US Tech Firms ‘Win Big’ From Ukraine War, Turn The Region Into A Testing Ground for AI-Driven Warfare, Chinese Media

China has leveled allegations that US military and technology companies are reaping financial gains from the Russia-Ukraine conflict by exploiting it as a testing ground for “AI warfare.” 

On July 6, the Global Times (GT), a state-backed media outlet in China, published a report that suggests that the US military and some Western technology companies view the Russia-Ukraine conflict as an opportunity for a “shortcut to profit” and as a suitable testing environment for their new AI technologies and products.

Citing a recent Bloomberg story, the Chinese media report shed light on the financial trajectory of Blake Resnick, a 23-year-old US entrepreneur. The article details how Resnick amassed a net worth surpassing $100 million through a combination of donations and the sale of his drones to Ukraine.

Furthermore, the report has highlighted several instances of US companies’ involvement in the Russia-Ukraine conflict, demonstrating their eagerness to support Ukraine with AI-enhanced systems. 

Western companies, particularly those specializing in geospatial intelligence, have played an “unprecedented” role in converting satellite imagery into valuable intelligence and surveillance advantages, with US firms leading the way. 

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Representational Image: Satellite image collected by BlackSky over Vasylkiv Air Base, Ukraine, Feb. 28, 2022. Credit: BlackSky

For example, Palantir Technologies, Planet Labs, BlackSky Technology, and Maxar Technologies have provided AI-based systems to analyze conflict trends and produce satellite imagery. 

Palantir Technologies notably supplied targeting technologies to Ukrainian forces, aiding in the effectiveness of their weaponry. 

This involvement has reportedly proven highly profitable for the company, with its shares experiencing significant jumps following CEO Alex Karp’s visit to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and the announcement of a partnership between Palantir and the Ukrainian government.

The accusations made by GT against Western militaries and companies are not unexpected, given the media outlet’s reputation for propagating Chinese Communist Party perspectives. 

However, it is apparent that the war-torn country of Ukraine has become an ideal testing ground for the evaluation of new technologies and weapon systems. 

The involvement of manufacturers in deploying these systems allows them to receive valuable feedback directly from soldiers on the ground. 

This feedback loop contributes to the iterative refinement of these systems, ensuring that they are continuously improved based on real-world combat experiences.

Threat To Ukraine’s Security? 

The ongoing Russia-Ukraine conflict has witnessed the deployment of various tech weapons and AI support systems, including drones, autonomous ships, unmanned vehicles, and communication and geospatial intelligence systems. 

Chinese experts assert that by deploying a broad array of AI-equipped systems, Western countries are actively refining their AI-enabled or AI-enhanced technologies for immediate deployment. 

Wang Qiang, a Chinese military observer who spoke to the GT, argued that under the pretext of “supporting Ukraine,” these Western entities may be extracting information from critical areas such as national defense and information networks. 

Wang warned that such activities could result in the leakage and infiltration of sensitive data, posing a significant threat to the country’s security.

According to the Chinese expert, using Ukraine as a testing ground offers the United States a broad spectrum of opportunities, ranging from target identification and location for frontline attacks to extensive analysis of popular sentiment feedback to enhance opinion mobilization. 

Representational Image

He further alleged that the US might even entertain the possibility of using Ukraine to potentially dismember Europe.

“The US has called for the construction of such so-called joint information infrastructure network facilities, and then empowered with advance technologies, especially AI technology and big data, NATO’s information warfare capabilities are enhanced, but also the US’ ability to control NATO-sourced information,” he added. 

The report also references an article co-authored by retired US Major General Robin Fontes, who held the position of deputy commanding general of operations at Army Cyber Command. 

The article suggests that the Russia-Ukraine conflict serves as a significant advancement towards a networked battlefield and future AI-driven warfare.

Previously, EurAsian Times also outlined the potential significance of AI in the field of logistics. AI has the capability to analyze maintenance patterns, suggest preventive maintenance strategies, optimize combat supply chains, and offer real-time logistical guidance. 

At present, the party that seizes the initial opportunity to deploy AI stands to benefit from a vast and relatively unexplored market. The potential to capitalize on these opportunities motivates various private firms and countries to pursue and benefit from the deployment of AI. 

However, there are legitimate concerns regarding the potential negative consequences of the unregulated use of such technology in Ukraine. 

“Unchecked and potentially hasty development of military applications of artificial intelligence will continue to undermine international humanitarian law and norms regarding civilian protection,” according to the Scientific American, a US-based science magazine. 

The extent to which the US and its allied countries are benefitting from the deployment of AI-equipped systems may not be fully clear. However, they could gather valuable information to enhance their future strategies and weapons.

By leveraging the experiences and insights gained from the conflict, these countries aim to strengthen their position and improve their readiness for potential future conflicts.