Guest Post by Timothy C. Anderson
The recent Global Security Forum 2017 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies highlighted the importance of cognitive security in the session, “The West Strikes Back”.
After Heather Conley’s (the moderator) introductory review of “The Kremlin Playbook, Understanding Russian Influence in Central and Eastern Europe”, Conley highlighted Russia’s influence efforts through the “Panama Papers, Politicians, Criminals and the Rogue Industry That Hides Their Cash” and then the CSIS developed “Unvirtuous Circle” that modeled Russia’s opaque web of economic and political patronage as a network-flow model.
One of the panel members, General (ret) Mike Hayden offered a review of how and why the U.S. is where it is today. Hayden recounted that while in San Antonio in the mid-1990s, the U.S. Air Force was thinking about cyber and was deliberating if it should be a warfighting domain. Serious debates occurred in 1996 and 1997 on whether the military was in the cyber business or the information business. The U.S. chose “cyber” and not “information” as we now have a U.S. Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM). Hayden furthered that information was about “cyber, deception, public affairs, public diplomacy, traditional defense suppression and electronic warfare” but that debate was complicated and it did not get far without first amendment concerns for U.S. citizens.
Hayden recounted that the Russians went with door number two: information dominance. The result of Russia’s doctrinal decision was the information domain cover for the “little green men” in Ukraine and efforts against the Baltic countries. Hayden spoke of how the Russians took one of the clearest acts of aggression in the last decade with the shoot down the Malaysian airliner and convinced some Europeans that it was really too hard to understand. He said that the U.S. saw that same assault in the U.S. electoral process and also with the German and French elections. The U.S. intelligence community has a tactical focus after being at war for sixteen years and needs to enlarge its lens. Also, the U.S. will need to leave the cyber lens behind (and language) and begin to look through a broader information lens.
Awareness of Russian active measures is the first step to understanding, characterizing and countering. As another panel member, Drew Sullivan, said later in the session, “[the playbook] is a pretty sophisticated system but it still is a system and systems can be outed. It is like a magic trick, once you know the magic trick you will always see it every single time behind the scenes. Part of it is outing the magic trick, explaining exactly how the structure work and explaining exactly how these money flows are going.”
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