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

Open newsletter – march 23, 2022


  • Digital diplomacy refers to the broad use of technology, particularly the internet and other information and communication technologies (ICTs)-based innovations, in the conduct of diplomacy. With new technology providing access to instant information and interactive online communication, the use of these tools by diplomats and government officials is becoming widespread. In fact, the internet has three fundamental impacts on diplomatic relations: First, it multiplies and amplifies the number of voices and interests involved in international policymaking. Second, it accelerates and frees the dissemination of information—accurate or not—about any issue or event. Third, it enables traditional diplomatic services to be delivered faster and more cost effectively. Olubukola S. Adesina – Brookings – Africa and the future of digital diplomacy


  • There can be little doubt that the conduct of Australian trade policy will become more complex and challenging for the foreseeable future. Two trends are salient. First, with the deterioration in global geopolitical circumstances, trade policy and foreign and strategic policy have increasingly intersected. Second, the Covid-19 pandemic has seen a growing tendency by governments to opt for measures that favour domestic production in the name of resilience and sovereignty. Justin Brown – The Interpreter – Trade policy agenda facing new drivers
  • The head of the Australian Defence Force’s new space command says she wants to focus on speed and doing things differently to meet the challenge of ensuring Australia can maintain access to space in uncertain times. – The Strategist – Russia and China give Australia’s space commander the need for speed
  • It’s disturbing to see $18–27 billion of Australian government money about to be spent on more than 400 heavily armoured ‘infantry fighting vehicles’ when we’re busily watching yet another conflict in which military vehicles like these are being destroyed in numbers by cheap and readily available anti-armour missiles and armed drones. – The Strategist – Now is not the time to buy lots of heavy armoured vehicles
  • During the 2020 Nagarno-Karabakh conflict, Azerbaijani forces used expendable drones to target Armenia’s conventional forces and destroy their tanks, artillery and air-defence systems. The conflict provides a broad example of how a competent irregular or asymmetric force being targeted by a conventional force can disrupt the classical doctrinal roles of branches of the military. – The Strategist – Defence needs to change its approach to equip the ADF better and faster






  • Synthetic opioids remain the source of the deadliest U.S. drug epidemic ever. Since 1999, drug overdoses have killed approximately 1 million Americans, an overdose lethality that has increased significantly since 2012 when synthetic opioids from China began supplying the U.S. demand for illicit opioids. Vanda Felbab-Brown – Brookings – China and synthetic drugs control: Fentanyl, methamphetamines, and precursors
  • The US statement on restricting visas of Chinese officials for their involvement in “repressive acts” against ethnic and religious minority groups is full of ideological bias and political lies, which China firmly opposes, Wang Wenbin, spokesperson of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, told a press conference on Tuesday, urging the US to withdraw such sanctions or China will take countermeasures. Global Times – China urges US to withdraw visa restrictions on officials or face countermeasures


  • China’s emergence as a power in the Western Balkans over the last decade is among the most significant geopolitical developments in Europe. As an element of Beijing’s wide internationalisation efforts to expand its global footprint, the country has been working to improve its position in several key sectors, such as energy and infrastructure. Vladimir Shopov – ECFR – Mapping China’s rise in the Western Balkans





  • La Bussola Strategica approvata dagli Stati membri Ue rappresenta un altro importante tassello nella costruzione dell’Europa della difesa. È un processo lungo e complesso che ha conosciuto e conoscerà tempi variabili e correzioni di rotta. L’invasione russa dell’Ucraina lo ha accelerato fortemente perché ha fatto crescere sia le preoccupazioni dei vertici politici e delle opinioni pubbliche dei Paesi europei, sia la consapevolezza di quanto la loro divisione, oltre che l’inadeguatezza delle risorse finanziarie disponibili, limiti le loro capacità di difesa e sicurezza. Michele Nones – Affari Internazionali – Bussola strategica: il cambio di passo verso la difesa comunitaria
  • La bussola serviva soprattutto ai naviganti per mantenere la giusta direzione quando le nuvole coprivano le stelle con cui orientarsi. Oggi che tempeste di bombe e missili russi coprono i cieli di un importante Paese europeo come non accadeva da decenni, e che venti di guerra lambiscono i confini dell’Ue e della Nato, fare il punto e prendere decisioni sulla rotta, la velocità e le prossime tappe della costruzione dell’Europa della difesa non è solo un esercizio teorico. La Bussola Strategica approvata dei ministri Ue è un impegno politico-militare per proteggere i cittadini, gli interessi ed i valori dell’Unione, affrontando il mondo per come è oggi e tenendo a mente il mondo che si vorrebbe per il futuro. Alessandro Marrone – Affari Internazionali – Una Bussola per l’Europa della difesa




  • Disinformation and ‘fake news’ pose huge challenges for politics and governance in the 21st century, especially for Georgia which is in a difficult geopolitical situation as a former Soviet state. Chatham House – Fighting disinformation in Georgia


  • In response to the rising prominence of artificial intelligence and after years of investment in digitalization, Germany has taken new steps to institutionalize governmental data analysis. A €239 million investment is building data labs in every ministry and the Chancellery, adding new capacity across the federal government. To succeed, these data labs must be integrated into an already network of ministry data teams, statistical offices, technical services agencies, and government-funded research institutes, raising questions about to best organize the various roles of data analysis in a complex government bureaucracy. This paper presents the first comprehensive overview of the state of governmental data analysis in Germany, offers an assessment of how these data labs can best be used, and provides recommendations for how Germany can further develop its data-driven capabilities. Alex Engler – Brookings – Institutionalizing Data Analysis in German Federal Governance


  • Newcastle United’s takeover in October 2021 by a consortium that would give Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund (PIF), an 80% stake in the club brought renewed attention to the role of Gulf money in European sports. The £305 million deal was a surprise for some, but the fact that a Saudi sovereign wealth fund was behind it is a not at all surprising: Gulf funds have been key players in Europe’s elite football scene for over a decade. And the final takeover announcement was actually the culmination of 18 months of legal wrangling between the bidding consortium, the Premier League, Newcastle fans, the UK government – and a Qatari sovereign wealth fund sports media company, beIN Media. – Aspenia online – Global sport and the Gulf’s sovereign wealth funds



  • La posizione del governo di Nuova Delhi, fra le potenze regionali, è forse quella meno lontana dalla Russia nella tragica escalation della guerra iniziata nel mese di febbraio. Dal punto di vista del diritto internazionale l’India si è distanziata dalla Risoluzione di condanna dell’Assemblea generale Onu con un’astensione, al pari della Cina, ma dal punto di vista diplomatico e della geopolitica il legame fra i due paesi non viene certo messo in sordina. Francesco Valacchi – Affari Internazionali – L’India fra Russia e Occidente


  • In the past decade, Japan made certain critical changes in its defence and security policy. These include enhancing the country’s defence capabilities, introducing the right to collective self-defence, abandoning the ban on arms exports, strengthening its alliance with the United States, and promoting its vision of a ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific’. Japan has introduced these changes incrementally, as a response to changing strategic circumstances. This brief argues that in spite of these shifts, and others that are forthcoming, Japan continues to adhere to its historical pacifist stance, and remains committed to its non-nuclear principles and an exclusively defence-oriented policy. Purnendra Jain – ORF – Despite Shifts, Japan’s Defence and Security Policy Remains on Pacifist Ground


  • Il “governo del cambiamento”, insediatosi nel giugno 2021, ha lanciato Israele in una grande offensiva diplomatica condotta simultaneamente su più fronti verso i Paesi arabi sunniti: la visita del Capo di Stato Isaac Herzog  il 30 e 31 gennaio scorsi negli Emirati Arabi Uniti – sfortunatamente mentre era in corso il terzo attacco missilistico sul suolo emiratino lanciato dagli Houthi dallo Yemen – è stata infatti la prima di un Presidente israeliano, ma è stata preceduta da quelle del primo ministro Naftali Bennet ad Abu Dhabi a dicembre e in Egitto a settembre 2021, da quella in Bahrain da parte del ministro degli Esteri Yair Lapid a settembre 2021, da quella in Bahrain e da quella del novembre scorso in Marocco del ministro della Difesa Benny Gantz; seguendo un ordine di rilevanza diplomatica, si deve aggiungere la visita del ministro dell’Intelligence Eli Cohen in Sudan a gennaio 2022. Israele si è, dunque, rivolto alla regione con grande slancio e iniziativa, dimostrando di voler cogliere tutte le opportunità potenzialmente apertesi dopo la firma degli Accordi di Abramo nell’agosto del 2020. Claudia De Martino – Aspenia online – Come gli Accordi di Abramo disegnano un nuovo Medio Oriente – in attesa dei “dividendi della pace” per tutti



  • With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a renewed assessment of efforts by the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) to deter Russia from taking military action on NATO’s eastern flank has become particularly salient. In the coming weeks, NATO leadership will meet to discuss what longer term force posture adjustments are required to create such a deterrent.[1] This paper proposes several modest policy recommendations which will help inform the discussion and ultimately strengthen NATO’s conventional deterrence posture. Ryan C. Van Wie and John Gilliam – Brookings – Feasible US steps to strengthen NATO deterrence in the Baltics and Poland
  • NATO’s technical agency wants to make sure it has a say in ongoing 5G standardization talks to ensure the critical technology can be used for both civilian and military purposes. For Antonio Calderon, interim chief technology office for the NATO Communication and Information Agency (NCIA), fifth-generation wireless technology has the potential to enable swaths of novel capabilities for the defensive alliance. Vivienne Machi – Defense News – NATO wants a say in 5G standardization talks


  • Nucleoeléctrica Argentina has signed a contract with China National Nuclear Corporation (CNNC) to provide technical assistance to support retubing work as part of the refurbishment of China’s Qinshan nuclear power plant. The Argentinean company said it is drawing on experience gained during work to extend the operating life of the Embalse nuclear power plant. World Nuclear News – Nucleoeléctrica to support Chinese Candu refurbishment : Corporate
  • Germany’s Uniper Anlagenservice GmbH has become the first company to complete the dismantling, segmentation and packaging of two reactor pressure vessels (RPVs) in parallel within one year. In December 2021, the company successfully completed the dismantling of the vessels of both Sweden’s Barsebäck unit 1 and Germany’s Neckarwestheim I. World Nuclear News – Uniper completes dismantling of two RPVs in parallel : Waste & Recycling


  • The Russian economy will contract by 35% in the second quarter of 2022, and by 7% overall this year, according to JP Morgan. That’s probably an extremely conservative estimate that doesn’t take into account the cascading effects of sanctions and supply-chain issues. Other economists are predicting a 15% GDP drop in 2022. If China was to decide to help Russia stabilise its economy, it would have to help Russia pay for imports, boost its currency, and increase support for its oil and gas sector. But how could China do this? – The Strategist – Can China prop up Russia’s failing economy?
  • The summit in early February between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping during the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics came amid yet another crisis in Russia’s relations with the West. Putin and Xi had not met since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the meeting highlighted a common desire to deepen cooperation. The major takeaways were in geopolitics and energy. China demonstrated a strong understanding of Russia’s security concerns over NATO but there were no fundamental developments. Anna Kireeva – East Asia Forum – The limits to Russia and China’s ‘no limits’ friendship

RUSSIA – UKRAINE (impact, reactions, consequences)

  • Ukraine’s nuclear regulatory authority has warned that the annual “fire season” at Chernobyl is approaching and says that the usual firefighting capacity is not available as a result of the Russian occupation. World Nuclear News – IAEA seeks information about forest fires near Chernobyl : Regulation & Safety
  • The conviction of the imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny on new trumped-up charges on March 22, 2022, reflects the Russian government’s intensified crackdown on dissent and free expression since the start of Russia’s large-scale invasion of Ukraine, Human Rights Watch said today. HRW – Russia: Kremlin Targets Critics Amid Ukraine War
  • Moscow described the recent expulsions of ten Russian diplomats from Sofia as a provocation and warned that it would retaliate with “an appropriate response”. Svetoslav Todorov – Balkan Insight – Moscow Warns ‘Unfriendly’ Bulgaria After Russian Diplomats Expelled
  • I mezzi di informazione, specialmente in Italia, non hanno dedicato grande attenzione a due provvedimenti adottati di recente sul caso Ucraina in sede di Corte Penale Internazionale (Cpi) e Corte Internazionale di Giustizia (Cig). È probabile che questo dipenda dalla diffusa opinione circa la scarsa efficacia del diritto internazionale e delle sue procedure. Nondimeno sembra opportuno tenere conto di questi sviluppi, con l’auspicio che anch’essi possano favorire una soluzione concordata del drammatico conflitto in corso. Gian Luigi Tosato – Affari Internazionali – Russia a giudizio: possibilità e limiti dei procedimenti internazionali
  • L’invasione dell’Ucraina portata avanti dall’esercito russo e le sanzioni economiche che i Paesi occidentali stanno adottando in risposta all’azione militare decisa da Putin possono avere conseguenze economiche e sociali particolarmente rilevanti. Centrale, in questo contesto, è il legame che Russia ed Europa hanno sul fronte energetico: infrastrutture gas corrono dalla Siberia fino al cuore dell’Europa; una considerevole parte della produzione russa di petrolio alimenta i nostri trasporti e partecipazioni industriali e finanziarie legano gli operatori energetici dei nostri paesi (si pensi agli investimenti di Shell in Russia o anche solo a quelli di Lukoil in Italia). Filippo Del Grosso, Ilaria Livi, Federico Pontoni, Edoardo Somenzi – Aspenia online – Le conseguenze della guerra in Ucraina per il sistema elettrico italiano
  • Ukraine and Russia are major food exporters. They each provide about 6% of global market shares in food calories. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine puts this at risk. Even in February 2022, before the invasion, food prices were at a record high (Figure 1), in particular because of the pick-up in demand in the COVID-19 recovery, and because the pandemic disrupted supply chains. The war in Ukraine and consequent sanctions could mean high food prices will endure. – Bruegel – The impact of the war in Ukraine on food security
  • Although the United States, the European Union and many NATO-aligned nations have imposed a broad array of trade restrictions on Russia since its invasion of Ukraine, software, online services and media services are so far not explicitly subject to US or EU sanctions. Software and services trade restrictions to date are thus mainly either undertaken voluntarily by firms, or are a result of measures imposed by Russia. An exception is goods produced using US-origin software, which have been made subject to export licence requirements.   Pauline Weil – Bruegel – The decoupling of Russia: software, media and online services
  • Andriy Yermak, head of the office of the president of Ukraine, updates on Ukraine’s fightback and its negotiating position, and talks about Russia’s objectives, Ukraine’s aims, and the responsibilities of democratic states. Chatham House – War on Ukraine: In conversation with Andriy Yermak
  • At first glance, Russian influence efforts in Africa appear to be paying off handsomely. More than two dozen African countries, many with Russian official and private military company presences, dodged or abstained from a United Nations vote to condemn the invasion of Ukraine; Eritrea, which hosts Russian military installations, voted against the resolution outright. Meanwhile, the Central African Republic, which has seen pro-Russia demonstrations (and a social-media post in which fighters wave a Russian flag and offer to help the invading forces), has joined Moscow in recognizing the breakaway territories as independent.  Marcel Plichta – Defense One – Russia’s Mercenaries Don’t Want to Control Africa. They Want to Loot It
  • Russia’s invasion of Ukraine vividly demonstrates how great power politics can shatter confidence about universal adherence to international norms. When the international order is undermined, it is usually small states that seek assurances to promptly redress that order to ensure their own prospects of survival. Patrick Kaiku – The Interpreter – Pacific nations send a message on Ukraine – and great power rivalries
  • A month since Russia invaded Ukraine, the conflict has ground to a bloody stalemate. Yet there seems little prospect, at this point, of the conflict stopping any time soon. But how might it eventually end? Ian Hill – The Interpreter – War in Ukraine: How this might end
  • Is it possible for the United States to be both righteous defender of Ukraine’s right to self-determination and prudent decisionmaker? The combination of an experienced president and a well-informed US Congress bode well for ongoing crisis management. But judging likely outcomes requires a consideration of how Ukraine has factored into the congressional activity over time, and how Members of Congress responded to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s direct plea for assistance last week. Erin Hurley – The Interpreter – Zelensky’s direct plea to America
  • Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the West’s unprecedented response, represent a watershed in international relations, marking the formal end of the post–Cold War era and setting the stage for seismic geopolitical and geo-economic shifts. But one defining feature of international relations will remain: to paraphrase Thucydides, the strong will continue to do what they can, and the weak will continue to suffer what they must. – Project-Syndicate, The Strategist – Putin’s war and the mirage of the rules-based order
  • Russia’s invasion of Ukraine comes straight out of the playbook of the last century. A large country marches into a smaller, weaker neighbor with the intent of expanding its own territory and resources and imposing its own polity on another. Ukraine is a rich prize indeed, with substantial mineral resources, a strong agricultural sector, and of course human capital. Cynthia Cook – CSIS – Rebuilding Ukraine after the War
  • Belarus’s President Alyaksandr Lukashenka and his analysts supporting and protesting the war (the latter are mainly outside Belarus) contribute to our nuanced understanding of the situation. Thus, on March 15, speaking at a meeting with Belarusian national security officials, Lukashenka both denied and confirmed Belarus’s participation in the war within one minute. “We will not get involved in this operation that Russia is conducting in Ukraine,” declared Lukashenka, implying the non-involvement of Belarusian troops. “There is no necessity whatsoever of doing that. What could we possibly add to Russia’s efforts! They have enough manpower and weaponry.” “But,” Lukashenka uttered immediately after that, “we do participate in that operation, which is what I told you many times”—this time he meant “preventing potential backstabbing of Russian forces” that “we” cannot tolerate. Grigory Ioffe – The Jamestown Foundation – What Do Belarusians Think About the War?
  • One of the most striking features of Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea and his promotion of Russian secessionist movements in Donbas in 2014 was the prominent, independent and divided reaction of Russian nationalists to those events. Many Russian nationalists, of course, supported the Kremlin leader’s agenda and even went to Ukraine to fight for it. Still, others opposed his moves, seeing them as a threat to the Russian nation, speaking out against his actions and even going to Ukraine to fight against them. This time around, in the course of Putin’s expanded aggression against Ukraine, even more Russian nationalists are backing him, but far fewer have spoken out in defense of Ukraine, let alone gone there to fight for that nation and against their own. Paul Globe – The Jamestown Foundation – Some Russian Nationalists See Putin’s War Giving Them a Chance to Recover
  • Russian-Ukrainian “peace” negotiations have been in permanent session since March 14 by video conference, with a sense of urgency and in secrecy. Multiple, specialized working groups and consultative groups meet online on a daily basis, with plenary sessions scheduled to be held on Mondays from March 21 onward. On March 21, the 26th day of Russia’s invasion into Ukraine’s interior, Kyiv’s delegates have allowed a fleeting glimpse into this process by way of expectations management in Ukraine (see below). Vladimir Socor – The Jamestown  Foundation – Russia Smashing Ukraine Into Pax Russica (Part Two)
  • The initial Russian campaign to invade and conquer Ukraine is culminating without achieving its objectives—it is being defeated, in other words. The war is settling into a stalemate condition in much of the theater. But the war isn’t over and isn’t likely to end soon. Nor is the outcome of the war yet clear. The Russians might still win; the Ukrainians might win; the war might expand to involve other countries; or it might turn into a larger scale version of the stalemate in Ukraine’s east that had persisted from 2014 to the start of Russia’s invasion in February 2022. The failure of Russia’s initial military campaign nevertheless marks an important inflection that has implications for the development and execution of Western military, economic, and political strategies. The West must continue supplying Ukraine with the weapons it needs to fight, but it must now also expand its aid dramatically to help keep Ukraine alive as a country even in conditions of stalemate. Frederick W. Kagan – ISW – What Stalemate Means in Ukraine and Why it Matters
  • Russian forces did not make any major advances on March 22 and Ukrainian forces conducted local counterattacks northwest of Kyiv and around Mykolayiv. Russian forces around Kyiv and other major cities are increasingly prioritizing long-range bombardment after the failure of Russian ground offensives but are unlikely to force major cities to surrender in this manner. Russian forces did not conduct any offensive operations toward the northeastern Ukrainian cities of Chernihiv, Sumy, or Kharkiv in the last 24 hours. Russian forces continued to further reduce the Mariupol pocket. Mason Clark, George Barros, and Kateryna Stepanenko – ISW – Russian Offensive Campaign Assessment, March 22




  • In Sudan, where prices for bread and fuel have skyrocketed following the military coup, people are once again taking to the streets. The global shortage of wheat triggered by the ongoing war in Ukraine, the world’s breadbasket, may be adding fuel to the fire. But it’s important to remember that their dissatisfaction has been brewing for years. Mohamed Osman – HRW – Sudan’s Military is Brutally Suppressing Protests





  • President Biden will make a high-stakes trip to Europe later this week to attend an extraordinary summit of NATO heads of state, along with a special gathering of the Group of Seven (G7) nations and a session of the European Council. It will be a mix of old and new. The United States will be tempted to resurrect its old role as the unquestioned leader of NATO and Europe’s primary security guarantor — 100,000 American troops are now in Europe, the largest number in nearly two decades.
  • The U.S. Navy is nearly done assessing whether to put missile tubes on an unmanned surface vessel, comparing the idea to other options for getting missile launchers out to sea. The ongoing distributed offensive surface fires analysis of alternatives is in its final stages and expected to complete by the end of April, Navy spokesman Lt. Lewis Aldridge told Defense News. Megan Eckstein – Defense News – US Navy considers alternatives to unmanned boats with missiles

  • Cybersecurity is a priority for Congress and for the Biden administration as online crime and espionage reach unparalleled heights. To improve cybersecurity in federal agencies and in critical infrastructure, the administration has built a strong team, elevated the positions of White House officials dealing with the issue, and released a series of policy directives. In Congress, 157 pieces of legislation addressing cybersecurity were introduced during 2021, with proposals ranging from capacity building and workforce development to updating federal policy. Eugenia Lostri, James Andrew Lewis, Georgia Wood – CSIS – A Shared Responsibility: Public-Private Cooperation for Cybersecurity


  • Although there is a general sentiment among lawmakers in the European Union (EU) and United States that competition reform may be necessary to curb anticompetitive practices by dominant digital platforms, there is considerably less consensus over which companies any new ex ante legislation should apply to. In a bipartisan letter to President Biden last month, 30 members of Congress criticized the EU’s Digital Markets Act (DMA), arguing that the draft legislation “unfairly targets American workers by deeming certain U.S. technology companies as ‘gatekeepers’ based on deliberately discriminatory and subjective thresholds.” These legislators, along with other critics, contend that the proposed EU competition rules—which would address practices like self-preferencing, anti-steering, data access, data portability, and interoperability—contain criteria that would primarily pertain to a small number of U.S. corporations like Meta, Apple, Google, Amazon, and Microsoft, while potentially exempting many EU or Chinese platforms. Caitlin Chin – Brookings – Market capitalization is not the right focus for U.S. and EU antitrust reform


  • Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has sent the Biden administration scrambling to respond firmly and to uphold the liberal international order under more duress than at any moment since World War II. Since the invasion on February 24, several strategic proposals have featured a détente with U.S. adversaries, especially those sitting on oil and gas reserves that could contribute to global market stability. Ryan C. Berg – CSIS – Dancing with the Dictator in Caracas