Friday News Roundup — September 9, 2022
Jackson Water Crisis; Liz Truss as PM; Administration CHIPS Act Strategy; Automated Wingmen; Russia’s Unreliable Partners
Hello and welcome to this week’s edition of CSPC’s Friday News Roundup. On Thursday, Buckingham Palace issued a statement to announce that Queen Elizabeth II had died peacefully at Balmoral Castle in Scotland.
As Queen, Elizabeth II was the United Kingdom’s longest-reigning monarch since her accession to the throne in 1952, her reign coinciding with the tenure of 15 separate Prime Ministers, starting with Winston Churchill and culminating just days ago with her ceremonial reception of Liz Truss, confirming her election by the Conservative Party as Prime Minister. In her 70 years as monarch, Elizabeth II was witness to the profound transformation of the United Kingdom’s role in the world. Her birth was announced via radio; her coronation broadcast on television; her passing confirmed on twitter.
In the United States, Queen Elizabeth II will be remembered as being a fixture of the U.S.-UK special relationship throughout her reign — spanning 14 presidencies. As the news of her passing reached Washington, DC, a bipartisan outpouring of support indicated how high regard the late queen was held by U.S. leaders. President Biden lauded Queen Elizabeth II as a “stateswoman of unmatched dignity and constancy who deepened the bedrock Alliance between the United Kingdom and the United States” and ordered U.S. flags to be flown at half-staff. Members of Congress and former Presidents alike expressed both sorrow at the queen’s death and described recollections of previous encounters with her both in the United Kingdom and on her visits to the United States. Over the course of her life she visited the United States six times, the first of which was in 1957 and the last in 2007. Her first and final visits both commemorated anniversaries of the English foundation of Jamestown in Virginia, demonstrating the shared Anglo-American history and U.S.-UK special relationship.
Upon her death, Charles, Elizabeth II’s eldest son, became King of the United Kingdom as well as the 14 other Commonwealth states, choosing the regnal name Charles III. As a result of Queen Elizabeth II’s passing, an elaborate plan surrounding her mourning and Charles III’s accession to the throne known as Operation London Bridge has been set into motion, which meticulously lays down the broad sweeps and minute details of the process alike. In keeping with the monarch’s central role in the United Kingdom’s state, small details of Britain’s statehood, such as its national anthem or the website of the royal family’s website, must now be switched over to reflect the country’s new head of state. The new King comes to the throne with the challenge to define what comes after the second Elizabethan era.
In Ukraine, Ukrainian forces appear to be making surprise advances in the environs of Kharkiv in Ukraine’s northeast, overshadowing similar Ukrainian counteroffensive actions which are continuing near the southern Russian-controlled city of Kherson. After some public hints from Ukrainian officials, President Volodymyr Zelensky announced on Thursday that Ukrainian forces had begun a counterattack against Russia’s invasion force near Kharkiv. While Zelensky declined to list settlements which had been liberated by Ukrainian forces, outside observers took note of Ukrainian breakthroughs around the town of Balakliya towards settlements deeper in Russian-controlled territory. Ukraine’s Kharkiv thrust likely caught Russia’s forces off-guard, who had previously shifted significant assets to shore up positions around Kherson. At the time of writing, Ukrainian advances appear to be continuing, although information flows remain limited.
Finally, 21 years later, we join in remembering the horror and heroism of September 11th — never forgetting that day and its impact on history.
On Monday, the Diplomatic Courier published Joshua C. Huminski — the Director of the Mike Rogers Center for Intelligence & Global Affairs — review of Geoff White’s “The Lazarus Heist”. Calling it a perfect end of summer read, it is the story of North Korea’s global cyber criminal campaign from the Sony Pictures hack to ransomware and even cryptocurrency.
A warm welcome as well to CSPC intern Jordan Trusel, who is a senior at Jackson State University studying political science and biology. She opens this week’s roundup by sharing her observations on the ongoing water crisis gripping Mississippi’s capital city. Joshua Huminski looks at the inbox awaiting Liz Truss at №10, while Dan Mahaffee dives into administration’s strategy for the CHIPS Act. Ethan Brown looks at how the Pentagon is exploring automated wingman technology. Finally, Wesley Culp analyzes the hesitation of Russian partners to aid Moscow during its invasion of Ukraine.
Jackson’s Water Crisis Embodies Our National Infrastructure Challenge
Jordan Trusel, CSPC Intern
An environmental event has once again disrupted life in Jackson, Mississippi. In early 2021, when a winter storm raged across the country, Jackson, the state capital, was forced to shut down due to a lack of preparation and frozen pipes. Jackson State University along with the rest of the city were without running water for almost two months and people and businesses in the area suffered greatly. Less than two years later, residents are in distress again. Prolonged rains that poured over the delta for two weeks caused an overflow of reservoir water that could not be properly treated and resulted in a boil water alert. This event brought national attention, but it was not a surprise to most Jackson residents.
The failure of the water treatment plant and the absence of running water for an extended period of time has caused mass disruption and unrest. Running water is a vital aspect of a functioning society. But the water system in Jackson has been on the decline for decades due to years of neglect and a host of detrimental policy decisions. Political division and systematic racism have compounded the city’s challenge of securing funding and keeping up with inflating costs. Sadly, infrastructure is commonly overlooked in many communities of color, leading to lack of access and affordability for many residents. Jackson currently holds an 80% Black population, and struggles with high employment, poverty, and crime. After the desegregation of the capital, many white citizens moved outwards and began to develop the surrounding cities, which left Jackson with less revenue to invest in infrastructure. The water system that was built surrounding the city of Jackson has not been updated, maintained or properly cared for since its installation and as a result boil water alerts and high levels of lead have become a typical caution for over 30 years.
Amendments that were made to the Water Pollution Control Act decreased federal funding, resulting in loans instead of grants to cities to pay for their needs. As Jackson’s population continued to decline and money continued to be withheld, costs rose, investments waned and the same web of interceptors continued to age. The city continued to seek repairs, and ask the state for assistance — which was repeatedly denied. In 1981, for example, Jackson was given an order to build a metro wastewater treatment plant to include the surrounding areas, but the eight suburbs fought to provide as little money as possible.
Other wastewater and water systems across the United States are facing similar problems to the city of Jackson, and according to a report by the Government Accountability Office the costs for maintenance, repair, or replacement add up to more than $655 billion dollars over the next couple of decades. The mayor of Jackson has said the city would require over $1 billion to update its water system. Mississippi will receive $459 million from the 2021 federal infrastructure package, but most of this money will not arrive until 2023.
Collecting back debt on residents or raising money through upping water fees will not solve Jackson’s problem. A holistic approach is needed. By expanding the customer base, more revenue could be brought into the city and its suburbs as well. Building more housing and fixing the abandoned buildings already present would allow for an increase in population, business, and tourism for Jackson which would result in innovation, new jobs, and a stimulated economy. A cooperative relationship between city and state leadership is very necessary for Jackson to regain the attributes that match its capital status. An increase in commitment from the federal government is another factor that will greatly contribute to ensuring the right to happiness in many cities like Jackson.
Mississippi is a case in point for a deep evaluation of the policy, funding, and leadership required for basic physical and organizational infrastructure to serve communities like Jackson. A changing climate means more extreme weather and flooding. We share these challenges, and therefore we must work together as a country to secure essential aspects of American life to everyone. If we strive to prevail as a world superpower and be competitive in areas like space exploration and artificial intelligence, we need to also take a microscope to the most basic needs of our communities. Clean water is something we all just expect to have. But if it comes with challenges like these for so many people, then how can we expect to reach our full potential as a nation?
Liz Truss Becomes the United Kingdom’s Next Prime Minister
Joshua C. Huminski
On Monday, the Conservative Party announced that Liz Truss won the contest to be its next head, leading to Truss becoming the next prime minister of the United Kingdom. Truss succeeds the outgoing embattled prime minister, Boris Johnson, having defeated Rishi Sunak, the former Chancellor of the Exchequer. Truss won over the 172,000 dues-paying members of the Tory Party by tacking hard to the right, embracing the model of Margaret Thatcher. She advocated for lower taxes, fewer regulations, and a pro-business plan designed to bring the country out of political and economic doldrums.
Her victory was far closer than many expected 81,326 votes to Sunak’s 60,399, which could presage an unsettled party political landscape in the months ahead. Indeed, there is already speculation as to whether she is the right candidate to take the Tories into the next general elections, which is slated for 2024. Johnson retains a large amount of support within the Party, but will need to make money in the interim to sustain his fairly high quality of life. Moreover, his conscious efforts to embody Winston Churchill may necessitate (in his mind) a comeback campaign or re-election. Johnson faces an investigation by the House of Common’s privileges committee as to whether he knowingly misled Parliament on “partygate”. If punishment is recommended, members of parliament will need to vote on the decision, potentially splitting the party further. This could well paralyze the party from acting on critical issues.
Truss moved swiftly to form the new government and build out her cabinet. She appointed Suella Braverman as the Home Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng as the new Chancellor, retained Ben Wallace as the Secretary of Defence, and appointed James Cleverly as the Foreign Secretary. This marks the first time that none of the “great offices of state” — foreign secretary, chancellor, and home secretary — are not held by a white man.
Truss inherits a full slate of challenges. In her first speech, she outlined her three priorities including growing the economy, dealing with increasing energy costs, and ensuring that Britons get the health care they need. In fairly canned language, she dramatically downplayed the scale of the challenges the UK faces. Inflation is expected to rise to 20% by next year, energy bills could jump upwards of 80% on 1 October (on top of a 54% increase in April), there is the looming risk of a recession, the pound is weakening against foreign currencies, the country faces a housing crunch, the National Health Service is in dire straits, to say nothing increasing devolution and independence pressures from Scotland, and the unresolved relationship with the European Union and the Northern Ireland Protocol.
Indeed, the Northern Ireland Protocol was a key issue in her first call with President Joe Biden, with both the White House and 10 Downing Street having decidedly different readouts. 10 Downing Street said the two “agreed on the importance of protecting the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement”, while the White House wrote that they “discussed their shared commitment to protecting the gains of the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and the importance of reaching a negotiated agreement with the European Union on the Northern Ireland Protocol.” Does this presage the start of strained relations between Washington and London? The jury is still out. A recent piece in the Financial Times suggested that Truss did not have good relations with her American counterpart, Secretary Anthony Blinken, suggesting she was “blunt and binary”, and questioned the value of the “Special Relationship”. It is unclear how Washington will respond to her leadership and that lack of clarity does suggest she could have difficulties in the offing. It is, nonetheless, important to recognize that the special relationship remains of great (perhaps outsized) importance to the UK when compared to the U.S. and that successive prime ministers have invested time and energy in it, despite the initial hesitancy or personal proclivities.
Truss’ immediate issues are the aforementioned domestic challenges. Truss will most pressingly need to move quickly to address the energy crisis, which is perhaps the most pressing voter issue in the UK at the moment alongside inflation. She is expected to release a plan that will cap bills at £2,500 a year, which would still mark a considerable increase for households. The plan would also ask energy producers to lock in 15-year contracts at fixed rates, though it is unclear whether the companies would accept the proposal. How her government will pay for these caps is unclear as she has balked at a windfall tax on energy profits. Kwarteng has proposed a “Big Bang 2.0” of deregulation for the City of London to renew London’s position as global financial capital.
There is little expectation that the UK’s policies towards supporting Ukraine will change in the near future. Her first call was with Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, and she accepted an invitation to visit Kyiv. London continues to champion Kyiv’s cause, training Ukrainian soldiers, and providing considerable amounts of material aid and assistance. The question as to whether or not that aid can sustain itself in the face of rising economic pressures remains unclear.
CHIPS Strategy Released
How do you spend $50 billion dollars? That is just what the Biden administration laid out this week, as the Department of Commerce and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) unveiled the implementation strategy for the funds released by the CHIPS and Science Act that became law on August 9th. The administration has also launched a CHIPS.gov website to appraise the public about the strategy, latest news, and protections of taxpayer money. The strategy is a welcome step forwards, and it is worth breaking down some of its details to see where there are opportunities and challenges. Still, even this much money may not be enough given the scale, breadth, and depth of the semiconductor supply chain and the competition for dominance in this critical technology.
To answer the lede question, the administration’s strategy breaks down the spending as follows: $28 billion for investments in manufacturing of the most sophisticated logic and memory chips — none of these are currently produced in the United States, so the administration is moving ahead with an eye towards expansion of manufacturing and “multiple high-cost production lines and associated supplier ecosystems. $10 billion in incentives for new domestic production of older chips that are critical for national security and key economic sectors—these are the ones that are in more often in the consumer goods, cars, and other things we have associated with the “semiconductor shortage”. Together, this first $38 billion will be grants, cooperative agreements, or subsidies for loans/loan guarantees. The remaining funds will be invested in R&D programs including a “National Semiconductor Technology Center” and other institutional developments focused on R&D. Here the strategy importantly notes the “lab-to-fab” challenge faced as U.S. strengths in research and development face headwinds when U.S. manufacturing capacity dwindles.
It is worth noting that this current strategy speaks nothing of the $1.5 billion for the Public Wireless Supply Chain Innovation Fund, though that will be run through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) rather than NIST. If anything, it is a positive sign that the industry players can continue to work with those government agencies that they know, rather than reshaping the entire process. Still, it will remain to be seen how quickly the administration can move to disburse these funds. Furthermore, with the work that NTIA is doing on our telecommunication supply chain, that is a critical area where investments in technology architectures like Open RAN for 5G and 6G require action now to secure critical telecommunications, not two or five years in the future. From lab-to-fab is one challenge, but so too is the scaling and commercialization of these technologies — key to the follow-on innovations allowed by the first-mover advantage.
In addition to the funds, there are the policy aims. Though not listed first, the incentives program will prioritize security and resilience in the supply chain, including various standards and guidelines. The Commerce Department aims to structure incentives to attract private capital and collaboration amongst various industry stakeholders. The administration also lists goals about expansion of opportunities for semiconductor jobs in underserved communities and the creation of other semiconductor “clusters” at the local and regional level. While these goals are laudable, it should not come at the expense of building on our existing strengths in R&D and the locales that have already developed the knowledge base and workforce focused on semiconductors.
Finally, that the strategy recognizes the workforce demonstrates the remaining challenges where government and private sector money can help but is hardly a panacea: people, construction, and materials. Building and operating these fabs, researching future chip technology, and the broader innovation ecosystem all require a well-trained workforce. Reports estimate that we need 70,000 to 90,000 skilled workers for new semiconductor plants. Building new fabs, even with these incentives, will take years, as semiconductor producers and consumers note. The global environment remains unsettled to say the least, demonstrating the importance of attention to these policies. Meanwhile, we must be cautious about our vulnerabilities created by foreign supply chains.
If we need to be reminded of the importance of semiconductors, we need simply look around at nearly everything we use — or we can look at how Russia is being hit hard by the cut off in semiconductors, despite most of the focus being paid to energy. China too is moving in response to U.S. and allied policies restricting its access to the most advanced chip technology. China is pushing ahead with massive investments in chip manufacturing focused on self-sufficiency, while striving to close the technology gap. Still it is reliant on many western chips, while revenues from doing business in China fuel western R&D. Finally, as the recent piece in The Wall Street Journal on Secretary Raimando’s bipartisan outreach on semiconductor policy noted, addressing this competition is a bipartisan issue.
This remarkable dive into the secretary’s leadership closed noting how this global competition to build chip fabs is unfolding:
A few weeks after Taiwan’s GlobalWafers Co. gave up a $5 billion expansion plan in Germany and started seeking an alternative site in February, her team launched a campaign to woo it. She weighed in with a one-hour call in June with GlobalWafers Chief Executive Doris Hsu. Ms. Hsu said that without U.S. aid, its new plant would have to go to South Korea where construction costs would be one-third, rather than the U.S.
“We will make the math work,” Ms. Raimondo assured the CEO. Two weeks later, GlobalWafers announced a new plant in Texas with up to $5 billion in investment and 1,500 jobs.
This illustrates the competition that we may face amongst our allies and partners, as governments unroll incentives and China retreats towards its goals of technology self-sufficiency. The challenge now is to move quickly and efficiently with the funds that have been allocated, while understanding that more remains for both administration and future legislative priorities — tax credits for R&D, further fab incentives, workforce and immigraiton issues, just to name a few. It is important also to avoid a beggar-thy-neighbor dynamic with our key allies and partners, and instead build on comparative strengths in R&D, precision equipment, materials, and manufacturing. This is a promising step forward in long-awaited efforts to bolster economic security and innovation leadership, but there’s more to come.
Automation for Force Readiness
The best way to integrate militaries and defense partnerships is through training, except of course, when the chips are down and two forces find themselves suddenly aligned against a common foe. But the best way to overcome the inevitable rubs and scuffs when the real bullets start flying is to develop standard practices ahead of time — training and integrated exercises.
Now of course, we are in a post-pandemic society (it still seems weird that back to normal is a new-era), which yet constrains how groups can and do cram themselves into close proximity for any duration. So plans for building increased cooperation are often limited by humans being in contact with each other. An additional concern for ensuring force readiness resides with personnel manning, where the Defense Department is currently dealing with a crushing deficit in new service member enlistments and mass exodus of its officer corps.
The Air Force has a innovative solution to these problems, and it is something this space has previously noted when it was first publicly announced as a concept initiative two years ago: the WINGMAN concept, where an unmanned, semi-autonomous and fully armed platform will fly as a ‘dash-two’ to manned aircraft like the F-35. This week, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall spoke at a Defense News conference where he briefed that the service will be holding a competition for defense vendors to provide unmanned aircraft systems to fill this emerging requirement.
The concept of pairing collaborative combat aircraft with a 5th-generation fighter is one of the SECAFs top priorities, as the service is looking to achieve a competitive advantage against rising competitors like China, who has emerged as a major player in the next-generation aircraft front, courtesy of stolen intellectual property and hacked classified designs of the F-35. Because finding, training and retaining pilots is a constant struggle for the force, and especially the top notch fighter pilots who make up the top-most fraction of a percentage of the flying community (and I defend, are superior to all others, Top gun fandom be darned), filling seats in 5th-gen aircraft is approaching the Danger Zone (pardon the Kenny Loggins pun).
What the WINGMAN approach will do, as I’ve already covered, is simply:
“replaces the number two pilot in a sortie of combat aircraft. What that ‘wingman’ (always the more junior pilot) provides when a multi-ship formation of fighters is on mission includes telemetry, weather data, flight plans and other subsidiary mission components — enabling the flight lead to direct the flight’s reactions to mission events and other inputs. In theory, making these unmanned, AI-driven drones enables many more ‘manned’ flight leads, which simply increases the number of sorties available for deterrence across the spectrum of flying missions.”
The next confrontation in the skies will see threats to American air supremacy unlike any previous era of combat. The proliferation of hyper-advanced radar tracking systems, long-range interceptor and electronic warfare networks, and integrated air/space/ground defense bubbles — à la the Anti-Access/Area-Denial (A2/AD) zones in the South China Sea — places airborne systems at both a premium, and a major disadvantage. In major combat between two antagonists, equally equipped antagonists, the advantage typically goes to whoever has mobility, or doesn’t need it. Mainland China likely isn’t falling off the tectonic plates, which means the combination of surface area to cover — maritime and air — combined with its prolific defense zones, gives the PRC advantage in an armed conflict over the United States in a future confrontation.
Thus, those highly exclusive experts at the controls of expensive, rare and delicate aircraft are arguably the valuable asset in the inventory. Per Secretary Kendall, “because a drone WINGMAN can be sacrificed, it might now need all the protective subsystems a manned-aircraft could require, which would help reduce costs”, further, “modularity raises the uncertainty that the adversary has to deal with because he doesn’t know what’s in any given aircraft”. Pilots being a critical resource nestled within their pricey jets, at least have the potential of increased survivability when flying with a taskable, self-flying robot who can carry nearly as many weapons and sensors. What this portends is the rise of drone swarms intended to offset the prolific weapons coverage which presently gives a Chinese opponent the advantage if conflict broke out tomorrow.
This means that, by design, these aircraft are meant to be lost, or at least appreciably sacrificial, preferable to losing a manned asset in a dog fight or air interdiction mission. Thus, costs are a critical factor in system design, a point which Secretary Kendall alluded to when discussing the budget hurdles facing this foundational initiative. The goal is to keep the cost of any commercially-built system to half of the F-35A, which weighs in at roughly $78 million per tail. Cost control measures might include partner nation investment, which, despite its absurd price tag, has indeed reduced the overhead of the F-35 program by diversifying the purchaser(s). Indo-Pacific partners, notably Japan and Australia, are among those whom the Air Force is in discussions with to buy into the WINGMAN program in the coming years. The specific details of both the programmatic budget widgets, as well as the platform requirements, are not publicly available, as the systems with which the F-35 remain highly classified.
But this move by the Air Force to begin fielding candidates for automated systems to join the skies alongside our living, breathing pilots indicates that the automation of warfare is nearer in the future than we thought. So long as adversaries want to build systems to threaten American and allies’ most valuable resource — its human hardware — then it appears that the Air Force is planning on reducing that vulnerability. Bringing along allies in exercises that will incorporate these automated systems into the broader panoply doubles down on hardening that vulnerability across the collective security apparatus in the future balance of powers.
While Russia Paints a Rosy Picture of International Cooperation, it Fights in Ukraine Alone
From the earliest days of its invasion of Ukraine, Russia has attempted to push back on the West’s remarkably united response to Moscow’s aggression by rhetorically painting a picture of wide international acquiescence or support for the invasion. Upon closer inspection, however, this international support for Russia’s war appears to be remarkably shallow, and not fit to support Moscow in a conflict as intense as its war in Ukraine.
Before Russia’s February 23 invasion, all public indicators seemed to indicate that the Kremlin enjoyed sweeping support from its international partners, particularly China, when Russia’s actual intent remained unclear to outside observers. Meeting on the opening day of the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese leader Xi Jinping proclaimed the start of a so-called “no limits” partnership, one which signaled the beginning of a new epoch of Russo-Chinese relations. A Russian-led intervention in January to come to the rescue of the beleaguered Kazakhstani government under the auspices of the Moscow-dominated Collective Security Treaty Organization raised the prospect that the alliance had been rejuvenated into a workable force under Russian direction. Shortly before Russia’s invasion, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko declared that Belarus would go to war alongside Russia if it were “attacked.” Shortly thereafter, Putin’s Russia invaded Ukraine, putting its “no limits” partnership with China and other demonstrations of support to the ultimate test short of Russia itself being attacked.
Immediately following Russia’s invasion, what must have seemed to be a comfortably supportive international atmosphere in the Kremlin melted away days after Russia’s invasion. Although Lukashenko allowed Russian troops to launch offensive actions towards the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv from Belarusian territory, he himself has not joined the war to date. A May meeting of CSTO member heads of state did not produce any form of diplomatic or material support for Russia’s invasion. China itself would go on to push back on the idea that Beijing’s “no limits” partnership with Moscow entailed military cooperation and added that it is not interested in “confrontation” with the West at this time.
As Russia’s relationship with its European neighbors and the remainder of the West tumbled to previously inconceivable lows, Moscow has pointed to the BRICS grouping (which includes Brazil, India, China, and South Africa in addition to Russia) as an alternative to the economic heft of the West. A recent example of this can be found in Russian State Duma Chairman Vyacheslav Volodin’s urging that BRICS states attempt to “dedollarize” the world economy by settling accounts among each other in their own national currencies while speaking in connection with the 8th BRICS parliamentary forum. However, BRICS has so far remained hesitant to take on the West on Russia’s behalf, in support of a war they have no investment in.
Russia’s growing international isolation was visible in the Saint Petersburg International Economic Forum, which previously was known to convene a wide variety of Western political and business leaders as headline participants. Instead, the foreign dignitaries who attended this year’s gathering either stirred controversy (as in the case of Taliban representatives, who came on behalf of a group that is still banned as a terrorist organization in Russia), or embarrassed the Kremlin, as was the case of visiting President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, who pointedly refused to recognize Russia’s separatist statelets in eastern Ukraine, triggering a diplomatic skirmish. Similarly, Putin’s headline appearance at Russia’s Eastern Economic Forum was designed to tout Russia’s defiant turn to Asia as its diplomatic and economic ties with the West sour, the most senior Chinese official to attend this year’s Forum was Li Zhanshu, who is generally referred to is as China’s third-in-command.
Russia has tried to point to its Vostok 2022 exercises held between September 1 and 7 in Russia’s Far East as a signal that Russia’s military still works with the armed forces of friendly states. The exercises, which featured a combined 50,000 troops, 140 aircraft, and 60 naval vessels from China, India, the CSTO, and a variety of friendly countries in Asia and elsewhere in the world according to Moscow, occurred as Russian troops in Ukraine play defense near Kherson and, as of this week, in the environs of Kharkiv. However, most of these states appear unwilling to put all their eggs in Russia’s basket, as seen in the participation of Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Mongolia in U.S.-sponsored military exercises hosted by Tajikistan in August.
Today, Russia is forced to rely on covert sanctions-busting import schemes through China or Eurasian Economic Union member states, among others, to acquire products of vital importance to Russia’s economy and industry, such as microchips. While it is not clear if the governments of the states in question have any hand in such sanction-busting imports, their avoidance of public endorsement of such activity highlights the pressure placed on third-party states not to help prop up the Russian economy or Russia’s war machine. Although U.S. intelligence sources have reported that Russia has begun to source drones from Iran and artillery munitions from North Korea, Russia has received no such aid from its “no-limits” partnership with China.
Despite its declared allies appearing to get cold feet with regards to aid to Russia during its invasion, Russia will more likely than not continue to press on with its messaging that its international partnerships remain as strong as ever. Putin and Xi are set to meet in the second half of next week (their first since February) as part of a larger meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Putin will likely privately push for China to step up its support for Russia, and Moscow will tout the meeting as proof of Russia’s enduring links to what is arguably its most important partner. However, while Russia and China (plus Iran) may not enjoy a formal alliance linking them, they have a history of cooperation in a variety of spheres, which is unlikely to be entirely or permanently halted by Russia’s ongoing war in Ukraine.
News You May Have Missed
Department of Defense Stops Accepting F-35 Deliveries after Discovering Chinese Sourcing in Component
On September 7, Pentagon spokesman Russell Goemaere announced that the Department of Defense had temporarily stopped accepting deliveries of the F-35 multirole aircraft. According to the Pentagon, a magnet sourced from unauthorized Chinese material was found to be incorporated in the aircraft’s engine lubricant pump. The magnet in question was discovered as part of an investigation that culminated in August. According to the Joint Program Office, which is charged with the F-35 project, an alternative source for the magnet’s alloy will be used in future manufacturing of the aircraft.
In response to a July 15 cyberattack which paralyzed Albanian government websites and online services, Tirana ordered the entirety of the staff of the Iranian embassy to leave the country within 24 hours. Shortly after the last of Iran’s personnel left the embassy, Albanian police searched the compound. The embassy was reportedly full of activity between receiving the order to leave and its deadline, with unknown documents even being burned in a barrel outside. In ordering the Iranian embassy to leave the country, Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama said that Tirana possessed “undeniable evidence” that Iran perpetrated the attacks. Cyberattacks against Albanian government targets occurred in a major cluster in July, around the time a “Free Iran World Summit” was scheduled to be held, which was subsequently canceled out of security concerns. Albania is a NATO ally of the United States that has harbored Iranian dissidents in the past, and has more recently hosted Afghan refugees.
Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. Michael McCaul called out Apple’s decision to explore sourcing iPhone memory from Yangtze Memory Technologies Co. (YMTC), a Chinese chip manufacturer with links to the Chinese government and Communist Party. YMTC is also under investigation for supplying chips to Huawei in violation of sanctions on controlled U.S. technology. Having YMTC chips in Apple devices would raise concerns about Beijing’s access to Apple users’ data given Chinese national security laws, while also highlighting Apple’s continued dependence on Chinese supply chains — supply chains which are seen as the pinnacle of CEO Tim Cook’s tenure at the company. Apple responded that the decision would involve iPhones sold only in China and that data on Apple devices was encrypted.
The views of authors are their own and not that of CSPC.