Since the beginning of the tariff war in mid-2018, the escalation of the trade tensions has been widely expected to continue into the 2020 presidential election season. While President Trump’s team may still believe that a trade deal is well within reach in the near future, that perception is not at all shared by the Chinese government. The U.S. and China have entered a war of attrition. U.S. policy makers need to prepare for a long game regarding trade tensions and the eventual de-coupling of the two economies, regardless of whether that was the original intention.
Threats to national and economic security emanating from cyberspace are all too real, but public disclosure of incidents of the theft of intellectual property (IP) is exceedingly rare. Former National Security Agency Director and the first Commander of Cyber Command Keith Alexander has labeled China’s theft of U.S. intellectual property through cyber means “the greatest transfer of wealth in history.” Few experts in the field dispute that conclusion. In November 2015, National Counterintelligence Executive William Evanina estimated that cyber-enabled economic espionage cost the U.S. economy $400 billion per year, with 90 percent of the theft originating in China.
President Donald Trump has upended American policy in Syria, and possibly in the entire Middle East, in one stroke. His unilateral decision to withdraw American troops from the Kurdish region of northern Syria, and thus give a green light for the Turkish invasion of the Kurdish enclave, has put all American goals in Syria in grave jeopardy. These included protecting the autonomous Kurdish enclave as a quid pro quo for the Kurdish militia’s singular military contribution in liquidating Islamic State and capturing its capital Raqqa at the cost of thousands of lives. They also included preventing the regime of Bashar al-Assad from reasserting control in northern Syria (a very important US objective in Syria was to circumscribe Russia’s and Iran’s reach and influence in the country). Finally, one of the principal aims of American policy in both Syria and Iraq has been to prevent the resurgence of the IS.
Russia need not concern itself about a new security architecture in Europe: eventually, one will grow out of its ongoing confrontation with the United States, together with the combined impact of Moscow’s rapprochement with Beijing and the evolving rivalry between the United States and China.
America’s strategy community has a problem that it likes to call “A2/AD,” and while the symptoms are very real, in the case of Russia strategists and planners have largely misdiagnosed the nature of the challenge. Anti-access and area denial, commonly known as A2/AD, is more than another defense community buzzword: It has become a deeply rooted way of talking about the military capabilities of adversaries that the United States considers to be relative peers. The term has enjoyed great utility as short-hand for a select grouping of adversary capabilities that pose major problems to America’s preferred way of conducting combat operations (unrestricted and uncontested). But when applied to Russia, the “A2/AD” frame has become dangerously misleading. Over time, anti-access and area denial has evolved from a vehicle for useful conversations about Russian conventional capabilities to a vision of a Russian doctrine or strategy for warfighting that frankly does not exist. The result is a general misreading of the Russian military’s operational concepts and strategy for large scale combat operations.