Informal Institute for National Security Thinkers and Practitioners



Quotes of the Day:


“In anger we should refrain both from speech and action.”
- Pythagoras

"To build may have to be the slow and laborious task of years. To destroy can be the thoughtless act of a single day." 
- Winston Churchill

"The greater the power, the more dangerous the abuse."
- Edmund Burke



1. RUSSIAN OFFENSIVE CAMPAIGN ASSESSMENT, JULY 24 (Putin's War)

2. On U.S. Foreign Policy, the New Boss Acts a Lot Like the Old One

3. China's response to Pelosi's potential Taiwan visit could be 'unprecedented' but military conflict unlikely, experts say

4. The Global Food Crisis Shouldn’t Have Come As a Surprise

5. Let Pelosi go to Taiwan by John Bolton

6. Fact: Americans Are Fighting and Dying in Ukraine

7. Focusing on China Will Prepare the U.S. Military for the Future

8. Note from Nimitz: You Need Lots of Ships to Take Risks in War

9. Russia is Gaining an Indo-Pacific Foothold Through Myanmar

10. IntelBrief: Grinding War of Attrition in Ukraine as Both Sides Suffer Heavy Losses

11. Conflict Resumes in the West Bank During IDF Operations in Nablus

12. Opinion | Putin attacks Odessa and a hungry world’s hopes

13. How Unmanned Warships Might Provide A New Paradigm For Naval Shipbuilding

14. US missile sale to Australia aims fast and hard at China

15. Ties Between Alex Jones and Radio Network Show Economics of Misinformation

16. High school students in Seattle educate community on how to identify and combat misinformation

17. Analysis | The problem with ‘great power competition’

18. Ukraine wants more ‘game-changer’ HIMARS. The U.S. says it’s complicated.

19. EXCLUSIVE: Inside Ukraine’s covert operation to take out elite Wagner Group mercenaries in Donbas

20. China’s Strategy Needs Study, Not Assumptions

21. Putin’s Unexpected Challenge: Snubs From His Central Asian Allies

22. Russia shells southern Ukraine, wages propaganda war ahead of expected annexation efforts

23. China’s Gen Z Is Dejected, Underemployed and Slowing the Economy

24. Targeting the US Dollar’s Hegemony: Russia, China, and BRICS Nations Plan to Craft a New International Reserve Currency

25. Don’t Blame Dostoyevsky






1. RUSSIAN OFFENSIVE CAMPAIGN ASSESSMENT, JULY 24 (Putin's War)



Maps/graphics: https://www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/russian-offensive-campaign-assessment-july-24


RUSSIAN OFFENSIVE CAMPAIGN ASSESSMENT, JULY 24

Jul 24, 2022 - Press ISW


understandingwar.org

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

July 24, 6:30 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.

Ukrainian officials are increasingly acknowledging Ukrainian counteroffensive operations in Kherson Oblast. Kherson Oblast Administration Advisor Serhiy Khlan stated on July 24 that Ukrainian forces are undertaking unspecified counteroffensive actions in Kherson Oblast.[1] Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on July 23 that Ukrainian forces are advancing “step by step” in Kherson Oblast.[2] His statement does not make clear whether he is referring to small, ongoing Ukrainian advances in Kherson Oblast or a broader counteroffensive.[3] Ukraine’s Southern Operational Command reported on July 24 that Ukrainian forces are firing on Russian transport facilities in Kherson Oblast to impede maneuverability and logistics support. This activity is consistent with support to an active counteroffensive or conditions-setting for an upcoming counteroffensive.[4] Khlan also said that Ukrainian strikes on Russian-controlled bridges around Kherson City only aim to prevent Russian forces from moving equipment into the city without stopping food and other essential supplies from entering the city.[5]

Alarm in the Russian nationalist information space continues to grow as the pace of Russian operations slows in the face of successful Ukrainian high-mobility artillery rocket system (HIMARS) strikes on key Russian logistics and command-and-control nodes. Moscow Calling, a medium-sized Russian Telegram channel with 31,000 subscribers, posted an appraisal of the entirety of Russian operations in Ukraine since February 24.[6] Moscow Calling defined three distinct phases of the war—the first spanning from initial invasion to the withdrawal of Russian troops from Kyiv, Sumy, and Chernihiv Oblasts and the second spanning between that point and the introduction of Western-provided HIMARS.[7] Moscow Calling notably defined the arrival of HIMARS as a distinct turning point in the war and stated that previously provided Western weapons systems (such as NLAWs, Javelins, Stingers, and Bayraktars) did very little against Russian artillery bombardment (they are not designed or intended to counter artillery attack), but that HIMARS changed everything for Russian capabilities in Ukraine.[8] Moscow Calling strongly insinuated that recent Ukrainian strikes on Russian warehouses, communication hubs, and rear bases are having a devastating and potentially irreversible impact on the development of future Russian offensives.[9]

This post is consistent with previous reports from Western defense officials that Russian troops are being forced to engage in various HIMARS mitigation tactics on the battlefield, including camouflage measures and constantly changing the location of equipment groupings.[10] These mitigation tactics are impeding Russian forces from conducting the massive artillery barrages that they have widely employed over the course of the war, as evidenced by NASA Fire Information for Resource Management (FIRMS) data that shows consistently fewer observed heat anomalies over the frontline in Donbas since the introduction of HIMARS to Ukraine.


[Source: NASA’s Fire Information for Resource Management System over Donbas, July 15 – July 23 and Esri, Maxar, Earthstar Geographics, and the GIS User Community]

The Kremlin is likely facing mounting (if still very limited) domestic dissent from within ethnic minority enclaves, which are disproportionately bearing the brunt of the Kremlin’s force generation efforts. Vasily Matenov, founder of the “Asians of Russia” organization, stated in early July that he had officially registered the organization in order to advocate for “endangered and small-numbered peoples who are discriminated against by the Russian state.”[11] Matenov emphasized that the preliminary goal of “Asians of Russia” is to stop the war in Ukraine due to devastating statistics on the combat deaths of soldiers from minority groups.[12] Similarly, Advisor to Ukraine’s Minister of Internal Affairs Anton Gerashchenko cited Ukrainian sources that claim Russian authorities pay triple amounts to families of deceased soldiers from Moscow compared to families of soldiers from the minority-dominant region of Buryatia.[13] As ISW has previously reported, protest groups in ethnic minority enclaves have already formed in Tuva and Buryatia, and these communities will likely continue to protest the Kremlin’s reliance on drawing combat power from peripheral groups of Russian society.[14]

Key Takeaways

  • Ukrainian officials are increasingly acknowledging Ukrainian counteroffensive operations in Kherson Oblast.
  • The Kremlin is facing mounting (if still very limited) domestic dissent from ethnic minorities who are disproportionately bearing the burden of the Russian war in Ukraine.
  • Russian forces attempted limited ground assaults northwest of Slovyansk, east of Siversk, and south of Bakhmut on July 24.
  • Ukrainian strikes have damaged all three Russian-controlled bridges leading into Kherson City within the past week.
  • Russian forces attempted limited ground assaults in Kherson Oblast.
  • The Kremlin continued constituting regional volunteer battalions and is leveraging private military companies’ recruitment drives to generate combat power.
  • Russian occupation authorities continued setting conditions for annexation referenda in occupied territories and are recruiting Russian civilians for reconstruction efforts.


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 two 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 conducted a limited ground attack northwest of Slovyansk on July 24. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian troops failed to take control of Bohorodychne, 20 km northwest of Slovyansk.[15] Russian forces continued artillery strikes on settlements southeast of Izyum along the Kharkiv-Donetsk Oblast border; shelled Krasnopillya, Dolyna, Dibrovne, and Adamivka; and struck additional settlements southwest of Izyum around Barvinkove.[16]

Russian forces continued ground attacks east of Siversk on July 24. The Ukrainian General Staff stated that Russian forces unsuccessfully attempted to advance west of Verkhnokamyanka and Bilohorivka toward Verkhnokamyanske, 5 km due east of Siversk.[17] The Russian Ministry of Defense indicated that Russian counter-battery fire focused on suppressing Ukrainian firing points to the east of Siversk, which is consistent with Ukrainian reports of continued Russian artillery fire on settlements in the area between the Luhansk Oblast border and Siversk.[18]

Russian forces continued ground attacks south of Bakhmut on July 24. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Russian troops are continuing to fight for control of the Vuhledar Power Plant and Novoluhanske and that Russian forces failed to advance from Roty to Semihirya, about 20 km southeast of Bakhmut.[19] The Ukrainian General Staff noted that Russian forces are trying to create favorable conditions to capture the Vuhledar Power Plant.[20] Previous Russian attempts to advance from south of Bakhmut have largely been stymied by the water features in the Svitlodarsk area, which indicates that Russian forces likely hope to gain a foothold on the northern bank of the Vuhlehirske Reservoir and advance northward on Bakhmut across relatively even cross-country terrain.

Russian forces did not make any confirmed ground attacks toward Avdiivka and fired on Ukrainian positions along the Avdiivka-Donetsk city frontline.[21]


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 did not conduct any ground assaults and continued to conduct air and artillery strikes along the Kharkiv City Axis on July 24. Russian forces conducted airstrikes on Verkhnii Saltiv and Mospanove, approximately 55 km southeast of Kharkiv City, and launched tube and rocket artillery strikes on Kharkiv City and settlements to the north, northeast, and southeast on July 24.[22]


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

Ukrainian strikes have damaged all three Russian-controlled bridges leading into Kherson City within the past week as of July 24. Ukrainian forces struck the bridge over the dam at the Nova Kakhova Hydroelectric Power Plant on July 24, damaging the road but still allowing passenger vehicles to cross the bridge.[23] Russian sources claimed that Ukraine used HIMARS to strike the bridge and reported that repairs to the bridge are already underway.[24] Footage from July 23 shows passenger vehicles navigating around holes left on the Antonivskyi Bridge, suggesting that the damage to the free-standing Antonivskyi Bridge may be more complex to repair than the Nova Kakhova bridge.[25]

Ukrainian partisans blew up a Russian-controlled railway near Novobohdanivka, Zaporizhia Oblast, 30 km north of Melitopol, overnight on July 23-24. Geolocated images of the aftermath show splits in a rail juncture in Novobohdanivka that cuts off Vasylivka and Tokmak, Zaporizhia Oblast from the main rail line to Melitopol.[26] Ukrainian officials reported that Russian forces use the rail line to transport equipment and personnel from Melitopol towards Vasylivka and Tokmak.[27]

Ukraine’s Main Intelligence Directorate (GUR) released an urgent message on July 23 calling on civilians in occupied Enerhodar, Zaporizhia Oblast, and the surrounding areas to provide details on Russians and their movements in Enerhodar.[28] The GUR report specifically asked residents for addresses and geolocated coordinates of Russian forces’ housing and deployment points, Russian ground lines of communication, residences of local occupation authorities, and the biographical details including names, addresses, and places of employment of all Russian collaborators and sympathizers.[29]

Russian forces attempted limited ground assaults in Kherson Oblast on July 24. The Ukrainian General Staff reported that Ukrainian forces repelled Russian ground assaults in the Sukhy Stavok–Andriivka and Bruskinskye–Bilohirka directions near the Ukrainian bridgehead on the Inhulets River south of Davydiv Brid.[30] It is unlikely the fighting around the bridgehead is part of or directly countering the main Ukrainian counteroffensive effort. Russian forces reportedly used more S-300 anti-air missiles to strike ground targets in Mykolaiv City.[31] A fire broke out at an oil depot north of Snihurivka, where Russian forces have previously conducted strikes.[32] Russian forces continued shelling along the entire line of contact.[33] Ukrainian counterbattery fire struck a battery of Russian S-300 launchers, reportedly with HIMARS, near Zelenotropynske, Kherson Oblast.[34] Footage and images of the area from Russian and Ukrainian sources shows two destroyed S-300 launchers.[35] Ukrainian Mayor of Melitopol Ivan Fedorov reported that Ukrainian forces also struck the Russian-occupied Melitopol airfield overnight on July 23-24 and that Russian forces are unsuccessfully trying to restore the airfield.[36]


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

The Kremlin continues to constitute regionally-based volunteer battalions for deployment to Ukraine. Artem Vikharev, Military Commissar of the Cherepovets Raion of Vologda Oblast, announced on July 20 that Vologda Oblast is forming a combat battalion.[37] The Vologda battalion is likely an artillery battalion. Vikharev stated that the volunteers will be sent to unspecified artillery units that are being formed in Luga, Leningrad Oblast. Luga hosts a large artillery training ground and the base of the 9th Guards Artillery Brigade (of the 6th Combined Arms Army).[38] Russian State Duma Member Maria Butina announced on July 13 that Kirov Oblast is forming the “Vyatka” volunteer battalion, which has reportedly been almost entirely assembled as of July 9.[39] It is unclear whether the “Vyatka” Battalion has deployed to a training ground or to Ukraine as of this publication. ISW has updated its map of Russian federal subjects generating “volunteer” units accordingly.


The Russian military leadership is leveraging recruitment drives carried out by private military companies (PMCs) to generate combat power. Russian Tyumen Oblast-based news outlet 72ru reported that the Wagner Group PMC was actively recruiting residents of Tyumen Oblast for deployment to Ukraine on year-long contracts as early as July 9.[40] This is consistent with a report by independent Latvia-based Russian language newspaper Meduza that stated that Wagner Group units are increasingly acting as the primary “strike groups” of the Russian Armed Forces and are being “rented out” to forward-deployed Russian units.[41] Meduza reported that the Russian Ministry of Defense previously ordered certain Wagner Group detachments to re-deploy to Ukraine from locations in Syria, Libya, and elsewhere in Africa and that the involvement of the Wagner Group in the capture of Popansa has increased their popularity, and likely their ability to galvanize recruitment. Meduza also noted that other PMC elements, such groups formed under the auspices of the “Redoubt” PMC were rapidly constituted and are largely comprised of former soldiers and “blacklisted” officers.[42]

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 officials continued setting conditions for referenda to integrate occupied Ukrainian territories into the Russian Federation. Melitopol Mayor Ivan Fedorov reported on July 24 that Russian forces plan to hold pseudo-referenda in occupied Ukrainian territories in early September, which is consistent with ISW’s assessment of the Kremlin’s potential annexation timeline.[43] Kherson Oblast Administration Advisor Serhiy Khlan reported on July 23 that Russian occupation authorities are accepting applications for a seven-person election commission for a referendum in Kherson Oblast.[44]

Russian authorities are seeking to leverage domestic Russian labor to “reconstruct” destroyed areas of Ukraine. Tyumen Oblast news outlet 72ru reported on June 24 that Russian officials are recruiting Tyumen Oblast citizens to reconstruct civilian infrastructure in Donbas territories.[45] 72ru reported that Russian officials are offering Tyumen residents up to 200,000 rubles for employee rotations of 30 or 60 days.[46] The report stated that the recruiting company Stroykom will only accept men without criminal records and will pay for travel, accommodation, and meals.[47]

[2] https://www.president.gov dot ua/news/zsu-krok-za-krokom-prosuvayutsya-v-hersonskij-oblasti-zverne-76637

[3] https://www.president.gov dot ua/news/zsu-krok-za-krokom-prosuvayutsya-v-hersonskij-oblasti-zverne-76637

[27] https://sprotyv.mod.gov dot ua/2022/07/24/partyzany-pidirvaly-zaliznychnu-koliyu-u-melitopolskomu-rajoni/; https://t.me/ivan_fedorov_melitopol/305?single; https://t.me/Bratchuk_Sergey/16095

[28] https://gur.gov dot ua/content/povidomlennia-hur-meshkantsiam-mista-enerhodar-ta-prylehlykh-terytorii.html

[29] https://gur.gov dot ua/content/povidomlennia-hur-meshkantsiam-mista-enerhodar-ta-prylehlykh-terytorii.html

[39] https://aw-journal dot com/in-kirov-they-complete-the-recruitment-of-contract-soldiers-to-the-vyatka-battalion-with-a-salary-of-300-thousand-rubles/; https://vk dot com/wall31690263_78335; https://www.newsler dot ru/society/2022/06/13/v-kirove-sobirayut-batalon-vyatka-dlya-sluzhby-na-ukraine; https://vk dot com/public40345024; https://www.mk-kirov dot ru/politics/2022/07/09/v-kirove-zavershayut-nabor-kontraktnikov-v-batalon-vyatka-s-zarplatoy-v-300-tysyach-rubley.html; https://www.mk-kirov dot ru/politics/2022/07/09/v-kirove-zavershayut-nabor-kontraktnikov-v-batalon-vyatka-s-zarplatoy-v-300-tysyach-rubley.html

[40] https://72 dot ru/text/gorod/2022/07/09/71463431/; https://twitter.com/RALee85/status/1550964249249431553

[41] https://meduza dot io/en/feature/2022/07/14/a-mercenaries-war

[42] https://meduza dot io/en/feature/2022/07/14/a-mercenaries-war

[45] https://72 dot ru/text/gorod/2022/06/24/71431919/

[46] https://72 dot ru/text/gorod/2022/06/24/71431919/

[47] https://72 dot ru/text/gorod/2022/06/24/71431919/

understandingwar.org




2. On U.S. Foreign Policy, the New Boss Acts a Lot Like the Old One


Excertps:

“Neither the Trump nor Biden administrations have had a trade and economic policy that the Asian friends of the U.S. have been pleading for to help reduce their reliance on China,” said Kori Schake, the director of foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. “Both Biden and Trump administrations are to some extent over-militarizing the China problem because they can’t figure out the economic piece.”
It is in Europe that Mr. Biden has set himself apart from Mr. Trump. The Trump administration was at times contradictory on Europe and Russia: While Mr. Trump praised President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, criticized the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and withheld military aid to Ukraine for domestic political gain, some officials under him worked in the opposite direction. By contrast, Mr. Biden and his aides have uniformly reaffirmed the importance of trans-Atlantic alliances, which has helped them coordinate sanctions and weapons shipments to oppose Russia in Ukraine.
Emergency crews work at the site where rockets slammed into two buildings in a village near Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine in early July.Credit...Mauricio Lima for The New York Times
“There’s no question in my mind that words and politics matter,” said Alina Polyakova, president of the Center for European Policy Analysis. “If allies don’t trust the U.S. will uphold Article 5 of NATO and come to an ally’s defense, it doesn’t matter how much you invest.”
Ultimately the biggest contrast between the presidents, and perhaps the aspect most closely watched by America’s allies and adversaries, lies in their views on democracy. Mr. Trump complimented autocrats and broke with democratic traditions well before the insurrection in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, that congressional investigators argue he organized. Mr. Biden has placed promotion of democracy at the ideological center of his foreign policy, and in December he welcomed officials from more than 100 countries to a “summit for democracy.”
“American democracy is the magnetic soft power of the United States,” Ms. Schake said. “We are different and better than the forces we are contesting against in the international order.”


On U.S. Foreign Policy, the New Boss Acts a Lot Like the Old One

The New York Times · by Edward Wong · July 24, 2022

News Analysis

The Biden administration has charted the same course as the Trump administration on strategic priorities like China, the Middle East and U.S. military deployments.

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President Biden vowed on the campaign trail to break from paths taken by the previous administration.Credit...Kenny Holston for The New York Times


By

July 24, 2022

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WASHINGTON — A fist bump and meeting with the crown prince of Saudi Arabia. Tariffs and export controls on China. Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. American troops out of Afghanistan.

More than a year and a half into the tenure of President Biden, his administration’s approach to strategic priorities is surprisingly consistent with the policies of the Trump administration, former officials and analysts say.

Mr. Biden vowed on the campaign trail to break from the paths taken by the previous administration, and in some ways on foreign policy he has done that. He has repaired alliances, particularly in Western Europe, that Donald J. Trump had weakened with his “America First” proclamations and criticisms of other nations. In recent months, Mr. Biden’s efforts positioned Washington to lead a coalition imposing sanctions against Russia during the war in Ukraine.

And Mr. Biden has denounced autocracies, promoted the importance of democracy and called for global cooperation on issues that include climate change and the coronavirus pandemic.

But in critical areas, the Biden administration has not made substantial breaks, showing how difficult it is in Washington to chart new courses on foreign policy.

That was underscored this month when Mr. Biden traveled to Israel and Saudi Arabia, a trip partly aimed at strengthening the closer ties among those states that Trump officials had promoted under the so-called Abraham Accords.

In Saudi Arabia, Mr. Biden met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman despite his earlier vow to make the nation a “pariah” for human rights violations, notably the murder of a Washington Post writer in 2018. U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that the prince ordered the brutal killing. Behind the scenes, the United States still provides important support for the Saudi military in the Yemen war despite Mr. Biden’s earlier pledge to end that aid because of Saudi airstrikes that killed civilians.

“The policies are converging,” said Stephen E. Biegun, deputy secretary of state in the Trump administration and a National Security Council official under President George W. Bush. “Continuity is the norm, even between presidents as different as Trump and Biden.”

Some former officials and analysts praised the consistency, arguing that the Trump administration, despite the deep flaws of the commander in chief, properly diagnosed important challenges to American interests and sought to deal with them.

Others are less sanguine. They say Mr. Biden’s choices have compounded problems with American foreign policy and sometimes deviated from the president’s stated principles. Senior Democratic lawmakers have criticized his meeting with Prince Mohammed and aid to the Saudi military, for instance, even though administration officials have promoted a United Nations-brokered cease-fire in Yemen.

The Biden Presidency

With midterm elections looming, here’s where President Biden stands.

“As time has gone on, Biden has not lived up to a lot of his campaign promises, and he has stuck with the status quo on the Middle East and on Asia,” said Emma Ashford, a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council.

Both the Trump and Biden administrations have had to grapple with the question of how to maintain America’s global dominance at a time when it appears in decline. China has ascended as a counterweight, and Russia has become bolder.

The Trump administration’s national security strategy formally reoriented foreign policy toward “great power competition” with China and Russia and away from prioritizing terrorist groups and other nonstate actors. The Biden administration has continued that drive, in part because of events like the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The Biden White House has delayed the release of its own national security strategy, which had been expected early this year. Officials are rewriting it because of the Ukraine war. The final document is still expected to emphasize competition among powerful nations.

Mr. Biden has said that China is the greatest competitor of the United States — an assertion that Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken reiterated in a recent speech — while Russia is the biggest threat to American security and alliances.

China policy stands out as the most vivid example of continuity between the Trump and Biden administrations.Credit...Alex Plavevski/EPA, via Shutterstock

Some scholars say the tradition of continuity between administrations is a product of the conventional ideas and groupthink arising from the bipartisan foreign policy establishment in Washington, which Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser to President Barack Obama, derisively called “the Blob.”

But others argue that outside circumstances — including the behavior of foreign governments, the sentiments of American voters and the influence of corporations — leave U.S. leaders with a narrow band of choices.

“There’s a lot of gravitational pull that brings the policies to the same place,” Mr. Biegun said. “It’s still the same issues. It’s still the same world. We still have largely the same tools with which to influence others to get to the same outcomes, and it’s still the same America.”

In committing to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, Mr. Biden and Mr. Trump were responding to the will of most Americans, who had grown weary of two decades of war. For Mr. Biden, the move was also a chance to address unfinished business. As vice president, he had advocated bringing troops home, in line with Mr. Obama’s desire to wind down the “forever wars,” but he was opposed by U.S. generals insisting on a presence in Afghanistan.

Despite the chaotic withdrawal last August as the Taliban took over the country, polls have shown most Americans supported ending U.S. military involvement there.

Mr. Trump and Mr. Biden have advocated a smaller U.S. military presence in conflict regions. But both hit limits to that thinking. Mr. Biden has sent more American troops to Europe since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and to Somalia, reversing a Trump-era withdrawal. U.S. troops remain in Iraq and Syria.

“There’s deep skepticism of the war on terror by senior members of the Biden administration,” said Brian Finucane, a senior adviser at International Crisis Group who worked on military issues as a lawyer at the State Department. “Nevertheless they’re not willing yet to undertake broad structural reform to dial back the war.”

Mr. Finucane said reform would include repealing the 2001 war authorization that Congress gave the executive branch after the attacks of Sept. 11.

“Even if the Biden administration doesn’t take affirmative steps to further stretch the scope of the 2001 A.U.M.F., as long as it remains on the books, it can be used by future administrations,” he said, referring to the authorization. “And other officials can extend the war on terror.”

On the most pressing Middle East issue — Iran and its nuclear program — Mr. Biden has taken a different tack than Mr. Trump. The administration has been negotiating with Tehran a return to an Obama-era nuclear agreement that Mr. Trump dismantled, which led to Iran’s accelerating its uranium enrichment. But the talks have hit an impasse. And Mr. Biden has said he would stick with one of Mr. Trump’s major actions against the Iranian military, the designation of its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization, despite that being an obstacle to a new agreement.

Mr. Biden met with Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi of Iraq during his trip to the Middle East. The administration has also been trying to negotiate with Iran to return to an Obama-era nuclear agreement.Credit...Doug Mills/The New York Times

China policy stands out as the most vivid example of continuity between the two administrations. The State Department has kept a Trump-era genocide designation on China for its repression of Uyghur Muslims. Biden officials have continued to send U.S. naval ships through the Taiwan Strait and shape weapons sales to Taiwan to try to deter a potential invasion by China.

Most controversially, Mr. Biden has kept Trump-era tariffs on China, despite the fact that some economists and several top U.S. officials, including Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen, question their purpose and impact.

Mr. Biden and his political aides are keenly aware of the rising anti-free-trade sentiment in the United States that Mr. Trump capitalized on to marshal votes. That awareness has led Mr. Biden to shy away from trying to re-enter the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations that Mr. Obama helped organize to strengthen economic competition against China but that Mr. Trump and progressive Democrats rejected.

Analysts say Washington needs to offer Asian nations better trade agreements and market access with the United States if it wants to counter China’s economic influence.

“Neither the Trump nor Biden administrations have had a trade and economic policy that the Asian friends of the U.S. have been pleading for to help reduce their reliance on China,” said Kori Schake, the director of foreign and defense policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. “Both Biden and Trump administrations are to some extent over-militarizing the China problem because they can’t figure out the economic piece.”

It is in Europe that Mr. Biden has set himself apart from Mr. Trump. The Trump administration was at times contradictory on Europe and Russia: While Mr. Trump praised President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, criticized the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and withheld military aid to Ukraine for domestic political gain, some officials under him worked in the opposite direction. By contrast, Mr. Biden and his aides have uniformly reaffirmed the importance of trans-Atlantic alliances, which has helped them coordinate sanctions and weapons shipments to oppose Russia in Ukraine.

Emergency crews work at the site where rockets slammed into two buildings in a village near Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine in early July.Credit...Mauricio Lima for The New York Times

“There’s no question in my mind that words and politics matter,” said Alina Polyakova, president of the Center for European Policy Analysis. “If allies don’t trust the U.S. will uphold Article 5 of NATO and come to an ally’s defense, it doesn’t matter how much you invest.”

Ultimately the biggest contrast between the presidents, and perhaps the aspect most closely watched by America’s allies and adversaries, lies in their views on democracy. Mr. Trump complimented autocrats and broke with democratic traditions well before the insurrection in Washington on Jan. 6, 2021, that congressional investigators argue he organized. Mr. Biden has placed promotion of democracy at the ideological center of his foreign policy, and in December he welcomed officials from more than 100 countries to a “summit for democracy.”

“American democracy is the magnetic soft power of the United States,” Ms. Schake said. “We are different and better than the forces we are contesting against in the international order.”

The New York Times · by Edward Wong · July 24, 2022



3. China's response to Pelosi's potential Taiwan visit could be 'unprecedented' but military conflict unlikely, experts say


Excerpts:


While the politically sensitive timing could trigger a stronger response from Beijing, it could also mean that the Party would want to ensure stability and prevent things from getting out of control, experts say.

"Honestly, this isn't a good time for Xi Jinping to provoke a military conflict right before the 20th party congress. It's in Xi Jinping's interest to manage this rationally and not instigate a crisis on top of all the other crises he has to deal with," Thompson said, citing China's slowing economy, deepening real estate crisis, rising unemployment, and constant struggle to curb sporadic outbreaks under its zero-Covid policy.

"So I think whatever they do, it will be measured, it will be calculated. They'll certainly attempt to put more pressure on Taiwan, but I think they'll stop well short of anything that's particularly risky, or that could create conditions that they can't control," he said.

Shi, the professor at Renmin University in Beijing, agreed that tension between the US and China is unlikely to escalate into a full blown military conflict.

"Unless things got out of control by accident in a way that no one can predict, there is no chance of a military conflict between US and China," he said.

But Shi said right now it is hard to predict what China will do.

"It is a very difficult situation to deal with. Firstly, (Beijing) must resolutely take unprecedented countermeasures. Secondly, it must prevent military conflicts between the United States and China," he said. "We won't know how things will turn out until the last minute."








China's response to Pelosi's potential Taiwan visit could be 'unprecedented' but military conflict unlikely, experts say

CNN · by Nectar Gan, CNN

A version of this story appeared in CNN's Meanwhile in China newsletter, a three-times-a-week update exploring what you need to know about the country's rise and how it impacts the world. Sign up here.

Hong Kong (CNN)The United States is no stranger to China's angry responses over its support for Taiwan, a self-governing island that Beijing claims as its own territory.

But last week, China's warnings against a potential trip by US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi's to Taipei appeared to have caused concern in Washington.

Following reports of Pelosi's plans, China's Foreign Ministry vowed last Tuesday to take "resolute and forceful measures" if the trip goes ahead.

Since then, a flurry of remarks from US officials have only added to the sense of alarm.

On Wednesday, US President Joe Biden told reporters the US military thinks a Taiwan visit by Pelosi is "not a good idea right now." On Thursday, Pelosi said it's important to show support for Taiwan but declined to discuss any travel plans citing security.

Read More

"I think what the President was saying is that maybe the military was afraid of my plane getting shot down or something like that. I don't know exactly," Pelosi said.

On Sunday, former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also weighed in, offering to join Pelosi on her reported trip.

"Nancy, I'll go with you. I'm banned in China, but not freedom-loving Taiwan. See you there!" Pompeo wrote on Twitter.


Pelosi's possible visit to Taiwan raises concerns China might interfere with airspace, US official says

In private, Biden administration officials have expressed concern that China could seek to declare a no-fly zone over Taiwan to upend the possible trip, a US official told CNN.

The Chinese government has not specified in public what "forceful measures" it is planning to take, but some Chinese experts say Beijing's reaction could involve a military component.

"China will respond with unprecedented countermeasures -- the strongest it has ever taken since the Taiwan Strait crises," said Shi Yinhong, an international relations professor at China's Renmin University.

Military conflicts flared across the Taiwan Strait in the 1950s -- the decade after the founding of Communist China, with Beijing shelling several outlying islands controlled by Taipei on two separate occasions.

The last major crisis took place in 1995-1996, after Taiwan's president at the time, Lee Teng-hui, visited the US. Enraged by the visit, China fired missiles into waters around Taiwan, and the crisis ended only after the US sent two aircraft carrier battle groups to the area in a forceful show of support for Taipei.

"If Pelosi goes ahead with her visit, the United States will certainly prepare to respond militarily to a possible Chinese military response," said Shi. "The situation between China and the US will be very tense."

Pelosi's reported trip wouldn't be the first time a sitting US House speaker has visited Taiwan. In 1997, Newt Gingrich met Lee, the island's first democratically elected President, in Taipei only days after his trip to Beijing and Shanghai, where Gingrich said he warned Chinese leaders that the US would intervene militarily if Taiwan was attacked.

According to Gingrich, the response he received at the time was "calm." Publicly, China's Foreign Ministry criticized Gingrich after his Taiwan visit, but the response was limited to rhetoric.

Beijing has indicated things would be different this time around.

Twenty-five years on, China is stronger, more powerful and confident, and its leader Xi Jinping has made it clear that Beijing will no longer tolerate any perceived slights or challenge to its interests.

"It's a completely different regime in Beijing with Xi Jinping. China is in a position to be more assertive, to impose costs and consequences to countries that don't take China's interest into consideration in their policy making or actions," said Drew Thompson, a visiting senior research fellow at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore.

"So in that respect, it's a very different China from when Newt Gingrich visited in 1997."


What you need to know about China-Taiwan tensions

Under Xi, a rising wave of nationalism has swept China, and support for "reuniting" with Taiwan -- possibly by force -- is running high.

Hu Xijin, former editor of state-run nationalist tabloid the Global Times and a prominent hawkish voice in Chinese online punditry, has suggested the Chinese Liberation Army's warplanes should "accompany" Pelosi's aircraft to Taiwan and fly over the island.

That would be a significant infringement of Taiwan's autonomy. As cross-strait tensions soar to their highest level in recent decades, China has sent record numbers of warplanes into Taiwan's self-declared air defense identification zone, with Taiwan scrambling jets to warn them away -- but so far the PLA jets have not entered the island's territorial airspace.

"If Taiwanese military dares to fire on the PLA fighter jets, we will respond resolutely by shooting down Taiwanese warplanes or striking Taiwanese military bases. If the US and Taiwan want an all-out war, then the moment to liberate Taiwan is coming," Hu wrote.

While Hu's belligerent remarks toward Taiwan have long resonated with China's nationalist circles, they do not represent the official stance of Beijing (and some of Hu's previous threats made against Taiwan have turned out to be empty).

But as Thompson points out, the fact that Hu's statements have gone uncensored in China's tightly controlled media shows "a certain degree of support among the Communist Party" -- even if it's only for propaganda value.

Pelosi's reported trip would come at a sensitive time for China. The PLA is celebrating its founding anniversary on August 1, while Xi, the country's most powerful leader in decades, is preparing to break conventions and seek a third term at the ruling Communist Party's 20th congress this fall.

While the politically sensitive timing could trigger a stronger response from Beijing, it could also mean that the Party would want to ensure stability and prevent things from getting out of control, experts say.

"Honestly, this isn't a good time for Xi Jinping to provoke a military conflict right before the 20th party congress. It's in Xi Jinping's interest to manage this rationally and not instigate a crisis on top of all the other crises he has to deal with," Thompson said, citing China's slowing economy, deepening real estate crisis, rising unemployment, and constant struggle to curb sporadic outbreaks under its zero-Covid policy.

"So I think whatever they do, it will be measured, it will be calculated. They'll certainly attempt to put more pressure on Taiwan, but I think they'll stop well short of anything that's particularly risky, or that could create conditions that they can't control," he said.

Shi, the professor at Renmin University in Beijing, agreed that tension between the US and China is unlikely to escalate into a full blown military conflict.

"Unless things got out of control by accident in a way that no one can predict, there is no chance of a military conflict between US and China," he said.

But Shi said right now it is hard to predict what China will do.

"It is a very difficult situation to deal with. Firstly, (Beijing) must resolutely take unprecedented countermeasures. Secondly, it must prevent military conflicts between the United States and China," he said. "We won't know how things will turn out until the last minute."

CNN's Brad Lendon and Kylie Atwood contributed to this story.

CNN · by Nectar Gan, CNN



4. The Global Food Crisis Shouldn’t Have Come As a Surprise


Excerpts:

Private investment in agri-food systems is far larger than state investments but only slightly better, tending to concentrate on luxury goods and services rather than on projects that could address high food prices and mass acute food insecurity. Although rising food prices in 2021 boosted venture capital agri-food tech funding up to $52 billion, an 85 percent increase over 2020, the largest single category was online grocery shopping. Although it is an understandable response to COVID-19 lockdowns, fancy delivery apps do little to nothing to reduce food insecurity, greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity loss, or water stress, and they may aggravate the global obesity epidemic.
The estimated $26 billion it would cost to eliminate global hunger represents less than one percent of the $2.7 trillion in cash on hand in early 2022 among the 500 companies listed on the S&P index. If governments built policy and institutional innovations to attract even a modest fraction of that money to tackle the underlying imbalances that leave the world vulnerable to perfect storms like the one it faces now, that would be a game changer for accelerating agri-food systems transformation. Real leadership—from the private, philanthropic, and public sectors—will manifest in championing smart and substantial investment in agri-food systems transformation.
Like extreme weather events, perfect storms that cause mass acute food insecurity are happening more and more often. It took 35 years for the world to experience another food crisis after 1973–74, but less than a decade after the 2008–12 disaster for the current emergency to hit. Policymakers, international organizations, and the private sector must develop an appropriate, timely, and sufficient humanitarian response regime—not only to avoid unnecessary human suffering now but also to address the larger-scale, longer-term challenges that leave the world increasingly vulnerable to food crises precipitated by a wide range of shocks. These key points—safety nets, immediate action, limits on export bans, better research and development, and thoughtful investment—must guide public and private policy. Policymakers must address the immediate global food emergency with prompt and generous humanitarian aid and orderly international trade. They must also marshal the major research and development investment and policy and institutional innovations necessary to bend the arc of agri-food systems away from increasingly frequent and calamitous crises and toward a healthier, more equitable, resilient, and sustainable world.





The Global Food Crisis Shouldn’t Have Come As a Surprise

How to Finally Fix the Broken System for Alleviating Hunger

By Christopher Barrett

July 25, 2022

Foreign Affairs · by Christopher Barrett · July 25, 2022

The world’s agricultural and food systems face a perfect storm. Overlapping crises, including the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, wars in Ukraine and elsewhere, supply chain bottlenecks for both inputs like fertilizer and outputs like wheat, and natural disasters induced by climate change have together caused what the United Nations has called “the greatest cost-of-living crisis in a generation.” World leaders cannot afford to ignore this unfolding catastrophe: rapidly increasing food prices not only cause widespread human suffering but also threaten to destabilize the political and social order. Already, along with skyrocketing energy costs, surging food prices have helped bring about the collapse of the Sri Lankan government.

But storms are increasingly predictable, and severe damage from them is therefore increasingly preventable. This is true of the current food crisis as well as extreme weather events. Political and business leaders have for too long ignored key fissures such as insufficient safety net coverage and lags in agricultural and policy innovations that leave agri-food systems—and the billions of people whose lives or livelihoods depend on them—vulnerable to the effects of other calamities. If the global response to the current food emergency likewise neglects these critical points, it may inadvertently exacerbate underlying problems, worsen and prolong unnecessary human suffering, and accelerate the arrival of the next perfect storm. Conversely, serious efforts to address not only the current crisis but also the long-standing issues that have helped cause it could move the world toward healthier, more equitable, resilient, and sustainable agri-food systems. World leaders and international organizations have a chance to make food emergencies and widespread acute hunger problems of the past; they must not let this crisis go to waste.

A CRIPPLING FOOD INSECURITY CRISIS

The clearest evidence that the world is in the throes of a food emergency is the spike in food prices: the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimated that global food prices were 23 percent higher in May 2022 than they were a year earlier. Moreover, they are now more than 12 percent higher than at the peak of the 2008–12 global food price crisis, a disaster that cast tens of millions of people back into poverty and sparked political unrest in dozens of countries. Indeed, the social and political upheaval across the Middle East that led to the 2010­–11 Arab uprisings was partly driven by the high cost of food.

Dramatic increases in food prices pose severe health risks, including acute malnutrition or even famine, particularly in the developing world. According to the World Food Program (WFP), a record number of up to 323 million people are now, or are at risk of soon becoming, acutely food insecure (the technical term for nutrient intake deficiencies that puts a person’s life or livelihood in immediate danger). In more than a dozen desperately poor countries—Afghanistan, Angola, Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti, Kenya, Niger, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, Yemen, and Zimbabwe—hundreds of millions of people already face severe food insecurity. In the absence of adequate, appropriate, rapid humanitarian response, many people will die unnecessarily.

The world is in the throes of a food emergency.

There is more than enough food in the global system to go around. Even amid the current crisis, global daily food supplies average roughly 3,000 calories, 85 grams of protein, and 90 grams of fat per person, far exceeding human metabolic needs for a healthy life. The core drivers of hunger and malnutrition are poverty and maldistribution, including excessive food loss and waste, not insufficient agricultural production. Today, roughly three billion people are too poor to afford a healthy diet and perhaps a billion more could soon suffer similarly. Higher food prices disproportionately hurt the poor for the simple reason that they spend a far larger share of their income on food. Without adequate safety nets, preferably ones that are triggered automatically for people with incomes below a certain threshold or when food prices rise too high, people suffer unnecessarily.


History and the current crisis sadly show that Western politicians’ discretionary responses routinely prove insufficient and may even aggravate preexisting inequities. In Ukraine, for instance, the global humanitarian response has been laudably swift. As a result, it is not among the countries facing food emergencies, despite the fact that Russia’s invasion has driven more than 12 million Ukrainians from their homes. Nor are high food prices causing mass hunger among displaced Ukrainians. Yet in Yemen, which has suffered a terrible civil war for eight years, the WFP estimates that a record 19 million people are food insecure. If the international community were equally generous where brown-skinned peoples similarly face war and acute food insecurity, the global food system would have adequate supplies to address the problem.

BUILD BETTER SAFETY NETS

If the international community is serious about addressing the food crisis—and about fixing a global agri-food system that leaves vulnerable and marginalized communities unevenly exposed to hunger and famine—it must build better safety nets. Food price spikes only cause mass malnutrition when safety nets are inadequate. The world has ample food supplies to feed everyone a healthy diet, even in the face of natural and manmade disasters. But it lacks mechanisms to trigger responses that equally protect people in locations less geopolitically important than Ukraine, or among populations of the global South that may be less visible to leading Western governments. Establishing automatic global safety nets, through a combination of financial arrangements contractually triggered by disasters and treaty commitments among governments, could build effective safeguards that are increasingly needed with climate change.

The G-7 countries just pledged an additional $4.5 billion for emergency global food assistance, which sounds generous. Unfortunately, that brings global commitments up to only $14 billion, less than one-third of the $46 billion in current total humanitarian appeals worldwide. And international aid is down amid the pandemic. The massive costs that governments have shouldered to fund domestic COVID-19 responses have understandably limited humanitarian spending abroad. But penny pinching by the world’s richest countries risks precipitating crises in the coming years that could be far greater, in both monetary cost and human suffering, than the current crisis.

Policymakers must also work to address humanitarian emergencies promptly and fully, or risk downstream crises that could be far more serious. Ignoring food emergencies doesn’t make them go away nor cheaper to address later. In fact, it often leads to more challenging problems that are more difficult to tackle, mostly because higher food prices and greater acute food insecurity are strongly associated with forced migration. When people grow desperate to feed their families, they take risks, most commonly by fleeing their homes. Any humanitarian agency can attest that it’s far more expensive to meet the needs of displaced people than it is to help people in their own homes before circumstances compel them to leave. And the number of displaced people is growing. At the end of 2021, there were already a record 89 million people forcibly displaced, even before Russia’s invasion drove 12 million Ukrainians to flee their homes.


There is more than enough food in the global system to go around.

Moreover, there are steep sociopolitical costs to the failure to address humanitarian needs, both in countries that need assistance and in those that might provide it. High food prices lead to an increased risk of conflict and political unrest in countries with weak social safety nets. Roughly four dozen countries experienced domestic political unrest or civil war during the 2008–12 global food price crisis. Governments in Haiti, Libya, Madagascar, and Tunisia fell, sometimes violently, and protracted civil wars erupted in Syria and Yemen.


Those problems can also spill over into high-income countries. Europe’s migrant crisis began in 2011 with mass unrest across North Africa and West Asia over spikes in food prices; it culminated in 2015 when waves of Syrians, Iraqis, Afghanis, and others fleeing civil war sought refuge in Europe. The nationalist, anti-immigrant domestic political response that predictably followed heralded a distinct rightward shift in European—as well as U.S.—politics over the last decade. Russian President Vladimir Putin may be looking to replicate Europe’s migrant crisis by aggravating the preexisting global food crisis.

Indeed, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine didn’t cause the food price crisis so much as it aggravated an already existing problem. Global food prices were already rising quickly before the war. Although food prices fell during the very beginning of the pandemic, they rose rapidly through last year—in October 2021, they blew past the December 2010 prior global food price record. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and blockade of its Black Sea ports certainly accelerated this trend by disrupting wheat, sunflower oil, maize, and fertilizer exports, driving global food prices up 18 percent just from January to March 2022. Nonetheless, global food prices peaked a month into the invasion and have since tapered off slightly in response to reasonably favorable growing conditions in other major producing countries, the rising risk of recession in major economies, and an agreement to open a Black Sea corridor to evacuate Ukrainian export commodities. This is because the supply shock arising from the Ukraine war is relatively small. Of the roughly three billion tons of grain produced globally each year, the loss of perhaps half of Ukraine’s exports—which is likely the upper bound—implies a supply shock of less than one percent. That’s less than what was lost to the severe 2012 drought in the United States’ Midwest—not enough to cause a crisis.

TIME FOR NEW TRADE AGREEMENTS

As they craft a response to the current food emergency, policymakers should also assess the need for a global agreement to tie governments’ hands when domestic political forces agitate for export bans. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was not the only cause of the February­–March rise in food prices. Ill-advised export bans by a few major food-producing countries looking to insulate domestic consumers from rising global market prices also contributed to this spike in costs. India banned wheat exports, Indonesia blocked palm oil exports, and China prohibited the export of agrichemicals. Repeating errors made during the 2008–12 global food price crisis, several governments caved to domestic political pressures and imposed export bans in the hope that they could prevent global price shocks from affecting domestic markets. Such policies inevitably quickly fail. Meanwhile, bans temporarily fuel faster and greater—if short-lived—price increases among importers that must scramble to find new suppliers to fill interrupted supply chains, temporarily jacking up prices in the process.

Only about one-quarter of the food consumed globally depends on international trade. Trade doesn’t feed the global population so much as it stabilizes prices, dispersing varied demand and supply shocks across the world quite effectively. No nation can be reliably self-sufficient and adequately nourished. The world needs orderly trade regimes to absorb the shocks that inevitably occur, especially as climate change progresses. The World Trade Organization (WTO) was created during a period of steadily falling real food prices; they hit an all-time low in December 1999. Because its rules were negotiated during an era of falling prices, the WTO has effective tools to limit governments’ ability to indulge domestic political pressure for protectionism around imports that lead to lower prices. But when prices rise, the protectionist impulse concerns exports, not imports, and the WTO lacks corresponding agreements to constrain governments’ ability to restrict exports. New trade agreements to rectify this oversight are needed if the world is to get a handle on food prices.

REIMAGINING THE AGRI-FOOD SYSTEM

Policymakers must also recognize the urgent need to promote innovation in agri-food systems. Through greater investment in research and development and more creative policies, it would be possible not only to boost agricultural productivity but also to reduce food loss and waste, and the demand for agricultural commodities as livestock feed and transport fuel, rather than food. An enormous structural problem in the agri-food system is that demand for grains and oilseeds for biofuels, and especially for animal feed, has grown far faster than the demand for food.

Public agricultural research and development has a very high return on investment. Yet U.S. public investment in agricultural research has fallen by one-third over the past two decades, and ongoing investments remain heavily concentrated in refining traditional crops and methods. Part of the problem is that governments and policymakers often look for short-term results, whereas the most effective agri-food innovations pay off handsomely over years and decades. Among long-term innovations, governments should be investing in circular systems that can recycle waste products into fertilizers and feed; controlled environment agriculture that can reduce land, pesticide, and water use and crop loss to pests and pathogens; and alternative proteins that can produce healthy, tasty products at a fraction of the agrichemical, land, and water costs of current systems. They must also push for the institutional and policy innovations that can encourage private investment in these new technologies.


There are steep sociopolitical costs to the failure to address humanitarian needs.

Private investment in agri-food systems is far larger than state investments but only slightly better, tending to concentrate on luxury goods and services rather than on projects that could address high food prices and mass acute food insecurity. Although rising food prices in 2021 boosted venture capital agri-food tech funding up to $52 billion, an 85 percent increase over 2020, the largest single category was online grocery shopping. Although it is an understandable response to COVID-19 lockdowns, fancy delivery apps do little to nothing to reduce food insecurity, greenhouse gas emissions, biodiversity loss, or water stress, and they may aggravate the global obesity epidemic.

The estimated $26 billion it would cost to eliminate global hunger represents less than one percent of the $2.7 trillion in cash on hand in early 2022 among the 500 companies listed on the S&P index. If governments built policy and institutional innovations to attract even a modest fraction of that money to tackle the underlying imbalances that leave the world vulnerable to perfect storms like the one it faces now, that would be a game changer for accelerating agri-food systems transformation. Real leadership—from the private, philanthropic, and public sectors—will manifest in championing smart and substantial investment in agri-food systems transformation.


Like extreme weather events, perfect storms that cause mass acute food insecurity are happening more and more often. It took 35 years for the world to experience another food crisis after 1973–74, but less than a decade after the 2008–12 disaster for the current emergency to hit. Policymakers, international organizations, and the private sector must develop an appropriate, timely, and sufficient humanitarian response regime—not only to avoid unnecessary human suffering now but also to address the larger-scale, longer-term challenges that leave the world increasingly vulnerable to food crises precipitated by a wide range of shocks. These key points—safety nets, immediate action, limits on export bans, better research and development, and thoughtful investment—must guide public and private policy. Policymakers must address the immediate global food emergency with prompt and generous humanitarian aid and orderly international trade. They must also marshal the major research and development investment and policy and institutional innovations necessary to bend the arc of agri-food systems away from increasingly frequent and calamitous crises and toward a healthier, more equitable, resilient, and sustainable world.


Foreign Affairs · by Christopher Barrett · July 25, 2022



5. Let Pelosi go to Taiwan by John Bolton




Let Pelosi go to Taiwan

Washington Examiner · by John Bolton · July 24, 2022

Whether or not Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) travels to Taiwan in August is a major foreign policy issue. Indeed, the answer will tell us a great deal about who actually controls American foreign policy: Washington or Beijing. We will see whether Xi Jinping’s "wolf warrior" diplomacy, which caught the Biden administration off guard at its inception, will work for Beijing regarding Pelosi.

China’s position on the status of Taiwan, not careful American calculations, has too long dominated U.S. diplomacy with Taipei. Too many in Washington have fretted about "damaging" relations with Beijing, with a few notable exceptions in recent administrations. Too few officials seem concerned either about America’s relations with Taiwan, an important Indo-Pacific ally, or about the damage that capitulating to Beijing would do to our credibility resisting its hegemonic aspirations worldwide.

Responding to Pelosi’s potential trip, China erupted , publicly and privately. "The United States is hollowing out and blurring up the 'One China' policy," China’s U.S. ambassador complained. The White House responded that it still adheres to "strategic ambiguity" regarding Taiwan, leaving the distinct impression Beijing’s intimidation was succeeding. Perhaps due to its overriding concern for climate change negotiations with China, the White House is working overtime to prevent (or at least postpone) Pelosi’s trip — if only it could figure out how.

Biden himself has not addressed the issue squarely, leaving concern about Pelosi’s trip to the Pentagon and worries about the speaker’s safety. Of course, China’s efforts to interfere in Taiwan’s air defense identification zone, its menacing approaches by "fishing fleets" to the Senkaku Islands, which are disputed with Japan, its militarized assertion that the South China Sea constitutes a province of China, and its persistent harassment of Indian forces along the disputed border all indicate that any travel near China — not to mention within China — is potentially dangerous.

Of course, the source of the danger is China itself. Beijing creates the problem and then warns against it as if discussing threatening weather. If we simply accept that Middle Kingdom ultimatums alone will dictate our behavior, Beijing gets its way cost-free. Obviously, we should be clear-eyed in evaluating hostile threats, but our policymakers must learn to distinguish "wolf warrior" diplomatic theater from military reality.

What about the risks to China if it uses force against a Pelosi visit? She is, most importantly, an American citizen. She is also speaker of the House, a position the Constitution created, and, by statute, in the line of presidential succession. Her visit would be no vacation jaunt, whether she travels on military or commercial aircraft. Are we more intimidated by Chinese fist-shaking than they are by the retaliation we would unleash if they endangered the speaker’s safety? If that is true, America has a real problem, a severe one.

Pelosi’s travel highlights why America needs a forthright debate on the fundamentals of our relationship with Taiwan. Biden himself said openly he supported U.S. military involvement in Taiwan’s defense (unlike in Ukraine), but, as so often, his advisers walked that comment back. But jettisoning "strategic ambiguity" is not simply a legitimate viewpoint — it is now quite likely a near-consensus among serious analysts of American interests in the region. Integrating Taiwan into larger frameworks to constrain China makes sense not just for Taiwan but for other concerned neighbors such as Japan and South Korea.

Ultimately, of course, Washington should extend full diplomatic recognition to Taiwan. Doing so would be entirely consistent with the 1933 Montevideo Convention’s conditions for "statehood," all of which Taiwan meets: defined territory, stable population, functioning government, and the ability to carry out international affairs. The only reason not to act is that Beijing would be unhappy. Given China’s unacceptably belligerent conduct around its Indo-Pacific periphery for the last several decades, however, it is time to recognize reality: Taiwan is a legitimately independent state.

In 1971, then-U.N. Ambassador George H.W. Bush first proposed "dual recognition" (full diplomatic linkages with both China and Taiwan) as a way to stave off expulsion of the Republic of China from the U.N. and its replacement by the People's Republic of China. Both Taipei and Beijing rejected the compromise, but President Nixon maintained recognition of Taipei. Jimmy Carter mistakenly abandoned that position in 1979 by recognizing Beijing and ditching Taipei. Had Carter not folded dishonorably, the mainland could have done little more than grumble.

In fact, that’s still Beijing’s only real option to this day. Doing anything more than blustering is far riskier to them than to us. I recommended full recognition for Taiwan back in 2000, and the arguments still apply today. Let Pelosi go to Taiwan. It’s a good warm-up for the real thing.

John Bolton was national security adviser to President Donald Trump between 2018 and 2019. Between 2005 and 2006, he was the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

Washington Examiner · by John Bolton · July 24, 2022




6. Fact: Americans Are Fighting and Dying in Ukraine


Fact: Americans Are Fighting and Dying in Ukraine

19fortyfive.com · by BySteve Balestrieri · July 24, 2022

Ukraine War Update: Two Americans KIA In Ukraine, Russia Trying To Win Support in Africa, Middle East – Two Americans who were fighting in Ukraine as part of a Special Operations unit that was part of the Territorial Defense of the Armed Forces of Ukraine were killed in action this week after getting ambushed during an operation.

Also killed was a Canadian and Swedish citizen, according to their Ukrainian commander, who gave an exclusive interview to Politico.

Americans Killed in Ukraine

The Americans killed were Luke “Skywalker” Lucyszyn and Bryan Young. Ruslan Miroshnichenko, the Ukrainian commander, said they were killed along with Emile-Antoine Roy-Sirois of Canada and Edvard Selander Patrignani of Sweden.

During a Russian attack on the village of Hryhorivka, two miles northwest of Siversk. There, Miroshnichenko said, “the guys were tasked to take their firing positions” and clear a ravine where Russian forces were working on crossing a river.

“They did it successfully. But at the end of the mission, they were ambushed by Russian tanks,” Miroshnichenko said. “The first shell injured Luke. Three guys, Edward, Emile, and Bryan, they immediately attempted to help Luke, to do first aid, and evacuate him from this spot. Then the second shell killed them all.”

A State Department spokesman confirmed the deaths but didn’t name them. “We are in touch with the families and providing all possible consular assistance. Out of respect to the families during this difficult time, we have nothing further to add,” the spokesman said.

World Leaders Condemn Putin After Odesa Missile Strike:

Vladimir Putin and the Russian government were lambasted by world leaders after the Russians conducted a missile strike on the port infrastructure of Odesa less than a day after signing a Turkish/UN-sponsored deal to allow grain to flow from the port.

Ukraine’s Odesa military administration said two missiles were shot down, and two struck the port’s facilities.

The Russian Defense Ministry claimed they attacked and sunk a naval vessel and destroyed a warehouse with US-supplied Harpoon anti-ship missiles.

“A docked Ukrainian warship and a warehouse with US-supplied Harpoon anti-ship missiles were destroyed by long-range precision-guided naval missiles in Odesa seaport on the territory of a ship repair plant,” the ministry was quoted by Russian news agencies.

Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA), the House Armed Services Committee chairman, was visiting Zelensky with a delegation in Kyiv, wrote in a statement that Putin “violated the spirit of that agreement with more missile strikes.”

“He simply cannot be trusted.”

Bridget Brink, the US Ambassador to Ukraine, posted a statement on Twitter. “Outrageous. Russia strikes the port city of Odesa less than 24 hours after signing an agreement to allow shipments of agricultural exports. The Kremlin continues to weaponize food. Russia must be held to account.”

Josep Borrell, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, said the EU “strongly condemns” the attack” in a post he made on Twitter.

“Striking a target crucial for grain export a day after the signature of Istanbul agreements is particularly reprehensible & again demonstrates Russia’s total disregard for international law & commitments,” Borrell wrote.

Estonia’s Prime Minister Kaja Kallas also posted on Twitter, “That’s all you need to know about deals with Russia.”

Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, also echoed the intense feelings that have been displayed against Moscow for this attack.

“RF (Russian Federation) is predictably worthless,” he wrote in a Twitter post.

“The ink has not had time to dry out, yet there are two vile provocations: attack on a sea port in Odessa and a statement by a (Russian) Defense Ministry that (Ukrainian) ports are “dangerous for shipping.” A reminder to the world of what (Russian)-’pursuit of peace’ is worth.”

Russia Seeking Support in Africa and the Middle East:

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was on a trip to Egypt and Africa trying to drum up support for Moscow, blaming the war in Ukraine on the US and Western European countries.

In Cairo, Lavrov stated that the war was being dragged on by the West, despite “what and whose end it will be.

“We are in no way prejudiced against resuming negotiations on a wider range of issues, but this does not depend on us because the Ukrainian authorities – starting from the president and down to his numerous, countless advisers – repeatedly say that there will be no talks until Ukraine defeats Russia on the battlefield,” he added.

“In this, the Ukrainians are being actively encouraged by their Western handlers, be it London, Washington, Berlin, or any other European Union and NATO capital. So the choice is theirs.”

Lavrov wrote an article published in newspapers in the four countries he is visiting; Egypt, Ethiopia, Uganda, and the Republic of Congo, where he blamed the food shortages on the United States and the West.

“We know that the African colleagues do not approve of the undisguised attempts of the U.S. and their European satellites to gain the upper hand, and to impose a unipolar world order to the international community,” he wrote.

He characterized the US and Western Europe as “the golden billion” who live well at the expense of others and tried to prey upon the old African fears of colonization.

“Why should this golden billion, which is only part of the global population, dominate everyone else and enforce its rules of conduct that are based on the illusion of exceptionalism?” he said earlier this week. “It mainly got to where it is by robbing other peoples in Asia and Africa.”

Steve Balestrieri is a 1945 National Security Columnist. He served as a US Army Special Forces NCO and Warrant Officer before injuries forced his early separation. In addition to writing for 19fortyfive.com and other military news organizations, he has covered the NFL for PatsFans.com for over 11 years. His work was regularly featured in the Millbury-Sutton Chronicle and Grafton News newspapers in Massachusetts.

19fortyfive.com · by BySteve Balestrieri · July 24, 2022



7. Focusing on China Will Prepare the U.S. Military for the Future


Excerpts:


Admittedly, refocusing America’s professional education system would be hard. The staff and war colleges have spent decades building a curriculum and faculty for a broad band rather than focused education—for a time when it was impossible to predict where or how the U.S. military was likely to be used. Major change would require a coordinated effort by the staff and war colleges, the Pentagon’s Joint Staff, and Congress. But the payoff could be great. Preparing the U.S. military to fight the Soviet Union during the Cold War helped deter military aggression by Moscow and prepared U.S. forces to later defeat Iraq. Refocusing professional military education on China could do the same, producing a future U.S. military better prepared for likely challenges, more adept at deterring conflict, and succeeding if deterrence fails.


​The last thing I did in the Army at the National War College was to contribute to Dr. Cynthia Watson's and Dr. Bud Cole's China seminar and then assisted Dr. Watson ​on a 2 week trip to China with 15 National War College students. As I recall the students developed a deep understanding of China during their studies. The question is how were they able to put that to use after the War College. PME is one thing (and important one) but it will be for naught if the personnel management system does not put them to effective use in the right jobs.



Focusing on China Will Prepare the U.S. Military for the Future

Refocusing professional military education on China could produce a future U.S. military better prepared for likely challenges, more adept at deterring conflict, and succeeding if deterrence fails.

The National Interest · by Steven Metz · July 24, 2022

The U.S. military has an elaborate professional education system to prepare its leaders as they take on higher levels of command and increased responsibility. Selected officers attend a staff college midway in their career and a war college as they prepare for the final stage of their time in uniform. The professional education system is a mechanism to assure that each new cadre of leaders has a common skill set and knowledge base, its curriculum reflects what future military leaders must understand. Today, this system needs to be refocused on America’s paramount security challenge: China.

Much of the curriculum in professional military education is based on enduring topics like responsible command, military professionalism, team building in large organizations, civil-military relations, and complex enterprise management. But it also represents what senior military leaders feel their subordinates need to know about the strategic environment. This evolves as the global security system and American strategy change.

During the Cold War, professional military education naturally concentrated on the Soviet Union. The senior schools examined many issues and challenges but understanding the Soviet Union was paramount. While not every graduate of a staff or war college was a bone fide Soviet expert, all had a basic understanding of that adversary’s methods, organizations, capabilities, strengths, and weaknesses. Other missions were, in the military’s phrasing, “lesser included contingencies.” After the Cold War America’s global strategy no longer concentrated on a single challenge so the professional military education system shifted to a more diffuse curriculum. Students could concentrate on one region or potential adversary but, the thinking was, the United States needed to prepare for so many contingencies that the staff and war colleges had to paint with a broad brush.

That once made sense but no longer does. Since the United States faces a clear, paramount security challenge the professional military education system should be refocused. While continuing to educate students on the enduring skills that senior military leaders must have, the staff and war colleges should assure that all of their graduates have an understanding of Chinese tactics, operations, organizations, capabilities, history, strategy, and strategic culture.


The professional military education system certainly should examine the most dangerous scenario—Chinese aggression against Taiwan—but must, like the Chinese challenges itself, be broad and holistic. China is a global power active around the world, developing new strategic methods from security partnerships to global power projection. Thus any U.S. policy designed to deter Chinese aggression against Taiwan or other nearby nations must be global rather than local. It must include things like the effective use of information power in the context of pervasive social media, connectivity, and transparency as well as security in space. The U.S. military’s future leaders must see China both as a regional military power and a multidimensional global power, understanding global integrated deterrence and the role that armed force plays in it.

The way this refocused staff and war college curriculum is taught also matters. In the future security environment effective innovation and rapid adaptation will be vital. If anything, technology and connectivity will make innovation and adaptation even more decisive. To inculcate skill at this the refocused curriculum in professional military education should be as experiential as possible, emphasizing unscripted war games where failure or defeat is a real possibility, simulations stressing organizational entrepreneurship, and rigorous, historically based case studies.

For instance, staff or war college resident students might collaborate with distributed teams in an extended exercise which requires them to rapidly redesign the U.S. military’s global organization after a major strategic shift like, say, Chinese military paramountcy in the Asia-Pacific region. After the redesign, the students would then have to use the organizations that they created or adapted to protect American security in a new strategic environment. They would both build new organizations and concepts and use them. As another example, students might participate in an exercise where the United States has to expand its military and mobilize during a multi-year war. Many other high-stress, complex experiential learning mechanisms focused on China are possible.

Admittedly, refocusing America’s professional education system would be hard. The staff and war colleges have spent decades building a curriculum and faculty for a broad band rather than focused education—for a time when it was impossible to predict where or how the U.S. military was likely to be used. Major change would require a coordinated effort by the staff and war colleges, the Pentagon’s Joint Staff, and Congress. But the payoff could be great. Preparing the U.S. military to fight the Soviet Union during the Cold War helped deter military aggression by Moscow and prepared U.S. forces to later defeat Iraq. Refocusing professional military education on China could do the same, producing a future U.S. military better prepared for likely challenges, more adept at deterring conflict, and succeeding if deterrence fails.

Steven Metz is Professor of National Security and Strategy at the U.S. Army War College. The ideas in this essay are solely those of the author and do not represent the official position of the U.S. Army or U.S. Army War College.

Image: Flickr.

The National Interest · by Steven Metz · July 24, 2022


8. Note from Nimitz: You Need Lots of Ships to Take Risks in War


Excerpts:


Reminiscing about great leaders of yesteryear is a pleasant pastime, but there are glum undertones to Symonds’s account of Nimitz at war. CINCPAC acquitted himself like a Fabius when events thrust a defensive strategy of poverty on him, and morphed into a Scipio when U.S. industry supplied him the wherewithal to prosecute an offensive strategy of plenty. But today’s U.S. Navy and Marine Corps force structure is lean in the extreme, with barely adequate numbers of ships, planes, and ordnance, not to mention humdrum but indispensable capabilities such as shipyards and strategic sealift. Were he in charge of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command today, Nimitz’s fealty to the principle of calculated risk might compel him to remain in Fabian mode, waging defense more or less permanently.
No strategy of plenty is in the offing nowadays.
But you don’t win with a Fabian strategy and forces. All you do is stave off defeat. That’s worth pondering in Washington DC as Congress draws up defense budgets and the Pentagon debates how to employ such armaments as it does field. Let’s bias the risk calculus in favor of victory.



Note from Nimitz: You Need Lots of Ships to Take Risks in War

19fortyfive.com · by ByJames Holmes · July 24, 2022

Niccolò Machiavelli, meet Chester Nimitz. In his Discourses on Roman history the Renaissance Florentine philosopher-statesman claimed that human beings do not relish change. In fact, he verges on saying people can’t change as the times and surroundings change around them. They get stuck as events march on.

Thankfully for World War II America, Fleet Admiral Nimitz was an exception to the Machiavellian rule.

Machiavelli was right to fret, though. Stasis is dangerous amid flux. A society can come to grief if individuals allergic to adaptation wield positions of high authority. An authoritarian society stands in particular peril. After all, there’s no one to remove an authoritarian ruler from office when circumstances shift. A more liberal society finds it easier to adapt because—even though individuals may not change—a liberal society can replace people who have fallen behind the times with others fit for the times.

In so doing an open society gives itself a fighting chance in times of menace.

To fortify his case Machiavelli relates the parable of Fabius and Scipio, two Roman generals during the protracted Second Punic War against Carthage. In 218 B.C. a Carthaginian host captained by the warlord Hannibal crossed the Mediterranean Sea, made its way across the Alps into Italy, and inflicted a series of grave defeats on the Roman army. Unable to overcome Carthaginian prowess, Romans found themselves playing defense on their own ground. To gain time to gather soldiers and matériel sufficient to outfight Hannibal, the Senate appointed Fabius Maximus, nicknamed “the Delayer,” to orchestrate the defense. In ensuing years the defensive-minded Fabius mastered the art of clinging to and wearing down the foe. His legions made a habit of remaining nearby the Carthaginians in the field and harrying them without venturing an apocalyptic battle Rome stood little chance of winning.

Fabius succeeded, winning time for Rome to marshal its resources. The republic gathered itself. Trouble is, his temperament prevented him from making the transition from defense to offense when opportunity beckoned. Indeed, he argued strenuously against taking the offensive. Machiavelli makes Fabius the face of change-averse humanity. Fortunately for Rome’s martial prospects, the Senate could dismiss commanders from their posts and appoint fresh faces suited to the times. Senators chose the offensively minded Scipio to carry the fight to Hannibal. He did that and more, crossing the Mediterranean to attack the problem of Carthage at its source in North Africa. Under his command the Roman army scored successive triumphs culminating at the decisive Battle of Zama in 202 B.C. His feats garnered Scipio the honorific Africanus, among other laurels.

So, it seems, Machiavelli adjudges that political leaders must change commanders to position themselves for victory as the fortunes of war wax and wane. Nevertheless, he does seem to entertain faint hopes that a few superior individuals might be able to master their human aversion to change, and thus keep apace of the times. Which brings us back to Admiral Chester Nimitz, commander-in-chief of U.S. forces in the Pacific theater, a.k.a. CINCPAC. Historian Craig Symonds doesn’t explicitly make the tie-in to antiquity in his masterful new leadership study Nimitz at War: Command Leadership from Pearl Harbor to Tokyo Bay.

But Machiavellian insights fairly burst off the pages of his treatise.

Were he among the quick today, Machiavelli would herald Nimitz as one of those rare individuals who can keep up with mercurial times. As Symonds shows, the core precept animating Nimitz’s strategic and operational thinking was what he called “the principle of calculated risk,” codified in his instructions to the fleet before the Battle of Midway in 1942. To oversimplify a trifle, calculated risk in June 1942—when the remnants of the fleet trounced at Pearl Harbor were all Nimitz had to battle back with—meant fleet commanders should refrain from a major engagement unless they stood to inflict worse damage on the Imperial Japanese Navy than they suffered. They should preserve precious assets—aircraft carriers in particular—unless they were convinced they could do disproportionate harm.

As indeed they did at Midway, sinking four Japanese flattops in a day while losing just one. They gave worse than they got.

Nineteen forty-two saw Nimitz in his Fabian guise, searching for ways to harness scant resources to mount an active defense against a domineering foe. But as Symonds shows, CINCPAC’s Fabian interlude lasted only until mid-1943, when ships of war fitted out under the Two-Ocean Navy Act of 1940—a measure that in effect authorized the construction of a second, better U.S. Navy—started showing up in bulk in the Pacific. At that stage, the principle of calculated risk came to warrant offensive action. After all, once the resource balance swung toward the U.S. Navy and affiliated joint forces, they could afford to absorb heavy punishment in their quest to subdue an Imperial Japanese Navy whose resources were slowly dwindling. They could increasingly take losses where Japan increasingly could not.

In 1943, then, Nimitz’s risk calculus indicated that the time had come to don his Scipio Africanus mantle. After all, you can take a more venturesome posture when you have a spare of something. Lose that something, and you can pick up the spare and carry on. Embracing that logic was the genius of Chester Nimitz.

Reminiscing about great leaders of yesteryear is a pleasant pastime, but there are glum undertones to Symonds’s account of Nimitz at war. CINCPAC acquitted himself like a Fabius when events thrust a defensive strategy of poverty on him, and morphed into a Scipio when U.S. industry supplied him the wherewithal to prosecute an offensive strategy of plenty. But today’s U.S. Navy and Marine Corps force structure is lean in the extreme, with barely adequate numbers of ships, planes, and ordnance, not to mention humdrum but indispensable capabilities such as shipyards and strategic sealift. Were he in charge of the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command today, Nimitz’s fealty to the principle of calculated risk might compel him to remain in Fabian mode, waging defense more or less permanently.

No strategy of plenty is in the offing nowadays.

But you don’t win with a Fabian strategy and forces. All you do is stave off defeat. That’s worth pondering in Washington DC as Congress draws up defense budgets and the Pentagon debates how to employ such armaments as it does field. Let’s bias the risk calculus in favor of victory.

A 1945 Contributing Editor, Dr. James Holmes holds the J. C. Wylie Chair of Maritime Strategy at the Naval War College and served on the faculty of the University of Georgia School of Public and International Affairs. A former U.S. Navy surface warfare officer, he was the last gunnery officer in history to fire a battleship’s big guns in anger, during the first Gulf War in 1991. He earned the Naval War College Foundation Award in 1994, signifying the top graduate in his class. His books include Red Star over the Pacific, an Atlantic Monthly Best Book of 2010 and a fixture on the Navy Professional Reading List. General James Mattis deems him “troublesome.” The views voiced here are his alone. Holmes also blogs at the Naval Diplomat.

19fortyfive.com · by ByJames Holmes · July 24, 2022


9.  Russia is Gaining an Indo-Pacific Foothold Through Myanmar


Excerpts:


If the Biden administration is serious about achieving its objectives in the Indo-Pacific, it would need to counter Russia’s stealthy expansion of power in Myanmar more purposefully. A good starting point would be to engage more proactively with the opposition and help meet its needs.


Russia is Gaining an Indo-Pacific Foothold Through Myanmar

While the West continues to try to isolate and punish Russia for the war in Ukraine, elsewhere Moscow is widening its reach and influence.

thediplomat.com · by Mohamed Zeeshan · July 25, 2022

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Earlier this month, the leader of Myanmar’s ruling military junta, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing, went to Russia in order to expand his regime’s defense and energy cooperation with Moscow. The relationship is most definitely lopsided and Moscow has not been willing to publicly embrace Min Aung Hlaing’s regime just yet. During his visit last week, the general was not granted a meeting with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, and Russia downplayed the visit as a “private” one.

Yet, since the coup last February, Russia has been using its military might to expand its influence in Myanmar by sponsoring the junta’s operations. Moscow has supplied drones, fighter jets, and armored vehicles to the military regime, according to one United Nations expert. Russia has also thwarted statements at the U.N. Security Council aimed at Myanmar’s humanitarian crisis. The two governments are now united by their fight against Western sanctions and find themselves with expanding common ground.

Russia’s support is vital to the Myanmar junta, which is fighting a war of attrition against sundry rebels in the country’s complex ethnic landscape. So far, it has killed more than 2,000 civilians, according to U.N. officials. Yet, in the face of guerrilla warfare from multiple quarters, the military has struggled to establish its control outside provincial centers.

A steady stream of weapons from Moscow is key to the junta’s plans, and some experts believe that it has transferred raw materials to Russia in exchange, so as to circumvent sanctions. On his latest visit, Min Aung Hlaing even sought support in establishing nuclear energy to revive his war-ravaged economy.

For Russia, Myanmar’s geographical location is a strategic boon. Nestled between India and China, with a coastline facing the Bay of Bengal, Myanmar has access to both the Indian Ocean and the maritime trade routes leading into the South China Sea.

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The Myanmar junta’s relative isolation post the coup also makes it a soft target for Moscow. Since the coup, the military government has largely relied on China. Under the democratically elected government headed by Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar had whittled down the scope of various Chinese projects under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). After the military takeover, the junta revived and expedited several of those projects.

Yet, the military remains wary of putting all its eggs in Beijing’s basket. Unlike Russia, which has maintained military ties only with the junta, China has armed and engaged with rebel militias as well. For the junta, a diversification of ties by moving closer to Moscow is a welcome prospect – and Russia has begun responding favorably.

Meanwhile, opposition fighters have been disappointed by the lack of international support for their cause, despite sanctions and lofty rhetoric from the West. The opposition People’s Defense Forces and other rebel militias were recently successful in recruiting about 100,000 fighters. Yet, only about 40 percent of them are said to have even small arms. In the absence of much support from the West, resistance groups have been forced to rely on public donations.

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America’s goodwill amongst Myanmar’s rebel forces is compounded by its contrasting attitude toward Ukraine. Since the beginning of Russia’s invasion in February, the U.S. has poured in over $7.3 billion in military assistance, including – more recently – long-range missiles and artillery that are helping annihilate Russian targets in southern Ukraine.

By comparison, many analysts believe that a fraction of that support will be sufficient to take down the junta in Myanmar. “A supply of 50–100 Stinger-like missiles and a few thousand military-grade M4 automatic rifles would be enough for them to overthrow the military junta,” wrote one analyst, Michael Martin, at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. Yet, so far, the U.S. has been reluctant to enter the fray.

Washington’s absence has left Russia with the strategic space to consolidate its own allies and proxies. In the immediate aftermath of the Ukraine invasion, the Myanmar military junta was among Putin’s most vocal supporters. “Russia has worked to consolidate its sovereignty,” a spokesperson for the regime had said at the time. “I think this is the right thing to do.”

If the junta is able to prevail in Myanmar with Russia’s support, it would strengthen Putin’s hand in a region where he already enjoys some goodwill. Across the rest of the Indo-Pacific, countries such as India and Indonesia have maintained close ties with Moscow, despite Western sanctions.

If the Biden administration is serious about achieving its objectives in the Indo-Pacific, it would need to counter Russia’s stealthy expansion of power in Myanmar more purposefully. A good starting point would be to engage more proactively with the opposition and help meet its needs.

thediplomat.com · by Mohamed Zeeshan · July 25, 2022



10. IntelBrief: Grinding War of Attrition in Ukraine as Both Sides Suffer Heavy Losses


Annihilation, attrition, or exhaustion?


IntelBrief: Grinding War of Attrition in Ukraine as Both Sides Suffer Heavy Losses - The Soufan Center

thesoufancenter.org · by Mohamed · July 25, 2022

July 25, 2022

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IntelBrief: Grinding War of Attrition in Ukraine as Both Sides Suffer Heavy Losses

AP Photo/Alexandr Kulikov

Bottom Line Up Front

  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recently declared that Russia’s territorial ambitions extend beyond the Donbas, to encompass more than eastern Ukraine.
  • The recent employment of U.S.-supplied M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) has granted Ukrainian forces local advantages in preparation for an imminent counteroffensive in southern Ukraine and was cited as the rationale for Russia’s expanded objectives.
  • A U.N. and Turkish-brokered agreement between Moscow and Kyiv to release more than 20 million tons of grain from blockaded Ukrainian ports is already in doubt after Russia bombed the southern port city of Odesa, less than 24 hours after agreeing to the grain deal.
  • The second and third-order effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine appear to be manifesting themselves in the form of a Chinese reassessment of its security posture vis-à-vis Taiwan.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov recently declared that Russia’s territorial ambitions extend beyond the Donbas, the war-torn region of eastern Ukraine experiencing heavy fighting. The comment comes just a day after the U.S. intelligence community suggested that Russian President Vladimir Putin had ordered his military to prepare to annex Russian-occupied territory in Ukraine. Beyond the Donbas, Russia aims to seize Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in the south. Recent reporting suggests that because Russian forces are facing a shortage of ground attack missiles, its offensive in Donbas is increasingly reliant on repurposed air defense missiles, including the S-300 and S-400 systems. Speaking at a security conference in Aspen, Colorado, Richard Moore, the chief of British intelligence service MI6, commented that Russia’s military campaign seemed likely to “run out of steam” over the next few weeks and months. This outcome would validate the Ukrainian strategy in Donbas, which has allowed local commanders to execute tactical withdrawals to avoid encirclement and reestablish defensive positions. Ukraine’s defensive depth and interior lines of communication have enabled its outgunned military to force the Russians into a series of costly (for both sides) tactical engagements, as exemplified by the fighting in Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk. Some estimates suggest that between 15,000 and 25,000 Russian forces have been killed in Ukraine since late February, including several high-ranking Russian military officers. This strategy of attrition is costly for both combatants and Ukrainian casualty numbers may be even higher than the Russians’.

The recent employment of U.S.-supplied M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) has granted Ukrainian forces local advantages in preparation for an imminent counteroffensive to reclaim territory in southern Ukraine. It is this transfer of weapons that was cited by Lavrov as a proximate cause of the expanded Russian objective. These sophisticated weapons systems allow Ukrainian forces to strike Russian logistics and command and control elements far from the frontlines of the conflict. Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov called the delivery of HIMARS “a game changer.” The U.S. recently announced it planned to provide four additional HIMARS to Ukraine. While the introduction of HIMARS and similar weapons have resulted in tactical successes, it must be noted that one weapon system is unlikely to change the outcome of the war. Russia will adapt to the presence of HIMARS on the battlefield, and the Ukrainians will need to properly maintain and resupply the complex and expensive systems to ensure their continued effectiveness.

In spite of Ukrainian resistance, Russia has secured a land bridge that stretches through southeastern Ukraine along the Black Sea, connecting it to Crimea. Perhaps frustrated by their inability to force a decisive victory, the Russian military continues to bombard urban areas with missiles, including around Mykolaiv, launching attacks without regard for civilian casualties or collateral damage. Russian forces have attacked civilian populations with impunity, part of Moscow’s ongoing scorched earth campaign and disregard for international law and the law of armed conflict. The ICC and several states, including the United Kingdom, have invested in laying the groundwork for accountability measures and investigations into reports of war crimes in Ukraine.

A U.N. and Turkish-brokered agreement between Moscow and Kyiv to release more than 20 million tons of grain from blockaded Ukrainian ports is already in doubt after Russia bombed the southern port city of Odesa, less than 24 hours after agreeing to the grain deal. The deal was expected to ease some of the challenges of the ongoing global food security crisis. Increasing food insecurity is one of the many consequences of Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, along with compounding challenges in the global energy market, and the associated effects on financial markets worldwide. After the missile strike, it is unclear if the deal will move forward. U.S. officials are supposed to monitor Russian follow through on implementing the agreement and allowing grain shipments to depart from blockaded seaports along the Black Sea. This weekend's attack on Odesa demonstrates exactly why so many are rightfully skeptical of Russia’s commitment to the agreement.

The second and third-order effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine are beginning to manifest themselves. William Burns, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, recently commented that the nature of the conflict in Ukraine, and the Russian military’s inability to achieve their objectives after more than five months of fighting, have led countries like China to reassess their own security posture vis-à-vis Taiwan. Burns noted that Beijing’s key takeaway from the conflict in Ukraine is: “you don’t achieve quick, decisive victories with underwhelming force.” In addition, China has also watched Russia struggle with how to deal with Ukraine’s sophisticated information capabilities, an area that the Chinese Communist Party and People’s Liberation Army are likely to focus on improving in the coming months and years.

thesoufancenter.org · by Mohamed · July 25, 2022



11. Conflict Resumes in the West Bank During IDF Operations in Nablus



Conflict Resumes in the West Bank During IDF Operations in Nablus | FDD's Long War Journal

longwarjournal.org · by Joe Truzman · July 25, 2022


On Sunday morning, Israeli forces conducting counterterrorism operations in Nablus clashed with militants, resulting in the deaths of two members of al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades and the injury of a number of other gunmen.

According to local reports, Israel Defense Forces (IDF) troops entered Nablus around 2:00 a.m. and surrounded the home of the al-Azizi family located in the al-Yasimna neighborhood of Nablus. An armed clash ensued that resulted in the deaths of Muhammed Bashar al-Azizi and Abdul Rahman Jamal Subh, both members of Fatah’s al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades.

It’s unclear if Azizi and Subh were the primary targets of the IDF’s raid. Unconfirmed Palestinian reports say the target of the IDF’s raid in Nablus was Ibrahim Nabulsi, a militant who survived a firefight with the IDF in February. Since his escape, Nabulsi has been wanted by the IDF and has eluded several attempts to capture him.

While Nabulsi was not at the residence at the time of the IDF’s raid, he was later seen at the funeral of the slain militants hours after clashes ended.

Following the event, Katibat Nablus (Islamic Jihad umbrella group in Nablus) issued a statement claiming it engaged IDF troops in Nablus alongside al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades fighters. The statement also claimed the group received assistance from its counterpart Katibat Jenin.

“Al-Quds Brigades, and Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades fighters confronted the Zionist occupations forces, which at two o’clock in the morning stormed the Old City of Nablus and besieged some of the homes of our honorable fighters where armed clashes took place. We also confirm, in Al-Quds Brigades, that some of our fighters from the valiant city of Jenin succeeded in reaching the confrontation arena in Nablus and joined forces with their brothers in the field who rained direct bullets on the occupation forces,” the statement said.

While the statement by Katibat Nablus was mostly unremarkable, the claim that militants from another formation in the West Bank joined the fighting appears to be the first time Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) has acknowledged its network of groups support one another during conflict. In this case, Katibat Jenin militants traveled approximately 43 kilometers south to aide Katibat Nablus as it engaged IDF troops in a firefight.

FDD’s Long War Journal has closely tracked the rise in militant activity in the West Bank since last year. In a concerning trend, formations made up of mostly PIJ militants have been established in several West Bank cities including Jenin, Tubas, Nablus and Tulkarm. [See FDD’s Long War Journal: Palestinian Islamic Jihad Purportedly Establishes New Formation in the West Bank.]

Sunday morning’s clashes indicate that a recent lull in fighting has not deterred militants in the West Bank from engaging IDF troops operating in the area. Coupled with the establishment of PIJ umbrella groups in various West Bank cities, it does not appear the IDF’s operations have had a serious effect in stemming the tide of rising militancy in the area.

Joe Truzman is a contributor to FDD's Long War Journal.

Are you a dedicated reader of FDD's Long War Journal? Has our research benefitted you or your team over the years? Support our independent reporting and analysis today by considering a one-time or monthly donation. Thanks for reading! You can make a tax-deductible donation here.

longwarjournal.org · by Joe Truzman · July 25, 2022


12. Opinion | Putin attacks Odessa and a hungry world’s hopes




Opinion | Putin attacks Odessa and a hungry world’s hopes

The Washington Post · by Editorial Board · July 22, 2022

Well, that didn’t take long. On Friday, Russia’s defense minister raised a hungry world’s hopes by signing an agreement with the president of Turkey and the secretary general of the United Nations, according to which Moscow committed to facilitate resumption of large-scale grain shipments from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports. Russia had previously blockaded these, causing stress on global grain markets. Less than 24 hours later, on Saturday, Russian ships launched four long-range missiles at the largest of those ports, Odessa, two of which Ukrainian air defenses intercepted — and two of which caused some structural damage, though no destruction of grain or human casualties. The United States’ ambassador in Kyiv called the attack “outrageous,” which is an understatement.

Saturday’s events were not surprising to those familiar with President Vladimir Putin’s record, in this war and others. He is notorious for violating humanitarian agreements establishing safe “corridors” through which Russian forces and their allies herded Syrian civilians escaping war zones in that country. Often, the fleeing people came under fire or faced violent harassment and arrests. Compliance with the new accord would force Russia to abandon its strategy of denying Ukraine agricultural export earnings, including stealing, and reselling, Ukraine’s stockpiled grain — even, in some areas, burning crops. Depending on where the missiles actually struck, Russia might not have violated the letter of the agreement, under which it reserved the right to strike sections of Ukrainian ports not directly used for grain exports. Still, it clearly violated the spirit.

All of the above helps explain why Ukraine was wise not to deal directly with Moscow, but to sign up for a process that, technically, consists of parallel commitments Ukraine and Russia each made to Turkey and the United Nations. Ukraine prudently offered only escorts through its maritime minefields, not actual demining, lest it weaken defenses against Russia’s navy.

At the same time, Ukrainian officials were wise to announce after Saturday’s attack that they will continue pursuing the agreement, which would have taken some time to implement in any case. Not only is it still in Ukraine’s economic interest, but one goal of Russia’s attack was likely to provoke a Ukrainian pullout, after which Moscow would blame Kyiv for the consequences. And the downside of a failed deal can be measured by the potential upside of a successful one: Ukraine produced a tenth of the world’s wheat exports during 2021 — with populous countries such as Egypt, Bangladesh, Turkey, Indonesia and Pakistan, as well as small and economically struggling Lebanon, among the biggest customers. The United Nations World Food Program, which distributes aid to the world’s poor, got 40 percent of its wheat from Ukraine before the war. With even wealthy nations hammered by rising food prices, millions of people around the world could benefit from a flow of 20 million metric tons of Ukrainian grain and other foodstuffs to the world market over the next 120 days.

If Mr. Putin destroys the deal before it gets started — despite the advantages it offers his agricultural exports — he must take the blame. Meanwhile, Turkey and the United Nations must fulfill their roles as guarantors by holding him accountable, and the United States must send weapons Ukraine needs to protect its ports.

The Washington Post · by Editorial Board · July 22, 2022


13. How Unmanned Warships Might Provide A New Paradigm For Naval Shipbuilding


The new paradigm? I wonder if in ship building, like war, everything is simple but even the simplest thing is hard.



1. Simplified designs

2. Simplified engineering

3. Simplified construction

4. Simplified planning

5. Simplified innovation

6. Simplified modification

7. Simplified sustainment 

8. Simplified industrial bases

How Unmanned Warships Might Provide A New Paradigm For Naval Shipbuilding

Forbes · by Loren Thompson · July 25, 2022

The U.S. Navy is operating or developing nearly a dozen different unmanned sea vehicles for use in maritime security operations. Some of the vehicles operate on the ocean’s surface, and others beneath it. Some are no bigger than torpedoes and must be launched by larger vessels, while others are autonomous, robotic warships.

Pursuit of unmanned sea systems is not a new endeavor for the Navy. The Office of Naval Research recognized their potential decades ago, and smaller systems have been used in mine countermeasures for many years.

The defense department has been experimenting for seven years with a transoceanic, unmanned surface warship called Sea Hunter developed by Leidos LDOS . Boeing BA has recently begun delivering an extra-large unmanned submarine dubbed Orca that can operate at unprecedented depths. Both vehicles are capable of performing multiple warfighting missions.

What’s new in recent years is that emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence have expanded the scope for robotic operations at sea. Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael Gilday has identified unmanned vehicles as a high-priority development area, along with digital networking and extended-range fires.

... [+]

The Navy released an unmanned campaign framework in 2021 that emphasized how robotic warships could enable distributed maritime operations, the service’s driving organizational construct for the future.



With the number of manned warships in the fleet seemingly stuck around 300 for the foreseeable future, unmanned systems may be the only way to meet warfighting and presence objectives within available budgets.

Although it will be a long time, if ever, before unmanned systems can deliver the functionality of a crewed submarine or destroyer, they can complement the manned fleet by performing tasks too dangerous or routine to justify assigning a manned warship.

For instance, sending manned warships into the Baltic or Black Seas in an East-West war could place hundreds of sailors at risk; unmanned systems may be able to perform the necessary reconnaissance and strike missions without risking U.S. lives.

Thus far, the Navy’s interest in unmanned sea systems has focused mainly on their potential to enable new operational concepts. However, if the technology proves useful, larger systems such as Sea Hunter and Orca might open the door to a new paradigm for naval shipbuilding.

As I noted in a Forbes article earlier this week, naval shipbuilding today is a complicated and costly enterprise even when managed efficiently. It produces warships typically costing over a billion dollars each. Unmanned warships cost a small fraction of that amount to build, and a similarly low amount to operate.

The possibility thus exists to pioneer new approaches to naval shipbuilding, approaches that can grow in scope as the use of robotic systems at sea expands in the future.

Here are a few ways in which unmanned warships might revolutionize the way U.S. warships are built and operated:

1. Simplified designs that eliminate the complexity imposed when making manned vessels habitable and survivable. Many of the demanding specifications for current warships are driven by the need to accommodate a hundred or more sailors; eliminate the sailors, and the design requirements become much less burdensome—reducing cost to a point where survivability becomes a less critical feature.

2. Simplified engineering that compresses the time needed to transition from concept to construction. With a much simpler design, the demands on engineers to translate specifications into systems is correspondingly reduced, saving time and money.

3. Simplified construction as less costly and demanding processes enable a return to serial production. Serial production on the Liberty Ship model doesn’t exist in naval shipbuilding today, but it could return if specifications were suitably simplified and unit costs fell to a fraction of what manned warships cost.

4. Simplified planning as reduced material requirements permit streamlining of supply chains. Modern warship construction typically is supported by hundreds of subcontractors, but if survivability and other features associated with manning are eliminated, fewer specialized suppliers would be needed and integrators could rely more on commercial inputs.

5. Simplified innovation as less complicated designs facilitate the rapid insertion of advanced technology such as machine learning and digital networking. Unmanned systems substitute software for people, which implies a capacity for fast reconfiguration without necessarily requiring new hardware.

6. Simplified modification as threats evolve, often by porting new source code into software reconfigurable architectures from remote locations. In other words, the design features that facilitate introduction of new innovations also could greatly reduce the time and funding needed to modify warships in response to new operational challenges.

7. Simplified sustainment owing to less demanding designs and greater reliance on expendable/attritable systems. Unmanned systems should be much easier to repair and maintain than manned systems, and their supply requirements at sea would be negligible; for instance, Sea Hunter can traverse the Pacific in both directions on a single tank of fuel.

8. Simplified industrial bases as the ranks of sub-tier suppliers shrink and integrators shift to reliance on dual-use or commercial technologies. Because the barriers to building warships would diminish, additional integrators might enter the business, creating a more resilient industrial base.

These ideas are purely conceptual, reflecting the fact that development of unmanned warships—especially highly capable, multi-mission ships—is in its infancy. The Navy could fruitfully accelerate its development of unmanned warships at modest cost, perhaps producing revolutionary results within a few years.

Having said that, it will be a long time before the Navy can dispense with the processes it currently depends on to build manned warships. That may never happen. But unmanned systems open the door to building a bigger fleet at lower cost.

Boeing and Leidos, mentioned above, contribute to my think tank. I am indebted to Maiya Clark of the Heritage Foundation for offering remarks at a Lexington Institute working group that stimulated my thinking on the industrial-base implications of unmanned warships.

Forbes · by Loren Thompson · July 25, 2022



14. US missile sale to Australia aims fast and hard at China



US missile sale to Australia aims fast and hard at China

Stealthy JASSM-ERs reduce Australia’s need for friendly airspace to launch long-range air strikes in potential conflict with China

asiatimes.com · by Gabriel Honrada · July 23, 2022

In one of the most critical recent arms deals in the Pacific, the US State Department has approved a US$235 million sale of 80 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile – Extended Range (JASSM-ER) missiles to Australia, according to news reports.

Australian Aviation reported this month that the stealthy cruise missiles have a 935-kilometer range and can be deployed from the Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) F-35 Lightning II or F/A-18F Super Hornet fighters, giving Australia much sought-after long-range strike capabilities. The sale also includes containers and support equipment.

Previously, the US approved a $94 million potential sale of anti-radiation missiles for suppression of enemy air defense (SEAD) missions to Australia, as reported by Defense Connect.


Under that sale, Australia is slated to receive 15 AGM-88 High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missiles (HARM) rounds, designed to home in on enemy air defense radars to deny adversaries the use of air defense systems.

“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States. Australia is one of our most important allies in the Western Pacific,” said the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) in a statement.

Although Australia is 7,400 kilometers from China, it still views it as a threat to its democratic values and system. It also considers China’s growing military capabilities and the prospect of getting dragged into a larger US-China conflict in the Pacific as critical threats.

In a 2021 documentary by 60 Minutes Australia, Malcolm Davis, a senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), contended that China’s authoritarian system threatens Australia’s democratic values.

He also added that Australia should support democratic movements in Taiwan and stand in common cause with the US to maintain the moral ascendancy and credibility of democracy as a political system and way of life.


China’s military has been growing rapidly and modernizing. Photo: WikiCommons

Grant Newsham, a senior research fellow at the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies, notes that China’s military buildup in the last 40 years is possibly the fastest development in human history, aimed at displacing the US from the Pacific and then securing global hegemony.

A 2021 study by the Lowy Institute notes that China can already strike Australia from its bases using long-range bombers and missiles and that the asymmetry between China and Australia’s military capabilities will grow over time.

The 60 Minutes Australia documentary notes that China has developed capabilities to strike the US and its allies including Australia with space-based weapons, laser weapons, a growing nuclear arsenal, electromagnetic rail guns and hypersonic missiles.

Historian David Brophy notes that the presence of US military facilities in Australia, notably at Northwest Cape and Pine Gap, makes Australia a target for long-range strikes from China in the event the US and China go head-to-head over Taiwan.

Brophy also cautioned that in case of a US-China conflict over Taiwan, Australia might not have the final decision to go to war with China. Davis contends that should Australia choose not to get involved, it would mean the end of the ANZUS alliance, which has been the bedrock of Australia’s strategic security since World War II.


Limited long-range strike capabilities

China’s perceived rising risk to Australia’s strategic security likely figured heavily in Australia’s calculus to acquire long-range strike capabilities.

Security correspondent Anthony Galloway notes in the Sydney Morning Herald that the F-35 Lightning II does not have the range to reach the South China Sea and Taiwan without aerial refueling. Even then, aerial tankers may not always be available over contested airspace.

Due to this lack of range, Australia needs to have good relations with its northern neighbors, such as Indonesia, says John Blaxland, a professor of international security at the Australian National University.

However, refueling Australian combat aircraft over Indonesian airspace may be a hard sell. “I want to emphasize that, in accordance with the lines and principles of Indonesian foreign policy, Indonesian territory cannot and will not be used as a military facility base for any country,” said Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi in a 2020 article in The Jakarta Post.


While Marsudi’s remarks were directed toward a US report stating that China aims to build an overseas military logistics facility in Indonesia, however, the logic behind this strong response may carry over against future Australian proposals to use Indonesian airspace for aerial refueling.

In addition, Australia may have already been outmaneuvered by China in seeking such access to its South Pacific neighbors.

China’s new security pact with the Solomon Islands, which gives it police and military access throughout the latter’s territory in exchange for development assistance, may be repeated in other economically struggling Pacific countries such as Papua New Guinea and Fiji.

Similar agreements with China and other Pacific countries can potentially provide Australia with much-needed airspace to sustain long-range strike missions.

Lockheed Martin’s JASSM-ER is headed to Australia. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Hence, acquiring a long-range fighter-borne air-launched cruise missile such as the JASSM-ER may prevent the need for aerial refueling over friendly territory and accomplish several of Australia’s strategic objectives.

As Graeme Dunk noted in a recent The Strategist article, JASSM-ER missiles can put potential adversaries such as China at risk. Combined with other elements and capabilities of Australia’s military, these missiles can provide Australia with a credible deterrent.

JASSM-ER missiles positioned on the RAAF’s F-35s can also provide flexible and survivable strike options as they are capable of being launched from Australian or allied airbases, redirected or retargeted per operational and tactical situations.

The initial batch of US JASSM-ER missiles may also provide Australia with the base to start its domestic missile production. Dunk, for one, notes that stockpiling US-made missiles is not a sustainable option for Australia.

Australia has thus already taken initial steps to jumpstart local missile production. This April, The Wall Street Journal reported that Australia had chosen US defense contractors Lockheed Martin and Raytheon to partner with a new government-backed enterprise to assemble domestically guided weapons for its military.

asiatimes.com · by Gabriel Honrada · July 23, 2022

Stealthy JASSM-ERs reduce Australia’s need for friendly airspace to launch long-range air strikes in potential conflict with China

asiatimes.com · by Gabriel Honrada · July 23, 2022

In one of the most critical recent arms deals in the Pacific, the US State Department has approved a US$235 million sale of 80 Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile – Extended Range (JASSM-ER) missiles to Australia, according to news reports.

Australian Aviation reported this month that the stealthy cruise missiles have a 935-kilometer range and can be deployed from the Royal Australian Air Force’s (RAAF) F-35 Lightning II or F/A-18F Super Hornet fighters, giving Australia much sought-after long-range strike capabilities. The sale also includes containers and support equipment.

Previously, the US approved a $94 million potential sale of anti-radiation missiles for suppression of enemy air defense (SEAD) missions to Australia, as reported by Defense Connect.


Under that sale, Australia is slated to receive 15 AGM-88 High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missiles (HARM) rounds, designed to home in on enemy air defense radars to deny adversaries the use of air defense systems.

“This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States. Australia is one of our most important allies in the Western Pacific,” said the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) in a statement.

Although Australia is 7,400 kilometers from China, it still views it as a threat to its democratic values and system. It also considers China’s growing military capabilities and the prospect of getting dragged into a larger US-China conflict in the Pacific as critical threats.

In a 2021 documentary by 60 Minutes Australia, Malcolm Davis, a senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), contended that China’s authoritarian system threatens Australia’s democratic values.

He also added that Australia should support democratic movements in Taiwan and stand in common cause with the US to maintain the moral ascendancy and credibility of democracy as a political system and way of life.


China’s military has been growing rapidly and modernizing. Photo: WikiCommons

Grant Newsham, a senior research fellow at the Japan Forum for Strategic Studies, notes that China’s military buildup in the last 40 years is possibly the fastest development in human history, aimed at displacing the US from the Pacific and then securing global hegemony.

A 2021 study by the Lowy Institute notes that China can already strike Australia from its bases using long-range bombers and missiles and that the asymmetry between China and Australia’s military capabilities will grow over time.

The 60 Minutes Australia documentary notes that China has developed capabilities to strike the US and its allies including Australia with space-based weapons, laser weapons, a growing nuclear arsenal, electromagnetic rail guns and hypersonic missiles.

Historian David Brophy notes that the presence of US military facilities in Australia, notably at Northwest Cape and Pine Gap, makes Australia a target for long-range strikes from China in the event the US and China go head-to-head over Taiwan.

Brophy also cautioned that in case of a US-China conflict over Taiwan, Australia might not have the final decision to go to war with China. Davis contends that should Australia choose not to get involved, it would mean the end of the ANZUS alliance, which has been the bedrock of Australia’s strategic security since World War II.


Limited long-range strike capabilities

China’s perceived rising risk to Australia’s strategic security likely figured heavily in Australia’s calculus to acquire long-range strike capabilities.

Security correspondent Anthony Galloway notes in the Sydney Morning Herald that the F-35 Lightning II does not have the range to reach the South China Sea and Taiwan without aerial refueling. Even then, aerial tankers may not always be available over contested airspace.

Due to this lack of range, Australia needs to have good relations with its northern neighbors, such as Indonesia, says John Blaxland, a professor of international security at the Australian National University.

However, refueling Australian combat aircraft over Indonesian airspace may be a hard sell. “I want to emphasize that, in accordance with the lines and principles of Indonesian foreign policy, Indonesian territory cannot and will not be used as a military facility base for any country,” said Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi in a 2020 article in The Jakarta Post.


While Marsudi’s remarks were directed toward a US report stating that China aims to build an overseas military logistics facility in Indonesia, however, the logic behind this strong response may carry over against future Australian proposals to use Indonesian airspace for aerial refueling.

In addition, Australia may have already been outmaneuvered by China in seeking such access to its South Pacific neighbors.

China’s new security pact with the Solomon Islands, which gives it police and military access throughout the latter’s territory in exchange for development assistance, may be repeated in other economically struggling Pacific countries such as Papua New Guinea and Fiji.

Similar agreements with China and other Pacific countries can potentially provide Australia with much-needed airspace to sustain long-range strike missions.

Lockheed Martin’s JASSM-ER is headed to Australia. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Hence, acquiring a long-range fighter-borne air-launched cruise missile such as the JASSM-ER may prevent the need for aerial refueling over friendly territory and accomplish several of Australia’s strategic objectives.

As Graeme Dunk noted in a recent The Strategist article, JASSM-ER missiles can put potential adversaries such as China at risk. Combined with other elements and capabilities of Australia’s military, these missiles can provide Australia with a credible deterrent.

JASSM-ER missiles positioned on the RAAF’s F-35s can also provide flexible and survivable strike options as they are capable of being launched from Australian or allied airbases, redirected or retargeted per operational and tactical situations.

The initial batch of US JASSM-ER missiles may also provide Australia with the base to start its domestic missile production. Dunk, for one, notes that stockpiling US-made missiles is not a sustainable option for Australia.

Australia has thus already taken initial steps to jumpstart local missile production. This April, The Wall Street Journal reported that Australia had chosen US defense contractors Lockheed Martin and Raytheon to partner with a new government-backed enterprise to assemble domestically guided weapons for its military.

asiatimes.com · by Gabriel Honrada · July 23, 2022




15. Ties Between Alex Jones and Radio Network Show Economics of Misinformation


Excerpts:


The litigation demonstrates the increasingly prominent role of lawsuits as a cudgel against those accused of spreading false and misleading information. In 2020, Fox News settled for millions of dollars with the parents of Seth Rich, a murdered Democratic aide, whose death was falsely linked by the network to an email leak ahead of the presidential election in 2016.

Smartmatic and Dominion sued Fox News and other conservative outlets and figures last year after the election technology companies were targeted by unsupported claims about voting fraud and are seeking billions of dollars in damages. When Smartmatic and Dominion were still threatening legal action, several of the outlets broadcast segments that tried to clarify or debunk conspiracy theories about the voting systems companies.

“It seems to be, for the first time in a long time, a very tangible route to actually holding people accountable for the harm they’re causing and the ways in which they’re profiting off that harm,” said Rachel E. Moran, a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for an Informed Public at the University of Washington.

Genesis told the court in a filing last year that it that it was merely accused of being “a distributor of radio programs — the radioland equivalent of the paperboy — not the author, not the publisher, not the broadcaster.” The filing argued that the company “does not have a brain; it does not have memory; it cannot form intent.”

Lawyers for the families responded that the network should be “treated in the same manner as a newspaper or the publisher of a book” with a high degree of awareness of “the hoax narrative that Genesis repeatedly broadcast to vast audiences, over multiple years.”

Ties Between Alex Jones and Radio Network Show Economics of Misinformation

The New York Times · by Tiffany Hsu · July 24, 2022

The Genesis Communications Network built a lucrative business alongside the radio host, whose show the company has syndicated for more than two decades.

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The radio host Alex Jones, above, and Ted Anderson, a gold and silver dealer, built a lucrative operation through Mr. Anderson’s radio network.Credit...Victor J. Blue for The New York Times


By

July 24, 2022, 5:00 a.m. ET

Ted Anderson, a precious metals seller, was hoping to rustle up some business for his gold and silver dealership when he started a radio network out of a Minneapolis suburb a couple of decades ago. Soon after, he signed a brash young radio host named Alex Jones.

Together, they ended up shaping today’s misinformation economy.

The two built a lucrative operation out of a tangled system of niche advertisers, fund-raising drives and promotion of media subscriptions, dietary supplements and survivalist merchandise. Mr. Jones became a conspiracy theory heavyweight, while Mr. Anderson’s company, the Genesis Communications Network, thrived. Their moneymaking blueprint was reproduced by numerous other misinformation peddlers.

Mr. Jones eventually drifted from his dependence on Genesis, as he expanded beyond radio and attracted a large following online. Yet they were closely tied together again in lawsuits accusing them of fueling a bogus narrative about the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Mr. Jones was found liable by default in those cases. Last month, the plaintiffs’ lawyers dropped Genesis as a defendant. Christopher Mattei, one of the lawyers, said in a statement that having Genesis involved at trial would have distracted from the main target: Mr. Jones and his media organization.

The move freed Genesis, which says on its website that it “has established itself as the largest independently owned and operated talk radio network in the country,” from the steep penalties that most likely await Mr. Jones. But the cases, soon headed before juries to determine damages, continue to shed light on the economics that help to drive misleading and false claims across the media landscape.

The proliferation of falsehoods and misleading content, especially heading into the midterm elections this fall, is often blamed on credulous audiences and a widening partisan divide. Misinformation can also be hugely profitable, not just for the boldface names like Mr. Jones, but also for the companies that host websites, serve ads or syndicate content in the background.

“Misinformation exists for ideological reasons, but there is always a link to very commercial interests — they always find each other,” said Hilde Van den Bulck, a Drexel University media professor who has studied Mr. Jones. “It’s a little world full of networks of people who find ways to help each other out.”

Mr. Jones and Mr. Anderson did not respond to requests for comment for this article.

Genesis originated in the late 1990s as a marketing ploy, operating “hand-in-hand” with Midas Resources, Mr. Anderson’s bullion business, he has said. He told the media watchdog FAIR in 2011: “Midas Resources needs customers, Genesis Communications Network needs sponsors.”

Alex Jones and his doom-and-gloom worldview fit neatly into the equation.

Genesis began syndicating Mr. Jones around the time he was fired by an Austin station in 1999, the host said this year on Infowars, a website he operates. It was a complementary, if sometimes jarring partnership — “sort of a marriage made in hell,” Ms. Van den Bulck said.


Mr. Anderson was a regular guest on Mr. Jones's show.

Archived footage shows Mr. Jones, pugnacious and prone to pontificating, broadcasting dire claims about the dollar’s inevitable demise before introducing Mr. Anderson, bespectacled and generally mild, to deliver extended pitches for safe haven metals like gold. Sometimes, Mr. Jones would interrupt the pitches with rants, like the time in 2013 when he cut off Mr. Anderson more than 20 times in 30 seconds to yell “racist.”

Genesis’s roster has also included a gay comedian; a former lawyer for the A.C.L.U.; the Hollywood actor Stephen Baldwin; the long-running call-in psychologist Dr. Joy Browne; a home improvement expert known as the “Cajun Contractor”; and a group of self-described “normal guys with normal views” talking about sports.

But eventually, the network developed a reputation for a certain type of programming, promoting its “conspiracy” content on its website and telling the MinnPost in 2011 that its advertisers “specialize in preparedness and survival.”

Several shows were headed by firearms aficionados. There was a Christian rocker who opposed gay rights and a politician who embraced unfounded theories about crisis actors and President Obama’s nationality. One program promoted lessons on how to “store food, learn the importance of precious metals, or even survive a gunfight.” Jason Lewis, a Republican politician in Minnesota who faced blowback during the 2018 election season after his misogynistic on-air remarks resurfaced, had a syndication deal with Genesis and a campaign office at Genesis’ address.

The ties between Mr. Jones and Genesis began loosening about a decade ago, when Mr. Jones reached a deal to have Genesis handle only about one-third of his syndication deals. Now, about 30 stations include Mr. Jones on their schedules, according to a review by Dan Friesen, one of the hosts of the podcast Knowledge Fight, which he and a friend created to analyze and chronicle Mr. Jones’s career. Of those, more than a third relegated him to late night and early morning. Several stations replaced Mr. Jones with conservative hosts such as Sean Hannity or Dan Bongino.

Mr. Jones’s relationship to Mr. Anderson continued to dim after 2015, when the Minnesota Commerce Department shut down Midas. The agency described Midas and Mr. Anderson as “incompetent” and ordered the company to pay restitution to customers after having “regularly misappropriated money.”

Now, the Midas website redirects to a multilevel marketing company selling the same supplements that populate Genesis’ online shop. The founder of the supplement company has a show syndicated by Genesis and has also appeared on Mr. Jones’s show.

But Mr. Jones has his own business hawking Infowars-branded supplements, as well as products such as Infowars masks alongside bumper stickers declaring Covid-19 to be a hoax. One of his lawyers estimated that the conspiracy theorist generated $56 million in revenue last year.

“The inability to have that sort of symbiotic connection between the gold sales on the radio affiliates really hurt their connectedness,” Mr. Friesen said of Mr. Jones and his former benefactor. “At that point, Alex had a bit more of a need to diversify how he was funding things, and Ted took kind of a back seat.”

But in 2018, the families of several Sandy Hook victims sued Mr. Jones and named Genesis as a defendant as well. The families’ lawyers cited Mr. Anderson’s frequent appearances on Mr. Jones’s shows and said that Genesis’ distribution of Mr. Jones helped his falsehoods reach “hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people.”

Mr. Jones, Genesis and other defendants “concoct elaborate and false paranoia-tinged conspiracy theories because it moves product and they make money,” the lawyers wrote.

After the lawsuits were filed, both Genesis and Mr. Jones were rejected for coverage of the liability claims by West Bend Mutual Insurance, which began working with Genesis in 2012, according to court documents. After being dropped as a defendant, Genesis has continued to solicit donations, saying online that its “freedom to speak is held in the balance.”

The litigation demonstrates the increasingly prominent role of lawsuits as a cudgel against those accused of spreading false and misleading information. In 2020, Fox News settled for millions of dollars with the parents of Seth Rich, a murdered Democratic aide, whose death was falsely linked by the network to an email leak ahead of the presidential election in 2016.

Smartmatic and Dominion sued Fox News and other conservative outlets and figures last year after the election technology companies were targeted by unsupported claims about voting fraud and are seeking billions of dollars in damages. When Smartmatic and Dominion were still threatening legal action, several of the outlets broadcast segments that tried to clarify or debunk conspiracy theories about the voting systems companies.

“It seems to be, for the first time in a long time, a very tangible route to actually holding people accountable for the harm they’re causing and the ways in which they’re profiting off that harm,” said Rachel E. Moran, a postdoctoral fellow at the Center for an Informed Public at the University of Washington.

Genesis told the court in a filing last year that it that it was merely accused of being “a distributor of radio programs — the radioland equivalent of the paperboy — not the author, not the publisher, not the broadcaster.” The filing argued that the company “does not have a brain; it does not have memory; it cannot form intent.”

Lawyers for the families responded that the network should be “treated in the same manner as a newspaper or the publisher of a book” with a high degree of awareness of “the hoax narrative that Genesis repeatedly broadcast to vast audiences, over multiple years.”

The New York Times · by Tiffany Hsu · July 24, 2022



16. High school students in Seattle educate community on how to identify and combat misinformation


There is hope for the future in our young people.


High school students in Seattle educate community on how to identify and combat misinformation

GeekWire · by Sonali Vaid · July 24, 2022

Underwritten by

This special series focuses on important community issues, innovative solutions to societal challenges, and people and non-profit groups making an impact through technology.

Student present their projects at MisinfoDay at Ballard High School. (Photo courtesy of Mike Caulfield)

The world is overwhelmed with contradictory data and claims. High school students in Seattle want to help.

Last month Ballard High School hosted MisinfoNight, an event inspired by MisinfoDay, an annual event at the University of Washington that started in 2019 and invites high school students come to a college campus to learn from faculty, students, and librarians on how to identify and combat misinformation.

MisinfoNight turns the tables and gives high school students and teachers a chance to not only learn more about navigating today’s information environment but also share knowledge with their parents and others in their community.

“MisinfoNight has made me more aware of research I see online,” said Kennedy Jensen, an incoming sophomore at Ballard High. “It makes me go back and find out, is this true? Is this trustworthy? It’s important to have youth learn about it because we’re the future.”

The event featured posters and slideshows created by the students. Many of the presentations featured a fact-checking method called SIFT: Stop; Investigate; Find better coverage; Trace claims, quotes, and media to their original context.

The method was developed by Mike Caulfield, research scientist at the UW’s Center for an Informed Public and a digital literacy expert who gave the keynote address at MisinfoNight.

Caulfield came away impressed with the student projects. Some showed the process of debunking an internet rumor; others focused on explaining algorithms, confirmation bias, and more.

So I spoke at MisinfoNight at Ballard High School last night, and it was an amazing experience which gave me hope for the future. A truly revolutionary approach that converts a school's information literacy curriculum into true community capacity. pic.twitter.com/xTuULVSEE9
— Mike Caulfield (@holden) June 10, 2022

“The students are experts in their community — they know what is going to resonate with their community, peers, parents,” Caulfield told GeekWire. “They know how to take these ideas and translate them into meaningful experiences for that specific community.”

Shawn Lee, a social studies teacher at Ballard High School, helped organize the event after attending MisinfoDay at the UW.

“We are living in an information environment that is unique in human history. And we haven’t trained ourselves or students how to operate it,” Lee said. He referred to the event as a community service since it interrupts the spread of misinformation from within the community.

Lee teamed up with Liz Crouse, program coordinator at the UW Center for an Informed Public, to make information literacy education accessible beyond MisinfoNight events. They developed a three-week curriculum that teaches students about social media consumption, confirmation bias, social media algorithms, and fact-checking. They have also hosted several workshops over the past three years for teachers.

The hope is to expand MisinfoNight to other middle and high schools around the nation. They have already seen successful examples through an organization they co-founded called Teachers for an Informed Public, which involves educators and librarians to help bring media literacy curriculum into more schools and communities.

Message from the Underwriter

This is part of a special series of stories by GeekWire — underwritten by the Singh Family Foundation and Seattle-area business leader Steve Singh — focusing on important community issues, innovative solutions to societal challenges, and people and non-profit groups making an impact through technology. Do you have ideas for future installments? Contact Lisa Stiffler at lisa@geekwire.com.

Sonali Vaid is a high school senior in the Seattle area with an interest in entrepreneurship and sustainability. She previously interned at the University of Washington-Bothell to research the GeekWire 200. She also manages her own LLC, and publishes articles for a Pacific Northwest environmental sustainability newsletter.

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GeekWire · by Sonali Vaid · July 24, 2022



17. Analysis | The problem with ‘great power competition’


Excerpts:

In the current context, the new competition seems to be clear: China looms first and foremost in American crosshairs, with Russia a lesser threat that is posing bigger problems following its invasion of Ukraine. The bulk of Washington’s foreign policy establishment view the United States’ interests and goals on the world stage through the lens of these rivalries.
But that’s not the wisest way to see things, argues Ali Wyne, senior analyst at the Eurasia Group. His new book — “America’s Great-Power Opportunity: Revitalizing U.S. Foreign Policy to Meet the Challenges of Strategic Competition” — makes the case that while “interstate competition is a characteristic of world affairs,” it does not need to become “a blueprint for foreign policy.” Indeed, when you let anti-Chinese or anti-Russian agendas drive your own, it gives these putative adversaries outsize influence over your own decision-making, he argues.
Wyne chatted with Today’s WorldView about the policymaking uses and abuses of “great power competition.” The text below has been edited for clarity and length.



Analysis | The problem with ‘great power competition’

The Washington Post · by Ishaan Tharoor · July 25, 2022

You’re reading an excerpt from the Today’s WorldView newsletter. Sign up to get the rest free, including news from around the globe and interesting ideas and opinions to know, sent to your inbox every weekday.

Over the past half decade in Washington, an old concept has taken new and even bipartisan life. Republicans, Democrats, liberal interventionists and old-school neoconservatives all proclaim that we are now plunged into an era of “great power competition,” harking back to the tense decades of imperial rivalries on the European continent that ended up reshaping the world in the early years of the 20th century.

In the current context, the new competition seems to be clear: China looms first and foremost in American crosshairs, with Russia a lesser threat that is posing bigger problems following its invasion of Ukraine. The bulk of Washington’s foreign policy establishment view the United States’ interests and goals on the world stage through the lens of these rivalries.

But that’s not the wisest way to see things, argues Ali Wyne, senior analyst at the Eurasia Group. His new book — “America’s Great-Power Opportunity: Revitalizing U.S. Foreign Policy to Meet the Challenges of Strategic Competition” — makes the case that while “interstate competition is a characteristic of world affairs,” it does not need to become “a blueprint for foreign policy.” Indeed, when you let anti-Chinese or anti-Russian agendas drive your own, it gives these putative adversaries outsize influence over your own decision-making, he argues.

Wyne chatted with Today’s WorldView about the policymaking uses and abuses of “great power competition.” The text below has been edited for clarity and length.

TWV: What does this framework of great power competition say about the mind-set of U.S. policy elites?

AW: The traction that great power competition has come to achieve as a policymaking framework reflects a paradoxical combination: strategic anxiety on the one hand, bureaucratic comfort on the other.

The United States is not as relatively preeminent as it was at the end of the Cold War — or even at the turn of the century — and China and Russia are increasingly able and willing to contest its influence. On the other hand, the existence of formidable challengers would seem to furnish the strategic clarity for which Washington has been searching since the Soviet Union’s collapse; it would also, importantly, seem to require a familiar playbook.

For roughly half a century, after all, U.S. foreign policy was largely oriented around dealing with external competitors: imperial Japan, Nazi Germany and then the Soviet Union. The trouble is that that stretch of history primed the United States to expect decisive victories: Japan and Germany suffered military defeats, and the Soviet Union experienced a dramatic disintegration.

It seems unlikely, however, that China and Russia will collapse, notwithstanding their myriad socioeconomic challenges and strategic constraints, so America’s task will be to forge ambiguous and uncomfortable cohabitations.

So are we in a new Cold War?

It is essential for the United States to learn from the Cold War, which furnishes its sole experience of long-term strategic competition. But analogies can sometimes obscure more than clarify. While U.S. frictions with China have clear and growing military and ideological components, economic and technological components are as important, if not more. The Soviet Union’s economy was never more than roughly two-fifths as large as America’s economy, and Moscow was not a major source of innovation.

China’s economy, by contrast, is already over three-quarters as large as America’s, and Beijing is a global innovation hub. In addition, while Washington and Beijing are both moving to decouple selectively from one another, their interdependence vastly exceeds that which existed between Washington and Moscow.

It will be impossible for the United States and China to mitigate pandemic disease, slow climate change, contain macroeconomic instability and manage other transnational challenges without maintaining a baseline of cooperation. Where the Cold War ended conclusively, neither Washington nor Beijing will be able to achieve a decisive victory over the other; they will have to cohabitate in perpetuity.

THREAD: Dear friends,

Today marks the launch of my book “America’s Great-Power Opportunity: Revitalizing U.S. Foreign Policy to Meet the Challenges of Strategic Competition”, published by @politybooks.https://t.co/njW8FOsMTB

[1/14]
— Ali Wyne (@Ali_Wyne) July 5, 2022

The Chinese often decry the United States’ Cold War mentality. But isn’t it also true that the great power competition narrative is as profoundly coming from Beijing or Moscow as it is Washington — that the United States is just responding to the challenges posed by powers that see their rivalry with the United States in confrontational, even civilizational terms?

The United States veered too far in the direction of complacence after the Cold War, discounting China and Russia’s competitive potential. Now, however, as they demonstrate a growing ability and willingness to challenge its influence, Washington is increasingly — and understandably — reacting.

China believes that its resurgence is simply correcting what it regards as an aberrant post-Industrial Revolution period, and it sees the United States as the foremost constraint on its strategic outlook. Russia poses a different kind of competitive challenge because it is far less integrated into the postwar order than China — and, as its invasion of Ukraine makes clear — far more risk-tolerant.

What’s the danger in aligning U.S. policy around the need to compete with or check Russia and China?

Great power competition is descriptively useful in that it distills a core set of dynamics that shape contemporary geopolitics. Prescriptively, however, it is problematic on at least three grounds:

First, it risks advancing a reactive approach to China and Russia — one that, beyond being unlikely to find enduring support from U.S. allies and partners, is likely to lead to ubiquitous struggle over selective contestation.

Second, it risks overstating the competitive challenges that those two countries present, heightening U.S. anxiety and facilitating the Sino-Russian entente’s progression. Formidable, multifaceted competitors though they are, Beijing and Moscow are not as strategically skillful as U.S. commentary sometimes suggests; China’s diplomacy has increasingly estranged it from the advanced industrial democracies that still wield the balance of global power, and Russia has severely undermined its long-term strategic outlook by invading Ukraine.

The third and final risk of viewing great power competition as a prescription, not simply as a description, is that it legitimizes the judgment that cooperative pursuits with China and Russia are fool’s errands at best and perhaps even strategic concessions.

You point to the opportunity for the United States on the world stage. Where do you see it?

America’s great power opportunity arises from two sources. First, China and Russia have made competitive missteps that give the United States breathing room to pursue a foreign policy that speaks more to its aspirations than to its anxieties. Second, the diminution of its relative influence and the absence of a ready playbook for navigating the complexities of strained coexistence mean that it has no choice but to think more creatively about how it exercises its influence abroad.

Today’s geopolitical environment is obviously not as auspicious as the one that the United States faced three decades earlier. Even so, Washington can manage a resurgent Beijing and a revanchist Moscow with quiet confidence if it swims its own race and focuses on renewing its competitive advantages at home and abroad.

The Washington Post · by Ishaan Tharoor · July 25, 2022




18. Ukraine wants more ‘game-changer’ HIMARS. The U.S. says it’s complicated.



Ukraine wants more ‘game-changer’ HIMARS. The U.S. says it’s complicated.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national-security/2022/07/24/ukraine-himars-russia-us/

The agile, precision-launch rocket systems are helping Ukraine fend off Russian artillery attacks in the east

By Isabelle KhurshudyanKaren DeYoungAlex Horton and Karoun Demirjian 

Updated July 24, 2022 at 2:45 a.m. EDT|Published July 24, 2022 at 2:41 a.m. EDT


NEAR IZYUM, Ukraine — If only they had more, and more sophisticated, weapons from the West, Ukrainian officials often tell their American counterparts and anyone else who will listen, they could make short work of Russian invaders. Last month’s arrival of the first of what are now a dozen U.S. multiple-launch precision rocket systems, known as HIMARS, has already been a game changer, soldiers here said this week.

Are you on Telegram? Subscribe to our channel for the latest updates on Russia's war in Ukraine.

Since a recent HIMARS strike on an enemy ammunition depot in Izyum, located southeast of Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, Russian shelling has been “10 times less” than before, said Bohdan Dmytruk, a battalion commander in Ukraine’s 93rd Mechanized Brigade.

The latest on the war in Ukraine

Yet the Biden administration has parceled out the rocket systems slowly, watching how the Ukrainians handle them — and how the Russians respond. To fighters on the ground, that makes little sense at a crucial moment in the war.

In his battalion alone, Dmytruk said, the number of killed and injured has fallen dramatically compared with when his soldiers moved to this part of the front line three months ago. “We have about one guy suffer a concussion every week now. Before the HIMARS hit, it was about two to three a day because of the intensity of the shelling.”

Dmytruk and soldiers in the area attributed the drop-off in what was near-constant bombardment to the Russians’ need to conserve shells after the depot was destroyed, and their fear that firing their own artillery will alert the far more accurate and agile HIMARS to their positions.

“They have no idea where it is,” Dmytruk said of the wheeled launch vehicle and its four-man crew, which can fire and drive away at up to 60 miles per hour within two minutes. Already, he said, the Russians are likely adjusting to the new weapons by moving their supplies deeper into Russian-held territory beyond the 50-mile HIMAR range.

BELARUS

RUSSIA

Chernihiv

Lysychansk

Sumy

POLAND

Kharkiv

Kyiv

Lviv

Izyum

Slovyansk

UKRAINE

Separatist-

controlled

area

since 2014

Dnipro

Mariupol

Russian-held

areas

and troop

movement

Mykolaiv

Kherson

ROMANIA

Sea of

Azov

Odessa

Crimea

Annexed

by Russia

in 2014

Black

Sea

Control areas as of July 22

100 MILES

Sources: Institute for the Study of War, AEI’s Critical Threats Project, Post reporting

The administration announced Friday that it would send four additional HIMARS — High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems — to Ukraine, bringing the total to 16. Britain and Germany also have each sent or pledged three similar multiple-launch long-range systems. But the Ukrainians and some other close observers of the conflict say the need is far greater and immediate.

Ukrainian government and military officials have said at various times that they need dozens, hundreds or even thousands of HIMARS. “For an effective counteroffensive, we need at least 100,” with longer-range munition than what has been supplied, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said last Tuesday in a video appearance at the Washington-based Atlantic Council. “That would be a game changer.”

Russian missiles strike port of Odessa, a day after grain deal

The provision of security assistance to Ukraine has become a massive operation, involving more than 50 countries. The United States leads the effort, with the most money spent and weapons sent — $8.2 billion worth since the beginning of the administration, with billions more expected — although others have collectively provided billions worth of light and heavy military equipment. To Washington, confronting Russia with a large and united global front is worth the occasional headaches of coordinating donations from around the world, ensuring equipment is in working order and matches needs on the ground, and seeing that it gets to the right place inside Ukraine.

A U.S. M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS). (Fadel Senna/AFP/Getty Images)

The nerve center of the operation is a large, secure room at the U.S. European Command in Stuttgart, Germany. Cables taped along the floor and folding tables lined with laptops gave it a makeshift atmosphere during a reporter’s recent visit, with a World War II allied vibe as uniformed officers from many countries traded documents, pointed at screens filled with lists and graphs, and consulted on telephones in various languages. The to-do list is complex. Norwegian tanks have needed new barrels to match donated ammunition from somewhere else. Aging Spanish tanks, made in Germany, required refurbishment after years in storage. Shells and spare parts for Ukraine’s own Soviet-era artillery are being solicited from other former U.S.S.R. states. There are logistics routes to be plotted and, always, new Ukrainian requests to consider.

Most attention has focused on big-ticket items that only the United States and a few of its NATO allies have been able or willing to provide. From antitank weapons to air defense to howitzers and now HIMARS, each escalation has required consideration by individual governments of what is possible and advisable.

For some critics, and many Ukrainians, the steps in that process do not always match the urgency of the situation, especially as Russia has said it plans to annex parts of occupied southern Ukraine and made slow but steady progress expanding its hold on the east.

Some argue the objective should be to put Ukraine in a better position for cease-fire negotiations to keep Russia from conquering more territory. Others say the goal of the ally-provided aid, now that the Ukrainians have shown their fighting mettle, should be arming them for a counteroffensive to push the Russians back across their own border.

“There’s a window of opportunity that’s narrowing rather rapidly to change the trajectory of this war. But right now, I just don’t hear the urgency to do so,” said Alina Polyakova, president and chief executive of the Center for European Policy Analysis. She defined that window as within the next four to six months.

Fleeing war, Ukrainians find open arms but a closed border

U.S. and allied incrementalism — the measured provision of more and better equipment after, instead of before, Russians have advanced in a particular battlespace — will make it ever-harder to dislodge established Russian facts on the ground, Polyakova and others said.

U.S. administration and military officials have said that one of their top concerns is not provoking Russia into a direct conflict with NATO, even as Ukraine points out that Russia invaded their country without provocation. The range of the ammunition the United States is providing for the HIMARS will not reach across the occupied east to Russia itself from Ukrainian front lines, but it allows what Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, speaking at a Wednesday news conference with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, called an “echelon of fires,” with shorter-range weapons, across various distances.

At the same time, Austin indicated, such sophisticated weapons don’t just come out of the box ready to use. So far, he said, 200 Ukrainians have been trained outside the country on using and maintaining the HIMARS.

“It’s not good enough just to provide a piece of equipment,” Austin said. “We need to have that piece of gear plus spare parts, plus tools to repair it.”

Kuzia, the commander of the unit, climbs into a HIMARS vehicle in eastern Ukraine on July 1, 2022. (Anastasia Vlasova for The Washington Post)

The HIMARS have been used to destroy Russian command posts, ammunition depots and other logistics hubs. In the southern region of Kherson, an area occupied by Russia since the first days of the war, recent strikes have targeted Antonovskiy Bridge, a key supply route that connects the Crimean Peninsula, where Russia has a military base, to their troops in Kherson.

The HIMARS have been so effective that Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu has ordered commanders to prioritize them for targeting. Moscow is hoping to use drones — likely bought from Iran, according to U.S. officials — to find and destroy the HIMARS. Russia has already claimed to have hit at least four of the weapons systems.

But “we haven’t lost a single HIMARS, despite what the Russians have claimed,” Kyrylo Budanov, Ukraine’s military intelligence chief, said in an interview.

Ukraine's farmers have become the latest target of Russian missiles

The HIMARS can also fire a munition called the Army Tactical Missile System (ATACMS) with a range of nearly 186 miles, nearly quadruple what they are now supplied with, but the Pentagon has withheld those out of concern the missiles might land in Russia itself. The restriction has frustrated Ukrainian officials, who described it as paternalistic.

In a battle now largely conducted with artillery at distances where troops of opposite sides rarely see each other, the longer-range missiles would also allow Ukrainian forces to move their HIMARS further back from the front lines, better insulating them from enemy detection.

“The sooner we receive them, the more lives of our soldiers we will save, and the sooner we will start the counteroffensive operation,” Yehor Cherniev, a member of the Ukrainian parliament, said in a statement. “It is unfortunate that we have to spend weeks and months to convince our partners.”

In late May, as the decision to provide HIMARS was being made, President Biden told reporters that “we’re not going to send to Ukraine rocket systems that can strike into Russia.” At the news conference, Austin and Milley sidestepped questions about whether the Pentagon would supply the ATACMS. “We think what they’re working with [now] is giving them a lot of capability,” Milley said.

The Americans have said they want to see how the Ukrainians use and absorb particular capabilities into their arsenal before they send more advanced weaponry, even if potential delays cost lives.

From Ukraine’s perspective, that decision process is “like in a computer game,” Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said in an interview. “You have to unlock the next level, but before you do it, you usually die a couple of times. The problem with real life is that you can’t die multiple times before you get to the next level.”

Ukrainian children at a bus stop they have set up as a checkpoint in a village in the Kharkiv region on July 23, 2022. (Anatolii Stepanov/AFP/Getty Images)

How Russia is laying the groundwork for its annexation of Ukraine

Another potential U.S. concern is the availability of the weapons themselves. There are likely between 1,000 and 3,000 ATACMS in U.S. stocks, said Chris Dougherty, a senior defense fellow at the Center for a New American Security. They’re the oldest missiles in Army inventory, according to the service, and are periodically tested to ensure viability. The replacement munition, which can fire even further, is not yet in production.

The Defense Department said in 2020 that the United States had a supply of 410 HIMARS, but the Pentagon declined to produce a current figure. Stockpiles are “internal to DoD,” said spokesperson Jessica Maxwell.

Budanov, Ukraine’s military intelligence chief, said the longest-range system currently in his country’s arsenal is the Tochka-U, a Soviet-era system with a maximum distance of about 75 miles, and “very few of them are left.”

But for now, he said, they have the HIMARS. “We’ll fight with these,” he said. “If we get the longer-range [munitions], we’ll use those. And the Russians know that either way, it’s the end for them with these weapons.”

DeYoung, Horton and Demirjian reported from Washington. Dan Lamothe contributed to this report.

A HIMARS vehicle drives on the road in eastern Ukraine on July 1, 2022. (Anastasia Vlasova for The Washington Post)

War in Ukraine: What you need to know

The latest: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky condemned the missile attack on the port of Odessa, which took place less than a day after the signing of a deal with Russia to allow the export of blockaded grain supplies. Four Russian Kalibr missiles were fired at the port, the Ukrainian military said.

The fight: Russia’s recent operational pause, which analysts identified in recent weeks as an effort to regroup troops before doubling down on Ukraine’s south and east, appears to be ending. Russia appears set to resume ground offensives, with Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu telling troops on Saturday to intensify attacks “in all operational sectors” of Ukraine.

The weapons: Ukraine is making use of weapons such as Javelin antitank missiles and Switchblade “kamikaze” drones, provided by the United States and other allies. Russia has used an array of weapons against Ukraine, some of which have drawn the attention and concern of analysts.

Photos: Post photographers have been on the ground from the very beginning of the war — here’s some of their most powerful work.

How you can help: Here are ways those in the U.S. can help support the Ukrainian people as well as what people around the world have been donating.

Read our full coverage of the Russia-Ukraine crisis. Are you on Telegram? Subscribe to our channel for updates and exclusive video.





+1

By Isabelle KhurshudyanKaren DeYoungAlex Horton and Karoun Demirjian 




19.  EXCLUSIVE: Inside Ukraine’s covert operation to take out elite Wagner Group mercenaries in Donbas




EXCLUSIVE: Inside Ukraine’s covert operation to take out elite Wagner Group mercenaries in Donbas

kyivindependent.com · by Alexander Khrebet · July 20, 2022

Editor’s Note: The names of the people interviewed by the Kyiv Independent have been changed in this story to protect their identity as they have shared sensitive information that could place them and their families in danger.

Not all of Ukraine’s attacks on Russian positions end up circulating on social media like the recent strikes on what Ukraine says are over 30 Russian ammunition depots in the occupied east and south.

There are other, much more discrete operations that Ukraine carries out deep into Russian-occupied territories.

Among these low-profile operations was the destruction of a Wagner Group base 45 kilometers east of the front line in Russian-occupied Kadiivka in Luhansk Oblast in early June.

Russia deployed the Wagner Group, a Russian-controlled mercenary group operating at the Kremlin’s request around the world, to eastern Ukraine amid its military’s “heavy losses,” the U.K. Defense Ministry reported on March 28.

“I was one of the first to find out that they had arrived and were stationed at the local stadium,” Oleh, a resident of Kadiivka, told the Kyiv Independent. (Editor’s note: The name has been changed to protect his identity.)

Living in a Russian-occupied city for the past eight years, Oleh has been cooperating with Ukrainian authorities, constantly providing them with intelligence.

“I passed this information to the right people,” Oleh said.

As a result, the Ukrainian military hit the base with artillery on June 9, killing anywhere between 50-200 mercenaries according to different estimates and destroying their weapons depot.

The Kyiv Independent has recreated the events of the operation based on conversations with local civilians and sources in intelligence agencies.

Identifying Wagner

Some Ukrainians who remained in Russian-occupied territories have been helping to identify Russian troops, equipment, bases, and depots, Anton, a member of Ukraine’s Special Operations Forces, told the Kyiv Independent. (Editor’s note: The name has been changed to protect his identity.)

The Special Operations Forces is a branch of Ukraine’s Armed Forces that conducts reconnaissance missions and covert operations behind enemy lines.

It was through locals that intelligence officers learned in May about the Wagner Group mercenaries stationed in Kadiivka.

“Without them, it would have been impossible,” Anton says.

“The group settled in a local gym. It became clear it wasn’t the Russian Armed Forces, but, let's say, a specific branch of the Russian army,” he said.

The Wagner Group, widely known as a private military company, is controlled by the Kremlin through Russian oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, a close friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin often dubbed “Putin’s chef,” because another company of his provides food catering to the Kremlin.

The group consists mostly of former Russian servicemen and has previously been involved in wars and armed conflicts in Ukraine, Syria, the Central African Republic, Mali, Madagascar, Mozambique, and Sudan.

Prigozhin has also been in control of Russian “troll factories” operating on social media. In 2018, Prigozhin was charged with “funding and organizing operations for the purpose of interfering with U.S. political and electoral processes, including the 2016 presidential election, and other crimes including identity theft,” according to a U.S. court document.

Anton was the first to receive a message from Oleh. “There is some interesting information. Details later,” the local told him.

Oleh declined to say how he was able to pass the information about Wagner Group's location to Ukraine’s Special Forces so as not to endanger future operations.

“Transmission always happens in different ways. One informant may hand over information immediately, another, two weeks later. It's often a matter of chance,” Anton says.

Preparing the operation

After the information is passed along, there are several stages of verification, which generally include open-source intelligence methods.

Anton’s job is to get tips from locals, verify them, and pass them on to another unit, which then repeats verification.

Anton doesn't make decisions on specific targets. He says there are no reports or “unnecessary paperwork,” and a limited number of people are in the loop to prevent the information from leaking. He didn’t reveal how the information is verified.

Following verification, there is a risk assessment for civilians, after which a final decision is made on the target.

“One of the problems is when a new group of Russians settles on the lower floor of an apartment building. Civilians are living on the upper floors. Russians frequently do it, using civilians as a human shield,” says Anton. “They can settle between a kindergarten and a school, or inside one of them.”

This time, the Wagner mercenaries in Kadiivka had settled at a stadium in a residential area.

Oleh says a target is never destroyed the day after information is passed along. For the strike on the Wagner base in Kadiivka, preparations took about two weeks – from receiving the tip in May to striking the group on June 9.

During this time, local residents continuously checked to make sure the mercenaries continued to occupy the building. Those residents have since left the city.

According to Oleh, many locals knew that the Wagner Group was stationed in the city.

“Wagner mercenaries don’t know how to keep their mouths shut,” he says. “They themselves went around and introduced themselves as ‘an orchestra’ or ‘musicians’”

These self-given monikers are references to German composer Richard Wagner whom the group is believed to be named after.

“They were telling local girls, ‘we are an orchestra on a tour here,’” says Oleh.

Oleh found out exactly where the mercenaries were living at the stadium: in a large gym at the stadium’s premises. Under the stadium’s tribunes, the mercenaries set up an ammunition depot, with four or five of them standing guard there, and rotating frequently.

Videos from the site, published by Russian propagandists after Ukraine hit it, confirm Oleh’s description of the place.

A photo showing the aftermath of Ukraine's strike on the stadium in Kadiivka where allegedly the Wagner Group mercenaries lived and kept their ammunition. (Courtesy)

“In total, there were about 300 to 400 (mercenaries). It's hard to say the exact number. I don’t think they even know how many of them were in town,” Anton says.

It’s unknown what this group was doing or preparing to do in the Donbas. Wagner mercenaries are an elite force, more professional and experienced than regular Russian troops or their local collaborators.

Successful strike

Ukraine hit the stadium with artillery on early in the morning on June 9. The site was destroyed.

The Special Operation Forces’ serviceman and his informant disagree on what weapons Ukraine used to hit the stadium.

Anton says the strike was carried out with a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, recently provided to Ukraine by the U.S. But Ukraine only officially deployed HIMARS in Donbas in the second half of June.

Oleh thinks it was a more obsolete weapon. Russian-controlled proxies reported shelling conducted by a Grad self-propelled multiple rocket launcher. However, photos of the site don’t show multiple impact areas that would have been left by this type of rocket launcher.

“The place was immediately cordoned off after the attack,” says Oleh. The local militia was not allowed to enter. Russian officers took over the site.

“Because of this, it was difficult to verify information on casualties. After a laptop was found at the site by a local, it was immediately torn out of his hands by the Russians,” says Oleh.

It took a week to clean up the debris.

Anton puts the number of killed mercenaries at around 250.

“Even for Russia, such high losses of motivated, highly trained fighters is a lot,” says Anton.

Oleh's information from the field is more modest.

“From one hospital, from another, the morgues, there was different data,” Oleh says. “Rescuers at the scene said there were 50 killed. Some of my sources said the dead were taken to a morgue in Luhansk. There they said that there were 150 bodies,” he added.

The number of survivors is unknown. A few hours before the Ukrainian strike, a part of the group left the site, according to Oleh. Around half of the group, including the ammunition depot guards, remained at the spot.

Russian-controlled proxies reported that 22 civilians were killed in the attack. They reported it as a strike on a residential area, and didn’t mention the presence of any military at all, let alone the Wagner Group.

Ukraine said only two civilians were killed as a result of the strike. Oleh agrees with Ukraine’s estimation.

“The (Russian-controlled proxies’) number was inflated, there weren’t 22 civilians. For some reason, they recorded 20 Wagner mercenaries as civilians,” says Oleh.

According to Oleh, the Wagner mercenaries on the site were mostly killed by concrete parts of the building crushing them.

Aftermath

Since the military occupation of Kadiivka began in 2014, Oleh has helped Ukraine in any way possible. He tracked Russian troop movement, handing over sensitive information to Ukrainian special services.

“In 2014, the Ukrainian military was not shooting at bases and warehouses like they do now. Although the data was still transmitted,” he says.

“A couple of months ago, Ukraine hit a base near my town for the first time. I bought a bottle of beer to celebrate. I've been waiting for this for eight years,” Oleh recounted.

Recently, Oleh has had more and more reasons to celebrate. In his town alone, Ukrainian troops have hit six ammunition depots so far, according to Oleh.

The last attack occurred on July 14, when according to Russian-controlled proxies, Ukraine hit Kadiivka with HIMARS. An ammunition depot caught fire as a result.

Oleh says the new long-range artillery provided by the West is significantly reducing the opportunity for Russian troops to conduct attacks and shelling of Ukrainian territory.

Meanwhile, Oleh and others continue their resistance by helping Ukraine far behind the front lines.

____________________

Note from the author:

Hello! Alexander Khrebet here.

This is my debut story as a reporter for the Kyiv Independent. I hope you enjoyed it. For this article, I spoke to people whose lives have been completely upended by Russia's war. Some of them have been living under Russian occupation for years, but have continued their silent resistance. These stories have to be told and read. To continue publishing stories like this we need your support. By donating to the Kyiv Independent, and becoming our patron you can help us to keep telling the stories that matter. Thank you!

kyivindependent.com · by Alexander Khrebet · July 20, 2022



20. China’s Strategy Needs Study, Not Assumptions

But nearly all strategies require assumptions because we never have perfect information and knowledge.


Conclusion:


A strategy of denial might well be what America needs to contain a rising China. If Colby had marshaled actual Chinese strategy to demonstrate that they would use military force in the way Colby imagines, his proposed Chinese and U.S. strategies might be credible. If he had grappled with the tension between his assumptions about violence and limited war, his vision of how the United States could win a war over Taiwan might be logical. And if he had grappled with the thorny challenge of government values and preferences and the necessity for strategy that goes beyond military security, his strategy might be realistic. But in this book, Colby does none of these things. The Strategy of Denial is not a reliable blueprint for countering China’s strategy in East Asia, and those responsible for crafting future U.S. policy or generating future U.S. leaders should not pretend that it is.




China’s Strategy Needs Study, Not Assumptions

Elbridge Colby’s influential take on combating Beijing doesn’t add up.

By Cornell Overfield, an associate research analyst at CNA.

Foreign Policy · by Cornell Overfield · July 21, 2022

The Strategy of Denial: American Defense in an Age of Great Power Conflict, Elbridge Colby, Yale University Press, 384 pp., $32.50, September 2021

Elbridge Colby’s The Strategy of Denial offers a blueprint for containing and combating China’s rise in order to preserve American freedom, prosperity, and security—emphasis on security. The argument turns on a very specific vision of China’s plans, which Colby does not attempt to link to actual Chinese policy or strategy for achieving hegemony in East Asia. The resulting prescriptions, although they’ve been lauded by some, are fatally flawed.

Colby, deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy and force development from 2017 to 2018, believes that China could pursue a “focused and sequential strategy” of threatened or executed “wars against isolated coalition members,” starting with Taiwan. He fears Beijing would do this in such a way that does not trigger a regional war but culminates in Chinese hegemony in Asia.

To prevent this, Colby believes the United States must pursue a “strategy of denial” to preserve U.S. dominance in Asia. Cut through the hundred-plus pages of theoretical exposition, and this seems to mean that America should focus its military power on Asia, keep its alliance perimeter in East Asia, and guarantee Taiwan’s security. Given Colby’s background and the largely positive reception to the book, his approach would likely be influential in any future Republican presidential administration.

Yet, there are important flaws in his approach. Colby’s bridge from theory to practice is built on three faulty assumptions. He believes he does not need to muster evidence about Chinese strategy and intentions. He builds on incompatible assumptions about violence and the possibility that rules can limit war. And his assumptions about force in international politics leave him blind to how an effective U.S. strategy must be sensitive to the specific preferences and values of governments and populations in his anti-hegemonic coalition.

The most glaring flaw is that Colby works off what he thinks China’s strategy should be, not the evidence about what it actually is. This is a particularly bad approach to analysis, because it makes mirroring or speculation easier to smuggle into predictions of adversary behavior.

A good defense strategy requires an understanding of how the expected adversary plans to fight. Yet he does not engage with Chinese military doctrine, Chinese strategic thought, or the robust debate in the United States about Chinese strategy and ambitions. Instead, he argues that because of uncertainty about China’s strategy, the United States should simply focus on China’s “best strategy” for winning Asia. In Colby’s words, “a state’s best strategy does not ultimately depend on what the state’s leaders think it is” because it relates to “objective reality.”

Colby believes China’s best strategy begins with a fait accompli against Taiwan, as this would add Taiwan’s heft to China’s power ledger, while undermining U.S. credibility and piercing the first island chain. Yet Colby makes this argument based on the theory of Western international relations scholars and his own inductive logic, without any real engagement with what we can know about Chinese strategy, politics, or ideology.

The vast majority of footnotes used to substantiate Beijing’s best strategy feature the works of various Western theoreticians and military historians, not Chinese sources or even China analysts. Of 72 footnotes in the chapter “Beijing’s Best Strategy,” one cites Chinese President Xi Jinping, one cites a few sources on Chinese military thinking about Taiwan dating mostly from the early 2000s, and perhaps 10 deal with China directly. Major scholars of Chinese strategy, such as Avery Goldstein and Andrew Nathan, do not appear in his citations, or, like Michael Swaine, appear only rarely. Compare this approach with Rush Doshi’s The Long Gamefor instance, which engages deeply with Chinese material. This contrast approach reinforces Michael Kofman’s reasoning that arguments about a Chinese fait accompli rest on unstated and unproven assumptions about Chinese leadership perceptions.

Colby’s sourcing is a dire problem for his argument, because his approach of inferring the adversary’s “objective” “best strategy” rather than engaging with the evidence available opens the door to poor analysis and dangerous planning. Discerning Beijing’s intentions and planning is a difficult and uncertain task. It demands not only linguistic skills but also an ability to discern the wheat of actual intention from the chaff of politicized rhetoric. But Beijing’s rhetoric and ideology matter, too, because one thing we can be certain of is that the world seen from Beijing looks very different than the one seen from Washington. When not grounded in the adversary’s actual thought, analysts can at best fall prey to mirroring, and at worst simply spin self-serving scenarios. Either outcome leads further from reality and deterrence.

Building a response according to an adversary’s “best strategy” also makes you much more likely to miss what that adversary is actually doing. Colby defends his approach of strategizing based on China’s “best” strategy by claiming that “Defeating a bad strategy is easier and less costly than defeating a good one.” Therefore, if the United States prepares for China’s best strategy, any real Chinese strategy should be even easier to handle.

In reality, the defense posture and investments needed to defeat an adversary’s “best” strategy might be significantly different from those needed to defeat an adversary’s second-best strategy. Making Taiwan a porcupine sheathed in defensive layers means little if China aims to peel off other members of Colby’s anti-hegemonic coalition first. Pouring U.S. resources into military counters to China will do nothing to achieve Colby’s goal of preventing Chinese hegemony if China manages to break an anti-hegemonic coalition primarily through economic and political coercion. Colby believes that building a U.S. strategy that counters China’s “best” strategy makes the most of limited resources, but a better, safer, and more efficient approach would be to develop a U.S. strategy based at least on a sustained engagement with what China experts expect Beijing to do, not what IR theory predicts that all states should do.

Colby also relies on fundamental assumptions about the utility of violence that are hard to square with his lawyerly insistence that the United States can use rules to ensure a war with China is limited and resolves in America’s favor.

Colby sees violence as the ultimate tool. He writes that “Physical force, especially the ability to kill, is the ultimate form of coercive leverage.” He appears to believe that escalation is always a path to victory for the side with a greater capacity to kill. He claims, counterfactually, that the United States or the Soviet Union could have escalated their way to victory in South Vietnam or Afghanistan but saw benefits as out of proportion to costs—not that violence itself could not achieve national goals at all. In Colby’s framing, in the case of nuclear-armed states such as China and the United States, the side willing to employ the greater violence will emerge victorious. It’s an odd, almost religious set of beliefs that requires stretching and rewriting of history to justify.

But Colby also believes that a limited war is possible and that rules limiting violence are the core feature of such conflicts. He notes that a limited war “may be thought of as a war in which the combatants establish, recognize, and agree to rules within and regarding the ends of the conflict.” Victory in a limited war depends on being able to “employ a military strategy to achieve a decisive advantage relevant to the attainment of its political objectives within a given rule set” on the acceptable limits of escalation.

Thus, Colby’s assumption that violence is a skeleton key to success is impossible to square with his belief that the United States can set rules to constrain China’s use of force in a limited war. This is particularly true if hegemony and reunification with Taiwan are core Beijing goals, as Colby believes. If he were right that enough violence can achieve a state’s ends, China would not remain within the “rules” for limited war set by and favorable to the United States in a war where China’s resolve is greater than America’s. This would almost certainly be the case for a war over Taiwan that China starts. China would escalate to win, assuming that the United States would not risk everything for Taiwan.

Colby’s fixation on military solutions and state-level analysis also means his strategy for the United States is a military strategy binding states, not a whole-of-government strategy addressing what coalition partners may care about beyond mere security. Specific governments have specific values and preferences that must be taken seriously in any U.S. strategy to counter China’s hegemony that relies on these partners.

Further compounding this issue is Colby’s inconsistency on the relationship between interests and values. The realist scholar Patrick Porter has favorably compared Colby to Machiavelli for Colby’s willingness to focus on power and interests and eschew morality-inflected policy. Indeed, in Colby’s analysis, China and the United States have interests—hegemony in China’s case and anti-hegemony abroad in the name of security, freedom, and property at home in America’s—but the values of specific leaders, ruling parties, or constituencies are irrelevant. This is despite the long recognition in IR theory that values make interests.

Yet for the lesser states, Colby smuggles in value-based interests, at least in the case of security. He notes that states such as Japan, South Korea, India, and Vietnam have “strong traditions of independence” and, therefore, a high level of interest in preserving their autonomy. Other states are presumably less committed to their autonomy, which raises the awkward question of what might cause some states to value this fundamental interest, per Colby, in different ways and to different extents.

Gilding over preferences and values creates another risk of acting on Colby’s arguments. His prescription of an anti-hegemonic coalition depends on a succession of specific governments in each state to prefer and value autonomy in a U.S.-led order to different autonomy in a China-led one. Colby thinks this is a sure thing if the United States provides enough military security, given his assumption that autonomy and independence is every state’s fundamental interest. But again, Colby’s rationalist assertions about what states ought to prefer and his fixation on violence and military strategy miss the real challenge. Getting continued support from governments and, in democracies, the people they represent requires a strategy that acknowledges and encompasses issues of relevance to those constituencies, such as economic growth, corruption, climate change, or morality, and not just military security.

A strategy of denial might well be what America needs to contain a rising China. If Colby had marshaled actual Chinese strategy to demonstrate that they would use military force in the way Colby imagines, his proposed Chinese and U.S. strategies might be credible. If he had grappled with the tension between his assumptions about violence and limited war, his vision of how the United States could win a war over Taiwan might be logical. And if he had grappled with the thorny challenge of government values and preferences and the necessity for strategy that goes beyond military security, his strategy might be realistic. But in this book, Colby does none of these things. The Strategy of Denial is not a reliable blueprint for countering China’s strategy in East Asia, and those responsible for crafting future U.S. policy or generating future U.S. leaders should not pretend that it is.

Foreign Policy · by Cornell Overfield · July 21, 2022


21. Putin’s Unexpected Challenge: Snubs From His Central Asian Allies



Putin’s Unexpected Challenge: Snubs From His Central Asian Allies

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has Kazakhstan and its neighbors rethinking alliances and reaching out to the U.S.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/russia-ukraine-kazakhstan-central-asia-11658439761?mod=flipboard


By Evan GershkovichFollow

July 24, 2022 11:56 am ET


ALMATY, Kazakhstan—At the start of the year, Russia dispatched more than 2,000 troops to its longtime ally Kazakhstan to help put down violent antigovernment unrest. Six weeks later, when Russian troops stormed into Ukraine, Kazakhstan had an opportunity to repay the favor by supporting the invasion.

It didn’t.

Instead, Kazakhstan has joined other Central Asian countries along Russia’s southern frontier in staying neutral on the invasion, leaving Belarus as the only ex-Soviet state that has offered full-throated support. Kazakhstan has promised to enforce Western sanctions against Moscow, said it would boost oil exports to Europe via routes that bypass Russia, upped its defense budget and hosted a U.S. delegation meant to coax the Central Asian country closer to Washington’s orbit.

The growing distance between Moscow and its largest ally in Central Asia represents an unexpected challenge to Russian President Vladimir Putin. For decades since the fall of the Soviet Union, Moscow has worked to maintain influence across Central Asia through military and economic alliances with its former sister republics. Chief among them is Kazakhstan, an oil-rich country larger than the size of Western Europe. The two countries share a 4,750-mile border, the world’s second longest frontier after the U.S.-Canada border.


Peacekeepers returning to Russia from Kazakhstan in January.

PHOTO: VLADIMIR SMIRNOV/TASS/ZUMA PRESS

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine—a fellow former Soviet republic that shares a lot of similarities with Kazakhstan—is changing that relationship. Now Kazakhstan is rethinking Russia’s privileged position in its foreign policy and reaching out to countries like the U.S., Turkey and China, according to interviews with current and former Kazakh officials, lawmakers and analysts.

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A telling moment came in June, when Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev flew to Russia for Mr. Putin’s flagship economic forum in St. Petersburg. Sharing the stage with the Russian president, Mr. Tokayev said Kazakhstan wouldn’t recognize the two Moscow-backed separatist states in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine that Mr. Putin says he is liberating. When asked by the panel’s moderator whether the West was pressuring his country, Mr. Tokayev deflected the question.

During his visit, Mr. Tokayev told Russian state television that his country wouldn’t help Russia violate sanctions, but stressed that Russia would remain a key ally. “Kazakhstan is in no way renouncing its allied obligations,” he said.


Russian President Vladimir Putin and ​Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in June.

PHOTO: DMITRI LOVETSKY/ASSOCIATED PRESS

It’s a delicate balance. Kazakhstan has banned antiwar demonstrations that might anger Moscow, but also outlawed publicly displaying the Z sign that has become a pro-war symbol in Russia.

Sayasat Nurbek, a Kazakh lawmaker, invoked a Siberian fairy tale about how chipmunks got their stripes to explain Kazakhstan’s reasoning. A bear and a chipmunk were friends, the story goes, and the bear in a good mood petted the chipmunk’s back, but scraped it with his claws.

“The moral of this tale is: if you are a friend of the bear—even if you are the best friend, even if he is in a good mood—always watch your back,” Mr. Nurbek said.

One of Kazakhstan’s first signals it wouldn’t be marching in step with Russia came soon after the war began when it abstained from a United Nations vote in early March on a resolution demanding that Russia end the invasion, instead of voting against it. Days later, it dispatched a Boeing 767 carrying 28 tons of medicine to Ukraine, one of several aid flights it has sent.


Students packed aid boxes to be sent to Ukraine in Almaty, Kazakhstan, May 9.

PHOTO: ANUSH BABAJANYAN FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

In early July, Kazakhstan’s Finance Ministry published a draft order that would follow Western sanctions restrictions on some exports to Russia.

Kazakhstan’s stance has angered some in Russia, particularly after the country’s troops helped put down what began as peaceful protests in January over a rise in gas prices, before turning into what many Kazakhs saw as a battle among elites for power.

“Kazakhs, what kind of ingratitude do you call this?” Tigran Keosayan, a host of a Russian state television show, said in late April. “Look carefully at what’s happening in Ukraine….If you think that you can get away with trying to be so cunning, and imagine that nothing will happen to you, you are mistaken.”

Kazakhs have been long used to that kind of rhetoric. Roughly 20% of the population are ethnic Russians, and Russian nationalists have long claimed that Kazakhstan’s north is Russian land. In 2014, after Russia severed Crimea from Ukraine, Mr. Putin said Kazakhstan had no history of statehood until the Soviet Union fell apart.

After the invasion, the rhetoric is being taken seriously, particularly since Kazakhstan is the only Central Asian nation that borders Russia. Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan all lie to the south of Kazakhstan. None have supported the invasion, and Uzbekistan has publicly said it would not recognize the breakaway Donbas republics.

The partial estrangement has given the U.S. a window to try to regain influence in a region it had stepped back from in recent years.

U.S. officials have visited the region several times starting in April, when President Biden’s top diplomat for human rights, Uzra Zeya, traveled to the country. In late May, Donald Lu, Assistant Secretary of State, took a trip to Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. And in June, the newly appointed head of the U.S. Central Command, Army Gen. Erik Kurilla, toured the same countries.

The U.S. outreach to Kazakhstan raised eyebrows in Moscow, said Andrei Grozin, a Central Asia researcher at the state-funded Russian Academy of Sciences. While the Kremlin isn’t troubled yet, he said, if Kazakhstan’s government were to turn hostile, that would be even more threatening to Russia than a hostile Ukraine, given the countries’ lengthy shared border.

“But I think it won’t come to this,” Mr. Grozin said. “Kazakhstan’s elite has a greater instinct for self-preservation than their colleagues in Ukraine.”

The U.S. has asked Central Asian governments to side with the West on supporting Ukraine but is careful not to exert undue pressure, two State Department officials said.


Mr. Putin with Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rahmon in June.

PHOTO: TAJIKISTAN PRESIDENT PRESS OFFICE/ZUMA PRESS

On June 28, a week after Army Gen. Kurrila’s visit to Tajikistan, Mr. Putin chose the country for his first visit abroad since invading Ukraine. “I am very glad to be on the friendly soil of our ally,” Mr. Putin told his Tajik counterpart Emomali Rahmon.

After her visit to Kazakhstan in April, Mr. Biden’s human rights envoy went to neighboring Kyrgyzstan. At a joint news conference with the country’s then-foreign minister, Ruslan Kazakbayev, the two announced Kyrgyzstan and the U.S. would soon sign a bilateral cooperation agreement allowing the country to receive U.S. aid in areas like the economy and education.

Mr. Kazakbayev submitted his resignation eight days later because of health reasons, his replacement told local media. A person familiar with the decision said he resigned at Moscow’s request.

The Kremlin and Kyrgyzstan’s foreign ministry didn’t respond to requests for comment. Mr. Kazakbayev declined to comment.

Cultural, economic and historical ties with Russia run deep among Central Asian countries. Moscow has military bases in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, and an anti-ballistic missile testing site in Kazakhstan.

In early May, around 10,000 people marched in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s largest city, to commemorate the defeat of Nazi Germany. They waved Soviet flags, carried a portrait of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin, and sang Russian wartime ballads.


People marched for Victory Day in Almaty on May 9.

PHOTO: ANUSH BABAJANYAN FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL


Marchers held posters of Joseph Stalin and Lavrentiy Beria, who had been director of the Soviet secret police.

PHOTO: ANUSH BABAJANYAN FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Russia is the region’s top trading partner and provides work for millions of Central Asian laborers. Remittances are worth nearly a third of GDP in Kyrgyzstan, over a quarter in Tajikistan, and about 10% in Uzbekistan. The lion’s share comes from Russia.

After the West imposed sanctions, Kazakhstan’s traditional trade route with Europe through Russia slowed to a near halt, with insurers and importers wary of cargo passing through the country. That prompted Kazakh officials to seek to diversify its trade. (The World Bank predicts Central Asian economies will contract an average of 4.1% this year.)

Weeks after the invasion, a delegation of Kazakh officials traveled to Azerbaijan and Georgia, fellow ex-Soviet states on the Caspian Sea and bordering Turkey, for talks on reviving the so-called Middle Corridor—a trade route that runs from China to Europe through Central Asia, the Caucasus region and Turkey.

In the past, the trade route wasn’t seriously explored by either Central Asian nations or China and Turkey in part because the governments didn’t want to anger Russia, said Selcuk Colakoglu, director of the Turkish Center for Asia Pacific Studies and a former adviser to the Turkish Foreign Ministry who now teaches at a university in China.

The invasion emboldened countries in the region, including China and Turkey, to challenge Russia’s dominance, he said.

Regional Shift

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has led to unease among former Soviet republics in Central Asia and new discussions on the Middle Corridor trade route. Russia has shut down the Caspian Pipeline twice in the past few months, while Kazakhstan is routing more trade through its ports of Aktau and Kuryk.

Former Soviet Union

RUSSIA

KAZAKHSTAN

Caspian

Pipeline

UKRAINE

Tengiz

Black Sea

Istanbul

Middle Corridor

Aktau and

Kuryk ports

TURKEY

CHINA

Caspian Sea

Lianyungang

Sources: Caspian Pipeline Consortium (Caspian Pipeline); Trans-Caspian International Transport Route (Middle Corridor)

Emma Brown/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Kazakhstan’s ports of Aktau and Kuryk on the Caspian Sea are now humming with activity. Container shipments were up threefold from January to April compared with the same period last year, said Zeynolla Akhmetzhanov, deputy director of the Kazakhstan’s Industry Ministry’s department for transport policy and infrastructure.

Diversifying trade is an existential question for Kazakhstan. Russia has twice in the past few months shut down the Caspian Pipeline, which carries roughly 80% of Kazakhstan’s oil exports through Russia to the Black Sea port city of Novorossiysk. In late March, Russia shut down two of the terminal’s three moorings for repairs for weeks after a storm damaged the terminal. It reopened them days after Kazakhstan’s energy minister and a delegation traveled to Moscow for talks in April.

In early July, a Russian court ordered the pipeline to suspend its activity for 30 days over alleged environmental violations. The court reversed its decision several days later, but the move had already sent tremors through Kazakhstan. On July 7, President Tokayev instructed his country’s oil companies to develop new shipping routes.

For years, Moscow and Beijing had a tacit division of labor, with Russia providing the security oversight and China developing the area’s economies. That’s now changing.

In late April, China’s Minister of National Defense, Wei Fenghe, visited Kazakhstan and met with Mr. Tokayev. According to China’s Ministry of National Defense, the two agreed to strengthen military cooperation. Kazakhstan is also pushing for closer relations with regional power and North Atlantic Treaty Organization member Turkey. In early May, Mr. Tokayev flew to Ankara, where Turkish and Kazakh officials signed a deal to jointly produce military drones in Kazakhstan.

Kazakhstan also has increased its own defense budget by 441 billion tenge, or about $918 million.

Part of the money would go to increasing Kazakhstan’s military reserves, a senior official said. Kazakhstan has also learned lessons from Ukraine’s fierce resistance, the official added, namely that it must reform its army to be more mobile and adept at combating hybrid warfare, which employs a mix of conventional warfare and methods like cyberwar, disinformation and election meddling.

While some in the West say Russia’s military has been exposed as a paper tiger, one senior official from a Central Asian country said that fear is only growing over Russia’s ambitions. “It’s one thing when they deal with so many others and they have Eastern Europeans and Ukraine to spend their time abusing,” the official said. “Imagine if they don’t have Ukraine to abuse. Are we going to be next?”


A statue of Vladimir Lenin and other Soviet-era statues line a park in Almaty.

PHOTO: ANUSH BABAJANYAN FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

William Mauldin and Jared Malsin contributed to this article.

Write to Evan Gershkovich at evan.gershkovich@wsj.com

Appeared in the July 25, 2022, print edition as 'Central Asian Allies’ Snubs Pose Challenge for Putin'.



2​2. Russia shells southern Ukraine, wages propaganda war ahead of expected annexation efforts




​Excerpts:


PEN America, a U.S.-based nonprofit human rights group, blasted Russia for its recent propaganda efforts in a statement last Monday. The statement came after Ukrainian journalist and human rights activist Maksym Butkevych was captured by Russian forces in June while fighting for Ukraine.
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"False information contained in coverage of his capture and imprisonment reflects a Russian disinformation campaign attempting to undermine Butkevych and his work," PEN America said.
"Russian propagandists have taken advantage of Butkevych's capture to undermine his work. Propagandists have claimed that Butkevych is actually a fascist with strongly-held Nazi sympathies."



Russia shells southern Ukraine, wages propaganda war ahead of expected annexation efforts

By Adam Schrader

upi.com


Firefighters were working to put out a fire in a seaport of Odesa, southern Ukraine, after a missile attack on Saturday. Photo courtesy Odesa City Press Office/EPA-EFE

July 24 (UPI) -- Russian forces shelled southern Ukrainian cities on Sunday as Russian leaders expanded their propaganda war against Ukraine, as well as the United States and its allies, in preparation for expected referenda to annex occupied areas.

"Over the past 24 hours, the enemy carried out shellings of Ukrainian defenders' positions using tank gunnery, artillery and [multiple rocket launchers] along the entire contact line," the Zaporizhzhia Regional Military Administration said in a statement to Telegram.

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With fighting having shifted in the past week from the eastern Donbas region, the Zaporizhzhia Regional Military Administration in the south said that Russian forces shelled civilian infrastructure near the villages of Novooleksandrivka, Hryhorivka, Kanivske, Kamianske, Zaliznychne, Huliaipole and Orikhiv.

"There were 11 reports of destruction of civilian infrastructure as a result of shelling by Russian occupation forces," the Zaporizhzhia Regional Military Administration said.

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Zaporizhzhia is the Ukrainian province that runs from the city by the same name on the Dnipro River to Melitopol on the Sea of Azov.

"During the day, the civilian population was evacuated from the temporarily occupied territory. A total of 1,066 people, including 345 children, were evacuated," the Zaporizhzhia Regional Military Administration said.

Valentin Reznichenko, the regional military administrator for the Dnipro province that borders Zaporizhzhia, said on Telegram that Saturday night into Sunday was "relatively quiet" after Russian forces shelled the cities of Nikopol and Kryvorizky and nearby villages the night before.

No injuries were reported in that shelling, according to Reznichenko.

Russian forces fired 13 missiles at military and infrastructure facilities in the central Ukrainian province of Kirovohrad, the regional military administrator Andriy Raikovych said on Telegram.

Raikovych said the attack on the Kirovohrad region, which is along supply routes for fighting in southern Ukraine, included at least eight sea-based Kalibr missiles which hit the Kanatove military airfield and killed an unspecified number of people.

"Yesterday's rocket attacks in the Kirovohrad Oblast were so powerful and barbaric that even houses in Kropyvnytskyi were damaged by the shock wave!" Raikovych said on Sunday.

The strikes came after Russian missiles hit the Ukrainian port of Odesa on Saturday even after Moscow signed an agreement to free up large shipments of grain stuck at Black Sea export hubs.

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Russian Kalibr-type cruise missiles damaged infrastructure at the Odesa Commercial Seaport, while two other missiles were shot down by Ukrainian air defenses, a spokesman for Odesa regional Gov. Serhiy Bratchuk said in a Telegram post.

Local lawmaker Oleksiy Honcharenko said the port caught on fire after the attack. The Ukrainian military reported there were no casualties and no grain silos were damaged.

"Today's Russian missile attack on Odesa, on our port, is a cynical one, and it was also a blow to the political positions of Russia itself," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video message to Facebook on Saturday night.

"We see the absolute unanimity of the world's reaction to this strike. The occupiers can no longer deceive anyone."

The British Defense Ministry, which has been providing intelligence updates throughout the war, addressed Russian propaganda efforts in its intelligence update Sunday after Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday that Russia had expanded the scope of its war beyond the Donbas region.

The Donbas region, which comprises the provinces of Luhansk and Donetsk, has been largely held by pro-Russian separatists since Crimea was annexed by Russia in 2014. Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized Luhansk and Donetsk as independent republics before the start of the invasion on Feb. 24.

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Experts have previously said Putin will try to annex the Donbas region into Russia in the coming months.

"Lavrov claimed that the operation now included new additional areas, including the Ukrainian regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, as a result of Western countries supplying longer range weapons to Ukraine," the British Defense Ministry said Sunday.

"This is almost certainly not true. Russia has not 'expanded' its war; maintaining long-term control of these areas was almost certainly an original goal of the invasion. Russia invaded these areas in February."

The British Defense Ministry noted that occupation authorities "have been publicly discussing the prospects for legal independent referendums since at least mid-March."

"There is a realistic possibility that Lavrov made the comments to pave the way for referenda to take place in occupied territories beyond Luhansk and Donetsk," the British Defense Ministry said.

The Institute for the Study of War, a think tank based in Washington, D.C., said in an analysis on Sunday that Russia is beginning to take measures "to isolate occupied areas from the non-Russian information space" in preparation for annexation referenda.

However, the think tank said that Ukrainian forces "are likely preparing to launch, or have already launched, a counteroffensive" in the Kherson province in the south of Ukraine -- making gains in taking back areas that Russia had seized.

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Meanwhile, Lavrov wrote in an article published in newspapers in four African countries he will visit this week including Egypt, Ethiopia, Uganda and the Republic of Congo in order to boost support of Russia on the continent and blame the United States and the west for food shortages.

"Russia-Africa ties are based on the time-tested bonds of friendship and cooperation. Our country who has not stained itself with the bloody crimes of colonialism, has always sincerely supported Africans in their struggle for liberation from colonial oppression," Lavrov wrote in the article.

He added that the "development of a comprehensive partnership with African countries remains among the top priorities of Russia's foreign policy."

"We know that the African colleagues does not approve of the undisguised attempts of the U.S. and their European satellites to gain the upper hand, and to impose a unipolar world order to the international community," Lavrov wrote.

"We appreciate the considered African position as to the situation in and around Ukraine."

PEN America, a U.S.-based nonprofit human rights group, blasted Russia for its recent propaganda efforts in a statement last Monday. The statement came after Ukrainian journalist and human rights activist Maksym Butkevych was captured by Russian forces in June while fighting for Ukraine.

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"False information contained in coverage of his capture and imprisonment reflects a Russian disinformation campaign attempting to undermine Butkevych and his work," PEN America said.

"Russian propagandists have taken advantage of Butkevych's capture to undermine his work. Propagandists have claimed that Butkevych is actually a fascist with strongly-held Nazi sympathies."

upi.com


23. China’s Gen Z Is Dejected, Underemployed and Slowing the Economy


China’s Gen Z Is Dejected, Underemployed and Slowing the Economy

Younger workers’ ambitions and salary expectations are diminishing in the wake of Covid and the tech crackdown.


https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2022-07-25/xi-s-covid-rules-and-tech-crackdown-push-gen-z-in-china-to-bailan?utm_campaign=news&utm_medium=bd&utm_source=applenews&sref=hhjZtX76

Bloomberg News

July 24, 2022 at 8:00 PM EDT


The most educated generation in China’s history was supposed to blaze a trail towards a more innovative and technologically advanced economy. Instead, about 15 million young people are estimated to be jobless, and many are lowering their ambitions. 

A perfect storm of factors has propelled unemployment among 16- to 24-year-old urbanites to a record 19.3%, more than twice the comparable rate in the US. The government’s hardline coronavirus strategy has led to layoffs, while its regulatory crackdown on real estate and education companies has hit the private sector. At the same time, a record number of college and vocational school graduates—some 12 million—are entering the job market this summer. This highly educated cohort has intensified a mismatch between available roles and jobseekers’ expectations.  

The result is an increasingly disillusioned young population losing faith in private companies and willing to accept lower pay in the state sector. If the trend continues, growth in the world’s second-largest economy stands to suffer. The sheer number of jobless under-25s amounts to a 2% to 3% reduction in China’s workforce, and fewer workers means lower gross domestic product. Unemployment and underemployment also continue to impact salaries for years—a 2020 review of studies reported a 3.5% reduction in wages among those who had experienced unemployment five years earlier.

More young people taking roles in government may leave fewer jumping into new sectors and fueling innovation.

“The structural adjustment faced by China’s economy right now actually needs more people to become entrepreneurs and strive,” said Zeng Xiangquan, head of the China Institute for Employment Research in Beijing. Lowered expectations have “damaged the utilization of the young labor force,” he added. “It’s not a good thing for the economy.”

High Achievers

China's pool of graduates has grown more than tenfold over the past 20 years

Sources: Ministry of Education; the World Bank

Pre-pandemic, 22-year-old Xu Chaoqun was prepared for a career in China’s creative industries. But a fruitless four-month job hunt has left him setting his sights on the state sector. “Under the Covid outbreak, many private companies are very unstable,” said Xu, who majored in visual art at a mid-ranked university. “That’s why I want to be with a state-owned enterprise”.

Xu is not alone. Some 39% of graduates listed state-owned companies as their top choice of employer last year, according to recruitment company 51job Inc. That’s up from 25% in 2017. A further 28% chose government jobs as their first choice. 

It’s a rational response in a pandemic-hit labor market. All workplaces have been hit hard by China’s snap lockdowns and strict quarantine measures, but private companies were more likely to lay off workers. Beijing’s main employment-boosting policy has been to order the state sector to increase hiring.


Xu ChaoqunCourtesy: Xu Chaoqun

President Xi Jinping may be relieved that the country’s unemployed youth are trying to join the government rather than overthrow it. During a June visit to a university in the southwestern China’s Sichuan province, he advised graduates to “prevent the situation in which one is unfit for a higher position but unwilling to take a lower one.” He added that “to get rich and get fame overnight is not realistic.”

The message is getting through: Graduate expectations for starting salaries fell more than 6% from last year to 6,295 yuan ($932) per month, according to an April survey from recruitment firm Zhilian. State-owned enterprises grew in appeal over the same period, the recruiter said. 

But lower income expectations and talent shunning the private sector are likely to lower growth in the long term, challenging the president’s plan to double the size of China’s economy from 2020 levels by 2035—by which point it would likely overtake the U.S. in size.

The phrase “tang ping”—“lying flat”—spread through China’s internet last year. The slogan invokes dropping out of the rat race and doing the bare minimum to get by, and reflected the desire for a better work-life balance in the face of China’s slowing growth. As the unemployment situation has continued to worsen, many young people have adopted an even more fatalistic catchphrase: “bailan,” or “let it rot.”

Read More: From the Great Resignation to Lying Flat, Workers Are Opting Out

That concept is “a kind of mental relaxation,” said Hu Xiaoyue, a 24-year old with a psychology masters degree. “This way, even if you fail, you will feel better.” When Hu started looking for work last August, she found it easy to land interviews. “But when it came to spring, only one in 10 companies would offer an interview,” she said. “It fell off a cliff.”

Jobless Youth

China's youth unemployment is high compared with major economies

Source: OECD, China National Bureau of Statistics, World Bank

China’s state-owned enterprises (SOEs) aren’t all unproductive behemoths. But the weight of economic evidence suggests they are, on the whole, less efficient and less innovative than privately-owned companies. China’s economic boom has coincided with a falling share of SOE jobs in urban employment—from 40% in 1996 to less than 10% pre-pandemic. That trend could now go into reverse.

Last year, China launched a regulatory crackdown on formerly high-flying sectors dominated by private companies that previously attracted ambitious young people. Internet companies were hit with fines for monopolistic behavior, real estate businesses were starved of financing and the private tutoring sector was almost entirely shuttered.

Read More: Xi Jinping’s Capitalist Smackdown Sparks a $1 Trillion Reckoning

Regulatory filings show that China’s top five listed education companies reduced their staffing by 135,000 in the last year after the crackdown. The largest tech companies have kept their headcounts stable, and Zhilian says that there were more tech jobs advertised in the first half of this year than the same period in 2021. Even so, the sector’s allure has faded.


15 Million Young People in China Estimated to Be Jobless

Play

3:09


WATCH: 15 Million Young People in China Estimated to Be Jobless

A graduate of the highly ranked Central University of Finance and Economics in Beijing, Hu was set for the tech sector—she interned at three internet companies including video-sharing giant Beijing Kuaishou Technology Co. But she has changed her mind. “People who are going to work for Internet companies are all worrying about themselves because they feel like they could be fired any time,” she said.

Instead, Hu landed a position at a research institute within state-owned China Telecom Corp. “The working hours of my future job will be 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and the workload will be quite light. Internet companies are too consuming,” she said.

As well as the movement of talent towards state-owned companies, there’s another mechanism at work that can damage long-term growth. Studies from the USEurope and Japan have shown that the longer young people are unemployed at the start of their careers, the worse their long-term incomes, an effect known as “scarring.”

That’s the risk facing Beiya, who was laid off from an e-commerce company this year. The 26-year-old, who gave only one name because she feared that talking about losing her job could hit her employment prospects, missed out on a role with TikTok parent company Bytedance Inc. because of her limited experience.

“I’m a good candidate with potential but they want to see me in two years,” she said. “But how can I get the experience if no one gives me a job now?”


A job fair in Yichang, Hubei Province, on July 8.Photographer: CFOTO/Future Publishing/Getty Images

The state sector already employs around 80 million people and the figure could grow by as much as 2 million on a net basis this year, according to Lu Feng, a labor economist at Peking University. “But compared with total demand for jobs, it’s still relatively small,” he said. “We still need private firms to hire.”

That will only happen if the economy grows. To meet its employment goals, economists say China needs GDP to increase between 3% and 5% this year. Economists are predicting growth closer to 4%—with the outlook highly uncertain due to the prospect of more lockdowns to contain the spread of the coronavirus. “Lack of clarity on an exit strategy from the Covid-Zero policy makes companies wary of hiring,” said Chang Shu, Bloomberg Economics’ chief Asia economist. 

Beijing has launched a version of the job-support programs seen in Europe during the pandemic, offering tax rebates and direct subsidies to companies who promise to retain workers. But the amounts involved are small: The incentive for hiring a new worker is just 1,500 yuan. Provincial subsidies for graduates who start businesses are also small—just 10,000 yuan in the prosperous Guangdong region.

Government Job Rush

A record number of Chinese graduates applied to be civil servants in 2022

Source: Huatu Education

Note: Headcount for new civil servants declined in 2019 due to a reorganization of government agencies, resulting in a spike in the ratio

 

Even if China can return to strong growth in the second half of this year, the youth unemployment problem will persist—the rate has been rising since 2017, reaching 12% pre-pandemic. Economists attribute that to two factors: urbanization and a mismatch between the education system and employers’ needs.

The hundreds of millions of workers who moved from the countryside to cities used to return to their villages during labor market slumps, acting as an economic shock absorber. Now, younger migrants increasingly stay put when they lose their jobs, pushing up urban unemployment.

“A lot of them are not even raised in rural areas. So they regard themselves as urban people,” says Peking University’s Lu. “The constraints for the government have changed substantially, it’s tougher than in the past.”

Second, the annual number of graduates in China has increased tenfold over the last two decades—the fastest higher-education expansion anywhere in the world, at any time. The share of young Chinese people attending college is now almost 60%, similar to developed countries.


Xi Jinping greets teachers and students while visiting Yibin University in Sichuan Province in June.Photographer: Li Xueren/Xinhua /Getty Images

The number of vocational graduates lags far behind those receiving academic degrees. Such is the stigma around vocational education that students rioted last year when told their university was being rebranded as a vocational school. Highly educated young people are rejecting factory jobs. “That’s the basic matching problem. It is huge in this country,” said Lu.

That’s left manufacturers complaining about shortages of skilled technicians. “There are not a lot of people applying for those jobs, such as electrician or welder,” said Jiang Cheng, 28, an agent for electronics factories in central China.

Other sectors are oversubscribed. According to a 2021 study of 20,000 randomly selected jobseekers on Zhilian’s website, some 43% of the job applicants wanted to work in the IT industry, while the sector accounted for just 16% of recruitment posts.

Half of jobseekers had a bachelor degree, but only 20% of jobs required one. “There is now compelling evidence of over-education,” the study’s authors wrote, warning that the misalignment “could have profound influences on both individuals and the nation.”

In the longer term, it’s possible that government intervention may get the private sector hiring again, while education reforms and market forces can smooth the misalignment in the labor market. 

China is easing its regulatory campaigns, and a vocational education law passed this year aims to improve standards. A study by Wang Zhe, an economist at Caixin Insight, found college majors that attracted a wage premium in 2020 became more popular in 2021. As applicants’ academic choices adapt to demand in the jobs market, mismatches stand to ease. 

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But the share of graduates from China’s nine top-ranked universities joining the private sector has fallen since the pandemic, according to research from Hong Kong’s Lingnan University. That suggests ideological shifts, and not just market forces, are at play. Some graduates at top universities are adopting “ cadre style,” according to online forums where they seek tips on where to buy the black zippered windbreakers favored by Xi.


Kay LouCourtesy: Kay Lou

Even in the current environment, Kay Lou, 25, would be a leading candidate for any number of private-sector jobs. She has a masters in law from top-ranked Tsinghua University and has interned for a legal firm, an Internet giant, a securities brokerage and a court.

In the end, she won a government position in Zhejiang province—where some roles attract as many as 200 applicants.

“I felt my work wasn’t meaningful,” she said. “I became increasingly opposed to the capitalists’ pursuit of wealth after I read Marx, so in the end I chose to become a civil servant.”

(china job)


24. Targeting the US Dollar’s Hegemony: Russia, China, and BRICS Nations Plan to Craft a New International Reserve Currency



Our superpower is under threat.

Targeting the US Dollar’s Hegemony: Russia, China, and BRICS Nations Plan to Craft a New International Reserve Currency – Economics Bitcoin News

news.bitcoin.com · by Jamie Redman · July 24, 2022

Targeting the US Dollar’s Hegemony: Russia, China, and BRICS Nations Plan to Craft a New International Reserve Currency



While inflation data in Europe and the U.S. has risen significantly higher last month, Russia and members of the BRICS countries revealed leaders in the five major emerging economies are in the midst of “creating an international reserve currency.” Analysts believe the BRICS reserve currency is meant to rival the U.S. dollar and the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) currency.

Vladimir Putin Reveals the Creation of a New International Reserve Currency at the 14th BRICS Summit — Turkey, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia Consider Joining BRICS

During the last month, the West has been struggling with red hot inflation and energy prices skyrocketing higher. Politicians in the U.K., Europe, and the U.S. have been trying to blame the economic calamity on a number of things like the Ukraine-Russia war and Covid-19.

Data from last month’s consumer prices in America and Europe have climbed to all-time highs and many analysts say Western countries are in a recession or about to experience one. Meanwhile, at the end of June, members of the BRICS nations met at the 14th BRICS Summit to discuss world affairs.

The five leaders of the BRICS nations from China, Russia, Brazil, India, and South Africa.

During the BRICS Summit, Russian president Vladimir Putin announced that the five-member economies — Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa plan to issue a “new global reserve currency.”

“The matter of creating the international reserve currency based on the basket of currencies of our countries is under review,” Putin said at the time. “We are ready to openly work with all fair partners,” he added. Additionally, Turkey, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia are considering joining the BRICS group. Analysts believe the BRICS move to create a reserve currency is an attempt to undermine the U.S. dollar and the IMF’s SDRs.

At this year’s BRICS Summit, Russian president Vladimir Putin announced a new international currency developed by BRICS was in the works.

“This is a move to address the perceived U.S.-hegemony of the IMF,” the global head of markets at ING, Chris Turner, explained at the end of June. “It will allow BRICS to build their own sphere of influence and unit of currency within that sphere.”

While the news of a reserve currency created by BRICS may be a surprise to some, specific accounts about the member countries countering the U.S. dollar have been reported on for quite some time. At the end of May 2022, a Global Times report noted members were urged to end their dependence on the dollar’s global dominance.

Russian Business Relations and BRICS Countries Intensify — China’s President Xi Jinping Says Countries That ‘Obsess With a Position of Strength’ and ‘Seek Their Own Security at the Expense of Others’ Will Fall

Putin explained the following month that “Contacts between Russian business circles and the business community of the BRICS countries have intensified.” The Russian president further noted that Indian retail chain stores would be hosted in Russia, and Chinese cars and hardware would be imported regularly. Putin’s recent statements and commentary at the BRICS Summit have made people believe the BRICS members are not “just a ‘talk shop’ anymore.”

In addition to South Africa, Russia has also increased foreign aid and has delivered weapons to Sub-Saharan African countries. Furthermore, Putin and other BRICS leaders have been targeting U.S. hegemony and exceptionalism in specific statements published by the media.

Putin has criticized and condemned the U.S. and West for financial sanctions on various occasions throughout the years.

At this year’s St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Putin addressed the crowd with a 70-minute speech and talked about the U.S. ruling the world’s financial system for years. “Nothing lasts forever,” Putin said. “[Americans] think of themselves as exceptional. And if they think they’re exceptional, that means everyone else is second class,” the Russian president told the forum attendees.

Speaking with Russian ambassadors in a biennial speech, Putin said the West was weakening a great deal in terms of economic power. “Domestic socio-economic problems that have become worse in industrialized countries as a result of the (economic) crisis are weakening the dominant role of the so-called historical West,” Putin remarked to the ambassadors. “Be ready for any development of the situation, even for the most unfavorable development.”

Russia and Putin have been saying that the U.S. dominance in the world of finance has been dying for years now. In October 2018, speaking at the Valdai forum, Putin said the U.S. sanctioning specific countries (including Russia) would undermine trust in the U.S. dollar.

The Russian president noted that most of the fallen empires have made the same mistake. “It’s a typical mistake of an empire,” the Russian leader declared at the time. “An empire always thinks that it can allow itself to make some little mistakes, take some extra costs, because its power is such that they don’t mean anything. But the quantity of those costs, those mistakes inevitably grows.” Putin continued:

And the moment comes when it can’t handle them, neither in the security sphere or the economic sphere.

Moreover, in June, Bloomberg published a report about the BRICS Summit and noted that China’s president Xi Jinping suggested that NATO was responsible for antagonizing the Russian Federation. Xi also said that certain countries that bolster exceptionalism will falter by suffering from security vulnerabilities.

“Politicizing, instrumentalizing and weaponizing the world economy using a dominant position in the global financial system to wantonly impose sanctions would only hurt others as well as hurting oneself, leaving people around the world suffering,” Xi detailed. “Those who obsess with a position of strength, expand their military alliance, and seek their own security at the expense of others will only fall into a security conundrum.”


The Financial World Splits in Half: Alternative Payment Rails, Stockpiling Gold, and the Clash of a Robust Dollar and Ruble

The strengthening of the BRICS nations has been going on well before the conflict in Ukraine began. For instance, in 2014, Russia fully developed ​​the System for Transfer of Financial Messages (SPFS), and later the Mir payment system was launched. That same year, in response to the annexation of Crimea, Russia started to stockpile gold in vast amounts.

Financial messages using SPFS have increased a great deal over the years alongside the use of CIPS and the Mir payment system.

China has been hoarding massive amounts of gold as well, as both countries hiked their gold reserve purchases a great deal a few years before the war. Russian banks also joined the China International Payments System (CIPS) making it easier for the two countries to trade. In April last year, China opened its borders to billions of dollars of gold imports, according to a report from Reuters.

Both China and Russia have been stockpiling gold over the last few years.

Since World War I, the U.S. dollar has been the world’s global reserve currency and America emerged as the largest international creditor. Fast forward to today, and the dollar is booming against a number of other currencies, and the USD is the most robust it has been in an entire generation. The U.S. dollar currency index (DXY) gained over 10% this year and outpaced strong currencies like the Japanese yen.

Just recently, the euro met parity with the dollar, and other currencies like the Indian rupee, Polish zloty, Colombian peso, and the South African rand have faltered against the greenback in recent times. However, the Russian ruble has been a strong competitor to the dollar this year and has been one of the best-performing fiat currencies in 2022.

With inflation soaring and interest rates getting hiked by the Federal Reserve, Kamakshya Trivedi, the co-head of a market research group at Goldman Sachs stressed that it’s been a “pretty tough mix” to deal with. Despite the uncertainty, the analyst at Goldman Sachs thinks the dollar, at least for now, will remain robust. But in comparison to the greenback’s recent spike in value, most of that rise is in the past, Trivedi remarked.

“For now, we still expect the dollar to trade on the front foot,” Trivedi wrote on July 16. “There might be a bit more to go, but probably the largest part of the dollar move may well be behind us.”

What do you think about the BRICS nations creating a new international reserve currency to rival the U.S. dollar and IMF’s SDRs? Let us know what you think about this subject in the comments section below.


Jamie Redman

Jamie Redman is the News Lead at Bitcoin.com News and a financial tech journalist living in Florida. Redman has been an active member of the cryptocurrency community since 2011. He has a passion for Bitcoin, open-source code, and decentralized applications. Since September 2015, Redman has written more than 5,700 articles for Bitcoin.com News about the disruptive protocols emerging today.

Image Credits: Shutterstock, Pixabay, Wiki Commons, World Gold Council, Econfact.org, 14th BRICS Summit,

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​25. Don’t Blame Dostoyevsky


Excerpts:

The road to the Bucha massacre leads not through Russian literature, but through its suppression—the denunciations or book bans against Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Mikhail Bulgakov, Vladimir Nabokov and Joseph Brodsky, Anna Akhmatova and Andrei Platonov; the executions of Nikolai Gumilev, Isaac Babel, and Perez Markish; the driving of Marina Tsvetaeva to suicide; the persecution of Osip Mandelstam and Daniil Kharms; the hounding of Boris Pasternak and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. The history of Russian culture is one of desperate resistance, despite crushing defeats, against a criminal state power.
Russian literature owes the world another great novel. I sometimes imagine a young man who is now in a trench and has no idea that he is a writer, but who asks himself: “What am I doing here? Why has my government lied to me and betrayed me? Why should we kill and die here? Why are we, Russians, fascists and murderers?”
That is the task of Russian literature, to keep asking those eternal, cursed questions: “Who is to blame?” and “What is to be done?”



Don’t Blame Dostoyevsky

I understand why people hate all things Russian right now. But our literature did not put Putin in power or cause this war.


By Mikhail Shishkin

The Atlantic · by Mikhail Shishkin · July 24, 2022

Culture, too, is a casualty of war. After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, some Ukrainian writers called for a boycott of Russian music, films, and books. Others have all but accused Russian literature of complicity in the atrocities committed by Russian soldiers. The entire culture, they say, is imperialist, and this military aggression reveals the moral bankruptcy of Russia’s so-called civilization. The road to Bucha, they argue, runs through Russian literature.

Terrible crimes, I agree, are being committed in the name of my people, in the name of my country, in my name. I can see how this war has turned the language of Pushkin and Tolstoy into the language of war criminals and murderers. What does the world see of “Russian culture” today but bombs falling on maternity hospitals and mutilated corpses on the streets of Kyiv’s suburbs?

It hurts to be Russian right now. What can I say when I hear that a Pushkin monument is being dismantled in Ukraine? I just keep quiet and feel penitent. And hope that perhaps a Ukrainian poet will speak up for Pushkin.

The Putin regime has dealt Russian culture a crushing blow, just as the Russian state has done to its artists, musicians, and writers so many times before. People in the arts are forced to sing patriotic songs or emigrate. The regime has in effect “canceled” culture in my country. Recently a young protester faced arrest for holding a placard that bore a quote from Tolstoy.

Read: European politicians are suddenly quoting Dostoyevsky

Russian culture has always had reason to fear the Russian state. In the saying commonly attributed to the great 19th-century thinker and writer Alexander Herzen, who was sent into internal exile for his anti-czarist sentiments—and reading “forbidden books,” as he put it—“The state in Russia has set itself up like an occupying army.” The Russian system of political power has remained unchanged and unchanging down the centuries—a pyramid of slaves worshipping the supreme khan. That’s how it was during the Golden Horde, that’s how it was in Stalin’s time, that’s how it is today under Vladimir Putin.

The world is surprised at the quiescence of the Russian people, the lack of opposition to the war. But this has been their survival strategy for generations—as the last line of Pushkin’s Boris Godunov puts it, “The people are silent.” Silence is safer. Whoever is in power is always right, and you have to obey whatever order comes. And whoever disagrees ends up in jail or worse. And as Russians know only too well from bitter historical experience, never say, This is the worst. As the popular adage has it: “One should not wish death on a bad czar.” For who knows what the next one will be like?

Only words can undo this silence. This is why poetry was always more than poetry in Russia. Former Soviet prisoners are said to have attested that Russian classics saved their lives in the labor camps when they retold the novels of Turgenev, Tolstoy, and Dostoyevsky to other inmates. Russian literature could not prevent the Gulags, but it did help prisoners survive them.

The Russian state has no use for Russian culture unless it can be made to serve the state. Soviet power wanted to give itself an air of humanity and righteousness, so it built monuments to Russian writers. “Pushkin, our be-all and end-all!” rang out from stages in 1937, during the Great Purge, when even the executioners trembled with fear. The regime needs culture as a human mask—or as combat camouflage. That’s why Stalin needed Dmitri Shostakovich and Putin needs Valery Gergiev.

Read: Cold, ashamed, relieved: on leaving Russia

When the critics say Russian culture is imperialist, they are thinking of Russia’s colonial wars, and they mean that its artists justified the state’s expansionist aims. But what they do not account for is Russia’s internal imperialism: Before anything else, it was a slave empire where the Russian people were forced to endure and suffer the most. The Russian empire exists not for Russia’s people but for itself. The Russian state’s only purpose is to stay in power, and the state has been hammering the Russkiy mir (“Russian world”) view into people’s brains for centuries: the holy fatherland as an island surrounded by an ocean of enemies, which only the czar in the Kremlin can save by ruling its people and preserving order with an iron hand.

For Russia’s small educated class, the eternal questions—the “cursed questions,” as the 19th-century intelligentsiya knew them—were those framed by two great novels of the period: Herzen’s Who Is to Blame? and Nikolai Chernyshevsky’s What Is to Be Done? But for millions of illiterate peasants, the only question that mattered was, “Is the czar a real one or an impostor?” If the czar was true, then all was well with the world. But if the czar proved false, then Russia must have another, true one. In the minds of the people, only victories over Russia’s enemies could resolve whether the czar was real and true.

Nicholas II was defeated by Japan in 1905 and in the First World War. A false czar, he lost all popularity. Stalin led his people to victory in the Great Patriotic War (World War II), so he was a real czar—and is revered by many Russians to this day. Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader, lost the war in Afghanistan and the Cold War against the West, and he is still despised.

Through his triumph in 2014, easily annexing Crimea, Putin achieved the popular legitimacy of a true czar. But he may lose all that if he cannot win this war against Ukraine. Then another will come forward—first to exorcise the false Putin and then to prove his legitimacy through victory over Russia’s enemies.

Slaves give birth to a dictatorship and a dictatorship gives birth to slaves. There is only one way out of this vicious circle, and that is through culture. Literature is an antidote to the poison of the Russian imperialist way of thinking. The civilizational gap that still exists in Russia between the humanist tradition of the intelligentsiya and a Russian population stuck in a mentality from the Middle Ages can be bridged only by culture—and the regime today will do everything it can to prevent that.

Dina Khapaeva: Putin is just following the manual

The road to the Bucha massacre leads not through Russian literature, but through its suppression—the denunciations or book bans against Fyodor Dostoyevsky and Mikhail Bulgakov, Vladimir Nabokov and Joseph Brodsky, Anna Akhmatova and Andrei Platonov; the executions of Nikolai Gumilev, Isaac Babel, and Perez Markish; the driving of Marina Tsvetaeva to suicide; the persecution of Osip Mandelstam and Daniil Kharms; the hounding of Boris Pasternak and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. The history of Russian culture is one of desperate resistance, despite crushing defeats, against a criminal state power.

Russian literature owes the world another great novel. I sometimes imagine a young man who is now in a trench and has no idea that he is a writer, but who asks himself: “What am I doing here? Why has my government lied to me and betrayed me? Why should we kill and die here? Why are we, Russians, fascists and murderers?”

That is the task of Russian literature, to keep asking those eternal, cursed questions: “Who is to blame?” and “What is to be done?”

The Atlantic · by Mikhail Shishkin · July 24, 2022





De Oppresso Liber,

David Maxwell

Senior Fellow, Foundation for Defense of Democracies

Senior Fellow, Global Peace Foundation

Senior Advisor, Center for Asia Pacific Strategy

Editor, Small Wars Journal

Twitter: @davidmaxwell161

VIDEO "WHEREBY" Link: https://whereby.com/david-maxwell

Phone: 202-573-8647

email: david.maxwell161@gmail.com


V/R
David Maxwell
Senior Fellow
Foundation for Defense of Democracies
Phone: 202-573-8647
Personal Email: david.maxwell161@gmail.com
Web Site: www.fdd.org
Twitter: @davidmaxwell161
Subscribe to FDD’s new podcastForeign Podicy
FDD is a Washington-based nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.

If you do not read anything else in the 2017 National Security Strategy read this on page 14:

"A democracy is only as resilient as its people. An informed and engaged citizenry is the fundamental requirement for a free and resilient nation. For generations, our society has protected free press, free speech, and free thought. Today, actors such as Russia are using information tools in an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of democracies. Adversaries target media, political processes, financial networks, and personal data. The American public and private sectors must recognize this and work together to defend our way of life. No external threat can be allowed to shake our shared commitment to our values, undermine our system of government, or divide our Nation."

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