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Ukraine beta test
I subscribe to all kinds of weird and wonderful newsletters to get content for these posts, the idea of a Ukraine beta test was inspired by this post on SOFREP: Combat Sandbox: Ukraine’s ‘MacGyver Army’Tests Western Weaponry | SOFREP. SOFREP is written a self-described team of a team of former military, intelligence and special operations professionals. While some of their stories are repeats of tabloid fantasies: UK Apache helicopter gunships for Ukraine, they also provide some smart editorial thinking.
Western military ideas were designed to run against Russian and Chinese campaigns. The Ukraine beta test seems to have failed for Russia’s hybrid warfare concept, when it was executed on a large scale basis. Russia were trying to execute on an idea first outlined by an American theorist Frank Hoffman in his work Conflict in the 21st century: the rise of hybrid wars for a think tank. The Russians themselves call it ‘non-linear warfare‘. After careful preparation, Russia used non-linear warfare to capture Crimea and parts of eastern Ukraine in 2014. On the surface of it, a successful Ukraine beta test for Russia. Yet 7 years later on a larger scale approach Russia failed and is having to go back to older ways of doing things.
Part of the Ukraine beta test works because of the Ukrainians and everything that they have on the line. Part of it was down to better tactics by Ukraine compared to Russia and at least some of which was down to the use of western weapons systems used in an innovative way.
There has since been a Ukraine beta test of western military ideas:
Delta is a system for collecting, processing and displaying information about enemy forces, coordinating defense forces, and providing situational awareness according to NATO standards, developed by the Center for Innovation and Development of Defense Technologies of the Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, founded in 2021 at the base of the A2724 military unit, which, in turn, was created in 2015 from the volunteer group Aerorozvidka.
Delta is used for planning operations and combat missions, coordination with other units, secure exchange of information on the location of enemy forces, etc. In particular, Delta has integrated chatbots developed by the Ministry of Digital Affairs – “eVorog” and the Security Service of Ukraine – “STOP Russian War”.
The system is equipped with modern means of monitoring suspicious activity. From 2021, allied cyber units are constantly scanning the system for vulnerabilities, intrusion attempts, data leaks, and more.
According to the developers, Delta provides a comprehensive understanding of the battle space in real time, integrates information about the enemy from various sensors and sources, including – intelligence, on a digital map, does not require additional settings, and can work on any device – laptop, tablet or even on a mobile phone. Roughly speaking, Delta is such a modern real-time command map and troop control centerThe unique Ukrainian situational awareness system Delta was presented at the annual NATO event | Mezha
It has taken years for western powers to build comparable systems. Delta is powered by a mix of human intelligence, Ukrainian open source intelligence and also includes NATO electronic intelligence and satellite imagery. Integration of NATO for Delta is a Ukraine beta test in itself. NATO will learn from the successes and challenges of Delta. At a tactical level the idea of a Ukraine beta test shows how well weapons systems work under real-world ‘near peer’ war conditions, giving them valuable understanding of what systems are most effective against Russian systems.
The Ukraine beta test shows where the gaps are in NATO systems. For instance the Gepard tank is a short range anti-aircraft system phased out by Germany a decade ago, that has shown the value of similar gun based systems against drones and low flying aircraft as a cost effective method to engage.
All of which makes me wonder why the arms industry aren’t taking the obvious step and ‘donating’ trial systems to the Ukrainian military for a Ukraine beta test to show their mettle and value to western clients? The closest that we’ve seen to this is the GLSDB. The GLSDB is an existing Boeing bomb mated to recycled rocket motors. But the arms industry could do so much more as part of a Ukraine beta test.
The politics of China’s Belt and Road workers in Africa – Asia Times – strong empirical evidence that democracies host significantly fewer Chinese workers than autocracies, all other things being equal. The results hold up using a variety of different statistical modeling techniques. In Ghana, a vibrant democracy, we found that both the country’s main political parties faced pressure to ensure that Chinese-built projects delivered local jobs. For example, in the construction of the Bui Dam, the agreement between Sinohydro, the Chinese state-owned behemoth contracted to complete the project, and the Ghanaian government stipulated that a certain proportion of the workforce would be local. In Algeria, on the other hand, Chinese labor has been used to quickly complete projects seen as politically expedient. Algeria is a “hybrid” regime that was ruled by a single man, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, from 1999 to 2019. Even when domestic discontent over Chinese workers prompted measures to limit their presence, the measures were not implemented. Our findings have several important implications. First, host country agency is important. Host governments have the ability to ensure Chinese companies hire locally. Second, projects that hire locally may bring more long-term economic benefits to host countries. This can happen both directly through the jobs that they create, and via knowledge and technology transfers into the wider economy. Our analysis, therefore, suggests that the wider developmental benefits of Chinese-built infrastructure may actually be stronger in democracies than in autocracies
Discourse Power | January 14, 2023 – by Tuvia Gering – China on Middle East
China reports almost 60,000 Covid-related deaths in a month | Financial Times – this sounds low, even given China’s very tight definition of ‘COVID deaths’. Meanwhile: China’s authorities are quietly rounding up people who protested against COVID rules : NPR – not terribly surprising unfortunately. I would put good money on it that the technology stack to do this analysis relies on AMD and Nvidia processors running a mix of Chinese, Israeli, European and American software. China’s Epidemic of Mistrust: How Xi Jinping’s COVID-19 U-Turn Will Make the Country Harder to Govern – also views like this are as optimistic as those of communists who expected British industrial workers rather than agrarian societies as being the first to rise up to tear apart the chains of capitalism that bound them. I think this might be closer to the reality: China’s Covid-19 Surge Could Make Xi Jinping More Dangerous – Bloomberg – implication is that like Mao before him Xi would do a massive purge to rid himself of unbelievers. COVID-19 will get worse before it gets better: Chinese warned not to visit elderly relatives as Covid spreads from cities | China | The Guardian
How to Stop Chinese Coercion: The Case for Collective Resilience – a slow growth of a ‘coalition of the willing’ against China
Chinese developer Kaisa hit with lawsuit over bond defaults | Financial Times – surprised that China doesn’t use its nat sec type regulations to push back on these
Apple is seriously considering producing touch-screen Macs that Steve Jobs called ‘ergonomically terrible’ | South China Morning Post – why a touch Mac isn’t necessarily a great idea, one can go back and see the Hewlett-Packard HP-150. I know what you’re thinking, but the Microsoft Surface looks so cool. Yet PC companies sell so many non touch screen laptops…
In Conversation w/ Nike Re-Creation – Bodega Store – if Nike could scale this, it would be amazing
China is flashing red on the skewed consensus indicator | Financial Times – The only strong standout finding is on China, around which a strength of current optimism has no offset. Morgan Stanley didn’t think to even offer one. It’s a Goldilocks scenario with no bears – this doesn’t make sense. Wall Street seems to have an irrational belief in China as a market. For example: China moves to take ‘golden shares’ in Alibaba and Tencent units | Financial Times – expect this is to be about more than censorship. More like military – civil fusion – also likely to have big implications for media engagement on social platforms
The inevitable decline of the UK. Exceptionally poor productivity since the financial crash and facing a deeper recession. Britain is a second lost decade. Worthwhile reading this as well: mainly macro: Did 2010 austerity permanently reduce UK output? And things won’t get any better: Businesses ‘banging their heads against a brick wall’ over improving trade with EU, BCC warns | Sky News
Ryanair unsure if softening in UK demand here to stay – “There’s no doubt that the UK economy by any stretch of the imagination, in terms of going into recession or whatever, is different than the other European economies,” – interesting that they are concerned about travel overall rather than thinking about a pivot to them from BA etc
Is this the end of the bachelor pad? – The Face – the bachelor pad has been gobbled up by the economy. Nearly a third of 20 – 34-year-olds in the UK are living at home with their parents. I did feel a bit triggered by the author’s dismissal of stainless steel as a material and good quality furniture like an Eames lounge chair as being emblematic of toxic masculinity. But the economic points are very valid
Ant Group’s Alipay+ leads Chinese fintech giant’s overseas expansion as consumer spending in home market remains sluggish | South China Morning Post – Merchants using Alipay+ reached 2.5 million as of November, helping expand digital transactions in Japan, South Korea and across Southeast Asia. Rather than build another super app, Ant Group developed Alipay+ as a suite of global cross-border digital payments and marketing solutions – digital yuan by the back door?
UK vows no let-up with China after intervention in case of jailed Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai – Hong Kong Free Press HKFP and Beijing and Hong Kong hit back after UK asks city to stop ‘targeting’ tmedia tycoon Jimmy Lai; Asia minister meets his legal team in London | South China Morning Post – Beijing says UK ‘interfering with city’s rule of law’ after British government junior minister for Asia meets Jimmy Lai’s British legal team on Tuesday. Lai being subjected to ‘lawfare’ – multiple prosecutions and lawsuits – designed to silence opposition, UK lawyer says after meeting with Anne-Marie Trevelyan
Mainland rush to return to Hong Kong, Macau post zero-Covid nears 1 million | South China Morning Post – travel demand has been growing since China relaxed its border restrictions in December, with around 998,000 mainland residents applying for travel documents to Hong Kong or Macau, and 353,000 people applying for a new passport – expect Hong Kong fatalities to surge. Hong Kong has an even older population than mainland China. There is a corresponding low vaccination rate amongst them, partly down to vaccine distrust due to often Chinese orchestrated misinformation
Wokeness as prairie fire – by Noah Smith – Noahpinion – Anyway, with all that said, the point of this post is that wokeness’ role in American society is evolving as we move into the early 2020s. In particular, I see three simultaneous trends:
- An increasing anti-woke pushback from conservatives
- Increasing entrenchment of woke ideas and practices within liberal institutions
- A general exhaustion with wokeness among thought leaders and young people
Who Are You Calling a Great Power? – Lawfare – trying to define great power status is difficult in ways that are evident from the mismatched assortment of candidates that emerge in the recent literature. Power varies across issues and domains in ways that are glossed over when international politics is reduced to great power competition. It can be a convenient shorthand, but policymakers should not lose track of the nuances: Who counts as a great power may vary from issue to issue
Interesting that IBM, who has been the quantum computing front runner gets no mention in this headline: Amazon v Google v China: Quantum Computing Will Blow Your Mind. | Hunter Walk based on this article from The New Yorker. Which reads like a vintage Wired article: The World-Changing Race to Develop the Quantum Computer | The New Yorker – it made me feel very nostalgic
Top Four Predictions for Social Impact Platforms | Do Something Strategic – social impact platform is the new ‘brand purpose’ but at a corporate brand level
Saudi Aramco bets on being the last oil major standing | Financial Times – What is often forgotten is how oil is also needed as a feedstock for materials. You want electric batteries they need a plastic based insulator and cables need plastic insulation. Mercedes et al tried soy plastic based cable insulation in the late 1990s and the wiring looms of these cars have had to be remade. All of which will be needed if you want a LiON or hydrogen economy. Then there are seals, bushings, coatings, medicines etc all of which rely on hydrocarbon feedstocks. Oil isn’t just about carbon emissions. Aramco is being prescient about this, Companies like Shell etc are increasingly looking at plastics manufacturing for exactly the same reasons
Hong Kong working on improving SEO for official gov’t sites following national anthem sport blunders – Hong Kong Free Press HKFP – governments now have to think about search
Lidl, Zara’s owner, H&M and Next ‘paid Bangladesh suppliers less than production cost’ | Retail industry | The Guardian – Lidl, Zara’s owner Inditex, H&M and Next have been accused of paying garment suppliers in Bangladesh during the pandemic less than the cost of production, leaving factories struggling to pay the country’s legal minimum wage. In a survey of 1,000 factories in the country producing clothes for UK retailers, 19% of Lidl’s suppliers made the claim, as did 11% of Inditex’s, 9% of H&M’s and 8% of Next’s. A majority of suppliers of those four brands, and also of Tesco and Aldi, told researchers that almost two years after Covid-19 was declared a global pandemic they were still being paid at the same rate – despite soaring raw material and production costs in the interim
Brazil Politics: Lula’s Military Ties Strained by Riots by Bolsonaro Supporters – Bloomberg – By criticising his army commanders, Brazilian president risks undermining his own efforts to mend relations with generals. However the generals would be more likely to form a temporary junta and temporary elections rather than reinstate Jair Bolsonaro as president. More on the riots here: Brazil riots | Harper’s Weekly
EU draws up plans to stockpile scarce medicines | Financial Times – “a systemic challenge with numerous vulnerabilities”, including overreliance on a few countries for certain products, and the way drugs are regulated and bought. The EU’s Health Emergency and Response Authority (Hera), established in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, could organise joint procurements for several countries to improve supply. Health commissioner Stella Kyriakides outlined the plan in a reply to Greek health minister Thanos Plevris, who had demanded action in a letter to her last week. “There is a shortage in certain branded drugs containing paracetamol, antibiotics and inhalers . . . particularly for children,” Plevris said at a news conference last week where he announced a series of measures that would tackle the shortages. – because China
UK supermarket uses facial recognition tech to track shoppers – Coda Story – In July, civil liberties group Big Brother Watch filed a complaint to the U.K.’s Information Commissioner’s Office against Southern Co-op and Facewatch — the company providing the surveillance system. Joshua Shadbolt, a duty manager at the Copnor Road supermarket, told me that high levels of theft have forced him and his colleagues to hide, for instance, all the cleaning products behind the till. Without the technology, he fears customers would be given free range to steal. Since Covid restrictions were lifted in the U.K. in early 2021 following a third national lockdown, shoplifting has been on the rise. This is likely to have been compounded by a cost-of-living crisis. Still, even if theft has not reached pre-pandemic levels, for Shadbolt, the biometric camera has been an effective and necessary tool in tackling crime. For Big Brother Watch, the camera is a breach of data rights and individual privacy. Every time a customer walks into a shop or business that uses Facewatch’s system, a biometric profile is created. If staff have reasonable grounds to suspect a customer of committing a crime, whether it’s shoplifting or disorderly conduct, they can add the customer to a Facewatch list of “subjects of interest.” Facewatch’s policy notice says that the police also have the power to upload images and data to Facewatch’s system. Anyone uploading the data, which includes a picture of the suspected person’s face, their name and a short summary of what happened, must confirm that they either witnessed the incident or have CCTV footage of it. But the policy does not indicate what the bar for “reasonably suspecting” someone is.
Wolfram|Alpha as the Way to Bring Computational Knowledge Superpowers to ChatGPT—Stephen Wolfram Writings – Stephen Wolfram on neural networks and chat interfaces. Worthwhile reading in conjunction with: Microsoft Bets Big on the Creator of ChatGPT in Race to Dominate A.I. – The New York Times – interesting given how much Microsoft themselves invested in machine learning and Microsoft & OpenAI – Fluff ’n’ stuff – Radio Free Mobile. Finally: Microsoft: AI will not turn Bing into a Google-killer | Financial Times
Discovery of junta family assets in Thai raid prompts call for probe — Radio Free Asia – Burma’s military junta working with organised crime organisations