17 June 2024

Maldives Walking Tight Rope between India and China

Saroj Kumar Aryal and Alexander Droop


This statement still reflects the strategic importance that the Maldives have. Power politics in Indian Ocean Region was less complex when this report was written by the CIA in 1983, however, due to the rise of China and India the scenario is becoming more volatile. Since independence, India and Sri Lanka remained key players in the Maldives. The Maldives lie in India’s so called ‘Security Perimeter’, making India particularly uneasy if any other power increases their activities in the area. Beijing too realized the Maldives’ strategic importance as it expanded its involvement in the Indian Ocean starting in 2008. The Maldives’ geographic location is close to vital sea lanes significant for China’s energy supplies.

Given the competitive approach of India and China, the Maldives developed its own way of dealing with competition. Depending on the ruling government, the strategy is to pro- or against China and/or India— basically a ‘flip-flop strategy’. Some of the other states in South Asia such as Nepal and Sri Lanka too have adopted the ‘flip-flop strategy’ to deal with the increasing competition between China and India. This strategy has sometimes proven handy as it brings immediate benefits, however, in the long term it could impact the credibility of the country’s international image as well as create massive polarization in internal politics

The Maldives for some time has been debating how best to further its national security and economic goals in an area where geopolitical tensions between larger IndoPacific countries like China, India, and the United States are steadily increasing. The previous administration of the Maldives, which was headed by President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih, unapologetically focused the nation’s foreign policy on India as a source of security and economic advantages.3 The primary opposition group, represented by the slogan ‘India Out’, has adopted a strong strategy to erode these connections or even eliminate India’s military presence in the Maldives, despite the fact that the previous government had aggressively worked to improve ties with New Delhi.

Android malware used in six-year Pakistan-linked campaign against Indian government

Jonathan Greig

Hackers allegedly based in Pakistan have used Android-based malware during a six-year campaign targeting India’s government as well as Indian companies connected to the defense and technology sectors.

The campaign is still active, according to researchers at Cisco Talos, and it involves the use of malware named GravityRAT that allows hackers to steal information. In a report released Thursday, the researchers call the campaign “Operation Celestial Force.”

Since 2019, Cisco Talos said it has observed the hackers continually add capabilities to GravityRAT that allow them to exfiltrate device data like the International Mobile Equipment Identity number, phone numbers, network operations, SIM information, and device location.

Cisco previously spotlighted the use of GravityRAT by Pakistani actors against targets in India in 2018.

The malware also lets the hackers read text messages, steal files off the device, read call logs and delete all contacts.

Why Is Russia Legalizing the Taliban?

Kirill Krivosheev

Ahead of this year’s St. Petersburg International Economic Forum—which has been attended by a Taliban delegation since 2022—the Kremlin handed a PR victory to the rulers of Afghanistan. The Russian foreign and justice ministries submitted a formal proposal to President Vladimir Putin to remove the Taliban from Russia’s list of designated terrorist organizations. The Taliban has been on that list since 2003, along with groups like al-Qaeda, for backing separatists in the North Caucasus back then.

Kazakhstan took a similar decision in December 2023, although it only started speaking about it publicly in June. In another key country in Central Asia, Uzbekistan, the Taliban has never been designated as extremist. Indeed, Uzbek diplomats have taken a leading role in pushing for the Taliban to be recognized as a regional power.

When the Taliban entered Kabul in August 2021 amid the chaotic exit of Western armed forces, many wondered whether it would be capable of running the country. While a stability of sorts has been maintained, that is less down to the Taliban’s management skills and more to the fact that billions of dollars of humanitarian aid continues to flow into Afghanistan. In addition, the Taliban’s isolation and the readiness of Afghanistan’s neighbors to maintain control of their shared borders without taking in refugees has helped ensure the country’s tragedy remains a domestic one.

Beyond Deadlock: Opportunities for Western Engagement with the Taliban

Professor Sultan Barakat and Dr Antonio Giustozzi

Executive Summary

While international media attention is currently diverted to the wars in Ukraine and Gaza, the question of whether to engage with the Taliban’s de facto government remains a contentious topic actively deliberated in Western diplomatic circles. Rather than examining the merits of engaging (or not) with the Taliban, this Emerging Insights paper highlights the Taliban’s perceptions, agendas and modes of operation in order to gain a better understanding of how to move forward with the question of future engagement with the Taliban. The paper is specifically aimed at informing Western policymakers and is not intended to cover the wider spectrum of the Taliban’s perceptions of the external world, nor does it aim to analyse the group’s foreign policymaking. Thus, notwithstanding their undoubted importance, the paper does not cover the Taliban’s relations with Afghanistan’s neighbours.

The new front in China’s cyber campaign against America

The island of Guam, a tiny American territory that lies more than 6,000km west of Hawaii, has long known that it would take a battering in any Sino-American war. The island’s expanding airfields and ports serve as springboards for American ships, subs and bombers. In the opening hours of a conflict, these would be subject to wave after wave of Chinese missiles. But an advance party of attackers seems to have lurked quietly within Guam’s infrastructure for years. In mid-2021 a Chinese hacking group—later dubbed Volt Typhoon—burrowed deep inside the island’s communication systems. The intrusions had no obvious utility for espionage. They were intended, as America’s government would later conclude, for “disruptive or destructive cyber-attacks against…critical infrastructure in the event of a major crisis or conflict”. Sabotage, in short.

For many years, Sino-American skirmishing in the cyber domain was largely about stealing secrets. In 2013 Edward Snowden, a contractor, revealed that the National Security Agency (nsa), America’s signals-intelligence agency, had targeted Chinese mobile-phone firms, universities and undersea cables. China, in turn, has spent decades stealing vast quantities of intellectual property from American firms, a process that Keith Alexander, then head of the nsa, once called the “greatest transfer of wealth in history”. In recent years this dynamic has changed. Chinese cyber-espionage has continued, but its operations have also grown more ambitious and aggressive. Russia, too, has intensified its cyber-activities in Ukraine, with Russia-linked groups also targeting water facilities in Europe. These campaigns hint at a new era of wartime cyber-sabotage.

U.S. Navy Aircraft Carriers Are Useless Against China

Brandon J. Weichert

Mainstream military analysts in the West are suffering a bout of historical amnesia. Many of them think that the coming conflict between the United States and China will be little more than a modern-day rerun of the Second World War’s Pacific Theater.

This could not be more wrong.

A potential Sino-American conflict is not World War II with Nimitz-class and Gerald R. Ford-class carriers. It is an entirely new style of warfare that combines a little bit of the old with much that is new.

Grayzone Operations

First, there is the prevalence of grayzone operations. This is what the Israelis have long referred to as the “war between the wars.” This is similar to another concept of unrestricted, or asymmetrical, warfare that the Chinese have long advocated for.

Combining both the kinetic and non-kinetic, and fusing together military and civilian functions into one potent threat, China has the capability to wage war in unconventional ways that complicate the American ability to conduct offensives. The new approach also serves to fundamentally alter perceptions in such a way that American leaders might not even recognize they are already at war.

Why China Is Sabotaging Ukraine

Alexander Gabuev

For a moment last August, it seemed that Beijing was finally ready to distance itself from its “no limits partnership” with Moscow. That month, Chinese leader Xi Jinping sent his special envoy for the war in Ukraine, Li Hui, to discuss Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s peace formula with diplomats from several countries, including Ukraine and the United States. The formula calls for Russia to withdraw to Ukraine’s 1991 borders, send its war criminals to international tribunals, and pay reparations to Kyiv. The plan clearly represents Kyiv’s favored conclusion to the conflict, and merely by engaging with it, Beijing

In China’s Backyard, America Has Become a Humbler Superpower

Damien Cave

Far from Ukraine and Gaza, as the Group of 7 wealthy democracies gathers in Italy to discuss a range of old, entrenched challenges, the nature of American power is being transformed across the region that Washington sees as crucial for the century to come: the Asia-Pacific.

Here, America no longer presents itself as the confident guarantor of security, a trust-us-we’ve-got-this superpower. The terrain is too vast, China’s rise too great a threat. So the United States has been offering to be something else — an eager teammate for military modernization and tech development.

“In the past, our experts would talk about a hub-and-spokes model for Indo-Pacific security,” Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said this month at a global defense conference in Singapore. “Today we’re seeing something quite different.”

Sleepwalking Toward War

Odd Arne Westad

In The Rise of the Anglo-German Antagonism, 1860–1914, the British historian Paul Kennedy explained how two traditionally friendly peoples ended up in a downward spiral of mutual hostility that led to World War I. Major structural forces drove the competition between Germany and Britain: economic imperatives, geography, and ideology. Germany’s rapid economic rise shifted the balance of power and enabled Berlin to expand its strategic reach. Some of this expansion—especially at sea—took place in areas in which Britain had profound and established strategic interests. The two powers increasingly viewed each other as ideological opposites, wildly exaggerating their differences. The Germans caricatured the British as moneygrubbing exploiters of the world, and the British portrayed the Germans as authoritarian malefactors bent on expansion and repression.

The two countries appeared to be on a collision course, destined for war. But it wasn’t structural pressures, important as they were, that sparked World War I. War broke out thanks to the contingent decisions of individuals and a profound lack of imagination on both sides. To be sure, war was always likely. But it was unavoidable only if one subscribes to the deeply ahistorical view that compromise between Germany and Britain was impossible.

The World’s Shameful Neglect of Sudan

Michelle Gavin

The warnings from Sudan grow ever more dire. Already the damage done is hard to comprehend; over nine million people displaced, an unknown number—clearly at least tens of thousands—killed. The capital city of Khartoum and its sister city Omdurman are in ruins. Famine has already arrived in parts of the country and is expected to worsen, risking millions of lives. The destruction of medical infrastructure increases the chances that acute malnutrition will be a death sentence. Mass atrocities, including torture, sexual violence, and ethnic cleansing have been documented and reported on, with the potential for even worse violence hovering over El-Fasher, the only safe haven that remained in the Darfur region.

And yet, the world seems unable—or unwilling—to stop the horror unfolding. Sudan’s suffering is simply more proof that the international mechanisms designed to address threats to peace and security are dysfunctional, that basic norms around humanitarian access and civilian protection have eroded to near oblivion, and that the shame and notoriety that should accompany support for senseless destruction elude far too many decision-makers. It makes plain that none of the world’s major powers have an appetite for stopping state collapse or genocide—and some, like Russia with its pursuit of a Red Sea port, seek to gain from it.

The U.S. Must Win the AI Race

Manisha Singh

With conflict currently present in almost every region of the world, speculation about “World War III” is difficult to avoid. If a calamity of such magnitude were to occur, it would likely be fought partly in the cyberverse. It would also undoubtedly feature the deployment of artificial intelligence (AI). This is one of the many critical reasons that America needs to lead on AI. To paraphrase Mark Zuckerberg’s tech mantra, adversaries are moving fast, and they certainly aren’t afraid to break things.

As with most other significant innovations in the last century, AI was born in the United States. Rivals are racing to overtake what exists, either through their own efforts or infringing on creation occurring here. Domestic and global regulatory efforts are well underway. The question of balancing innovation and regulation is not new, but it is original in the case of AI. Perhaps the most defining feature of AI is the existential anxiety it has created.

Such apprehension has been a motivating factor in the new rules of the road for the AI super highway. A group of U.S. Senators put forth a “Framework to Mitigate Extreme AI Risks,” which acknowledges the benefits of AI but highlights that it “presents a broad spectrum of risks that could be harmful to the American public.” Both a notification and licensing procedure, as well as the creation of a new regulatory body to be established by Congress, are contemplated. Although the framework isn’t binding, it does provide insight into the evolving thought process of regulators.

Israel Faces Two-Front War as Hezbollah Increases Rocket Attacks

Seth J. Frantzman

Hezbollah's Biggest Attack on Israel in Eight Months Sparks Regional Tensions

Hezbollah, on June 12, carried out its biggest attack on Israel in eight months. Militants launched more than 215 rockets targeting sites in northern Israel. The rocket barrage came in response to an Israeli airstrike in Lebanon that killed a senior Hezbollah commander.

A Story in Numbers for Israel

Hezbollah and Israel have been trading attacks for eight months, and numbers tell the story of how large this undeclared war has become. A total of 3,100 projectiles were fired from Lebanon between Oct. 8 and April 2. Hezbollah launched most of these – unguided rockets usually, but also anti-tank guided missiles and kamikaze drones. Israel retaliates for some of these attacks, most often using war planes with precision strike munitions, but sometimes turning to artillery.

Reverberations From Ukraine

Andrea Kendall-Taylor

Russia’s 2022 invasion of Ukraine has radically reshaped the security priorities of the United States and its European allies. NATO, recently moribund, has received a surge in funding and new members in Sweden and Finland; European economies have rapidly weaned themselves off Russian gas and adopted strict sanctions regimes; and Western countries and those on Russia’s periphery have grown increasingly watchful of sabotage and influence operations. Whether those measures can deter an emboldened Russia is unclear.

Understanding Russia—and the aims of President Vladimir Putin—is essential for any Western strategy. Andrea Kendall-Taylor, senior fellow and director of the Center for a New American Security’s transatlantic security program, explores Russia’s revanchist goals and provides a set of concrete recommendations for the United States and its allies to ensure European stability.

“Putin’s invasion of Ukraine brought war back to the heart of Europe. Given the reverberations that the war is producing, the conflict in Ukraine could be the start of a more turbulent era,” she writes. “An updated containment policy . . . [should] undermine Russia’s capacity for aggression, enhance deterrence of Russian conventional and hybrid threats, increase the resilience of countries on NATO’s periphery, create channels to decrease the risk of unintended escalation with Russia, and broaden the coalition of countries applying pressure on Moscow.”

US Issues Warning on Israel-Lebanon Border

David Brennan

The United States has again urged de-escalation along Israel's northern border with Lebanon, which is under the control of the Iranian-aligned Hezbollah militia, amid a new spike in cross-frontier fighting.

This week saw Israel assassinate senior Hezbollah commander Taleb Sami Abdullah in an airstrike some six miles north of the shared border. Per an Associated Press report, Abdullah was responsible for one of the hottest portions of the frontier. His area of command included the area facing the Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona, which has repeatedly been targeted by Hezbollah strikes.

"We are seeing an increase in activity in the north, and we don't want things to escalate into a broader regional conflict, and that's something that is not new," Singh told journalists at a press briefing.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and his Israeli counterpart, Yoav Gallant—who may end up the subject of an International Criminal Court arrest warrant linked to IDF conduct inside Gaza—discussed the issue in a call this week, Singh said.

Rise of the Nanomachines

Dhruv Khullar

Ana Santos, a microbiologist at Rice University, grew up in Cantanhede, a small city in Portugal that is known as a biotechnology hub and a source of good wine. When she was a child, her grandfather, who bound books for a living, was an energetic man who often rode his bicycle around town. But by 2019, his health had deteriorated and he depended on a catheter. One day, he spiked a fever; doctors found that his urinary tract was infected with a highly drug-resistant form of Klebsiella pneumoniae, a bacteria that is commonly found in the gut. None of their antibiotics could treat it. A few days later, he died. “There was literally nothing they could do for him,” Santos told me recently, fury in her voice. “A simple bacterial infection kills him? I thought medicine had dealt with that.”

At the time, Santos was at the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Paris, studying genes that allow some bacteria to live longer than others. But after her grandfather’s death she decided to focus instead on new ways of killing pathogens. 

Threats to Critical Infrastructure

Bridget R. Kane, Stephen Webber, Katherine H. Tucker, Sam Wallace, Joan Chang, Devin McCarthy, Dennis Murphy, Daniel Egel, Tom Wingfield

U.S. critical infrastructure supports the prosperity of the nation and its people. It permeates the daily lives of citizens, underpinning the safety and security of the general public and ensuring the economic well-being of the nation, yet the health of these assets, systems, networks, and facilities is often taken for granted. In this report, the authors analyze threats and hazards to critical infrastructure and examine the vectors by which an adversary might conduct attacks against the homeland. They also look at the cascading effects of an attack and other impacts resulting from infrastructure age and maintenance and from weather challenges, and they offer characterizations of various types of threat actors and vectors to raise awareness of systemic vulnerabilities and threat environments that can affect critical U.S. infrastructure.

It Isn't All Bad News for Ukraine

Howard J. Shatz

Spearheaded by the U.K., a growing number of Ukraine's allies are now allowing the weapons they've supplied the country to be fired into Russian territory, giving Kyiv a potential boost on the battlefield amid hopes of blunting Russia's offensive on Kharkiv.

Less dramatic, but just as consequential, is the fact that Ukraine's also been gathering momentum in other ways that could allow it to protect its independence, achieve a favorable outcome to the war, and embark on a reconstruction program that will firmly link it to the Euro-Atlantic community.

Overall, Western allies are finally making good on their declaration to support Ukraine for “as long as it takes,” handing Kyiv substantial economic assistance, weapons, security deals and command freedom on the battlefield. Ukraine's prospects look better now than they have since early 2023—prospects that will likely get a further boost at this week's Ukraine Recovery Conference in Berlin.

Morality Is the Enemy of Peace

Stephen M. Walt

French Foreign Minister Charles-Maurice de Talleyrand (1754-1838) was an accomplished political survivor who managed to serve the French revolutionary government, Napoleon Bonaparte, and the postwar Bourbon restoration. He was a subtle and accomplished statesman, remembered today primarily for his sage advice to his fellow diplomats: “Above all, not too much zeal.” Wise words, indeed: Overzealousness, rigidity, and excessive moralizing are often obstacles to any effort to find effective solutions to difficult international issues.

U.S. Military Planes Are in Haiti. Haitians Don’t Know Why.

Pierre Espérance

In the past several weeks, I have watched dozens of sleek U.S. military planes descend over Toussaint Louverture International Airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where I live. They were the first flights to land since gangs blockaded and halted commercial air traffic in March. U.S. news reports suggest that the aircraft contained civilian contractors and supplies to pave the way for the deployment of a Kenyan-led security mission to Haiti, which is expected to begin any day now.

What Was Macron Thinking?

Robert Zaretsky

Two seismic events rocked France last Sunday. Politicians are only now pulling themselves from the rubble and scrambling to make sense of their upended world.,

Biden and the G-7 Seek to Reassure Ukraine

Rishi Iyengar & Robbie Gramer

The United States is doubling down on its support for Ukraine with a new long-term security deal, to be unveiled at this week’s G-7 summit in Italy. The 10-year deal commits Washington to supporting the Ukrainian military long-term, according to U.S. officials, and comes ahead of a contentious U.S. presidential election that has unnerved European allies over the prospect of former President Donald Trump’s reelection.

As part of the deal, the United States will continue to help train Ukraine’s forces and provide them with weapons. Importantly, unlike NATO’s Article 5 mutual defense clause, the U.S.-Ukraine security pact does not require Washington to send U.S. forces to defend Ukraine in the event of a future attack; however, it does commit Washington to hold high-level consultations with Kyiv within 24 hours of any future attacks.

The agreement would also not be a formal binding treaty, which leaves the door open for Trump to potentially pull out of the deal if he returns to the White House.

Jamestown FoundationChina Brief, May 24, 2024, v. 24, no. 11

Shifting Discourse Between Xi and Putin On Ukraine

New Textbook Reveals Xi Jinping’s Doctrine of Han-Centric Nation-Building

Open-Source Technology and PRC National Strategy: Part II

Peng Liyuan Rises Up the Ranks: Implications for Xi’s Despotic Rule

Multipolar Mirage: The PRC’s Pivot to Europe

IJ Infinity GroupMilitary Strategy Magazine, Spring 2024, v. 9, no. 3

Michael Handel, October 7, and The Theory of Surprise

Clausewitz, Theory, and Ending the Ukraine War

What would Julian Corbett Say About the Post 2014 Global Crisis?

Soviet Theory Forgotten: Russian Military Strategy in the War in Ukraine

Vauban, The War on Terror, and the Aesthetic Strategic Imperative

Hans Delbrück and the 2001-2021 War in Afghanistan

Microsoft’s Nadella Is Building an AI Empire. OpenAI Was Just the First Step.

Tom Dotan & Berber Jin

Chief Executive Satya Nadella bet the future of Microsoft MSFT 0.22%increase; green up pointing triangle on the potential of artificial intelligence when he forged a groundbreaking partnership with OpenAI, the creator of ChatGPT.

But Nadella is not content to simply rely on OpenAI to dominate in this new era. In recent months, he’s been spreading his bets, turning the world’s biggest company into the world’s most aggressive amasser of AI talent, tools and technology. He has hunted down new partners around the globe and invested in a range of AI startups, including pouring $1.5 billion into an Abu Dhabi-based firm in April.

New Technologies, Changing Strategies: Five Trends in the Hybrid Threat Landscape

Sofia Romansky, Alisa Hoenig, Rick Meessen and Kimberley Kruijver

Since 2020, a number of events have upset the norms guiding amiable interstate relations. COVID-19, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and growing tensions between China and the U.S mark a deterioration of the global security environment. In this context, international actors deploy an assortment of coercive measures to leverage power and influence behaviour while evading detection.

One popular way of describing this phenomenon is through the term hybrid threat. A hybrid threat can be defined as the coordinated and synchronised use of military and/or non-military instruments by state and non-state actors which deliberately harm or undermine the foundations of a state or society. Importantly, hybrid activity remains difficult to attribute and below the threshold of conventional warfare. The difficulty of attribution associated with hybrid threats distinguishes them from conventional military activity and statecraft. Beyond the oft cited examples of foreign election interference and meddling in the information domain, strategic actors are adapting the tactics used to harm their adversaries. The practice of using hard and soft power simultaneously has been around for centuries. Yet, modern emerging technologies and globalisation have created new instruments for hybrid threats, intensified vulnerabilities in different domains, and increased the scale, speed, and reach of hybrid attacks.