Informal Institute for National Security Thinkers and Practitioners



Quotes of the Day:


"Politics, it seems to me, for years, or all too long, has been concerned with right or left instead of right or wrong.​"​
​- ​Richard Armour

​"​Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.​"​
​- ​George Orwell

“I was that which others did not want to be. 
I went where others feared to go, and did what others failed to do.
I asked nothing from those who gave nothing, and reluctantly accepted the thought of eternal loneliness should I fail.
I have seen the face of terror, felt the stinging cold of fear, and enjoyed the sweet taste of a moments love.
I cried, pained, and hoped but most of all I have lived times others would were best forgotten.
At least someday I will be able to say that I was proud of what I was, A Soldier.”
- George Skypeck, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d8i1WPKdM90  




1. RUSSIAN OFFENSIVE CAMPAIGN ASSESSMENT, JULY 20 (Putin's War)

2. Ukraine war forcing China to rethink ‘how and when’ it may invade Taiwan, CIA chief says

3. Biden on Pelosi trip to Taiwan: ‘The military thinks it's not a good idea’

4. Opinion | We Are Retired Generals and Admirals. Trump’s Actions on Jan. 6 Were a Dereliction of Duty.

5. Russia is ‘About to Run Out of Steam,’ MI6 Chief Say

6. The Air War over Ukraine: Why Can't Russia or Ukraine Claim Victory?

​7. DoD Announces the Establishment of the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office

8. Now Is the Time to Stop Iran From Building a Nuclear Weapon

9. United States: end of an illusion of omnipotence

10. America’s Self-Obsession Is Killing Its Democracy

​11. ​Fewer servicemen are likely to recommend a career in uniform

​12. ​China-Japan ties twisted and tested by Indo-Pacific Framework

​13. ​Army to shift $1 billion to recruiting, retention efforts; rely more on reserves as ranks shrink

14. Inside the multinational logistics cell coordinating military aid for Ukraine

15. US Army’s floating equipment stockpile in Pacific gets first test

​16. ​The United Nations Hasn’t Been Useless on Ukraine

​17. ​Assess Russia’s Cyber Performance Without Repeating Its Past Mistakes

​18. ​Want Better Cyber Policy? Talk to Social Scientists

​19. ​Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco Delivers Keynote Address at International Conference on Cyber Security (ICCS) 2022

​20. Ukraine war forcing China to rethink ‘how and when’ it may invade Taiwan, CIA chief says​

21. Is The CIA Risk Averse?

​22. ‘Stopping Putin in Ukraine Will Send a Message to Xi Jinping’

​23. ​The fundamental flaw in US plans to defend Taiwan from a Chinese assault

​24. ​The Gray Zone: 10th SFG(A) Green Berets intensify unconventional warfare tactics

​25. ​USS Benfold transits Taiwan Strait, a move China calls a provocation

​26. Why dollar as reserve currency is America's Achilles heel

27.​ What if the U.S. had backed Mao during World War II? It almost happened – SupChina​





1. RUSSIAN OFFENSIVE CAMPAIGN ASSESSMENT, JULY 20 (Putin's War)


Maps/graphics: https://understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-july-20



RUSSIAN OFFENSIVE CAMPAIGN ASSESSMENT, JULY 20

Jul 20, 2022 - Press ISW


r

understandingwar.org

Karolina Hird, George Barros, Grace Mappes, and Frederick W. Kagan

July 20, 6:15 pm ET

Click here to see ISW's interactive map of the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This map is updated daily alongside the static maps present in this report.

The current Russian offensive may secure limited additional territorial gains in Donbas northeast of the E40 highway but will likely culminate before seizing major populated areas such as Slovyansk or Bakhmut. Russian forces have not made significant advances towards Slovyansk or along the Siversk-Bakhmut salient in the past few weeks and are continuing to degrade their own offensive combat power in localized fights for small and relatively unimportant settlements throughout Donetsk Oblast. Russian troops have notably been attempting to take Siversk since the capture of Lysychansk and the Luhansk Oblast border on July 3 and have still not reached the city as of July 20.[1] Similarly, Russian troops have failed to launch direct assaults on Bakhmut and have largely impaled themselves on fights for small settlements to its east and south. Efforts to advance on Slovyansk have mostly ground to a halt and have made no meaningful gains for weeks. The renewal of active ground offensives following the brief operational pause has not yet translated into meaningful Russian forward progress, although it is possible that either steady Russian pressure or the completion of Russian efforts to rebuild combat power could generate limited gains in the coming days or weeks.

Russian troops are now struggling to move across relatively sparsely-settled and open terrain. They will encounter terrain much more conducive to the Ukrainian defenders the closer they get to the E40 around Slovyansk and Bakhmut due to the increasing population density and built-up nature of these areas (see map in-line with text). The current Russian offensive in Donbas is therefore highly likely to culminate somewhere along the E40 in the coming weeks.


[Map showing population density in Donbas as of 2020 in comparison with ISW’s assessed control of terrain in Donetsk Oblast as of July 20, 2022. Russian forces will likely face challenges taking control of the darker-grey areas, which represent more densely-populated hromadas and are largely concentrated along the E40 highway between Slovyansk and Bakhmut]

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov articulated expanded geographical aims for Russian operations in Ukraine on July 20, confirming ISW’s long-held assessment that Russia has territorial goals beyond Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts. Lavrov held an interview with state-owned media outlet RT’s editor-in-chief Margarita Simonyan wherein he stated that the geography of the “special operation” has changed since March and now includes not just the Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics, but also Kherson and Zaporizhzhia Oblasts and a number of other unspecified territories.[2] Lavrov also warned that these goals will expand if the West continues to provide Ukraine with long-range weapons. Lavrov’s calls for maximalist territorial objectives are notably divorced from the slow and grinding reality of recent Russian operations in Ukraine as discussed above. Ukrainian counteroffensive pressure is complicating Russian efforts to consolidate military control of occupied Kherson and Zaporizhzhia Oblasts, and it is unclear how the Kremlin will generate the offensive combat power needed to take significant new amounts of Ukrainian territory.

The Russian Defense Ministry publicly identified Lieutenant General Andrey Sychevoy as the commander of the Western force grouping in Ukraine on July 20.[3] The Russian force groupings in Ukraine appear to follow the structure of established Russian military districts. Ukraine’s Conflict Intelligence Team (CIT) had previously reported that Sychevoy replaced Commander Alexander Zhuravlev as the Western Military District Commander.[4] Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu instructed Sychevoy to focus on destroying Ukrainian UAVs operating near the Ukraine-Russia border, indicating that the Western force grouping is likely operating on the Kharkiv City Axis.[5] Russian forces have thus apparently split Kharkiv Oblast into two axes: the Western force grouping operating towards Kharkiv City and the Eastern force grouping operating in the Izyum-Slovyansk direction.[6]

The Russians have identified commanders of the southern, central, and eastern groups of forces, corresponding to their respective military districts and oriented on Bakhmut, the Izyum area, and Siversk respectively. They have notably failed to identify any commander of Russian forces operating in occupied southern Ukraine, however. The Russian commander of forces on the Southern Axis could be the commander of the Russian 7th Guards Mountain Airborne (VDV) Division based in Novorossiysk, Krasnodar Krai, or of the Black Sea Fleet’s 22nd Army Corps, based in Simferopol, Crimea, respectively, as there is no other obvious military district from which he might be drawn.[7]

Ukrainian troops rescued a cat during clearing operations on Snake Island and evacuated it back to the Ukrainian mainland on July 20.[8] The cat reportedly survived the duration of the Russian occupation of the island.

Key Takeaways

  • The current Russian offensive will likely make marginal territorial gains northeast of the E40 highway in Donetsk before culminating along the E40.
  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said that Russia is pursuing expanded territorial gains in Ukraine beyond Luhansk and Donetsk Oblast, confirming ISW’s assessment that the Kremlin seeks to capture territory beyond Donbas.
  • Russian forces resumed limited ground attacks northwest of Slovyansk and around the Donetsk City-Avdiivka area.
  • Russian forces continued localized ground assaults east of Siversk and made marginal gains northeast of Bakhmut.
  • Ukrainian forces conducted the second consecutive high-precision strike against the Antonivskyi Bridge-- a major Russian logistics artery east of Kherson City.
  • Russian occupation authorities are likely propagandizing recent Ukrainian high-precision strikes and partisan activity to set conditions for mass deportations of Ukrainian citizens to Russian territory.


We do not report in detail on Russian war crimes because those activities are well-covered in Western media and do not directly affect the military operations we are assessing and forecasting. We will continue to evaluate and report on the effects of these criminal activities on the Ukrainian military and population and specifically on combat in Ukrainian urban areas. We utterly condemn these Russian violations of the laws of armed conflict, Geneva Conventions, and humanity even though we do not describe them in these reports.

  • Main Effort—Eastern Ukraine (comprised of one subordinate and three supporting efforts);
  • Subordinate Main Effort—Encirclement of Ukrainian Troops in the Cauldron between Izyum and Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts
  • Supporting Effort 1—Kharkiv City
  • Supporting Effort 2—Southern Axis
  • Mobilization and Force Generation Efforts
  • Activities in Russian-occupied Areas

Main Effort—Eastern Ukraine

Subordinate Main Effort—Southern Kharkiv, Donetsk, Luhansk Oblasts (Russian objective: Encircle Ukrainian forces in Eastern Ukraine and capture the entirety of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, the claimed territory of Russia’s proxies in Donbas)

Russian forces resumed localized ground attacks northwest of Slovyansk along the Kharkiv-Donetsk Oblast border on July 20. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian troops repelled a Russian attack on Bohorodychne, about 20km northwest of Slovyansk.[9] This is the first confirmed ground attack along the Kharkiv-Donetsk Oblast border since July 15.[10] Russian forces also continued to fire on the settlements of Dolyna, Krasnopillya, and Adamivka, all northwest of Slovyansk near the E40 highway.[11] Donetsk Oblast Head Pavlo Kyrylenko noted that Russian forces have intensified direct shelling of Slovyansk, likely in advance of attempts to move directly on the city along the E40.[12]

Russian forces continued limited ground assaults east of Siversk on July 20. The Ukrainian General Staff stated that Ukrainian troops pushed back Russian troops near Hryhorivka (northeast of Siversk) and Spirne (southeast of Siversk).[13] The Russian grouping in this area is likely still severely degraded by recent operations to complete the capture of the Luhansk Oblast administrative borders and is therefore only making slow and grinding progress towards Siversk.

Russian forces made incremental progress northeast of Bakhmut along the T1302 highway on July 20. The Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) Territorial Defense Force claimed that joint DNR and Russian troops took control of Berestove, about 25km northeast of Bakhmut.[14] The DNR Territorial Defense Force suggested that DNR troops will use the capture of Berestove to move southwest along the T1302 towards Soledar and eventually Bakhmut.[15] Russian forces also continued to fight south of Bakhmut around Vershyna and Novoluhanske, including near the Vuhledar Power Plant.[16] Russian forces are likely setting conditions for three directions of advance on Bakhmut- from the southwest of the Berestove-Soledar line; west from Pokrovske; and north from Novoluhanske and the territory of the Vuhledar Power Plant.[17] Russian troops continued to conduct air and artillery strikes around Bakhmut along these three lines of advance.[18]

Russian forces conducted limited ground attacks around Donetsk City and near the Donetsk-Zaporizhia Oblast border on July 20. The Ukrainian General Staff noted the Russian forces conducted two failed reconnaissance-in-force attempts in Novoselivka Druha, just northeast of Avdiivka near the H20 highway that runs from Avdiivka to Kostyantynivka.[19] Russian forces reportedly also unsuccessfully attempted to advance towards Mykilsky and Novomykhailivka—both southwest of Donetsk City about 60km from the Donetsk-Zaporizhzhia Oblast border.[20]


Supporting Effort #1—Kharkiv City (Russian objective: Defend ground lines of communication (GLOCs) to Izyum and prevent Ukrainian forces from reaching the Russian border)

Russian forces attempted a limited ground offensive north of Kharkiv City on July 20. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled a Russian ground assault towards Pytomnyk, 10km north of Kharkiv City.[21] Russian forces continued shelling Kharkiv City and the surrounding settlements, including Pytomnyk, Prudyanka, Petrivka, and Tsyrkuny.[22]


Supporting Effort #2—Southern Axis (Russian objective: Defend Kherson and Zaporizhia Oblasts against Ukrainian counterattacks)

Ukrainian forces struck the Antonivskyi Bridge over the Dnipro River east of Kherson City for the second day in a row on July 20.[23] Head of the Russian-backed Kherson Occupation Administration Vladimir Saldo announced that the bridge is closed to freight traffic for repairs but that it remains open to passenger vehicles.[24] Ukrainian Kherson Oblast Military Administration Adviser Serhiy Khlan stated that the Ukrainian strikes on the Antonivskyi Bridge have made it impossible for Russian forces to transport heavy equipment across the bridge.[25]

Russian forces continued strikes along the line of contact but made no confirmed ground assaults on the Southern Axis on July 20. Ukraine’s Southern Operational Command reported that Russian forces fired 20 missiles from S-300 anti-air systems in Kherson Oblast at unspecified ground targets overnight on July 19-20.[26] Russian forces conducted air and missile strikes on Murakhivka and Novohryhorivka, Mykolaiv Oblast, and on the Pidyommyy Bridge in Zatoka, Odesa Oblast.[27]

Ukrainian partisans attacked Russian occupation personnel at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) in occupied Enerhodar, Zaporizhia Oblast on July 19. The Ukrainian Resistance Center reported that the partisan attack injured nine Russian occupation personnel and killed an unspecified number.[28] Russian-backed Zaporizhia Oblast occupation administration head Vladimir Rogov claimed that Ukrainian “terrorists,” likely referring to partisans, attacked the Zaporizhzhia NPP with kamikaze UAVs, which are highly accurate and unlikely to have risked damage to the Zaporizhzhia NPP nuclear reactors.[29] If true, a UAV attack would be the most sophisticated Ukrainian partisan attack ISW has observed to date. Geolocated footage shows shrapnel but no other evidence of damage 300 meters from the Zaporizhia NPP reactors, but this footage could have been staged to incite panic and further occupation authorities’ anti-Ukrainian propaganda.[30]


Mobilization and Force Generation Efforts (Russian objective: Expand combat power without conducting general mobilization)

Nothing significant to report.

Activity in Russian-occupied Areas (Russian objective: consolidate administrative control of occupied areas; set conditions for potential annexation into the Russian Federation or some other future political arrangement of Moscow’s choosing)

Russian occupation authorities may be propagandizing recent Ukrainian high-precision strikes against Russian assets and Ukrainian partisan activity in occupied areas in order to set conditions for mass deportations of Ukrainian citizens to Russian territory. The Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) Internal Ministry claimed that LNR authorities are bussing residents of Kozacha Lopan (northern Kharkiv Oblast) to “rescue settlements” in Russia due to intensified Ukrainian shelling of the settlement and its surroundings.[31] ISW reported on July 17 that Russian occupiers are similarly preparing for massive deportations from Southern Ukraine under the guise of punitive measures against anti-occupation dissent.[32] Such forced deportations may be a means of exporting Ukrainian labor and combat power to the Russian Federation.

[2] https://russian.rt dot com/russia/video/1028012-intervyu-sergeya-lavrova-margarite-simonyan

[7] https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/22-%D0%B9_%D0%B0%D1%80%D0%BC%D0%B5%D0%B9%D...(%D0%A0%D0%BE%D1%81%D1%81%D0%B8%D0%B9%D1%81%D0%BA%D0%B0%D1%8F_%D0%A4%D0%B5%D0%B4%D0%B5%D1%80%D0%B0%D1%86%D0%B8%D1%8F); https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/7-%D1%8F_%D0%B3%D0%B2%D0%B0%D1%80%D0%B4%D0...

[14] https://t.me/TRO_DPR/4952https://t.me/TRO_DPR/4951https://t.me/kommunist/7600https://ria dot ru/20220720/dnr-1803650570.html

[15] https://t.me/TRO_DPR/4952https://t.me/TRO_DPR/4951https://t.me/kommunist/7600https://ria dot ru/20220720/dnr-1803650570.html

[24] https://iz dot ru/1367454/2022-07-20/v-khersonskoi-oblasti-vvedeno-ogranichenie-dvizheniia-po-antonovskomu-mostu

[28] https://sprotyv.mod.gov dot ua/2022/07/19/v-energodari-likviduvaly-rosijskyh-okupantiv/

understandingwar.org




2. Ukraine war forcing China to rethink ‘how and when’ it may invade Taiwan, CIA chief says


Video at the link: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2022/jul/21/ukraine-war-forcing-china-to-rethink-how-and-when-it-may-invade-taiwan-cia-chief-says

Ukraine war forcing China to rethink ‘how and when’ it may invade Taiwan, CIA chief says

Bill Burns says China ‘unsettled’ by Russia’s war in Ukraine and it may influence decisions on the possible use of force against Taiwan




Russia’s experience in Ukraine is affecting China’s calculations on how and when it may decide to invade Taiwan, the head of the CIA said on Wednesday.

Appearing at the Aspen Security Forum, Central Intelligence Agency director Bill Burns played down speculation that Chinese president Xi Jinping could move on Taiwan after a key Communist party meeting later this year.


“The risks of that become higher, it seems to us, the further into this decade that you get,” Burns said, adding: “I wouldn’t underestimate President Xi’s determination to assert China’s control” over self-ruling Taiwan.

Burns said that China was “unsettled” when looking at Russia’s five-month-old war in Ukraine, which he characterised as a “strategic failure” for president Vladimir Putin as he had hoped to topple the Kyiv government within a week.


Chinese invasion of Taiwan ‘would be catastrophic miscalculation’

Read more

“Our sense is that it probably affects less the question of whether the Chinese leadership might choose some years down the road to use force to control Taiwan, but how and when they would do it,” Burns said.

He said that China is believed to have observed from Ukraine that “you don’t achieve quick, decisive victories with underwhelming force.”

“I suspect the lesson that the Chinese leadership and military are drawing is that you’ve got to amass overwhelming force if you’re going to contemplate that in the future,” he said.

China also has likely learned that it has to “control the information space” and “do everything you can to shore up your economy against the potential for sanctions,” he added.

Burns, in line with previous US assessments, said that the United States does not believe that Beijing is offering military support to Russia despite rhetorical backing.

He said China has stepped up purchases of Russian energy but appears careful about not incurring western sanctions.

China considers self-ruled Taiwan part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.

China’s defeated nationalists fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing the mainland’s civil war, but the island has since developed into a vibrant democracy and leading technological power.

Speaking before Burns at the forum in the Rocky Mountains, China’s ambassador to the United States, Qin Gang, said that Beijing still preferred “peaceful reunification”.

But he accused the US of supporting “independence” forces in Taiwan, where president Tsai Ing-wen has asserted the island’s separate identity.

“No conflict and no war is the biggest consensus between China and the United States,” Qin said. But the United States is “hollowing out and blurring” its stated policy of recognising only Beijing, he said.

“Only by adhering strictly to the one-China policy, only by joining hands to constrain and oppose Taiwan independence, can we have a peaceful reunification,” he said.

Under a law passed by Congress when Washington switched recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, the US is required to provide weapons to Taiwan for its self-defence.

US president Joe Biden said in May that the US was ready to use force to defend Taiwan from a Chinese attack, appearing to shed the long-held US ambiguity on whether it would engage militarily, although the White House quickly walked his comments back.

Biden told reporters on Wednesday that he expected to speak to Xi “within the next 10 days”.






3. Biden on Pelosi trip to Taiwan: ‘The military thinks it's not a good idea’


????


Excerpts:

President Joe Biden said, “The military thinks it’s not a good idea right now,” when asked Wednesday whether House Speaker Nancy Pelosi should take a planned trip to Taiwan, according to pool reports.
“But I don’t know what the status of it is,” the president said. Biden also said he expects to talk to Chinese President Xi Jinping in the next 10 days.



Biden on Pelosi trip to Taiwan: ‘The military thinks it's not a good idea’

Politico

The confused messaging has her visit up in the air.


It's not clear if Biden's words will lead to Pelosi canceling or rescheduling her trip. | Patrick Semansky/AP Photo

07/20/2022 06:31 PM EDT

President Joe Biden said, “The military thinks it’s not a good idea right now,” when asked Wednesday whether House Speaker Nancy Pelosi should take a planned trip to Taiwan, according to pool reports.

“But I don’t know what the status of it is,” the president said. Biden also said he expects to talk to Chinese President Xi Jinping in the next 10 days.


Pelosi was planning to visit Taiwan next month, according to two sources. It would be the first visit to the country by a House speaker since Newt Gingrich in 25 years. It’s not clear if Biden’s words will lead to Pelosi canceling or rescheduling her trip.


The trip would come amid tensions between the United States and China near the island, weeks after a Chinese fighter jet had an “unsafe” interaction with a U.S. aircraft over the South China Sea.

Beijing opposes Pelosi visiting the island. A spokesperson for their Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the trip would harshly impact U.S.-China relations.

“It would seriously violate the one-China principle and the stipulations in the three China-U.S. joint communiqués and harm China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” spokesperson Zhao Lijian said Tuesday.

China has considered Taiwan part of its territory since Mao Zedong established a communist state on the mainland in 1949 and nationalists led by Chiang Kai-shek fled to Taiwan. The U.S. did not recognize the mainland’s government until the 1970s; since then, American governments have had awkward, indirect relationships with Taiwan.


POLITICO



Politico



4. Opinion | We Are Retired Generals and Admirals. Trump’s Actions on Jan. 6 Were a Dereliction of Duty.


Set aside any partisanship one might have. This is a tutorial in civil military relations and the chain of command.



Opinion | We Are Retired Generals and Admirals. Trump’s Actions on Jan. 6 Were a Dereliction of Duty.

The New York Times · by Johnnie Wilson · July 21, 2022

Guest Essay

We Are Retired Generals and Admirals. Trump’s Actions on Jan. 6 Were a Dereliction of Duty.

July 21, 2022


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By Steve Abbot, Peter Chiarelli, John Jumper, James Loy, John Nathman, William Owens and

Admirals Abbot, Loy, Nathman and Owens and Generals Chiarelli, Jumper and Wilson are retired four-star generals and admirals in the U.S. armed forces.

The inquiry by the House’s Jan. 6 committee has produced many startling findings, but none to us more alarming than the fact that while rioters tried to thwart the peaceful transfer of power and ransacked the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, the president and commander in chief, Donald Trump, abdicated his duty to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.

In the weeks leading up to that terrible day, allies of Mr. Trump also urged him to hold on to power by unlawfully ordering the military to seize voting machines and supervise a do-over of the election. Such an illegal order would have imperiled a foundational precept of American democracy: civilian control of the military.

Americans may take it for granted, but the strength of our democracy rests upon the stability of this arrangement, which requires both civilian and military leaders to have confidence that they have the same goal of supporting and defending the Constitution.

We hope that the country will never face such a crisis again. But to safeguard our constitutional order, military leaders must be ready for similar situations in which the chain of command appears unclear or the legality of orders uncertain.

The relationship between America’s civilian leadership and its military is structured by an established chain of command: from unit leaders through various commanders and generals and up to the secretary of defense and the president. Civilian authorities have the constitutional and legal right and responsibility to decide whether to use military force. As military officers, we had the duty to provide candid, expert advice on how to use such force and then to obey all lawful orders, whether we agreed or not.

The events of Jan. 6 offer a demonstration on how military and civilian leaders execute this relationship and what happens when it comes under threat. When a mob attacked the Capitol, the commander in chief failed to act to restore order and even encouraged the rioters. As Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified to Congress, Vice President Mike Pence attempted to fill the void by calling on the National Guard to intervene.

Given the urgent need to secure the Capitol, Mr. Pence’s request was reasonable. Yet the vice president has no role in the chain of command unless specifically acting under the president’s authority because of illness or incapacitation, and therefore cannot lawfully issue orders to the military. Members of Congress, who also pleaded for military assistance as the mob laid siege to the Capitol, are in the same category. In the end, the National Guard deployed not in response to those pleas but under lawful orders issued by the acting secretary of defense, Christopher Miller.

Should civilians atop the chain of command again abandon their duties or attempt to abuse their authority, military ranks can and must respond in accordance with their oaths — without a lawful order from appropriate command authority, they cannot unilaterally undertake a mission. Concurrent with a duty to obey all lawful orders is a duty to question and disobey unlawful orders — those a person “of ordinary sense and understanding,” as a Court of Military Review ruling put it, would know to be wrong.

Operations on U.S. soil must also specifically comply with the Standing Rules for the Use of Force, which limit use of force but explicitly authorize it to protect people from imminent threat of death or serious harm, to defend “assets vital to national security” and “to prevent the sabotage of a national critical infrastructure.”

These are essential checks on civilian officials who would make unlawful use of U.S. military personnel. Governors, who possess broad command authority over our 54 National Guard organizations, for example, may face political pressure to deploy these forces to illegally interfere with elections or other democratic processes.

To recognize these threats to our democracy, military leaders must continue to develop robust training, guidance and resources for service members in accordance with these safeguards, ensuring the integrity of the chain of command and effective operation of civil-military relations.

But while such preparedness is necessary, it is not sufficient.

We each took an oath as former leaders of the armed forces to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” We fulfilled that oath through service to civilian leadership elected by and accountable to the American people. This essential arrangement, however, is not self-executing; it relies on civilian leaders equally committed to protecting and defending the Constitution — including, most important, the commander in chief.

The principle of civilian control of the military predates the founding of the Republic. In 1775, George Washington was commissioned as the military commander of the Continental Army under the civilian command authority of the Second Continental Congress. The next year, among the grievances listed in the Declaration of Independence against King George III was his making “the military independent of and superior to the civil power.”

The president’s dereliction of duty on Jan. 6 tested the integrity of this historic principle as never before, endangering American lives and our democracy.

The lesson of that day is clear. Our democracy is not a given. To preserve it, Americans must demand nothing less from their leaders than an unassailable commitment to country over party — and to their oaths above all.

Adm. Steve Abbot, Gen. Peter Chiarelli, Gen. John Jumper, Adm. James Loy, Adm. John Nathman, Adm. William Owens and Gen. Johnnie Wilson are retired four-star generals and admirals in the U.S. armed forces.

The Times is committed to publishing a diversity of letters to the editor. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. Here are some tips. And here’s our email: letters@nytimes.com.

Follow The New York Times Opinion section on FacebookTwitter (@NYTopinion) and Instagram.

The New York Times · by Johnnie Wilson · July 21, 2022



5. Russia is ‘About to Run Out of Steam,’ MI6 Chief Say


A lot to this short piece. The headline is important though I worry when Putin realizes he is out of steam and might become desperate. Note also the other comment on US divisions.


Russia is ‘About to Run Out of Steam,’ MI6 Chief Says

Ukraine is “still a winnable campaign,” and America’s divisions are undermining its global influence, said Britain’s spy chief in a rare and sweeping public interview.

defenseone.com · by Kevin Baron

ASPEN, Colo. — America’s internal division is reducing its international influence, China is not 10 feet tall, Iran doesn’t really want a nuclear deal, and Russia is “about to run out of steam” in Ukraine, said Britain’s spy chief in a rare and frank interview about global threats and the state of Western intelligence services.

“Epic fails” is how Richard Moore described the Russian invasion’s three main goals: remove Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelenskyy, capture Kyiv, and sow disunity within NATO. Moore, who is chief of UK's Secret Intelligence Service—better known as MI6— spoke at the high-powered Aspen Security Conference here on Thursday.

While U.S. officials have recently called the Russia-Ukraine war a “stalemate,” Moore argued Ukrainians can still win, especially if they are able to strike as Russia regroups after recent territorial gains. Moore argued that those advances were only “some incremental progress over recent weeks and months...It's tiny amounts.”

Yet those advances depleted the Russia army, which now occupies cities it leveled and earth it scorched to push back Ukraine’s Western-armed resistance, he said.

“I think they're about to run out of steam. I think our assessment is that the Russians will increasingly find it difficult to supply manpower [and] material over the next few weeks. They will have to pause in some way and that will give the Ukrainians opportunities to strike back,” Moore said.

A successful counterpunch will also be crucial for Ukrainian morale, he said.

“I also think, to be honest, it will be an important reminder to the rest of Europe, that this is a winnable campaign by the Ukrainians because we are about to go into a pretty tough winter,” he said. “We're in for a tough time.”

Moore’s appearance in Aspen followed a similarly rare public interview by CIA Director Bill Burns, who on Wednesday shot down rumors that Putin is in ill health. Moore backed that up Thursday. “I won't go too far into what sort of coverage we have around Putin’s circle but there's no evidence that Putin is suffering from serious ill health,” he said.

The UK spy chief said British intelligence knew of Putin’s designs on Ukraine before the invasion. He declined to say how well-sourced he is today, as Putin’s inner circle has deteriorated or closed off.

When CNN’s Jim Sciutto asked for an assessment of Russian intelligence about Ukraine, Moore replied, “If I reflect on our Russian counterparts, like the Russian military, I don't think they're having a great war. They clearly completely misunderstood Ukrainian nationalism. They completely underestimated the degree of resistance that the Russian military would face.”

Moore said he believed Russian intelligence before the war was not being briefed up to Putin, and in its aftermath MI6 has pounced. Since the start of the war, Moore said, “We've taken some pretty concerted efforts against them. So across Europe…something north of 400 Russian intelligence officers operating under diplomatic cover have been expelled.” Additionally, intelligence services have rounded up Russian sleeper agents posing as illegal aliens across Europe.

Moore said he hopes Russian intelligence officers in Europe will consider turning on Putin, as many turned against the Soviet Union in the 1960s. “Our door is always open,” he said.

Moore also was asked whether British intelligence has assessed America’s internal division and its impact. Unlike CIA, MI6 doesn’t do analysis. Still, he said, “Of course, the health of the society you represent the economic strength of that society, all of that parlays into one's influence overseas, and that includes the Secret Intelligence Service. So, of course it counts.”

“The UK has been through a pretty turbulent time in its history over the last few years, but that has not affected the work of the service and frankly, it hasn't affected the sort of partnerships we've had with the United States.”

On China, Moore sounded less bellicose than America’s political leaders, downplaying everything from China’s attractiveness to the world to its cyber capabilities.

“MI6 has never had any illusions whatsoever of communist China,” he said. “We now devote more effort to China than any other single subject.”

Moore said the Five Eyes collective of intelligence services is tightly united and capable of facing China.

“They're not 10 feet tall. And they are certainly possible to work against, and that's what we're determined to do. And we have this huge advantage that the Chinese don't. We have friends, we have allies, we have an ability to work in a trusted way to try and take on this challenge.”

He said that while China’s Xi Jinping openly states his strategic intent, the West has less insight into the details. ”How they implement, how they organize, how they–what their tactical intent is and then what are the capabilities they're building up? That's a black box.”

Moore said he worries that Xi has “a very entrenched narrative of Western weakness…I worry about that because I think he underestimates us, our resolve and power, and that might lead him to miscalculate over the sort of issues that we've been talking about over the last couple of days, particularly over Taiwan.”

Moore also described the relationship between China and Russia as “not an equal partnership…. Moscow is very much the junior partner and the Chinese are very much in the driving seat.”

Moore called out China’s ambassador to the United States, Qin Gang, who brought a well-known suite of Communist Party talking points to the forum on Wednesday, drawing frequent groans from the audience. China, Moore said, is clearly “beating the Russian drum and selling the Russian narrative around Ukraine. And doing it without any sense of irony. This is a country that spends a lot of time banging on about sovereignty and territorial integrity. Here is the most egregious example,” he said, “and the Chinese keep on selling their snake oil all around the world.”

“Let's not overplay the power and the attractiveness of the Chinese model,” Moore said. He said MI6 is seeing evidence that debt and data traps of China’s Belt & Road initiative are starting to wear on countries, like Sri Lanka.

On Iran, Moore said, “I continue to believe that for all of the limitations” of the 2015 nuclear deal called JCPOA, “if we can get a deal, it's probably the best means still available to constrain the Iranian nuclear program. I'm not convinced we're gonna get there.”

He added, “I don't think the Supreme Leader of Iran wants to cut a deal. Iran won't want to end the talks either.”

defenseone.com · by Kevin Baron


6. The Air War over Ukraine: Why Can't Russia or Ukraine Claim Victory?


So if we deploy US and NATO aircraft could it be decisive?


The Air War over Ukraine: Why Can't Russia or Ukraine Claim Victory?

19fortyfive.com · by ByRobert Farley · July 21, 2022

Five months into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, what lessons can we draw from the air war?

SEAD Is Hard

For analysts, one of the most surprising developments of the first weeks of the war was the inability of the Russian air force to establish supremacy and operate freely across Ukraine. This judgment was formed from experience of American and NATO wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya, where Western aircraft quickly swept the skies of enemy aircraft and the ground of enemy defensive missiles. Over Ukraine, Russian aircraft have struggled to identify and destroy Ukrainian defensive systems. Indeed, many of the successful Russian attacks on Ukrainian SAM systems have come on land, rather than through the air.

And as Justin Bronk points out, the SEAD problems revealed during the Russia-Ukraine War may portend future difficulties for the West. At this point, no country other than the United States should have much in the way of confidence about being able to exert its will over an enemy SAM network. Indeed, used effectively, modern air defenses appear capable of exerting attrition on air forces that even the United States has not been willing to tolerate in recent conflicts.

Air Supremacy is Hard to Establish

Even now Russia has not been able to establish air supremacy over Ukraine. The problem facing the Russians is not, as was the case in Vietnam, political; the Russians have no compunctions against striking airfields and staging areas deep in Ukraine. What they lack is the means to do so safely and effectively. Ukrainian fighters operating within defensive missile networks and near their own bases can hold their own against Russian interlopers, even with massive Russian numerical superiority. Ukrainian pilots can (and do) decline battle under disadvantageous circumstances, and Russia lacks the long-range strike capabilities to force them to engage. This means that despite lacking advantages in numbers, the Ukrainian air force can continue to fly and engage in operations that support Ukrainian land and sea objectives.

Human and Industrial Capital

Building an air force is hard, apparently.

Both Russia and Ukraine have struggled with stocks and flows of airpower. On the Ukrainian side, visions of supplying Kyiv with a ready-made air force rapidly fell apart in the face of the need to train pilots and maintainers on new aircraft and new variants of old aircraft. A lack of spares and maintenance facilities have made it difficult for Ukraine to keep its available planes in the air, although this problem has eased a bit as the floodgates of Eastern European equipment have opened. The aircraft of today are sufficiently distinct even from the jets of the 1960s in their complexity that the lead time for putting effective pilots into cockpits that they can operate has grown to months and even years. Thus, any strategy of delivering new aircraft to Ukraine requires considerable institutional and industrial effort.

This has also affected Russian strategy. Despite substantial stocks of existing aircraft, Russia can simply not afford to throw aircraft into an offensive in which it would suffer high levels of attrition. Russian industry can’t replace the aircraft and Russian training infrastructure can’t replace the pilots. Russia has no interest in grinding its existing fleets into dust in this war, a decision which has limited the extent of its use of airpower.

Both Drones and Fixed Wing Make a Contribution

Drones have undoubtedly played a huge role in the war thus far, with Ukrainian UAVs helping to blunt and eventually disintegrate the reckless Russian offensives of the first weeks of the conflict. Relatively cheap and relatively expendable, these aircraft played a critical role at a desperate time. As the war has continued, the primary contribution of drones appears to have been less the showy strikes conducted by TB2s, and more the short-range reconnaissance undertaken by diverse families of short range UAVs operated by infantry and artillery teams on either side of the conflict.

But here also there is pushback. Russia has dramatically improved its electronic countermeasures, disrupting Ukrainian control over UAVs and making them easier to destroy. The density of Russian forces in the Donbas has made possible the use of a variety of anti-aircraft weapons that can deal with different drones at different altitudes. Altogether, drones are playing a very similar role to that played by recon and light strike aircraft in previous wars, but they have by no means completely replaced the contribution made by larger, faster fixed-wing aircraft.

Parting Thoughts

The air war over Ukraine has not been decisive in any of the ways that we normally use the term. Neither Russia nor Ukraine can claim decisive victory, as the former has not destroyed the latter and the latter has not insulated the airspace from the former. At the same time, it would be wrong to argue that airpower has failed. The success of airpower missions (from long-range strike to close air support to reconnaissance to transport) have been critical to local victories (the defeat of the offensive on Kyiv, the success of the Russian offensive in the Donbas) if not to the war as a whole.

In the next several months, the ability of Ukraine to draw upon Western assets to win air superiority (or at least equality) could have dramatic effects on the course of the war.

A 19FortyFive Contributing Editor, Dr. Robert Farley has taught security and diplomacy courses at the Patterson School since 2005. He received his BS from the University of Oregon in 1997, and his Ph. D. from the University of Washington in 2004. Dr. Farley is the author of Grounded: The Case for Abolishing the United States Air Force (University Press of Kentucky, 2014), the Battleship Book (Wildside, 2016), and Patents for Power: Intellectual Property Law and the Diffusion of Military Technology (University of Chicago, 2020). He has contributed extensively to a number of journals and magazines, including the National Interest, the Diplomat: APAC, World Politics Review, and the American Prospect. Dr. Farley is also a founder and senior editor of Lawyers, Guns and Money.

19fortyfive.com · by ByRobert Farley · July 21, 2022






7. DoD Announces the Establishment of the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office


These are quite interesting names. From AOIMSG to AARO.



DoD Announces the Establishment of the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office

defense.gov

Release

Immediate Release

July 20, 2022


On July 15, 2022, Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks, in coordination with the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), amended her original direction to the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence & Security by renaming and expanding the scope of the Airborne Object Identification and Management Group (AOIMSG) to the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO), due to the enactment of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2022, which included a provision to establish an office, in coordination with DNI, with responsibilities that were broader than those originally assigned to the AOIMSG.

Today, USD(I&S) Hon. Ronald S. Moultrie informed the department of the establishment of AARO within the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security, and named Dr. Sean M. Kirkpatrick, most recently the chief scientist at the Defense Intelligence Agency's Missile and Space Intelligence Center, as the director of AARO.

The mission of the AARO will be to synchronize efforts across the Department of Defense, and with other U.S. federal departments and agencies, to detect, identify and attribute objects of interest in, on or near military installations, operating areas, training areas, special use airspace and other areas of interest, and, as necessary, to mitigate any associated threats to safety of operations and national security. This includes anomalous, unidentified space, airborne, submerged and transmedium objects.

The AARO Executive Council (AAROEXEC), led by Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence & Security (USD(I&S)) Ronald Moultrie, will provide oversight and direction to the AARO along these primary lines of effort:

1. Surveillance, Collection and Reporting

2. System Capabilities and Design

3. Intelligence Operations and Analysis

4. Mitigation and Defeat

5. Governance

6. Science and Technology

See Deputy Secretary of Defense Hicks' AARO establishment memo here.

See USD(I&S) Moultrie's AARO establishment memo here.

Read Dr. Kirkpatrick's bio here.


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8. Now Is the Time to Stop Iran From Building a Nuclear Weapon



Key points:


Ramp up U.S. sanctions on Iran.
Work with European allies to “snap back” U.N. sanctions.
Develop, with allies, a favorable military force posture in the Persian Gulf region to balance Iran.
Strengthen the security of regional allies and partners.
Bolster Israel’s ability to deter Iran.
Expand the Abraham Accords. 


Now Is the Time to Stop Iran From Building a Nuclear Weapon

19fortyfive.com · by ByJames Phillips and Peter Brookes · July 21, 2022

Iran Brags About Capacity to Build A-Bomb – Sometimes, you have to take a political figure at his word—even in Iran, where government officials are known for their mendacity and deceptiveness. And it’s especially important to listen when he’s talking about something as high-stakes as Iran’s nuclear program and imperial ambitions.

On July 17, Kamal Kharrazi, Iran’s former foreign minister and a senior adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told Al-Jazeera TV:

… we can easily produce 90% enriched uranium. … Iran [also] has the technical means to produce a nuclear bomb, but there has been no decision by Iran to build one.

While we already had a good understanding of Iran’s uranium enrichment capability, the news here is the public admission by a senior government official that Teheran has the technical capability to build a nuclear weapon.

Previous public comments had danced around the issue. For example, in April, former Iranian parliament member Ali Motahari, told an Iranian news outlet, “When we began our nuclear activity, our goal was indeed to build a bomb. There is no need to beat around the bush.” He then added, “If we could have kept it [a secret] until we performed a [nuclear] test, then it would have been a done deal. Like in Pakistan.”

Kharrazi’s comments are noteworthy because they were given to a foreign news network; Al-Jazeera TV is based in Qatar. More importantly, his comments came just days after President Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid jointly issued the Jerusalem Declaration, in which the United States declared a “commitment never to allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon, and that it is prepared to use all elements of its national power to ensure that outcome.”

Western intelligence and policy communities have long questioned how long it would take Iran to weaponize highly enriched uranium to build a functional nuclear weapon. It’s no small scientific and technological achievement.

Indeed, it’s one thing to be able to produce the necessary amount of fissile material to build a nuclear weapon; it’s another thing to be able to make that highly enriched uranium into a device that will go boom.

Indirect negotiations between Iran and the United States over reviving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) have been bogged down since last year and completely stalemated since March.

It’s possible, therefore, that Kharazzi’s shocking announcement is little more than bluster—a ploy to improve Teheran’s bargaining leverage to extract more concessions from Washington on its maximalist demands.

Still, the United States must be prepared for a worst-case scenario in which diplomacy fails and Iran decides to build and field nuclear weapons.

Consequently, it’s time to move beyond the Biden administration’s flagging efforts to bring Iran back into a “longer and stronger” nuclear deal and take a tougher approach toward Tehran and its run-away nuclear program. Instead of complacently continuing open-ended diplomacy that seems to be going nowhere, here are six steps the United States should take.

Ramp up U.S. sanctions on Iran. The Administration relaxed its enforcement of sanctions in a misguided effort to lure Tehran back into the nuclear deal. That needs to be reversed. More money in Iran’s pockets only means more trouble for U.S. interests, including terrorism and its nuclear and missile programs.

Work with European allies to “snap back” U.N. sanctions. The United Kingdom, France and Germany also are part of the 2015 nuclear agreement and can trigger the automatic reimposition of multilateral U.N. sanctions on Iran under the JCPOA. The sanctions snapback would help to isolate Iran politically and economically.

Develop, with allies, a favorable military force posture in the Persian Gulf region to balance Iran. The Pentagon, its allies, and partners should muster sufficient capability in the region to dissuade, deter, and defeat Iranian acts of aggression. They should also jointly develop contingency plans for strikes on Iran’s nuclear program, if necessary.

Strengthen the security of regional allies and partners. The U.S. should help bolster regional defenses against Iranian ballistic and cruise missiles, rockets, and armed drones—some of which could eventually be armed with a nuclear warhead—by developing an integrated air defense system that also enhances the security of U.S. forces in the region.

Bolster Israel’s ability to deter Iran. Washington should accelerate the sales to Israel of aerial refueling tankers, precision-guided munitions, and bunker-buster bombs capable of destroying Iran’s fortified underground nuclear facilities in case military action is necessary to prevent an Iranian nuclear breakout.

Expand the Abraham Accords. The Biden Administration should strongly support the expansion of the 2020 accords to include Saudi Arabia and other Arab states threatened by Iran, clearing the way for expanded Arab-Israeli security cooperation against Tehran.

Washington must take decisive action now. Failure to do so will only: increase Iran’s threat to the U.S., its allies, and partners in the Middle East and beyond; embolden international terrorism; drive nuclear proliferation in the Middle East, and destabilize the region, deeply undermining American interests.

James Phillips is Senior Research Fellow for Middle Eastern Affairs in The Heritage Foundation’s Allison Center for Foreign Policy. Peter Brookes is Senior Research Fellow for Weapons of Mass Destruction and Counter-Proliferation in Heritage’s Center for National Defense.

19fortyfive.com · by ByJames Phillips and Peter Brookes · July 21, 2022




9. United States: end of an illusion of omnipotence


I remember the 1996 National Security Strategy was called "Engagement and Enlargement."


Excerpts:


With the world’s second economic power (Japan) experiencing a sharp slowdown, and the Soviet Union disappearing, the relative decline of American GDP enjoyed a trend reversal, albeit a slight and short one. As a result, Kennedy’s book, when not mocked, was often forgotten.
Then began a period of US intoxication with being the “single superpower” in a “unipolar world,” the “hyperpower,” in which Americans thought they could reshape the world in their image despite no longer having the strength to do so and even as new competitors were beginning to flex their muscles.
America’s relative decline did not depend solely on Japan’s rise, and certainly not on the USSR, but on the ineluctable tendency to uneven development; in Aristotelian terms, Japan and the USSR were the “accident”, and relative decline was the “substance.”
Nonetheless, some US leaders took advantage of the accident to deal with the substance: the Gulf War was one episode; another was the intervention in Bosnia; and the enlargement of NATO to the east was yet another, just to recall the main stages (not to mention the progressive reopening to China after the Tiananmen Square massacre, seen as an Eldorado of easy and abundant profits).
The NATO enlargement of the 1990s has recently been thrust back into the center of international debate, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. For the Russians and their friends, this enlargement is the “original sin” from which everything sprang, placing responsibility, they say, for Vladimir Putin’s “special military operation” entirely on Washington’s shoulders.



United States: end of an illusion of omnipotence

America thought it could reshape the world in its image despite no longer having the strength to do so and as new rivals flexed their muscles

asiatimes.com · by Manlio Graziano · July 21, 2022

“I do not accept second place for the United States of America.” That simple statement, delivered to rousing effect by Barack Obama in his first State of the Union, in January 2010, managed to summarize the current American strategic horizon in a single sentence.

For decades, the United States has been in relative decline, facing the prospect of someday being overtaken by a rival power. Its main problem, however, is not the relative decline itself – it’s a natural phenomenon occurring as companies, sectors, regions and countries grow at uneven rates. Instead, its main problem is a failure to recognize this condition, whether out of pride, electoral calculation or simple lack of awareness.

In 1986, in his masterful The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers, Paul Kennedy explained that great powers rise and fall precisely because of their uneven growth: it is therefore the relationship between their varying growth rates that – “in the long run” – is decisive.

Slow relative decline

Apart from a few brief periods of recession, the United States has never stopped growing. Since the 1950s, however, it has grown at a slower rate than most of the rest of the world: thus, it has been in relative decline.

Between 1960 and 2020, its real GDP (i.e., in constant dollars) grew by a factor of five and a half times, but, in the same period, the GDP of the rest of the world was multiplied by eight and a half times: so while the US economy continued to grow in absolute terms, those of its rivals grew at a faster pace.

Moreover, if we compare the United States to its main rival, China, the growth gap is abysmal: while the US economy was growing by five and a half times, China was growing by 92 times.

Put another way, in 1960, the US economy was equivalent to that of 22 Chinas; yet by 2020, it “weighed” only as much as 1.3 Chinas. In culinary terms, the cake has become much bigger for everyone, but the slice that goes to the United States has become relatively smaller.

This relative decline in economic and productive weight ultimately results in a narrowing of the margins for political action, due to the phenomenon of “overstretching,” the phenomenon at the origin of the fall of some great empires (from the Roman Empire to the Russian). Kennedy – in 1986 – explained it in this way:

“Decision-makers in Washington must face the awkward and enduring fact that the sum total of the United States’ global interests and obligations is nowadays far larger than the country’s power to defend them all simultaneously.”

That is, the global interests and obligations that the United States could afford to defend with a GDP of nearly $3.46 trillion in 1960, could not all be defended simultaneously in 1986 with a GDP of $8.6 trillion, and even less so today despite a GDP approaching $20 trillion. This paradox is only apparent: while the GDP of the United States in 1960 was almost half (46.7%) of the GDP of the rest of the world, by 2020 it had become less than a third (30.8%).

Kennedy’s prescient analysis unfortunately suffered from a case of bad timing. Three years after the release of his book, the pro-Russian regimes in Europe collapsed; four years later, the first of Japan’s “lost decades” began; five years later, the Gulf War (for which Washington assembled one of the largest military coalitions in history) broke out; and, at the end of that same year, 1991, the Russian Empire, in its Soviet version, imploded.

Myth of the American “hyperpower”

With the world’s second economic power (Japan) experiencing a sharp slowdown, and the Soviet Union disappearing, the relative decline of American GDP enjoyed a trend reversal, albeit a slight and short one. As a result, Kennedy’s book, when not mocked, was often forgotten.

Then began a period of US intoxication with being the “single superpower” in a “unipolar world,” the “hyperpower,” in which Americans thought they could reshape the world in their image despite no longer having the strength to do so and even as new competitors were beginning to flex their muscles.

America’s relative decline did not depend solely on Japan’s rise, and certainly not on the USSR, but on the ineluctable tendency to uneven development; in Aristotelian terms, Japan and the USSR were the “accident”, and relative decline was the “substance.”

US Army soldiers discuss mission plans before moving to a simulated objective during training at Pohakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, Oct. 18, 2021. Photo By: Army Spc. Rachel Christensen.

Nonetheless, some US leaders took advantage of the accident to deal with the substance: the Gulf War was one episode; another was the intervention in Bosnia; and the enlargement of NATO to the east was yet another, just to recall the main stages (not to mention the progressive reopening to China after the Tiananmen Square massacre, seen as an Eldorado of easy and abundant profits).

The NATO enlargement of the 1990s has recently been thrust back into the center of international debate, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. For the Russians and their friends, this enlargement is the “original sin” from which everything sprang, placing responsibility, they say, for Vladimir Putin’s “special military operation” entirely on Washington’s shoulders.

The (eternal) US-Russian confrontation

As in all ideologies, there is a pinch of truth (which make them plausible), which is greatly simplified and de-contextualized before being served to the masses as a soup of propaganda. The pinch of truth comes precisely from Washington’s unilateral decision to position itself, through NATO, in Central and Eastern European nations newly freed from the Russian yoke.

For context, however, we must look to the expansion into those very same territories by the European Union. NATO’s expansion preceded that of the EU; by five years in the case of Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary (in 1999); a few months (in 2004) for Slovenia, Slovakia and the three Baltic states; and three years (still in 2004) for Bulgaria and Romania.

The buffer states between Russia and the heart of Europe, which lay at the center of American concerns after the two world wars, were again of burning topicality: those states could not be left to the exclusive control of Europe, because otherwise they would cease to be a buffer.

Now, if the United States has an incontrovertible strategic objective, it is precisely to prevent Europe (or, to be realistic, Germany and/or any group centered on Germany) from establishing a cooperation of any kind with Russia.

Controlling the world’s “heartland”

Since replacing the United Kingdom as the world hegemonic power, the Americans have inherited the “heartland” theory formulated by Sir Halford Mackinder. It essentially holds that if Eastern Europe (read Germany) takes control of the heartland (read Russia) its dominion over Eurasia, and therefore over the world, will ensue.

The theory reflects the constant British concern over a possible Eurasian continental union capable of contesting, and ultimately overthrowing, London’s hegemony. This is why the British intervened three times on the continent to prevent its unification: once against France and twice against Germany.

Mackinder’s thesis was revived during World War II by Nicolas Spykman, a Dutch-born Yale political scientist, who transformed it into the theory of “rimland”, that is, a “ring” of countries that could surround the heartland. In Spykman’s formulation, control of this ring becomes crucial for world control, a thesis later translated into the policy of containment, that is, of a cordon sanitaire around Russia.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg gives a press conference during a NATO summit at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization headquarters in Brussels on June 14, 2021. Photo: AFP / Olivier Hoslet

Containment was nothing more than the expansion to the Asiatic front of the first postwar system of buffer states, though it was deliberately misrepresented throughout the Cold War: its purpose, in fact, was not to “contain” Russia, which posed no serious threat, given its extreme weakness (George Kennan himself, “father” of containment, wrote in 1947 that “Russia will remain economically a vulnerable, and in a certain sense, an impotent nation”), but to contain Germany and Japan – that is, to cut off the legs of the pro-Russian factions in these two countries, leaving the cast-iron border control of the rimland to Stalin’s tanks.

The concern over a possible Eurasian continental union capable of challenging, and ultimately overthrowing, their world hegemony had passed from the British to the Americans. As Henry Kissinger openly confirmed:

“In the first half of the 20th century, the United States fought two wars to prevent the domination of Europe by a potential adversary… In the second half of the 20th century (in fact, starting in 1941), the United States went on to fight three wars to vindicate the same principle in Asia – against Japan, in Korea, and in Vietnam.”

Farewell to the notions of “a civilizing mission,” “the defense of freedom,” “an arsenal of democracy,” or a war on militarism, fascism or communism… Once the ideologies evaporate, the reality of the great powers’ relations of force remain, in which the strongest dictates the rules, rewrites history and forges the ideologies that everyone is bound to believe.

In 2011, Vladimir Putin launched his proposal for a Eurasian Union (one of the many attempts to recompose the Russian empire), intended to become an “essential component of Greater Europe… from Lisbon to Vladivostok,” the American secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, reacted promptly and frankly:

“There is a move to re-Sovietize the region. It’s not going to be called that. It’s going to be called a customs union, it will be called Eurasian Union and all of that… But let’s make no mistake about it. We know what the goal is, and we are trying to figure out effective ways to slow down or prevent it.”

If the risk, feared by Mackinder, Spykman, Kennan, Kissinger, Brzezinski and Clinton, is that of a possible union of forces between a great industrial power and the Russian heartland, it is evident that the threat to the United States today comes more from China than from Europe or Japan.

Driving a wedge between China and Russia

The attempt to drive a wedge between China and Russia is undoubtedly one of the strategic priorities of the United States, if not the strategic priority. With the war that began on February 24, Russia has rendered two great services to the United States:

  • It has reunited, enlarged and rearmed NATO, removing the possibility of an agreement with Europe or even with just some European countries.
  • It has heightened Beijing’s distrust of Moscow.

Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin pose for a group photo during the G-20 summit in Osaka, Japan, on June 28, 2019. AFP via Getty / Dominique Jacovides

Americans get the benefit, but a strategy cannot be built on the blunders of an adversary, and herein problems arise.

Meanwhile, the fact that there is an objective strategy (avoiding “second place for the United States,” in Obama’s words) does not necessarily mean that it becomes a subjective strategy, that is, consciously organized, planned, and implemented by a ruling class.

“There is no favorable wind for the sailor who does not know where to go,” Seneca wisely said; and the United States looks like that sailor: its relative decline has yet to be identified as such, and its political division means that any possible strategic hypothesis risks being modified – or even overturned – every four years.

Moreover, much of the country’s political class, drunk on ideologies, still feeds on the tale told by George W Bush’s advisor Karl Rove nearly 20 years ago: “When we act, we create our own reality”; and while specialists are scrambling to study or decipher that reality, “we’ll act again, creating other new realities.”

The several thousand “Roves” present in the American political class render their country the same service that Putin’s advisers, drunk on ideologies, render to theirs: with their good intentions and their stubborn and proud ignorance of geopolitical constraints, they pave the way to hell.

Manlio Graziano is Assistant professor, geopolitics and geopolitics of religions, Sciences Po

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

asiatimes.com · by Manlio Graziano · July 21, 2022




10. America’s Self-Obsession Is Killing Its Democracy


We should know that we are a Federal Democratic Republic. Our founding fathers synthesized the best of political philosophies/systems to try to mitigate the worst of human failings.


America’s Self-Obsession Is Killing Its Democracy

The U.S. still has a chance to fix itself before 2024. But when democracies start dying—as ours already has—they usually don’t recover.

By Brian Klaas

The Atlantic · by Brian Klaas · July 21, 2022

In 2009, a violent mob stormed the presidential palace in Madagascar, a deeply impoverished red-earthed island off the coast of East Africa. They had been incited to violence by opportunistic politicians and media personalities, successfully triggering a coup. A few years later, I traveled to the island, to meet the new government's ringleaders, the same men who had unleashed the mob.

As we sipped our coffees and I asked them questions, one of the generals I was interviewing interrupted me.

“How can you Americans lecture us on democracy?” he asked. “Sometimes, the president who ends up in your White House isn’t even the person who got the most votes.”

“Our election system isn’t perfect,” I replied then. “But, with all due respect, our politicians don’t incite violent mobs to take over the government when they haven’t won an election.”

For decades, the United States has proclaimed itself a “shining city upon a hill,” a beacon of democracy that can lead broken nations out of their despotic darkness. That overconfidence has been instilled into its citizens, leading me a decade ago to the mistaken, naive belief that countries such as Madagascar have something to learn from the U.S. rather than also having wisdom to teach us.

During the Donald Trump presidency, the news covered a relentless barrage of “unprecedented” attacks on the norms and institutions of American democracy. But they weren’t unprecedented. Similar authoritarian attacks had happened plenty of times before. They were only unprecedented to us.

Read: UN secretary-general: American power is in decline, the world is ‘in pieces’

I’ve spent the past 12 years studying the breakdown of democracy and the rise of authoritarianism around the world, in places such as Thailand, Tunisia, Belarus, and Zambia. I’ve shaken hands with many of the world’s democracy killers.

My studies and experiences have taught me that democracies can die in many ways. In the past, most ended in a quick death. Assassinations can snuff out democracy in a split second, coups in an hour or two, and revolutions in a day. But in the 21st century, most democracies die like a chronic but terminal patient. The system weakens as the disease spreads. The agony persists over years. Early intervention increases the rate of survival, but the longer the disease festers, the more that miracles become the only hope.

American democracy is dying. There are plenty of medicines that would cure it. Unfortunately, our political dysfunction means we’re choosing not to use them, and as time passes, fewer treatments become available to us, even though the disease is becoming terminal. No major prodemocracy reforms have passed Congress. No key political figures who tried to overturn an American election have faced real accountability. The president who orchestrated the greatest threat to our democracy in modern times is free to run for reelection, and may well return to office.

Our current situation started with a botched diagnosis. When Trump first rose to political prominence, much of the American political class reacted with amusement, seeing him as a sideshow. Even if he won, they thought, he’d tweet like a populist firebrand while governing like a Romney Republican, constrained by the system. But for those who had watched Trump-like authoritarian strongmen rise in Turkey, India, Hungary, Poland, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Venezuela, Trump was never entertaining. He was ominously familiar.

At issue was a classic frame-of-reference problem. America’s political culture is astonishingly insular. Turn on cable news and it’s all America, all the time. Other countries occasionally make cameos, but the story is still about us. (Poland is discussed if Air Force One goes to Warsaw; Iran flits into view only in relation to Washington’s nuclear diplomacy; Madagascar appears only in cartoon form, mostly featuring talking animals that don’t actually live there.) Our self-obsession means that whenever authoritarianism rises abroad, it’s mentioned briefly, if at all. Have you ever spotted a breathless octobox of talking heads on CNN or Fox News debating the death of democracy in Turkey, Sri Lanka, or the Philippines?

That’s why most American pundits and journalists used an “outsider comes to Washington” framework to process Trump’s campaign and his presidency, when they should have been fitting every fresh fact into an “authoritarian populist” framework or a “democratic death spiral” framework. While debates raged over tax cuts and offensive tweets, the biggest story was often obscured: The system itself was at risk.

Even today, too many think of Trump more as Sarah Palin in 2012 rather than Viktor Orbán in 2022. They wrongly believe that the authoritarian threat is over and that January 6 was an isolated event from our past, rather than a mild preview of our future. That misreading is provoking an underreaction from the political establishment. And the worst may be yet to come.

The basic problem is that one of the two major parties in the U.S.—the Trumpified Republican Party—has become authoritarian to its core. Consequently, there are two main ways to protect American democracy. The first is to reform the GOP, so that it’s again a conservative, but not authoritarian, party (à la John McCain’s or Mitt Romney’s Republican Party). The second is to perpetually block authoritarian Republicans from wielding power. But to do that, Democrats need to win every election. When you’re facing off against an authoritarian political movement, each election is an existential threat to democracy. Eventually, the authoritarian party will win.

From the October 2018 issue: Americans aren’t practicing democracy anymore

Erica Frantz, a political scientist and expert on authoritarianism at Michigan State University, told me she shares that concern: With Republicans out of the White House and in the congressional minority, “democratic deterioration in the U.S. has simply been put on pause.”

Frantz was more sanguine during much of the Trump era. “When Trump won office, I pushed back against forecasts that democracy in the U.S. was doomed,” she explained. After all, America has much more robust democratic institutions than Hungary, Poland, the Philippines, or Turkey. “Though the risk of democratic collapse was higher than it had been in recent memory,” Frantz said, “it still remained low, comparatively speaking.”

When democracies start to die, they usually don’t recover. Instead, they end up as authoritarian states with zombified democratic institutions: rigged elections in place of legitimate ones, corrupt courts rather than independent judges, and propagandists replacing the press.

There are exceptions. Frantz pointed to Ecuador, Slovenia, and South Korea as recent examples. In all three cases, a political shock acted as a wake-up call, in which the would-be autocrat was removed and their political movement either destroyed or reformed. In South Korea, President Park Geun-hye was ousted from office and sent to prison. But more important, Frantz explained, “there was a cleaning of the house after Park’s impeachment, with the new administration aggressively getting rid of those who had been complicit in the country’s slide to authoritarianism.”

Those examples once signaled a hopeful possibility for the United States. At some point, Trump’s spell over the country and his party could break. He would go too far, or there would be a national calamity, and we’d all come to our democratic senses.

By early 2021, Trump had gone too far and there had been a national calamity. That’s why, on January 6, 2021, as zealots and extremists attacked the Capitol, I felt an unusual emotion mixed in with the horror and sadness: a dark sense that there was a silver lining.

Finally, the symptoms were undeniable. After Trump stoked a bona fide insurrection, the threat to democracy would be impossible to ignore. As Lindsey Graham and Mitch McConnell denounced Trump on the Senate floor, it looked like Republicans might follow the South Korean path and America could finally take its medicine.

In reality, the denunciations were few and temporary. According to a new poll from the University of Monmouth, six in 10 Republican voters now believe that the attack on the Capitol was a form of “legitimate protest.” Only one in 10 would use the word insurrection to describe January 6. And rather than cleaning house, the Republicans who dared to condemn Trump are now the party’s biggest pariahs, while the January 6 apologists are rising stars.

The past 18 months portend a post-Trump GOP future that remains authoritarian: Trumpism without Trump.

“Democracies can’t depend on one of two major parties never holding power,” argues Brendan Nyhan, a government professor at Dartmouth College and a co-founder of Bright Line Watch, a group that monitors the erosion of American democracy. But that may be the necessary treatment for now, because Republican leaders “are defining a vision of a Trumpist GOP that could prove more durable than the man himself.”

From the December 2021 issue: The bad guys are winning

Frantz concurred: “What did surprise me and change my assessment was the Republican Party’s decision to continue to embrace Trump and stand by him. The period following the Capitol riots was a critical one, and the party’s response was a turning point.”

That leaves American democracy with a bleak prognosis. Barring an electoral wipeout of Republicans in 2022 (which looks extremely unlikely), the idea that the party will suddenly abandon its anti-democracy positioning is a delusion.

Prodemocracy voters now have only one way forward: Block the authoritarian party from power, elect prodemocracy politicians in sufficient numbers, and then insist that they produce lasting democratic reforms.

The wish list from several democracy experts I spoke with is long, and includes passing the Electoral Count Act, creating a constitutional right to vote, reforming districting so more elections are competitive, establishing a nonpartisan national election-management body, electing the president via popular vote, reducing the gap in representation between states like California and Wyoming, introducing some level of proportional representation or multimember districts, aggressively regulating campaign spending and the role of money in politics, and enforcing an upper age limit for Supreme Court justices. But virtually all of those ideas are currently political fantasies.

The American system isn’t just dysfunctional. It’s dying. Nyhan believes there is now a “significant risk” that the 2024 election outcome will be illegitimate. Even Frantz, who has been more optimistic about America’s democratic resilience in the past, doesn’t have a particularly reassuring retort to the doom-mongers: “I don’t think U.S. democracy will collapse, but just hover in a flawed manner for a while, as in Poland.”

We may not be doomed. But we should be honest: The optimistic assessment from experts who study authoritarianism globally is that the United States will most likely settle into a dysfunctional equilibrium that mirrors a deep democratic breakdown. It’s not yet too late to avoid that. But the longer we wait, the more the cancer of authoritarianism will spread. We don’t have long before it’s inoperable.

The Atlantic · by Brian Klaas · July 21, 2022




11. Fewer servicemen are likely to recommend a career in uniform


The comments that were not included in this article included that we need every service member to be well educated, that military operations require skill, talent, education, and training.  


Most importantly he asked if I would recommend military service to family and friends and I responded strongly that yes I would. And I explained all the important aspects of military service from personnel and professional development to the unrivaled camaraderie, to the satisfaction of being part of something bigger than yourself which I believe still motivates young people, and most importantly the sense of service to our nation. Despite all the negatives in the news (some of which I outlined) I said the positives outweigh the negatives. But of course not everything can make it into an article with a word limit and interviewers and interviewees (and editors) have different views of what is important. Unfortunately there is nothing positive about military service in this article which appears to be the agenda 


Fewer servicemen are likely to recommend a career in uniform

Daily Mail · by James Reinl, Social Affairs Correspondent, For Dailymail.Com · July 21, 2022

The number of veterans, service members and their spouses who recommend a career in uniform has dropped sharply these past two years, with hunger, hardship, woke culture and the Afghanistan pullout being blamed for a recruitment crisis.

Research from the Military Family Advisory Network (MFAN) found that the number of military personnel who would advise others to enlist sank nearly 12 points to 62.9 percent between 2019 and 2021.

Those surveyed complained of being cash-strapped and even going hungry. Others warned the U.S. military was becoming another casualty of the culture wars, with woke criticism of the armed forces deterring new recruits.

David Maxwell, a 30-year Army special forces veteran, said the U.S. military was struggling to enlist newcomers when it needed to build up manpower for a potential confrontation with heavyweight foes like Russia or China.

‘The military is a family business, and if military families are telling their children not to sign up, that sends a powerful message to everyone else, including people who are patriotic and motivated,’ Maxwell told DailyMail.com.



Army Gen. Joseph Martin spoke this week spoke of ‘unprecedented challenges’ in bringing in recruits, leading to a shortfall of some 10,000 soldiers this year and bigger problems down the road. Pictured: Army recruiters at a career fair in Michigan


Would-be recruits were put off by President Joe Biden’s chaotic military exit from Afghanistan in August 2021 and a perception that ‘woke culture’ had left the armed forces an inhospitable place to serve, said Maxwell.

‘People are worried about the potential for large-scale combat operations to defend our country, our allies and our way of life in a war with Russia, China, Iran or North Korea,’ said Maxwell, now a think tank expert.

'They are not the kind of wars we’ve fought over the past two decades.’


David Maxwell, a 30-year Army veteran, is now a North Korea expert at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a think tank

The MFAN survey of 8,638 service people, veterans and their spouses in the US and deployed overseas, carried out late last year, revealed worrying numbers in financial strife despite their government paychecks.

Three quarters were in debt, more than half could not save, 61 percent had trouble paying rent and a troublesome 17 percent said they were so cash-strapped they could not always put enough food on the table.

Those surveyed typically had annual household incomes of $25,000 to $75,000.

One spouse of a serving Army member, who was not named in the study, said the lack of healthcare was ‘breaking military families’. Another said they felt ‘like a failure having to rely on others to help us feed our family’.

Richard Hudson, the Republican congressman for Fort Bragg, North Carolina, one of the world’s largest military installations, spoke of the ‘real challenges facing too many families’ in a video accompanying the report this week.

One in six service people in his district faced food insecurity — well above the national average, he said.

‘Clearly we must do better for our troops and veterans,’ he said.

The study comes amid deepening fears of a troop shortage in the world’s top military.

Army Gen. Joseph Martin, vice chief of staff for the Army, this week spoke of ‘unprecedented challenges’ in getting recruits, leading to a shortfall of some 10,000 soldiers this year and bigger problems down the road.

The Army projects it will have a total force of 466,400 this year, down from the expected 476,000. By the end of 2023, the number could fall further to between 445,000 and 452,000 soldiers, depending on how well recruiting and retention go.

Addressing a House Armed Services subcommittee, Gen. Martin blamed the ’post-Covid-19 environment and labor market, but also competition with private companies that have changed their incentives over time'.

Army Gen. Jack Keane this week told Fox News of the worst recruitment crisis since the 1970s, when the government abolished the draft and switched to an all-volunteer force at the end of the Vietnam War.

The House last week passed an $840 billion policy bill that would grant 4.6 percent pay raises to military personnel. It features requirements for tackling white supremacist and neo-Nazi activity in the forces, over objections from Republicans.


A U.S. marine assists at an evacuation check point in Kabul, Afghanistan, in August 2021. The chaotic exit of U.S. forces has been blamed for worsening morale and deterring new recruits


Service people, veterans and their husbands and wives say money, housing, healthcare and maintaining long-distance relationships are major difficulties in the modern-day military

Daily Mail · by James Reinl, Social Affairs Correspondent, For Dailymail.Com · July 21, 2022





12. China-Japan ties twisted and tested by Indo-Pacific Framework


Excerpts:

While the IPEF may only have a limited effect on removing supply chains from China, China’s zero-Covid policy and deep economic woes have significantly eroded business confidence.
A Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry survey reports that 14% of Japanese companies operating in Shanghai are seeking to “reduce or postpone” future investments in China.
This sentiment is relatively moderate compared with the results of a European Union Chamber of Commerce survey indicating that the “China Plus One” policy long pursued by Japanese companies — to avoid solely investing in China by diversifying into other countries — is catching on with the Europeans.
It is widely believed that the success of the Indo-Pacific Framework depends on ASEAN countries — but in reality, it depends on China, China’s economy and its foreign policy. Japan’s support for the IPEF will help it gain traction in the Indo-Pacific, but it will not loom large over long-established China-Japan relations.




China-Japan ties twisted and tested by Indo-Pacific Framework

While raising its tone when criticizing Tokyo’s policies, Beijing has made relatively rational demands on Japan

asiatimes.com · by Rumi Aoyama · July 20, 2022

The Indo-Pacific Framework for Economic Prosperity was launched in May 2022 during Joe Biden’s first visit to Asia as president. Of the 13 participants, Japan is the only country to announce it will join all four pillars of the IPEF.

Why is Japan so determined to support this US initiative? Will this proactive move damage the fragile bilateral relationship between Japan and China — or will the newly launched initiative disrupt ongoing regional economic integration?

Japan-China bilateral trade reached a 10-year high of US$391.4 billion in 2021 and more than 30,000 Japanese companies currently operate in China. Yet Japan appears to be enthusiastically embracing Washington’s Indo-Pacific strategy — a move that irritates China.


Russia’s invasion of Ukraine reinforced the Fumio Kishida administration’s China policy, and rising public support for a solid deterrence policy suggests the current trajectory of Tokyo’s foreign policy is likely to continue.

It is widely recognized in Japan that most Asia Pacific countries think the framework — a trade agreement without the promise of US market access — is insufficiently attractive to have an immediate impact on regional trade.

But mainstream voices from within the Japanese government and business community argue that Japan should actively engage with the IPEF in the hope it will serve as a stepping stone for the United States to return to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). The IPEF will also strengthen the US–Japan economic partnership.

Japan swiftly joined the US-led alliance that imposed punitive sanctions on Russia in February 2022. Tokyo’s decision was attributed to its security concerns about China — namely to ensure Washington and NATO’s support for Japan in the face of military pressure similar to that experienced by Ukraine.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine was a wake-up call to many pacifist Japanese that war could well happen overnight. Public support for a strong Japan-US alliance and a domestic military buildup is now on the rise.


This sentiment is even present in Okinawa, where opposition to US bases is among the highest in Japan. More than 93% of Okinawans view China as a national security threat and a growing number of Okinawans (69% in a May 2022 survey) believe that US military bases in Okinawa are necessary.

Anti-US airbase demonstrators protest the US Airbase relocation to Henoko at Ohnoyama General Athletic Field at the Ohnoyoma Park and Sports Complex in central Naha, Okinawa on June 19, 2016. Sentiment toward the US has since shifted. Photo: AFP via Anadolu Agency / Richard Atrero de Guzman

With domestic support for US engagement solidifying in Japan, the IPEF will likely take root in the Indo-Pacific. But it will have a limited impact on Sino–Japanese relations and regional geo-economic trends.

In the short term, the relationship between Japan and China will not deteriorate sharply, even if Japan has made minimal effort to stabilize Japan-China relations. Prior to Biden’s visit to Tokyo, Japanese Foreign Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi organized a video conference with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi. The official statements following the online meeting were relatively confrontational, with both sides asserting their own diplomatic positions.

It is Beijing’s Japan policy that has maintained and will continue to maintain stable bilateral relations. While raising its tone when criticizing Tokyo’s China policy, Beijing has made relatively rational demands on Japan. Rather than asking Japan to significantly change its foreign policy, China urges Japan to better balance its relations with the United States and China and to develop bilateral trade.

Contrary to widespread fears that the Indo-Pacific Framework will lead to the decoupling of Asian economies, economic regionalism will continue to gain momentum in the Asia Pacific.


While the IPEF is a trade framework to advance Washington’s economic leadership, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is championed by both Japan and China. The launch of the IPEF has since prompted China to devote more diplomatic resources to RCEP.

While the IPEF may only have a limited effect on removing supply chains from China, China’s zero-Covid policy and deep economic woes have significantly eroded business confidence.

A Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry survey reports that 14% of Japanese companies operating in Shanghai are seeking to “reduce or postpone” future investments in China.

This sentiment is relatively moderate compared with the results of a European Union Chamber of Commerce survey indicating that the “China Plus One” policy long pursued by Japanese companies — to avoid solely investing in China by diversifying into other countries — is catching on with the Europeans.

It is widely believed that the success of the Indo-Pacific Framework depends on ASEAN countries — but in reality, it depends on China, China’s economy and its foreign policy. Japan’s support for the IPEF will help it gain traction in the Indo-Pacific, but it will not loom large over long-established China-Japan relations.


Rumi Aoyama is a professor in the Graduate School of Asia-Pacific Studies and director of the Waseda Institute of Contemporary Chinese Studies at Waseda University.

This article was first published by East Asia Forum, which is based out of the Crawford School of Public Policy within the College of Asia and the Pacific at the Australian National University. It is republished under a Creative Commons license.

asiatimes.com · by Rumi Aoyama · July 20, 2022




13. Army to shift $1 billion to recruiting, retention efforts; rely more on reserves as ranks shrink


As I said I will still recommend military service to young people. The benefits of service outweigh the negatives. Yes, we face problems that this article identifies and we must work to correct them. There is no silver bullet but there is one word: Leadership.


Army to shift $1 billion to recruiting, retention efforts; rely more on reserves as ranks shrink

washingtontimes.com · by Ben Wolfgang


The Army will shift about $1 billion to recruiting programs and will rely more heavily on reserve units as its ranks dwindle and the service struggles to attract new soldiers, Army officials said in a memo this week that described a high-stakes “war for talent” that confronts America’s armed forces and comes at a crucial moment for U.S. national security.

Faced with demographic shifts and a red-hot civilian job market, Army officials said the number of active-duty soldiers is expected to drop considerably over the next several years.

They said the Army’s end strength will be about 466,000 by the end of fiscal 2022. It could drop to as low as 445,000 by the end of 2023, they said, “barring a significant positive change in the current recruiting environment.”

That will leave the Army about 10,000 soldiers short of its planned end strength this year. And if the trend continues as Pentagon leaders expect, the Army will fall much shorter of that goal next year.

Army leaders acknowledged the scope of the problems facing the service and said it will take an all-hands-on-deck approach to turn the tide. With just two months left in the fiscal year, the service is just 50% of the way to its annual recruiting target.


“The United States Army exists for one purpose, to protect the nation by fighting and winning our nation’s wars as a member of the Joint Force, and our readiness depends on a quality all-volunteer force. This is not a recruiter problem. This is an Army problem,” Army Secretary Christine Wormuth and Army Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville said in their memo that was released last Wednesday evening. “We are in a war for talent, and it will take all our people — soldiers across all components, families, Army civilians, and soldiers for life — to fight and win this war.”

Recruitment officials for the Air Force, Navy and Marines say they are facing similar challenges meeting their goals this year.

The growing shortfall in the ranks comes as a challenging time for the Pentagon. Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine has sparked major new deployments of U.S. troops to Europe, including the establishment of a new permanent headquarters for the Fifth Army Corps in Poland, announced by President Biden earlier this month. It’s the biggest in a set of moves by the U.S. to ramp up its ground troop force in Europe, and much of that manpower burden will fall on the Army.

The Pentagon also is racing to expand its presence in the Pacific amid rising tensions with China and fears that a Chinese military move on Taiwan may be on the horizon. The Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps will bear much of that responsibility, but the Army, the largest of the military services, also will play a key role.

But service officials acknowledge that the Army’s force structure may need revisions if its ranks keep shrinking.

“We don’t need to do that immediately. But if we don’t arrest the decline that we’re seeing right now in end strength, that could be a possibility in the future,” Army Gen. Joseph Martin, vice chief of staff for the Army, told a House Armed Services subcommittee this week.

Army leaders blamed a perfect storm of circumstances for the problems plaguing the service, including a shrinking percentage of young Americans fit for service and an inability to recruit in high schools during the COVID-19 pandemic, when many students attended school virtually.

Remote learning, they said, seems to have had a negative impact on the number of young Americans qualified for military service, citing “a decline in academic and physical fitness levels.”

And while inflation looms as a major problem for the economy, the U.S. job market continues to post strong numbers. The overall jobless rate is just 3.6%, and youth unemployment – which soared to nearly 30% at the height of the COVID-linked economic shutdown of 2021, is a historically low 8.1%. Military services have historically posted stronger recruiting numbers when the alternatives in the private sector are not as attractive as they are today.

Deeper problems

But the Army says it sees much deeper problems across U.S. society. Officials cited a “knowledge gap” that has prevented the Army from reaching many Americans, as well as an “identity gap” that keeps potential recruits from seeing themselves in the service or understanding its culture.

Perhaps most troubling, military leaders said they see young Americans becoming disillusioned with the armed forces, creating a “trust gap” that has proven difficult to bridge.

“Younger Americans are losing trust and confidence in many American institutions, including the military,” Ms. Wormuth and Gen. McConville said.

Their memo laid out a host of new initiatives and programs to attract fresh recruits and keep enlisted soldiers in the ranks. But officials also conceded that they’ll have to make sweeping changes to the 2023 budget in order to address looming problems.

Ms. Wormuth and Gen. McConville said they’ll shift up to $1.2 billion from other Army programs to recruiting initiatives, retention bonuses, and other efforts.

Money also will be shifted to Army reserve units, they said, “to meet operational demands” in light of the service’s manpower woes.

The Army also will launch new future soldier pilot programs, extend the service’s best recruiters, increase funding for enlistment bonuses, offer new recruits a greater voice in where they’ll be stationed, open new regional marketing offices across the country, and take a host of other steps to attract new recruits.

The latest troubling recruiting data also will give more fuel to critics who oppose the Army’s effort to push out soldiers who refuse to receive COVID-19 vaccinations. As of July 15, 1,336 active-duty soldiers have been removed after refusing the vaccine, officials said.

Another 11,056 Army National Guard service members and 6,733 Army Reserve troops have refused the shot, according to the latest data, but so far none of them have been formally removed from the ranks.

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

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14. Inside the multinational logistics cell coordinating military aid for Ukraine


Professionals do logistics.


This is America's superpower. Can we sustain it and is it ready for large scale combat operations (LSCO)?


Inside the multinational logistics cell coordinating military aid for Ukraine

Defense News · by Vivienne Machi · July 21, 2022

STUTTGART, Germany — As the war between invading Russian soldiers and defensive Ukrainian troops enters its fifth month, nations around the world have provided billions of dollars worth of military assistance to Kiev to help defend its sovereignty.

Since early March, a cohort of U.S. servicemembers and a rotating crew of multinational partners have set up shop in U.S. European Command headquarters here to ensure equipment gets from the donor nation to Ukraine’s doorstep.

That team, known as the EUCOM Control Center-Ukraine/International Donor Coordination Centre, or ECCU/IDCC, oversees the deliveries while also ensuring Ukrainians get properly trained on the received equipment.

The logistics cell grew out of two discrete teams led by the U.S. and U.K. militaries, officials told reporters Wednesday at EUCOM headquarters at U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart, in southwest Germany. The command had set up the ECCU to help coordinate partners’ military assistance going to Ukraine; its British counterparts had a similar idea. Now, the two nations lead the joint cell that includes allies and partners from around the world.

“Our aim is to support the Ukrainians to defend their sovereignty,” said Rear Adm. Duke Heinz, director of logistics at U.S. European Command. Shortly after the Russian invasion, the U.S. military saw a willingness from allies and partners to provide the Ukrainians with security assistance.

“The goal was: we need to deconflict that,” Heinz said. “We don’t know how much the Ukrainians can absorb, and … we didn’t want border control crossing points that were delivering security assistance, munitions [at] the same border control points that independent agencies were using to deliver blankets and first aid kits.”

‘A coalition of the willing’

From a stifling hot — and air conditioning-free — secure multi-purpose space known internally as “the Attic,” dozens of servicemembers from across 26 NATO and non-NATO nations are separated into sections working on plans, support and communications, movements, and operations. A row of foreign liaison officers from rotating nations are also present. A Ukrainian military representative is embedded with the team, identifying the requests coming from Kiev that are then worked by the ECCU/IDCC team.

Officials described the process as similar to a registry, where Ukraine puts in a request for specific equipment, and participating nations identify which needs they can fill and to what extent.

The multinational team is a “coalition of the willing,” the officials said, providing any combination or amount of transportation, aid, training resources, or funding.

Since the U.S. and U.K. cells merged in March, the cell’s functions have evolved. At the start of the war, the logistics coordination cell largely supported the delivery of small arms munitions and anti-tank equipment, said British Army Brig. Gen. Chris King, chief of the ECCU/IDCC. Then, it began helping to transfer Soviet-era equipment that was more complex to move, but familiar to Ukrainian forces, he added.

With the arrival of sophisticated equipment provided by NATO and other allies, the cell is now a “one-stop shop” that not only coordinates and tracks deliveries coming from all over the world to Ukraine’s doorstep, but also organizes the training of Ukrainian Armed Forces to operate and sustain the provided equipment. The challenge is lining up the training schedule with the equipment deliveries, Heinz noted.

That process is also multinational. King described a situation where the United Kingdom donated 105mm howitzers to Kiev. Since New Zealand is an operator of that howitzer, Auckland provided training support and parts, while the training itself was conducted in the United Kingdom. The U.S. military supplied ammunition and tactical vehicles to tow the howitzers.

The United States has trained approximately 1,500 Ukrainian Armed Forces to date, according to EUCOM. The United Kingdom has committed to providing a major training operation for Ukrainian forces, with the potential to train up to 10,000 soldiers every 120 days, a spokesperson said.

Evading challenges

Despite Russian threats to disrupt the West’s efforts to arm Ukraine, the ECCU/IDCC team has so far avoided major issues, officials said.

The cell has not yet experienced a cyber attack or other form of disruption from the Russians, King said. “But [Russia] will continue to learn, and we need to be ready for that.”

Heinz said his team has experienced no mobility obstacles in getting the needed equipment to Ukraine’s borders.

“Security assistance doesn’t stack up here on the continent in a warehouse,” he said, adding that the longest time a piece of equipment would sit in an airport or train depot would be 12 to 24 hours.

When a nation offers to provide military assistance, the cell coordinates the logistics to keep the assets “in flow” from the providing nation to the border of Ukraine. The door-to-door process can take 48 to 96 hours, Heinz said.

Three allies bordering Ukraine are allowing military assistance to be dropped off on their borders; Poland is the sole nation EUCOM would identify.

Two of the three nations allow Ukrainians to enter the country and travel to a specific pickup point to gather the equipment. “So the Ukrainians are responsible for the movement to the border, and what border control points they will transition into the country,” Heinz said.

The third nation has asked the equipment be taken right up to the border, and transitioned from there, he added.

Asked about worries that military systems could end up on the black market, Heinz said the team has been “very upfront” with Ukraine officials about “the intent” of the use for U.S.-provided military equipment.

“We’re not serial-number tracking these once they go across the border,” he noted. “We know everything that we’ve delivered. … We have an inventory of it. But once it crosses the border, it’s in the Ukrainians’ hands.” He added that thus far, the team is not aware of any deliveries failing to reach their final destination.

Shifting mobility modes

As of July 21, the ECCU/IDCC team has coordinated the movement of 78,000 tons of military assistance, over 1.4 million km of airspace and 450,000 km of ground distance. An estimated value for the delivered assistance was not immediately provided.

Over 800 flights have transported equipment to the Ukrainian border. But officials highlighted that while the cadence of deliveries to Ukraine has remained constant over the past few months, the delivery methods have changed.

In March and April, it was easy to fly in the small arms and anti-tank and anti-armor capabilities nations were initially providing, Heinz noted. Now, as the provided equipment includes tanks and howitzers, rail and sea methods are also being employed.

“But the flow has been nonstop,” he said. Even as European parliaments begin their summer vacations and the United States preps for midterm elections in a few months, there’s no fear of a “summer lull” in deliveries, he added.

King noted that when the cell was first set up, the team was moving quickly to coordinate the rapidly incoming military assistance donations. Now, the team is planning deliveries up to two months out, he said.

The flow of Soviet-era equipment has started to dwindle, but the countries who donated those assets are now interested in replacing those aged systems with NATO-specific military assets, Heinz noted. “I think the future for the alliance looks fairly bright, from a military equipment footing perspective,” he said.

There remains one supplier of Soviet-era 152 mm and 122mm mortar shells that’s providing equipment from a hot production line, Heinz said, but declined to name the supplier.

More equipment on the horizon

On Wednesday, the U.S. Defense Department announced it would send additional M142 high-mobility artillery rocket systems (HIMARS) to Ukraine, bringing the total number committed up to 16.

As Kiev’s military assistance registry grows and evolves over the course of the war, Heinz said he would not rule out the U.S. providing other types of high-performance equipment.

“This conflict is very different from three and a half months ago,” he noted. “If you had asked us then, ‘Hey, would you think you’re going to deliver HIMARS to the Ukrainians?’ I would have said, ‘Probably not.’”

“So I would be cautious to say, ‘We won’t deliver X to the Ukrainians,’” he added. “Based on their ability to fight and win, as they’ve shown, anything’s on the table.”

About Vivienne Machi

Vivienne Machi is a reporter based in Stuttgart, Germany, contributing to Defense News' European coverage. She previously reported for National Defense Magazine, Defense Daily, Via Satellite, Foreign Policy and the Dayton Daily News. She was named the Defence Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2020.





15. US Army’s floating equipment stockpile in Pacific gets first test



​Are these sufficiently protected?


US Army’s floating equipment stockpile in Pacific gets first test

Defense News · by Jen Judson · July 21, 2022

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Army’s floating equipment stockpile in the Indo-Pacific theater was put to the test for the first time in exercises in the Philippines, revealing the changing nature of how the service’s prepositioned stock is used, according Brig. Gen. Jay Bartholomees.

Army Prepositioned Stock is strategically placed around the globe for units to access in theater in response to emergency or urgent operational needs. In Europe over the last several years, the service has begun to take APS out and exercise the equipment to ensure the right balance of capability is available to units and that it is ready to be deployed.

The Army in the Pacific had its first crack at testing out its APS-Afloat capability in March in the Philippines during exercises Salaknib 22 and Balikatan 22. part of Operation Pathways, a larger exercise in the theater. The 3rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division used it coming from ships designed to harbor complete equipment sets and spares the Army anticipates needing should a crisis unfold.

“It took a lot of coordination with the Philippine government, but it served as a great opportunity to place not only forces but combat equipment for the theater in key terrain with the Philippine Army,” Bartholomees, who is in charge of U.S. Army Pacific’s planning and operations, told Defense News in an interview.

Operation Pathways was born from both Pacific Pathways – a nearly decade-old exercise series – and Defender Pacific, originally envisioned as a large Division-sized exercise that began in 2020.

The APS-afloat is maintained by Army Field Support Battalion-Charleston and is the only floating stockpile in the theater. There are four other land-based APS locations in the Indo-Pacific area of operation.

By using APS-Afloat, the Army also saves money and connects exercises more easily because the equipment is able to move between locations and keep forces forward on the battlefield, Bartholomees said.

Taking lessons learned from the experience in the Philippines, the service is working on ensuring equipment is arranged in a proper “combat configuration” on the vessels so they can be loaded and unloaded in the most optimal way to respond to contingencies, he said.

While only an Infantry Brigade Combat set was used in the first exercise, the Army has several other types of sets that it would like to work through in future exercises to support the Army and the joint force in the theater, Bartholomees said. It’s now looking at how to continue to evolve its APS-Afloat through exercises in 2023 such as Talisman Saber in Australia.

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The Corps- and Division-level Warfighter Exercise will feature a Pacific scenario for the first time in its history.

Recognizing the success units in Europe have seen through the employment of APS as part of exercises and rehearsals, the service in the Pacific is looking to replicate and increase the amount of operations it performs using the capability.

“We can’t just wait until they’re needed,” Bartholomees said.

The Army is still working on how best to configure its APS in the Indo-Pacific as threats evolve. Some APS already set up in places including Japan are critical to effective response in the region, he said.

Both land-based and afloat APS have their benefits, Bartholomees said., “but the key thing with Army prepositioned stocks is that the dispersion and the flexibility of them provide multiple options in the Indo-Pacom theater.”

About Jen Judson

Jen Judson is an award-winning journalist covering land warfare for Defense News. She has also worked for Politico and Inside Defense. She holds a Master of Science in journalism from Boston University and a Bachelor of Arts from Kenyon College.


​16. The United Nations Hasn’t Been Useless on Ukraine


A perspective I was not aware of.


Excerpts:


However the war evolves, the United Nations will most likely continue to play its current marginal but not insignificant role in handling the fallout. There will undoubtedly be more calls for the organization to reform or disband given its inability to solve such a major crisis. But these calls are misguided. The invasion of Ukraine has clarified the United Nations’ remaining virtues as well as its weaknesses. Even in an increasingly divided and competitive strategic environment, the United Nations offers a stage for major powers to vent their grievances — and a channel for them to find a few remaining ways to cooperate.
In this light, the United Nations is not quite as hopeless as its critics suggest. The organization has indeed acted as a platform for international public criticism of Russia, brought some aid to victims of the conflict, and helped keep a lid on some other crises that would otherwise be consuming the time of Western policymakers. None of these achievements will bring much comfort to Ukrainian civilians who have borne the full brunt of Moscow’s aggression, but the world would be worse off without them.

The United Nations Hasn’t Been Useless on Ukraine - War on the Rocks

warontherocks.com · by Richard Gowan · July 21, 2022

Media coverage of the United Nations’ response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has focused on the Security Council’s failure to halt Moscow’s aggression. The United Nations has presented an obvious target for criticism. In February, Russia vetoed a U.S.-backed resolution deploring its assault. In April, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told the council via video link that it should dissolve itself if it could do nothing to hold the Russians to account.

Yet despite much justifiable criticism, some parts of the U.N. system have responded to the war much as they were supposed to do. While it easy to lament the council’s inability to restrain its most powerful members, this is not a role it can realistically be expected to play. Instead, we should judge the United Nations’ performance on three more modest criteria. The first is whether the organization has been a political platform for Ukraine and its allies to make a public case against Russia. The second is whether U.N. officials and agencies have been able to mitigate at least some of the humanitarian fallout from the war. The third is whether the United Nations has been able to manage the rifts emerging over Ukraine in order to keep tackling crises and conflicts in regions like Africa and the Middle East where it has marginally more purchase.

Become a Member

Measured against these metrics, the United Nations has performed better than seemed probable in February. Shortly after Russia stopped the Security Council criticizing its actions, the 193-member General Assembly (where all U.N. members have one vote and nobody has a veto) condemned the war by 141 votes to five. This was a notable improvement on the assembly’s response to the original Ukrainian crisis in 2014, when only 100 states backed a resolution affirming Kyiv’s sovereignty over Crimea. This year, the assembly also voted to throw Russia out of the Geneva-based Human Rights Council. The Human Rights Council itself has launched a Commission of Inquiry that — working with Ukrainian and other international investigators — should be able to compile unusually credible evidence of war crimes.

Focus on the Right Forum

If the Security Council’s inaction has been tragic, it was also entirely predictable. When one of the five veto-wielding members of the body is determined to launch a war, U.N. rules mean the council cannot do much about it. Russia used its veto to block the council criticizing its occupation of Crimea in 2014, just as the Soviet Union nixed Western resolutions condemning its invasions of Hungary and Czechoslovakia during the Cold War. And while U.S. commentators may dislike the comparison, many non-Western diplomats in New York recall that the Bush administration rode roughshod over the council when it attacked Iraq.

Outside the Security Council, however, the United States, its European allies, and the Ukrainians have used the United Nations effectively, whipping up a high level of support for Kyiv across multilateral forums. The Biden administration can take some satisfaction in this. In the dog days of the Trump administration, American diplomacy at the United Nations was generally desultory, and U.S.-European coordination in New York was weak. This spring, by contrast, American and European officials worked closely together to secure strong majorities for resolutions condemning Moscow. The U.S. mission to the United Nations also worked quietly to persuade China to keep a low profile in these debates rather than throw its weight behind Russia. China has abstained on most General Assembly and Human Rights Council resolutions concerning Ukraine. Many non-Western countries that follow Beijing’s lead at the United Nations have done likewise.

There have been clear limits to what Western diplomacy at the United Nations can achieve. Some big non-Western U.N. members, such as India, have refrained from criticizing Russia so as to protect their strategic and economic ties to Moscow. By mid-May, European diplomats in New York admitted that they were encountering “Ukraine fatigue” in the General Assembly, with few countries wanting to sign on to more resolutions. One reason for this has been many U.N. members’ mounting concerns about the impact of the war on global food and fuel prices. While the U.S. mission in New York has tried to assuage these fears — in May, Secretary of State Blinken held a well-received round of talks on the food crisis at the United Nations — many non-Western diplomats blame Western sanctions on Russia for fomenting these economic shocks.

Skeptics of the United Nations will naturally ask if it is worth worrying about toothless U.N. resolutions and speeches. The General Assembly may have condemned Russia, but despite some precedents from earlier crises, it did not call upon its members to impose sanctions on Moscow. This is a fair concern, but it misses the point that the United Nations is one battleground of a much bigger information war between Kyiv and Moscow. Both sides have essentially treated the United Nations as a platform to present their versions of events around the war, amplifying their arguments via social media. While Russia has convened repeated Security Council meetings on the alleged existence of U.S. biowarfare laboratories in Ukraine — a story apparently designed to appeal to its domestic audience and Chinese netizens — Ukraine and its allies have used the United Nations to show that Moscow’s war and narratives enjoy little real support in the rest of the world.

The Humanitarian Front

Turning from the meeting halls of New York and Geneva to the situation in Ukraine itself, U.N. humanitarian workers have done their best to get aid to suffering civilians. The organization still has over 1,000 staff in the country, and reports that U.N. agencies and their partners have brought assistance to 9 million Ukrainians. Nonetheless, as all too frequently happens during intense conflicts, there have been glitches in getting aid to those who need it. U.N. agencies have offered cash assistance to vulnerable civilians, but the disbursement of these funds has been patchy. Local civil society groups have taken on the burden of helping the vulnerable, overshadowing the United Nations’ role. While U.N. agencies have tried to organize aid convoys to frontline areas, it has been too dangerous to access many flashpoints due to the risks posed by landmines and ongoing hostilities.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, a former High Commissioner for Refugees, has become personally involved in some high-stakes humanitarian efforts as well. Guterres initially struggled to play a diplomatic role in the war, in part because officials in Moscow gave him the cold shoulder after he condemned their assault. But in April, he was able to visit Moscow and Kyiv, working out a deal (based on groundwork laid by the International Committee of the Red Cross) to evacuate Ukrainian civilians trapped in the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol. Moscow had pragmatic military reasons for this — the evacuation cleared the way for a final assault on Azovstal and the surrender of its defenders, which the United Nations was not directly involved in — but it emboldened Guterres to look for further openings for humanitarian diplomacy.

Over the last months, the Secretary-General has been focused on crafting a deal by which Russia would ease its naval blockade in the Black Sea to allow Ukrainian grain out of Odesa, in return for steps to facilitate its own food and fertilizer exports. The United Nations has worked closely with Turkey on this project, which would both offer Ukraine some economic relief and ease the global food crisis. Bargaining has dragged on over details such as the creation of a large maritime corridor off Odesa for convoys to pass through (Kyiv naturally worries that Russian naval forces might pass through it, too). This month, the Ukrainians and Russians reached a “basic” agreement on shipping agricultural goods via the Black Sea, although its implementation remains uncertain. Regardless, diplomats in New York credit Guterres with focusing hard on the talks and mastering minor details of issues such as naval demining.

Continuing Work Elsewhere

Some U.N. officials and diplomats from outside Europe fear that the United Nations’ intensive focus on Ukraine will ultimately hurt weak states in other regions. At the start of the war, Security Council members worried that Russia would start to use its veto capriciously to block resolutions on trouble-spots beyond Ukraine to damage Western interests. As I warned in March, diplomats “acknowledge[d] in private that they will struggle to maintain business as usual for much longer” when it came to talking with Russia about the Middle East and Africa at the United Nations. But this fear now appears overblown. While relations between Russian officials and their Western counterparts have become poisonous — often spilling over into petty fights over details of U.N. procedure — both sides appear to have developed a tacit agreement to keep up a minimum of diplomatic cooperation on Security Council files unrelated to Ukraine.

Since its invasion of Ukraine began, Russia has waved through Security Council resolutions on significant initiatives such as recalibrating the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan to work with the Taliban and reconfiguring the African Union force fighting Al-Shabaab in Somalia. Russia even accepted the renewal of a mandate for the European Union to maintain a naval force off the coast of Libya — supposedly policing a much-broken arms embargo — despite Brussels imposing enormous sanctions on Russian firms. Overall, Moscow has seemed inclined to use the Security Council as a channel for residual, if frequently grudging, cooperation with Western powers while other forms of diplomatic engagement wither. It may help that — according to private conversations with diplomats representing multiple Security Council members — Chinese officials have been active behind the scenes, urging both the Russians and other council members to keep diplomacy alive.

There have been a few exceptions to this minimal cooperation. In May, China and Russia jointly vetoed a U.S. resolution imposing new sanctions on North Korea in response to its recent missile tests. But diplomatic sources indicate that this has more to do with worsening Sino-American relations over the Korean Peninsula than Ukraine. This month, Russia also came close to blocking the renewal of a mandate for the United Nations to deliver aid to the rebel-held enclave of Idlib in Syria — a recurrent source of tension in the council in recent years — but relented when other Security Council members offered it last-minute concessions over the length and terms of the mandate.

It is also clear that, while the Security Council may not be falling apart, the United Nations’ focus on Ukraine has opportunity costs for the organization. As Russia’s war sucks up international attention, some other countries on the U.N. docket are also going through major crises. Most strikingly, violence has risen dramatically in the Sahel. African, Western, and non-Western diplomats alike all agree that the United Nations should be looking for new ways to stabilize the region. Secretary-General Guterres has proposed mounting a new African Union force there. But with the Security Council bogged down in debates over Ukraine, few diplomats have the time or desire to prioritize these issues, which are further complicated by the fact that some states in the Sahel — most notably Mali — are cultivating closer political and security ties with Moscow.

Facilitating a Diplomatic Solution?

Could the United Nations play a role in helping cement a future political deal between Russia and Ukraine to end the fighting? To date, this question is still only being tentatively discussed in New York. The organization’s options are limited. Russia has signaled that while it is willing to talk to Secretary-General Guterres about humanitarian issues, it does not see him as a potential mediator for political matters. After the Secretary-General’s successful intervention on Azovstal, Russia insisted that the Security Council should only welcome his “efforts” rather than his “good offices,” a term which in UN parlance implies more political engagement. If the two sides eventually make a deal, they may need some sort of U.N. observation mission to facilitate the disengagement of forces, a process I have described in more detail elsewhere. But it is very unlikely that a large blue helmet force will be called up to keep the peace, as few if any countries would be willing to commit troops to such a risky enterprise. Finally, U.N. experts may be able to offer Kyiv advice on topics such as refugee return, but the European Union and World Bank will likely be the main players in long-term efforts to reconstruct Ukraine.

However the war evolves, the United Nations will most likely continue to play its current marginal but not insignificant role in handling the fallout. There will undoubtedly be more calls for the organization to reform or disband given its inability to solve such a major crisis. But these calls are misguided. The invasion of Ukraine has clarified the United Nations’ remaining virtues as well as its weaknesses. Even in an increasingly divided and competitive strategic environment, the United Nations offers a stage for major powers to vent their grievances — and a channel for them to find a few remaining ways to cooperate.

In this light, the United Nations is not quite as hopeless as its critics suggest. The organization has indeed acted as a platform for international public criticism of Russia, brought some aid to victims of the conflict, and helped keep a lid on some other crises that would otherwise be consuming the time of Western policymakers. None of these achievements will bring much comfort to Ukrainian civilians who have borne the full brunt of Moscow’s aggression, but the world would be worse off without them.

Become a Member

Richard Gowan is United Nations Director at the International Crisis Group in New York and a contributor to the organization’s publications on the global response to Russia’s war on Ukraine, as well as the United Nations’ role.

Image: United Nations

Commentary

warontherocks.com · by Richard Gowan · July 21, 2022





17. Assess Russia’s Cyber Performance Without Repeating Its Past Mistakes



Excerpts:


None of this is to discount Moscow’s disruptive and costly affronts in the information domain. Russian actors remain among the most sophisticated and threatening in cyberspace: Ukrainian and Western critical infrastructure, elections, and societal cohesion are all likely to fall into their crosshairs. However, in the context of conventional armed conflict — with all the urgency, destruction, and violence it entails — the fog of war is perhaps thickest in the information space. Conventional military analysts apply a similar theme to Russian conventional forces’ performance, noting that political assumptions are a precursor to war, but structural choices are key to success or failure within it. The same rubric applies when assessing Moscow’s information warfare, including the natural impediments to its fiercest conceivable expression. An abundance of observed, disruptive cyber activity does not necessarily translate into evidence of strategy on the adversary’s side, nor strategic impact on our own.
The issue is less that Western observers might have overestimated Russia’s cyber potential in its war on Ukraine, more that they almost certainly underestimate the complexities and frictions which separate intent from execution, intensity from effect. Particularly in the still murky arena of information warfare, the chasm between theory and practice remains wide. Moreover, in an era of apparently robust intelligence insights into the Kremlin’s designs, it may prove far easier to slip into erroneous assumptions based thereon, the foremost being that intention necessarily equals capability.


Assess Russia’s Cyber Performance Without Repeating Its Past Mistakes - War on the Rocks

warontherocks.com · by Gavin Wilde · July 21, 2022

Many observers saw Russia’s February invasion of Ukraine as the first case in modern history of a great power with near-peer cyber capability waging a major conventional war. Moscow’s cyber operations to disable Ukrainian satellite communications, wipe data from several of its state and civic organizations, and peddle disinformation to its public provide ample data to consider. Analysts are already trying to measure Russia’s cyber performance against prior expectations. Were they merely concurrent with kinetic strikes, or in coordination? Which operations were failures, and which were successfully executed?

A Russia-focused examination, however, must factor in the uniquely expansive way Moscow views “information warfare,” a blanket concept entailing not only cyber operations against technical infrastructure, but also adversary hearts and minds, and public perception more broadly. Moscow has long cultivated a view of information and technology that is informed in part by its own assessments of U.S. military operations. Their takeaways have historically assigned intentionality and orchestration to events far beyond the remit of U.S. capability, resulting in grand but unrealistic expectations about how information can be weaponized — both against and on behalf of the state.

Become a Member

Against this historical backdrop, U.S. strategists should measure Russia’s cyber performance in Ukraine by its own yardstick. Moreover, they should take lessons from Moscow’s experience, ensuring U.S. threat perceptions of, and ambitions within, the information domain are guided as much by the practical limitations therein as by the theoretical possibilities Moscow has conjured.

Assessing Performance

Prominent Russian theorists have long surmised that the scales of conflict would tilt in favor of technology and information over physical violence in the Information Age. In 1999, NATO air operations against Serbian targets were an opportunity to test these theories. Operation Allied Force, in their view, not only followed the model of “net-centric warfare” — technological connectivity enabling superior intelligence and targeting — but likely entailed the use of new, non-kinetic weapons wielded from a computer. Meanwhile, leaks to journalists in Washington about unused yet ominous NATO cyber capacity, which putatively might have neutralized Belgrade’s air defenses with but a few keystrokes, likely further fueled such suspicions. At the same time, Western narratives about the atrocities being committed by Serbian leader Slobodan Milošević and his forces dominated cable news coverage.

By the end of that year, Russia’s defense minister Igor Sergeyev warned that the conflict in Kosovo signaled that the United States had achieved new degrees of proficiency in “contactless … and virtual” information support of combat operations, a proficiency which needed to be countered. Russia’s military minds concluded that technical and psychological weapons — two sides of the same coin under its own information warfare concept — would take center stage in the new Western way of war. They concluded that the potential of these weapons — plainly speaking, cyberattacks and digital propaganda — to shape not only the battlefield but also decision-making and popular will, would soon rival bombs and bullets. Russian doctrine needed to reflect as much.

In fact, U.S. and allied information operations — which largely centered around public messaging and media outreach — appear to have fallen far short of both Russian assessments and the Pentagon’s own hopes. U.S. military after-action reviews concluded that it was “perhaps the greatest failure of the war,” not planned or coordinated, but “implemented ad hoc as the situation arose” and stymied by organizational dysfunction.

U.S. military doctrine defines information superiority as “the capability to collect, process, and disseminate an uninterrupted flow of information while exploiting or denying an adversary’s ability to do the same.” However, experts at the U.S. Foreign Military Studies Office went so far as to characterize the notion of allied information superiority against Serbian forces as a myth, detailing a string of intelligence, targeting, and messaging failures in the Kosovo operation that left enemy comms channels open, NATO comms compromised, and the Milošević regime’s propaganda unimpeded. Meanwhile, nascent U.S. military cyber units at that time had freshly sprung from parochial turf wars over mission space and bureaucratic debate within the Pentagon, and could barely contribute to any operational impact — much less against Serbian air defenses.

This disparity in assessments would only gather more momentum over subsequent years and geopolitical developments. Moscow began compensating for Russia’s relative military, technological, and soft-power weaknesses by infusing its approach to espionage, diplomacy, and propaganda with ever-more paranoia and accusations of U.S. machination. This mindset would come to stymie the search for common ground on cyber norms, fuel an explosion in state-backed propaganda abroad, a domestic crackdown on digital media freedoms, and a host of belligerent behaviors in cyberspace.

Dueling Narratives

Adversaries often respond to their flawed conceptions of — and project their own intent and insecurity onto — each other. Robert Jervis wrote that “actors tend to see the behavior of others as more centralized, disciplined, and coordinated than it is.” This tendency is certainly evident in Russian thinking about U.S. capabilities over the past two decades.

For example, in 2005 the Russian Academy of Military Sciences touted information warfare’s capacity to alter the entire societal consciousness, affecting a nation’s very capacity to wage or sustain combat. After a string of popular revolutions in former Soviet states, as well as the Arab Spring — in which social media played a crucial role — Moscow began to rule out the idea that any organic wellspring of public discontent was possible absent high-level orchestration from abroad. Senior Russian military officials began to hold forth on how information tools were key ingredients of a new type of undeclared war, one in which violence would play a smaller role, with civilizational implications well beyond the military realm. Most notably, in a 2013 essay Chief of the Russian General Staff Valery Gerasimov alluded to the West’s apparent capacity to unleash rapid and cataclysmic geopolitical unrest using “technologies … and information networks.”

These assertions again contrast strikingly with those from U.S. counterparts during the same period. Lt. Gen. Michael Hayden, former head of the National Security Agency, characterized U.S. offensive cyber capabilities in 2005 soberly as “virtual graffiti on digital subway cars.” Several years later, a post-mortem assessment of U.S. Cyber Command’s Operation Glowing Symphony — which had been intended to disrupt the self-proclaimed Islamic State’s finances, recruiting, and propaganda — revealed how interagency turmoil and technical insufficiency largely hamstrung a great power’s digital advances on a much weaker adversary. While Moscow may have believed that the U.S. military had pioneered a “new generation” of information warfare, then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter described Cyber Command’s performance as “largely disappoint[ing].

More recently, a former senior Cyber Command official recently lamented,

we haven’t decided yet what is or isn’t information operations, information warfare, cyberspace operations, operations in cyberspace that enable information operations … Is it about spectrum, is it about IP [internet protocol] space, OT [operational technology] space, is it about cognitive operations, beliefs and understanding and motivations for operations? … We just haven’t yet decided.

Readers will rightly point out that Moscow takes a far more expansive view of information warfare than the United States. The real question is whether that has proven to be an asset or a liability, particularly in Ukraine, where information operations appear to have failed, even where conventional forces have gained ground.

Conceptual Traps

These are mere snapshots in history, of course. Much about previous U.S. and Russian operations in the information space remains unknown and unknowable. It is safe to conclude, however, that rather than acknowledging uncertainties about correlation and causation in that environment, Moscow has combined its certitude of Western intent and its distrust of uncontrolled technologies into an overinflated concept of information warfare. Analysts should be cautious, however, not to conflate the self-reinforcing logic of that concept with operational coherence, much less strategic impact.

The notion that the complex web of technical and sociological networks underpinning an adversary’s will and ability to fight could be exhaustively catalogued and conclusively subverted indeed requires a certain hubris. Even more so to synchronize that effort with artillery and troop advances. Russian theorists appear to have spent the Information Age overindulging that hubris — superimposing a linear logic to conflict and attributing far more control and intentionality to the United States than was ever truly warranted.

The information environment is chaotic and lends itself poorly to mechanistic designs, a heuristic which ought to guide expectations, irrespective of Moscow’s vaunted aspirations. The broader a state’s approach to information warfare, the more numerous the contingencies and variables it must account for, and by extension, the more omnipotent its command and control must be. This feeds a monolithic view of decision-making on one side of a conflict, and a conspiratorial view on the other, neither of which are likely to match reality. As Martin van Creveld wrote, “no success is possible — or even conceivable — which is not grounded in an ability to tolerate uncertainty, cope with it, and make use of it … nothing is as inconducive to victory in war than to wage it on technological principles.” Like so many elements of strategy, the reach of abstraction usually exceeds the grasp of experience.

The United States is not immune to these conceptual traps. Despite the fact that Gerasimov’s analysis was less a prescription than a warning — and that political subversion is neither new nor exclusively Russian — Western commentators notoriously mischaracterized it as Russian “doctrine.” This flawed conception was only further reinforced by Russia’s digital onslaught against the 2016 U.S. presidential elections. Entire government bureaucracies, lines of academic study, and civil society initiatives cropped up in response, but researchers and officials struggled to empirically quantify its impact, including on election outcomes. Nevertheless, by 2018, a St. Petersburg office park full of online mercenaries had so seized the U.S. national security establishment’s attention that Cyber Command reportedly disrupted the Kremlin-linked troll farm — albeit temporarily — on the day of the Congressional mid-terms.

The prospect of Russian online actors covertly conspiring en masse to conclusively manipulate the American democratic process became something of a “hypersecuritized” threat — not exaggerated, per se, merely untested, easier to conceive of than to validate. Combined with the glut of incentives for threat inflation in modern-day political and media discourse, it is all too easy to draw inflated caricatures of opponents, prompting policies and resource expenditures that risk bringing about the very outcomes they were designed to avoid.

In short, while attempting to gauge Russia’s cyber successes or failures in Ukraine or any other theater, U.S. strategists must recognize Moscow’s vast ambitions and deep suspicions in the information environment without automatically assuming success nor adopting this conspiratorial mindset as their own.

Impactful, In Theory

None of this is to discount Moscow’s disruptive and costly affronts in the information domain. Russian actors remain among the most sophisticated and threatening in cyberspace: Ukrainian and Western critical infrastructure, elections, and societal cohesion are all likely to fall into their crosshairs. However, in the context of conventional armed conflict — with all the urgency, destruction, and violence it entails — the fog of war is perhaps thickest in the information space. Conventional military analysts apply a similar theme to Russian conventional forces’ performance, noting that political assumptions are a precursor to war, but structural choices are key to success or failure within it. The same rubric applies when assessing Moscow’s information warfare, including the natural impediments to its fiercest conceivable expression. An abundance of observed, disruptive cyber activity does not necessarily translate into evidence of strategy on the adversary’s side, nor strategic impact on our own.

The issue is less that Western observers might have overestimated Russia’s cyber potential in its war on Ukraine, more that they almost certainly underestimate the complexities and frictions which separate intent from execution, intensity from effect. Particularly in the still murky arena of information warfare, the chasm between theory and practice remains wide. Moreover, in an era of apparently robust intelligence insights into the Kremlin’s designs, it may prove far easier to slip into erroneous assumptions based thereon, the foremost being that intention necessarily equals capability.

Become a Member

Gavin Wilde is a senior fellow in the Technology and International Affairs Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He previously served on the U.S. National Security Council as director for Russia, Baltic, and Caucasus affairs, where his focus areas included foreign malign influence, election security, and cyber policies. He is also a 15-year veteran of the U.S. intelligence community and a distinguished graduate of the National War College, where his studies focused on information warfare. The views expressed here are his own.

Image: ArmyInform

Commentary

warontherocks.com · by Gavin Wilde · July 21, 2022




18. Want Better Cyber Policy? Talk to Social Scientists


Excerpts:

Finally, policymakers may find analogies appealing because they provide simplicity and clarity—particularly for highly technical and esoteric fields like cyber. But bad analogies and oversimplification can lead to bad policies. If states are perpetually on the lookout for a “Munich moment,” for instance, they may opt for more aggressive policies that ultimately produce counterproductive outcomes. Moreover, analogies can be limiting. As General Paul Nakasone noted in December 2021, traditional, Cold-War style deterrence “is a model that does not comport to cyberspace”—but still dominates how policymakers approach cyber issues. Therefore, there is value in moving away from these imperfect analogies to grapple with cyberspace as it actually is.
Analysis of the Ukraine conflict will undoubtedly contribute to greater understanding of the strategic and operational utility of cyber power. However, we should be cautious about drawing sweeping conclusions from an ongoing and dynamic war. Analysis and output from security professionals is important—but should be informed not only by technical expertise but also social science.





Want Better Cyber Policy? Talk to Social Scientists - Modern War Institute

mwi.usma.edu · by Erica D. Lonergan · July 21, 2022

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Last month, Microsoft published a report on the emerging lessons from the “cyber war” in Ukraine. It provides a rich storyline and a number of historical analogies and, in emphasizing the significance of the war’s cyber dimension, it falls firmly in line with commentary from many tech sector experts and government professionals. For example, Tom Burt, a Microsoft executive himself, described the conflict as a “full-scale cyberwar.” In an interview with the Washington Post, Toomas Hendrik Ilves, Estonia’s former president, warned that Russia might yet launch a significant cyberattack (even if, to date, one has not occurred). Further, the US government is steadily issuing warnings to the private sector, encouraging corporations to keep their “shields up” (a slogan created by Jen Easterly, the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency). Abroad, the warnings are also dire, with the Danish defense minister, Morten Bødskov, noting that “the cyber threat is constant and evolving. Cyberattacks can do great damage to our critical infrastructure, with fatal consequences.”

Collectively, these assessments paint a picture of the war in Ukraine as one that is fundamentally defined by its cyber component and an important source of lessons for future conflicts. But against this backdrop, one group has largely taken a different view. Many political scientists—specifically those with an expertise in security studies—writing about the role cyber operations can play in conventional warfighting are hesitant to extrapolate lessons learned from a war that has yet to conclude. For instance, a short time after Russian tanks crossed into Ukraine, Ciaran Martin reflected that “it turns out that the next war was not fought in cyberspace after all.” Weeks later, Nadiya Kostyuk and Erik Gartzke described Russia’s cyber activities in Ukraine as “dogs [that] have yet to bark loudly” and, drawing from their empirical work, added that the link between cyber and conventional military operations is, at most, indirect. Similarly, Erica Lonergan, Shawn Lonergan, Brandon Valeriano, and Benjamin Jensen commented that, “cyber operations are a form of modern political warfare, rather than decisive battles,” again hinting at the role of cyber in the ongoing conflict. Lastly, Lennart Maschmeyer and Myriam Dunn Cavelty deftly argued that cyber operations “offer limited strategic value” and that cyber commenter-enthusiasts are relying on misplaced assumptions in their analysis.

To be sure, the tech sector’s perspective is reinforced by reporting from highly respected sources about the Ukrainian conflict’s cyber dimension. Certainly, Microsoft’s intelligence products, and others like it, provide a critical public service by helping to shed light on the dynamics of cyber operations in an environment where the major tech players (like Microsoft) are likely to have exquisite visibility on often obscured cyber activities. However, they also reveal the limitations of technical intelligence reporting and the problems of drawing inferences from discrete cyber activities about core concepts in the security studies field—like deterrence, warfighting, or the offense-defense balance—absent an approach grounded in social science.

There are important policy implications if decision makers draw the wrong lessons from what the evidence has revealed thus far about the role of cyber operations. Below, using the recent Microsoft report as an illustrative example, we highlight how social science can provide critical perspective on three specific topics: drawing inferences about causal relationships, the nature of the offense-defense balance in cyberspace, and the perils of reasoning by analogy.

Causal Inference

The Microsoft report weighs in on an ongoing debate about the extent to which states can (and do) coordinate cyber and kinetic effects on the battlefield. Ukraine seems to be a fertile testing ground to evaluate competing claims about this issue. In its report, Microsoft draws a strong connection between cyber activities in the virtual battlespace and kinetic military operations on the ground. And there is some evidence to back up this claim. For instance, the report notes that Microsoft identified lateral movement of a Russian threat actor on the network of a nuclear power company on March 2 (lateral movement refers to the techniques used by a malicious cyber actor to move deeper into a network in search of sensitive data and other high-value assets after gaining initial access to the network). Then, “the next day, the Russian military attacked and occupied the country’s largest nuclear power plant.” This is provided as an example of how “the Russian military has coupled cyberattacks with conventional weapons aimed at the same targets,” a purported form of combined arms warfare involving cyber operations.

However, correlation is not causation. Just because there is evidence that cyberattacks and conventional attacks occurred around the same time and aimed at the same general target, does not prove that these moves were deliberately coordinated or coupled in some way. First, observing lateral movement in itself tells us little about what the ultimate purpose of the cyber operation was. Moreover, a compelling theoretical narrative to explain the mechanisms through which a cyber actor’s lateral movement on a network would be related to the subsequent physical occupation of that target is not offered. If anything, Microsoft’s examples of two actions taking place in tandem could instead reveal a lack of coordination between cyber and kinetic operations and actors; conducting a kinetic attack on a target as a cyber actor is maneuvering within its network would likely undermine the latter’s operation.

A related challenge is that much of the evidence about the hypothetical cyber-kinetic link lacks the kind of variation needed to rigorously evaluate their relationship. For example, in the graphic titled “Coordinated Russian cyber and military operations in Ukraine,” Microsoft’s report provides six examples of ostensible coordination in which a cyberattack was followed by a kinetic action. However, the report fails to include examples of cyberattacks that occurred in isolation and not followed by any sort of kinetic activity or, conversely, kinetic action that was not preceded by cyberattacks—lists that would run much longer than six examples. Without this kind of variation, inferences are limited and we cannot responsibly assess whether these different activities reflect planned coordination or are simply random noise.

Similarly, in another section, the report focuses on the purported impact of Russian-linked information operations, including those targeting entities external to Ukraine. For instance, the report reveals “an estimated average American consumption of Russian propaganda 60 million to 80 million page views per month.” Certainly, the reported numbers appear to be a significant magnitude of consumption of Russian information operations. But substantiating evidence of a link between those operations and their effectiveness (whether they changed the perceptions of target audiences or, even more importantly, their behavior) remains elusive. High volumes of activity do not necessarily translate into meaningful effects and the reported findings do not account for the lack of evidence or research to really assess the impact of propaganda consumption.

Offense-Defense Balance

A second hotly debated topic in the cyber strategy and policy fields is the extent to which cyberspace confers an advantage on offense over defense. This extends a central concept in the security studies literature—the idea of an offense-defense balance—to cyberspace. The basic premise of the theory is that, when offense has an advantage (typically measured in terms of technology and geography), arms races and wars are more likely. As Robert Jervis succinctly put it, measuring offensive versus defensive advantage is a function of how states answer following question: “If the state has one dollar to spend on increasing its security, should it be put into offensive or defensive forces?”

The conventional wisdom in the cyber field is that attackers have an extraordinary advantage over defenders. Echoing the views of many experts, Jason Healey has argued that offense has a “systemwide advantage” in cyberspace. But, when it comes to the Ukraine conflict, the Microsoft report seems to find evidence to the contrary, providing a much-needed reality check to some commentaries that depict cyberspace as a revolutionary and disproportionately offensive form of warfare. Specifically, the report reflects on the significant successes of Ukrainian cyber defense and resilience efforts and notes that “cyber defenses and operations have withstood attacks far more often than they have failed.”

This is consistent with a good deal of political science research, such as work by Rebecca Slayton or Erik Gartzke and Jon Lindsay, that finds that cyberspace may not in fact be offense dominant. They found that offensive cyber operations, particularly those with meaningful strategic effects, are harder and more resource intensive than the conventional wisdom would suggest, typically produce only transient and often unreliable effects, and are characterized by perishable vulnerabilities that are time sensitive with uncertain exploitation. As Austin Long aptly noted, “If an attack requires years of work and billions of dollars to overcome a defense hypothetically costing [only] millions of dollars, political scientists would characterize the environment as highly defense dominant.”

The evidence in the Microsoft report seems to bear this out. Microsoft finds that, for cyber espionage campaigns, only 29 percent of Russian actors were successful in conducting intrusion operations. Further, of that 29 percent, only 25 percent resulted in data being exfiltrated. In other words, only a small fraction of espionage operations, roughly one in fourteen, actually achieved their objectives. That said, some caution is warranted about drawing larger lessons about what the evidence demonstrates. The report does not articulate how Microsoft derived that number or the scope of Russian cyber activity that Microsoft is able to observe, leaving open the question of what bias there might be in the data.

This also raises a broader question about whether the bifurcation of cyberspace activities into offensive and defensive categories is even appropriate, or whether it imposes a conventional conflict framework onto a domain marked by interconnectedness. Political scientists have challenged the applicability of the offense-defense framework to cyberspace in different ways. Brandon Valeriano, for example, has written that “a misguided focus on the balance between offensive and defensive operations clouds understandings of cyber strategy.” In a different vein, Michael Fischerkeller, Emily Goldman, and Richard Harknett have highlighted that defining campaigns in cyberspace as either offensive or defensive reflects a misunderstanding of cyberspace and cyber operations.

The reality is that we aren’t certain yet whether offense or defense is inherently advantaged in cyberspace, or whether any such advantage will be sustained as technology evolves. But the rigorous approaches and theoretical underpinnings of the social sciences are intellectual guideposts for researchers, providing a baseline from which to postulate, assess, challenge, and work toward a more accurate conclusion, and to do so more quickly than empirical observation ungrounded in such research methodologies or, worse, limitless theorizing. Theories are meant to be expanded, disproven, evaluated, and challenged—that’s what good scientific research does—and since nation-states are only one of the stakeholders in cyberspace, social scientists have an important role in understanding cyberspace and the relationships between states, nonstate actors, corporations, and individuals. Ultimately, being more precise about how the field discusses campaigns and cyberspace operations will enable a richer understanding of national security issues that accounts for the unique characteristics of cyberspace, its role in conflict, and how states use it as an element of national power.

The Perils of Reasoning by Analogy

Finally, a significant amount of analysis in the cyber field relies on reasoning by (imperfect) analogy—such as the yet-to-materialize cyber Pearl Harbor or cyber 9/11. Similarly, the Microsoft report is littered with a plethora of historical comparisons, from the Battle of Britain in World War II to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and the triggering of World War I to the attack on Fort Sumter that heralded the beginning of the American Civil War. But social scientific research has shown that there are limits to—and even dangers associated with—analysis by analogy. For example, Sean Lawson’s research has shown that cyber analysis is often characterized by “cyber-doom rhetoric” that draws on historical comparisons and distorts the true nature cyber threats. While historical comparisons can sometimes be useful, it is imperative to be careful about what inferences analysts can actually draw from them and what their limitations are.

In the cyber field, analogies are also not limited to history. The US military, for instance, often relies on analogies between military maneuver in the physical space and in cyberspace to explain operations, tactics, and strategy. This not only impacts operational planning, but also affects (whether intentionally or unintentionally) acquisitions, measures of effectiveness, measures of performance, and beyond. Casual analogies and comparisons to traditional maneuver concepts perpetuate the military’s conceptualization of cyberspace as an operational domain where warfighting functions used in physical domains also apply, when the unique aspects of cyberspace may be mismatched to these frameworks and require a distinct theory of their own.

So What?

Debates about how and from what perspective to interpret the cyber aspects of the Ukraine conflict are not mere academic navel-gazing. US policymakers risk learning the wrong lessons or missing critical insights if they do not consider perspectives from social scientific analysis. And reports like Microsoft’s, which are written for a broader audience, are rife with generalizations that lump a host of activities and observations into an ill-defined “cyber” bucket. This can make it difficult to convey the nuance of cyberspace and state behavior in the domain. While cyberspace may be a technical environment, it shapes and is shaped by geopolitical and strategic considerations, which demands an application of social scientific approaches. Three policy implications stand out from this analysis.

First, the question of whether cyber operations can be effectively synchronized or incorporated into conventional campaign plans has direct implications for the United States. One of US Cyber Command’s key roles is to provide combat support to the geographic combatant commands as part of their conventional campaign planning. Moreover, the Biden administration’s new National Defense Strategy, anchored in the concept of integrated deterrence, explicitly calls for capabilities to be synchronized across warfighting domains. Part of this involves, in the words of Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, “coordinated operations on land, in the air, on the sea, in space and in cyberspace.” Therefore, what the evidence demonstrates, and how to interpret it, about the coordination (or lack thereof) between cyber and kinetic military operations on the battlefield in Ukraine has direct implications for US strategy and warfighting concepts.

Second, debates about the advantages and risks of offensive or defensive activities in cyberspace have shaped US cyber strategy. In 2018, the Trump administration shifted US strategy in cyberspace to be more assertive and proactive, leading some senior officials to say that the United States was now “going on the offensive” in cyberspace. The strategic shift from a reactive to proactive posture led many observers to voice concerns about escalation risks based on the assumption that cyberspace is offense dominant. But if cyberspace is defense dominant, then a proactive posture is not likely to exacerbate instability. Therefore, as the Biden administration seeks to articulate its own strategic vision for cyberspace, how officials understand the characteristics and strategic implications of actions taken in and through cyberspace is likely to affect whether the United States adopts a more restraint-based approach (similar to that espoused by the Obama administration) or largely affirms the understanding of the previous administration.

Finally, policymakers may find analogies appealing because they provide simplicity and clarity—particularly for highly technical and esoteric fields like cyber. But bad analogies and oversimplification can lead to bad policies. If states are perpetually on the lookout for a “Munich moment,” for instance, they may opt for more aggressive policies that ultimately produce counterproductive outcomes. Moreover, analogies can be limiting. As General Paul Nakasone noted in December 2021, traditional, Cold-War style deterrence “is a model that does not comport to cyberspace”—but still dominates how policymakers approach cyber issues. Therefore, there is value in moving away from these imperfect analogies to grapple with cyberspace as it actually is.

Analysis of the Ukraine conflict will undoubtedly contribute to greater understanding of the strategic and operational utility of cyber power. However, we should be cautious about drawing sweeping conclusions from an ongoing and dynamic war. Analysis and output from security professionals is important—but should be informed not only by technical expertise but also social science.

Dr. Erica Lonergan (née Borghard) is an assistant professor in the Army Cyber Institute at West Point. She is also a research scholar at the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies at Columbia University. Erica previously served as a senior director on the Cyberspace Solarium Commission.

Captain Maggie Smith, PhD, is a US Army cyber officer currently assigned to the Army Cyber Institute at the United States Military Academy where she is a scientific researcher, an assistant professor in the Department of Social Sciences, and an affiliated faculty of the Modern War Institute. She is also the director of the Competition in Cyberspace Project.

The views expressed are those of the authors and do not reflect the official position of the United States Military Academy, Department of the Army, or Department of Defense.

Image credit: Staff Sgt. Jacob Osborne, US Marine Corps

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mwi.usma.edu · by Erica D. Lonergan · July 21, 2022



​19. Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco Delivers Keynote Address at International Conference on Cyber Security (ICCS) 2022


Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco Delivers Keynote Address at International Conference on Cyber Security (ICCS) 2022

justice.gov · July 19, 2022

Remarks as Prepared for Delivery

Thanks so much, Ed. It’s great to be back at Fordham and ICCS. It’s also great to be sharing the stage with another former federal prosecutor – President Tetlow. I see great colleagues and friends in the audience from my previous tours at the White House and the government. It’s also great to be here in person for the first time since COVID began.

The FBI and Fordham University convene this forum for experts and leaders to discuss the complex cybersecurity challenges facing our country. And every year, those challenges get more and more pressing.

The last time I spoke here, I sat in a different seat in government; I was President Obama’s Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor. I was part of the team that briefed him every morning on the urgent threats facing our nation. And over those years, I spent more and more time during that morning briefing him on cyber threats – in particular, nation-state actors.

Since returning to the government and in my current seat as the Deputy Attorney General, I have been struck by an evolution: malicious cyber actors becoming more aggressive, more sophisticated, more belligerent and brazen – and an increased blurring of the line between state-sponsored cyberattacks and attacks by criminal groups.

At the Justice Department, keeping the American people safe from all threats, foreign and domestic, is an essential part of our mission. That is why, over the last year, we have been focusing on attacking cyber threats from every angle. We are taking a proactive approach to the threat. That approach has been informed by a Comprehensive Cyber Review conducted over the last year – the final report of which we are releasing today.

Building on the work of cyber experts in the Justice Department from across Administrations, our focus has been on increasing our capacity to disrupt and to respond to malicious cyber activity. And the report we release today reflects what we have learned over the last year, including the need to prioritize prevention, to ensure we are doing all we can to help victims, and above all else – to use all the tools at our disposal, working with partners here and around the globe, across the government and across the private sector. This approach has yielded real results. In the last year, those results – reflected in actions and disruptions – many of which began with critical reporting from and cooperation with companies who have been victims of cyber-attacks.

Today, I’m pleased to announce that this approach has produced real results again – thanks to rapid reporting and cooperation from a victim, the FBI and Justice Department prosecutors have disrupted the activities of a North Korean state-sponsored group deploying ransomware known as “Maui.” That ransomware targeted U.S. medical facilities and other public health sector organizations.

Last year, a medical center in Kansas experienced the dread that faces too many critical infrastructure operators. North Korean state-sponsored cyber actors encrypted the hospital’s servers – servers being used to store critical data and to operate key equipment. The attackers left behind a note demanding ransom, and they threatened to double it within 48 hours. In that moment, the hospital’s leadership faced an impossible choice – give in to the ransom demand or cripple the ability of doctors and nurses to provide critical care.

Left with no real choice, the hospital’s leadership paid the ransom. But they also notified the FBI, which was the right thing to do for themselves and for future victims.

The FBI and Justice Department prosecutors immediately got to work on what was then a never-before-seen ransomware variant. They traced the ransom payment through the blockchain – just as we did in the aftermath of the attack on the Colonial Pipeline. Following the crypto-breadcrumbs, the FBI identified China-based money launderers – the type who regularly assist North Koreans in “cashing out” ransom payments into fiat currency. Additional blockchain analysis revealed that these same accounts contained other ransom payments. The FBI traced those to another medical provider in Colorado and potential overseas victims.

Now, all this digital sleuthing paid off several weeks ago: from the money laundering accounts, we seized approximately half a million dollars in ransom payments and cryptocurrency used to launder those payments. This recovery includes all the ransom paid by the Kansas medical center, plus what we believe are ransoms paid by other victims, including that medical provider in Colorado. And as a result of all this work, the FBI, and their partners at CISA and Treasury, shared the fruits of their investigation in a joint Cybersecurity Advisory regarding the Maui threat.

And today, we have made public the seizure of those ransom payments, and we are returning the stolen funds to the victims.

In sum, a medical center in Kansas did the right thing at a moment of crisis and called the FBI. What flowed from that virtuous decision was: the recovery of their ransom payment; the recovery of ransoms paid by previously unknown victims; the identification of a previously unidentified ransomware strain; all from an investigation that allowed the FBI and its partners to release a cybersecurity advisory to empower network defenders everywhere.

This approach attacks malicious cyber activity from every angle. It incorporates lessons from our fight against other national security threats like terrorism; it puts prevention first; it takes a victim-centered approach; and it uses all the tools at our disposal; and focuses on the reporting we receive from private sector companies, to maximize our ability to take down bad actors – and importantly to prevent the next victim.

This example and others over the last year show that we can and should borrow the tools we use in other spaces. And that is exactly what we are doing – the department is applying its successful approaches to the threats of the past to the cyber threats of today. Like our approach to terrorism, we must be intelligence-led, threat-driven and laser-focused on preventing the next victim of malicious cyber activity.

And that’s exactly what we did earlier this year when the FBI and Justice Department prosecutors – working with partners internationally and here at home – disrupted a global botnet known as Cyclops Blink – which was under the control of the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence agency. Now, importantly, we detected this botnet of victim devices and disabled the GRU’s control over those devices before they could be used to initiate an attack – an attack against Ukraine, against us, against our allies. By working closely with WatchGuard, the manufacturer of the network devices targeted by the malware, and drawing on our in-house cyber talent to create the code and other technical solutions to identify and delete the malware, we were able to prevent that next cyber-attack. I want to acknowledge our cyber experts from Ukraine, who are with us today, who we are working with to combat Russia’s unprovoked aggression against Ukraine.

Efforts like this are prime examples of public-private partnerships at their most effective and what the future of cyber looks like. It is not enough to engage in after-the-fact prosecutions of hackers – that’s a lot for a federal prosecutor to say – but an increasing number of whom are working from safe havens abroad. With help from our partners, we can disrupt and dismantle the networks and capabilities before cybercriminals and state-sponsored hackers compromise their next victim.

But the reality is – as every single person in this room knows – we live in a world where it is impossible to disrupt all malicious cyber activity.

So we are also doing all we can to leverage our investigations to mitigate the harm to innocent victims, often with the help of the private sector.

The FBI took that approach last year when it obtained the decryptor key from actors who conducted the attack on Kaseya, threatening hundreds of downstream victims. Thanks to cooperation across the government and the private sector, the FBI was able to share the decryptor key with Kaseya and private sector partners, enabling the mass decryption of victim networks. Ultimately, we also charged R-Evil actors, one of whom was extradited to the U.S. earlier this year and will face trial in the Northern District of Texas. That’s thanks to cooperation from, among others, Bitdefender, McAfee and Microsoft, the FBI and its partners were able to assist many of the victims of R-Evil’s attack and to mitigate the harm to them and their businesses.

And none of this – none of this – would have been possible without Kaseya, which in their darkest hour made the right choice – again, they decided to work with the FBI.

Identifying and warning about the Maui variant and the Kaseya case exemplify the “all tools” approach to disrupting cyber threats.

Now, when we say “all tools,” we mean using all the tools we have at our disposal – our law enforcement and criminal justice tools, our financial enforcement tools like sanctions and export controls, and tools used by our international and private sector partners. And over the past year we are increasingly using our law enforcement tools in new and innovative ways.

Case in point: last year, we used our criminal and civil forfeiture authorities to turn the tables on ransomware attackers and to follow the money and seize back a significant portion of the proceeds from ransom paid to DarkSide, the group that attacked the Colonial Pipeline, disrupting fuel transport on the east coast last summer. And in Cyclops Blink, the global botnet I mentioned earlier under the GRU’s control, we used a tried-and-true law enforcement authority – a search warrant, that’s right, a search warrant – to disrupt the botnet operation.

And the department’s Civil Cyber-Fraud Initiative, which we launched last year, has applied our traditional expertise in civil fraud enforcement to hold accountable those companies that contract with the federal government and receive federal funds, but fail to follow required cybersecurity standards.

This initiative’s work recently resulted in a defense contractor agreeing to pay $9 million to resolve allegations that it misrepresented its compliance with cybersecurity requirements in NASA and Department of Defense contracts – this is the second such settlement under this initiative. Holding contractors accountable for their cybersecurity promises will enhance resiliency against cyber intrusions across the government, the public sector and key industries.

“All tools” also means using everything at our disposal to target the ecosystem that fuels malicious cyber activities.

Focusing on the entire threat ecosystem is how we have long tackled national security threats – like, terrorism – and we’ve got to apply that approach to cyber.

This was our vision when we launched the Ransomware and Digital Extortion Task Force and the National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team to develop new ways to address the explosion of ransomware and the abuse and illicit use of cryptocurrency.

Each of these actions underscore our clear message to cyber criminals and to nation states: if you target the American people, if you target our small businesses, our hospitals, our critical infrastructure – the Justice Department will target you.

But we know that our approach to these threats can’t be done in isolation – our partners are critically important to all of this work.

We could not have carried out the Cyclops Blink botnet operation without the assistance of WatchGuard. Colonial Pipeline stepped up and reported quickly to the FBI that its computer network had been accessed and that it had paid a ransom demand. And, of course, the Kansas medical center that I spoke about at the outset did the right thing by reporting their ransomware attack.

The key to our ability to take disruptive action is to work together. One of the most important steps in disrupting malicious cyber activity is to increase the reporting of cybercrimes by private sector victims or online platforms as soon as those crimes occur.

A significant accomplishment in this regard was the Cyber Incident Reporting for Critical Infrastructure Act of 2022 – a much-needed step towards ensuring that critical private sector entities report cyber incidents and ransomware payments to the government.

In implementing this landmark law, we will work with our partners at CISA and across the federal government to ensure that, as the reporting flows in, federal law enforcement receives the information they need and can rapidly use to go after the adversary behind the attack – and prevent the next victim. I applaud CISA Director Jen Easterly for her great partnership and commitment to ensuring that cyber incident reporting received by CISA is immediately shared with the FBI so it can used to claw back that ransom payment and disrupt that botnet.

Cooperation will allow us to follow the money, to extract decryptor keys and to prevent the next victim.

As the operations I’ve discussed today have shown, the information provided by the private sector is crucial to our disruption efforts, and allows the department to identify the evidence, victims and infrastructure associated with these crimes.

As the private sector faces cyber threats, inevitable questions will arise: Why should we go to law enforcement? Where are the benefits? What’s in it for me and my company?

The answer is that if you report that attack, if you report the ransom demand and payment, if you work with the FBI, we can take action; we can follow the money and get it back; we can help prevent the next attack, the next victim; and we can hold cybercriminals accountable. Those companies that work with us will see that we stand with them in the aftermath of an incident.

The bottom line is this: we are all in this together. It is bad for companies and bad for America if we don’t work together on these issues.

But we need our partners in the private sector for more than reporting and visibility into cyber attacks. We also need your know-how and your talent to prepare for the threats of tomorrow.

The department’s cyber workforce is defending this country every day and I think it is punching well above its weight. The techniques used in the Cyclops Blink operation to identify the vulnerability in the botnet’s command-and-control mechanisms, to impersonate the GRU’s communications to that botnet, and ultimately to remove the malware, were developed with the in-house technical expertise of the department’s FBI agents and prosecutors.

To do all that, and to increase the tempo of our disruption operations, we need to recruit more and retain more of the best class, cyber-savvy workforce at all levels. We need to build the next generation of prosecutors, agents, computer and data scientists and network defenders.

Yesterday, I visited the National Cyber-Forensics Training Alliance – a public-private partnership focused on increasing information sharing to identify, mitigate and disrupt cyber threats.

I was there to recruit the next generation for this work – to speak to students, recent graduates, professors, and career advisors from law schools and universities around New York.

I told them that the department, including the FBI, has a one-of-a-kind cyber mission that frankly you can’t find anywhere else. It is a mission that allows even those fresh out of school, to identify cybercriminals on victim networks, in grey space and even on the hacker’s own networks. Not only do our teams enforce the rule of law and neutralize bad actors, they take back ill-gotten gains, they cut off hacking infrastructure and convict hackers of crimes, all with the mission of protecting the American people.

I asked the students I met to be part of our next class of Cyber Fellows, a program developed out of our Cyber Review that I announced today. This is the group that will train the next generation of attorneys to tackle evolving cyber threats.

This fall, our first class of Cyber Fellows will join the ranks of the Justice Department and work on investigations ranging from state-sponsored cyber threats to transnational criminal groups.

So, I will take this opportunity – here at a great university – to repeat the message I delivered yesterday: we need the next generation’s help. Join our ranks. I encourage the young talent in this audience to consider applying for future fellowship classes, or to consider other pathways to the department’s. You are exactly what we need to address the cyber threats of today and tomorrow.

At the Justice Department, we will continue to work aggressively and relentlessly to keep our country safe from all threats, both online and off, and we need your help.

For those of you in the private sector, we need your reporting. For those students and young professionals out there, we need your talents. And for the many U.S. and foreign government personnel in the audience and elsewhere, we need your continued excellent work and partnership and commitment to the cause. Thank you for the work you are doing every day to keep our communities safe and to protect all that we hold dear.


justice.gov · July 19, 2022



20. Ukraine war forcing China to rethink ‘how and when’ it may invade Taiwan, CIA chief says


Excerpts:


Burns said that China was “unsettled” when looking at Russia’s five-month-old war in Ukraine, which he characterised as a “strategic failure” for president Vladimir Putin as he had hoped to topple the Kyiv government within a week.
“Our sense is that it probably affects less the question of whether the Chinese leadership might choose some years down the road to use force to control Taiwan, but how and when they would do it,” Burns said.
He said that China is believed to have observed from Ukraine that “you don’t achieve quick, decisive victories with underwhelming force.”


Ukraine war forcing China to rethink ‘how and when’ it may invade Taiwan, CIA chief says

Bill Burns says China ‘unsettled’ by Russia’s war in Ukraine and it may influence decisions on the possible use of force against Taiwan

The Guardian · July 21, 2022

Russia’s experience in Ukraine is affecting China’s calculations on how and when it may decide to invade Taiwan, the head of the CIA said on Wednesday.

Appearing at the Aspen Security Forum, Central Intelligence Agency director Bill Burns played down speculation that Chinese president Xi Jinping could move on Taiwan after a key Communist party meeting later this year.

“The risks of that become higher, it seems to us, the further into this decade that you get,” Burns said, adding: “I wouldn’t underestimate President Xi’s determination to assert China’s control” over self-ruling Taiwan.

Burns said that China was “unsettled” when looking at Russia’s five-month-old war in Ukraine, which he characterised as a “strategic failure” for president Vladimir Putin as he had hoped to topple the Kyiv government within a week.

Chinese invasion of Taiwan ‘would be catastrophic miscalculation’

Read more

“Our sense is that it probably affects less the question of whether the Chinese leadership might choose some years down the road to use force to control Taiwan, but how and when they would do it,” Burns said.

He said that China is believed to have observed from Ukraine that “you don’t achieve quick, decisive victories with underwhelming force.”

“I suspect the lesson that the Chinese leadership and military are drawing is that you’ve got to amass overwhelming force if you’re going to contemplate that in the future,” he said.

China also has likely learned that it has to “control the information space” and “do everything you can to shore up your economy against the potential for sanctions,” he added.

Burns, in line with previous US assessments, said that the United States does not believe that Beijing is offering military support to Russia despite rhetorical backing.

He said China has stepped up purchases of Russian energy but appears careful about not incurring western sanctions.

China considers self-ruled Taiwan part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.

China’s defeated nationalists fled to Taiwan in 1949 after losing the mainland’s civil war, but the island has since developed into a vibrant democracy and leading technological power.

Speaking before Burns at the forum in the Rocky Mountains, China’s ambassador to the United States, Qin Gang, said that Beijing still preferred “peaceful reunification”.

But he accused the US of supporting “independence” forces in Taiwan, where president Tsai Ing-wen has asserted the island’s separate identity.

“No conflict and no war is the biggest consensus between China and the United States,” Qin said. But the United States is “hollowing out and blurring” its stated policy of recognising only Beijing, he said.

“Only by adhering strictly to the one-China policy, only by joining hands to constrain and oppose Taiwan independence, can we have a peaceful reunification,” he said.

Under a law passed by Congress when Washington switched recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, the US is required to provide weapons to Taiwan for its self-defence.

US president Joe Biden said in May that the US was ready to use force to defend Taiwan from a Chinese attack, appearing to shed the long-held US ambiguity on whether it would engage militarily, although the White House quickly walked his comments back.

Biden told reporters on Wednesday that he expected to speak to Xi “within the next 10 days”.

The Guardian · July 21, 2022






21. Is The CIA Risk Averse?


Careerism.


Excerpts:


Senior CIA leadership needs to demonstrate that failed leadership driven by concern for one's own career will not be tolerated. I understand this is a difficult thing to do. It is a fine balance between holding someone accountable for putting their career first over the mission and avoiding the impression that leaders will be punished for any risk-taking. But, in general, most people know who the officers are who place their careers above all else. Their subordinates know who they are, their peers know who they are, and their leaders know them as well. There needs to be a culture within the CIA where a leader's responsibilities are made clear: carry out the mission, take care of your people, uphold the highest moral and ethical standards, and place yourself last.


Is The CIA Risk Averse?

  • Luis Rueda

  • Jul 14

debriefarundown.com · July 13, 2022


Much has been written in the media about the CIA being risk-averse. Even some former CIA officers have commented on how the CIA avoids risk, making it a less effective intelligence agency. Clearly, this is a serious problem if an intelligence agency avoids risks. This would prevent them from getting the job done. Espionage, after all, involves considerable risk. For those of you who don't know and just to establish a standard frame of reference, risk-averse means "disinclined or reluctant to take risks." However, I believe the idea that the CIA is risk-averse is simplistic and does not reflect reality. I don't say this because I am some unquestioning acolyte of the Agency. But overall, the CIA is not risk-averse. Let me explain.

The idea that the Agency is risk-averse spreads every time the CIA decides not to undertake some action or operation. When a case officer goes to their managers and proposes some operation and the managers reject it, the easiest and usually first assumption is that management is risk-averse. Otherwise, "Why wouldn't they approve my wonderful idea?" There are many reasons why they wouldn't have that have nothing to do with risk-aversion. Management might not think it is such a wonderful idea, having seen similar ideas throughout their career fail. There might be other reasons you are not aware of. I have observed officers make proposals that are shot down with little explanation. They walk out of the room muttering and complaining. What they didn't know, in many of these cases, was that there were more important, overriding issues at play that the case officer was not aware of and couldn't be told of for security reasons.

The higher a proposal goes the more factors come into play. At a station, the Chief of Station (COS) has the responsibility of the station and how a proposal fits into that station's objectives. At a higher Headquarters (HQS) level, many things come into play that a case officer or station management might not be aware of, including resources and competing operations in other locations. At higher levels, the complexity increases. You might want to recruit an individual you believe has important access to information. You might not know that there is already a penetration of that organization that no one wants to jeopardize should your recruitment attempt fail. Or there might be a technical operation that is yielding important amounts of intelligence that no one at the highest levels of the U.S. national security apparatus wants to \jeopardize. And yes, at the highest levels politics will come into play as well as larger national security issues.

Intelligence is, in part, about risk management. Is the risk we take worth the intelligence gain? We are in an inherently risky occupation. We need to be certain that the risk makes sense. Are we going to recruit someone and place their life in danger, as well as risk being caught, for marginal intelligence information that can be acquired more easily and safely elsewhere? Intelligence professionals do not take risks for the sake of the risk or because it is cool. We do it because it makes sense and the intelligence we gain by taking that risk is worth it.

That having been said, there is a degree of risk aversion at the CIA, and throughout the intelligence community. However, this risk aversion is not unique to us. You can find it in the ranks of the military, corporate America, and numerous other places. It is not an organizational aversion to risk, rather, it is an aversion to any risk that would hurt an individual’s career prospects. I call it career risk-aversion. It centers around the age-old question, "Will taking this risk hurt my career?" This question gets asked by highly ambitious people whose main objective is not the mission, but rising through the ranks and reaching whatever they believe is the pinnacle. Ambition is not a bad thing. It propels us to do better, and that benefits the mission. I have worked with officers who lacked ambition and viewed their time with the CIA as a way to get great travel opportunities and benefits. They contributed little to the success of the mission. However, too much ambition is equally damaging to the Agency's mission.

I remember the movie poster for the film Saving Private Ryan when it first came out. One of the headlines said, "Sometimes the mission is one man." That is the motto of the overly ambitious, the mission is one man and that man is themselves. Careerism is alive and well at the CIA. Risks are measured by the personal impact on the individuals making those decisions, rather than if the risk benefits the mission or operation. If an officer knows the risk he or she is taking, has the support of those above them, then they will take the risk. If they believe they will be penalized and their career will suffer if the risk fails, they will think twice about taking that risk. This doesn't apply to all CIA officers (nothing in life is totally good or bad). In fact, it likely applies to a minority, but that minority is large enough that it can and does impact some decision-making. Many of these careerists rise to senior ranks and that negatively affects the overall mission. It also teaches the wrong lesson to junior officers.

Decision-making becomes more painful as managers decide to send decisions up the chain of command so they will not be the ones making the controversial decisions —and avoid the risk of making said decisions. Leaders cease to become leaders and become managers instead, and not very good managers at that. Frustrations mount, opportunities are lost, and the mission suffers.

Some people will say this careerism proves the CIA is risk-averse. I would argue that there is a difference, maybe subtle, but it is a difference. There is not a culture of risk aversion in the CIA, it is not inherent in the business of espionage. On the contrary, there is a culture of taking risks, it is one of the reasons many of us join. The trouble is in the growth of careerism. It is like a cancer that consumes its host.

Is the CIA risk-averse? No. I have personally worked with or observed officers who take incredible risks to carry out the mission, including risks to their very lives. The problem lies with the fact that careerism thrives in the Agency—we know it, senior leadership knows it, and nothing is done. Those who promote their careers above all else still thrive and succeed. They fail as leaders spectacularly. There are several who have been repeatedly removed from their management positions for having failed miserably, yet they continue to be promoted and given ever-increasing responsibility. At which they continue to fail.

Senior CIA leadership needs to demonstrate that failed leadership driven by concern for one's own career will not be tolerated. I understand this is a difficult thing to do. It is a fine balance between holding someone accountable for putting their career first over the mission and avoiding the impression that leaders will be punished for any risk-taking. But, in general, most people know who the officers are who place their careers above all else. Their subordinates know who they are, their peers know who they are, and their leaders know them as well. There needs to be a culture within the CIA where a leader's responsibilities are made clear: carry out the mission, take care of your people, uphold the highest moral and ethical standards, and place yourself last.

debriefarundown.com · July 13, 2022


22. ‘Stopping Putin in Ukraine Will Send a Message to Xi Jinping’


Interview by Klon Kitchen with Robert O'Brien.



‘Stopping Putin in Ukraine Will Send a Message to Xi Jinping’

current.thedispatch.com · by Klon Kitchen

Hello and happy Thursday!

The Kitchens are on vacation this week and we’re having a wonderful time. The picture below is from the dueling grounds at Weehawken, New Jersey—where Alexander Hamilton was shot by Aaron Burr.


As we continue our travels I thought it’d be nice to provide a condensed and edited transcript of my recent interview with former Trump national security advisor, Robert O’Brien. We spoke last week on the Dispatch podcast (listen here) and we cover a lot of different topics of interest—including China, Ukraine, and the January 6 riots at the Capitol.

Before diving in, a few listeners have said I should have pushed O’Brien harder on his January 6 comments. Perhaps. I’m certainly not a hard-nosed journalist like many of my fellow Dispatchers. But if I’m honest, I also have to admit that I was a little sympathetic to his cause. The reality is that the political rally and the other events that day were not under the purview of the national security adviser. Those were political decisions being made by political operatives and by the president.

It’s also true that it was the intelligence community that was raising many of the alarms about how the protests could get out of hand and I’m sure O’Brien was making those assessments known. Even more, when his deputy, Matt Pottenger, resigned that afternoon, O’Brien’s hands were pretty much tied because national security doesn’t take a time out when things go sideways domestically (in fact, they get even more serious). The nation would have genuinely been less safe if he had resigned prior to the Biden administration taking office—and the fact that O’Brien was the last senior executive at the White House on Inauguration Day reinforces this point.

Having said all of that, here’s the transcript and I hope it gives you a little bit of insight into a job that is hugely important and often very difficult.

See ya next week!

KLON: Robert, thanks for taking time to join me for a conversation.

ROBERT O’BRIEN: Great to be with you Klon, thank you.

KLON: You were the fourth NSA to President Trump, is that right?

ROBERT O'BRIEN: I was, so we’d had Michael Flynn and H.R. McMaster and John Bolton.

KLON: Talk a little bit about the president’s general approach to national security and foreign policy, the types of work that you were advising him on.

ROBERT O'BRIEN: So, the job of the assistant to the president for national security affairs, or the NSA job, is to be the principal foreign policy and national security adviser to the president—and I took a little different view of my work than I think my predecessors did. I told the president this in the interview (and I think maybe one of the reasons why he asked me to do the job) is I felt that President Trump had a very well-defined foreign policy. I thought he should get the best options and best advice on whatever issue he was facing, and then once he made a decision the departments and agencies should implement that decision. I didn't view my job is trying to educate him on what his policy should be, I didn't come to the job with a foreign policy agenda—'ve got well-thought out views on a lot of issues, but again, I was staffing the president. I wasn't a principal, and I hadn't been elected by anybody to put my foreign policy in place. My job was to make sure the president got—whether it was a long term issue that we were facing, great power competition for example, or an immediate crisis like COVID or the Baghdadi situation—to make sure the president got the absolute best advice from his Cabinet secretaries. And if he wanted my opinion at the end of the day after hearing from everybody else, and everyone having had their day in court, I'd give my advice. And then once the president made a decision on how to proceed, our job with the NSC was to coordinate with the Cabinet and the Cabinet secretaries and and their departments and agencies to make sure that the president’s foreign policy was implemented.

KLON: That sounds very reminiscent of the way Secretary[Condoleezza] Rice would talk about her role when she was the NSA. That she wanted to make sure that the president was getting as diverse and as deep a counsel as he could on those issues. You know, let's put Michael Flynn aside, but you can see how McMasters and Bolton both came in with a very developed, comprehensive, and public kind of world view on foreign policy issues, and I can see the daylight between how you're describing your approach and perhaps how they might have. I think, from at least open press reporting, why the president kind of chafed against some of that. He probably didn't want to feel like he was being kind of lectured to, he wanted the implementation of his view.

ROBERT O'BRIEN: No, I think that's right. And you know I worked for Condi at the State Department when she was secretary, and she was one of the first visitors I had I think. I took office on a Tuesday and she flew back to see me on a Sunday. We sat in her old office (my new office) and she very generously gave me a couple of hours of her time, and I think Condi tried to follow, and I tried to follow, a model established by Brent Scowcroft, who’d served twice as national security advisor under both President Ford and President Bush—H.W. Bush. And every national security adviser when they come office invokes that, it's kind of a mantra that you know we're going to do the Scowcroft model, but I think it's been followed in the breach more than the regular order.

So I really did try to restore the Scowcroft model, and I think when you look at what we did with a slimmed down NSC—I mean when I got there there was still almost 200 policy professionals, Condi’d had 106 at the height of Afghanistan, Iraq, the global war on terror, great power competition, she’d had half that and I kind of took that as my model as well—we got a very efficient NSC. We had an NSC that really ran on process where, again, all the Cabinet agencies and departments had their data to give their best views and best options. If there was a split opinion I’d have each side elect a representative, so it might be Pompeo on one side and Mnuchin on the other, and we’d go see the president and I’d make sure the president heard both sets of views. But for the most part, we were able to drive consensus and go to the president with a set of options that we thought were best for the American people, and again that was derived out of deputies committee meetings and weekly principal committee meetings where we got the best input from—whether it was Treasury or Commerce or State or Defense or the IC. And I think of the results of what we did with NATO funding, with getting Baghdadi, with putting Iran in a box, with the new consensus on China, certainly on the peacemaking front with the Abraham Accords, with Serbia-Kosovo, with healing the Gulf rift and even Afghanistan, I think the results were pretty impressive, and in eighteen months.

KLON: I’m curious about our perspective on the state of the intelligence community. What’s your take on the IC? How’s it doing? Are there specific ways that it needs to evolve to be more aligned to modern statecraft and policymaking?

ROBERT O'BRIEN: So I think when it comes to collection, we’re second to none. It’s pretty impressive what we can pull together. And I think the IC, like anything else, it’s a tremendous tool. They have great abilities with their SIGINT or ELINT or even human intelligence. However we think of it, and however we collect, it gets the policymakers – people like me, the secretary of state, the CIA director, the folks that have to advise the president and advise Congress on what we should be doing – it gets us what we need.

I think one thing that’s—there are a couple of issues with the intelligence community. One, I think it’s like any big bureaucracy, becomes a little risk-averse. And sometimes we need people that’ll—even if they’re wrong—that’ll step up with an innovative or thoughtful theory that may not fall with conventional wisdom. You always worry that people might not want to be the outlier because they're afraid of how it’ll affect their career, but we need the outliers. Even if the outliers are wrong, they’re provocative and they cause us to think about things, that – maybe look at things a different way and come up with a different solution.

We’ve got a lot of people who are highly skilled and spent the best years of their life in places like Jalalabad and Kandahar and Anbar and Fallujah, places like that, and know that part of the world incredibly well. But the world is changing. And those places remain important to the United States, we can’t ignore them, but our existential threat comes from the Communist Party of China and their Ministry of State Security on the IC front. Those guys are deadly and serious, and of course we still have what was the former KGB, the FSB and SVR now with the Russians, and the Iranians have the MOIS. So we need to start shifting our focus both as a government to the Indo-Pacific, but also to Russia in Eastern Europe and keep an eye on Iran. And so we want to make sure we’re not just living in the surge in 2006, in the glory days of Baghdad and the second Bush term.

KLON: So as you were in your position, what types of domestic threat work were you engaged in? What did that look like? What were the kinds of concerns that developed over the course of your time at the White House?

ROBERT O'BRIEN: Yeah my biggest domestic concern, Klon, was the CPC (the Communist Party of China) and the People’s Republic of China and their infiltration into the U.S. which is extensive, pervasive, there are cells everywhere, they have an unbelievable ability to track their students who are here, to enforce their party orthodox on Chinese—even second- and third-generation Chinese that are here—to collect intelligence, to steal our IP. Christopher Ray talked about this in the summer of 2020 in a speech he gave—we gave a series of four speeches, Bill Barr, Chris Ray, myself and Mike Pompeo each gave a speech on China, we each took a different area and kind of laid out the threat—and Chris Ray made a statement in his speech that I thought was really interesting. I've repeated it several times. “The Chinese IP theft is the largest transfer of wealth in human history.” In other words, the Chinese are taking more money and value out of the U.S. over the past 40 years through theft of our intellectual property than any sack of Rome, Trajan’s campaign in Dacia.

Look, there are certainly threats here. We have an Antifa threat, you know we had domestic terrorism on the left, we’re seeing now some of the reports about the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys and some of these threats on the right. And those are things we need to keep an eye on, and I don’t want to minimize those threats, but I think the threat that we’re facing from the Communist Party of China is a threat to our way of life and our future liberty. And I think we’ve got to be careful about, you know, sending FBI agents out to school boards to watch parents protesting about CRT when they really ought to be trailing Chicom agents who are operating here that we know about—and we’ve got to be careful not to let our domestic politics influence how the IC does our counter-intelligence here in the US. So that was my biggest concern, and again not that other concerns aren’t important, but when we think about our kids having liberty and the ability of the pursuit of happiness—not just in America but in the other democracies—we’re facing an existential threat right now.

KLON: But it does seem over the last several years to have adjusted to some of the—what we’ll call “politically right-wing” groups that you mentioned, and that are in the news right now obviously with Oath Keepers and Proud Boys and the like. Not only them, but certainly them. How did that come up as an issue for you to deal with?

ROBERT O'BRIEN: You do. In my case we had a great attorney general in Bill Barr, and Chad Wolf was our acting homeland security secretary—both very capable men. And so for the most part we sort of coordinated the advice they got, but we left that to the FBI and the DOJ and Homeland to do most of those briefings. I would of course be there, and again the threats we saw changed even over the year and a half that I was national security advisor. At the outset we had the BLM movement and a lot of Antifa, so I mean you had situations where you know, pallets of bricks were being delivered close to the White House and a really impressive logistics chain—not impressive in that it was a good thing but impressive in that these Antifa folks were very good at logistics and created massive damage, I mean far greater damage than happened on January 6 (which again I condemned at the time, in real time, and was a terrible thing to happen to our country). But we also faced—I mean, I was taken to an undisclosed location at least two times because of attacks on the White House by Antifa that haven’t been covered to the same extent as some of the other outbreaks. So both on the far left and the far right, whether you’ve got Antifa or these Proud Boys types—and you know I don’t even think it’s fair to call them “far left” or “far right” because I think it’s unfair to liberals or conservatives—but just these domestic extremists, and certainly they’re being radicalized and coordinating and we know this from both types of groups.

KLON: Yeah. I think you're exactly right in the sense that no political faction, wherever it is on the spectrum, has a monopoly on—unfortunately on political violence and extremism right now. It does seem to be this proliferating challenge and it has evolved over the course of even my time kind of engaging in these issues. You—I just want to touch on this briefly—but you bring up January 6. What was your day like that day? Like, how did those events unfolding— what does that look like from your perspective in the White House?

ROBERT O'BRIEN: Yeah so I was actually—and this hasn’t been publicly reported on and I don’t spend a lot of time talking about it—I was in Florida at SOUTHCOM. But that’s where I was on January 6, I was actually in a SCIF most of the day until I was pulled out of the SCIF by my staff to let me know what was going on. We finally made it back to Washington late that night, but look in real time I put out tweets on my personal Twitter account and I was impressed by the courage of the vice president staying there. I spoke to a number of our senators, I was waiting for my Coast Guard plane to get me home, and I certainly condemned the protesters and did all of that very publicly. It was—as I said, I think that day it was an utter disgrace, what those people did in the Capitol.

KLON: So we can transition now to a couple of the key hot spots. When you think about China and the possible move on Taiwan, do you see that as a growing possibility? What were the types of briefings that you were getting while you were NSA?

ROBERT O'BRIEN: That’s a great question. Look, it’s a very serious concern. It’s the—it might be the most pressing concern that Jake Sullivan (the current national security advisor) and the president face, Lloyd Austin the [secretary of defense] and Tony Blinken. We know from Admiral Davidson, Admiral Davidson who was thecombatant commander for the INDOPACOM AOR out in Hawaii (Pearl Harbor), he said a couple of years ago that he had thought it was a five- to seven-year window for the Chinese to invade. In the last days I was national security adviser I said, “Look, I think it’s going to be shorter than that,” and since President Biden’s taken office and as the Chinese watch what’s happening in Ukraine, there are folks now—I saw a headline that one analyst is predicting in October 2022 an invasion of Taiwan, and we’re seeing that the Chinese put everything in place to be able to do so.

KLON: And so do you think that—it depends on how we define success, but do you think that a successful Chinese invasion of Taiwan is—that there’s a potential there for kind of a fait accompli where they could act in such a way to where they can act quickly enough and decisively enough before the United States could really respond, to where it just becomes a done deal? Is that a possibility?

ROBERT O'BRIEN: That’s our play book. I mean the good news is, without getting into details, we’ve got a few things up our sleeve as well. We’re not—we don’t lack all capability to defeat a Chinese amphibious invasion. We’ve got some exquisite capabilities of our own, many of which aren’t public. And so I don’t think the Chinese can—I think they’re trying to put themselves in a position to do that kind of invasion and hit fast and accomplish their goals before we can get into the theater, but we’ve got somethings that could interrupt that planning and that sort of an operation. I’ll leave it at that.

KLON: Okay, so let’s now kind of turn to Ukraine—and as we talk about Ukraine, I think one thing that would be especially helpful is if you could obviously give us your insights terms of what you’re seeing and what you’re anticipating, but also there is a growing movement on the kind of right side of the political aisle toward what they euphemistically refer to as “restraint.” There’s a growing kind of “restraint” movement particularly in conservative politics where– you know, with the recent $40 billion supplemental bill that was passed eventually for supporting Ukraine, there was a lot of disagreement on the political right about this. And I think that is in fact emblematic of this growing voice within Republican and conservative circles. I’m curious about your thoughts on that, and then the—kind of the broader Ukraine challenge and where you think the United States should be aligning its time and resources on Ukraine.

ROBERT O'BRIEN: Well let me address the political issue first.I talk about what Ronald Reagan talked about which is “peace through strength.” You know, the way to stay out of a war—and people are exhausted by the wars, these are the folks that have sent their kids off to go fight in places like Jalalabad and Fallujah and Anbar and… the Sahel in Burkina and Niger. These are the people that sent their sons and daughters out to go fight those wars, and so there is a concern and exhaustion that America is overextended, and that we’re perhaps fighting in wars that we shouldn’t be involved in—trying to turn Afghanistan into Sweden or that sort of thing. And that’s a legitimate concern, and I understand the folks who raise those issues—but Ukraine is a very different situation. You know Ukraine—the Ukrainians are fighting for themselves. The Ukrainians aren’t asking for American airmen to enforce a no-fly zone. They’re asking for MIGs so that their own pilots can enforce a no-fly zone over their own country. They’re fighting out on the front lines in Donbas, and under incredibly trying circumstances, and fighting for their own country; and they’ve got massive enlistment, there’s no lack of morale, there’s no lack of dedication to fighting. But what they’re asking for is for America to be the arsenal of democracy. And if we don’t stand up for freedom here, and if we don’t provide folks in Ukraine or other places with the tools and equipment they need to stop Russian aggression, you know eventually it’s going to be up to Americans to go do it. And so—you know once you have that conversation, I’ve found very little disagreement when Americans understand that Ukrainians are fighting for themselves, and all they’re asking from us is for us to give them the tools to fight the Russians. And I think you get a very different response than maybe your standard, Tucker Carlson monologue; and again I haven’t found whether it’s in Oklahoma or Nebraska or Idaho or Utah, any of these places I’ve been that are very conservative and very much folks that believe in America First—when you explain the stakes that are at issue, when you explain that this is the first time since the 1930s that a bigger neighbor has decided to invade a smaller neighbor just because they want their national resources, they want their population, they want that “might makes right,” that they can expand their empire through conquest, we haven’t recognized territorial expansion through conquest at least since the U.N. charter but even 100 years before that. So the idea that this is happening today is very bad. And when they understand that Xi Jinping in Beijing is watching to see how the West reacts to Putin’s invasion of and attempt to occupy Ukraine, he’s watching that to measure what he’s going to do in Taiwan. And when Xi Jinping attempts to take Taiwan—and if the Chinese communists are successful at taking Taiwan—geopolitically that’s an absolute disaster for the U.S. We could maybe survive Ukraine being taken over by the Russians, it would be very very difficult in the Indo-Pacific and for our allies to survive a Chinese takeover of Taiwan. That’s the cork coming out of the champagne bottle of the Pacific, and the champagne (in which there is the People’s Liberation Army and Navy) will spill all out into the entire Pacific from the Aleutians to Hawaii, the Midway to Wake, to California, South, to all the islands that our grandfathers and great uncles fought for in World War II. The Chinese are going to control the Pacific—it’s such a critical island in Taiwan, and that’s the most important economic zone in the entire world for the future of our economy, so that would be a travesty. So stopping Putin in Ukraine will send a message to Xi Jinping that you know, might stop him in Taiwan, and avoid a real catastrophe for America and our allies in the Pacific.

KLON: Putin has given every indication that if he were able to roll through Ukraine, that eventually he’s going to go—he’s going to continue on the expansion. All the same rationales that he used for Ukraine would exist with other countries, including NATO-bordering countries. And so eventually, you know, if Vladimir Putin is not sufficiently chastised and kind of pushed back into his hole, he’s going to take an action that even the most restrained kind of individual won’t be able to kind of look away from, right? I would say that Ukraine already constitutes a significant national interest on our part—in part because of the way you’ve described it—but then too, even if you don’t, he will continue to push and he has made that very clear. And so unfortunately we don’t have an option of kind of avoiding a kind of conflict because the other guy—in this case Putin—he gets a choice. And he’s making that choice, and he’s making it very clearly and publicly, and sometimes you just have to accept reality. So you’ve got to engage it.

ROBERT O'BRIEN: You’re 100 percent right, by the way. I mean look, he's threatening Poland. The reason the Finns joined NATO is because he said Finland was part of the Russian family—I think the Finns woke up after that speech and said “what the heck?” He’s threatening the Baltics, I mean these are NATO allies, certainly Moldova and Georgia. So we’re going to end up—if we don’t stop him in Ukraine, we are going to have American soldiers engaged with Russian soldiers in one of these other countries. And at that point, the risk of escalation is so high that you’ve got two massive nuclear powers in a land war, and the risks to America at that point are extraordinary. So we are far better off—as you point out, Klon, 100percent—letting the Ukrainians try and push the Russians back in Ukraine without asking for American troops on the ground. And if we get them the tools and the platforms they need, I think they can get the job done. The problem is we’re just not doing it.

They’re talking the talk but they’re not walking the walk. For example, the MIGs—why weren’t the Polish MIGs given to Ukraine in month one? That wasn’t going to spur nuclear war between the US and Russia. You know, keep in mind, a lot of our grandfathers and fathers fought in Korea and Vietnam. They were shot at every day by Russian MIGs. I mean there were Russian MIGs in Korea, there were Russian MIGs in Vietnam, we didn’t launch a nuclear war or say that was some sort of red line. If the Poles wanted to give the Ukrainians 29 MIGs, why didn’t we facilitate it? I mean, I kind of think back on our administration, you know Gina Haspel is so clever. Gina would have sold the planes to the Ukrainians through a Russian middleman, Putin would have gotten his 10 percent cut of it, and they would have been in Ukrainian livery the next day and no one would have known what happened. And instead we had this big, public debacle on the MIGs. So look√we’ve got to cut off the Russians, we’ve got to get the Ukrainians the MIGs already, and we’ve got to get them the long-range artillery and let them defend their country against the Soviet—this Russian invasion.

KLON: Yeah. Robert, you and I could keep going, there’s a ton of things that we could talk about but you’ve been very generous with your time already and we’re bumping into an hour so I want to kind of bring it to a close. But listen, being the national security adviser to a U.S. president is a big job, it’s a tough job. And you know look, I think the nation owes you an appreciation for the work that you did under difficult circumstances on some very difficult issues. I appreciate you taking the time to have this conversation with me.

ROBERT O'BRIEN: Thank you, honor to be with you Klon, you served a long time as well and so thank you for your service in the IC and in government.

current.thedispatch.com · by Klon Kitchen



23. The fundamental flaw in US plans to defend Taiwan from a Chinese assault



Excerpts:

If we are serious about being able to fight China, essential production lines will need to stay hot, either by continuing to build the minimum economic quantity of these systems indefinitely or by paying money to keep lines ready for a restart. That will require significant ongoing investments.
Weathering the economic storm and supply chain disruption accompanying such a war will require onshoring much of the civilian industrial base that has relocated overseas over the past several decades, especially for critical items. This will require a combination of tariffs, incentives, and subsidies, all of which will hit the U.S. Government and the American people in the pocketbook.
Lastly, while spending all that money on defense and the industrial base, the U.S. Government has to get its overall budget under control. We are now facing a national defense vulnerability due to our borrowing needs. Just like a family deeply in debt, our precarious national finances leave us poorly prepared to deal with major emergencies — in this case, military conflict with peer competitors. Our unpaid bill of $30 trillion and rising means far higher taxes and far fewer government services if we hope to get control of the debt.
A cliché is used far too often: “Freedom isn’t free.” But when people are asked to actually pay for freedom — not with their lives, just with their dollars and cents — competing priorities suddenly appear. If we are serious about being a world power and standing up for freedom, then we need to pay the bill.
If not, then we need to be honest and admit that President Kennedy’s “…pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty” was all just marketing. China will see the truth either way, whether we admit it or not.



The fundamental flaw in US plans to defend Taiwan from a Chinese assault

Arguments about defending Taiwan from China often revolve around weapons systems to fund or what operational plans should include. Those are worthwhile debates, but a larger discussion needs to happen.

BY CARL FORSLING | PUBLISHED JUL 20, 2022 9:00 AM

taskandpurpose.com · by Carl Forsling · July 20, 2022

Ukraine is upending a lot of assumptions about how future wars will look. While tactical lessons will be useful as U.S. services prioritize acquisitions and modify their doctrine, the strategic lessons are far more important.

If the U.S. cannot deter China from attacking Taiwan and other territories in the South China Sea, the main reason won’t be related to Marine Force Design 2030, Navy Distributed Maritime Operations, or any particular operational plan. It will have to do with America’s lack of willingness or ability to meet the immense economic and materiel requirements of a huge conflict that could last months.

Ukraine is revealing the future of war

Since the end of World War II, many people have assumed that any great power conflict would be short, intense, and over quickly, one way or another. In Ukraine, that model is falling apart. Analysts thought Russia would be able to launch lighting strikes on key objectives in Ukraine, decapitate Ukraine’s civilian leadership, and rapidly consolidate its gains.

Instead, a combination of Russian incompetence and Ukrainian courage saw that plan fall apart more quickly than Boris Yeltsin at a vodka tasting. The war has become a months-long slog with no end in sight. It is the type of war the U.S. has sought to avoid for its military since at least the 1980s — one with battles of attrition where each side tries to grind the other to dust.

In this war, Russia has an enormous stockpile of weapons and materiel, some dating back to the 1960s, that it’s been forced to throw into the fire. The size of that stockpile partially mitigates the fact that it boasts little indigenous manufacturing capability and sanctions prevent it from getting fresh supplies.

Ukraine had far less of a stockpile than the Russians but was soon able to tap into Western reserves — first vintage Soviet hardware from the former Warsaw Pact, then a cornucopia of NATO gear. Despite Herculean efforts from the U.S. and NATO, supplies are insufficient to meet Ukraine’s needs — and the war is likely closer to the beginning than the end.

Even that small war is exposing our weaknesses

An FGM-148 Javelin anti-tank missile is fired during the 36th Han Kung military exercises in Taichung City, central Taiwan, Thursday, July 16, 2020. (Chiang Ying-ying/AP)

The U.S. is already running low on Stinger and Javelin missiles. If it weren’t for unused Excess Defense Articles (EDA) like M113 armored personnel carriers and M777 howitzers, the U.S. would be hard pressed to help in many other categories of weapons and ordnance. The war is chewing up gear at an amazing rate. It will take years for the U.S. and NATO to recapitalize their stocks. By way of example, Ukraine has already received 5,500 Javelins and used most of them. The current capacity for building new Javelins is only 1,000 per year.

Yet the war in Ukraine would be dwarfed by any conflict between the U.S. and China. To give some sense of scale, before the conflict, Russia had a GDP of $1.78 trillion and 1.35 million men under arms against Ukraine’s $200 billion and 500,000 troops. By comparison, China fields 4 million under arms and an economy of $17.7 trillion versus America’s 2.1 million and GDP of $23 trillion.

This would be a clash of the titans. The amount of ordnance consumed in a war with China would be unprecedented since the end of WWII, and the U.S. will use more than man-portable missile systems. It will need high-end weapons systems like Tomahawks, Naval Strike Missiles, SM-6s, and Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missiles — all far harder to replace than Stingers and Javelins.

Generally, these types of systems are built in lots rather than continuously. Even if the production line is hot, the lead times for key components to produce more than the preplanned quantity can be months or years.

Just as importantly, where do those components come from? In a war in the South China Sea, it’s also likely that supplies coming from Asia would be severely disrupted by threats to commercial shipping — far more than we’ve seen from COVID. Taiwan, for example, is a major source of semiconductors, and it’s unlikely they’ll be doing business as usual in the middle of a war with China. Even though China may not supply military equipment and parts to the U.S., military and civilian needs would clash as each competed for key supplies.

Measures such as the Defense Production Act could mitigate some direct impacts on military supply chains, but that would further amplify the disruption to civilian businesses. That will cause an economic catastrophe that will make us nostalgic for the mild inflationary fallout we’ve seen from Ukraine. The economic impact alone could quickly dissolve the American public’s will to fight for the sake of small Pacific islands thousands of miles away.

That economic disruption would also dramatically reduce the tax revenue available to the U.S. government. Government expenses would already be skyrocketing because of the war. The budget deficit, already too large, would balloon as revenue and expenses diverged. And who’s going to bankroll a country’s debt in economic contraction? Not most private investors, not Asian countries like Japan, who will have their own problems with China on the warpath, and certainly not our usual biggest creditor — China. If the U.S. can’t borrow enough to service its existing debt, the economic contraction would become a complete collapse.

The longer the war goes on, the worse all these problems get.

We are not focused on the real issue

Members of Chinese special operations forces train in Beihai, North China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region on January 4, 2022. (Yu Haiyang/Costfoto/Future Publishing via Getty Images)

Arguments about defending Taiwan or deterring Chinese aggression often center around which weapons systems to fund or what operational plans should include. Those are worthwhile debates, but a larger discussion needs to happen.

The U.S. military’s strength relative to China is inadequate to deter aggression and the situation is only worsening. China already had a quantitative advantage over the U.S., but is rapidly closing in on the qualitative front as well, with advances in key technologies such as hypersonics. China is on track to match the U.S. defense budget. Any comparison also has to include the fact that U.S. forces are deployed and stationed worldwide. In contrast, China is far more localized and able to concentrate its combat power on its regional objectives.

This is going to take substantial investment to fix. In particular, our magazines of precision-guided munitions of all types are grossly inadequate. Those stockpiles must be increased in advance of any conflict. In addition, given the increased likelihood of a long war, the U.S. must be prepared to build replacements for military equipment and weapons expended or destroyed in combat. Right now, once the program of record for a system is complete, the specialized tools for manufacturing are often destroyed and the workers laid off. It’s simply the cheapest thing to do.

If we are serious about being able to fight China, essential production lines will need to stay hot, either by continuing to build the minimum economic quantity of these systems indefinitely or by paying money to keep lines ready for a restart. That will require significant ongoing investments.

Weathering the economic storm and supply chain disruption accompanying such a war will require onshoring much of the civilian industrial base that has relocated overseas over the past several decades, especially for critical items. This will require a combination of tariffs, incentives, and subsidies, all of which will hit the U.S. Government and the American people in the pocketbook.

Lastly, while spending all that money on defense and the industrial base, the U.S. Government has to get its overall budget under control. We are now facing a national defense vulnerability due to our borrowing needs. Just like a family deeply in debt, our precarious national finances leave us poorly prepared to deal with major emergencies — in this case, military conflict with peer competitors. Our unpaid bill of $30 trillion and rising means far higher taxes and far fewer government services if we hope to get control of the debt.

A cliché is used far too often: “Freedom isn’t free.” But when people are asked to actually pay for freedom — not with their lives, just with their dollars and cents — competing priorities suddenly appear. If we are serious about being a world power and standing up for freedom, then we need to pay the bill.

If not, then we need to be honest and admit that President Kennedy’s “…pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty” was all just marketing. China will see the truth either way, whether we admit it or not.

+++

Carl Forsling is a retired Marine officer and V-22 pilot who writes on military and national security issues. He lives in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

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taskandpurpose.com · by Carl Forsling · July 20, 2022






24. The Gray Zone: 10th SFG(A) Green Berets intensify unconventional warfare tactics



The Gray Zone: 10th SFG(A) Green Berets intensify unconventional warfare tactics

dvidshub.net

Photo By Staff Sgt. Anthony Bryant | A Special Forces Operator with 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne),...... read more

Photo By Staff Sgt. Anthony Bryant | A Special Forces Operator with 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne), scans for enemies from a Ground Mobility Vehicle turret on Fort Carson, Colorado, July 6, 2022. The 10th SFG(A) Special Forces Operational Detachment Alpha conducted training missions to rehearse TTPs (Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures) and standard operating procedures to enhance lethality. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Anthony Bryant) | View Image Page

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO, UNITED STATES

07.08.2022

Story by Staff Sgt. Anthony Bryant

10th Special Forces Group (Airborne)

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Inside an abandoned base exchange on Peterson Space Force Base, a Special Forces detachment assigned to the 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) awaits the arrival of a person of interest with intelligence that could lead to the kill or capture of a hostile target as part of an unconventional warfare training mission.


To maintain a low signature within a population where adversaries could lurk, the Operators are dressed in polo shirts and slacks, use mobile phones, and carry sidearms to remain indiscernible.


The person of interest arrives and after an exchange of pleasantries, it’s down to business. While a duo of Operators asks the contact questions about the intended target’s habits and whereabouts, their teammates monitor the area for threats.


From the stockroom of the abandoned store emerge men armed with rifles who start shooting at the Special Forces team. The team’s been found out by the enemy…This is not a warzone; however, this scenario is a potential reality in unconventional warfare.


From July 5 – 8, 2022, a Special Forces team assigned to 2nd Battalion, 10th SFG(A), conducted unconventional warfare and direct action training to prepare for future deployments.


“We have to think through problems we've never encountered before because when we come across these problems for the first time, we don't want to be doing it for real,” said the 10th SFG(A) Special Forces team leader. “Raising your signature on the spectrum or if the enemy knows you’re there or not can greatly impact your mission and what you can accomplish; sometimes it’s life or death.”


A key task for Special Forces is conducting operations in the gray zone – an uncertain operational environment that falls between the traditional war and peace duality. Early understanding of emerging threats, especially in gray zones, is essential for developing national plans and policies that counter adversarial actions.


“If you’re low visibility with a little bit of scruff, you can blend inside those areas where you don’t need to raise attention to who you are,” the team leader continued. “[Furthermore,] it makes us think about the vehicles we drive, where we’re going to put our IFAK (Improved First Aid Kit), Glock, and what kind of radios we’ll use.”


Wearing a combat uniform or using other materiel plainly identifies oneself as a Soldier, so a Green Beret will optimize their equipment to mitigate detection in denied, semi-permissive or permissive environments.


“In some battle spaces we rotate into, a conventional military presence isn’t desired,” said the 10th SFG(A) Special Forces team sergeant. “The ability to wear multiple levels of camouflage – from polo shirt to full assault rig – is necessary for certain missions.”


A Special Forces team sergeant supervises, instructs, and serves as the senior enlisted member on a detachment, and is responsible for each teammate’s adeptness at performing individual and collective tasks.


“Once [the team leader and I] give the team purpose, direction, and end state, that should be enough for maneuver elements to move independently,” the team sergeant said. “I want the maneuver leaders to know they’re in charge of their element and to make decisions themselves.”


Part of decision-making is owning up to an error, learning from it, and adjusting accordingly.


“What was most challenging was making a decision in the gray, and managing the second- and third-order effects for that split-second decision,” the team leader said. “We really tested the TTPs (tactics, techniques, and procedures) and SOPs (standard operating procedures) of the detachment, refined them, and built confidence in the fact that we can [quickly] go from low visibility operations to full-scale war.”

NEWS INFO

Date Taken: 07.08.2022 Date Posted: 07.20.2022 10:55 Story ID: 425345 Location: COLORADO SPRINGS, CO, US Hometown: FORT CARSON, CO, US Hometown: PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, CO, US Web Views: 321 Downloads: 4

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This work, The Gray Zone: 10th SFG(A) Green Berets intensify unconventional warfare tactics, by SSG Anthony Bryant, identified by DVIDS, must comply with the restrictions shown on https://www.dvidshub.net/about/copyright.

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25. USS Benfold transits Taiwan Strait, a move China calls a provocation




USS Benfold transits Taiwan Strait, a move China calls a provocation

navytimes.com · by Diana Stancy Correll · July 20, 2022

The guided-missile destroyer Benfold conducted its third transit through the South China Sea in a week — prompting the Chinese government to label the move as a provocation.

The destroyer transited through the Taiwan Strait on Tuesday through international waters and in accordance with international maritime law, according to the U.S. 7th Fleet.

“The ship transited through a corridor in the Strait that is beyond the territorial sea of any coastal State,” the 7th Fleet said in a statement. “The ship’s transit through the Taiwan Strait demonstrates the United States’ commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

The Benfold also conducted another freedom of navigation operation near the Spratly Islands on July 16. Additionally, the destroyer conducted a freedom of navigation operation in the South China Sea near the Paracel Islands on July 13, causing the Chinese government to claim it monitored and drove away the ship.

But the 7th Fleet said that the Chinese statement was the “latest in a long string of [People’s Republic of China] actions to misrepresent lawful U.S. maritime operations.”

RELATED


China protests passage of US destroyer through Taiwan Strait

U.S. Navy ships routinely transit the Taiwan Strait, which lies in international waters and is a main conduit between the South China Sea and northern waters used by China, Japan, South Korea and others.

In response to Tuesday’s transit, Beijing accused the U.S. of eroding peace and stability in the region.

“The frequent provocations and showing off by the United States fully demonstrate that the United States is a destroyer of peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait and a maker of security risks in the Taiwan Strait,” the People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theater Command said in a statement, according to Reuters. “Theater forces remain on high alert at all times and resolutely defend national sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

China, which considers Taiwan part of its territory, has issued similar statements when U.S. warships have previously transited through the Taiwan Strait. For example, China said the destroyer Milius’ transit through the Taiwan Strait in November was impairing regional stability and peace.

The Benfold is assigned to the Reagan carrier strike group.

The carrier deployed from Yokosuka, Japan, in May and moved into the South China Sea for the first time during the deployment last week to conduct flight operations with fixed and rotary-wing aircraft, maritime strike exercises and coordinated tactical training with surface and air units.




26. Why dollar as reserve currency is America's Achilles heel


This counters my belief that the dollar as the reserve currency is America's superpower.




Why dollar as reserve currency is America's Achilles heel

The Korea Times · July 21, 2022

By Robert D. Atkinson

Here's a thought experiment. The government can wave a magic wand and automatically reduce the price of exports by 15 percent and increase the price of imports by the same.


We all know the result: Exports would increase and imports fall, increasing the competitive position of domestic exporting firms. Their sales would increase, enabling them to invest more in R&D and new production equipment.


For many countries, including Korea, this thought experiment is real and is playing out in real time. Over the last 18 months the value of the won has fallen 17 percent against the U.S. dollar. Likewise, the Euro has fallen around 15 percent against the dollar, and the Japanese yen more than 20 percent.


For Korean tourists hoping to visit the United States this is bad news: Their vacation now costs them 17 percent more. But for Korean companies exporting to the United States this is great news.


International economics 101 teaches that a country's currency valuation should fluctuate based on the economy's current account balance.


If the country is running a deficit, the value of its currency should fall to make imports more expensive and exports cheaper. Conversely if a country is running a trade surplus, the currency should rise in value. This is how markets are supposed to work.


Unfortunately they do not. The U.S. has run a current account deficit pretty much every year since 1982, and in the first quarter of 2022 it reached a record $291 billion. And yet, the U.S. currency has strengthened against foreign currencies. These levels of imbalances are fundamentally destructive and not sustainable.


What's going on? What is going on is that what McKinsey Global Institute calls financial globalization is driving the train. Capital is seeking safety and higher returns and flocks to the least worse place: the United States, driving up the value of the dollar, even as the United States runs record trade deficits.


This all made worse by the fact that the "Washington Consensus" has long held that a strong dollar and the dollar as the global reserve currency is good for America. In 2008, in the face of growing trade deficits, President Bush made it clear: "We're strong dollar people in this administration, and have always been for a strong dollar."


President Obama's Treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, proclaimed that "we will never weaken our currency"? Under President Trump, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said "I support a stable dollar" by which he meant he opposed trying to reduce the value of the dollar.


Current Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen has maintained this stance, saying that the United States would not intervene to help raise the value of the yen and lower the value of the dollar.


In the rare instance where a Washington official did not support the Washington strong dollar consensus, the pressure was on.


As former Bush administration Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill stated, "When I was Secretary of the Treasury I was not supposed to say anything but 'strong dollar, strong dollar.' I argued then and would argue now that the idea of a strong dollar policy is a vacuous notion." For these and other heretical views, O'Neill was replaced by someone who knew the right tune.


There are several reasons for this inflexible position. First, with mid-term elections coming up in November the Biden administration is concerned first and foremost with the short-term impacts of inflation, not the longer-term impact of a hollowing out of U.S. industrial competitiveness. By making imports cheaper a strong dollar reduces inflationary pressures.


Second, monetary policy in the United States is largely controlled by or influenced by the financial sector. Wall Street benefits from a strong dollar because it increases the value of their assets.


Finally, holding the globe's reserve currency provides the U.S. government with a valuable weapon that can be used to punish adversaries. Indeed, Australia's Lowy Institute uses this as one measure of their Asia Power Index. This is why many U.S. policymakers, especially those in foreign and defense policy, so strongly defend a strong dollar.


There are two critical problems with this stance. First, over the moderate to long-term a strong dollar and reserve currency are a result, not a cause of competitiveness and national strength. As U.S. competitiveness, especially in advanced industries, continues its long slide downward, it is only a matter of time before the dollar is dethroned.


Second, a strong advanced industrial base is much more important to U.S. national power than having the reserve currency. Wars are won or lost on kinetic weapons, not digital currency flows. And a strong dollar acts as acid that eats away at the foundation of U.S. industrial capacity.


The good news from Korea's perspective is that U.S. policymakers are unlikely anytime soon to prioritize industrial competitiveness over currency competitiveness. And that will mean more exports for Korean firms.


Robert D. Atkinson (@RobAtkinsonITIF) is the president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF), an independent, nonpartisan research and educational institute focusing on the intersection of technological innovation and public policy.



The Korea Times · July 21, 2022


​27. What if the U.S. had backed Mao during World War II? It almost happened – SupChina


There is an important lesson here about conducting assessments which are critical to formulating strategy.


Excerpts:


Mitter’s assessment is that while Service’s praise of the Communists, and criticism of the Nationalists, had many truths, the Dixie Mission was “not comparing like with like: their long years and inside knowledge of the Nationalist areas were being contrasted with a short and selective visit to Yan’an.”
Just over a year after the Americans landed at Yan’an, the Japanese surrendered. Four years after that, with Chiang’s forces defeated and escaping to Taiwan, Mao was the leader of China. John Service’s reward for predicting this outcome was to be decried as a traitor and blamed for the “loss of China” as a wave of ideological intolerance swept America.

My thoughts on assessments:


 4. Assessment - must conduct continuous assessment to gain understanding - tactical, operational, and strategic.  Assessments are key to developing strategy and campaign plans and anticipating potential conflict. Assessments allow you to challenge assumptions and determine if a rebalance of ways and means with the acceptable, durable, political arrangement  is required. Understand the indigenous way of war and adapt to it.   Do not force the US way of war upon indigenous forces if it is counter to their history, customs, traditions, and abilities.


5.  Assure US and indigenous interests are sufficiently aligned.  If indigenous and US interests are not sufficiently aligned the mission will fail.  If the US has stronger interest than the indigenous force we can create an “assistance paradox” - if indigenous forces believe the US mission is "no fail” and the US forces will not allow them to fail and therefore they do not need to try too hard.  They may very well benefit from long term US aid and support which may be their objective for accepting support in the first place.


https://maxoki161.blogspot.com/2018/07/eight-points-of-special-warfare.html

What if the U.S. had backed Mao during World War II? It almost happened – SupChina

Taking its name from an American Civil War reference, operation "Dixie Mission" sent Americans into China's "rebel" territory in 1944 — where they were enthusiastically greeted by Mao Zedong and Chinese Communists.

supchina.com · by James Carter · July 20, 2022

This Week in China’s History: July 22, 1944

Shortly before noon on July 22, 1944, the top Chinese Communist leaders — Zhōu Ēnlái 周恩来, Zhū Dé 朱德, and Máo Zédōng 毛泽东 among them — made their way to a seldom-used runway near Yan’an, Shaanxi province.

Yan’an had been the Communists’ base since the Long March of 1934-35, and an essential part of its success was its remote location: at the edge of the Gobi Desert nearly a thousand miles from the closest coastal city. A plane arriving there was rare enough, but what made the occasion truly exceptional were the passengers on board the American DC-3: nine members of the United States Army Observation Group, including diplomats, spies, and soldiers, who had come to Yan’an to figure out whether and how the United States might forge an alliance with Mao’s Communists. The American group took its name from a flawed analogy to the American Civil War: working behind rebel lines, it was codenamed the “Dixie Mission.”

The Dixie Mission almost collapsed before it began: the American plane’s landing gear dropped into a ditch — in some accounts an unmarked grave — causing the fuselage to twist and one propeller to tear into the cockpit, narrowly missing its occupants. But, tragedy averted, the Americans, led by state department analyst John Service and military intelligence officer David Barrett, left the aircraft and were greeted by Zhou Enlai and a military band.

The summer of 1944 was a moment of intense change and profound uncertainty as visions of the future began coming into focus even in the midst of world war. In Europe, the Allied landing at Normandy enabled an advance toward Nazi Germany from the west. The Soviet army approached Germany from the other direction, laying the foundation of the Cold War to follow. In Asia, the Allied advance toward Japan had been slow but consistent for more than two years, and for the first time American bombers were reaching Japan for sustained air raids. An end to the war wasn’t imminent, but at least it seemed possible.

While Allied momentum in Europe and the Pacific was building, there was frustration in China. Chiang Kai-shek’s (蔣介石 Jiǎng Jièshí) Nationalist armies had met with defeat after defeat that summer, including losing major cities like Luoyang and Changsha to the Japanese. American aid was essential to supporting China’s war effort, and American leaders — many of whom had grave reservations about Chiang’s administration — diverted American money and materiel from offensives that could end the war. As historian Rana Mitter put it in his book Forgotten Ally, “American confidence in the Nationalists was fast dissipating as the Japanese smashed into central China.”

But of course Chiang’s Nationalists were not the only Chinese army fighting against the Japanese. After barely surviving the Long March, Communist forces had recovered in Yan’an, and compelled Chiang to make a tense alliance against the Japanese in 1938. Employing guerrilla tactics, the Communists scored impressive wins against the Japanese, and they did so with a fraction of the support that the Nationalists had. The remote Communist base was the subject of mystery and rumor, with little direct information.

By 1944, analysts in the United States government were increasingly confident that the Pacific War would end with Japan’s defeat, but what fate would befall China when that happened? Although Chiang remained America’s ally, voices in the state department worried that the Nationalist government, long cut off from its base in the Yangtze Delta and perilously corrupt, might be unable to govern the country after the war, if it could even last that long. Moreover, if the Soviet Union entered the Pacific war, as it seemed poised to do when fighting in Europe ended, Soviet troops and aid would flow to the Chinese Communists, making a fragile ally suddenly a potent adversary.

Facing these two possibilities, the “China Hands” in the U.S. government persuaded Army officials to send a mission to make contact with and assess the Chinese communists in Yan’an. This turned into the Dixie Mission.

The Americans who landed on July 22 were the first half of a task force that would evaluate, interview, and train Communist soldiers. The group also obtained assistance with the war effort, including weather reports that could be passed on to Chongqing and American military commanders and help rescue downed pilots behind Japanese lines. Although an American presence would remain in Yan’an until 1947, it was the first six months — from July 1944 through January 1945 — that were the core of the Dixie Mission.

John Service is perhaps the American most associated with the Dixie Mission. Born in Chengdu to missionary parents, Service was raised in China and, after education in the United States, returned there as a foreign service officer in 1937. An early critic of the Nationalist government, Service’s reports to his superiors were instrumental in sending the mission to Yan’an. Service framed his first impressions of the Communist base by writing of his “conscious determination not to be swept off one’s feet…there must be a catch somewhere.” Yet his assessment was wildly positive. In contrast to the corruption, cynicism, and detachment of Chongqing, Service writes of Yan’an that, “Morale is very high. The war seems close and real. There is no defeatism, but rather confidence. There is no war-weariness.”

Contributing to this morale, the possibility of American cooperation with the Communists seemed strong. American demolition experts gave demonstrations of new explosives the communists could employ in their fight against the Japanese. Promises of American soldiers — to be parachuted into Shaanxi — suggested that a new front might be opened up. Mao proposed that an American consulate be established in Yan’an.

Service concluded his July 28 report with a bold endorsement (using the Wade-Giles romanization for Yan’an): “I think that further study and observation will confirm that what is seen at Yenan is a well integrated movement, with a political and economic program, which it is successfully carrying out under competent leaders.”

One cannot help coming to feel that this movement is strong and successful, and that it has such drive behind it and has tied itself so closely to the people that it will not easily be killed.”

Service’s prediction that the Communists were likely to prevail proved to be correct, of course, though that did not change American support for the Kuomintang. The Dixie Mission remains a tantalizing “what if” moment. Did politics and personalities lead to a tremendous missed opportunity? Might an American alliance with the Chinese Communists have fundamentally reshaped the 20th century, with implications for not only China and the United States, but for global conflicts like the wars in Korea, Vietnam, and the Cold War?

Or was Service duped? Land Reform, the Great Leap Forward, and the Cultural Revolution suggest that his vision of a moderate, inclusive movement was naive, and his hopes for a U.S.-CCP alliance was just as unpalatable to the Chinese leaders as the American ones.

Mitter’s assessment is that while Service’s praise of the Communists, and criticism of the Nationalists, had many truths, the Dixie Mission was “not comparing like with like: their long years and inside knowledge of the Nationalist areas were being contrasted with a short and selective visit to Yan’an.”

Just over a year after the Americans landed at Yan’an, the Japanese surrendered. Four years after that, with Chiang’s forces defeated and escaping to Taiwan, Mao was the leader of China. John Service’s reward for predicting this outcome was to be decried as a traitor and blamed for the “loss of China” as a wave of ideological intolerance swept America.

It would be almost 30 years before Communist officials would again welcome an official American delegation.

This Week in China’s History is a weekly column.

James Carter is Professor of History and part of the Nealis Program in Asian Studies at Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia. He is the author of three books on China’s modern history, most recently Champions Day: The End of Old ShanghaiRead more

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supchina.com · by James Carter · July 20, 2022













De Oppresso Liber,

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