Bottom Line: The Kremlin employs various often overlapping and competitive security and intelligence services to create multiple sources of intelligence, encourage risk-taking and keep a wary eye on each other. This has enabled Russian President Vladimir Putin to consolidate power by playing agencies off of each other to avoid uninvited ...

Bottom Line: While much attention is rightfully given to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea’s (DPRK) nuclear and ballistic missile arsenal, the country’s naval and merchant fleets are the ones that have traditionally extended the reach of Pyongyang to bypass sanctions through illicit trade on the high seas while also ...

Cipher Brief experts debated the risk versus blowback of striking North Korea before it has a chance to strike the continental United States, at The Cipher Brief’s 2018 annual Threat Conference, in Sea Island, Ga. Admiral (ret.) James “Sandy” Winnefeld, former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during ...

In the book “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier Spy,” John Le Carré’s chief character, retired British intelligence officer George Smiley, is reminded of the danger of old spies staying too long in the game. To avoid that trap, Smiley vows to leave the secret world behind by retiring to the country where ...

"What South Koreans want is an unconditional withdrawal of U.S. troops from the South, an unwelcome guest that poses a threat to peace and security on the Korean Peninsula.” -14 March 2018, Rodong Sinmun, North Korea Newspaper After decades of effort, North Korea is close to being able to credibly ...

Resentment, an insatiable appetite for women and an even larger appetite for cash are all elements that led to an insider threat that spelled a devastating theft of U.S. technology by a Chinese company. But this time, the culprit was caught – or at least, the company behind him was. ...

Public reactions to prospects for a breakthrough at a Trump-Kim summit are proving a triumph of hope over experience. North Korea has been feeling the heat from the Trump administration’s effective “maximum pressure” campaign, and has every incentive to gut its momentum, or reverse it. In response, Kim Jong Un ...

President Donald Trump has agreed to meet with Kim Jong Un and the other players, China and North Korea, are preparing. The question is: How should Trump prepare for the meeting? Experts find a number of reasons to be skeptical about this abrupt announcement, especially the lack of lower-level preparation ...

The United States has taken a number of steps in recent weeks to push back on Russian aggression, but they won’t deter Russia’s aggressive campaign to expand influence at home and abroad unless they take direct aim at the power and pocketbook of Russian President Vladimir Putin – and the ...

Bottom Line: As monsoon season bears down on Southeast Asia, U.S. officials say up to a 100,000 Rohingya refugees sheltering in the hills of Bangladesh face a potential humanitarian catastrophe. They are among the 860,000 ethnic Rohingya Muslims driven out of Myanmar by a violent crackdown that the U.S. has ...

During two years of intense negotiations with North Korea, from August 2003 to September 2005, North Korea’s constant refrain to U.S. negotiators was, ‘Accept us as a nuclear weapons state and we’ll be a good friend of the U.S.’ They were told that the U.S. would never accept North Korea ...

On Thursday, South Korean national security adviser Chung Eui-yong announced that President Donald Trump had accepted an invitation to meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, and the meeting will take place “by May” at a time and place to be determined. This development could be referred to as a ...

Bottom Line: With the stated national goal of achieving ‘great power status,’ China’s military modernization efforts have contributed to rising tension in the Asia-Pacific region, as well as between China and the United States. China’s growing ability to project military force – buttressed by the opening of its first overseas ...

On March 1, Russian President Vladimir Putin boasted of new nuclear-capable weapons that could overcome any U.S. missile defenses, in a feisty pre-election “state-of-the-nation” speech. He presented Russian military force as a “guarantor of peace on our planet,” and also made some over-the-top economic and social promises, just 17 days ...

The Pyeongchang Winter Olympics closed on Sunday, but the games may have opened the door for dialogue between the United States and North Korea. Following a meeting between South Korean President Moon Jae-in and North Korean representatives, the South Korean government announced that North Korea was willing to have talks ...

Bottom Line: While the Trump administration has recently pressured South Korea on trade practices, the two nations remain united on pushing North Korea toward denuclearization, despite Pyongyang’s attempts to drive a wedge between the two. It is unlikely that their financial disagreements will disrupt that united front, but the money ...

Bottom line: Beijing aimed skyward with its latest attempt to expand areas of influence, unilaterally opening up several flight routes including one between Shanghai and Hong Kong that is uncomfortably close to Taiwanese airspace -- another step in its diplomatic and military pressure campaign to coerce Taiwan to rejoin China. ...

North Korea’s Olympic delegation has left Pyeongchang, and stuck South Korean President Moon Jae-in with a decision: whether to accept an invitation to Pyongyang for talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. It would be the first time a South Korean president has visited the North Korean capital city since ...

Just ahead of President Donald Trump’s delivery of the State of the Union, the State Department released a list of “influential Russians,” including several politicians and oligarchs, who could face sanctions in the future for their proximity to the Kremlin. The list was later determined to be pulled from Forbes’ ...

Bottom Line: The potential of economic development in the Arctic for a financially strapped Russia has increased the Kremlin’s attention to the security of its northern waters. The result is a push to bolster its military presence in the region. But against a backdrop of increasing geopolitical tensions between Russia ...

The People’s Republic of China has not fought a war since 1979, but the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has been a very close student of other peoples’ wars. They have carefully analyzed foreign, especially American, conflicts of the past several decades, and they have assessed the impact of information and ...

Bottom Line: China is aggressively pursuing capabilities such as anti-satellite (ASAT) weapons that could diminish the U.S. military’s reconnaissance, navigation and communications in case of war in the South China Sea or on the Korean Peninsula. But while China’s ASAT capabilities threaten U.S. assets in space, it’s still unclear how ...

Bottom Line: As part of its ambitious strategy to evolve into a leading global power by 2050, China has spent considerable resources upgrading its naval capabilities. Through such undertakings, China has significantly enhanced its force projection in East Asia, where it has staked claim to disputed islands and waters as ...

Bottom Line: Since 2016, the North Korean regime has shown its hand as a state sponsor of cybercrime by targeting international financial institutions, engaging in broad ransomware campaigns, and illegally accruing and laundering cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin. This pattern of behavior supports Pyongyang’s objective of self-financing the ruling Korean Worker’s ...

The Trump administration’s decision to suspend security assistance to the Pakistani military pending “decisive action” against the Afghan Taliban and the Haqqani network represents an attempt to hold Pakistan accountable. While leaders in Islamabad are highly unlikely to shift their national security strategy to align with U.S. interests, the administration ...

North Korea made clear its aim to divide the U.S. from its South Korean ally when the North and South negotiators met this week: “All our weapons, including atomic bombs, hydrogen bombs and ballistic missile are only aimed at the United States, not our brethren, nor China and Russia,” said ...

Bottom Line: North and South Korean Olympians may be marching together come February after Tuesday’s breakthrough talks – the first between the two sides in two years – but North Korea’s staunch refusal to discuss its nuclear weapons program means a likely return to nuclear impasse after the Olympic games ...

North and Sound Korea have held their first high-level meeting in two years – agreeing to send North Korean athletes to the upcoming Olympics in the South Korean resort of Pyeonchang -- and to reopen a military hotline. It’s a welcome warming to the nuclear chill on the Korean Peninsula, ...

Cipher Brief expert Gordon Chang says the U.S. has leverage over China that it isn’t using to defuse the challenge from North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The Cipher Brief’s Brian Garrett-Glaser interviewed Chang as Kim and U.S. President Donald Trump trade threats of pressing a nuclear “button,” even amid ...

Bottom Line: U.S. President Donald Trump has threatened to cut off aid to Pakistan to force Islamabad to take a harder line on terrorism. But in the past decade, economic leverage over Pakistan has yielded only short-term results. The Trump administration also runs the risk of incurring consequential backlash from ...

For this last week of 2017, we asked our experts to predict what they see for the year ahead. CIA veteran and Asia hand Amb. Joseph DeTrani spoke about what Beijing could do to check the rising threat from North Korea, including implementing U.N. sanctions that Pyongyang has called an ...

For this last week of 2017, we asked our experts to look back on key topics for this year, and predict what they see for the year ahead. Cipher Brief expert, CIA veteran and Russia hand Steve Hall looks ahead to U.S. relations with Moscow, as Russia gears up for ...

TAIPEI, Taiwan – The recent public threat by a senior Chinese diplomat to invade Taiwan, should U.S. naval vessels dock on the island, illustrates the increasingly precarious position of one of the region’s few democracies. Mixed signals from President Donald Trump, his administration and the U.S. Congress have only escalated ...

China’s burgeoning economic and political interests in the developing world – particularly in the Middle East and Africa – will compel Beijing to undertake a more activist approach to foreign policy. This new reality contrasts with China’s longstanding position of non-interference and will inevitably force China to become more engaged ...

Tensions that mounted during a deadly, Islamist protest in Pakistan last month were resolved not by the country’s civilian government, but by leaders of its military and intelligence agency. The incident was another reminder of who really holds the reins in a tumultuous nation that the U.S. has leaned on ...

Conflicting signals about whether the U.S. is prepared to resume talks with North Korea raise questions about what conditions, if any, might be imposed and even how unified the administration of President Donald Trump really is on undertaking this kind of initiative. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson suggested during remarks ...

North Korea launched an intercontinental ballistic missile on Tuesday, another step towards its goal of becoming a nuclear power in the world - prompting an ominous warning from the U.S. commander in chief. “We will take care of it,” President Donald Trump told reporters Tuesday, after being briefed by the ...

Are Bangladesh and Myanmar poised to make progress to address the refugee crisis involving hundreds of thousands of ethnic Rohingya? Maybe. The two countries signed an agreement to repatriate hundreds of thousands of Rohingya who have fled their homes in Myanmar’s Rakhine State after the latest wave of violence that ...

Moscow may increasingly look toward private military companies (PMCs), known in Russia as Chastnye Voennie Companiy (ChVK), to exert plausibly deniable and economically and politically sustainable military influence abroad, according to experts speaking to The Cipher Brief. Unlike relying on proxies such as ragtag local militias or organized criminal groups ...

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Myanmar is guilty of “ethnic cleansing” in its crackdown on minority Muslim Rohingya, driving more than half a million refugees to neighboring Bangladesh. Although previously restrained in his description of the exodus, Tillerson said he’d concluded the violence warranted further investigation and possibly targeted ...

U.S. President Donald Trump announced on Monday that the U.S. government has designated North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism in a move that will trigger additional economic sanctions against the rogue nation. This is the second time that North Korea has been listed as a state sponsor of ...

In the Philippines Monday, President Donald Trump will try to maintain momentum as the U.S. rebuilds its relationship with Manila amidst rising Chinese influence. Ties between the two nations endured a fracture at the end of the Obama administration, due to Duterte's draconian anti-drug policies and a demonstrated warmness toward China. However, a friendly relationship ...

The Cipher Brief spoke with David Miliband, President of the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and former British Foreign Secretary, about how the international community should tackle humanitarian crises from Syria to Afghanistan, South Sudan to Myanmar – the topic of his new book, “Rescue: Refugees and The Political Crisis of ...

U.S. President Donald Trump responded to a flamboyant welcome by Chinese President Xi Jinping with effusive praise, as the two leaders presented a united front in the face of a belligerent North Korea. However, inconsistent statements on trade and other key issues in the relationship reflect a seemingly incoherent U.S. ...

U.S. President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe both used Trump’s visit to Japan to bolster confidence in the U.S.-Japan alliance as the “cornerstone” of regional peace and security. Focus on the North Korean threat, as well as shared interests in the face of Chinese expansionism, allowed the ...

Jalalabad, AFGHANISTAN – When Donald Trump announced his administration’s strategy for Afghanistan, it was welcomed by Kabul’s leaders and other Afghan urban centers. Influential figures in politics, business, security and the media saw it as much-needed change from President Barack Obama’s stopwatch approach to the 16-year-long U.S. involvement in the ...

President Donald Trump leaves Friday for a nine-day trip to Asia, a continent that has stayed relatively free of the populism that has washed over the United States and Europe. But populist sentiment could catch fire, especially in Southeast Asia, given historic anti-democratic undertones, and trigger regional instability. Regional security ...

On Wednesday, Chinese President Xi Jinping revealed the six other members of the Standing Committee of the Politburo (PBSC) of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). The world had waited to see how the selected men might offer insight into Xi’s priorities for China – and for his own rule. Last ...

The United States must act to prevent further ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya minority group in Myanmar and hold perpetrators accountable by international sanction, lawmakers said Tuesday. “Make no mistake, atrocities are taking place in Burma. We have perpetrators who expect impunity and there’s no reason to doubt that that may in ...

CIA Director Mike Pompeo on Thursday warned North Korea may be only months away from being able to launch a nuclear-tipped missile at the United States. “They are closer now than they were five years ago. And I expect they will be closer in five months than they are today, ...