23 November 2022

The Attack on America’s Future Cyber-Enabled Economic Warfare

Samantha F. Ravich and RADM (Ret.) Mark Montgomery


In 2018, the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) published a series of monographs analyzing cyber-enabled economic warfare (CEEW) as practiced by Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran. The four studies brought together for the first time an assessment of each adversary’s CEEW attacks on America’s economic infrastructure. At the time, the term CEEW was only beginning to seep into the consciousness of the U.S. national security community. The White House had used the term in its 2017 National Security Strategy, noting how adversaries are using technology to “weaken our businesses and our economy.”1 But the connection between such malicious activities and the overall strategies of America’s four principal adversaries remained unclear.

The risks associated with CEEW are now clearer, thanks less to the rigorous analysis of adversarial intentions than to the increased scale, scope, and frequency of attacks across the American economic landscape. Still, the federal government has a blind spot that leaves the United States vulnerable to a catastrophic strategic surprise — one that could simultaneously destabilize the U.S. electrical grid, water supply, banking system, transportation sector, or other critical infrastructure necessary for survival. That blind spot is intelligence that anticipates the adversary’s strategy. For too long, the United States has tried to patch its way to safety with the enemy inside its networks.

Roberta Wohlstetter’s 1962 book Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision warns of the perils of missing “a particular enemy move or intention” amidst a vast amount of intelligence.2 The book has remained relevant over the decades as the United States successfully avoided a thermonuclear surprise attack by the Soviets, on the one hand, but failed to anticipate jet planes flying into skyscrapers, on the other. Wohlstetter informed generations of Cold War and counterterrorism intelligence analysts that signals not only must be gathered and illuminated to inform policymakers but must also be broken down and dissected to help guide future intelligence collection. Only then can the United States decipher the enemy’s decision-making structures and gain insight into the adversary’s larger strategic plan.




The Russo-Ukraine war is analogous in several ways to a hypothetical war between China and Taiwan. Like Ukraine, Taiwan is a relatively weak state, threatened by a neighboring great power with a sizable nuclear arsenal who makes historical claims to its territory, and has some backing from the United States. Ukraine’s experience provides several lessons for Taiwan.

War remains an instrument of statecraft that great powers use in pursuit of their perceived national interests; smaller, weaker states should plan accordingly. In Taiwan’s case, that means a continuation of the status quo which has helped provide peace for decades.

Taiwan should assume the United States will not engage in direct conflict with China on its behalf. This assumption should encourage Taiwan to focus its military strategy on securing an advantage by acquiring more anti-access, area-denial capability and reforming its reserve force to help it deter or resist an invasion.

While Ukraine shows Taiwan could expect an outpouring of global humanitarian and military aid if attacked, its island geography and the likely course of the war means it might not manage to receive or access those supplies, and should therefore maintain strategic stockpiles of weapons, ammunition, food, fuel, and other supplies.

The Naval War

Seth Cropsey

Ukraine’s victory in Kherson Oblast has confirmed the centrality of sea access in the war with Russia. As Ukraine plans its next move, and Russia responds to Ukraine’s advances, Western policymakers must prioritize Ukraine’s victory at sea, and ensure that Kyiv has the tools it requires to break Russian sea control. Like World War II’s struggle for the continent the Ukraine War may be fought on land, but it can be won at sea.

The Russian retreat from Kherson demonstrates the effectiveness of Ukraine’s operational approach. Ukrainian troops never conquered Kherson, replicating the vicious urban assaults that have defined the Russian invasion. They instead played to their strengths, patiently eroding Russia’s position with long-range artillery strikes against supply depots and logistical hubs. This strategy won the Battle of the Donbas, halting the apparently overwhelming Russian onslaught at Severodonetsk/Lysychansk. It also ultimately won the Kherson Offensive. In both cases, Russian forces became too degraded to undertake effective offensives.

Unlike in the Donbas, however, Ukraine could present Russia with an operational dilemma. Right-bank Kherson Oblast held political and strategic importance, as the key to the Crimea Canal, the area in which a newly annexed Russian Oblast’s ostensible capital was and is still located, and as the most viable staging point for new offensives. But maintaining a stable position in Kherson required around 20,000 soldiers at any given time, complete with heavy artillery, armored vehicles, and the requisite ammunition and supplies to fight, even from static lines.

US approves arms sales to Switzerland, Lithuania and Belgium

Zamone Perez

WASHINGTON — The U.S. State Department cleared $700 million in a possible foreign military sale to Switzerland, along with other sales to Lithuania and Belgium, as the neutral European country works to modernize its Air Force by 2030.

Switzerland now has approval to purchase up to 72 Lockheed Martin-made Patriot Advanced Capability-3 Missile Segment Enhancement missiles. The agreement also includes related launching technology as well as logistics and technical support, according to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency.

The missiles will improve Switzerland’s Patriot air defense system, which is used to defend the country’s territorial integrity, DSCA said in a statement Tuesday.

Switzerland has worked to revamp its air defense capabilities over the past few years. Since 2018, the government has set a goal of acquiring aircraft and ground-based missiles for more than $8 billion. The Patriot missiles were among the weapons on its short list.

Keith B. Payne, Tilting at Windmills: Nuclear Disarmament Advocacy in an Anarchic World Order, No. 540, November 22, 2022

Dr. Keith B. Payne


Nuclear weapons and deterrence once again are in the daily spotlight given Moscow’s recent excessive use of nuclear threats in its war against Ukraine. After seemingly disappearing from public consciousness following the end of the Cold War, public commentary on nuclear weapons and deterrence is once again flourishing. Immediately following the peaceful end of the Cold War, many leaders, academics and commentators were convinced that a “new world order” was emerging—one in which nuclear weapons would play little if any role and great power wars would be a thing of the past. A common theme emerged in the commentary offered by many churches and nuclear disarmament advocates that the solution to the threat of nuclear war is global nuclear disarmament. This theme continues to dominate activism on behalf of the contemporary nuclear ban treaty.[1]

The typical advocacy for nuclear disarmament, past and present, begins with a graphic description of the horrors of nuclear war to capture attention and support, and from that starting point quickly moves to the claim that because nuclear war would be horrific beyond description, nuclear weapons must, and can be eliminated if leaders can be pressed to muster the good sense to eliminate them.[2] This long-standing approach to the policy argument includes advocacy of nuclear disarmament as the solution to the threat of nuclear destruction. The general thrust of this argument is that nuclear weapons are so destructive that it should be self-evident to all rational leaders that they must accept and advocate for nuclear disarmament.

US Army weighs multiyear contracts for munitions to aid Ukraine

Jen Judson

WASHINGTON — The Army is weighing which munitions programs are best suited for multiyear contracts should Congress approve these authorities to replenish supplies sent to Ukraine.

Bipartisan legislation introduced in the Senate would grant the Pentagon wartime procurement powers, allowing it to use multiyear contracts to buy massive amounts of high-priority munitions to help Ukraine fight Russia and refill U.S. stockpiles.

The proposed legislation is an amendment to the annual defense authorization bill and was offered instead of the critical munitions acquisition fund sought by the Pentagon and some lawmakers but rejected by Senate appropriators.

The munitions programs most likely to see this approach would be ones the service is already buying at large scale and with hot production lines, Doug Bush, the Army’s acquisition chief, told reporters Monday.

How Can We Do What We Do Better?

Flavius Belisarius

The first thing to keep in mind is there are over 5,000 years of recorded military history, starting with the battle of Kadesh. Second, each generation studying and engaging in the science and art of warfare suffer from amnesia. The third thing to keep in mind is one can over-think, just like one can over-engineer.

The fear of failure is real and understandable. If we get things wrong in the profession of arms, people die, wars are lost and national interests are compromised. Fear of ignorance is more complex. In the profession of arms, it surfaces in professionals not wanting to admit they either don’t know something, how something works or what will happen next. Often the “wiz-kids” who have great ideas and/or workable & actionable theories are often shut down. The reasons are many: Fears of being professionally shown-up, embarrassment of not coming up with the bright idea or theory sooner or the sense of being reputationally challenged. There are more, but these illustrate the point.

The Once and Future Reformer

What does reform actually mean in the professional sense? In bureaucratic circles, “reform” can be a nasty word for anything that challenges a status quo or forces less-proficient practitioners to step out of their comfort zones. Seniors sometimes say we need it. Most don’t want to go down that road. Why? Because there usually isn’t enough clarity about what needs to be reformed and why? How many times has someone said, “We need to get back to the basics?” “Think outside of the box?” “We need to tear down silos.” All are valid points, if you know what basics require attention and the actual dimensions of the box. Reformers whose theories were successfully exploited by our opponents or otherwise proven effective are often praised by later generations who ask why they weren’t their voices heard before the war or national crisis. The reason is the profession of arms can be a treacherous beast, especially when it comes to what I mentioned above – fear of the unknown or insecurity over a challenge to “conventional wisdom.”

Thoughts on Xi Jinping’s Third Term


Xi Jinping’s third term as general secretary of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has begun. Xi’s own speech and the personnel announcements made to date have exhibited a strong emphasis on national security to further strengthen control over Chinese society, while persuading CCP members and the Chinese people, including minority groups and the Taiwanese, to share the same “dream.” Moreover, although the unity required for this has also been a point that Xi has emphasized, personnel announcements have made it evident that this “unity” is not defined by diversity, but rather by everyone facing the same direction and supporting Xi Jinping.

Here are some takeaways from Xi’s speech and the personnel announcements.

First, the general secretary system has been favored over the party chairmanship system, meaning a collective leadership system was maintained. Almost all members of the CCP Central Committee are now people believed to belong to Xi’s faction, and none of the Central Politburo members are women. This is perhaps to show that unity means belonging to the Xi faction. However, although the decision-making process of CCP personnel affairs has always been opaque, it is even more so this time. One example: The number of Central Politburo members is now 24, one less than the usual 25.

Will the new US Congress still pay for its Pacific promises?


After more than a week of waiting, the Republican Party finally got over the line to win control of the US House of Representatives. It was somewhat of an expected outcome, even if not the “red wave” as predicted by pundits, but still one that can frustrate Biden’s agenda and the passage of legislation. For matters of foreign policy, this could include the “first ever” Pacific Partnership Strategy announced earlier this year, tipped to cost US$810 million. The fate of this most recent bout of Pacific promises from the United States government will be watched closely in the region.

Just two months ago, in response to a more assertive and active China in the Pacific, the Biden administration invited Pacific Island leaders to Washington to participate in a US-Pacific Island Country Summit. Biden used the meeting to commit to broader regional engagement, recognising the United States’ relative neglect of Pacific Island countries over the decades.

The resulting Pacific Partnership Strategy came laden with many promises. Highlights included opening new embassies in Solomon Islands, Tonga and Kiribati as well as a regional mission for the US Agency for International Development (USAID) in Fiji. A plan was announced to appoint a US envoy to the Pacific Islands Forum and expand the Peace Corps presence across the region.

‘Tyranny and turmoil’ in Russian invasion, US defense secretary says

Rob Gillies

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia — U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin warned Saturday Russia’s invasion of Ukraine offers a preview of a world where nuclear-armed countries could threaten other nations and said Beijing, like Moscow, seeks a world where might makes right.

Austin made the remarks at the annual Halifax International Security Forum, which attracts defense and security officials from Western democracies.

“Russia’s invasion offers a preview of a possible world of tyranny and turmoil that none of us would want to live in. And it’s an invitation to an increasingly insecure world haunted by the shadow of nuclear proliferation,” Austin said in a speech.

Ukraine Is Getting Nervous About Elon Musk


HALIFAX, Canada—Starlink's satellite-based internet hotspots have been the "signal of life" for beleaguered Ukrainians, but the unpredictable behavior of CEO Elon Musk has the Ukrainian government looking for alternatives, a deputy prime minister said.

As well, Musk's drastic changes at Twitter have Kyiv worried that the social-media platform will become a “major source” of media manipulation, Olha Stefanishyna, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister for European and Euro-Atlantic integration told reporters at the Halifax International Security Forum here.

Stefanishyna said the Ukrainian government had begun procuring “some elements of equipment"—mostly European, but she also said she was working with American partners. These Starlink alternatives are “not as sophisticated" but are “something that would allow us to substitute and to make sure that at least at the level of the government communications and government connection, we preserve the sustainability.”

The missile attack that wasn’t

The rocket strike that killed two Poles near their country’s border with Ukraine on 15 November proved to be a test not so much of defence policy as of the information policy of Poland, Ukraine and NATO. Only the Americans passed. The European allies and Ukraine floundered, revealing a shocking lack of preparation for a scenario that could have been predicted almost from the beginning of the war.

Poland is the largest country on NATO’s eastern flank and serves as the most important logistical hub for a war that concerns almost the whole world. Firmness and unity on the part of the West are essential to Ukraine’s defence and Russia’s defeat, which may decide the fate of the world for decades. Tuesday’s explosion in Poland, however, surprised everyone except the United States, and triggered an astonishing sequence of events, driven by astonishing bungling.

Poles learned about the rocket impact, which took place at 3.40 pm, a little before 8.00 pm from the Associated Press. The Polish government remained silent until after midnight, when the foreign ministry issued a statement claiming that the incident involved a ‘Russian-produced missile’ and demanding an explanation from Russia’s ambassador. The government placed some military units on combat alert.

Israel must reclaim its Arab citizens


The rise of right-leaning candidates in Israel’s November 1 election has been derided by a gaggle of breathless commentators, notably The New York Times’ Thomas Friedman, lamenting the end of Israel as we once knew it. First, it should be noted that such prognostications are wildly premature; Israel’s government has yet to be formed. Moreover, it’s worth noting what these observers have until now ignored: the elections were heavily influenced by the 11-day war in May 2021, also known as Operation Guardian of the Walls.

Amid heavy rocket fire by the Iran-backed terrorist group Hamas, significant numbers of Arab-Israeli citizens staged a series of riots, attacking Israeli homes, schools, synagogues and hospitals. A little more than a year later, with troubling questions still lingering about coexistence, votes gravitated to the pugilistic law-and-order campaign of the Religious Zionist bloc led by Bezalel Smotrich and Itamar Ben-Gvir.

Scrap the Iran nuclear deal once and for all


Rapper Toomaj Salehi, actress Nazanin Boniadi, and the daily witness of thousands of like-minded Iranians rising up for freedom and dignity have made it clear that now is not the time to revive a nuclear deal that would entrench and legitimize Iran’s current regime.

The killing of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini by security forces in September laid bare the oppressiveness and brutality of Iran’s rulers, especially toward women. The regime’s willingness to kill protestors astounds, as an increasing number of teenage girls are killed for little more than voicing their opinions of how they want to dress. The United States and the European Union have responded to these human rights abuses with stronger sanctions. European decision-makers soon may follow America’s lead in classifying the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization. This is the exact opposite of what Iran would demand in exchange for a revival of the 2015 nuclear deal, the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Then there are the Iranian drones in Ukraine, killing civilians and destroying critical energy production infrastructure, guaranteeing a brutal winter for many Ukrainians. The supply of drones violates the United Nations’ missile embargo on Iran, a central tenet of the JCPOA and its establishing mandate, UN Security Council resolution 2231. That violation will grow even more menacing if Iran delivers advanced ballistic missiles to Russia, which could well happen in the very near future.

Army Secretary lays out plan to overcome the Army’s negative image and win over Generation Z


Secretary of the Army Christine Wormuth acknowledged that the Army has struggled to recruit from Generation Z. But on Friday, she laid out potential ways for the service branch to overcome young Americans’ doubts in the Army.

Stars and Stripes first reported on Wormuth’s comments. The Army Secretary was speaking at a dinner hosted by the think tank the Center for New American Security on Friday, Nov. 18. She laid out the challenges the Army was facing in recruiting. The Army had aimed to recruit 60,000 new soldiers in the previous fiscal year. It only got 45,000. The Army’s total force is approximately 465,000.

“It’s a pretty big shortfall,” Wormuth said, according to Stars and Stripes. The Army was facing a series of obstacles in making the service appealing. Some of those challenges have been clear for months. In May, Wormuth told Task & Purpose that the Army needed to do more to address concerns about assaults, sexual harassment and suicide within Army ranks.

China’s New Politburo Has Taiwan in Its Crosshairs

Simone Gao

On the day of the U.S. midterm elections, as most Americans shifted their attention away from China, Chinese leader Xi Jinping made his most alarming speech since securing his historic third term at the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) 20th National Party Congress. Speaking as commander-in-chief of the Joint Operations of the Central Military Commission, Xi said, “Today, I and members of the Central Military Commission came…to make it clear to all of you that the new Central Military Commission will solidly align itself with the spirit of the 20th National Congress to comprehensively strengthen our position of troop training to prepare for war.” This remark was made during a visit to the joint operations command center, a bunker buried several hundred meters deep on the outskirts of Beijing.

Is this troop training an indication that Xi is preparing China for war over Taiwan? While many people are reluctant to acknowledge that as an immediate reality, determining instead that Xi’s remarks are standard rhetoric for the commander of a war unit whose purpose is to get ready for battle, ambiguity over Taiwan is rarely Xi’s intention. On the contrary, Xi wants to be very clear to the world about his intention to take control of Taiwan.

Later in the same speech, Xi said that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) must prioritize the only fundamental standard: combat effectiveness. The Chinese military must focus all its energy on fighting and enhancing its ability to win wars.

Is the U.S. Abdicating Global Leadership?

Dominique L. Plewes

In March 2022, in his first State of the Union address, President Joe Biden called the current competition for global influence “the battle between democracy and autocracy.” Introducing the National Defense Strategy, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, called China the “most consequential strategic competitor for the coming decades.” This may be true but the post-Cold War struggle is more complicated than that.

The United States has yet to fully embrace the notion that future conflicts will likely occur in the so-called “gray zone,” the space between war and peace, in which there will be a race for mineral resources, ports, investment, governance, alliances, technical expertise, narrative and of course, military prowess.

U.S. foreign policy tends to focus on the military aspects of the struggle while our adversaries take a more nuanced approach. Our competitors may not challenge the United States in the traditional sense but they methodically undermine U.S. national security as their influence grows.

Will Renewables Dominate Great Power Competition?

Mark Temnycky

As Europe prepares for a “brutal, cold winter,” its inhabitants are belatedly beginning to realize that they heavily rely on Russian gas. According to Goldman Sachs, European households may spend up to €500 a month in 2023 on energy bills. Numerous families may not be able to afford these skyrocketing gas prices, possibly leading to social unrest.

But what if there was a way to ease these expensive energy prices? How would the rise of alternative energy impact the relationship between nations at a global level? Would green energy find itself similarly dependent on hostile foreign actors? Since the days of the British Empire chasing after oil in Persia, Adolf Hitler rushing to the Baku oil fields in 1942, and rising energy prices after the 1974 Arab oil embargo, it is no secret that energy is a national security matter. So, what will the role of alternative energy in national security be in the years to come?

Milley Doubles Down on Support for Ukraine Negotiations

Mark Episkopos

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark A. Milley reiterated his case for a negotiated settlement to end the Russo-Ukrainian War at a press briefing this week.

Ukraine “did a tremendous job in defeating the Russian offensive,” Milley said, citing Kyiv’s battlefield successes in the northeastern Kharkiv and southern Kherson regions. “But Kherson and Kharkiv, physically, geographically, are relatively small compared to the whole [area of Russian occupation], so that—the military task of militarily kicking the Russians physically out of Ukraine is a very difficult task,” he added. “And it's not going to happen in the next couple of weeks unless the Russian army completely collapses, which is unlikely.” Milley argued that Ukraine is unlikely to achieve victory, defined as “kicking the Russians out of all of Ukraine” including Crimea, “anytime soon.”

Milley voiced the Biden administration’s position that it is “up to Ukraine to decide how and when or if they negotiate with the Russians” and that the U.S. will support Kyiv against the Russian invasion "as long as it takes,” but doubled down on his earlier suggestion that now is a good time for Ukraine to cement its gains at the negotiating table. “The Russian military is really hurting bad. So, you want to negotiate at a time when you're at your strength and your opponent is at weakness. And it's possible, maybe that there'll be a political solution. All I'm saying is there's a possibility for it. That's all I'm saying.”

U.S.–China Relations in the Tank: A Handbook for an Era of Persistent Confrontation

Edited by Jude Blanchette of CSIS and Hal Brands of SAIS, the Marshall Papers is a series of essays that probes and challenges the assessments underpinning the U.S. approach to great power rivalry. The Papers will be rigorous yet provocative, continually pushing the boundaries of intellectual and policy debates. In this Marshall Paper, Michael J. Mazarr argues that amid escalating U.S.-China tensions, American policymakers are gravely underprepared to manage the episodic crises that form an inevitable part of great power rivalry. Effective crisis response can not only prevent escalation, but also strengthen U.S. strategic advantage within the larger rivalry. Drawing lessons from the Cold War, Mazarr distills six principles to guide crisis management among U.S. policymakers navigating an increasingly crisis-prone U.S.-China relationship.