Fears of a split in the West over Ukraine
Some speakers warned that rising gas and food prices, not to mention the prospect of a protracted war, are sure to erode support in some corners for Ukraine as it defends itself against Russia.
Already, some Republicans opposed large aid packages to Ukraine, the MP. Brendan Boyle (D-Pa.) predicted that the share of the Republican Party — the “Trump base” — would likely grow, particularly “as long as we have this inflation crisis in the West.”
Poland’s Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydać made a similarly harsh remark, saying that “war fatigue” was increasing, including in Central European countries.
“People might think that maintaining stability and peace in the world would only cost them a cent or a cent — without any expenses,” he said. “So there is a lot that needs to be done in order to encourage people and our communities to support this policy.”
Currently, the United States is intensifying its military support for Ukraine amid calls from its leaders, including First Lady Olena Zelenska. US officials announced this week that the United States will send, among other things, more high-mobility artillery missile systems to the Ukrainians.
Prepare – just in case – for a showdown over Taiwan
But the ambassador also said that Beijing “will do everything we can for peaceful reunification, because we believe it serves the interests of people on both sides.”
Of course, the big question is when this “reunification” will take place. In this regard, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency, William Burns, said, “The risks of that increase…the more this decade goes on.” Burns added that the question is not so much about whether Chinese leader Xi Jinping wants to make a move, but how and when.
British spy chief Richard Moore, who leads MI6, said he did not believe Beijing’s military attack on Taiwan was inevitable, but “it is important that we prepare accordingly.”
Moore and others pointed out that in any case, Western determination in Ukraine, along with Russian missteps, should sound alarm bells for Xi as he contemplates what would happen in the seizure of Taiwan.
For example, Chinese leaders should wonder “if all those things my army tells me how great they are, they might not be as true as they would like them to be,” said Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall.
Burns said that one of the lessons Xi likely learned from Russia’s experience in Ukraine is that you have to use “crushing force.”
You have to give up something to Iran
Alarm is growing in the Middle East and beyond about Iran’s nuclear advances, especially now International negotiations to restore the 2015 nuclear deal With Tehran looks dead.
Several speakers at Aspen hinted that military action is an increased possibility.
Benny Gantz, Israel’s defense minister, said the country is building a military capacity to counter Iran, but would prefer not to “jump into war.” Should we be able to conduct a military operation to prevent it if necessary? The answer is yes. Are we building capacity? yes. Should we use it as a last resort? Yes, Gantz said.
His concerns were echoed by a senior Bahraini official, Abdullah Al Khalifa, who did not rule out joining Israel – with which it now has diplomatic relations – in a preemptive military campaign against Iran. “I think addressing the problem now when there is a chance is much better than addressing it later when it is too late,” Al Khalifa said.
Meanwhile, MI6’s Moore said that while Tehran might prolong the nuclear talks, he did not think it was serious about restoring the 2015 agreement. “I don’t think Iran’s supreme leader wants to make a deal,” he said.
Russia’s limited use of cyberattacks in Ukraine
US officials are still struggling to determine why Russia has refrained from unleashing its full cyber capabilities against Ukraine and its allies, even though Moscow has not completely ignored the Internet.
Anne Neuberger, the White House’s deputy national security adviser for electronic and emerging technology, noted that “one possibility” might be that Russia was not quite ready to use its cyber arsenal. Other options may be deterring Putin, Neuberger said, after Biden warned him of negative consequences. She said Ukraine’s efforts to boost its critical infrastructure could also bear fruit.
“We don’t quite know…but it’s definitely something we’re watching closely,” Neuberger told an Aspen audience.
Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Mark Warner De Fa. said he believed the world had not yet seen “the full cyber power of Russia,” and warned that Sweden and Finland’s accession to NATO could be tempting targets for future Russian cyberattacks.
Microsoft chief Brad Smith noted that while Russia may have fallen behind, it has certainly used the Internet as part of its strategy. Smith said Microsoft saw Russia as using “devastating cyber attacks,” espionage efforts and disinformation. Microsoft released a report Last month detailed such Russian operations.
“There is a kind of view that Russia has not taken many steps in Ukraine in terms of cyberspace,” said Matthew Olsen, assistant attorney general for national security at the Department of Justice. “This is a myth, and we are actually witnessing a hot cyberwar in Ukraine being carried out by the Russians.”
There is no “recovery” card for Putin
Rumors that the Russian president suffers from one disease or another have been persistent. In Aspen this week, not one but two intelligence chiefs ruled them out.
“As far as we can tell, he’s very healthy,” Burns said. His British counterpart Moore replied with less enthusiasm but with the same certainty: “There is no evidence that Putin is seriously ill.”
Will that end the speculation? Mostly not. But Putin himself mitigated some of that this week by taking a quick trip to Iran, a rare foray into a man who has remained largely isolated amid the Covid-19 crisis.
Tussi Ward reported from Aspen. Miller reported from Washington.
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