Friday News Roundup — August 26, 2022

Analyzing the Dugina Assassination; Rise of Unmanning; Russia’s Occupation of Southern and Eastern Ukraine; Domestic Reform and Renewal Amidst Global Turmoil

Welcome to the final news roundup of August. Both the House and Senate remain in recess, and the pace of Washington remains slow as a consequence. Nonetheless, there is plenty to report in this roundup.

On August 24, President Joe Biden officially unveiled plans to forgive $10,000 in loans for borrowers who make less than $125,000, and up to $20,000 for Pell Grant recipients. While rumored for some time before, Biden’s announcement came on the heels of months of deliberation within the White House on how to tackle the issue of student loan debt in the United States, which had been a major campaign plank of the Biden campaign in 2020. Republicans criticized the plan as inflationary, and cautioned that it would not address sky-high tuition costs while causing Americans without college degrees to indirectly foot the bill. President Joe Biden and Democrats defended the move as a boost to the middle class and a targeted approach to alleviating pressure on minority and other underserved borrowers. The announced debt relief could prove to be a boost to Democrats’ electoral prospects in this fall’s midterm elections, and extends the freeze on student debt payments through the end of the year.

In the past two weeks, a series of primaries have begun to help shape expectations for how this November’s midterms might play out. On August 16, Alaskans went to the polls to take part in what is the state’s first use of ranked-choice voting in its history in a special election to Alaska’s at-large congressional seat, which was vacated after longtime representative Don Young passed away in March. The same day also marked Wyoming’s Republican primary, in which prominent Trump critic and January 6 committee co-chair Liz Cheney was soundly defeated by her Trump-endorsed challenger, Harriet Hageman. A special election to fill New York’s vacant 19th Congressional District on August 23 has been interpreted by some to be an indication that Democrats may not lose quite as wide of a margin as previously expected. New York’s 19th district is a swing district which voted for Barack Obama in 2012, Donald Trump in 2016, and Joe Biden in 2020, and is but the latest barometer of how the abortion rights debate following the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization Supreme Court decision has made a significant dent in Republican’s hopes to be swept into power in the House and Senate this November.

On Friday, the U.S. State Department announced plans to create an ambassador-at-large position for the Arctic by elevating the existing department Arctic coordinator role. By creating the position, the United States continues its slow but steadily deepening interest in the Arctic region, which has also seen increasingly deep Russian investment of resources and military. On August 25, Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree to increase the size of the Russian Armed Forces by 137,000 to 1.15 million, as Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine wears on with no end in sight. The U.K. Tory leadership contest to name the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom continues to take place, with Liz Truss increasingly emerging as the favorite to succeed current Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Truss stirred controversy on August 26 by questioning whether French President Emmanuel Macron was a partner of the United Kingdom in response to a question as to whether he was a “friend or foe.”

This week, West Point’s Modern War Institute published Joshua C. Huminski’s–the director of the Mike Rogers Center–longform piece on anticipating and preparing for the next variant of Russia’s political warfare virus. Given Moscow’s increasingly limited tools with which it can influence the West’s policies, political warfare will likely take on an even greater level of prominence in the Kremlin’s tool set. While the West has, in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, belatedly responded to Moscow’s past behaviors, it needs to strengthen the systemic weaknesses on which these tactics and techniques seize.

The Hill also published Huminski’s warning about the challenges of maintaining Western unity in supporting Ukraine ahead of national political issues and domestic economic pressure across the Eurozone. Europe’s winter weather prospects are a significant issue, to be sure, but other emerging pressures could well fracture the unity critical to Kyiv’s defense.

On Saturday, Huminski reviewed “Sinostan” by Alexandros Petersen and Raffaello Pantucci for the DIplomatic Courier. Part travelogue, part policy analysis “Sinostan” shows how China’s global ambitions are manifesting themselves in Central Asia. Beijing, thus far, has demonstrated an unwillingness to engage politically in many of the countries–preferring to deal with whomever is in power–but that could well change in the future.

In this week’s roundup, Joshua Huminski takes a closer look at the assassination of Darya Dugina in Moscow, Ethan Brown discusses the growing prominence of unmanned platforms, and Wes Culp delves into Russia’s occupation of southern and eastern Ukraine. Finally, in a longer essay, Dan Mahaffee addresses the division at home and the challenges abroad, previewing how CSPC programs are looking to the midterms and far beyond.

Daughter of Russian Polemicist, Aleksandr Dugin, Killed in Moscow

Joshua C. Huminski

Left: TSARGRAD.TV via Reuters / Right: Moscow News Agency/Handout via REUTERS

On Sunday, Darya Dugina, the daughter of Aleksandr Dugin — a nationalist polemicist in Russia — was killed in an apparent car-bombing in an upscale neighborhood in Moscow following an appearance by both at a nationalist festival. Russian authorities were swift to blame Ukraine’s special services, going so far as to identify a female suspect woman who allegedly lived in the same building as Dugina, was following her prior to her murder, and subsequently fled to Estonia. Russia’s FSB released extensive video footage of the suspect traveling in her Mini Cooper (a rather conspicuous vehicle for close surveillance). Unsurprisingly, both Kyiv and Tallinn have denied any involvement in the murder.

Who killed Dugina? It’s far too early to tell and the FSB’s explanation is unlikely to be the truth — they would pin it on the Ukrainians, wouldn’t they? If they had this suspect under near continuous surveillance, why didn’t they prevent her from carrying out the attack in the first place? It’s certainly great plot line for an airport thriller, but unlikely to be the truth. A Russian parliamentarian in exile suggested that it was the work of a little known Russian resistance group, the National Republican Army, but there has been no further evidence to support the claim. That a car-bomb was used reminded many of the chaotic period of the 1990s in which political and economic criminality often overlapped, resulting in gang-land violence, murder, and assassinations. Could Russia’s security services be involved? Possibly, but again the question as to why would they go through the trouble of murdering either Dugin or her daughter in unanswered? He was, as discussed below, a periodically useful figure for the Kremlin and it would seem to be an overly complicated way to generate greater support for the war in Ukraine.

For that matter, was she the intended target? Even this is unknown. There is speculation that Dugin himself was the target, but having switched cars at the last minute, his daughter ended up in the crossfire. In the main, it could be political, it could be criminal, it could be economic, it could be a combination of all of the above, or something wholly different — a decidedly unhelpful explanation to be sure, but it is necessary to tamp down the hyperbole around both her murder and Dugin himself. Inded, some have speculated that it could represent in-fighting within the ultra-nationalist community, hoping to spur President Putin into an even more aggressive and violent campaign in Ukraine — though how much more violent could it really become?

Dugin is often, and incorrectly, referred to as “Putin’s Brain”. The English-speaking Dugin is a nationalist “intellectual” and political opportunist who articulates positions that are certainly in line with some streams of thought within the siloviki, but he is not the influential “Rasputin” that the West often portrays him as. He has said that the president is like a modern-day tsar and advocated for a very hawkish, assertive Russia in Eurasia. Yet, the alignment in views is not indicative of access or influence. He is a useful instrument for the government (when convenient), articulating views that could be either too far to the right or not far enough. Rather, it is appropriate to consider him a far more well-read version of Sebastian Gorka — the right-wing pseudo-intellectual that espouses positions in line with President Donald Trump and the MAGA crowd. He is far less Henry Kissinger and much more a Fox News contributor.

In the words of Mark Galeotti, a noted Russia expert, Dugin is “Schrödinger’s Ideologist, at once important and also not. He may not have real traction with the government, but his capacity to present himself as a profound thinker whose (often barking mad) ideas frame Kremlin thinking means he is considered important. And if people think him important, then to a degree he becomes important. Or rather, the myth of Dugin does.”

Indeed, much of his inflated position is due to the fact that he speaks English and has espoused views in the past that fit the West’s views of Russian policy — his position in the West’s worldview is far more a function of Western promotion than actual access and influence on the part of Dugin. Dugina, his daughter, is a far less prominent version of her father. Ostensibly a journalist and commentator, she has often appeared on Russian television articulating similar nationalist and hawkish views, though not necessarily in primetime. Both Dugin and his daughter have been sanctioned by the West.

There is a risk in attempting to extrapolate some grander meaning or trend from this one incident. There is very little that is actually known about what happened and there is a significant tendency within the West to attempt to force fit what is assumed to be known to pre-existing frameworks on Russia. Does this presage an unstable domestic situation in Russia? Too early to tell. Is a new wave of violence about to emerge between political and economic interests? Again, far too early to tell and too little information is available. To be sure, the fact that a political murder could well have happened on Putin’s watch and nearly under the eyes of the FSB suggests that the regime may be weaker than it appears, a point Galeotti makes in the above linked piece. Caution in assessment and analysis is more critical when it comes to Russia at the best of times, but especially now.

A tale of two theaters — unmanned platforming grows in prominence

Ethan Brown

USV Ranger — a fully-automated US Navy multi-role vessel during RIMPAC 2022 (U.S. Navy via DefenseNews)

The future of warfare has grown more and more dominating as a talking point in recent years, although many a thought-piece has taken up the pivot in strategy discussions, imagination is truly running wild as the militaries of today are staging technology for the conflicts of tomorrow. The U.S. Navy is no different, nor are the collective strategic supply efforts as more aid is being bustled into Eastern Europe.

One emergent common threat seems to be lashing these two areas of operation together in a decided and fascinating fashion — and that is the effort to create kinetic and connective components which remove human beings from harm’s way; it almost seems as if we are watching the rise of machines as the leading edge of conflict. This week, the Navy christened its third Unmanned Surface Vessel (USV), dubbed Mariner, at the Naval Academy before it departs via shallow waters to California for operational testing ahead of full readiness and deployment in 2023.

Mariner, alongside the already tested and fleet-ready Nomad and Ranger, is a fully unmanned deep-water ship equipped with the highly-refined Aegis command-and-control weapons system, a completely autonomous navigation suite and near total virtualization of its self-monitoring systems status functions for sustainment and maintenance. I hesitate to compare it to Cortana of the HALO video game lore or Machine-spirits of the Warhammer 40k universe, but these automated vessels, much like the F-35, are reported to be able to monitor their systems and project maintenance requirements well ahead of time, which will feed into a growing automated supply-chain and support enterprise to reduce maintenance costs which the ship will sail itself into port to have performed.

The launch of this third automated vessel, which exponentially increases the mesh-style networked capability of these All-Domain capable assets, is timely due to the increased vitriol and rhetoric following recent increases in tension around the Pacific, notably Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, which has produced an increase in Chinese military activity in the region. Referencing that increased connectivity, the launch of a third vessel now introduces the potential for one USV of the OVERLORD program to now perform master control of another platform from distance; simply, Mariner could perform remote directive control of Nomad or Ranger via remote access if the other two were disconnected from the master network, much like your IT tech fixing your computer remote if there are driver or system problems.

These OVERLORD platforms are merely first-wave (pardon the pun) systems, as these light-duty multirole automated ships remain a proving program for bigger, more capable automated systems like the still-constructing Vanguard, Sea Hawk, and Hunter. So while these three currently afloat make up less than the total tonnage of a Destroyer or Missile Frigate, they signal a new-trend in the use of unmanned machines in warfare.

Switchblade drone concept art (industry promo photo)

The Mariner, of course, will enable automated Naval operations in the Indo-Pacific theater, which has dominated the long-term futures thinking of American defense posturing. However, this is a two-front column, so let’s look at what unmanned tech is pouring into the Eastern European theater. This week, tucked into yet another massive military aid package that was announced by the White House, there was one thing that has flown under the radar (another pun): the inclusion of a delayed delivery of the Switchblade 600 drones for Ukrainian defense forces. These drones — although that term doesn’t precisely define the system, which are launch and vector automated weapons — are the still-infamous and particularly lethal loitering munition variety of warfighting tools which require very little human input.

Ukraine has already been the benefactor of American drone weapons, having received dozens of Switchblade 300 and Phoenix Ghost LMs, but those programmable launch-and-evade tools are suitable for ‘soft-targets’: trucks, personnel in the open, open ammo depots, very obvious and not-hardened targets which frankly, limited artillery available makes those low-probability/low-yield targeting solutions for the beleaguered Ukrainians. Enter the 120lb Switchblade 600, with a 30lb shaped-charge warhead capable of penetrating tank armor and whose flight-time and range is more than double that of the 5lb 300 variant. The bigger drone can travel over 40 kilometers and remain aloft for over 30 minutes, giving it more than respectable standoff range from Russian interdiction capabilities as these near-silent angels of death employ pseudo-intelligent targeting software that matches ground images with pre-programmed attack telemetry and parameters.

Simply, the operator, who can deploy the launch-tube and set-up the delivery device in less than a minute, releases the one-way missile/drone/carbon-fiber insult and then utilizes a smartphone or tablet to monitor the video camera in the nose of the drone. These drones, as mentioned, already have a pre-loaded set of parameters or imagery that help guide the weapon, such as the profile and analytic data for a T-72 tank from all angles. Once the operator has guided the drone to the relatively close target vicinity, and confirms the imagery matches the video feed, a ping is dropped on the real-world item — truck, tank, etc — and the operator releases control of the weapon. The drone can fly circles around the target as it detects atmospherics, wind speeds, it’s position in relation to the target accounting for wind speeds and obstacles, and then the drone descends directly from above at a near-vertical impact angle for maximum accuracy. Once the operator has relinquished control, the drone does the rest of the terminal phase. Now it must be stated, there is always the option for the operator to perform a ‘shift cold’ function, where at any point before the final, terminal descent, the drone can be commanded to ruin a perfectly innocent patch of dirt well away from the designated target.

These are the next wave of weapons technology that may well shift the paradigm of how states go about bludgeoning one another in an attempt to achieve a political objective. It’s fascinating to think that in the not-too-distant future, loitering munitions could be deployed in the thousands against autonomous vessels, tanks, or fleets of similarly airborne nature, and achieve near-precision effects; all the while costing one side millions of dollars while not a single-human being faces the imminent threat of death in combat.

But the world is made up of the haves and the have nots in this autonomous arena, but the worrisome and stark reality is that, unlike nuclear weapons belonging to a select few of the most powerful armies in the previous global contest of powers during the Cold War, commercial technology’s have made access to these kinds of advanced and simple killer systems more readily available than any such weapons evolution in previous chapters of warfare.

Why should this matter? For one thing, the ability for non-state actors to acquire simple systems and retrofit lethal capabilities is one that immediately compromises the ethicality and legitimacy of these systems. The value of these weapons in Ukrainian hands is an opinion of near-universal support, but what should hold the nationalist groups in Eastern Ukraine those loyal to Moscow to the same standards of conduct with these weapons? In Taiwan, so near to critical international shipping lanes, how simple and effective would it be for Chinese PLA forces to cripple and control those economic lifelines using automated systems and further expanding the Anti-Access/Area Denial Zones which challenge any counteroffensive in the Strait?

The great risk in these automated systems rising to the fore of new competition grounds, is that while control mechanisms exist in the hardware, a rationale of unlimited effects are now in play to an extent that makes the “unrestricted warfare” of World War I Germany pale by comparison.

Russia Lays the Groundwork for the Long-Term Occupation or Annexation of Southern and Eastern Ukraine

Wesley Culp

(Aerial view of the Southern Ukrainian city of Kherson (photo credit: Uaquantum via Wikimedia Commons )

While Russia’s war machine has ground to a near halt (or at least crawling pace) in its advance in southern and eastern Ukraine, Moscow has been busy laying the groundwork for an eventual annexation of the territories in question. A far cry from its initial goal to topple the Ukrainian government or otherwise draw Ukraine into its orbit, Russia is instead attempting to adapt to the impossible-to-ignore reality that large breakthroughs that could shatter the combat effectiveness of Ukraine’s armed forces are unlikely to occur for the foreseeable future.

Already, Russian occupation authorities in Ukraine have stated their intention to hold referenda to facilitate the annexation of southern and eastern Ukraine into Russia. Ahead of expected referendums, Russian officials and employees of Russia’s security services have engaged in a flurry of activity this summer, helping to put down the roots of Russia’s occupation authorities in the occupied portions of Ukraine’s Kherson and Zaporizhzhia Oblasts. From such preparations, it is clear that Russia has no intention of vacating the lands it seized in 2014 or in 2022. Citizens of regions such as the totally-occupied Luhansk have reportedly come to await planned referenda almost as one would await a force of nature, and have been smothered in a pro-Russian propaganda campaign to boost local support for Russia’s designs. Upon recalling Putin’s testy exchange with Sergei Naryshkin in a choreographed security council meeting before the Russian invasion where Naryshkin was humiliated by Putin for stating his support for annexing the Donetsk and Lugansk “People’s Republic” statelets (respectively known by their Russian acronyms DNR and LNR), this new annexation-oriented policy thrust represents a distinct change in policy.

Russian “civil-military administration” authorities (the name of Moscow-installed governments in Kherson and Zaporizhzhia) in southern Ukraine have delayed making a decision on the exact date of their referendums for some time. Today, the Russian-installed administration of Zaporizhzhia is the only region which has tentatively expressed its intention to hold a referendum on. Speaking to the Russian news outlet Izvestiya in an interview published on August 11, Yevhen Balytskyi, the Russian installed head of Zaporizhia, said that he and his civil-military administration hoped to hold a referendum in Zaporizhia Oblast on whether to join Russia on September 11, in parallel to regional legislative and gubernatorial elections to be held in Russia on that day.

The Kherson “civil-military administration” head Kirill Stremousov had previously expressed his intention in July to hold Kherson Oblast’s referendum in tandem with Zaporizhzhia’s before it had settled on a date, but it is unclear if Kherson’s authorities will seek to follow through now that a date has been determined. Denis Pushilin, the head of the DNR, has said that the statelet would not be holding a referendum until it had gained control over the entirety of Ukraine’s Donetsk Oblast, which Russia’s invasion force has so far been unable to achieve. His counterpart in the LNR, Leonid Pasechnik, has indicated a similar timeline for a parallel referendum, saying that a vote on the question of joining Russia would only become possible once all of Donetsk had been “liberated.”

However, while Russia’s occupation authorities have attempted to demonstrate progress towards holding the referenda, serious challenges to their authority have delayed such referenda from taking place. A long series of assassinations targeting individuals working on behalf of Russia’s occupation mechanisms and Russian troops participating in the occupation has complicated the operations of Russia’s “civil-military administrations,” which have taken the form of car bombings, shootings, and even possibly poisonings. Possibly as a means to avoid the vulnerability to attacks staffing a variety of polling locations would entail or just as an easier way to ensure that its referendum brings about the desired result, Zaporizhzhia’s “civil-military administration” has raised the prospect that voting in its referendum could be conducted entirely online.

While Russia has chosen to lean into an occupation of a much more limited swathe of territory than it envisioned before the invasion, Russian control over Ukraine’s southern and eastern regions likely will not be cemented as quickly as Moscow might hope. Even if promised Ukrainian counteroffensives towards the city of Kherson have not made significant gains at the time of writing, Ukrainian pressure on Russia’s forces positioned in southern Ukraine could complicate Moscow’s efforts to “dig in” politically in the region. Massive exoduses of the population of Kherson and newly conquered cities in Donbas threatens to leave Russia with little more than the seized land itself as a prize for its expensive invasion of Ukraine. Even that possible prize has been placed in jeopardy by the wild card that is the situation around the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant in the city of Enerhodar. Shelling of the plant has caused fires to break out around ash pits near a coal power station nearby, which in turn let to the entire nuclear complex’s disconnection from the Ukrainian grid on August 25, but appears to have been subsequently restored. While the UN has demanded a full demilitarized zone be set up around the plant, which Russian troops appear to be using to store military equipment, the risk of nuclear disaster continues to lurk in the background.

Unless it achieves a major battlefield breakthrough against Ukraine’s defending forces that would put Russia’s original goals back into the running, Moscow will attempt to cement the gains it has already achieved by going through a choreographed “legal” process to facilitate the annexation of swathes of Ukraine into Russia.

A World in Turmoil, a Nation on Edge? Time for Reform and Renewal

Dan Mahaffee

(Picture Credit: Pxfuel)

How can we best lead a precariously divided nation in an increasingly perilous world? That is the question we face in 2022. Midterm elections loom with civic discourse at peak incivility, while authoritarians move ahead and as free societies ponder a contest for the future — all while humankind faces climate change, demography, resource scarcity, and more. Many of the headlines are dire, and the rhetoric from our politicians and pundits is divisive. Whether or not we can bridge our divides and work together as a nation is now, has been, and always will be the crux of whether the American experiment can endure.

That too is our work at CSPC, as we look to rest of 2022 and plan for 2023 and 2024. As the summer comes to a wrap, I hope you will forgive a little self-promotion, as we outline how CSPC is addressing current challenges by looking at fixing broken incentives, fostering collaboration, deepening resilience, and promoting strategic thinking.

Looking first at our domestic politics, I don’t need to provide you any further details on how broken our politics are. But now, the tribalism in our politics and the divisiveness grows ever more ad hominem — setting American against American. The recent student loan forgiveness announcement is a perfect example. For the sake of argument, set aside the debate over cost, who receives it, moral hazard, policy implications, etc., and note the rhetoric pitting those who will receive aid — student borrowers — against those who will not. None of this addresses the runaway costs of education, the phalanxes of administrators and bureaucrats in higher ed, predatory lending practices, or the gap between what the U.S. education system produces and the workforce we need in the future. Rather than addressing the problems, we go with the band aid solution.

Rhetoric simply pitting those who received the assistance versus those who did divides our country, does nothing to make education more affordable, or our economy fairer. Now, from the floor of Congress to the campaign hustings, from Twitter to cable news green rooms, new fault lines in our society are artificially drawn — and in our adversaries will seek to exploit them with disinformation. In our arguments with our fellow Americans, too often we are convinced we are right, rather than caring whether we are doing right.

Our adversaries make their aims abundantly clear. Russia’s expanded invasion of Ukraine and China’s response to the Pelosi visit to Taipei have demonstrated that the old ways of doing business with Beijing and Moscow are over. Across Europe, there are predictions of a harsh winter in more ways than one. The brunt is borne foremost in Ukraine, where cautious optimism must be tempered by the reality of modern military stalemate. More broadly, the continent faces a looming energy crisis and the prospect of major industrial and commercial disruption. On the other side of the world, the rhetoric around Taiwan grows ever more heated, and the prospects for miscalculation grow. Whether the U.S. and China are inevitably headed to Cold War 2.0 or something dreadfully worse remains to be determined, but the relationship will not return to what it once was — or what we imagined it would be.

As we look across this challenging landscape, it is, as I said, about incentives, collaboration, resilience, and strategy. How these elements work through our politics, geoeconomics, and all the tools of statecraft are vital for understanding how we got here, what the needed reforms are, and what a shared vision for the future can look like.

Everywhere, there are bad incentives that need to be reformed and positive incentives to be created or renewed. Gerrymandering, closed primaries, partisan media, and other ills of our politics systematically empower the extremes, incentivizing partisanship in our politicians and leaving unheard many Americans’ voices — particularly those calling for compromise. In making sure that our nation is prepared for challenges ahead, the incentives for doing business with the government — from satellites for the space force to vaccines for preparedness — need to empower innovators and deliver rapid results. Globally, we need to look at what incentives drove our supply chains to points of extreme vulnerability, fragility, and reliance on adversaries. CSPC’s political reform programs are looking at those very incentives in our politics. Our work on space and national security, biosecurity, and leadership in advanced technologies all address these commercial and economic incentives that drive innovation leadership and the tools needed to keep Americans safe, healthy, and prosperous.

To reshape these bad incentives and address the challenges we face, collaboration is key. Collaborations between government and the private sector, as well as between the United States and our allies, are not only vital tools of statecraft but also advantages that our adversaries do not enjoy. Here, it requires careful work to find areas of mutual interest and alignment — particularly as free societies address the contest we face from authoritarian regimes. Our ability to collaborate in public-private partnerships and global coalitions with allies and partners to share burdens, find solutions, and harmonize policies can demonstrate the strengths of our system compared to authoritarian regimes.

The COVID pandemic and disruptions have shown us the importance of resilience — strengthening society’s ability to respond to crises natural and manmade. As we look at our supply chains, the digital underpinnings of society, and interdependent global markets, the resilience of our system is fundamental to peace, security, and quality of modern life. In looking at our adversaries’ threat, our resilience can be a deterrent to their threats, overt and covert, to divide and disrupt our society. Resilience requires understanding of the threats we face, how crises might unfold, and what can be done to prevent, mitigate, and recover. Here, collaboration with allies is important, as is knowing what government, private sector, and citizens can bring to the table in times of crisis.

While cooperation more broadly is desperately needed between our political parties, there is, for now, continued consensus around the shared recognition of the challenge posed by China and Russia. As CSPC works to foster dialogues amongst government, the private sector, and policy experts — with outreach to key transatlantic and transpacific allies — we play our part in fostering this vital collaboration. CSPC’s policy roundtables, virtual panels, briefing luncheons, and other outreach all provide forums for dialogue and multifaceted approaches to policy challenges.

Looking ahead — and acknowledging the burdens of day-to-day crises — it is vital that we promote strategic thinking. Even if we cannot provide immediate answers, the exercise itself is important. As Eisenhower said, “plans are worthless, planning is everything.” What is our strategic vision for the myriad challenges we face? At CSPC, our team is collaborating with experts across various fields, around the world, to look at what is ahead in terms of the opportunities in areas such as the space economy, future technological innovation, and biomedical preparedness.

At the same time, what can we understand about our vulnerabilities and the risks posed by continued conflict with Russia, competition with China, and struggles on a competitive, dynamic global stage. CSPC’s dialogues provide a forum to look beyond the day-to-day and incorporate our team’s research with experts’ viewpoints to not only look forward into the future, but also compare various strategic outcomes for strategic competition, the increasing importance of space, and the race for leadership in technology fields like quantum computing, 6G, and artificial intelligence/machine learning. Now, with this global contest before us, it is even more important to apply this strategic approach so that we know our own interests and goals alongside the resources available and capabilities needed to meet our adversaries with the strength to deter conflict and allow diplomacy and economic incentives to change behavior.

These challenges are daunting. But in the challenge is also the motivation. As messy as our politics can be, the strength of democracy is that we are never locked on one course. There are always opportunities for reform and renewal. How can we break out of our partisanship? How can we ensure that we are good citizens, not idle consumers? How can these strategies build on what are our strengths to attract talent, promote entrepreneurship, and demonstrate the American ability for reinvention and innovation.

Lee Kwan Yew once admonished those Chinese leaders claiming the 21st century would be “theirs” with his reply: “I have news for you. The 21st century will be America’s century too. Americans have an extraordinary capacity to reinvent themselves, to learn from their mistakes, and to innovate. Don’t underestimate them.” Working to change these incentives, fostering collaboration, undergirding a resilient society, and looking to the future are all steps to ensuring that the United States leads with our friends and allies to protect and promote our values. Looking forward to the fall, we appreciate you continued time and support as we continue our mission, our own small part, in fixing these problems and promoting solutions.

News You May Have Missed

Renewed Fighting Explodes in Ethiopia

After months of buildup, fighting has erupted around the northern Ethiopian town of Kobo between the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) on one side and Ethiopian government forces on the other. The Ethiopian central government officially blamed the Tigrayan forces for beginning the latest round of fighting, and claimed that they shot down an airplane from Sudan carrying weapons to the Tigrayans, which the TPLF denied. Tigray is currently at risk of experiencing serious famine conditions as a result of Addis Ababa’s decision to seal Tigray off from most food shipments in July 2021 after the TPLF gained the upper hand in fighting which had originally begun in November 2020. While troops from neighboring Eritrea have clashed with TPLF forces in the past, no information has emerged to suggest that Eritrea has been involved in the latest bout of fighting.

Latvia Demolishes Monument to Red Army in Riga

On August 23, Latvian authorities demolished an obelisk which was the central element of a monument to the Soviet Red Army’s victory over Germany in the Second World War and the reestablishment of Soviet control over the country. The event was broadcast live on state TV, and even drew a crowd of celebratory bystanders. In demolishing the monument, which was originally built in 1985, Latvia is “closing another painful page of the history and looking for better future (sic.)” Latvia and its Baltic neighbors Estonia and Lithuania have been some of the most vocal supporters of Ukraine in defense against Russia’s invasion, which has renewed debate on the role of Soviet-era monuments and symbols across the former Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact.

Iranian Women Allowed to Attend Soccer Match for First Time in More than 40 Years

According to reports by Iranian state media, women were permitted to officially attend a domestic soccer game for the first time in more than 40 years. While there was previously no blanket ban on women attending soccer matches previously, they were effectively barred from doing so and were routinely denied entry based on clerical attitudes towards the mingling of the sexes. The decision to clear the way for women attending games was reportedly made after the international soccer governing organization FIFA sent a letter to Iran demanding that more women be allowed to attend games. The roughly 500 women who attended the match in question wore blue to commemorate the 29-year-old Iranian woman Sahar Khodayari, who lit herself on fire while awaiting trial for attempting to enter a match disguised as a man in 2019.

The views of authors are their own, and not that of CSPC.



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