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Cyber Security, Digital Transition, Technology Geopolitics & Worlds In-Defense In-Security Pensiero Strategico

Open newsletter – march 5, 2022

AFRICA

Brookings

In January 2022, the Brookings Africa Growth Initiative (AGI) released its annual Foresight Africa report, which explores top priorities for the region in the coming year. This report examines some of the most pertinent issues facing the continent in 2022, including its economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, public health, the empowerment of African women and girls, climate change, technological innovation, and the region’s external relations. Sakinatou Djantchiemo and Tamara White: Figure of the week: Labor trends for women in Africa

CHINA

Global Times

China’s industry regulator summoned the country’s top rare-earth firms, including the newly founded conglomerate China Rare Earth Group, on Thursday, asking them to promote a complete pricing mechanism and jointly bring the prices of the scarce materials “back to reasonable levels” as prices of the valuable resource have been rising for months. China asks rare-earth giants to bring prices back to ‘reasonable levels’

China announced on Saturday its plan to boost the country’s defense budget by 7.1 percent, to a total of 1.45 trillion yuan ($230 billion) in 2022, with analysts saying that the proposed budget growth is steady and reasonable at a time when China needs to modernize its military capabilities to safeguard national sovereignty and territorial integrity amid severe external threats and an unstable security environment. China boosts defense budget by 7.1% for 2022 amid complex global situation

Reuters

China will spend 7.1% more on defence this year, outpacing last year’s hike and the government’s modest economic growth forecast as Premier Li Keqiang seeks to safeguard the country’s sovereignty, security and development interests.  : China plans 7.1% defence spending rise this year, outpacing GDP target

CHINA – TAIWAN

Reuters

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang pledged on Saturday to advance peaceful growth in relations with Taiwan and “reunification”, and said his government firmly opposes any separatist activities or any foreign interference. China pledges peaceful growth of Taiwan ties, but opposes foreign interference

DIGITAL EUROPE

Brookings

The EU is putting a lot of emphasis on bridging the innovation divide between Western and Eastern Europe. Historically, the West has driven innovation through research and development (R&D) and the creation of new technologies. For new EU member states to catch up, more investments are needed to upgrade their infrastructure and support the adoption of existing technologies. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated digitalization as firms across Europe significantly increased the uptake of digital technologies, including in regions still catching up. The question, however, is whether the gap is closing, and if not, what needs to be done. Mary Hallward-DriemeierNatasha KapilAnna TurskayaLukasz Marek MarcTodor Milchevski, and Daniel Querejazu: How to close Europe’s digital divide?

FUTURE COMBAT AIR SYSTEM 

One of Europe’s key weapon developments has stalled as the prime contractors have failed to reach agreement on the path forward, a top industry official said Friday. The trinational Future Combat Air System (FCAS) program — intended to provide a swath of new military capabilities to France, Germany, and Spain by 2040 – has yet to enter its research-and-development phase, and risks falling behind schedule if the industry partners cannot compromise on key workshare allowances. Vivienne Machi: FCAS warplane program stalls, as Dassault and Airbus fail to reach key industry deal

IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL

Reuters

and , Russia’s demand for U.S. guarantees may harm nuclear talks, Iran official says

Iran said on Saturday it had agreed a roadmap with the U.N. nuclear watchdog to resolve all outstanding questions about the country’s nuclear program by late June, a move seen as a latest push to revive Tehran’s 2015 nuclear deal with global powers. : Iran says agreed roadmap with IAEA to resolve nuclear issues

ITALY

Defense News

Italy must do more to defend its satellites as space becomes a recognized realm for military operations, Italy’s defense chief of staff has said. “It will be essential to render the protection of satellites more robust,” said Adm. Giuseppe Cavo Dragone, who warned of an “increase in threats” and “a risk for security” in space. Tom Kington: Italy’s defense chief of staff urges better protection of satellites

HuffPost

Domenica 6 marzo potrebbero esserci attacchi cyber in Italia “ai danni di enti governativi e industriali non meglio definiti”. Agenzia Cyber: “Domenica possibili attacchi a siti governativi e industriali italiani”

JAPAN

East Asia Forum

One of the biggest challenges for agriculture in Japan has been its chronic worker shortage. The industry’s jobs-to-applicants ratio is higher than other sectors and during the COVID-19 pandemic it has been a struggle to secure enough workers. Yusaku Yoshikawa: Combatting Japan’s agricultural worker shortage

KAZAKHSTAN – CHINA – RUSSIA

East Asia Forum 

In early January 2022, Kazakhstan experienced its worst riots in recent history. Many observers argued that the riots could undermine Chinese interests in this resource-rich country. But the situation is far more complex. The China–Russia condominium in Kazakhstan

LIBYA

Al Jazeera

Libya: UN offers mediation after swearing in of new rival gov’t

MALAYSIA

East Asia Forum

Children are one of the most important resources for driving Malaysia’s future growth. Unfortunately, child-related indicators have deteriorated in recent years. The economic fallout induced by COVID-19 will aggravate the situation if the status quo continues. Hawati Abdul Hamid: Malaysia’s need for universal child benefits

MALI

Al Jazeera

Mali rebel attack leaves dozens of soldiers dead

RUSSIA – UKRAINE (impact)

Al Jazeera

Arwa Ibrahim, ‘There’s Poland, now walk’: Arab students’ ordeal out of Ukraine

Katy Fallon, Foreign students fleeing Russia’s war on Ukraine hope to return

Atlantic Council

The United States, European Union, and United Kingdom surprised almost everyone this week by sanctioning the Central Bank of Russia (CBR). By freezing the bank’s assets in their jurisdictions, Western allies hope to deprive Moscow of one of the key planks of its “Fortress Russia” self-reliance strategy: the CBR’s $630 billion stockpile in reservesCharles Lichfield: The Russian Central Bank is running out of options

Now that Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered his country’s nuclear forces on high alert for the first time since the end of the Cold War, this is a time for vigilance. Matthew KroenigMark J. Massa, and Alyxandra Marine: To decipher Putin’s nuclear threats, watch what he does—not what he says

Brookings

The war on Ukraine is a stark reminder to the Western world that displacement is not the exclusive fate of people from the Global South. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that up to 4 million Ukrainians, mostly women and children, could end up being refugees in neighboring European countries. For now, Ukrainian refugees are being welcomed and provided voluntary humanitarian assistance. Only time will tell how long they will remain in the countries where they fled, but the sad reality is that many will stay for a long time, as the average refugee is displaced for 20 years. In the weeks ahead, it will be imperative to provide Ukrainian children and youth with access to education as quickly and seamlessly as possible. Inside Ukraine, UNICEF estimates almost 350,000 children are without access to schools. Maysa Jalbout: The international community needs new solutions to support the education of a generation of displaced children and youth

Defense News

Western nations are beginning to channel the shock over Russia’s military assault on Ukraine into a wholesale remake of their defense policies, deepening alliances and swelling budgets. The dynamics of the conflict have shifted in recent days as Moscow’s forces gain the upper hand in some areas, according to analysts, by their sheer overmatch in firepower. The humanitarian catastrophe caused by the destruction has left Ukrainian leaders pleading for more military help, a request NATO officials have said they can accommodate only indirectly and, increasingly, discreetly.

Nordic governments are scaling up defense cooperation and preparedness planning against the backdrop of regional tensions over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Nordic states are looking to accelerate the deepening of joint defense measures that may lead to more serious discussions around the need for a Nordic-styled solution modeled on the North Atlantic Treaty’s Article 5, which considers an attack on one member state to be an attack on all states. Gerard O’Dwyer: Finland and Sweden may take unhurried route To NATO membership

From now on, NATO is sharing all information pertaining to the ongoing war in Ukraine with close partners Sweden and Finland, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced Friday. “In response to Russia’s aggression, we have decided to strengthen our coordination and information-sharing with Finland and Sweden,” Stoltenberg said at a press conference in Brussels, adding, “Both countries are now taking part in all NATO consultations about the crisis.”. Vivienne Machi: NATO brings Finland, Sweden on board for all Ukraine conflict discussions

Defense One

The Kremlin’s vaunted influence operators failed to defuse the nearly universal condemnation of its war on Ukraine, which has led tech companies to turn their backs on the country and provoked digital vigilantes into action against Russian targets. But Vladimir Putin’s accelerating efforts to control information within his own country—and keep his own populace from turning against him—may yet prove successful. Patrick Tucker: Putin Lost the Digital War Abroad. Will He Lose at Home?

President Joe Biden had a quick answer when he was asked on Monday whether Americans should be concerned about nuclear war. “No,” he said. Well, not so fast. The question was motivated by Russian leader Vladimir Putin’s recent threats to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, where he is leading a brutal and unjustified war. Putin will probably not go nuclear, but that ultimately depends on factors out of our control, including Putin himself. Given the catastrophic consequences of atomic weapons, that should be deeply concerning. Tom Collina: Will Russia Go Nuclear?

Global Times

A Chinese envoy on Friday called on parties to the Ukraine conflict to act with caution and work together, with the assistance of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), to ensure the safety of relevant nuclear facilities inside Ukraine. Chinese envoy calls for joint efforts to ensure safety of nuclear facilities in Ukraine

Nextgov

During a morning political opinion show on March 2, Marc Polymeropoulos, a retired CIA field agent and supervisor, said he is sure his former employer is scouring its intelligence sources for signs of cracks in the walls of oligarchs and military supporters of Russian President Vladimir Putin as the invasion of Ukraine grinds on. One hopes that the analysts are checking Twitter, TikTok, Telegram, and the broader social media environment. Patience Wait: Russian Invasion Highlights Growing Importance of Open Source Intelligence

Reuters

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin on Saturday to discuss the Ukraine crisis, his spokesperson said. Dan Williams: Israeli PM Bennett meets Putin in Moscow to discuss Ukraine crisis

Ukrainians fleeing into central European pleaded for Western nations to take tougher steps against Russia following Moscow’s invasion that has created more than 1 million refugees. : ‘Please close the sky’ say Ukrainian refugees

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met Poland’s prime minister and foreign minister on Saturday in a Polish city near the Ukrainian border, which hundreds of thousands of people have crossed since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine. Simon Lewis: Blinken in Poland for talks on security, refugees

Ukrainian websites have been under nonstop attack from Russian hackers since the Kremlin launched an invasion of the country last month, Kyiv’s cyber watchdog agency said on Saturday. Ukrainian websites under ‘nonstop’ attack – cyber watchdog agency

Russia’s Foreign Ministry protested to the U.S. ambassador in Moscow on Saturday over remarks by U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham advocating that President Vladimir Putin be assassinated. Russia protests to U.S. envoy over senator’s call to ‘take out’ Putin

Italy seizes oligarchs’ villas and yachts in initial sweep

, Evacuation trains from war zone pour into Lviv in western Ukraine

and , Putin likens Western sanctions to war as Russian assault traps Ukrainian civilians

Germany will deploy air defence capabilities to Lithuania and the United States will send a troop battalion armed with tanks, Lithuania’s defence minister said on Sunday. U.S., Germany, Netherlands to deploy more military in Lithuania -defence minister

SpaceX chief Elon Musk said on Saturday that its Starlink satellite broadband service has been told by some governments, not Ukraine, to block Russian news sources. SpaceX’s Musk says Starlink has been told by some governments to block Russian news

The European Union said it had joined members of the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) in suspending Russia and Belarus from the Council’s activities. European Union suspends Russia and Belarus from Council of Baltic Sea States

The Kremlin said on Saturday that the West was behaving like bandits but that Russia was far too big to be isolated as the world was much larger than just the United States and Europe. Kremlin says the West is behaving like bandits

Russia said its forces had stopped firing near two Ukrainian cities on Saturday to allow safe passage to civilians fleeing fighting, but was continuing its broad offensive in Ukraine, where the capital Kyiv came under renewed assault and : Russia announces limited ceasefire in Ukraine to allow evacuations but continues broad offensive

Russia blocked Facebook and some other websites and passed a law that gave Moscow much stronger powers to crack down on independent journalism, prompting the BBC, Bloomberg and other foreign media to suspend reporting in the country. and : Russian law on ‘fake news’ prompts media to halt reporting as websites blocked

RFE RL

Ukraine’s government has started a website to recruit foreign volunteers to an “international legion” to fight invading Russian troops, following repeated calls by President Volodymyr Zelenskiy for outsiders to join in his country’s defense. Ukraine’s Government Opens Website To Recruit Foreigners To ‘International Legion’

The Swedish and Finnish prime ministers have told a joint press conference in Helsinki that they will further buttress their security cooperation, amid a surge in diplomatic activity in both those non-NATO countries since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine late last month. Sweden, Finland Vow Greater Security Cooperation In Shadow Of Ukraine War

Russian opposition activist and former Moscow lawmaker Yulia Galyamina has been sentenced to 30 days in jail on a charge of violating the law on public events over her attempt to organize a protest against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Russian Anti-War Activist Gets 30 Days In Jail Over Call For Protest

Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a new law into effect that calls for sentences of up to 15 years in prison for people who distribute “false news” about the Russian military. Putin Signs ‘Harsh’ Law Allowing Long Prison Terms For ‘False News’ About Army

Belarusian writer, Nobel laureate, and opposition figure Svetlana Alexievich says Belarus is no longer independent and has become “an aggressor nation.”. Belarusian Nobel Laureate Alexievich Says Lukashenka’s Actions Over Ukraine A ‘Crime’

Security Affairs

Anonymous announced to have hacked more than 2,500 websites linked to the Russian and Belarusian governments, state-owned media outlets spreading disinformation, Russian private organizations, banks, hospitals, airports. The attacks were conducted as part of the #OpRussia launched by the collective after the violent and illegitimate invasion of Ukraine. Pierluigi Paganini: Anonymous #OpRussia Thousands of sites hacked, data leaks and more

Orange confirmed that “nearly 9,000 subscribers” of a satellite internet service provided by its subsidiary Nordnet in France were offline following a “cyber event” that took place on February 24 at Viasat, the US giant satellite operator that provides services to the European carriers. Pierluigi Paganini: Thousands of satellite users offline in Europe following a cyberattack, is it a conflict spillover?

State communications watchdog Roskomnadzor ordered to block access to Facebook over its decision to ban Russian media and state information resources. The block comes after Facebook recently deactivated or restricted access to accounts belonging to media outlets and news agencies spreading Russian propaganda, including RIA Novosti, Sputnik, and Russia Today. The Russian Roskomnadzor said the ban discriminated against Russia-owned media violating Russian law. Pierluigi Paganini: Russian watchdog Roskomnadzor also blocked Facebook in Russia

While the conflict on the battlefield continues, hacktivists continue to target Russian infrastructure exposed online. The Russian National Coordinating Center for Computer Incidents (NCCC) released a massive list containing 17,576 IP addresses and 166 domains that were involved in a series of DDoS attacks that targeted its infrastructure. Pierluigi Paganini: These are the sources of DDoS attacks against Russia, local NCCC warns

The analysis of the current scenario in cyberspace is not easy due to the presence of multiple threat actors and the difficulty of attributing the attacks. Pierluigi Paganini: Russia-Ukraine, who are the soldiers that crowd cyberspace?

US Department of State

Secretary Antony J. Blinken And Polish Foreign Minister Zbigniew Rau Statements to the Press

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke today with PRC State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi about Moscow’s premeditated, unprovoked, and unjustified war against Ukraine.  The Secretary noted the world is watching to see which nations stand up for the basic principles of freedom, self-determination and sovereignty.  He underscored that the world is acting in unison to repudiate and respond to the Russian aggression, ensuring that Moscow will pay a high price. Secretary Blinken’s Call with People’s Republic of China (PRC) State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang

Since President Putin launched his unprovoked, unjustified, and unconscionable invasion of Ukraine over a week ago, the international community across continents has spoken with powerful unity to denounce Russia’s aggression and demand its cessation. Giving voice and purpose to that common cause requires ready international venues such as the United Nations, where the Russian government and its dwindling supporters cannot impede scrutiny of their actions. U.S. Multilateral Leadership on the Crisis in Ukraine

SOUTH KOREA

Defense News

Just how split is South Korea, a nation squeezed for centuries between Northeast Asia’s big powers, on how to deal with its neighbors? Hyung-jin Kim, AP: South Korea’s presidential candidates are split on defense policies

East Asia Forum 

Five years after the Candlelight Revolution in South Korea, the effervescence, spirit of solidarity and optimism for social change have faded away. When millions took to the streets to oust corrupt president Park Geun-hye in late 2016 and early 2017, Moon Jae-in’s election promised hope and change. Many thought conservative political forces — the corrupt establishment — would lose their political influence. How South Korea’s conservatives hope to divide and conquer on the way to the presidency

TURKEY

Atlantic Council 

Contrary to the African proverb “speak softly but carry a big stick,” Turkish strategic culture tends to speak loudly, carry a big stick—and sometimes use that very big stick after a brief talk. With Turkey’s burgeoning drone-warfare edge, enabled by the nation’s rising defense industries, unmanned aerial systems have become a very big stick for the Turkish military. From a realpolitik viewpoint, at present, Turkey’s new drone edge has amplified the Turkish elite’s abovementioned strategic thinking by rendering the “military guidebook” less casualty prone, more surgical, less burdensome on defense economics, and less reliant on foreign assistance. Militarily, winning contemporary wars is about winning the battle networks, and this is the underlying reason behind the Turkish Armed Forces’ UAS success. In the eyes of Turkish defense planners, drones are not merely targeted killing or “war on terror” assets, but crucial components within a network-centric architecture. This paradigm extends to a wide range of tasks, from anti-armor salvos to the suppression of enemy air defenses. Can Kasapoğlu: Techno-Geopolitics & the Turkish Way of Drone Warfare

UK – POLAND

Defense News

Britain has further strengthened its defense industrial ties with Poland following the March 4 announcement that Babcock International’s Arrowhead 140 ship design was selected to equip the Polish Navy with a new class of frigates. The London-based company said it concluded a series of strategic cooperation partnering agreements with the PGZ-Miecznik consortium responsible for delivering three frigates from shipyards in the Polish port city Gdynia. Andrew Chuter: Polish Navy chooses Arrowhead 140 design for new frigates

USA

Defense News

The first B-21 Raider bomber has entered the ground test phase, paving the way for its expected rollout this year and subsequent first flight. Northrop Grumman now has six of the stealthy, next-generation aircraft in various stages of production, Darlene Costello, principal deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics, said in a Friday roundtable with reporters at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Florida. Stephen Losey: First B-21 bomber enters ground testing, ‘on track for first flight’

Nextgov

A technical cybersecurity report the National Security Agency compiled based on its experience evaluating the defense industrial base highlighted the danger associated with developing a software “monoculture” when designing network architecture. “Implement multiple layers of next-generation firewalls throughout the network to restrict inbound traffic, restrict outbound traffic, and examine all internal activity between disparate network regions,” reads guidance the NSA released Tuesday. “Each layer should utilize different vendors to protect against an adversary exploiting the same unpatched vulnerability in an attempt to access the internal network.”. Mariam Baksh: NSA Stresses Vendor Diversification in Guidance on Network Segmentation

Modern internet infrastructure is broadly resilient, but remains riddled with risk-prone areas susceptible to malicious attacks such as malware and ransomware. In a Congressional-commissioned report, researchers at the Government Accountability Office identified several key weaknesses within the internet’s architecture, specifically within public agencies, including the U.S. Department of Commerce, Department of Defense, the Federal Communications Commission, and National Science Foundation. Alexandra Kelley: Federal Agencies Take Mitigating Steps To Protect Internet Infrastructure

The Federal Trade Commission took legal action against the parent company of the popular weight management group Weight Watchers on Friday, citing privacy concerns related to minors. In a complaint filed by the FTC and Department of Justice, officials allege that WW International, the official name for the Weight Watchers organization, violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act through its subsidiary Kurbo, a weight loss app marketed to child users under the age of 13. Alexandra Kelley: FTC, Justice Say Weight Watchers Parent Group Illegally Collected Child Health Data

State attorneys general across the U.S. announced an investigation into TikTok for the potential physical and mental health harm the social media platform could have on children and young adults. The investigation into TikTok, which has roughly 1 billion active monthly users, will be led by a bipartisan coalition of attorneys general from California, Florida, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, Tennessee, Vermont, Connecticut and South and North Carolina. Andre Claudio: State Attorneys General Open Investigation Into TikTok

Internet-of-things devices could be sold with cybersecurity labels in the coming years to assure consumers that connected gear can safeguard user data, receive software updates and protect against hijacking by botnets. The Biden administration’s cybersecurity executive order from May 2021 includes a provision tasking the National Institute of Standards and Technology with coming up with benchmarks for cybersecurity labels and developing incentives to get manufacturers and marketers to adopt a labeling scheme. A consumer product labeling scheme was also included among the recommendations of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission. Chris Riotta: NIST Closes in on Recommendations for Cybersecurity Labeling for IOT Devices

USA – CHINA

Reuters

The new U.S. ambassador to China, Nicholas Burns, has arrived in the country and will be in quarantine for three weeks, the U.S. embassy said in a tweet on Saturday. New U.S. ambassador Nicholas Burns arrives in China

WORLD FOOD PRICES

FAO

FAO Food Price Index | World Food Situation | Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Global Times

World food prices reached their highest point in the 61-year history of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s Food Price Index, pushed higher by supply chain issues and the Ukraine crisis. World food prices reach all-time high over supply issues, Ukraine crisis