Since taking office in January, President Donald Trump has backed up the protectionist – and even isolationist – rhetoric of his campaign with concrete action. In a flurry of activity, the president has confirmed his intent not to pursue ratification of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade treaty, signed two executive ...

The presidency of Donald Trump has had a rocky start, punctuated by embarrassing personnel shakeups, sloppy messaging, and major policy changes. However, the administration has remained relatively consistent on one central economic theme, first introduced in the campaign and vigorously pursued after President Trump’s inauguration, that of “America First.” From ...

Donald Trump entered the presidency committed to improving U.S. ties with Russia, but less than three months into his term, the President says the relationship is at “an all-time low.” Trump’s comments come in the wake of last week's U.S. missile strike on Syria’s Shayrat Air Base in response to ...

President Donald Trump tweeted Tuesday that “North Korea is looking for trouble” following Pyongyang’s threat to use nuclear force against the United States.  North Korea’s official newspaper, Rodong Sinmun, said, “Our revolutionary strong army is keenly watching every move by enemy elements with our nuclear sight focused on the U.S. ...

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is in Moscow for meetings with Russian officials at a time when U.S. rhetoric toward Russia has intensified in the wake of a deadly chemical weapons attack in Syria. The U.S. launched 59 Tomahawk missiles at Syria’s Shayrat Air Base last week in response to ...

In their first summit, Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping needed to demonstrate their leadership and authority to their respective publics. President Trump needed to show he was in charge and restore momentum after a major legislative defeat over health care reform. A validation of President Xi’s ability to manage ...

At 8:40PM EDT last Thursday, as the two were wrapping up a ceremonial dinner with their families, President Donald Trump informed President Xi Jinping that the United States was concluding a cruise missile strike against a Syrian airfield involved in a chemical weapons attack against rebels earlier in the week. ...

In his first summit with U.S. President Donald Trump, Chinese President Xi Jinping offered his counterpart a Chinese calligraphy scroll with the aphorism “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Despite the lofty stakes involved in one of the world’s most important bilateral relationships, the achievements ...

The United States launched a missile strike on a Syrian air base early Friday morning, local time, in response to this week’s deadly chemical weapons attack in Idlib province. The strike marked U.S. forces’ first direct assault on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime since the country’s devastating civil war began ...

After the United States launched airstrikes against a Syrian airfield late Thursday night, The Cipher Brief reached out to Rob Richer, the former Associate Deputy Director of Operations at the Central Intelligence Agency and Cipher Brief Network Expert, to discuss the message the Trump Administration has sent to the Assad ...

U.S. President Donald Trump, in a filmed statement from his Mar-a-lago resort Thursday night – where he is currently meeting President Xi – said the strike was “in [the] vital national security interest of the U.S.,” adding that “years of previous attempts at changing Assad’s behavior have all failed.” The ...

Late on Thursday night, U.S. naval vessels stationed in the Mediterranean fired 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles at the Shayrat Syrian military air base near Homs. The strike comes in response to a deadly chemical weapons attack on Monday in the rebel-held province of Idlib, which killed over 70 people. This ...

Since at least the 1979 Iranian revolution, intelligence and national security analysts have been working hard to identify the causal factors that lead to political instability. Working hard and yet struggling. Many factors, such as high infant mortality, have been found to correlate with the onset of political instability, and ...

The metro bombing in St. Petersburg Monday and White House comments that the U.S. will do what it can to help Russia get to the bottom of the incident raise the question of future Russia-U.S. counterterrorism cooperation. The Cipher Brief’s Kaitlin Lavinder spoke with Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, a senior fellow at ...

Even by the standards of the Trump Administration’s generally rocky start, the State Department has fared badly in media reporting and insider commentary. Council on Foreign Relations President Richard Haass, on CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS program March 19, summed up the alleged litany of problems, from the huge budget cuts ...

The diversity and scope of national security challenges facing the U.S. continues to grow, asking ever more of an Intelligence Community (IC) that must stretch its resources to meet these demands. The move toward greater integration since the advent of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) has been critical to ...

Though the battle to defeat the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) in Mosul is slowly reaching its denouement, the campaign to take the jihadists’ Syrian stronghold of Raqqa has not experienced similar success. Insufficient combat-ready troops, a shortage of heavy artillery and ominous tensions between Kurds and Turks ...

The elites still don’t get it. Brexit, Trump, surging right-wing nationalism on both sides of the Atlantic; and yet time after time, the media and global leaders who helped steer the U.S. and Europe into the current morass of broken politics miss the forest for the trees in trying to ...

Since negotiations concluded for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in late 2015, observers have argued that Asian policymakers would interpret failure of the pact as a sign of America’s declining interest in the region or inability to assert leadership. Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong warned in 2015, “Failing to get ...

New rules go into effect this weekend that restrict electronic items in passenger cabins on U.S.-bound flights. The measures are being taken as a security precaution to thwart potential threats. The ban includes flights on nine international airlines operating out of 10 airports in the Middle East, North Africa and ...

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes on Wednesday said he had seen intelligence reports showing that communications of President Donald Trump’s transition team had been picked up during foreign surveillance operations. Nunes, who had been a member of Trump’s transition team, told reporters it was “incidental collection” of the communications ...

We are living in a more complex world, with more state and non-state actors demanding more of our attention.  When we actively contributed to the defeat of the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, the success of the Solidarity Movement in Poland, and the eventual demise of the Soviet Union in 1991 ...

The term “Deep State” has achieved new popularity in recent weeks, but not in reference to opaque military elites in faraway countries. Today, the term is aimed at the U.S. government itself. In particular, the deep state has become a catchall term, which credits a shadow network of spies and ...

U.S. President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel met face to face for the first time Friday during Merkel’s visit to Washington. In a joint press conference following the meeting, Merkel said she always maintained it is better to talk with each other than about each other, and “I ...

Amidst a busy week in national security, The Cipher Brief’s CEO and Publisher, Suzanne Kelly, spoke with Admiral James Stavridis, former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, author of the new book The Leader’s Bookshelf, and member of the Cipher Brief Network, to discuss the military budget, cyber security, the use ...

From the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union in 2015, to the protectionist rhetoric of U.S. President Donald Trump, the concepts of multilateralism and liberal internationalism appear increasingly under threat. The United Nations is perhaps the most visible symbol of these values, and despite its successes, its failures ...

The United Nations is at an important point in history, where growing skepticism of multilateral institutions and the current liberal international order led by the United States threatens to derail organizations like the UN. The Cipher Brief’s Kaitlin Lavinder spoke with James Cockayne, the head of the New York office ...

The United Nations is at an inflection point, with a new Secretary General, growing disbelief in multilateral institutions among members of the international community, and wavering U.S. support for the organization under the new Trump administration. A top concern right now is whether the White House will cut funding to ...

With one of the most complex systems of governance in the world, Iran finds itself at perhaps its most daunting political crossroads since the 1979 Iranian Revolution. The 77-year old Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, reportedly is in declining health and possibly nearing the end of his tenure, and several ...

In the perennial effort to deduce the likely evolution of the tumultuous relationship between the United States and Iran, all eyes today seem to be trained on Washington. This is understandable; after all, the election of Donald Trump appears to be generating a marked shift away from the Obama Administration’s ...

As the Islamic Republic readies itself for another presidential election in May 2017, now is a good time to size up the state of affairs in Iranian political leadership.  Many of the leading figures in the Islamic Republic have been major players on a national level since the 1979 revolution ...

Many U.S. policymakers have concluded that the Iranian government is an implacable enemy of the U.S. and that regime change is the only way to ultimately resolve our governments' hostility. However, developing a strategy that balances deterrence with constructive diplomacy could lead to a new, more effective path forward in ...

Despite UN resolutions and international opposition, North Korea test-launched four intermediate range ballistic missiles on Monday that reached within 200 miles of Japan. The test demonstrates not only Pyongyang’s disregard for more sanctions, but also its progress in missile technology. Besides North Korea, Russia, China, and Iran have also devoted ...

The military called it Operation Bumblebee: a secret program to develop a weapon that – like the insect – could take off vertically, change directions instantly, and deliver a painful sting. Born in the years after World War II, the U.S. Navy program aimed to create a missile that could ...

The defense authorization act signed into law in December 2016 contained an important provision mandating a review of missile defeat policy, strategy, and capability, to be completed and submitted to Congress in January 2018. This Missile Defeat Review (MDR) appears likely to serve as a successor to both the Department ...

As new questions arise about the Trump Administration’s contacts with Russian officials, one man has been caught in the political maelstrom: Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak. The most recent allegations surround Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who is said to have met with Kislyak last year —in July ...

During the 2016 U.S. presidential contest, Donald Trump was highly critical of the structure and costs of the U.S.-Japan mutual defense relationship and openly raised the possibility of a Japanese nuclear deterrent. His remarks caused substantial confusion, concern, and consternation within Japan and among U.S. supporters of the U.S.–Japan alliance, which has more typically been ...

After a presidential campaign peppered with accusations of inadequate burden-sharing by Japan in its security relationship with the United States, President Donald Trump has attempted to calm fears of a U.S. retreat from its old ally. In February, the President hosted Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the White House and ...

Japan is a nation in flux. Economically, the government is struggling to stoke growth with expansionary monetary policy and reform; demographically, it is challenged by a rapidly aging population; and strategically, the pacifist island nation is rebuilding its military in the face of perhaps the most complex regional security environment ...

U.S. President Donald Trump and his Administration have been quick to use forceful rhetoric when discussing U.S. policy towards Iran during their first five weeks in office. However, whether a strong-armed approach to Iran is in fact the most effective direction for U.S.-Iranian relations is an open question. Early on ...

U.S.-Iran tensions are likely to rise in the coming months. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear agreement between Iran and the P5+1 (United States, UK, France, Russia, China, and Germany) has been roundly criticized by President Donald Trump and others, including some lawmakers on Capitol Hill. The U.S. ...

Like it or not, the Trump Administration will have to pay attention to Iran.  The President’s pre­de­cessors, beginning in 1979, have taken multiple paths, usually with few results beyond frustration.  Unable to ignore the Islamic Republic, they tried contain­ment, regime change, and engagement.  Nothing much worked, and – with a ...

The bombastic, bleak tone from his Inaugural Address was gone. In his address to Congress Tuesday night, President Donald Trump was more optimistic, talking about “a new chapter of American greatness.” He spoke about issues he’s discussed before – jobs, healthcare, tax cuts, immigration, a renewed military, America first – ...

This year’s Munich Security Conference (February 17-19) brought together leaders from all over the world to discuss the current state of global affairs and the transatlantic defense partnership. Julianne Smith, Director of the Strategy and Statecraft Program at the Center for a New American Security, attended the conference. She spoke ...

A proliferation of external threats, including terrorism and cyber attacks, combined with a fractious European Union places Europe in a vulnerable position at the start of the new year. The Cipher Brief’s Kaitlin Lavinder sat down with former Deputy Secretary General of NATO (2012-2016) Ambassador Alexander Vershbow to discuss the ...

In 2011, former President Barack Obama and then-Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard signed a deal to base 2,500 U.S. Marines in Darwin, Australia in an effort to expand the United States’ sustained regional presence as part of the Obama Administration’s “pivot” to Asia. However, issues over cost sharing and logistics ...

U.S. Marines are being deployed to Norway and Australia, ostensibly as part of standard procedure, but also to respond to two emerging threats, Russia and China.  Marines in Oslo Norway, one of NATO’s founding members and a northern European country that shares a 122-mile border with Russia, is becoming wary ...

The U.S. this year deployed 330 Marines to Norway. The concept is nothing new; it dates back to the 2005 Oslo-Washington agreement called Marine Corps Prepositioning Program-Norway (MCPP-N). However, Karsten Friis, head of the Research Group on Security and Defence at the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs, notes it is ...

Strong-willed and innovative, at times even iconoclastic, are the words being used to describe President Donald Trump’s choice for National Security Advisor, Lieutenant General H.R. McMaster, who replaces Lieutenant General Mike Flynn. The Cipher Brief spoke with members of our network who have worked with McMaster and know him well ...

In the wake of retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn’s resignation as National Security Advisor on Monday over his communications with the Russian Ambassador to the U.S., President Donald Trump is considering three former military officers to replace Flynn. This follows a notable pattern of the new president’s reliance on retired ...