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

Open newsletter – february 19, 2022

from: Al Jazeera, Asia Times, Atlantic Council, Bloomberg  Businessweek, Brookings, Center for a New American Security, Council on Foreign Relations, Defense One, East Asia Forum, Project-Syndicate, Reuters, RFE RL, Social Europe, TASS

AFGHANISTAN

Afghanistan’s deputy finance minister on the Taliban-led government’s plan to prevent a complete economic meltdown. Al Jazeera: Nazir Kabiri: Can Afghanistan avoid economic collapse?

AFRICA

Last month, the Brookings Africa Growth Initiative (AGI) released its annual Foresight Africa report, which explores top priorities for the region in the coming year. This year’s edition 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. Brookings, Abraham White and Leo Holtz: Figure of the week: Developing digital infrastructure in response to COVID-19 in Africa

CANADA

For three weeks, Canadian truckers and their supporters occupied downtown Ottawa. Organised by far-right activists, the so-called “Freedom Convoy” dominated international news headlines as participants called for an end to all coronavirus restrictions in Canada and for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to be removed from office, among other things. Al Jazeera: Q&A: The ‘Freedom Convoy’ is ending, but issues ‘not going away’

Canadian police on Saturday worked to restore normality to the capital after trucks and demonstrators occupied the downtown core of Ottawa for more than three weeks to protest against pandemic restrictions. Reuters, Steve Scherer: Canadian police push to restore normality to the capital

CHINA

China is giving COVID-19 booster vaccines using technologies different from the initial injections, in an effort to improve immunisation strategies amid concerns that its most-used jabs appeared to be weaker against variants such as Omicron. Reuters: China allows COVID boosters of different technologies than primary shots

CHINA – AUSTRALIA

A Chinese navy vessel directed a laser at an Australian military aircraft in flight over Australia’s northern approaches, illuminating the plane and potentially endangering lives, Australia’s defence said on Saturday. Reuters: Chinese navy laser lights up Australian military aircraft, Canberra says

DIGITAL CURRENCY

The Beijing Winter Olympics are set to conclude on Sunday after two weeks of showcasing the best of human sportsmanship and, of course, controversy. But the event has also been used to showcase something altogether different: China’s new digital currency. Asia Times, Center for a New American Security, Nigel Green: Digital Yuan Showcases the Real Value of Bitcoin

China is competing for more than just medals at the Winter Olympics in Beijing this month. It’s also quietly trying to define the future of money. Although attendees can pay vendors for food and souvenirs with a Visa or cash, they also have the option of holding up a phone, scanning a barcode, and paying with the “e-CNY,” or electronic yuan, one of the only so-called central bank digital currencies offered by a major economy. Bloomberg Businessweek, Center for a New American Security, Joe Light: China Is Showing Off the Digital Yuan at the Olympics. Can the U.S. Compete?

CLIMATE ACTION

It has been 30 years since world leaders gathered in Rio de Janeiro and agreed a set of measures to start the global mobilisation against human-caused climate change and to meet the imperative of a more sustainable development model. Their Rio Declaration affirmed that ‘human beings are at the centre of concerns for sustainable development. They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature.’. Project-Syndicate, Social Europe, Mary Robinson: Climate accountability now

COSTA RICA – IMF

Costa Rica’s leading presidential candidate Jose Maria Figueres said he would negotiate adjustments to the country’s billion-dollar agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) if elected, an effort to contrast his policy with the outgoing president. Reuters, Alvaro Murillo: Costa Rican presidential candidate says he would change IMF agreement

HUMAN TRAFFICKING – MODERN SLAVERY

Following National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month, panelists examine efforts by the private sector, multilateral institutions, and governments to combat human trafficking and raise awareness about the crimes of modern slavery. Council on Foreign Relations: Combating Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery

IRAN NUCLEAR TALKS

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has called on Iran not to spoil the ongoing talks aimed at saving the 2015 nuclear agreement. “The Iranian leadership now has a choice: Now is the moment of truth,” Scholz said at the Munich Security Conference on February 19. RFE RL: Iran Nuclear Talks At ‘Moment Of Truth,’ Say German Chancellor

MALI

Eight Malian soldiers were killed, 14 others injured and four are missing following a clash with fighters in the northeast of the West African nation, the defence ministry said. The ministry said late on Friday that columns of fighters on motorbikes had pinned down the unit, but the army, backed by the air force, killed 57 of them in the tri-border area near Burkina Faso. Al Jazeera: Mali’s army says eight soldiers and 57 fighters killed in clashes

MYANMAR

Since the February 2021 coup, resistance to the junta in Myanmar has grown from protest rallies and civil disobedience campaigns to a nation-wide civil war that encompasses terrorist-style attacks in urban centres and guerrilla campaigns in rural districts. The military regime has responded to these challenges, in part, by exploiting its command of the air. East Asia Forum, Andrew Selth: A no-fly zone won’t fly in Myanmar

OIL PRICES

Oil prices have hit an eight-year high on US warnings of a possible war in Ukraine. Al Jazeera: Will oil prices keep rising?

RUSSIA

While Russia has continued massing troops and military equipment along Ukraine’s borders, raising fears that an invasion is imminent, a different kind of Russian drama has played out at the Winter Olympics in Beijing. Atlantic Council, Kelly Grieco: Beyond the sequins: What figure skating tells us about Russia’s foreign policy

RUSSIA – CUBA

Russia and Cuba will deepen ties and explore collaboration in transportation, energy, industry and banking, Cuba’s Foreign Ministry said late on Friday following a visit from Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Yuri BorisovReuters: Cuba to deepen ties with Russia as Ukraine tensions mount

RUSSIA – UKRAINE – SECURITY

Estonia has asked the United States to send fighter jets to the Baltic states to defend their skies, amid worries that Russia could be poised for an attack on Ukraine that would lead to an confrontation with the Baltic region, the country’s defence minister said on Saturday. Reuters, : Send fighter jets to the Baltics to defend their airspace, Estonia tells U.S.

Ukraine’s military on Saturday said that mercenaries had arrived in separatist-held eastern Ukraine to stage provocations in collaboration with Russia’s special services. Reuters: Ukraine says mercenaries arrived in eastern Ukraine to stage provocations

The head of a Russia-dominated military alliance that is sometimes called Moscow’s answer to NATO has said his organisation could send peacekeepers to territory in eastern Ukraine controlled by Russia-backed rebels if needed. Reuters, : Exclusive: Post-Soviet military bloc says it could send peacekeepers to Donbass if needed

President Vladimir Putin launched exercises by Russia’s strategic nuclear missile forces on Saturday and Washington said Russian troops massed near Ukraine’s border were moving forward and “poised to strike”. Reuters, and : Putin launches nuclear drills as U.S. says Russian forces ‘uncoil’ for Ukraine attack

Top Ukrainian officials, including Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskiy, came under a shelling attack during a tour of the front line of the separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine. RFE RL: Ukraine Officials Come Under Shelling As Separatist Leaders Order Military Mobilization

Russia has test-fired its latest hypersonic ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and nuclear-capable ballistic missiles as part of “planned” drills, the Kremlin said on February 19, as tensions escalate over Ukraine. RFE RL: Putin Oversees Russia’s Strategic Nuclear Exercises As Tensions Soar Over Ukraine

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy joined calls by Western leaders on February 19 for Russia to de-escalate amid soaring tensions with at least 150,000 Russian troops on Ukraine’s borders fueling fears of an imminent invasion. Zelenskiy told the annual Munich Security Conference that Ukraine would defend its land with its partners or without. RFE RL: Zelenskiy Says Ukraine Will Defend Itself With Or Without Partners Amid Soaring Tensions With Russia

Two Russian Tu-22M3 long-range bombers delivered a bombing strike against a hypothetical enemy’s command posts during the Union Resolve 2022 Russia-Belarus joint military drills, Russia’s Defense Ministry reported on Saturday. TASS: Tu-22M3 bombers strike enemy command posts in Russia-Belarus joint military drills

All the ballistic and cruise missiles launched during Russia’s strategic deterrence force drills held under the direction of Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Armed Forces President Vladimir Putin of Russia successfully hit the designated targets, the Kremlin’s press office reported on its website on Saturday. TASS: All missiles hit targets during Russia’s strategic drills directed by Putin

The Ukrainian armed forces fired 200 munitions during their bombardments of the territory of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) during three hours, employing heavy artillery guns, the DPR mission to the Joint Ceasefire Control and Coordination Center reported on Saturday. TASS: Ukrainian military fires 200 shells at Donetsk Republic over three hours

Deputy Head of the People’s Militia in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic Eduard Basurin on Saturday said the situation along the line of contact remained critical as the Ukrainian forces continued shelling civilian infrastructure. TASS: Donetsk says situation remains critical along line of contact

Donetsk Mayor Alexey Kulemzin on Saturday halted public transport services to use buses and other city vehicles for the evacuation of people from Donbass due to the threat of an attack by Ukrainian forces. TASS: Donetsk mayor halts transport services, orders vehicles to be used for evacuations

The Education Ministry of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic ordered that teaching be suspended at all educational institutions of the republic. TASS: Donetsk suspends teaching at schools

Russia’s top diplomat Sergey Lavrov told his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian over the phone on Saturday that Ukraine is building up its military forces on the contact line in Donbass and continues armed provocations, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Saturday. TASS: Kiev keeps building up forces in Donbass, Lavrov tells France’s Le Drian

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock defended the country’s support of Ukraine on Friday amid continued criticism that Berlin has not done enough to assist troops facing a potential Russian invasion. Defense One, Jacqueline Feldscher: Germany Defends Its Support for Ukraine Amid Criticism: ‘We Have Different Roles’

What if the “severe costs”—the damage the United States and its allies cause to the Russian military and government should they invade Ukraine—comes not with just sanctions, but through the use of cyber operations? Will we ever know? Defense One, Carrie Cordero: Will Biden’s ‘Severe Costs’ on Russia Include Cyber Attacks? – Defense One

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Saturday he had sent a letter to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov offering more talks to defuse a possible conflict in Ukraine but warned Moscow of the dangers of making impossible security demands. Reuters, Sabine Siebold: NATO urges more Russia talks to defuse Ukraine crisis

The West will need an overwhelming display of unity if it is to persuade Russian President Vladimir Putin to avoid a “catastrophic” invasion of Ukraine, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Saturday. Reuters: UK’s Johnson says West needs unity on Russia

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Saturday that a Russian attack on Ukraine would be a “serious mistake” with high “political, economic and geostrategic costs”. Reuters: Scholz says Russian attack on Ukraine would be “serious mistake”

China would back Russia diplomatically and perhaps economically if it invades Ukraine, worsening Beijing’s already strained relations with the West, but would stop short of providing military support, experts said. Reuters: Analysis: China would back Russia, diplomatically, if it moved on Ukraine

Moscow is confronting NATO with demands it knows the alliance cannot meet, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said on Saturday. Reuters: Russia makes demands that it knows NATO cannot fulfill, Stoltenberg says

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin was set to oversee exercises by strategic nuclear missile forces on Saturday as Western leaders gathered in Munich, fearful that he could order troops massed on Ukraine’s border to invade at any time. Reuters, : Putin to oversee nuclear drills as Ukraine crisis mounts

Russia-backed separatist leaders in eastern Ukraine have ordered a full military mobilization amid growing invasion fears. RFE RL: Russian-Backed Separatist Leaders In Ukraine’s East Order Military Mobilization

“I’ve seen with my own eyes the movement of tracked military vehicles on the streets of the city,” said a resident of the Belarusian town of Khoyniki, in the southeastern corner of the country not far from the Ukrainian border, when asked about the Russian forces in his country for joint military exercises. RFE RL: ‘They Drink A Lot, Sell Their Fuel’: Belarusians Give Low Marks To Russian Troops Deployed For Drills

Videos of Russia-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine ordering an “emergency” evacuation posted on February 18 were actually filmed on February 16, an analysis by RFE/RL’s Russian Service of metadata from the messaging app Telegram shows. RFE RL: Videos By Russia-Backed Separatists in Eastern Ukraine Calling For ‘Emergency’ Evacuation Were Filmed Two Days Earlier

Deputy Head of the People’s Militia in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic Eduard Basurin on Saturday said Ukrainian forces tried to spread leaflets in Donetsk. TASS: Donetsk says Ukraine tried to spread leaflets in bid to create panic

Head of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic Leonid Pasechnik has ordered general mobilization. TASS: Lugansk and Donetsk republics head orders general mobilization

Russian President Vladimir Putin plans to hold phone talks with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron on February 20, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told TASS. TASS: Kremlin confirms Putin to speak with Macron by phone on February 20

Russian Ambassador to the US Anatoly Antonov on Friday said US accusations that Russia is escalating the situation around Ukraine are an attempt to play down Moscow’s security proposals. TASS: Russian ambassador says accusations by US seek to play down Russian security proposals

Using corpses, video clips of blown-up buildings, staged Ukrainian military equipment, and actors playing Russian-speaking bereaved, the Kremlin plans to produce a graphic film that would create a pretext for intervention in Ukraine. Meanwhile, Russia has pre-positioned operatives trained in urban warfare to carry out a false-flag attack on its forces in eastern Ukraine, also to fabricate a justification for war. And the Kremlin has developed plans to install a pro-Russian leader in Ukraine, having already chosen a potential candidate. Brookings, Jessica Brandt: Preempting Putin: Washington’s campaign of intelligence disclosures is complicating Moscow’s plans for Ukraine

On February 18, the leaders of the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk announced that civilians would evacuate to Russian territory. “Today their guns are aimed at civilians, at us and our children,” Donetsk leader Dennis Pushilin said in his remarks, wearing an army pullover rather than his usual suit and tie. He later continued, “Therefore, from today, February 18, a mass centralized departure of the population to the Russian Federation has been organized.”. Atlantic Council: Russian Hybrid Threats Report: Evacuations begin in Ukrainian breakaway regions

We are trying something new at the Atlantic Council’s Europe Center. With our fellows constantly traveling back and forth around the continent, we thought we would get in the habit of exchanging letters in public, tackling the pressing issue of the day. With Ukraine on the boil, the future of the European security order is at the forefront of everyone’s mind. Last week, senior fellow Ben Judah was in Lithuania, a frontline NATO state that has become the capital-in-exile of the Russian and Belarusian opposition. He sent a dispatch explaining the subtle shifts that have been destabilizing Europe’s periphery even before Russian troops started massing on Ukraine’s borders. In response, senior fellow Damir Marusic describes the sense in Washington that this crisis is both familiar and taking us into uncharted waters. Atlantic Council, Ben Judah and Damir Marusic: Transatlantic Telegram: Whatever happens next in Ukraine, a new European security order is emerging

As the crisis in Eastern Europe continues to unfold, we tapped our expert network to answer our burning questions about the implications for Russia, Ukraine, and the wider world. Atlantic Council: Twenty questions (and expert answers) about what’s happening with Ukraine and Russia

Satellite imagery taken this week shows military activity in multiple locations across Belarus, the annexed Crimea region of Ukraine and western Russia near Ukraine’s border, a private U.S. company said on Friday. Reuters, , : Images show military activity in Belarus, Crimea and western Russia – satellite firm

Canadian Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland stepped well beyond economic policy at a G20 finance meeting on Friday to issue an “impassioned” warning to her Russian counterparts not to invade neighboring Ukraine, two sources familiar with her remarks said. Reuters, Andrea Shalal: Canada’s Freeland strays from G20 economic script to warn Russia on Ukraine -sources

Russian-backed separatist leaders in eastern Ukraine declared a full military mobilisation on Saturday, a day after ordering women and children to evacuate to southern Russia because of what they said was the threat of conflict. Reuters: Separatist leaders in eastern Ukraine declare full military mobilisation

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris is expected to meet Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskiy in Munich on Saturday, in what is likely to be a powerful display of diplomatic support for the European nation, a day after President Joe Biden said he is “convinced” Russia had made a decision to invade Ukraine. Reuters, Nandita Bose: U.S. VP Harris will meet Ukraine’s Zelenskiy, urge Putin to pull back

Russia’s Vladimir Putin has decided to invade Ukraine within days, U.S. President Joe Biden said on Friday after separatists backed by Moscow told civilians to leave breakaway regions on buses, a move the West fears is part of a pretext for an attack. Reuters, , : Biden sure Putin will invade Ukraine in days as civilians bussed out

The self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic on Saturday said shelling by Ukraine damaged a water supply station. TASS: Donetsk says Ukraine’s shelling damaged water supply station

Russian Embassy in Washington debunked claims of US Deputy National Security Advisor for Cyber and Emerging Technology Anne Neuberger regarding Moscow’s alleged involvement in the recent cyberattacks in Ukraine. TASS: Russian embassy rejects US allegations of Moscow’s involvement in Ukraine cyberattacks

The US Administration claims that Russian President Vladimir Putin has made a decision to invade Ukraine, US President Joe Biden confirmed Thursday. TASS: Biden claims Putin made decision to invade Ukraine

Leaders of the EU, NATO and the US had a phone call Friday evening, during which they called for an immediate de-escalation around Ukraine “amid the alarming reports,” European Council President Charles Michel said. TASS: EU, NATO, US leaders call for immediate de-escalation of situation around Ukraine

Russia is ready to protect Russian citizens in the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics if their lives are in danger, State Duma Speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said on Telegram on Saturday. TASS: Russia to protect its citizens in Donetsk, Lugansk if they are in danger – Duma speaker

SOMALIA

At least 13 people have been killed in central Somalia on Saturday after a suicide bomber detonated explosives in a restaurant packed with local officials and politicians. The dead were mostly civilians and 20 other people were wounded in the town of Beledweyne, police spokesman Dini Roble Ahmed said. The blast caused “huge damage”, he added. Al Jazeera: At least 13 killed by suicide bomber in central Somalia

SOUTH KOREA – RUSSIA – UKRAINE

Tensions between Russia and the West over a feared Russian military intervention in Ukraine has escalated with fears of an imminent invasion. South Korea’s relationship with Russia means that the ROK cannot afford to ignore geopolitical developments in Ukraine. How South Korea responds to the Ukraine crisis will be an important geopolitical and ideological test for Seoul’s foreign policy commitment to liberal internationalism. East Asia Forum, Anthony V Rinna: The Ukraine crisis tests South Korea’s commitment to liberal internationalism

TECHNOLOGY

It has been two years since COVID-19 took the world by storm, altering life as we know it. Prior to its emergence, the Global Health Security Index noted that no country was fully prepared to tackle a pandemic. This unpreparedness, however, was not due to a lack of scientific or technological progress. Rather, it was a result of our collective failure to adapt each nation’s economic and policy systems to reap the full benefits of these tools, a step that the editors of “Breakthrough,” Homi Kharas, John McArthur, and Izumi Ohno, suggest is critical for success. In our book chapter, we describe not only the technologies but also the policy and economic needs that must be met to achieve what we define as success—baseline pandemic preparedness in every nation—by 2030. Brookings, Yolanda Botti-Lodovico: Harnessing technology for pandemic preparedness demands system reform

Digitization has the potential to create new pathways out of poverty and empower people in new ways, but it could just as easily, and perhaps more naturally, exacerbate inequalities, undermine trust in critical institutions, and erode social norms. The difference between a positive future state and a negative one will, in large part, be defined by whether digital public infrastructure is designed, implemented, and governed in service of the public good. Brookings, Priya Vora and Jonathan Dolan: What is ‘good’ digital infrastructure? Measuring digital infrastructure to maximize development outcomes and mitigate risks

TUNISIA

Tunisia’s powerful UGTT labour union on Saturday re-elected Noureddine Taboubi as its leader as it approaches a critical national turning point in which it may play a pivotal role. Reuters: Tunisia’s powerful labour union re-elects leader

UK 

The UK prime minister Boris Johnson, the enfant terrible of British politics, is embroiled in a very British scandal. As in the recent eponymous BBC television miniseries based on the infamous 1963 Argyll v Argyll case, at stake is a high-profile divorce. But, this time, the potential split is political. And Johnson’s supposed Teflon shield finally shows signs of wearing thin. Project-Syndicate, Social Europe, Antara Haldar: Boris Johnson’s last affair? – Antara Haldar (socialeurope.eu)

USA

The Navy’s long-range shipbuilding plan should call for at least 500 crewed and uncrewed vessels, based on data from recent exercises and several years of analysis, the service’s top officer said Friday. “We’re doing a lot of work to look at things differently,” Adm. Mike Gilday told an audience at the WEST 2022 conference here, “thinking about how we would fight differently, in distributed fashion across a wide vast ocean like the Pacific, in terms of integrating all domains simultaneously.”. Defense One, Bradley Peniston: Expect a Navy Fleet Plan of 500 Ships, CNO Says

The U.S. Space Force has a problem: the public does not know it is a military service. Guardians have trouble receiving the special recognition from the airlines given to the other service members, and they lack access to special license plates as well. Ironically, though, the public instinctively knows what those who created the Space Force do not. Whatever the law might call it, the USSF is not, in fact, a military service. Defense One, Paula Thornhill: The Space Force Isn’t a Military Service – Defense One

Classified information was found in the 15 boxes of White House records that were stored at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence, the National Archives and Records Administration has said in a letter that confirmed the matter has been sent to the Justice Department. Al Jazeera: Trump took classified items to Mar-a-Lago, National Archives says

The Covid-19 pandemic has had a disproportionately devastating impact on Black and Latino communities—both from an economic and a health perspective. Last year, Black and Latino individuals experienced 2.9 and 3-year declines in life expectancy respectively, largely due to Covid-19 deaths. That is roughly 2.5 times the decline for white individuals. Brookings, Anthony Barr and Ariel Gelrud Shiro: The pandemic showed why social and structural determinants of health matter. Now it’s time for policymakers to act

Americans have no idea how good we have it with respect to energy prices. Although we are suffering through the worst inflation since 1982, with higher energy prices as a component, we still enjoy much lower energy prices than our friends in Europe. American natural gas (as liquified natural gas, or LNG) is flowing toward Europe in response to their very high prices — a good business deal for U.S. companies, a counterweight to Russia’s power over European energy supply, and a gesture of good will toward our staunchest allies. Although several members of Congress are calling for limiting U.S. natural gas exports in response to inflation at home, it is a terrible idea, harmful to U.S. foreign policy and useless in lowering prices for American consumers. Brookings, Samantha Gross: Now is not the time to limit U.S. natural gas exports

USA – BURKINA FASO

The United States has halted nearly $160 million in U.S. aid to Burkina Faso after determining the January ouster of President Roch Kabore constituted a military coup, triggering aid restrictions under U.S. law, a State Department spokesperson told Reuters on Friday. Reuters, and : U.S. halts nearly $160 mln aid to Burkina Faso after finding military coup occurred

USA – INDO PACIFIC

Experts from the Center for a New American Security weighed in with in-line analysis of the Indo-Pacific Strategy of the United States that was released by the White House in mid-February. Center for a New American Security, Lisa CurtisEmily KilcreaseMartijn RasserChris DoughertyJacob StokesJoshua FittAlexander SullivanSamuel Bendettand Kelley Eckels Currie: Indo-Pacific Strategy of the United States | Center for a New American Security (en-US) (cnas.org)