20 March 2024

The Realignment of the Middle East

Lior Sternfeld

Executive Summary

In the Middle East, reality can change in the blink of an eye. Misconceptions and misrepresentations that dominate the public discourse have it that the region has been embroiled in war since time immemorial. Still, even its most recognizable conflict—the Israel-Palestine dispute—has been going on for only a century. This report will not focus on the history of that conflict but instead will try to analyze the realignment of the key players in the region and beyond and point out several pathways to build on in securing peace.

Since the end of the Cold War, the United States has been the sole global superpower. The change in world politics and the demise of the Soviet Union did not end the perception of alliances as zero-sum games. The War on Terror, the debacle of Iraq and Afghanistan, the rise of movements such as al-Qaeda and the Islamic State, the Arab Spring, and the collapse of old state structures, somehow fortified this approach over a more nuanced and pragmatic approach. Since the early 1990s, China entered as a secondary force and slowly gained a different status. This report examines the changes the Chinese doctrine might bring to the geopolitics in the region. Furthermore, it will examine the role China has played in the reshaping of the Middle East as a multipolar region, the transformation in the American role, and identify areas where the United States can take advantage of the new multipolarity in the region in light of Chinese activity.


On December 9, 1987, the First Intifada broke out when an Israel Defense Forces truck collided with a Palestinian car in the Jabalia refugee camp in the Gaza Strip and killed four of its passengers. The response, fueled by the frustration of the twenty years since the 1967 occupation, was a call for a widespread uprising, throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at the Israeli Defense Force patrols, checkpoints, and soldiers and strikes throughout the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. For the first time since 1967, the Israeli public realized that the occupation, the trips to the cheap markets of Ramallah, Jenin, Nablus, and Gaza, and the cheap workforce of the Palestinian workers who were most of the construction workforce in Israel, all came with a price. During the First Intifada, a four-year period from 1987 to 1991, about 200 Israelis and almost 2,000 Palestinians died.

The Future of Digital Public Infrastructure: A Thesis for Rapid Global Adoption



India’s presidency of the G20 in 2023 placed digital public infrastructure (DPI) on the global map.1 Until November 2022, DPI as a term did not exist for most people around the world. In a period of nine months, between December 2022 and August 2023, not only was the grammar and syntax of DPI created, but a suggested framework for DPI was also accepted by the G20 member states.2

There were two tracks in the G20 discussions during India’s presidency that dealt directly with DPI: the Digital Economy Working Group (DEWG),3 under what is known as the Sherpa Track, and the Global Partnership for Financial Inclusion,4 under the Finance Track. Both tracks arrived at a consensus on the suggested principles for building DPI. To be clear, the use of technology for inclusion is a concept that has existed for a long time.5 What is new is that, for the first time,6 a framework—marrying technology, governance, and the role of communities—has been agreed upon multilaterally.

In September 2023, the United Nations launched its High Impact Initiative on DPI.7 Aid agencies around the world have highlighted the need to deploy DPI in one hundred countries by 2030, thereby helping fulfill the targets of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The 50-in-5 campaign, described as a “country-led advocacy campaign,” was launched by various international organizations in November 2023 as one more step to advance the adoption of inclusive and safe DPI.8 It aims to help fifty countries “design, launch, and scale components of their digital public infrastructure.”

There is growing consensus among many countries and multilaterals within and outside of the G20 that DPI can deliver global development outcomes at a rate that is otherwise impossible to imagine. Decisionmakers across the world, including those in some of the world’s largest companies and philanthropic organizations, understand that not only does DPI work but that its global deployment can enable speedier financial inclusion. They see India’s DPI journey—as well as similar approaches from Brazil, Estonia, Singapore, and others—as a key model for achieving these aims.9

The Role of Foreign Actors in the Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict

Eugene Kogamn


This AIES Focus discusses the four major foreign actors in the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan within the time frame of the last 12 to 18 months. While Russia and Turkey are active and directly involved, China and India are implicitly but not explicitly involved in the conflict. As a result, the author tries to present and highlight the divergent and convergent perspectives of the foreign actors in the conflict. One of the major focal points of the conflict relates to what the Azerbaijani call the Zangezur corridor and the Armenians perceive as a bone of contention. What is perhaps not least important to emphasise is that for Ilham Aliyev, the President of Azerbaijan, the corridor has a crucial role in the transportation link between Turkey, Azerbaijan and the Turkic States. As for Armenia and Iran, its neighbouring country, the establishment of such corridor perceived as an existential threat to the established link to Georgia and further to the European Union (EU). The author thus assesses the position of these foreign actors in the conflict, before analysing the constellation Armenia faces as a result.


Russia occupies a contradictory position as the dominant arms supplier to both sides and the main provider of peacekeeping forces to the region. Although Russia has a military base in Armenia’s city of Gyumri and Armenia is a member of the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO), Russia has been turning its attention towards Azerbaijan – a major market for Russian arms exports (and less attention towards Armenia, its trustworthy ally). Russia accounted for about 94 percent and 60 percent of Armenia and Azerbaijan arms imports, respectively, from 2011 to 2020.1 However, from 2021 until today the Russian arms exports to Armenia and Azerbaijan have been reduced to a trickle while Israeli and Turkish arms exports to Azerbaijan increased considerably and India, as will be discussed below, stepped in for Armenia.

Another example of Moscow’s preference of Azerbaijan over Armenia is presented below. Since the failed European Union (EU) peace effort on 5 October 2023, Baku has been hardening its stance against Yerevan. Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry accused Nikol Pashinyan, the Armenian Prime Minister, of undermining the peace process with “aggressive rhetoric.” Baku’s harsh language comes after Vladimir Putin, the Russian President, invited Ilham Aliyev, the Azerbaijani President, to a regional summit in Kyrgyzstan on 12-13 October which was not attended by Pashinyan. Experts suspect Putin is using centuries-old Russian diplomatic tactics to maintain hegemony in the region which is no longer a Russiaalone sphere of influence.

How Technology Is (and Isn’t) Transforming Election Campaigns in India


India epitomizes the global communication technology revolution. In the early 1990s, there were only an estimated six landline phones for every 1,000 Indians and the waiting time for a new phone connection was measured not in days or weeks, but months. Today, smartphones—the primary devices Indians use to access the internet and social media—can be purchased over the counter within minutes and their presence is ubiquitous. This transformation is further enabled by the affordability of mobile data in India, which has some of the cheapest rates in the world. By the end of 2022, roughly two-thirds of the Indian population were using smartphones, and by 2026, it is predicted the country will be home to one billion smartphone users. In recent years, India’s political parties have increasingly turned to social media and the messaging app WhatsApp in their campaigns, leading observers to characterize the 2019 parliamentary election as “the WhatsApp election.”

However, alongside the proliferation of smartphone usage, which allows for low-cost party-voter communication, India’s parties continue to conduct mass in-person campaign rallies during election season. For instance, prior to India’s 2019 national general election, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) incumbent Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Indian National Congress’s (INC, also known as the Congress Party) Rahul Gandhi each addressed around 140 in-person rallies during the official two-month campaign. These were accompanied by even more rallies featuring other high-level leaders (or “star campaigners,” as they are known in Indian parlance) in the run-up to the April–May general elections.

The ongoing prevalence of mass campaign rallies in the digital age motivates a broader question about the modern campaign in India. Why do in-person mass campaign rallies—which are expensive, labor-intensive, and time-consuming—persist when there are cheaper ways for parties to conduct more targeted outreach online? More specifically, how are internet-based communication technologies—including social media—shaping party campaigns in India today?

Preparing Supply Chains for a Coming War

John G. Ferrari and Mark Rosenblatt

Multiple threats to US national security are converging.1 With wars in the Middle East and Ukraine, North Korea’s nuclear ambitions, record migration flows,2 and AI-fueled disinformation, Washington has arguably not faced so many crises simultaneously since World War II.3 The US is handling these challenges with a greatly weakened defense industrial base that cannot simultaneously equip the US and its allies and partners to fight.

Any of these threats could rapidly escalate into a wider, more dangerous, and protracted conflict, a scenario not lost on Beijing or Moscow, which continue to strengthen their anti-Western alliance.5 Yet the US has not broken China’s choke hold on US military munitions and defense platforms, despite ample evidence of acute supply-chain vulnerabilities and a shrinking window to address them.

What is not discussed openly, but is probably widely known in China, is the US industrial base’s dependency on Taiwan for supplying the military with critical materials such as semiconductors. This dependency, contrary to what some may believe, does not strengthen deterrence of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan via a “silicon shield” defense.6 Indeed, it weakens deterrence, creating “non-deterrence,” as the US cannot build many military platforms and weapons without access to Taiwan.7 Moreover, as the American Enterprise Institute’s Chris Miller has noted, this “silicon shield” “emboldens China to attack, by making China think that the U.S. is less likely to come to Taiwan’s aid.”

Therefore, to bolster deterrence and its ability to prosecute a long war, America must ensure it can resupply its defenses even if its supply lines to Taiwan and China are severed. Failing to do so may signal that the US is not ready for a protracted conflict. As a Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies report aptly stated, “Potential adversaries might decide that a nation that lacked the capacity to sustain protracted offensive operations also lacked political resolve.”

New book reveals China’s ‘disintegration warfare’ against the United States

Steven Richards

The investigative journalist who first uncovered Hunter Biden’s foreign business dealings is shaking up Washington yet again with a comprehensive book warning Americans about China’s “disintegration warfare” against the United States.

Peter Schweizer—the author of "Clinton Cash" and "Red-Handed"—takes aim at the American political elite in his new book "Blood Money: Why the Powerful Turn a Blind Eye While China Kills Americans" over complacency in the nation’s capital in the elected officials’ response to China’s efforts to undermine the politics, society, and economy of the United States.

Blood Money is meticulously sourced with 939 endnotes and includes information from open sources, leaked U.S. law enforcement and Mexican government documents, Chinese corporate records and military journals. Schweizer relies on no anonymous sources to back up his findings.

“I think the big message I want Americans to take away is there's there's a lot of turmoil, a lot of things going on in the United States today, whether that's violence on the streets, whether that's social division, whether that's the fentanyl poisoning crisis in China is exacerbating those problems, they are fanning the flames, and our leaders aren't doing anything about it,” Schweizer said on the "Just the News, No Noise" TV show Thursday evening.

“The way I think about it, is that, you know, America is on fire, China's holding an empty can of gasoline, and our leaders are not doing anything about it, they’re remaining silent,” he added. We need “to realize that we are at war with China or rather China's at war with us. They call it disintegration warfare,” he said.

One of the most jarring findings from Schweizer’s book is how the Chinese have partnered with the Mexican cartels to traffic fentanyl into the United States, exacerbating the crisis that has plagued the country for the past decade.

A look inside the Chinese cyber threat at the biggest ports in US

Lori Ann LaRocco

Cybersecurity risks associated with Chinese-made cranes at U.S. ports are not new, and recent White House action and hearings on Capitol Hill have escalated the claims about potentially serious national security vulnerabilities embedded in key infrastructure. But the Biden administration, lawmakers and ports management continue to differ in their views of the true nature of the threat.

In a press briefing ahead of the recent executive order from President Joe Biden to strengthen the cybersecurity of America’s ports, Rear Adm. Jay Vann, commander of the U.S. Coast Guard Cyber Command, told reporters that 80% of the “ship-to-shore” cranes moving trade at U.S. ports are made in China and use Chinese software. He said that has led to concern that the cranes could be “vulnerable to exploitation” and used in Chinese surveillance. The Biden Administration estimates the number of People’s Republic of China (PRC) manufacturer cranes in the U.S. at 200.

On February 29, a joint letter from the Subcommittee on Counterterrorism, Law Enforcement, and Intelligence Committee on Homeland Security and the Select Committee on China was sent to the Chinese manufacturer of the cranes, ZPMC, inquiring about “certain components” including cellular modems installed on cranes that were not part of contracts with ports management and have no identified purpose.

The Chinese government has in recent years responded to the concerns as “paranoia-driven.” The ZPMC has not responded to recent CNBC requests for comment, but it did recently tell the press in response to the letter that its cranes do not pose a cybersecurity threat.

In interviews with CNBC, top officials at some of the nation’s largest ports stressed that the software to control their cranes does not come from China. Based on CNBC’s research, the crane operational software being used by the ports are made by Switzerland’s ABB, Germany’s Siemens, Japanese software companies TMEIC and NIDEC, and equipment manufacturers Liebherr (German-Swiss multinational) and Konecranes (Finnish). CNBC also learned that ports use multiple layers of firewalls related to the cranes, which silo the equipment to protect the port infrastructure.

Understanding Taiwan beyond geopolitics

Dennis LC Weng & Jarad Jeter

The 2024 Taiwanese presidential election was a critical moment for Taiwan's political identity. It is important that Taiwan's democratic values, as well as its cultural wealth and economic importance, are recognised overseas. Yet the West has an increasing tendency to focus solely on Taiwan's geopolitical significance. It is crucial for the West, particularly the United States, to understand Taiwan's inherent worth and its influence beyond that of a strategic pawn.

Taiwan’s 2024 presidential election does not simply signal a change in leadership. It represents a pivotal moment in the island’s assertion of its political identity and its strategic importance on the international stage. The elevation of Vice President Lai Ching-te to the presidency, in open defiance of Beijing’s stern warnings, broadcasts Taiwan’s resolve and its people’s steadfast commitment to democracy.

While much analysis will inevitably concentrate on the consequences of Taiwan’s election for the delicate interplay between the United States, China and Taiwan, such discussions can overshadow the genuine aspirations of the Taiwanese people. The Western narrative — filtered through the prism of strategic interests and security concerns — often neglects the nuanced fabric of Taiwan’s society, its economic vibrancy and the robust democracy that underpins its national identity.

The West’s preoccupation with military concerns and geopolitical manoeuvring risks downplaying the very aspects of Taiwanese society that are most vital to its people. And these are the factors that profoundly shape Beijing’s approach towards Taiwan. The increased focus on military issues raises questions about the depth of Western commitment to Taiwan’s people and their future and suggests Taiwan may need to carve its own path, potentially including engaging with Beijing.

Houthi Red Sea Attacks Impose ‘Economic Sanctions’ on Israel’s Backers

Jim Krane

More than 50 Houthi attacks on Red Sea shipping since October 2023 have created uneven disruptions of global shipping traffic. Emerging patterns suggest advantages for some countries and firms, with disadvantages for others.[1] Houthi targeting appears loosely based on national origin of the carrier or its cargo. Vessels and cargoes linked to Israel, the United States, and Europe are mostly unable to use the cost-saving Red Sea shortcut, while those without such ties appear free to use the route unmolested.

The Houthi anti-shipping strategy represents a new form of internationalization of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In this case, a resource-poor but determined armed group is using inexpensive weapons to reshuffle maritime trade in ways that increase costs for Israel’s backers. The Houthi have repeatedly stated that their attacks aim to increase pressure on Israel to end the conflict in Gaza. While the means are indirect, they pose new challenges to global norms around freedom of navigation and the oversight role of great powers.

These Houthi actions are imposing new costs and monetary damages onto shipping firms, with the highest costs falling on Western-linked firms taking the roughly two-week detour around the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa. Meanwhile vessels linked to nonaligned countries gain a competitive advantage by avoiding the expense of diverting around the Cape. In that sense, the attacks resemble targeted economic sanctions on Israel and its allies. Countermeasures in the form of U.S. and U.K. ground attacks on Houthi positions have failed to deter the Houthi strategy, while providing a rationale for extending the threats to shipping.

Several emerging trends are worth considering:
  • Company-by-company diversions — Major firms with vessels plying the Red Sea are sending “avoid” or “continue” orders to ship captains that appear based largely around connections to Israel, the United States, and Europe.
  • Competitive advantages for firms from countries opposed to the Gaza conflict — Shipping firms from China and other nonaligned countries appear to have fewer problems transiting the Red Sea, while firms based in Israel-supporting jurisdictions are more likely to avoid the Yemeni coast and incur higher costs. These advantages may even disincentivize China from intervening to defuse the crisis.
  • Houthi “sanctions” on the European Union — The selective Houthi attacks are serving as a form of economic sanction that mainly affect the EU. As charter and cargo rates rise and delay arrivals, the added costs appear likely to play out in EU price inflation.
  • Global South’s asymmetric demonstration of soft and hard power — Iran-linked Houthi are using inexpensive forms of hard power to rattle Washington and its NATO allies, while capturing the admiration of those in the developing world who are appalled by Israeli conduct in Gaza.[2]
  • Houthi aims are changing — Recent attacks on U.S. and U.K. ships are said to be based not just on demands for a Gaza cease-fire, but around retaliating for U.S. and British airstrikes on Houthi sites inside Yemen. A further broadening of Houthi aims is said to include new goals of sanctions relief for Iran and recognition of the Houthi as Yemen’s legitimate government.[3] These changes suggest the shipping attacks could continue beyond a cease-fire in Gaza.
  • Asymmetry in energy commodity trade — Red Sea shipments of Saudi crude oil to Europe are at six-month highs — since those cargoes do not pass the Yemeni coast — while Russian crude cargoes flow through the Red Sea to Asia unabated. Meanwhile, Qatari liquefied natural gas (LNG) shipments to Europe have detoured en masse or been replaced by alternate cargoes sourced in the Atlantic basin.
This issue brief examines how a non-state actor has been able to undermine global norms around freedom of navigation. The brief reviews shipping disruptions and cost implications, details Houthi messaging and targeting choices, and describes how their selective actions should be considered a form of economic sanctions.

The enduring problem with proxies


In a recent public announcement of little surprise, except perhaps to the Iran-obsessed punditry and political classes in Washington and Tel Aviv, U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Iran does not have total control over the proxy groups it supports and finances.

It’s a wonder what took so long. Proxy relationships are notoriously complex, fickle, and unpredictable; more often than not, they disappoint the sponsor, leave the latter’s strategic aims unfulfilled, or at the very worst, come back to haunt with a vengeance. Recent U.S. history has ample lessons of the pitfalls of proxy relationships, from the South Vietnamese Army to the Mujahideen. Contemporary times are no better.

The proxy relationship between the United States and the Syrian Democratic Forces, while successful in some regards, ultimately failed, according to one report from New America, because it couldn’t manage the unavoidable downside risk "that an intricate strategy of engaging proxies to fight in foreign wars can be so quickly undone."

Proxies may seem like an easy fix and politically palatable to domestic audiences more accepting of passing off the dying to someone far away rather than their own brethren, but the drawbacks can also be immense. Proxies can be both brutal and incompetent, as one expert has observed, “often go[ing] their own way, pursuing their own interests while pocketing the money and other support they receive.”

Their sponsors can be implicated in any potential human rights abuses or war crimes. In other words, what they give is not always in line with what they get and what they’re tasked to do is not always what they do in reality. Add to this the fact that both proxy and sponsor are often at the whim of shifting political winds, matters can go sideways quite quickly and grow increasingly complex. So why is Iran’s relationship with its many regional proxies considered exceptional to all this?

Cheap drones 'cannot match' artillery power in Ukraine: experts


Ukraine is relying on the massive use of drones to compensate for an artillery shell shortage and undermine Russian military capabilities, but experts warned they cannot tip the balance.

Both drones used for strikes hundreds of kilometres away and commercial drones are starting to dominate the battlefield.

In particular, so-called First Person View (FPV) drones allow their pilots to see live images of the ground as if they were on board and can locate enemy units and, if armed with explosives, attack them from within a few kilometres.

"At the moment in Ukraine, we are seeing the use of drones on an unimaginable scale, we are really talking about tens and hundreds of thousands of drones on the battlefield," Ulrike Franke, a researcher at the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), told AFP.

In its 2024 budget Kyiv earmarked 1.15 billion euros ($1.25 billion) for drones, and President Volodymyr Zelensky announced that the country will produce "one million drones" this year, after setting up a specific drone branch in February.

Kyiv's direction comes as its supporters are trying to bolster Ukrainian stocks -- London is set to deliver more than 10,000 drones, of which one thousand are FPV drones, and Paris is preparing to order 2,000 kamikaze drones, some of which will be used in Ukraine.

Ukrainian officials estimate between 100,000 and 120,000 drones are needed monthly.

Whereas it needs 200,000 to 250,000 artillery shells per month for a major offensive or 75,000 to 90,000 to sustain the war defensively, according to an Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) review.

Supreme Court Is Ready to Send Trump Ally to Jail

Maura Zurick


Navarro, 74, the ex-president's former trade adviser and chief White House strategist, was convicted last year on two counts of contempt of Congress for refusing to provide documents and testimony to congressional investigators probing the January 6, 2021, siege on the U.S. Capitol, in which a mob of former President Trump's supporters attempted to halt certification of President Joe Biden's 2020 defeat of Trump. Navarro was sentenced in January to four months in prison for defying the House subpoena.

In February, a judge ruled that Navarro must serve the prison sentence despite his pending appeals. He has been ordered to report to a Miami, Florida, prison on Tuesday and will become the first ex-White House official in U.S. history to serve jail time for contempt of Congress.

Navarro became the second top Trump adviser convicted of contempt tied to the House January 6 investigation after Steve Bannon, another strategist for the former president, was found guilty of two criminal counts in July 2022 and sentenced to four months in prison, but has not been jailed.

Stanley Woodward, Navarro's attorney, declined Newsweek's request for an interview or comment in an email Monday night.

What We Know

In an opinion released Monday, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts denied Navarro's bid to remain out of jail pending appeal of his conviction.

Roberts, who issued the ruling on his own without referring the matter to the full Supreme Court, said he found no reason to disagree with an appeals court's decision that Navarro had not "met his burden to establish his entitlement to relief."

Ukraine's Much-Needed Ammo Boost Still Months Away

Kaitlin Lewis

Several European nations are committed to providing Ukraine with the artillery it needs along the front lines against Russia, but ammunition may not reach Kyiv's soldiers for several more months.

In light of recent battlefield setbacks and the political divide stalling additional American aid packages, European countries have pledged to back a Czech-led effort to provide Ukraine with over 800,000 artillery shells, which includes a boost to Kyiv's 155mm and 122mm stockpiles. According to a report by The Wall Street Journal over the weekend, Czech officials have found suppliers from across the globe to deliver on their promises, and the shells are estimated to arrive in batches to Ukraine by the end of the year.

A senior Czech official told Reuters last week that the first shipment of artillery rounds could be expected in Ukraine by June at the latest. But after months of ammunition shortages, additional shells cannot come soon enough for Kyiv, which has been limited in its ability to hold off Moscow's advances without the necessary firepower.

Ukraine's artillery brigade is pictured during an instruction and training session near Chasiv Yar, Ukraine, on February 27. European countries have pooled to provide Ukraine with much-needed artillery shells, but the first batches of deliveries could take months to reach Kyiv.

Western intelligence has estimated that Ukraine is firing off 2,000 rounds for every 10,000 shots fired by Russia daily. Over the summer, Kyiv was estimated to be firing up to 7,000 per day.

The U.S. Army announced plans last month to ramp up its production of 155mm artillery shells to help "restock ourselves and also restock our allies." But with House Republicans holding out on passing any future Ukrainian assistance bills, Washington is limited in how much it can pledge to Kyiv.

Mass Casualties in Russia Taint Putin's Election Victory

Jon Jackson

Pro-Kyiv Russian insurgents on Monday said their recent operations in Russia's border regions have resulted in heavy casualties for Moscow's military, casting a shadow over President Vladimir Putin's election victory.

The Kremlin announced on Sunday that Putin won nearly 88 percent of the vote in Russia's presidential election, but the results have widely been called rigged by Western observers.

Meanwhile, the separatist groups Freedom of Russia Legion (LSR) and the Russian Volunteer Corps (RDK) have continued operations in the Belgorod and Kursk regions. According to the groups, they've been responsible for more than 1,400 Russian military casualties since they began their incursion a week ago.

Newsweek could not verify the casualty claims made by the separatist groups and contacted the Russian Ministry of Defense via email on Monday for comment.

In the main image, a fighter of the Russian Volunteer Corps sits on a seized personnel carrier near the Russian border in northern Ukraine on May 24, 2023. The small image shows Russian President Vladimir Putin speaking during a press conference at his campaign headquarters on March 18, 2024, in Moscow. Units of the Russian Volunteer Corps and the Freedom of Russia Legion said they have been responsible for a high amount of Russian military casualties since they began operations in Russia’s border regions last week.

The insurgent groups' claims deal a blow to Putin's image a day after he boasted during his victory speech of his military having the advantage in the Ukraine war, which began on February 24, 2022.

Donald Trump Renews Fight to Remove Fani Willis From Case

Kaitlin Lewis

Former President Donald Trump on Monday filed an appeal of the ruling in Georgia last week that allowed Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis to remain on his election subversion case in the state.

Willis, the lead prosecutor on the racketeering indictment against Trump and 18 co-defendants, was given the green light to continue prosecuting the case after defendants sought to disqualify her over her romantic relationship with Nathan Wade, the special prosecutor she hired to manage the case.

Judge Scott McAfee ruled on Friday that Willis could remain on the case as long as Wade resigned. The special prosecutor submitted a letter of resignation later in the day.

The appeal of McAfee's decision, filed by Trump and seven of his codefendants, said that arguments over Willis' disqualification are "of the utmost importance to the case."

Former President Donald Trump in Rome, Georgia, on March 9, 2024. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis on March 1, 2024, in Atlanta, Georgia. Trump on Monday appealed the recent ruling that allowed Willis to remain on his election subversion case.

Willis' role in the election subversion case was threatened after the district attorney faced accusations of creating a conflict of interest in the prosecution by having an affair with Wade, who she hired to manage Trump's case in November 2021. An effort to disqualify Willis was filed by one of the former president's codefendants, Mike Roman, whose attorneys said that the district attorney had been "profiting personally from this prosecution." Both Willis and Wade testified that their relationship did not pose an issue to the case.

McAfee ultimately allowed Willis to remain on the case after hearing weeks of testimony on the matter, but wrote in his filing last week that the prosecutors' relationship was a "tremendous lapse in judgment."


Ulrich Kühn
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Soon thereafter, Scholz’s statement became known as the Zeitenwende speech, often used by scholars, journalists, and pundits alike to capture both this pivotal turning point in European history and Germany’s reactions to it (Blumenau 2022; Sauerbrey 2022; Raik 2023). The war confronted Europe’s foremost power with a multitude of challenges, putting into question long-held German beliefs and chal-lenging Berlin’s national interests. Germany’s basic orientation before and after the Cold War as a “civilian power” (Zivilmacht), civilizing politics and interna-tional relations in particular (Maull 2007), had to adapt to a new policy of Germany supplying the besieged Ukrainian government with advanced German weaponry while at the same time boosting its own defense with a 100 billion Euro special fund for the Bundeswehr. Berlin’s agenda of economic interdependency incentiv-izing cooperative and peaceful relations (Wandel durch Handel) was disrupted as a result of Western sanctions against Russia and the Kremlin weaponizing its gas and oil deliveries against Western Europe and Germany in particular (Blumenau 2022). Germany’s special relationship with Russia, deeply engrained in the German polit-ical system since the inception of Ostpolitik in the 1960s and 1970s, became the focal point of strong domestic and international criticism (Fröhlich 2023). At the same time, the country’s traditional Westbindung—its alliance with the United States and within the structures of NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization)—bounced back after four debilitating years under the presidency of Donald J. Trump. It is fair to argue that the war has fundamentally impacted German foreign policy, effectively ending three peaceful decades of post-Cold War German prosperity and security. Whether and how German foreign policy can or should respond with con-tinuity (Harnisch 2001; Mello 2020) is currently an open question.

The war has also left its mark on German nuclear policies. Only a few weeks after Scholz’s speech, the government announced to purchase U.S.-made F-35 air-craft to replace Germany’s aging fleet of nuclear-capable fighter jets, assigned to NATO’s nuclear sharing mission. The decision ended ten years of inconclusive discussions about the merits of Germany contributing to U.S. extended nuclear deterrence. Perhaps even more remarkably, the decision was supported by a major-ity of Germans, who had held strong anti-nuclear views before the war (Kütt 2022). 

Undermining Ukraine: How Russia widened its global information war in 2023

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As the full-scale war in Ukraine enters its third year, Russia has doubled down on its worldwide efforts to undermine Kyiv’s international standing in an attempt to erode Western support and domestic Ukrainian morale. Years of close monitoring of not only state-sponsored media such as Russia Today (RT) and Sputnik, but also Russian activity on Telegram, TikTok, X, and other social platforms, points to one conclusion: In the propaganda war, Russia remains fully committed to conducting information operations around the globe, playing the long game to outlast any unity among Ukraine’s allies and persist until Ukraine loses its will to fight.

Western sanctions applied in the wake of the initial invasion disrupted Russia’s ability to reach some European audiences with its state-sponsored media outlets. But Russia has since adjusted its information operations to focus more on social media; in addition to attacking Western public support to fund Ukraine’s defense, it has expanded targeted propaganda efforts in different parts of the world, including Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East.

And Western support for Ukraine is indeed wobbling, most notably in Washington, where additional aid to Ukraine has been held up for months in Congress. Many factors influence voters’ and lawmakers’ support for sending weapons and money to Ukraine. Whether or not Russian propaganda has played a decisive role, the outcome of decreasing Western material support for Ukraine’s defense is the clear goal of President Vladimir Putin’s information war. And with recent battlefield wins such as the capture of the city of Avdiivka alongside propaganda wins such as the death of opposition leader Alexei Navalny, Putin’s position at home and abroad is stronger than ever.

Russia has actively employed information operations to undermine Ukraine since at least 2014, as Digital Forensic Research Lab (DFRLab) researchers around the world have documented in detail through their ongoing monitoring efforts. In the lead-up to the February 2022 invasion, Russia employed disinformation in the form of narrative warfare to justify military action, mask its planning, and deny any responsibility for the war. And as the DFRLab detailed in its landmark February 2023 report, Undermining Ukraine: How the Kremlin employs information operations to erode global confidence in Ukraine, Russia’s information strategy began to shift following the 2022 invasion, focusing on eroding Ukraine’s ability to resist. In this follow-up to the first edition of Undermining Ukraine, we explore how Russia further entrenched these efforts throughout 2023, developing new messages and techniques while recommitting to ones that continue to prove effective.

Army War College PressParameters, Spring 2024, no. 54, no. 1

Ukraine: The Case for Urgency

Toward a Strategic Art for Sanctions

China's Use of Nontraditional Strategic Landpower in Asia

US-Taiwan Relations and the Future of the Liberal International Order

International Law, Self-Defense, and the Israel-Hamas Conflict

The Politics of Restraint in the Middle East

Rethinking the Relevance of Self-Deterrence

Strategy as Problem-Solving

The Art of Avoiding Strategic Miscalculation

Building a Purposeful Research Agenda

SRAD Director's Corner: Emerging Technologies and Terrorism: A Report from NATO's COE Defence against Terrorism

Russia Vows Major Response to Black Sea Naval Defeats

Ellie Cook

Russia is upgrading its Black Sea fleet with additional weapons, according to Moscow, in an attempt to thwart Ukraine's success in using naval drones against its prized assets around the annexed Crimean peninsula.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu "ordered the installation of additional fire weapons, large-caliber machine-gun rifle systems to destroy enemy drones," the Russian Defense Ministry said on Sunday. The guns will be deployed on Black Sea fleet vessels, reported Russian state news agency.

Russia has taken bruising losses to its Black Sea fleet at Ukraine's hands since February 2022, when the Kremlin launched its full-scale invasion. Moscow has controlled Crimea since annexing the peninsula from Ukraine in 2014, but Kyiv has vowed to recapture it.

Ukraine has enjoyed far more success in striking Russia in the Black Sea than in its land operations as Moscow continues to make gains westwards along the front line. But Kyiv's military, despite only having a small navy, has used home-grown MAGURA V5 uncrewed naval vessels in a string of dramatic strikes on the Black Sea fleet, taking out a slew of ships in the past few months.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (left) and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on June 22, 2023, in Moscow. Shoigu "ordered the installation of additional fire weapons, large-caliber machine-gun rifle systems to destroy enemy drones," the Russian Defense Ministry said on Sunday.

NATO Builds Largest Europe Base Near Black Sea

David Brennan

Romania has now begun construction of what will eventually be the NATO alliance's largest European military base, as the transatlantic bloc seeks to bolster its capabilities in the Black Sea region with an eye on Russian activity there.

The $2.7 billion project will expand the Romanian Air Force 57th Air Base Mihail Kogălniceanu, which is located close to the Black Sea port city of Constanța. The new facility will have a perimeter of almost 20 miles, cover around 11 square miles, and will be home to some 10,000 NATO personnel and their families.

Romania has long been a key hub for NATO operations in the Black Sea region. Thousands of U.S. troops have cycled through the country on training and security missions since the beginning of Russia's full-scale war on Ukraine. American combat and surveillance aircraft regularly operate from there as part of NATO's policing operations.

Euronews reported this weekend that work on the base's basic infrastructure—such as access roads and the power grid—has begun. Eventually, several new runways are expected to be built to support the operation of various types of military aircraft.

Nicolae Crețu, the commander of the air base, said there will be "maintenance hangars, fuel stores, ammunition, equipment, aviation technical materials, simulators, feeding facilities, accommodation; everything is needed to support the operation and missions of a base of this size extent."

French Leclerc tanks are pictured at the Cincu military training area during an exercise by the NATO Enhanced Forward Presence battlegroup in Romania, on December 8, 2022. The Black Sea nation occupies a pivotal strategic location.

Why Cyber Attacks on Ukrainians Aren’t Working the Way Russia Expected


The Russian armed forces have invaded and occupied Ukrainian territory for the past ten years—and waged full-scale war against Ukraine for the past two. During that time, Russian hackers have also been battling in cyberspace. But rather than fighting the Ukrainian military, they are often focused on making life hard for average Ukrainians.

The majority of Russia’s cyber attacks seem specifically intended to disrupt day-to-day routines by, for example, turning off electricity or making internet connections unstable. The hackers’ goal is to make life so uncomfortable that Ukrainians lose hope in themselves, lose faith in their leaders, and ultimately give up the fight for both their independence and territory. As odd as it may seem, Moscow has made demoralizing civilians in cyberspace a key pillar of how it thinks about winning wars.

But does it work? The evidence suggests probably not . Ukrainians have proven remarkably resilient, bouncing back from each cyber disruption—even garnering support from some of the world’s biggest technology companies to make their infrastructure more secure than ever. Civilians have banded together and rallied around their leaders in Kyiv. Ukraine has also become one of the most digitally connected and technologically savvy countries in Europe. Without discounting the suffering and costs Russian cyber attacks have caused, Ukrainian adaptivity must be part of any analysis about the role of cyber operations in armed conflict.

Why Russia Has Been So Resilient to Western Export Controls


Following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the United States imposed an unprecedented package of sanctions intended to make Russia pay a high economic cost for its aggression and to constrain the Russian military. U.S. President Joe Biden declared that Russia would “bear the consequences” for the invasion and emphasized that sanctions were designed to reverse Russia’s military modernization, degrade its critical industries, and impair its ability “to compete in a high-tech 21st-century economy.”

These sanctions—coordinated with allies including the EU, Japan, and the UK—spanned several industries and economic sectors, including energy and raw materials exports, and the Russian financial system. The measures also included a stringent set of technology export controls aimed at denying Russia access to components that could be used for its war machine. They targeted a wide range of technologies, from ball bearings to electrical transformers, but were particularly focused on a set of high-priority dual-use items such as integrated circuits and radio frequency transceiver modules that “have extensive commercial applications but have also been found in Russian missiles and drones on the battlefield in Ukraine.”

Yet, Russia has proved exceptionally resilient to the West’s measures. This is true of the Russian economy as a whole but is particularly germane when it comes to Russia’s unexpected success in acquiring advanced technology components. In theory, Western technology export controls should have had more impact. Take semiconductor chips—critical to a range of items including drones, radios, precision missiles, and armored vehicles. Russia’s domestic chips industry is outdated and undersized. Plagued by disinvestment, Russian factories operate at 65-nanometer chip technology—about fifteen years behind the United States. As the U.S. Department of Commerce says in its description of the export controls, the highest priority items were selected in part because of “Russia’s lack of domestic production.” Given Russia’s reliance on imports of critical technology, policymakers were not unrealistic to expect that technology sanctions would significantly degrade Russia’s military capability. But after experiencing a steep drop in the imports of transistors and microprocessors in 2022, Russia’s supplies have rebounded to prewar levels.

Effective US Energy Policy Could Strengthen International Securit

Brigham McCown

Energy and the New Status Quo

America faces significant geopolitical risk across multiple theaters of operation. With the post–Cold War peace dividend depleted, today’s multipolar political alignment reflects an instability not seen in nearly 100 years.

Russia, Iran, and China are directly challenging the American-led world order. Their goal is clear, and the United States cannot allow them to prevail. While Russia’s disregard for the rule of law and internationally established boundaries preoccupies the near term, an emerging great power competition between the West and China looms over Washington’s mid- to long-term foreign policy priorities. Additionally, Iran’s malign influence has led to a resurgence of violence and instability in the Middle East. Closer to home, socialist and anti-democratic governments in the Western Hemisphere are again wooing voters with the failed and discredited policies of yesteryear.

As a new geopolitical status quo emerges, the United States will need a secure source of energy. Energy security can be defined as a country’s ability to ensure the uninterrupted availability of reliable and affordable energy sources. It encompasses the stable supply of energy resources, the resilience of energy infrastructure, and a country’s ability to meet its current and future energy demands while also dealing with emergencies, natural disasters, and geopolitical tensions that could disrupt supply.

A responsible energy mix promotes national and economic security while providing a realistic pathway to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This will include hydrocarbons, renewables, nuclear, and lower-emitting energy sources such as geothermal, hydroelectric, and biofuels. However, the glue that binds any stable energy transition is a key bridge fuel: natural gas.

Forever Putinism

Michael Kimmage and Maria Lipman

In 2012, Vladimir Putin, after four years as prime minister, once again became Russia’s president. Many Russians resented his engineered return: before the 2012 presidential election, “Russia Without Putin” had been a popular sign at protest rallies. Their discontent had something to do with Putin himself and much to do with Russia’s evolving political system. There was no institution or clause in the Russian constitution that could constrain Putin. Nobody stood in his way.

Early-stage Putinism was marked by a mix of public complacency and indifference. Complacency flourished when the Russian economy expanded between 2000 and 2008, the first eight years of Putin’s presidency, enabling the rise of a Russian middle class. Indifference, which the Kremlin inculcated in part by discouraging public participation in politics, assisted in the regime’s creeping authoritarianism. One need not love Putin; it was sufficient to merely not care how he stayed in power. By 2022, Russia had arrived at something new: wartime Putinism. It was fully authoritarian and partially mobilized for war, yet with space left for degrees of complacency and indifference.

From March 15 to March 17, a putative presidential election will again be held in Russia. The procedural formalities—candidates, campaigns, the ballot box itself—will not affect the Kremlin’s preordained result. Now in his 25th year in power, Putin will serve another six-year term. At the end of it, he will be eligible to run again and to extend his reign to 2036.

Through tight management, the Kremlin has tried to make the election as uneventful as possible. Although Putin would likely win a fair election in 2024, an unmanaged election would foster genuine political contestation and criticism of the president, which the Kremlin had long been keeping off-limits. Meaningful criticism would open the door to another possibility: namely, that Putin’s edicts may not reflect the united will of the Russian people and that he may not be destined to rule Russia in perpetuity.

(Dis)information wars

Adrian Casillas, Maryam Farboodi, Layla Hashemi, Maryam Saeedi, and Steven Wilson


In countries with authoritarian regimes, traditional means of information dissemination such as newspapers, TV, and radio are heavily controlled by the central government. In the early 21st century, the introduction of social media and decentralized platforms proved to be a groundbreaking development in these countries. The rapid improvement of big data technologies enhanced convenient access at an unprecedented rate and made these platforms prominent vehicles for displaying dissidence during episodes of unrest.

Soon after, authoritarian regimes intervened by limiting internet access and censoring social media. In parallel, they started to spread disinformation on social media through propaganda accounts—accounts that are publicly pro-government and spread false news in an attempt to change the narrative in favor of the government. However, the widespread access of the public to multiple sources of information has reduced the effectiveness of this tactic. As such, governments have turned to a smarter approach to supply fake news. They engage in a “disinformation war,” i.e., they create imposter accounts who spread fake news on social media platforms while pretending to be unbiased, ordinary accounts (Hynes, 2021).

Disinformation wars have several advantages as they do not require exerting force and they are difficult to trace, yet they disrupt the flow of information. Therefore, they derange the opposition movement without apparent aggression.1 Furthermore, it is difficult to identify the pieces of fake news that have originated from imposter accounts, as these accounts imitate the behavior of ordinary accounts in many respects.

Although both strategies spread fake news, unlike classic propaganda, disinformation wars are not intended to control the narrative in favor of the central government. Rather, they are a means to disturb the narrative to derail and discredit the protest movement. To delineate the supply of fake news on social media platforms, it is crucial to understand both strategies concurrently.

As the prevalence of disinformation wars continues to grow, it becomes crucial to address the challenges they present. Previous studies have highlighted real-time content moderation and ex-post efforts to eliminate audience biases as essential strategies to contain the spread of fake news, but they have pressing limitations. Real-time fact-checking or content moderation is time-consuming, allowing disinformation to go viral before it can be addressed; moreover, ex-post debunking shows limited impact on debiasing the public.2 In this paper, we propose an alternative approach to restrict the supply of disinformation—ex-ante content moderation. We predict accounts likely to engage in spreading disinformation, even before they do so, and explore the effectiveness of a policy that uses this ex-ante information to limit the spread of fake news on social media.