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.  

Sunday, April 16, 2023

Declining US Military Stockpiles and the Risk to National Security


The war in Ukraine has seen a significant shipment of US military stockpiles, resulting in some shortages of US equipment and munitions. For example, CSIS identified in its report Rebuilding U.S. Inventories: Six Critical Systems that 155-mm ammunition, Javelins, HIMARS, GMLRS, and Stinger have been used to such an extent that at current production rates, it will take years to rebuild stockpiles. Specifically, the replacement rate at current levels is estimated to take anywhere from 2.5 to 18 years, depending on the specific weapon or munition.

Not only does this present a national security issue for the US, but it also creates near- and medium- term issues for allies reliant on US weaponry. The Wall Street Journal’s report from last year, U.S. Effort to Arm Taiwan Faces New Challenge With Ukraine Conflict, indicates the impact that US stockpile deficiencies are having for the Taiwanese, particularly at a time when fears of military confrontation with China have heightened. While the Taiwanese government downplayed these reports, no denial was forthcoming, adding to the report’s credibility.

Therefore, as the war in Ukraine continues to drag on, with US involvement holding steady, if not increasing, military planners will need to make tough calls as stockpiles continue to deplete. At a minimum, ramping up US manufacturing to accommodate heightened military needs is a must. 

An additional step could be a reduction in arms shipments to Ukraine, which is the principal cause of declining inventories. Whether that comes through the successful implementation of a ceasefire and mediation process or a shift in policy priorities to key allies in other regions -- such as in the Asia-Pacific -- reducing support for Ukraine would afford the US a means to more effectively manage stockpile deficiencies in the short- to medium- term, especially as the defense industrial base begins a more rapid production cycle.

Failure to do so; however, will leave the US in a more vulnerable position at a time when great power competition is heating up globally, creating a more, not less, dangerous world.

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Potential budget Crisis

The U.S. military is likely to face a budgetary crisis soon, as Congress has signaled its inability to agree on critical issues related to the federal budget. With a looming debt ceiling crisis on the horizon, it is becoming increasingly clear that the military will need to prepare for a potential reduction in funding.

The current political climate in the United States is characterized by deep divisions between Republicans and Democrats, which has made it difficult to pass legislation related to the federal budget, including defense spending in the past. 

Currently, Congress is facing political polarization issues, with some in the GOP-controlled house floating the idea of possible defense cuts. House speaker McCarthy supported capping the U.S. budget at the fiscal year 2022 levels; this would mean a 10% cut for the military if included in the cap. The push is mostly from the freedom caucus, but indicate that there will be a long budget debate in the near future. 

This raises an ongoing issue with the budgetary process; Congress often has a long, drawn-out process for issuing budgets for the next fiscal year. As a response, Congress should adopt a process of granting multi-year contracts; this will enable a secure military industrial base and ensure production lines continue for needed equipment, such as munitions, in order to resupply our reserves and support Ukraine. Multi-year contracts will also insulate critical production lines from congressional gridlock, which could avoid the ongoing crisis altogether 


 Japan, which has a constitution that bans land, sea, and air forces, is planning on doubling its defense budget within five years. The spending increase would bring Japan to the world's third-highest spender behind the U.S. and China. Analysts see the change in defense spending as largely due to Japan's anxieties about Russia growing closer to China. Japanese officials still say they are abiding by their constitution by forswearing preemptive strikes. Japan will also have to pay for this defense spending, a fact which Japanese officials haven't sorted out yet.

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

U.S. Defense Budget and the Impact of Supplying Ukraine

 Ukraine and Russia have been fighting a war for over 14 months and the effects of this war are being felt across the world. Before the war even broke out, US Congress agreed to increase the Defense budget exponentially with the war in Ukraine still waging in 2023, US Congress has agreed to raise the defense budget even more. With all of the ammunition and supplies being shipped to the Eastern European country, it has caused massive depletions of US reserves. With this FY2023 increased defense budget, it will enable the US defense industry to start producing more munitions to restock the reserves that have been shipped out to Ukraine. However, as this war continues to draw out and Ukraine continues to go through munitions at as an alarming rate as it has, then the US stockpiles will continue to deplete to critical levels. The good news though is that now with more funding in the Defense budget, more defense contractors can start to produce new munitions and more industrialization of munitions will produce a greater market for competition. As long as this war continues then it is plausible to assume that the US defense budget will continue to vastly increase each year. 

The added wrench in the cog though is with China and the increasing tensions with Taiwan we may see a heavier mobilization of the defense industry which in turn will most likely initiate emergency defense spending. 

What is your take? 

Monday, April 10, 2023

Reducing US Hypocrisy (Ukraine War Leak)

 In light of the leak of US and Ukrainian documents, there's been much talk about the contents of the documents, yet, out of curiosity, I had attempted to find images of these original files but a thorough scan of the internet via computer browsers have yielded little to no results and search results are flooded by commentaries, media reports and other miscellaneous results. 

My first reaction to this finding (or lack thereof) was disappointment. But a bigger question emerged from this and that is: despite these documents already being leaked, there appears to be much toil to scrub the internet of these original images of documents. Why is this the case? What is the US government trying to achieve by working closely with tech companies to reduce the amount of primary information? Is this nefarious? And how does this affect the international scene (and your personal reflections) on how the US basically censors the internet and no one even points this out. 

What is worse is the hypocrisy of the US government in light of this development. Any educated student is informed on moments of US failure to uphold its own standards (legal or moral), yet this is exactly the ammo the Chinese government uses to discredit the US on the international stage or to diminish their own crimes. No major consideration of this is being discussed among the "educated" academics of the US; its always pondered with no action. 

Every state will fail at times and that is inevitable, yet there is a necessity to be truthful and honest (especially with your own citizens) in a democracy (that is, if you think you are a democracy). This is hypocrisy and unfaithfulness; it's abuse of power and against humanity. 


Sunday, April 09, 2023

FY24 Budget Munitions Update

 The high rate of ammunition usage on both sides of the Ukraine war has made munitions acquisition questions much more relevant for policymakers. This is reflected in the DoD's FY24 budget released last month, which provides a $12.9 billion increase in acquisition funding, which includes raw procurement and testing and evaluation procedures. This includes expanding the use of multiyear contracts for systems like the Naval Strike Missile (NSM) and Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM), which defense companies have argued is necessary to meet capacity for high-tech weapons. Other systems, however, continue to use the yearly procurement system. 

However, while the FY24 budget allocates $1 billion for expanding the capacity of the defense industrial base, DoD officials have noted that munitions acquisition is currently "buying to the limits of the industrial base", which may explain why net changes in actual weapons procurements are minimal from FY23. And the increase in acquisition funds is less impressive when the analysis is extended to the next 5 years; the FY24 budget projects acquisition funding to increase by 5.7% in that period, which would not keep up with even average inflation rates. 

Wednesday, April 05, 2023


 The Air Force crushed the other services in the U.S. military's first-ever service-wide video game tournament in Halo Infinite last summer. Perhaps their dominance was due to 86% of airmen between 18 and 34 identify as gamers, maybe their win was because they were more comfortable sitting at desks for extended periods of time than the other branches. While this competition may not be novel (interservice sport competition has a long history), it highlights the fact that the different services are seen as separate entities, between which inherent competition arises. 

Sometimes this competition serves a good purpose for the state. For example, when services compete to do jobs more effectively, it creates a sort of environment akin to healthy capitalist competition; the more effective/efficient business (in this case, service) wins, bettering the state. However, this competition can sometimes lead to negative outcomes. The services may reject cooperation with one another if they disagree on priorities - this can, in a way, sabotage certain objectives the civilian leadership wished to achieve. 

Either way, the competition cannot be avoided, as the services are all fed from the same budget. Inconsequential interservice tournaments, football games, and more are one of the ways the services can play out competition in a friendly environment.

Wagner Shifting Focus from Ukraine

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of Russia's Wagner mercenary group, is allegedly turning his focus away from Bakhmut and towards Africa. The group is already present in Sudan, the CAR, Mali, and other sub-Saharan African countries. What has caused this shift? 

There may a few factors at play. The mercenary group is infamous for recruiting from Russian prisons, but it appears that Putin has rescinded that allowance and has given it to the Defense Ministry. The shift may also be due from the increasing complications from Wager's activities in Bakhmut. Prigozhin recently admitted that intense urban fighting in the city had "badly damaged" the group. 

What does an increased presence in Africa suggest for the group's future? While the group competed for resources from the Kremlin with Russia's actual military in Ukraine, Wagner's presence in Africa serves as an extension of Russian influence on the continent. The greater role of Wagner in Africa (and therefore, the smaller footprint they have in Ukraine), the less competition will be had with Russia's conventional military forces. 

Wagner's increasing relationships with African countries has a detrimental influence on the continent. African nations often give the group rights to natural resource rents for a number of years in exchange for their services. While this may seem attractive for those countries, many of which suffer from little control over their territory or even their own armed forces, the relationship will ultimately do more harm than good. 

While other forces, such as UN peacekeepers, are seen as ineffectual, Russian mercenaries are seen as heroes to be celebrated. Wagner, however, has been accused of troubling human rights violations while providing their services in the continent. The group, by its nature, also detracts from the legitimacy of the countries' own armed forces, however poor in quality they may be. 

Russia's bid for influence is already paying off - this can be seen in the voting results of the UN resolution condemning Moscow's war against Ukraine, where numerous African countries abstained or even voted with Russia. Will Wagner's human rights violations catch up with them, prompting popular discontent in the countries hosting it, or will demand for mercenaries in the region negate any wrongdoing? Only time will tell.

Tuesday, April 04, 2023

Interservice Rivalry: Air Force and Army’s Competing Priorities


The U.S. military has several branches, each with its unique culture, priorities, and mission. Historically, these differences have led to inter-service rivalry, as each military unit vies for resources and influence. A recent article by the Defense Technical Information Center (DTIC) sheds light on one example of inter-service rivalry: the competition between the U.S. Air Force and Army for control over unmanned aerial systems (UAS).


According to the article, the U.S. Army has been seeking greater control over UAS operations, arguing that it is better positioned to integrate UAS into ground operations. The Air Force, meanwhile, has been reluctant to cede control over UAS, citing concerns about safety and security. This conflict has been exacerbated by the fact that both services have invested heavily in UAS technology and capabilities, each seeking to establish itself as the primary provider of UAS support for ground troops.


Despite these challenges, there have been efforts in recent years to promote greater collaboration and cooperation between the Air Force and Army in UAS operations. One example is the Joint Interoperability Test Command (JITC), established to ensure that UAS systems from different services can work together seamlessly. While the inter-service rivalry is a persistent challenge within the U.S. military, efforts to promote collaboration and cooperation between the different branches can help to overcome these obstacles and ensure that the military can meet the challenges of the 21st century.


Sources Retrieved From:

Monday, April 03, 2023

Assassination of Maksim Fomin (also known as Vladlen Tatarsky)

What are the multiple repercussions for the assassination of Maksim Fomin? How does this affect the cyber realm (since he was a Russian milblogger with over half a million followers on Telegram)? Who do you think was behind the attack? Does this have as much weight besides optics?

A link to the Institute for the Study of War's report on this incident.

Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Wagner and The Survival of Yevgeny Prigozhin

Head of the Wagner Group, Yevgeny Prigozhin, seems to be maneuvering in ways that suggest ambition in the political realm. Prigozhin recently has criticized the Russian Army for being incapable of completing the goals outlined by President. Putin and has suggested they are intentionally starving his men of supplies.

Criticism of the Army by Prigozhin has a clear avoidance of harshness towards Putin and seems to highlight that interests may lie in taking up a larger role in Russian Society. Focusing more on the home front, Wagner announced 42 recruitment offices would soon open across Russian cities. Financing Wagner troops and generating revenue for ambitious growth has been curried among Russian businessmen and politicians suggesting a key interest by Wagner to move further into an advantageous position able to lobby Russian citizens.

Closer ties between Wagner, businesses, and politicians, may suggest that Wagner wishes to situate itself for a long-war, and analysts predict that Wagner’s transformation could lead to a political movement regarding support for the war effort. Wagner’s successes over regular military operations makes Prigozhin look valuable to the Kremlin. Boasting and instigation through challenges on the regular Russian forces seems to be of posturing and self-aggrandizement. Putin has thus far ignored such actions mainly because of Wagner's successes in Bakmut.

 With the end of the grind to take Bakmut, will Wagner drawdown? Statements made by Wagner seem to suggest that once Bakmut is taken, the next step would be to reduce and recoup, allowing the regular militaries to fill in afterwards. Mobilizing troops and painting the war as, “just,” will be a necessity for Putin if the war turns into a sustained conflict with no end in the near future. Prigozhin, may be the figure Putin wishes to use as his pawn, and his life may rest on the laurels of Wagner’s battle victories.


Private military contractors

 The involvement of private military contractors in state conflicts has increased, with the US using them extensively in the war on terror. In Afghanistan in 2014, according to Scott L. Efflandt, there was a 1:1 ratio of contractors to uniformed service members. A poll conducted by Rand of Active deployed service members generally had a positive view of contractors, with many reporting that they were competent and helped fulfill missions. The US government sees contractors as a force multiplier that can provide surge capacity and critical jobs at a lower cost. However, this healthy relationship between the US and its contractors does not seem to be present right now in Russia.


Wagner is a PMC group led by Yevgeny Proghiven, which has operated in numerous states, including Libya, the Central African Republic, and Syria. Wagner is viewed as a highly effective and reliable PMC, and it has even joined the fight in Ukraine, hiring countless prisoners for combat operations. However, friction appeared between Wagner and the regular Russian army during the Russian offensive in Bakmut, which is currently seeing a significant Wagner presence. Yevgeny has criticized the Russian military as committing a betrayal and claims that they are deliberately withholding ammunition from his troops which was promised in February. This friction suggests that the relationship between Wagner and the Russian army may not be as solid as it has previously been. 


It is unclear how far this friction between the Russian army and Wagner goes. However, it is worth exploring whether the type of combat mission affects how well PMC groups function. The US has primarily engaged in low-intensity conflicts for the past twenty years, while the Russians are currently engaged in a traditional modern war against another state.

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Private Military Firms in the Ukraine War

The ongoing conflict in Ukraine has seen an increase in demand for the services of private military firms, according to a recent article by the BBC. These firms, which provide military and security services to governments and other clients, have been hired by both sides of the conflict to supplement their forces. The article notes that private military firms have been involved in the conflict in various capacities, from providing security for high-ranking officials to training and advising local military units. In some cases, these firms have even been involved in combat operations.

 Proponents of private military firms argue they can provide specialized skills and expertise that may not be available within regular military units. However, critics raise concerns about the lack of transparency and accountability surrounding these firms and the potential for them to operate outside the bounds of international law.


The use of private military firms is controversial, and the demand for their services in the Ukraine conflict underscores the challenges governments and other actors face in the modern security landscape. As warfare continues to evolve, the role of private military firms will likely continue to be a topic of debate and discussion.


Retrieved from:

Friday, March 24, 2023

The Evolution of War

I agree with most others in the class that the nature of war has developed on an evolutionary basis rather than a revolutionary one.  That being said, it must be acknowledged that warfare has evolved significantly since its early days.  Some of the major differences include:

Technology: One of the most significant differences between early and modern warfare is the use of technology as we have discussed.  From weapons and vehicles to communication and surveillance equipment, modern militaries have access to far more advanced technology than their predecessors, making warfare more efficient and deadly.

Strategy: Early wars often involved simple strategies, with armies charging at each other in open fields. Modern warfare is much more complex, with sophisticated tactics and strategies focused on intelligence gathering, precision strikes, and asymmetrical warfare.  In the past, military commanders often relied on attrition tactics, attempting to wear down their enemies through prolonged battles. Today, modern warfare encompasses a range of unconventional tactics such as guerrilla warfare, terrorism, cyber warfare, and propaganda.  The use of propaganda, misinformation, and psychological operations has become increasingly important in shaping public opinion and influencing the behavior of enemy combatants although it may be argued that this was always the case.

Logistics: In the past, armies often relied on foraging and pillaging to sustain themselves during campaigns.  Today, military logistics involve complex supply chains that ensure troops have access to food, water, ammunition, and medical supplies.

International Law: International law has evolved significantly since the early days of warfare.  Today, there are strict rules governing the conduct of war, including the treatment of prisoners and non-combatants.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

Future Infantry Capabilities

Conversations surrounding the nature of “future war” have existed ever since wars have been fought. While the battles of yesterday echo into the battles of today, advancements in technology have had significant impacts on the capabilities of military units.

Once, an infantryman would carry cloth on his body, a rifle, some extra ammunition, and maybe tertiary equipment into battle such as knives, canteens, light medical equipment, etc. Today, the average infantryman carries around 68 pounds worth of gear, and this number can increase to as much as 120 pounds.[1] To aid in this load, and to even increase it, exoskeletons are being pioneered across the military. Additionally, today’s warfighters are much more self-sufficient, protected by armor, more literate, and intelligent, meaning they are expected to master more skills and can be relied upon to learn more, faster and better. This is why robotics are now showcasing their utility in organic infantry units. This is why small arial drones are now being utilized by individual operator’s real time on the ground. And this is why currently, infantrymen are learning how to utilize digital technology which aids in land navigation, reconnaissance, and enemy acquisition, which helps in estimating ranges to targets for better effects downrange.

The U.S. Army’s Pathfinder Program is one such example of exoskeleton tech being used to alleviate stress and strain over moving heavy loads.[2] It can aid in military logistical operations, all the way to helping artillerymen, and of course, the ground combat soldier. A good example of a move towards increased reliance on robotics, or robotics augmenting units through a human controller, is Boston Dynamics Big Dog (2004) gen, the LS3 (2010) gen, and the famous Atlas robot, which is being designed to act as a fully functioning human replacement robot.

These advancements will have serious mobility impacts in future war. Along with smaller more specialized units, currently being implemented with the U.S. Marines, utilizing robots or exoskeleton tech will allow for versatile fast paced combat on the ground. Terrain will become less of a hinderance, and tactically, commanders will need to re-evaluate when and how enemy troops will maneuver. Additionally, the components powering such technology will most likely become more of a center point for state level strategy pushing countries to compete in the economic forum vigorously in areas like AI and semiconductors. Cyber warfare will also become more important. As technology improves on the ground, so will the adversaries means of thwarting a more highly technical based military, one that relies increasingly on software, rather than flesh and bone.   

The Accuracy of "Ghost Fleet"

While "Ghost Fleet" is a work of fiction and should not be taken as a definitive guide to the future of warfare, it does offer insights into the potential implications of emerging technologies and geopolitical tensions.  Many of the technologies and scenarios described in the book are based on real-world developments and trends.  For example, the book explores the use of unmanned vehicles and cyberattacks in modern warfare, both of which are areas of active development in militaries around the world. It also incorporates real-world geopolitical tensions and potential flashpoints, such as the disputed territories in the South China Sea. 

The authors touch on the economic consequences of a major conflict, such as the impact on global trade, the collapse of the financial system, and the potential for economic recovery and rebuilding after the conflict, and provides insight into military strategy by including the use of deception, the importance of intelligence gathering, and the challenges of coordinating military operations across multiple domains.  The book is unusual in its willingness to explore the economic and social consequences of a major conflict. The authors consider not only the military aspects of a hypothetical war between the US and China, but also the impact on global trade, the financial system, and the rebuilding effort that would be necessary in the aftermath of such a conflict.  The book also explores the human aspect of warfare, particularly the experiences of soldiers and families caught up in the conflict.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

The Weaponization of Everything (Future War)

Looking forward to the topic of "Future War" there appears to be a lot of speculation involving the exact nature of what a future war would look like. Our understanding of an accurate portrayal of future events are always skewed and manipulated by media such as the news, sci-fi, and even current events which do not have the luxury of hindsight. In the book The Weaponization of Everything by Mark Galeotti, he tackles this "new" idea of how, in our post-modern society, in wartime and peacetime we can use every facet of life and human civilization as a potential weapons. An example of this are soldiers who are being deployed more as a multifaceted tool than as a singular unit used to wage war. Soldiers have become killers, humanitarian workers, state-builders and so forth; they have become the Swiss Army knife of the state government. This is just one example out of dozens Galeotti writes about. Keeping this in mind, Galeotti draws connections and uses history to back his claims (going as far back as St. Augustine's just war rhetoric). Ultimately, while I did not agree with Galeotti's inferences and conclusions, I laud his approach to "predicting" the future of warfare by using historical analysis to examine trends and establishing conclusions. Therefore, what patterns in history (ancient to contemporary) do you see as indicative of how future war will manifest? 

"Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When change is absolute there remains no being to improve and no direction is set for possible improvement: and when experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." ~George Santayana (1863-1952)

Monday, March 13, 2023

The Psychology of Using Robots in War

 In my research about using robots in warfare, I came across an article detailing the psychology of using them.  This relates to human nature and emotion which results in the formation of attachments - even in the case of inanimate objects.  We get glimpses of this phenomenon through the media with movies such as Wall-E.  There are real instances, however, that indicate that the connections we form with the machines that work with us and for us are real and strong.  A famous example of this involves the "death" of the Mars Rover, Opportunity, referred to as "Oppy", in 2018.  After multiple attempts to contact the rover, NASA "sang her to sleep" with "I'll Be Seeing You", a song about missing a loved one. 

These connections extend into the battlefield.  Soldiers have been known to assign names and genders to the robots they interact with, often naming them after human friends, family, and even spouses.  Testimony has revealed that soldiers talk to these objects and protect them, often experiencing strong emotions of loss and anger when the robot is destroyed in war.  In some cases, soldiers even held funerals for destroyed machines, posthumously awarding them medals and honors, making the effort to make badges and glue them on.  

The psychology of human-robot connections is interesting as even those that love the robots and treat them as friends or pets are aware of the practicalities of sacrificing the machines if necessary.  This does not, however, prevent them from forming bonds and experiencing loss.  The strength of these relationships is much like human ones, enhanced by proximity and shared experiences such as combat.  This means that soldiers do not feel as connected to drones or aerial weapons even if they are smarter or stronger; it is the ones on the ground that elicit these emotions. 

The advantage to this phenomenon is that soldiers will protect these machines thereby reducing the chances of destruction and costs of repairs and/or replacement.  The disadvantage is that with the rapidly evolving technology, it is possible that these machines become more life-like, thereby further strengthening the attachments felt by those that work alongside them.  This means that in the event that the machines are destroyed, soldiers may feel emotions almost as strong as if a human were killed in battle, resulting in similar stress and trauma.  

Friday, March 10, 2023

Crawl, Walk, Run, Robot.

Robots are fast advancing in military application. Leading research and development institutes like Boston Dynamics and DARPA have recently made considerable gains in robotic technology. Three types of robots fill a majority of the space of the robotics marketplace. Automatic robots, automated robots, and autonomous robots.

 Automatic robots are robots that respond to external inputs and respond in a mechanical way. These types of robots require human input and only function with human oversight. These robots have no ability to discriminate and will follow any command its given by a human. These types of robots are already used by militaries. Think of EOD robots, drones, or compact load barring vehicles. 

Automated robots carry out commands based on pre-programming and accomplish tasks in a sequential order. They do not need human input outside of the initiating command to complete tasks. They are limited in their ability to make decisions. Examples of pre-programmed robots are reconnaissance drones that can identify targets without human input. 

Autonomous robots can be programmed to make independent decisions based on pre-programmed options. The freedom this entails is cause for much debate in militaries around the world. While they are still constrained by their programming they can exercise judgement calls, and any lethal capacity on a robot such as this calls into serious ethical questions and liability risks. An example of this type of robot is Boston Dynamics “Atlas” Robot. Currently able to traverse challenging terrain and perform acrobatic feats. Some believe this robot will make soldiers obsolete  in the future.

See link to Boston Dynamics demo of the Atlas robot. 

Thursday, March 09, 2023

Skunk Works, Project Carerra, and the Future of Aerial Warfare

    Lockheed Martin’s Skunk Works is developing a new loyal wingman program to assist F-35s during missions. Project Carrera aims to explore the human reaction to being paired with-controlled drones. Lockheed Martin invested $100 million into the development of Project Carerra. Although the completion of the project is far down the road, the possible capabilities of human-machine collaboration are exciting.

    The secret Speed Racer drone is relatively small and air launched. After being launched, it has small pop-out wings and fins that make it highly mobile. It seems to be the beginning of an entirely new way of thinking about, designing, and making high-performance military aircraft and weapons systems. The Speed Racer drone uses StarDrive technology which is a digital engineering toolset that improves the ability to operate in a fully integrated digital work environment. The drone wingman will have reconnaissance or electronic warfare capabilities to assist the F-35 fighter jets during offensive or defensive missions. AI wingmen can significantly improve military capabilities and cut costs. Low-cost drones or cruise missiles can substantially enhance the U.S. military’s capabilities in regard to war fighting. 

    AI and human teamwork can boost the survivability of piloted platforms and enable data collection, fusion, and distribution that informs their judgments and achieves tactical execution. The overall goal of Project Carerra is to assess the interaction between humans and uncrewed systems and comprehend how those behaviors develop over time. The United States Air Force has continuously sought unmanned aircraft to assist in operations, and the Speed Racer drone developed by Skunk Works checks all the boxes.  

Wednesday, March 08, 2023

Drones are the Future of Proxy Warfare

    Proxy conflicts involve great powers sponsoring belligerents within a conflict to succeed against belligerents sponsored by rival great powers. The purpose of doing this for great powers is to subvert the threat of a larger or nuclear war by avoiding direct contact between their militaries. Instead, they compete through conflicts whose belligerents hold allegiances to rivaling great powers and thus the perception of their respective power is represented by proxy through the performance of the sponsored actors.

    Birthed by Nikola Tesla in 1898, remote controlled robots have transformed from their limitations as decoys to tools of surveillance, assassination, and attrition in the century since. Throughout the Global War on Terror, drones were essential for the United States to target terrorists in the Middle East who hid among the general population and could not easily be segregated through conventional means. Assassination of these individuals has created dilemmas for the legality of the drone operators, because at times they were not controlled by military service members. This gray area could set the precedent for drones in proxy conflicts to be operated by great powers on behalf of their sponsored actors.

    In the ongoing war in Ukraine, the use of small drones have become standard practice to effectively outmaneuver and ambush soft targets within a confined battlefield. Drones in Ukraine have also become the proxy for the United States, Turkey, Russia, and Iran to compete without risking greater war. This is not the first time where Turkey and Russia have competed in proxy drone conflict, as similar incidents have occurred within Syria, Libya, and the Nagorno-Karabakh. As such, drones are steadily becoming the standard for proxy conflicts between great powers as their robotic arsenals develop and clash. Although, unless the question is answered of who can operate them without repercussion, the possibility for great powers to conduct war via drone may be inevitable.

Tuesday, March 07, 2023

The Future of Robot Dogs

In recent years, robotic dogs dubbed "Quad-Legged Unmanned Ground Vehicles or Q-UGVs have gained significant attention in various industries, including military applications. These machines, developed to resemble canines in their appearance and behavior, have shown immense potential in serving the military in multiple ways. For example, Tyndall Air Force Base's 325th Security Forces Squadron received its first set of autonomous robot dogs whose primary purpose is to use extra security around the base. 

“Robot dogs” may shape the future of military operations through capabilities that the military has never seen before. First, the “robot dogs” weight is approximately 45.4 kg, with a top speed of 3 m/s, and can travel a distance of 12.6 km. Third, “robot dogs” can provide detection and surveillance capabilities and be equipped with various sensors and cameras, which allow them to move silently and gather information in hostile environments without endangering the lives of human soldiers. Fourth, “robot dogs” can also be utilized in search and rescue operations, they can cover rough terrain and locate people in areas inaccessible to humans and transmit information to the Security Forces Squadron. Lastly, with technological advancements, “robot dogs” may become capable of transporting small supplies and equipment to soldiers in the field, reducing the need for human transportation in potentially dangerous areas.


In the future, “robot dogs" may also be developed for combat purposes, with the ability to attack enemy targets and defend military installations. However, the ethical implications of using such machines for combat must be carefully considered and while the development of robot dogs for military applications is still in its early stages, their potential benefits cannot be ignored. With their ability to perform various tasks without endangering human lives, these machines may become an essential tool for modern military operations. 

Monday, March 06, 2023

Boston Dynamics robotic revolution- Can it Bleed into Warfare?

 Boston Dynamics, for the past few years, have been innovating robotics in ways that seem almost sci-fi. Their robot dog is advanced, and is most definitely a good boy, but their pride and joy is their Atlas robot. Through years of development and many YouTube videos, you can watch just how far Atlas has come. As recently as a month ago the Boston Dynamics team managed to have Atlas gripping and climbing, as if a normal human would. Before that, Atlas was doing obstacle courses that included jumping, back flips, and running. It is truly something to behold considering just not too long ago a humanoid robot was a work of fantasy and fiction. 

The thought I would like to pose today is this: If Boston Dynamics continues to make leaps of advancement with Atlas, what then for the parkour robot with fluid movements? My best guess would be weaponization or a hefty government contract, that will enable the DOD to utilize these robots, operated by humans at a distance, for combat in future wars. If that were to occur, then the landscape of warfare changes dramatically and the advanced countries capable of fielding such robot soldiers, would reign supreme. 

Thursday, March 02, 2023

The Nuclear Agenda: Hegemonic America for Peace?

No nuclear attack from one nation to another has taken place since the end of WWII. This is comforting if one is to create a trend line from mid-1900’s to now. But it seems, contemporarily, that the threat of a nuclear attack is ever increasing rather than decreasing. Nuclear proliferation has taken place and major global powers continue to advance or seek the advancement of their nuclear prowess and arsenal. Considering the quote, “suspension,” of Russia from New START, the Russian – Ukraine war, and now Chinese - American tensions rising, threat of nukes is at a possible boiling point. Where can peace be found at this time from an American perspective?

Hegemony is a beautiful thing if you happen to fall within the borders of that country which is hegemonic. For better or worse, the ability to unilaterally make global decisions and place pressure on foreign actors outside the parameters of war allows for consolidated global norms to form. Immediately after the end of WWII America was set to be a global industrial force which also had sole capacity for nuclear power. This gave them great leverage militarily and economically to build the world with partnered support in their image. However, near peer threats are becoming, to some in DC, existential threats which may push the world to a new war, one which would include a nuclear arsenal. Solutions abound, it seems the only serious solution is nuclear decommissioning and reduction. Obvious enough? Not so obvious when you begin to plan out how to make this a reality. To put it bluntly, to achieve nuclear disarmament and reduction of capacity and presence, you need to build better ties with allies and adversaries. This typically starts with economic and diplomatic relations.

As a near-peer, such as China, is perceived as more of a threat to America, America will continue to aggravate China with a litany of polices and actions. As the two have nuclear capacity, both will be persuaded by both domestic and international actors to use these capabilities as leverage or further agitation. Currently the U.S. criticizes China over transparency and China continues to argue against feelings of unjust containment and regional intrusion by the Americans. Shared beliefs in prosperity and partnering over economic and socio-cultural relations, along with pragmatic international realism to prepare for conflict, eventually led to U.S. – Soviet Cold War tensions evaporating into a general partnership to work together to avoid nuclear war. Rather than a continuation of antagonism towards China, or other foreign actors, the U.S. should seek shared interests and use their comparable advantage to shift countries into a partnership, one where America can still leverage hegemonic authority for global peace.   

Wednesday, March 01, 2023

Iran and The Bomb

     It was recently discovered that Iran is much closer to obtaining a nuclear device than what was initially thought. According to a senior Pentagon officer, Iran could construct a nuclear device in roughly 12 days if desired. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) identifies and promotes best practices and safety standards and implements programs to assist states in applying these standards. The IAEA monitors the percentage of uranium enrichment and discovered that it had detected that Iran had the capability of enriching uranium to close to 84%, which is very close to weapons-grade uranium. Iran has previously been at around 60% uranium enrichment for two years in breach of a 2015 nuclear deal with world powers. This increase has created serious concerns in the international arena.  

    In 2018, before the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was abandoned by President Trump, it was believed that it would take Iran 12 months to produce one bomb's worth of fissile material. The estimated amount of enriched uranium in Iran's stockpile has surpassed the cap outlined in the 2015 agreement between Tehran and other world powers by more than 18 times. Iran’s advancements since the JCPOA has been rapid and worrisome to the United States and other regional actors like Israel. Nuclear experts believe that even if Iran were to acquire weapons-grade uranium, it would still be roughly two years away from developing a nuclear weapon. 


    The rapid increase in uranium enrichment has led the US to focus more on creating a new JCPOA or Iran deal. Having an agreement in place would at least prevent Iran from getting closer to a nuclear weapon and ensure regional stability and the safety of US allies. The odds of Iran re-entering the JCPOA are slim, and attention should turn to create a new deal. The downside of a new deal is it would not have as much control over Iran’s nuclear development. Lastly, Iran could choose not to pursue acquiring a nuclear device just yet, and use its position to its advantage. Being on the edge of developing the technology needed for a nuclear weapon has its benefits and can improve Iran’s standing in the international arena. 

START Suspension and its Implications


What are the implications of the Russian Federation’s suspension of obligations under the new START treaty?

At least officially, arms control can be viewed on life support. The action is the latest in a series of moves that serves to weaken the arms control agenda, a trend started under Bush 43 with the withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missiles Treaty (ABM) in 2002 and followed by Trump’s withdrawal from Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces treaty (INF) in 2017. The move comes in response to complaints from the Biden administration that the Russian Federation was failing to meet its inspections obligations under the new START framework. In suspending participation in the treaty, the Russian Federation has officially ended weapons inspection, a cornerstone of arms control.

Yet the Russians have claimed that the move will not lead to violations in other areas of the treaty. Specifically, the cap of 1,550 strategic warheads will remain in place and Russia will continue to inform the US of changes in deployment of their strategic arsenal. In effect, Russia is objecting to the inspections of Russian facilities, but not to the overall substance as laid out in the treaty. It’s worth keeping in mind that Russia did not withdraw from the treaty, opting to suspend its activities instead; presumably with an eye towards a future where resumption of all obligations can be renegotiated.

In the short term, then, obligations will be met sans inspections. But for how long? In 2020 TASS reported the successful use of an ABM interceptor in a test. Russia had likewise been accused of violations of INF prior to the US (and Russian) pullouts from the treaty. New START sunsets in 2026, and with heightened tensions between the United States and the Russian Federation, violations to the treaty are a real and present threat. The development of hypersonic missiles by the Russian Federation poses the threat of a renewed arms race that incorporates missiles both by the Russian Federation and the United States of a new and more deadly class. Historically, the development of ever deadlier weapons led to arms control agreements between the US and the Soviet Union that served the world well. Maybe threat escalation will lead to threat reduction as then and so now. Yet in an increasingly multipolar landscape, where China is rapidly expanding its nuclear arsenal, any negotiation will be markedly more complex than was the case during the Cold War. And with the lethality of weapons ever increasing, the threat of thermonuclear nuclear war grows ever greater.

Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Requiem for a JCPOA

 Reconfirming what most analysts have said in recent months, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is "on ice", according to Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl. Kahl was testifying before a House of Representatives committee in which he also assessed Iran's nuclear progress since the Trump administration unilaterally pulled the US out of the deal as "remarkable". President Biden has himself expressed privately the impossibility of returning to the deal given the recent crackdown on protestors in Iran, its support for Russia's arms industry, and Iran's belief that the next administration could simply renege on a renewed deal once again. 

Kahl's comments also drew attention due to a recent UN nuclear watchdog report that found up to 83.7% U-235 purity at Iran's Fordow enrichment complex. Iran is allowed to enrich uranium up to 60% for fuel and medical purposes, but this reading would bring Iran much closer to the 90% required to develop a weapon. Iran maintains that the reading comes from an accidentally highly-enriched batch, but regardless, Kahl's assessment was that it shows that Iran could develop enough fissile material for one bomb in 12 days. This would likely be as low as Iran's "breakout time" has ever been, down from about 12 months when the JCPOA was signed in 2015.  With no possibility of a deal in sight, that breakout time is unlikely to be raised.