeit websites." The fact that what we see may no longer reflect reality has some stunning implications, per the report.

Rampant misinformation and disinformation are poised to cause:
  • A radical disruption in elections
  • Political mistrust leading to polarization
  • Repression of human rights as authorities seek to crack down on information abuse – and perhaps step too far
The WEF warns that with the wrong actors leveraging easy-to-use AI tools to create fake content, the truths that guide our societies may be obscured and used to create convincing propaganda to forward private agendas. "New classes of crimes will also proliferate, such as non-consensual deepfake pornography or stock market manipulation," it notes, and elections may be skewed by disinformation to the point where the democratic process itself is eventually eroded. It seems that AI-powered phishing attempts are only the start of AI's malicious potential.