This primer is an effort to address a gap in knowledge about cryptocurrencies and the cryptocurrency ecosystem among the policymaking community and advance the understanding of cryptocurrencies and consideration of their national security implications. Cryptocurrencies are strictly digital currencies, are typically overseen by a decentralized peer-to-peer community, and are secured through cryptography. We use clear, non-technical language to describe complex concepts and demystify overly technical terms in order to explain the technical and economic aspects of cryptocurrency, why they are used, and the benefits and drawbacks to cryptocurrencies compared to conventional currencies—like the US dollar. We conclude by considering some cryptocurrency-related issues of which greater exploration would benefit US national security.
Cryptocurrencies are strictly digital currencies, are typically overseen by a decentralized peer-to-peer community, and are secured through cryptography. Cryptocurrencies have relative benefits for those who engage in illicit activity. This paper includes: (1) a detailed taxonomy and examples of nefarious activities involving cryptocurrencies, such as funding terrorist activity, money laundering, cybercrimes, and regulatory crimes; (2) a discussion of state-actor engagement in the cryptocurrency arena that explores Iranian, North Korean, Russian, and Venezuelan activity in skirting sanctions, mining cryptocurrencies, participating in exchange hacking and ransomware, and using cryptocurrencies to fund information operations; (3) analysis attempting to anticipate the mid-term future of the cryptocurrency ecosystem; and (4) the tactical and strategic challenges and opportunities of cryptocurrencies for US special operations forces.
Proxy warfare—that is, conflict in which a "major power instigates or plays a major role in supporting and directing to a conflict but does only a small portion of the actual fighting itself"—is receiving new attention from policymakers, analysts, and practitioners. This study uses a series of four case studies on US involvement in proxy war (the "Secret War" in Laos, the Contras in Central America, the African Union Mission in Somalia, and the Syrian Defense Forces) to develop a set of key themes. These themes, in turn, form the basis of a set of rules of thumb to guide senior decisionmakers as they contemplate the future use of proxy forces. Finally, this report discusses implications for U.S. Special Operations Forces, which are likely to play an increasingly important role in supporting U.S. proxies.
In this paper, Russian defense industry and arms trade expert Sergey Denisentsev looks at the history, current state, and outlook for defense cooperation between Russia and Venezuela. He notes that before the arrival of Hugo Chavez, Venezuela was not among the Russian defense customers. The attempted coup in 2002 and the ensuing restrictions on sales of US weaponry to the country opened up the Venezuelan defense market to Russian suppliers. This paper reviews the Russian arms transfers that enabled a major modernization of the Venezuelan arms forces under Chavez. Those transfers, however, came to an almost complete halt after Chavez died and an economic crisis broke out in Venezuela in 2013. The latest bout of political crisis that began in January 2019 has given a new lease of life to Russian-Venezuelan defense cooperation. That cooperation no longer involves large weapons contracts, but Russia is providing technical support and advice to the Venezuelan military and security services.
In this CNA Occasional Paper, Anatoly Zak, a noted expert on the Russian space program, examines Russia's military and dual-purpose spacecraft. He discusses the resurgence of the Russian space program in the past two decades, both the military and civilian components. The paper identifies different satellite classes operated by both the country's military and the civilian space agency, providing a detailed overview of radar imagery and early warning technologies in service today. Zak provides a detailed description of antisatellite capabilities in Russian service, and goes over some of the significant detriments to further progress, such as corruption and quality control issue in the Russian space service. He argues that the "growing pains" of the Russian space industry in the post-Soviet period could eventually be resolved or at least mitigated, allowing more effective use of available resources, cutting the development time, and producing more reliable systems in the future.
In this CNA Occasional Paper, Dr. Igor Delanoe, Deputy-Head, French-Russian Analytical Center Observo (Moscow), examines the development of Russia's Black Sea Fleet since the 2000s. Dr. Delanoe traces the origins of structural changes that affected the fleet through the State Armaments Program beginning in 2011, the Ukrainian crisis and Moscow's renewed emphasis on Black Sea defense. He examines the Fleet in the context of Russia's renewed presence in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea, and discusses new concepts and technologies of growing importance to Russia's forward operating naval squadrons. Today, the Black Sea Fleet appears to be a more flexible and multipurpose naval formation. Its area of responsibility has evolved and is focused on the greater Mediterranean region, tasked with the protection of Russia's southern flank, from the Caspian region to the Levant. Dr. Delanoe also discusses transition from the quality naval procurement of the 2011-2020 plan to mass production in a context of financial pressure and sanctions, arguing that the modernization plan of the Black Sea Fleet has proved more resilient in the face of these challenges.
Law enforcement agencies continue to develop new and innovative strategies to better support and police the communities they serve, from integrating gunshot detection technologies into dispatch systems to improve response times during shootings, to collaborating with local health and social service organizations to address issues such as homelessness or substance abuse in comprehensively ways. Over the past 10 years, the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA), in partnership with the CNA Institute for Public Research (IPR), has supported law enforcement agencies across the country in implementing innovative policing approaches through the Strategies for Policing Innovation Initiative (SPI, formerly the Smart Policing Initiative). SPI supports not only the development and implementation of innovative policing strategies, but also the research partnerships that result in in-depth analyses and rigorous evaluations of these strategies to advance what is known about effective and efficient policing practices. This report examines SPI's accomplishments since its inception in 2009 and explores some of the major themes across SPI initiatives in both policing and policing research, including the following: Reductions in violent crime, Improved crime analysis capabilities in police agencies, Evolution of research partnerships with SPI sites, Collaborative partnerships with agencies, organizations, and community stakeholders, and Integration of technology into policing.
The 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS) makes clear that competing effectively with state adversaries will be the primary focus of the Department of Defense (DOD) going forward. A key element of modern great power competition (GPC) is irregular warfare (IW), and our adversaries are deftly exploiting unconventional methodologies—particularly the use of information and intermediaries (i.e., proxies and surrogates)—as mediums of national influence. In March 2019, CNA hosted a cohort of academic, government, and military experts for a discussion on how special operations forces (SOF) can best lead or support US Government (USG) efforts to compete successfully on a global scale using information operations and intermediary partnerships. Our discussion addressed the following questions: How can past USG experiences of competing in the information space and engaging with proxy actors inform our approaches to GPC today? What lessons should we draw from unconventional activities used during the Cold War? How should the US conceptualize the use of information and intermediaries given modern advancements in communication technology and social media? What do trends in digital connectivity, along with technologies such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, portend for the future of information and influence activities? How does the lack of a US lead agency for information operations affect the role of SOF in the information battlespace? Which aspects of global information activities should SOF seek, lead, and support? Are there aspects that SOF should avoid? If so, what are they and why? How should the USG envision the role of state and non-state proxy actors in the context of current and future global competition? Should this be a significant feature of future USG strategy and policy? Why or why not? To encourage a frank exchange of ideas, the conversations summarized in the following sections were held under the Chatham House rule of non-attribution. No source citations are included in this document, and no speakers are identified. In the instances where we include quotes from the event, the function is solely to capture compelling phrasing; these quotes should be considered closely paraphrased and should not be interpreted as official statements. The event consisted of three main sessions—a keynote and two panels, each with a subsequent question-and-answer segment—the key themes of which are synthesized and summarized here. All presentations and discussions were unclassified.
For four years, the United States provided the Saudi-led coalition with military equipment and assistance used in its campaign in Yemen. During that time, the US has wrestled with and debated both the legality and wisdom of its support. After four years of conflict in Yemen, the US should be asking: what lessons can be learned from four years of support to the Saudi-led coalition? In light of the significant civilian protection concerns seen in Yemen, is there a way to get better outcomes from security assistance activities? This report aims to answer those questions. We analyze US support to the Saudi-led coalition and identify two gaps in policy and information, respectively. We also examine the timely issue of better protecting health care in the midst of armed conflict. In this report, we provide a policy framework for including civilian protection considerations as part of security assistance.
Wargaming, in what may be called its modern form, has been around for well over 200 years.1 Systems thinking and its more complex variant, systems dynamics, have been prominent techniques in management science since the late 1950s.2 This paper explores the connections between these two powerful tools. It addresses the questions of how wargaming can support those who develop and use systems models, and how such systems models can, in turn, help those who design, control, and play in wargames. These subjects are especially timely because today's theater commanders and their staffs are challenged to conduct—and assess the effectiveness of—"influence operations." The nature of these sorts of operations is always changing, and measures of their effectiveness are at best controversial and at worst, non-existent. Wargaming and systems thinking can help. Our research and analysis of this subject leads us to conclude that wargames and wargaming techniques can help those who develop systems thinking models of operational and strategic interest. Similarly, systems thinking techniques can help wargame designers construct better wargames and explore techniques related to social and political interactions among nations and groups. This paper is intended to help analysts and wargamers understand systems thinking and how it relates to wargaming. Because many in our target audience have at least a basic grasp of the nature of wargaming, but less understanding of the nuances of systems thinking, the first half of the paper is in the form of an overview or tutorial about systems thinking and how to do it. We present several examples and some simple guidelines for how to apply systems thinking to building models of human organizations and processes. The remainder of the paper explores the relationships among systems thinking and wargaming in practical terms. It describes how systems thinking can be used to enhance game design and execution, largely by providing a framework and approach for identifying important processes that a game must represent. A game is inherently a dynamic system model in which the game's players make decisions based on their pre-existing mental models, drawing on their internal experiences and understanding as well as both written and numerical databases. In all but the simplest games, the goal is to examine not only player decision-making processes, but also the dynamic relationships between the various decisions players make. Understanding the dynamics of an interacting system can lead to the discovery of things that would not otherwise be revealed by a linear, prosaic, investigation of the topic. These "perversions" of the expected, which arise in games more frequently than in other forums, stem from several different feed forward and feedback loops, along with unspoken or unanticipated player actions. It is here that systems thinking models can provide unique support for gamers. By depicting clearly the interwoven network of relationships and interactions among complex elements of the environment, systems thinking models can provide wargamers a basis for structuring key elements of the game design and the game mechanics. Systems thinking models can also support both the players and controllers of a game during execution. Wargaming and systems thinking are thus a matched pair of techniques, which, when used together, can help advance the state of the art of operational and strategic planning and assessment.
The United States must prepare to compete with Russia without a treaty that verifiably constrains intercontinental-range nuclear weapons. This coming challenge stems from three changes in US-Russian relations. First, the United States has officially transitioned from strategic partnership to strategic competition as the basis for its Russia policy. By acknowledging Russia's revisionist intentions, the 2018 National Defense Strategy codified an assessment that took root in the United States and many other North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) states after Russia's invasion of Ukraine and has garnered more support every year. This assessment is accompanied by growing appreciation that Russia's political-military strategy poses a full-spectrum foreign and defense policy challenge for the United States. "Russia is challenging US and NATO interests below the threshold of armed conflict, while simultaneously fielding high-end forces to make the barrier to entry for war extremely costly and dangerous for the United States," explains a former US senior defense official.1 In a major departure from the 1990s, 2000s, and part of the current decade, the United States is now developing a political-military strategy to counter Russia. Second, in another change from the past 25 years, Russia is in the final stages of its nuclear modernization program. It fields a modern force of intercontinental-range, commonly described as "strategic," nuclear forces, and is capable of increasing its deployed arsenal. The United States is also modernizing its nuclear forces, albeit on a different schedule. Both countries are expanding their strategic-military postures to include non-nuclear systems capable of achieving strategic effects. Strategic-military interactions between the United States and Russia in the next two decades will be markedly different than the previous two, with multiple acquisition, development, and deployment pathways available to both. Third, the nuclear arms control treaty framework the United States and Russia have built and sustained over decades is on the precipice. The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) will expire next decade. It will reach its 10-year duration in February 2021, though the United States and Russia have the option of extending it for up to 5 years. As of early 2019, the prospects for New START extension are uncertain. Regardless of when New START expires, there is a strong possibility that a follow-on treaty will not be forthcoming. Recognizing these changing conditions, the report explores risks, uncertainties, and US policy options for a world in which there is significant competition between Washington and Moscow, but no bilateral strategic nuclear arms control treaty.
Over the past decade, China's presence in the Middle East and Indian Ocean has expanded significantly. While great attention has been paid to China's growing economic presence as part of Beijing's Belt and Road Initiative, in reality, China's activities in the region had been increasing well before the start of Xi Jinping's signature policy initiative. Moreover, this growth has occurred across a wide range of domains, including military, diplomatic, economic, and even informational. How is China's presence in the Middle East and Western Indian Ocean evolving, and what does it mean for the United States and its equities in the region? This study examines China's growing presence in 23 states throughout the Middle East, East Africa, and Western Indian Ocean. It analyzes the drivers of China's growing presence in this region, as well as China's various diplomatic, informational, military, and economic domains. By doing so, this study seeks to move the discussion of China's growing global activities beyond discussions of Belt and Road, provide a more comprehensive understanding of how China's presence in the Middle East and Western Indian Ocean region is evolving, and improve our understanding of what these changes mean for the U.S. Navy and U.S. national security interests more broadly.
A review of 30 years of analyses identifies military organizational "pathologies" that result in inefficiency, dysfunction and dissolution.