Extrema Ratio focuses on the topics we work on, including geopolitcs, cybersecurity, critical technologies, foreign interference, disinformation, international law, national security.
The chances that in Ukraine it will end the same way as the Korean war of the 50s | Ukraine and Our Confused Foreign Policy | Australia: Labor plan to beef up government’s cyber powers faces Senate block | Canada bans TikTok on government devices | Danish hospitals hit by cyberattack from ‘Anonymous Sudan’
“After a year of brutal fighting, in which thousands of lives have been lost, civilian infrastructure destroyed and incredible damage, the war appears to have reached a stalemate. Neither side will agree to a negotiated settlement. On the battlefield, armies they are fighting for tiny slivers of territory at a terrible price. The threat of nuclear escalation hangs in the air." This is not the description of the war in Ukraine today; is the description of the situation of the war on the Korean peninsula in 1951. Of course, no two wars are exactly alike. But in the long history of carnage, one war resembles the current bloodbath in Ukraine: the Korean War of 1950-1953, where South Koreans and their allies, led by the United States, fought North Koreans and Chinese, supported by the Soviet Union . There are all kinds of lessons to be learned from this conflict. But more important may be how it turned out, writes Cold War historian Sergei Radchenko in The Times. EXTREMA RATIO
The first anniversary of Russian’s invasion of Ukraine has come and gone, and the uncertainty about how that conflict will be resolved remains, despite the West’s cheerleading and photo-ops with Zelensky, and billions in cash and materiel sent to Ukraine. Meanwhile, China is “strongly considering” supporting Russia with arms and ammo, Iran keeps sending Russia drones, and American support for aid to Ukraine is starting to dwindle. The way out of this stalemate, moreover, requires choices none of which are politically palatable or possible. So here we are again, with our idealistic foreign policy reach exceeding our political will and materiel grasp. The origins of this predicament in part lie in the still uncertain justifications for spending billions of dollars and depleting our own stockpiles of materiel. The Asia Times’s David Goldman recently posed the still unanswered questions about our reasons and intentions: “In furtherance of what strategic interests has the United States acted in Ukraine? Is Ukraine’s NATO membership an American raison d’état? Did American strategists really believe that sanctions would shut down Russia’s economy? Did they imagine that the trading patterns of the Asian continent would shift to flow around the sanctions? Did they consider the materiel requirements of a long war that is exhausting American stockpiles? Did they consider what tripwires might elicit the use of nuclear weapons? Or did they sleepwalk into the conflict, as the European powers did in 1914?” FRONT PAGE MAGAZINE
Labor could face Senate difficulties if it tries to dramatically expand the government’s powers to directly intervene in companies’ IT systems during cyber-attacks. The Guardian
Canada on Monday followed the lead of the U.S. and European Commission and banned the TikTok app from government-issued devices, citing an “unacceptable” level of risk to privacy and security. The Wall Street Journal
The websites of nine hospitals in Denmark went offline on Sunday evening following distributed-denial-of-service attacks from a group calling itself Anonymous Sudan. The Record by Recorded Future
“After a year of brutal fighting, in which thousands of lives have been lost, civilian infrastructure destroyed and incredible damage, the war appears to have reached a stalemate. Neither side will agree to a negotiated settlement. On the battlefield, armies they are fighting for tiny slivers of territory at a terrible price. The threat of nuclear escalation hangs in the air." This is not the description of the war in Ukraine today; is the description of the situation of the war on the Korean peninsula in 1951. Of course, no two wars are exactly alike. But in the long history of carnage, one war resembles the current bloodbath in Ukraine: the Korean War of 1950-1953, where South Koreans and their allies, led by the United States, fought North Koreans and Chinese, supported by the Soviet Union . There are all kinds of lessons to be learned from this conflict. But more important may be how it turned out, writes Cold War historian Sergei Radchenko in The Times.
In Ukraine, the end of the war seems far away. For Russia, victory would most likely result in the conquest of Ukrainian territory which it claims as its own. Nothing less than the expulsion of Russian troops from the country, including the Crimea, will be enough for Ukraine. Neither side is interested in negotiations and it is difficult to imagine how a peace agreement could be reached.
In Korea, the situation was similar: neither the North Koreans, nor the South Koreans, nor their sponsors were in a hurry to end the war. But the conflict - which claimed up to three million lives and destroyed entire cities - gradually subsided, leading to a ceasefire and a temporary division of the Korean peninsula that proved to be more lasting than anyone could have imagined at the time. moment. Ultimately, stalemate warfare proved preferable to the alternatives.
Front Page Magazine
The first anniversary of Russian’s invasion of Ukraine has come and gone, and the uncertainty about how that conflict will be resolved remains, despite the West’s cheerleading and photo-ops with Zelensky, and billions in cash and materiel sent to Ukraine. Meanwhile, China is “strongly considering” supporting Russia with arms and ammo, Iran keeps sending Russia drones, and American support for aid to Ukraine is starting to dwindle.
The way out of this stalemate, moreover, requires choices none of which are politically palatable or possible. So here we are again, with our idealistic foreign policy reach exceeding our political will and materiel grasp.
The origins of this predicament in part lie in the still uncertain justifications for spending billions of dollars and depleting our own stockpiles of materiel. The Asia Times’s David Goldman recently posed the still unanswered questions about our reasons and intentions:
“In furtherance of what strategic interests has the United States acted in Ukraine? Is Ukraine’s NATO membership an American raison d’état? Did American strategists really believe that sanctions would shut down Russia’s economy? Did they imagine that the trading patterns of the Asian continent would shift to flow around the sanctions? Did they consider the materiel requirements of a long war that is exhausting American stockpiles? Did they consider what tripwires might elicit the use of nuclear weapons? Or did they sleepwalk into the conflict, as the European powers did in 1914?”
Answers from supporters of our intervention have remained vague. The stock response is that we must protect the “rule-based international order,” and if we appease Putin on Ukraine, Europe’s NATO bulwark against Russia, and the global economy’s security will be compromised, with a serious risk to our security and interests already being challenged by Russia, China, and Iran, the new triumvirate of autocrats eager to supplant the U.S. and its NATO allies as the global hegemon.
But this rationale raises even more questions. First, if Russia poses such an obviously dire threat, why didn’t NATO nations act sooner, before Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine? We’ve known for years about Putin’s dissatisfaction with the collapse of the Soviet Union, which in 2005 he called “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century,” and his ambitions to restore Russian hegemony in the Eastern European borderlands.
Indeed, in July of 2021, after Russia started deploying its invasion force to Ukraine’s border, Putin promulgated an essay justifying the forthcoming aggression. According to Maria Damanska’s analysis for the Center for Eastern Studies,
“The content of the article, which focuses on analysing the history of Russian-Ukrainian relations, is dominated by the claim that Ukrainians are an ancient, inseparable part of the ‘triune Russian nation’. This community is based on a common history spanning one thousand years, the language, the ‘Russian’ ethnic identity, the shared cultural sphere and the Orthodox religion. Their bond with the Russian state is special and organic; it guarantees Ukraine’s development, and any attempts to sever or weaken this bond (which could only be inspired by external actors) will inevitably result in the collapse of Ukrainian statehood.”
In other words, Putin has made his intentions as clear as Hitler in 1925 made his in Mein Kampf. But just as the British foreign policy establishment dismissed Hitler’s revanchist ambitions, apparently NATO nations didn’t take Putin seriously, despite the ongoing deployment of forces months before the invasion. Yes, international bluster slowed Putin down, but in October the deployments were restarted.
As John Bolton recently wrote in the Daily Telegraph, instead,
“The West stood idly by when Russian forces intervened in Donbas and seized Crimea; imposed only perfunctory sanctions thereafter; negotiated the embarrassing, Moscow-leaning Minsk Agreements; and for years did precious little to provide anything close to satisfactory levels of military assistance and training to Ukrainian forces.”
The fact is, the NATO nations, by their failure to take preemptive action, have signaled not just their failure of nerve, but also that defending the “rules-based international order” is merely an advertisement for Davoisie globalism.
Similarly, if the Biden administration was so worried about Russia’s malign intentions––which Putin had already made clear with his territorial grabs in 2008 in South Ossetia, and in 2014 with similar seizures in Crimea and eastern Ukraine––why wasn’t it concerned about strengthening our deterrent prestige? Instead, in 2021, the Biden administration fecklessly withdrew from Afghanistan, leaving behind stranded Americans and Afghan allies, 13 dead American troops, billions in materiel, and Bagram air base.
That abandonment of an ally, along with Biden’s announcing to the world at the start of the invasion that no American troops would support Ukraine, projected a perception that Putin would not have to face a serious NATO response with forces much larger and better equipped than Ukraine’s, which still have made Putin’s invasion a tough slog costly in lives and materiel.
Nor did Biden help with his veiled threat in March 2021 that Putin “cannot remain in power,” a provocative (and toothless) ukase that validated Putin’s claimed that regime-change is NATO’s primary objective, and so his invasion was defensive. And why does Biden keep saying that the U.S. will support Ukraine for “as long as it takes,” a blustering promise hostage to political change and unforeseen events?
Next, if defending the “rules-based international order” was such a priority, and Putin was such an obvious threat to its integrity, why didn’t NATO countries––which include five of the world’s richest nations––spend more money on creating militaries capable of doing so? Only a handful have met the modest 2% of GDP on military spending requirement, a goal that should be a floor, not a ceiling. The U.S. is barely making the cut, currently spending 3%, which is projected to decline going forward.
And despite the big promises made about defense spending once Russia invaded, NATO countries, including the second richest, Germany, have doled out weapons to Ukraine piece-meal, and still refuse to send tactical missile systems and fighter-jets to Ukraine.
As usual, the U.S. is contributing more to Ukraine than all the other NATO countries combined. This makes all the claims of NATO’s “turning point,” as Germany’s Chancellor Olaf Scholz called it, away from quasi pacifism to military vigor, mere public-relations rhetoric. As John Bolton asked, “Does anyone think for a second that if the U.S. had washed its hands of Ukraine a year ago, the other NATO members would have leapt to defend it? Germans would now be clinking champagne glasses in the Kremlin in celebration of some new pipeline deal.”
Then there’s the rationale that if Putin’s aggression is not stopped, and if Ukraine is defeated, Russia would be positioned to expand its adventurism to European NATO countries that comprise the defenders and financers of the “rule-based international order.” So why, then, did NATO appease Putin’s territory grabs in 2008 and 2014, and why such limited and dilatory support for the current proxy-war being fought by Europeans on the cheap?
Finally, the persistence of moralizing internationalism, emphasis on multinational institutions, transnational treaties, and diplomacy substituting for lethal force explains all those failures to anticipate future threats and prepare for them. Instead, we rely on stern public statements and “parchment barriers”––like the New Start, serially violated nuclear arms limitation treaty that Putin just “suspended”–– instead of preparing a military that could back up all our big talk about the “new world order” whose managers seems to think that human nature has outgrown its national interests and irrational passions.
More immediately, we need a more forthcoming and cogent argument from the Biden administration and other Ukraine supporters. As the Wall Street Journal’s Gerard Baker wrote recently,
“The president needs to explain urgently to his fellow citizens how exactly the arms and money spigot for Ukraine isn’t draining the country’s military capabilities and its reservoir of strategic capacity for the long twilight struggle with China.”
As I said, support among voters for continuing our aid to Ukraine is starting to lessen, with AP reporting 48% approving, down from 60% a year ago, and only 37% in favor of direct cash-payments. It’s not hard to see why. Our economy is still hurting, national debt is rising, and Social Security and Medicare are facing insolvency. Meanwhile, China’s adventurism, such as sending with impunity a spy balloon across the country over our ICMB silos, and its massive spending on its military is an obvious a security threat.
Meanwhile, our military spending is projected to drop below the already stingy 3%. All these challenges are making many citizens question the wisdom of sending billions of dollars and expensive materiel to a faraway country about which many Americans know little.
Most important, we must accept that the foreign policy idealism we endorsed after the collapse of the Soviet Union is in need of some realism about human nature and motivation. “For,” as Thomas Hobbes put it,
“the laws of nature, as justice, equity, modesty, mercy, and, in sum, doing to others as we would be done to, of themselves, without the terror of some power to cause them to be observed, are contrary to our natural passions, that carry us to partiality, pride, revenge, and the like. And covenants, without the sword, are but words, and of no strength to secure a man at all.”
It’s time to accept that our vacation from history was over 20 years ago, and we need to get back to work strengthening our country’s security.
Qualcomm chips to power satellite tech in Chinese smartphones Nikkei Asia Cheng Ting-Fang Mobile chip developer Qualcomm is working with Chinese handset makers Honor, Oppo and Xiaomi to introduce smartphones with satellite-enabled communications capabilities, the U.S. company said on Monday.
China calls for faster push into 5G, IoT and supercomputing engines of growth in new grand digitalisation plan South China Morning Post Yujie Xue China has issued a plan calling for accelerated development of 5G, the Internet of Things, data centres and supercomputing technologies, with these new engines expected to lead future digital growth.
China's Tencent establishes team to develop ChatGPT-like product - sources Reuters Josh Ye Chinese internet giant Tencent Holdings has set up a development team to work on a ChatGPT-like chatbot, two people familiar with the matter told Reuters.
China threatens to block Musk's Starlink with rival fleet of 13,000 satellites. The Telegraph, 27 February
China dismisses latest claim that lab leak likely caused Covid. NYT, 27 February
Chinese factories launch charm offensive for buyers after Covid isolation. Local Chinese governments have organised delegations of exporters to trade shows across the US and Europe to drum up business, targeting foreign buyers who diversified their suppliers in response to disruption from the Covid-19 pandemic. Investment by foreign companies in China tumbled to its lowest level in 18 years in the second half of last year. FT, 28 February
JPMorgan slashes China weighting in proposed new Asia bond index. JPMorgan has proposed an alternative to its popular index of Asian corporate bonds that slashes the weighting of Chinese issuers, following a financial crisis in the country’s real estate market that has choked off new issuance from the highly indebted sector. FT, 27 February
Volkswagen China chief visits Xinjiang plant, claims no sign of forced labour. Volkswagen is contractually committed to its plant in Xinjiang until 2030, it said on Tuesday, after its China chief made the first visit by senior management to the plant in mid-February and said he saw no signs of forced labour. Reuters, 28 February
China’s gas demand is a bigger worry for Europe than Russia cutoff. Bloomberg, 28 February
Front Page Magazine
America’s enemies never stop scheming about the ways in which they can bring the United States down. China, our greatest external strategic enemy, already has a plan to gain control of America through the next pandemic and United Nations agency channels. The first stage of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) accomplishing this was gaining controlling influence over the U.N.’s World Health Organization (WHO), which was achieved when the Chinese groomed Tedros Adhanom Ghbreyesus as a candidate and then got him elected as Director-General of the WHO in 2017.
Tech manufacturers are leaving the door open for Chinese hacking, Easterly warns The Record by Recorded Future Jonathan Greig The head of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency warned Monday of potentially dire consequences if technology manufacturers fail to bolster the security of their products, in a blistering speech about the dangers posed in cyberspace by China.
US cyber official urges Microsoft, Twitter to boost security Bloomberg Katrina Manson A senior US cybersecurity official described adoption of some of Microsoft and Twitter’s security protocols as “disappointing” as part of a broadside against large technology companies’ approach to protecting user accounts.
US military signs contract to put facial recognition on drones VICE Matthew Gault The United States is set to deploy facial recognition technology on drones. The tech, called SAFR, is owned by the company RealNetworks. According to a contract between RealNetworks and the U.S. Air Force, the facial recognition software will be used on small drones as part of special operations missions.
Front Page Magazine
Some in the media can’t stop fawning over President Biden’s surprise visit to Ukraine. Headlines celebrating Biden’s “momentous 72 hours in Europe” have run all week. Some have even claimed that, in one visit, Biden single-handedly “destroyed Putin’s last hope” and delivered a so-called “gut punch” to Moscow. With one single trip to Ukraine, President Biden became a foreign policy mastermind in the eyes of the media. But regardless of the visit’s symbolic value, policy is what matters.
It’s Biden’s failed policies that have emboldened our adversaries abroad. From Russia to China, our adversaries can see past ceremonial visits and sense weakness in the White House. And sadly, the worst is yet to come. The Biden administration is preparing for what will be yet another foreign policy failure.
Congress to examine operations of US companies in China. The US House committee created to focus on threats from Beijing plans to look at the role of private equity, venture capital and Wall Street firms in China as it prepares to launch hearings on Tuesday. FT, 27 February
Canada follows U.S., Europe with TikTok ban on government devices The Wall Street Journal Paul Vieira Canada on Monday followed the lead of the U.S. and European Commission and banned the TikTok app from government-issued devices, citing an “unacceptable” level of risk to privacy and security.
Canada bans TikTok from government devices over security concerns. Canada on Monday announced a ban on Chinese-owned social media app TikTok from government-issued devices, saying it presents an "unacceptable" level of risk to privacy and security, adding to the growing rift between the two countries. Nikkei Asia, 28 February
Taiwan’s TSMC reportedly planning 2nd Japanese fab Taiwan News Eric Chang Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. is reportedly planning a second facility in Japan that will produce more advanced 5 and 10 nm chips.
Putting Mongolia on the digital map: Bolor-Erdene Battsengel Assoicated Press Barbara Ortutay Bolor-Erdene Battsengel wants to transform Mongolia into a “digital first” country — and help young people, especially girls in this sparsely populated nation of 3.3 million, to learn how to code.
Ukraine - Russia
‘A year of cyberwar’ with Russia: An inside look from a top Ukrainian cybersecurity official CyberScoop AJ Vicens Ayear after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Ukrainian government has suffered untold numbers of cyberattacks designed to render systems inoperable and carry out espionage or psychological operations. Ukraine appears to have been mostly successful in weathering these attacks, and Victor Zhora, the deputy chairman of the State Service of Special Communications and Information Protection of Ukraine, has been at the forefront of coordinating Ukraine’s defense. On Feb. 24 — the one-year mark of the invasion — CyberScoop reached Zhora in his office in Kyiv to discuss his reflections on the past year, lessons learned and what comes next.
Danish hospitals hit by cyberattack from ‘Anonymous Sudan’ The Record by Recorded Future Alexander Martin The websites of nine hospitals in Denmark went offline on Sunday evening following distributed-denial-of-service attacks from a group calling itself Anonymous Sudan.
EU uses key telco stage to press the case for rethinking network funding TechCrunch Natasha Lomas The European Commission has given its clearest signal yet that it intends to make a significant intervention in how Internet connectivity is funded in the bloc in the coming years.
Dutch warn against internet toll as EU looks to Big Tech to fund networks Reuters Foo Yun Chee The Netherlands on Monday warned against hitting Big Tech with a so-called internet toll to help pay for billions of euros in network investments, saying such a move may breach net neutrality rules and lead to price hikes for Europeans.
German government pushes back on call to close Facebook page Associated Press The German government on Monday pushed back against a demand by the country’s data protection commissioner to take down its Facebook page over data privacy concerns.
Orbán backs China’s Ukraine peace plan. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said that his country supports China’s peace plan for Ukraine, countering Western leaders’ position on the Beijing proposal. “We also consider China’s peace plan important and support it,” the Hungarian leader said, adding that he wants Hungary to stay out of the war and not deliver weapons to Ukraine. Politico, 27 February
EU to start talks on UK participation in Horizon Europe. President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen has publicly confirmed that she is ready to begin talks immediately on an association agreement to allow UK’s participation in Horizon Europe, the EU’s flagship scientific research programme aimed at scientific and technological bases and boost its innovation capacity. University World News, 28 February
ChatGPT allowed in International Baccalaureate essays The Guardian Dan Milmo Schoolchildren are allowed to quote from content created by ChatGPT in their essays, the International Baccalaureate has said. The IB said students could use the chatbot but must be clear when they were quoting its responses.
British tech minister: TikTok should be ‘personal choice’ for UK officials. Politico, 28 February
UK government announces £15 million funding boost to strengthen supply of critical minerals. The £15 million funding will launch the CLIMATES programme, delivered by Innovate UK, to develop work on rare earths by researchers and businesses across the country. This will support innovations in the recycling of rare earth elements, as well as research and development, engagement with international partners and activities to identify and support future skills needs. Gov.uk, 27 February
Foreign Affairs Committee oral evidence session: UK universities’ engagement with autocracies. Today’s session on universities' engagement with autocracies will include questions from MPs on the issues that internationalisation in UK higher education raises around national security, human rights and academic freedom. Parliament.uk, 28 February
Snapchat launches an AI chatbot powered by OpenAI’s GPT technology TechCrunch Aisha Malik Snapchat is the latest company to get in on the AI frenzy. The company announced today that it’s launching “My AI,” a new chatbot running the latest version of OpenAI’s GPT technology that it has customized for its users.
How to create, release, and share generative AI responsibly MIT Technology Review Melissa Heikkilä A group of 10 companies, including OpenAI, TikTok, Adobe, the BBC, and the dating app Bumble, have signed up to a new set of guidelines on how to build, create, and share AI-generated content responsibly.
Rise of ‘system wipers’ poses new threats to organizations CyberScoop A new wave of destructive malware capable of wiping out systems, not just data, appears to be gaining significant momentum heading into 2023, according to the latest research from FortiGuard Labs and its chief security strategist, Derek Manky.
‘Take It Down’ tool helps young people remove explicit online images The Wall Street Journal Ginger Adams Otis The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children launched a tool Monday that allows young people to remove explicit images of themselves that appear online, or block such photos from being shared.
When low-tech hacks cause high-impact breaches Krebs on Security Chris Krebs Web hosting giant GoDaddy made headlines this month when it disclosed that a multi-year breach allowed intruders to steal company source code, siphon customer and employee login credentials, and foist malware on customer websites. Media coverage understandably focused on GoDaddy’s admission that it suffered three different cyberattacks over as many years at the hands of the same hacking group. But it’s worth revisiting how this group typically got in to targeted companies: By calling employees and tricking them into navigating to a phishing website.
Collaboration with trusted allies and distrust in Chinese technology: American, Australian and Japanese views on technology United States Studies Center Dr. Miah Hammond Errey and Tom Barrett Global leaders continue to take action to secure technologies critical to national interests — such as the United States banning high-end chip technology and fabrication exports to China, and working with allies to implement export controls. Governments and individuals face mounting national security concerns over Chinese-made technology, from TikTok user data being accessible in China to Huawei bans. More than 900 Chinese-made security cameras were found in Australian government buildings, while the United States government shot down a Chinese ‘spy’ balloon.
Submission by Human Rights Watch to the Select Committee on Foreign Interference through Social Media Human Rights Watch TikTok’s algorithm largely decides what users see on their TikTok. TikTok has been comparatively more transparent in reporting on decision-making algorithms and content moderation than some major US tech platforms. But there is still no way for outsiders to know what information is being suppressed or promoted on TikTok due to Chinese government influence. The Australian Strategic Policy Institute’s analysis of the hashtag #Xinjiang on TikTok showed a depiction of the region that glosses over the serious human rights violations and instead provides a version that is filled with smiling and dancing Uyghurs
Opinion & editorial
Britain risks being sidelined in funding war. Washington and Brussels are preparing for a fight over future green energy projects. Meereen Khan and Emily Gosden. The Times, 28 February
Some politicians seem comfortable with the idea of a new cold war. They shouldn’t. Christopher S Chivvis. The Guardian, 27 February
To save Ukraine, defeat Russia and deter China. Tom Nichols. The Atlantic, 27 February
What will China’s ‘two sessions’ 2023 bring? The expected confirmation of Xi protégé Li Qiang as the country’s new premier could be the most watched moment of the legislative session. Jun Mai. SCMP, 28 February