11 March 2024

Biden outlines military plans to build port in Gaza for aid

Bryant Harris and Leo Shane III

The U.S. military will establish a temporary port in the Gaza Strip to deliver humanitarian aid to starving Palestinians, while continuing to send weapons to Israel, President Joe Biden confirmed in his State of the Union address Thursday.

“No U.S. boots will be on the ground,” Biden said. “A temporary pier will enable a massive increase in the amount of humanitarian assistance getting into Gaza every day. And Israel must also do its part. Israel must allow more aid into Gaza and ensure that humanitarian workers aren’t caught in the cross fire.

“To the leadership of Israel I say this: Humanitarian assistance cannot be a secondary consideration or a bargaining chip.”

Senior administration officials told reporters earlier Thursday the mission would route humanitarian aid through Cyprus to the temporary port in Gaza. The White House is also pushing Israel and Egypt to allow more aid through the land crossings at Rafah and Kerem Shalom.

The announcement, which drew bipartisan applause from lawmakers gathered, came amid calls from Biden for Congress to pass his long-stalled foreign aid bill to arm Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan.

The Senate passed the $95 billion foreign aid plan by a 70-29 vote in February. It includes $14 billion in Israel military aid, $48 billion in security assistance for Ukraine and $4 billion to arm Taiwan.

Israel receives an annual $3.8 billion in U.S. military aid, but the White House has said the Defense Department lacks the replenishment funds needed to continue arming Ukraine from U.S. stockpiles.

Air Supplies to Gaza: Commendable Political Theater but No Long-Term Solution

Mark F. Cancian

The United States recently airdropped thousands of packaged meals to relieve suffering in Gaza―38,000 on March 1 and 36,800 on March 4. It is an important gesture that will help a few Gazans and signal to the others that they are not forgotten. However, to feed the entire population, the United States and its allies would need to increase these daily deliveries by a factor of 90. That's not remotely practical. The only solution is delivery by truck, but that requires a degree of cooperation by the parties involved—Israel, the United States, Hamas, and Egypt—that has been elusive.

Q1: What are these packaged meals?

A1: The packaged meal, called a meal, ready-to-eat (MRE), was developed for military use. Each meal is wrapped in a plastic container and has a long shelf life, so it can be stored until needed. The meals weigh about half a pound and contain 1,250 calories. MREs come in 24 different menus but share the same basic structure: a main meal, crackers with a spread, a fruit, a bakery item, and an accessory package with a spoon, napkin, coffee, salt, pepper, and toilet paper—for example, MRE 43/Menu 2: beef shredded in barbecue sauce, fruit puree squeeze, jalapeño cheddar cheese spread, tortillas, a cinnamon bun, and chocolate hazelnut protein drink powder. Each provides a balanced diet. There is a pork-free menu suitable for Muslim populations. The United States has large amounts in storage as part of its wartime stocks.

The United States has another meal, a humanitarian daily ration, specifically designed to feed malnourished civilian populations. Like MREs, these are prepackaged and easily transportable, though with nearly twice the calories and twice the weight. Apparently, the United States used MREs because they are more plentiful and readily available. In the future, the United States might switch to these specifically designed packages.

Can Two Bad Ideas in Israel and Hamas Be Killed?

Ronald Tiersky

Israel’s attempt to “destroy” Hamas is often derided that you can kill its leaders and fighters and blow up its tunnel network, but that “you can’t kill an idea”.

This seems an obvious proposition, but it is false. Or rather, in the abstract no idea ever dies but can as a practical matter fall into the dustbin of history.

Hamas’s particular idea is “the Palestinian cause”. Rescuing the Palestinian cause was the justification for attacking Israel on October 7. It was the justification for taking hostages, which is against the international law of war, as well as justification for accepting the total devastation of Gaza as a place to live, with 30,000 civilians dead and the remaining population (its own people) now on the point of famine.

The Hamas strategy was to “overthrow” the geopolitical tendency of Arab governments’ growing acceptance of Israel. Most Arab governments—Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Morocco, and soon the biggest one, Saudi Arabia—were abandoning the Palestinian cause. They no longer rejected Israel’s existence as a state. In fact, they want Israel as an economic partner and as a geopolitical ally against Iran.

Hamas’s leadership said it knew full well that Israel’s response to the October 7 attack would be brutal. And it has been, without doubt, more so than they could ever have imagined.

But the goal, the idea, remains. Hamas wanted to re-elevate the Palestinian cause as a dominant element in Middle East politics. They’ve done this, and therefore they persist, hidden in their tunnels with their remaining hostages.

What is this cause, the goal of the Palestinian “resistance”? The cause is to destroy the State of Israel and empty Israel of its Jews. To retake what is considered stolen Palestinian land and to establish a new Palestinian state on territory “from the river to the sea”. It’s a conception of a Greater Palestine, comparable to the ultra-Orthodox and ultra-Zionist concept of Greater Israel. It’s very simple and very clear.

Pakistan's democracy hanging by a thread


Shehbaz Sharif was sworn in as Pakistan's new prime minister Sunday amid a swirl of accusations that his party, in concert with the Pakistani military, rigged the elections.

Earlier this month, voters in Pakistan woke up to what initially appeared to be an overwhelming victory to former Prime Minister Imran Khan’s party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), and a strong rebuke to the powerful military-backed government in the country’s parliamentary elections. Instead, the election was ultimately called for the military's preferred candidate, Sharif, of the conservative Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) party.

Early results, broadcast widely by the Pakistani media, had shown a landslide victory for PTI. After the election was called for Sharif's party, nonpartisan observers like the Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) found that there were election law violations at over two-thirds of polling sites, which almost certainly helped change the outcomes.

This was in addition to unprecedented efforts by the Pakistani military to discourage voter turnout and intimidate candidates running with the populist PTI, including forcing PTI-aligned candidates to run as independents, banning the PTI’s iconic cricket bat symbol from the ballot in a country where a significant number of illiterate voters rely on those symbols to identify candidates, and widespread mobile outages.

Late in the evening of the election, after an unusual gap in media coverage, constituencies where televised results and hard documentation (known as “Form 45s”) had shown PTI-backed candidates with commanding leads were suddenly showing “official” results in which PML-N candidates had surged to improbable leads, in some cases with PTI-backed candidates losing votes.

The tit-for-tat conflict between Iran and Pakistan

The round of attacks instigated by Iran against Pakistan highlighted questions about the aims of militants in Balochistan – which straddles the Iran–Pakistan border – and whether they are primarily motivated by domestic grievances or serve as tools of foreign influence in the region.

In January 2024, unprecedented cross-border strikes between Iran and Pakistan and focusing on Balochistan raised concerns that ongoing conflicts in the Middle East were expanding eastwards. While tensions have since decreased, the fact that Iran’s motives for instigating the round of strikes remain unclear is a source of unease. It is a region replete with conspiracy theories and in which many abide by the axiom ‘my enemy’s enemy is my friend’. The most plausible explanation, when seen alongside the simultaneous Iranian airstrikes against Iraq and Syria, is that Tehran believes, with some justification, that those it targeted are encouraged by anti-Iranian regional and extra-regional actors. The strikes may well have served an additional purpose in sending a warning to its domestic – and potentially restive – Baloch and Kurdish populations.

Sunni and Shia proxy wars

Relations between Iran and Pakistan worsened after the 1979 Iranian Revolution, when Shiism became the central organising force for Iran’s government, and Islam thus became a divisive issue between the countries. After the secession of Bangladesh from the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in 1971, and particularly during the rule of Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq, who came to power in 1977, Islamabad promoted Islam to consolidate its national identity. Over time, this shifted from an Islamic to a more specifically Sunni identity. In post-revolution Iran, however, promoting Shiism and protecting Shia communities both domestically and externally became paramount. Furthermore, unlike Tehran under the Islamic Republic, Islamabad has retained its close relationship with Washington.

External events fed into the importance of these shifts. Towards the end of 1979, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s espousal of Sunni Islam had the benefit of ingratiating the country with Saudi Arabia. In return for allowing, even encouraging, Saudi Arabia’s propagation of Wahhabi Islam in Pakistan, Islamabad received money and oil, and its military played a significant role across the Middle East, including protecting religious sites in Saudi Arabia.

In Pakistan, the Military Is Still Running the Show

Sarah Khan

Pakistani voters want change. On February 8, they delivered a surprising rebuke to the powers that be in national elections. Independent candidates aligned with the imprisoned former Prime Minister Imran Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party (PTI) won a plurality of parliamentary seats, dealing a blow to the incumbent Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) and its allies, as well as to the military, which supported the PML-N in the runup to the voting. 

China, Philippines at a sea fight breaking point


Just as Australia and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) finalized their joint communique after a special summit in Melbourne this week, yet another major incident erupted in the South China Sea.

According to Philippine authorities, an armada of China Coast Guard (CCG) and Chinese maritime militia vessels “harassed, blocked, deployed water cannons, and executed maneuvers in another attempt to illegally impede or obstruct” a Philippine Navy resupply mission to the hotly contested Second Thomas Shoal.

The collision caused minor structural damages to the Philippine patrol vessel BRP Sindangan. But, for the first in recent memory, multiple Filipino officers sustained injuries after Chinese coast guard vessels simultaneously fired water cannons at their resupply vessel.

The violent incident prompted open discussions in Manila on whether it should call for direct American military assistance under the 1951 Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT).

In a statement, US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller quickly affirmed that the MDT “extends to armed attacks on Philippine armed forces, public vessels or aircraft – including those of its Coast Guard – anywhere in the South China Sea.”

However, Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos Jr maintained that the recent clashes didn’t meet the threshold for a joint military response.

“I do not think that it is a time or the reason to invoke the Mutual Defense Treaty. However, we continue to view with great alarm this continuing dangerous maneuvers and dangerous actions that are being done against our seamen, our Coast Guard,” Marcos Jr said.

China steps up grey-zone warfare to exhaust Taiwan, defence report says

Yimou Lee

China has stepped up grey-zone warfare against Taiwan, aiming to make the areas around the democratic island "saturated" with balloons, drones and civilian boats, a Taiwan defence ministry report said on Thursday.

Taiwan, whose government rejects Beijing's sovereignty claims, has complained in recent years that China has been using so-called grey-zone warfare, which wields irregular tactics to exhaust a foe without resorting to open combat.

In a report sent to parliament, a copy of which was reviewed by Reuters, the ministry said Beijing has launched "multi-front saturated grey-zone" tactics to harass Taiwan, including increased patrols of ships and planes.

China has attempted to "increase burdens of our naval and air forces and to obscure the existence of the median line in the strait", the report said, referring to an unofficial border between the two sides, which China's forces have began regularly crossing in recent years.

It added China has also incorporated research and militia vessels in a move to "disguise military activities with civilians".

China's Taiwan Affairs Office did not immediately respond to request for comment.

To counter the Chinese threats, the ministry said it was working on measures to "preserve" its troops in the event of a war by boosting the resilience of its infrastructure and running drills to ensure Taiwan forces survive in a prolonged conflict. It also said it was drawing lessons from the war in Ukraine and the war between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas.

$10m Abrams tanks no match for $500 Russian drones


A number of counterattacks by the Ukrainians, in some cases using reserve forces, have taken place along the line of contact. While reports are not yet complete, it appears that all the Ukrainian attempts to roll back Russian gains have failed, with the possible exception of Robotyne.

Meanwhile the Russians have either taken or will soon take a number of villages including Ivaniska, Bilohorivka, Berdichev, Pobjeda and Novomikhailovka.

Since February 28, the Russians have destroyed three Abrams tanks. The most recent was knocked out on March 4 by an anti-tank missile, probably a Russian Kornet. The first two Abramses were hit by low-cost Russian drones carrying RPG-7 warheads.

An Abrams tank on fire in Ukraine

The low-cost drones go under the name Ghoul. They are quadcopters that are battery powered. The Ghoul is a first-person-view (FPV) drone.

The drone can communicate with a sister relay drone, extending its operational range and making it effective in hilly and built-up areas where its near line-of-sight radio transmissions are relayed by the sister drone.

A nearly $1 trillion defense budget faces headwinds at home and abroad

Bryant Harris

Sen. Roger Wicker came to a Heritage Foundation event in January with a big request.

He wanted the conservative think tank’s help mustering public and congressional support for a $1.4 trillion defense budget, nearly 50% higher than fiscal 2023 spending levels.

The Mississippi Republican said this figure, equal to 5% of U.S. gross domestic product, is necessary given multiplying threats across the world.

“The U.S. should lead in the Indo-Pacific,” he said. “The U.S. should lead in Europe. The U.S. should lead in the Middle East. This is our official strategy. The U.S. should seek to win, not just manage, against China and Russia. The U.S. should deter Iran and North Korea and terrorist groups.”

The senator’s appeal was quickly followed by a panel with three speakers, all with ties to former President Donald Trump, who questioned the size of the current defense budget, much less a 50% increase, and argued the U.S. can’t do it all.

“Our military is not what it should be, despite spending almost $1 trillion,” said Elbridge Colby, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense who helped develop Trump’s National Defense Strategy.

The contrast between Wicker’s push and the skepticism of many Republicans promises to create new complications as the U.S. defense budget surges toward $1 trillion.

Last year’s debt ceiling agreement caps the FY24 defense top line at $886 billion, though the Pentagon and all other agencies face a 1% cut if Congress does not pass a full FY24 budget by April 30. Even so, FY24 defense spending could balloon as high as $953 billion if Congress also approves President Joe Biden’s foreign aid request for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

UK military’s 10-year spending plan isn’t affordable, committee finds

Andrew Chuter

A powerful U.K. parliamentary committee has reported what it says is the “largest affordability gap” since 2012 between the Defence Ministry’s budget and equipment requirements.

The Public Accounts Committee’s review, released March 8, comes two days after the government opted not to allocate extra funding for the military in its 2024 budget.

The deficit for the 10-year equipment plan, which the ministry published late last year and begins in 2023, will amount to £16.9 billion (U.S. $21.5 billion), the committee found. However, that could grow by a further £12 billion if the individual armed services each took the same approach to stating their equipment requirement costs, the committee noted.

The committee reviews the 10-year defense equipment plan annually as part of its role in overseeing how the government spends taxpayers’ money. The committee has consistently cast doubt on the affordability of the ministry’s equipment plans, but the latest report is especially critical.

The 10-year plan, based on financial data from March 31, 2023, saw the ministry allocate an equipment budget of £288.6 billion over the following decade to 2033 — a £46.3 billion rise on the figures presented from 2022.

“However, forecast costs have increased by £65.7 to £305.5 billion, resulting in a £16.9 billion deficit between the MoD’s capability requirements and the available budget,” the committee reported.

Fincantieri in talks to buy Leonardo’s torpedo business, source says

Tom Kington

Italian shipyard Fincantieri is in talks with Italy’s Leonardo to buy the latter’s torpedo unit for €200-€300 million (U.S. $218-326 million), a source with knowledge of the negotiations told Defense News.

The move by Fincantieri reflects the state-controlled yard’s push to beef up its defense business, which currently accounts for 40% of overall revenue; the remainder comes from offshore and cruise ship work.

For more than a decade Leonardo has searched on and off for a buyer or partner for its torpedo unit known as WASS. The company’s primary focus is aircraft, helicopters and high-tech electronics.

A spokesperson for Fincantieri declined to comment for this story.

WASS, which stands for Whitehead Alenia Sistemi Subacquei, traces its origins to Englishman John Whitehead, who developed the world’s first effective self-propelled torpedo in 1875 in Fiume — then part of the Austro-Hungarian empire, and now in Croatia.

In 1995, WASS became part of the Italian group Finmeccanica, which has since been renamed Leonardo.

Fincantieri CEO Pierroberto Folgiero told Defense News in December he was keen on ramping up his firm’s undersea defense business, a sector the company predicts will be worth €94 billion between 2024 and 2030.

“We will be an integrator, deciding whether to make or buy systems,” Folgiero said at the time, adding that Fincantieri would also harness oil and gas technology for subsea defense needs.

The New Executive Order on Personal Data

James Andrew Lewis

The new Biden administration executive order (EO) to protect Americans’ sensitive personal data is a valuable symbolic act and highlights the long-standing congressional failure to pass national privacy legislation. As the world becomes more data-intensive, the lack of national privacy legislation is a growing foreign policy problem for the United States. The EO attempts to address this, and is also a recognition that the United States has moved into a very intense espionage conflict with Russia and China, where data analytics can play a major role in gaining an intelligence advantage in a globally interconnected digital environment.

The EO sends a clear message, even a stern message, that the United States would prefer that hostile foreign powers do not acquire data on masses of Americans. As the 2024 election approaches, Americans do not want to wake up and find out that there is a Chinese equivalent to the Cambridge Analytica episode, where a British data broker acquired in bulk the personal information of Americans for use in the 2016 election. But the EO’s practical effect is negligible because it is easily circumvented.

Why China would want masses of personal data is not something it has publicly discussed, and it is not clear why it collects it. The initial focus for China’s data collection was its own citizens, and many of those people reside in China, making it an internal security function and a standard application of a Leninist tool. Amassing data for domestic intelligence purposes in China use goes back at least to the 1949 revolution, but within the past decade, it has moved beyond a domestic focus. Chinese intelligence officers hacked the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the records of airlines, hotels, health insurance companies, and others to acquire immense databases containing the personal information of millions of Americans. The 2015 OPM hack was part of a larger effort by China to populate a data-centric approach to intelligence and use Chinese data analytics programs for spying. OPM was signal failure by the United States, as China obtained the SF-86 (“Questionnaire for National Security Position”) for a reported 19.7 million applicants for a U.S. government security clearance. Every person who has a security clearance must complete the SF-86, which requires sensitive personal information and SF-86 data is much more valuable for counterespionage than what can be obtained from data brokers.

Russia's Hypersonic Missile Risk

Ellie Cook

Russia has hammered Ukraine with its hypersonic missiles throughout the more than two years of full-scale war in the country. But Moscow is walking a fine line, testing out its new capabilities while trying not to give away a blueprint for how Russia's adversaries could best defend against them.

Kyiv's military has often reported Kinzhal missiles heading for its territory and has said its air defenses can shoot down the supposedly unstoppable weapons. In mid-February 2024, a Ukrainian state-backed think tank said it had recovered fragments of a Zircon, or Tsirkon, hypersonic missile.

This was thought to be the first use of a Zircon in the war-torn country. Both the Kinzhal and the Zircon were among the "super weapons" unveiled by Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2018.

But firing these hypersonic weapons in Ukraine is a gamble for the Kremlin. Their use furnishes Moscow with a larger arsenal and an opportunity to test its "next-generation" systems, but it also allows Russia's adversaries, like the U.S. and other NATO countries, a better look at their capabilities in a combat environment.

Kyiv has reported throughout the war that Russia has fired hypersonic weapons at Ukraine. But experts suggest that while Russia gains valuable experience from testing the "next-generation" missiles, Moscow is also giving away vital knowledge to its adversaries.

"We're learning a lot from the operational use, successes, lack of success," said William Alberque, director of strategy, technology and arms control at the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) and a former NATO official. It is "astonishing" that Moscow is using some of its most advanced systems, intended to threaten NATO, and that Russia is "providing us with an opportunity to learn so much about them."

America’s New Twilight Struggle With Russia

Max Bergmann, Michael Kimmage, Jeffrey Mankoff, and Maria Snegovaya

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine forced Washington to rethink its fundamental assumptions about Moscow. Every U.S. president from Bill Clinton to Joe Biden had sought some degree of engagement with Russia. As late as 2021, Biden expressed hope that Russia and the United States could arrive at “a stable, predictable relationship.” But Russia’s brutal war on Ukraine has radically altered that assessment. It is now clear that the two countries will remain antagonists for years to come. The Kremlin possesses immense disruptive global power and is willing to take great risks to advance its geopolitical agenda. Coping with Russia will demand a long-term strategy, one that echoes containment, which guided the United States through the Cold War, or what President John F. Kennedy called a “long, twilight struggle” against the Soviet Union.

More than 75 years have passed since the diplomat George Kennan first formulated that strategy in his famous “Long Telegram” from Moscow and then in Foreign Affairs under the pseudonym “X.” In his 1947 article, Kennan described containment as a political strategy reinforced by “the adroit and vigilant application of counterforce at a series of constantly shifting geographical and political points.” The goal was to avoid direct conflict with the Soviet Union while halting the spread of Soviet power.

A new containment strategy must account for the novelty of the present moment. It must lean on U.S. allies more than its twentieth-century antecedent did. And it must be sustained for the long haul—a task that will be harder without the bipartisan consensus that marked the Cold War fight against communism. The geography of containment will also differ. Kennan’s vision of containment focused primarily on Europe. Today, post-Soviet Eurasia and the rest of the world will be more central.

A clearly articulated new containment strategy would presume that Russia will continue trying to dominate Ukraine. This strategy would signal to NATO allies and to Ukraine that the United States remains steadfastly committed to European security, while reassuring U.S. officials and American citizens worried about escalation. 

Sea Drone Swarms – Can NATO’s Navies Avoid Russia’s Fate?

Steven Wills

With the probable loss of the missile patrol ship Sergey Kotov on March 5 in coastal waters near Feodosia, occupied Crimea, the Russian Black Sea fleet has lost three vessels in similar drone swarm attacks (and many more in cruise missile and aerial drone strikes.)

While many have proclaimed the drone campaign a revolution in naval warfare, the drones in fact continue a time-honored tactic of crewed small combatants working as a team to destroy a single, larger, and more capable opponent.

The Ukrainians have much to be proud of in their drone surface force campaign and have honed their drone swarm tactics to be remarkable effect. The Russian Black Sea fleet, on the other hand, seems to have learned little in the year since Ukrainian unmanned surface attack vessels were first introduced into combat.

Western navies are watching with care. When operating in contested coastal areas, US and NATO warships now:
  • employ additional lookouts,
  • assign additional weapons teams with machine guns to engage small-craft
  • provide air or aviation drone coverage to detect incoming attackers, and
  • institute maneuvering plans to minimize the threat posed by smaller, nimble, and well-armed opponents.
Drone technology has shown significant, evolutionary development. But for now, at least, Western warships are able to successfully engage and destroy similar drone swarms. Simply put, US and NATO navies are more capable and more competent than their Russian counterparts, as recent engagements in the Red Sea demonstrate.

The Biden Doctrine

Colin Dueck

Does the United States currently have a grand strategy?

If the question is whether the US has a tightly coordinated, effective approach where the ends are appropriate, and the means are carefully built up to match the ends, then clearly the answer is no. Though to be fair, such coherence has been rare in the post-Cold War era, regardless of administration. On the other hand, if the question is whether the Biden administration has a broad set of ends or objectives and a set of means or policy tools to pursue those objectives, then I think the answer is yes. Let me try to sketch what I believe they think they are doing, followed by some obvious criticisms.

If the Biden administration’s grand strategy could be summed up in a single phrase, it would be - progressive transformation at home and abroad.

The central dilemma for the Democratic Party foreign policy community after November 8, 2016, was essentially: what went wrong? Donald Trump’s presidential win that evening was unexpected, to say the least. Democrats needed to think through how to prevent this from happening again. Thoughtful analysts like Thomas Wright laid out two basic alternatives. One was to simply restore the suppositions of the Obama era. The premise here would be that Obama largely got it right on US foreign policy, and that the only challenge was to restore those assumptions to power. The second alternative was readjustment. With this option, Democrats would quietly concede that Trump had a point here and there, and they would adjust certain policy assumptions, partly to avoid being blindsided the next time around.

In the end, the Biden team came up with a kind of fusion of these two alternatives. This fusion can be inferred not only from key documents such as the 2022 National Security Strategy, but as in any administration, from presidential speeches, outside evidence, and even off-the-cuff remarks by the commander-in-chief.

Canada Needs Real Foreign Intelligence

David V. Gioe, Alan R Jones, Thomas Maguire, Daniel Stanton, and Alan Treddenick

In the 1984 movie The Karate Kid, Mr. Miyagi counsels his protégé Daniel LaRusso with a parable: “Walk right side [of the road], safe. Walk left side, safe. Walk middle, sooner or later, get the squish, just like grape.” Half measures are the road to defeat.

John Bolton’s Biggest Fears About Trump 2.0

Keith Johnson

For five decades, John Bolton has been a fixture in the foreign-policy firmament of Republican administrations—an uber-hawk, a “bull in a china shop” of global diplomacy, and a consistently thoughtful and forthright proponent of a certain vision of U.S. power. He was a senior official at the State Department and the National Security Council in the administrations of Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and George W. Bush.

Sweden Enters NATO, a Blow to Moscow and a Boost to the Baltic Nations

Steven Erlanger

Sweden formally joined NATO on Thursday, becoming its 32nd member two years after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and sharply bolstering, with Finland, the military alliance’s deterrent in the Baltic and North Seas.

With the addition of the new Nordic member states — Finland joined last year — the president of Russia, Vladimir V. Putin, now finds himself faced with an enlarged and motivated NATO, one that is no longer dreaming of a permanent peace but instead facing years of trying to contain a newly aggressive, imperial Russia.

On Thursday, after months of uncertainty caused by the hesitations of Turkey and Hungary, Sweden officially became a member by depositing its legal paperwork — its instrument of accession to the North Atlantic Treaty — with the U.S. State Department in Washington.

In a brief ceremony, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken received the documents from Ulf Kristersson, the Swedish prime minister, and said: “Good things come to those who wait.” Mr. Blinken said that “everything changed” after Russia’s invasion. “Swedes realized something very profound: that if Putin was willing to try to erase one neighbor from the map, then he might well not stop there.”

Mr. Blinken said Sweden’s membership was a clear example “of the strategic debacle that Ukraine has become for Russia,” adding: “Everything that Putin sought to prevent, he has actually precipitated by his actions, by his aggression.”

Mr. Kristersson said that “today is a truly historic day.” Sweden, he said, “will defend freedom together with the countries closest to us — both in terms of geography, culture and values.” He pledged that Sweden, which had largely dismantled its ground forces after 1989 but has maintained a powerful air force and navy, would soon reach NATO’s goal of spending 2 percent of G.D.P. on the military.

The Pentagon is funding new chip designs for the AI era


You’ve likely heard of Nvidia, which just beat out Aramco to become the world’s third-largest company by market capitalization. But that high stock valuation bespeaks a big problem: the demand for chips that can run energy-intensive AI applications far exceeds supply. That’s an especially big problem for the military, which is looking to run complex AI programs in environments where calling back to large enterprise cloud clusters won’t be possible due to electromagnetic interference, remoteness, etc.

DARPA is funding research into new chips to do the job. On Wednesday, the defense-research agency announced an $18.6 million grant to EnCharge AI, a California company founded in 2022 by Princeton computer science professor Naveen Verma.

The grant is part of DARPA’s $78 million Optimum Processing Technology Inside Memory Arrays, or OPTIMA, a program that aims to develop new types of chips that can run AI applications using fewer computing resources, which also saves on energy and size.

Verma and his team have created a new type of chip for the the type of AI called large-scale convoluted neural networks. Today’s chips generally shuttle data back and forth between external memory and the embedded memory located in the chip’s processor, so data is effectively stored in one place but processed in another place. That results in wasted energy and delays, just as if you had to constantly check a reference book for answers you couldn’t memorize.

Instead, Verma’s chip does in-memory computing. Their processor uses “metal–oxide–metal (MOM) finger capacitors rather than current-domain computation, relying on bitcell transistor transfer functions,” he wrote in a 2019 paper. This has increased energy efficiency by a factor of 16 and throughput by a factor of 5. That could enable much smaller devices like phones and laptops to run much more complex AI programs without need to call back to large server clusters. “The future is about decentralizing AI inference, unleashing it from the data center, and bringing it to phones, laptops, vehicles, and factories,” Verma said in a press release.

Palantir wins $178M Army deal for TITAN artificial intelligence-enabled ground stations


The Army is moving forward with Palantir as the prime contractor for the next phase of its Tactical Intelligence Targeting Access Node (TITAN) ground station program, which aims to provide soldiers with next-generation data fusion and deep-sensing capabilities via artificial intelligence and other tools.

Palantir’s USG subsidiary was awarded a $178.4 million other transaction agreement, which calls for the delivery of 10 prototypes, the company announced Wednesday.

TITAN is considered a critical modernization component for the Army’s multi-domain operations (MDO) concept because it will integrate various types of data from numerous platforms to help commanders make sense of a fast-moving and complex battlefield.

Under the new agreement, which has a 24-month period of performance, Palantir will deliver five “basic” and five “advanced” variants of the ground station.

“Overall, it’s a software-defined solution, so it’s designed to be modular, flexible, adaptable, configurable. But currently, as envisioned, there’s two different variants — the advanced variant that is at higher echelon, and a more tactical version, which is the basic variant,” Bryant Choung, Palantir’s senior vice president for defense technology, told DefenseScoop.

The advanced variant has a Family of Medium Tactical Vehicles (FMTV) form factor. “It’s a larger truck-based platform, incorporates a data center, more or less on the back, as well as a shelter that allows soldiers to be in there operating on multiple classified networks,” he explained.

The basic variant has a Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) form factor that’s “designed to be more tactically suited, more on the move, that allows them to do more of the capabilities from their seats within the JLTV,” Choung said.

The Dark Side of Open Source AI Image Generators


Whether through the frowning high-definition face of a chimpanzee or a psychedelic, pink-and-red-hued doppelganger of himself, Reuven Cohen uses AI-generated images to catch people’s attention. "I've always been interested in art and design and video and enjoy pushing boundaries,” he says—but the Toronto-based consultant, who helps companies develop AI tools, also hopes to raise awareness of the technology’s darker uses.

“It can also be specifically trained to be quite gruesome and bad in a whole variety of ways,” Cohen says. He’s a fan of the freewheeling experimentation that has been unleashed by open source image-generation technology. But that same freedom enables the creation of explicit images of women used for harassment.

After nonconsensual images of Taylor Swift recently spread on X, Microsoft added new controls to its image generator. Open source models can be commandeered by just about anyone and generally come without guardrails. Despite the efforts of some hopeful community members to deter exploitative uses, the open source free-for-all is near-impossible to control, experts say.

“Open source has powered fake image abuse and nonconsensual pornography. That’s impossible to sugarcoat or qualify,” says Henry Ajder, who has spent years researching harmful use of generative AI.

Ajder says that at the same time that it’s becoming a favorite of researchers, creatives like Cohen, and academics working on AI, open source image generation software has become the bedrock of deepfake porn. Some tools based on open source algorithms are purpose-built for salacious or harassing uses, such as “nudifying” apps that digitally remove women’s clothes in images.

Starting from Beginning: Strengthening of Strategic Foreign Partnerships from Initial Acquisition Training, Education

Steve Morningstar & John F. Kennedy 

This is a three-part series elaborating on U.S. Special Operations Command’s line of effort to expand and reinforce generational relationships with allies and partners at the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School.

"Your responsibilities may involve the command of more traditional forces, but in less traditional roles,” said President John F. Kennedy during a speech to West Point Class of 1962. “Men risking their lives, not as combatants, but as instructors or advisors, or as symbols of our nation's commitments."

Kennedy’s speech implies soft skills necessary for his view of a new way of engaging with foreign partners. It requires an in-depth understanding of culture, language, customs, and a willingness to apply the knowledge while immersed in the environment.

“Perhaps the greatest benefit of training here is the enduring interpersonal and professional relationships,” said Brig. Gen. Guillaume "Will" Beaurpere, commanding general of the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School during ceremony with the International Military Student Office.

Are drones the future? Not for everything, says Polish general

Elisabeth Gosselin-Malo

Militaries should be wary of applying lessons from the war in Ukraine and instead adapt for the battle yet to come, according to a top general in the Polish military.

While the war between Ukraine and Russia has emphasized the crucial role drones can play — and the threat they can pose to troops — Gen. Piotr Blazeusz remains unconvinced of their value during waterway crossings.

“Traditionally, you would not use drones just for a water crossing. You might use them for reconnaissance purposes to collect intelligence ahead of time, but while you are doing the actual crossing you would not really need them in the air,” the deputy chief of the General Staff told Defense News in an interview on the sidelines of the Polish-led Dragon drill held here. “You’d want them ahead, at the front, making sure there are no roadblocks, or identifying enemy positions or threats for the vehicles disembarking.”

During the March 4-5 drill, organized as part of NATO’s larger-scale Steadfast Defender exercise, drones were nowhere to be seen. A single unmanned aerial system — AeroVironment’s Puma drone — was visible during the static display portion but was reportedly not involved in the training. It had previously flown during the recently concluded NATO Brilliant Jump exercise.

In the last two years, the 2,200-kilometer-long (1,367-mile-long) Dnipro River — which flows through Russia, Belarus and Ukraine — has served as a critical part of the front line between Ukrainian and Russian forces as well as a major target for both sides.

In November, both Ukrainian and Russian officials confirmed that Ukrainian units were able to cross it and had established footholds on the east bank of the river.

Drone and aerial reconnaissance units were reportedly involved in the crossing operation, in part having provided cover for soldiers traversing and detecting Russian movements.