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  • Author: Seth G. Jones
  • Publication Date: 03-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: One of the most significant—and most disturbing—aspects of the Mueller report is the confirmation that Russia attempted to influence the 2016 election, based on the Special Counsel’s exhaustive collection and review of intelligence. This campaign by a foreign adversary represents a serious threat to U.S. national security and is reminiscent of Moscow’s actions during the Cold War. As this CSIS Brief highlights, Moscow has long conducted an “active measures” campaign against the United States, including trying to manipulate U.S. domestic politics. U.S. policymakers now need a forceful response to Russia’s intelligence campaign.
  • Topic: Intelligence, Law, Elections, Election Interference , Rigged Elections
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Suzanne Spaulding, Devi Nair, Arthur Nelson
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: he U.S. justice system is under attack as part of a long-term Russian effort to undermine the appeal of democracy and weaken the West. Via multi-platform disinformation opera­tions, Kremlin-backed operatives work to exacerbate existent divisions within populations and increase overall mistrust and paranoia against democratic institutions. In the process, justice systems are portrayed as corrupt, inept, and hypocritical. This report describes the nature of this threat and proposes measures for countering it. The report focuses on activities by the Russian government, including the ways it feeds, is fed by, and amplifies domestic voices to weaken public confidence in the justice system. The insights gained by examining Russia’s efforts can and should inform our understand­ing of both threats from other nations and the challenges contemporary communications technologies pose to a healthy democracy generally.
  • Topic: Conflict, Justice, Judiciary, Foreign Interference
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Heather A Conley, Matthew Melino
  • Publication Date: 05-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: Russian malign influence seeks to exploit every weakness and societal division within in a respective country. An adviser to Russian president Vladimir Putin, Vladislav Surkov, recently stated that “Foreign politicians talk about Russia’s interference in elections and referendums around the world. In fact, the matter is even more serious: Russia interferes in your brains, we change your conscience, and there is nothing you can do about it.” It must be understood that everything from religion, history, facts, information, racial and ethnic tensions, illicit financing, and institutional and economic weakness, can be weaponized. The mobilization of the Orthodox Church (in Montenegro through the Serbian Orthodox Church) is one such weapon in the Kremlin’s effort to resuscitate pan-Slavism and unite the Slavic world under Russian patronage. Doing so supports the Kremlin’s narrative that only Russian president Vladimir Putin is the true “defender of the faith,” and all that is culturally traditional and conservative. In effect, the Russian and Serbian Orthodox churches “interfere in [one’s] brain and alter an individual’s conscience” because the church touches many aspects of daily life, from the blessing of cars and homes to encouraging followers to fight against the decadence and liberalism of the West. The intermingling of financial support and the creation of outlets for the church’s charitable works can often be traced back to Russian ultra-nationalist oligarchs with close political and financial ties to the Kremlin. One particularly active figure in this space is Konstantin Malofeev who created the Charitable Foundation of St. Basil the Great, which is in part charged with spreading the Russian Orthodox faith. Mr. Malofeev’s spiritual adviser, Orthodox priest Bishop Tikhon, is also President Putin’s spiritual adviser. It is reported that Mr. Malofeev and Mr. Surkov also closely coordinate their activities. The Kremlin is also weaponizing history as it attempts to revitalize the historical role of the Russian Empire as the true defender and “protector” of its Slavic brethren in Montenegro from its clashes with the Ottoman Empire. Today, Russia defends its Slavic brethren from the West and makes powerful appeals to a common Slavic identity and Orthodox culture to wield greater influence in Montenegro.
  • Topic: NATO, International Cooperation, Hegemony, Foreign Interference
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, North America, Montenegro
  • Author: Seth G. Jones, Nicholas Harrington, Joseph S. Bermudez Jr.
  • Publication Date: 07-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: As tensions escalate between the United States and Iran in the Middle East, Russia is engaged in covert and overt cooperation with Iran in ways that undermine U.S. national security interests. This analysis of commercial satellite imagery at Tiyas Airbase in Syria indicates the scope and proximity of Russian and Iranian military ties. If Washington wants to contain Tehran and prevent further Iranian expansion, U.S. policymakers will need to increase pressure on Moscow to curb Tehran’s activities in countries like Syria.
  • Topic: Security, Diplomacy, Intelligence, International Cooperation
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Iran, Middle East, North America, United States of America
  • Author: J. Stephen Morrison, Judyth L. Twigg
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: Over the course of this decade, Russia has consciously enlarged its engagement and commitments, at home and in the wider world, in battling both tuberculosis (TB) and non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Despite these positive steps, Russia remains a serious global health security threat. There is a live risk of uncontrolled HIV/AIDS and drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB) epidemics within Russia itself, as well as ongoing risk of export to neighbors in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, whose deep interdependence with Russia, including extensive migrant traffic, creates acute vulnerabilities. Beyond Eurasia, Russia stands out as one of several flashpoints in the world that could contribute to a resurgent HIV/AIDS and DR-TB epidemic that reverses the global gains of the past 15 years. Russia’s social media practices deliberately spread confusion and distrust surrounding a wide range of preventive health measures, ranging from vaccines to harm reduction. This analysis weighs Russia’s positive contributions against its multiple destructive actions in global health, examines what the overall pattern of Russian behavior means for U.S. policy, and concludes with a proposal for an expanded U.S. health security alliance with Eastern Europe and Central Asia. It argues that the United States should welcome Russian contributions and collaborate with serious Russian partners in the service of broader shared health goals. At the end of the day, however, Russia will only earn a legitimate global health leadership seat through progressive, evidence-based policies and actions, which can never be wholly segregated from the noise created by its geopolitically destabilizing actions.
  • Topic: Health, International Cooperation, Public Health, Pandemic
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, North America, United States of America
  • Author: Nikos Tsafos
  • Publication Date: 09-2019
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: Within 10 years, three exporters will tower over the global gas world: Russia, the United States, and Qatar. Other exporters—Norway, Australia, Canada—will remain big players, but their influence will be regional, not global. New entrants will emerge, and existing players will expand their presence, but no country will match the big three in scale, growth, and reach. China will meanwhile become the largest destination for gas, surpassing Japan in imports and closing in on Europe as a whole. These profound changes will rewire the gas system, making it more integrated and competitive. But the system may also allow these mega-players the opportunity to exercise market power, using levers at their disposal to influence prices and flows. Geopolitics might also weigh heavily as a possible driver of behavior or source of friction. The gas world will thus be pulled in three directions: more integration and competition, more efforts to exercise market power, and more geopolitics complementing and complicating market forces. The big question is which of these three competing forces will have a greater say in this new gas era.
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Natural Resources, Gas, Exports
  • Political Geography: Russia, Europe, Middle East, North America, Qatar, United States of America
  • Author: Seth G. Jones
  • Publication Date: 02-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: The Trump administration’s National Security Strategy and National Defense Strategy outline a U.S. shift from counterterrorism to inter-state competition with China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea. However, U.S. policymakers need to be prepared for much of this competition to occur at the unconventional level, since the costs of conventional and nuclear war would likely be catastrophic. U.S. strategy is evolving from a post-9/11 focus on counterterrorism against groups like al Qaeda and the Islamic State to competition between state adversaries. As the National Defense Strategy notes, “Inter-state strategic competition, not terrorism, is now the primary concern in U.S. national security.”1 This shift has significant implications for the U.S. military, since it indicates a need to improve U.S. capabilities to fight—and win—possible wars against China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea if deterrence fails. Though it is prudent to prepare for conventional—and even nuclear—war, the risks of conflict are likely to be staggering. Numerous war games and analyses of U.S. conflicts with Russia in the Baltics, China in the Taiwan Strait and South China Sea, and North Korea on the Korean peninsula suggest the possibility of at least tens of thousands of dead and billions of dollars in economic damages. In addition, these conflicts could escalate to nuclear war, which might raise the number of dead to hundreds of thousands or even millions. According to one analysis, for example, a U.S. war with China could reduce China’s gross domestic product (GDP) by between 25 and 35 percent and the United States’ GDP by between 5 and 10 percent. The study also assessed that both countries could suffer substantial military losses to bases, air forces, surface naval forces, and submarines; significant political upheaval at home and abroad; and huge numbers of civilian deaths.2 These costs and risks will likely give Washington, Moscow, Beijing, Tehran, and even Pyongyang pause, raising several questions. Will these high costs deter the possibility of conventional and nuclear war? If so, what are the implications for the United States as it plans for a rise in inter-state competition? The Cold War offers a useful historical lens. NATO planners prepared for a possible Soviet and Warsaw Pact invasion of Western Europe. The U.S. military, for example, deployed forces to the Fulda Gap, roughly 60 miles outside of Frankfurt, Germany, as one of several possible invasion routes by Soviet and other Warsaw Pact forces. NATO also planned for nuclear war. The United States built up its nuclear arsenal and adopted strategies like mutually assured destruction (MAD). The concept of MAD assumed that a full-scale use of nuclear weapons by two or more opposing sides would cause the annihilation of both the attacker and the defender. The threat of such heavy costs deterred conflict, despite some close calls. During the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, the two superpowers nearly went to war after a U.S. U-2 aircraft took pictures of Soviet medium-range and intermediate-range ballistic nuclear missiles (MRBMs and IRBMs) under construction in Cuba. But Washington and Moscow ultimately assessed that direct conflict was too costly. Deterrence held. Instead, the United States and Soviet Union engaged in intense security competition at the unconventional level across Latin America, Africa, Asia, and Europe. Both countries backed substate groups and states to expand their power and influence. Under the Reagan Doctrine, for example, the United States provided overt and covert assistance to anticommunist governments and resistance movements to roll back communist supporters. The Soviets did the same and supported states and substate actors across the globe. In addition, the Soviets adopted an aggressive, unconventional approach best captured in the phrase “active measures” or aktivnyye meropriatia. As used by the KGB, active measures included a wide range of activities designed to influence populations across the globe. The KGB established front groups, covertly broadcast radio and other programs, orchestrated disinformation campaigns, and conducted targeted assassinations. The Soviets used active measures as an offensive instrument of Soviet foreign policy to extend Moscow’s influence and power throughout the world, including in Europe. Unlike the Cold War, the United States confronts multiple state adversaries today—not one. As the National Defense Strategy argues, the United States is situated in “a security environment more complex and volatile than any we have experienced in recent memory” where “the central challenges to U.S. prosperity and security is the reemergence of long-term, strategic competition by what the National Security Strategy classifies as revisionist powers.” But based on the likely costs and risks of conventional and nuclear war with China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea, much of the competition will likely be unconventional—and include what former U.S. State Department diplomat George Kennan referred to as “political warfare.” The term political warfare refers to the employment of military, intelligence, diplomatic, financial, and other means—short of conventional war—to achieve national objectives. It can include overt operations like public broadcasting and covert operations like psychological warfare and support to underground resistance groups.3 The United States’ adversaries today are already engaged in political warfare. Russia, for instance, utilizes a range of means to pursue its interests, such as technologically sophisticated offensive cyber programs, covert action, and psychological operations. Moscow has conducted overt operations like the use of RT and Sputnik, as well as semitransparent and covert efforts. It has also become increasingly active in supporting state and substate actors in countries like Ukraine, Syria, Afghanistan, and Libya to expand its influence in the Middle East, Asia, Europe, and even North Africa. Finally, Russia is attempting to exploit European and transatlantic fissures and support populist movements to undermine European Union and NATO cohesion, thwart economic sanctions, justify or obscure Russian actions, and weaken the attraction of Western institutions for countries on Russia’s periphery. Iran is using political warfare tools like propaganda, cyber attacks, and aid to substate proxies to support its security priorities, influence events and foreign perceptions, and counter threats. Tehran is also assisting state and substate actors in Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Bahrain, and Afghanistan. Iran supports Shia militia groups in Iraq, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria, and Houthi rebels in Yemen. In the South China Sea, China is pouring millions of tons of sand and concrete onto reefs, creating artificial islands. It is also conducting a sophisticated propaganda campaign, utilizing economic coercion, and using fleets of fishing vessels to solidify its assertion of territorial and resource rights throughout the Pacific. Finally, Beijing is targeting the U.S. government, its allies, and U.S. companies as part of a cyber-espionage campaign. With political warfare already alive and well with the United States’ state adversaries, there are several implications for U.S. defense strategy. First, U.S. policymakers need to be prepared for significant inter-state competition to occur at the unconventional level, since the costs and risks of conventional and nuclear war may be prohibitively high. This should involve thinking through trade-offs regarding force posture, procurement, acquisition, and modernization. A U.S. military that predominantly focuses on preparing for conventional or nuclear war with state competitors—by modernizing the nuclear triad, building more resilient space capabilities, acquiring more effective counter-space systems, equipping U.S. forces with high-technology weapons, and emphasizing professional military education (PME) to fight conventional wars—may undermine U.S. unconventional readiness and capabilities. Second, even organizations that already engage in some types of political warfare—such as U.S. Special Operations Command and the U.S. intelligence community—will need to continue shifting some of their focus from counterterrorism to political warfare against state adversaries. This might include, for example, providing more aid to the Baltic States to conduct an effective resistance campaign against unconventional action by Moscow. Or it might involve aiding proxies in countries like Syria and Yemen to counter Iranian-backed organizations. It could also include improving the border security capabilities and effectiveness of Ukrainian military and police units against Russian-backed rebels. Third, the United States should invest in resources and capabilities that allow the military and other U.S. government agencies to more effectively engage in political warfare—and to provide agencies with sufficient authorities to conduct political warfare. One example is improving capabilities to conduct aggressive, offensive cyber operations. Other examples might include advanced electronic attack capabilities, psychological warfare units, security force assistance brigades, and precision munitions. Recognizing that other powers routinely conduct political warfare, George Kennan encouraged U.S. leaders to disabuse themselves of the “handicap” of the “concept of a basic difference between peace and war” and to wake up to “the realities of international relations—the perpetual rhythm of struggle, in and out of war.” Kennan’s advice may be even more relevant today in such a competitive world.
  • Topic: Security, Defense Policy, Nuclear Weapons, Military Strategy, Counter-terrorism
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, China, Europe, Asia, North Korea
  • Author: Heather A Conley
  • Publication Date: 02-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: Twenty-five years of relative calm and predictability in relations between Russia and the West enabled European governments largely to neglect their military capabilities for territorial defense and dramatically redraw Northern Europe’s multilateral, regional, and bilateral boundaries, stimulating new institutional and cooperative developments and arrangements. These cooperative patterns of behavior occurred amid a benign security environment, a situation that no longer obtains. Following Russia’s annexation of Crimea, its military incursion into eastern Ukraine, its substantial military modernization efforts, heightened undersea activity in the North Atlantic and Baltic Sea, and its repeated air violations, the region’s security environment has dramatically worsened. The Baltic Sea and North Atlantic region have returned as a geostrategic focal point. It is vital, therefore, that the United States rethink its security approach to the region—what the authors describe as Enhanced Deterrence in the North.
  • Topic: Security, Regional Cooperation, Military Strategy, Modernization
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Europe, North Atlantic, Northern Europe, Crimea, Baltic Sea
  • Author: Suzanne Spaulding
  • Publication Date: 02-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: This report, informed by a CSIS-convened Experts Group, calls for a whole-of-nation approach to address the threat to, and improve the resilience of, the country's democratic institutions. The report proceeds in four sections. First, it outlines the nature of the threat posed by the Russian government, building upon what Russia has done in other countries, as well as in the United States. The second section describes how technology has magnified this threat. The third section examines essential elements of a "National Strategy to Counter Russian and Other Foreign Adversary Threats to Democratic Institutions." The final section is a call for action.
  • Topic: Science and Technology, Military Strategy, Democracy, Resilience
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Europe, North America
  • Author: Edward C. Chow, Andrew J. Stanley
  • Publication Date: 02-2018
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Center for Strategic and International Studies
  • Abstract: After the Soviet Union collapsed and Russia was roiled by political and economic chaos, many state-owned assets were privatized based on political connections and corrupt practices. The oil sector was a particularly attractive, but by no means the only, target for these privatizations. By the end of the 1990s, almost all of Russia’s oil production was privately owned. In spite of continued nontransparency, the oil sector began to resemble a competitive market with private investors introducing Western technology, financial accounting, and operating and management practices. It also started to attract major foreign investments. The remaining state oil assets were managed by a sleepy state enterprise named Rosneft that, in spite of its name (Russian Oil), produced less than 5 percent of Russia’s oil. Today, majority state-owned Rosneft produces almost half of Russia’s oil. Its daily oil production of 4.6 million barrels, according to its last reported quarterly results, is double that of the world’s largest oil company by market capitalization, ExxonMobil, which last reported daily liquids production of 2.3 million barrels. Rosneft’s rapid rise coincided with the rule of Vladimir Putin, who first became president of Russia in 2000. Its production increases were built largely on the backs of controversial acquisitions of assets previously held by private companies such as Yukos, TNK-BP, and Bashneft. Rosneft’s acquisition spree accelerated after Putin’s close associate and Russia’s then-deputy prime minister Igor Sechin became chairman of its board of directors in 2004. Sechin left government in 2012 to take over as Rosneft’s chief executive officer. Rosneft’s board of directors is now chaired by former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder. Rosneft’s transformation as Russia’s national oil champion is consistent with Putin’s policy of regaining state control over the commanding heights of the Russian economy, which is more reliant on oil income today than the Soviet Union ever was. Rosneft is Russia’s largest taxpayer and contributed a quarter of government revenue in 2014. Until recently, Rosneft concentrated mainly on consolidating its dominance over the domestic oil patch. It is also Russia’s leading refiner and is increasing natural gas production for direct sales to domestic gas users, producing 67 billion cubic meters in 2016. In 2014, Russia was hit by the twin shocks of a global oil price collapse and Western economic sanctions enacted after its aggression against Ukraine in the Donbas region and annexation of Crimea. These developments affected Rosneft severely since it involved the value of the commodity it produces and sells and restricted Rosneft’s access to international financing when it was heavily indebted from the aforementioned acquisitions. A normal company might hunker down, repair its balance sheet, and wait for external conditions to improve. Instead Rosneft has done the exact opposite and expanded its international business aggressively. As part of the 2014 U.S.-led sanction efforts, Igor Sechin, as the leading figure of Russia’s largest petroleum company and his having “shown utter loyalty to Vladimir Putin,” was directly sanctioned. Further Russian sanctions enacted by Congress in 2017 called on the U.S. Department of the Treasury to submit a detailed report on senior political figures, oligarchs, and parastatal entities as determined by their “closeness to the Russian regime and their net worth.” While the unclassified version of the report released to Congress on January 29 included Igor Sechin, the report was poorly received and largely regarded as nothing more than a “rich list” by Russian experts. However, the report also contains classified annexes, including a list of parastatal entities and supporting analysis, which by definition would have included Rosneft. Although Rosneft’s rapid international expansion is too recent to assess definitely, this paper describes some of Rosneft’s overseas ventures and explores possible motivations, economic and political, behind them.
  • Topic: Energy Policy, Oil, Foreign Direct Investment, Sanctions, Gas, Transparency, Private Sector
  • Political Geography: Russia, United States, Europe, Eastern Europe