“Mr. Sessions, are you familiar with what spies call tradecraft?” Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR) asked Attorney General Jeff Sessions in June. “A little bit,” replied Sessions. “Do you like spy fiction: John le Carre, Daniel Silva, Jason Matthews?” Cotton continued, finally asking, “have you ever, in any of these fantastical ...

President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin’s first meeting later this week comes against the backdrop of a cyberattack thought to be linked to Russia that largely wreaked havoc in Ukraine. This latest cyberattack, which spread globally, offers yet another potent example of the way the Kremlin has treated ...

Ray Mabus, who was navy secretary during both Obama Administrations and held that post longer than anyone since World War I, discussed innovation in the Navy – such as the use of green technologies – and the importance of public-private partnerships Thursday at The Cipher Brief’s annual Threat Conference in ...

Retired Admiral James Stavridis believes the Trump Administration fails to recognize the importance of our oceans.  In his new book Sea Power: The History and Geopolitics of the World’s Oceans, Stavridis is troubled by the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate accord and a proposed budget that boosts military spending, ...

Ray Mabus, who was navy secretary during both Obama Administrations and held that post longer than anyone since World War I, discussed innovation in the Navy – such as the use of green technologies – and the importance of public-private partnerships Thursday at The Cipher Brief’s annual Threat Conference in ...

Former CIA Acting Director Michael Morell on Thursday warned against the pressing threat of North Korea, suggesting that the country may have the capability to put a nuclear weapon on the continental U.S. “It’s a current threat, not a future threat,” Morell told attendees of The Cipher Brief’s Annual Threat Conference ...

Last Sunday, a U.S. Navy F/A-18E fighter jet shot down a Syrian government SU-22 bomber in the U.S. military’s first air-to-air kill involving manned aircraft since the 1999 Kosovo campaign. In response, the Russian Ministry of Defense has condemned the incident as “a cynical violation of the sovereignty of the ...

After a U.S. Navy F/A-18E shot down a Syrian SU-22 bomber on Sunday, the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs quickly condemned the action, announced that a military hotline between U.S.-led coalition and Russian forces had been shut down, and declared that any U.S. jets flying west of the Euphrates river ...

On June 18, a U.S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet shot down a Syrian Air Force Su-22 fighter bomber near the town of al-Tabqa in eastern Syria.  According to coalition sources, the Syrian aircraft had bombed anti-Assad militias fighting Islamic State forces in the region and was shot down as part ...

High level United States-China talks concluded Wednesday with the U.S. pressing China “to exert much greater economic and diplomatic pressure” on North Korea to end its nuclear weapons program, Washington’s top security threat. Looming large on the eve of the first U.S.-China Diplomatic and Security Dialogue was a CNN report ...

There is no adjective to which I have a greater aversion than “unprecedented.” Such language is most often intended to describe challenges more daunting than anyone has previously faced or circumstances not akin to anything seen in the past.  In truth, there are very few challenges that cannot benefit from ...

President Donald Trump today announced a rollback to the Obama-era opening to Cuba in a speech at the Manuel Artime Theater in Miami’s Little Havana. “Effective immediately I am canceling the previous administration's one-sided deal with Cuba,” he said. The Obama-era deal opened diplomatic relations between the two Cold War ...

The FBI is investigating why a gunman opened fire Wednesday on Republican lawmakers at a congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia, wounding four people including a senior lawmaker. The shooter — identified by the FBI as James Hodgkinson, a 66-year-old Illinois man — was fatally shot by police who were ...

In a recent op-ed, National Security Advisor General H. R. McMaster and National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn proclaim a basic fact of world politics as they see it: “The world is not a ‘global community,’ but an arena where nations, nongovernmental actors and businesses engage and compete for advantage.” This ...

Romanian President Klaus Iohannis is in Washington today meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump.  Romania, a member of NATO, is a key strategic partner of the U.S., hosting a U.S. missile defense site.  But the eastern European nation also sits in a precarious location along the Black Sea, where the ...

U.S. policymakers seeking an end to North Korea’s nuclear program often point to Beijing’s leverage over Pyongyang as the key to securing a binding disarmament agreement and peace on the Korean peninsula. However, China’s key interests are maintaining stability along its shared border with North Korea and limiting U.S. military ...

Ambassador Fu Ying, Beijing’s veteran diplomat, said last month that her country had “no leverage” over North Korea unless China addressed Pyongyang’s security concerns. Whether China addresses those concerns or not, its leverage over Pyongyang is, in a word, overwhelming. The trend of thinking these days, both inside and outside ...

Pyongyang has responded to the UN Security Council’s unanimous decision June 2 to expand sanctions for North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs by lashing out, not only at the United States but also at China. “[The U.S. and China] railroaded ‘sanctions resolution’ at the [UN Security Council] after having ...

When SpaceX successfully launched the National Reconnaissance Office's NROL-76 into orbit last month from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and recovered the rocket's first stage, it marked the commercial space launch company’s first successful delivery in a series of top secret satellite launch contracts for the U.S. Air Force. ...

A populist wave is washing over the United States and Europe, which have seen populist leaders take the helm – U.S. President Donald Trump – or come exceedingly close to power. Geert Wilders’ Dutch populist Party for Freedom is strong, French National Front leader Marine Le Pen went face to ...

What is the definition of populism? What are the common threads that tie together populist movements? Does populism work? The Cipher Brief’s Kaitlin Lavinder spoke with Carmen Medina, a former CIA Deputy Director of Intelligence, about how she defines and evaluates populism, and how, in some ways, it’s related to ...

The upsurge of populism in the United States and Europe has us asking the wrong questions. The issue that should concern us is not what populists have in common. The similarities between Donald Trump and Marine Le Pen or Nigel Farage are unimportant. We also should stop wondering why voters ...

U.S. President Donald Trump shook the post-war foundation of German foreign policy: its integration into the European Union (EU) and NATO. By questioning Pax Americana and trying to divide and conquer Europe, Trump has been forcing European – and particularly German – leaders to stand up for their vital interests. ...

Donald Trump’s interactions with our European Allies and his renunciation of the Paris Climate Accords have left our Allies baffled and startled.  Faced with “America First” their reaction is to look after themselves.  Unfortunately for both President Trump and the Europeans, we’re stuck with each other.    More than anything ...

Graham Allison's ominously titled Destined for War fulfills an implied promise made by his seminal Atlantic magazine article 18 months ago. That article was labeled The Thucydides Trap: Are the US and China Headed for War? and indeed the ancient Greek historian's warnings permeate both that article and the current ...

Today Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc will become the first ASEAN leader to visit the White House under the Trump administration. The meeting is a part of his first official trip to the U.S. after more than a year holding the premiership. Phuc’s visit continues a series of high-level ...

The small East African country of Djibouti – which sits on the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait, a gateway to the Suez Canal and a shipping chokepoint in the sea lanes connecting Africa with the Middle East and India – hosts seven foreign militaries. The U.S. and China are now neighbors, and Saudi ...

China is constructing its first overseas military base just a few miles from one of the United States’ largest and most important foreign bases -- Camp Lemonnier in the small East African nation of Djibouti.  Five other nations have put up bases there, and Saudi Arabia will soon join them.  ...

What’s the outcome of President Trump’s trip last week to the Middle East? I’ll focus mainly on what may be the after effects of the first days of his trip in Saudi Arabia, where he was treated like a visiting potentate. “The House of Saud played Donald Trump like a ...

After violence broke out between white nationalist protestors and counter-protestors in Charlottesville, Virginia over the planned removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, a 20-year old man from Ohio drove his vehicle into a crowd, killing one counter-protestor and injuring several others. The echoes of a terrorist tactic the ...

Editor's Note: For this year’s Memorial Day feature, The Cipher Brief revisits its coverage examining the future of U.S. aircraft carriers.  Some planners advocate building smaller carriers that could employ many U.S. Navy supercarriers’ capabilities at less cost. With the right aircraft, a light carrier could undertake long-range strike, counter-air ...

Editor's Note: For this year’s Memorial Day feature, The Cipher Brief revisits its coverage examining the future of U.S. aircraft carriers. America’s largest warships have grown in size and cost, but also capability over the decades, and the new Ford-class promises to raise the bar on all three of those ...

Editor's Note: For this year’s Memorial Day feature, The Cipher Brief revisits its coverage examining the future of U.S. aircraft carriers.  As I write, the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson is steaming toward the Korean Peninsula—finally.  It does so at a time—as happens about once or twice per ...

President Donald Trump's first overseas visit was "Trumpist" in its ambitions, ambiance, and expanse: the three monotheistic religions, NATO, EU, and G-7 gatherings; a whirlwind of cultural experiences; and "finally Make America Great Again" with commercial and arms sales, investments, and gestures. But the core of the visit was reassurance ...

On May 9, Moon Jae-in was elected as the new President of South Korea after six months of political turmoil and a power vacuum caused by Park Geun-hye’s impeachment scandal. This is a return of nationalistic and progressive leadership after the past two conservative administrations, and Moon’s landslide victory indicates ...

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, after last year’s U.S. election, was quick to meet with President Donald Trump to seek reassurance on the strength of the U.S.-Japan alliance and find areas of economic cooperation after Trump’s rejection of the Trans-Pacific Partnership – seen as necessary for Japan’s economic revitalization. Tokyo ...

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Washington last week to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump. Despite budding tensions over the Trump administration’s decision to arm the Kurdish YPG (Peoples’ Protection Units) militia in Syria, which Erdogan considers to be a terrorist organization, the meeting largely went off without a ...

Former CIA Director John Brennan for the first time publicly said he is concerned about possible ties between Russia and members of the Trump campaign. “I encountered and am aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and U.S. persons involved in the Trump campaign ...

When it comes to Russia, is President Trump following his own guideline, America First, and if not, why? The infamous May 10 Oval Office meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Ambassador Sergei Kislyak provided another example of the odd way Trump avoids being critical of Moscow. I am ...

The situation between the US and North Korea remains tenuous and characterized by uncertainty. North Korea’s cancellation of the upcoming summit with South Korea over the recent US/South Korean joint military exercises underscores the fragile nature of the proposed talks between the two countries. While the United States Department of ...

Scrutiny over President Donald Trump’s relationship with Russia heightened this week as former FBI Director Robert Mueller was selected as special counsel to lead the inquiry into Russian influence on last year’s presidential election. It comes as the FBI and Congress continue their separate investigations into Russia’s meddling in the ...

On the night of March 10, 2004, Deputy Attorney General James Comey and FBI Director Robert Mueller sped to George Washington University Hospital and stopped two of President George W. Bush’s aides from getting the signature of Attorney General John Ashcroft, gravely ill, on a legally dubious National Security Agency ...

The Trump Administration plans to cut the U.S. contribution to United Nations peacekeeping by $1 billion, from its current level of $2.2 billion, as part of a broader effort by the White House to make other nations contribute their fair share in supporting what it considers bloated international institutions. The ...

The effectiveness of UN peacekeeping is inherently difficult to measure. With the Trump Administration proposing cuts to foreign aid that would impact UN peacekeeping missions, The Cipher Brief’s Kaitlin Lavinder asked Peter Yeo, President of the Better World Campaign and Vice President for Public Policy and Advocacy at the United ...

UN peacekeeping is rarely headline news, but when the Trump Administration announced in March that it was seeking to make cuts of $1 billion in funding for UN peacekeeping, the announcement attracted wide attention. The United States has agreed to contribute $2.2 billion toward the cost of UN peacekeeping activities ...

President Donald Trump is defending his "absolute right" to share information for "humanitarian reasons" with Russia following a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Russian Ambassador to the U.S. Sergey Kislyak last week. In a series of tweets on Tuesday, Trump said he had shared "facts pertaining to ...

North Korea’s successful launch of the road-mobile intermediate range Hwasong-12 missile on Sunday yet again demonstrated the Kim Jong-un regime’s perseverance and improving technical acumen in developing ballistic missiles that can carry nuclear warheads. The missile had a 30-minute flight time and reached an altitude of more than 1300 miles. ...

For decades, North Korea’s continued advancements in ballistic missile technology has sustained U.S. interest in missile defense that can protect the U.S. homeland from nuclear-tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles. The Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system is the Pentagon’s solution for targeting and destroying long-range missiles outside of the Earth’s atmosphere. Though ...

President Trump’s first trip overseas beginning Friday will test his ability to stay on script, limit impulsive, off-hand, public remarks, and stop controversial tweeting, all of which have caused him trouble here at home and abroad. The schedule will take him first to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, where he will meet ...

Imagine the middle of nowhere Alaska. Got that in your head? Great. Now drive 2½  hours further into nowhere and you have arrived at Fort Greeley. I visited in the fall of 2015. It was cold out there—a wet, bitter cold.  It’s also slightly eerie. The absolutely enormous ravens all ...