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.