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A Matter of Ethics: Should Artificial Intelligence be Deployed in Warfare?

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The thriving technological advancements have driven the Fourth Industrial Revolution nowadays. Indeed, the rapid growth of big data, quantum computing, and the Internet of things (IoT) has been reshaping all human activities – it creates a new business model, removes geographical boundaries, and revamps the decision-making process not only on the individual level but also on the state level. It has also influenced all human dimensions, from economic and social sectors to the political sphere. One of the results of this transformation is the emersion of Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI is designed to recognize speech, learn, plan, and solve a problem. Generally, AI is described as a machine that can learn by itself, eventually imitating how the human brain works. 

In the past few decades, researchers have achieved a breakthrough related to AI development that significantly exceeds the projections of experts in this field. An AI specialist who created Go-Playing, also known as Alpha Go, in 2014 said that it would take another ten years for a computer to overcome human Go-Champion. However, one year later, a researcher at Google DeepMind successfully established a technology to defeat it. From this point forward, AI is progressing at a breakneck speed. According to Greg Allen and Taniel Chan in their research about Artificial Intelligence and National Security, the evolution of AI is driven by some key factors, including: (1) exponential development in computing capability; (2) enlarged data-set; (3) advancement in the application of machine learning method and algorithm; and most importantly (4) the fast expansion of business interest and investment in AI. 

There have been broad usages of AI in recent years, and it can be found in various programs and technological devices. AI has helped humans map and target markets, providing safer travel through a smart car or self-driving car, helping people predict the weather, and much more. The expansion of AI holds a promising future in many sectors, including in military dimensions. Its existence has become a huge turning point for creating autonomous weapons, vehicles, and logistic tools which could increase military capability. Robert Work, in his remark at CNAS Inaugural National Security Forum in 2015, stated that world leaders have been quick to recognize Artificial Intelligence’s revolutionary potential as a critical component of national security. It is proved by the increasing global investments in Artificial Intelligence for national security and the rising usage of AI in defense strategy.

The Usage of AI in Military Sector

Since World War II, semi-autonomous weapons have been deployed on the battlefields. This type of weapons system is continuously being developed in numerous countries. The massive growth of Artificial Intelligence, supported by extensive investments in this sector, has transformed semi-autonomous weapons into fully-autonomous ones. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), notably deployed by the US in Kosovo in 1999, were one of the first by-products resulting from this significant development. Back then, the US Defense had not thoroughly investigated how this technology might impact future military actions. 

Fast forward two decades after the first usage of UAVs in military operations, the US Government has successfully improved the AI aspect significantly. By 2019, the Sea Hunter Uncrewed Surface Vessel (USV), owned by the United States Navy (USN), successfully sailed without crew from California to Hawaii. It was navigated by AI using a data set collected by the vessel’s onboard sensors, radars, and cameras. Further, the US Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) launched an AI-powered F-16 Fighter Aircraft in 2020. During some trials, this aircraft could defeat a comparable simulation controlled by a very experienced human. The number of funds invested by the US Department of Defence for AI development has also increased – from USD 600 Million in 2016- 2017 to USD 2,5 Billion in 2021-2022. This trend is not only happening in the US.  

China is now using AI to increase the speed and precision of its tactical decision-making by automating its command and control system. This practice effectively established predictive operational planning. Apart from that, the government of China has already begun testing AI-enabled USVs for future development in the South China Sea. Russia might lag, but Putin presumably does not want to be excluded in this race as the government has targeted 30 percent of its entire military forces to become robotic by 2025. Russia is also working on multiple fronts by conducting research focused on using AI in information operations and increasing the efficacy of land warfare operations. This indicates how AI has gained compelling popularity among various states regarding its military usage. It seems that the prospect of wars using robots with minimum or even no human involvement in the future would be inevitable.

Deploying AI in Warfare: Against Human Ethics?

Along with technological development, military warfare is also growing; both are interwoven. The emergence of Artificial Intelligence would bring up the same effect, if not more. The initial indications have clearly shown how AI will play a significant role in shaping future wars. Even when AI has yet to be tested in the harsh environment of the natural world of combat operations, its prospect for future warfare cannot be ignored. However, despite all its benefits to improving a state’s defense and offense capability, the increasing adoption of AI into military forces gives rise to a debate, mainly related to legal, ethical, and security perspectives. Current AI development can address some specific problems more consistently than humans. It can detect patterns and anomalies within vast unstructured data faster than humans. According to Peter Layton in his publication – Fighting Artificial Intelligence Battle: Operational Concept for Future AI-Enabled Wars – the latest generation of AI is influential in five main areas, including identifying, grouping, generating, forecasting, and planning. Humans can execute those activities, but AI can do those tasks efficiently and much faster. 

Nevertheless, some aspects need to be considered for further deployment of AI in warfare. With all of the intelligence an AI machine can uphold, it would still be vulnerable to cyberattacks, which brings more concern towards security. Furthermore, AI is still proven to be unably adapting to minor changes. It still has difficulties to apply the same knowledge to different contexts. And with human life at stake, this shortcoming is more or less unacceptable. In a war situation, where it is a matter of life and death, removing human footprints in the decision-making process would put ground morals and ethics at stake. After all, AI is not a human; in a general context, it should not be the one making a decision over a human.

Graduate student in International Relations at Universitas Gadjah Mada, Indonesia. Interested in digital transformation, environmental issues, and human security.

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Internet of Military Things (IoMT) and the Future of Warfare

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The Internet of Military Things (IoMT) is a class of heterogeneously connected devices employed for future warfare. It has wide applications in advanced combat operations and intelligence-oriented warfare. For example, it allows real-time connection among devices, such as between unmanned vehicles and a central command station. Likewise, it would enable a broader warfighting concept interpreted as Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) by the United States (US) military. JADC2 is based on a similar network of sensors that connect all battlefield devices.

A majority of highly advanced military units have integrated IoMT into their battlefield operations to enhance their surveillance and response strategies. This concept offers multiple strategic options to militaries. For example, deployment of multiple sensors of IoMT across various domains (air, land, sea, space and cyber) can support data to acquire comprehensive situational awareness and understand the information ecosystem of the battlefield. This will ultimately speed up the Observe, Orient, Decide, Act (OODA) loop of decision-making and help in prompt and accurate planning and execution in future warfare.

IoMT can connect not only battlefield devices but also military troops through wearable devices. Under challenging terrains such as mountains, jungle or deserted terrains, wearable devices such as a jacket or a wristband can sense and track troops’ health status, weapon state, atmospheric conditions, relative locations and communicate all such information to the central command. The central command can analyse the tactical data of the soldiers to make decisions, based on incoming real-time information. It is expected that with the advancement of neural networks, wearable devices will also be able to evaluate the physical, psychological and emotional state of Air Force pilot. It is also anticipated that automated battleground devices, such as mechanised snipers would be equipped with IoMT. Such a sniper would have two units, a firing unit and a control unit. A webcam and a sensor would detect movement while the control unit would order fire.

Cloud computing would be essential for the storage of data gathered from multiple sensors of IoMT. A 5G connection would, therefore, be vital for data transfer through high bandwidth and low latency. Likewise, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and data analytics would be crucial for data processing.

The US and China have actively invested in IoMT. The US military has developed an integrated warfighting network that converges and combines all the data from IoMT sensors, radars, and satellites. This data is filtered to pinpoint critical data for successful missions. IoMT solutions have also been used to integrate the Army’s ballistic missile defence system and classified communication networks into one central hub to interact with and engage threats. US defence contractors such as Lockheed Martin, L3Harris and Northrop Grumman have worked on various elements of this integrated battle network.

Similarly, China has also shown great interest in IoMT. The model China has adopted to develop IoMT includes a high level of collaboration between academic and government research organisations, the private sector and defence industrial complexes. Like the US, China has also developed a strategic outline for integrated warfare. The Chinese National Defence White Paper (NDWP 2019) characterised future warfare as ‘Intelligent Warfare.’ A round of cutting-edge IoT technologies would drive the development of an intelligent military and ultimately create a modern military force for the future. This process is expected to be completed by 2035.

The Indian Army is using IoMT for communication purposes. It has been developing an LTE-based mobile communication grid with integrated IoMT sensors to provide a secure and failsafe communication system. This communication system would have layered security for voice, data and video, and protect the network from intrusions and interceptions. This communication system would be provided to formations and units along Pakistan and China’s border. For developing this IoT-based communication grid, the Indian military would choose only Indian vendors and those foreign companies who have registered offices with production, maintain and repair infrastructures in the country.

The IoT ecosystem in Pakistan is nascent as the country lacks the basic infrastructure to produce IoT devices on a large scale. Presently, small start-ups have been engaged in building IoT devices through outsourcing, mainly to China. These start-ups have developed wearable medical devices, smart home appliances, trackers for electric consumption­, etc. IoMT devices require a large upfront budget; however, these applications offer long-term benefits. As Pakistan is heavily inclined towards developing its capacity in emerging technologies, IoMT should not be neglected as it could be a force multiplier that facilitates the network of communication and data transmission. Coupled with advancements in the telecom industry and 5G, IoMT can deliver effective and precise military capabilities that would help in tackling any future threat environment.

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The Greatest Threats to U.S. National Security: Russia, China, and Iran/Terrorism

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In May 2, 2022 testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Defense Intelligence Agency Director Lt. Gen. Scott D. Berrier and Director of National Intelligence Avril D. Haines identified China, Russia, and Iran, as well as terrorist organizations, as the greatest threats to U.S. national security. Both China and Russia are nuclear powers and both have significant intelligence, cyber, and information warfare capabilities.

Russia

Russia’s threat to the United States includes: direct military conflict, cyber attacks, supporting separatists, threats to freedom of navigation, and territorial expansion. On November 15, a missile blast killed two people in Poland, near the Ukraine border. Russia was the primary suspect. President Joe Biden later told the Poles that the missile was part of a Ukrainian defense system. Whether the missile actually came from Russia directly or was the indirect result of Russian shelling, the incident underscores the danger Russia poses. A perceived attack on a NATO member could cause NATO to invoke Article 5, which states that an armed attack against one member is considered an attack against the entire alliance.

Moscow has repeatedly accused the U.S. and NATO of wanting to destroy Russia. Since the end of the Cold War, 13 countries have been admitted to NATO: the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland (1999); Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia (2004); Albania and Croatia (2009); and, in 2017, Montenegro. Consequently, Russia has been focused on maintaining its influence and control in former Soviet republics, including Ukraine, Belarus, and the Central Asian states.

Defeating the U.S. or breaking from a U.S.-led world order was a primary goal of the USSR and has carried over to modern Russia. Opposing Europe and the U.K. are secondary objectives, seen as a proxy for defiance against the U.S. One of the concerns of the Department of Defense is that Putin often uses threats, including the threat of nuclear war, to get what he wants. If his threats continue to go unheeded, there is the danger that he will finally act, launching a strike, to show that he is serious.

Since the fall of the USSR, there have been numerous opportunities for cooperation between the U.S., E.U. NATO, and Russia, including participation in joint military exercises and peacekeeping operations. Tensions, however, run deep, complicating attempts at relationship-building. In 1999, Russian and NATO forces nearly engaged in a firefight at Pristina Airport, at the end of the Kosovo War. In 2004, Russia accused the U.S. of supporting the revolutions in Ukraine and Georgia, and raised objections when the Bush administration positioned U.S. ballistic missile defense systems (BMD) in Poland and the Czech Republic. Russia then positioned its own missiles in Kaliningrad, the former East Prussia. In 2008, Russia opposed Kosovo’s declaration of independence from Serbia. In August 2008, Russia blamed the U.S for supporting Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili in a war against separatist South Ossetia. At one point, Georgian and Russian forces exchanged fire.

In 2014, NATO canceled all attempts to cooperate with Russia, in response to the invasion of the Crimea. Four years later, Russia attempted to assassinate Sergei Skripal, a British citizen living in the U.K.

The current invasion of Ukraine is making cooperation between the West and Russia less likely, while increasing the chance of war.

Ukraine became independent in 1991, shortly after the collapse of the USSR. In 2004, Viktor Yanukovich, a pro-Russian candidate, won a general election, which was presumed to have been rigged. In 2014, Russia backed separatists in the Donbas region, sparking off a conflict in which

an estimated 15,000 people died before the 2022 invasion of Ukraine. In 2019, pro-European candidate Volodymyr Zelenskyy was elected president of Ukraine, and the country began its pivot back to the West. In 2021, Zelenskyy asked President Biden to support Ukraine in joining NATO.

In December 2021, Russia began deploying troops close to its border with Ukraine. At the peak, 190,000 Russian soldiers were threatening Ukraine. Putin demanded that the U.S. remove its weapons from Eastern Europe. In response, the U.S. sent 3,000 troops to Poland and Romania. In February 2022, Russian-backed paramilitaries seized parts of Ukraine’s Donbas region. Shortly after, Putin recognized the region’s independence. Three days later, on February 24, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine. Since the invasion began, the U.S., NATO and the E.U have been supporting the Ukrainian military with weapons, money, and intelligence.

Smaller nations, particularly in Southeastern Europe, are worried about being gobbled up, should Russia continue its expansion. Apart from the threat to U.S. interests in continental Western Europe, there is also the threat of Russia’s expansion into the Arctic, positioning submarines and missiles, which could potentially threaten shipping and freedom of navigation in the North Sea, as well as possible attacks on Canada, Alaska, and Scandinavia. Most recently, Finland and Sweden have been given permission to join NATO.

China

China seeks to surpass the U.S. militarily, economically, technologically, and in terms of global influence. The FBI identifies China as the greatest threat to the U.S. in terms of information warfare. China coopts U.S persons, politicians, academics, and businesspeople, to support legislation which is favorable to Chinese Communist Party. Beijing’s stated goal is to become the world’s number-one superpower, a goal they are slowly achieving through predatory lending to developing countries, systematic theft of intellectual property, as well as hacking and other cybercrimes.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin identifies China as the single greatest threat to the United States. While he also considers Russia a threat, he pointed out that China, unlike Russia, has the stated goal to remake the world order in their own image and that China has the economic and military capability to do so. The Department of Defense reported that, in China and Russia, the U.S. now faces two hostile nuclear powers.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has vowed to capture Taiwan, and has declared that China has the right to use force to do so. If he launches an invasion, given the ambiguity of the Taiwan Policy Act of 2022, it is unclear if Washington would go to war. President Biden, however, has publicly stated, on several occasions, that the U.S. would defend the island nation. Japan also identifies an attack on Taiwan as an attack on Japan, because a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) invasion of Taiwan is sure to violate Japanese air and sea space. If Japan is forced to defend itself, the U.S. is treaty-bound to join the fight. Consequently, Taiwan is the single most likely flashpoint for a war between the U.S. and China.

Iran

According to the Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community, published in February 2022, “Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), al-Qa‘ida, and Iran and its militant allies, will take advantage of weak governance to continue to plot terrorist attacks against U.S. persons and interests, including to varying degrees in the United States, and exacerbate instability in regions such as Africa and the Middle East.”

While Russia is dominating headlines with the Ukraine invasion and China’s economic, political, and military expansion is monitored by the media, as well as national security and military intelligence agencies, Iran and Iran-sponsored terrorism remains the third-largest challenge, according to the U.S. intelligence community. Iran’s threat to the U.S. and U.S. interests in Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the Middle East include direct missile attacks, cyber attacks, assassinations, and sponsorship of terrorist organization and proxy forces, as well as the increasing danger posed by Iran’s nuclear enrichment program.

Iran projects its own power in the Middle East and North Africa, eroding U.S. influence. In particular, Iran threatens U.S. military and civilians in the region, Israel, and U.S. oil-trade partner Saudi Arabia. Although the relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia has been fraught with difficulties, Saudi Arabia is crucial to U.S. interests, because they are an important oil trade partner, a weapons trade partner, and they offer support for the internationalization of the U.S. dollar. Additionally, U.S. forces use Saudi Arabia as a base of operations to counter other threats in the region, such as Iran. As important as Saudi Arabia is to U.S. operations, they are not exactly a reliable ally. In October, OPEC, which is led by Saudi Arabia, refused a U.S. request to raise production volumes. Many in the U.S. Congress advised the president to stop providing Saudi Arabia with weapons, which would leave the kingdom vulnerable to an Iranian attack.

Saudi Arabia, which shares intelligence with the United States, warned in November 2022 of possible Iranian attacks on targets inside of the Saudi territory. Iran was also blamed for missile attacks on Saudi refineries in 2019. Iran backs Shia forces in Iraq, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, and Lebanon, which fight proxy wars against Western countries and Sunnis in the region. Iran supports terrorist groups, including Hammas, as well as Lebanese Hizballah, Shia militias in Iraq, the Huthis in Yemen, and provides direct support to the regime in Syria. Through their support of the Syrian government, Iran and Russia together are indirectly responsible for the deaths of over 400,000 Syrians.

Iran often engages in provocative actions against U.S. Navy vessels in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz. Over the past three years, Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence has been responsible for cyber attacks, including attacks on Israeli water infrastructure in 2020, the Boston Children’s Hospital in 2021, and Albania’s government in 2022.

In September, Iran captured two U.S. Navy drones. In 2020, Iran launched missile attacks on Iraqi bases hosting U.S. forces. In August 2022, the U.S. Department of Justice formally charged a member of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, Shahram Poursafi, with attempting to pay for the assassination of former U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton and of a second individual, who authorities believe was former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Iran has also sold drones to Russia which are now being deployed in Ukraine. U.S. authorities believe that the August shipment of Mohajer-6 and Shahed-series drones to Moscow is the first of many planned transfers of Iranian unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) of various types to Russia. In October, Iran agreed to sell Russia surface-to-surface missiles, as well as more drones.

With over 3,000 missiles, Iran has the world’s largest arsenal of conventionally armed ballistic missiles, many of which are precision-guided, with ranges of up to 2,000 kilometers. And this does not include Iran’s growing supply of land-attack cruise missiles. While Iran does not possess nuclear capabilities yet, many of these missiles are capable of carrying a nuclear payload. For this reason, watchdog agencies keep a close eye on Iran’s nuclear development programs. In August 2022, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Commander-in-Chief Hossein Salami threatened that there were “hundreds of thousands of missiles” pointed at Israel.

The threat from Iran has increased since anti-government protests started in September 2022. The government has reacted violently to the protests, killing at least 130 protesters. In October 2022, the country’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, publicly blamed the protests on the U.S. and Israel.

The Institute for Science and International Security monitors the threat posed to the U.S. from Iran. As of October 2022, the institute ranked the Iran threat as “high danger,” 130 out of a possible 180. The assessment is conducted across six dimensions, each of which is assigned a score of 0 to 30 points. Hostile actions scored 22 out of 30; hostile rhetoric, 28; lack of transparency in compliance with nuclear inspections, 17; nuclear breakout, 30; sensitive nuclear capabilities, 17; and beyond breakout, converting highly enriched uranium into nuclear weapons, scored 16. The institute concluded that Iran’s recent hostile actions and deeds, as well as speculation that they are closing in on nuclear weapons technology, have increased the threat level.

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Rostec State Corporation Promoting Development, Manufacturing and Exporting Military High-Tech Products

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During the gala event dedicated to the 15th anniversary of the Rostec State Corporation. Russian President Vladimir Putin With Rostec CEO Sergei Chemezov.

The Rostec State Corporation was established 15 years ago. Workers and foremen, researchers, engineers, designers and test operators, and all personnel of Rostec enterprises, on this important occasion.

There are thousands of people – highly qualified, unique specialists, some of them are one of a kind, of very different profiles who give their efforts, energy and talent to contribute to the industrial progress of our country and are directly engaged in resolving crucial state tasks in a number of priority high-tech areas.

These include aircraft building, automobile industry, radio electronics, engineering, chemistry, medicine, new materials and, of course, strengthening Russia’s defence capabilities since a significant share of the state defence order goes to Rostec enterprises, the largest corporation in the military-industrial sector.

The tangible results it achieves must continue to be among the corporation’s unquestionable priorities. It was established for this reason and generally to ensure, consolidate, preserve and thus guarantee the development of our technological, industrial and innovative potential.

The days when the corporation was being established and the way it proceeded underscore today that the decision of forming such an industrial powerhouse, a flagship of the Russian economy, and concentration of financial and managerial resources have fully justified themselves.

Yet we must keep moving forward, set new tasks and give proper responses to the most complicated challenges in defence and security, and global technological competition.

The key priority today, the number one task is to do everything possible to meet the needs of our Armed Forces, and crucially, the units and detachments engaged in the special military operation.

Production must be stepped up as well as deliveries of all required products; the state target tasks must be executed precisely, with high quality, and strictly on schedule. We spoke about this repeatedly, including yesterday at a meeting of the Russian Government Coordination Council.

Let me reiterate, we will promptly take any decisions to support our enterprises. Meanwhile, there are not doubtful about the people working there. Plants in Moscow, St Petersburg, the Urals, Siberia, the Far East and in dozens of the country’s regions are operating at maximum capacity working in several shifts. 

Incidentally, under the current conditions, this definitely gives an unparalleled boost to the development of high-tech production, not just in the defence industry but also in related civilian sectors. Indeed, the people are working at full tilt following the example of our ancestors and great traditions of our gun-makers who proved with their work that Russian weapons are the weapons of victory.

The labour teams for this work, for such dedication, for their patriotic commitment to do everything for the defence of Russia, for enhancing its sovereignty so that our heroes, who are now fighting on the frontlines or are being trained in training camps, get all they need.

The heads of the enterprises must take additional measures of social support for the personnel and their families. This concerns, among other things, special incentives and bonus payments to the best specialists and workers.

The experience we have been getting during the special operation and countering modern Western weapons is very valuable and should be used to raise the quality, reliability and military characteristics of some of our weapons and Russian military goods.

In this context, close interaction of Rostec and all respective enterprises, design bureaus, corporations and scientific centres with Defence Ministry specialists is also important.

In addition, internal competition should be organised and encouraged – the domestic Russian competition between enterprises. Serial production must be launched of the best kinds of military equipment based on those which are now being used in the hostilities, which work and confirm their specifications.

Since its inception, Rostec was responsible for the design, production and export of high-tech products, both military and non-military. The work in major promising areas which ensure Russia’s technological sovereignty, must not only be continued but also intensified.

We obviously expect notable breakthrough results from Rostec in such areas as microelectronics and electronic components, aircraft building, equipment for 5G communication networks, and overall, in selecting, implementing and promoting Russian high-tech solutions in all areas which matter to our economy, determine modern living standards and remove dependency on imports.

We have everything in our hands for that: excellent, unique world-class scientific schools, innovative and ambitious groups of researchers and inventors, a powerful industrial base, qualified workers and a talented, strong and well-motivated youth.

A hefty part of this huge intellectual and manufacturing potential of the country is concentrated within the Rostec State Corporation management system. I firmly believe your results and new achievement will match the colossal scale of the strategic tasks for the country’s development.

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