23 April 2024

Shifting Gears: The PLA’s strategic calculus behind reorganising the strategic support force into information support force

Maj Gen PK Mallick, VSM (Retd)

ISF will integrate PLA’s joint operation system, carry out Information support operations precisely and effectively, and facilitate military operations in various directions and fields

On 19 April 2024, Chinese President Xi Jinping, also General Secretary of the Communist Party of China’s (CPC) Central Committee and Chairman of the Central Military Commission (CMC), attended a ceremony in Beijing to launch the Information Support Force (ISF), a new wing of the People’s Liberation Army. He said it will be a strategic branch and a key pillar in coordinating the construction and application of the PLA network information system. ISF is a revised version of the Strategic Support Force (SSF). Xi said that establishing ISF is a major decision the CPC and CMC made in light of the overall need to build a strong military.

Xi Jinping said, “This is of profound and far-reaching significance to the modernization of national defence and the armed forces and to the military’s fulfilment of its missions and tasks in the new era. The Information Support Force is a brand-new strategic branch of the PLA and a key pillar of the integrated development and use of the network information system. It plays an important role and bears great responsibility in promoting the PLA’s high-quality development and the ability to fight and win in modern warfare”.

ISF will integrate PLA’s joint operation system, carry out Information support operations precisely and effectively, and facilitate military operations in various directions and fields.

Xi emphasised accelerating innovation and development, adhering to the fundamental traction of combat needs, strengthening system planning, promoting joint construction and sharing, enhancing scientific and technological innovation and building a network information system that meets the requirements of modern warfare.

Xi Jinping stressed that the new force must use information assets to support combat operations. It must maintain information flow, integrate information resources, protect information security and integrate deeply into the military’s joint operation system. He said it must form a network information system with Chinese characteristics that can support modern combat operations.

Wu Qian, Spokesperson for China’s Ministry of National Defence, stated, “The information support force is a new, strategic branch of the military and a key pillar in coordinating the construction and application of the network information system. It will play a crucial role in advancing the Chinese military’s high-quality development and competitiveness in modern warfare. With the latest reform, the PLA now has a new system of services and arms under the leadership and command of the Central Military Commission. There are four services: the Army, the Navy, the Air Force and the Rocket Force, and four arms, including the Aerospace Force, the Cyberspace Force, the Information Support Force and the Joint Logistic Support Force. As circumstances and tasks evolve, we will continue to refine the modern military force structure with Chinese characteristics.”

In India, Foreign Policy Is on the 2024 Ballot



One of the most obvious yet understudied trends in India over the past decade has been the emergence of foreign policy as a domestic political issue. In the past, scholars and close observers have viewed foreign policy as principally an elite preoccupation—fodder for cocktail parties, parlor room gossip, and think tank seminars in urban metros like Delhi, Mumbai, and Bengaluru. Foreign policy was deemed too complex, too abstract, and too distant from the aam aadmi (common man), who was more concerned with meeting basic needs than with the Indian prime minister’s equation with their Chinese counterpart or India’s status in multilateral forums.

But today, as one surveys the political landscape in India, foreign policy seems to have descended from its rarified perch. Conversations about India’s role in the world can be heard on street corners, at the dinner table, and around the proverbial water cooler. While elites might still dominate the production of foreign policy, its consumption has been democratized.

The downward penetration of foreign policy is evident in big ways and small. Campaign posters in cities and towns across the country hail India’s presidency of the G20. India’s external affairs minister is eagerly sought out by his party’s regional bosses to speak to rank-and-file members about India’s standing in the world. Even the political opposition has had to sit up and take notice. Although opposition leader Rahul Gandhi’s frequent overseas forays might provoke social media derision, his party, the Indian National Congress (hereafter the Congress Party), has recognized that it, too, must articulate the role it envisions for India abroad. Indeed, the party’s 2024 general election manifesto contains multiple pages on foreign policy, defense, and internal security.

The Modi-fication of India Is Almost Complete


Earlier this month, two Indian writers published an ode to their Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. Written in lyric form and titled “Forever In Our Hearts,” it recounts his achievements while singing his praises in highly effusive language. “With courage and wisdom/you show citizens the way,” it gushes. “Oh Modi, oh Modi/their hopes never sway/A people’s beacon, in whom they see light/Oh Modi, oh Modi, guiding day and night.”

Such reverence captures the essence of Modi’s popularity. Many simply respect him; many others seemingly worship him. He’s beloved by a large majority of the country, as evidenced by an approval rating that climbed to a new high of 75% earlier this year. Victory in the upcoming general elections—which begins Friday and runs through June 1—is widely expected.

There’s much that explains Modi’s popularity. That includes his personality (supporters view him as incorruptible), leadership and communication styles, and his policy achievements at home and abroad—not to mention a weak opposition and the massive BJP machine behind him. Above all, and perhaps most worryingly, he’s won over millions for his government’s aggressive Hindu nationalism. That includes laws and policies that discriminate against Muslims (such as denying fast-track citizenship to Muslim refugees from neighboring nations, restricting or banning beef in some states, and expunging mentions of Muslim history from school textbooks). Some of Modi’s party colleagues and supporters have resorted to hate speech, and the country has seen pronounced and rising numbers of attacks on religious minorities. Modi supporters have also propagated conspiracy theories against Muslims (including the “love jihad” that baselessly claims that Muslim men court Hindu women to force them to convert). This has all played out against shrinking space for dissent, with crackdowns on media and broader civil society.

India shows its deterrent holds Chinese cities at risk

Antoine Levesques

India’s recent test of an Agni-V missile using a multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle (MIRV) is a milestone in the country’s long-held ambition to acquire an ICBM which could credibly inflict unacceptable damage on Chinese cities.

On 11 March 2024, India successfully tested its first MIRV using the under-development Agni-V intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) as a delivery vehicle. The successful launch indicates that, after well over a decade of testing, the Agni-V has begun its last development phase, that of integrating the proven missile with a reliable set of warheads.

‘Successful’ test

According to the Ministry of Defence press release, the successful test was carried out from Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Island in Odisha, India’s primary missile-testing facility. The facility’s location on India’s eastern seaboard allows for test launches into the Bay of Bengal with minimal disruption to civilian air and maritime traffic. A low-definition screen capture of the test was released shortly after the press release, showing the missile’s launch with two of its three stages visible. Partly obstructed by the exhaust plume, a yellow wheeled transporter-erector launcher (TEL) is also visible and closely resembles other launch vehicles seen at the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) missile complex near Shamirpet outside Hyderabad, in southern India. The TEL is also visible in satellite imagery of the site taken two days before the test was reported, suggesting it was very unlikely that a rail launcher was used, even though the facility provides this option and the Agni-V may possibly utilise a rail-launch option. In recent years India appears to have created some ambiguity around the launcher types used in tests, which likely underscores the strategic value of the system.

Rebooting EU-India relations: How to unlock post-election potential

James Crabtree, Manisha Reuter 

The European Union’s relationship with India has long been high on promise, short on delivery. Speaking in 2022 in New Delhi, European Commission president Ursula von Der Leyen hailed a partnership “at the nexus of trade, trusted technology, and security”. Yet as the European Parliament recently noted, the EU-India bilateral relationship has “not yet reached its full potential”. To take one example, an important bilateral summit recently failed to materialise, as leaders from both sides chose to focus on their upcoming elections instead.

Back in 2020, the EU launched it’s “EU-India Strategic Partnership: A Roadmap to 2025”. That strategy is now in need of a reboot, and their respective elections are a perfect opportunity to do so. Later this year a new set of political leaders will arrive in Brussels. A new government will also be in place in New Delhi, albeit one almost certainly still led by prime minister Narendra Modi. The recently postponed bilateral summit will then be rescheduled for early 2025. This is an ideal setting to launch a new five-year roadmap, and one which makes a more compelling and geopolitically realistic case for deeper EU-India ties that also address shared concerns over rising Chinese power.

Indian foreign policy has undergone a series of major strategic changes over the last decade, driven by New Delhi’s mounting unease over Beijing’s regional sway. To hedge against this risk, India has pursued a multi-aligned foreign and security policy. Modi has drawn closer to the West, most obviously the United States but also Indo-Pacific partners like Australia and Japan. Ties with Europe have deepened too, both with Brussels and with EU member states. The pace of these improved relations with Europeans have failed to keep up with that of the US, however. In part this has been because the EU has focused much of its energy on the potential for an EU-India free trade agreement (FTA), and relatively less on other areas of cooperation. Yet it would be unwise for Brussels to place too much weight on a potential FTA as the crux of a renewed relationship with New Delhi. Negotiations on this long-delayed trade plan have recently restarted, but they remain at an early and tentative stage, and substantial technical barriers to delivery remain.

270 million people are living on sinking land in China’s major cities, new study finds

Rachel Ramirez

Shanghai is one of the coastal cities significantly exposed to both land subsidence and projected sea level rise. Roughly a quarter of the country’s coasts will be lower than sea level, according to new research. AFP/Getty Images

Land is sinking underneath millions of peoples’ feet in China’s major cities due to human activities, putting the country’s coastal areas more at risk of flooding and rising sea levels, new research shows.

Nearly half of China’s urban areas comprising 29% of the country’s population are sinking faster than 3 millimeters (about 0.12 inches) per year, according to the study published Thursday in the journal Science. That’s 270 million people living on sinking land.

Meanwhile, 67 million people are living on land that is subsiding faster than 10 millimeters (0.4 inches) each year.

China’s rampant groundwater extraction is one of the primary factors for subsidence, researchers said. Cities have been pumping water from underground aquifers faster than it can be replenished, a situation exacerbated by climate change-fueled drought. Excessive pumping lowers the water table and causes the overlying land to sink.

The land is also sinking due to the growing weight of cities themselves. Soil can compact, naturally from the weight of sediments accumulating over time and from heavy buildings pressing down on the ground, causing the land to steadily sink.

China, Russia And The Future Of Peacebuilding – Analysis

Dr Jiayi Zhou, Dr Jaïr van der Lijn and Dr Jingdong Yuan

Peacebuilding is an evolving concept and body of practice. Different views on how best to pursue peacebuilding—broadly referring to activities aimed at preventing the outbreak, escalation and recurrence of conflict, as well as at creating the conditions for sustainable peace—have been debated by United Nations bodies, national governments and civil society actors. Key UN bodies have followed an approach to peacebuilding that prioritizes liberal values such as political inclusivity, good governance, the promotion of human rights and the involvement of civil society in addition to state authorities.

This traditional ‘governance-first’ peacebuilding approach has for some time been under pressure and critique from various sides, including from within the West, concerning: its efficacy in ensuring security and sustaining peace, accusations of double standards, the sidelining of local perspectives, and a disconnect between liberal rhetoric and illiberal implementation. More recently, non-Western and often non-liberal state actors have become increasingly active in the peacebuilding space. Among them are China and Russia, permanent members of the UN Security Council, and key powers in the increasingly fragmented geopolitical landscape within which peacebuilding activities take place. Understanding the impacts of China and Russia on present and future peacebuilding, however, requires understanding not only the similarities but also the significant differences between their approaches.

China’s approach: ‘development first’

In UN forums, China’s approach to peacebuilding has been informed in part by its long-standing non-interference principle, stressing the importance of the host state’s consent for peacebuilding interventions. It places more emphasis on sovereignty and regime security and has tended to downplay the protection of civilians in armed conflict, although China does contribute significant financial and troop resources to UN peace operations.

Iran and Israel’s Dangerous Gambit


Iran’s April 13 attack on Israel was a watershed moment in the countries’ history. The attack involved the first-ever direct strikes launched from Iranian territory onto Israeli soil, with an unprecedented number of ballistic missiles fired in a single military operation by Iran. The decision to retaliate directly against Israel’s attack on an Iranian embassy was intended not only to showcase Iran’s resolve but also to restore conventional deterrence with Israel. Moreover, the attack marked a significant shift in the country’s strategic thinking and approach to dealing with its longtime regional adversary. Rather than restoring the balance with Israel, Iran has opened up the prospect of further escalation.


Iran’s retaliation for Israeli strikes on its consulate in Damascus marks a further escalation in the two countries’ protracted shadow conflict, characterized by covert operations, targeted airstrikes, and the use of proxy forces. The so-called war between wars has primarily unfolded in Syria, where Iranian-backed militias and Hezbollah have been perennial targets of Israeli strikes to curb Tehran’s growing influence and prevent the transfer of advanced weapons to its proxies.

For years, Iran had relied on a policy of “strategic patience,” which involved supporting and strengthening proxy groups to project power in the region while maintaining a degree of plausible deniability and avoiding direct confrontation with Israel. However, since October 7, Israeli strikes against Iranian assets in Syria have intensified, and Iran’s strategic patience and reputation among allies and adversaries alike has been tested.

In December, Israeli strikes in Damascus killed Seyed Razi Mousavi, a senior Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) adviser who served as the main conduit for Iranian interests in Syria. In response, Iran launched a barrage of ballistic missiles at apparent Israeli targets in Erbil, Iraq, which the commander of the IRGC Aerospace Force (IRGC-AF) claimed targeted a “Mossad espionage base.”

Israel Shouldn’t ‘Take the Win’ Against Iran

Walter Russell Mead

Take the win,” President Biden reportedly advised Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after Iran’s unprecedented missile and drone attacks against Israel sputtered shambolically to an ignominious end.

As the world waits on tenterhooks for Israel’s response, two things seemed clear. It would be political suicide for Mr. Netanyahu to take the president’s advice, and it would be national suicide for any Israeli prime minister to do so. Mr. Biden is primarily worried about his re-election, a cause he conveniently if sincerely conflates with the survival of democracy in the U.S. and of freedom in the world. Israel is worried about something more tangible—the survival of the world’s only Jewish state.

Mr. Biden is a lot smarter about the Middle East today than he was in January 2021, when he was still spouting inanities about isolating Saudi Arabia and pursuing the will o’ the wisp of détente with Iran. Today the president understands that he can’t simply shake hands with Iran and walk away from the Middle East. If the U.S. hopes to step back from a front-line role in the region, it must foster an alliance that can check Iran’s unrelenting and fanatical drive for hegemony. That is why Team Biden dramatically reversed its early policy of making Saudi Arabia a “pariah” and, borrowing some of the core concepts of Donald Trump’s Abraham Accords, made the promotion of an Israel-Saudi alliance a cornerstone of its regional strategy.

This was an intelligent move, as far as it went. Until and unless Iran’s insatiable ambitions can be curbed, nothing but tumult and terrorism awaits the weary people of a region whose fossil fuel riches remain critical to the smooth functioning of the world economy. From an American point of view, assembling a group of American allies to take our place on the front lines at a time when we need to focus more closely on the Indo-Pacific is common sense.

What we know about Israel's missile attack on Iran

Sean Seddon and Daniele Palumbo

US officials say Israel hit Iran with a missile in the early hours of Friday, in what appears to have been a retaliatory strike after weeks of escalating tensions between the two countries.

There are competing claims about the scale of the attack on the Isfahan region and the extent of any damage, with Iranian state media downplaying its significance.

It comes after weeks of soaring tensions between the regional rivals, which have already seen an Israeli attack on an Iranian compound in Syria, and Iran launch an unprecedented assault against Israel.

Here is everything we know about the latest incident so far.

How do we know there has been a strike?

Israel does not routinely confirm its military actions, which have targeted Iranian-backed armed groups in Syria and Iraq on many occasions.

However, US officials have confirmed to the BBC's partner CBS News that an Israeli missile did hit Iran.

US sources say a missile was involved in the attack, while Iran says it involved small drones.

Iran's government tightly controls access to the country. The BBC does not have direct access to the central region of Isfahan, where this incident played out overnight.

What weapon may have been used?

So far, there has been a lot of speculation regarding the type of missile used.

Attack sends message to Iran but Israelis divided over response

James Landale

For north of the border in Lebanon lie some 150,000 missiles pointed at Israel by the Iranian-backed militia Hezbollah. These are not basic rockets fired out of tubes but advanced, accurate and powerful missiles that could reach targets in Israel within minutes. And they could be deployed on Iran's instructions at a moment's notice.

And yet despite the reported Israeli retaliation against Iran, the streets of Jerusalem were calm, as people went about their business preparing for Shabbat. Joggers were out in force as usual on the beaches of Tel Aviv. The authorities said there was no change in advice to the public; there were no instructions for people to head to shelters.

This reflected the fact that Israel's air strike on Iran appeared initially to be limited in scope and scale. Yes, Israel had chosen to attack on the birthday of Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who turned 85 today.

But if the strike was against military targets that were perhaps associated with Iran's attack on Israel last weekend - such as an airbase or drone factory or missile storage facility - then that could be seen as the restrained response Israel's Western allies were looking for.

Diplomats in Europe and the United States feared Israel could respond with what is known locally as a "spectacular", a strike perhaps that exceeded the scale of Iran's last weekend that involved more than 300 drones and missiles. Or perhaps that targeted Iran's nuclear facilities. All of which could have triggered a similar Iranian retaliation, risking all-out regional war.

But instead Israel appears to be sending a message to Tehran that it can attack deep within Iranian territory without restraint. In other words, Israel can attack Iran's nuclear facilities - not far from the reported location of the strike - but chose not to on this occasion.

Israel Attacks Iran, Conflicting Reports Say, Amid Fears of Escalation


Israel launched a retaliatory strike against a site in Iran early Friday morning local time, U.S. officials confirmed to several media outlets, though an Iranian official has downplayed the attack as a “failed and humiliating” drone strike. (Syria also reported a simultaneous attack by Israel.)

ABC News, CBS News, NPR, and others have cited unnamed U.S. officials in reporting that one or more missiles were launched by the Israeli military at Iran. Citing two unnamed U.S. officials, Bloomberg News reported that Israeli officials had warned U.S. officials earlier on Thursday that it planned to attack Iran in the next 24-48 hours. An unnamed senior U.S. official also told CNN that the U.S. was warned of Israel’s planned retaliatory action, a response the official said the U.S. “didn’t endorse.”

Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said Friday that the U.S. told G7 ministers at their summit in Italy it was “informed at the last minute” by Israel about the drones. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken declined to provide information about whether the U.S. had advance notice of the attack and other related questions from reporters at a press conference following the summit.

“I’m not going to speak to that except to say that the United States has not been involved in any offensive operations,” he said, adding that the G7 is focused on de-escalating tensions.

In his opening remarks, Blinken said “the G7 condemned the unprecedented Iranian attack on Israel.” Over the weekend, Iran launched more than 300 munitions at Israel, 99% of which were intercepted by Israel’s defense systems, with help from the U.S. and others.

“We are committed to Israel’s security,” Blinken continued. “We’re also committed to de-escalating, to trying to bring this tension to a close.”

Apparent Israeli Air Attack Strikes Near Iranian City Of Isfahan

Israel’s military reportedly struck targets inside Iran in retaliation for an unprecedented air attack Tehran launched last weekend on its sworn enemy, but the limited scope of the operation and a muted Iranian response appeared to indicate an escalation of the conflict had been avoided.

Explosions were heard early on April 19 — the 85th birthday of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei — near the central city of Isfahan, with reports unclear over the cause.

Several major U.S. media organizations, all citing U.S. government sources, said Israel launched a missile or drones to strike targets inside Iran.

Video posted on social media and broadcast around the world showed several large explosions that were reportedly near Isfahan.

Iranian state media quoted officials in Tehran as saying the explosions were caused by air defenses that shot down three drones in the area of Isfahan.

Hossein Deliriyan, the spokesman for Iran’s National Center for Cyberspace, refuted the U.S. media reports, saying in a post on X, formerly Twitter, that “there has been no air attack from outside the borders on Isfahan or other parts of the country.”

Speaking at a mosque on April 19, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi didn’t mention the attack near Isfahan and with the Israeli retaliation limited in size and scope, experts said it appeared it was aimed at deescalating soaring tensions while still sending a clear message to Tehran.

Reuters quoted an unnamed Iranian official as saying that Tehran “has no plan to strike back immediately.”

Drone strike at Isfahan has worked before, was it the right move now? - analysis


If reports are correct that Israel has used drones to strike Iranian air force assets – whether drones, ballistic missiles, aircraft, or all of the above, at Isfahan – this would be straight out of a playbook that has worked before, as recently as January 2023.

It is also possible that long-range missiles were used, though initial reports indicate an attack from within Iran, which would be more consistent with drone strikes.

In January 2023, despite claims from Tehran, a drone attack on Iran at Isfahan was a tremendous success, according to a mix of Western intelligence sources and foreign sources, The Jerusalem Post learned at the time.

There were four explosions at the site, which could even be witnessed on social media, against a facility developing advanced weapons, and the damage went far beyond the “minor roof damage” that the Islamic Republic claimed here as well as regarding other incidents in recent years.

Israel played both the current and January 2023 incidents mum, but most Western intelligence and Iranian sources credited the Mossad with similarly successful attacks against a nuclear facility at Natanz in July 2020, a different one there in April 2021, another nuclear facility at Karaj in June 2021 and in one destroying at least 120 Iranian drones in February 2022.

Former prime minister Naftali Bennett later publicly admitted to ordering the attack on Iran’s drone facility in February 2022.

There are also few organizations globally besides the Mossad that are reported to have the advanced and surgical strike capabilities appeared to be displayed in this operation.

Why Iran’s attack on Israel failed


One of the most innovative strategic thinkers of the post-1945 era had no military experience and first made his name as a trade economist. Yet as classical military theory struggled to come to terms with the implications of nuclear weapons, Thomas Schelling found innovative and stimulating ways to talk about their transformational impact. He won the Nobel Prize for economics in 2005 for his contributions to game theory and how it might be applied to nuclear deterrence and arms control. His most important insights began with the observation that the shared fear of the ultimate catastrophe meant that within a potentially deadly US-Soviet conflict there could still be elements of cooperation. Superpower crises should be managed so that both sides felt that they had protected their most vital interests while avoiding all-out nuclear war. At the time, and since, the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis was considered exemplary in showing how this might be achieved.

Schelling, who was behind such ideas as the hotline between Moscow and Washington, saw the advantages in direct communication to keep a dangerous situation under control. But he was also interested in more indirect forms of communication. He was particularly intrigued in how armed force could be used as a form of bargaining to convey to the other side not only a determination to protect interests but also how both sides could benefit from restraint. He sought to move consideration of the uses of violence away from simple assertions of brute strength to impose one’s will towards understanding them as competitions in risk-taking. The way that force was used went beyond any immediate military impact because it could also suggest the possibility of compromise, as well as a readiness to take further action if the compromises could not be found.

Miscalculation Led to Escalation in Clash Between Israel and Iran

Ronen Bergman reported from Tel Aviv, Farnaz Fassihi and Richard Pérez-Peña

Israel was mere moments away from an airstrike on April 1 that killed several senior Iranian commanders at Iran’s embassy complex in Syria when it told the United States what was about to happen.

Israel’s closest ally had just been caught off guard.

Aides quickly alerted Jake Sullivan, President Biden’s national security adviser; Jon Finer, the deputy national security adviser; Brett McGurk, Mr. Biden’s Middle East coordinator; and others, who saw that the strike could have serious consequences, a U.S. official said. Publicly, U.S. officials voiced support for Israel, but privately, they expressed anger that it would take such aggressive action against Iran without consulting Washington.

The Israelis had badly miscalculated, thinking that Iran would not react strongly, according to multiple American officials who were involved in high-level discussions after the attack, a view shared by a senior Israeli official. On Saturday, Iran launched a retaliatory barrage of more than 300 drones and missiles at Israel, an unexpectedly large-scale response, if one that did minimal damage.

The events made clear that the unwritten rules of engagement in the long-simmering conflict between Israel and Iran have changed drastically in recent months, making it harder than ever for each side to gauge the other’s intentions and reactions.

Since the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas, an Iranian ally, and Israel’s subsequent bombardment of the Gaza Strip, there has been escalation after escalation and miscalculation after miscalculation, raising fears of a retribution cycle that could potentially become an all-out war.

Why President Zelensky Is Purging His Inner Circle

Konstantin Skorkin

President Volodymyr Zelensky is continuing his large-scale purge of the Ukrainian leadership in an attempt to achieve greater cohesion and efficiency. The Ukrainian president is preparing for a double crisis in which increasing pressure from Russian troops at the front could add to internal destabilization after Zelensky’s presidential term formally expires on May 20.

The downside to this purge is that by removing his old friends from Kvartal 95—the TV production company that the comedian-turned-president once founded—from the corridors of power, Zelensky is surrounding himself with the protégés of his chief of staff, Andriy Yermak. That leaves the president without any sources of alternative opinions, which has never been good for public administration. It also raises questions about how stable the tandem—increasingly skewed in favor of Yermak—will be, and whether the ambitions of the all-powerful administrator will go into overdrive.

When Zelensky explained the dismissal of Ukraine’s popular commander-in-chief, Valery Zaluzhny, by saying it was part of a larger overhaul of the system, his words were widely interpreted as a cover for an unpopular decision that was in fact purely political. However, the general’s firing really did mark the start of purges and reshuffles at the highest levels of power.

Zaluzhny’s departure was followed by that of Oleksiy Danilov, the once influential secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, known for his hawkish views and aggressive rhetoric. Unofficially, it was apparently this latter trait that led to his downfall: the president was unhappy with Danilov’s outspoken response to comments by China’s special representative for Eurasian affairs. Kyiv hopes to convince Beijing to take part in an upcoming peace summit in Switzerland, and so does not wish to quarrel with the Chinese.

How Supporting Ukraine Is Revitalizing the U.S. Defense Industrial Base

Elizabeth Hoffman, Audrey Aldisert, Cynthia Cook, Gregory Sanders, and Shivani Vakharia

Congress is facing the most significant and transformational opportunity to strengthen the U.S. defense industrial base (DIB) since the end of World War II. The heritage equipment that the United States has provided to Ukraine for its self-defense in the face of the brazen and illegal invasion by Russian forces in 2022 needs to be replenished to ensure the United States is postured to continue to deter its adversaries. The new hardware will be produced at factories across the nation. Of the $113 billion appropriated by Congress to date related to the conflict in Ukraine, as much as $68 billion is destined to be invested here at home. U.S. support for Ukraine thus offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to sustain a demand signal to address long-standing weaknesses in U.S. DIB systems generally and ordnance and missile production specifically. Examining how U.S. military assistance to Ukraine is being spent and where funds for the U.S. industrial base relevant to Ukraine and future U.S. needs are being invested can help demonstrate how Russia’s war can establish a long-term incentive structure to revitalize the DIB.

Prior to the war in Ukraine, policymakers recognized the need to shift away from a defense posture focused on counterterrorism and counterinsurgency to one prepared to confront rising great power competition. This was articulated in the National Security Strategy adopted by the Trump administration in December 2017. The strategy specifically highlighted the need for a robust and innovative DIB and noted supply chain vulnerabilities. Recognition of the challenges did not result in rectification, as the attention of policymakers pivoted to crises including the Covid-19 pandemic, domestic political unrest, and the end of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan. In the face of the continuing supply chain vulnerabilities, these policies were sustained in the Biden administration’s 2022 National Security Strategy, which notes the “criticality of a vibrant Defense Industrial Base.”

The catalyst for change began in February 2022, when Russian president Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine ignited the largest ground war in Europe since World War II, internally displacing 3.7 million Ukrainians as of February 2024 and creating a refugee crisis of over 6.5 million people. Almost immediately following the full-scale invasion, Congress appropriated nearly $14 billion in emergency funding to assist with the response. Since then, three additional aid packages have been approved.

Here are the U.S. congressional districts benefiting from Ukraine aid - Opinion

Marc A. Thiessen

If you knew that most of the military aid that Congress approves for Ukraine was being spent right here in the United States, quite possibly in your own congressional district — strengthening our defense production capacity and creating good manufacturing jobs for American workers — would you want your representatives in Washington to support it?

As the House prepares to vote on a new military aid package for Ukraine, the map above details the congressional districts that have been getting Ukraine aid money, including examples of the weapons systems being produced. As this map shows, military aid not only protects Ukrainian civilians and advances U.S. national security — it is also good for workers and manufacturing communities right here at home.

Providing military assistance to Ukraine is the right thing to do. American-made weapons are protecting Ukrainian civilians from Russian bombardment, stopping Russian forces from seizing Ukrainian cities and slaughtering their residents, and decimating the Russian military threat to NATO. It is in both our moral and national security interests to help Ukraine defeat Russia’s unjust aggression.

But our military aid to Ukraine is also revitalizing our defense industrial base, creating hot production lines for the weapons we need to deter potential adversaries and creating manufacturing jobs in the United States. That’s because 90 percent of the $68 billion in military and related assistance Congress has thus far approved is not going to Ukraine but is being spent in the United States, according to an analysis by Mark Cancian of the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Israel Strikes Iran in Narrow Attack Amid Escalation Fears

Dov Lieber

Israel retaliated overnight against Iran’s massive drone and missile attack on its territory, people familiar with the matter said—with what appeared to be a limited strike aimed at avoiding an escalatory cycle that could push the countries closer toward war.

The attack was a targeted strike in the area around Isfahan in central Iran, one of the people said. Iranian media and social media reported explosions near the city, where Iran has nuclear facilities and an air base, and the activation of air-defense systems in provinces across the country after suspicious flying objects were detected.

The narrow Israeli attack and Iran’s soft rhetoric in response appeared to be an attempt by both sides to calm tensions after more than a week of concerns that Israel’s war with Hamas in Gaza would metastasize into a bigger regional conflict, though fears remain of a miscalculation.

Israel has been under pressure from the U.S. and Europe to moderate its response and faced the challenge of delivering a blow that would punish Iran for the attack without provoking a response.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken declined to say whether the U.S. had received advance warning of Israel’s strike. “I’m not going to speak to that, except to say that the United States has not been involved in any offensive operations,” Blinken said at a press conference at the end of a Group of Seven conference in Capri, Italy. His Italian counterpart, Antonio Tajani, said earlier Friday that Israel informed the U.S. of its plan “at the last minute.”

Blinken also declined to characterize the Israeli strike on Iran, and whether he considered it limited or an escalation. “All I can say is that for our part and for the entire G-7, our focus has been on de-escalation and avoiding a larger conflict,” he said.

Russia ramps up weapons production, using mass quantity to outgun Ukraine

Mary Ilyushina

Russia has ramped up military production by replenishing stocks of standard weapons and ammunition and probably can sustain its onslaught in Ukraine for at least the next two years, analysts say — a sobering assessment for Kyiv, which is short on weapons and soldiers and losing ground on the battlefield.

While the Kremlin is struggling to expand capacity and to develop modern arms that could improve its army’s battlefield performance, it has capitalized on its overwhelming advantage in numbers of soldiers, its ability to arm them with old but reliable weaponry and a willingness to endure heavy casualties.

By recalibrating its economy on a war footing, forcing existing facilities to work in overdrive to produce or refurbish older equipment, and buying parts from Iran, China and North Korea, Russia has made a surprising recovery from its early losses in Ukraine.

“Russia is not producing more of its modern fighting equipment,” said Nikolai Kulbaka, a Russian economist. “But it has been making a lot more of simpler working equipment, rifles, shells, mass weapons for mass soldiers.”

As Western military aid for Kyiv has slowed in recent months, including in the United States, Russian forces have retaken the initiative in Ukraine, where they can now fire artillery and deploy drones at a far higher rate than the Ukrainians.

Russia has rearmed its forces by refurbishing existing gear — much of it dating to the Soviet era. Replacement parts from China, North Korea and Iran are of inconsistent quality, experts said, but procuring them has demonstrated Moscow’s ability to circumvent sanctions.

The Soviet-era equipment, including missiles and guided aerial bombs, has compensated for Russia’s failure, at least so far, to produce and deploy new, advanced weapons such as the T-14 Armata tank that theoretically could rival the U.S.-made Abrams and German-made Leopards that the West has given Ukraine.

Russia is sure to lose in Ukraine, reckons a Chinese expert on Russia

The war between Russia and Ukraine has been catastrophic for both countries. With neither side enjoying an overwhelming advantage and their political positions completely at odds, the fighting is unlikely to end soon. One thing is clear, though: the conflict is a post-cold-war watershed that will have a profound, lasting global impact.

Four main factors will influence the course of the war. The first is the level of resistance and national unity shown by Ukrainians, which has until now been extraordinary. The second is international support for Ukraine, which, though recently falling short of the country’s expectations, remains broad.

Israel considered striking Iran on Monday but decided to wait, officials say

Barak Ravid

A member of the Israeli military stands next to an Iranian ballistic missile that fell in Israel on the weekend, during a media tour at the Julis military base in Israel on Apr. 16, 2024. Photo: Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP via Getty Images

Israel considered conducting a retaliatory strike against Iran on Monday night but eventually decided to postpone it, five Israeli and U.S. sources told Axios.

Why it matters: Israel has vowed to respond to Iran's unprecedented missile and drone attack. The Biden administration has warned that an escalation with Iran wouldn't serve U.S. or Israeli interests and urged Israel to "be careful" with any retaliation, U.S. officials said.

Zoom in: The U.S. is concerned that continued counterattacks could trigger wider regional escalation."We are not sure why and how close it was to an actual attack," a U.S. official said. A second U.S. official confirmed Israel told the Biden administration on Monday that it decided to wait.
A third U.S. official said a "small Israeli strike" inside Iran would likely trigger an Iranian retaliation. But the Biden administration hopes it would be more limited than Iran's strike on Israel on Saturday and would end the exchange of attacks between the two countries.
This is the second time that a decision on Israel's retaliation has been postponed since Saturday.

Behind the scenes: The Israeli war cabinet on Monday considered giving the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) the go-ahead for a strike against Iran. But later that night, a decision was made not to go through with it "for operational reasons," according to two Israeli officials.One U.S. official said Israeli officials notified the Biden administration on Monday about the upcoming war cabinet meeting and said they would brief the U.S. about the decisions.
After the cabinet meeting, Israeli officials told the Biden administration the decision was to wait.

Inside the disinformation industryA government-sponsored agency is censoring journalism

Freddie Sayers

“Our team re-reviewed the domain, the rating will not change as it continues to have anti-LGBTQI+ narratives… The site authors have been called out for being anti-trans. Kathleen Stock is acknowledged as a ‘prominent gender-critical’ feminist.”

This was part of an email sent to UnHerd at the start of January from an organisation called the Global Disinformation Index. It was their justification, handed down after a series of requests, for placing UnHerd on a so-called “dynamic exclusion list” of publications that supposedly promote “disinformation” and should therefore be boycotted by all advertisers.

They provided examples of the offending content: Kathleen Stock, whose columns are up for a National Press Award this week, Julie Bindel, a lifelong campaigner against violence against women, and Debbie Hayton, who is transgender. Apparently the GDI equates “gender-critical” beliefs, or maintaining that biological sex differences exist, with “disinformation” — despite the fact that those beliefs are specifically protected in British law and held by the majority of the population.

The verdicts of “ratings agencies” such as the GDI, within the complex machinery that serves online ads, are a little-understood mechanism for controlling the media conversation. In UnHerd’s case, the GDI verdict means that we only received between 2% and 6% of the ad revenue normally expected for an audience of our size. Meanwhile, neatly demonstrating the arbitrariness and subjectivity of these judgements, Newsguard, a rival ratings agency, gives UnHerd a 92.5% trust rating, just ahead of the New York Times at 87.5%.

So, what are these “ratings agencies” that could be the difference between life and death for a media company? How does their influence work? And who funds them? The answers are concerning and raise serious questions about the freedom of the press and the viability of a functioning democracy in the internet age.

What Would Russian Victory in Ukraine Look Like?

Seth G. Jones

As war persists in the Mideast, Ukraine’s fight for survival has slipped from the headlines. Yet its efforts grind on, and as I witnessed on a recent visit, its forces are in an increasingly perilous position against their Russian invaders. A palpable sense of anxiety among Ukrainian officials has replaced the optimism of 2022 and 2023. To grasp what is at stake, we must assess how a Russian victory might materialize and what such an outcome would mean for the free world.

The most obvious way Vladimir Putin’s army might prevail is by breaking through Ukrainian lines, collapsing its military, and seizing Kyiv. Though difficult, this is likely Russia’s strategy, which hinges on using brute force in a campaign of attrition by wearing down Ukraine’s lines, forcing units to disperse, decimating its defense production and breaking Ukrainian society’s morale.

A key component of that effort would be to pummel Ukrainian defenses with artillery, attack drones, ballistic and cruise missiles, and glide bombs. This is already happening. Since March, Russian forces have punished Ukrainian lines with artillery and an average of 44 glide bombs and 77 drones a day, senior Ukrainian military officials told me. Russia would also likely continue to escalate its air, missile and drone campaign to target Ukraine’s weapons production facilities, military installations and electricity grid—cutting off its ability to wage war. This, too, has persisted for months.

To capitalize on its ground gains, the Russian military would seek to break Ukrainians’ morale by relentlessly punishing their cities. Such attacks would be complemented by an aggressive propaganda campaign to convince civilians that the U.S. and Europe have abandoned them and that defeat is inevitable.

You Go To War With The Industrial Base You Have

Mackenzie Eaglen

Trying to work for Uncle Sam is like “applying simultaneous and equal pressure to a vehicle’s brakes and accelerator.” Whether it’s the Pentagon customer or board of directors-equivalent in Congress, when it comes to the defense industrial base “the pressure to accelerate is being met with equal and abrupt pressures to reduce speed,” according to NDIA’s Jen Stewart.

Ask any company CEO and you’ll hear story after story about

defense contracting slowness despite supporting two wars;

-the inability to knock on the right office door to showcase cutting edge technology;

-private funding and tech refresh cycles that occur in the fraction of time it takes the government to even respond to an initial inquiry;

-the complex maze of rules and regulations one must master to even compete; and,

-the endless cul-de-sac of chicken-and-egg Pentagon acquisition in which no one will start a new program without “requirements,” but no requirements can be established without someone first taking interest in novel capability.

Washington’s 3-decadelong peacetime posture was best crystallized after the war in Ukraine sparked demand that industry simply could not meet quickly. The reasons for an inability to ramp up are vast and have taken decades to solidify and therefore years to un-do.

The paradox of expectations versus reality were showcased in a recent NDIA report, which highlights the many causes of America’s inability to surge production at scale, noting: