Defense Statecraft

Wednesday, May 03, 2023

Spring 2023 Final Exam

 DIP 750: Defense Statecraft

Spring 2023

May 3, 2023


Please answer one of the following three questions:

  1. The world continues to await the much-heralded Ukrainian “Spring Offensive.” What factors will determine the tactical, operational, strategic, and political success of that offensive?  What are your expectations?
  2. Many analysts suggest that “AUKUS” deal has changed the landscape of technology cooperation and defense statecraft in the Indo Pacific.  Evaluate the promise and peril of AUKUS; what risks and rewards does it hold for the United States?
  3. Evaluate the course of the Russia-Ukraine War from the perspectives of landpower, seapower, airpower, spacepower, and cyberpower.  Which domains have proven most important to the conflict thus far?  In which domains has the course of the war upset the expectations of analysts?


Tuesday, May 02, 2023

India and the arms trade

 The current war in Ukraine has resulted in a decline in the Russian arms trade. The current tensions between the U.S. and China have opened the door for debate about India's arms trade. Historically, India has received military equipment from Russia. Although India has diversified and is buying U.S. equipment, Russia is still the largest supplier of arms for India. This has caused American lawmakers to scramble to give India exemptions from the sanctions imposed on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine. 

    The move to provide India with a loophole is motivated largely by two reasons. First, it is to align U.S. and Indian interests in regard to China. The U.S. sees this relationship as essential in combating Chinese influence within the region. Second, it is to slowly wean India off from the Russian arms trade and into the western market. Rep. Ro Khanna introduced an amendment in the fiscal year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, which would provide India with such loopholes. Rep. Khanna sated, "They have so much of a legacy that it will take time for them to move away." However, questions remain due to India possessing the S-400 system, which caused Turkey to be removed from the F-35 program and sanctions imposed by the Trump administration.

    The question remains what India will choose to do. It is likely that India will begin to shift to producing larger amounts of Russian equipment domestically, as it already has licenses to do so. But moving forward, India will need to find a new supplier for higher-end equipment. This remains a pressing issue for India, largely due to its current military makeup. According to Vasabjit Banerjee from a War on the Rocks article, India relies on Russia for parts for "20 of 34 fighter squadrons, 65 of 67 tank regiments, 28 of 55 air defense regiments, and all 30 mechanized infantry regiments."


Wednesday, April 26, 2023

The New Delhi-Moscow Arms Trade Dynamic May Be Changing


Over $2 billion worth of payments from India to Russia for weapons systems have been stuck in limbo for around a year. New Delhi has been unable to use U.S. dollars due to fears about retaliatory sanctions from the West, and Moscow has refused to accept Indian rupees. This has India's air force the most, as it depends on a steady supply of Russian-made vehicles. This development, however, has not shifted Russia from being India's top supplier of weapons even though the purchases have slowed in the last few years due to sanctions.


But why is Russia the top supplier for India?


India has been a customer of Moscow since the 1960s during the Cold War. Their relationship was largely reliant on steady arms sales from the USSR to India, which was an important leader of the Non-Aligned Movement, and India was an important balance in the USSR & India vs. US, Pakistan, & China dynamic during much of the Cold War period. The USSR's disintegration at the end of the Cold War weakened its position, but Russian arms exports to India still remained a fundamental part of the two countries' relationship.


The damage done to the arms trade between India and Russia may or may not be permanent. If the West wants to seize the opportunity to draw India away from Russia (which may be made difficult due to India's massive increase in importing Russian oil), it must act now and expedite various programs, such as improving India's industrial base and building closer relations between New Delhi and Western capitals.

Will there be a Spring Offensive in Ukraine?

Ukrainian social media in the past few weeks has hyped a potential offensive this spring against Russian forces in the east, implying a push toward annexed Crimea. Past offensives last year implied a push toward the city of Kherson in their buildup, but Ukrainian forces instead advanced on northern cities and made large territorial gains. It wasn't until later that Ukrainian forces pushed into Kherson and retook the major city. This feint maneuver was likely key to their success, but it is unclear whether this tactic will work again.

Recapture of Crimea has been a goal since its annexation by Russia in 2014. Although Ukraine has imported a large amount of weapons and improved their military greatly since then, the Crimean peninsula is a very difficult land mass to attack. Connected to mainland Ukraine by a loose land bridge, Russia has had years to reinforce the region as a launching point for the invasion in 2022. Thus, it is more likely that the hype is a feint once again. This might be done to decrease Russian presence in the contested city of Bakhmut, or to again strike in the northern Luhansk region. 

There is a possibility, however, that there will no longer be a spring offensive as planned. Given the tactic's success last year, Russia may now be less vulnerable to a feint maneuver. Furthermore, the recent classified intelligence leaks cast doubt on a potential offensive and have caused the Ukrainian government to alter its plans.

The Impact of the Iran-Russia Arms Deal

The arms deal between Iran and Russia will significantly shift Iran's regional and global role in great power politics. Iran is surrounded by countries that are either hostile or suspicious of its intentions, including Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United States. Iran's domestic production of weapons has created more concern for the U.S. and stability in the Middle East. Now, the U.S. has more to worry about than Iran's nuclear weapons advancements. These countries will likely increase their defense spending because of the Iran-Russia alliance. Due to sanctions, Iran has shifted to developing its own weapon systems. Iran has achieved substantial advancements in fields including missile technology, drones, and small arms, even though the industry may not be as developed as those in major arms exporting nations. Iran's drone program has emerged as one of the country's significant military capabilities. Russia's use of Iranian drones in the Ukraine War has sounded alarms for the U.S. and its Western allies. Iranian drones, which are disposable and could terrorize Ukrainians, are just one example of the cheap weapons that Russia wants to use in its conflict with Ukraine. Cheap Iranian drones could force the U.S. or other allies to Ukraine to step up military support to counteract the use of drones on the battlefield. 

Limitations of NATO ISR Around Ukraine

The Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance capabilities around Ukraine are limited by the threat of nuclear war. Intelligence products are built on the surveillance and reconnaissance being conducted. This intelligence is then provided to Ukraine to facilitate their defenses and counter-offensives. Examples of this being used effectively are the strike on a large Russian transport plane flying toward Kyiv with hundreds of troops onboard, and another is the sinking of the Moskva naval cruiser in the Black Sea. Due to ISR detection of these critical targets, Ukraine successfully defended the capital and garnered international popularity for destroying Russia's flagship in the region. 

NATO ISR does not reach far into Ukraine in order to avoid becoming an active belligerent and a greater conflict with Russia. Instead, manned and unmanned aircraft make up the capability around Ukraine, with advantages and disadvantages to each. Manned aircraft are able to produce actionable intelligence in real time, providing Ukrainian forces with quick access to important information. However, NATO is hesitant to use manned aircraft in the Black Sea closer to Russian forces, limiting it to coverage of the western half of the country. Unmanned aircraft are able to be used in riskier areas such as the Black Sea, but without onboard analysts to produce intelligence the raw information must be transferred, which creates a greater delay in sharing with Ukraine. The risk of contact with Russia was proven in March of this year, when a Russian jet intentionally collided with a US drone that caused it to crash. Since it was unmanned, it was much less consequential to relations than if it resulted in loss of life. Overall, NATO ISR is an effective if limited asset to the conflict, facilitating Ukraine's ability to fight back against Russian forces.

Arms Export is the Greatest US Foreign Policy Tool

Since becoming the largest arms exporter during the Cold War, the United States has used the sale of fighter jets, artillery, tanks, and small arms as a tool to influence the outcome of wars and the global balance of power. For the Cold War, it was done to counter the spread of Soviet influence of communism in conflicted countries. Under the Raegan administration, arms export was a key component to the Iran-Contra Affair and the Soviet-Afghan War. Arguably the tactic was successful for both the Contras in the Nicaraguan civil war and the mujahideen in Afghanistan against the Soviets, but the consequences of supplying these actors became known as blowback. The Contras were found to conduct multiple human rights abuses using US support, while the mujahideen formed into the Taliban and terrorist organizations such as Al-Qaeda, which the US fought after the 9/11 attacks. US forces fighting previously supported actors has become a common theme in history, but that has not stopped the trend of arms export use.

During the Global War on Terror, arms export was used against the spread of terrorism in the Middle East, but it wasn't until the intervention in Ukraine did it become a tool to constrict Russia's influence since the Cold War. After the annexation of Crimea in 2014, the US conducted arms exports to Ukraine to support its civil war against the Russian-backed separatists. In 2022, arms export to the country increased massively, passing $30 billion to date since the Russian invasion began. Like the Soviet-Afghan War, the arms being provided are making real results in Ukraine's defense of the capital and furthering its capability for counter-offensives against Russian gains. However, as seen in the past, blowback can strike again depending on what is done with the arms after the war ends, or worse if Russia succeeds and takes control of the provided arms, becoming a major threat to national security. Yet the benefits to this risk are the subversion of a greater nuclear conflict between NATO and Russia, which is why arms export are the greatest foreign policy tool to support our interests globally.

Sanctions and the India-Russia Arms Trade

 The Russian-Indian diplomatic and strategic relationship has been critical to both countries historically and up to the present day. While questions arose as to the degree of support Russia would receive from India after the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, India has, to date, resisted signing on to Western sanctions, while simultaneously growing business ties with Russia. In fact, the Indian Foreign Minister Jaishankar recently called the relationship the “‘steadiest’ in global relations.” In many ways, India has served as a release-valve for Russia as Western sanctions pile on and force economic rerouting away from the West towards the rest of the world. Yet, even if India has not signed on to the sanctions regime imposed by the West, sanctions nonetheless are having an impact, in this case on the arms trade between Russia and India.

The arms trade between the two countries has a long and consistent history. During the Cold War, the Soviet Union served as nearly the sole-source of Indian arms by the 1960s. While in the post-Cold War era that number has fallen off, Russia still supplies around two-thirds of arms. Nonetheless, arms flow has come to a standstill, as the two countries struggle to find a payment mechanism that will not run afoul of sanctions, while satisfying both sides. As much as $2 billion worth of weapons payments are caught in limbo as a result, with Indian Air Force capabilities the most degraded due to the countries’ inability to agree on a payment mechanism. While Jaishankar has committed to working with Russia to resolve these issues and get the arms trade relationship back on track, it remains to be seen what the long-term impact will be on continued weapons sales to India and whether the void will be filled by other nations, especially if sanctions and currency issues continue to forestall cooperation between the two countries.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Value arms market

 The US should incentivize its industrial base to get more involved in the value arms market. Cheap and easily producible arms could bolster a lackluster defense industry, especially evident due to the war in Ukraine. By allowing and supporting key defense industry partners, they can produce munitions and other inexpensive equipment for other countries, thereby maintaining a robust production line on critical munitions and weapons systems that will be needed in a high-end attrition-style conventional war (Colff, 2023). Moreover, by engaging in the value arms trade, the US can engage countries within the market that typically buy cheaper Russian-made equipment, thus increasing security ties between the US and these countries (Banerjee, Tkach, 2022).

            This unique perspective is intriguing, as it may provide an answer to the DIB's lack of production capabilities while also engaging other countries that often turn to Russia or China for cheaper and easily produced equipment. The US has used its leverage in the arms trade for diplomatic efforts, notably the peace between Egypt and Israel. Therefore, engaging in the value arms market could be beneficial. Lastly, maintaining production lines of equipment and munitions could benefit the US when surge capacity is needed in a future conflict. However, there is a question of whether this is practical, as cheaper equipment and munitions typically do not have a high-profit margin for businesses. Additionally, the market is saturated with older Russian and Chinese equipment, which may prevent US-based companies from being successful in the market. 


Banerjee, V., & Tkach, B. (2022, August 9). Amid russia-ukraine war, China could dominate the value arms market. – The Diplomat. Retrieved April 25, 2023, from 


Colff , J. (2023, March 31). Building a new American Arsenal. War on the Rocks. Retrieved April 25, 2023, from  


Serbia Denies Sending Weapons to Ukraine in Wake of US Document Leaks

 Serbian Defense Minister Milos Vucevic has denied reports that Serbia has delivered lethal aid to Ukraine, saying that Serbia "did not, nor will it be selling weapons to the Ukrainian nor the Russian side". Vucevic was responding to a Reuters report that Serbia appeared on a Pentagon briefing slide on European positions on aid to Ukraine as committed to supplying lethal aid or already having done so. The slide appeared as part of the widely covered leaks of US intel in recent weeks, allegedly by an Air National Guardsman. The report also comes a month after other documents and videos appeared in a Russian Telegram channel showing what appeared to be Serbian-made 122mm Grad rockets arriving in Kyiv, which remains unconfirmed. Vucevic admitted it was possible that Serbian equipment could have "magically appeared" in Ukraine, but stressed that any such appearances would have nothing to do with the Serbian state. 

Serbia is officially a neutral party to the conflict, has historically close ties to Moscow, and has to this point declined to join the sanctions regime against Russia. However, analysts have also noted that Belgrade's desire to join the European Union has placed it in a difficult position in regard to Russia and continues to recognize Ukrainian sovereignty at the pre-2014 boundaries. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2023


 European countries' chronically low defense spending caught the continent off-guard for Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Europe needs to shore up its defense industry in order to be better prepared for conflicts like Ukraine and others on the horizon. The European industry is fractured among the constellation of different countries in the EU, none of them superbly-coordinated for general European defense, simply national concerns. This has left the continent over-reliant on U.S. military force for its security, a drag on the U.S.'s desire to pivot to Asia. The strengthening of the Europe's own defense base would not only alleviate pressure on the U.S., it would be welcomed by France, which has long called for a sort of 'strategic autonomy'. Things may be moving in that direction; European leaders seem to be slowly coming to the realization that peace in Europe is not secured without some sort of military power.

Tuesday, April 18, 2023

Precursor to War?

 It has transpired that many of the world's large powers are increasing their defense spending the USChinaIndiaRussiaJapanSouth Korea, and certain countries in Europe. This may very well be a common trend, however, it does not disprove the trajectory the world faces. It is well established that US global hegemony is deteriorating from both internal and external factors. Such a decline, albeit slow, may be measured in how other countries increase their own dependence on on self-defense. Defense budgets are an obvious metric to observe (but cannot provide the fullest narrative) this self-dependence. The allies of the US may be putting more trust in their own capabilities. Furthermore, both China and Russia along with any other minor parties are actively seeking a more multipolar world. 

With multiple factors at play, are increased defense budgets an effective way to "predict" war? Do increased budgets indicate a more multipolar world? And if other countries do continue reliance on decaying US power, will they become vulnerable in the future when the US can no longer help them and have to retreat into itself?

ChatGPT and the Defense Industry

 Like everyone else, the defense industry is taking advantage of new artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) powered writing tools to improve efficiency within the defense industry. ChatGPT-4 has proven that it can write at a college level and pull knowledge from all corners of the web. People have been experimenting with how far AI can go by testing it with contract writing. A recently published YouTube video shows ChatGPT writing a government contract proposal, which can significantly improve efficiency for small to medium sized businesses. The Chief Digital and AI Office of the DoD revealed this year that it is developing and testing "Acqbot," a contract-writing AI system. Acqbot aims is to accelerate workflow to help get emerging technology into the hands of service members faster.


There are many benefits of AI related tools in the defense industry, but there are also negative side effects. ChatGPT and other AI tools have improved the arsenal of weapons for cybercriminals, and can threaten the security of citizens and the federal government. In the future, ChatGPT's technology has the potential to be used by nation-state actors to conduct cyber espionage, information operations, and cyberattacks with increasingly devastating effects. It is already being used by non-state threat actors, hacktivists, and scammers, to engage in a variety of cybercrimes. The defense industry will need to be able to quickly adjust to new and ever changing era of AI and ML if it wants keep up in the new digital age. 

Monday, April 17, 2023

High Defense Budgets

In talking about defense budgets, it is important to address why nations spend so much money on defense.  In addition to explicit goals such as ensuring national security and deterrence by investing in military capabilities to protect citizens and defend sovereignty, other reasons also exist.  For instance, a strong military can enhance a country's geopolitical influence as the power of the military can be used to influence the actions and behaviors of other nations.  Certain economic benefits can also be identified, such as the creation of jobs through both military positions and research and development.  External benefits can be observed here as defense spending has the potential to drive technological advancements that may have other applications such as advances in communications, transportation, and medicine.  

The issues with such high budgets are centered around opportunity cost and potential arms races.  A continuing argument is that the billions of dollars spent on defense could have been spent on other areas such as education and healthcare that may be struggling with funding shortages.  High defense budgets have also been known to spark arms races as nations try to "keep up" with each other's military advancements and capabilities.