4 March 2024

War Between Israel and Hezbollah Is Becoming Inevitable

Steven A. Cook

It is likely that there is going to be a war between Hezbollah and Israel within the next six to eight months.

Oct. 7 Changed Everything—but What if It Didn’t?

Steven Simon

The temptation to see the Hamas attack of Oct. 7 as a profoundly transformational event in the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Middle East is irresistible, and it’s easy to see why.

The Origin of Hamas's Human Shields Strategy in Gaza | Opinion

Ahmed Fouad Alkhatib

In November 2006, months after Hamas won parliamentary elections and after the group began entrenching its rule in Gaza, Nizar Rayan, a political leaders and liaison with Hamas' armed wing, introduced a novel strategy to protect the houses of Hamas militants from IDF bombardment. Rayan, a fiery religious clerk within Hamas and a rising militant star, marshaled hundreds of civilians into a house that had received IDF warnings of an impending strike. Instead of fleeing, Rayan called on people to swarm the house and cover its rooftop with as many civilians as possible to force the Israeli military into a choice: Either commit a massacre, or call off the airstrike.

Israel called off the strike, and the incident received widespread international attention. Though the tactic drew condemnation from Human Rights Watch, which criticized calling civilians to the scene of a planned attack as risky and dangerous, Hamas leaders like Ismail Haniyeh praised the tactic as a marvelous feat of perseverance and nonviolent resistance.

Nizar Rayan proclaimed victory and vowed to use the self-described "human shields on rooftops" strategy to prevent future destruction of Hamas members' houses and infrastructure. It would go on to be used dozens of times in the years leading up to the first major war between Israel and Hamas in 2008-2009.

Nizaar Rayan, the father of Hamas' human shields strategy, marches 05 August 2005 during a rally in the Jabalia refugee camp in the northern Gaza Strip.

Ironically, Rayan was killed in January 2009 at his family home along with all four of his wives and 12 of his children. Tragically for his children, Rayan was killed by the failure of his own human shields strategy, which did not protect him after he received a warning call from the Shin Bet that an attack on his house was imminent.

Nevertheless, the human shields strategy progressively grew as part of Hamas's defensive posture in which it counted on its activities and assets within urban and crowded areas being immune from Israeli attacks that could result in widespread and unspeakable civilian casualties.

Tunnel Wars: Israel's Gaza Assault Lays Ground for Lebanon Clash

David Brennan

Israel's operation in the Gaza Strip is raging above and below ground as its troops hunt for Hamas leaders and uncover a sprawling network of tunnels even more extensive than once thought.

"The army knew that there was a big infrastructure of underground tunnels in Gaza, they didn't realize the extent," Amir Avivi—the founder and chairman of Israel Defense and Security Forum and a former Israel Defense Forces (IDF) senior commander—told Newsweek during a Jerusalem Press Club briefing on Wednesday. "Everything is done underground. And when it's done underground, it's very difficult to understand exactly what's going on."

Tunnel warfare has been central to Israel's operation within Gaza. As Israel seeks a concrete victory in the Strip, military lessons learned there may prove useful in any renewed conflict with the Lebanese Hezbollah militia on Israel's northern border. Tensions have been high along that frontier since October, with constant exchanges of fire. "Hezbollah is operating in similar ways as Hamas," Avivi said.

This picture taken during an Israeli military media tour on February 8 shows an Israeli soldier inside a tunnel that the army said was a "Hamas command tunnel" under a compound of a UN agency... More

Israel's Gaza offensive has now killed more than 30,000 Palestinians, per figures reported by the Associated Press. The operation has precipitated a humanitarian crisis, with a quarter of Gaza's 2.3 million people now facing starvation and 80 percent having fled their homes, accordingto the United Nations.

In a statement sent to Newsweek following a recent trip to Gaza, Norwegian Refugee Council Secretary General Jan Egeland described "a civilian population engulfed by destruction, desperation and despair. Famine is a growing threat here, as millions of trapped people face a nightmare of violence and starvation."

The Gaza war is testing Hezbollah’s strategic capability

Dr Lina Khatib

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant declared on 25 February that Israel ‘will keep attacking Lebanon regardless of what happens in Gaza’ – and indeed mutual strikes by Israel and Hezbollah are continuing.

Fighting between the two sides began in the aftermath of Hamas’ assault on Israel on 7 October, with Hezbollah being the first to attack Israel on another front.

Although Hezbollah has celebrated some military successes over the past four months, the war in Gaza is testing its strategic capability. Despite being the instigator of the fight, Hezbollah is not setting the agenda. Its main priority is survival rather than victory.

Over the last four months, Hezbollah has been trying to balance retaining its credibility as a major actor in the Iran-backed ‘axis of resistance’ with steering clear of escalation with Israel. This is because Hezbollah knows that there is little appetite for all-out war among its supporters – and also because such a war would end up hurting, not serving, Iran.
The threat of an expanded war

Any serious spread of the war into Lebanon would mean Israel fighting on two fronts, which in turn would probably necessitate US intervention to aid Israel. This would draw Iran itself nearer to war – something Tehran is keen to avoid.

Israel attacked Hezbollah sites in Baalbek in the Beqaa Valley in eastern Lebanon for the first time earlier this week.

Israel has also tried to avoid such a scenario, despite its threatening rhetoric. The majority of its attacks on Lebanon since October have carefully targeted Hezbollah sites and personnel, exposing the vulnerability of Hezbollah’s military and security apparatus.

However, in recent weeks Israel has increased the scope of its attacks in Lebanon. In addition to widening the geographical area of strikes in southern Lebanon, and its targeted strike that killed a Hamas official in the southern suburb of Beirut, Israel attacked Hezbollah sites in Baalbek in the Beqaa Valley in eastern Lebanon for the first time earlier this week.

5 Years After Pulwama Attacks and Balakot Strikes

Christopher Clary

Pakistan is almost entirely absent from India’s strategic discourse in the contemporary moment. Indian interlocutors mention this absence occasionally — either with modest lament or more often with some pride, depending on their strategic worldview. Virtually no Indian strategic analyst believes Pakistan is on “India’s level” in world politics. Some say with confidence that India has already expanded its strategic aperture beyond the subcontinental box and now has to exclusively consider China as its main threat. A smaller number argue that India, much like Israel, cannot ignore weaker neighbors that still have asymmetric and symmetric means to cause harm and complicate Indian grand strategy.

The fifth anniversary of the Pulwama attack and India’s reprisal airstrikes on February 26 provided occasions for senior Indian officials and analysts to reflect — albeit briefly — on the troubled relationship with Pakistan. These reflections are no doubt tinged by the upcoming national elections in India scheduled for later this spring or early summer.

At a speech in New Delhi earlier this February, India’s External Affairs Minister, S. Jaishankar, reflected on “Bharat and the World,” referring to the BJP government’s decision to use the Hindi word for India with greater frequency in public and international forums. “Bharat has pushed back with determination and fortitude” when confronting national security threats, Jaishankar emphasized.

In Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first term, this was seen in his government’s response to a terror group attack on an Army base in Uri in Kashmir that killed 19 Indian soldiers and then again following the terror group attack in Pulwama that killed 40. “On the western front, the long-standing challenge of cross-border terrorism now elicits more befitting responses,” Jaishankar said. “Believe me, Uri and Balakot send their own message.”

While the minister did not elaborate in his remarks this week about the content of that messaging, in earlier years, Jaishankar explained, “Today, people see a different India that is willing to stand up… Today, the forces which indulged in cross-border terrorism against India for decades and which India tolerated, they now know this is a different India and this India will give them a reply.”

Will Japan’s Defense Spending Hike Be Enough?

Takahashi Kosuke

There is a growing debate today in Japan over whether the nation’s planned 43 trillion yen ($285 billion) limit for defense spending over the five years through fiscal year 2027 should be reviewed, amid a weaker yen and recent price surges.

The person who sparked this debate is Sakakibara Sadayuki, former chairman of the Japan Business Federation, the country’s biggest business lobby, commonly known as Keidanren in Japanese.

At the first meeting of a Japanese Defense Ministry expert panel on February 19, Sakakibara proposed that the 43 trillion yen budget framework be reviewed with an eye on soaring prices and personnel costs, as well as the weak yen.

“Given the rising prices and exchange rate fluctuations, we need to reconsider from a realistic perspective whether we can really strengthen our defense capabilities and equipment as required within the 43 trillion yen limit,” Sakakibara said.

“We should once again discuss more effective standards, the future of the public burden and permanent financial resources without rejecting the review as taboo,” he stressed.

Sakakibara, who is also honorary chair of the Japan Business Federation, heads the ministry’s panel, consisting of 17 members from such fields as economy, defense, and science and technology. Former Defense Minister Morimoto Satoshi is among them.

In December 2022, Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio’s cabinet approved three key security documents, including plans to increase defense spending to 43 trillion yen from fiscal year 2023 to 2027 to fundamentally reinforce national defense capabilities. This will increase Japan’s defense spending to the NATO standard of 2 percent of the national GDP in 2027.

However, at the time these three security documents were decided upon, the necessary defense costs were calculated by assuming that from fiscal year 2024 onward, the exchange rate would be 108 yen to the dollar. However, currently, the yen is depreciating to around 150 yen to the dollar.

Myanmar: The Many Foes of Min Aung Hlaing

Thomas Kean

The small protest in the central Myanmar town of Pyin Oo Lwin on January 16 was far less spectacular than the military’s recent battlefield losses, but for dictator-in-chief Min Aung Hlaing it was possibly just as damaging. Rather than call for the end of the junta that seized power in a February 2021 coup – as millions across Myanmar have done over the past three years – the pro-regime protesters urged Min Aung Hlaing to step down as head of the military, and hand over power to his deputy, Soe Win.

“Look at Soe Win’s face,” the nationalist monk Pauk Ko Taw told the crowd of a few hundred people. “That’s the face of a real soldier. Min Aung Hlaing is not coping. He should move to a civilian role.”

A former colonial hill station, Pyin Oo Lwin occupies a strategic location on the edge of the Shan plateau astride the main highway to China. It is also of great operational, symbolic, and emotional importance to the military, hosting not only its elite Defense Services Academy and other training institutes but also many retired officers, who live in new suburbs colloquially referred to as bogyoke ywar (“village of generals”).

Security is relatively tight; Pyin Oo Lwin is one of the few places in Myanmar where pro-regime types can move around without having to watch nervously for resistance hit squads. Although no military personnel are known to have taken part in the protest, it is unlikely to have been possible without at least some tacit support from within the regime’s own ranks.

There was little dissent on display when the military-controlled National Defense and Security Council met on January 31 – just ahead of the third anniversary of the coup – and formally agreed to Min Aung Hlaing’s proposal to extend military rule for a further six months. But behind this pro forma show of unity lies real and growing discontent with Min Aung Hlaing’s leadership.

Will Thailand’s Aid Corridor With War-Torn Myanmar Make A Difference? – Analysis

Nontarat Phaicharoen

Thailand’s plan to open a humanitarian aid corridor with war-torn Myanmar next month is facing skepticism from experts and aid workers, who say its limited scope and lack of engagement with ethnic minority forces means it is unlikely to have much impact.

The initiative by the new Thai government will create a safe zone to provide food and medicine to displaced populations through the Mae Sot-Myawaddy border crossing, officials said. Foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) unanimously endorsed the plan in January.

Fierce fighting during Myanmar’s civil war, set off by a military coup in February 2021, has forced more than 2.7 million people across the country to flee their homes, according to United Nations estimates.

As of Feb. 19, more than 306,000 of them were in Kayin and Kayah states, along the western border of Thailand, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR.

The initiative will see the Thai and Myanmar Red Cross make aid deliveries under monitoring from the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management.

Initially, the humanitarian corridor will help about 20,000 internally displaced people, stabilize border trade, and complement ASEAN efforts to end hostilities, according to the Thai government.

More ambitiously, Bangkok hopes it will lay the groundwork for dialogue between Myanmar’s military junta, ethnic rebel forces and the shadow National Unity Government.

But whether the aid initiative will have such a far-reaching impact is far from clear, according to analysts.

“If Thailand truly aims to help Myanmar citizens, it is crucial to talk with all parties involved, including ethnic armed forces and the entire civil society, not just leave everything to the Myanmar Red Cross,” Lalita Hanwong, a Southeast Asian history lecturer at Kasetsart University, told BenarNews.

China Wants to Weaken, Not Replace, the U.S. in the Middle East

Yun Sun

Since the war in Gaza broke out, China’s role in the region has raised many questions. Only a year ago, China impressed the world when it successfully brokered the Saudi-Iran peace deal. That success inflated hopes that China, lacking the historical entanglements of other great powers, could somehow magically chart a new and effective course to de-escalation and conflict resolution in the Middle East.

China has not delivered that success. China does have a vision and desire for an alternative security architecture in the Middle East and has elaborated on its plan since 2018. Instead of replacing the United States as a security guarantor, which China doesn’t want to do and doesn’t have the resources or ability to do, China’s vision for the future stability of the Middle East is aimed at creating a new system that would displace U.S. dominance without replacing it. The effectiveness of such a framework is questionable, but that is not China’s prime concern. China wants to demolish the U.S.-led security architecture, but not necessarily to build a new structure with Beijing on top.

For the last few decades, China has enjoyed the security provided and maintained by the United States in the Middle East. Chinese analysts dispute that China has been freeriding, not only because they see economic engagement as an avenue for stabilization, but also because they see U.S. policy as a source of instability. But with 53 percent of its crude oil imports coming from the region, China has an intrinsic interest in maintaining the regional peace and stability so oil production and transportation will not be disrupted. There is a clear Chinese recognition that China does not have the resources to get into the weeds of the conflicts, their origins, and their potential solutions. Nor does China want to. China has long positioned itself as a customer and a client of Middle Eastern oil, a role that is believed to give China much power but without the burden for China to provide peace.

China Risks New Taiwan Strait Crisis

John Feng

China this week doubled down on the legitimacy of its intrusive maritime patrols around a group of Taiwanese islands just off the Chinese coast, heavily fortified but isolated territories that were once shelled during the Cold War.

The waters around Taiwan's front-line Kinmen islands, just 6 miles from China's shores, have been probed by the Chinese coast guard for two weeks, part of a new normal that experts say is designed to undermine Taipei's authority, but which could also lead to a crisis if all parties do not show restraint.

Earlier this month, Beijing said its maritime law enforcement vessels would provide security in the waters surrounding Kinmen. This followed the deaths of two Chinese fishermen when their speedboat capsized while trying to out-run Taiwan's coast guard. Two other fishermen were injured in the incident that Taipei described as deeply unfortunate.

In spite of the Kinmen's proximity to China's coastline, Beijing's decision to enter the waters around the archipelago broke a decades-long understanding about prohibited or restricted maritime zones, the Taiwanese government said.

On Wednesday, Beijing's Taiwan Affairs Office (TAO) spokesperson Zhu Fenglian described the area as a traditional fishing ground for people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait and said the declared boundaries do not exist.

Zhu also dismissed Taipei's concerns about the Chinese coast guard's unusual decision to board and inspect a Taiwanese tourist boat this month.

Kuan Bi-ling, head of the Ocean Affairs Council that oversees Taiwan's Coast Guard Administration, said a day earlier that China's patrols, although short in duration, had "political significance," likening them to now routine intrusions around the Japanese-controlled Senkaku Islands, which Taipei calls Diaoyutai and Beijing claims as Diaoyu.

The Chinese Foreign Ministry does not directly comment on relations with Taiwan, which Beijing considers a domestic matter because of its territorial claim to the island. The TAO did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

United Against America: Russia-Iran Military Cooperation Is a Looming Threat

Nikita Smagin

There are many reasons why Russia and Iran are not formal allies. Their rulers don’t trust one another; they compete with each other on energy markets; and Iran’s revolutionary Shiite ideology sits uneasily with Russia’s conservatism. When it comes to military matters, however, they are drawing ever closer, united in their opposition to the United States.

For the moment, Moscow is playing a limited role in the ongoing conflict in the Middle East between Tehran and Washington. But the Kremlin has convinced itself that the United States is using Ukraine to wage a proxy war against Russia. And that means Russia likely believes it has every right to start a proxy war with the United States anywhere in the world, including the Middle East.

When it comes to drones, the cooperation between Russia and Iran is well known: there have been multiple media reports about the factory in Russia’s republic of Tatarstan that is producing Iranian unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Significantly, Russia may soon take delivery of the new Iranian attack drone, the Shahed-101.

While Shahed-101s are smaller than previous models, which limits their payload, they can travel up to 600 kilometers, and their size means they are very difficult to identify—and shoot down. Shahed-101s are also simple to transport, and easy to launch unnoticed.

Amid the Israeli offensive in Gaza, there has been a rising number of attacks by Iranian-backed groups on U.S. targets in Iraq and Syria. Previously, these involved primitive rockets, but they are now routinely carried out using Shahed-101s. When a Shahed-101 hit a U.S. base on the border between Syria and Jordan on January 28, three U.S. soldiers were killed and over thirty wounded. The U.S. retaliated with strikes on Iran-backed groups across Iraq and Syria. But the Shahed-101 has shown it can evade U.S. air defenses.

Media reports suggest Iran will sell Russia several thousand Shahed-101s and the more advanced Shahed-107s. Moreover, the Tatarstan plant will also eventually start making these UAVs. While Iran-backed groups have used a maximum of two or three Shahed-101s at any one time in the Middle East, the Russian army will have the capacity to launch mass attacks in Ukraine—allowing the weapon to be tested and perfected.

Food as the “Silent Weapon”: Russia’s Gains and Ukraine’s Losses

Caitlin Welsh and Joseph Glauber


Russia’s war in Ukraine has caused the greatest military-related disruption to global agricultural markets in at least a century. Ukraine’s agricultural sector has been a major front in Russia’s war since February 2022, and the primary purpose of Russia’s targeting of Ukraine’s agricultural infrastructure is likely to undercut a main source of Ukraine’s income. Ukraine’s GDP contracted by more than 29 percent in 2022 compared to 2021, and the value of agriculture as a proportion of Ukraine’s GDP was 39 percent lower in 2022 than 2021.

The global disruptions to the agricultural market due to Ukraine’s diminished production and exports have been stark: world food prices reached all-time nominal highs in March 2022, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization Food Price Index. In 2022, 258 million people suffered from acute food insecurity, an all-time high, according to the Global Report on Food Crises. At the same time, the cost of addressing these challenges also soared due to concurrent shocks in the global energy and fertilizer markets brought on by Russia’s war. For example, the cost of the delivery of humanitarian assistance also peaked due to the increased cost of food and fuel for operations. At the same time, for countries hoping to address domestic food insecurity with domestic agricultural production, the increased cost of fertilizer became a limiting factor. Likewise, countries dealing with the high price of food imports, high prices of agricultural inputs, and high levels of food insecurity also had less fiscal space for social programs following the Covid-19 pandemic, which drained national budgets.

If Ukraine’s depleted agricultural GDP has been a boon to Russia, the rising global food insecurity that has resulted from Russia’s war has also been beneficial: Ukraine’s diminished exports have created openings for Russia, another major global agricultural exporter, to make up for Ukraine’s losses, with Russia using its agricultural exports as a source of soft power. In early 2022, Dmitry Medvedev, the former Russian president and current deputy chairman of Russia’s Security Council, declared food to be Russia’s “silent weapon.” By August 2023, President Vladimir Putin declared Moscow’s intention to “replace Ukrainian grain” with Russian grain, particularly to “needy countries.”

How Will Russia’s War on Ukraine End?

Paul Dibb

As Russia’s war on Ukraine enters its third year, we need to ask how will this war end? I will examine first, how the military fight is changing and what the prospects are for winners and losers. Second, what are the possibilities for a ceasefire and negotiations aimed at an enduring peace? Third, what are the risks of this war extending further into neighbouring NATO countries? Fourth, if the aim of the US and its NATO allies is to ‘defeat’ Russia how will this be achieved against a country with 1,500 strategic nuclear warheads? And fifth what would a defeated Russia look like? A Weimar Germany? Or can we conceive of other outcomes under a new Russian leadership?

But before we examine these critically important questions, we need to remind ourselves of the reasons why President Putin alleges he went to war. In that context, we need to take notice of the words of CIA director William Burns: ‘One thing I have learned is that it is always a mistake to underestimate Putin’s fixation on controlling Ukraine and its choices. Without that control he believes it is impossible for Russia to be a great power.’

Putin repeatedly states that there is no such country as Ukraine and that Ukrainians and Russians are one people sharing the same historical and spiritual space, speaking the same language, and believing in the same Orthodox faith. Before he died in 2008, Alexander Solzhenitsyn proclaimed that Russia (Great Russians), Belarus (White Russians) and Ukraine (Little Russians) should be recreated as a unified Slavic country. After two years of vicious war, most Ukrainians are, if anything, even more determined to reject this Great Russian imperial view.

Putin claims that if Ukraine becomes a member of NATO, it will become a direct national security threat to Russia or, as one of his advisers Sergei Karaganov puts it, ‘a spearhead aimed at the heart of Russia’. America’s George Kennan called the expansion of NATO ‘the most fateful error of American policy in the entire post-Cold War era’. And the former British ambassador to Moscow from 1988 to 1992 and chair of the Joint Intelligence Committee from 1992 to 1993, Rodric Braithwaite, argues that Western negotiators gave Gorbachev ambiguous assurances that NATO did not intend to expand any further than a unified Germany. However, Braithwaite acknowledges that Gorbachev did not request, nor was he offered, anything in writing.


Ben Blane

“The history of failure in war can almost always be summed up in two words: ‘Too late.’ Too late in comprehending the deadly purpose of a potential enemy; too late in realizing the mortal danger; too late in preparedness; too late in uniting all possible forces for resistance.”

General Douglas MacArthur’s words, spoken in 1940, quickly became the reality for the United States on December 7, 1941. While the United States did have combat forces forward before the onset of World War II, these forces were wholly unprepared for the combat activities that would follow and quickly ceded ground to the rapidly advancing Japanese forces in the Philippines. The subsequent movement of troops across the Pacific battlefield after December 7 was a significant undertaking for US forces. Unfortunately, that combat power projection from the continental United States into the first island chain came at a tremendous cost for the nation—costs that were borne before they even got into the fight. More than eight decades on, crossing those large distances remains one of the critical problem sets associated with the Pacific region and one we must focus on before it is “too late.”

Decisions in the Pacific: Distance and Inevitability

The distances of the Pacific are apparent, but their implications are often not truly considered until forward in the environment. The first problem is the distance one must overcome to get to the fight. The land victory in Operation Desert Storm relied on the United States’ ability to rapidly generate and project a dominant combat force into an uncontested environment. The generation of F-15 and F-16 sorties, the massing of artillery divisions, and the movement of tank columns were possible because no one was trying to stop these capabilities as they moved from locations across the globe onto the battlefield. China’s antiaccess/area-denial (A2/AD) capabilities—a robust network of all-domain intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance paired with offensive and defensive strike capabilities—are designed specifically to prevent the United States from projecting power into the theater.

Two Years of War in Ukraine: Are Sanctions Against Russia Making a Difference?

Noah Berman

Since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022, the United States has implemented a broad sweep of sanctions focused on isolating Russia from the global financial system, reducing the profitability of its energy sector, and blunting its military edge. Ahead of the war’s second anniversary and after the death of jailed opposition leader Alexei Navalny, Washington announced more than five hundred new sanctions targeting Moscow’s financial sector, oil and gas revenue, and military-industrial complex. These add to a bevy of sanctions that the United States imposed on Russia after it annexed the Ukrainian region of Crimea in 2014.

What sanctions has the United States imposed against Russia over the war in Ukraine?

Financial sector. The United States began its 2022 barrage of sanctions by freezing $5 billion of the Russian central bank’s U.S. assets, an unprecedented move to prevent Moscow from using its foreign reserves to prop up the Russian ruble. It also barred the largest Russian bank and several others from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), a Belgium-based interbank messaging service critical to processing international payments. Meanwhile, the U.S. Treasury Department prohibited U.S. investors from trading Russian securities, including debt; all together, the sanctions restrict dealings with 80 percent of Russian banking sector assets. Washington has also sought to seize the U.S. assets of sanctioned Russian individuals, including President Vladimir Putin.

Energy. The United States has also focused on reducing Russia’s ability to profit from the global sale of fossil fuels. The year before the war, Russia recorded more than $240 billion in energy exports, almost half of which came from oil. In March 2022, Washington banned the import of Russian crude oil, liquified natural gas, and coal, and restricted U.S. investments in most Russian energy companies. In December of that year, the United States and its Group of Seven (G7) allies implemented rules aimed at capping the price that other importing countries, such as China and India, would pay for Russian crude oil. So far, the United States has refrained from sanctioning Russia’s nuclear energy sector, and it continues to import Russian uranium. Russia supplied 12 percent of U.S. uranium imports in 2022.

How Ukraine Overcame Russia’s Grain Blockade

Noah Berman, Mariel Ferragamo, Author, and Sabine Baumgartner

Russia has moved aggressively to block Ukraine’s grain exports, aiming to crush both a critical economic sector and source of national pride. But Ukrainians have found ways to keep their crucial food supplies flowing as they enter the third year of Europe’s largest war in eight decades. Amid otherwise gloomy harbingers, the success of grain transport efforts is bringing hope to Ukrainians and relief to markets in Africa and the Middle East.

Known as the world’s breadbasket, Ukraine is one of the top grain producers globally.

Before Russia launched its full-scale invasion in 2022, Ukraine exported more than 60 million tons of grain a year, accounting for 10 percent of the global market.

Agriculture is central to the Ukrainian economy, supplying more than 40 percent of Ukraine’s export income and 14 percent of its jobs.
Viacheslav Ratynskyi/Reuters, Chris McGrath/Getty Images, NurPhoto/Getty Images

A Global Granary

Grains are a crucial portion of the world’s food supply and an especially significant form of aid for countries battling food insecurity.

More than half of Ukraine’s food exports go to lower-income countries, predominantly in Africa and the Middle East. In those regions, hundreds of millions of people face chronic hunger, and bread and other food made with grain often hold particular cultural importance. The United Nations’ World Food Program (WFP) has estimated that Ukraine’s farmland could feed some four hundred million people, though its exports have faltered in the wake of Russia’s invasion.

Russia Attacked Ukraine's Power Grid at Least 66 Times to ‘Freeze It Into Submission’


Last week marked the second anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, a conflict that has been marked by multiple reports that Russia may have committed war crimes by indiscriminately targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure. During the first winter of the conflict, Russia pursued a strategy that US secretary of state Antony Blinken described as trying to “freeze [Ukraine] into submission” by attacking its power infrastructure, shutting citizens off from heat and electricity.

Now, using satellite imagery and open source information, a new report from the Conflict Observatory, a US-government-backed initiative between Yale University’s Humanitarian Research Lab, the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative, PlanetScape AI, and the mapping software Esri, offers a clearer picture of the scale of this strategy. Between October 1, 2022, and April 30, 2023, researchers found more than 200 instances of damage to the country’s power infrastructure, amounting to more than $8 billion in estimated destruction. Of the 223 instances identified in the report, researchers were able to confirm 66 of them with high confidence, meaning they were able to cross-reference the damage across multiple trustworthy sources and data points.

The ‘Cold War’ as we know it is a myth, yet its underlying conflict never ended


Americans believe that they “Won the Cold War” — that is, that the U.S. defeated the Soviet Union’s bid for global dominance. Washington outlasted Moscow, leading to the USSR’s imperial collapse.

Yet the Cold War itself was not a singular, isolated event. It is more properly understood as one period in a much longer struggle for Eurasian mastery. The trouble with U.S. strategy today is its assumption that the U.S. was victorious in a singular, unique contest for global leadership. Unless America breaks free from such thinking, it will be incapable of articulating, let alone prosecuting, a strategy for Eurasian competition.

Two major inflection points dominate American strategic thought: 1945 and 1991. The former marked the end of America’s isolationist tradition in international politics, the latter the unexpected triumph over Marxism-Leninism. Yet neither is placed in its proper context.

Allied victory in 1945 is cast as a moment that generated a tragic necessity — at the apex of triumph, democracies suddenly faced a new threat on the Eurasian landmass. By 1950, the scale of the challenge was apparent, as was the American response, a strategy of “containment” that prevented the expansion of Soviet influence and deterred an armed attack in Western Europe.

Meanwhile, 1991 is viewed retrospectively as a missed opportunity to generate a new world order (to use the terminology of the George H. W. Bush administration), in which a security architecture encompassed the entire northern hemisphere from Vancouver to Vladivostok (in Mikhail Gorbachev’s words).

We mistakenly view both moments as unique historic moments, not as changes within a continuous Eurasian competition. Indeed, Eurasia is the overarching lens through which international politics should be viewed from at least the 17th century.

Ukraine's Third Year of War Could Be Its Toughest Yet | Opinion

Daniel R. DePetris

When Russian President Vladimir Putin addressed the Russian people during his annual speech to the nation last February, his war in Ukraine was losing steam. Three months before his speech, Russian forces withdrew from the Ukrainian city of Kherson, despite Putin declaring the region (along with Donetsk, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhia) part of the Russian Federation. In September 2022, the Russian army was caught unprepared, undermanned, and under-equipped as Ukrainian forces pressed a blitzkrieg-like counteroffensive in the Kharkiv region. Putin didn't mince words, calling the war a "difficult, watershed period for our country."

That was then. This is now.

Putin stepped into the cavernous auditorium this week to address his people again, in a better, but still not great, position.

This year's speech showcased vintage Putin and contained everything that the most bullish Kremlin propagandist could hope for. The entire event was long-winded, boring, and full of the usual unsubstantiated claims about Ukraine being run by a Nazi cabal. At one point, Putin rattled his nuclear saber yet again, warning the United States and its NATO allies that they shouldn't dare to get more deeply involved in the war on Ukraine's behalf, unless it wanted to raise the probability of a Russian nuclear escalation.

Russia's opponents, he said, "must ... realize that we too have weapons that can hit targets on their territory"—weapons that could blow up the Earth a few times over. This threat was no doubt a response to French President Emmanuel Macron's suggestion days earlier that the West must keep every option on the table to defeat Russian forces in Ukraine, even if it included deploying European troops on Ukrainian soil.

European Farmer Protests

Farmer protests have recently surged across Europe, shaking its agricultural heartlands. In Poland, a deep and broadening coalition of farmers is forming against the influx of cheaper, reputedly lower-quality Ukrainian agricultural goods that are threatening their markets. Farmers in the Netherlands were agitated even before the war in Ukraine, triggered by Dutch government plans to cut nitrogen emissions. In Germany, the last straw was when Berlin, under intense political pressure to start balancing the budget, suggested axing fuel subsidies for farmers. Taken together, European farmers are facing rising costs against falling prices; they fear that pro-climate laws will lead to their disenfranchisement; and they feel they are suffering disproportionately from Europe’s approach to supporting Ukraine’s wrecked economy.

The approaching European Parliament elections in June have started to energize the European Commission and national governments, which lately have been quick to make concessions to get tractors off the highways. But the farmers are not satisfied, and opposition parties – most notably those from the far right – are hoping to benefit, starting this summer.

How AI Could Reshape Medicine


On a recent international trip, I found myself running late to the airport. Not being fluent in the local language, I used a translation app that enabled me to convey the urgency of my situation to the taxi driver. The app’s camera feature also allowed me to understand the road signs, providing real-time updates.

This is just one example of how digital innovations, particularly artificial intelligence, are reshaping our world. With recent studies showing that AI models can now identify early signs of health complications such as sepsis, these technologies are poised to revolutionize medicine, too.

These rapid technological advances also underscore the urgent need for AI regulation. The European Union’s Artificial Intelligence Act, which is expected to be approved in the second half of 2024, is a prime example. This pioneering law classifies AI systems according to their risk levels and explicitly bans specific high-risk applications, such as social scoring and emotion recognition, that pose a threat to personal safety, civil liberties, and democratic governance. It also highlights the importance of transparency and explainability, so that users can access information about AI-generated decisions.

The EU’s ambitious legislation offers a good starting point for a global discussion on how not to use AI. But given these technologies’ vast potential to transform health care, it is equally crucial to explore how they can be used to augment the human-centric aspects of medicine.

For starters, AI has the potential to make medicine more compassionate. For example, a recent study published in JAMA Internal Medicine compared responses from ChatGPT to health-related questions with those provided by human doctors. Interestingly, a panel of licensed health-care professionals preferred ChatGPT’s answers 79% of the time, viewing them as more empathetic toward patients. Previous studies have shown that greater empathy and compassion can improve patient outcomes and expedite recovery.

How GIDE grows: AI battle network experiments are expanding to Army, allies and industry


In 2023, the Pentagon’s push for a global battle network, aka CJADC2, was all about going fast, fast, fast. In 2024, it’s going wide.

“Last year, we essentially went with what we had for the most part … to get this minimum viable capability,” said Air Force Col. Matthew “Nomad” Strohmeyer. A former fighter pilot, “Nomad” now oversees the quarterly Global Information Dominance Experiments (GIDE) that thrash out how to make CJADC2 work, not in the lab, but in real military headquarters. “This year, we really want to dramatically open the aperture and provide every opportunity for any industry partner, or other government programs… to be able to contribute.”

Likewise, he said, “we had a lot of success with [Britain] this year and we’re expanding that out to the other ‘Five Eye‘ partners this year.”

That expansion begins this week with GIDE 9, which is being interwoven with the latest Army-led mega-exercise/experiment/field test of new tech, Project Convergence 2024. Earlier GIDEs had brought in British observers, while the previous Project Convergence, held in 2022, welcomed the British and the Australians.

Bringing in the Brits was a humbling but helpful learning experience, Strohmeyer said. “In GIDE 6, which was last June-July … we were looking at the UK screens and [realizing], ‘Oh, you can’t see that data?’” he recalled. But by GIDE 8, he went on, “we were able to … successfully share data.”

This year’s conjoined GIDE 9/PC24 aims to deepen allied involvement, as well as include more participants from the various US services and private contractors.

Afterwards, GIDE staff will not only brief senior leaders in the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill, Strohmeyer said, but also hold an industry day for interested companies. The best way for aspiring contractors to connect to GIDE, he told a conference room full of industry representatives, is to use the Pentagon’s Tradewinds website.

Is There a Cyber Arms Race?

James Andrew Lewis

Max Smeets’s “No Shortcuts: Why States Struggle to Develop a Military Cyber-Force” offers a thorough analysis of the challenges states face in developing military cyber capabilities. This is an ambitious book with a wealth of references. Its subtitle—“Why States Struggle to Develop a Military Cyber-Force”—is a bit of a misnomer. At least a dozen countries have competent cyber forces, now mostly used for intelligence and reconnaissance purposes (reconnaissance in the sense of identifying digital targets), and most of these forces are part of the larger national military organizations. What these forces may struggle to develop is not cyber capabilities but doctrine for the use of those capabilities and the political will to accept the risks this use may entail.

Are military cyber capabilities an extension of states’ current uses of force, or are they sui generis, a unique new category of military action involving a broad array of actors. Scholars and analysts have struggled with this distinction. Smeets explores both ideas, with an emphasis on the latter, seeing cyber capabilities as a product of the commercial forces that shape the new domain. The book’s central themes—that cyber operations are complicated and states not well organized to carry them out—are accompanied by discussion of a range of other topics, including a useful typology of cyber actors, trends in cyber policy, the transfer among nations (intentional or otherwise) of cyber capabilities, the effect of artificial intelligence on cyber actions, and the role of non-state actors. After exploring these topics, the book ultimately returns to the theme that only a relative handful of states have surmounted the barriers to undertaking military cyber operations.

But the range of hostile actions that states have undertaken and the number of state actors responsible for them runs counter to the book’s assertion “that states are barely able to field a military cyber force.” At least seven countries have used cyber operations for offensive purposes (as this Center for Strategic and International Studies inventory of incidents shows). Choosing not to use a capability is not the same as not possessing it. One way to think of this is to ask how many nations have advanced fighter aircraft. The answer is roughly 30, but less than 10 have used them in combat. There is significant (and suggestive) overlap between countries with advanced fighters and those with offensive cyber capabilities, in that advanced militaries acquire advanced capabilities. 

The Perilous Coming Age of AI Warfare

Paul Scharre

Last year, the Ukrainian drone company Saker claimed it had fielded a fully autonomous weapon, the Saker Scout, which uses artificial intelligence to make its own decisions about who to kill on the battlefield. The drone, Saker officials declared, had carried out autonomous attacks on a small scale. Although this has not been independently verified, the technology necessary to create such a weapon certainly exists. It is a small technical step—but a consequential moral, legal, and ethical one—to then produce fully autonomous weapons that are capable of searching out and selecting targets on their own.