November 21, 2022No Comments

Hypersonic Missiles: A sum zero game to Strategic Stability

Authors: Andre Carvalho and Marco Verrochio.

On March 19 for the first time, TV channels broadcasted that Russia successfully used two Kinzhal type hypersonic missiles in the war against Ukraine. It was the first time hypersonic missiles have been used in combat despite President Putin's presentation of the Kinzhal missile in March 2018. Non-specialized media started to be attracted by these new weapons, especially due to their high performance and their abilities to escape countermeasures. A Hypersonic missile, in some aspects, goes far beyond the capabilities of other conventional supersonic missiles. Supersonic missiles fly between 1.000 km/h and 5.000 km/h, while hypersonic missiles travel above 5.000 km/h, reaching about 25.000 km/h. Moreover, they fly at unusual altitudes and can change trajectory and target during the route.

Hypersonic missles can be devided in two categories. Hypersonic glide vehicles (HGVs) and Hypersonic Cruise Missiles (HCMs). Usually, an HCM is launched by an aircraft and uses scramjets engines to sustain a speed above 5.000 Km/h. The Russian Kinzhal missile and the American Boeing X-51 are in this category. On the other hand, a rocket boosts the HGV to reach high speed and high altitude, usually above 100.000 feet. The HGV plays as an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle using manoeuvres to maintain stability and to avoid detection by ground-based radars and sensors, maintaining the target unpredictable until a few seconds before the strike. Examples of HGVs include the Chinese Dong Feng-17, the Russian Avangard and the US PGS program. The primary concern regarding HGVs is their possibility of carrying a nuclear warhead. It increases the crisis instability in a confrontation, giving an advantage to the country striking first.

Nonetheless, the dyadic categorization between HCM and HGV ends up oversimplifying the hypersonic design possibilities, mainly because conventional ballistic missiles can also travel at hypersonic speed. According to a SIPRI report, HGVs and HCMs travel slower than ballistic missiles. In the same way, Maneuverable Re-entry Vehicles (MaRVs) – such as the Chinese DF- 21 Carrier Killer – can perform in-flight manoeuvres pulling high-G turns at hypersonic speed. Therefore, what differentiates HGVs and HCMs from other missile systems is the combination of speed with endoatmospheric maneuverability while maintaining hypersonic speed throughout the flight.

Kh-47M2 Kinzhal on a MiG-31KImage SourceWikimedia Commons

The mix of maneuverability, hypersonic speed, unpredictability of trajectory and the capability of conducting effective flights in low altitude can be considered both an advantage and a challenge for global security, especially strategic stability. The US, China and Russia are the nations on the forefront in this technology. Tod ay, d eveloping hypersonic missiles requires ad vanced technological development and massive investments. For this reason, they are prod uced in limited numbers. Nonetheless, other countries such as India, Brazil, the UK, Australia, and Japan are also interested in planning a series of investments and conducting tests of scramjet vehicles. As time goes on, the knowledge and the use of strategic foreign investments will increase the proliferation of these weapons. In a contingency scenario, hypersonic missiles will give a tremendous advantage to the aggressor since the combination of speed, maneuverability and their limited detectability by ground-based radars can result in target ambiguity, inaccurate warning times, and ineffective defence. The Rand Corporation had already warned about the proliferation of this technology proposing a non-proliferation agreement sponsored by major players (e.g. USA, China, and Russia) based on the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR). However, the geopolitical tension between US and China and the war in Ukraine demonstrated little interest in multilateral talks, especially on strategic weapons.

It is worth mentioning that, even though non-proliferation talks are relevant, there is a trend among analysts to magnify the potential destructive effects of emerging technologies before their actual introduction and use. This happened in the past with the introduction of strategic bombers and still happens nowadays with hypersonic technology. High-speed delivering missiles have been around for years. Now, new strides in precision, range and maneuverability make them the new trend that competing states seek to acquire to increase their relative power positions.

In the current situation, hypersonic missiles are still on a development stage and their use in conflict is limited to single actions. They are included in the arrays of solutions to strike strategic targets but the reason for their use is still more for deterrence purposes rather than an effective means for military service. Nonetheless, they still exert a significant impact on strategic stability. Regarding deterrence, the speed and precision of hypersonic weapons will leave the option for a decapitating first strike always open, which is inherently destabilizing. Crisis stability can also become unstable due to the hypersonic impact on deterrence since it compresses the decision- making time to just a few minutes, resulting in a first-mover advantage.

For Western analysts, the Kinzhal in Ukraine was a warning from Putin that Russia would not hesitate to resort to advanced technological weapons, destabilizing the global balance of power. Although the world is a dangerous place with or without hypersonic weapons, an arms control arrangement would be necessary. In the future will be essential to strengthen stability, putting a set of limitations on the ‘action-reaction’ cycle that keeps significant players involved in arms race dynamics. However, it is paramount to acknowledge that any agreement regarding hypersonic weapons that limits the speed and range of vehicles would hardly be ratified. There is more chance of success limiting range and speed would affect a large scale of existing ballistic missiles that have a considerable strategic effect and are significantly cheaper than hypersonic missiles. In addition, as mentioned before, several other countries are on the path of pursuit of hypersonic speed and have their indigenous R&D programmes, which makes the possibility of an agreement even more difficult to achieve.

Nowadays, the prospects for hypersonic defence are still low. However, some strides are being made identifying that a robust ISTAR (intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance), along with space-based systems, are key factors for tracking a hypersonic missile for the entirety of its trajectory, enabling multiple interception attempts. Therefore, until the international environment will be ready the only hopes to counter hypersonic missiles lies in developing effective countermeasures for the near future.

October 10, 2022No Comments

Things are not going according to the plan for Russians in Ukraine

Authors: Igor Shchebetun, Fabrizio Napoli, Davide Gobbicchi and Greta Bordin.

A war without logistics is simply an outrage.

At the very beginning of the Russo-Ukrainian conflict, the kilometer-long queue of Russian armor entering Ukraine was simply stretched so far that it could not ensure maneuverability, safety and combat effectiveness in terms of deployment in combat formation and readiness to attack or repel attacks. Looking at the first few days, it is clear that the Russian forces have not made as much progress as they originally planned. The reason for this is that the Russian armed forces are primarily an artillery army, but so far they have used some of their available firepower. Russia is essentially trying to carry out a full-scale invasion without the military operations it would require. And as shocking as the scenes from some cities may seem, Russia is looking for a cheap and easy victory with low civilian casualties. In other words, Russia is holding back as they represent themselves. However, as sanctions steadily take effect, Putin escalate the lethality of his war plan. Achieving a breakthrough without getting in the mud. For Ukrainians, this means the worst is yet to come. Like jumping into a pool before checking for water, Russia's invasion of Ukraine is not going according to plan. Technically, Ukraine and Russia have been at war since 2014. The violence has never stopped, but the recent attack is something else.

A new chapter in Ukraine's struggle for statehood. Russia's original plan included a "mad dash" into Kiev, forcing the Ukrainian government to capitulate, while pushing small units to quickly seize strategic transport interchanges to avoid a larger clash with Ukrainian forces. This is a strategy similar to the 2014 seizure of Crimea, when Russian green men forced Ukrainian troops out of their bases but they could not and showed Russia real face in action . Then, as now, the plan of attack was to win with little cost and few civilian casualties. The Russian leadership entered this war knowing that it would be extremely unpopular at home. So they sought to keep death and destruction to a minimum. As a result, the Russian military attempted comes to mass casualties, abuse of civilians, mass rape, destruction of the Ukrainian people and their identity through genocide. What Russia is doing in Ukraine can best be described Putin’s Russia ideology and they values.

Regardless huge experience of military operations Russian army has performed poorly. Ukrainian forces fought back hard, exceeding expectations and playing on Russia's logistical vulnerabilities. For example, by blowing up railroads from and to Russia, Ukraine forced Russian Logistics to switch from rail transport to truck transport. Ukrainian fighters on the ground and Bayraktar drones in the air then targeted these field trucks. Without fuel, tanks and other vehicles are useless. And fuel trucks are an easier target than tanks. Thus, Ukraine played on Russia's self-confidence. At the same time, Russian units are not fighting an all-out war. Instead, in the first few days we saw small units advancing, tanks moving without infantry, planes flying into hostile airspace, and supplies running low. Much of Russia's decision-making seems unnecessary and risky. Instead of operational needs, tactical planning is driven by institutional needs. Probably on the grounds Russians thought they could avoid heavy fighting, at least initially. Moreover, the Kremlin underestimated the Ukrainian will to fight. For example, after several days of fighting in Ukraine and after Russian troops began to suffer casualties, the Russian Ministry of Health mobilized civilian doctors throughout the country.

Image Source: https://www.globsec.org/publications/interim-conclusions-on-the-consequences-of-the-russian-war-against-ukraine-2-2/ Conceptual image of war between Russia and Ukraine with shadow of soldier against wall with national flag background

The fact that the Russians did not do so on the first day suggests that they did not expect things to go so badly. In fact, the Kremlin tried to win the victory at little cost and to do it quickly in order to avoid the worst of the sanctions. Now they find themselves in the worst of all worlds. Putting resources into a bad strategy. That said, Ukraine would not want to celebrate too soon. Although the Russian leadership has underestimated Ukraine's will for war, it would also be a mistake to measure the strength of the Russian army by its territorial gains. The Russian full invasion especially considering the impossibility of providing and supplying all or at least the bare necessities of their mobilized has nothing to boast about so far. But the leadership in Moscow does not have the resources for a prolonged violent occupation. Social and political pressure is already beginning to show inside Russia. The war in Ukraine is unpopular and unexpected, and as the death toll continues to rise, anti-war sentiment in Russia is likely to intensify by the day. Putin needs a resolution to the war, or he will create serious problems at home. However, he cannot back down now without losing face.

Thus, the Kremlin need to intensify the lethality of its military plan and they do that to achieve its goals and achieve some kind of breakthrough. The Russian military started striking public infrastructure and residential areas. Civilian casualties increased, and the goal would be to force Zelensky into negotiations. But as we can see, Russia has forgotten the lessons of Ukrainian history and has drowned in its own illusions that Ukrainians and Russians are one people. Different mentality, values, attitude to people, to hostages and to the enemy, the concept of development, the art of fighting and the will to win appear more and more.

Putin's plank for a negotiated solution is for Ukraine to cede Crimea to Russia and agree to some form of neutrality or federalization and perhaps a constitutional restriction on the Ukrainian army, something like the Japanese situation. Zelensky is unlikely to agree to these demands, which means that the fight will drag on for some time. And this is where predictions become unreliable. The longer the war goes on, the more the Ukrainian battle space becomes similar to the Syrian one, but the opposite is also true: the longer the fighting goes on, the more sanctions will be imposed. A prolonged war will damage Ukraine, but it will also shake the foundations of Putin's power at home. And while a palace coup remains unlikely, as the war reaches home, the odds of success will gradually turn against Putin. So now the Russian leadership is in rescue mode. They need to get out of Ukraine while saving face. It is in Putin's interest to start negotiations as early as possible, while Zelensky would be doing the right thing if he delayed negotiations until sanctions begin to cut into Russia's skin, albeit at the risk of ruining Ukraine.

July 18, 2022No Comments

Russia’s Plans for War with Ukraine

Authors: Igor Shchebetun, Greta Bordin, Fabrizio Napoli and Davide Gobbicchi.

Why war is happening, what could justify an invasion of a sovereign independent state such as Ukraine? The only way to answer this question is to look at the situation from Russia's perspective. Because despite the raging battles on the ground, the war is not really about Ukraine, but about Russia and its pursuit of geopolitics.

This concerns the Kremlin and its relationship with the White House. One of Russia's initial demands for de - escalation shortly before the war began was for NATO to wind down its activities in Eastern Europe, and that is what it ultimately comes down to. Geopolitically, the war is more than Ukraine; it is Russia's attempt to restore a multipolar world order that has been lost as a gambler making a living off false hopes. Russia believes that either it must be a world power or it will not be. The collapse of the Soviet Union was a turning point in world geopolitics. No fewer than 14 Union republics seceded and declared sovereignty and independence. The Russian Federation lost centuries of geopolitical struggle. Russia was pushed back to the territorial boundaries of the 18th century. To this day, with the collapse of the USSR come broken promises, falling health care, industrial decline, and kinship ties replaced by hostility and all those glorious technological wonders and infrastructure projects left to rot. 

Part of the Russian rationale for invading Ukraine is the core theory The core theory divides the world into three bodies, the first body being the world islands, which consist of Europe, Asia and Africa, the second body refers to shelf islands such as the British islands and the Japanese archipelago, while the third body points to America and Australia as distant islands within these parameters, focusing on the world islands because they are the most populous and resource-rich continent. Imagine if a superstate controlled politics from France to China, from Saudi Arabia to South Africa, this power would have the technological prowess of Europe, the resources of Africa, and the labor force of Asia, and nothing would stand in its way, so whoever controls the world island would have the means to dominate the globe, but within the world island.

There is a heart region that extends from the Volga  River to the Yangtze and from the Arctic to the Caspian Sea. This heart region is the area from which one power can For example, Alexander Dugin, who is Russia's most influential political orator, has consistently argued for the creation of a Russian power in Eurasia, while the Russian political elite, known as the siloviki, still adhered to the focal point theory. From St. Petersburg to Kazan and Volgograd extends the Russian core 80 percent of the Russian population lives in this area, and most of the Kremlin's decisions are based on the needs and interests of its core, but the terrain itself is flat, and parts of Europe are part of Russia.

Image Source: https://www.deviantart.com/ynot1989/art/Russo-Ukrainian-War-Areas-of-Russian-Control-908348937

To put pressure on the Russian core from the Swedish invasion in the 18th century to the German invasions in the 20th century many European powers have tried to subdue Russia by going through the Baltics today but Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are part of Nato, making them beyond the reach of Russian enslavement, however, geopolitics dictates that Russia take over the Baltics if the opportunity presents itself, allowing Russians to connect the Kaliningrad region to mainland Russia. Control of the Baltics would also strengthen Russia's presence and power on the Baltic Sea as a whole, while the Carpathians represent a favorable bridgehead for the Russians, a buffer against the marching armies carpeting If the European plane represents a highway for invading armies, the Carpathians are a speed bump in the middle of that highway whose strategic depth is priceless, and this consideration is the ultimate justification for Russian invasion. Russia's invasion of Ukraine at the same time means that Russia's goal in Ukraine is to take over the whole country, so as much as the rhetoric focuses on the Donbass, Kharkov, Kiev, and Odessa, it misses the more important point from the Russian perspective, they need to advance as far as the Carpathian mountains.

So Russia needs all of Ukraine, but also all of Moldova, when Lukashenko spoke to members of the Belarusian Security Council, the map he used had an arrow going to the Moldovan separatist region of Transnistria, so if Russia's military invasion of Ukraine were more successful, there would be fighting in Moldova. By and large, with the invasion of Ukraine, Russia sought to drop anchor, seizing all of Ukraine and eventually Moldavia. Russia would have restored some of the Soviet borders enough to reduce its European airplane flights to 600 kilometers. which is a significant reduction from the current 2,000 kilometers. Ideally, the Russians would like to advance as far west as they can, preferably capturing all of Poland and the Baltics. If Russia wins, the Baltics and Poland would be next, count on it.

Likewise, if Russia loses the war in Ukraine or can't get everything today, it will try again tomorrow, and no treaties and armistice will last long. Think of the European plane as a chess game where each player seeks to maximize the position of his pawns, strategically placing them the further east NATO  moves into the European plane. Eastward on the European plane toward the Russian Federation, the more flexible its strategic planning becomes and the more room for error it gets. For example, to the east of the border with Ukraine, the flat terrain of the European plane continues uninterrupted for 750 kilometers to the shoreline of the Caspian Sea. The Volgograd Gap is fundamental to the existence of the Russian state; if a hostile force closes this gap, it will deprive Russia of its connections to the Caucasus, the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, and NATO-allied Ukraine will no doubt try to exploit this vulnerability.

A Russian-controlled Ukraine would militarize Poland, Romania, and the Baltic states even more than it does now. Russia believes that it can elevate itself as a leading world power while securing its core demographic space, based on this for Russia it is either expand or die Russian politicians especially given the fact that political legitimacy depends on military conquest.

July 3, 2022No Comments

Food Uncertainty: The overlooked consequences of Putin’s actions

Author: Miguel Jiménez.

In this increasing globalized world interdependencies are strengthened, and countries become very import-dependent to satisfy its citizens’ daily needs. Obviously, some of these needs are more important than others. For instance, the achievement of food security is one of them and it represents one of the biggest challenges of our time. Developing countries suffer from this illness the most, and this issue is often overlooked. Climate change and Covid 19 have made this goal even more unreachable by disrupting supply chains and fostering autarky. The current invasion is the cherry on top as it has closed down a major stream of food imports for low-income countries.

Beyond the Two Main Actors

June 24th marks the 4th month of Russian invasion in Ukraine. Roughly 120 days of ongoing humanitarian crisis which have resulted in the death of 4,266 civilians and the displacement of millions to neighboring countries. Negative economic effects have been even more immediate, with the markets of several sectors plummeting. The biggest toll is undoubtedly being suffered by Ukraine and Russia. According to the IMF, by the end of 2022, the former is expected to suffer a severed doble digit drop in GDP and the latter a large contraction.

However, besides the negative effects that the invader and the invaded are suffering, as well as the energy crisis especially striking Europe, the interruption in the supply and markets of crops due to the invasion may result in a major threat to food security in the developing world. Disruptions in the global food supply are not a new phenomenon. Between 2002 and 2008, the nominal price of food doubled as a result of droughts in food-exporting countries, food export bans and high energy prices. Nevertheless, current disruptions are unprecedented if the destructive impact of the invasion is coupled with other hunger-drivers such as COVID 19’s long-lasting effects and the devastating escalation of climate shocks.

To put it into context, Russia and Ukraine are agricultural production powerhouses. Together, they supply 12% of the world’s traded calories, mainly composed of wheat, barley, maize and sunflower oil. Yet, when one analyses the share that this represents in some of the importing countries, the strong dependence of the developing world comes to the surface.  According to the FAO, 26 countries depend on Russia and Ukraine for at least 50 percent of their wheat imports

The Enemies of Trade

These agriculture-market disruptions are caused by two major factors. Firstly, in order to erode the resistance put up by Ukrainians, Russia has been targeting all aspects of Ukraine’s agriculture with the intention of crippling a major source of the country’s income. Secondly, aside from hindering production, harvested crops have few ways of reaching offshore as Russia set a naval blockade in one of the main trading routes, the Black Sea.  Thus, by March, record highs in the food market were reached, more concretely, in the FAO’s Cereal Price Index, Vegetable Oil Price Index and Meat Price Index

Seeking for alternative producers would be the most coherent move by countries in need, as we are currently seeing with the restructuring of the energy trade. There are certainly alternative producers which under “normal circumstances” could step up and take care of the lack of supply. However, to make matters worse, offsetting production shortages and the disrupted supply channels is prevented by two reasons.

 On the one hand, the effects of climate change are becoming a major barrier for stable crop production. For instance, the delayed rains in China and extreme temperatures in India, largest and second largest wheat producers in the world respectively, are sapping yields in breadbaskets. On the other hand, rising inflationary pressures, aggravated by the economic sanctions implemented to punish the invasor, have limited fertilizer exports from Russia and Belarus, inhibiting western farmers to boost productivity and capitalize on higher global prices.

From Coup d’ État to Devastating Famines

The mismatch between supply and demand is likely to extend to middle-income countries as well. The deployment of unprecedented fiscal packages during the pandemics to ensure a social safety net exhausted middle-income countries’ savings making them exceptionally poorly placed to cope with increased food insecurity. The combination of these factors created a weak balance which has been tilted by the invasion, resulting in civil unrest and devastating famines that are just starting.

Analysts are drawing parallels with the Arab spring revolts. Precisely one of the triggers for the outbreak of the coup d’état back in 2011 was attributed to high food prices. Currently, this factor has ultimately ousted Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan, incentivized the rise of deadly protests in Peru, and increased the likelihood of civil unrest by the end of the year in countries such as Philippines, Argentina and Tunisia

Nevertheless, these consequences are mild relative to the massive famines that this invasion is causing and can cause in low-income countries.  Food insecurity is a recurring trend in those parts of the world, and poor households tend to spend more of their budget on food. For instance, a sub-Saharan household spends up to 40% of their income in food. Therefore, a slight increase in such inelastic goods translates into a major shock for the household income. According to the FAO, food insecurity will worsen throughout this year in 20 “hunger hotspots and are in need of urgent humanitarian actions. Hunger hotspots stand for places where hunger is most severe. These countries tend to carry the burden of ongoing religious or ethnic-prone domestic conflicts as well. South Sudan, Nigeria and Ethiopia are perhaps the best examples of this perfect storm.

How do We Bring Back the Balance?

With this devastating scenario ahead, what is to be done to reestablish food supply chains and resume production? Attempting to restore damaged crops in highly disputed areas  appears to be an impossible task for the time being, if we consider that the Ukrainian government forecasted the invasion to last until winter. The end of the war would not make the Black sea route viable in months either, as Ukraine has defended its coastline with mines and strategically sunk ships. What’s worse, reinforcing the creation of alternative trade routes does not seem viable as Ukraine’s rail system is wider than the EU’s, meaning loads would have to be switched to different wagons. Furthermore, grain wouldn’t even be reaching the places where it is needed most. These factors lead to the conclusion that the short-term solution for avoiding unprecedented famines ought to be outside of Ukraine. 

Without overlooking Russia’s role in creating this situation, easing up on sanctions and switching the final use of crops may alleviate it. Firstly, the export of fertilizers account for less than 5 percent of Russia’s GDP yet it deeply has an impact on farmers’ decisions on what to grow, and in turn, prevents meeting developing countries’ demand. Thus, lifting sanctions on fertilizers could improve the situation. Secondly, about 10 percent of all grains are used to make biofuel and 18 percent of vegetable oil go to make biodiesel. To put it into perspective, that percentage of vegetable oil contains an amount of calories sufficient to feed more than 320 million people per year. Weakening biofuel mandates just like Finland and Croatia have done, should become the immediate trend. 

One last resort is to rely on one of the most used development tools, aid. The US announced more than $320 million in humanitarian assistance in the horn of Africa. Yet even this falls short, as the amount of aid now is worth much less than a few years ago due to the ongoing inflation. 

Conclusion

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is the last event of a chain of events that have worsened the very fragile state of the developing world. The complexity of the situation makes finding a solution very tough and compromising already existing alliances.  In spite of the fact that lifting sanctions may seem controversial, millions dying from starvation far outweighs avoiding financing Putin’s war. Even more if some of those restrictions, such as fertilizers and food, account for very little of Russia’s GDP and so much for millions of developing countries’ households.

June 18, 2022No Comments

Food Security at Risk in Africa

Author: Alessandra Gramolini.

Before and during the Russian-Ukrainian conflict

Russia and Ukraine are not only the world’s biggest producers of wheat, they have also been the cheapest exporters on the market. This made them very attractive to low-income countries. Over 40% of wheat consumed in Africa usually comes from Ukraine and Russia. The war interrupted global markets and trade flows to Africaincreasing even more food prices in the region. Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea have been widely blocked for exports since the conflict began. Kyiv and its allies blame Moscow for blocking the ports. Even countries that import little from the two countries are indirectly impacted by higher world prices for key commodities.

Before the war in Ukraine, African countries were already struggling with the increase of food prices due to extreme climate and weather events and also after two year of Covid-19 pandemic,. Since the Russia-Ukraine conflict began, global food prices have reached new heights. Five weeks into the Ukraine war, disruptions are more severe and food prices are even surpassing the levels of the 2008 global financial crisis. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Food Price Index, affirmed that international wheat prices rose for a fourth consecutive month in 2022. The March index is the highest it has been since the measure was created in the 1990s. In 2020 alone, Africa imported $4 billion and $2.9 billion worth of agricultural products from Russia and Ukraine. With this war in Ukraine, about 20 million people in the Sahel and West Africa do not have access to sufficient food. 

In Egypt, wheat is the main food item, and the Egyptian government imports about 50 to 60 percent of its cereal from Russia and Ukraine, despite the government’s efforts to diversify imports following the 2008 global food crisis. Egypt had to borrow three billion dollars from the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (Itfc), an Islamic finance instrument based in Saudi Arabia. Countries like Tunisia imported 50% of their grain needs exclusively from Russia and Ukraine. For the moment, Tunisia claims to have stocks, but to avoid food riots, as happened in the Arab Spring, basic products are subsidized and controlled by the government. Algeria, the second largest African wheat consumer after Egypt has also imposed moderate prices.

Additionally, according to the UN, Russia is the highest exporter of nitrogen fertilizer and the second-highest exporter of phosphorus and potassium fertilizer globally.  Several African countries rely on importing these Russian fertilizers, including Cameroon, Ghana, Senegal and Kenya. But following severe economic sanctions against Russia, its ability to sell fertilizer globally has taken down, precipitating a major shortage. In Kenya, farmers are scaling back on farming because of the exorbitant fertilizer prices that would certainly affect their profits. Others plan to avoid fertilizing their farms, especially olive and orange groves farmers. This will lower production and, of course, the quality. The pressure and prices will likely increase further as the war continues, raising food security concerns, with citizens beginning to feel the impact.

Image Source: https://www.wfp.org/news/hunger-west-africa-reaches-record-high-decade-region-faces-unprecedented-crisis-exacerbated

Alarm from aid agencies

Aid agencies have also felt the impact of rising prices. The World Food Program (WFP) used to buy more than half of its grain from Ukraine and Russia. The organization now spends an additional $71 million a month to reach the same number of people it did before the conflict. That money could be used to provide daily food rations to four million people for a month. The activities of the WFP in West and Central Africa have started to suffer too. The aid agency supports national school feeding programmes that run independently. But some governments are now asking the WFP for help, because they can no longer afford some food products. The WFP also distributes cash for people in the region to buy food, but with soaring prices this is not an effective solution. 

A recent FAO-WFP report issued today calls for urgent humanitarian action in 20 ‘hunger hotspots’ where acute hunger is expected to worsen during summer 2022. The effects of the war in Ukraine are expected to be particularly severe where economic instability and high prices combine with drops in food production due to climate events such as recurrent droughts or flooding. 

“We are deeply concerned about the combined impacts of overlapping crises jeopardizing people’s ability to produce and access foods, pushing millions more into extreme levels of acute food insecurity,” said FAO Director-General QU Dongyu. “We are in a race against time to help farmers in the most affected countries, including by rapidly increasing potential food production and boosting their resilience in the face of challenges.” 

Qu Dongyu called on Mediterranean countries to work together to avoid the risks to food security aggravated by the Russia-Ukraine conflict. “We must keep our world food trade system open and ensure that agri-food exports are not limited or taxed”, he said a few days ago during a summit on the food crisis in the Mediterranean area. He then illustrated the main steps on which this cooperation should focus on: greater investments in the countries most affected by the current increase in food prices; reduction of food losses and waste; better and more efficient use of natural resources; and finally, great attention to technological and social innovations that can significantly reduce the losses of the agricultural market. 

What are the consequences?

Some analysts argue the Kremlin is hoping that a possible food crisis will put political pressure on the West by provoking new refugee flows towards Europe from food-insecure countries in the Middle East and Africa.

“The situation is forcing hundreds of thousands of people to move to different communities and to live with host families who are already living in difficult conditions themselves. There is not enough food, let alone food that is nutritious enough for children. We must help them urgently because their health, their future and even their lives are at risk,” said Philippe Adapoe, Save the Children's director for West and Central Africa. The war is starting to push families to the brink of survival and increasing also the risk of violence against women. Hibo Aden, women's rights officer at ActionAid Somaliland, said the situation has become so desperate for some families that girls are forced to marry in exchange for food and water. 

The presence of unstable conditions and civil wars further aggravate the scenario. Many people in African countries will have problems accessing better hygiene, health, or school conditions, given that the family's spending power will be dedicated to the purchase of food at higher prices. Furthermore, phenomena of internal conflict are beginning to be seen, with countries such as Nigeria, South Africa or Ethiopia, which have chosen to restrict some food exports, blocking supply chains and trade, thus creating other problems.

In conclusion, the forecasts for the future are somewhat catastrophic. In these conditions, hunger will increase at high rates and will be more and more deadly. If the international community does not act in support of rural communities affected by hunger, the degree of devastation will be dangerous.

June 8, 2022No Comments

Italy’s cybersecurity response to Russian attacks (Italiano)

Author: Sarah Toubman

In the past few years, the Italian government has rapidly increased both the pace and number of steps taken to protect its national cybersecurity interests. Italy began creating legislation and organizations for the defense of its cybersecurity infrastructure in 1993, but many observers have criticized developments in Italian cybersecurity as inadequate and slow-moving compared to its peers in Europe and beyond. However, in June 2021, the Italian government declared its intention to create a new national agency for cybersecurity, and just weeks ago, released a national cybersecurity policy for 2022-2026.

The Italian government’s increased attention to cybersecurity has come just in time, as several prominent cyberattacks against Italy by Russian hackers occurred this May. Considering Italy and the European Union’s support for Ukraine in its war against Russia, it is not surprising that Russian-backed agents have unleashed attacks on Italy in the cybersphere, a space the Kremlin has long operated in. For example, during the 2008 Ruso-Georgian war, Russian-backed hackers reportedly carried out cyberattacks against Georgian internet infrastructure.

More recently, this cyber aggression has been turned towards both state and private cyberinfrastructure in Italy. On May 10th, Russian hacker groups “Killnet” and “Legion” attempted to break into and modify the voting results for the Eurovision Song Contest, which Italy hosted and Ukraine ultimately won. However, thanks to the Italian Computer Security Incident Response Team, which was created in 2018, the attempt was foiled. 

Similarly, just one day later on May 11th, “‘Killnet’ claimed an attack on the websites of several Italian institutions, including the Senate, Italy's upper house of parliament, and the National Health Institute.” On May 19th, the Russian hacking organization launched additional cyberattacks on Italian institutions, including the High Council of the Judiciary, and the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Public Education, and Culture.

While Russian-backed cyber organizations are clearly enthusiastically targeting Italy, the robust responses of Italian cyber-defense organizations are now successful on a level which would have been unlikely prior to the development of its new cybersecurity agency and the rollout of its 2022-2026 cybersecurity policy. Although historically Italy has often been behind the curve in its cybersecurity policies, Mario Draghi’s push to launch the National Cybersecurity Agency was in fact extremely forward-looking and timely. Furthermore, since the agency’s announcement, Italian cybersecurity forces have developed the skills required to successfully counter Russian-backed agents, proving its creation was not merely a publicity-boosting measure for the Draghi government.

One recent headline has declared that “Italy [is] embroiled in cyber war with pro-Russian hackers.” Definitions of what constitutes cyberwarfare still vary, and the Russian government formally denies involvement with the groups of hackers conducting these attacks. However, such a headline again serves to remind those concerned with international security that Russia has historically and continues to use the cyber sphere to wage war, and therefore a robust international security policy necessarily includes cyber-defense. Therefore, in the context of the Russian invasion of Ukraine--the largest war seen in Europe since 1945--defensive cybersecurity capabilities are evermore important for Italy and any nation openly opposing Russian actions. 

Italy’s 2013 National Strategic Framework for Cyberspace Security and 2017 Cybersecurity Action Plan had both highlighted the need for improved public-private cooperation to ensure national cybersecurity moving forward. In fact, the 2017 plan had urged that “private entities operating in strategic sectors must be considered as key assets and included into a holistic approach to national cybersecurity that provides for the implementation of minimum security requirements for country-critical systems.” Again, such a point was forward-looking, highlighting the fact that in May 2022, Russian-backed agents did not only launch cyberattacks on Italian government organizations, but also the Eurovision Song Contest, a multinational initiative being operated out of Italy. 

Notably, under the country’s new cybersecurity policy, the Italian Computer Security Incident Response Team was successfully able to both prevent an attack against Eurovision and resolve cyber incidents related to government websites. However, moving forwards, this area merits even further attention. The Italian state could be severely impacted by cyberattacks against a whole range of websites, companies, and infrastructure, including public, private, and multinational organizations. Therefore, ensuring Italian cybersecurity going forward would require not just improved public-private cooperation, but also coordination between Italy and all interconnected sectors of the EU. 

Image Source: https://imgcdn.agendadigitale.eu/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/28110643/cyber-war.jpg.webp

Italian translation 

Negli ultimi anni, il governo italiano ha accelerato rapidamente il passo e ha compiuto progressi nella protezione dei suoi interessi nazionali nell’ambito della sicurezza cibernetica. L’Italia iniziò a legiferare e fondare organizzazioni per la difesa delle infrastrutture legate alla sicurezza cibernetica nel 1993. Da allora, molti osservatori hanno criticato gli sviluppi, ritenendoli inadeguati e lenti rispetto agli altri paesi in Europa e nel mondo. Giugno 2021 segna una tappa importante per il governo italiano, che dichiara di voler creare una nuova agenzia nazionale per la sicurezza cibernetica, e poche settimane fa, è stata pubblicata la policy per la sicurezza cibernetica nazionale 2022-2026.

L’aumento di attenzione per questo campo arriva perfettamente in tempo, quasi in concomitanza con diversi attacchi cibernetici compiuti da hacker russi contro l’Italia lo scorso Maggio. Tenendo presente il supporto dichiarato da Italia e Unione Europea per la guerra portata avanti dall’Ucraina contro la Russia, non è una sorpresa che agenti sostenuti dalla Russia stessa abbiano effettuato attacchi contro l’Italia nella sfera cyber, uno spazio in cui il Cremlino opera da tempo. Per esempio, durante la guerra tra Russia e Georgia nel 2008, la Russia ha dato supporto ad hacker per colpire le infrastrutture internet dell’avversario.

Più di recente, le aggressioni cyber sono state indirizzate contro la sfera cyber pubblica e privata dell’Italia. Il 10 Maggio, il gruppo hacker russo “Killnet” e “Legion” ha cercato di entrare e modificare i risultati dei voti dell’Eurovision Song Contest,tenutosi in Italia e vinto dall’Ucraina. Nonostante ciò, grazie al Computer Security Incident Response Team dell’Agenzia per la Cybersicurezza Nazionale, creato nel 2018, il tentativo è stato sventato.

Allo stesso modo, ad un solo giorno di distanza, “Killnet” ha rivendicato un attacco a diversi siti istituzionali italiani, incluso quello del Senato e dell’Istituto di Salute Nazionale. Il 19 Maggio, l’organizzazione russa ha lanciato ulteriori attacchi ad istituzioni italiane, inclusi il Consiglio Superiore della Magistratura, i Ministeri degli Affari Esteri, della Pubblica Istruzione e della Cultura. 

Mentre le cyber organizzazioni russe sono chiaramente entusiaste di avere l’Italia come bersaglio, le risposte robuste date dalle organizzazioni di cyber-difesa italiane hanno avuto un successo che non sarebbe stato possibile raggiungere precedentemente allo sviluppo della nuova Agenzia per la Cybersicurezza Nazionale e alla nuova policy 2022-2026. Sebbene storicamente l’Italia si è sempre trovata in ritardo rispetto ai progressi e alle policy promosse dagli altri paesi, il Presidente Mario Draghi ha insistito per fondare l’Agenzia per la Cybersicurezza Nazionale e questo ha permesso di essere estremamente lungimiranti nel garantire una risposta agli attacchi. Inoltre, dalla creazione dell’Agenzia, l’Italia ha sviluppato delle abilità notevoli e necessarie nella lotta contro gli agenti russi. 

Di recente, è stato dichiarato che “l’Italia è coinvolta in una cyber guerra con gli hacker russi.” Le definizioni di questa cyber-guerra sono ancora varie, e il governo russo ha formalmente negato il coinvolgimento dei gruppi hacker e gli attacchi condotti. Nonostante questo, la situazione al momento conferma che la sfera cyber è sempre utilizzata dalla Russia come arma contro i nemici di guerra, e perciò c’è bisogno di politiche per la sicurezza internazionale più robuste e che includano necessariamente la cyber difesa. Nella guerra tra Russia e Ucraina, la più grande guerra mai vista dopo il 1945, le capacità difensive nel campo della cybersicurezza sono ancora più significative per l’Italia e per qualunque altra nazione che voglia apertamente condannare le azioni Russe. 

La National Strategic Framework for Cyberspace Security del 2013 e il Cybersecurity Action Plan del 2017 hanno entrambi sottolineato il bisogno di migliorare la cooperazione tra pubblico e privato per assicurare una rapida evoluzione nell’ambito della cyber sicurezza nazionale. Infatti, il piano del 2017 ha evidenziato che “le entità private che operano per la cyber sicurezza nazionale lavorano per l’implementazione dei minimi standard di sicurezza richiesti per le infrastrutture critiche del paese.” Ancora una volta, questo punto di vista è lungimirante e sottolinea il fatto che a Maggio 2022, gli agenti russi non hanno solo colpito il governo italiano ma anche l’Eurovision Song Contest, un’iniziativa multinazionale che era organizzata dall’Italia. 

Il Computer Security Incident Response Team dell’Italia ha avuto successo nel prevenire l’attacco contro l’Eurovision e nel risolvere incidenti legati a siti internet del governo.

Infine, questo argomento meriterebbe ancora più attenzione. Lo stato italiano potrebbe essere severamente colpito da cyber attacchi contro siti internet, compagnie e infrastrutture, includendo il settore pubblico, privato e organizzazioni multinazionali. Per questo, garantire la cyber sicurezza del paese e svilupparla ulteriormente richiederebbe non solo un miglioramento della cooperazione tra pubblico e privato, ma anche la coordinazione tra Italia e tutti i settori interconnessi dell’Unione Europea. 

June 2, 2022No Comments

Tracey German on the Human Security implications of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine

Dr. Tracey German is a Professor in Conflict and Security at King's College London, focused on Russian foreign and security policies, particularly Russia’s use of force in the post-Soviet space.

In this podcast interview, Dr. Tracey German explores the human security dynamics and implications of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Interviewing Team: Esther Brito and Réka Szabó.

May 31, 2022No Comments

Lisa Gaufman on Russia’s Information Warfare in Ukraine

Dr. Lisa Gaufman received her PhD from the University of Tübingen, Germany, in 2016. She then joined the Institute for Intercultural and International Studies at the University of Bremen as a postdoctoral research fellow. She is the author of "Security Threats and Public Perception: Digital Russia and the Ukraine Crisis" (Palgrave, 2017). Her research interests centre around the intersection of political theory, international relations, media and cultural studies.

In this podcast interview, Dr. Lisa Gaufman explores in-depth the development of Russian strategy of information warfare in Ukraine.

Interviewing Team: Fabrizio Napoli and Davide Gobbicchi.

May 19, 2022No Comments

The Consequences of Ukrainian War on U.S.-China Relations

Author: Francesco Cirillo.

The war in Ukraine is shaking the European security system and also influencing Washington's strategies in the Indo-Pacific. With the focus on Europe, the US has slowed down its diplomatic and political activity in Asia while keeping a close eye on Beijing's moves. The latest moves such as Beijing's ratified security agreement with the Solomon Islands has alarmed Canberra, a close US ally, as well as the Americans. For Washington, the move is seen as an attempt by Beijing to strengthen its diplomatic and politico-military position in the South Pacific. Another hot dossier concerns the thorny issue of Taiwan. With the Russian invasion Washington is analysing how it can support Taipei in terms of military aid without bothering the People's Republic of China.

In recent months, with the outbreak of war in Ukraine, there have been growing concerns that in the near future Beijing might attempt an armed attack to occupy and annex Taiwan, which Beijing calls one of its 'rebel provinces'. At the moment, however, there seem to be no signs of a possible Chinese attack. The war has been a total game changer, causing concern within Xi Jinping's leadership. According to the Wall Street Journal, Chinese big tech companies are scaling back their business in the Russian Federation market, as they are intimidated by possible sanctions that the US and the West might apply against them. But recently a War Game was broadcast on NBC news, simulating an invasion of Taiwan by the People's Republic of China and a subsequent military confrontation with the US in the Pacific.

Image Source: https://pixabay.com/photos/mao-zedong-mao-tse-tung-chairman-mao-15983/ 

In fact, within the US federal agencies, preparations are being made for a possible war confrontation with Chinese forces. Despite the tension within some Chinese academic circles, it is theorised that a kind of competitive coexistence could be found with Washington, which would aim to exclude a warlike confrontation. In January 2022, Professor Wang Jisi , lecturer at the School of International Studies and President of the Institute of International and Strategic Studies at Peking University, wrote and published an essay entitled 'A Hot Peace: Is a Paradigm in U.S.-China Relations Emerging?'. In this short essay, the academic theorises that despite the mistrust between Washington and Beijing on various dossiers ranging from the Hong Kong issue to the mistrustful view of international relations via Taiwan, it is necessary to maintain and consolidate a channel of communication between the two leaderships in order to cooperate when the interests of both the People's Republic and the United States converge. According to Wang Jisi, this would lead the current status of Sino-US relations not towards a new 'Cold War' but towards a so-called 'Hot Peace', in which Beijing and Washington, despite competition in various fields, mutual mistrust and different visions concerning the status quo of the international chessboard will necessarily have to cooperate in certain dossiers of global importance.  

The war in Ukraine puts Beijing in front of a dangerous strategy: on the one hand it publicly pushes both Moscow and Kiev to find a point of convergence to open a diplomatic mediation table; on the other hand it wants to avoid being included in possible economic sanctions. Moreover, it adds that there could be a remote hypothesis that is at the moment difficult to realise: with a severely weakened post-war Russia, China, in exchange for financial aid, would ask the Kremlin for possible access to military technology in the experimental phase in order to study it and acquire know-how.

At the moment, however, China is focused on other dossiers and preparing for the Party Congress, but with an eye on the economic consequences that the conflict could bring globally. 

April 13, 20221 Comment

Enlargement of NATO to Eastern Europe: Reasons and Consequences for European Security

By: Alessandro Spada.

Introduction

Today, the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (Nato) is an intergovernmental military alliance among the US, Canada and 28 European countries – but it has not always been this  large. Indeed, when Nato was first conceived in 1949 it was made up of just 12 members: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, the UK and the US. The creation of the Alliance pursued three essential purposes: “deterring Soviet expansionism, forbidding the revival of nationalist militarism in Europe through a strong North American presence on the continent, and encouraging European political integration”. The accession process is regulated by Article 10 of the Treaty and other European Countries can be invited to participate. The aspiring member countries must meet key requirements and implement a multi-step process including political, economic, defence, resource, security and legal aspects. In case they are experiencing any issue, they can request assistance, practical support and the advice by a NATO programme, which is called the Membership Action Plan (MAP)

Image Source: The Expansion of NATO Since 1949

Past enlargements

After the end of the Cold War, we can witness four different waves of NATO expansion to Eastern Europe. The first important wave of expansion to the East was launched by the reunification of Germany in 1990. On 12th September 1990, the Treaty on the Final Settlement with Respect to Germany, commonly known as Two Plus Four Treaty, was signed by the foreign ministers of  the Federal Republic of Germany, the GDR, France, Russia, the UK and the USA. The Treaty regulated all the foreign policy aspects of German reunification, including the membership to Nato, and imposed the withdrawal of all the foreign troops and the deployment of their nuclear weapons from the former East Germany and also the prohibition to West Germany’s possession of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. On October 3rd 1990, the  German Democratic Republic and Federal Republic were reunited again.

As to the second wave, the new member countries were Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary. First, on 15th February 1991 they formed the Visegrad Group. Then, on 1st January 1993, Czechoslovakia split into two independent countries: Czech Republic and Slovakia. In 1997, Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary took part in the Alliance’s Madrid Summit and on 12th March 1999, the three former Warsaw Pact members joined NATO. The main reasons were: “to ensure thecountry’s external security”, to impede “the possibility of a great war in unstable Central Europe” and for Poland also “to advance its military capabilities”.

In May 2000, a group of NATO candidate countries created the Vilnius Group (Albania, Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Macedonia, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia). The Vilnius Group resorted to the Membership Action Plan which was introduced by NATO for the first time at the 1999 Washington Summit. In addition, Croatia joined the Vilnius Group in May 2001. The Summit of the NATO Aspirant countries “Riga 2002: The Bridge to Prague” started the path towards the alliance’s membership which took place in Riga, Latvia, on July 5-6, 2002, where the leaders of NATO member and aspirant countries gathered for the last time before the NATO 2002 Prague Summit in November. On 29th March 2004, the largest wave of enlargement in alliance history materialized, except for Albania and Croatia. For Baltic states and Bulgaria, NATO membership symbolized their wish to be part of the European family. NATO was perceived not just merely as a military alliance with security guarantees under Article 5, but as a symbol of higher development, where Baltic states could find their proper place. Moreover, it was the attempt to escape Russian influence, in favor of the protection provided by the American strategic nuclear umbrella and a collective defence.

The same path of the Vilnius Group was followed by the Adriatic Charter of European  countries. The Adriatic Charter was created in Tirana on 2nd May by Albania, Croatia and Macedonia and USA for the purpose to obtain their North Atlantic Alliance admission. Albania and Macedonia were previous participants of MAP since its creation in 1999, while Croatia joined in 2002. Moreover, Macedonia also took part in Nato's Partnership for Peace (PfP) in 1995. On 1st April 2009, the North Atlantic Alliance officially annexed Albania and Croatia after their participation in the 2008 Bucharest Summit. Macedonia accession was postponed because of a dispute on the formal name with Greece. Macedonia became NATO's 30th country on 27th March 2020. Montenegro emulated the same path of the latter, but joined three years before on 5th June 2017, after the Accession Protocol signature in May 2016. For Montenegro itself, the major incentives to join NATO were the future eventuality of EU membership, the highest prestige of the Atlantic Alliance and to achieve “Nato’s security guarantee”.

Future enlargements

Bosnia Herzegovina is the only potential candidate which joined the Membership Action Plan on 5th December 2018.  In spite of Georgia and Ukraine expressing the will to start their path to the North Atlantic Alliance, their situation is still uncertain. The primary reason remains the need to meet all necessary requirements through important reforms focused on key areas; and, the current Russia-Ukraine war.

Consequences for the European Security

On one hand, many consequences, which were the main reasons for NATO expansion to the East, materialized in reality. For example, the inclusion of Eastern Europe nations in the military agreement have promoted democratic reform and stability there, provided stronger collective defense and an improved ability to address new security concerns, improved relations among the Eastern and Central European states, fostered a more stable climate for economic reform, trade, and foreign investment, and finally, improved NATO's ability to operate as a cooperative security organization with broad European security concern,” as stated in the clear purposes contained in a prepared statement of the Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright on 23rd April 1997.

On the other hand, in spite of NATO's open door policy with Russia, the latter constitutes  the largest threat for European security once again in the energy, political and military field. Indeed, the current conflict in Ukraine shows the evident ambition to create a new Russian empire by the Russian President, Vladimir Putin. Many warnings about Russia’s reaction were expressed in the declarations of Biden’s CIA director, William J. Burns, when he worked as counselor for political affairs at the US embassy in Moscow in 1995. On 26th June 1997, a group of 50 prominent foreign policy experts that included former senators, retired military officers, diplomats and academicians, sent an open letter to President Clinton outlining their opposition to NATO expansion”In the end, the father of the Cold War containment doctrine, George F. Kennan described the NATO expansion as a “tragic mistake”.

Conclusion

The current Russian invasion in Ukraine puts in clear evidence the necessity for the EU countries to accelerate the formation process of the European Army. They will have to achieve energy independence by using Russian gas, diversifying their own supplier countries and to invest massively in the green economy. Moreover, the EU must strengthen its common foreign policy, implementing an effective diplomatic action and speaking with one voice to cope with the great tensions around Europe and the rest of the world. If not, the European project will risk crumbling.