Russia‘s military engagement in Syria reflects Vladimir Putin’s obsession with reasserting his nation’s influence in the Middle East and establishing superpower parity with the U.S. This policy, however, also has important domestic implications for dealing with instability in the nation’s most troublesome region, the North Caucasus. Russia’s history in the ...

The Paris attacks last year bought home that ISIL intends to terrorise all those who oppose the group, wherever they may be.  Outside the Syria and Iraq environs, ISIL strives for evermore spectacular attacks with ever more shocking outcomes.  The 130 dead in Paris came just after 228 (mainly Russians) ...

The Cipher Brief spoke with Mark Kelton, former Deputy Director of the National Clandestine Service for Counterintelligence at the CIA, about the possible ceasefire deal in Syria. According to Kelton, Russia ended up with the “better of the deal” and Moscow will continue to conduct military operations in Syria until ...

At a time when the world’s attention is focused on terrorist bombings and beheadings, as well as the fighting in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan, little notice is being paid to a mini-revival of the superpowers’ nuclear arms race. Five decades ago, that arms race led to Moscow and Washington spending ...

For seven of the last eight years, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has topped Forbes’ list of the world’s most powerful women.  Last year, she was a nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize and TIME Magazine’s “Person of the Year.”  But in the final hours of 2015, sexual attacks on women ...

Russia, seemingly at will, ramps up the pressure in Ukraine. And it looks as if another uptick is underway. So far, the West has yet to show it has the resolve to end the Russian aggression. At the annual Munich Security Conference in Germany this weekend, international monitors indicated there ...

Closely supported by Russian air power and artillery, Syrian army attacks against rebel forces near Aleppo, Syria coincide with a significant intensification of fighting in eastern Ukraine, with the largest number of daily attacks by the Russian-separatist forces since August 2015. There have been heavy attacks all across the front ...

Following the Euromaidan revolution, Ukraine is engaged in a two-pronged fight that integrates domestic and foreign components. The first battle is Russia’s desire to dismember Ukraine, halt its European integration, and return it to the Russkii Mir (Russian World) sphere of influence. The second battle is to begin to effectively ...

The Cipher Brief reached out to General Jack Keane to get his thoughts on the Syrian ceasefire agreement announced on February 12. Keane dismissed the significance of the deal, characterizing it as “total subterfuge.”  The Cipher Brief: What’s your take on the Syrian ceasefire agreement?  General Jack Keane: Unless there ...

From Russia’s reemergence as a top U.S. adversary to Iran’s reentry into the global market place, the 2016 national security landscape is fraught with challenges and opportunities guaranteed to impact industry, government, and their intersection. Looming questions—Will China cooperate on cyber security? What wider impact will Venezuela’s economic collapse have ...

The Caucuses region is simmering with tension, and, due to its strategic geographic location and Caspian energy markets, the international community cannot afford to let the situation boil over. Lying in between Russia, Turkey, and Iran, the Caucasus is a politically and ethnically diverse region.  In the North are the ...

For two decades, hundreds of Russian citizens have become victims of terrorism rooted in the turbulent North Caucasus region of Russia. This area has also been a major source of fighters for different radical Islamic groups in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and beyond.    Several developments contributed to the radicalization of ...

The situation in the Russian North Caucasus has been complex for over 25 years now. A host of economic and social reasons, as well as the relations between this region and the federal authorities, and the mistakes made by both federal and regional politicians, have all contributed to the problem. ...

The Islamic State (ISIS) is the “preeminent global” threat and remains determined to execute direct attacks against the U.S. homeland, the top U.S. intelligence official told Senators at the annual Worldwide Threats hearings on Tuesday. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said ISIS “leaders are determined to strike the U.S. ...

Space may be infinite, but it’s starting to get crowded around Earth. As more nations have gained the ability to send assets into orbit, a new space race has started to emerge. But rather than focus on merely reaching space, the goal now is to leverage dominance in space into ...

One sign of how important space is to military operations, particularly U.S. military operations, is that the countries who are our most likely military opponents, particularly China and Russia, are investing tens of millions of dollars in a range of technologies intended to degrade or destroy satellites and space capabilities.  ...

The United States has enjoyed unchallenged dominance in the space domain for years, but it appears that time has come to an end. China has been increasing its space activities, which will have strategic consequences for the U.S. The Cipher Brief spoke with Bruce MacDonald, a former White House National Security ...

“The important thing to know about an assassination,” Eric Ambler wrote in A Coffin for Dimitrios, “is not who fired the shot, but who paid for the bullet.” I was reminded of that line as I read retired British High Court Judge Robert Owen’s report on the 2006 murder of ...

On November 30, 2015, on the sidelines of the United Nation COP21 Climate Change Summit in Paris, the Presidents of Peru and Russia signed an agreement establishing a strategic partnership. The accompanying joint declaration included expanded cooperation in defense, counternarcotic activities, development, next year’s Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in ...

Through hybrid warfare and the Gerasimov Doctrine, Russia is increasingly blurring the lines between war and peace, business and crime.  Russia’s involvement in Latin America is starting to follow a similar course. Douglas Farah, President of IBI Consultants, explains why he does not believe Russia’s presence in Latin America is ...

As a native Costa Rican and Professor of political science, Constantino Urcuyo Fournier has a unique perspective into Russia’s increasing involvement in Latin America.  As opposed to China’s growing economic activity in the region, Urcuyo Fournier says Russia is building strategic relationships to irritate the U.S., but he warns the ...

With global attention focused on Russia’s role in the Syria quagmire, the media is barely covering Vladimir Putin's aggressive maneuvers in Ukraine, let alone his foreign policy in America’s own backyard—Latin America. Since Putin came to power, he has attempted to restore Russia’s superpower status around the world, especially in ...

The legacy of the Cold War has left many enduring images in the minds of most Americans, images that are usually associated with Russia and its nuclear arsenal.    But a key threat, from what many believe is the new Cold War, could very well be from Russian hackers. When listing ...

For years, I slept fitfully after a “friend” told me that it wasn’t the noisy mosquitos buzzing in my ears at night that were a problem.  Instead, it was the female mosquitos that made no noise at all but laid eggs in your ears at night.  That image wrecked my ...

Scott Kessler and Eric Rachner are the co-founders of Secure Senses Inc, which provides human intelligence-based cybersecurity services. In an interview with the Cipher Brief, they indicated that “hacking as a service” is on the rise in the Russian hacker community, and that the scale of the problem this represents ...

The Russian government is considered to be one of the most advanced cyber actors globally, with highly sophisticated cyber capabilities on par with the other major cyber powers. Open source information about Russian cyber programs and funding is scarce, but an ultimate goal of the government is to gain information ...

President Vladimir Putin opened his marathon year-ender news conference in December with comments on the state of the Russian economy, and immediately began coughing. Some political observers noted that Mr. Putin tends to cough when he’s uncomfortable about something. If so, he had plenty to be nervous about. His number ...

World political leaders have gathered in Paris this week to negotiate a new universal climate change agreement. There is a need for unified commitment from national governments to cut greenhouse emissions to avoid the catastrophic effects of global warming and climate change. According to the Fifth Assessment Report by the ...

In 2014, 19.3 million people were forced to leave their houses and were displaced within their countries due mostly to floods and storms but also to earthquakes and volcano eruptions—almost twice as many as those newly displaced by violent conflicts. Evidence shows that climate change is leading to human mobility ...

Less than a month after the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris, leaders from 150 nations have convened in the French capital to discuss ways to reduce the effects of climate change on a global scale. The conference is the largest gathering ever of world leaders. The goal of the historic, ...

One of the critical adverse effects of climate change is the impact it will have on water in terms of both quantity and quality. Marcus King, a former negotiator for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, told The Cipher Brief, competition for water resources is likely to lead to ...

There are several considerations to keep in mind when assessing the sustainability of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s leadership: his sense of paranoia, his nostalgia for the influence Russia used to hold globally as a superpower, and his desire for “stability” in Russia.  Significantly, the popularity of these aspects of Putin’s ...

To say the relationship is frosty would probably be an understatement.  Formal meetings between U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin are few and far between, and when they do happen, both men appear tense and uncomfortable.   Most of their contact comes at the sidelines of international gatherings ...

The immediate aftermath of the heinous attacks on the French capital by the Islamic State Group has, perhaps, opened the possibility for a rapprochement between the United States and Russia. On the ‘sidelines’ of the G20 summit in Antalya, Turkey, U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin had ...

The Russian government accused Human Rights Center Memorial, the country’s leading human rights organization, of plotting against the regime. The brazen accusation came in mid-November after three and a half years of the Kremlin’s staggering crackdown on critics of the government. Memorial has been a target all along, but this ...

Last month, our Network weighed in on the situation in Syria, making the case for increased American involvement in the conflict. One of our contributors, Rob Dannenberg, a former head of security for Goldman Sachs, explained Putin’s decision to intervene in Syria. This month, we pick up that conversation with ...

A fifty-year veteran of American intelligence recently told me how once, as a young officer, he had blurted out that a situation he had been reporting on was so bad that it could hardly get any worse.  One of his mentors quietly stared at him and then observed, "It can ...

A fifty-year veteran of American intelligence recently told me how once, as a young officer, he had blurted out that a situation he had been reporting on was so bad that it could hardly get any worse.  One of his mentors quietly stared at him and then observed, "It can ...

There has been no shortage of speculation about the motives behind Russia’s recent military deployment to Syria following the September 28 meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Barack Obama at the United Nations General Assembly session in New York. Most of the commentary, however, has failed to ...

The recent infusion of Russian weapons and other military materiel into Syria has gotten the chattering class in Washington in a tizzy. "Inside-the-Beltway" policy experts, as a chorus, are now calling for the U.S. and other Western powers to include Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in any talks about a non-military ...

The global oil industry is going through a lesson in Economics 101:  When supply increases, prices go down.  Crude oil prices are currently hovering around $45 per barrel, a 65 percent reduction from a summer 2014 peak at over $100 per barrel.  A surplus in crude oil supply has kept ...

The business and geopolitical history of the 20th century was written in oil…black gold…Texas tea. Indeed, the need to secure abundant energy supplies has been an essential plot line of international relations ever since the Industrial Revolution. Some historians argue, for example, that the expansion of the British Empire was ...

In the seven months since arriving on the throne, new Saudi King Salman has brought fundamental changes to the Saudi power line-up and to succession politics.  Beneath the surface of the royal shake up, however, Saudi Arabia is also having to contend with trends in the global oil market that ...

Global oil markets are in flux.  Significant price swings—from triple digits to double digits, back and forth, over the past decade—are an indication of a systemic imbalance.  In a sector with few ready substitutes, this introduces new risks and heightens security concerns, with ramifications worldwide for the oil industry, oil ...

CIPHER SNAPSHOT: President Barack Obama recently visited the Arctic region to bring attention to the effects climate change is already having in Alaska. The president also addressed a State Department conference with members of the Artic Council, whose members include Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United ...

President Obama’s visit earlier this month to Alaska focused attention on the Arctic region’s growing geopolitical and geo-economic importance, not to mention its ecological significance during a period of climate change. Although Obama’s visit and the sail-by of Chinese naval ships drew lots of immediate attention, the significance of the ...

As the ice continues to melt at the top of the world, climate change is altering more than global weather patterns. The opening up of Arctic waters as summer sea ice continues a thirty-year retreat trend could cut a third off distances between North-West Europe and the Far East. With ...

The Cipher Brief spoke with Dr. James Henderson of the Oxford Institute to get his thoughts on the energy potential of the Arctic.  The Cipher Brief: What are your thoughts on the energy potential of the Arctic?  James Henderson: The potential resource base of hydrocarbons in the Arctic is very ...

President Barack Obama toured Alaska this week to bring more attention to the effects climate change has had on the Arctic region. President Obama, the first sitting U.S. president to visit the Arctic, addressed the U.S.’s role in climate change, saying “the United States recognizes our role in creating this ...

President Barack Obama will be the first sitting U.S. President to visit Alaska’s Arctic region when he begins a three day trip to the state on Monday to discuss an aggressive response to climate change. “I’m looking forward to talking with Alaskans about how we can work together to make ...