10 July 2024

India’s Modi Makes Rare Visit to Russia Amid Strained Ties Over War in Ukraine


India’s prime minister begins a two-day visit to Russia on Monday, his first since Moscow launched its invasion of Ukraine, a war that has complicated the relationship between the longtime allies and pushed Russia closer to India’s rival China.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit will include a meeting with President Vladimir Putin, whom he last saw in Russia in 2019, in the far eastern port of Vladivostok. The two leaders also met in person in September 2022 in Uzbekistan, at a summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization bloc.

Russia has had strong ties with India since the Cold War, and New Delhi’s importance as a key trading partner for Moscow has grown since the Kremlin sent troops into Ukraine in February 2022. China and India have become key buyers of Russian oil following sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies that shut most Western markets off to Russian exports.

Under Modi’s leadership, India has avoided condemning Russia’s war in Ukraine while emphasizing the need for a peaceful settlement.

What China's Historic Firing of Two Defense Ministers Means for Taiwan | Opinion

Gordon G. Chang

On June 27, the Politburo of the Communist Party of China announced corruption investigations into Generals Wei Fenghe and Li Shangfu, the two previous defense ministers, and expelled both from the ruling organization. (The People's Liberation Army reports to the Party, not the Chinese state.) The two former ministers were also stripped of their ranks and now face investigations by the military.

This was the first time in the history of the Chinese military, founded in 1927, that the Party announced corruption investigations of two defense ministers on the same day. The "unusual decision," writes William Zheng of Hong Kong's South China Morning Post, "has underscored the fury and frustration of the Communist Party's leadership over persistent graft that is deemed a threat to China's fighting capacity and nuclear deterrence."

"You can sense the Party's anger and fury in the accusations on Wei and Li," a Nanjing University political scientist, speaking anonymously to the paper, said. "You can almost tell there is a feeling of, 'How dare you let me down on the most important job!'" The expert speculates that Communist Party leaders believe that corruption in the officer corps calls into question Xi Jinping's control over China's nuclear arsenal.

China Is Preparing for War By Bombing Fake U.S. Stealth Jets

Stavros Atlamazoglou

China's Military Modernization: F-22 and F-35 Mock-Ups Targeted in Exercises

The satellite imagery shows a number of F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II stealth fighter jet mock-ups, among other replica aircraft, parked in a desert in northwest China with bombing craters all around them.

This isn’t the first time the Chinese military has used mock-ups for target practice: in the recent past it built mock-ups of a U.S. aircraft carrier and of Taiwanese government facilities.

The satellite imagery shows at least 20 fighter jet mockups, including what looks to be replicas of F-35 Lightning II and F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets, parked in rows. Some of the replicas show signs of fire or bomb damage.

The imagery also shows what looks to be a KC-46 Pegasus air tanker replica and two P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol and reconnaissance replicas. U.S. air units across the Indo-Pacific use all four types of aircraft depicted in the satellite imagery.

Moreover, a runway with significant damage, most likely from air-dropped munitions or missiles, is also visible.

Chinese general calls for crackdown on ‘fake combat capabilities’ in the military

Amber Wang

A top Chinese general has vowed to crack down on what he called “fake combat capabilities” in the military, which experts say is likely related to weapons procurement – the focus of corruption investigations.

General He Weidong, the second-ranked vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission, made the remarks during a discussion with a People’s Liberation Army delegation on Tuesday, according to minutes from the meeting made available to media.
The discussion was part of the ongoing “two sessions” gathering of China’s legislature and top political advisory body in Beijing.

Analysts say the message from He – China’s No 3 military official – was brief and ambiguous, but could relate to the procurement of flawed equipment, and also deception among the ranks during training.

Can China’s PLA fight a modern war?


China’s failures to reform the army may lie deep in the ancient military mindset that doesn’t fit modern requirements.

Can the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) fight? And in case, how would they fight? They had the human waves in Korea and they advised the Vietnamese on guerrilla warfare but how would they perform in a modern war?

Reportedly[i], General He Weidong, the second-ranked vice-chairman of the Central Military Commission, denounced “fake combat capabilities” in the military, which experts say is likely related to weapons procurement – the focus of present corruption investigations.

However, foreign experts like Kenneth Allen believe personnel is the actual weak link of the PLA. His key findings are the following:
  • “The PLA has continued to make major adjustments to its enlisted force since 1999. These include creating a 30-year enlisted force, recruiting college students and graduates as two-year conscripts, shifting from a one-cycle to a two-cycle per year conscription system in 2021, and directly recruiting personnel with special technical skills as NCOs.
  • The turnover of conscripts each year affects the annual training cycle, such that units are missing a significant number of personnel for months at a time.

Secretive Chinese military advancements 'could pose threat' to US

Rebecca Robinson

China's military is currently undergoing clandestine "progress in modernization" under the leadership of Xi Jinping who wants to thrust his troops into 21st century warfare.

Xi previously announced that he would see to a significant overhaul of the People's Liberation Army (PLA) to ensure they are prepared for modern combat, including in areas of space, cyber, intelligence, and electronic warfare.

Experts have begun warning of the secrecy with which this is being conducted and how it could become a "problem" for the US, which is unaware of its adversary's "deficiencies."

Alessio Patalano, an expert in East Asian warfare and author of Postwar Japan as a Seapower, said the PLA has a "transparency problem" as it conducts its "investment and modernization" in secret.

He told Daily Express US: "There is a transparency problem. There is far less transparency in China about its investment and progress in modernization than there is in the US, making it harder to place our deficiencies against theirs."

Marine Corps touts modernization to combat China’s military threat

The Marine Corps commandant is touting the branch’s ongoing modernization efforts to combat China’s military threat.

“Threats from Beijing include its stated goal of seizing Taiwan, if necessary, as well as building military outposts on tiny islands in the South China Sea that do not belong to China,” the Defense Department say.

In addition, Gen. Eric Smith on Tuesday highlighted progress on the Corps’ “Force Design” during a talk at the Brookings Institution, in Washington, D.C.

China has increasingly flexed its military might off Taiwan’s coast, amid the island nation's continuing effort to distance itself from China rule and become more democratic.

On May 24, for example. the Chinese navy and air force conducted military exercises off Taiwan’s coast in a show of strength.

A Sobering Message on Ukraine From a NATO Head of State


Few if any world leaders understand the NATO alliance as deeply as Czech President Petr Pavel. A retired army general and veteran of military intelligence, he served as one of NATO’s top officials before winning his nation's highest office last year. His voice within the alliance has been among the boldest when it comes to helping Ukraine, defeating Russia, and building Europe’s military strength. So his message sounds particularly sobering ahead of this week’s NATO summit: Curb your expectations for the war in Ukraine.

“Obviously, the ultimate goal is a full restoration of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, including Crimea,” Pavel tells TIME in an exclusive interview before the gathering of NATO leaders, which U.S. President Joe Biden will host in Washington on July 9-11. “But we all understand that it's not an easy task. It will not happen in the foreseeable future.”

He used a historical analogy to explain where the front lines in Ukraine will likely remain in the years to come, comparing them to the disputed borders that divided Europe during the Cold War. For decades, the Soviet Union remained in control of lands it had occupied in World War II—including the Baltic States and East Germany. The West continued to denounce these occupations and pressured the Kremlin to end them. Still, the status quo persisted, and Moscow remained in control of these countries until the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

Fix NHS gaps or face more attacks - ex cyber chief

Guy Lynn and Stephen Menon

A leading cybersecurity expert has warned that the NHS remains vulnerable to further cyber-attacks unless it updates its computer systems.

This stark assessment comes in the wake of a major ransomware attack that has severely disrupted healthcare services across London.

Prof Ciaran Martin, the founding CEO of the UK's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), told the BBC: "I was horrified, but not completely surprised. Ransomware attacks on healthcare are a major global problem."

NHS England said it was increasing its cybersecurity resilience and had invested £338m in the past seven years addressing this issue.

But Prof Martin's warnings suggest more urgent action may be needed.

Ukraine: Lessons for Leaders


Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. But the two sides have been fighting since 2014. The ground war in Ukraine is unlike the Marine Corps’ experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, and significantly different from our future, forecasted role in the Pacific. Ukrainian forces, fighting for their country’s survival, have been innovative and flexible, fielding new technology, destroying Russian tanks, discarding doctrine when required, fighting well with donated equipment and citizen soldiers, and keeping their enemies off-balance.

Is the war in Ukraine relevant to the Marine Corps? If so, what can we learn? If we had to fight a similar conflict, what would we need? The following insights on modern, conventional ground combat are taken from thirty recent reports and analyses.

1. The battlefield is totally transparent. Drones are everywhere, all the time.
We need to disperse, camouflage, and move to survive.

Reports: During the battle of Bakhmut, in August 2022, there were 50 drones in the sky at all times.1 In addition to continuous conducting surveillance, armed drones killed tanks, artillery, and aircraft.2 Under this threat, Ukrainian units have learned to disperse headquarters, ammunition dumps, logistics centers, and aircraft. Dispersing is difficult, but more effective than concealment.3

The US intelligence community is embracing generative AI

Frank Konkel

The normally secretive U.S. intelligence community is as enthralled with generative artificial intelligence as the rest of the world, and perhaps growing bolder in discussing publicly how they’re using the nascent technology to improve intelligence operations.

“We were captured by the generative AI zeitgeist just like the entire world was a couple of years back,” Lakshmi Raman, the CIA’s director of Artificial Intelligence Innovation said last week at Amazon Web Services Summit in Washington, D.C. Raman was among the keynote speakers for the event, which had a reported attendance of 24,000-plus.

Raman said U.S. intelligence analysts currently use generative AI in classified settings for search and discovery assistance, writing assistance, ideation, brainstorming and helping generate counter arguments. These novel uses of generative AI build on existing capabilities within intelligence agencies that date back more than a decade, including human language translation and transcription and data processing.

Immigration, Gaza, and the new Labour Government


Britain has voted, and one of the West’s major democracies has a new left-wing government. Journalists, essayists, and other commentators will no doubt scrutinize the election in detail, how the Labour Party won a huge majority, and what Keir Starmer’s victory means for Britain, for Europe, for America, and for the West. Here, though, are some initial reactions.

First, and most obviously, this is a huge victory for Starmer’s Labour Party. Britain’s constitution gives more or less unlimited powers to a Prime Minister with a majority in the House of Commons; Labour (at the time of writing) seem to have won 412 out of 650 seats. Sir Keir can, if he wants to, attempt to reshape the country more or less as he pleases.

The (until yesterday) ruling Conservative Party seems set to go into the next Parliament with 121 seats in the Commons. This is an historically low number for a party which sees itself as “the natural party of government.” Britain has come a long way since 2019, when Boris Johnson won an election promising to deliver Brexit. The problem for the Conservatives is that this was pretty much the only promise they kept over fourteen years in government. Yesterday’s electorate was not in a forgiving mood.

A Better Path for Ukraine and NATO

M. E. Sarotte

We know what will not happen at NATO’s 75th anniversary summit in Washington this week: Ukraine becoming the alliance’s 33rd member. U.S. officials are talking instead about giving Ukraine “a bridge to NATO,” as National Security Council Senior Director for Europe Michael Carpenter put it recently. But when it comes to membership, many of the alliance’s leaders—including the United States and Germany—remain concerned that a formal move will be impossible as long as Kyiv is at war, given the centrality of the alliance’s Article 5 guarantee that an attack against one will be considered an attack against all.

Yet such concerns, while understandable, do not take sufficient account of either the current state of U.S. politics or the war itself. Ukraine’s “bridge to NATO” could easily become a bridge to nowhere if Donald Trump wins the November U.S. presidential election. Trump has threatened to withdraw from the alliance—or, as former NATO and Trump administration officials wrote together in Foreign Affairs recently, he could undermine the alliance by “withholding funding, recalling U.S. troops and commanders from Europe, and blocking important decisions in the North Atlantic Council.” He has also pledged to end the war in Ukraine in a single day.

War With Hezbollah Is Inevitable

Gadi Taub

Since Oct. 7, the Biden administration has been preoccupied, above all, with preventing the Gaza war from spreading to the north and escalating into a no-holds-barred war with Hezbollah.

There’s ample reason for the administration’s concern: a full-fledged war between Israel and Iran’s largest proxy can bring the administration’s whole Middle East policy tumbling down, since it will force the White House to make a public choice: It will have to abandon its quest for accommodation with Iran, and take a clear pro-Israeli stand, or else risk exposing the price that its Iran policy always entailed – exposing Israel to existential danger while simultaneously alienating America’s Arab allies who fear Iranian regional hegemony.

But preventing a war between Israel and Hezbollah will prove harder than the administration realizes. Many tens of thousands of Israelis have been displaced from their homes in the north, and they will not return as long as Hezbollah can fire at them at will.

Nothing Good Would Come of an Israeli War in Lebanon

Kim Ghattas

Hezbollah’s shelling of Israel has been less intense and damaging, but it has struck deeper into Israeli territory. Some 60,000 Israelis have been evacuated from their homes in the north. Twenty-five Israelis, including civilians and soldiers, have been killed. The conflict has remained at a steady simmer but is now threatening to boil over as both sides stockpile weapons and Israel masses troops on the border. U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has warned that full-blown war would be “catastrophic.”

The contours of a deal that would stop the fighting are already known. Israel wants Hezbollah to end cross-border attacks and withdraw its top fighters and heavy weapons from the border area, and the Lebanese army to deploy in larger numbers near the frontier. Hezbollah wants Israel to stop shelling Lebanon, withdraw from disputed border points, and stop overflights of Lebanon. And yet, diplomacy has stalled—in part because Hezbollah has tied Lebanon’s fate to the prospects for a cease-fire in Gaza, while Netanyahu’s political survival is linked to the continuation of that conflict.

In Rafah, We Saw Destruction and the Limits of Israel’s Gaza Strategy

Adam Goldman

The armed convoy of jeeps filled with reporters rumbled into a dusty Rafah, passing flattened houses and battered apartment buildings.

As we dismounted our Humvees, a stillness gripped this swath of southern Gaza, near the border with Egypt. Slabs of concrete and twisted rebar dotted the scarred landscape. Kittens darted through the wreckage.

Streets once bustling with life were now a maze of rubble. Everyone was gone.

More than a million people have fled to avoid an Israeli onslaught that began two months ago. Many have been displaced repeatedly and now live in tent cities that stretch for miles, where they face an uncertain future as they mourn the loss of loved ones.

As Israel says it is winding down its operation against Hamas in Rafah, the Israeli military invited foreign journalists into the city on a supervised visit. The military says that it has fought with precision and restraint against Hamas fighters embedded in civilian areas.

French vote gives leftists most seats over far right, but leaves hung parliament and deadlock


A coalition of the French left won the most seats in high-stakes legislative elections Sunday, beating back a far-right surge but failing to win a majority. The outcome left France, a pillar of the European Union and Olympic host country, facing the stunning prospect of a hung parliament and political paralysis.

The political turmoil could rattle markets and the French economy, the EU’s second-largest, and have far-ranging implications for the war in Ukraine, global diplomacy and Europe’s economic stability.

In calling the election on June 9, after the far right surged in French voting for the European Parliament, President Emmanuel Macron said turning to voters again would provide “clarification.”

On almost every level, that gamble appears to have backfired. According to the official results released early Monday, all three main blocs fell far short of the 289 seats needed to control the 577-seat National Assembly, the more powerful of France’s two legislative chambers.

Europe in a Geostrategic Firestorm

Constanze Stelzenm├╝ller

Germany’s domestic intelligence chief, Thomas Haldenwang, likes to say Russia’s war against Ukraine is the storm whereas China’s quest for global dominance is climate change. What Europe is facing today is nothing less than a geostrategic firestorm.

The US Army wants to use more AI in its everyday operations — but not for combat

Craig Hale

The US Army wants to incorporate commercial private-sector AI algorithms into its operations in order to improve efficiency and productivity, but it’s clearly worried about the ongoing security risks associated with the technology.

Speaking at the recent AWS Washington DC summit, Young Bang, principal deputy assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics, and technology, emphasized the efficiency of adopting existing AI tools over creating new ones from scratch.

The US Army is reportedly most excited about the technology’s potential to process its extensive data reserves, where it can handle huge amounts of data in seconds.
The US Army wants to use off-the-shelf AI

Among the six branches of the US armed forces, the Army is the most prolific users of AI and algorithms, driven by its data-rich environment. This data dependency underscores its desire to speed up processing and handling with a handy injection of AI.

Biden Dismisses Age Questions in TV Interview as He Tries to Salvage Re-Election Effort


President Joe Biden, fighting to save his endangered reelection effort, used a highly anticipated TV interview Friday to repeatedly reject taking an independent medical evaluation that would show voters he is up for serving another term in office while blaming his disastrous debate performance on a “bad episode” and saying there were “no indications of any serious condition."

“Look, I have a cognitive test every single day,” Biden told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, referring to the tasks he faces daily in a rigorous job. “Every day, I have that test. Everything I do. You know, not only am I campaigning, but I’m running the world.”

The 81-year-old Biden made it through the 22-minute interview without any major blunders that would inflict further damage to his imperiled candidacy, but it appeared unlikely to fully tamp down concerns about his age and fitness for another four years and his ability to defeat Donald Trump in November.

After Biden’s Debate Performance, the World Should Prepare for Trump


The first – and potentially only – debate between the 45th and 46th presidents of the United States constituted a clear win for Donald Trump, as far more viewers focused on Joe Biden’s apparent physical and mental infirmities than Donald Trump’s evasions and trafficking in partial or outright lies. The question now, though, is what, if any, difference it will make in the presidential election that is now just four months away.

The Demigods of Populism


When the Soviet Union collapsed and global communism retreated, many hoped that the days of authoritarian leaders cultivating “cults of personality” were over. We had reached the “end of history,” and liberal democracy won. Regular, peaceful transitions of power among democratically elected officials would be the norm, and no one would dare claim to be infallible, let alone divine.

There’s No Debating Who Would Be Better for the US Economy


Something has been missing from the flood of commentary following the debate between US President Joe Biden and Donald Trump. While voters’ judgments about a candidate’s personality and personal strengths are important, everyone should remember the famous dictum: “It’s the economy, stupid.” In the firehose of outright lies that Trump spewed throughout the debate, the most dangerous falsehoods concerned his and Biden’s respective economic-policy records.

Assessing a president’s management of the economy is always a tricky business, because many developments will have been set in motion by one’s predecessors. Barack Obama had to deal with a deep recession because previous administrations had pursued financial deregulation and failed to head off the crisis that erupted in the fall of 2008. Then, with congressional Republicans tying the Obama administration’s hands and calling for belt tightening, the country was deprived of the kinds of fiscal policies that might have brought the economy out of the Great Recession faster. By the time the economy was finally on the mend, Obama was on his way out, and Trump was on his way in.

Trump did not hesitate to claim credit for the growth that ensued. But while he and congressional Republicans slashed taxes for corporations and billionaires, the promised surge of investment never materialized. Instead, there was a wave of stock buybacks, which are on track to exceed $1 trillion next year.

Prime Minister Starmer: welcome to the world


Despite its overwhelming character this is a strange and subdued victory. It is not Keir Starmer’s oratory and charisma that has got his party so many seats. An aura of competence and integrity may help, but he is Prime Minister because of the cumulative failures of his five predecessors. And now there is a widespread view that the chronic problems of the British state (see Sam’s book) will drag him down and that a combination of chronic problems and limited resources will mean that the changes he has promised will be slow in coming. Whatever the burdens of office that now weigh down on him, high expectations is not one of them.

Yet these low expectations come with a staggeringly dominant position in Parliament. For now he can forget about the Conservative Party as it faces its existential crisis. Its rump in parliament, many perhaps suffering from a form survivor’s guilt, are already debating whether to stick with a rightward drift or to find a way back to the centre. The resurgent Liberal Democrats will be pressing Starmer on climate change and Europe, but so will others within his own party. There are bound to be occasional rebellions, but it is unlikely that even the most substantial, invariably coming from the left, can defeat the government. Restlessness will grow over the course of the next five years. Politics will remain volatile. Many Labour MPs will soon appreciate that they are unlikely to be returned after the next election, and that there are only so many government and select committee jobs to go round.

Air Force releases strategy for zero-trust implementation


As the entire Pentagon moves to adopt zero trust by the end of fiscal 2027, the Department of the Air Force has outlined its plans to implement the cybersecurity framework by leveraging cloud-based and identity, credential, and access management (ICAM) solutions.

DAF Chief Information Officer Venice Goodwine released the department’s Zero Trust Strategy this week, in which she lays out seven strategic goals and accompanying objectives that will allow the Air and Space Forces to operate using a zero-trust concept in the future. The DAF intends to move beyond baseline maturity for zero trust and work to reach intermediate maturity by the end of fiscal 2028, according to the document.

Each of the strategic goals and objectives are directly aligned with the Defense Department’s Zero Trust Strategy, released in 2022. The Pentagon-wide implementation plan requires organizations across the department to achieve what it calls “target levels” of zero trust no later than the end of fiscal 2027.

“Ultimately, this strategy makes the warfighting changes we need to evolve as a department possible by simplifying access for our Airmen & Guardians and imposing higher costs on our competitors and adversaries,” according to the executive summary of the new Air Force strategy. “The seven pillars capability elements, and activities, focus DAF resources to align with the DoD Zero Trust Strategy and industry leading Zero Trust models.”