RUSSIA 2020

NATO 2030: United for New Era Recent years have seen a series of political challenges facing NATO Allies and a period of unusual turbulence in Western societies. Some of this is the result of strains caused by the 2008 global financial crisis, which prompted a questioning of aspects of international order. Trust and faith in democratic and international institutions has decreased, alongside heightened tensions over trade and competition for resources, exacerbated by developments in EDTs, and the spread of disinformation.
NATO is waking up to China. The alliance’s foreign ministers held a China Summit with counterparts from Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and South Korea as well as from Finland, Sweden, and the EU’s chief diplomat Joseph Borrell. The secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, highlighted the threat: “China is investing massively in new weapons. It is coming closer to us, from the Arctic to Africa. It does not respect fundamental human rights and tries to intimidate other countries.” A report by the alliance’s “reflection group” urged “much more time, political resources, and action” when it comes to Beijing. Covering all possible bases, the Global Times said that NATO was abandoned by and a puppet of the U.S., out of date, ineffective, paranoid, and also a troublemaker.

Annual Risk Assessment of the DDIS  The growing interests and presence of Russia, China and the U.S. in the Arctic have a destabilizing effect on the region’s security, according to the annual risk assessment conducted by the Danish Defence Intelligence Service (DDIS).
Tensions within the Danish Kingdom, which includes Denmark, Greenland and the Faroe Islands, may be more openly exploited, especially by Russia and China, according to a report published by DDIS on Thursday. Although Denmark is responsible for the Danish Kingdom’s defense and foreign affairs, the three countries have different views and interests when it comes to foreign relations.
China, which according to the Arctic Today web magazine, has already invested in mining projects in Greenland, might eventually benefit more from such investments, the Danish foreign agency pointed out. China is increasing its bilateral cooperation with Arctic nations in the realms of trade, research and culture, and is using increased cooperation on research and trade as entry points for influence.
When it comes to Russia, the risks appear to be more military in nature. The newly established Nagurskoye Air Base located 2,000 kilometers from Greenland makes it easy for Russian fighters to operate widely in the region. An arms race is probable since the US, together with Denmark, are thinking about how to strengthen the Thule Air Base in Greenland.

The “Creation of the Federal Information System of Biometric Data” The Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs plans to create a centralized database of biometric data that will include information on both Russian citizens and foreigners. The Ministry aims to have the infrastructure and technology for the endeavor working within three years. Data collected as part of the effort will include fingerprints and facial images, with the ultimate goal being to create a fully integrated system with information such as DNA records, vehicle ownership, and more. Such an effort was first proposed by then-Interior Minister Vladimir Alexandrovich Kolokoltsev (a former Moscow Police Commissioner) in 2014, but has taken more than half-a-decade to materialize. (TASS, November 21, 2020)

Securing U.S. Interests Across the Greater Mediterranean According to this new CSIS publication, Russian influence in the region is complex. Russia exerts political influence by supporting strongman leaders (e.g., Haftar in Libya, Assad in Syria) in exchange for the promise of future economic gain. Russian political influence in Bosnia is taking on a spoiler role due to Republika Srpska’s leaders’ links to Russia and to Russian-backed nationalists in neighboring Serbia. These elements have contributed to blocking the country’s NATO membership and much-needed constitutional reforms. Russia is also adept at using historical, religious, and cultural affinities to gain favor. This is particularly effective in Bosnia, Montenegro, Cyprus, and Lebanon, all places where the Orthodox Church provides leverage. Economically, Russia is the biggest player in foreign direct investment, banking, real estate, and tourism in Cyprus and Montenegro. This economic influence provides potential leverage that could be exerted to influence Cyprus and Montenegro’s actions within the European Union and NATO given their respective memberships in these organizations.

Energy is another key sector for Russia. Algeria is the third-largest gas supplier to the European Union. By securing dominance over Algeria’s energy assets, Russia can increase its leverage over Europe. Russia’s interest in Libya’s oil reserves is another step on this path. The military is the final piece of Russian influence. Russia arms sales, mercenaries, deployment of equipment, and provision of military support have changed the balance of the conflicts in Syria and Libya. Russian military influence has limited the space for U.S. action in those countries and could ignite future conflicts in Lebanon and Algeria as well. Much of this military cooperation has resulted in mutual access agreements for airspace and bases. Russia’s multiple footholds in the Greater Mediterranean region will have long-lasting impacts on access and freedom of navigation for the United States and NATO.

U.S. to Close Two Consulates in Russia The State Department is closing its final two consulates in Russia and confining its official diplomatic presence to the American Embassy in Moscow. The offices shutting their doors are located in Ekaterinburg in the Ural Region and Vladivostok on the Russian Pacific coast. The move follows years of brewing diplomatic tensions that have significantly shrunk America’s formal presence in Russia. In 2017, the Russian government placed a cap on the number of U.S. diplomats allowed to operate in the country. The following year, authorities ordered the closure of the U.S. consulate in Saint Petersburg, Russia’s second largest city. The majority of staff members employed by the consulates in Ekaterinburg and Vladivostok were Russian nationals. The closure will result in their dismissal and the transfer of remaining American diplomats to Moscow.

Chinese and Russian intelligence among most active in Czech Republic “Russia aims for the destabilization and breakup of its enemies, whereas China aims to create a Sino centric global community, where all the other nations approve the legitimacy of Chinese interests and respect,” the Czech Security Information Service said in its annual (2019) report. “Chinese actors tried to influence public opinion, spread Chinese propaganda through Czech media and were quite active in academia, according to the annual report. In particular, Chinese intelligence services used the “openness of the Czech Republic towards Chinese investments”, which the report stated were related to energy infrastructure, without naming specific ones. According to a recent EURACTIV article however: “the Czech Republic will publish a tender for new blocks of Dukovany nuclear plant in December and Russian and Chinese companies are among the top candidates. When it comes to domestic threats, the Czech Security Service emphasized that extremists had no common topic to mobilize the public”.

US Sanctions Policy The Atlantic Council has published a report which assesses and criticises the Trump administration’s sanctions policy and makes recommendations for the Biden administration to fix what the author describes as “a bad feedback loop”.

Reconfiguring to Win the Innovation Race in the Intelligence Community This report represents the culmination of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence’s Subcommittee on Strategic Technologies and Advanced Research efforts during the 116th Congress to understand how the Intelligence Community pursues innovation.

The U.S. Defense Industrial Base This report is the culmination of a collaboration between the National Security Institute (NSI) and Duco, where more than 100 top national security experts at NSI and Duco shared their insights on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), as well as the broader state of United States national security and its geopolitical standing. The experts were asked to contribute to this project via a survey. This report summarizes the findings, trends, and key takeaways that emerged from the expert responses. Specifically, this report breaks down the trends in four sections: I) the double threat posed by China, II) the U.S. military advantage is under pressure from adversaries, III) the U.S. defense industrial base is vulnerable, and IV) the U.S. must maintain its military advantage.

Democratic Offense Against Disinformation According to the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA), now is the time for the United States and Europe to devise a democratic offense against disinformation. A new CEPA report offers a more proactive approach to fighting foreign influence. By building up offensive cyber capabilities, imposing sanctions, and supporting free media, democracies around the world can successfully defend themselves against disinformation. 

America’s Use of Coercive Economic Statecraft In this new CNAS report,” Task Force coordinators and principal co-authors  outline the major findings from the work of the task force. The report discusses key trends in U.S. coercive economic statecraft and how policymakers can best continue to leverage American economic strength to meet national security goals. The authors conclude that “economic power, as an engine of national security, will form a basis for leverage for American leaders to advance foreign policy goals in an array of domains,” however, “experience suggests that coercive economic tools need to be deployed carefully.”

OFAC and FinCEN Communicate Ransomware Expectations in New Guidance On October 1, 2020, the US Treasury Department issued—in the form of advisories from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”)—important guidance on what victims of ransomware attacks, as well as financial institutions (particularly money services businesses and other companies that facilitate such payments), should consider when confronted with potential ransomware demands.

National Strategy for Critical and Emerging Technologies The new National Strategy for Critical and Emerging Technologies outlines how the US will protect and promote US technologies in fields such as AI, energy, quantum, information science, communication, semiconductors, military and space. The Strategy also aims to restrict such exports to adversarial countries by ensuring export laws and regulations are adequate, encouraging allies to develop similar restrictions, and further engagement with the private sector.
In support of the National Strategy for Critical and Emerging Technologies, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said the Department is fully behind the President’s strategy and has already implemented a number of export controls on emerging technologies. Earlier this month, the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) in Commerce imposed controls on six more emerging technologies, bringing the total to 37.
“The National Strategy for Critical and Emerging Technologies is a critical roadmap to protecting our national security and ensuring the United States maintains its technological leadership in military, intelligence, and economic matters,” said Secretary Ross. “Under President Trump’s leadership, the Department of Commerce has already imposed controls on more than three dozen emerging technologies and we will continue to evaluate and identify technologies that warrant control.”
The most recent Commerce controls were implemented under agreements reached at the Wassenaar Arrangement on Export Controls for Conventional Arms and Dual-Use Goods and Technologies’ December 2019 Plenary meeting. Developing and implementing multilateral controls on emerging technology is consistent with the requirements of the Export Control Reform Act of 2018 (ECRA) to identify emerging and foundational technologies that are essential to U.S. national security.
The six emerging technologies now controlled on the Commerce Control List are:

1. Hybrid additive manufacturing/computer numerically controlled tools
2. Computational lithography software designed for the fabrication of extreme ultraviolet masks
3. Technology for finishing wafers for 5 nanometer integrated circuit production
4. Digital forensics tools that circumvent authentication or authorization controls on a computer and extract raw data
5. Software for monitoring and analysis of communications and metadata acquired from a telecommunications service provider via a handover interface
6. Sub-orbital spacecraft

This is the fourth set of emerging technology controls imposed by BIS since ECRA’s 2018 enactment. BIS has previously published three Federal Register Notices implementing new controls on 31 specific emerging technologies in the aerospace, biotechnology, chemical, electronics, encryption, geospatial imagery, and marine sectors, most of which were imposed with multilateral support. They include 24 chemical weapons precursors controlled for Chemical/Biological and Anti-Terrorism reasons as well as:

1. Discrete microwave transistors
2. Continuity of operation software
3. Post-quantum cryptography
4. Underwater transducers designed to operate as hydrophones
5. Air-launch platforms
6. Geospatial imagery software (unilateral)
7. Single-use biological cultivation chambers

Additionally, in accordance with ECRA, BIS requested public comment on the identification of foundational technologies on August 27, 2020, and the public comment period remains open until November 9, 2020.

Amendments to National Security License Review Policy under the EAR In this final rule, the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) amends the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) to revise the license review policy for items controlled for national security reasons destined to the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Venezuela, or the Russian Federation (Russia). With this revision, BIS and reviewing agencies will determine whether the export, reexport, or transfer (in-country) of items controlled for National Security (NS) reasons will make a material contribution to the “development,” “production,” maintenance, repair, or operation of weapons systems of the PRC, Venezuela, or the Russian Federation, as well as setting forth several factors that will be considered in reviewing license applications.

CFIUS Implements Mandatory Filing Based on Export Licensing This final rule modifies certain provisions in the regulations of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States that implement section 721 of the Defense Production Act of 1950, as amended by the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act of 2018. Specifically, the rule modifies the mandatory declaration provision for certain foreign investment transactions involving a U.S. business that produces, designs, tests, manufactures, fabricates, or develops one or more critical technologies. It also makes amendments to the definition of the term “substantial interest” and a related provision, and makes one technical revision.

Publication of Ransomware Advisory The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) is issuing an advisory to alert companies that engage with victims of ransomware attacks of the potential sanctions risks for facilitating ransomware payments. This advisory highlights OFAC’s designations of malicious cyber actors and those who facilitate ransomware transactions under its cyber-related sanctions program. It identifies U.S. government resources for reporting ransomware attacks and provides information on the factors OFAC generally considers when determining an appropriate enforcement response to an apparent violation, such as the existence, nature, and adequacy of a sanctions compliance program. The advisory also encourages financial institutions and other companies that engage with victims of ransomware attacks to report such attacks to and fully cooperate with law enforcement, as these will be considered significant mitigating factors.

NSA and FBI Expose Russian Previously Undisclosed Malware “Drovorub” in Cybersecurity Advisory The National Security Agency (NSA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released a new Cybersecurity Advisory about previously undisclosed Russian malware.
The Russian General Staff Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) 85th Main Special Service Center (GTsSS) military unit 26165, whose activity is sometimes identified by the private sector as Fancy Bear, Strontium, or APT 28, is deploying malware called Drovorub, designed for Linux systems as part of its cyber espionage operations. Further details on Drovorub, to include detection techniques and mitigations, can be found in the joint NSA and FBI Cybersecurity Advisory.

Dangerous Synergies Today, Beijing and Moscow have resorted to tools of digital influence to obscure the origins of COVID-19, while China cynically recasts itself as a global leader in responding to the very pandemic that it failed to contain. In a report released this May, CNAS experts argued that there is growing evidence of strategic convergence in Beijing’s and Moscow’s digital influence campaigns. They call for the United States and its democratic allies and partners to adopt a holistic approach to countering digital influence campaigns by China and Russia.

A cautious embrace: defending democracy in an age of autocracies This report of the Foreign Affairs Committee (UK Parliament) and published on the 5th of November, 2019, focuses on three policy areas: autocracies’ influence on academic freedom; the use of sanctions against autocracies; and the UK’s cooperation with other democracies in responding to autocracies. It is necessary for the Government to engage with autocracies, for reasons of security, trade, and tackling issues such as climate change and modern slavery. We concentrate in particular on Russia and China. Our evidence suggests that both have engaged in overt and covert interference in the affairs of the UK and its partners. The two take different approaches to the rules-based system: Russia has been accused of actively working to undermine the system, whilst China largely works within the system, but aims to change it to suit its own goals, which may be very different from those of the UK. Our evidence cited as examples Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea, the repression of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang, the chemical attack in Salisbury in 2018, and attempts at interference in elections within democracies.

NSA – Limiting Location Data Exposure The National Security Agency (NSA) released guidance that warned that mobile location data could pose a serious security threat for users if it were infiltrated by cyber hackers. The guidance was released specifically for Department of Defense (DOD) staff and others who have access to federal systems, but the NSA noted that it could be “useful to a wide range of users.” The agency made clear that location data can be tracked even when GPS and cellular data is turned off.

Don’t Call It a Cold War: Findings from the Russian-American Relations Survey 2019 Russian-American relations seem to be worsening every year. After an attempted “reset” under U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev exhausted itself, a steady stream of events has kept tensions on a high burn. Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea. American economic sanctions on Russia. Russian counter sanctions. Accusations of Russian “meddling” in the 2016 election of Donald Trump and the theft of COVID-19 vaccine research. Spy scandals. Mass expulsions of large numbers of embassy personnel. The list goes on.
At the same time, The Working Group on the Future of U.S.-Russia Relations (The Working Group is a project of the Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies at Harvard University on the U.S. side and of the National Research University—Higher School of Economics in Russia) finds considerable hope for an eventual improvement in relations coming from the U.S. and Russian populations. While neither side appears willing to give in on some of the most important flash points, The Working Group at least does detect more underlying popular willingness to seek ways to avoid conflict and improve relations than may appear to be the case if one watches the news regularly in either country.
The results of a survey conducted by Henry Hale and Olga Kamenchuk simultaneously in both Russia and the United States in 2019 on these countries’ mutual relations, are presented in this report

Global Risks Report 2020 The 15th edition of the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report is published as critical risks are manifesting. The global economy is facing an increased risk of stagnation, climate change is striking harder and more rapidly than expected, and fragmented cyberspace threatens the full potential of next-generation technologies — all while citizens worldwide protest political and economic conditions and voice concerns about systems that exacerbate inequality. The challenges before us demand immediate collective action, but fractures within the global community appear to only be widening. Stakeholders need to act quickly and with purpose within an unsettled global landscape.

With Friends Like These The Center for Strategic and International Studies released the product of an ambitious yearlong CSIS initiative to examine Russian influence activities in the United Kingdom and Germany and Chinese influence activities in Australia and Japan. This report is the Germany case study.

Techlash and National Security: The Need for U.S. Leadership on Privacy and Security A new NSI Law and Policy Paper summarizes how “Techlash” and criticism of Big Tech are realigning the regulatory instincts of policymakers and companies. This dynamic may embolden government action to regulate in the name of lawful government access and national security, among other goals. It also describes how movements to regulate technology companies may undermine privacy and security protective end-to-end encryption and erode Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act. It suggests that policymakers should prioritize data protection as essential for national security in the digital era and urges U.S. global leadership to inspire digital democracies and counter digital authoritarianism, and it proposes actionable recommendations for policymakers to address encryption, federal data protection regulation, cybersecurity expertise, and global leadership.
Click here to read the complete paper.

New Report on Russia The report on Russia of the Intelligence and Security Committee of the UK Parliament (ISC) was published on July 21, 2020, and the government published its response on July 21, 202.

Mind the Gaps: Assessing Russian Influence in the United Kingdom For the past 15 years, Russia has sought to weaken the United Kingdom internally and diminish its position in the world by exploiting minority grievances, encouraging separatist movements, amplifying anti-EU sentiments, and trying to inflict reputational damage upon the United Kingdom’s role in NATO and the value of its relationship with the United States.
A new CSIS report by Rachel Ellehuus examines what democratic traits have made the UK both vulnerable and resilient to these malign influence activities, the impact of Russian efforts, and what the UK policy response has been.

Department of Energy: Executive Order 13920 Pursuant to Executive Order 13920 (E.O. 13920) issued May 1, 2020, titled “Securing the United States Bulk-Power System,” the Department of Energy (DOE) is seeking information to understand the energy industry’s current practices to identify and mitigate vulnerabilities in the supply chain for components of the bulk-power system (BPS). The RFI identifies which countries are considered “foreign adversaries” for the purposes of the E.O. and, therefore, from which countries the acquisition of electrical equipment might be restricted. The RFI notes that Russia and China are of particular concern.

Countering Russian and Chinese Influence Activities CSIS released their digital summary report and the first product of an ambitious yearlong CSIS initiative to examine Russian influence activities in the United Kingdom and Germany and Chinese influence activities in Australia and Japan. This July 2, 2020 report offers a brief overview of the project and its key findings.
As the Covid-19 pandemic sheds new light on how Moscow and Beijing advance their geopolitical goals through a range of influence activities, governments and societies need to develop better and more effective countermeasures. CSIS examined factors which make countries particularly vulnerable to Chinese or Russian malign influence operations and identified the sources of resilience that enable democratic governments and polities to mitigate, fend off, or push back on malign efforts. We assessed how the strategies and tactics used by Russia and China differ or converge as well as the degree to which they have been successful in influencing outcomes through their activities.

U.S. Competition with China and Russia: The Crisis-Driven Need to Change U.S. Strategy According to this CSIS report, it is still far from clear how much the Coronavirus crisis will affect the relative competitiveness of the United States versus China and Russia. All three countries have suffered a major shock. The U.S. has reached unemployment levels equal to those of the Great Depression, and it has already spent more than $3 trillion dollars in an effort to ease the economic strain on its people and help prepare for recovery. It will certainly face problems in both maintaining its planned levels of national security spending and meeting its new economic needs.
China too has suffered major blow in terms of employment, trade, economic growth, although the data available prove to be uncertain. The same is true of Russia, but both China and Russia have the potential advantage to use their state-driven systems and enable their leaders to directly allocate resources and to keep funding competition in ways that may demand more sacrifices from their peoples. Both are almost certain to keep competing with the United States and will continue to seek and exploit any new opportunities in other states that are facing political and economic crises.

A new type of virus is upon us, and it is not corona The whole world is preoccupied with the coronavirus pandemic. Every day, we experience apprehension and our thoughts focus on how we can protect ourselves, our families, and countries. Yet, while nations struggle to mobilize their resources to fight this unparalleled epidemic, another virus is spreading almost undetected, Daniel Milo (Stratcom Policy Director at GLOBSEC, the foreign policy and security think tank) argues.

U.S. Sanctions on Russia: An Overview The Congressional Research Service updated their report on March 23, 2020.

Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA): An Overview This document was prepared by the Congressional Research Service and issued on March 10, 2020.

COVID-19: Potential Implications for International Security Environment—Overview of Issues and Further Reading for Congress The Congressional Research Service updated their report on June 29, 2020

The Cyberspace Solarium Commission On March 11, 2020, the Cyberspace Solarium Commission released a report outlining a comprehensive strategy for defending the U.S. against major cyber-attacks. The Cyberspace Solarium Commission (CSC) was established in the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 to “develop a consensus on a strategic approach to defending the United States in cyberspace against cyber-attacks of significant consequences.”

Targeting U.S. Technologies Feb. 25, 2020 – The DCSA Counterintelligence annual report, “Targeting U.S. Technologies: A Report of Foreign Targeting of Cleared Industry,” is now available. This product details and enumerates cleared industry’s reporting of suspicious contact reports that represent potential foreign intelligence entities attempts to illicitly acquire U.S. technologies resident in cleared industry. You can click the title of this article to read the report. You can read the 2019 report here.

CFIUS Reform Under FIRRMA The Congressional Research Service updated their report on February 21, 2020.

2019 National Intelligence Strategy This National Intelligence Strategy (NIS) provides the Intelligence Community (IC) with strategic direction from the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) for the next four years. It supports the national security priorities outlined in the National Security Strategy as well as other national strategies. In executing the NIS, all IC activities must be responsive to national security priorities and must comply with the Constitution, applicable laws and statutes, and Congressional oversight requirements.

Interim Report of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence. For decades, the United States has maintained an open economy and championed academic freedom, while also protecting its edge in defense and security-related technologies. It has preserved this balance through robust counter-intelligence, reviews of foreign investment, and export controls, among other techniques. Those tools remain important. But certain features of the current geopolitical and technology landscape are straining America’s ability to institute a coherent and effective technology protection regime:

  • The nature of AI technologies makes the protection of those technologies for national security very difficult. AI research has been largely decentralized and industry-driven; as a result, knowledge is more diffuse and accessible than historical breakthrough technologies such as nuclear or stealth.
  • Open access to AI research is a strong norm in computer science. Even if restrictions were placed on AI products or services, much of the underlying code is publicly available.
  • The United States and China have close linkages in the field of AI, including constant exchanges of people, research, and funding. Chinese AI researchers train at U.S. universities. American cities host Chinese AI research centers, and major U.S. companies have research ventures in China. Chinese venture capitalists have invested in American AI start-ups, and vice versa.
  • At the same time, China takes advantage of the openness of U.S. society in numerous ways––some legal, some not––to transfer AI know-how. S intelligence agencies confirm that the “targeting of national security information and proprietary technology from U.S. companies and research institutions will remain a sophisticated and persistent threat.”
  • America’s research universities thrive by welcoming topminds from around the globe. At the same time, universities and other research institutes are vulnerable to foreign exploitation and other forms of influence by strategic competitors, notably China.

    Taken together, it is difficult to resolve these issues in ways that balance security concerns with the principles of an open society and the core American traditions of free enterprise and free inquiry. The November 2019 Interim Report of the NSCAI can be found here.