12 May 2024

What India Can Teach the U.S. About Multipolarity

Abhinav Pandya

The idea of an emerging multipolar world order has become a buzzword in the post-pandemic global geopolitical discourse. Politicians, strategic experts, diplomats, and business leaders from diverse backgrounds solemnly intone that multipolarity is the future of world order. Among them, UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres suggested that “the post-Cold War period is over, and we are moving towards a new global order and a multipolar world.” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, in his nation’s National Security Strategy, wrote that “the global order is changing, new centers of power are emerging, and the world in the 21st century is multipolar.”

Russia and China proclaimed the imminence of the multipolar world order in a joint statement from February 2022 and the deliberations at BRICS+ and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). Other proponents of a multipolar world order include Brazilian president Lula Da Silva, Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, French President Emmanuel Macron, and the European Union (EU) representative for foreign affairs, Josep Borell.

Is this rapidly congealing piece of conventional wisdom true? Is the world really moving from unipolarity to multipolarity? There are varying opinions on the subject.

What It Will Take for India to Address Climate Change?

Divya Sharma and Avantika Shrivastava

As the temperature is rising in India, so is election fever. But these elections are different. Measures against climate change finally feature in manifestos of national parties, which is very important. To make a difference, however, climate action urgently needs an unprecedented push from governments and businesses.

While elections in India are hard fought, political promises have largely remained the same over decades. Basic necessities covering livelihoods, water, education, and health have folded into a development and welfare plank, and these are prominently pushed during campaigning. This election year, however, the energy transition to renewable alternatives is a poll promise, and rightly so. But while in the manifestos, these pledges hardly feature on the campaign trail or in political rallies.

Climate and the energy transition can only truly be achieved when these are linked with development promises or are told in a way that resonates with the masses. At present, however, there seems to be a gap. While the development agenda is catered to the masses and the poor, the climate agenda is geared toward the nation’s elites and international and national observers. This gap needs to be bridged.



As the world transitions to multipolarity, nations are increasingly turning to force to achieve political objectives, and while nations go to war expecting quick decisive results they habitually find themselves mired in protracted conflict. A primary reason nations can find themselves in conflicts lasting far longer than expected is the immense emotion related to war. War’s human nature affects all strata of society from political elites to the general populace creating three obstacles preventing states from ending conflict. The first is decoupling war from political goals, the second is an excessive focus on tactics, and the last is succumbing to victory disease.

The challenges associated with ending conflict are neither new nor a secret. Speaking in 2014 on ending the war in Afghanistan, President Barrack Obama warned, “I think Americans have learned that it’s harder to end wars than it is to begin them.” His warning proved true as the United States’ involvement lasted seven more years and ended in a Taliban victory. To end war in a manner that brings long-term benefits, states must adopt an objective approach in defining political objectives and in designing military operations to achieve them. A failure to do so can result in a state that excels at warfare, defined as the organization and employment of military power, but fails at war, which is the use of the military instrument of power to achieve positive political objectives.

Taliban Push Back Against Pakistani Accusations of Involvement in Recent Attacks

Catherine Putz

A spokesman for the Taliban’s Ministry of Defense pushed back Wednesday on comments made a day earlier by a Pakistan army spokesman, alleging that the March suicide bombing that killed five Chinese engineers was planned in Afghanistan and perpetrated by an Afghan citizen.

Enayatullah Khawarazmi, the spokesperson for Afghanistan’s Ministry of Defense said, “Blaming Afghanistan for such incidents is a failed attempt to divert attention from the truth of the matter and we strongly reject it.”

Myanmar: Military On The Back Foot As The Dry Season Comes To A Close – Analysis

Zachary Abuza

Myanmar’s dry season is ending soon, with the military junta on the back foot after more than six months of reversals and losses to the opposition. This points to an intensification of attacks from the beleaguered regime.

With official forecasts that monsoon rains will start in the second week of June, the State Administrative Council (SAC), as the junta is formally known, is likely to focus on six priorities before the rains set in, hampering the military’s already weak logistics and troop mobility.

While the military recently retook control over the key Thai border city Myawaddy, they have not retaken much of the territory lost since the Three Brotherhood Alliance’s Operation 1027 began in late October, especially outside of the Bamar heartland.

With the rainy season favoring the more flexible opposition, the junta is likely to focus on six strategic priorities in the coming weeks.

East Asia’s Coming Population Collapse

Nicholas Eberstadt

In the decades immediately ahead, East Asia will experience perhaps the modern world’s most dramatic demographic shift. All of the region’s main states—China, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan—are about to enter into an era of depopulation, in which they will age dramatically and lose millions of people. According to projections from the Population Division of the UN Department of Economic Social Affairs, China’s and Japan’s populations are set to fall by eight percent and 18 percent, respectively, between 2020 and 2050. South Korea’s population is poised to shrink by 12 percent. And Taiwan’s will go down by an estimated eight percent. The U.S. population, by contrast, is on track to increase by 12 percent.

People—human numbers and the potential they embody—are essential to state power. All else being equal, countries with more people have more workers, bigger economies, and a larger pool of potential soldiers. As a result, growing countries find it much easier to augment power and extend influence abroad. Shrinking ones, by contrast, struggle to maintain their sway.

China's Volt Typhoon campaign is metastasizing


FBI Director Christopher Wray announced the court-authorized takedown at a high-profile January hearing, telling lawmakers that its cyber operatives disabled KV-botnet, a digital entity of chain-linked equipment, including cameras and routers, that was compromised and used to form a data transfer network for the group — known as Volt Typhoon — to quietly tunnel into critical infrastructure in preparation for what officials publicly say is U.S. military conflict with Beijijng.

Its operations were significantly slowed down, but the KV-botnet was just one of many staging grounds. Volt Typhoon, believed to be working on behalf of Chinese state authorities, is using multiple covert networks now, making it seemingly impossible to completely stop the entity in its tracks, officials told reporters at RSA Conference in San Francisco.

The news comes after a recent a diplomatic trip to China two weeks ago, where the State Department’s cyberspace and digital policy ambassador Nathaniel Fick and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken told Chinese officials in Shanghai and Beiijng that the Volt Typhoon activity has hit a boiling point, Fick told reporters in a separate briefing at the conference.

Embracing Communist China Was U.S.’ Greatest Strategic Failure

James E. Fanell and Bradley A. Thayer

From the war in Ukraine to the horrific terror attack on Oct. 7 and the subsequent conflict in the Middle East to the roiling waters of the South China Sea, the world today is in crisis. The causes are not found in Moscow or Tehran alone, but primarily in Washington and Beijing. They are the consequence of two fundamental and interrelated grand strategic mistakes made by the U.S. First, the failure to understand the threat from the People’s Republic of China. Second, the failure to balance against it. As a result, the U.S. is at risk of losing its dominant position to an emboldened PRC working in cooperation with Vladimir Putin’s Russia and the mullahs in Iran. Surveying the global unrest, Americans must comprehend three reasons why they face this dire strategic landscape.

First, U.S. elites did not perceive the threat due to the triumphalism of the “End of History” – the false assertion that modernizing nations like China were on the path to democratization and free market economics. Great power conflict was seen as an artifact of the past. This hubris contributed to what we term “threat deflation,” where year after year U.S. decision-makers consistently dismissed or underestimated the threat from the PRC.

Xi’s visit a hard reality check for EU-China relations


President Xi Jinping’s European tour, his first in five years, has shown how much EU member states, at least those in the core of Europe, need a reality check.

Not only has Xi taken quite some time to visit the continent but in doing so he chose to visit his staunchest European allies, Serbia and Hungary, beyond France.

President Emmanuel Macron was an important target for Xi since he has recently taken a much harsher stance on Russia’s war in Ukraine and strongly supports the EU’s strategic autonomy and EU economic security strategies. These latter two initiatives are very much focused on China.

On the former, China’s official exchanges with Russia are at a record high. China has repeatedly abstained from United Nations resolutions condemning Russia’s aggression against Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Chinese economic and financial support for Russia is not limited to its imports of Russian oil and gas at appealing cut-rate prices. (India has also gorged on Western-sanctioned Russian energy).

Defending Taiwan by Defending Ukraine

Jaushieh Joseph Wu

The Russian invasion of Ukraine was a wake-up call: it was time to move past the vision of a post‒Cold War world in which regimes in Moscow and Beijing would become responsible stakeholders in a rules-based international order. What has emerged, instead, is an increasingly contentious world plagued by authoritarian aggression, most dangerously exemplified by the “no-limits partnership” between China and Russia, through which the two countries have bolstered each other’s repressive, expansionist agendas.

This remains, however, a globalized world of interconnected economies and societies: a single, indivisible theater in which the security of every country is intimately linked to the security of every other. That is particularly true of the world’s democracies, whose alliances and partnerships have come under assault by authoritarian powers intent on splitting and dividing the democratic world.

Some have argued that international support for defending Ukraine from Russian aggression is draining attention and resources away from the task of standing up to Chinese aggression. According to this view, the defense of Ukraine has left democracies such as Taiwan more vulnerable.

Israel Faces a Second-Front in Lebanon

Dror Doron

Israel is on the brink of having to fight Iranian-backed terrorists on a second front, in Lebanon. In the last six months, more than 100,000 civilians on both sides of the border have been displaced from their homes by Hezbollah terror attacks and Israeli retaliation operations. The border is a powder keg thanks to years of gross negligence by the international community in allowing Hezbollah to ignore its demand to disarm in southern Lebanon. With diplomacy failing to produce results, President Biden is the only leader able to stop the march toward the guns of August, and he must act now.

In 2006 war, the United Nations Security Council adopted Resolution 1701, which effectively ended Hezbollah’s unprovoked war against Israel and demanded the total disarmament of any military groups in southern Lebanon and the deployment of the formal Lebanese army and UNIFIL peacekeeping forces in the area. Hezbollah, however, uses its overwhelming influence on the Lebanese government to prevent any attempt to implement the U.N.’s demands through the deployment of the Lebanese army in the area. Thus, Israel’s security was left in the hands of UNIFIL peacekeepers who stood by and meekly observed as Hezbollah gradually rebuilt its military infrastructures, using Shia villages as a cover for its operations, and weapons flowed into the area.

Finding Neutrality: A Multifaceted Approach To Resolving The Ukraine-Russia Conflict – OpEd

Simon Hutagalung

The Russian-Ukrainian conflict, which has resulted in the most significant energy crisis of the 21st century, is driven primarily by two factors. Firstly, Ukraine’s strategic position between the European Union and Russia renders it crucial to the country later. Secondly, the ongoing territorial dispute between the two nations exacerbates tensions. Ukraine being a former member of the Soviet Union shares deep cultural and social connections with thereby Russia encountering challenges in resisting Russian cultural influence, particularly in the Eastern regions such as Donetsk and Luhansk where the language Russian is widely spoken.

Furthermore, prosperous industrialized areas of Eastern Ukraine also possess additional significance they harbor pro-Russian separatist elements and armed groups considered as rebels posing a threat to Ukrainian sovereignty. In response to Russian influence, liberal democracy has intervened in Ukraine supporting its conflicts territorial with Russia. This intervention has become contentious between Ukraine and Russia.

US bomb delay biggest warning yet for Israel

James Landale

The United States is the one country that has real leverage over Israel. And yet, throughout the war in Gaza, Israel has chosen to ignore much of the advice of its closest ally.

The US government says its support for the war against Hamas is "ironclad", but it has repeatedly raised concerns about the failure of the Israeli army to protect civilians and the lack of humanitarian access afforded to the people of Gaza.

For seven long months, the US has gradually stepped up pressure on Israel. It has advised privately. It has warned publicly. It has stopped vetoing condemnatory resolutions at the United Nations. It has sanctioned Israeli settlers in the occupied West Bank.

In a particularly robust telephone call a month ago, President Joe Biden told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu he would reduce US support if Israel did not allow fleets of aid lorries to cross the border into Gaza.

And yet, much of this counsel and cajoling has fallen on deaf ears. So now the US is beginning to wield its biggest stick.

How the Kremlin's Information Warfare Influence U.S. Policymakers

Michelle C. Watson & Mónika Palotai , Kristóf György Veres

To combat Russian disinformation, policymakers in Washington DC must approach this critical threat as a nonpartisan national security issue and take proactive measures to identify and counter the Kremlin's operations. Once manipulated stories enter the mainstream public discourse, it becomes increasingly difficult to distinguish falsehoods from facts. As a result, the damage has already been done. We have witnessed during the months-long debate on the Ukraine-aid package, that allegations of Ukrainian religious freedom violations were able to play a significant role in stalling the agreement in the House for months. The passage of the $61B package does not negate Putin’s disinformation operation’ national security implications.

Recently, Michael McCaul (R. Tx.), head of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and Mike Turner (R., Oh.), House Intelligence Committee Chair, accurately highlighted the Kremlin's influence on decision-makers in Washington DC. Russia, China and Iran have exponentially increased their targeted deception campaigns since Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine to create narratives that promote their agenda. Russia spends $1.5B on influencing foreign audiences annually, while China allocates $7B to the same purpose. The soft power strategies of these authoritarian regimes often overlap, amplifying each other’s messages that are tailor-made for specific regions and countries.

Tough French logic will lead Europe through immigrant crisis

Conrad Black

As the militant Islamic threat to many Western societies steadily gained strength from increasing immigration, a high birth rate among migrants, and sustained collective fervour, I have always predicted that the country that would guide us through this challenge was France.

It has two distinct advantages. First, despite the posturings of a few British Arabist-romantics such as T. E. Lawrence, Gertrude Bell, and Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, France is by far the Western state most experienced in dealing with Arabs.

It occupied Algeria in 1830 and the coastal provinces of Algeria were departments of France itself under the Third and Fourth Republics. The French population of Algeria was approximately ten percent and in parts of that country, especially around Philippeville and Constantine, there was a French majority.

Hamas Is to Blame for Israel's Rafah Operation | Opinion

Bassem Eid

As a Palestinian human rights activist, I feel compelled to weigh in on the ongoing military operation in Rafah, which has been often misrepresented in various circles. This operation, led by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), is not merely a response to aggression but a crucial rescue mission aimed at freeing hostages, including U.S. citizens. The responsibility for this escalation lies squarely with the terrorist group Hamas, which has continuously rejected multiple ceasefire proposals and escalated violence against civilians.

Hamas, entrenched in Gaza, particularly in Rafah, has exploited the city's strategic position and civilian infrastructure to fortify its military capabilities. Hamas still has four battalions in Rafah, the bulk of its undamaged fighting strength. By rejecting ceasefire after ceasefire—regardless of recent stunts—Hamas has not only endangered the lives of Palestinians and Israelis alike, but also manipulated the deteriorating humanitarian situation to its advantage. Each refusal to engage in peaceful negotiations has been a calculated decision to sustain conflict and suffering, primarily aimed at garnering international sympathy through the lens of victimhood.

Few Options for Gazans as Israel Enters Rafah

Christina Bouri and Diana Roy

On May 7, Israel’s military said that it had seized control of the Palestinian side of the Rafah border crossing between the southern Gaza Strip and Egypt. Israeli tanks had entered the area in what they called a “limited” operation. However, it could represent the start of a ground campaign against Hamas battalions in the city of Rafah, part of a broader effort to dismantle the militant group entirely. But how Israel plans to achieve its goals while protecting Palestinian civilians is still unclear.

Approximately 1.4 million people, more than half of Gaza’s population, have been sheltering in Rafah as hostilities continue between Israel and Hamas more than seven months after the outbreak of the war. Most live in makeshift shelters and tents and lack access to clean drinking water, sufficient food, and medical supplies.

Prior to the incursion, the Israeli military ordered tens of thousands of civilians in Rafah to evacuate, reportedly telling them to head to humanitarian zones near the cities of al-Mawasi and Khan Younis. Aid organizations say al-Mawasi is overcrowded and unprepared to accept tens of thousands of refugees who might seek shelter there.

United States nuclear weapons, 2024

Hans M. Kristensen, Matt Korda, Eliana Johns, Mackenzie Knight

In May 2024, the US Department of Defense maintained an estimated stockpile of approximately 3,708 nuclear warheads for delivery by ballistic missiles and aircraft. Most of the warheads in the stockpile are not deployed but rather stored for potential upload onto missiles and aircraft as necessary. We estimate that approximately 1,770 warheads are currently deployed, of which roughly 1,370 strategic warheads are deployed on ballistic missiles and another 300 at strategic bomber bases in the United States. An additional 100 tactical bombs are deployed at air bases in Europe. The remaining warheads—approximately 1,938—are in storage as a so-called “hedge” against technical or geopolitical surprises. Several hundred of those warheads are scheduled to be retired before 2030.

While the majority of the United States’ warheads comprises the Department of Defense’s military stockpile, retired warheads under the custody of the Department of Energy awaiting dismantlement constitute a “significant fraction” of the United States’ total warhead inventory (US Department of Energy 2023b). Dismantlement operations include the disassembly of retired weapons into component parts that are then assigned for reuse, storage, surveillance, or for additional disassembly and subsequent disposition (US Department of Energy 2023b, 2–11). The pace of warhead dismantlement has slowed significantly in recent years: While the United States dismantled on average more than 1,000 warheads per year during the 1990s, in 2020 it dismantled only 184 warheads (US State Department 2021). 

Why Ukraine Should Keep Striking Russian Oil Refineries

Michael Liebreich, Lauri Myllyvirta, and Sam Winter-Levy

On January 19, a Ukrainian drone struck an oil depot in the town of Klintsy, in Russia’s western Bryansk region, setting four gasoline tanks on fire and igniting some 1.6 million gallons of oil. Later that week, another strike lit a fire at Rosneft’s oil refinery in Tuapse, a Russian city some 600 miles from Ukrainian-held territory. In March, Ukrainian drones hit four Russian refineries in two days. April began with a Ukrainian drone attack on Russia’s third-largest refinery, located deep in the region of Tatarstan, around 800 miles away. The month ended with strikes on facilities in two more Russian cities, Smolensk and Ryazan.

In all, Ukraine has launched at least 20 strikes on Russian refineries since October. Ukrainian security officials have indicated that the attacks’ objectives are to cut off fuel supplies to the Russian military and slash the export revenues that the Kremlin uses to fund its war effort. By the end of March, Ukraine had destroyed around 14 percent of Russia’s oil-refining capacity and forced the Russian government to introduce a six-month ban on gasoline exports. One of the world’s largest oil producers is now importing petrol.

But the Biden administration has criticized the attacks. In February, Vice President Kamala Harris urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to refrain from targeting Russian oil refineries out of concern that the strikes would drive up global oil prices. Echoing that sentiment, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin warned the Senate Armed Services Committee in mid-April that the “attacks could have a knock-on effect in terms of the global energy situation.” Instead of striking oil infrastructure, Austin told the committee, “Ukraine is better served in going after tactical and operational targets that can directly influence the current fight.”

The Original Sin of Biden’s Foreign Policy

John Kampfner

In Toronto a few weeks ago I met a young Afghan woman in her mid-20s. She had worked for an international aid agency in Afghanistan helping women suffering mental health problems. As Taliban forces surged across the country in 2021, she tried desperately to flee, knowing that she would be punished for having worked with foreigners. She did eventually get out, together with her younger brother and sister, fleeing first via Iran to Brazil. Then she undertook a treacherous odyssey across South America, through the Panama jungle, across former U.S. President Donald Trump’s wall, through the United States, and eventually to Canada.

Israel hasn't crossed "red line" with current Rafah operation, U.S. officials sa

Barak Ravid

The White House thinks the Israeli operation to capture the Rafah crossing doesn't cross President Biden's "red line" that could lead to a shift in U.S. policy towards the Gaza war, two U.S. officials told Axios.

Why it matters: The Biden administration has expressed deep concern about the possibility of a major Israeli military invasion in the southern Gaza city where more than one million displaced Palestinians are sheltering.
  • Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week that "a major operation" in Rafah will harm U.S.-Israeli relations.
  • White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said at a Financial Times conference in Washington on Saturday that the Biden administration made clear to Israel that the way it conducts an operation in Rafah will influence U.S. policy towards the Gaza war.

With pressure rising for a cease-fire, Netanyahu meets with the C.I.A. director

Aaron Boxerman and Julian E. Barnes 

Negotiators from Israel and Hamas were in Cairo on Wednesday amid a renewed international push on a proposed deal for a cease-fire, though Israeli officials said that major gaps remained between the sides.

In a sign of the growing urgency, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with William J. Burns, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, on Wednesday afternoon in Israel, according to an Israeli official who requested anonymity to discuss the sensitive talks.

Mr. Burns has been shuttling across the region in recent days in an attempt to clinch a cease-fire deal between Israel and Hamas that would see the release of hostages held in Gaza and Palestinian prisoners held in Israel.

The Israeli delegations arrived on Tuesday, hours after Israeli tanks and troops went into the southern Gaza city of Rafah and seized control of the border crossing with Egypt, disrupting the flow of humanitarian aid into the enclave.

US paused bomb shipment to Israel to signal concerns over Rafah invasion, official say


The U.S. paused a shipment of bombs to Israel last week over concerns that Israel was approaching a decision on launching a full-scale assault on the southern Gaza city of Rafah against the wishes of the U.S., a senior administration official said Tuesday.

The shipment was supposed to consist of 1,800 2,000-pound (900-kilogram) bombs and 1,700 500-pound (225-kilogram) bombs, according to the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive matter, with the focus of U.S. concern being the larger explosives and how they could be used in a dense urban setting. More than 1 million civilians are sheltering in Rafah after evacuating other parts of Gaza amid Israel’s war on Hamas, which came after the militant group’s deadly attack on Israel on Oct. 7.

The U.S. has historically provided enormous amounts of military aid for Israel. That has only accelerated in the aftermath of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack that killed some 1,200 in Israel and led to about 250 being taken captive by militants. The pausing of the aid shipment is the most striking manifestation of the growing daylight between Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government and the administration of President Joe Biden, which has called on Israel to do far more to protect the lives of innocent civilians in Gaza.

Explainer: how ‘AI killer robots’ are threatening global security

Kris Cooper

The threat from artificial intelligence (AI) autonomous weapons and the need for international cooperation to mitigate the potentiality of “AI killer robots” was re-emphasised at the recent Humanity at the Crossroads: Autonomous Weapons Systems and the Challenge of Regulation conference in Vienna, Austria.

Allowing AI control over weapons systems could mean targets being identified, struck and killed without human intervention. This raises serious legal and ethical questions.

Highlighting the gravity of the situation, Austria’s foreign minister Alexander Schallenberg said: “This is the Oppenheimer Moment of our generation.”

Current use of AI killer robots

Indeed, to what extent the genie is already out of the bottle is a question in itself. Drones and AI are already widely used by militaries around the world.

How countries rank by military spending

To assess the state of international affairs, a good rule of thumb is to follow the flow of money or weapons. Defence budgets handily track both. A tally released by sipri, a think-tank based in Stockholm, suggests that governments are worried: 102 of the 173 countries included in the study increased their defence budgets last year. Globally, spending in real terms was up by 6.8% from 2022, the largest year-on-year increase since 2009.

Some of the biggest increases came from America’s nato allies in Europe after a long period of low spending. Excluding America, nato members increased spending by $68bn, or 19%, between 2022 and 2023. Adding Finland and Sweden to the alliance has boosted nato’s annual spending by a further $16bn.