Call for Papers: Activities Below the Threshold of War 

Background:

Divergent Options is a non-politically aligned non-revenue generating national security website that, in 1,000 words or less, provides unbiased, dispassionate, candid articles that assess a national security situation, present multiple options to address the situation, and articulate the risk and gain of each option.  Please note that while we assess a national security situation and may provide options, we never recommend a specific option.

Below you will see a Call for Papers.  If you are not interested in writing on this topic, we always welcome individual articles on virtually any national security situation an author is passionate about.  Please do not let our call for papers cause you to hesitate to send us your idea. We look forward to hearing from you!

Call for Papers:

Divergent Options is calling for national security papers assessing situations or discussing options related to Activities Below the Threshold of War.

For the purpose of this Call for Papers, while activities below the threshold of war are innumerable, and we encourage writers to address them, we are very interested in exploring the idea of activities being designed from the beginning to stay below a threshold.  One example could be that 42 U.S. Code § 5195c defines “critical infrastructure,” what can be done to the U.S. in the cyber domain that stays below this definition?  Another example is that Article V of the North Atlantic Treaty does not define “armed attack.”  As such, what can be done to North Atlantic Treaty Organization Member States that ensures debate as to whether the action is considered an “armed attack,” and thus ensure a response is slow in coming?  More ideas regarding Below Established Threshold Activities can be found in this 2016 Lawfare article.  (And yes, Below Established Threshold Activities or BETA is why there is a picture of a Betamax video tape at the top of this Call for Papers.)

Please limit your article to 1,000 words and write using our Options Paper or Assessment Paper templates which are designed for ease of use by both writers and readers alike.

Please send your article to submissions@divergentoptions.org by August 15, 2020.

Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) Call For Papers

Options for a Five Eyes Response to Below Threshold Competition with China

Editor’s Note:  This article is part of our Below Threshold Competition: China writing contest which took place from May 1, 2020 to July 31, 2020.  More information about the contest can be found by clicking here.


Alexander Craig works in the United Kingdom’s Armed Forces. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization or any group.


National Security Situation:  Competition with China below the threshold of armed conflict.

Date Originally Written:  May 4, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  July 1, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the perspective of the ‘Five Eyes’ nations: the United States, the United Kingdom (UK), Canada, New Zealand, and Australia.

Background:  The Five Eyes nations are united not just by security cooperation, but by shared history, language, culture and a commitment to democracy, free market institutions and the rule of law. Being few in number compared to the European Union’s 27 members and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s 30, the Five Eyes have the potential to act with depth and agility against a common challenge on the world stage beyond that of other international affiliations.

Significance:  China is promoting its authoritarian model abroad as a superior alternative to liberal democracy and the free market[1]. In doing so China is seeking to undermine the current rules based international order; with Xi Jinping openly stating in 2014 that China should be “constructing international playgrounds” and “creating the rules”[2]. If left unchecked, this below threshold competition will undermine democratic norms, support for the free market, and subvert global institutions.

Option #1:  The UK grants full citizenship to Hong Kong’s British Overseas Nationals.
There are approximately 250,000 holders of British National (Overseas) (BN(O)) passports.[3] Holders are permanent Hong Kong residents who voluntarily registered prior to 1997. They are not afforded the protection and right that full British citizenship would bring.

Risk:  It is likely that the Chinese government would seek to portray this as an act of interference in its domestic affairs. There is a possibility that BN(O) holders would be seen by the authorities as a suspect group, and this measure could be the catalyst for the victimisation of BN(O) passport holders. Domestically, there would likely be concern in the UK about the possible impact of the instant granting of citizenship to quarter of a million people.

Gain:  By granting full citizenship, the UK demonstrates its support to these citizens of Hong Kong. This act would reassure the people of Hong Kong that international support did not just amount to words; and demonstrates that there can be effective soft power responses to China’s use of hard power against its own citizens.

Option #2:  The Five Eyes nations establish their own Free Trade Agreement.

China uses access to its markets as a tool of both influence and punishment, as seen in recent threats levelled towards Australia[4]. Several unconnected arrangements already link most of the Five Eyes nations such as free trade agreements between the United States, Australia and Canada[5][6]. The withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union presents an opportunity to simplify and formalise arrangements between the five nations.

Risk:  Free trade agreements can prove controversial[7] and domestic support for free trade often fluctuates, especially in the United States[8]. Increased rhetoric regarding the need for protectionism and claims that the coronavirus has highlighted the fragility of global supply chains could combine to make the early 2020s a difficult period for advancing ambitious free trade agreements[9].

Gain: The establishment of a simple and transparent free trade area by democratic nations deeply committed to the institutions of the free market and the rule of law (and with already existing security arrangements) would provide a global market where participants need not be at the mercy of an autocratic state. This free trade area would be the largest in the world, with a combined Gross Domestic Product of 26.73 trillion dollars, almost double that of China and exceeding the European Union’s[10].

Option #3:  The Five Eye nations give Taiwan full diplomatic recognition.

Currently 15 nations recognise Taiwan, a decrease of seven since 2016. This is primarily a result of pressure placed on smaller nations by China[11].

Risk:  The recognition of Taiwan as a sovereign nation would be highly provocative and would almost certainly be met with a response from China. U.S. President Donald Trump recently signed into law the TAIPEI Act[12], which prompted the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson to respond “We urge the United States to correct its mistakes, not implement the law, or obstruct the development of relations between other countries and China, otherwise it will inevitably encounter a resolute strike back by China[13].” This option might entail having to be prepared to face this threatened ‘strike back’.

Gain:  The Chinese government’s opposition to international recognition of a prosperous free market democracy is enforced through threats and coercion. Recognition would be a declaration that, on the world stage, aggressive rhetoric and punitive use of boycotts and market access by larger nations do not trump the rule of law, democracy, and the sovereignty of smaller nations. If China does attempt a forced reunification, previous recognition of Taiwan makes clear what crime has been committed: the invasion of a sovereign nation by another – not a conclusion to the civil war, or the reigning in of a secessionist province.

Other Comments:  Suggestions for addressing the risks posed by Chinese competition are often reactive in nature and assume China has the initiative: preventing dominance of 5G networks, preventing mass corporate theft, reducing the influence of Confucius Institutes etc. While each suggestion is valid, there is a risk that the assumption of Chinese advantage fosters a pessimistic attitude. Instead, what authoritarian regimes often see as the West’s weaknesses are often strengths, and in the words of U.S. Army Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, “we have far more leverage than we are employing[14].”

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] McMaster, H. 2020. How China sees the World. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/05/mcmaster-china-strategy/609088

[2] Economy, E. 2018. China’s New Revolution. Foreign Affairs. https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/china/2018-04-17/chinas-new-revolution

[3] UK House of Commons. 2020. British Overseas Passport Holders in Hong Kong. Hansard https://hansard.parliament.uk/Commons/2020-01-29/debates/AC02FF56-64CB-4E14-92FD-D2EF59859782/BritishOverseasPassportHoldersInHongKong

[4] McCullough, D. 2020. China threatens to stop Australian imports. Canberra Times. https://www.canberratimes.com.au/story/6736562/china-threatens-to-stop-australian-imports

[5] Office of the United States Trade Representative. 2020. Free Trade Agreements. https://ustr.gov/trade-agreements/free-trade-agreements

[6] Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment. 2020. Free Trade Agreements. https://www.agriculture.gov.au/market-access-trade/fta

[7] Pengelly, M. 2017.Trump threatens to terminate Nafta, renews calls for Mexico to pay for wall. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/aug/27/donald-trump-camp-david-nafta-mexico-wall-canada

[8] Wofe, R., & Acquaviva, 2018 Where does the public sit on NAFTA? Policy Options. https://policyoptions.irpp.org/magazines/april-2018/public-sit-nafta

[9] O’Leary, L. 2020. The Modern Supply Chain is Snapping. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/03/supply-chains-and-coronavirus/608329

[10] The World Bank. 2020. GDP (current US$). The World Bank. https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/NY.GDP.MKTP.CD

[11] Lyons, K. 2020. Taiwan loses second ally in a week as Kiribati switches to China. The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/sep/20/taiwan-loses-second-ally-in-a-week-as-kiribati-switches-to-china

[12] Hille, K. 2020. US steps up support of Taiwan in open rebuke to China. The Financial Times. https://www.ft.com/content/161e1b6b-8b5c-44a8-a873-76687427b522

[13] Blanchard, B., & Tian, Y. U.S. increases support for Taiwan, China threatens to strike back. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-taiwan-usa/us-increases-support-for-taiwan-china-threatens-to-strike-back-idUSKBN21E0B7

[14] McMaster, H. 2020. How China sees the World. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/05/mcmaster-china-strategy/609088

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest Alexander Craig Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) China (People's Republic of China) Competition Option Papers

Assessing China as a Complex Competitor and its Continued Evolution of Tactics Below the Threshold of Armed Conflict

Editor’s Note:  This article is part of our Below Threshold Competition: China writing contest which took place from May 1, 2020 to July 31, 2020.  More information about the contest can be found by clicking here.


Matthias Wasinger is an Austrian Army officer. He can be found on LinkedIn. The views contained in this article are the author’s alone and do not represent the views of the Austrian Armed Forces, the Austrian Ministry of Defense, or the Austrian Government.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization or any group.


Title:  Assessing China as a Complex Competitor and its Continued Evolution of Tactics Below the Threshold of Armed Conflict

Date Originally Written:  April 1, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  June 17, 2020.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is an active General Staff Officer. He believes in the importance of employing all national instruments of power in warfare in a comprehensive approach, including non-state actors as well as allies, coalition forces, and partners. This assessment is written from the author’s point of view on how China plans to achieve its objectives.

Summary:  The Thucydides trap – it is a phenomenon destining a hegemon and an emerging power to war. The People’s Republic of China and the United States of America are currently following this schema. China aims at reaching a status above all others. To achieve that, it employs all instruments of national power in a concerted smart power approach, led by the constant political leadership. China fills emerging gaps in all domains and exploits U.S. isolationism.

Text:  The People’s Republic of China and the U.S. are competing actors. As an emerging power, China challenges the current hegemon[1]. Whereas the U.S. sees itself “first” amongst others[2], China aims at being “above” all[3]. To achieve this goal, China adheres to a whole of nation approach[4]. In the current stage of national resurrection, China will not challenge the U.S. in a direct approach with its military[5]. However, it balances hard and soft power, consequently employing smart power[6]. Within this concept, China follows examples of the U.S., further develops concepts, or introduces new ones. Foremost, China is willing to fill all emerging gaps the U.S. leaves in any domain. Its exclusive political system provides a decisive advantage towards other competitors. China’s political leadership has no pressure to succeed in democratic elections. Its 100-year plan for the great rejuvenation until 2049 is founded on this constancy[7].

China’s diplomacy is framed by several dogmata, executed by the Chinese People’s Party that stands for entire China, its well-being, and development. China’s view of the world is not pyramidic but concentric. That given, it might be easier to understand why China is ignoring concerns about internal human rights violations, adheres to a One-China policy regarding Taiwan, and assumes Tibet as Chinese soil. Maintaining North Korea as a buffer-zone to a U.S. vassal and developing the “string of pearls” in the South China Sea are more examples for the concentric world perception. These examples are the inner circle. They are indisputable[8].

Additionally, China’s diplomacy overcame the pattern of clustering the world by ideology. Necessity and opportunity are the criteria for China’s efforts[9]. Western nations’ disinterest in Africa led – like the European Union’s incapability in stabilizing states like Greece after the 2008 economic crisis – to close diplomatic, economic, and military ties with China. Whereever the so-called west leaves a gap, China will bridge it[10]. The growing diplomatic self-esteem goes, thereby, hand in hand with increasing China’s economic and military strength. China exploits the recent U.S. isolationism and the lacking European assertiveness. It aims at weak points.

In the fight for and with information, China showed an impressive evolution in information technology[11]. This field is of utmost importance since gathering data is not the issue anymore, but processing and disseminating. The infinite amount of information in the 21st century requires computer-assisted processes. Since China gained “Quantum Supremacy”, it made a step ahead of the United States of America[12]. Under this supremacy, China’s increasing capabilities in both Space and Cyberspace gain relevance. Information is collected almost equally fast by competitors, but more quickly fed into the political decision-making process in China[13]. The outcome is superiority in this field[14].

In the information domain, China follows a soft power approach, turning its reputation into a benevolent one. Lately, even the COVID-19 crisis was facilitated to make China appear as a supporter, delivering medical capacities worldwide. China makes use of the western community’s vast and open media landscape while restricting information for the domestic population. China will continue to show a domestically deterrent but supportive expeditionary appearance.

A strong economy and an assertive military are the Chinese political leadership’s source of strength[15]. Concerning the economy, China achieved remarkable improvements. From being a high-production rate, but low-quality mass-producer, it switches increasingly towards quality industries — their chosen path led via industrial espionage and plagiarism towards further developing imported goods[16]. Automobile and military industries are two illustrative examples. The former led to Chinese cars being banned, for example, from the U.S. market, not due to lacking quality but to protect U.S. automobile industries. The latter is based on Russian imports that were analyzed and improved. In doing so, China was able to raise its domestic weapons industry, literally rushing through development stages that took other nations decades.

China requires economic development. Only a strong economy ensures social improvements for its population, a precondition for internal stability. As long as this social enhancement is perceived, China’s domestic population bears restrictions. China will, therefore, maintain its economic growth with all given means. Modern technologies will be pursued in China, and resources will be either imported or, as seen in Africa, entire land strips or regions will be acquired. An essential capstone in this regard will be the “Belt and Road Project”, connecting the Chinese economy with other relevant markets such as Europe[17]. Concentrically, China will extend its influence along this trade route and grow its influence by creating dependence[18].

Establishing and maintaining contested economic routes requires capable security forces. China’s military keeps the pace. Founded as a revolutionary force, the military achieved the goal of combat readiness. Until 2049, China’s ambition is to build armed forces, able to fight and win wars. In a regional context, deterrence is the requirement. However, China seeks more. Superseding the U.S. means exceeding U.S. maritime capabilities. China’s strategic goal is to build the most capable blue-water navy[19]. The “string of pearls” is just an intermediate step until its naval fleet as assets of power-projecting will be established. China will maintain its land forces and increase its capabilities in all other domains. Regional conflicts will be facilitated to test doctrine, technology, and combat readiness.

China is aware of its geopolitical situation. It has to deter Russia militarily while marginalizing it economically. It will avoid a direct military confrontation that might hamper economic growth[20]. China has to shape the surrounding Asian nations’ attitude so they would not provide U.S. forces further staging areas. It will exploit U.S. isolationism, influence Europe economically, and diminish transatlantic influence using the information domain.

The U.S., being a maritime power, is eager to maintain its status as a hegemon by controlling opposite coast-lines such as Europe via Great Britain or Asia via Japan and South Korea. Reluctance to directly compete with China will enable the concentric power growth to reach the U.S. territory, finally overwhelming it. Interventionism will be exploited in the information domain, and isolationism is even a precondition for China’s success.


Endnotes:

[1] Allison, G. (2018, 24). Destined for War.

[2] The President of the United States. (2017, 1). National Security Strategy of the United States of America.

[3] Ward, J. (2019, 5). China’s Vision of Victory.

[4] Ward (2019, 92). Ibid.

[5] Ward (2019, 31-36). Ibid.

[6] Allison, G. (2018, 22). Destined for War.

[7] Raik et al. (2018, 33). The Security Strategy of the United States of America, China, Russia, and the EU.

[8] Ward (2019, 54-61). China’s Vision of Victory.

[9] Raik et al. (2018, 22-26). The Security Strategy of the United States of America, China, Russia, and the EU.

[10] Allison (2018, 20-24). Destined for War.

[11] Ward (2019, 85-87). China’s Vision of Victory.

[12] Ward (2019, 86). Ibid.

[13] Preskill (2018, 7). Quantum Computing in the NISQ.

[14] Poisel (2013, 49-50). Information Warfare and Electronic Warfare.

[15] Raik et al. (2018, 36). The Security Strategy of the United States of America, China, Russia, and the EU.

[16] Ward (2019, 92-95). China’s Vision of Victory.

[17] Raik et al. (2018, 33). The Security Strategy of the United States of America, China, Russia, and the EU.

[18] Ward (2019, 116-118). China’s Vision of Victory.

[19] Ward (2019, 61). Ibid.

[20] Raik et al. (2018, 34). The Security Strategy of the United States of America, China, Russia, and the EU.

2020 - Contest: PRC Below Threshold Writing Contest Assessment Papers Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) China (People's Republic of China) Matthias Wasinger United States

Assessing China’s Economic Influence in Latin America

Assad Raza is an Active Component U.S. Army Civil Affairs Officer with deployment experience throughout the Middle East.  He holds an M.A. in Diplomacy with a concentration in International Conflict Management from Norwich University, and is a graduate of The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation Command and General Staff Officer Course at Fort Benning, Georgia.  He can be found on Twitter @assadraza12.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessing China’s Economic Influence in Latin America

Date Originally Written:  April 12, 2020.

Date Originally Published:  May 25, 2020.

Summary:  Similar to the Soviet Union during Cold War, China is seeking victory without war.  In this Latin America case however, China is leveraging its economic instrument of power to achieve influence instead of supplying fellow communists with materiel like the Soviet Union did.  China’s efforts in this arena are a threat to U.S. interests in Latin America.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes China’s investments and financial deals throughout Latin America can threaten U.S. interests in the long-term.

Text:  In 2008, China published a White Paper expressing their long-term goals in Latin America. This White Paper highlighted several areas of cooperation to include trade, investment, and financing throughout the region[1]. Over a decade later, China almost built a canal in Nicaragua, negotiated several free trade agreements with countries like Brazil and El Salvador, and funded several infrastructure projects throughout Latin America. Unfortunately, China has successfully used its economic instrument of power to coerce countries and legally advance their global interests against competitors like the United States.

Over the past decade, China has become the largest trading partner to countries like Brazil and El Salvador. However, these trading dependencies have caused countries like Brazil to fall into recessions because of their reliance on China’s economy, as seen in 2015[2]. China’s approach has increased Latin American countries dependencies with them, which can be a risk to their economies and the region. A good example is China’s loans-for-oil deal with Venezuela, which contributed to Venezuela’s economic collapse due to falling oil prices and their inability to repay Chinese loans[3]. However, China’s trade is not limited to only natural resources; it also includes building infrastructure throughout the region as another means to trap countries into default, holding them hostage to more Chinese coercion.

China has taken on several infrastructure projects to consolidate its influence throughout Latin America. In December 2019, the President of El Salvador met with Chinese President Xi Jinping to finalize a deal on several infrastructure projects for the country[4]. These projects include a large sports stadium and a water treatment plant[5]. This deal came after El Salvador broke diplomatic ties with Taiwan and publicly announcing their support to the One-China Policy[6]. The agreement with El Salvador demonstrates China’s ability to undermine international support for Taiwan through investment opportunities in developing countries. These risky investments in Latin America are similar to China’s Belt and Road Initiative, in countries throughout Asia.

Throughout Asia and Africa, China has leveraged long-term leases of ports in vulnerable countries that have failed to pay off loans. For example, China was able to negotiate a 99-year lease over the port of Hambantota with Sri Lanka due to debt[7]. This long-term lease to pay off loans is not isolated to Asia but could be used to leverage territories in Central and South America with countries in debt to China. China’s investments are strategic, knowing that developing countries in Latin America that default on payments may feel pressured to lease out territories like their ports.

China has already attempted this approach in Central American countries like El Salvador. In 2018, China tried to purchase Isla Perico, an Island off the coast of El Salvador, and to relocate its population to the mainland[8]. China also requested a 100-year lease for areas near a port and tax exemptions for Chinese companies[9]. More importantly, these offers came at a time when the U.S. had suspended aid to El Salvador because of mass migration issues leaving a gap for China to exploit. Although the U.S. has temporarily stalled these negotiations, it demonstrates China’s ability to target vulnerable states to advance their agenda legally.

Chinese investment in Latin America also includes the technology sector. This technology consists of similar systems used in China to conduct surveillance on their people. In 2016, Chinese telecom company ZTE Corp assisted with Venezuela’s “fatherland card” that tracked citizens and linked it to government subsidized food and health programs[10]. The risk with this technology is that other governments may want to acquire it from China and use this to reward loyalists and oppress those perceived as not loyal, increasing instability, as seen in Venezuela. This pattern is worrying and without mitigation could be a harbinger of more Orwellian-type surveillance state behavior spreading throughout Latin America.

China’s interests throughout Latin America continue to increase, as seen with their recent attempt to lease port lying areas in El Salvador. Much like in Sri Lanka, China aggressively pursues developing countries to legally entrap them and coerce them into long-term commitments for compensation. Although their priority in Latin America is to gain an economic foothold, their actions also shape Latin American perceptions and buys political influence in the region. China’s economic advancement in Latin America has the potential to become a national security threat to the U.S. and its interests throughout the region.


Endnotes:

[1] Peters, E. (2015). China’s Evolving Role in Latin America: Can It Be a Win-Win? (pp. 5-11, Rep.). Atlantic Council. Retrieved April 12, 2020, from www.jstor.org/stable/resrep03629.5

[2] Patey, L. (2016, November 21). Trouble Down South: Xi Jinping’s Latin American Tour. Foreign Affairs. Retrieved April 12, 2020, from https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/south-america/2016-11-21/trouble-down-south

[3] Guevara, C. (2020, January 13). China’s support for the Maduro regime: Enduring or fleeting? Atlantic Council. Retrieved April 12, 2020, from https://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/new-atlanticist/chinas-support-for-the-maduro-regime-enduring-or-fleeting

[4] Renteria, N. (2019, December 3). China signs on for ‘gigantic’ investment in El Salvador infrastructure. Reuters. Retrieved April 12, 2020, from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-el-salvador-china/china-signs-on-for-gigantic-investment-in-el-salvador-infrastructure-idUSKBN1Y7266

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Schultz, K. (2017, December 12). Sri Lanka, Struggling with Debt, Hands a Major Port to China. New York Times. Retrieved April 12, 2020, from https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/12/world/asia/sri-lanka-china-port.html

[8] Londono, E. (2019, September 21). To Influence El Salvador, China Dangled Money. The U.S. Made Threats. New York Times. Retrieved April 12, 2020, from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/21/world/americas/china-el-salvador-trump-backlash.html

[9] Ibid.

[10] Berwick, A. (2018, November 14). How ZTE helps Venezuela create China-style social control. Reuters. Retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/venezuela-zte

Assad Raza Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) China (People's Republic of China) Economic Factors

Options for Deterrence Below Armed Conflict

James P. Micciche is an Active Component U.S. Army Civil Affairs Officer with deployment and service experience in the Middle East, Africa, Afghanistan, Europe, and Indo-Pacific. He is currently a Master’s candidate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.  He can be found on Twitter @james_miccicheDivergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  As military competition below armed conflict once again becomes the norm, the U.S. requires deterrence options.

Date Originally Written:  November 17, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  December 23, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author believes that traditional nuclear deterrence will not suffice in the current national security paradigm as it is focused on mainly deterring nuclear war or major conflict, which are the least-likely situations to occur.

Background:  In June 2019, the United States Military’s Joint Staff published Joint Doctrine Note (JDN) 1-19 “The Competition Continuum.”  The JDN further developed and refined the non-linear/non-binary continuum that defines the perpetual state of competition that exists between nations .  This perpetual state of competition was originally proposed in the “Joint Concept for Integrated Campaigning (JCIC)[1].” Within the JDN continuum the Joint Force, in conjunction with other elements of national power (diplomacy, economic, information, etc.), simultaneously campaigns through a combination of cooperation, competition below armed conflict, and armed conflict to achieve desired strategic objectives including deterring actions and goals of rival states. The continuum represents a shift in U.S. military doctrine from a counterterrorism-centric security strategy to one focused on competing with a spectrum of international agents and actors.

Significance:  While not an authoritative document, JDNs generate and facilitate the creation and revision of joint and service specific doctrine. Therefore, the continuum proposed by the JDN will be integrated and operationalized by planners and doctrine writers across the Department of Defense (DoD). Within the JDN’s continuum, competition below armed conflict is not only the aspect that most regularly occurs, but also the most challenging for the DoD to operationalize. The JDN further refines the JCIC language by describing campaigning through competition below armed conflict as a protracted, constrained, often imbalanced, and diverse construct predicated upon a deep understanding of the operating environment where the joint force seeks to execute three newly codified tactical tasks: Enhance, Manage, and Delay.  Despite clarifying the language of competition below armed conflict, the JDN fails to provide concrete examples of the concepts implementation to include the Joint Force’s role in deterrence which is vaguely described “Deterrence in competition below armed conflict is similarly nuanced [to deterrence by armed conflict} and perhaps harder to judge[2].”  This paper will provide three options for planners and doctrine writers to employ deterring rivals through competition below armed conflict per the guidance outlined in the JDN and JCIC.

Option #1:  Persistent Presence.

The United States, at the behest of partner nations, overtly deploys conventional ground forces to key strategic regions / locations to prevent aggressive incursions from rival states in fear of causing U.S. casualties and invoking a potential kinetic response. This same principle is applied to the regular exercise of freedom of navigation though global commons that are considered vital to U.S. interests.

Risk:  Conventional U.S. force presence adjacent to competitor nations potentially escalates tensions and greatly increases the risk of armed conflict where U.S. personnel forward potentially face overwhelming force from a near peer competitor. The logistical and personnel requirements to deploy conventional forces forward are high and can lead partner nations to become overly dependent on U.S. forces thus creating enduring U.S. expenditures. The presence of a large U.S. footprint can facilitate competitor information operations focusing on delegitimizing the efficacy of host nation government / military possibly creating domestic instability, and prompting anti-U.S. sentiment amongst the population.

Gain:  There have been successful historic and contemporary applications of deterrence by presence from a proportionally smaller U.S. force compared to rivals. Examples include U.S. / North Atlantic Treaty Organization forward presence in Europe during the Cold War as part of a successful deterrence strategy against larger Eastern bloc forces and the recent expansion of Turkish, Syrian, and Russian forces into Northern Syria upon the departure of a small footprint of U.S. forces in October of 2019. Presence can also facilitate collaboration and interoperability between U.S. and regional partners supporting the two other elements of the competition continuum cooperation and armed conflict.

Option #2:  Civil Resiliency and Civil Engagement.

Many of the United States’ principal competitors attempt to advance their interests and achieve their objectives through various forms of population-centric warfare that seeks to instigate and capitalize on domestic instability. To deny access to, and mitigate the ability to influence populations needed to advance such a strategy, the Joint Force utilizes Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations capabilities to identify populations tied to key terrain and in conjunction with other elements of national power fosters civil resiliency to malign influence.

Risk:  Fostering civil resiliency in populations vulnerable to or targeted by malign influence operations is a long-term undertaking requiring enduring programming funds and command support to be effective. Assessments of population-centric operations are difficult to quantify making the establishment of measures of performance and effectiveness exceptionally difficult and impeding the understanding of effects of enemy, friendly, and partner actions within the complex system of the human domain.

Gain:  A population-centric engagement strategy facilitates interagency coordination enabling the utilization of multiple elements of national power to counter malign efforts by adversaries and simultaneously propagates U.S. soft power. Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations elements have exceptionally small personnel footprints and low logistical costs and can promote cooperation with host nation counterparts. Military-civil engagement programs and projects often permit personnel to operate in regions and nations where competitors have an established advantage.

Option #3:  Proxies and Regime Fragility.

Today, the United States’ chief competitors and their allies are regimes that are authoritarian in nature[3] and therefore all share the primacy of maintaining regime power as their supreme interest. The Joint Force can exploit this distinctive feature of authoritarianism and utilize clandestinely-supported proxies and / or focused information operations to threaten the domestic stability of autocrats taking actions against U.S. interests.

Risk:  Creating instability comes with many unknown variables and has the potential to produce unwanted secondary effects including expanding conflicts beyond a single nation and engulfing an entire region in war. There remains a long history of the United States equipping and training proxies that later become adversaries. If direct U.S involvement in a proxy conflict becomes publicly known, there could be irreversible damage to the United States’ international reputation degrading comparative advantages in soft power and the information domain.

Gain:  Operating through either a proxy or the information domain provides managed attribution to the Joint Force and increases freedom of maneuver within a normally constrained competition environment to threaten rival leadership in their most vulnerable areas. Working with proxies provides both an easy exit strategy with very few formal commitments and leads to little risk to U.S. personnel.

Other Comments:  The above listed options are not mutually exclusive and can be utilized in conjunction not only with each other but also together with other elements of the competition continuum to achieve an objective of deterring unwanted competitor actions while concurrently promoting U.S interests. The U.S. cannot compete in an omnipresent manner and ts planners would do well to pragmatically choose where and how to compete based on national interests, competitor action/inaction, available resources, and conditions within a competitive environment.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Joint Chiefs of Staff (2018) Joint Concept for Integrated Campaigning. Retrieved from https://www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Doctrine/concepts/joint_concept_integrated_campaign.pdf?ver=2018-03-28-102833-257

[2] Joint Chiefs of Staff (2019) Competition Continuum (Joint Doctrine Note 1-19). Retrieved from https://www.jcs.mil/Portals/36/Documents/Doctrine/jdn_jg/jdn1_19.pdf?ver=2019-06-10-113311-233

[3] The Economist Intelligence Unit (2018). 2018 Democracy Index, The Economist Intelligence Unit. Retrieved from https://www.eiu.com/topic/democracy-index

 

 

 

Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) Deterrence James P. Micciche Option Papers

Assessment of the Role of Small Wars within the Evolving Paradigm of Great Power Competition in a Multipolar World

This article is published as part of the Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options Writing Contest which runs from March 1, 2019 to May 31, 2019.  More information about the writing contest can be found here.


James P. Micciche is an Active Component U.S. Army Civil Affairs Officer with deployment and service experience in the Middle East, Africa, Afghanistan, Europe, and Indo-Pacific.  He is currently a Master’s candidate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  Assessment of the Role of Small Wars within the Evolving Paradigm of Great Power Competition in a Multipolar World

Date Originally Written:  April 25, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  June 17, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is an Active Component U.S. Army Civil Affairs Officer with deployment and service experience in the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and the Indo-Pacific.

Summary:  The U.S. is scaling down the Global War on Terrorism and focusing on threats posed by a revisionist China and Russia and rogue nations such as Iran. In this context, limited military operations (small wars) will be useful in transforming counterterrorism methods, which previously dominated U.S. foreign policy, into being only one facet of a synchronized whole of government response in pursuit of U.S. policy objectives in contested spaces.

Text:  Over the past decade, the global balance of power has shifted to a multipolar construct in which revisionist actors such as China and Russia attempt to expand their spheres of influence at the expense of the U.S.-led liberal order.  The ongoing rebalance has been gradual and often conducted through a myriad of activities beyond kinetic operations as Russia, China, and regional actors such as Iran have shown a capability to capitalize on and create domestic instability as a means to expand influence, gain access to key terrain and resources, and reduce western influence.  The capacity to utilize limited military operations (small wars) as part of a focused, tailored, and comprehensive whole of government approach to deter threats and expansion from revisionist powers is paramount in promoting U.S. and Western interests within the modern paradigm.  Despite the prominent role engaging in limited operations at or more importantly below the level of conflict fulfills within the context of great power competition, it is far from a proverbial silver bullet as the rebalancing of power brings new parameters and risks that U.S. policy makers must understand before engaging  in any small war. 

Since the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, the United States and her Western allies have enjoyed an exorbitant amount of freedom to execute limited military operations and foreign domestic interventions due to what scholars termed the unipolar moment[1].   The 1990s saw the principle of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) utilized as a guiding framework for Western engagement as liberal democracies intervened in the internal affairs of sovereign nations from Somalia to the Balkans to protect life and punish offenders[2].  Following the September 11, 2001 attacks, the United States and many of her longtime allies began the Global War on Terror (GWOT) fundamentally changing U.S. foreign policy for the next two decades.  The GWOT gave rise to an unprecedented increase in U.S. foreign intervention as the specter of terrorism emerged in all corners of the globe and a series of Secretary of Defense-approved Execute Orders granted the DoD broad authorities to conduct counterterrorism operations worldwide.  

The extent to which global terrorism poses an existential threat to U.S. and other Western powers has been debated with valid and well-researched positions on both sides[3], but what is not debatable is that GWOT consumed vast amounts of the West’s material resources and attention — the U.S. alone has spent an estimated $5.9 Trillion since 9/11[4].  With the West focusing on countering non-state actors, revisionist nations began to build power and expand which became evident when Russia annexed Crimea and China began aggressively expanding into the South China Sea.  The 2017 National Security Strategy marked a turning point in contemporary U.S. foreign policy by codifying an end to the CT-focused strategy of the previous sixteen years and placing an emphasis on great power competition with near-peers, as the document declares in very clear language “…after being dismissed as a phenomenon of an earlier century, great power competition returned. China and Russia reassert their influence regionally and globally[5].”   

Despite recent attempts by China and Russia to close the military capabilities gap between themselves and the U.S., the U.S. maintains an advantage, specifically in the global application and projection of power[6]. To overcome this disadvantage revisionist and rogue states utilize soft balancing (utilization of international structures to disrupt and discredit U.S. hegemony) at the strategic level[7] and hybrid warfare (population-centric operations that create instability) at the tactical and operational levels[8] to expand their influence and territory through activities that avoid direct confrontation.  The utilization and application of limited military operations (small wars) combined with other elements of state power can both identify and counter the aforementioned strategies employed by contemporary Western rivals while concurrently advancing U.S. strategic objectives. Within the small war paradigm, military actors have a wide range of applications that support U.S. strategic objectives that fall into three mutually supportive activities, mil-to-mil engagement, civ-mil engagement, and resistance operations.  

Persistent mil-to-mil engagements, exercises, and training missions help establish the U.S. as a partner of choice in strategically significant nations while simultaneously building partner capabilities within or adjacent to contested regions.  The deployment of Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations elements foster resiliency within vulnerable populations, denying adversaries access to key human terrain needed to conduct hybrid operations.  Resistance operations can manifest in defensive or offensive postures either supporting a partner nation from externally provoked and supported insurrection or undermining the capacity of rival nations to exert malign influence by supporting armed and unarmed opposition to the state. Military interventions are best as only one facet of a synchronized whole of government response in which the DoD might not be the lead agency.  Furthermore, as rivals compete over contested spaces the chances for escalation and international incident grows, a threat exponentially increased by the internationalization of civil wars, placing increased risk in direct military engagements. 

In the evolving context of great power competition, U.S. assets may not always be the best funded or equipped.  They will often face bureaucratic restrictions their rivals do not and potentially be deprived of access to key individuals or institutions.  These conditions will place a premium on individual interpersonal skills and international U.S. perception, so the U.S. can maintain a comparative advantage in soft power. To facilitate that advantage the U.S. will likely need to differentiate and categorize partners on not only their geopolitical importance but also the values that they represent and the company they keep.  Specifically the U.S. will likely examine the risks of collaborating with autocratic governments whose actions have the propensity to create domestic instability and an environment conducive to hybrid warfare.  Additionally, any government with substantial human rights concerns degrades the soft power of those that the international community perceives as their partners, a perception adversary information operations can greatly amplify.

As U.S. security strategy adapts and returns to a construct that places emphasis on challenges and threats from state actors the function, employment, and role of the small war will be useful to transform from a method of CT into a strategic instrument of national power that can support long-term U.S. objectives across the globe often below levels of conflict. 


Endnotes:

[1] Krauthammer, C. (1990). The Unipolar Moment. Foreign Affairs, 23-33. Retrieved from Foreign Affairs.

[2] Evans, G., & Sahnoun, M. (2002). The Responsibility to Protect. Foreign Affairs, 99-110.

[3] Brookings Institution. (2008, February 21). Have We Exaggerated the Threat of Terrorism. Retrieved from The Brookings Institution : https://www.brookings.edu/events/have-we-exaggerated-the-threat-of-terrorism/

[4] Crawford, N. C. (2018, November 14). United States Budgetary Csts of the Post-9/11 Wars Through FY2019: $5.9 Trillion Spend and Obligated. Retrieved from Watson Institute: https://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/files/cow/imce/papers/2018/Crawford_Costs%20of%20War%20Estimates%20Through%20FY2019%20.pdf

[5] United States. (2017). The National Security Strategy of the United States of America. Washington D.C. : The White House.  Retrieved from: https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/NSS-Final-12-18-2017-0905.pdf

[6] Heginbotham, E. M. (2019). The U.S.-China Military Scorecard: Forces, Geography, and the Evolving Balance of Power, 1996–2017. Santa Monica: Rand Corporation.

[7] Pape, R. A. (2005). Soft Balancing Against the United States. International Security, 7-45.

[8] Chives, C. S. (2017, March 22). Understanding Russian “Hybrid Warfare” and What Can Be Done About IT. Retrieved from Rand Corporation : https://www.rand.org/content/dam/rand/pubs/testimonies/CT400/CT468/RAND_CT468.pdf

2019 - Contest: Small Wars Journal Assessment Papers Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) Great Powers James P. Micciche

Options for the West to Address Russia’s Unconventional Tactics

This article is published as part of the Small Wars Journal and Divergent Options Writing Contest which runs from March 1, 2019 to May 31, 2019.  More information about the writing contest can be found here.


Jesse Short was enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps infantry and served in the Republic of Iraq between 2005 and 2008.  He currently works as a security contractor in the Middle East and recently finished his M.S. in Global Studies and International Relations from Northeastern University.  He can be found on LinkedIn at www.linkedin.com/in/jesse-s-4b10a312a. Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  The Russian Federation’s limited forms of warfare against western states and associated influence in other regions challenges the world as it is conducted below the threshold of war.

Date Originally Written:  March 3, 2019.

Date Originally Published:  March 25, 2019.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a veteran of the infantry in both the United States Marine Corps and United States Army. The author believes in checking clear threats to western states with strong and decisive, but intelligent responses. This article is written from the point of view of western states under the threat of the ‘unconventional’ actions of the Russian Federation.  

Background:  Russia, under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin, has established its foreign policy in the last ten years on interrupting and negatively influencing the stability of other states. This foreign policy has largely gone unanswered by the international community and only serves to reinforce the use of these actions by Russian actors. Georgia was the first case and Ukraine is a much more dynamic second example of this policy[1]. These two policy tests have proven to Russia, and in some sense to other states like China, that limited forms and unconventional forms of coercion, intimidation, and violence will go unchecked so long as they do not go too far with these actions. The West’s lack of imagination and adherence to one-sided western rules and laws are its glaring weakness. This weakness is being exploited relentlessly with little meaningful response.   

Significance:  Since around the time of Russia’s incursion into the Republic of Georgia in 2008, Putin has been operating unchecked around the world. Putin’s actions have been disastrous for what is an already tumultuous world order. If continued, these actions will create more direct and indirect issues in the future and increase the threat to western stability. 

Option #1:  The West influences Russia within its border.

The equal and opposite response to Russian transgressions around the world would be to attempt to spread misinformation and potentially destabilize Russian society by targeting the citizenry’s trust in Putin and his government. The aim with this approach is to distract the Russian government and intelligence services to preoccupy them with trouble within their own borders as to limit their ability to function effectively outside of their state borders. 

Risk:  While this approach is opposite to what actions most western societies are willing to take, this option can also have severely negative consequences on a political level in domestic politics in the West. While Russia can take similar actions as a semi-authoritarian state with little repercussion, the proposed actions would be a bigger issue in western democracies which are at the mercy of public opinion[2]. Russian media also has greater pull and influence within its community than western media does in the West, so Russia can shape its truth accordingly. Another large issue is that the Russian people should not be made to suffer for the actions that are mostly to be blamed on what appears to be their poorly representative government. This option could serve to galvanize polarity between Russians and western citizens unjustly if discovered. Finally, it is unlikely that western intelligence services would be given the support or be able to maintain the secrecy required to conduct these actions effectively without it being made public and having even more severe consequences once those actions were exposed[3]. 

Gain:  A misinformation campaign or the exposure to hidden truths covered up by the Russian government may have a positive effect on Russians and their relationship with / control of their government. Exposing voters to what their government is doing around the world with state funds may influence that relationship in a more positive manner. Also, if things did work out according to plan, Russia may be forced to withdraw somewhat from its politically divisive ventures in Georgia, Ukraine, Syria, and perhaps Africa and Belarus.     

Option #2:  The West responds outside of Russia.

Western states could act more aggressively in checking Russian support of small political factions and insurgencies in specific regions. The issue of Russian occupation in the Republic of Georgia and Russian material and personnel support in eastern Ukraine are the best places to start. A greater commitment to supporting the incoming regime following Ukraine’s upcoming elections and the involvement of western states in more intensive training and operations with Ukrainian forces would be a welcomed adjustment of policy[4]. The West’s turning of the other cheek that has largely followed Russia’s annexation of Crimea and support for the Donetsk and Luhansk Peoples’ Republics send the wrong messages to the friends and enemies of western powers.

Risk:  The risks that are ever-present with a stronger approach to Russian interventionist tactics are mainly geared at avoiding a larger conflict. The reason behind Russia’s low-intensity application of force and influence is to scare the faint-hearted away[5]. It is working. No state wants a war. War with Russia would not end well for any party that is involved. While war is unlikely, it is still a possibility that needs to be considered when additional states become involved in these limited conflicts. Again, politics must be factored into the commitment of force with warfighters, financial support, or materiel support. Democratic leaders are going to be hesitant to become involved in small wars with no strategy to back them up. Afghanistan and Iraq have already done enough damage to western powers with their lack of direction and their continued drain on resources to no end. 

Gain:  Showing aggressive states that their divisive actions will be met with a sure and solid response is the best thing that could happen for international stability in the coming years. The negligence the world community has shown to an overaggressive Russia and China in recent years has set a very dangerous precedent.  

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] United States Congress: Commission on Security Cooperation in Europe. (2018). Russia’s Occupation of Georgia and the Erosion of the International Order: Hearing before the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, One Hundred Fifteenth Congress, Second Session, July 17, 2018.

[2] Zakem, V., Saunders, P., Hashimova, U., & Frier, P. (2017). Mapping Russian Media Network: Media’s Role in Russian Foreign Policy and Decision-Making (No. DRM-2017-U-015367-1Rev). Arlington, Virginia: CNA Analysis and Solutions. 

[3] Reichmann, D. (2017). “CIA boss Mike Pompeo says ‘leaker worship’ compromising American intelligence”. Global News. Retrieved from https://globalnews.ca/news/3554008/mike-pompeo-leakers-us-intelligence/

[4] Deychakiwsky, O. (2018). “Analysis: U.S. Assistance to Ukraine”. U.S. Ukraine Foundation. Retrieved from https://www.usukraine.org/analysis-u-s-assistance-ukraine/

[5] Khramchikhin, A. (2018). “Rethinking the Danger of Escalation: The Russia-NATO Military Balance”. Carnegie Endowment of International Peace. Retrieved from https://carnegieendowment.org/2018/01/25/rethinking-danger-of-escalation-russia-nato-military-balance-pub-75346.    

2019 - Contest: Small Wars Journal Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) Jesse Short Option Papers Russia

An Assessment of North Atlantic Treaty Organization Cyber Strategy and Cyber Challenges

Ali Crawford has an M.A. from the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce where she focused on diplomacy, intelligence, cyber policy, and cyber warfare.  She tweets at @ali_craw.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


Title:  An Assessment of North Atlantic Treaty Organization Cyber Strategy and Cyber Challenges

Date Originally Written:  December 5, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  January 14, 2019.

Summary:  Cyber capabilities are changing the character of warfare.  Nations procure and develop cyber capabilities aimed at committing espionage, subversion, and compromising the integrity of information.  The North Atlantic Treaty Organization has evolved to meet these modern challenges by consistently implementing new policies, creating governing structures, and providing education to member-states.

Text:  In 2002, leaders from various nations met in Prague to discuss security challenges at a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) summit.  Agenda items included enhancing capabilities to more appropriately respond to terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, to consider the pending memberships of several Eastern European nations, and for the first time in NATO history, a pledge to strengthen cyber defenses.  Since 2002, NATO has updated its cyber policies to more accurately reflect the challenges of a world that is almost exclusively and continuously engaged in hybrid warfare. 

As NATO is a defensive organization, its primary focus is collective defense, crisis management, and cooperative security.  Early cyber policy was devoted exclusively to better network defense, but resources were limited; strategic partnerships had not yet been developed; and structured frameworks for policy applications did not exist.  When Russian Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attacks temporarily disrupted Estonian banking and business sectors in 2007, the idea of collective defense was brought to fruition.  Later, in 2008, another wave of vigorous and effective Russian DDoS attacks precluded an eventual kinetic military invasion of Georgia.  This onslaught of cyber warfare, arguably the first demonstration of cyber power used in conjunction with military force, prompted NATO to revisit cyber defense planning[1].  Today, several departments are devoted to the strategic and tactical governance of cybersecurity and policy. 

NATO’s North Atlantic Council (NAC) provides high-level political oversight on all policy developments and implementation[2].  Under the NAC rests the Cyber Defence Committee which, although subordinate to the NAC, leads most cyber policy decision-making.  At the tactical level, NATO introduced Cyber Rapid Reaction teams (CRRT) in 2012 which are responsible for cyber defense at all NATO sites[3].  The CRRTs are the first to respond to any cyber attack.  The Cyber Defence Management Board (CDMB), formerly known as the Defence Policy and Planning Committee (Cyber Defence), maintains responsibility for coordinating cyber defense activities among NATO’s civil and military bodies[4].  The CDMB also serves as the most senior advisory board to the NAC.  Additionally, the NATO Consultation, Control, and Command Board serves as the main authority and consultative body regarding all technical aspects and implementation of cyber defense[5]. 

In 2008 at the Bucharest Summit, NATO adopted its first political body of literature concerning cyber defense policy which primarily affirmed member nations’ shared responsibility to develop and defend its networks while adhering to international law[6].  Later, in 2010, the NAC was tasked with developing a more comprehensive cyber defense strategy which eventually led to an updated Policy on Cyber Defense in 2011 to reflect the rapidly evolving threat of cyber attacks[7].  NATO would continue to evolve in the following years.  In 2014, NATO began establishing working partnerships with industry leaders in cybersecurity, the European Union, and the European Defense Agency[8].  When NATO defense leaders met again at the Warsaw Summit in 2016, the Alliance agreed to name cyberspace as a domain of warfare in which NATO’s full spectrum of defensive capabilities do apply[9]. 

Despite major policy developments and resource advancements, NATO still faces several challenges in cyberspace.  Some obstacles are unavoidable and specific to the Internet of Things, which generally refers to a network of devices, vehicles, and home appliances that contain electronics, software, actuators, and connectivity which allows these things to connect, interact and exchange data.  First, the problem of misattribution is likely. Attribution is the process of linking a group, nation, or state actor to a specific cyber attack[10].  Actors take unique precautions to remain anonymous in their efforts, which creates ambiguities and headaches for the response teams investigating a particular cyber attack’s origin.  Incorrectly designating a responsible party may cause unnecessary tension or conflict. 

Second, as with any computer system or network, cyber defenses are only as strong as its weakest link.  On average, NATO defends against 500 attempted cyber attacks each month[11].  Ultimately, the top priority is management and security of Alliance-owned security infrastructure.  However, because NATO is a collection of member states with varying cyber capabilities and resources, security is not linear.  As such, each member nation is responsible for the safety and security of their own networks.  NATO does not provide security capabilities or resources for its members, but it does prioritize education, training, wargaming, and information-sharing[12].

To the east of NATO, Russia’s aggressive and tenacious approach to gaining influence in Eastern Europe and beyond has frustrated the Alliance and its strategic partners.  As demonstrated in Estonia and Georgia, Russia’s cyber power is as equally frustrating, as Russia views cyber warfare as a component of a larger information war to control the flow and perception of information and distract, degrade, or confuse opponents[13].  U.S. Army General Curtis Scaparroti sees Russia using cyber capabilities to operate under the legal and policy thresholds that define war. 

A perplexing forethought is the potential invocation of NATO Article 5 after a particularly crippling cyber attack on a member nation.  Article 5 bounds all Alliance members to the collective defense principle, stating that an attack on one member nation is an attack on the Alliance[14].  The invocation of Article 5 has only occurred one time in NATO history following the September 11 terror attacks in the United States[15].  The idea of proportional retaliation often arises in cyber warfare debates.  A retaliatory response from NATO is also complicated by potential misattribution.

Looking ahead, appears that NATO is moving towards an active cyber defense approach.  Active defense is a relatively new strategy that is a set of measures designed to engage, seek out, and proactively combat threats[16].  Active defense does have significant legal implications as it transcends the boundaries between legal operations and “hacking back.”  Regardless, in 2018 NATO leadership agreed upon the creation and implementation of a Cyber Command Centre that would be granted the operational authority to draw upon the cyber capabilities of its members, such as the United States and Great Britain[17].  Cyber Deterrence, as opposed to strictly defense, is attractive because it has relatively low barriers to entry and would allow the Alliance to seek out and neutralize threats or even to counter Russian information warfare campaigns.  The Command Centre is scheduled to be fully operational by 2023, so NATO still has a few years to hammer out specific details concerning the thin line between cyber defense and offense. 

The future of cyber warfare is uncertain and highly unpredictable.  Some experts argue that real cyber war will never happen, like German professor Thomas Rid, while others consider a true act of cyber war will be one that results in the direct loss of human life[18].  Like other nations grappling with cyber policy decision-making, NATO leadership will need to form a consensus on the applicability of Article 5, what precisely constitutes a serious cyber attack, and if the Alliance is willing to engage in offensive cyber operations.  Despite these future considerations, the Alliance has developed a comprehensive cyber strategy that is devoted to maintaining confidentiality, integrity, and accessibility of sensitive information. 


Endnotes:

[1] Smith, David J., Atlantic Council: Russian Cyber Strategy and the War Against Georgia, 17 January 2014, retrived from http://www.atlanticcouncil.org/blogs/natosource/russian-cyber-policy-and-the-war-against-georgia; and White, Sarah P., Modern War Institute: Understanding Cyber Warfare: Lessons From the Russia-Georgia War, 20 March 2018, retrieved from https://mwi.usma.edu/understanding-cyberwarfare-lessons-russia-georgia-war/

[2] North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Cyber defence, 16 July 2018, retrieved from https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/topics_78170.htm

[3] North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Cyber defence, 16 July 2018, retrieved from https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/topics_78170.htm

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Cyber defence, 16 July 2018, retrieved from https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/topics_78170.htm

[8] Ibid; and NATO Cooperative Cyber Defence Center for Excellence, History, last updated 3 November 2015, https://ccdcoe.org/history.html

[9] North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Cyber defence, 16 July 2018, retrieved from https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/topics_78170.htm

[10] Symantec, The Cyber Security Whodunnit: Challenges in Attribution of Targeted Attacks, 3 October 2018, retrieved from https://www.symantec.com/blogs/expert-perspectives/cyber-security-whodunnit-challenges-attribution-targeted-attacks

[11] Soesanto, S., Defense One: In Cyberspace, Governments Don’t Know How to Count, 27 September 2018, retrieved from: https://www.defenseone.com/ideas/2018/09/cyberspace-governments-dont-know-how-count/151629/; and North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Cyber defence, last modified 18 February 2018, retrieved from https://www.nato.int/nato_static_fl2014/assets/pdf/pdf_2018_02/20180213_1802-factsheet-cyber-defence-en.pdf

[12] North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Cyber defence, last modified 18 February 2018, retrieved from https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/topics_78170.htm

[13] U.S. Department of Defense, “NATO moves to combant Russian hybrid warfare,” 29 September 2018, retrieved from https://dod.defense.gov/News/Article/Article/1649146/nato-moves-to-combat-russian-hybrid-warfare/

[14] North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Collective defence – article 5, 12 June 2018, retrieved from https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/topics_110496.htm

[15] Ibid.

[16] Davis, D., Symantec: Navigating The Risky Terrain of Active Cyber Defense, 29 May 2018, retrieved from https://www.symantec.com/blogs/expert-perspectives/navigating-risky-terrain-active-cyber-defense

[17] Emmott, R., Reuters: NATO Cyber Command to be fully operational in 2023, 16 October 2018, retrieved from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-nato-cyber/nato-cyber-command-to-be-fully-operational-in-2023-idUSKCN1MQ1Z9

[18] North Atlantic Treaty Organization, “Cyber War Will Not Take Place”: Dr Thomas Rid presents his book at NATO Headquarters,” 7 May 2013, retrieved from https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natolive/news_100906.htm

 

Ali Crawford Assessment Papers Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) Cyberspace North Atlantic Treaty Organization Policy and Strategy

Options for Countering the Rise of Chinese Private Military Contractors

Anthony Patrick is a graduate of Georgia State University and an Officer in the United States Marine Corps.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  Future threats to United States (U.S.) interests abroad from Chinese Private Military Contractors.

Date Originally Written:  November, 26, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  December 24, 2018.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is a United States Marine Corps Officer and currently attending The Basic School. 

Background:  Over the last six months, the media has been flooded with stories and articles about the possibility of a trade war between the U.S and the People Republic of China (PRC). These talks have mainly focused around specific trade policies such as intellectual property rights and the trade balance between the two nations. These tensions have risen from the PRC’s growing economic influence around the world. While many problems persist between the U.S and the PRC due to the latter’s rise, one issue that is not frequently discussed is the growing use of Private Military Contractors (PMCs) by the PRC. As Chinese companies have moved operations further abroad, they require protection for those investments. While the current number of Chinese PMCs is not large, it has been growing at a worrying rate, which could challenge U.S interests abroad[1]. 

Significance:  Many countries have utilized PMCs in foreign operations. The most significant international incidents involving PMCs mainly come from those based in the U.S and the Russian Federation. However, many other countries with interests abroad have increasingly started to utilize PMCs. One of the most significant examples has been the growing use of Chinese PMC’s. These PMCs pose a very unique set of threats to U.S national security interest abroad[2]. First, like most PMC’s, Chinese contractors come mainly from the Peoples Liberation Army and policing forces. This means that the PMCs have a significant amount of military training. Secondly, the legal relationship between the PMC’s and the PRC is different than in most other countries. Since the PRC is an authoritarian country, the government can leverage multiple forms of coercion to force PMC’s into a certain course of action, giving the government a somewhat deniable capability to control foreign soil. Lastly, the Chinese can use PMC’s as a means to push their desired political endstate on foreign countries. With the U.S still being ahead of the PRC militarily, and with both states having nuclear capabilities, conventional conflict is highly unlikely. One way for the Chinese to employ forces to counter U.S. interests abroad is through the use of PMC’s, similar to what Russia has done in Syria[3]. With this in mind, the U.S will need a proactive response that will address this problem both in the short and long term.  

Option #1:  Increase the Department of Defense’s (DoD) focus on training to counter irregular/asymmetric warfare to address the threat posed by PRC PMCs. 

Risk:  The new National Defense Strategy (NDS) focuses on many aspects of the future conventional battlefield like increasing the size of the U.S Navy, cyber operations, and cutting edge weapons platforms[4]. By focusing more of the DoD’s resources on training to counter irregular / asymmetric warfare, the military will not be able to accomplish the goals in the NDS. This option could also lead to a new generation of military members who are more adept at skills necessary for smaller operations, and put the U.S at a leadership disadvantage if a war were to break out between the U.S and a near peer competitor. 

Gain:  Another major conventional war is highly unlikely. Most U.S. near peer competitors are weaker militarily or have second strike nuclear capabilities. Future conflicts will most likely require the U.S. to counter irregular / asymmetric warfare methodologies, which PRC PMCs may utilize.  By focusing DoD resources in this area, the U.S would gain the ability to counter these types of warfare, no matter who employs them. In addition to being better able to conduct operations similar to Afghanistan, the U.S. would also have the tools to address threats posed by PRC PMCs.  Emphasizing this type of warfare would also give U.S actions more international legitimacy as it would be employing recognized state assets and not trying to counter a PRC PMC with a U.S. PMC. 

Option #2:  The U.S. pursues an international treaty governing the use of PMC’s worldwide.  

Risk:   Diplomatic efforts take time, and are subject to many forms of bureaucratic blockage depending on what level the negations are occurring. Option #2 would also be challenging to have an all-inclusive treaty that would cover every nation a PMC comes from or every country from which an employee of these firms might hail. Also, by signing a binding treaty, the U.S would limit its options in foreign conflict zones or in areas where Chinese PMC’s are operating or where the U.S. wants to use a PMC instead of the military.

Gain:  A binding international treaty would help solve most of the problems caused by PMC’s globally and set the stage for how PRC PMC’s act as they proliferate globally[5]. By making the first move in treaty negotiations, the U.S can set the agenda for what topics will be covered. The U.S can build off of the framework set by the Montreux document, which sets a non-binding list of good practices for PMCs[6]. By using the offices of the United Nations Working Group on PMCs the U.S would be able to quickly pull together a coalition of like minded countries which could drive the larger negotiation process. Lastly, Option #2 would help solve existing problems with PMC’s operating on behalf of other countries, like the Russian Federation. 

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1] Swaine, M. D., & Arduino, A. (2018, May 08). The Rise of China’s Private Security (Rep.). Retrieved November 26, 2018, from Carnegie Endowment For International Peace website: https://carnegieendowment.org/2018/05/08/rise-of-china-s-private-security-companies-event-6886

[2] Erickson, A., & Collins, G. (2012, February 21). Enter China’s Security Firms. Retrieved November 26, 2018, from https://thediplomat.com/2012/02/enter-chinas-security-firms/3/

[3] United States., Department of Defense, (n.d.). Summary of the 2018 National Defense strategy of the United States of America: Sharpening the American Military’s Competitive Edge (pp. 1-14).

[4] Gibbons-neff, T. (2018, May 24). How a 4-Hour Battle Between Russian Mercenaries and U.S. Commandos Unfolded in Syria. Retrieved November 25, 2018, from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/05/24/world/middleeast/american-commandos-russian-mercenaries-syria.html

[5] Guardians of the Belt and Road. (2018, August 16). Retrieved November 26, 2018, from https://www.merics.org/en/china-monitor/guardians-of-belt-and-road

[6] Switzerland, Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, Directorate of International Law. (2008, September 17). The Montreux Document. Retrieved November 26, 2018, from https://www.icrc.org/en/doc/assets/files/other/icrc_002_0996.pdf

Anthony Patrick Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) China (People's Republic of China) Irregular Forces Non-Government Entities Option Papers

U.S. Options for Responding to Sharp Power Threats

Anthony Patrick is a student at Georgia State University where he majors in political science and conducts research on Sharp Power.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  Threats to U.S. and allied nations by sharp power actions (defined below).

Date Originally Written:  June 16, 2018.

Date Originally Published:  July 30, 2018.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  The author is an undergraduate student of defense policies and an Officer Candidate in the United States Marine Corps.  This article is written with the base assumption that foreign actions against the U.S political system is a top national security challenge and a continuing threat.

Background:  Recent U.S. news cycles have been dominated by the Mueller investigation into Russian interference in the U.S political system.  Other allied nations such as the United Kingdom, France, Australia, and New Zealand have also recently dealt with foreign political influence campaigns[1].  While historically nations have projected power either through military might (hard power) or cultural influence (soft power), rising authoritarian actors like the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Russia, Iran, and North Korea are resulting to a hybrid mix of classical power projection through emerging technologies with revisionist intent in the international system known as sharp power[2].  Sharp power is more direct than soft power, not as physically destructive as hard power, and does not cause enough damage to justify a military response like Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. 

Sharp power actions are normally covert in nature allowing the perpetrator plausible deniability.  Given the combined military and economic power of western democracies, sharp power is the preferred method for disruptive actions against the international order by authoritarian powers.  The effectiveness of sharp power is amplified by the open nature of democratic societies, especially in the information age[3].  Other examples of sharp power attacks include the North Korean hacking of Sony Pictures, the Iranian hacking of a dam in New York, PRC surveillance of Chinese students in foreign classrooms[4], and Russian actions in Ukraine and Moldova[5]. 

Significance:  The effects of sharp power actions can be very dangerous for western democracies.  One effect is a decrease in democratic legitimacy in an elected government.  When the citizens question if it was themselves or foreign actors who helped elect a government, that government is hamstrung due to a lack of legitimacy.  This lack of legitimacy can create new divisions or heighten polarization in the targeted countries.  Foreign actors can use the internet as a guise, pretend to be domestic actors, and push extreme ideas in communities, creating the potential for conflict.  This series of effects has already happened in U.S communities, where Russian actors have organized a protest and the counter protest[6].  These new divisions can also heighten political infighting, diverting political resources from international problems to deal with issues in the domestic sphere.  This heightened political infighting can give these revisionist actors the breathing room they need to expand their influence.  The increasing prevalence of these effects is a direct threat to U.S national security, chipping away at the government’s freedom of action and diverting resources to the domestic sphere away from international problems. 

Option #1:  Adopt military operational planning methodologies like Effects Based Operations (EBO) and Systematic Operational Design (SOD) at the interagency level to organize a response to adversary sharp power actions.

Risk:  The U.S also has the largest pool of soft power in the world and reverting to sharp power actions would hurt that important U.S resource[7].  Also, since these adversary countries are not as open, targeting would be a difficult task, and actions against the wrong group could be used as a rallying cry in the adversary country.  This rallying cry would give these adversaries a greater mandate to continue their actions against western democracies.  Lastly, successful sharp power actions against authoritarian countries could lead to more destructive domestic instability, harming allies in the region and disrupting global trading networks[8].

Gain:  By utilizing sharp power methodologies, the U.S would be able to strike back at opposing countries and deter further actions against the U.S.  The U.S has a large pool of resources to pull from in the interagency, and only needs a methodology to guide those resources.  Military style operational planning like EBO and SOD contain important theoretical constructs like System of System Analysis, Center of Gravity, and the constant reviewing of new information[9][10].  This planning style fits well for sharp power actions since it allows the government to create an operational plan for directed international political actions.  The U.S government can pull from the wealth of knowledge within the Department of Defense on how to combine these various frameworks to achieve sharp power action given their experience with designing complex operations on the joint level[11].  Successful actions would also give the U.S more leverage in negotiations with these countries on other areas and would divert their political resources from international actions 

Option #2:  Congress passes a Goldwater-Nichols-like Act to create a horizontal organization within the interagency, to address sharp power threats[12].

Risk:  Such reform would be substantial and would take a long time to implement.  The length of this process could delay any government response to both continued foreign interference and other international problems.  The congressional process is historically slow and designing the bill would also take a substantial amount of time.  Different agencies have set rules, procedures, and operating cultures, and changing those enough to allow effective interagency cooperation would also be difficult.  Option #2 would not change the defensive posture of the U.S government, thus it would not create the desired deterrent effect. 

Gain:  Streamlining the interagency process would increase the government’s ability to counter sharp power threats.  Option #2 would lead to better allocation of resources, more intelligence sharing, better allocation of authority during interagency deliberations, and provide more clarity on rules, regulations, and processes that govern interagency cooperation.  By adopting this reform, the national security council would be able to give task to a joint structure instead of a single lead agency.  This joint structure could operate like the joint command within the Department of Defense and create broad policy for interagency work[13].  By keeping a defensive posture, the U.S would also be able to protect its soft power appeal[14]. 

Other Comments:  None.

Recommendations:  None.


Endnotes:

[1]  Kurlantzick, J. (2017, December 13). Australia, New Zealand Face China’s Influence. Retrieved from https://www.cfr.org/expert-brief/australia-new-zealand-face-chinas-influence

[2] National Endowment for Democracy. (2017, December 5). Sharp Power: Rising Authoritarian Influence. Retrieved from https://www.ned.org/sharp-power-rising-authoritarian-influence-forum-report/

[3]  Wanless, A., & Berk, M. (2018, March 7). The Strategic Communication Ricochet: Planning Ahead for Greater Resiliency. Retrieved from https://thestrategybridge.org/the-bridge/2018/3/7/the-strategic-communication-ricochet-planning-ahead-for-greater-resiliency

[4]  Sulmeyer, M. (2018, March 22). How the U.S. Can Play Cyber-Offense. Retrieved from https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/world/2018-03-22/how-us-can-play-cyber-offense

[5]  Way, L. A. (2018, May 17). Why Didn’t Putin Interfere in Armenia’s Velvet Revolution? Retrieved from https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/armenia/2018-05-17/why-didnt-putin-interfere-armenias-velvet-revolution

[6]  Lucas, R. (2017, November 01). How Russia Used Facebook To Organize 2 Sets of Protesters. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/2017/11/01/561427876/how-russia-used-facebook-to-organize-two-sets-of-protesters

[7]  Nye, J. S., Jr. (2018, January 24). How Sharp Power Threatens Soft Power. Retrieved from https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/china/2018-01-24/how-sharp-power-threatens-soft-power

[8]  Breen, J. G. (2017). Covert Actions and Unintended Consequences. InterAgency Journal,8(3), 106-122. Retrieved from http://thesimonscenter.org/featured-article-covert-action-and-unintended-consequences/

[9]  Strange, J., Dr., & Iron, UK Army, R., Colonel. (n.d.). Understanding Centers of Gravity and Critical Vulnerabilities(United States, Department of Defense, United States Marine Corps War College).

[10]  Vego, M. N. (2006). Effects-based operations: A critique. National Defense University, Washington D.C. Institute for National Strategic Studies.

[11]  Beutel, C. (2016, August 16). A New Plan: Using Complexity In the Modern World. Retrieved    from https://thestrategybridge.org/the-bridge/2016/8/16/a-new-plan-using-complexity-in-the-modern-world

[12]  Dahl, U.S. Army, K. R., Colonel. (2007, July 1). New Security for New Threats: The Case for Reforming the Interagency Process. Retrieved from https://www.brookings.edu/research/new-security-for-new-threats-the-case-for-reforming-the-interagency-process/

[13]  United States, Department of Defense, Joint Chiefs of Staff. (2018). Joint Concept for Integrated Campaigning.

[14]  Nye, J. S., Jr. (summer 2004). Soft Power and American Foreign Policy. Political Science Quarterly,119(2), 255-270. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20202345

Anthony Patrick Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) Deterrence Major Regional Contingency Option Papers United States

U.S. Diplomacy Options for Security & Adaptability in Cyberspace

Matthew Reitman is a science and technology journalist.  He has a background in security policy and studied International Relations at Boston University.  He can be found on Twitter @MatthewReitman.  Divergent Options’ content does not contain information of an official nature nor does the content represent the official position of any government, any organization, or any group.


National Security Situation:  U.S. competitors conducting national security activities in cyberspace below the threshold of war aka in the “Gray Zone.”

Date Originally Written:  April 14, 2017.

Date Originally Published:  May 18, 2017.

Author and / or Article Point of View:  This article is written from the point of view of the U.S. State Department towards cyberspace.

Background:  State actors and their non-state proxies operate aggressively in cyberspace, but within a gray zone that violates international norms without justifying a “kinetic” response.  Russian influence operations in the 2016 U.S. election were not an act of war, but escalated tensions dramatically[1].  North Korea used the Lazarus Group to circumvent sanctions by stealing $81 million from Bangladesh’s central bank[2].  Since a U.S.-People’s Republic of China (PRC) agreement in 2015 to curb corporate espionage, there have been 13 intrusions by groups based in the PRC against the U.S. private sector[3].  The State Department has helped to curb Islamic State of Iraq and Syria propaganda online via the Global Engagement Center[4].  The recent creation of another interagency entity, the Russia Information Group, suggests similar efforts could be effective elsewhere[5].

The State Department continues to work towards establishing behavior norms in cyberspace via multilateral channels, like the United Nations Group of Governmental Experts, and bilateral channels, but this remains a slow and tedious process.  Until those norms are codified, gray zone activities in cyberspace will continue.  The risk of attacks on Information Technology (IT) or critical infrastructure and less destructive acts will only grow as the rest of the world comes online, increasing the attack surface.

Significance:  The ever-growing digitally connected ecosystem presents a chimera-like set of risks and rewards for U.S. policymakers.  Protecting the free exchange of information online, let alone keeping the U.S. and its allies safe, is difficult when facing gray zone threats.  Responding with conventional tools like economic sanctions can be evaded more easily online, while “hacking back” can escalate tensions in cyberspace and further runs the risk of creating a conflict that spills offline.  Despite the challenge, diplomacy can reduce threats and deescalate tensions for the U.S. and its allies by balancing security and adaptability.  This article provides policy options for responding to and defending against a range of gray zone threats in cyberspace.

Option #1:  Establish effective compellence methods tailored to each adversary.  Option #1 seeks to combine and tailor traditional coercive diplomacy methods like indictments, sanctions, and “naming and shaming,” in tandem with aggressive counter-messaging to combat information warfare, which can be anything from debunking fake news to producing misinformation that undermines the adversary’s narrative.  A bifocal approach has shown to be more effective form of coercion[6] than one or the other.

Risk:  Depending on the severity, the combined and tailored compellence methods could turn public opinion against the U.S.  Extreme sanctions that punish civilian populations could be viewed unfavorably.  If sanctions are evaded online, escalation could increase as more aggressive responses are considered.  “Naming and shaming” could backfire if an attack is falsely attributed.  Fake bread crumbs can be left behind in code to obfuscate the true offender and make it look as though another nation is responsible.  Depending on the severity of counter-propaganda, its content could damage U.S. credibility, especially if conducted covertly.  Additionally, U.S. actions under Option #1 could undermine efforts to establish behavior norms in cyberspace.

Gain:  Combined and tailored compellence methods can isolate an adversary financially and politically while eroding domestic support.  “Naming and shaming” sends a clear message to the adversary and the world that their actions will not be tolerated, justifying any retaliation.  Sanctions can weaken an economy and cut off outside funding for political support.  Leaking unfavorable information and counter-propaganda undermines an adversary’s credibility and also erodes domestic support.  Option #1’s severity can range depending on the scenario, from amplifying the spread of accurate news and leaked documents with social botnets to deliberately spreading misinformation.  By escalating these options, the risks increase.

Option #2:  Support U.S. Allies’ cybersecurity due diligence and capacity building.  Option #2 pursues confidence-building measures in cyberspace as a means of deterrence offline, so nations with U.S. collective defense agreements have priority.  This involves fortifying allies’ IT networks and industrial control systems for critical infrastructure by taking measures to reduce vulnerabilities and improve cybersecurity incident response teams (CSIRTs).  This option is paired with foreign aid for programs that teach media literacy, “cyber hygiene,” and computer science to civilians.

Risk:  Improving allies’ defensive posture can be viewed by some nations as threatening and could escalate tensions.  Helping allies fortify their defensive capabilities could lead to some sense of assumed responsibility if those measures failed, potentially fracturing the relationship or causing the U.S. to come to their defense.  Artificial Intelligence (AI)-enhanced defense systems aren’t a silver bullet and can contribute to a false sense of security.  Any effort to defend against information warfare runs the potential of going too far by infringing freedom of speech.  Aside from diminishing public trust in the U.S., Option #2 could undermine efforts to establish behavior norms in cyberspace.

Gain:  Collectively, this strategy can strengthen U.S. Allies by contributing to their independence while bolstering their defense against a range of attacks.  Option #2 can reduce risks to U.S. networks by decreasing threats to foreign networks.  Penetration testing and threat sharing can highlight vulnerabilities in IT networks and critical infrastructure, while educating CSIRTs.  Advances in AI-enhanced cybersecurity systems can decrease response time and reduce network intrusions.  Funding computer science education trains the next generation of CSIRTs.  Cyber hygiene, or best cybersecurity practices, can make civilians less susceptible to cyber intrusions, while media literacy can counter the effects of information warfare.

Other Comments:  The U.S. Cyber Command and intelligence agencies, such as the National Security Agency and Central Intelligence Agency, are largely responsible for U.S. government operations in cyberspace.  The U.S. State Department’s range of options may be limited, but partnering with the military and intelligence communities, as well as the private sector is crucial.

Recommendation:  None.


Endnotes:

[1]  Nakashima, E. (2017, February 7) Russia’s apparent meddling in U.S. election is not an act of war, cyber expert says. Washington Post. Retrieved from: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2017/02/07/russias-apparent-meddling-in-u-s-election-is-not-an-act-of-war-cyber-expert-says

[2]  Finkle, J. (2017, March 15) “North Korean hacking group behind recent attacks on banks: Symantec.” Reuters. Retrieved from: http://www.reuters.com/article/us-cyber-northkorea-symantec

[3]  FireEye. (2016, June 20). Red Line Drawn: China Recalculates Its Use Of Cyber Espionage. Retrieved from: https://www.fireeye.com/blog/threat-research/2016/06/red-line-drawn-china-espionage.html

[4]  Warrick, J. (2017, February 3). “How a U.S. team uses Facebook, guerrilla marketing to peel off potential ISIS recruits.” Washington Post. Retrieved from: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/bait-and-flip-us-team-uses-facebook-guerrilla-marketing-to-peel-off-potential-isis-recruits/2017/02/03/431e19ba-e4e4-11e6-a547-5fb9411d332c_story.html

[5]  Mak, T. (2017, February 6). “U.S. Preps for Infowar on Russia”. The Daily Beast. Retrieved from: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2017/02/06/u-s-preps-for-infowar-on-russia.html

[6]  Valeriano, B., & Jensen, B. (2017, March 16). “From Arms and Influence to Data and Manipulation: What Can Thomas Schelling Tell Us About Cyber Coercion?”. Lawfare. Retrieved from: https://www.lawfareblog.com/arms-and-influence-data-and-manipulation-what-can-thomas-schelling-tell-us-about-cyber-coercion

Below Established Threshold Activities (BETA) Cyberspace Diplomacy Matthew Reitman Option Papers United States