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Military Technologies

Vol. 6 No. 1 | Summer 2019
Samuel Bendett

The Rise of Russia’s Hi-Tech Military

Samuel Bendett



        Following the end of the Cold War, the Russian Federation lagged behind the United States in terms of advanced technology in warfighting. However, after substantial spending on modernization starting in 2008, the Russian military and the nation’s defense sector have been making great strides at developing remotely operated and autonomous technologies and integrating them in their tactics and combat operations. Russia is also starting to invest in Artificial Intelligence (AI) development with specific military applications. These developments affect the ability of the United States to meet the goals in its new National Security Strategy; in order to meet its stated December 2017 objective of renewing American competitive advantage in key military areas, the United States should be aware of key adversarial developments such as Russia’s emerging unmanned, autonomous, and AI capabilities, and prepare itself in terms of appropriate capabilities, tactics, and plans...


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Samuel B

Samuel Bendett is a Researcher at the CNA and a Fellow in Russia Studies at the American Foreign Policy Council. The views expressed here are his own.

Dr. Heather Williams

Challenges Technologies Pose to U.S.-Russia Arms Control

A Conversation with Dr. Heather Williams

Interviewed by FSR Staff

Fletcher Security Review: Could you describe your current work on U.S.-Russia arms control?

Heather Williams: For the past two years, I have participated in Track 1.5 and Track 2 dialogues with Russia, specifically on arms control. As you can imagine, these have largely been dominated by disputes around the INF Treaty. The dialogues can be frustrating due to a tendency to “shame and blame,” but they are also a great opportunity to hear the Russian perspective and try to foster dialogue. I'm encouraged by these dialogues as we often identify areas of misunderstanding and miscommunication, and because they typically include a next generation component. I'm hopeful these relationships will carry over and lay the groundwork for dialogue for decades to come. At the same time, the dialogues are very difficult at present and it is impossible to ignore the feelings of distrust on both sides.

Additionally, I lead studies on the future of arms control with a focus on potential for U.S.-Russia strategic bilateral arms control. Over the long-term, I'm actually optimistic about prospects for U.S.-Russia arms control - it is in both countries' interests to reduce risks of escalation and avoid a costly arms race, and arms control is one of the best tools for achieving that. However, arms control of the future is likely to look different from arms control of the past. There are limited prospects for the U.S. Senate ratifying another treaty, especially in light of Russia's violations of the INF Treaty. Arms control might no longer be bilateral strategic legally-binding treaties, but rather asymmetric exchanges and confidence-building measures. In the short-term, however, this is a difficult time for arms control as both the United States and Russia feel cheated and like the other side can't be trusted...

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Dr. Heather Williams


Dr. Heather Williams is a lecturer in the Defence Studies Department and Centre for Science and Security Studies at King’s College London. She also does research for the Institute for Defense Analyses on Strategy, Forces, and Resources, and previously was a Research Fellow at Chatham House. Williams received her doctorate from King’s College London for her dissertation on U.S.-Russia arms control from 1968-2010.

Dr. Christine Sixta Rinehart

        The United States has been using Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) to assassinate terrorist targets since its first RPA strike on November 3, 2002, when a U.S. Predator fired a hellfire missile at a car traveling through the Mar’ib province of Yemen. The intelligence cycle of this targeted killing process is murky at best, and the policy has changed throughout the successive administrations of U.S. presidents. Details exist but there is no defined tangible chain of analysis concerning the selection of the target, the monitoring of the target, and finally, the assassination of the target. This paper attempts to elucidate the intelligence chain of analysis concerning American targeted killing and examine how the intelligence cycle of targeted killing varies through successive presidential administrations.

This paper will begin with a short analysis of relevant literature, although sources concerning this topic are scarce. The occurrence of targeted killings of U.S. citizens will also be explained in the literature section. The paper will continue with an elaboration of a generic intelligence cycle model, which will be used to illustrate the intelligence cycle of U.S. targeted killings using both the Reaper and the Predator RPA.[1] The paper will then address differences in the intelligence cycles and processes that have occurred between successive presidents since targeted killing first began in 2002 with President George W. Bush. Lastly, the paper will provide policy prescriptions in reference to improving targeted killing in the Middle East and Africa...

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[1] The Predator was phased out at the end of 2018 and the sole targeted killing RPA is the Reaper.

Dr. Christine Sixta Rinehart


Dr. Christine Sixta Rinehart is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of South Carolina in Palmetto College. She earned her PhD from the University of South Carolina in 2008. Her research interests include international terrorism, female terrorism, and security and counterterrorism. Her first book Volatile Social Movements and the Origins of Terrorism: The Radicalization of Change was published in December 2012 by Lexington Books. Her second book, Drones and Targeted Killing in the Middle East and Africa: An Appraisal of American Counterterrorism Policies was published by Lexington Books in December 2016. Her third book, Sexual Jihad: The Role of Islam in Female Terrorism will be published in spring 2019 by Lexington Books. She can be reached at

Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Prakash Menon

Sino-Indian Nuclear Dynamics

Taking the Global Lead

Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Prakash Menon

        Technology often seduces potential adversaries through a promise of relief from security threats only to deceive through the inevitable action-reaction cycle. In the universe of security, technology is contestable both by technology itself and by doctrinal prescriptions and operational countermeasures. The advantage provided by new technology is mostly ephemeral in that provides the momentum for an endless cycle that is best described as chasing one’s own tail. Only political intervention through mutual understanding, doctrinal prudence, and regulating the search for operational supremacy holds potential to escape the stranglehold of the action-reaction cycle. The elusive search for Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) is a prime example. This paper seeks to interrogate the role of the technology-security dynamics in the context of the Sino-Indian nuclear weapon relationship.

The context of the Sino-Indian nuclear weapon relationship is clouded by the enhancing reach of India’s missiles[1], the evolving Chinese reaction to U.S. nuclear modernization accompanied by a shift in nuclear posture, and a shared belief in the role of nuclear weapons that is signified by No First Use (NFU) doctrine. The latter point represents political intervention while the two former signify the action-reaction cycle which

is primarily a product of technology. However, both China and India must contend with nuclear powers that espouse First Use. China in dealing with the United States and Russia who are quantitatively superior nuclear powers, while India deals with Pakistan whose claims of quantitative superiority are contested.

In technological terms, the rise of China and the U.S. reaction resulting in contemporary geopolitical flux at the global level has impacted the evolution of China’s nuclear arsenal. The most prominent illustration of this is China’s reaction to the United States’ withdrawal from the Ballistic Missile Defense Treaty. Earlier China had eschewed development of BMD, but the United States’ quest to create BMD has caused China to attempt to develop its own BMD system as well as systems that can overcome BMD like multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles (MIRVs) and Hyper Glide Vehicles (HGVs). Similarly, India has reacted to developments in China and Pakistan by launching an indigenous BMD development program...

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[1] “India Successfully Test Fires Nuclear-Capable Agni-5 Missile.” < /india-successfully-test-fires-nuclear-capable-ag- ni-5-missile-1960649> (Accessed February 1, 2019).


Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Prakash Menon, PVSM, AVSM, VSM


Lt. Gen. (Dr.) Prakash Menon, PVSM, AVSM,VSM served for 40 years in the Indian Army. Extensive operational experience in Jammu & Kashmir including the Siachen Glacier. Awarded three Distinguished Service awards. Former Military Adviser in India's National Security Council Secretariat. Presently Director, Strategic Studies Programme, Takshashila Institution, Bangalore and Adjunct Professor, National Institute of Advanced Studies, Bangalore. Elected member of the Executive and Governing Council of Institute of Defense Studies & Analysis (IDSA) and United Service Institution (USI), New Delhi.

Dr. Filippa Lentzos

Re-thinking Biological Arms Control for the 21st Century

Dr. Filippa Lentzos

International treaties prohibit the development and use of biological weapons. Yet concerns about these weapons have endured and are now escalating. It is high time to take a hard look at technical and political developments and consider how the international security policy community should respond.

A major source of the growing concern about future bioweapons threats stem from scientific and technical advances. Innovations in biotechnology are expanding the toolbox to modify genes and organisms at a staggering pace, making it easier to produce increasingly dangerous pathogens. Disease-causing organisms can now be modified to increase their virulence, expand their host range, increase their transmissibility, or enhance their resistance to therapeutic interventions.[1] Scientific advances are also making it theoretically possible to create entirely novel biological weapons,[2] by synthetically creating known or extinct pathogens or entirely new pathogens.[3] Scientists could potentially enlarge

the target of bioweapons from the immune system to the nervous system,[4] genome, or microbiome,[5] or they could weaponize ‘gene drives’ that would rapidly and cheaply spread harmful genes through animal and plant populations.[6]

Concurrent developments in other emerging technologies are also impacting potential future biological weapons threats. Developments in artificial intelligence and machine learning could speed up identification of harmful genes or DNA sequences. Artificial intelligence and machine learning could also potentially enable much more targeted biological weapons that would harm specific individuals or groups of individuals based on their genes, prior exposure to vaccines, or known vulnerabilities in their immune system.[7] Big Data and ‘cloud labs’ (completely robotized laboratories for hire) facilitate this process by enabling massively scaled-up experimentation and testing, significantly shortening ‘design-test-build’ timeframes and improving the likelihood of obtaining specificity or producing desired biological functionality.[8] Other developments provide new or easier ways to deliver pathogens or biological systems. Nanotechnology could potentially create aerosolized nanobots dispersing lethal synthetic microbes or chem-bio hybrids through the air,[9] or in vivo nanobots releasing damaging payloads inside human bodies.[10] Aerosol or spraying devices attached to swarms of small unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones, could be another potential means to disperse biological agents. Additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, could circumvent barriers imposed by national export control systems on controlled laboratory equipment or dispersal devices.

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[1]  Inter-Academy Partnership (2015) The Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention: Implications of advances in science and technology Royal Society and National Academy of Sciences (2016) Trends in synthetic biology and gain of function and regulatory implications.
[2] Caves, John P. Jr. and Seth W. Carus (2014) The Future of Weapons of Mass Destruction: Their Nature and Role in 2030 National Defense University Center for the Study of Weapons of Mass Destruction Occasional Paper No. 10. Lentzos, Filippa (2017) ‘Ignore Bill Gates: Where bioweapons focus really belongs’ The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, online 3 July 2017.
[3] National Academies of Sciences (2018) Biodefense in the Age of Synthetic Biology

[4] Bruner, Robert and Filippa Lentzos (2017) ‘Neuroscience–and the new weapons of the mind’ The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, online 27 October 2017.
[5] Kirkpatrick, Jesse et al (2018) Editing Biosecurity: Needs and Strategies for Governing Genome Editing.
[6] Ben Ouagrham-Gormley, Sonia and Kathleen M. Vogel (2016) ‘Gene drives: The good, the bad, and the hype’ The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, online 14 October 2016.
[7] National Academies of Sciences (2018) Biodefense in the Age of Synthetic Biology.

[8] Dunlap, Garrett and Pauwels, Eleonore (2017) The intelligent and connected bio-labs of the future: promise and peril in the fourth industrial revolution, Wilson Center Briefs.
[9] Snow, Jennifer and James Giordano (2019) ‘Aerosolized Nanobots: Parsing Fact from Fiction for Health Security—A Dialectical View’, Health Security Vo.17(1).
[10] Lentzos, Filippa and Cédric Invernizzi (2018) ‘DNA origami: Unfolding risk?’ The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, online 25 January 2018.


Dr. Filippa Lentzos


Filippa Lentzos, Ph.D., is a Senior Research Fellow at King’s College London specializing in biosecurity and biological arms control. She is also an Associate Senior Researcher within the Armament and Disarmament Programme at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), a biosecurity columnist at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, an Associate Editor of the journal BioSocieties, and the NGO Coordinator for the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention. For more about her work see

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