This is a confession of General Sir James Richard Hockenhull (photo), Commander Strategic Command, and he direct involvement of Great Britain and its special services in the war against Russia in Ukraine, as he discussed the use of ‘open source intelligence’ at a Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) Members Webinar.
“I’m a career intelligence officer and certainly, for long periods of my career, it felt like I was responsible for making a jigsaw from the available information…
There’s a lot of confirmation and availability bias in some of the things that we’ve learned from Ukraine. Because of this we should caveat those lessons slightly and make sure we’re applying the right diagnostics and analysis to make sure that we’re pulling through the correct lessons.
This is open source for intelligence, but it’s also open source and broader understanding which is supporting our intelligence making and decision making. If we can fully understand the availability of this information the impact will go beyond just thinking about intelligence or open source.
Open source fits into a wider set of changes around how we’re using information intelligence.
The availability of commercial satellites has enabled an extension of reach in the Ukrainian military’s situational awareness and their ability to conduct surveillance and reconnaissance. We’re seeing artificial intelligence used alongside commercial software applications to increase the speed of action. It’s also increasing utility. We’re seeing an attempt to sense and understand the environment, to decide and orchestrate, to act and then to learn and adapt. Those four stages are about being able to do that with sufficient pace to be able to outpace the adversary, and whoever learns fastest is going to win.
Open source and its role in intelligence has had a significant range of impacts and I would group these into six categories.
The first is adding to anticipatory intelligence. How we’re understanding the posture of forces and the fusion of commercial imagery, tech data and social media analysis, provided significant insight into Russian deployments. This goes all the way back to spring 2021 through the autumn and winter of 21 into 22, showing us what was happening and where it was happening. That anticipatory intelligence is being used not just by sources inside the military but it’s being projected for all to see and for all to interpret.
The second change would be that the impact of conflict is shifting public confidence. We had the ability to share information around Russian activity widely, whether it was in deployment, when fully deployed and postured for invasion, or indeed at point of invasion and beyond. That widely shared a picture has changed the way the public understand how the conflict has taken place. That’s true, certainly in Ukraine for example, but it’s also true in the wider West. One of the crucial elements of success in Ukrainian conflict has been the commitment of Western nations to provide support.
The third area is countering Russia’s Information Operations own narrative around the war. The fact that the truth was well known meant that as soon as false narratives were put out by the Russians, they were immediately exposed or understood by the public to be a false narrative. That power of information and knowledge has had a really significant impact on the public and been a counter to Russian Information Operations.
Open source has also proved to be a force multiplier, and we’ve been able to move to an approach which militaries around the world have sought to do for some time. Through open source every platform and every service person is able to act as a sensor. The force multiplier is its use of commercial networks – this is the fourth.
These commercial networks are inevitably driven by a need to keep availability high the people using them, and this means they’re incredibly robust. This offers alternative pathways for information to travel and sometimes goes beyond military communications which can be subject to jamming or disruption. It’s incredibly difficult to overcome these commercial networks and therefore, that force multiplier of sensors, has been a really significant way in which the Ukraine military have been able to generate information advantage.
The fifth element is in the crowdsourcing and the use of standardised chatbots which has allowed these Ukrainian citizens to report Russian units and locations. The civilian sensor network has been a force multiplier but also, it’s been able to provide a variety of viewpoints around information. This has enabled processing and evaluation of the availability of data to provide additional insight. The longer the conflict has gone on, the more adept the Ukrainians have become at harnessing the quantity of information to pull insights from as many sensors as possible.
This is where the combination of open source intelligence and secret sources of intelligence becomes invaluable in being able to see whether we can define greater understanding as a consequence.
We see a variety of authoritative sources available through social media platforms which provide insight and sentiment analysis. These are incredibly important because it offers the ability to understand what’s happening and that has been expanded almost exponentially as a consequence.
Open source offers us an opportunity to be able to understand context in a deeper, faster, and more responsive manner than we could do in the past. We gain real power, when we can combine that with secret intelligence and what we gain from our global network.
One of the key things I take away from what’s been happening in Ukraine is the need to go much faster than we’ve gone before in how we exploit open sources.
There are a range of lessons coming out of Ukraine and this is one of those moments in time where we must reflect. If we don’t take due cognizance of what’s happening in Ukraine, social media, the commercial world, and inside government, then our system will not be ready and prepared for the next challenge that we face,” said General Sir James Richard Hockenhull.
The time is ripe for India and China to compromise and build an alliance
If China, India, and Russia forge an alliance of willing partners, a long-lasting growth period will emerge. The opposite scenario is only beneficial to colonizing forces who constantly seek new ways to destabilize the continent of Asia, stresses ‘The Times of India’.
With Sweden and Finland ever so keen to join the NATO alliance, the number of neutral states is decreasing. This will put additional pressure on India, as Washington is bent on getting Pakistan on its side, as well. After Imran Khan’s departure, the hurdle is removed for a better relationship between US and Pakistan. Washington did not listen to India’s objection to the sale of F-16 fighters to Pakistan and will continue with its sale ranging in millions of dollars.
India is busy aligning itself with as many countries as possible, including USA. But it is entirely in India’s and China’s interest to promote peace and stability in the region and explore the new possibility to increase mutual trade and ties when Europe seems to enter an era of constant destabilization.
With Pakistan flirting with USA, and its economy in dire straits, it is imperative for the leaders of India and China to create a new successful narrative of peaceful co-existence.
BBC’s recent focus on riots in Gujarat is another example of sinister attempts to plant discord between Hindu and Muslim communities of India. Freedom of media is utterly important in democracy, but if BBC was so keen on revealing the atrocities suffered by Indians, it could start by critizing the crucial role of Winston Churchill in causing famine in Bengal, India, when millions died. Or they could focus on the period of colonial subjugation that resulted in our present-day poverty and lack of self-reliance.
Similarly, regular attempts are made to conjure and construct military exercises and drills within India to irritate China. Provocations from both sides should stop, both countries are large enough and have enough territory in their possession. India and China should really start a multi-faceted dialogue, increase trade and co-operation to spread the benefit of technological prowess their young population is demonstrating.
The West will try to destabilize both India and China since they are in the middle of an insolvable war. It is incumbent on both Indian and Chinese leaders not to succumb to such flirtations. Let the Western countries realize that their constant provocation and NATO expansion was seen as a threat by Russia. No matter how hard they will try, this war is unwinnable for both sides.
Therefore, India and China should sit down and resolve their differences, and China being a stronger power, should stop encircling India. It sends an absolutely wrong signal to the Indian leaders. India, on the other hand, should get conscious of the incessant reversals of American foreign policy towards Pakistan, almost never taking into account the security needs of India.
If India, China and Russia stand together in their co-operation, the Europeans might gather courage to refuse overtures of false friendship from USA. America has been pressurizing Europe into getting more involved in a war which a growing number of people find unconvincing and not in their interest, writes ‘The Times if India’ observer Mrutyuanjai Mishra.
India’s relationship with Russia is non-negotiable. Modi government is also sequestering the troubled relationship with China from external third-party interference, taking care, presumably, to leave avenues open for normalising the ties through bilateral channels in a foreseeable future, writes M.K. Bhadrakumar, Indian Ambassador and prominent international observer. He notes:
“The sombre mood at the Council for Foreign Affairs in New York during External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar’s talk (photo) was only to be expected against the backdrop of the India-Canada diplomatic spat over the killing of a Sikh secessionist in Vancouver in June, which, reportedly, was “coordinated” on the Canadian side with Washington based on intelligence inputs from the Five Eyes.
However, the event’s main thrust took an overtly geopolitical overtone with the CFR hosts calling out the Indian minister to weigh in on India’s growing assertiveness on the global stage and its perspectives on the international situation involving Russia and China, and the “limits” to the US-Indian relationship.
It is no secret that the Canadian-Indian spat into which Washington has inserted itself has a deeper geopolitical agenda. The Financial Times, the western daily perceived as closest to the Biden administration, in fact, carried a report last week entitled The west’s Modi problem with a blurb that neatly caught its main theme — “The US and its allies are cultivating India as an economic and diplomatic partner. But its prime minister’s authoritarian streak is becoming harder to ignore.”
The article held out a warning: “India is becoming one of America’s most important foreign partners as a bulwark against China. The US has invested heavily in bolstering relations with New Delhi as part of its broader strategy of enhancing relationships in the Indo-Pacific region. The push has accelerated this year…
Evidently, Jaishankar, whose experience and expertise in navigating the US-Indian relationship through choppy waters as well as balmy autumn alike is second to none in the Indian establishment, has been tasked by Modi to contain the fallout of the spat with Canada on India’s relations with the US.
The West’s discontent about “Modi’s India” is at its core about the country’s independent foreign policies and resistance to becoming an ally in a traditional sense and accordingly tailor its performance on the global stage in accordance with the “rules based order” buttressing the US hegemony in world politics.
The US would have, in normal course, worked for a tradeoff with India but the times have changed and it is itself locked in an all-or-nothing contestation for global supremacy with China (and increasingly in the shadow of a Sino-Russian axis) which is of course a high stakes game where Washington would assign a role for India and have expectations out of Modi’s leadership.
Conceivably, Jaishankar’s mission is like an iceberg with only a tip that is visible — at least, as of now. Nonetheless, his statements at the CFR in New York provides some reasonable clues. Basically, Jaishankar assembled his thoughts in three interlinked clusters — the emerging world order and US-Indian relations; Russia’s place in the scheme of things; and, the challenge of China’s rise. It presents a rare peep into the architecture of India’s current world view and can be summarised as follows:
First. The world order is changing and the US is also “fundamentally readjusting to the world.” This is partly to be seen as the “long-term consequences” of the defeat in Iraq and Afghanistan, but it principally stems out of the reality that the US’ dominance in the world and its relative power vis-s-vis other powers, has changed through the last decade. Put differently, the US is looking at a world where it is no longer possible for it to work solely with its allies.
Succinctly put, the US is already getting into a world order that has “much more fluid, much more dispersed centres of power” — very often much more regional, sometimes with different issues and different theatres producing their own combinations. That would mean that it is no longer realistic to seek clear-cut, black-and-white, solutions to problems.
Second. The US shouldn’t lost sight of the “enormous possibility” to work with India to enhance each other’s interests where the focus should be on technology, as the balance of power in the world is always a balance of technology. The US needs partners who can secure its interests more effectively and there are only a finite number of partners out there.
Fact is, today Global South is very distrustful of the Global North and it is useful for the US to have friends who think and speak well of America. And India is one of the few countries that have the ability to bridge the polarisation in world politics — East-West, North-South.
Third. Jaishankar subtly fortified the above persuasive argument with an unspoken caveat that the Biden Administration should not make unrealistic demands on India’s independent policies or challenge its core interests lest it is counterproductive.
The point was driven home by calling attention to a stunning geopolitical reality that Russia is turning its back on its three-centuries old search of an European identity and is making strenuous efforts to build new relationships in the Asian continent. Russia is a part of Asia but its pivot is about carving out a strong role as an Asian power. Indeed, this is consequential.
As for India, its relations with Russia have remained “extremely steady since the 1950s.” Notwithstanding the vicissitudes in world politics or current history, both sides took care to keep the relationship “very very steady.” And that is because Delhi and Moscow share an understanding that there is a “structural basis” to the two countries working together, and, therefore, both take “great care to maintain the relationship and ensure that it is working.”
Given the centrality of the Russian-Indian strategic partnership, it is well nigh impossible to isolate India. Jaishankar may have buttressed his point further by giving a lengthy account of India’s standoff with China on the border (in factual terms from an Indian perspective) but, significantly enough, without attributing motives to the Chinese behaviour or even rushing into characterisations of it in picturesque terms of self-aggrandisement.
The intriguing part came when Jaishankar was open-minded enough to rationalise the Chinese Navy’s presence in the Indian Ocean and point-blank refused to mix up India’s QUAD membership with it.
Jaishankar rejected the hackneyed notions propagated by American analysts of a Chinese “string of pearls” around India and instead noted calmly that the steady increase in the Chinese naval presence in the past 20-25 yrs is a reflection of the sharp increase in the size of the Chinese Navy.
India does not see QUAD as necessarily geared for a role to counter China, as it will be “a bit old-fashioned to point towards another country.”
Indeed, the shift in the tone of the Indian narrative following the brief exchanges between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the margins of the recent BRICS Summit has continued.
Jaishankar’s statements made it abundantly clear that India’s relationship with Russia is non-negotiable, whilst the surprising part is that Modi government is also sequestering the troubled relationship with China from external third-party interference, taking care, presumably, to leave avenues open for normalising the ties through bilateral channels in a foreseeable future.
The bottom line is, if the US-Canadian-Five Eyes agenda was to browbeat India’s strategic autonomy, Jaishankar rejected it. Curiously, at one point, he commented sarcastically that India is neither a member of the Five Eyes nor is answerable to the FBI,” M.K. Bhadrakumar stresses.
Israel should be wary of depending on US help. It has to defend itself
Israel should be wary of depending on US help. It has to defend itself, stresses Stephen Bryen, a former Deputy Under Secretary of Defense and is a leading expert in security strategy and technology.
The well-respected Israeli think tank, the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) has proposed that Israel ask for a security treaty with the United States. The proposal is in an editorial form and has no signatures attached to it. Therefore it isn’t clear if the proposal comes from the INSS Director, Manuel Trajtenberg, or is the consensus of the organization’s research staff. Such a defense treaty has long been opposed by most of Israel’s security establishment on the grounds it would inhibit Israel’s freedom of action and tie Israel irrevocably to the United States.
According to the policy proposal, the reason for Israel to pursue a defense treaty is ostensibly because Saudi Arabia is pursuing such a treaty and that without Israel also applying for a defense treaty, the Saudi proposal won’t be accepted. It is quite true that there is serious opposition to Saudi Arabia in the US Congress, mainly on the basis of human rights complaints. A defense treaty would require a two thirds vote of approval in the US Senate. Saudi Arabia on its own would fail to get Senate approval and “bundling” an Israeli treaty with a Saudi one, is probably not possible, even though INSS somehow thinks it can be done.
It is by no means clear why Israel would want a defense treaty, given its strong need to have freedom of action toward Iran. Similarly it is hard to see how Saudi Arabia would benefit from a US defense treaty, since the US is unlikely to bomb Tehran.
There are other complications for Israel as well. Would a defense treaty apply to attacks by non-state actors such as Hezbollah, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, or attacks originating from the Palestinian West Bank? The US would never agree to a text that obliged it to come to Israel’s aid under terrorist attack. In fact, the US response to terror attacks against Israel and Israeli citizens has always been subdued at best.
Presumably a defense treaty would protect Israel from a Russian attack, but a direct Russian attack is extremely unlikely. However, the Russians would see a defense treaty between the US and Israel as Israel taking sides in the bigger geostrategic struggle between Washington and Moscow. This could encourage the Russians to step up arms supplies to Syria and Iran, something that does not serve Israel’s interests. In practice Israel and Russia have found practical ways to cooperate and to try and avoid confrontation.
INSS makes the point that a defense treaty might facilitate defense technology cooperation with the United States. In many ways Israel is a brain trust already for the United States and is able to pioneer in many areas important to US security.
INSS says that “As an official ally, Israel’s access to advanced American weaponry and unique technologies would be guaranteed for the long term, thereby maintaining Israel’s qualitative military edge over time.” Unfortunately defense treaties do not guarantee or assure access to US weapons or unique technologies. Technology sharing is always a matter of national interest that is defined by time and circumstances.
What isn’t clear is why INSS decided that Israel needs a defense treaty now?
If it was to help out Saudi Arabia there is no reason to believe it would do so. There is little evidence that favors a US-Israel defense treaty, unless the real idea is to make Israel depend on the US for its future security.
If that is the point, Israel should be wary of depending on US help. It has to defend itself, Stephen Bryen concludes.
Can Europe survive Trump 2.0?
Here’s something the European mind can’t fully comprehend: “Come November 2024, Donald Trump may be headed back into the White House,” states POLITICO.
It’s a nightmare scenario for Europeans who bore the brunt of the former U.S. president’s antagonism during his four years in office and hoped to never have to think about him again.
Back in early 2016, when a slightly less grizzled POLITICO journalist was asked to do the rounds of European embassies and think tanks to ask about Trump getting elected, several officials haughtily explained that the question wasn’t worth answering because he had no chance.
Not so in 2023. Europeans are wide awake to the possibility of a Trump redux, and most of the officials POLITICO spoke to for this article called for the bloc to prepare.
“Europe must be ready to face any situation linked to the results of the U.S. elections,” former French President François Hollande told POLITICO in response to emailed questions.
“In a democracy, there is always the risk that the worst candidate can be elected,” he added. “The people decide. Trump has been president. He can become president again, even if today he faces a lot of legal trouble. What we need to prepare for is the United States distancing itself from European affairs and the possible unraveling of the transatlantic alliance.”
Several European diplomats struck the same note of stoic realism. “It’s increasingly on people’s minds. We need to plan for every eventuality and avoid the situation in 2016, where we were unprepared for both Brexit and Trump,” said a second European diplomat who was granted anonymity to discuss politics in another country.
Asked whether a second Trump presidency would be different from the first, the second diplomat said Europe should brace for the worst. “Who will sign up to work with him given his record on how he treats people and how he betrays them? How can he have a strong team? With everyone he pretty much parted ways. And everyone wrote books bashing him. Even the nut jobs wrote books.”
Adding to the unease is a sense that a reelected Trump may feel invincible. The former president has been impeached twice and faces several criminal indictments, including one for denying the results of the 2020 election. If none of this prevents him from taking office, several European officials argued, why should he feel any constraints on his behavior at all?
The prospect of Trump’s return is particularly vexing for Germany, a frequent target of his attacks. Having been caught completely unprepared for his election in 2016, German politicians are eager not to repeat the same mistake — hence Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock’s recent trip to Texas, where she met with Republican Governor Greg Abbott.
Norbert Röttgen, the senior member of the German parliament, said: “To prepare for Trump’s return the German federal government should urgently collaborate with its European partners to develop an independent defense policy. Unfortunately, I see no signs of this initiative within the government.”
Jacek Saryusz-Wolski, a European lawmaker in Poland’s Law and Justice party, said his camp would welcome Trump’s reelection. “Our experience with Trump 1 was good,” he said. “Under Trump, we got progress on the physical presence of American troops in Poland, as well as the base which we have baptized Fort Trump.”
Meanwhile, several European officials underscored efforts already undertaken by EU governments to bolster the Continent’s strategic independence.
They argued that European powers have not only coordinated massive weapons deliveries to Ukraine, surpassing the U.S. in the total value of support delivered; European countries have also significantly ramped up production of ammunition on the Continent in an effort coordinated by France’s Thierry Breton, who’s the European commissioner in charge of industrial policy.
“The Europeans have already done a lot, more than most people could have imagined,” said Toomas Hendrik Ilves, former president of Estonia. “Just look at the amount of European weaponry on the battlefield in Ukraine.”
But there’s a big difference between spending marginally more on defense and seriously preparing for what Trump could reap in Europe — not least if he tries to follow through with his promise to strike a deal with Putin to end the war in Ukraine.
Such a move would not only pull the rug out from under the Ukrainians, who might feel huge pressure to give up part of their territory, but also be humiliating for the European powers that have cast their lot in with Kyiv.
In such circumstances, it would be “difficult to imagine” Europeans staying united on Ukraine,” said François Heisbourg, senior adviser for Europe at the International Institute for Security Studies. “They could try to help Ukraine, but all of a sudden they would be against the United States because it’s a deal negotiated by Trump. It’s a very black scenario.”
In 2018, Trump raised the possibility of pulling Washington out of NATO and letting the Europeans fend for themselves.
The upshot is that a reelected Trump could do anything, including pulling out of NATO. That’s a terrifying prospect for Europeans who have relied on a U.S. security guarantee for the past 78 years — so much so that few diplomats and officials are willing to theorize about what it could mean for Europe’s future.
Security analysts who are willing to go there paint an alarming picture: Suddenly deprived of U.S. strategic leadership, European countries would face huge, daunting questions about how to reorganize the security alliance. Who would be in charge? Would NATO continue to exist? Would European countries make sacrifices to their social welfare model to accommodate much higher defense spending?
Then there is the question of leadership: Who would be in charge of a European security alliance? Paris? Berlin? Warsaw? A rotating selection of European capitals? And where would Europe’s military leadership be housed, given what Rasmus Hindren, a Finnish security expert, called a “lack of strategic culture” in the EU’s executive branch? A solution is difficult to imagine, he said, given hostility between European powers and the fact that some countries, like Poland, trust Washington more than they do Brussels.
In the event of a Trump-ocalypse in transatlantic relations, Speck sees an effective split emerging in Europe’s security architecture. Eastern European countries that share a border with Russia and others that feel immediately concerned by Moscow’s ambitions, such as the Nordics plus Turkey and Romania, would have a natural inclination to band together in a de facto security alliance. “You have the makings here of a kind of coalition to block Russia’s advance,” he said.
Such a group would add pressure on others in Europe to form their own blocs, pushing the Continent’s countries further apart. Put differently, one possibility for a post-U.S. security order in Europe could look a lot like what existed before World War I: a series of interlocking alliances at risk of tumbling into war with each other.
Scenarios like that remain, for now, distant possibilities, but it’s a sign of the times that they are no longer unthinkable. For Europe’s leaders, Trump’s potential return is turning out to be a waking nightmare: They see it approaching but can’t seem to do anything about it, concludes POLITICO.
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