12 March 2024

The day after: A plan for Gaza

John Hannah

What is next for Gaza? With or without a hostage deal, the best hope for peace depends on continuing along the path endorsed by President Biden after Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack: destroy Hamas’s military and governance capabilities, prevent its ability to threaten Israel again, and deal a defeat to Iran’s "axis of resistance."

Such hopes won’t be realized by military means alone. As evidenced by the February 29 aid convoy stampede that saw scores of desperate Palestinians die, what’s required is a simultaneous effort to address Gaza’s humanitarian crisis and vacuum of order arising in the war’s wake. Left unattended, a descent into anarchy will worsen Gazan despair,

Conflict in Gaza: The Law of War and Irregular Warfare in Urban Terrain

Jim Petrila

Since Hamas’ brutal terrorist attack on Israel on October 7, the Israeli response in Gaza over the past several months has led to scrutiny on whether Israel has violated the core principles of International Humanitarian Law (IHL). These core principles of IHL (in the United States generally referred to as the Law of Armed Conflict, or LOAC) have developed over time and aim to govern the conduct of states and individuals during both international and non-international armed conflict. These principles of distinction, military necessity, proportionality, and humanity are easily summarized, but applying these principles under current conditions in Gaza is exceedingly difficult.

Israel has consistently asserted that its military actions in Gaza are consistent with IHL. As the number of civilian casualties continues to grow (currently estimated at 30,000 deaths and twice that number wounded), and the number of well-publicized incidents (e.g., the recent incident involving an aid convey in Gaza that resulted in the deaths of over a hundred people; attacks on the Maghazi refugee camp and the tragic killing of three shirtless hostages waving white flags) there are increasing public challenges to Israeli assertions, particularly regarding the principles of distinction and proportionality. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF), on the other hand, continues to produce evidence to support their claims that Hamas deliberately has put civilians at risk by using otherwise protected areas such as hospitals, mosques, and schools, for military purposes. The extent of Israeli compliance with IHL during its current military campaign against Hamas and Hamas’ violation of it by deliberately putting civilians at risk will most certainly enter the long list of charges and countercharges that have characterized the Israeli-Palestinian dispute since Israel was established in 1948. The purpose of this article is simply an attempt to provide a basic summary of the core principles of IHL, which are contained in the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the Additional Protocols of 1977, and to point out some of the difficulties in applying these principles to the facts on the ground.

As an initial matter, there is no doubt that IHL applies to the current conflict between Israel and Hamas. Whether Hamas is viewed as a terrorist group, a non-state actor, or something else, the current fighting in Gaza can be characterized as a non-international armed conflict and IHL principles clearly apply. Israel’s military action against Hamas following the horror of October 7 clearly and legitimately is based on Israel’s right to self-defense. 

Father of Marine Killed in Afghanistan Withdrawal Arrested After Interrupting Biden's State of the Union Speec

Rachel Nostrant

The father of a Marine killed during the 2021 withdrawal from Afghanistan interrupted President Joe Biden's State of the Union Speech on Thursday night, crying out "Abbey Gate! Abbey Gate!" -- the name of the airport gate where his son was killed by a suicide bomber.

Steve Nikoui, the father of fallen Marine Lance Cpl. Kareem Nikoui, was arrested by Capitol Police for the outburst, which also included yelling his son's name while Biden spoke of violent crime in the U.S. Lance Cpl. Nikoui was one of 13 service members and at least 170 Afghans killed in the bombing at Hamid Karzai International Airport on Aug. 26, 2021.

"Last night at approximately 10:15 p.m., a man disrupted the State of the Union Address by yelling. Our officers warned him to stop and, when he did not, the man was removed from the House Galleries and was arrested," U.S. Capitol Police told Military.com in an email.

Nikoui was charged with crowding, obstructing, or incommoding, "a routine charge on Capitol Hill," Capitol Police said. "People who illegally demonstrate/disrupt Congress typically are released after they pay a $50 fine, so the misdemeanor charge is resolved without going to court."

In addition to losing Kareem, Nikoui's other son took his own life in 2022 at a park near Lance Cpl. Nikoui's grave just weeks before the first anniversary of his death.

Nikoui could not be reached for comment. He attended the address as a guest of Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., who told Military.com in an email he believed the charge levied against Nikoui for the outburst was disgraceful.

"Mr. Nikoui lost his son due to Joe Biden's incompetence, and lost another son to grief over his brother being killed," Mast told Military.com. "This man and his family have given America more than I could personally bear, and to attack him with a 'BS' charge of 'demonstrating' is a disgrace."

China Says Building Fourth Aircraft Carrier


China is in the process of developing its fourth aircraft carrier to rival the US fleet in the western Pacific, a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) Navy admiral has announced.

Speaking during an annual legislative meeting in Beijing, PLA Navy political commissar Yuan Huazhi claimed that progress is on track and he had not heard of any “technical bottleneck” regarding the development.

He also said the public would soon find out if the new carrier would be nuclear-powered, just like some of the most advanced warships in the US Navy inventory.

To date, only the US and French navies have nuclear-powered carriers. This allows them to carry out missions for extended periods without refueling.

“We are building aircraft carriers to protect our national sovereignty and to protect our territorial integrity,” he stressed, as quoted by the South China Morning Post.

Prior to the announcement, illustrations of the fourth aircraft carrier being built at the Jiangnan shipyard in Shanghai surfaced online.

Latest Aircraft Carrier

Yuan’s announcement comes nearly two years after Beijing launched its third aircraft carrier, the Fujian.

Despite touting it as the country’s most advanced warship, the Fujian is not nuclear-powered because Beijing reportedly had insufficient naval nuclear reactor technology during its development.

The U.S. Air Force's New Mission: Beat China In a War At All Costs

John Venable

Summary: Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall has signaled an urgent need for the Department of the Air Force to reorganize in response to China's growing military capabilities. Commissioning McKinsey & Company to spearhead a transformative study, the plan involves 24 initiatives aiming to optimize the Air Force for great power competition. Despite the ambitious plan, concerns about the Air Force's current state of readiness loom large. Declines in training standards, promotion processes, and operational capabilities suggest a significant readiness deficit. The reorganization seeks to address readiness, power projection, capabilities development, and personnel management. However, achieving high levels of readiness amidst organizational changes and budget constraints presents a formidable challenge.

In mid-February, Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall delivered a blunt warning about China’s 20-year effort to build a military that can deter and defeat the United States: “We are out of time.” Indeed, he added, “we are involved in an enduring competition that could turn to conflict at any given time.”

This obviously makes his plan to reorganize the Department of the Air Force to meet that challenge all the more important. It’s incredibly complex, and while many elements are well thought out, the entire scheme will be impaired without the foundation of readiness.

Let’s start with the plan itself.

Last fall, Kendall commissioned McKinsey & Company, a defense contractor that specializes in organizational change, to lead a study on what transformative steps the Department of the Air Force should take to optimize itself for great power competition.

McKinsey reportedly engaged over 1,500 Airmen and Guardians and used business tools and best practices to frame the service’s reorganization based on what it learned. It conducted progress reviews, exercises, and stakeholder engagements to refine the effort into 24 initiatives within a reorganization that Secretary Kendall framed during his remarks.

As economy falters, China girds its defenses

Joel Mathis

China is boosting its defense budget. It is ratcheting up its rhetoric against Taiwan. And also: It is trying to get its economy growing again. The country will boost its military spending by 7.2% this year, Reuters said, "fueling a military budget that has more than doubled under President Xi Jinping's 11 years in office." The announcement came at the National People's Congress, a "rubber-stamp parliament" that also officially adopted new language that drops any mention of "peaceful reunification" with Taiwan. All of this comes amid an entrenched economic slump: The rise in defense spending "comes in well above the government's economic growth forecast for this year," which has been targeted at 5%.

"Few things — not even a budget deficit of 3% of gross domestic product — will stand in the way of Beijing increasing defense spending," said the Financial Times. China's military budget has more than doubled under President Xi Jinping (though it still trails American defense spending) and that increase has been "matched by a growing number of regional disputes." But Xi has pledged to give his country a "world-class force" by 2027, and that means the military will "grow regardless of the economic health of China."

That health is shaky, CNN said. China's economy has been battered by a "troubled property sector, deflationary pressures, an exodus of foreign capital, a battered stock market and a record low birth rate." Hitting the 5% target, said one expert, is "ambitious but achievable."

'Gearing up for war'

The continued military spending — along with the change of rhetoric — suggests that Beijing is "gearing up for war," said Business Insider. China hasn't always used the word "peaceful" to describe its goal of reunification with Taiwan, but it's clear the country's leaders are now intent on "taking a tougher approach" to the island. The defense budget shows that leadership "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," said Li Mingjiang, a defense scholar at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, to Reuters.

China Intensifies Push to ‘Delete America’ From Its Technology

Liza Lin

For American tech companies in China, the writing is on the wall. It’s also on paper, in Document 79.

The 2022 Chinese government directive expands a drive that is muscling U.S. technology out of the country—an effort some refer to as “Delete A,” for Delete America.

Document 79 was so sensitive that high-ranking officials and executives were only shown the order and weren’t allowed to make copies, people familiar with the matter said. It requires state-owned companies in finance, energy and other sectors to replace foreign software in their IT systems by 2027.

American tech giants had long thrived in China as they hot-wired the country’s meteoric industrial rise with computers, operating systems and software. Chinese leaders want to sever that relationship, driven by a push for self-sufficiency and concerns over the country’s long-term security.

The first targets were hardware makers. Dell, International Business Machines and Cisco Systems have gradually seen much of their equipment replaced by products from Chinese competitors.

Document 79, named for the numbering on the paper, targets companies that provide the software—enabling daily business operations from basic office tools to supply-chain management. The likes of Microsoft and Oracle are losing ground in the field, one of the last bastions of foreign tech profitability in the country.

The effort is just one salvo in a yearslong push by Chinese leader Xi Jinping for self-sufficiency in everything from critical technology such as semiconductors and fighter jets to the production of grain and oilseeds. The broader strategy is to make China less dependent on the West for food, raw materials and energy, and instead focus on domestic supply chains.

The U.S. is Losing in Lebanon

Sean Durns

“The definition of insanity,” Albert Einstein allegedly said, “is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.” In the small country of Lebanon, the United States seems determined to embody Einstein’s view of insanity. For decades, Washington has embraced a counterproductive Lebanon policy long after its failures were apparent.

Across multiple administrations, the United States has operated under the fiction that Lebanon is a sovereign nation and that U.S. aid is somehow preserving American influence. To the contrary, Lebanon is controlled by Hezbollah, Iran’s foremost proxy. And Western security assistance has only propped up and enabled a state apparatus that, at best is unable to stand up to Hezbollah and at worst actively colludes with a terrorist group that murders Americans and seeks another genocide of Jewry.

And now—with serious conflict on the horizon in the Middle East—America is poised to reap its bitter harvest.

On Feb. 28, 2024 the Jerusalem Post cited reported that Tehran has given Hezbollah a “green light” to attack Israel once the Jewish state begins operations in the southern Gaza city of Rafah.

Hezbollah has been carrying out low-level attacks on Israel for months, dating back to when Hamas and other Iranian proxies invaded Israel on Oct. 7, 2023 and perpetrated the largest massacre of Jewish civilians since the Holocaust. These attacks not only cost lives but have also resulted in the mass displacement of civilians in the north of Israel.

The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) reportedly found documents in Gaza that suggest that Hamas leaders believed that Hezbollah would launch a full-scale assault in conjunction with their attack.

Red Sea Cable Damage Reveals Soft Underbelly of Global Economy

Sean Monaghan, Michael Darrah, Eskil Jakobsen, and Otto Svendsen

Internet connectivity between parts of Asia, Africa, and Europe suddenly slowed on February 24 when three undersea cables were damaged in the Red Sea. This caused “a significant impact on communication networks in the Middle East,” according to Hong Kong telecoms company HGC Global Communications. The Red Sea is a choke point for global maritime trade—a fact Yemen’s Houthi rebels have taken advantage of by targeting global shipping with missile attacks in recent months. But the sea is also an internet and telecommunications bottleneck. An estimated 90 percent of communications between Europe and Asia and 17 percent of global internet traffic traverse cables under the 14-mile-wide Bab al Mandab Strait.

The Yemeni government warned in early February that Houthi rebels might target undersea cables. Although the rebels denied responsibility, it turned out they were in fact culpable—just not in the way many had expected. According to U.S. officials, the cables were cut by the anchor of the sinking ship the Rubymar, a UK-owned commercial vessel that took on water after it was struck by a missile fired by the Houthis on February 18. The ship then dropped its anchor and drifted for several days. It finally sank on Saturday.

Vital and Vulnerable

This is the latest of several recent incidents involving high-profile damage and disruption to undersea infrastructure. Internet cables near Svalbard and the Shetland Islands were cut in 2022, the same year the Nord Stream gas pipelines were sabotaged. Last year the Balticconnector pipeline between Finland and Estonia was damaged along with two subsea cables when the Chinese-owned commercial ship the Newnew Polar Bear dragged its anchor across them. These episodes highlight the vulnerability of vital undersea infrastructure around the world. The NATO alliance was so concerned it opened a new center last year for securing undersea infrastructure.

French soldiers train for the killing fields of Europe


French troops are preparing for a high-intensity conflict against an enemy who can match them with firepower — a big change for an army that's spent the past decades fighting counterinsurgency campaigns in places like Mali and Afghanistan.

The hostilities in Ukraine, in their third year, have brought full-scale war back to the Continent, said Colonel Axel Denis, who runs the combat training center (CENTAC) at Mailly-le-camp in eastern France.

“The world has revealed its true nature: unstable, dangerous, and not everyone is a friend. We're gearing up for a culture of alert, of being ready at short notice,” he told POLITICO during a visit to the camp. "CENTAC is the only place [in France] where you can see what war is like."

Conditions for the troops training at CENTAC are as close as possible to an actual battlefield. The sound, heat and light of artillery fire is reproduced, while fake mines are scattered everywhere, and radio communications can be interrupted without notice.

The 120-square-kilometer camp is unique in France. With a surface area larger than Paris, it’s the only place where the French army's different units — infantry, armor, artillery and engineers — which are normally scattered all over the country, can exercise together. It's also the only place where two dozen Leclerc tanks are in action all year long.

The officers aren't naming potential enemies, but the training is aimed at preparing troops to fight a foe like Russia.

Armed Troops on the New York City Subways

Here’s a poser to consider for 2025: What if Donald Trump is elected again and decides to send the military to prevent crime or control riots in America’s streets? Wouldn’t half of America lose its collective mind about the supposed threat to democracy?

Yet that’s essentially what New York Gov. Kathy Hochul did this week in dispatching the state National Guard to patrol New York City’s subways to reduce crime. The Democratic Governor is sending 750 troops and 250 state police officers to guard subway trains and platforms amid a spike in violence and robbery against passengers.

No doubt many New Yorkers will be relieved at the sight, even if it will be somewhat disconcerting to see men in military fatigues on the trains. We know from experience it’s reassuring to see NYPD blue in a subway car when a homeless man is harassing passengers for money or because he’s drugged up.

Ms. Hochul is also calling for judges to have more authority to ban people from the subways if they’ve assaulted commuters or subway workers. She wants to add security cameras, and Mayor Eric Adams said this week he’s asked New York police to expand bag searches on the subways.

Worried About POTUS Nuclear Weapons Authorization?

Ian J. Kurtz


Recently, national security pundits and the media have devoted much attention to the question of whether the current process of Presidential authority to order a nuclear attack is appropriate. Critics maintain that the President of the United States (POTUS) should not possess sole authority and seek to change this. The debate focused on a scenario of an unstable POTUS without any system of checks and balances unilaterally, and without opposition, orders military forces to execute a nuclear attack while the military, powerless and intimidated, do nothing.

The author examines this question: “If a U.S. President were to issue an illegal order to start nuclear war, would or could the members of the Armed Forces intervene and put a stop to it?” The notion that highly trained and experienced military personnel would stand idly by while an irrational commander-in-chief unleashed an illegal nuclear attack on an innocent party because they were in fear of being relieved of duty is an affront to the integrity of the men and women who serve.


This paper examines the logic behind allowing POTUS to be the sole individual to initiate a nuclear attack and the role of the military.

While POTUS does indeed possess the authority to give the final order, he does not do so without consultation and does not possess the ability to physically conduct an attack if opposed by his advisors. Contrary to popular opinion, there is no “button,” nor does the POTUS have access to “nuclear launch codes” as if he could enter a few numbers into a transmitter and missiles thousands of miles away would fly out of their silos. To be sure, many of the specifics of this process are classified. However, what is known is that once the POTUS signals his intentions, he will confer with his “senior advisors.” This conference may also involve the civilian members of the National Security Council, senior government officials that provide guidance to the POTUS on national security matters. It is important to note that this process involves many of our nation’s senior government and military leaders; the POTUS would not directly contact military forces. The process is not haphazard, nor is it “insane.”

Russia's HIMARS Strike Sparks Ukraine Concerns

David Brennan

After 20 months of hunting, Russia appears to have scored its first kill of an American-made M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System in Ukraine.

Video emerged this week showing one of Kyiv's 39 HIMARS—as they are colloquially known—seemingly being destroyed in a Russian ballistic missile strike near Nykanorivka in eastern Donetsk Oblast, around 30 miles west of the current front and roughly equidistant from the captured cities of Avdiivka and Bakhmut.

The HIMARS have become emblematic of Kyiv's stubborn and sophisticated resistance to Russia's grinding invasion, and symbolic of successful NATO-Ukraine military cooperation. Since their arrival in-theater in June 2022, the HIMARS have been a prime target for Moscow.

But despite Russia having claimed many platforms destroyed—and with an apparent recent near miss that left two HIMARS peppered with shrapnel—this week's video appears the first actual loss.

This file photo shows an M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) firing during U.S.-Philippines military exercises on March 31, 2023, in Laur, Nueva Ecija, in the Philippines. Ukraine has been using the platform to great effect in its defense against Russia's invasion.

The destruction of the rocket system has prompted concern in Ukraine, unsurprisingly given the vital role played by HIMARS teams in targeting high-value Russian command posts, logistics hubs and troop concentrations.

Roman Kostenko, the secretary of the Ukrainian parliament's national security, defense and intelligence committee, has called for an investigation.

F-22s ‘highest priority’ for near-term fight, Air Force acquisition boss says


Much attention has been paid to the Air Force’s plans to junk an older group of F-22 Raptor jets, but newer, more combat-capable versions of the stealth fighter are the service’s “highest priority” for a near-term fight, according to a senior official.

Speaking at the McAleese Defense Programs conference today, Air Force acquisition boss Andrew Hunter called the F-22 the “foundation” of the service’s airpower amid a larger effort to “reoptimize” for competition with China, noting that the jet will serve a vital role until its successor, the Next Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) platform, comes online.

“F-22 is a critical capability,” Hunter said. “So what’s my highest priority in the near term for that great power competition? I’d probably put F-22 at the top.”

In its fiscal 2024 budget request, the Air Force moved to junk 32 older F-22s in a configuration known as Block 20, arguing that money to modernize those jets would be better spent on NGAD. But Congress blocked that move, forcing the service to continue their upkeep. Hunter’s comments today are likely a preview of what the service will ask for regarding the Raptor in its upcoming FY25 budget request.

Hunter said that Air Force officials will engage Congress on “some” F-22s that aren’t prepared for combat, and appeared to suggest that funding could be used instead to modernize other Raptors in the fleet. Air Force officials have previously said that funds freed up by divesting Block 20 fighters would be spent directly on NGAD.

Speaking later in the day, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Allvin explained that the service is currently focused on keeping certain F-22s “viable and relevant against the threat until Next Generation Air Dominance” arrives. Echoing Hunter, he then said “we’re looking to be able to take those that are the most combat-capable, keep them in the fight, and then leverage some of the resources for those that are going to be cost prohibitive and time prohibitive” to upgrade.



The United States operates more stealth aircraft than any other country on the planet, both in terms of volume and variety, with three publicly disclosed stealth platforms in service and at least three more at some stage of development.

But for every F-22 Raptor, F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, or B-2 Spirit, there are a number of stealth jets that never found their way into operational hangars either because of program cancellations or, often, because they were never intended for combat service at all: Sometimes, programs aim to prove advanced new technological concepts, test classified new systems, or prove the efficacy of a capability meant for inclusion in other aircraft.

Because of the very nature of the technology, new stealth aircraft are usually developed under the utmost secrecy. The F-117 Nighthawk, as one famous example, was operational for years before the American government acknowledged its existence. Likewise, prototypes, technology demonstrators, and even programs meant for service but canceled for various reasons often remain shrouded in mystery for years, even after they stop flying.

Northrop’s Tacit Blue stealth technology demonstrator. 

Still commonly referred to as “Black Programs,” the Pentagon has a long and illustrious history of funding the classified development of advanced technologies. Today, the most secretive efforts fall under what’s commonly referred to as “Special Access Programs,” or SAPs, for which the distribution of information is limited even among those with the highest-reaching security clearances. But even within the world of SAPs, there remains another, even murkier designation: Unacknowledged SAPs, or USAPs. These efforts are so secretive that briefings are kept off paper and delivered by word of mouth only to the highest levels of government.

The New Cold War: Changing Context And Shifting Contours Of International Politics – Analysis

Dr. Manoj Kumar Mishra

The new Cold War also known as Cold War 2.0 is characterized by simmering tensions, breach of international norms, proxy wars and arms race between the US on the one hand and major powers such as China and North Korea in the Indo-Pacific, Iran in West Asia and Russia in Eurasia on the other.

For instance, Russia’s assertion of sovereignty over Ukraine and prolonged war with the latter since February 2022 pushed the US towards an armament race with Russia and the American administration kept supplying updated arms and ammunitions to the Ukrainian regime in a bid to contain Russia. In the post-Cold War era, neither the world emerged completely unipolar, nor did any world society become firmly established.

On the contrary, a large grey area emerged where states moved from the pro-US foreign policy or clear anti-US or restricted foreign policy to a more independent foreign policy. While China is the key challenger to the US power and most important player in the new Cold War, many other regional powers challenge American predominance in different parts of the globe and maintain friendly relations with China.

Primarily, the US began to face challenges from rising and revisionist China, assertive Russia and from recurring threat of Iran’s nuclear ambitions. While many experts define the American arms race and rising tensions with China as the new Cold War, others define it as the tensions and arms competition arising from the sharing objective of multiple regional players challenging the American hegemony.

Changing Dynamics

While the Cold War referred to power competition and arms race between two superpowers – the US and the USSR, the new Cold War involves multiple players such as China, Russia and Iran who seek to defy American hegemony and cooperate with one another to challenge the power position of the US.

Ukraine: Latest Draft Law Targets Ukrainian Orthodox Church For Russian Links – Analysis

Dmytro Vovk

On 5 March, the parliamentary Committee on Humanitarian and Information Policy stated that a draft Law that aimed to close religious organisations (associations) affiliated with “centres of influence of religious organisations or associations with ruling centres” in “states conducting armed aggression against Ukraine” has been prepared for second reading by Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada.

Parliament has not yet set a date for the second reading of the law, whose prime target is the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC), which is historically and ecclesiastically affiliated with the Russian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate (ROC) (see below).

If it passes through the second reading, the draft Law would require a third reading to be finally approved. The third reading might immediately follow the second one. Once the draft is finally approved, it would be sent to the President. The President could either sign it into law, or veto it and return it to the Verkhovna Rada with his objections and proposed amendments. The Verkhovna Rada could then either implement the President’s amendments, or reject the veto by a constitutional majority. This is either two thirds of the 450 deputies, or 300 deputies (see below).

Proponents of the draft Law advocate for its adoption based on the UOC’s connections with the ROC, the endorsement by some in the UOC of Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine, and UOC involvement in the dissemination of the “Russian world” (Russky mir) ideology. This is a set of Russian chauvinist and imperialist ideas defining Ukraine as a territory of Russia’s influence and calling for Russian control of Ukraine (see below).

The United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights is among the human rights defenders who have expressed concern about the previous February 2023 draft of the Law. Among their criticisms is that there is no legally-admissible evidence that the ROC guides or compels the UOC as an institution to commit crimes (see below).

The Future Of Russian Gas In The EU – Analysis

Ignacio Urbasos Arbeloa

This Policy Paper analyses the changes in the gas relationship between the EU and Russia since the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. The analysis starts by setting out how pipeline imports have fallen by 80% due to the requirement to pay for gas in roubles, the suspension of many existing contracts and the sabotage of the Nord Stream pipelines. The reduction has had a significant impact on Gazprom’s influence over the EU, as the Russian state-owned company, which has a monopoly over pipeline exports, has lost its principal and most lucrative market and has been the object of numerous international arbitration proceedings.[1]

In contrast, and despite the sanctions, the Russian private company Novatek has successfully developed the liquefied natural gas (LNG) sector, gaining market share in the EU and maintaining deliveries since the invasion. However, there are doubts as to Novatek’s capacity to sustain its projects in a context of increased international pressure and the loss of important western commercial and technological partners, which means it is unlikely to be able to replace Gazprom in terms of volume and income, and thus does not constitute a geopolitical risk for the EU.

The main conclusions of this paper are that, while the EU has experienced a profound energy crisis, Russia has not achieved the prime objective of its gas blockade: to break the EU’s support for Ukraine. The EU has discovered that it can ensure its energy supply without depending on Moscow, and it now has to define a strategy that will establish the role of Russian natural gas in the European energy mix in the future.

The EU’s political architecture means that the impossibility of achieving unanimity among Member States will hamper its development of a joint policy and its ability to achieve the objective established in REPowerEU of ending of Russian hydrocarbon imports by 2027. Faced with stalemate in the Council of the EU, Member States must design and implement their own policies of energy diversification and uncoupling from Russia, and this will incentivise fragmentation, and, in practice, prevent a clean break in the gas relationship.

Borrowing $10 Billion A Day, Every Day – OpEd

Craig Eyermann

On average, Uncle Sam borrows $10 billion a day, every day. If you stack $10 bills high enough to add up to $10 billion, the stack would rise 67.9 miles above the Earth’s surface. During much of the past year, Uncle Sam has been borrowing enough money to do that daily.

It’s like what former Senator Everett Dirksen is reputed to have once said. “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.”

How much real money are we talking about here?

Borrowing $10 billion daily to support the federal government’s excessive spending means $1 trillion gets added to the national debt every 100 days. CNBC’s Michelle Fox uses that dubious fiscal milestone to describe the growth of the national debt under the Biden administration during the last nine months.

“The debt load of the U.S. is growing at a quicker clip in recent months, increasing about $1 trillion nearly every 100 days.

“The nation’s debt permanently crossed over to $34 trillion on Jan. 4, after briefly crossing the mark on Dec. 29, according to data from the U.S. Department of the Treasury. It reached $33 trillion on Sept. 15, 2023, and $32 trillion on June 15, 2023, hitting this accelerated pace. Before that, the $1 trillion move higher from $31 trillion took about eight months.

Red Sea Attacks Disrupt Global Trade – Analysis

Parisa Kamali, Robin Koepke, Alessandra Sozzi and Jasper Verschuur

In the past few months, global trade has been held back by disruptions at two critical shipping routes. Attacks on vessels in the Red Sea area reduced traffic through the Suez Canal, the shortest maritime route between Asia and Europe, through which about 15 percent of global maritime trade volume normally passes. Instead, several shipping companies diverted their ships around the Cape of Good Hope. This increased delivery times by 10 days or more on average, hurting companies with limited inventories.

On the other side of the world, a severe drought at the Panama Canal has forced authorities to impose restrictions that have substantially reduced daily ship crossings since last October, slowing down maritime trade through another key chokepoint that usually accounts for about 5 percent of global maritime trade.

The Chart of the Week uses data from our PortWatch platform to show trade volume that transits through these three critical shipping lanes. Our high-frequency transit estimates indicate that the volume of trade that passed through the Suez Canal dropped by 50 percent year-over-year in the first two months of the year, and the volume of trade transiting around the Cape of Good Hope surged by an estimated 74 percent above last year’s level. Meanwhile, the transit trade volume through the Panama Canal fell by almost 32 percent compared with the prior year.

After Prigozhin: The Anatomy Of Russia’s Evolving Private Military And Mercenary Industry – Analysis

Sergey Sukhankin


Since the beginning of Moscow’s hybrid war against Ukraine in 2014, Russia’s mercenary industry has been regularly evolving. Virtually absent from public discussion until 2018, Russian paramilitary formations began to emerge from the shadows after their involvement in the Libyan Civil War and continued “adventures” in Sub-Saharan Africa (see “War by Other Means”). Analyzing the industry, however, remained taboo for many investigative journalists and experts due to the all-too-real security threats (see Terrorism Monitor, June 26, 2020; see EDM, January 20, 2021; May 12, 2021).

In 2022, that all changed when the notorious private military company (PMC), Wagner Group, and its curator, Yevgeny Prigozhin, emerged as rising stars in Russia’s military endeavors. For many Russians, they represented the zenith of wartime “patriotism.” The Kremlin allowed Prigozhin to recruit violent criminals from Russia’s prisons to boost Wagner’s manpower, and the Wagnerites soon became key assault units for offensive operations in Ukraine’s east. This significantly boosted Prigozhin’s confidence and led to an acute conflict with the Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD). The Wagner chief’s increasingly public criticism of the MoD’s failures in Ukraine culminated with his aborted mutiny in June 2023 (see EDM, August 18, 2022, July 11, 2023, July 24, 2023, August 3, 2023). In August 2023, Prigozhin died in a mysterious plane crash, with many considering his death as retribution for the rebellion. Prigozhin’s death was followed by a complete subordination of the Wagner Group to the Russian state.

These developments marked the beginning of another transformative period for Wagner and, more generally, the Russian mercenary industry as a whole (see EDM, October 12, 2023). Since the beginning of 2022, paramilitary organizations, including Wagner and others, have become more prominent in the Kremlin’s military planning. Prigozhin’s failed mutiny left a void in the Russian army’s capabilities, which has begun to be filled by other key groups and actors. As Moscow’s war against Ukraine rages on and the Kremlin considers its options for protecting assets in Africa and beyond, it is becoming increasingly critical to paint a more complete picture of the current state of Russia’s mercenary industry. The Russian High Command will likely continue to rely on these groups as central players in the fighting in Ukraine and in Moscow’s ability to project power in the coming years.

Time Is Running Out in Ukraine

Dara Massicot

Two years after Russia’s invasion, Ukraine and its Western supporters are at a critical decision point and face a fundamental question: How can further Russian advances on the battlefield be stopped, and then reversed? After capturing the ruined city of Avdiivka, Russian forces are moving forward fitfully in other areas along the front. Russian advantages in manpower, materiel, and defense production have grown in the past year, whereas U.S. ammunition deliveries have been throttled and are at risk of being curtailed almost entirely because of an impasse over funding in the U.S. Congress. Supplies of critical munitions for frontline Ukrainian units are dwindling, and soldiers are being forced to ration. Some units are experiencing significant manpower shortages.

The current battlefield dynamics have no single cause; they are mostly rooted in decisions that were made since the fall of 2022. When Russia mobilized its war economy, the West did not, and Ukraine could not. When Russia constructed a network of defensive fortifications hundreds of miles long and multiple layers deep, Ukraine did not. Russia obtained more than a million (by some estimates, three million) artillery shells and thousands of drones from its partners, including Iran and North Korea. The West could not match that, having already reached the bottom of the barrel of similar resources. Moscow has gone to great lengths to regenerate personnel and replenish its forces, whereas Kyiv has yet to fully mobilize.

Without a surge in Western military aid and major changes to Kyiv’s strategy, Ukraine’s battlefield position will continue to worsen until it reaches a tipping point, possibly by this summer. On the present course, in which Ukrainian ammunition and manpower needs are not met, Ukrainian units are likely to hollow out, making Russian breakthroughs a distinct possibility. But this is no time for despair; it is time for urgent action. Russian forces have vulnerabilities that can be exploited and advantages that can be eroded over time, but only if Ukraine gets what it needs now.

Export Controls And Cyber-Surveillance Tools: Five Suggestions For The Summit For Democracy – Analysis

Dr Mark Bromley

Cyber-surveillance tools are a growing challenge for the international community. Their sophistication and potential for misuse pose threats to human rights (as evident in the many allegations of Pegasus spyware being used to target political dissidents, journalists and human rights defenders) and to national security (as seen in concerns about Russia’s potential use of its Snake spyware in attacks on critical infrastructure). On 18–20 March 2024, invited governments will meet for the third Summit for Democracy in Seoul. This presents an opportunity to push forward the work started at last year’s summit to enhance the use of export controls to limit the proliferation of cyber-surveillance tools and prevent their misuse.

The code of conduct

A key achievement of the second Summit for Democracy, held in March 2023, was a code of conductendorsed by 25 states on the use of export controls to ‘prevent the proliferation of goods, software, and technologies that enable serious human rights abuses’. The code of conduct forms part of the Export Control and Human Rights Initiative launched at the first Summit for Democracy in 2021.

States subscribing to the code of conduct commit to applying export controls ‘to ensure that relevant goods and technologies are used in compliance with international human rights law’. They also commit to developing best practices concerning the application of export controls to cyber-surveillance tools, facilitating the adoption of due-diligence standards by companies, and promoting the wider adoption of the code of conduct.

The unmet potential of export controls

Export controls require companies to obtain government-issued licences before transferring sensitive items identified in a control list. Since 2013, five categories of cyber-surveillance tool have been added to the dual-use control lists of the Wassenaar Arrangement (an export control regime with 43 participating states) and the European Union. Their inclusion enables Wassenaar participants and the EU’s member states to oversee the trade in the listed cyber-surveillance tools and to block exports on national security or human rights grounds.


Alec Rice and Gage Dabin

Particularly in the past two decades Japanese manga and anime have grown into immensely popular mediums with globe-spanning audiences of millions—not only for entertainment, but for information, as well. Though not well appreciated, within the manga and anime world there is a substantial body of absolutely astounding work in both written and animated form with a focus on war in all its permutations.

Through this genre of war manga, millions of people over multiple generations have enjoyed and absorbed stories without necessarily being explicitly aware of the complex military, strategic, legal, and moral issues contained within these narratives. Others, due to unfamiliarity with the manga and anime worlds, are unwittingly missing out on dramatic and thought-provoking expositions on the nature of human conflict.

As we know, the human condition is inextricably linked to war, be it in its prosecution or prevention. The multifaceted way this is discussed can sometimes be more effectively sketched in pictures than scrawled in words.

Whether the backdrops are ancient or futuristic, the settings earthbound or interstellar, the stories based in historical fact or fabrications of fantasy, within all these works there is a deep exploration into the relationship between humans and war.

The following is a short list of manga and anime tales well worth your time as they present intriguing perspectives on humans and armed conflict from often atypical perspectives.

Kubo Ibuki and Kubo Ibuki: Great Game, by Kaiji Kawaguchi

In the year 20XX, a group of Chinese land on the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea during a heavy storm. When the Japan Coast Guard attempts to rescue them, the Chinese reject assistance claiming the Senkaku Islands as territory of the People’s Republic of China.

European arms imports nearly double, US and French exports rise, and Russian exports fall sharply

Around 55 per cent of arms imports by European states in 2019–23 were supplied by the USA, up from 35 per cent in 2014–18. ‘More than half of arms imports by European states come from the USA,’ noted SIPRI Director Dan Smith, ‘while at the same time, Europe is responsible for about a third of global arms exports, including large volumes going outside the region, reflecting Europe’s strong military–industrial capacity. Many factors shape European NATO states’ decisions to import from the USA, including the goal of maintaining trans-Atlantic relations alongside the more technical, military and cost-related issues. If trans-Atlantic relations change in the coming years, European states’ arms procurement policies may also be modified.’

US and French arms exports climb, while Russian arms exports plummet

The USA’s arms exports grew by 17 per cent between 2014–18 and 2019–23, and its share of total global arms exports rose from 34 per cent to 42 per cent. The USA delivered major arms to 107 states in 2019–23, more than it has in any previous five-year period and far more than any other arms exporter. The USA and states in Western Europe together accounted for 72 per cent of all arms exports in 2019–23, compared with 62 per cent in 2014–18.

‘The USA has increased its global role as an arms supplier—an important aspect of its foreign policy—exporting more arms to more countries than it has ever done in the past,’ said Mathew George, Director of the SIPRI Arms Transfers Programme. ‘This comes at a time when the USA’s economic and geopolitical dominance is being challenged by emerging powers.’

France’s arms exports increased by 47 per cent between 2014–18 and 2019–23 and for the first time it was the second biggest arms exporter, just ahead of Russia. The largest share of France’s arms exports (42 per cent) went to states in Asia and Oceania, and another 34 per cent went to Middle Eastern states. The largest single recipient of French arms exports was India, which accounted for nearly 30 per cent. The increase in French arms exports was largely due to deliveries of combat aircraft to India, Qatar and Egypt.