20 May 2024

Washington And Western Allies Turn On India Over Russia And China By Ramping Up ‘Transnational Repression’ Claims – OpEd

Finian Cunningham

The United States and its Western allies appear to be mounting a hostile media campaign against the Indian government of Narendra Modi.

Sensational media accusations of India running an assassination program against expatriate dissidents and spying operations in Western countries have gathered pace recently, leading to acrimonious relations.

Parsing the Western allegations, it is plausible that Washington and its Five Eyes partners are amping up false-flag provocations to coerce New Delhi into adopting pro-Western policies toward Russia and China.

The latest spat follows Australian media reports of Australian authorities warning lawmakers to take extra precautions against spying when visiting India. Australian MPs are advised to use “burner phones” to avoid their regular devices being hacked into.

China’s gray zone social media war comes to America


China employs various “gray zone” tactics – moderately aggressive actions that are not egregious enough to provoke conventional military retaliation­ – against multiple adversaries. One such tactic is deployed within the United States: undeclared influence operations through social media.

Chinese government-linked activity has recently become more worrisome. Previously the principal danger was People’s Republic of China (PRC) propaganda lulling the US into uncritical acceptance of the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) foreign policy agenda. Now, the Chinese government is adding its weight to the forces tearing at America’s national fabric from the inside.

Until recently, the main thrust of PRC-sponsored messaging aimed at Americans through social media was to cultivate a positive image of China and its current government and to promote Beijing’s point of view on China-related controversies such as Taiwan’s political relationship with China, Chinese treatment of Uighurs and Tibetans, and the restriction of civil liberties in Hong Kong.

RED ALERT We’re ALREADY at war with China… cyber siege on West is start of chilling plot for new world order, ex-Tory leader warns

Imogen Braddick

It comes as GCHQ revealed that China is the intelligence agency's top priority as it "poses a genuine and increasing cyber-risk to the UK".

Anne Keast-Butler, the agency's director, accused Beijing of "working with others to try and reshape the world".

UK government officials fear China stole names and bank details of Britain's entire armed forces in an epic hack - and accused Beijing of hacking the Electoral Commission.

Some 270,000 people including regular troops, reservists and some veterans have been affected by the hack on the Ministry of Defence's payroll system.

What Biden’s New China Tariffs Mean for World Trade

Ravi Agrawal

It is now well-known that Beijing has distorted certain markets in part by introducing massive subsidies. For example, China now produces electric vehicles that are widely seen as cheaper and better than anything the West can currently manufacture. On Tuesday, the Biden administration reacted to this reality by quadrupling U.S. tariffs on Chinese electric vehicles to a scarcely believable 100 percent. The move is hardly partisan. On hearing the news about the tariffs, U.S. President Joe Biden’s rival, former President Donald Trump, told reporters he would have wanted more taxes on more products. “China is eating our lunch right now,” Trump said.

Taiwan’s Democracy Is Thriving in China’s Shadow

David Sacks

Amidst China’s growing military, economic, and diplomatic pressure on Taiwan and the attendant rising awareness of the risk of a cross-strait conflict, Taiwan is often solely viewed as a flashpoint or the frontline in a geopolitical struggle between China and the United States. A 2021 cover of the Economist, for instance, went so far as to label Taiwan “the most dangerous place on earth.” As international attention returns to Taiwan for its presidential inauguration on May 20, with keen interest in what president-elect William Lai will say on cross-strait relations, it is worth taking a step back to appreciate Taiwan’s democratic achievements. Under four decades since martial law was lifted and under three decades after its first democratic presidential election, Taiwan has emerged as one of the world’s strongest democracies, an achievement all the more remarkable considering the existential threat that the island faces.

A Young but Strong Democracy

In 1979, when the United States terminated diplomatic relations with Taiwan (formally the Republic of China) and established formal ties with the People’s Republic of China (PRC), it was trading one authoritarian regime for another. The Kuomintang (KMT) had imposed martial law on Taiwan in 1949, banned political opposition parties, and severely curtailed political rights.

Putin’s China Visit Highlights Military Ties That Worry the West

David Pierson

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia attended a trade fair on Friday in a northeastern Chinese city and toured a state-backed university famous for its cutting-edge defense research, highlighting how economic and military ties between the countries have grown despite, or perhaps because of, Western pressure.

Mr. Putin’s visit to Harbin, a Chinese city with a Russian past, is part of a trip aimed at demonstrating that he has powerful friends even as his war against Ukraine — a campaign that he is escalating — has isolated him from the West. The visit followed a day of talks between him and President Xi Jinping of China that seemed orchestrated to convey not only the strategic alignment of the two powerful, autocratic leaders against the West, but a personal connection.

State media showed Mr. Putin and Mr. Xi, neckties off after formal talks on Thursday, strolling under willow trees and sipping tea at a traditional pavilion on the sprawling grounds of Zhongnanhai, the walled leadership compound in Beijing, with only their interpreters. As Mr. Xi saw Mr. Putin off in the evening, he even initiated a hug — a rare expression of affection for the Chinese leader.

The Most Important Factor Hardening China’s Stance on Taiwan

David Cheng-Wei Wu

Tarik Solmaz’s recent article in The Interpreter, Three factors hardening China’s stance on Taiwan, provided an incisive snapshot of three of the factors aggravating Beijing’s aggressive grey zone actions against Taiwan in recent times.

But I’d take issue with one concerning aspect of Solmaz’s overall analysis. His thesis appeared to suggest that Taiwan, through its pursuit of ordinary diplomatic business, was in some way causing the hardening of China’s position. That may not have been his intention, but by picking three geopolitical factors in isolation, without delineating the larger frame of reference, and in the context of naming aggravating factors as causative, it creates the strong suggestion that Taiwan is somehow responsible for the constant harassment and grey zone operations being conducted against it. In other words, it leaves the impression of Taiwan is a troublemaker.

I certainly agree that Taiwan’s steadfast maintenance of its liberal democracy under China’s military and economic coercion, its participation in international organisations, and its ordinary diplomatic pursuit are all aggravating factors in China’s recent shift into intransigence and absolutism. Where I disagree, however, is in the suggestion that these factors are causative.


D. Max Ferguson and Russell Lemler

Between August 2023 and April 2024, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division was deployed across Iraq and Syria in support of Operation Inherent Resolve. During that time, state-sponsored militia groups launched over 170 attacks against a small network of coalition bases that 2/10 was responsible for defending. The brigade’s deployment represents the most recent and direct experience of any US Army unit defending against drone attacks and, consequently, an important set of lessons on countering and defending against rockets, missiles, and drones of all sizes.

The soldiers of 2/10 experienced a wide range of enemy attacks against conventional munitions, from rockets and mortars to cluster munitions and short-range ballistic missiles. But the enemy’s weapon of choice was the one-way attack unmanned aircraft system (OWAUAS). These drones were mostly little, propeller-driven, fixed-wing craft made of carbon fiber, metal, and plastic. They flew low, sometimes less than a hundred feet off the ground, and depending on the type, their wingspan was a few feet to a few meters. Their US military equivalents are between a Scan Eagle and a Shadow. These systems have no landing gear because they’re designed to land on their noses with a bang.

U.S.-Ukraine Security Entanglement Risks Forever War

Alex Little

Should the United States guarantee Ukraine’s security? Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky proposed such an arrangement recently, and several European countries, including France and Germany, have already agreed to ten-year security commitments. While a mutual security agreement entailing “enduring support to Ukraine in defending its sovereignty and territorial integrity, rebuilding its economy, and pursuing Ukrainian integration into the Euro-Atlantic community” may appear necessary for Washington and Kiev in the short term, the deal will perpetuate the most devastating war on the European continent since 1945 and prove to be a liability for the United States.

Despite Washington’s constraints on being able to assist Ukraine, this does not stop American legislators from ignoring these realities by promising eternal support to Ukraine until its eventual total victory over Russia. Making promises that cannot be fulfilled hurts Ukraine’s future and discourages it from pursuing necessary diplomacy.

While some members of Congress have fueled delusional aspirations in Ukraine, policymakers must acknowledge that Washington’s military resources are finite. Eric Gomez, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, highlights that, although a potential Chinese invasion of Taiwan is a more significant strategic imperative due to the dire security and economic consequences for the United States, the current administration is allocating too many resources to the war in Ukraine. Furthermore, the overlap between weapons sent to Ukraine and those needed in Taiwan to defend itself is worsening.

How to Draw Down America's Military Presence in Europe | Opinion

Anthony J. Constantini

Skeptics of America's activities in NATO, whether they want to refocus on Asia or simply want resources and troops to return home, are increasingly optimistic that a future president, be it Donald Trump or someone else, will grant their wishes. With Trump's campaign statements casting doubts on America's Cold War-era commitments, and the American public steadily becoming more skeptical of the military organization, they have good reason to be.

But should Trump, or another NATO-skeptical president, take control of the White House, talk will not be enough. The new administration should act as if they are on a four-year timer. To properly right-size America's presence in Europe, three steps should be undertaken.

The first should be dedication to the cause. Former President Donald Trump's administration was the first to seriously attempt to shift America away from Europe. But his initiative was stymied by timing; until certain individuals left the administration, no effort could truly have been undertaken in earnest. And even once the administration was staffed with those dedicated to the work, starting with only one or two years left in the term simply was not going to be successful. To undo decades of misguided policy, the next administration must start the process immediately with executive orders. One such example could resume Trump's 2020-era plan of moving one-third of American troops out of Germany.

Confronting Another Axis? History, Humility, and Wishful Thinking

Philip Zelikow

The United States faces a purposeful set of powerful adversaries in a rapidly changing and militarized period of history, short of all-out war. This is the third time the United States has been confronted with such a situation. The first was between 1937 and 1941 and was resolved by American entry into World War II. The second was between 1948 and 1962, implicating the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China. Thankfully, world war was avoided and in November 1962 the Soviet Union relaxed its stance in the central confrontation in Europe.1

It is not yet clear when and how the present-day crisis will resolve.

We are in an exceptionally volatile, dynamic, and unstable period of world history. During the next two or three years, the situation will probably settle more durably in one direction or another: wider war or uneasy peace. There is a serious possibility of worldwide warfare. Because of the variety of contingencies and outcomes, some involving nuclear arsenals, this period could be more difficult to gauge and more dangerous for the United States than the prior two episodes.

U.S. Intelligence Is Facing a Crisis of Legitimacy

David V. Gioe, Michael S. Goodman, and Michael V. Hayden

The need for good intelligence has never been more visible. The failure of the Israeli security services to anticipate the brutal surprise attack carried out by Hamas on Oct. 7, 2023 reveals what happens when intelligence goes wrong.

US President Biden Plays High-Risk Poker With Israel’s Netanyahu – Analysis

James M. Dorsey

US President Joe Biden doesn’t fit the mould of a high-risk gambler.

Yet, gambling is the crux of his velvet glove dealings with Israel. With one eye on Israeli politics and the other on presidential elections in the United States in six months, Mr. Biden is walking a tightrope.

The stakes and the costs couldn’t be higher.

At its core, despite the administration’s escalating verbal criticism of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the suspension of an arms shipment to Israel, Mr. Biden is sticking to his bearhug approach towards Israel with a twist rather than taking coercive steps that could force Mr. Netanyahu’s hand.

The administration’s refusal to endorse a full-scale Israeli ground offensive in the southern Gazan enclave of Rafah, criticism of Mr. Netanyahu’s war tactics that have failed to destroy Hamas and the prime minister’s insistence on not planning for a post-war administration of the Strip, and close coordination with Mr. Netanyahu’s rivals in his war cabinet and the opposition, aims to tighten the noose around the Israeli leader’s neck.

Israel Says More Troops To Enter Rafah In Southern Gaza

Israel’s defense minister Yoav Gallant said additional Israeli troops would “enter Rafah” as military operations escalate in southern Gaza, in remarks issued by his office Thursday.

The operation “will continue as additional forces will enter” the Rafah area, Gallant said. “Several tunnels in the area have been destroyed by our troops,” he added. “This activity will intensify.”

“Hamas is not an organization that can reorganize, it does not have reserve troops, it has no supply stocks and no ability to treat the terrorists that we target,” Gallant said. “The result is that we are wearing Hamas down.”

Israeli forces earlier this month took control of the Gaza side of the Rafah crossing with Egypt, despite objections from Israel’s key ally the United States over concerns about civilian safety.

Russia Starting To Regain Positions In South Caucasus – Analysis

Paul Goble

What a difference a few weeks can make. Earlier this spring, the Kremlin appeared to be yielding so many of its positions in the South Caucasus—or at least was on the defensive—that some Russian commentators discussed how Moscow may have entirely and permanently “lost” the region to the West (see EDM, March 14;T.me/anatoly_nesmiyan, March 19; Rosbalt; Vestnik Kavkaza, April 18; RITM Eurasia, April 20; T.me/sytosokrata, April 28).

They had what seemed to be compelling reasons. First, Moscow had just pulled its “peacekeepers” out of Karabakh and removed some of its officers who had been guarding the Armenian border (see EDM, April 22). Second, Armenia was reducing its participation in the Russian-led Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and was talking about joining the European Union and even the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Third, Georgia was still distancing itself from Russia and expanding ties with the West. Fourth, Armenia and Azerbaijan were making progress toward a border accord independent of Moscow’s mediation. Fifth, Baku was conducting a major and very independent naval exercise on the Caspian Sea and continuing to cozy up to Türkiye (Window on Eurasia, December 23, 2023; see EDM, March 5, 14).

Iran and Israel: everything short of war

John Raine, Fabian Hinz, Nick Childs & Julia Voo

Tehran’s attack on Israel on 13–14 April and Israel’s reciprocal attack on Isfahan on 19 April marked a sharp escalation in the decades-long conflict between the two states: from indirect to direct confrontation. This escalation set a precedent for a new phase in which the two states attack each other’s sovereign territory directly through conventional military means. The attacks raised the possibility of ‘all-out war’ between the two states, which became, if not imminent, then at least conceivable in the new paradigm. All-out war could take the form of direct attacks on sovereign territory and infrastructure to settle a conflict, as witnessed recently in the Russia–Ukraine war and the second Nagorno-Karabakh war.

But despite the recent escalation there remain critical constraints on the ability of both Iran and Israel to escalate further to a level of conflict which might qualify as all-out war. These constraints are determined not only by political and geostrategic considerations but by the military balance between the two states.

Not built for major warWhile both sides have relatively large defence establishments, they are structurally offset (with each force emphasising different capabilities) and neither side possesses adequate military capabilities to fight a sustained and direct conflict with the other. Excluding Israel’s undeclared nuclear capability, both sides arguably lack the ability to overwhelm militarily the other. Iran’s physical size, the dispersal of its assets and its arsenal of asymmetric proxies give it a resilience which compensates for it being outgunned by Israel. The latter has shown that it has not only sophisticated defences but also partners willing to supplement them with critical capabilities.

The Iran-Israel War Is Just Getting Started

Raphael S. Cohen

In the early hours of April 13, two minor miracles happened. First, in a remarkable display of technical prowess, Israel—with help from Britain, France, Jordan, and the United States—intercepted some 170 drones, 120 ballistic missiles, and 30 cruise missiles fired primarily from Iran toward Israel, reportedly with 99 percent effectiveness and minimal damage to lives and infrastructure. Second, after many months of largely negative media coverage and mounting international pressure, Israel enjoyed some sympathy and positive press. Given the double success of a repulsed attack and an improved image for Israel, U.S. President Joe Biden reportedly counseled Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “You got a win. Take the win.” A host of other allies and experts had similar advice for Israel.

Israel, however, has shown little interest in taking this advice. While it reportedly called off an immediate counterattack and seems content to “slow things down,” as Biden requested, Israeli leaders—including Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, Israel Defense Forces chief Herzi Halevi, war cabinet member Benny Gantz, and Netanyahu himself—all promised retaliation. And Friday morning, Israel conducted a counterstrike on an air defense system at an Iranian air base in Isfahan in central Iran. Although the strike appears to have been largely symbolic, it nonetheless raises the question: Why is Israel bucking the United States and its other allies yet again, especially after those very same countries just came to Israel's aid?

Emerging Threats to Financial Markets

In early 2021, a freewheeling, freethinking group of investors on Reddit decided to flex some collective muscle. They plowed their money into GameStop, a video game retailer that several big hedge funds had bet against. The stock price shot up, some people made millions—and, to the delight of those on Reddit, the hedge funds had some very bad days.

Hollywood turned this all into comedy with the 2023 movie Dumb Money. But researchers at RAND also saw the GameStop story as a cautionary tale. If investors on Reddit could work together to move the markets like that, what could an adversary like China do?

The researchers started looking for other emerging or understudied threats to the U.S. financial system. In a recent report, they warned that the greatest danger is not a single, sudden attack, a financial 9/11. It's the constant assault on reality—the deepfake videos and manipulated AI—that could weaken the financial system over time. It will be slow, but it will be steady and hard to stop—more like financial climate change.

Slovak PM Robert Fico fights for life after assassination attempt

Paul Kirby and Laura Gozzi

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico is fighting for his life in hospital after being shot in a small town north-east of Bratislava.

On Wednesday evening Defence Minister Robert Kalinak said Mr Fico had been in surgery for over three hours and that the situation was "bad".

Slovak politicians including the president have called the shooting an "attack on democracy".

The alleged assailant was detained at the scene but has not yet been formally identified by the authorities.

Crimea Satellite Images Show Aftermath of 'Massive' ATACMS Strike

Isabel van Brugen

Satellite images have been released which purportedly show the aftermath of a Ukrainian strike using U.S.-supplied missiles on a key Russian military air base in annexed Crimea.

The photos were shared by the Ukraine military-linked Operativno ZSU Telegram channel on Friday, and were captured by Maxar Technologies.

They show "enemy losses in aviation" at the Belbek airfield, including two MiG-31 fighter jets, an Su-27 aircraft, and a damaged MiG-29 fighter jet, the channel said.

The Context

Attacks on Crimea have ramped up throughout Russian President Vladimir Putin's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, which began in February 2022, as Kyiv vows to reclaim the Black Sea peninsula. The region was annexed by Moscow in 2014.

Army’s future artillery may include wheeled howitzers, automated cannons, and long-range mortars


An Army plan to modernize its artillery could include howitzers fielded in Europe, automated cannons, and long-range mortars, Army Futures Command chief Gen. James Rainey suggested Thursday at a Senate hearing.

“There are some very good wheeled howitzers that are having great effect in a place like Europe,” said Rainey, speaking while describing acquisition plans informed by an Army study on artillery modernization, also dubbed the tactical fires study.

The U.S. is planning on a competition between various mobile artillery systems this summer to select a new self-propelled howitzer. The competition follows the cancellation of the Extended Range Cannon Artillery (ERCA) howitzer.

Rainey may have been referring to artillery systems fielded in Ukraine, the only place in Europe where wheeled howitzers are being used in combat.

As Russia Advances, NATO Considers Sending Trainers Into Ukraine

Helene Cooper, Julian E. Barnes, Eric Schmitt and Lara Jakes

NATO allies are inching closer to sending troops into Ukraine to train Ukrainian forces, a move that would be another blurring of a previous red line and could draw the United States and Europe more directly into the war.

Ukraine’s manpower shortage has reached a critical point, and its position on the battlefield in recent weeks has seriously worsened as Russia has accelerated its advances to take advantage of delays in shipments of American weapons. As a result, Ukrainian officials have asked their American and NATO counterparts to help train 150,000 new recruits closer to the front line for faster deployment.

So far the United States has said no, but Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Thursday that a NATO deployment of trainers appeared inevitable. “We’ll get there eventually, over time,” he said.

For now, he said, an effort inside Ukraine would put “a bunch of NATO trainers at risk” and would most likely mean deciding whether to use precious air defenses to protect the trainers instead of critical Ukrainian infrastructure near the battlefield. General Brown briefed reporters on his plane en route to a NATO meeting in Brussels.

Hezbollah introduces new weapons and tactics against Israel as war in Gaza drags on


The Lebanese militant group Hezbollah this week struck a military post in northern Israel using a drone that fired two missiles. The attack wounded three soldiers, one of them seriously, according to the Israeli military.

Hezbollah has regularly fired missiles across the border with Israel over the past seven months, but the one on Thursday appears to have been the first successful missile airstrike it has launched from within Israeli airspace.

The group has stepped up its attacks on Israel in recent weeks, particularly since the Israeli incursion into the southern city of Rafah in the Gaza Strip. It has struck deeper inside Israel and introduced new and more advanced weaponry.

“This is a method of sending messages on the ground to the Israeli enemy, meaning that this is part of what we have, and if needed we can strike more,” said Lebanese political analyst Faisal Abdul-Sater who closely follows Hezbollah.

In Ukraine, Russia is Beginning to Compound Advantages

Dr Jack Watling

Russia has now started the early phases of its anticipated summer offensive with renewed attacks on Kharkiv. Over the past few days, Russian troops crossed the Ukrainian border, occupying a number of villages. Ukraine has spent several months fortifying Kharkiv, but storming the city is not how Russia intends to fight. The Russian target this summer is the Ukrainian army, and against this target it has started to compound its advantages.
The Long Front

The Russian forces attacking Ukraine have now expanded to 510,000 troops. This means that Russia has established significant numerical superiority over the Armed Forces of Ukraine (AFU). Heavy losses among Russia’s officer corps and more capable units earlier in the war have reduced its capacity to conduct large-scale offensive ground manoeuvre. The Russians have been limited to conducting platoon and company attacks, rather than brigade or divisional operations, meaning that they rarely decisively overmatch Ukrainian defenders at any one location. With such overall numerical superiority, however, Russia has begun to turn this limitation to its advantage.

Unexpectedly, the cost of big cyber-attacks is falling

Last october Anne Neuberger, America’s top cyber official, issued a dire warning. Cybercrime would cost the world more than $23trn by 2027, up from $8.4trn in 2022. More recently the imf noted that cyber-attacks have doubled since the covid-19 pandemic. “The risk of extreme losses from cyber incidents is increasing,” said the fund. These could even pose “an acute threat to macrofinancial stability”. But is the economic impact of cyber-attacks really so large—or rising so fast?

Data collected by Tom Johansmeyer of the University of Kent, a former senior executive at Verisk, an insurance-data firm, suggests that the truth is more complicated. In analysis first published by Binding Hook, a website focusing on cyber issues, Mr Johansmeyer considers the case of NotPetya, a Russian attack on Ukraine in 2017 designed to delete data and which inadvertently spread around the world causing more than $10bn-worth of damage. That sounds bad.