1 May 2024

Why China Is So Bad at Disinformatio


The headlines sounded dire: “China Will Use AI to Disrupt Elections in the US, South Korea and India, Microsoft Warns.” Another claimed, “China Is Using AI to Sow Disinformation and Stoke Discord Across Asia and the US.”

They were based on a report published earlier this month by Microsoft’s Threat Analysis Center which outlined how a Chinese disinformation campaign was now utilizing artificial technology to inflame divisions and disrupt elections in the US and around the world. The campaign, which has already targeted Taiwan’s elections, uses AI-generated audio and memes designed to grab user attention and boost engagement.

But what these headlines and Microsoft itself failed to adequately convey is that the Chinese-government-linked disinformation campaign, known as Spamouflage Dragon or Dragonbridge, has so far been virtually ineffective.

How To Clean Up New Delhi’s Smoggy Air

Nowhere else do people breathe air as dirty as in India. According to the World Health Organisation, as many as 1.3 million deaths per year on the subcontinent can be attributed to polluted air. With its National Clean Air Programme, the Indian government wants to enact countermeasures.

To do this, decision-makers need to know what sources the particulates come from, how they are distributed regionally, and how harmful certain compounds are to human health. This important information has now been provided for the first time by a study led by members of the Laboratory for Atmospheric Chemistry at PSI, with partners from India, China, Germany, Denmark, France, Spain, and Switzerland. The researchers have not only determined the amounts and origins of particulates in the air, but also their oxidative potential – an important factor for the harmful effect a chemical compound can have on living cells and thus on health. The study has now been published in the journal Nature Communications.

The focus of the study was on the Indian capital New Delhi, and not for the first time. Of all the cities on earth, it is considered the metropolis with the highest concentration of particulates in the air. Over the past four years, the researchers had already gained groundbreaking insights into the air pollution there. In a study from 2023, they demonstrated for the first time that chemical processes run differently in the skies over New Delhi than in other major cities.

Why Is Russia Indispensable To India? – Analysis

Subrata Majumder

Russia, which descended to a negligible trade and economic partner of India with the breakup of the Soviet Union and the great Indian economic reforms in 1991, has emerged as indispensable for the South Asian country. Besides defense, it is an important trade partner of India. Additionally, with the onset of global sanction on Russia, it has become a major shield to India’s oil economy.

Paradoxically, while global sanctions on Russia dashed the European economy, it has become boon to India. Russia became the biggest crude oil supplier to India in 2022-23 and the trigger for India’s exports of petroleum refinery products. India imports over 90 percent of crude oil demand.

In 2022-23, Russia was the 5th biggest trading partner of India, compared to 25th in 2021-22. This has invoked a new era of India-Russia economic relations.

The greater part of the revival in India–Russia economic relations was due to oil supply. Russia played a key role in protecting India from oil turbulence due to global the oil sanction on Russia. India and China were non-parties to the sanctions.

Bangladesh’s Engagement With UNESCAP: A Path Towards Regional Development – Analysis

Syed Raiyan Amir

On April 25, 2024, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina delivered a poignant address at the 80th Annual Session of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP), held in Bangkok, Thailand. Her remarks echoed far beyond the walls of the conference hall, resonating with a global audience and sparking discussions on critical issues facing the Asia-Pacific region and the world at large.

Bangladesh’s Prior Active Engagement in UNESCAP

Bangladesh actively participates and contributes to the initiatives of UNESCAP, continuously enhancing its involvement in ESCAP-related activities. It has introduced four resolutions on various socio-economic issues of common interest to Asia-Pacific countries and organized five side events. Bangladesh remains engaged in every committee and expert group meeting of UNESCAP. The nation’s decade-long efforts in sustainable development were recognized in the Sustainable Development Report, 2021, with Prime Minister H.E. Sheikh Hasina receiving the SDG Progress Award during the 76th UNGA in September 2021. During the 77th session of UNESCAP in May 2021, Prime Minister H.E. Sheikh Hasina proposed a 4-point recommendation to address the COVID-19 pandemic and emphasized regional cooperation for shared prosperity. Bangladesh endorsed the Policy statement of UNESCAP, declaring a strategy aligned with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Myanmar’s Economy Is Still In Free Fall – Analysis

Zachary Abuza

While the Myanmar military regime’s battlefield losses throughout the country are grabbing headlines, the country’s dire economic crisis is further undercutting the junta’s capacity to wage war.

Myanmar’s military has suffered significant battlefield losses throughout the country since an ethnic rebel army alliance launched Operation 1027 nearly six months ago, raising questions whether the military is able to retake lost territories.

Fighting across eight distinct battle scapes, the military is unable to divide and conquer, and even its emphasis on first retaking the heartland of the ethnic majority Bamars, has faltered. In Sagaing, the junta has suffered significant setbacks and only recaptured one town. in southern Myanmar, two Mon resistance organizations agreed to work together as they prepare to go on the attack against the regime.

Europe can’t afford to decouple from China


Last week, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken travelled to Beijing to meet senior Chinese government representatives. His reception was somewhat frosty, as officials told him that the United States must choose between a policy of “confrontation or cooperation” with the Chinese. Beijing’s diplomatic well is now pretty dry, and its representatives are signalling clearly that the Americans need to make a decision on their Chinese strategy.

When Blinken met with Xi Jinping, the message was reinforced in as clear terms as possible. “China is pleased to see a confident, open, prosperous United States,” Xi said. “We hope that the US side can also view China’s development in a positive and proactive light.” He then went on to warn Blinken against engaging in what he called “vicious competition” with Beijing.

It is not only Chinese officials who are tiring of Washington’s ill-defined stance towards its fellow power. Earlier this month a Donald Trump megadonor, hedge fund titan John Paulson, warned against trying to economically decouple from China. Paulson, who is tipped to be a potential nominee for a Trump administration Treasury secretary, strongly pushed back on the Biden administration’s stance. “We don’t want to decouple from China,” he told the Financial Times, “We need to have a good economic and political relationship with them.”

Xi Is Taking a Page Out of Mao's Playbook—Waging War to Protect Himself at Home | Opinion

Gordon G. Chang

That's how the Taiwan Affairs Office of China's State Council saw the island republic after President Joe Biden signed an aid package that included money for Taiwan on the 24 of this month.

Who could disagree with the Chinese government's assessment of the situation? Xi Jinping, after all, has been readying his military for an invasion across the Taiwan Strait and talks all the time about going to war. "Dare to fight" is his new favorite phrase.

Xi, however, chose not to fight in February, when he had the perfect opportunity to do so. Two Chinese fishermen drowned that month after being chased by the Taiwan Coast Guard. Instead, China's military engaged in theatrics, provocative air and sea exercises near the site of the incident, Taiwan's outlying Kinmen Island. At the same time, Beijing's propaganda organs huffed and puffed, but Xi did not send his ships and troops to Taiwan beaches.

China’s People’s Armed Forces Departments: Developments Under Xi Jinping

Cindy Zheng, Timothy Heath

On April 19, the Qinghai Branch of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, a major state-owned commercial bank, held an opening ceremony for its new People’s Armed Forces Department (PAFD; 中国民兵). This department will be run by the Xining garrison of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) (Xining TV, April 23).

Under Chinese Communist Party (CCP) General Secretary Xi Jinping, the PAFD has experienced a resurgence in activity. Reflecting broader apprehension about domestic security, the PAFD has increased its involvement in state-owned enterprises (SOEs) and bolstered its political control. It has also stepped up efforts to support the military’s modernization through enhanced training and recruitment. While these measures could marginally improve the readiness of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) for war, they are principally driven by the CCP’s focus on maintaining social stability in a period of economic deceleration and popular unrest. The reappearance of people’s militias under the PAFD during a period of economic difficulty could underscore the legitimacy challenges that Xi Jinping is concerned about, highlighting the close interplay between security concerns and societal stability under his leadership.

Precision over power: How Iran’s ‘obsolete’ missiles penetrated Israel’s air defense

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Iran’s 13 April retaliatory missile strike on Israel, dubbed Operation True Promise, managed to overcome the occupation state’s integrated air defense systems and external foreign support.

The strike, intended to deter future actions by Israel against Iranian personnel and facilities, was notably executed to avoid casualties and serious damage. The operation was especially bold as it targeted Israel, an undeclared nuclear power.

Open-source intelligence from videos and photographs identified multiple warheads striking Ramon airbase in the Negev, not Nevatim, as previously reported, although the occupation army confirmed strikes on Nevatim and released images showing minor damage. This suggests a systematic failure of Israel’s lauded air defenses against those five missiles that hit their target, one after the other.

Why Iran may accelerate its nuclear program, and Israel may be tempted to attack it

Darya Dolzikova, Matthew Savill

On April 19, Israel carried out a strike deep inside Iranian territory, near the city of Isfahan. The attack was apparently in retaliation for a major Iranian drone and missile attack on Israel a few days earlier. This exchange between the two countries—which have historically avoided directly targeting each other’s territories—has raised fears of a potentially serious military escalation in the region.

Israel’s strike was carried out against an Iranian military site located in close proximity to the Isfahan Nuclear Technology Center, which hosts nuclear research reactors, a uranium conversion plant, and a fuel production plant, among other facilities. Although the attack did not target Iran’s nuclear facilities directly, earlier reports suggested that Israel was considering such attacks. The Iranian leadership has, in turn, threatened to reconsider its nuclear policy and to advance its program should nuclear sites be attacked.

Kuwait’s Hedging Strategy Toward Iran And Saudi Arabia – Analysis

Mohammed Torki Bani Salameh

This study aims to reveal the impact of Saudi–Iranian competition on the countries’ relationship with the State of Kuwait. The study showed that the events, crises, and conflicts in the region from 1971 to 2023 formed a field of competition between the two countries for hegemony and influence over the countries of the region.

In its hegemony strategy, Iran has relied on penetrating fragile and weak countries politically, economically, and militarily, in addition to supporting Shiite minorities in Arabian Gulf countries. This has created conflict with Saudi Arabia for the leadership of the region, and Saudi Arabia has tried to lead a unified Arab and Islamic alliance against Iran. Over time, the dispute between them has turned into an ideological, religious, political, and military battle. As for this competition over their relations with the State of Kuwait, the Kuwaiti strategy has been based on sheltering from the conflicts of the major powers in the region and looking for an influential regional role to relieve the pressures of those countries and limit their expansionist attempts. But the geographical dilemma of Kuwait has made it adopt foreign policies that tend to be cautious, and Kuwait has sought to pursue a hedging policy toward Iran and Saudi Arabia. While Kuwaiti diplomacy is always keen to activate cooperation and support rapprochement with Saudi Arabia at all levels, it is trying to hold the stick from the middle in its relations with Iran between the hardening of collective Gulf decisions and flexibility in bilateral relations.

Israel’s Forever War

Tom Segev

To Israelis, October 7, 2023, is the worst day in their country’s 75-year history. Never before have so many of them been massacred and taken hostage on a single day. Thousands of heavily armed Hamas fighters managed to break through the Gaza Strip’s fortified border and into Israel, rampaging unimpeded for hours, destroying several villages, and committing gruesome acts of brutality before Israeli forces could regain control. Israelis have compared the attack to the Holocaust; Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has described Hamas as “the new Nazis.” In response, the Israel Defense Forces have pursued an open-ended military campaign in Gaza driven by rage and the desire for revenge. Netanyahu promises that the IDF will fight Hamas until it achieves “total victory,” although even his own military has been hard put to define what this means. He has offered no clear idea of what should happen when the fighting stops, other than to assert that Israel must maintain security control of all of Gaza and the West Bank.

For Palestinians, the Gaza war is the worst event they have experienced in 75 years. Never have so many of them been killed and uprooted since the nakba, the catastrophe that befell them during Israel’s war of independence in 1948, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were forced to give up their homes and became refugees. 

Israel's plan to rebuild North, South after war should be comprehensive, proactive - opinion


Growing up in the Golan and being deeply involved in policy planning and decision-making for the government for many years, I’ve observed numerous minimal and repetitive action plans. As Israel faces one of its most significant tests amidst ongoing conflict, a crucial question looms: How can we not only achieve military victory but also emerge socially and economically stronger, especially in our northern and southern regions? The transformation of these areas into thriving regions capable of attracting thousands of new residents over the next decade is essential for our future success. Now is the time for a new approach.
A new approach for ‘the day after’

The current conflict has not only tested Israel’s military resilience but also exposed the vulnerabilities and untapped potential of the northern and southern regions. Reflecting on the past, after the Second Lebanon War, the Israeli government implemented a significant rehabilitation program in the North and Haifa. While this program made important strides in rebuilding infrastructure and supporting local authorities, it highlighted the need for integrating more robust social and economic strategies to ensure comprehensive development. Strategic planning for the future must not merely aim to restore what was lost but should seize this moment to fundamentally transform these areas into thriving hubs of innovation, culture, and economic activity. This vision requires a bold departure from past practices, embracing a more holistic approach that can truly revitalize these communities.

Hamas official says group ready to disarm as US sees 'avenue' for dea

Beatrice Farhat

A Hamas official expressed on Wednesday the movement’s readiness to lay down its weapons and transition into a political party if an independent Palestinian state is established along the pre-1967 borders.

In an interview in Istanbul with the Associated Press published on Thursday, Khalil al-Hayya, a leading member of Hamas’ political bureau and deputy head of the movement in the Gaza Strip, said Hamas would accept “a fully sovereign Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the return of Palestinian refugees in accordance with the international resolutions.”

If that happens, Hamas would disband its military wing, the Qatar-based Hamas official said.

Hayya, who has represented the movement in the indirect talks with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire and a hostage deal, added that Hamas was open to a truce in Gaza for five years or more.

Russia’s Shadow Fleet Goes Rogue

Elisabeth Braw

The frequent presence of the Kremlin’s sanctions-dodging vessels off the coast of Gotland, where they perform dangerous ship-to-ship transfers of oil, is a clear provocation, not to mention a looming threat to marine life.

Now the Swedish Navy reports that shadow vessels in the waters of Sweden’s exclusive economic zone don’t just conduct their regular business: they’re also equipped with communications gear that is in no way needed by standard merchant vessels. The Russian shadow fleet appears to simultaneously be a spy fleet.

This collection of ships — estimated to number about 1,400 vessels worldwide — may operate in the shadows, but it’s indisputably there, and its activities are growing – especially in the Baltic Sea. The fleet transports pretty much anything asked of them, and in the past two years that has meant a lot of Russian oil, because Russia wants to keep exporting above the Western-imposed price cap.

The necessary fixes the IDF needs for the long wars of the coming decade - opinion


Back in 2013, the IDF chief of staff romulgated a multi-year plan for the Israeli military called “Teuzah” (prowess or fearlessness). That plan accepted a significant decrease in overall funding to the IDF and shifted priorities away from the ground forces in favor of air force and cyber capabilities, intelligence, special operations forces, and stand-off precision fire. This came atop a cut of 25% in the ground forces budget between 2002 and 2006.

The IDF chief of staff at the time was Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz.

According to Amir Rapaport, publisher and editor of the military industry-leading Israel Defense magazine, Gantz accepted the relative weakness of the maneuvering capabilities of the ground forces as a given. He did not think that the IDF would need to fight conventional army forces in the foreseeable future, nor have to conduct large-scale ground maneuvers in enemy territory.

For the US, 2024 Isn’t 1973

George Friedman

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

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

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

How Different Countries Respond to Terrorism

The fallout from Hamas’ Oct. 7 rampage through Israel and the March 22 massacre at Crocus City Hall near Moscow are dreadful reminders of the potential outsized effect of terrorist attacks. The most effective attacks provoke intense emotions, especially fear and paranoia, which can trigger dramatic changes in a country’s foreign and domestic policies. In their haste to restore a sense of safety, leaders often order security responses that are not proportionate with the actual threat, whether that entails imprudent foreign wars or severe domestic crackdowns. Other times, they may attempt to downplay the threat or redirect public attention. Every country reacts its own way, even if it doesn’t really react at all.


Even the definition of terrorism varies between countries, reflecting their history, geography, social and institutional makeup, and more. Russia defines it as “an ideology of violence and the practice of influencing [official] decision-making … associated with intimidation of the population and (or) other forms of unlawful violent actions.” This definition is broad enough to cover the violent actions of secessionist groups and individuals from Russia’s North Caucasus, who have been the predominant perpetrators of terrorism in the country. For example, following their defeat in the Chechen wars and subsequent repression by the Kremlin, Chechen terrorists orchestrated the 2002 Moscow theater siege, the 2004 Beslan school siege and a 2004 suicide bombing in the Moscow Metro. Terrorists from the North Caucasus also conducted the 2010 Moscow Metro bombing and the 2011 bombing of Moscow’s Domodedovo airport.

Weapons of War: The Race Between Russia and Ukraine

Max Boot

After a shamefully long delay, the U.S. Congress passed legislation that includes $61 billion for Ukraine on Tuesday, only days after CIA Director Bill Burns warned that Ukraine was in danger of “losing” the war this year without U.S. assistance. This aid should help fill critical ammunition shortfalls and allow the Ukrainians to hold the lines in the face of a looming Russian summer offensive.

But the long-term outcome of the war remains very much in doubt. That will depend in part on the race to produce weapons and ammunition, pitting Russia and its allies (Iran and North Korea) against Ukraine and its allies (principally, the nations of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization [NATO]). There is also a concurrent competition by both Russia and Ukraine to field enough troops. This is a brief examination of where the two sides stand in mobilizing some of the key “sinews of war”.

Joseph Stiglitz and the Meaning of Freedo

John Cassidy

In the early days of the covid-19 pandemic, when there was no vaccine in sight and more than a thousand people who had contracted the virus were dying each day in the United States, Joseph Stiglitz, the economics professor and Nobel laureate, was isolating with his wife at home, on the Upper West Side. Stiglitz, who is now eighty-one, was a high-risk individual, and he followed the government’s guidelines on masking and social distancing scrupulously. Not everyone did, of course, and on the political right there were complaints that the mask mandate, in particular, was an unjustified infringement on individual freedom. Stiglitz strongly disagreed. “I thought it was very clear that this was an example where one person’s freedom is another’s unfreedom,” he told me recently. “Wearing a mask was a very little infringement on one person’s freedom, and not wearing a mask was potentially a large infringement on others.”

It also struck Stiglitz, who had served as chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisers during the Clinton Administration, that the experience of the pandemic could provide an opportunity for a wide-ranging examination of the question of freedom and unfreedom, which he had been thinking about from an economic perspective for many years. The result is a new book, “The Road to Freedom: Economics and the Good Society,” in which he seeks to reclaim the concept of freedom for liberals and progressives. “Freedom is an important value that we do and ought to cherish, but it is more complex and more nuanced than the Right’s invocation,” he writes. “The current conservative reading of what freedom means is superficial, misguided, and ideologically motivated. The Right claims to be the defender of freedom, but I’ll show that the way they define the word and pursue it has led to the opposite result, vastly reducing the freedoms of most citizens.”

Israel And The Great Malaise Of October 7 – OpEd

Dr. Mohamed Chtatou

After six months of war in Gaza, whipped into a frenzy by the media, Israeli public opinion is torn by fear. It wonders about the day after in a country where the messianic far right is pushing for ethnic cleansing. The left, for its part, is struggling to find its bearings. Israel’s Palestinians, however, are subject to severe restrictions on their public freedoms.

Ontological essence

On October 7, the most obscure and painful past of Jewish memory was brought into the present. What to make of this new reality? What to do when the ideological foundation on which Israel was built is in ruins? Could it be that the present experience, stripping Israel of its most absolute ontological essence, renders obsolete the very need and justification for this state? Faced with the threat and confronted with these questions, Israel and the Jews today find themselves at an abyss.

Armenia: Protests Continue Against Plans To Cede Territory To Rival Azerbaijan

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Armenians have blocked the Yerevan-Gyumri highway as protests continue against the government’s plans to hand over several border areas to rival Azerbaijan as part of a peace deal.

Images of the protest action that shut down traffic from Armenia’s capital to the country’s northwestern border were posted on the morning of April 28 on the Tavush For The Fatherland Facebook page.

The Martuni-Vardenis highway, linking the two cities near Armenia’s eastern border with Azerbaijan, was shut down overnight.

Earlier this month, residents of several Armenian communities in the northeastern Tavush Province launched protests against the government’s plans to hand over territory close to Azerbaijan’s Qazax region.

Under the border delimitation agreement announced on April 19, Baku will regain control of four formerly Azerbaijani populated villages and surrounding areas in the Tavush region.

The villages were part of Azerbaijan during the Soviet era but have been controlled by Armenia since the 1990s.

Drink the Kool-Aid all you want, but don’t call AI an existential threat

Jeff Caruso

In a 2012 essay for Aeon, physicist David Deutsch wrote of artificial intelligence: “I cannot think of any other significant field of knowledge where the prevailing wisdom, not only in society at large but among experts, is so beset with entrenched, overlapping, fundamental errors. Yet it has also been one of the most self-confident fields in prophesying that it will soon achieve the ultimate breakthrough.”

The self-confident prophesying Deutsch wrote of has since continued, except it is now accompanied with the warning that a rogue artificial intelligence could end life on Earth as we know it, and the technology should be categorized as an existential threat.

Artificial intelligence has come into the spotlight since 2022’s release of OpenAI’s ChatGPT, which was followed by several other text and image generation models. The applications have already been incorporated into businesses, healthcare settings, and even military operations. 

Revolutionizing Classrooms: How AI Is Reshaping Global Education

A new World Economic Forum report explores how artificial intelligence could revolutionize education systems and improve the experiences of educators and students alike. The new research outlines AI’s wide-ranging potential – from personalizing learning experiences, to streamlining administrative tasks, integrating AI into educational curricula and more – and finds that a responsible application of emerging technologies could herald a new era in education worldwide.

The new report, Shaping the Future of Learning: The Role of AI in Education 4.0, indicates how emerging technology can help educational systems meet the increased demands for digital literacy and personalized learning environments. Through a series of case studies, it shows how innovative AI applications are already transforming education by improving learning outcomes, empowering educators and equipping students with the skills of the future.

“AI is rapidly reshaping the global education landscape,” said Saadia Zahidi, Managing Director, World Economic Forum. “If deployed safely and strategically, AI can help adapt learning to the needs of each student, enabling an innovative, scalable personalized learning experience that is vital for both student engagement and the effectiveness of educators.”


nan Tian, Diego Lopes Da Silva, Xiao Liang and Lorenzo Scarazzato

World military expenditure increased for the ninth consecutive year in 2023, reaching a total of $2443 billion. The 6.8 per cent increase in 2023 was the steepest year-on-year rise since 2009 and pushed global spending to the highest level SIPRI has ever recorded (see figure 1). The world military burden—defined as military spending as a percentage of global gross domestic product (GDP)—increased to 2.3 per cent in 2023. Average military expenditure as a share of government expenditure rose by 0.4 percentage points to 6.9 per cent in 2023 and world military spending per person was the highest since 1990, at $306.

The rise in global military spending in 2023 can be attributed primarily to the ongoing war in Ukraine and escalating geopolitical tensions in Asia and Oceania and the Middle East. Military expenditure went up in all five geographical regions, with major spending increases recorded in Europe, Asia and Oceania and the Middle East.

This SIPRI Fact Sheet highlights trends in military expenditure for 2023 and over the decade 2014–23. The data, which replaces all military spending data previously published by SIPRI, comes from the updated SIPRI Military Expenditure Database.