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Summaries and Links to This Week’s Curated Strategy Articles



Spycraft and Statecraft

Transforming the CIA for an Age of Competition

By William J. Burns

Foreign Affairs -March/April 2024


William J. Burns, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), discusses the evolving role of the CIA in the context of current global challenges. Burns outlines the historical importance of espionage as a constant yet evolving element of statecraft, from the Revolutionary War through the Cold War and into the current era dominated by technological advancements and strategic competition.

The article underscores the significant geopolitical challenges posed by the rise of China and Russia's assertiveness, emphasizing that the United States is now navigating an era of strategic competition without the luxury of uncontested dominance. Burns highlights how emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence and quantum computing, are reshaping the intelligence profession, making the CIA's task more complex. Despite these technological shifts, human intelligence and clandestine operations remain vital, necessitating a blend of advanced technology and traditional spycraft.

Burns advocates for "strategic declassification" as a policy tool to undermine adversaries and build alliances, stressing the need for judicious information sharing without compromising intelligence sources or methods. He also addresses the CIA's response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine in 2022, illustrating the agency's role in providing crucial intelligence support to policymakers and the Ukrainian government. This support has helped expose Russian tactics, bolster Ukrainian resistance, and maintain a coalition of countries supporting Ukraine.

The article further discusses China's ambitions under Xi Jinping and the importance of U.S. support for Taiwan as a signal of American resolve. Burns describes the reorganization and reprioritization within the CIA to address the long-term challenge posed by China, including establishing a mission center dedicated to China and increasing budget allocation for China-related intelligence efforts.

Burns concludes by reflecting on the broader landscape of global challenges, including regional instability and counterterrorism efforts, emphasizing the CIA's commitment to adapt and innovate in its intelligence-gathering and analysis processes. He highlights the importance of human capital within the CIA, detailing efforts to recruit, train, and retain a diverse and skilled workforce capable of meeting the demands of a rapidly changing world.

The piece provides a comprehensive overview of the CIA's strategic vision in an era characterized by complex geopolitical rivalries, technological transformation, and the imperative for agile and effective intelligence operations.



Bottom Line:

The central point of this article is the evolving role of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in the face of current global challenges. Burns emphasizes the historical significance of espionage as a constant but evolving element of statecraft from the Revolutionary War to the Cold War and into the present era dominated by technological advancements and strategic competition. The article provides a comprehensive overview of the strategic vision for the CIA in an era characterized by complex geopolitical rivalries, technological transformation, and the imperative for agile and effective intelligence operations.




Great-Power Competition Comes to Antarctica

China’s Scientific Push Tests the Continent’s Stability

By Elizabeth Buchanan

Foreign Affairs - March 18, 2024



Elizabeth Buchanan discusses the evolving geopolitical landscape of Antarctica in the face of increased interest from great powers, notably China, and rising demand for the continent's resources. Buchanan details how, after decades of relative peace under the Antarctic Treaty System, which promotes scientific cooperation and prohibits military activity, the continent is now experiencing shifts in the political and physical environment due to climate change and heightened great-power competition.

The article highlights recent developments, such as Iran's announcement of plans to build a permanent base and China's construction of its fifth research station, raising concerns over potential military utility under the guise of scientific research. Buchanan argues that these actions, along with Russia's and China's maneuvers to exploit resources and conduct activities with possible military implications, challenge the Antarctic Treaty's framework and the continent's status as a neutral, peaceful area for scientific investigation.



Bottom Line:

The article's central point is the urgent need for countries supporting a neutral and peaceful Antarctica to recognize and address the fragility of the current status quo. Buchanan calls for increased public interest and investment in Antarctic affairs, greater transparency regarding states' activities on the continent, and strengthened enforcement of treaty obligations to ensure the continued success of the Antarctic Treaty System. She emphasizes that the presence and actions of great powers in Antarctica must align with scientific cooperation and peace principles to prevent the erosion of this unique international order.




Geopolitics in the C-Suite

More Than Ever, U.S. Foreign Policy Depends on Corporations

—and Vice Versa

By Jami Miscik, Peter Orszag, and Theodore Bunzel

Foreign Affairs - March 11, 2024


Jami Miscik, Peter Orszag, and Theodore Bunzel discuss the evolving relationship between U.S. foreign policy and corporate America in the context of increasing geopolitical tensions, particularly with China. The article outlines how, unlike in the past, corporations now find themselves at the forefront of geopolitical issues, serving as instruments and targets of foreign policy. This shift is largely due to intertwining global economic integration with national security concerns, prompting governments to leverage economic policies and corporate actions to achieve strategic objectives.

The authors highlight how the rise of economic and technological competition as central elements of global politics necessitates a more collaborative approach between the government and the private sector. They argue that the success of U.S. foreign policy in addressing challenges like securing clean-energy supply chains or countering China's technological advancements increasingly relies on the cooperation and actions of individual corporate actors. These corporations, often possessing more detailed information and operational flexibility than the public sector, have become essential to implementing and shaping foreign policy strategies.



Bottom Line:

The article's central point is the need for U.S. policymakers to adapt to this new paradigm by fostering a deeper, more institutionalized partnership with the corporate sector. This includes clarifying the intent and objectives of foreign policy actions, developing economic and technological expertise within the government, engaging in regular dialogue with businesses, and enhancing economic intelligence capabilities. The authors stress that navigating this complex landscape requires a fundamental shift in thinking about the role of the private sector in achieving national security and foreign policy goals, emphasizing collaboration and shared strategic interests.




What Schumer and Biden Got Right About Netanyahu

By Thomas Friedman

New York Times – March 19, 2024



Thomas L. Friedman focuses on the unprecedented public criticism from U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and President Joe Biden towards Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Schumer, a long-standing supporter of Israel, called for Israeli elections to replace Netanyahu and his far-right cabinet, a stance that Biden later praised. This move represents a significant shift in the traditional U.S.-Israel relationship, reflecting deep concerns over Netanyahu's policies and the broader implications for Middle East peace and U.S. foreign policy.

Friedman outlines six reasons why a two-state solution is crucial for Israel's future and for maintaining support among its allies, including managing the challenges of urban warfare, the impact of social media, the necessity of offering a postwar peace process, and the importance of regional alliances against common threats like Iran. Schumer's call for new leadership in Israel (and within the Palestinian Authority) is framed not as a personal attack but as aligned with America's and the region's best interests, aiming for a renewed peace initiative that offers extensive normalization and security guarantees in exchange for progress towards a two-state solution.




Bottom Line:

This piece underscores the growing tensions between traditional allies over the direction of Israeli policy under Netanyahu and the broader implications for regional stability, U.S. foreign policy, and the global perception of Israel. Netanyahu's refusal to pursue a vision for Israeli-Palestinian relations that includes a two-state solution is central to the critique. This stance is viewed as threatening Biden's foreign policy objectives and re-election chances, given the shift in U.S. politics and the geopolitical landscape, especially after the recent Gaza war. The war, while initiated by Hamas, highlighted the urgent need for a sustainable peace process that addresses the long-term development needs of Palestinians and moves towards a two-state resolution.




Playing Both Sides of the U.S.- Chinese Rivalry

Why Countries Get External Security From Washington—and Internal Security From Beijing

By Sheena Chestnut Greitens and Isaac Kardon

Foreign Affairs - March 15, 2024


Sheena Chestnut Greitens and Isaac Kardon examine a growing trend among nations seeking security assistance from the United States and China. This phenomenon is driven by the distinct offerings from Washington and Beijing: the U.S. focuses on bolstering external military security against regional threats, while China supports internal security measures, helping governments manage domestic unrest and opposition.

The authors highlight several countries, including Hungary, Vietnam, and the United Arab Emirates, that have engaged in security partnerships with both superpowers. These nations leverage the different types of security assistance to address external threats and internal challenges without necessarily choosing sides in the U.S.-China rivalry. Greitens and Kardon argue that this dual approach reflects a broader shift in international security dynamics, where the U.S. and China propagate their distinct concepts of security—external and internal, respectively—across the globe. They caution that while such arrangements offer short-term benefits to smaller states, they also complicate global security landscapes, increasing the risk of miscalculations and clashes of interest between the U.S. and China.




Bottom Line:

The article's central point is that as the U.S. and China continue to offer complementary security solutions to other nations, American policymakers need to recognize this new form of competition. They must find ways to navigate these complex relationships effectively, ensuring that U.S. security partnerships advance democracy and human rights without exacerbating tensions or promoting authoritarianism.



Russia’s Military Is Already Preparing for Its Next War

Moscow is rebuilding its military in anticipation of a conflict with NATO in the next decade,

Estonian officials warn.

Foreign Policy - March 14, 2024


Two years after Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Estonian intelligence officials have stated that Russia is restructuring and expanding its military in anticipation of a conflict with NATO within the next ten years. This assessment comes despite initial setbacks in the invasion, where Russian military capabilities were questioned due to poor planning and resistance from Ukrainian forces. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken had remarked on the perceived weakness of the Russian military, yet Russia's situation appears to be improving from its perspective. Putin's political standing has strengthened, and Russia has shifted its economy to support its military efforts despite international sanctions.

Estonia, with its history of Soviet occupation and early exposure to Russian disinformation and cyberwarfare tactics, offers a credible perspective on Russian military capabilities and intentions. The intelligence chiefs' warnings reflect broader concerns among European defense officials about the speed of Russian rearmament and the potential for a conflict with NATO. German and Danish defense ministers have expressed concerns about Russia's military ambitions, and the British Army chief has alerted the public to the possibility of conflict with Russia.




Bottom Line:

Russian military leaders adapt quickly to battlefield realities, moving towards a learning organization model that can systematize improvements across its forces. This shift includes plans to expand military personnel by 30 percent to 1.5 million by 2026 and increase military spending significantly. Meanwhile, military aid to Ukraine from the United States has faced delays, and Russia has been building a significant firepower advantage over Ukraine with increased production of artillery munitions and imports from countries like North Korea and Iran. The Estonian intelligence chiefs emphasize that preventing a Russia-NATO conflict and ensuring Ukraine's success in the ongoing war are crucial for Europe's future, suggesting that Western actions can significantly influence the trajectory of Russian aggression and the overall security landscape in Europe.





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