9 March 2024

Reconciling Israeli and US Plans for “The Day After” in Gaza

Peter Berkowitz

The United States and Israel have advanced apparently conflicting visions of the day after Israel defeats Hamas in Gaza. Whereas the Biden administration seeks the establishment of a Palestinian state, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government plans on retaining overall security responsibility for Gaza and installing local Palestinian officials untainted by ties to terrorist organizations to administer civil affairs.

The neglected common ground between Israel and the United States offers an opportunity to make the terrible situation in Gaza less terrible.

On Oct. 6, 2023, no one was talking about a two-state solution. Israel was mired in a social and political crisis triggered by the Netanyahu government’s January 2023 proposal for a major overhaul of the Israeli judiciary. The Abraham Accords were facilitating growing security cooperation, commercial relations, and cultural exchange between the original parties – Israel, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates. In the face of the Iranian threat, the Biden administration was making progress toward a comprehensive deal with Saudi Arabia that would include normalization of relations with Israel if Jerusalem took steps to advance Palestinian independence. And Hamas, it was widely thought – in accordance with Netanyahu’s stated policy of providing financial support for the terrorist organization – was content to sporadically fire rockets at Israel while gradually giving more attention to improving Gazans’ economic well-being.

Yet in late October 2023, just a few weeks after Hamas’ barbaric Oct. 7 assault on Israel – the jihadists slaughtered around 1200 mostly civilians, raped women, mutilated bodies, and kidnapped approximately 240, mostly civilians – President Joe Biden affirmed that the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict required the creation of a Palestinian state. That during periods of relative calm Presidents Clinton, Bush, Obama, and Trump failed to midwife the birth of a Palestinian state did not seem to disturb Biden administration calculations.

America Must Give Israel More Time To Defeat Hamas

Rep. Cory Mills and Michael Makovsky

Time is a precious commodity in Israel’s fight against Hamas terrorists. As Israel prepares to enter Hamas’s final stronghold, Rafah, the United States should ensure Israel has as much time as it needs to fully defeat Hamas.

Fighting terrorists who wear no uniform in urban terrain is complicated—as one of us learned during deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, battlefields that, however terrible, were simpler than Gaza. Operating in such a complex environment takes time, particularly for a military as dedicated to protecting civilians as the IDF.

Since the last Israeli ground incursion into Gaza in 2014, Hamas has constructed a 300-mile-long network of interconnected tunnels underneath Gaza’s urban landscape to a depth of up to 200 meters. One senior Israeli official noted the density of the tunnel network is three times greater than anticipated. This vast subterranean hive enables terrorists to hide, fire, and retreat quickly in tactical maneuvers; serves as weapons depots, headquarters, and protection during Israeli airstrikes; and hides hostages within its depths, as confirmed by DNA testing within the tunnels.

Israeli troops need to move carefully through this obstructed maze of streets and alleys, navigating booby traps, snipers, and ambushes sprung from tunnels below their feet. They need to move more slowly still to minimize harm to civilians, especially because Hamas intentionally endangers those civilians.

To offset the IDF’s superior military capabilities, Hamas frequently uses civilian populations as “human shields” to magnify the collateral damage from Israeli airstrikes by placing their weapons stockpiles, launchpads, and headquarters in or under residential buildings, schools, mosques, and hospitals. Hamas’s strategy is to purposely put civilians at increased risk, then exploit graphic images of injured civilians to delegitimize IDF operations, reduce their effectiveness, and pressure Israel to end operations prematurely.

The Power Vacuum in the Middle East

Gregg Carlstrom

Wars can clarify, and wars can confuse. The conventional wisdom about the Six-Day War in 1967 holds that Israel swiftly crushed the wave of Arab nationalism that was sweeping the Middle East and toppling monarchs. According to the tale of the 2006 war in Lebanon, Hezbollah fought Israel to a draw and shattered the image of a seemingly invincible military at a time when Arab armies had long since abandoned the fight against Israel. Arab-Israeli conflicts have often seemed to be clarifying events. Days of war sweep away ideas that had prevailed for decades.

Yet the stories that emerge from these wars can verge on their own sort of mythmaking. The story of 1967, while not entirely untrue, is too pat. Regimes such as Gamal Abdel Nasser’s in Egypt were always motivated more by narrow self-interest than lofty notions of pan-Arabism, merely deploying the latter when it served the former. Such leaders burdened their states with political and economic problems that persist to this day. The catastrophe they suffered in 1967 might have hastened their demise, but they would have crumbled under their own contradictions anyway.

The same goes for the 2006 war against Hezbollah. It was not Israel’s first military defeat; witness its long occupation of south Lebanon, which ended just six years earlier with a humiliating unilateral withdrawal and the prompt collapse of Israel’s proxy force, the South Lebanon Army. Israel had only seemed invincible because its most serious foes had given up. But war was changing, at least in the Middle East, as battles between armies gave way to campaigns of attrition against nonstate actors. Israel, like the United States, was struggling to repurpose conventional tactics to meet an unconventional threat.

It is too early to draw a full list of conclusions from the latest Arab-Israeli war. But five months of fighting between Israel and Hamas have already debunked some big myths: that the Palestinian cause was dead, that an emerging Israeli-Gulf alliance would provide a counterweight against Iran, that a region exhausted by conflict was going to focus on de-escalation and economic growth, and that a truly post-American Middle East had emerged.

Maldives signs China military pact in further shift away from India

Helen Regan

Maldives on Tuesday said China will provide it with “military assistance,” in the latest sign that the Indian Ocean archipelago’s pro-China shift is well under way following the election of President Mohamed Muizzu last year.

The Maldivian Defense Ministry said it signed an agreement with Beijing Monday “on China’s provision of military assistance” and that the deal would foster “stronger bilateral ties,” according to a post on social media site X.

Details of what the assistance would entail were not released but the ministry said the deal was “gratis” — or given for free.

The move is part of a push by President Muizzu since taking office in November to develop closer relations with China, following his “India Out” election campaign that promised to remove Indian troops from Maldivian soil and reassert “lost” national sovereignty.

In January, Muizzu set a deadline of March 15 for the complete withdrawal of Indian military personnel stationed in the archipelago nation, according to the president’s office. An update from his office last month said negotiations had agreed troops would leave in stages, with the first withdrawing before March 10 and the rest before May 10.

According to Reuters, there are 77 Indian soldiers and 12 medical personnel from the Indian armed forces in Maldives. India has also given Maldives two helicopters and a Dornier aircraft, which are mainly used for marine surveillance, search and rescue operations and medical evacuations, Reuters reported.

The new deal with China marks a significant shift in Maldives’ foreign policy from Muizzu’s pro-India predecessor, Ibrahim Mohamed Solih.

Can the Indian Navy Achieve True Interoperability?

Anuttama Banerji

In late February 2024, the Indian Navy hosted MILAN 2024, with over 50 countries participating. This mega event witnessed large force maneuvers, advanced air defense operations, and anti-submarine warfare drills.

MILAN 2024 came close on the heels of the Indian Navy deploying its largest fleet ever in leading anti-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden and the Western Arabian Sea. India is taking assertive actions in the region as the Indian Navy plays a robust role in countering attacks on shipping by Houthi rebels in West Asia. In one incident, the Indian Navy responded to the hijacking of a Sri Lankan fishing vessel in collaboration with the Seychelles Defense Forces and the Sri Lankan Navy.

Taken together, these separate examples paint a clear picture: Not only has the Indian Navy reinforced its position as a preferred security partner of regional navies in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and the “first responder” during a crisis, but it has also emerged as a strong player within the realm of naval diplomacy.

Interestingly, these engagements on the part of the Indian Navy are directly associated with the notion of “mission-based deployments” – a concept that has seen Indian naval ships being stationed at places where “action is taking place,” be it the Strait of Hormuz, the Red Sea, or the Malacca Straits, as opposed to staying in ports. This concept has enabled the Indian Navy to achieve its goal of “greater presence and visibility in the IOR,” including by engaging with other regional navies beyond India’s immediate neighborhood for sustained presence in the IOR. Mission-based deployments have also enhanced regional interoperability as the Indian Navy has worked with other navies to improve maritime security.

In fact, the remarkable success of the Indian Navy’s mission-based deployments has led to greater trust building between Indian and other regional navies – enabling the creation of a cooperative environment where “interoperability” is not solely a part of the diplomatic lexicon but acquires an actionable form. However, while India has definitely moved ahead on this front, genuine interoperability can only occur when India reduces its dependence on Russian weapon systems and comes up with its own definitional understanding of interoperability.

Pakistan’s Path To Prosperity – OpEd

Dr. Sahibzada Muhammad Usman

As Pakistan charts its future roadmap, it faces a multitude of challenges across various sectors, including economic, social, environmental, and political spheres. To address these challenges and harness the country’s potential for growth and development, a comprehensive and inclusive approach is necessary. Let’s delve deeper into the key areas that require attention and explore potential strategies for overcoming obstacles and seizing opportunities.

Pakistan’s economy has long been reliant on traditional sectors such as agriculture, textiles, and remittances. While these sectors continue to play a significant role, there is a pressing need for diversification to reduce vulnerability to external shocks and foster sustainable growth. One strategy for economic diversification is to promote innovation and entrepreneurship across various industries. This can be achieved through investment in research and development, the establishment of technology parks and incubators, and the provision of financial incentives for startups and SMEs. Additionally, targeted policies to support emerging sectors such as information technology, renewable energy, and biotechnology can create new opportunities for growth and job creation. Another aspect of economic diversification involves tapping into Pakistan’s rich natural resources in a sustainable manner. This includes the development of renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and hydropower, as well as the promotion of eco-tourism and sustainable agriculture practices. By leveraging its natural assets responsibly, Pakistan can not only stimulate economic growth but also protect the environment for future generations.

Investing in human capital is essential for driving sustainable development and improving the quality of life for all Pakistanis. This requires a multifaceted approach that addresses key challenges in education, healthcare, and social welfare. In the education sector, there is a need to improve access to quality education, especially in rural and underserved areas. This can be achieved through the construction of new schools, the training and recruitment of qualified teachers, and the implementation of innovative teaching methods and technologies. Additionally, vocational training programs should be expanded to equip young people with the skills needed to succeed in a rapidly changing job market.

Pakistan: Foreign Debt Will Be Economic Touchstone In 2024 – Analysis

Pierre van der Eng

After Pakistan’s turbulent election period, the government elected after 8 February 2024 will have to deal with the vexed problem of Pakistan’s foreign debt.

Pakistan’s foreign debt obligations appear modest. By mid-2023, the State Bank of Pakistanestimated it to be US$124.5 billion, or 42 per cent of GDP. This is not high by international standards. But the country’s annual foreign exchange earnings from exports are not enough to pay for imports. During 2022–23, Pakistan’s current account deficit was US$30.5 billion, excluding remittances. Almost 90 per cent of this was covered by remittances of Pakistanis working abroad, and the rest mainly by new foreign borrowing.

Domestic troubles will impede increased export earnings in 2024. For example, textiles are Pakistan’s main export, but textile producers have closed workshops as rising electricity prices reduced their ability to produce for export in 2023. The Federal Investigation Agency’s 2023 crackdown on illegal foreign exchange dealers stabilised the official rupee–US$ exchange rate, but also discouraged Pakistani expatriate workers from repatriating their earnings through formal channels.

With export earnings unlikely to increase, rescheduling foreign debt payments will become an urgent task for Pakistan’s government after the February 2024 elections. The government will have to negotiate with many different stakeholders.

The State Bank of Pakistan’s last quarterly statement identifies these stakeholders. Of the US$128.1 billion foreign debt in September 2023, US$99.1 billion is the foreign debt of Pakistan’s government and state-owned enterprises.

Of this, the government owes US$37.1 billion to multilateral institutions, including the World Bank and Asian Development Bank. This is generally long-term and concessional debt, which is low-interest and repayable over 15 to 30 years in relatively small tranches. Pakistan’s government owes a further US$7.8 billion to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The Taliban Stand To Make a Fortune From Gatekeeping Afghanistan’s Natural Resources

Jessica Ludwig

Afghanistan is sitting on an estimated $1 trillion in natural resources – including gold, oil, coal, copper, timber, precious gemstones, marble, onyx, and vast lithium deposits – a potentially lucrative cash cow that the international community can’t allow the country’s Taliban rulers to exclusively control.

Transparent and accountable growth of Afghanistan’s extractive industries could contribute to the economic development needed to aid the nearly 70% of Afghans who couldn't meet their basic needs in 2023. But instead, the Taliban have callously profited as gatekeepers to the country’s natural resource wealth since retaking control of the country in 2021.

As a series of new reports by the George W. Bush Institute shows, the world cannot afford to neglect the intense suffering of the Afghan people and the profound destabilizing impacts the Taliban’s brutal and corrupt regime has imposed, particularly given assessments that Afghanistan is again becoming a haven for terrorism.

Preventing the Taliban from abusing these resources and cutting off their access to other forms of corrupt and illicit financing is one of the biggest untapped pressure points the international community can target to improve the lives of Afghans – especially women and children – who are suffering under the Taliban’s brutal and misogynistic rule.

The United States, its allies, and the international community must target the sources of funding that the Taliban are using to line their own pockets and sustain their brutal rule in Afghanistan. That includes access to the wealth stemming from the country’s natural resources.

The Taliban have been on a quest to rebrand themselves as the legitimate authorities of Afghanistan to access the international funding they desperately want and need. Claiming they would root out the country’s historic corruption and posing as government bureaucrats effective at delivering services to the Afghan people are crucial to this effort.

The Return of the Left Alliance in Nepal Changes Regional Power Dynamics

Rishi Gupta

The Left Alliance government is back in Nepal for the third time. The Maoist Center-led government broke ties with the Nepali Congress and has allied with its former arch-rival, the Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist) or CPN-UML. The two other parties to join the coalition are the Madhdesh-based Janta Samajwadi Party and the debutant Swatantra Party, following an eight-point deal. It will be the third alliance government formed in Nepal since the National Assembly elections in November 2022.

With a history of short-term governments in Nepal’s 15 years of democratic progression, the current reconfiguration is no surprise, and it will be no surprise if the Maoists get back again with the Nepali Congress in months and years to come.

Power sharing, political discontent, ideological differences, underperformance, and pressure to restore Nepal to a Hindu state – a long list of reasons reportedly forced the Maoists to sever ties with the Nepali Congress. While the Nepali Congress expected the Maoist leader and current prime minister, Pushpa Kamal Dahal (also known by his nom de guerre, Prachanda) to leave the alliance, it did not expect an overnight turnaround.

Power-sharing has been a thorn in the side of the Left Alliance in the past. Dahal and CPN-UML chief and former Prime Minister K.P. Sharma Oli, are both strong personalities who have previously clashed over who gets to occupy the prime minister’s post. Such disagreements led to the dissolution of a short-lived unity party formed by the merger of the Maoists and the CPN-UML.

There’s a strong possibility that Oli will once again vie for the prime minister’s position, given his history of ambition. With CPN-UML holding the largest share of legislative seats within the alliance – the CPN-UML accounts for 76 seats, compared to the Maoists’ 32) – Oli could potentially leverage this advantage to renegotiate the terms of engagement, a tactic he has employed in the past.

Confronting China: Constructing a Transatlantic Tech Strategy

Bill Echikson

Should we “decouple?” Or should we “de-risk?”

China’s authoritarian model includes an aggressive push to take global tech leadership. From semiconductors to green tech, underwater Internet cables to bridges and roads, the US and the European Union are engaged in a running rivalry with Beijing. They are subsidizing their own national champions and institute different, sometimes conflicting, regulatory regimes. As Brussels becomes a global tech regulator, EU policies — due to their breadth and scope — risk unintended consequences when it comes to ensuring security.

CEPA’s new Confronting China project convenes a working group of transatlantic thought leaders to evaluate how best to meet this challenge. This Bandwidth special offers a preview of its work. Full-length policy papers will follow throughout 2024.

The allies have made important strides toward creating the foundations for alignment. Start with the philosophical. Both sides agree that the best approach is to “de-risk,” not “decouple.”

The US initially supported a radical break. President Donald Trump, raised tariffs and spoke in military terms of overcoming China. President Joseph Biden reinforced the hard line, introducing new rules to limit US high tech exports and investments. Administration officials began describing all ties with China as economic and security risks.

Europeans were aghast. In March 2023, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen called instead for “de-risking.” “I believe it is neither viable — nor in Europe’s interest — to decouple from China,” she said. “Our relations are not black or white — and our response cannot be either.”

The US accepted the change. In April 2023, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan adopted the European vocabulary, asserting “we are for de-risking, not for decoupling,” Sullivan said. This “means having resilient, effective supply chains and ensuring we cannot be subjected to the coercion of any other country.”

China drops 'peaceful reunification' reference to Taiwan

Yew Lun Tian and Laurie Chen

China will boost its defence spending by 7.2% this year, fuelling a military budget that has more than doubled under President Xi Jinping's 11 years in office as Beijing hardens its stance on Taiwan, according to official reports on Tuesday.

The increase mirrors the rate presented in last year's budget and again comes in well above the government's economic growth forecast for this year.

China also officially adopted tougher language against Taiwan as it released the budget figures, dropping the mention of "peaceful reunification" in a government report delivered by Premier Li Qiang at the opening of the National People's Congress (NPC), China's rubber-stamp parliament, on Tuesday.

Tensions have risen sharply in recent years over Taiwan, the democratically ruled island that China claims as its own, and elsewhere across East Asia as regional military deployments rise.
Li Mingjiang, a defence scholar at the Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS) in Singapore, said that despite China's struggling economy, Taiwan is a major consideration in Beijing's defence spending.

"China is showing that in the coming decade it wants to grow its military to the point where it is prepared to win a war if it has no choice but to fight one," Li said.

Since Xi became president and commander-in-chief more than a decade ago, the defence budget has ballooned to 1.67 trillion yuan ($230 billion) this year from 720 billion yuan in 2013.
The percentage rise in military spending has consistently outpaced the annual domestic economic growth target during his time in office. This year the growth target for 2024 is about 5%, similar to last year's goal, according to the government report.

The defence budget is closely watched by China's neighbours and the United States, who are wary of Beijing's strategic intentions and the development of its armed forces.

Despite ‘challenges,’ China sets ambitious goal for economic growth

Christian Shepherd

China is in a precarious economic moment. The world’s second-largest economy is facing weak domestic demand, low confidence and an industrial sector that’s producing far more than buyers want. Combined, this has shaken Chinese consumers and international investors alike.

This is not the assessment of analysts sitting in investment banks in far-flung capitals, but the frank outline presented by China’s premier, Li Qiang, who forecast Tuesday that China’s economy would grow by “around” 5 percent this year.

That’s the same as last year, when China was still struggling to emerge from three years of zero-covid policies, but is a target analysts consider ambitious without significant government spending to boost consumer demand.

“The foundation for China’s sustained economic recovery and growth is not solid enough,” Li said at the opening of the National People’s Congress, China’s rubber-stamp parliament, in Beijing’s Great Hall of the People.

The annual meetings of the NPC and China’s top political advisory body, events jointly known as the “Two Sessions,” set the policy agenda for the coming year and are closely watched for clues about how the notoriously opaque Communist Party might act.

Despite repeatedly acknowledging the economic challenges, Li laid out Beijing’s relatively modest plan to weather the slowdown without pumping enormous amounts of government money into the economy — and prioritize security over immediate growth.

“Stability is of overall importance, as it is the basis for everything we do,” he said.

Congress Must Act to Deter Chinese Cyberattacks

Franklin D. Kramer Robert J. Butler Melanie J. Teplinsky

Recent Congressional testimony highlighted the takedown of a Chinese hacking syndicate exploiting critical infrastructure. The FBI director, the head of Cyber Command, the Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, and the National Cyber Director unanimously underscored the “preeminent cyber threat posed by the People’s Republic of China” to the U.S. economy and national security.

FBI Director Christopher Wray testified that China is “actively attacking our economic security—engaging in wholesale theft of our innovation and our personal and corporate data,” “targeting our critical infrastructure—our water treatment plants, our electrical grid, our oil and natural gas pipelines, our transportation systems,” and “positioning…to wreak havoc and cause real-world harm to American citizens and communities.” He added that “Low blows against civilians are part of China’s plan.”

While the federal government, often coordinating with the private sector, is heavily engaged in contesting Chinese actions, Congress should enhance the United States’ ability to defeat such actions by taking four key steps.

First, it should be recognized that many of the innovative American technological advances in fields such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, additive manufacturing, and synthetic biology come from academia and small or startup businesses. Yet academic institutions and small and startup businesses lack the resources to undertake effective cybersecurity. Likewise, as the testimony underscored, the vulnerability of private sector critical infrastructure companies is all too clear.

Congress could, however, enact legislation authorizing cybersecurity transferable tax credits for small and startup businesses, academia, and key critical infrastructures such as transportation, energy, and water. Tax credits are highly effective in supporting investments such as computer chips and renewable energy. Establishing such credits for cybersecurity would dramatically increase the ability of small and startup businesses, academia, and critical infrastructures to afford to protect the intellectual property and operations so critical to the economy and national security of the United States.

Cyberattack Paralyzes the Largest U.S. Health Care Payment System

Reed Abelson and Julie Creswell

An urgent care chain in Ohio may be forced to stop paying rent and other bills to cover salaries. In Florida, a cancer center is racing to find money for chemotherapy drugs to avoid delaying critical treatments for its patients. And in Pennsylvania, a primary care doctor is slashing expenses and pooling all of her cash — including her personal bank stash — in the hopes of staying afloat for the next two months.

These are just a few examples of the severe cash squeeze facing medical care providers — from large hospital networks to the smallest of clinics — in the aftermath of a cyberattack two weeks ago that paralyzed the largest U.S. billing and payment system in the country. The attack forced the shutdown of parts of the electronic system operated by Change Healthcare, a sizable unit of UnitedHealth Group, leaving hundreds, if not thousands, of providers without the ability to obtain insurance approval for services ranging from a drug prescription to a mastectomy — or to be paid for those services.

In recent days, the chaotic nature of this sprawling breakdown in daily, often invisible transactions led top lawmakers, powerful hospital industry executives and patient groups to pressure the U.S. government for relief. On Tuesday, the Health and Human Services Department announced that it would take steps to try to alleviate the financial pressures on some of those affected: Hospitals and doctors who receive Medicare reimbursements would mainly benefit from the new measures.

U.S. health officials said they would allow providers to apply to Medicare for accelerated payments, similar to the advanced funding made available during the pandemic, to tide them over. They also urged health insurers to waive or relax the much-criticized rules imposing prior authorization that have become impediments to receiving care. And they recommended that insurers offering private Medicare plans also supply advanced funding.

H.H.S. said it was trying to coordinate efforts to avoid disruptions, but it remained unclear whether these initial government efforts would bridge the gaps left by the still-offline mega-operations of Change Healthcare, which acts as a digital clearinghouse linking doctors, hospitals and pharmacies to insurers. It handles as many as one of every three patient records in the country.


Tyler Hacker

In July, Ukrainian soldiers took to social media to voice complaints about training they received from US Army personnel in Germany. Chief among their criticisms was the seeming ignorance of commercial drone use on the battlefield. One soldier wrote, “The Americans have not participated in a serious war for a while now. Their army does not even have an analogue of the Chinese Mavik 3, it was a shock for us.” He added, “The concept of Maviks and the use of civilian copters is simply not even in their plans. Of course, they study our war, but they are still surprised that we use it this way.”

Given that the Ukrainian military is locked in daily ground combat with one of the US Army’s most serious competitors, these criticisms should be particularly concerning to military leaders. Since then, additional complaints have trickled out in mainstream reports. A recent MWI article tells of Ukrainian soldiers describing the Army’s response to new threats and innovations as “lacking urgency due to a ‘business as usual’ attitude.”

Ukrainian soldiers are right to highlight a serious gap in current US Army equipment, tactics, and training. When it comes to small unmanned aircraft systems (sUAS) for reconnaissance and strike at the squad to battalion level, the United States is behind the curve, partly due to self-imposed bureaucracy and institutional inertia. Meanwhile, US adversaries are gaining invaluable operational experience with these same technologies.

To fill this gap and begin the widespread experimentation that will be essential for driving the adaptation of combined arms tactics and future procurement programs, the US Army should introduce expendable off-the-shelf commercial drones to operational units as soon as possible. The Army should leverage the innovative and can-do spirit of its soldiers to close this dangerous small drone gap. To take advantage of this opportunity, it must specifically encourage experimentation and remove bureaucratic and cultural barriers that might prevent bottom-up innovation driven by junior leaders.

A Moment of Truth for the Army's Chief Laser Weapo

Jared Keller

After nearly a decade in development, the Army's primary vehicle-mounted laser weapon is on a collision course with its most fearsome foe yet -- dust.

The service has deployed four Directed Energy Maneuver-Short Range Air Defense, or DE M-SHORAD, prototypes -- Stryker infantry carrier vehicles outfitted with 50-kilowatt laser weapons systems -- to the Middle East for "real world testing" in an overseas operational environment, Army Vice Chief of Staff Gen. James Mingus recently told Breaking Defense.

The four prototypes reportedly arrived in the U.S. Central Command area of operations in early February, with the Army undertaking "initial testing activities" on the path to a future live-fire demonstration, according to Breaking Defense.

While the DE M-SHORAD system has already undergone testing at U.S. military facilities like the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, Central Command offers the potential for testing amid real-world challenges like dust storms and other atmospheric phenomena that, according to the Congressional Research Service, could render any directed-energy weapon essentially ineffective.

"Substances in the atmosphere -- particularly water vapor, but also sand, dust, salt particles, smoke, and other air pollution -- absorb and scatter light, and atmospheric turbulence can defocus a laser beam," according to the 2023 CRS report on the Defense Department's directed-energy weapons program.

Shipborne lasers like the 60-kilowatt High Energy Laser with Integrated Optical-dazzler and Surveillance, or HELIOS, weapon system tested aboard Navy destroyers in recent years can "markedly" reduce the impact of atmospheric water vapor on laser performance by emitting radiation only at "sweet spots" in the electromagnetic spectrum, per the CRS report.

The U.S. can’t afford to wait to fully embrace the world’s most effective weapon - Opinion

Shyam Sankar and Joab Rosenberg

Israel’s defense and intelligence services are renowned for nurturing young technical talent. But their real advantage in the Gaza war is built on senior technical expertise found in the reserve units that have been called up for duty. The mix of young, raw talent combined with the wisdom and experience of an older reserve generation is an innovative model the United States can and should embrace.

Among the 360,000 reservists called up since the Hamas attack of Oct. 7 are some of Israel’s most seasoned software engineers, data scientists and data analysts. After decades of delivering hyper-scaled software solutions in the commercial sector — and learning from their failures — these senior reservists are spearheading explosive change in the Israeli military’s technical and analytical capabilities. Furthermore, they provide unique peer-to-peer collaboration with senior military leaders as well as mentoring for early-career technologists.

Though the United States’ reserve structure is very different from Israel’s, the Defense Department has much to learn from that model. To rapidly mature its technological capabilities, as well as expand its access to world-class technical talent, the department must create pathways for experienced commercial innovators to put on the uniform. In short, the United States should establish a new form of elite technical reserve duty.

The landscape of warfare has changed, and today’s commanders are as likely to work from a faraway desk as from a fortified battlefield post. Their most lethal weapon system is software. Providing explicit reserve opportunities for commercial technologists would boost the U.S. capability in at least three ways. First, it would infuse top engineering capability into the ranks, from the Pentagon to the front lines. Second, it would allow senior military leaders to work directly with some of the country’s sharpest technological minds, not as outside advisers but as true mission partners. Third, it would support a two-way knowledge transfer in which military technologists learn the private sector’s best practices, while industry leaders gain a sharper understanding of what U.S. warfighters need.

The New Age of Naval Power


On Tuesday, Ukraine said that it sank another Russian warship, the Sergei Kotov, in the Black Sea. The loss of the Kotov ship and the Tsezar Kunikov before it last month now means that a whopping one-third of Russia’s Black Sea fleet has been disabled. The Kotov and Kunikov have joined Russia’s flagship Moskva at the bottom of the Black Sea and cemented the fact that the maritime theatre of the war in Ukraine remains the single most significant naval conflict since the Falklands war more than four decades ago.

These David vs. Goliath events raise an important question. Are ever-advanced drones rendering naval fleets obsolete? The fact that Ukraine is winning at sea would suggest as much. Yet the temptation to concede to this line of argument fundamentally misses two crucial points.

First, war at sea is deeply attritional. As a recent study conducted at the U.S. Naval War College pointed out, modern naval warfare relies on mass. The numbers of combatants— surface, submarine, and air—and a capacity to regenerate them at scale makes all the difference in war at sea. The U.S. navy’s case in World War II is symptomatic in this respect. In June 1940, the fleet included 478 combatants. By Victory Over Japan Day in 1945, the U.S. navy had 6,768 active vessels, far above any other major power on Earth.

Ukrainian drones and missiles are adding a 21st century meaning to the old truth that the ability to overcome losses makes all the difference in war at sea. In a conflict, a warship is safe only when it is outside the range of a cannon shot. A combatant, especially a numerically inferior one, will seek to close the gap and this is an assumption that navies need to address or else find themselves without a fleet. Yet losses are not a sufficient reason to suggest the coming obsolescence of fleets.

A Distracted America Still Leads the World

Walter Russell Mead

These are terrifying times. As a technological revolution propels the most dangerous arms race in human history, a coalition of powers ranging from China and Russia to Iran, Venezuela and North Korea is trying to undermine American security and break American power. In the U.S., the foreign-policy establishment in both political parties is widely discredited, but populist isolationism offers little in the way of constructive alternatives. Meanwhile, culture wars and bitter polarization have distracted and divided the one country that can lead the world back toward a more peaceful path. If the potential consequences of this mix of global crisis and American incapacity don’t trouble your sleep at times, you haven’t been paying attention.

Many factors contribute to this distressing situation, but the economic and social disruptions brought on by the Information Revolution are the heart of the matter. As social media upends political parties and systems across the world, and technological change transforms industries, political leaders are struggling to maintain the authority and legitimacy necessary for far-sighted foreign policy. At the same time, advances in drone warfare, artificial intelligence, hypersonic missiles and cyberattacks are changing the nature of war and international competition. Global problems are getting more urgent and difficult even as political leaders in the U.S. and elsewhere are losing their ability to lead.

The U.S. remains the key actor in the international system, but American society is less focused on dealing with foreign challenges than in resolving economic, political and cultural issues at home. This has happened before. In the late 19th century, Americans were focused on managing the consequences of the Industrial Revolution, such as the rise of conglomerates, the centralization of financial power in Wall Street banks, and mass migration from Europe to the industrial cities of the Northeast and Midwest. All the while, an agricultural crisis was unfolding as the economics of family farming became less favorable. International events commanded scant attention even as Europe drifted toward the disaster of World War I. In the 1930s, the Great Depression similarly led the U.S. to focus inward despite dangers beyond its borders.

Russia’s nuclear-capable missiles: a question of escalation control

William Alberque

Two years into Russia’s war in Ukraine, Moscow’s army has sustained enormous losses of both troops and materiel, with no indications that it will back down. At the same time, Russia is intentionally striking Ukrainian civilian infrastructure in large-scale missile and drone attacks – targets that are of no direct military value. However, Russia’s arsenal of conventionally armed land-attack missiles has proved less effective than Moscow hoped.

Examining these three areas – Russia’s ability to absorb military losses, its deliberate targeting of civilian infrastructure and the limitations of its conventionally armed land-attack missile arsenal – provides potential insights into Russia’s theatre nuclear doctrine. Furthermore, it raises questions about Moscow’s ability to control escalation.

A high tolerance for losses 

Russia’s capacity to sustain military losses is considerable, and it outstrips that of the United States and Western allies. US intelligence estimates that, in the first two years of its war in Ukraine, Russian casualties surpassed 315,000 dead or injured, with more than 1,800 tanks, 90 aircraft and 15 naval vessels destroyed – including its Black Sea flagship, the Moskva. In comparison, a total of nearly 212,000 US soldiers were killed or wounded in nine years of combat operations in Vietnam.

This has key implications for American and Russian military strategy as the two countries try to calculate each other’s threshold of ‘unacceptable losses’ to force the other side to concede. If the US and its allies’ tolerance for losses among their own personnel and materiel is an order of magnitude lower than Russia’s, then, in the event of a direct confrontation, Russia could be incentivised to use nuclear weapons to inflict an unacceptable number of losses on NATO armed forces to force capitulation.

Civilian infrastructure destruction 

As Russia destroys civilian infrastructure in Ukraine, it appears that Moscow is pursuing a strategy in which civilian casualties are a feature, not a consequence, of its campaign. This stands in contrast to the objectives of the United States, which seeks to minimise civilian casualties in military operations, including through the use of precision-guided weapons and improved targeting procedures.

How to Pave the Way for Diplomacy to End the War in Ukraine

Samuel Charap and Jeremy Shapiro

Ukraine and its Western backers have precious little common ground with Russia. Yet all the key players seem to agree on one critical issue: the war in Ukraine will end in negotiations. As Russian President Vladimir Putin told the conservative broadcaster Tucker Carlson in a recent interview: “We are willing to negotiate.” A spokesman for the U.S. National Security Council, while casting doubt on Putin’s sincerity, retorted in a statement that “both we and President Zelensky have said numerous times that we believe this war will end through negotiations.” The absence of decisive battlefield outcomes over the past two years have made the alternative to a negotiated end (one side’s absolute victory) seem like a fantasy.

Despite the absence of a viable alternative to eventual talks, there is no sign that the belligerents will start negotiations any time soon. Both sides believe that reaching an acceptable deal is currently impossible; each fears that the other won’t compromise or will use any pause to rest and refit for the next round of fighting.

Even if a deal is presently out of the question, all parties should take steps now to bring about the possibility of talks in the future. In the middle of a war, it is hard to know whether an adversary is genuinely ready to end the fighting or cynically talks of peace only to further the aims of war. The challenge of discerning an adversary’s intentions is nearly impossible in the absence of dialogue. Therefore, it is necessary to open channels of communication so as to be in a position to take advantage of the opportunity to pursue peace when that opportunity comes.

It is time to begin to build those channels. For Ukraine and its Western partners, that means “talking about talking,” or making conflict diplomacy a key subject of bilateral and multilateral interactions. And all parties should signal their openness to eventual negotiations. This will require the warring parties and their allies to take unilateral steps that convey their intentions to the other side. Such signals might include changes in rhetoric, the appointment of special envoys for negotiations, self-imposed limitations on deep strikes, and prisoner-of-war swaps.

If neither side begins this process, the warring parties will likely remain stuck where they are today—fiercely battling over inches of territory, at a terrible cost to human life and regional stability, for years to come.

Is Nuclear Proliferation Back?


Preparations are already underway at the United Nations for the 2026 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which was originally signed in 1968. Many expect a contentious event. Some countries are having second thoughts about the principle of non-proliferation, because they wonder if Russia would have invaded Ukraine in 2022 if the latter had kept the nuclear weapons it inherited from the Soviet Union. Such counterfactuals, in turn, have renewed others’ fears of nuclear proliferation.

These concerns are not new, of course. In my memoir, A Life in the American Century, I revisit an equally contentious period in the 1970s, when I was in charge of US President Jimmy Carter’s non-proliferation policy. Following the 1973 oil crisis, the conventional wisdom was that the world was running out of oil and needed to turn to nuclear energy. However, it was also widely – and wrongly – believed that the world was running out of uranium and therefore would have to rely instead on reprocessed plutonium (a byproduct of the uranium used in nuclear reactors).

According to some forecasts at the time, as many as 46 countries would be reprocessing plutonium by 1990. The problem, of course, was that plutonium is a weapons-usable material. A world awash in the trade of plutonium would be at much greater risk of nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism.

In 1974, India became the first country beyond the five listed in the NPT (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) to launch what it euphemistically called a “peaceful nuclear explosion.” It used plutonium reprocessed from American and Canadian uranium, which had been provided on the condition that it would be used for peaceful purposes only. France then agreed to sell a plutonium-reprocessing plant to Pakistan, whose prime minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, had said the country would eat grass before letting India develop a nuclear monopoly in South Asia. Meanwhile, in Latin America, West Germany was selling a uranium-enrichment plant to Brazil, and Argentina was exploring its options for using plutonium. With other countries quietly doing the same, an incipient nuclear arms race was developing.

Global Readjustment Of The Electric Vehicle Industry – Analysis

He Jun

In recent years, supported by green policies implemented by various countries and driven by capital’s pursuit of new energy vehicles, the global automotive industry has been undergoing a vigorous transformation towards electrification. Chinese electric vehicle (EV) manufacturers have emerged as rising stars in this new race, rapidly becoming the world’s major producer and exporter of EVs.

According to data from the General Administration of Customs of China, the country’s automobile exports reached 5.221 million units in 2023, an increase of 57.4% year-on-year. Japan’s total exports in 2023 were approximately 4.3 million units, and China officially surpassed Japan to become the world’s largest automobile exporter last year. Looking at the brand export sales rankings for 2023, the total export sales reached 3.83 million units, a year-on-year increase of 62.7%, with the export volume of new energy vehicles reaching 1.04 million units, an increase of 430,000 units. In the Chinese new energy vehicle market brand export volume in 2023, Tesla ranked first with 3,440,780 units, followed by BYD and MG, both with export volumes exceeding 200,000 units.

The rise of Chinese EV manufacturers extends across the entire industry chain, from lithium mines, power batteries, and component supply to vehicle production. Compared to foreign EVs, Chinese manufacturers also maintain their strong traditional advantage, i.e., low prices. From the current development trend, Chinese EV manufacturers are beginning to establish a certain degree of systematic advantage in the international market.

However, there has been a significant shift in the global situation of the development of EVs. In the previously enthusiastic markets of the United States and Europe, which once vigorously promoted new energy vehicles, there has recently been a major slowdown in the EV industry.

Nine Things Western Analysts Got Wrong About Russia and Its Invasion of Ukraine

Taras Kuzio

Executive Summary:
  • Many analysts in the West have misunderstood the conflict in Ukraine, leading to the mishandling of aid to Ukraine.
  • Many Western analysts overlooked the historical myth-making that the Kremlin had been promoting for many years, which aimed to erase Ukrainian history and identity.
  • The lack of military aid from the West following Moscow’s illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014 allowed Russia to regroup and prepare for the full-scale invasion in February 2022.
Two years ago, on February 24, 2022, Russian President Vladimir Putin launched what he termed a “special military operation” (SVO) against Ukraine. This was the first full-scale invasion of a European country since World War II, though the invasion truly began eight years earlier with the invasion of Donbas and the illegal annexation of Crimea. Many Western analysts, especially those with professed Russian expertise, misinterpreted several critical points, and Russian propaganda was quick to support these misconceptions.

1. Failed State: There was a long-standing depiction of Ukraine as weak, divided, and corrupt. This depiction is similar to Kremlin disinformation that portrayed Ukraine as a failed and artificial state (BBC, May 8, 2018; The Nation, February 15, 2022; Meduza, February 23, 2023). This view made it seem like protecting Ukraine was a lost cause for Western countries, deterring them from providing the aid Kyiv needed.

2. Pro-Russian: Russian speakers in Ukraine were portrayed as disloyal and pro-Russian, adding to the stereotype of a weak and divided Ukraine. This depiction is similar to that of Kremlin disinformation and Russian nationalist claims of all Russian speakers as “compatriots” who seek to become a unified part of a pan-Russian people (Gazeta.ru, April 5, 2021; RIA Novosti, May 26, 2021; TASS, July 12, 2021, Meduza, June 9, 2022). 

Pentagon’s budget process needs ‘fundamental restructuring,’ panel says


The Pentagon requires a “fundamental restructuring” of its budget-making process and new authorities to make funding more flexible in order for the department to be able to quickly respond to new threats or adopt critically needed tech, according to a new report by congressionally mandated bipartisan commission.

The almost 400-page report, published today, was written by the Commission on Planning, Programming, Budgeting and Execution (PPBE), draws on two years of research and more than 400 interviews, and resulted in 28 recommendations, half of which are denoted as key changes.

Among them are reforms that would allow the Defense Department to address long-held complaints about the current budget process, including giving it new authorities to move money amongst weapons programs or to start new programs even while under a continuing resolution. That’s currently forbidden, and a CR, like the one the military is currently under, keeps spending exactly as it was the previous year.

The commission also calls for the wholesale replacement of the PPBE system with a new “defense resourcing system” that aims to align the budget request more closely to strategy.

While some of the recommendations can be immediately implemented by the Pentagon, others will need congressional approval or long-term buy-in from department leadership, said Ellen Lord, the commission’s vice chair and a former Pentagon acquisition chief.

“We believe we have a substantive document here with 28 very important recommendations that will all be for naught if we do not have implementation guidance from the department, as well as language from Congress,” she told reporters.

In a statement released this afternoon, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks commended the commission for their work but fell short of expressing support for any of the individual recommendations.