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International press review Extrema Ratio - 12 April

Extrema Ratio focuses on the topics we work on, including geopolitcs, cybersecurity, critical technologies, foreign interference, disinformation, international law, national security.


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A NEW FOREIGN POLICY FOR AMERICANS


Photo: POLITICO illustration/Photos by U.S. Army, Getty Images, AP

Politico

JACOB HEILBRUNN

Meet the conservative intellectual seeking to remake the GOP’s foreign policy.

Elbridge “Bridge” Colby is, as Donald Trump might say, straight out of central casting for a member of D.C.’s foreign policy elite. He has degrees from Harvard and Yale, a membership to Washington’s Metropolitan Club and the kind of coiffed hair and clipped accent that you’d expect from an American blue-blood. So pristine is his pedigree — his grandfather was head of the CIA — that a lightly fictionalized version of him appears in the New York Times columnist Ross Douthat’s memoir of his undergraduate years at Harvard, titled Privilege.

Robert A. Taft

January 1,1951

in 1951, Sen. Robert A. Taft, who was known as “Mr. Republican,” published a book called A Foreign Policy For Americans decrying Western Europeans for failing to pay for their own defense and warning that China was enemy number one.

China

Fox News

China warned on Wednesday that strengthening ties between the U.S. and the Philippines should not harm its security and territorial interests, including longstanding tensions in the South China Sea.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Wang Wenbin said in a statement issued by the country's embassy in Manila that U.S. drills held in the Philippines "should not target any third party and should be conducive to regional peace and stability."

New Twitter disinfo campaign targeting 2 Chinese activists Axios Sam Sabin A network of Chinese-language Twitter accounts appears to be spreading disinformation to discredit two well-known Chinese activists and dissidents, including one who was the focus of a recent Axios investigation, researchers at NewsGuard first told Axios.

China’s internet watchdog proposes rules, security assessment for AI tools similar to ChatGPT South China Morning Post Xinmen Shen China’s internet watchdog has unveiled a new set of draft rules targeting ChatGPT-like services, as governments around the world move to rein in the rapid development of generative artificial intelligence tools.

China tech giant Alibaba to roll out ChatGPT rival BBC Peter Hoskins Chinese technology giant Alibaba has announced plans to roll out its own artificial intelligence ChatGPT-style product called Tongyi Qianwen. Its cloud computing unit says it will integrate the chatbot across Alibaba's businesses in the "near future" but did not give details on its timeline.

  • MI5 warns of Chinese spies buying citizenship to third countries and exploiting visa-free access into UK. Home Office and FCDO said to be at odds over plans to introduce new visa restrictions. Matt Dathan and Fiona Hamilton. The Times.

  • China suspected of building military installations on Myanmar’s Coco Islands. Infrastructure development on the islands, which are located just 55km north of Indian air and naval bases, has raised questions. Maria Siow. South China Morning Post.

  • China records first H3N8 bird flu death, says WHO report. The woman, who is thought to have caught the virus at a wet market, is the first known fatality in humans. Sarah Newey. The Telegraph.

  • Hong Kong emigrants to UK blocked from accessing £2.2bn in pensions. In 2021, the Hong Kong government said residents could not use emigration to the UK under the BN(O) scheme as a valid reason for early withdrawal of pension savings. Primrose Riordan. Financial Times.

  • Chinese Foreign Minister begins visit to Uzbekistan. Qin set to meet with his counterparts from six countries in the region later this week to discuss the situation in Afghanistan. Liu Zhen. South China Morning Post.

  • Chinese regulator to place new AI products under mandatory security review before public release. Hours after Alibaba announces the launch of ChatGPT-alternative, the Cyberspace Administration of China warns that AI products should “embody core socialist values and must not contain any content that subverts state power”. Ryan McMorrow and Nian Liu.Financial Times.

  • The Renminbi’s share of trade finance has doubled since the start of the Ukraine war, according to Swift data. Analysts say the growth reflects both the greater use of China’s currency to trade with Russia and the rising cost of dollar financing. Hudson Lockett and Cheng Leng.Financial Times.

  • GCL Technology considers its first overseas plant in Middle East or Europe to bypass US trade barriers. Eric Ng.South China Morning Post.

GCL Technology is a Chinese polysilicon producer, formerly known as GCL-Poly Energy. It was one of three entities with proven links to forced labour transfer programmes in Xinjiang, according to a report published by researchers at Sheffield Hallam University in May 2021.
  • In China, young people are walking away from white-collar jobs. An increasingly competitive job market and demanding corporate culture fuel disillusionment among China’s graduate population. Vivian Wang and Zixu Wang.New York Times.

  • China’s super rich are voting with their assets - and fleeing Xi’s regime. Elites head for Singapore as China becomes an increasingly hostile environemnt for business. Cindy Yu.The Telegraph.

  • Pentagon Leaks: key revelations of classified documents. Leaked intelligence covers China and Ukraine, as well as China’s plans to build a deepwater port in Nicaragua. Julian Borger.The Guardian.

  • CTTPP members now have to figure out what to do about China. Lessons learnt from the UK’s accession set ground for dealing with China and Taiwan. Wendy Cutler. Nikkei Asia.

  • China’s banking regulators are caught between Beijing and its regions. Conflicts between local and central bodies are likely to worsen after regulatory reform. Cheng Leng. Financial Times.

  • As the West tries to limit TikTok, what about China’s other apps? A look at the other mobile apps yet to attract regulatory scrutiny. Amy Hawkins and Helen Davidson. The Guardian.

  • China plans to close the airspace north of Taiwan from Apr. 16 to 18, four sources with knowledge of the matter said. One senior official with direct knowledge of the matter said the flight ban would affect 60%-70% of flights going between Northeast Asia and Southeast Asia and flights between Taiwan and South Korea, Japan, and North America. Reuters reports.

  • China’s recent military drills and simulated blockade of Taiwan suggest China is getting “ready to launch a war,” Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu told CNN yesterday. Jim Sciutto reports for CNN.

  • China today said that Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen was pushing Taiwan into “stormy seas” after Beijing held military exercises in response to Tsai’s recent meeting with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. Liz Lee and Ben Blanchard report for Reuters.

  • China and Russia are in advanced secret talks with Iran to replenish Iran’s supply of a chemical compound used in ballistic missiles, diplomats familiar with the matter say. The move could help Russia replenish its depleted stock of rockets. Under U.N. resolution 2231, passed in 2015, countries are prohibited from supplying Iran with the chemical without approval from the U.N. Security Council. Matthew Karnitschnig reports for POLITICO.

  • Beijing is considering softening its conditions for participation in a multibillion-dollar debt-restructuring plan for developing countries, the Wall Street Journal reported. It could drop a demand that international financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund take losses in any debt relief plans.

USA

Fox News

Peter Doocy and Greg Norma

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby has revealed to Fox News on Wednesday that there is a "small U.S. military presence" at the American embassy in Ukraine. Kirby was asked about leaked Pentagon documents suggesting there are U.S. Special Forces operating inside the war-torn country.

Reuters

Serbia, one of the only countries in Europe that has refused to sanction Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, agreed to supply arms to Kyiv or has sent them already, according to a classified Pentagon document.

Biden administration weighs possible rules for AI tools like ChatGPT The Washington Post Ryan Tracy The Biden administration has begun examining whether checks need to be placed on artificial intelligence tools such as ChatGPT, amid growing concerns that the technology could be used to discriminate or spread harmful information.

FBI warns of cybercriminals posing as PRC to target Chinese communities The Record by Recorded Future Jonathan Greig Cybercriminals posing as members of China’s government are targeting Chinese nationals based in the United States, according to a new advisory from the FBI. The law enforcement agency said the scammers are posing as law enforcement officers or prosecutors from the People’s Republic of China in an effort to defraud people.

US tech firms should wargame response if China invades Taiwan, warns NSA cybersecurity chief Breaking Defense Sydney J. Freedberg Jr. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year sent American tech firms scrambling to shore up their operations, especially those with workers in danger zones. But a Chinese invasion of Taiwan would have even more chaotic consequences for which businesses should start planning today, said the National Security Agency’s director of cybersecurity, Rob Joyce.

Social-media platform Discord emerges at center of classified U.S. documents leak The Wall Street Journal Sarah E. Needleman A federal investigation into a major leak of highly classified U.S. documents has cast a spotlight on a social-media outlet popularized by videogame enthusiasts.

Robot police dog returns to NYPD despite earlier criticism Associated Press Karen Matthews New York City officials unveiled three new high-tech policing devices Tuesday, including a robotic dog that critics called creepy when it first joined the police pack 2 1/2 years ago.

  • US House of Representatives to vote on the Countering Telecommunications Abroad Act next week. If passed, the legislation would require the State Department to report on US Nato allies and others using telecoms equipment in their 5G networks from companies like Huawei and ZTE, among other measures. South China Morning Post.

  • Opposition lawmakers in South Korea criticized the leaked Pentagon documents as “a super-scale security breach​” and possible evidence of U.S. spying. The opposition has also accused the United States of “violating the sovereignty” of a key ally. The South Korean government has insisted that the scandal would not and should not damage their alliance with the United States.​ So far, the reaction to the leak in South Korea is the strongest by an ally. Choe Sang-Hun reports for the New York Times.

  • Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban named NATO ally the United States as one of the top three adversaries for his Fidesz Party, according to a leaked CIA assessment. The revelations come as the Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó said he had reached a new energy deal with Russia yesterday, allowing Budapest to import Russian gas at volumes exceeding previous agreements. Hungary is also nurturing closer ties with China. Thomas Grove reports for the Wall Street Journal.

  • The United States agreed yesterday to complete a road map in the coming months to deliver U.S. defense assistance to the Philippines over the next five to 10 years. China’s foreign ministry today said it was “seriously concerned and strongly dissatisfied” by the agreement. Idrees Ali and David Brunnstrom report for Reuters.

  • The rules proposed (NYT) by the Environmental Protection Agency would require two-thirds of new passenger cars and one-fourth of new heavy trucks sold in the country to be fully electric by 2032.

  • Lawyers have revealed that Rupert Murdoch is an “executive chair” at Fox News, despite earlier assertions that Murdoch had no official role at Fox News. The earlier assertions were intended to insulate the Murdoch family from testifying in the Dominion Voting Systems defamation case. The revelation angered Superior Court Judge Eric Davis when it came up during yesterday’s hearing. Davis suggested that if he had known of Murdoch’s role at Fox News, he might not have concluded last month: that while there was no dispute that the statements aired by Fox were false, it was for a jury to decide whether Fox News acted with actual malice and whether Fox Corp. directly participated in airing the statements. It is unclear whether Davis will take any action in response to the late disclosure. POLITICO reports.

  • Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg yesterday filed a lawsuit against the House Judiciary Committee and its chair, Jim Jordan (R-OH), alleging Republican lawmakers were illegitimately interfering with his prosecution of former President Trump. Bragg, a Democrat, is asking a federal judge to block a subpoena that the House committee served on Mark Pomerantz, a former prosecutor who worked on the Trump investigation. The subpoena, which calls for Pomerantz’s testimony at an Apr. 20 deposition, seeks sensitive and confidential information that belongs to the district attorney’s office, the lawsuit alleges. Bragg is also asking the judge to block the enforcement of any future subpoenas served on himself and his current or former staff. District Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil scheduled a hearing for Apr. 19. Corinne Ramey reports for the Wall Street Journal.

  • Tennessee Governor Republican Bill Lee yesterday attempted to strengthen the state’s background checks for gun purchases by signing an executive order.

  • U.S. intelligence agencies have begun providing leaders of the House and Senate access to some of the classified documents found in possession of former President Trump and President Biden, according to U.S. officials. It will likely be several weeks before lawmakers are given full access to the documents they seek. The Justice Department previously resisted sharing copies of the documents with Congress, citing concerns raised by the special counsels overseeing investigations into how such materials ended up among Trump and Biden’s personal effects. Karoun Demirjian and Julian E. Barnes report for the New York Times.

  • Robert Sanford, a former firefighter who threw a fire extinguisher at police officers during the Jan. 6 Attack, has been sentenced to more than four years in prison, federal officials said yesterday. Sanford pleaded guilty in September to assaulting law enforcement officers with a dangerous weapon. Other charges were dropped as part of a plea agreement. Livia Albeck-Ripka reports for the New York Times.

  • Tina Peters, a former clerk in Mesa County, Colorado, on Monday, was given four months of house arrest and 120 hours of community service in connection with her February 2022 arrest on a misdemeanor obstruction charge. Peters was barred from overseeing elections after her indictment on separate charges related to tampering with voting equipment. Neil Vigdor reports for the New York Times.

  • U.S./Saudi Arabia/Yemen: U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan praised Saudi efforts (AP) to work toward an end to Yemen’s yearslong civil war in a call with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Saudi officials met with Yemen’s Houthi rebels over the weekend in an attempt to accelerate peace talks.

Americas

Mixing media and statecraft in Latin America China Media Project David Bandurski During a ceremony in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa on March 28, the state-run China Media Group inaugurated a new national bureau in what was one of the first formal celebrations between China and Honduras since the Central American country formally broke off relations with Taiwan just two days earlier, on March 26. But the message between the lines of this new bilateral media relationship, coming with astonishing swiftness in the wake of a diplomatic shift that left diplomats in Taiwan reeling, was that official PRC media outlets, far from reporting on the sidelines of international affairs, are active agents in advancing the interests of the Chinese Party-state — well in advance of the story.

  • Chile: Congress approved a plan (MercoPress) to gradually reduce the duration of the work week from forty-five to forty hours over the next five years.

  • U.S., Colombia, Panama to Cooperate on Migration: The countries announced they will work together (AP) on a sixty-day campaign to stem rising illegal migration through the jungle border between Colombia and Panama, but they did not provide additional details. This photo essay shows the perils migrants endure to traverse the Colombia-Panama border crossing known as the Darién Gap.

Asia

North Korean hackers linked to 3CX supply-chain attack, investigation finds The Record by Recorded Future Alexander Martin Enterprise phone company 3CX said on Tuesday that a recent supply-chain attack on its network — which was used by hackers to attempt to install malware on clients’ desktops — was very likely conducted by a group connected to North Korea.

  • Japan and the Netherlands announce plans for new export controls on semiconductor equipment. Japan and the Netherlands reveal critical new details of arrangement following the United States’ 7 October export controls. Gregory C. Allen, Emily Benson and Margot Putnam.CSIS.

  • Japan’s ambassador to India detailed plans (Reuters) for a port and other major infrastructure projects worth some $1.27 billion during a meeting with Indian, Bangladeshi, and Japanese officials. Japan and India have built joint infrastructure projects in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and several African countries as an alternative to China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

  • India/Pakistan: Pakistani officials criticized India’s decision (Al Jazeera) to hold an upcoming Group of Twenty (G20) meeting in India-administered Kashmir, a Muslim-majority territory claimed by both countries.

World

Experts warn of new spyware threat targeting journalists and political figures The Guardian Stephanie Kirchgaessner Security experts have warned about the emergence of previously unknown spyware with hacking capabilities comparable to NSO Group’s Pegasus that has already been used by clients to target journalists, political opposition figures and an employee of an NGO.

  • Sweet QuaDreams: A first look at spyware vendor QuaDream’s exploits, victims, and customers Citizen Lab Bill Marczak, John Scott-Railton, Astrid Perry, Noura Al-Jizawi, Siena Anstis, Zoe Panday, Emma Lyon, and Ron Deibert Based on an analysis of samples shared with us by Microsoft Threat Intelligence, we developed indicators that enabled us to identify at least five civil society victims of QuaDream’s spyware and exploits in North America, Central Asia, Southeast Asia, Europe, and the Middle East. Victims include journalists, political opposition figures, and an NGO worker. We are not naming the victims at this time. QuaDream is an Israeli company that specialises in the development and sale of advanced digital offensive technology to government clients. The company is known for its spyware marketed under the name “Reign”, which, like NSO Group’s Pegasus spyware, reportedly utilises zero-click exploits to hack into target devices.

  • Iran has used earthquake relief flights to bring weapons and military equipment into its strategic ally Syria, according to Syrian, Iranian, Israeli, and Western sources. The supplies included advanced communications equipment, radar batteries, and spare parts to upgrade Syria’s Iran-provided air defense system. These deliveries aimed to buttress Iran’s defenses against Israel in Syria and strengthen Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Suleiman Al-Khalidi, James Mackenzie And Parisa Hafezi report for Reuters.

  • Airstrikes by Myanmar’s military yesterday killed as many as 100 people, including many children attending a ceremony held by opponents of army rule, according to several sources. The military government’s spokesperson, Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun, acknowledging the attack, accused anti-government forces in the area of carrying out a violent campaign of terror. Analysts for the U.N. and non-governmental organizations have gathered credible evidence of large-scale human rights abuses by the army, including the burning of entire villages and displacement of more than a million people, triggering a humanitarian crisis. Grant Peck Reports for AP News.

  • The previously unknown spyware Reign, comparable to NSO Group’s Pegasus, made by an Israeli company called QuaDream, has been used by clients to target journalists, political opposition figures, and an NGOemployee, according to a Citizen Lab report.

  • Taiwan: The ruling Democratic Progressive Party nominated Vice President William Lai Ching-te (Nikkei) as its candidate in next year’s presidential election. Lai is seen as having similar policy positions as President Tsai Ing-wen; in January, Lai said Taiwan does not need to “further declare” its independence as it is “already an independent and sovereign nation.”

  • A purported leaked intelligence document that appeared in the Washington Post this week claimed that Egypt secretly planned to send rockets, artillery rounds, and gunpowder to Russia. An unnamed official source told a state-backed Egyptian news outlet (NYT) that the claims were false.

Taiwan has talked China into scaling back its plans to turn air space north of the island into a no-fly zone April 16-18, Taiwanese officials said. China now plans to close the air space for just under 30 minutes on Sunday morning, Reuters reports, which will have significantly less impact on air traffic in the region.

The zone in question is northeast of Taiwan and near a group of disputed islets, Reuters writes; Japan has said the zone includes Japanese territory.

A Taiwanese official said they had used "multiple channels" to convince China, and had also told countries that might be affected by the closure. This all comes on the heels of several days of Chinese military exercises around Taiwan in an aggressive response to the meeting of Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and U.S. House Speaker Rep. Kevin McCarthy during Ing-Wen's layover in McCarthy's home state.

Australia

Quarter of Tasmania’s population hacked by Russians, says Premier Jeremy Rockliff The Australian Matthew Denholm Up to a quarter of Tasmanians may have had personal data stolen by Russian-linked hackers, the Premier has suggested. Jeremy Rockliff on Tuesday said the scale of the hack of Education Department data handled by third-party transfer system GoAnywhere MFT had emerged after a “very complex analysis”.

Latitude Financial will not pay ransom to cyber hackers as millions of customer records compromised ABC Stephanie Chalmers Latitude Financial will not pay a ransom to those behind a cyber attack, as the details from 14 million customer records remain at risk of being released. Latitude has told the stock exchange it has received a ransom demand but will not pay, based on the advice of the federal government and cyber crime experts.

  • Australian industry calls for the government to ban cyber ransom payments The Australian David Swan The Latitude mass data breach has sparked fresh calls for the government to outlaw the payment of cyber ransoms, with industry figures warning that extra deterrents are needed to curb the spike in cyber attacks, while praising Latitude for refusing to pay a cyber ransom.

Ukraine - Russia

How U.S.-made chips are flowing into Russia Nikkei Asia More than a year since the start of the Ukraine war, hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of U.S.-made semiconductors are flowing into Russia despite Washington's sanctions on the country, a Nikkei investigation has found.

Ukrainian hackers say they have compromised Russian spy who hacked Democrats in 2016 Reuters Raphael Satter Ukrainian hackers claim to have broken into the emails of a senior Russian military spy wanted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for hacking the Hillary Clinton campaign and other senior U.S. Democrats ahead of Donald Trump's election to the presidency in 2016.

  • The U.K. has the largest contingent of special forces in Ukraine (50), followed by fellow NATO states Latvia (17), France (15), the U.S. (14), and the Netherlands (1), according to leaked documents. The information in the leak is likely to be seized upon by Moscow, which has recently argued that it is not just confronting Ukraine, but NATO. In response to the leak, the U.K.’s Ministry of Defence tweeted yesterday that the leak had demonstrated a “serious level of inaccuracy.” Paul Adams and George Wright report for BBC News.

  • Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken said yesterday that they had spoken to their Ukrainian counterparts in a bid to project calm following leaks on the state of the Ukrainian military. Blinken also said he had spoken to unnamed U.S. allies to “reassure them about our own commitment to safeguarding intelligence.” Michael Crowley report for the New York Times.

  • Canada yesterday agreed to send more military aid to Ukraine and impose new sanctions over Russia’s invasion after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal in Toronto. Canada will send 21,000 assault rifles, 38 machine guns, and 2.4 million rounds of ammunition to Ukraine and impose new sanctions targeting 14 Russian individuals and 34 entities. During the meeting, Trudeau’s official website was shut down, and the Canadian spy service acknowledged “some” other government pages had also been offline. Trudeau said the incident was an “unsurprising” act by Russian hackers. Ismail Shakil and Steve Scherer report for Reuters.

  • Russia’s lower house of parliament yesterday tightened conscription laws, making it almost impossible for Russians to dodge conscription in the future. The upper house is expected to adopt the measure today and send it to President Vladimir Putin for approval. The law provides for electronic military summonses with bans on draftees leaving the country, making it possible to recruit thousands more men to fight — even as the Kremlin denies plans for a controversial new mobilization. Robyn Dixon reports for the Washington Post.

  • Brazil’s President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva flew to China yesterday to strengthen ties with Brazil’s biggest trade partner and win support for his push for peace in Ukraine. Lula wants Brazil, China, and other nations to help mediate the war, but his proposals to end the conflict have irked Ukraine and some in the West; last week, he suggested Ukraine cede Crimea to forge peace. According to the Brazilian government, China and Brazil are expected to sign at least 20 bilateral agreements during Lula’s two-day stay. Eléonore Hughes and Carla Bridi report for AP News.

  • South Korea has agreed to lend the United States 500,000 artillery shells that could give Washington greater flexibility to supply Ukraine with ammunition, an unidentified South Korean government source is reported to have said today. South Korea decided to lend the ammunition instead of selling it to minimize the possibility of using South Korean shells in the Ukraine conflict. South Korean law forbids supplying weapons to countries engaged in conflict. Hyonhee Shin reports for Reuters.

  • Russia’s government passed laws making it more difficult to escape the draft (FT), while Ukraine will now allow the government to serve conscription notices anywhere in the country. The moves come as Ukraine is expected to launch a spring counteroffensive against Russia.

Ukraine is launching an investigation into the apparent beheading of one of its soldiers at the hands of invading Russian forces. Video of the gruesome act surfaced on social media in recent days, and the alleged atrocity was "not an accident," Ukrainian President Volodymir Zelenskyy said in a video released Wednesday.

"This video, the execution of a Ukrainian captive—the world must see it," Zelenskyy said. "This is not an accident. This is not an episode. This was the case earlier. This was the case in Bucha," which is a suburb outside of Kyiv that was the scene of apparent rape, torture, and executions of Ukrainians by Russian forces one year ago. "Don't expect it to be forgotten. That time will pass," Zelenskyy said. "We are not going to forget anything. Neither are we going to forgive the murderers."

Ukraine's state security service, the SBU, says it has launched an investigation into the video. "We will find these non-humans; we will get them wherever they are: from under the ground or from hell," agency chief Vasyl Maliuk said in a statement.

And Ukraine's Ombudsman Dmytro Lubinets said Wednesday that he's "addressed letters to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, the UN Secretary General, the International Committee of the Red Cross, to do everything possible so that the guilty are punished for every war crime!" "The public execution of a prisoner is another proof of violation of the norms of the Geneva Conventions, international humanitarian law, violation of the fundamental right to life!" Lubinets wrote on Telegram.

This morning at the Pentagon: Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal dropped by for an in-person visit with U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. Shmyhal arrived at about 10 a.m. ET. And his visit comes just days after the apparent leak of sensitive and highly secretive U.S. military assessments of the Ukraine war and both Kyiv and Moscow's presumed capabilities ahead of an anticipated Ukrainian offensive aimed at retaking occupied territory. "We take this very seriously and we will continue to investigate and turn over every rock until we find the source of this and the extent of it," Austin said Tuesday of the Justice Department's investigation into the apparent leak.

CIA chief William Burns said the agency may need to "tighten procedures" on classified material access. He made the short comment Tuesday during a speaking event at Rice University. Reuters has a tiny bit more, here.

One detail that may help investigators: "Some images also depict printouts of documents with time stamps at the top right corners showing when they were printed," Reuters reported separately on Tuesday. Those numbers "could be a key indicator because government classified computer systems keep logs of those who view and print documents," according to Mark Zaid, a national security lawyer.

Update: American-made semiconductors are still finding their way to Russia via manufacturers like Intel, Advanced Micro Devices, Texas Instruments, and others, according to a new report from Nikkei Asia published Wednesday and based on customs data from the past calendar year. Sale of the high-tech items were banned immediately after Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. "But Russia has continued to acquire chips through circuitous routes, with a large portion flowing through small traders in Hong Kong and mainland China," Nikkei reports.

One big problem: "Small trading companies in Hong Kong and elsewhere can continue to operate under new names even if subject to sanctions," one trade lawyer told Nikkei. And that's indeed what appears to be happening with several entities. Details, here.

Europe

Spain asks EU data protection board to discuss OpenAI's ChatGPT Reuters Aislinn Laing, Elvira Pollina and Silvia Aloisi Spain's data protection agency has asked the European Union's privacy watchdog to evaluate privacy concerns surrounding OpenAI's ChatGPT, the agency told Reuters on Tuesday, as global scrutiny of artificial intelligence systems intensifies.

  • French President Emmanuel Macron is “severely out of step with the feeling across Europe’s legislatures” after his three-day trip to China. The Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, which draws on the membership of dozens of lawmakers worldwide, primarily from Europe, issued a statement that addressed Macron directly “You do not speak for Europe.” Analysts and commentators argued that Macron effectively played into China’s hands and allowed himself to become a wedge between the U.S. and Europe. Various Republican lawmakers slammed Macron for his “betrayal” of Taiwan and cast his stance as more evidence of European fecklessness. Ishaan Tharoor reports for the Washington Post.

  • A fully-equipped army division that the German military had promised to NATO will not be fully battle-ready, according to a leaked “leadership message” from Alfons Mais, the army’s inspector general, to the armed forces’ inspector general. The division was promised in response to Russia’s war on Ukraine as early as 2025, two years earlier than planned. The operational readiness of a second division, which the army plans to provide from 2027, is also considered “unrealistic,” according to the leak. Gabriel Rinaldi reports for POLITICO.

UK

GCHQ appoints first woman to lead UK spy agency Financial Times John Paul Rathbone Anne Keast-Butler has been named the new head of GCHQ, becoming the first woman to lead Britain’s cyber intelligence spy agency. Keast-Butler, who is deputy director of MI5, the UK’s domestic intelligence service, will take up her role in May. She will succeed Sir Jeremy Fleming, who announced in January he was stepping down after six years.

Africa

  • Somalia: In a report to the UN Security Council in February, UN Secretary-General António Guterres stated that 2022 was the deadliest year for Somalians since 2017, largely because of attacks by Al-Shabaab insurgents. The United Nations has only raised 13 percent (RFI) of the $2.6 billion it has requested to address the humanitarian situation in Somalia, which is also suffering from severe drought and food insecurity.

  • Chad/Germany: Germany expelled Chad’s ambassador in retaliation for Chad’s expulsion of the German ambassador last week. Two Chadian government sources told Reuters that the latter was due to the former German ambassador’s criticism of delayed elections and a court decision allowing interim military leader Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno to run for office

  • Ethiopia. For almost a week now, protests have raged in the Ethiopian region of Amhara over a federal government plan to absorb local security forces into the national army. The tensions are only the latest example of how fragmented Africa’s second most populous country has become. It was just months ago that the government finally reached a peace deal with separatist militants from the region of Tigray, ending a gruesome civil war that had displaced millions. In that conflict, as it happens, Amhara’s local forces fought alongside the government, pursuing long-standing grievances and territorial claims against their Tigrayan neighbors. Now Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed wants to eliminate all regional forces of that kind. For Abiy, it’s necessary to strengthen national unity. He won’t back down, he says, even if a “price needs to be paid.” But the Amharas worry that without those forces, they’ll be vulnerable to fresh attacks from other ethnic groups or the federal government itself. That puts Abiy in a familiar bind. Five years after popular protests swept him to power with a mandate to liberalize Ethiopia’s political system, he is still struggling to master the country’s ferocious ethnic and regional rivalries.

Artificial Intelligence

How AI will revolutionize warfare Foreign Policy Michael Hirsh When it comes to advanced artificial intelligence, much of the debate has focused on whether white-collar workers are now facing the sort of extinction-level threat that the working class once did with robotics. And while it’s suddenly likely that AI will be capable of duplicating a good part of what lawyers, accountants, teachers, programmers, and—yes—journalists do, that’s not even where the most significant revolution is likely to occur.

Research

Large language models: fast proliferation and budding international competition International Institute for Strategic Studies Paul Fraioli The capabilities of large language models have improved significantly in recent years and have come to broader public attention with the release of OpenAI’s ChatGPT in November 2022. The sudden general interest in these models includes attention from potentially malicious actors, who may seek to misuse them, and attention from policymakers, who are now increasingly invested in national competition over language-model development and securing access to the massive amount of computing power needed to support innovation in this domain.

Wading murky waters: Subsea communications cables and responsible state behaviour UNIDIR Camino Kavanagh Subsea communications cables are an essential element of the information and communications technology ecosystem, transmitting practically all our telecommunications and data. Their security and resilience are critical to the well-being and functioning of societies across the globe, and to international security and stability. While technological innovation is enabling faster and more widespread connectivity, the global network of subsea communications cables is facing continuous physical and cyber threats, requiring urgent policy and operational responses involving both State and non-State actors. This report approaches subsea communications cables from a systemic perspective: as core elements of the broader ICT ecosystem.


Thanks for reading.

Photo: La Cina di Xi Jinping - Verso un nuovo ordine mondiale sinocentrico?

Gabriele e Nicola Iuvinale

ASE 2023

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