As NATO members meet in London this week, The Cipher Brief tapped former NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe (SACEUR), Admiral James Stavridis (Ret.) to help cut through some of the rhetoric and understand the Alliance’s strategic importance today to both the U.S. and its allies. The Cipher Brief:  What's your ...

Bottom Line Up Front NATO countries gathered this week to celebrate the alliance’s 70th anniversary amidst growing uncertainty over the institution’s future. In a recent interview, French President Emmanuel Macron lamented that ‘what we are currently experiencing is the brain death of NATO.’ NATO has been criticized as an anachronism, ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Senior U.S. officials have inexplicably parroted statements echoing the Kremlin’s talking points that Russia was a victim of a Ukrainian smear campaign. In a display of remarkably careless operations security, American government officials regularly communicated on unsecured lines in heavily-monitored counter-intelligence environments with little concern ...

OPINION -- Donald Trump as president displays weakness toward those he envies as strong foreign leaders, while he acts like a bully toward leaders he considers less powerful than himself.  Those contrasting natures were on full display last Wednesday. At the same time Trump was offering unwarranted concessions to Turkish ...

   Bottom Line Up Front Russia has extended its global disinformation campaign to Africa, where it seeks to promote pro-Russian and anti-Western attitudes through propaganda. After each disinformation campaign, Moscow assesses its efforts and then tweaks tactics accordingly, adapting to new countermeasures as necessary. This campaign was centered in and ...

This week, Russia test-fired an intercontinental ballistic missile from its new nuclear submarine, as Facebook says Moscow is stepping up its efforts to spread disinformation in Africa.  That’s just this week.  Going back a few more days, U.S. and British officials say Russian hackers piggy-backed on an Iranian spy operation ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Earlier in the week, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi, Russia, where the two leaders negotiated the contours of a post-American Syria. While Moscow is one of the clear winners of the U.S. troop withdrawal from Syria, there ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Facebook recently announced that it identified and disabled Russian and Iranian disinformation campaigns operating on its platform. The proliferation of bots, fake accounts, and malign disinformation campaigns by state and non-state actors alike is expected to increase significantly in the run up to the 2020 ...

  Bottom Line Up Front As the United States continues its hasty withdrawal from Syria, Russia has consolidated immense leverage in the country. Acting as Assad’s air force, Russia has helped to reverse the regime’s territorial losses, committing war crimes by targeting civilians and hospitals. Given the recent U.S. withdrawal ...

REVIEW: Information Wars: How We Lost the Global Battle Against Disinformation and What We Can Do About It by Richard Stengel Reviewed by Cindy L. Otis Cindy L. Otis served in the CIA as a military analyst, intelligence briefer, and manager in the Directorate of Intelligence. While at the CIA, ...

OPINION -- President Donald Trump’s decision to remove the small contingent of United States troops remaining in Syria is a disaster on multiple levels. It illustrates not only his reckless instincts on foreign policy but also the near-total absence of a process for making momentous decisions in his administration. For process, Trump’s style ...

The White House announced Sunday that President Trump will endorse a Turkish military operation near the border with Syria that will target Kurdish forces.  Turkey sees the forces as a terrorist insurgency but many of those forces fight alongside the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (S.D.F.) battling ISIS in the region. ...

The U.S. has issued new economic sanctions against seven individuals linked to a Russian internet troll factory.  The sanctions were announced Monday with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo calling them a warning to foreigners seeking to interfere in U.S. elections. The U.S. Government is bolstering its efforts to defend voting ...

BOOK REVIEW: The Compatriots: The Brutal and Chaotic History of Russia’s Exiles, Emigres, and Agents Abroad By Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan Reviewed by Joseph W. Augustyn Joseph W. Augustyn is a 28 year-year veteran of the CIA’s Directorate of Operations, and once served as the Director of the Defector Resettlement ...

  Bottom Line Up Front On the heels of its suspension from the U.S. F-35 fighter jet program, Turkey is now reportedly considering joint development of its own fighter jet with Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin seized the suspension as an opportunity for Russia to capitalize on Turkey’s rift with ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Upcoming Russian-Iranian naval drills put Moscow clearly on the side of Tehran in the crisis unfolding between the United States and Iran. The Trump administration’s policy of 'maximum pressure’ will continue to drive Iran closer to U.S. adversaries and critics, particularly Russia. The emerging Iranian-Russian ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Early this week, the G7 countries concluded several days of meetings in Biarritz, France. U.S. President Donald Trump has been clear about his desire that Russia be readmitted into the group, although European leaders have taken a harder line. Europe has continued to demonstrate crucial ...

As the Group of Seven (G7) leaders meet in the French coastal town of Biarritz this weekend, the issue of recent Russian behavior will most certainly be discussed.  A series of global leaders rebuffed a statement earlier this week from President Trump, who said that it would be “appropriate” for ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Turkey’s Defense Ministry claims that earlier this week, a Turkish convoy was bombed in Idlib province in northwest Syria. There have been ongoing clashes between Assad’s regime and fighters from the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA). Idlib, the last rebel stronghold in Syria, is a ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Given Russia's relentless disinformation campaigns, several European countries have accelerated efforts to prepare their populations for this threat. While successful examples of promoting resilience to disinformation are rare, Finland, Sweden, and Denmark have made strides to help inoculate their populations. Given Russian meddling in the ...

When the President said this week that U.S. intelligence agencies have ‘run amok’, he was offering the statement in part to explain why he was nominating John Ratcliffe as the next Director of National Intelligence.  The President told reporters “I think we need somebody like that in there.  We need ...

  Bottom Line Up Front:  The success of Russia’s meddling in 2016 U.S. election ensures that Moscow will employ similar disinformation efforts as 2020 approaches. Indicating the severity of the threat, DNI Dan Coats recently announced the creation of the federal government's first 'election threats executive.' Both governments and private ...

  Bottom Line Up Front As it becomes more evident that Venezuelan strongman Nicolas Maduro will remain in power, the Trump administration seems to have cooled on the idea of regime change in Venezuela. Given Russia’s intervention to bolster Maduro, and increasing tensions with Iran in the Persian Gulf occupying ...

Bottom Line Up Front Last week, President Trump announced that the U.S. would be deploying an additional 1,000 troops to Poland. The deployment is reflective of the changing nature of U.S. alliances in Europe, with non-traditional allies growing much closer to the U.S. over the past two decades. The current ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Although they are on the same side in the conflict in Syria, Russia and Iran each maintain their own priorities beyond propping up the Assad regime. Russia and Iran have expended massive resources to carve out their own long-term spheres of influence in Syria and ...

President Trump took to Twitter this week, tweeting, "Hearing word that Russia, Syria and, to a lesser extent, Iran, are bombing the hell out of Idlib Province in Syria, and indiscriminately killing many innocent civilians. The World is watching this butchery. What is the purpose, what will it get you? ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Last week, members of the Afghan Taliban along with Afghan politicians and power brokers met in Moscow to discuss the contours of a potential peace deal for the war-ravaged country. Representing the Taliban was one of the group’s original co-founders, Abdul Ghani Baradar, who offered ...

  Bottom Line Up Front: On May 19, 2019, a prison riot in Vakhdat, Tajikistan, left 29 people dead, including supporters of the so-called Islamic State. Allegedly orchestrated by militants, government information about the riot is limited and leaves many questions unanswered. Tajikistan has seen an uptick in jihadist-inspired violence ...

Bottom Line Up Front The Syrian government and its Russian and Iranian allies are making moves to retake Idlib from the last remaining pocket of rebel fighters holed up in the province. A combination of Russian airpower and Syrian Army ground forces have moved aggressively to retake sections of southwestern ...

WEEKEND EXTRA -- What did U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo really get out of last week’s talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian President Vladimir Putin? Unlike some other Cipher Brief Experts, Steven Hall,  former member of the CIA’s Senior Intelligence Service,  makes the case for why the ...

  Bottom Line Up Front After the well-documented Russian disinformation and influence campaign in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, some elements of the U.S. government and defense establishment are taking significant steps to prevent a similar event in 2020. After successfully thwarting online influence operations prior to the 2018 U.S. ...

Tuesday’s meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov covered a wide range of issues, including arms control, the situation in Venezuela, Iran, North Korea, Syria, to name a few.  The Cipher Brief reached out to expert, Robert Dannenberg, a 24-year veteran of the ...

Tuesday’s meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Russia's Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in Sochi, Russia, was the result of a recent phone call between U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.  According to Lavrov, both heads of state directed to their subordinates to intensify the ...

OPINION -- There was a flurry of arms control talk after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the Trump administration is “at the very beginning of conversations about renewing” the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START).  He made the comments during testimony April 10, before the Senate ...

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is expected to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov this week in Russia. The talks are expected to focus on the situation in Venezuela as opposition leaders Juan Guaido continues efforts to oust Nicolas Maduro.  State Department officials said ...

Recent Russian activities around the world are signaling a resurgent Russia, one that wants to shake up a world order that has existed for seven decades, according to Cipher Brief expert and Former Vice Chief of Staff, U.S. Army, General Jack Keane (Ret.).    General Keane was one of three ...

There are multiple international dynamics at play in Venezuela this week, particularly between the U.S., which is supporting the uprising of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido, and Russia, a supporter of the government of Nicolas Maduro.  Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made a strong and unusually public allegation this week ...

Thursday’s expected summit between DPRK Chairman Kim Jong Un and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Vladivostok, Russia follows on the heels of President Donald Trump’s second summit with the North Korean leader in Vietnam that ended without an agreement between the two leaders on denuclearization. Kim may have achieved a ...

OPINION -- At almost every crucial moment in the Mueller report, President Donald J. Trump is recorded having expressed concerns to advisors that reports of Russia’s election interference might lead the public to question the legitimacy of his election. The legitimacy of Trump’s election should be questioned and investigated. “The ...

The Cipher Brief's 'Academic Incubator' column features analysis and observations by current and recent students associated with national security-focused academic programs.  Earlier this month, the commander of the Libyan National Army (LNA), Khalifa Haftar, ordered his troops to march on the capitol Tripoli, which is held by the UN-backed Government ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Turkey’s ruling AKP party is asking for a full recount in the mayoral election in Istanbul, making accusations of ‘wide-spread crimes.’ Defeats for the AKP in the nation-wide elections demonstrate that despite Erdogan’s attempt to consolidate power, there remains a very credible political opposition across ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Vladimir Putin has consolidated Russian power in Moscow’s near abroad and traditional sphere of influence. The Kremlin has also made moves to increase the country’s influence in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia. More recently, Russia has expanded its reach to Latin America ...

  Bottom Line Up Front: On 19 March in a surprise move, Kazakhstan’s President Nursultan Nazarbayev resigned during a public television announcement. Nazarbayev’s resignation is strategic and designed to ensure a stable future for his country by promoting a smooth political transition. Russia and China each have a vested interest ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Time favors strongman regimes, as leaders alternate between stalling tactics, physical violence and belated promises of reform to attenuate protesters’ momentum. Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika announced that he would not run for a fifth term, instead postponing elections originally scheduled for next month. Widespread protests ...

  Bottom Line Up Front Even though President Trump decided to keep a residual force of U.S. troops in Syria, it will not be enough to counter Russia and Iran. The U.S. will keep as few as several hundred troops in Syria, mostly around al-Tanf, focused on intelligence, surveillance, and ...

The debate on cyber conflict has gotten so locked into deterrence, escalation, coercion, and signaling we pundits often forget that conflict is sometimes straightforward and you just have to stop adversaries from punching you. This ought to be the main lesson from Ellen Nakashima’s article that U.S. Cyber Command disrupted ...

  Bottom Line Upfront Earlier this month, fourteen armed groups from Central African Republic agreed to a peace agreement following talks in Khartoum, Sudan. The Central African Republic has been devastated by instability and widespread ethnic conflict since 2013 following a coup that same year. Government control does not extend ...

BOOK REVIEW: Putin's World: Russia Against the West and With the Rest By Angela Stent Reviewed by Cipher Brief expert, Michael Sulick Vladimir Putin, enormously popular in Russia yet reviled in the West, avidly courting, and courted, by other nations, has become one of the most studied – and most ...

Bottom Line: In the digital age, determining the origins of cyberattacks is already difficult, but cyber actors can further muddy attribution by diverting blame for attacks to others. The intention is not necessarily to trick intelligence services – who are able to access information beyond technical forensics of the hack ...

  Bottom Line Up Front On January 28, intelligence officials warned of a Sino-Russian entente, with China and Russia more closely aligned than at any point in decades. A strengthened Moscow-Beijing axis poses serious security challenges to the West in general and to the United States in particular. The Sino-Russian ...