5 April 2024

What 10 Years of Modi Rule Has Meant for India’s Economy

Alex Travelli

As Narendra Modi was storming to victory in the election of 2014, he said that “acchhe din aane waale hain” — good times are coming.

Now as Mr. Modi stands set to secure another term as prime minister in elections starting on April 19, the value of India’s stock market has grown threefold since he first took office. India’s economy is almost twice as big as it was.

Stocks have risen so much because the number of Indians with enough wealth and appetite for investment risk has jumped — to nearly 5 percent of the population from barely 2 percent.

But the economic gains have been widely unequal. The bulk of India’s growth depends on those at the top of the income ladder, including a coterie of huge and tightly controlled businesses.

Ninety percent of India’s population of 1.4 billion is estimated to subsist on less than $3,500 a year. Yet in the poorest rural districts, life has been made more bearable by welfare programs that have expanded under Mr. Modi. Many of the benefits are solid and visible: sacks of free grain, toilets, gas cylinders and housing materials. Purely commercial developments have transformed village life: LED lights, cheap smartphones and nearly free mobile data have changed the nature of idle time.

While America was experiencing a “vibecession,” feeling glum despite upbeat economic news, India has been doing the opposite. Here many of the signals are mixed — but the vibes are fantastic. International surveys show India’s consumers have become the most upbeat anywhere.

Beyond the Coastline: India’s Land Connectivity Options around the Bay of Bengal

Riya Sinha & Constantino Xavier


India’s approach to the Indo-Pacific has, until now, predominantly revolved around its maritime interests. While traditionally emphasising continental security until the 2000s, New Delhi has recently sought to augment its geostrategic reach by adopting a more outward-looking, economically driven, and ocean-centric perspective. This shift is also evident in India’s connectivity initiatives aimed at enhancing regional interdependence in South Asia and the Bay of Bengal region. In these areas, New Delhi has made significantly faster progress in the maritime domain than in land connectivity. This includes developments in port infrastructure, maritime shipping agreements, new naval exercises, information sharing, and harnessing the blue economy. For example, the Sagarmala initiative, implemented in 2015, reflects a new urgency to invest in ports to enhance India’s trade prospects and is being developed as part of India’s new maritime doctrine, the Security and Growth for All in the Region (SAGAR), unveiled in the same year.

However, this strategic outlook and efforts in recent years have also led to a maritime-continental imbalance in India’s regional infrastructure initiatives. We argue that while the maritime initiatives in India’s Indo-Pacific approach are playing an important role in accelerating the geoeconomic convergence between South Asia and Southeast Asia, these investments along the coastline will have limited utility unless India also invests more efforts inland to develop multimodal connectivity around and beyond the Bay of Bengal littoral. Speaking at the 7th Indian Ocean Conference, in Perth (2024), India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar underscored the importance of adding a land dimension to maritime connectivity:

“As regards connectivity…let me highlight the need for lateral land-based connectivity across the Indian Ocean region. These are essential to supplement and complement the maritime flows. That is why, the IMEC Corridor to India’s West and the Trilateral Highway to India’s East are so significant” (MEA, 2024).

Sela Tunnel: India’s Border Infrastructure Push Makes Progress

Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan

In early March, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated the Sela Tunnel in Arunachal Pradesh in India’s northeast, close to the Sino-Indian border. The tunnel is one of the critical projects constructed by the Border Roads Organization of the Indian Ministry of Defence.

According to a Ministry of Defence press release, the tunnel, constructed at an altitude of 13,000 feet, incurred a total cost of almost $100 million. The tunnel is meant to “provide all-weather connectivity to Tawang, across Sela Pass on the Balipara – Chariduar – Tawang [BCT] Road,” linking Tezpur in Assam to Tawang in the West Kameng district of Arunachal Pradesh. The tunnel was built with an Austrian tunneling method and brings to bear the highest standards in terms of safety features. The tunnel will significantly enhance Indian troop and equipment mobility, thus augmenting overall defense preparedness vis-a-vis China, in addition to providing for more efficient and faster connectivity in the region.

According to an Indian media report, the Sela tunnel project, including the tunnels — a main tunnel and an escape tunnel for emergency services — the approach and link roads is around 12 km. The tunnel brings many benefits. For one, it will reduce the distance between the strategically critical monastery town of Tawang and Dirangby by 12 km and save around 90 minutes for travelers in each direction. More importantly, the tunnel provides a huge relief from weather-related issues. For instance, the BCT road encountered blockages at the Sela pass during the winter months because of heavy snowfall. Such blockages disrupted the lives of locals, but they also created major logistical disruptions for the armed forces. Thirdly, without the tunnel, China could see all Indian troop movements aboveground, which was militarily a disadvantage for India. With the tunnel in place now, this tactical exposure to China has been removed.

Is BRICS Offering An Alternative Model For Global Governance? – Analysis

Mihaela Papa and Ravi Chaturvedi

After the landmark 15th BRICS Summit in August 2023, foreign policy analysts raised concerns that BRICS — a grouping of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa at the time — may be seeking to construct an alternate world order and upend Western-led global governance.

Before the 2023 BRICS Summit, 40 countries expressed interest in joining the group and 23 formally applied. In 2024, the group welcomed five new members — Egypt, Ethiopia, Iran, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

The expansion of BRICS prompts speculation about the direction of the group’s mobilisation and possible alternatives to the current global system. If the group manages to reach a consensus on key policy issues, it might exert significant pressure to change the system from within, but it could also use its political and economic power to create a new, potentially parallel system of governance.

Sustaining and expanding a large coalition to challenge the status quo is strenuous work. Yet the BRICS group has evolved into a strategic entity dedicated to system-wide reforms. Waning enthusiasm for US leadership following the global war on terrorism and weakened trust in the Western-led financial system after the global financial crisis created fertile grounds for BRICS countries to cooperate on common goals. The group’s resource investment, multi-level engagement and robust internal processes have deepened policy coordination.

The BRICS group has consistently argued for a more multipolar and democratic order, emphasising the imperative for diversified global leadership and a greater plurality of ideas. This pursuit will likely result in the reduced representation of Western ideas and leaders in global decision-making.

The US needs a new paradigm for India: ‘Great Power Partnership’

Kaush Arha and Samir Saran

The US-India partnership is unprecedented in its scope. It holds the promise to substantially augment both nations’ security interests and to shape the world to their mutual advantage. The coordination and collaboration between the world’s longest standing democracy and its largest democracy will have far-reaching regional and global implications. This strategic alignment requires sustained forethought and concerted action—as well as a new realist paradigm and lexicon. Prioritizing pragmatic and principled interests and values will lead to the formulation of a novel US-India strategic framework and vocabulary unshackled by past preconceptions.

The era of great power competition calls for Great Power Partnerships. Size matters. As the United States engages in competitive or adversarial relationships with Asian and Eurasian powers China and Russia, it is prudent for it to seek a Great Power Partnership. Conversely, India is engaged in localized hostilities with its neighbors China and Pakistan, and finds its one-time friend Russia reduced to being a dependent of China. Realpolitik calls for the largest American and Asian nations, as democracies, to forge a Great Power Partnership to their mutual advantage.

But the US-India partnership represents a strategic convergence between emerging allies driven by shared interests and values. Both countries realize that they are stronger together in deterring Beijing’s hegemonic designs, which are inimical to both US and Indian interests. India shares the longest disputed land border with China and confronts the hostile China-Pakistan axis along virtually its entire western, northern, and eastern land borders. Meanwhile, China’s major foreign policy goal is to displace the United States as the paramount power in the Indo-Pacific and upend the US-led rules-based international order.

Islamic State Escalates Anti-Russian Militant Campaign

Peter Smith, Lucas Webber, and Colin P. Clarke

After four extremists stormed the Crocus City Hall, a music venue in Krasnogorsk on the outskirts of Moscow, with assault rifles and incendiary devices, the world was shocked as footage emerged of crowds fleeing the scene amid a hail of bullets and bodies. Confirming the carnage as its handiwork, Islamic State media outlets claimed the attack, and shortly after began to release gruesome body camera footage from the event. The video showed the perpetrators slaughtering civilians and, in some cases, mutilating the bodies as they made their way through the building.

For many, the March 22 attack against the concert hall was their first introduction to the Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP). The most deadly terrorist attack against Russia in decades, the Islamic State organization and its violent progeny, ISKP, have viewed Moscow as their enemy since the group’s inception. Russia has been an official enemy, and was mentioned during Abubakr al-Baghdadi’s declaration of the Caliphate in 2014 among the “camp of the Jews, the crusaders, their allies” that are “all being led by America and Russia, and being mobilized by the Jews.” Since that time, the Kremlin’s intervention in Syria, its expanded private military company (PMC) operations across large swaths of Africa, strengthening relations with the Taliban, and a litany of other grievances that reach as far back as Russia’s role in shaping the borders of the Middle East after the fall of the Ottoman Empire have come under its increasing focus.

Islamic State Declarations Against Russia Before and During the Caliphate

The Islamic State’s grievances with Moscow are built into the foundational doctrine of the organization. The group’s ideological godfather, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, traveled to Afghanistan in 1989 to join the mujahideen in their fight against the Soviet Union. Al-Zarqawi arrived too late to fight but established his first connections with jihadist militants. His legacy of bellicosity lives on to haunt Russia, particularly through the Khorasan branch which has wedded it with former Islamic State spokesman Abu Muhammad al-Adnani’s internationalism in violent incitement and external operations.

Deepfakes with Chinese Characteristics: PRC Influence Operations in 2024

Sze-Fung Lee

Executive Summary:
  • The PRC’s potential to interfere in elections with deepfakes has been noted, with strategies including creating false narratives around candidates and misleading information on electoral processes. Advanced AI tools could further sophisticate these interference efforts, impacting democratic processes worldwide.
  • Beijing appears to have a dual stance on deepfakes—strict regulation domestically due to potential socio-economic and security threats, coupled with an ambition to leverage them for international influence operations.
  • Beijing is likely to integrate deepfakes with AI to conduct smear campaigns against critics, amplify PRC propaganda by creating fake personae, and interfere in elections, exacerbating the spread of disinformation.
On March 27, PRC social media platform Douyin announced a ban on the use of artificial intelligence generated content (AIGC) to create and post content that “goes against science, fabricates information, or spreads rumors” (Douyin, March 27). This latest development offers a glimpse into how Beijing perceives deepfakes. As one of the first countries in the world that implement thorough regulations on deepfakes, the PRC sees them as a threat, wary of their being leveraged to disrupt socio-economic stability and threaten national security. However, Beijing appears to be torn between these concerns and its ambition to utilize deepfake technology for influence operations overseas.

The Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC; 国家互联网信息办公室) released regulations on network audio and video information services (网络音视频信息服务管理规定) in November 2019. At the time, officials noted that deepfakes magnify the risk for the dissemination and amplification of “illegal and harmful information” and may be exploited to endanger national security and disrupt social stability and order (China News Service, November 30, 2019). A paper published by the PRC’s Journal of International Security Studies in 2022 titled “Deepfakes and National Security: Perspectives Based on the Overall National Security Concept” offered some insights into the fears (Liu, March 31, 2022). 

Foreign Intelligence Hackers and Their Place in the PRC Intelligence Community

Matthew Brazil

Executive Summary:
  • Leaked files from iS00N reveal deep insights into the PRC’s intelligence operations, highlighting an intensified global security offensive as well as issues within the intelligence community.
  • iS00N’s growth is tied to Xi Jinping’s aggressive policies and demonstrates the importance of private contractors in fulfilling the PRC’s increased intelligence and security needs.
  • The leaks expose employee dissatisfaction and underscore iS00N’s critical role in intelligence gathering and job provision, reflecting the contractor’s complex relationship with the PRC government.
  • The exposure raises questions about the role and regulation of hacking contractors in the PRC, potentially leading to investigations and reforms that could affect the PRC’s intelligence strategy and international relations.
In the month since the leak of over 570 files from the Shanghai-based hacking contractor iS00N (安洵信息), we have seen much reporting about their company culture, leaders and clients, whom they try to recruit, and what iS00N was actually doing (some of the best analysis on the leaks and the overall nature of the threat can be read at Natto Thoughts and Recorded Future).

At the same time, the leaks are an opportunity to advance our understanding of how the opaque PRC intelligence and security community is changing. The data, which continues to be mined by various analysts, provides a window into how Beijing’s intelligence and security community (IC) is using cyberspace to meet the many threats perceived by the party. It indicates continued issues in China’s IC regarding standards, training, and discipline, while also confirming the long-held idea in the West that Beijing’s worldwide intelligence and security offensive is intensifying, while the Chinese side continues to blithely deny everything.

China’s Pursuit of Copper Is Changing Latin America

Scott B. MacDonald & Alejandro Trenchi

Copper is one of the world’s most useful industrial metals. If you tear open any mobile phone, laptop, solar panel, wind turbine, or electric vehicle (EV), you will find it. Without copper, there can be no green revolution. While demand for the reddish metal is set to rise, potential disruptions could also put upward pressure on prices, favoring the world’s leading producers, Chile and Peru. However, China is looking to play a more significant role in the production and refining of copper, which will change the economic landscape for the two South American countries and the United States. The geopolitical implications are also significant as China gains greater weight in critical materials, casting a long shadow over American plans to transition from fossil fuels to alternative energy.

China’s motivation to broaden and deepen its footprint in copper markets is motivated by several factors. The Asian country’s economic development, including the latest emphasis on green technology, requires much more copper than it produces domestically. In 2022, it is estimated that China accounted for 58 percent of the world’s copper imports. Anyone seeking where ongoing demand comes from should only look at China’s surge in EV production, as it accounts for 59 percent of global electric vehicle (EV) sales. According to Statista, in 2022, China produced around 5.47 million battery EVs, an increase of 85.8 percent compared to 2020. With this in mind, China launched a multi-agency government work plan in 2023 to target the promotion and steady expansion of the non-ferrous metal industry, which includes copper.

China is also concerned about the increasing vulnerability of its supply chains, making its production capabilities essential. Issues in the South China Sea, Taiwan, and the East China Sea could complicate access to source countries, which will also see a more significant push from the West to secure its own supply chains. Consequently, China wants to develop its copper resources more fully to de-risk its vulnerability to extended supply chains as much as possible. That is happening.

Israel-Iran Conflict Threatens to Spill Into Open Warfare

Jared Malsin and Benoit Faucon

The airstrike that killed top Iranian military officials in Syria on Monday threatened to put Israel into open conflict with Iran, illustrating how the countries’ long-simmering shadow war has entered a dangerous new phase.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Ebrahim Raisi vowed on Tuesday to respond to the attack, which Syria and Iran said hit an Iranian consulate. Israel didn’t confirm or deny responsibility for a strike that Israeli analysts said took the country’s covert military campaign against Iran and its allies to another level, because of the diplomatic target and the Iranian leaders who were killed.

After nearly six months of war in Gaza and violent conflict with the Iran-backed Lebanese militia Hezbollah, Israel appears determined to roll back Iranian military influence in neighboring countries despite the risk that its aggressive new approach could trigger a broader regional escalation.

“It’s a very interesting threshold that was crossed,” said a senior Israeli military official of the Damascus strike. “It sends a clear message that we know exactly where you guys are. Which is good. It will make it harder for them to move around.”

‘Everything, Everywhere, All At Once’: U.S. Officials Warn of Increased Cyberthreats

Rishi Iyengar

A transnational effort produced stark revelations about the extent of China’s malicious cyberactivities last week, with indictments and sanctions against Chinese government-linked hackers accusing them of targeting foreign government officials, lawmakers, politicians, voters, and companies. The accusations, made by the United States, United Kingdom, and New Zealand, centered mainly on espionage and data theft but also involved what U.S. officials and experts said is an alarming evolution in Chinese cybertactics.

Barrage of Russian attacks aims to cut Ukraine's lights

Sarah Rainsford

In central Kharkiv you hear the rattle of generators on every street.

Ten days ago, Ukraine's second city was plunged into darkness by a massive, targeted Russian missile attack on the energy system - it was the biggest since the start of the full-scale war.

As Kharkiv works to restore power, there has been a wave of additional strikes across the country targeting the energy supply.

Volodymyr Zelensky has condemned what he calls Russia's "missile terror".

The Ukrainian president has also renewed his calls to his country's allies for more air defence systems as protection.

The authorities in Odesa on the Black Sea in the south of the country say the energy system there was the latest to be hit overnight, with missiles and drones, causing partial blackouts.

In Kharkiv to the north, the damage is more serious.

Kharkiv's mayor, Igor Terekhov, has said it will take weeks to restore full supply and that is if Russia's armed forces don't strike the same targets again.

The initial attack on the city's energy supply even knocked out the air raid siren. There is now a screeching noise that comes straight to people's mobile phones instead.

There can be hours of those missile warnings in the city each day - during one on Saturday night, the blast wave from a strike blew out dozens of windows in a block of flats.

The True Obstacles To A Palestinian State | Opinion

Ilan Berman

There's a new joke making the rounds in Israel, concerning the Biden administration's Mideast policy. The punchline is that the White House is worried about a "two state solution"—just the wrong one. That is, rather than figuring out how to make real, lasting peace between Israel and "Palestine," Washington, D.C., is preoccupied with pacifying two other states: Michigan and Arizona.

Like all such anecdotes, this one has a ring of truth to it. The Biden administration, facing an increasingly tough re-election battle this fall, is tacking left in its approach to Israel, hoping to mollify voters angered by its support of Israel's current war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. In the process, President Joe Biden and his supporters have broken with Israel's government in all sorts of very public and concerning ways, from undercutting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by hosting his main political rival in Washington for an unsanctioned visit to calling for Netanyahu himself to step down. The White House has also, in a clear nod to calls from its activist left, begun weighing options for the near term recognition of Palestinian state. (Most recently, the two sides have engaged in a very public dust-up over America's failure to block a controversial U.N. Security Council resolution that calls for a ceasefire without mentioning Israeli hostages.)

One the one hand, this is understandable. All politics is local, after all, and Team Biden needs to be responsive to its constituents if it hopes to win re-election in November. On the other, however, it is deeply myopic because it gives little serious thought to what it might actually take to build a viable "day after" solution for the Palestinian people.

Here, three elements in particular stand out.

Russian assault piles pressure on fragile Ukrainian defensive line in the east

Nick Paton Walsh

A key Ukrainian defensive line on the eastern front appears to have partially fallen to Russian forces in the past week, according to a British defense intelligence statement and military bloggers quoting sources on the ground.

The United Kingdom’s defense intelligence agency on Saturday released an unusually negative assessment of Kyiv’s fortunes near the city of Avdiivka, which fell to Russian forces in mid-February. The UK statement, which was shared on X, said: “Russian forces have maintained a gradual advance West of Avdiivka. In late March 2024, they almost certainly took control of two villages – Tonenke and Orlivka – and are continuing to contest others in the area.”

The agency added that Russia had significantly more personnel and munitions in the area than Ukraine and was able to replenish their forces by 30,000 troops a month.

While the villages are not in themselves of strategic significance and struggled to hold a few hundred residents before the war, they formed part of the defensive line that Kyiv has fought bitterly to hold after their forced withdrawal from Avdiivka. Their apparent fall in just over a month after a prolonged and brutal Russian assault is indicative not only of Russian momentum, but also the fragility of Ukraine’s defensive lines.

The road into Avdiivka is seen on February 14. Ukraine retreated from the city after a fierce battle. 

The UK statement marks a particularly dire analysis of Ukraine’s fortunes, at a time when Kyiv’s prospects in the conflict are looking increasingly bleak.

The Baltimore Bridge Collapse: Conspiracy As Mother’s Milk – OpEd

Binoy Kampmark

The human mind is often incapable of tolerating the limitless nature of a universe, the absence of a divine architect, or appreciate that intended designs may be absent when it comes to events awful, ghastly and catastrophic. A disaster with some human agency is bound to have arisen because of a constructed plan, a template to harm, a scheme to injure.

The collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Baltimore was another event to befuddle those searching for the plan. The Singaporean-flagged MV Dali container ship lost power on March 26 and collided with the bridge in the early morning, causing the dramatic destruction of the bridge and the deaths of six construction workers who fell into the Patapsco River.

The authorities were quick scotch notions of foul play. FBI Baltimore stated that there was “no specific and credible information to suggest any ties to terrorism at this time. The investigation is ongoing.” President Joe Biden, while betraying confusion about whether he ever travelled by train over the bridge or not – an impressive feat if so, given that the bridge never had train lines – described it as “a terrible accident. At this time, we have no other indication – no other reason to believe there was any intentional act here.”

The Kraken of conspiracy had, however, been unleashed. Andrew Tate, the Count of Online Misogyny, was quick to the digital podium in suggesting a cyberattack. In a post of breathless excitement, he notes how the “Lights go off and it deliberately steers towards the bridge supports.” For the influencer facing charges of human trafficking, forming an organised crime group, and sexual assault in Romania, this was the work of “Foreign agents of the USA”. With apocalyptic flavour, he declared that a “Black Swan event” was imminent.

Deep State, The Revolution In American Foreign Policy And Southeast Europe – OpEd

Dr. Sadri Ramabaja

Deep state and its misuse

A deep state[1] is a type of government consisting of potentially secret and unauthorized networks of power that operate independently of a country’s political leadership in pursuit of their own agenda and goals. In popular usage, the term carries extremely negative connotations.[2]

The power of the deep state comes from experience, knowledge, relationships, insight, craft, special skills, traditions and shared values. Together, these supposed attributes make the bureaucrats nameless in a supergovernment that answers to no one. This is a frightening prospect. [3]

The etymology of the notion of “Deep State” is related to the Turkish word derin devlet (lit. ‘deep state’). But even the modern concept of a deep state is associated with Turkey, meaning a supposedly secret network of military officers and their civilian allies trying to maintain secular order based on the ideas of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk from 1923.[4] There are also opinions that the deep state in Turkey and “Counter Guerrillas” were created in the Cold War era as part of the Gladio Organization to push Turkey further into NATO against the threat of expanding Soviet-style communism.[5]

During the presidency of Donald Trump, in public communication, applying the notion of the deep state, in the United States the notion of the “deep state” has been used to describe the “permanent government” of entrenched career bureaucrats or civil servants acting in accordance with the mandates of their agencies and the statutes of Congress, with emphasis when it was seen to be in conflict with the administration.

After the 2016 United States presidential election, the deep state was much more widely used as a pejorative term with an extremely negative definition by both the Donald Trump administration and the conservative-leaning media.[6]

Suspected Israeli Air Strike ‘Flattens’ Iranian Consulate In Damascus, Kills Top Quds Commander

Multiple people were killed, including a commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), in an Israeli air strike on the Iranian Consulate in Damascus on April 1, according to Syrian and Iranian officials, media, and opposition groups, prompting angry threats of retaliation by Iranian officials.

“Brigadier General Mohammad Reza Zahedi, a senior commander of the IRGC’s Quds Force, was martyred in an attack by Zionist regime fighters on the Islamic Republic of Iran’s consulate building in Damascus,” Iranian state TV reported.

Some reports identified Zahedi, 63, as a former commander of the Quds Force, but full details were not immediately available.

A military source told the official Syrian news agency that Israeli missiles were fired from the occupied Golan Heights and that the Syrian air defense system intercepted a number of them, but that some hit the target, leading to “total destruction of the building” and the killing and wounding of “everyone inside.”

Iran said, however, that the consulate annex was hit by six missiles fired by F35 fighter jets.

An Israeli military spokesperson did not comment specifically, saying only, “We do not comment on reports in the foreign media.”

The White House said it was aware of the reports. State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said at a daily news briefing that Washington was “concerned about anything that would be escalatory or cause an increase in conflict in the region.”

Iran’s ambassador to Damascus, Hossein Akbar, told Syrian TV that five to seven people were killed in the attack.

The ambassador said he and his family were unhurt, but he vowed that Iran’s response would be “harsh.”

US Was World’s Largest Liquefied Natural Gas Exporter In 2023 – Analysis

The United States exported more liquefied natural gas (LNG) than any other country in 2023. U.S. LNG exports averaged 11.9 billion cubic feet per day (Bcf/d)—a 12% increase (1.3 Bcf/d) compared with 2022, according to data from our Natural Gas Monthly.

LNG exports from Australia and Qatar—the world’s two other largest LNG exporters—each ranged from 10.1 Bcf/d to 10.5 Bcf/d annually between 2020 and 2023, according to data from Cedigaz. Russia and Malaysia were the fourth- and fifth-highest LNG exporters globally over the last five years (2019–23). In 2023, LNG exports from Russia averaged 4.2 Bcf/d, and exports from Malaysia average 3.5 Bcf/d.

U.S. LNG exports increased in the first half of 2023 after Freeport LNG returned to service in February and ramped up to full production by April. Relatively strong demand for LNG in Europe amid high international natural gas prices supported increased U.S. LNG exports during the year. U.S. LNG exports set monthly records late last year: 12.9 Bcf/d in November, followed by 13.6 Bcf/d in December. We estimate that utilization of U.S. LNG export capacity averaged 104% of nominal capacity and 86% of peak capacity across the seven U.S. LNG terminals operating in 2023.

Similar to 2022, Europe (including Türkiye) remained the primary destination for U.S. LNG exports in 2023, accounting for 66% (7.8 Bcf/d) of U.S. exports, followed by Asia at 26% (3.1 Bcf/d) and Latin America and the Middle East with a combined 8% (0.9 Bcf/d).

Friendshoring the Lithium-Ion Battery Supply Chain



Lithium-ion batteries are among the most critical industrial items necessary to achieve the transition to lower carbon emissions worldwide. Essential to electric vehicles (EVs) and the effective delivery of solar and wind power throughout the electric grid, these batteries also charge a majority of consumer electronics products.1 While the supply chain for batteries is dispersed throughout the globe, the mining and processing of key minerals and materials is concentrated in just a few countries, with China dominating.2 As changing trade relationships, sanctions, and other geopolitical disruptions ripple through the global economy, the dispersion of supply chains and concentration of key inputs constitutes a significant vulnerability for maintaining and growing production in this key manufacturing sector.

The sourcing and processing challenges in the lithium-ion battery sector are formidable. As U.S industries strive to grow in this sector, they face complexities surrounding battery supply chains that have been generated by overlapping—and at times incompatible—government policies that aim to: (1) protect national security, (2) facilitate the green transition, and (3) improve U.S. economic competitiveness while re-shoring domestic industrial capabilities. Policies designed to address these serious and varied global challenges have at once offered generous market stimulating incentives while introducing non-market economic headwinds that may eventually threaten the survival of U.S. supply chains for lithium-ion batteries.

The Biden administration has embraced the vision of achieving an economy that emits less carbon by providing demand-inducing subsidies for EVs and lithium-ion batteries, which are the heart of these cars.3 Adding difficulty to achieving climate goals is the dominant role played by China in this sector, coupled with a bipartisan consensus in the United States on the need to reduce economic dependence on China.

Can We Accelerate Foreign Military Sales? Arm Our Allies Faster?


In 2023, sales of American-made military equipment to US allies and partners significantly increased – to $80.9 billion – through the highly successful Foreign Military Sales (FMS) process, a 55.9% increase compared to the $51.9 billion of 2022. This dramatic upswing is the result of continued threats emanating from Russia and China, as well as the war in Ukraine. Massive amounts of American weapons, including Javelin anti-tank missiles, have demonstrably bolstered Ukraine’s resistance and proven critical in stalling Russia’s advance, minimizing the need for direct US military involvement.

But not all foreign military sales move so quickly. Most “friends and family” arms deals forged during White House meetings with foreign leaders slow to a crawl when vital weapons exports begin undergoing bureaucratic review. By design, the standard path for FMS transactions is a deliberative process intended to ensure that various organs of the US Government – the Departments of Defense and State, Congress, etc. – have ample opportunity to discuss and debate these sales. According to the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) report on FMS, a standard contract for an FMS program takes on average eighteen months to award. Contracts for complex and high technology programs such as unmanned systems, air and missile defense programs, night vision devices, and long-range fires can take much longer. Actual deliveries occur even later.

Such thoughtful consideration was suitable during peacetime, but it inhibits the rapid arming or rearming of allies and partners when tensions are rising. At worst, FMS slows deterrence rather than enhances it.

Take for example, Taiwan: it has 19 outstanding, Congressionally-approved purchases totaling nearly $22 billion. The majority of those purchases are not expected to be delivered until at least 2027. Some of Taiwan’s approved purchases – among them, MQ-9 unmanned systems approved by Congress in 2020 – do not yet have delivery dates as their final approvals move glacially through the executive branch’s review progress. Admittedly, such transfers deserve due consideration. But also keep this in mind: US Indo-Pacific commander Admiral John C. Aquilino recently told Congress that China will be ready to invade Taiwan by 2027. That’s less than three years away. It remains to be seen if the F-16s, M1 tanks, artillery systems, anti-ship missiles, torpedoes and other US-made weapons critical to defend Taiwan from invasion will arrive before the People’s Liberation Army Navy might.

US Air Force tests drone mesh network

Dylan Malyasov

Easy Aerial, a leading drone technology company, has recently demonstrated its capabilities at the Wings Over Solano airshow, marking significant progress in the integration of legacy systems for Project BOAR at Travis Air Force Base.

Project BOAR, spearheaded by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL), is a pioneering initiative aimed at establishing a comprehensive drone mesh network capable of operating beyond visual line of sight. At the heart of this endeavor lies a tethered drone-in-a-box solution, pivotal in providing real-time sensor data to enhance traffic flow management and base security protocols. Through seamless API integration facilitated by AFRL’s servers, the command center gains the ability to task multiple drones simultaneously, ensuring enhanced operational efficiency.

As the second base to initiate a Project BOAR system test, Travis follows in the footsteps of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, which hosted the first test case study in November 2023. These ongoing demonstrations serve to broaden the scope of Project BOAR’s capabilities, showcasing its potential in diverse operational scenarios.

Kristen Barrera, AFRL’s Principal Research Psychologist and BOAR project lead, emphasized the significance of the recent showcase at the Wings Over Solano airshow. The integration of drone video and static video systems into the BOAR system provided a unified operating picture, enhancing situational awareness and operational effectiveness. Additionally, the successful execution of beyond-visual-line-of-sight launches represents a milestone achievement in advancing drone capabilities for enhanced surveillance and reconnaissance missions.

The Army’s Menacing Laser Weapon Has Finally Beamed to the Battlefield

  • The U.S. Army has sent its latest air defense system, armed with high powered lasers, to Iraq.
  • The DE M-SHORAD system uses lasers to destroy or disable enemy drones, rockets, and artillery.
  • U.S. forces in Iraq, Syria, and Jordan have faced more than a hundred attacks from drones and artillery that killed three soldiers and wounded dozens more.

The U.S. Army has deployed its first operational laser weapon system to Iraq. Three Stryker infantry combat vehicles armed with 50 kilowatt lasers, known as DE M-SHORADS, have been deployed in response to lethal drone strikes on U.S. personnel. The brand-new systems were only delivered to the service last September.

Air Defense Laser

A DE M-SHORADS vehicle on the move, September 2023.

According to Army Times, head of U.S. Central Command General Michael Kurilla told Congress that three of the DE M-SHORADS systems are in Iraq “right now” and are being used in “experiments” to “identify their best application.” Army Times further reported that Kurilla “did not disclose preliminary results.”

The Rafah conundrum: Crafting an effective strategy to crush Hamas

Amos Yadlin

Israel is under heavy pressure in the regional and international arenas, led by the US, to refrain from launching an extensive ground operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah. On the other hand, Israel has several important military objectives in the Rafah area and, for several reasons, cannot exclude it from the campaign in the Gaza Strip.

First, the goal of dismantling Hamas’s military capabilities requires targeting the four battalions of its Rafah Brigade, which are still intact.

Far more important is the need to cut off the smuggling routes from the Sinai, aboveground and primarily underground, along the Egypt-Gaza border (the “Philadelphi” route). This smuggling activity has enabled Hamas to amass an enormous quantity of weaponry, which the citizens of Israel and IDF forces have encountered in the war. Without thoroughly addressing this issue, the smuggling tunnels will enable Hamas to reap profits, receive assistance from its supporters in the Muslim world, and ultimately restore its military capacity and resume its military buildup.

Finally, Hamas commanders, and apparently some of its leaders, are hiding among the population in Rafah and in the tunnels below the city, and Israeli hostages are being held there.

Israel must meticulously strategize its actions and exercise prudence to accomplish its objectives in Rafah, all the while averting a potential crisis with Washington and Cairo that could jeopardize broader war efforts in Gaza and tarnish our international standing.

If we manage the campaign in Rafah in light of an overall “day after” strategy in which Israel would not replace Hamas as the governing authority in Gaza, we could achieve our objectives in Rafah with the assistance of Washington and Cairo and avoid a serious confrontation with them.

The Biggest Cybersecurity Issues and Challenges in 2024

The cybersecurity threat landscape is constantly changing as cybercriminals refine their techniques and take advantage of new vulnerabilities, technologies, and attack vectors. Some of the most significant threats to corporate cybersecurity in 2024 include the following:

Ransomware Zero-Days and Mega Attacks

Ransomware has been one of the most significant threats to corporate data security and cybersecurity for several years. However, the evolution of this threat over time has exacerbated the impact that these attacks have on target organizations.

2023 saw a massive number of high-profile and large-scale ransomware attacks, such as the breach of MGM Resorts International. Some of the key factors that contributed to ransomware’s success include:
  • Evolving Capabilities: Ransomware operators are constantly working to optimize and improve their attacks. The introduction of intermittent encryption, breach-only attacks, and advanced evasion techniques make these attacks more difficult to detect and shut down before damage is done.
  • Zero-Day Exploitation: In 2023, CL0P stood out for its use of zero-day vulnerabilities to perform large-scale ransomware attack campaigns. The group commonly targets file transfer tools (GoAnywhere, MOVEit, and Accellion’s File Transfer Appliance) to perform attacks that impact hundreds or thousands of organizations at a time. Other groups using zero-days for ransomware attacks include Akira, Lockbit, DarkCasino, and Nokoyawa.
  • Selective Targeting: Ransomware groups are increasingly selecting their targets for maximum impact. Companies with large numbers of customers or the potential to spread ransomware to other organizations are prime targets because they maximize the potential payoff of the attack.
State-Affiliated Hacktivism and Wipers

The overt use of cyberattacks for warfare and to achieve political ends used to be relatively rare. However, in the last few years, it has become commonplace, especially in the context of the Russian-Ukrainian war.

A stealth attack came close to compromising the world’s computers

In 2020 xkcd, a popular online comic strip, published a cartoon depicting a teetering arrangement of blocks with the label: “all modern digital infrastructure”. Perched precariously at the bottom, holding everything up, was a lone, slender brick: “A project some random person in Nebraska has been thanklessly maintaining since 2003.” The illustration quickly became a cult classic among the technically minded, for it highlighted a harsh truth: the software at the heart of the internet is maintained not by giant corporations or sprawling bureaucracies but by a handful of earnest volunteers toiling in obscurity. A cyber-security scare in recent days shows how the result can be near-disaster.

On March 29th Andres Freund, an engineer at Microsoft, published a short detective story. In recent weeks he had noticed that ssh—a system to log on securely to another device over the internet—was running about 500 milliseconds more slowly than expected. Closer inspection revealed malicious code embedded deep inside xz Utils, a piece of software designed for compressing data used inside the Linux operating system, which runs on virtually all publicly accessible internet servers. Those servers ultimately undergird the internet, including vital financial and government services. The malware would have served as a “master key”, allowing attackers to steal encrypted data or plant other malware.