24 March 2024

A Game of Leverage: De-constructing Chinese & Indian Soft Power in the Gulf


The art of creating leverage, seemingly a structural apparatus, lies in the discrete unobtrusiveness of intent. While much soft power is discours-ical, it is the productive capacity of this power that exemplifies it as a universally accepted, objective reality.[1] In conformity with this, and through an interpretative analysis, a re-thought and reworking of soft power understanding between the Gulf nations—China—India is required to grasp a reality widely ignored.

Global interest in the Gulf is not a new phenomenon. India, since its Indus Valley Civilisation and China, since its prosperous Silk route, have been interacting with the Gulf. While India’s fate was once intertwined with the Gulf through power integration under British rule.[2] China’s engagement with the Gulf stems directly from the competitive nature of Eurasian geographical dynamics.

Of late, India is trying to intensify its engagements with the region; the proposed India-Middle-East corridor is the latest attempt at solidifying relations.[3] Meanwhile, China’s exuberance through its BRI helped the momentum of China-Gulf relations. Amidst this, the Gulf region has developed its own story; the dynamics of its relations with new rising players and the conflict tensions in the economic structures should be looked into with seriousness. The latest developments make the gulf an imperative region in the international discourse, helping us understand the constantly changing narratives.

Through a Post-Structuralist lens

Much of the post-Cold War history is ripe with representations and interpretations of an anarchic Gulf, especially since the Arab Spring. Almost all the countries have been expected to meet this standard of strategic play of perception towards the Gulf. Interpretation of threats and enemies (high politics) have driven Post-structuralist’s to assess soft power structures in the Gulf based on three realist strands – power-centrism, groupism, and egoism.[4]

Why America needs a nuanced understanding of Indian diplomacy

Abhinav Pandya

During the early phase of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, India faced tremendous pressure from the West, particularly the US, to align with the US-led Western bloc and condemn Russia in unequivocal terms.

However, India maintained its principled stand of strategic neutrality, calling both sides for the ‘immediate cessation of hostilities’, ‘end to the violence,’ and to ‘return to the path of diplomacy and dialogue’. India’s position discomforts many Western capitals, particularly Washington.

In today’s polarised geopolitical discourse, India’s hallmark diplomatic behaviour on various global conflicts, which turns out to be a tightrope balancing between the rival power blocs and nations, does not sit well with the Western International Relations theoreticians and foreign ministries.

The discomfort and unease in bilateral relations can be witnessed in the India-US relationship.

Despite an array of technological and strategic agreements like BECA, LEMOA, and COMCASA, and the common consensus on the emerging challenge of Chinese revisionism, one finds that there is an acute sense of misunderstanding and lack of trust between New Delhi and Washington.

These frictions are visible in several instances, be it the US sermonising India on so-called democratic backsliding, press freedom, minority issues, and human rights; or the recent diplomatic stand-off between Canada and India over the killing of Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjhar with alleged Indian involvement; or US accusations of the Indian agencies conspiring to kill Khalistani extremist Gurupatwant Singh Pannun.

The ambitious dreams of the grand US-India strategic partnership and bonhomie always get punctured by Washington’s discomfort with New Delhi’s stance on issues of critical geopolitical importance to the US.

How private sector can propel a new wave of space revolution in India

Ashwin Prasad

The Government of India amended the FDI policy for the space sector on 5 March 2024. This has liberalised thresholds for various space-related activities.

This change comes on the heels of a slew of space reforms by the government that began in 2020. The reforms created a fertile ground for the cropping up of many space start-ups in the country but did not address their funding needs. While the FDI reforms have the potential to address this deficiency, they are insufficient in a vacuum. India’s share of the global space economy is $8 billion, and the government aims for a five-fold increase by 2040. To achieve this, the government will have to place larger bets.

India’s space industry

Until the early years of the 21st century, government agencies dominated the space sector. Technological advances and changing policies have since created scope for private players in the business of outer space. In the last five years, the Indian government has taken several steps to increase private industry participation in space. As of the beginning of this year, India had 204 space start-ups.

Funding the space activities

The start-ups are spread across upstream and downstream activities. The upstream activities include building and operating various space assets. These include launch vehicles, satellites and spaceports. These activities take time and have a risk of failure. They require large and patient capital investments.

The downstream activities of space use the information obtained from the upstream activities in various applications. The applications are many. They range from Earth Observation for agriculture and urban planning to Positioning and Navigation applications for drone guidance. The downstream applications are less risky. Also, they don’t take too much time or investment. However, downstream operations depend on the growth and development of the upstream sector. As a result, investments to develop space assets are critical.

Tensions high after Pakistan launches cross-border attacks into Afghanistan

Abid Hussain

Pakistan has launched overnight air attacks inside Afghanistan, while the Taliban claimed hours later to have fired across the border.

Tensions flared on Monday between Islamabad and Kabul following the overnight raids. Pakistan said the attack had targeted armed groups hiding out in border regions. The Taliban said eight women and children were killed.

The Afghan defence ministry claimed later on Monday to have fired across the border at Pakistan positions. Islamabad has not yet commented on the claim.

Pakistani military and foreign ministry sources confirmed to Al Jazeera that the “retaliatory” attacks had targeted the hideouts of commanders of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), or Pakistani Taliban, due to “terrorist activities being sponsored and conducted from across border”.

They offered few details. However, on Saturday, a group of suicide bombers targeted a military check post in Pakistan’s North Waziristan district in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, which neighbours Afghanistan, killing seven soldiers.

Afghanistan’s interim government said the Pakistani jets had hit the houses of “ordinary people” in Paktika and Khost provinces. They reported that at least eight people were killed; five women and three children.

In a statement issued on X, government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the individual Pakistan claimed to have targeted continues to live in Pakistan.

Kabul “strongly condemns” the “reckless action” which is a violation of Afghanistan territory, he continued.

Myanmar’s Army is Collapsing: An Update

Joshua Kurlantzick

Over the past six months, Myanmar’s armed forces, also known as the Tatmadaw, have increasingly begun to disintegrate. Following the junta’s return to power in a 2021 coup, the military seemed destined to demolish, or at least hold to a standstill, the alliance of armed ethnic minority groups and mostly majority Burman People’s Defense Forces contesting its control—the military had far superior weapons and no problem utilizing the most brutal tactics available. In an earlier blog post, I wrote about this phenomenon, encouraging Myanmar democrats and outside actors to contingency plan for the day after a potential military collapse. Such an idea does not denigrate the work done to form bonds between the ethnic armies and Burman majority groups, as well as the work of the government in exile. A lot can go wrong in the wake of a military collapse, and contingency planning on a large scale is needed now.

Since I wrote that earlier post, the situation has only gotten more dire for the Tatmadaw, and they have responded to their declining fortunes with even greater brutality, if that was even possible. As the Washington Post noted in a lengthy, insightful recent piece about morale in the military, defections, and the terrible conditions soldiers are fighting under, the army is reduced to feeding its soldiers virtually nothing, keeping them isolated in their positions and cut off from the outside world (where they would learn that the military is losing) and brutally treating anyone who tries to escape and is caught.

The Post notes, “Accounts from Myanmar army soldiers who have surrendered or defected over the past three months reveal that the military is suffering from plunging morale and overstretched logistics amid a rebel offensive that has prompted mass surrenders. These accounts, provided by more than thirty soldiers, suggest that the rebels’ recent battlefield successes go beyond mere territorial gains and are undermining the cohesion of the forces defending Myanmar’s military junta. On the battlefield, where pro-democracy fighters and ethnic insurgents are waging a multi-front campaign, calls by army units for reinforcements and resupply of ammunition have frequently gone unanswered, former commanders said. One soldier said rations for his battalion ran so low that troops disguised themselves as civilians to buy food from villagers. Another said combat support personnel were deployed to the battlefront without any training. Some soldiers said they were forced into the military and never wanted to fight in the first place.”

UN Chief 'Alarmed' By Reports Civilians Killed In Myanmar Air Strikes

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres has said he is "alarmed" by reports of ongoing Myanmar military air strikes on villages in Rakhine state, where locals told AFP more than 20 people were killed on Monday.

Clashes have rocked Myanmar's western Rakhine state since the Arakan Army (AA) attacked security forces in November, ending a ceasefire that had largely held since the military's 2021 coup.

Guterres is "alarmed by reports of ongoing air strikes by the military, including today in Minbya township that reportedly killed and injured many civilians," a spokesman for the UN chief said Monday.

Minbya township lies east of state capital Sittwe, which has been all but cut off by AA fighters in recent weeks.

The air strike hit the village of Thar Dar around 1:45 am on Monday, killing 10 men, four women and 10 children, one resident told AFP.

"There was no fighting in our village and they bombed us," he said, asking for anonymity for security reasons.

Another resident, also asking for anonymity, said 23 people had been killed in the blast and 18 wounded.

The recent conflict has displaced tens of thousands in Rakhine, where a 2017 military crackdown sent hundreds of thousands of Rohingya fleeing to neighbouring Bangladesh.

With most mobile networks down communication with the riverine region is extremely difficult.

China’s Economy Has a New Problem: Its Job Market

Jason Douglas

China’s economy has a new problem: Rising unemployment.

Joblessness in China rose for the third straight month, according to new data published Monday. At 5.3%, the official jobless rate is back to where it was in July after increases in December and January reversed almost half a year of steady progress.

The rise in the unemployment rate was just one data point in a batch of new economic figures released in Beijing Monday. Most were positive: Industrial production rose handsomely in January and February compared with a year earlier, and investment poured into factories.

Economists said the data suggest the economy is benefiting from modest government stimulus but that more will be needed to ensure a durable recovery.

“Now is not the time for complacency,” said Ting Lu, chief China economist at Nomura in Hong Kong.

The pickup in unemployment comes alongside evidence of a decline in average working hours in China, which economists often interpret as a sign that people are underemployed, or working well below their potential.

A longstanding concern has been youth unemployment, which rose in June to more than 21%. China’s statistics agency stopped publishing data for joblessness among 16- to 24-year-olds soon after, citing methodological issues it wanted to iron out. It began publishing a new version in January, which put youth unemployment at just under 15% in December. On Monday, a spokesman for the agency said it won’t publish the new rate alongside the broader measure of unemployment each month but will release it on its website two to three days later.

Together, these labor-market signals point to pockets of weakness in China’s economy, which is feeling the benefits of government support for manufacturing but continues to wrestle with subdued consumption and a drawn-out property slump.

War-Zone GPS Spoofing Is Threatening Civil Aviation

Amy Mackinnon

Commercial aircraft flying in the Middle East and northern Europe have been caught up in a spate of GPS spoofing incidents, which have thrown onboard navigation systems off course and pose an increasing risk to air travel the world over, according to international aviation bodies and experts.

For the US, 2024 Isn’t 1973

George Friedman

The culture of the Israeli military was shaped in October 1973, when Egypt and Syria attacked without warning. Importantly, the assault represented a direct threat to American interests. Egypt and Syria were both armed by the Soviet Union, so an Israeli defeat might have given Moscow control over the Suez Canal and, through a Syrian occupation, access to Saudi oil. The situation quickly manifested itself with the Arab oil embargo, generating an economic crisis in the U.S. and the rest of the West. Thus, Washington rushed material support to Israel and launched a diplomatic process that benefitted itself and its Middle Eastern ally while blocking the Soviets.

It is easy to draw parallels, even unconscious ones, from moments in which the United States sees itself in profound danger. In looking at the Israeli position now, I think that that is what it has done, albeit mistakenly.

Deep in the Israeli psyche is the notion that the United States will not abandon Israel in extremis. But there is a saying that nations have no permanent friends or enemies, only permanent interests. In 1973, the Israeli interest was to protect the whole of Israel – and that was absolute. The U.S. had what you might call a sentiment interest in Israel, but building strategy on sentiment is dangerous. What really mattered to Washington was the Soviet Union.

Israel is now engaged in a war with some similarities. There is the incompetence of Israeli intelligence and the belief that only a decisive defeat of the enemy will ensure national security. Its strategy, not to mention its political rhetoric, clearly assumes the United States shares Israel’s interest in waging a political and financially expensive operation against Hamas. The war in 1973 lasted a few weeks, not a few months. 

Bombs, guns, treasure: What Israel wants, the US gives


Close watchers of Israel’s war in Gaza have faced a question in recent months: If the U.S. is rushing weapons to Israel, then why hasn’t the public heard of any arms sales besides two relatively small transfers late last year?

The Washington Post delivered an answer last week. Reporter John Hudson revealed that the Biden administration has approved over 100 smaller weapons packages for Israel since Oct. 7 that fell under the $25 million threshold for formally notifying Congress — and thus the public — about the transfers.

In total, these mini sales could add up to more than $1 billion worth of U.S. military aid.

The decision to deliver U.S. aid in smaller packages is far from unusual. The U.S. government has done so in the past for practical and nefarious purposes alike; only about 2% of weapons transfers occur above the threshold to notify Congress, according to former officials.

But what is abnormal is the fact that many of those weapons were likely pre-positioned on Israeli territory before the war. Unlike other countries, Israel has a stockpile of American weapons on its soil to which it has privileged access.

When a U.S.-made bomb slams into Gaza, there’s a real chance that it started the day in an American facility, managed by American soldiers and governed by American law.

“It’s clear that it’s been a major source of arms for Israel,” said Josh Paul, a former State Department official who resigned in protest of U.S. support for Israel’s war. Unfortunately, Paul added, “it’s an opaque process, so it’s hard to say exactly what weapons they’re getting” from the stockpile.

This cache of arms is just a small piece of the puzzle. Taken as a whole, U.S. efforts to shield Israel from human rights restrictions and guarantee its access to continued military aid go further than for any other country, according to experts and former senior U.S. officials.

The West Should Help Expand Ukraine’s Cyber Offensive against Russia

David Kirichenko

In response to the US’s recent ambiguity as to whether it will either continue to support Ukraine or instead capitulate to Putin’s aggression, Russia continues to throw human waves at their offensive in the East of Ukraine. Ukraine’s new top military general Oleksandr Syrskyi has said Ukraine is switching to a strategy of defense. While the physical frontline may remain static for some time, the cyber front is more important than ever.

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine triggered not only the largest war in Europe since World War II, but also the start of the first open cyber war. Western governments believed Ukraine would be quickly defeated on the physical battlefield and experts predicted that Ukraine would face a “Cyber Pearl Harbor.”

Instead, Ukraine shocked the world with its heroic resistance on the battlefield while Russia’s vaunted cyber campaign was also thwarted. More than ever, Ukraine needs Western weaponry on the physical battlefield to defeat Russia. But at the same time, Ukraine must be supported with additional capabilities that will enable it to expand its cyber campaign against Russia. In turn, this cyber campaign enhances Ukraine’s military and political objectives.

A few months after the full-scale invasion of Ukraine began two years ago, Russia threatened that Western cyberattacks against Russia risked a direct military clash, and that any attempts to challenge Russia in the cyber sphere would lead to targeted countermeasures from Moscow. Russia said that its critical infrastructure was being targeted by cyberattacks coming from the United States and Ukraine.

Despite Russia’s vocal threats against the advanced weaponry supplied by the West to Ukraine, such as ATACMS or Storm Shadow missiles, Moscow has, so far, refrained from following through on its cyber threats. No one knows where the red lines stand. Yet, despite Putin’s posturing, there has been no strong reaction from Russia to tactics like increasing the supply of weapons, nor to recent Ukrainian strikes on occupied Crimea. The disconnect between Russia’s vocal saber-rattling and the reality of their muted response suggests the West may be too cautious in its approach to supporting Ukraine on the physical battlefield. The same lesson ought to be applied to the cyber domain.

The War That Israel Could Have Fought

Richard Haass

In the wake of the terrorist attacks of Oct. 7, 2023, Israel had not just the right to respond but the necessity: to show that Hamas would pay a high price for its savagery, to keep the perpetrators from killing again and to recover those who had been taken hostage.

But the design and conduct of Israel’s response—both its tactical decisions and its strategic aims—have been, and remain, a matter of choice. And almost all of those choices have been counterproductive. Israel’s actions have left it worse off, at a great cost to itself and its relationship with the U.S. and in the lives of innocent Palestinians.

None of this was inevitable, even as Israel understandably sought revenge. Better options were available at every juncture over the course of more than five months of conflict.

Palestinians in the rubble following an Israeli bombardment in Rafah, Dec. 14, 2023.

Israel has carried out large-scale military operations throughout Gaza, targeting locations it says were occupied or used by Hamas. By its own estimates it has killed more than 13,000 Hamas fighters out of a prewar total of some 30,000. This includes some leaders of the group but not the most senior, or even all of those who planned the Oct. 7 attacks. To date, Israel’s operation has resulted in the deaths of more than 31,000 Gazans, according to the Gazan Ministry of Health, which doesn’t distinguish between civilians and Hamas fighters.

Technology Alone Won’t Break the Stalemate in Ukraine

Gavin Wilde

With U.S. aid to Ukraine stalled in Congress by an entrenched Republican Party and the Ukrainian counteroffensive stalled by entrenched Russian forces, Kyiv’s Western backers are grasping for ways to bolster its war effort. Since trained personnel and artillery are in short supply, their attention has turned to drones and artificial intelligence. However, overestimating the role such technologies can play in armed conflict risks solidifying the very stalemate that Ukraine needs to break.

Hackers claim to have breached Israeli nuclear facility’s computer network

Alexander Martin

An Iran-linked hacking group claims to have breached the computer network of a sensitive Israeli nuclear installation in an incident declared by the ‘Anonymous’ hackers as a protest against the war in Gaza.

The hackers claim to have stolen and published thousands of documents — including PDFs, emails, and PowerPoint slides — from the Shimon Peres Negev Nuclear Research Center. The secretive facility, which houses a nuclear reactor linked to Israel’s unavowed nuclear weapons program, has historically been targeted by Hamas rockets.

In a social media message explaining their intentions, the group claimed “as we are not as like as the bloodthirsty Netanyahu and his terrorist army we carried out the operation in such a way that no civilians were harmed.”

Despite this statement, in another a social media message the group said it did “not intend to have a nuclear explosion but this operation is dangerous, and anyhting might happen,” alongside an animated video depicting a nuclear detonation and a call for the evacuations of the nearby city of Dimona and the town of Yeruham.

While the documents that have been released potentially suggest the hackers were able to compromise an IT network connected to the facility, there is no evidence they have been able to breach its operational technology (OT) network. Even in the case they did, nuclear facilities have numerous failsafe systems in place to prevent dangerous incidents.

The Israeli embassy in London did not respond to a request for comment about the incident.

A Navy in Declin


In 1890, Alfred Thayer Mahan, a renowned naval strategist, published his groundbreaking work, The Influence of Sea Power Upon History. This seminal book documented the preeminent role sea power has on world power and influence, showing that maritime powers have consistently dominated throughout modern history.

Mahan’s work was hailed around the world as proof of the importance of sea power to national power. Teddy Roosevelt, the presidents during the two World Wars, and Ronald Reagan during the Cold War era recognized the wisdom of Mahan’s doctrine and built the U.S. Navy to preeminence and power. Maritime power enabled the United States to project power and influence worldwide, strongly supported our allies, and promoted American values. Sea power was the cornerstone of our victory in two world wars and, most recently, in the Cold War against the Soviets.

The importance of maritime power is even greater in 2024 than it has ever been because the world’s economy is based on the transportation of goods by sea. Yet, since the fall of the Soviet Union, the U.S. has ignored this foundational principle of national power and allowed our Navy and maritime infrastructure to atrophy and wither to a shadow of its former self. During Reagan’s presidency, the Navy was a robust world-spanning sea power with almost 600 battle force ships, and we were unchallenged in naval power around the world. Today, the Navy has 291 battle force ships and only 231 combatants. That number will decline in the coming years.

Fleet Forces Command recently said that the Navy could only keep about 55 ships at sea at any given time, far short of the threat requirements. Many ships are in long-term maintenance, have just returned from long deployments requiring crew rest, are short of crew (over 14,000 sea billets are vacant), or are awaiting maintenance, re-arming, or upgrades before they can go back to sea. The Navy is desperately short of ships and crews.

THE EXPLOSION OF MOUNT HOOD: One minute this 460-foot-long munition ship was there, then it wasn't.


The motor launch tied up at the small-boat pier in Seeadler Harbor in New Guinea to disembark a dozen men from the ammunition carrier USS Mount Hood. The date was November 10, 1944. Led by the ship’s communications officer, Lieutenant Lester Hull Wallace, the group had several errands to run on shore before returning to the ship. Wallace planned to take a couple of men with him to the fleet post office to pick up mail. Others were headed to headquarters to obtain charts and manuals. Two had dental appointments and two were on their way to the brig. The sailors were just splitting up when a tremendous blast knocked them off their feet. When they looked out into the harbor, they were stunned to realize that their ship was being wracked by explosion after explosion.

Seeadler Harbor was off the northeast coast of Manus Island, 250 miles north of mainland New Guinea. It was one of the finest anchorages in the Southwest Pacific Theater, measuring 15 miles long and four wide, with ample depth for capital ships. The army had taken the island from the Japanese in early March 1944 and within days U.S. Navy Seabees had begun to build a major advanced operating base capable of supplying and repairing the ships of Admiral William F. Halsey’s Third Fleet as it supported General Douglas MacArthur’s leap-frogging drive along New Guinea’s north coast to retake the Philippines. That same month a survey ship marked out more than 600 moorage sites throughout the vast harbor. The Manus base grew over the summer and became dotted with hundreds of buildings—mostly Quonset huts used as barracks for thousands of sailors and as warehouses for the vast amounts of materiel necessary to carry on the war.

On the morning of Friday, November 10, Mount Hood was one of some 200-odd ships in the harbor. The vessels ran the gamut from patrol boats to escort carriers and also included landing ships, tanks (LSTs), destroyers, and civilian-crewed freighters. Mount Hood was anchored at berth 380, near the harbor’s center, four miles from the entrance and 2½ miles from land. It was the first of eight AE class ammunition ships that had been converted for the U.S. Navy, with a length of 460 feet, a displacement of 14,000 tons, and a cargo capacity of 7,800 tons. 

We Are Closer Than You Think to Civilizational Suicide: Lessons From Burnham


Sixty years ago, James Burnham’s book Suicide of the West was published to much acclaim from conservatives and much criticism by liberals. It was Burnham’s last book (other than a collection of his National Review columns titled The War We Are In) and, perhaps, his most pessimistic and prophetic work. Western civilization led by the United States, he wrote, was dying, not because of external challenges but, rather, because of internal decay. The West, in other words, was in the process of committing civilizational suicide. And what caused liberals to ridicule and deride the book was Burnham’s conclusion that liberalism was the “ideology of Western suicide.”

Burnham was viewed by the Left as an apostate. In the early 1930s, he had been an organizer and leading theoretician of the Socialist Workers Party, a Trotskyite subset of international communism. He broke with Marxism in 1939–1940 and became a respected member of the intellectual non-communist Left, writing for and helping to edit one of its leading publications, Partisan Review. In 1941, Burnham gained international recognition for his book The Managerial Revolution, which combined brilliant sociopolitical analysis with hardheaded geopolitics. Two years later, Burnham penned The Machiavellians, a book that praised Machiavelli and other European writers who looked behind democratic facades and glimpsed the realities of political power. By 1944, Burnham was working for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), where he wrote one of the earliest predictions of the Cold War that would emerge from the ashes of World War II. After the war, he did consulting work for the newly established Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), helped fight the cultural aspects of the Cold War, wrote a trilogy of books that shrewdly analyzed the ideological and geopolitical threats posed by the Soviet Union, and formulated a strategy for winning the Cold War that was generally followed — consciously or unconsciously — by the Reagan administration in the 1980s.

The Russian Military Has Bigger Problems In Ukraine Than Lost Tanks

Julian McBride

Russia’s Decimated Officer Corps How it Affects Operational Planning: 

The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the overall ten-year conflict is the deadliest war on the European continent since WWII.

With hundreds of thousands of casualties between Kyiv and Moscow, the war is the costliest on two belligerents since the Iran-Iraq War.

Expecting a war that would only last for several months, the Russian military is quickly losing its most capable troops, including special operations forces, elite naval infantry, and most of all, a decimated officer corp.

The effects of losing thousands of officers throughout the two-year full-scale war will significantly affect the overall operational tempo of the Russian Federation.

Russian Losses in Ukraine and Unite Redeployments

Before the full-scale invasion in 2022, officers in Russian specialized forces, such as GRU Spetsnaz, had taken part in fighting in Ukraine since 2014. While those officers took minimal casualties in the Donbas War, the all-out invasion has seen the Russians take the most significant casualties in any conflict since WWII.

Both the US and UK have confirmed at least 300,000 Russian casualties overall. The war has forced the Kremlin to allocate forces from other key theaters, depleting Russia of vital manpower in different regions.

Russian unit redeployments have taken place in Kaliningrad, Vladivostok (border with China), and the northern border with Finland, Syria, occupied Georgia, and Armenia to supplement battlefield losses.

Innocents and War: Contemporary Reflections, Permanent Dilemmas

Stephen J. Cimbala


The costs and risks of war for civilians and other noncombatants are not a new subject. But in the aftermath of ongoing wars in Ukraine and Gaza, I found myself confronted by anxious students seeking more clarity than I could provide. In the following discussion, I offer a summary of some of my “thinking in progress” about aspects of these and other human rights issues, not pretending that any observations are definitive or even original. But try we must: a broken peace in Europe and a simultaneous hybrid war in the Middle East challenge our understandings of human predicaments in wartime and, as the pot boils, push political leaders and military planners into what Sun Tzu called deadlands.[i]

I. Who Are The Innocents?

The killing of civilians in wartime is described in various ways by writers of history, in fiction, and in personal accounts of wartime experience. Phrases such as “collateral damage” are used to mitigate the essential horror and existential dread of war for noncombatants. War is a violent phenomenon experienced by combatant soldiers and by civilians, albeit in different ways. The soldier has some military experience and training, but most civilians caught up in a war zone have neither. Their sense of anomie is as profound as is the danger of actual physical harm that may befall them. They are “victims” of carnage directed at some political or military objective, but this term too seems insufficient to capture the essence of their situation. Perhaps the term “martyr” better captures the death of civilians caught up in a war zone, as well as the hostages or prisoners of combatant forces who are used as human shields or bargaining chips prior to their demise.

II. “Precision” Weapons and Civilians in War

A great deal of writing about modern war emphasizes the development of precision weapons, enabling the pinpoint targeting of opponents and the reduction of incidental damage to bystanders and innocents. On the other hand, the “precision” of modern weapons can be overstated. 

The Drone Swarm Architecture Will Transform U.S. Warfighting Capacity


“While we still have much to learn, it is evident that [the] widespread use of uncrewed systems—primarily in the air but increasingly in the ground and maritime domains— is disrupting the conduct of war. But despite the disruptive nature of uncrewed aerial systems, by themselves, they are not transforming war.

It is only when drones are combined with…

…The democratization of digitized command and control systems; and

New-era meshed networks of civilian and military sensors…

….that transformational change will occur.”

These three elements comprise a transformative trinity explored later in this paper, and it is only within this construct that drones will fully realize their potential for defense and other national security applications.

Offset X

“In May 2023, the Special Competitive Studies Project published a major report titled Offset-X: Closing the Deterrence Gap and Building the Future Joint Force. This report identifies ten key offset technologies that can provide an effective conventional strategic deterrent against adversaries. If adversaries cannot be deterred, these new technological injections in the joint force will provide a range of asymmetric advantages over potential enemy networked forces such as China’s People’s Liberation Army.

The concept of “Offset X” focuses on closing the deterrence gap and building a future joint force by leveraging offset technologies for an effective conventional strategic deterrent against adversaries. It emphasizes the importance of Human-Machine Collaboration (HMC) and Human Machine Teaming (HMT) to optimize decision-making and execution of complex tasks in warfare. The U.S. military aims to lead in these areas to maintain an advantage in future conflicts. Uncrewed systems play a significant role in the Offset X strategy, especially when combined with other technologies and capabilities to transform the battlefield. The strategy outlines key technologies and capabilities that will be crucial in shaping the future of deterrence and warfighting concepts.”



More than two years after the whole-scale invasion of Ukraine, is Russia still a near-peer threat to the United States? What are the capabilities of the Russian military after 24 months of heavy fighting against a determined Ukrainian military equipped with Western weapon systems? How soon can the Russian armed forces replenish the devastating losses they have been taking in the fighting? These are just some of the questions the U.S. Intelligence Community analyzes in its latest annual threat assessment.

Released every year in early spring, the annual threat assessment delves into the most acute threats to U.S. national security and projects how these issues will affect America.

China remains at the forefront of threats to the United States. In the long term, Beijing will challenge U.S. supremacy not just in the Indo-Pacific but also around the world. But on a more short-term, but still important, level, Moscow continues to directly threaten the U.S. and NATO in an attempt to gather leverage in Europe and elsewhere.


The Russian military has lost more men than at any time since World War II. Western intelligence estimates put the number of Russian losses to over 300,000 men killed and wounded. Russia has also lost thousands of heavy combat vehicles. Until the Russian army recovers, it will fall on the Russian navy and Russian Aerospace Forces to provide some sort of global power projection capabilities.

“Moscow’s military forces will face a multi-year recovery after suffering extensive equipment and personnel losses during the Ukraine conflict. Moscow will be more reliant on nuclear and counterspace capabilities for strategic deterrence as it works to rebuild its ground force,” the Intelligence Community estimated in its annual threat assessment.

Why Have Developing Countries Soured on Multilateralism?


Multilateralism is waning, and one of the world’s leading multilateral institutions, the World Trade Organization, is in crisis, because the United States has been blocking new appointments to its dispute settlement mechanism’s Appellate Body since 2018. In the run-up to the WTO’s 13th Ministerial Conference last month, some optimists hoped to see progress on specific issues, such as an agreement not to impose tariffs on digital commerce, but expectations were generally low.

The pessimists were right. India led the charge against extending a moratorium on e-commerce tariffs, and only a last-minute deal prolonged it for another two years. After that, it is expected to expire. India and its allies celebrated the outcome as a victory. For the first time in years, the culprit undermining the WTO was not the US but developing countries (including Indonesia, South Africa, Brazil, and others).

True, what happened with digital commerce is characteristic of the usual conflicts that play out during trade negotiations. Free trade always produces winners and losers. Digital commerce may be in the interest of businesses in advanced economies as well as consumers and businesses in low- and middle-income countries; users of an app, game, or other software product made in a different country may pay lower prices in the absence of tariffs. But domestic producers will reliably demand protection from imports, and governments will see tariffs as a promising way to boost revenues.

A Big Defeat for Big Tech


Last year, US President Joe Biden’s administration infuriated lobbyists representing Big Tech firms and others that profit from our personal data by denouncing a proposal that would have gutted domestic data privacy, online civil rights and liberties, and competition safeguards. Now, Biden’s new executive order on Americans’ data security reveals that the lobbyists had good reason to worry.

After decades of data brokers and tech platforms exploiting Americans’ personal data without any oversight or restrictions, the Biden administration has announced that it will ban the transfer of certain kinds of data to China and other countries of concern. It is a small, but important, step toward protecting Americans’ sensitive personal information, in addition to government-related data.

Moreover, the order is likely a precursor to additional policy responses. Americans are rightly worried about what is happening online, and their concerns extend well beyond privacy violations to a host of other digital harms, such as mis- and disinformation, social media-induced teenage anxiety, and racial incitement.

The firms that make money from our data (including personal medical, financial, and geolocation information) have spent years trying to equate “free flows of data” with free speech. They will try to frame any Biden administration public-interest protections as an effort to shut down access to news websites, cripple the internet, and empower authoritarians. That is nonsense.

Tech companies know that if there is an open, democratic debate, consumers’ concerns about digital safeguards will easily trump concerns about their profit margins. Industry lobbyists thus have been busy trying to short-circuit the democratic process. One of their methods is to press for obscure trade provisions aimed at circumscribing what the United States and other countries can do to protect personal data.

What Russia’s momentum in Ukraine means for the war in 2024

Ben Barry

Russia’s success in taking the city of Avdiivka, along with its territorial gains since, raises the question of whether the Ukrainian assessment in late 2023 that the war would stalemate in 2024 may have been optimistic.

Moscow’s willingness to take territory in the face of high casualty figures, coupled with a boost in output of artillery shells, is in contrast with a lack of sustained Western supply of artillery ammunition to Kyiv. Those dynamics have created the conditions for the most recent shift in the land-campaign’s momentum as the third year of fighting in Russia’s full-scale invasion sets in.

The new phase comes after a challenging year for both sides in which they struggled to mount successful attacks. Offensive operations achieved limited territorial gains and incurred significant casualties. Russia and Ukraine have both found breaching operations difficult, hindered by well-fortified defensive positions and slowed by artillery fire, land mines and loitering munitions. The struggles have exposed training and leadership deficits which have limited the tactical effectiveness of offensive operations on both sides, while showing skill in orchestrating positional defences.

Russian campaign

The months-long battle for Avdiivka likely sets the tone for Russia’s 2024 ground campaign. For Moscow, winning control of the city is a key piece of the puzzle for its ambition to take control of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts and to underpin its illegal, verbal annexation of the territories with actual territorial control. Russia also appears to be undertaking synchronised attacks in northeast Ukraine to support that objective.

Heavy Russian casualties may mean Moscow will not mount a major offensive until after the pro forma, mid-March re-election of President Vladimir Putin. Over the spring and summer, Russia is likely to mount a series of major attacks designed to inflict Ukrainian casualties, push defenders westward and expand its control of occupied territories.

Peacekeeping in Africa: from UN to regional Peace Support Operations

Benjamin Petrini & Erica Pepe

The end of two of the United Nations’ longest peacekeeping missions, in Mali and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), arguably represents a turning point for UN peacekeeping in Africa. It comes amid a decline in UN peacekeeping in favour of regionally led initiatives, a shift that has been well under way for nearly a decade. But as regional peacekeeping operations consolidate their role on the continent, greater efforts will be needed to increase their financial independence and operational legitimacy.

The closure of the two missions echoes broader trends confronting UN missions as they face increased anti-Western sentiment and domestic discontent. In June 2023, Mali’s military junta requested that the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali – known as MINUSMA – swiftly pull out amid regional escalation of violence in Western Africa’s Sahelian countries. This decision was part of Bamako’s new anti-Western course that included the end of military support by France and the deployment of Russia’s Wagner Group. Deployed since 2013, MINUSMA’s withdrawal was then completed by December 2023. Similarly, the DRC opted to terminate the UN Organization Stabilization Mission (known as MONUSCO), which has been operational in the east of the country for over two decades, by the end of 2024. MONUSCO has faced public criticism in the DRC for its limited success in reining in non-state armed groups, ensuring civilians’ protection and achieving lasting peace.

The rise of regional Peace Support Operations 

Since 2016, UN peacekeeping missions in Africa have steadily declined in number and size (in terms of budgets and the number of personnel deployed), and are projected to plummet once MONUSCO withdraws (see Figure 1). With the closing of MINUSMA and MONUSCO, there are only four operations left on the continent (in the Central African Republic, South Sudan, the disputed Abyei region and Western Sahara). A decade ago there were more than twice as many, and no new UN peacekeeping missions have started on the continent since then.