GoodFirms Announce the Top Blockchain Development Companies for Varied Industries – 2020

WASHINGTON, Nov. 17, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — These days, blockchain has gained huge momentum in the modern world of technology. With continuously evolving blockchain development which brings the most advantages to different businesses with many suppliers, buyers, and franchises, which need to be constantly monitored—especially changing financial transaction practices. The Blockchain system has made it very simple and easy, along with the benefits of enhancing security and transparency.

Varied industries can rely on Blockchain technology, which offers a secure platform that improves communication, enhances efficiency, and removes the middle party between data and server. Resulting in faster and streamline overall processes. It is resulting in faster and easier access while increasing the efficiency and speed of data processing.

All sizes of businesses can make significant cost savings by using types of blockchain technology services such as ICO consulting, smart contracts, private, cryptocurrency exchange, cryptocurrency wallet, and the different platforms: Ethereum and Hyperledger to introducing robust security measures in the environment and improve the administrative tasks or financial services.

Here, GoodFirms.co has published the list of Top Blockchain Development Companies in the USA and worldwide. It also includes service providers for various types of blockchain technology.

Checkout the List of Most Excellent Blockchain Development Companies at GoodFirms:

Top Blockchain Development Companies in USA:

SoluLab, ELEKS, Idealogic, Labrys, Adoriasoft, Blaize, OpenXcell, S-PRO, Cubix, Interscale.

https://www.goodfirms.co/directory/country/list-blockchain-technology-companies/usa

Top Ethereum Smart Contract Development:

CoinFabrik, nuco, KrypC, HIVEBlockchain Technologies LTD, Osiz Technologies P LTD, MixBytes, Deqode, Bitdeal, Xord, TechGropse Pvt. Ltd.

https://www.goodfirms.co/directory/platforms/list-blockchain-technology-companies/ethereum

Top Hyperledger Development Companies:

Blockchain Mind, Cryptonomex Inc., Maxilect, MonetaGo Inc, Technoloader, Agile Infoways Pvt Ltd, Parangat Technologies, Accubits, BirthVenue Growth Solutions Private Limited, Debut Infotech.

https://www.goodfirms.co/directory/platforms/list-blockchain-technology-companies/hyperledger

Top ICO Consulting Firms:

SAG IPL, HoC Solutions, Prolitus Technologies, Existek, RWaltz Group Inc., Edone, Lodestone App, LeewayHertz, Blockchain Australia, Quest Global Technologies.

https://www.goodfirms.co/directory/services/list-blockchain-technology-companies/ico-consulting

Top Smart Contract Development Companies:

Shalex, Applicature, Altoros, Knackroot Technolabs LLP, Antier Solutions, Errna.com, Giraffe Software, Smartym Pro, ArStudioz, iQlance Solutions.

https://www.goodfirms.co/directory/services/list-blockchain-technology-companies/smart-contract-development

Top Private Blockchain Companies:

OpenGeeksLab, Instinctools, Pragmatic DLT inc, Minddeft Technologies Private Limited, Maxilect, Trendline Global, Existek, Unicsoft, Mobiloitte Inc., IdeaSoft.io.

https://www.goodfirms.co/directory/services/list-blockchain-technology-companies/private-blockchain-development

Best Cryptocurrency Exchange Development Companies:

DxMinds Technologies Inc, Sodio Technologies Pvt. Ltd., Ulam Labs Zab Technologies, 4ire Labs, CML Team Ltd, Chainsulting, Primafelicitas, Ekoios Technology, Bacancy Technology, Mobcoder.

https://www.goodfirms.co/directory/services/list-blockchain-technology-companies/cryptocurrency-exchange

Top Cryptocurrency Wallet Development Companies:

Crypto Infotech, Serokell, Terse Software Pvt. Ltd., Fluper Ltd, Techugo, The NineHertz, Ajath Infotech Pvt. Ltd., MindInventory, Codiant Software Technologies Pvt. Ltd., Zignuts Technolab Pvt. Ltd.

https://www.goodfirms.co/directory/services/list-blockchain-technology-companies/cryptocurrency-wallet

B2B GoodFirms is a maverick research, ratings and reviews platform. It helps to build a strong platform for the service seekers to make it effortless for them to get in contact with the best partners.

The research team of GoodFirms assess each agency through numerous factors. It includes three main pillars that are Quality, Reliability, and Ability. Further, these components are subdivided into various measures to determine every firm’s past and present portfolio, years of experience, online market penetration, and client feedback.

Thus, by focusing on the overall research methodology each agency obtains a set of scores that are out of a total of 60. Hence, according to these points all the top development companies, best software and other organizations from diverse industries are indexed in the catalog along with genuine ratings and reviews.

GoodFirms also highlights the list of top software developers that are renowned for programming systems with the most popular computer code languages such as Java, PHP AngularJS, .Net, and Ruby on Rails. These are different types of languages used by the programmers to give instructions and to communicate with a computer.

Additionally, GoodFirms invites the service providers from varied industries to participate in the research process and show the strong evidence of their work. Hence, get a wonderful chance toGet Listed in the catalog of top companies and best software as per their categories. Obtaining a presence in the list of top service providers at GoodFirms will help to spread its wings globally and increase productivity.

About GoodFirms:

GoodFirms is a Washington, D.C. based research firm that aligns its efforts in identifying the most prominent and efficient top blockchain development companies that deliver results to their clients. GoodFirms research is a confluence of new age consumer reference processes and conventional industry-wide review & rankings that help service seekers leap further and multiply their industry-wide value and credibility.

Rachael Ray

(360) 326-2243

[email protected]

SOURCE GoodFirms

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GoodFirms Reveals the Leaders from Varied Blockchain Technology Platforms for March 2019

Top Blockchain Technology Companies

Top Blockchain Technology Companies

GoodFirms features top developers from diverse blockchain platforms for their competence to offer innovative and optimal solutions to their patrons

Blockchain with the shared ledger technology assist enterprise business to solve complex problems”

— GoodFirms Research

WASHINGTON, WASHINGTON DC, UNITED STATES, March 18, 2019 /EINPresswire.com/ — Many speckled industry leaders are looking for highly skilled blockchain developers to groove number of benefits such as having greater transparency in business, enhanced security, traceability, efficiency and speed of transaction with reduced costs. Thus, to help with this GoodFirms published the catalogue of Top Blockchain Development Companies in UK that is listed based on several qualitative and quantitative metrics.

Check out the Leaders for Blockchain Projects in UK:

•PLDEVS.COM

•IIH Global

•Tech Pathway Consultancy LLP

•Primafelicitas

•Systango Technologies

•Mobcoder

•Futurism Technologies

•BitFury

•Iflexion

•Itransition

Blockchain is adopted globally by numerous industries as it is helping them to potentially expand their business. Blockchain has got various platforms one of them is Hyperledger. It is quietly gaining steam for providing several reimbursements to the enterprises using this platform such as better productivity, a network for collaboration and real-time updates, effortless handling of intellectual property, better quality control of codes and many more. At GoodFirms, you can reach the Top Hyperledger Development Companies that are indexed along with their ratings and reviews.

Take a sneak peek at the Leaders of Hyperledger Technology:

•Pragmatic DLT inc

•Prolitus Technologies

•Edone

•Parangat Technologies

•Smartym Pro

•Existek

•CMSwebsiteservices

•Deqode

•TechGropse Pvt. Ltd.

•Mebsites

A B2B globally renowned research and rating platform GoodFirms help in associating the service seekers with top development companies, best software and excellent firms from various segments. The analyst team of GoodFirms performs a meticulous assessment. This research process consists of three main criteria’s that are Quality, Reliability and Ability. These crucial factors also include assorted statistics to assess each company such as verifying the past and present portfolio, presence in the market, years of knowledge in their proficiency and what clients have to say about their work.

After this session of research, all the firms are differentiated and give them the scores out of total 60. Hence, considering these points agencies are indexed in the list of top companies as per their categories. Here, recently GoodFirms has also classified the Top Ethereum Smart Contract Development companies for delivering secured and robust blockchain solutions to their clients.

Here is the roll down of leaders in Ethereum Developers:

•Mobiloitte Inc

•Sodio Technologies Pvt Ltd

•Chrishan Solutions

•WOXAPP

•winklix llc

•AppTraitSolutions

•Saeculum Solutions Pvt Ltd

•Zestminds

•Vivendem

•Synsoft Global

GoodFirms also cherish the service providers to come forward and participate in the on-going research process and show the evidence of their work in their domain area to get listed in the catalogue of exceptional companies. Consequently, improve their visibility across the globe and get attracted to their targeted customers.

About GoodFirms

GoodFirms is a Washington, D.C. based research firm that aligns its efforts in identifying the most prominent and efficient blockchain development companies that deliver results to their clients. GoodFirms research is a confluence of new age consumer reference processes and conventional industry-wide review & rankings that help service seekers leap further and multiply their industry-wide value and credibility.

Get Listed with GoodFirms.

Rachael Ray

GoodFirms

+13603262243

email us here

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South and North Korea agree: Washington should talk to Pyongyang

With the Winter Olympics at a close and as the clock ticks down toward the conclusion of the Winter Paralympics, when military tensions are expected to skyrocket, the Korean peninsula finds itself at the center of fast-moving diplomacy.

North-South Korean security dialogue took place at a Seoul hotel on Monday between the Vice Chairman of North Korea’s Central Party Committee, Kim Yong-chol, and Chung Eui-yong, the chief of South Korea’s National Security Office.

Must-reads from across Asia – directly to your inbox

While details of what passed between them are scant, a South Korean presidential statement suggested that the talks were wide-ranging.

“The two sides noted the PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games have provided a meaningful opportunity to realize the Olympic spirit of peace and unity, as well as for peace on the Korean Peninsula and the restoration of the South-North Korean relationship, and agreed to continue working together even after the end of the Olympics to enable the establishment of lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula, sustainable development of the South-North relationship and cooperation with the international community,” the presidential Blue House said in a statement reported by Yonhap.

At the meeting, Kim repeated that North Korea was open to direct talks with Washington.

Moon urges US to accept North Korean offer

On Sunday, Kim attended the Olympiad closing ceremony. Before it, he indicated to South Korean President Moon Jae-in that North Korea is willing to enter direct negotiations with the United States – a meeting Moon has consistently called for.

“We will see if Pyongyang’s message today, that it is willing to hold talks, represents the first steps along the path to denuclearization,” the White House responded on Sunday. However, Pyongyang has previously stated that its nuclear weapons are non-negotiable.

On Monday, Moon, meeting in Seoul with visiting Chinese Vice Premier Liu Yandong, indicated he thought Washington should take up Pyongyang’s offer. “There is a need for the United States to lower the threshold for talks with North Korea, and North Korea should show it is willing to denuclearize,” Moon was quoted as saying in a Blue House statement. “It’s important the United States and North Korea sit down together quickly.”

US President Donald Trump has followed Moon’s lead on talks, even indicating he would be willing to enter direct negotiations with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. No previous US president has ever held talks with a North Korean leader. All the same, Washington, announced on Friday yet another raft of sanctions against North Korea, infuriating Pyongyang.

Commando general is serious player, but no PR plan

In Seoul, Kim Yong-chol is proving a more low-key visitor than Kim Yo-jong, the younger sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, who visited South Korea for the Winter Olympiad opening ceremony. Kim, who is held to be central to her brother’s image management, passed on the latter’s invitation to Moon for a summit and generated swooning media coverage with her good looks and regal manner, although she did not appear to engage in more substantive diplomacy.

That behind-closed-doors role may fall to Kim Yong-chol. A central player in the regime, he is a badged general who formerly commanded the powerful and shadowy Reconnaissance General Bureau, which commands many of North Korea’s most potent asymmetrical assets, including espionage, special operations and cyber warfare units. He is also widely blamed in South Korean for two separate attacks in 2010 that killed 50 South Koreans.

While the general is not nearly as photogenic as the leader’s sister, nobody can accuse the South Koreans of not trying to stage-manage a meeting at the Olympic closing ceremony on Sunday evening.

Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics - Closing ceremony - Pyeongchang Olympic Stadium - Pyeongchang, South Korea - February 25, 2018 - Ivanka Trump, U.S. President Donald Trump's daughter and senior White House adviser, and Kim Yong Chol of the North Korea delegation attend the closing ceremony. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Ivanka Trump (left) was seated close by Kim Yong-chol at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympiad closing ceremony. Photo: Reuters / Lucy Nicholson

There, Kim – in dark coat and a Russian-style fur hat – was seated to the left and behind, but in close proximity to, the head of the visiting US delegation, Ivanka Trump. He was separated from a key player in her delegation – US Forces Korea Commander-in-Chief Vincent Brooks, who attended in full uniform – by a man who has been identified as Lee Jin-sung, president of South Korea’s Constitutional Court. Despite their proximity, however, no interaction between the two generals – or the two delegations – appeared to take place.

The Chung-Kim meeting on Monday took place in an unspecified Seoul hotel. That hotel could well have been the Sheraton Walker, which is situated on the eastern edge of the capital and therefore easy to secure against protesters, and has accommodated North Korean delegates in the past.

Whether delegates from the North are aware that the hotel is named after Walton Walker, a US general who died during the Korean War, or that the hotel complex started life as a recreation center for US troops stationed in Korea, is unknown.

Furious conservatives rally against Kim visit, Moon

Kim certainly did not appear in central Seoul, where thousands of conservatives, including the leader of the opposition Liberty Korea Party, rallied to protest his visit. Waving Korean and some American flags, the protesters – predominantly in their 50s and 60s, including a number dressed in military paraphernalia – waved placards reading “Kim Yong-chol visit: Moon Jae-in, friend of North Korea.”

One man held up a sign blaming Kim for the sinking of the corvette Cheonan, in which 46 South Korean sailors died, and for the artillery strike on Yeonpyeong Island, in which four South Koreans were killed. Kim has been accused by previous Seoul administrations of being a key figure behind the two deadly attacks, which both took place in 2010. “Kim Yong-chol is the main provocateur and criminal toward South Korea,” the placard read. “Devilish murderer visits South Korea, provoking South Korea fury.”

While there was no violence and the protests appeared well policed, emotions ran high, with some right-wingers apparently as angry with their own president as with North Korea. “Is Moon Jae-in a person? That bitch! He should die!” spat one protester.

WhatsApp Image 2018-02-26 at 16.55.46

Retired South Korean marines display a sign accusing President Moon Jae-in of being a friend of North Korea. Photo: Andrew Salmon

The liberal Moon has sought to use the Olympics as a breathing space and springboard for tension-reduction talks before combined South Korea-US military exercises take place in the spring. He is under pressure from Washington, and also outside parties including Japan, to resume these exercises and maintain “maximum pressure” on North Korea.

Thus far, Moon’s plan appears to be working. He has been rewarded with the re-opening of inter-Korean communication channels, the highest-level North Korean delegation ever to visit the South, and the current dialogue.

However, the time for a breakthrough is running out. Moon has not yet responded to Kim’s summit offer, but North and South Korean officials will meet on Tuesday to discuss the North’s participation at the Paralympics, which begin on March 9. Military exercises, and associated tensions, are expected soon after the Paralympics conclude on March 18.

Kim and his delegation are scheduled to return to North Korea on Tuesday.

Read: After the ‘Peace Olympics,’ time for the war games?

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Is China ready for what US could unleash in trade war?

As rumblings of a trade war between Washington and Beijing grow louder, the Trump administration appears to be gearing up for renewed confrontation with China.

The signs have been clear. Last month, Donald Trump’s move to slap punitive tariffs on solar panels and washing machines, mostly on imports from China, was an opening salvo, while the “renegotiation” of the Nafta and Korea-US (KORUS) free trade agreements has drawn the most attention.

It’s a matter of time before Trump and China embrace the TPP

But these moves are just a small part of the policy arsenal Washington could unleash under the banner of “national security interests” to monitor, control and block commercial activities between Chinese and American entities.

Watch: Trump’s new tariffs spark outcry in Asia

This month Wendy Cutler, a former US government trade official, made an ominous warning towards China, saying the tariffs were “just the beginning of a series of announcements that will be coming”.

There are a variety of show-stopping actions the administration could take, with little or no warning, including: blocking foreign acquisitions or deals with firms and industries Washington considers “nationally sensitive”; new or increased sanctions against individuals, companies and countries; and introducing new export licensing requirements for seemingly benign materials and components – causing rapid disruption to global supply chains.

Locked and loaded, China and the US are heading into a trade war

These scenarios fall under the lengthening shadow of what are known as strategic industries and economic security, through which more than a dozen US federal agencies enforce hundreds of regulations and restrictions.

Any enterprise that fails to realise the gravity of these measures will have calamity visited upon it. Take the example of Chinese telecoms firm ZTE, which recently paid out US$892.4 million in penalties to US government agencies. ZTE violated export controls and sanctions regulations on shipments of US origin materials to Iran and North Korea.

Despite being major trading partners – with all of the benefits this brings to both sides – Beijing and Washington are both pursuing increasingly self-serving agendas based on national security, and that seems destined to intensify.

Trump’s first year failed the China test. His second looks far worse

Important technology sectors have been pulled into the fray and the rivalry has spilled over into cyber warfare, espionage and the militarisation of space.

The consequences of this growing power rivalry are deadly serious. Recent reports of a supposed spy-killing campaign in China, reportedly instigated by Jerry Chun Shing Lee, a CIA-agent-turned mole – are a sobering reminder of this reality.

In the latest round of blocked Chinese business ventures, the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last month forced AT&T to back out of a major deal with the Chinese smartphone maker Huawei.

The deal would have made Huawei, the world’s largest maker of telecommunications equipment, a major supplier of phones to AT&T’s customers. However, the firm has long been suspected by US lawmakers of links to Beijing’s economic and political policy apparatus. Huawei’s founder, Ren Zhengfei, was an officer in the Chinese military.

Why a cooling in China’s economy would be a good thing

Although Huawei is a private company, most US authorities are convinced that virtually all big Chinese companies have murky ties to Beijing’s power circle. The thought of millions of American consumers using Chinese-made phones with secret “back doors” and data-tracking features written into the operating systems was enough to kill the deal.

Since 2012, Huawei had been blocked from selling network equipment to US telecommunications carriers, so the latest rebuff on telephone sales has dealt a major blow to the company, essentially locking it out of the world’s largest economy.

Another recent deal blocked on similar grounds saw Ant Financial, the fintech arm of Chinese internet giant Alibaba, which also owns the South China Morning Post, being barred from purchasing Moneygram, the US money-transfer company. The deal, worth US$1.2 billion, was killed by the Committee of Foreign Investments in the US, on the grounds that Chinese interests would have access to the private data of millions of Americans.

Sovereign wealth funds: just a way for China and Russia to flex muscles?

In the current climate in Washington, espionage and sabotage are on equal footing with the fear of losing competitive advantage in critical sectors, particularly in semi-conductors, artificial intelligence and robotics.

In September, the Trump administration took its first major action when it blocked Canyon Bridge Fund – owned by Chinese state-backed entities – from buying Lattice Semiconductor Corporation, a cutting edge American tech company. This trend will continue into 2018, and probably intensify, as Chinese firms increasingly target hi-tech acquisitions.

Watch: China-US relations in Trump era

Beijing, of course, is no stranger to blocking foreign companies from operating in its markets. Google, Facebook and Twitter have all been blocked from providing services in rulings motivated as much by security concerns as they were designed to protect local Chinese firms.

The only game in town? Why China will keep buying US Treasury debt

The Chinese are also said to have reacted to Edward Snowden’s divulgence of the NSA’s surveillance activities in China by excluding US vendors Cisco and Apple from approved government supplier lists.

How far will this all go? And will claims of national security serve as instruments of trade protectionism? No doubt, they will.

International businesses should get ready for a bumpy ride ahead.

Alex Capri is a visiting fellow at the Department of Analytics & Operations at National University of Singapore Business School

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Munich gathering descends into Russia-bashing nonsense & warmongering

How ironic. A forum proclaiming to uphold global security is acting like a bullhorn for war.

The release on Friday of the US Department of Justice’s indictment of 13 Russian citizens for alleged meddling in the 2016 US presidential election went on to dominate the conference being held in Munich over the weekend.

Rather than being a peripheral matter owing to its dubious claims, the Washington hobby horse of “Russian meddling” was given free rein in Munich. Instead of parsing the latest Russophobia with intelligent skepticism, the conference added fuel to the bonfire of warmongering.

The annual gathering in the Bavarian capital is supposed to be an occasion when international political, military and intelligence leaders gather to discuss pressing security issues. The pro-NATO bias of the 54th Munich Security Conference (MSC) – never too disguised at best of times – was this year openly brandished.

A flurry of speakers eagerly took the latest US indictments at face value and cited them as “evidence” of Russian subversion and cyber warfare against Western democracies.

We should expect no less invective impugning Russia from the likes of NATO civilian chief Jens Stoltenberg, or Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko, as well as US National Security Advisor General HR McMaster. But even German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel in his address to the conference accused Russia (and China) of trying to “undermine” unity within the European Union.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov weathered the anti-Russia barrage by pointing out that the latest US indictments alleging Kremlin interference in American politics are yet more evidence-free assertions, which amount to nothing but “blather.”

Sure enough, the 37-page charge sheet issued by the DOJ probe headed up by special counsel Robert Mueller is scant in incriminating details, heavy on innuendo, as usual, and certainly bereft of any credible link to Kremlin involvement in meddling with the US presidential election.

For this superficial and tenuous case to be held up by American politicians as “an act of war” by Russia on the United States is ludicrous. Insanity has indeed taken hold of mainstream American discourse.

One would think that maybe the Munich conference would be able to address global security issues objectively and professionally. No. It afforded its proceedings at the weekend to amplify the Russophobia raging in the US media over the spurious ‘Russiagate’ affair. At a time, too, when many alternative rational observers in the US and Europe are able to perceive that the Russiagate narrative is collapsing from lack of evidence.

Arguably, over its 54 years of convening in Munich, the only time that the MSC became enlivened with a dose of geopolitical reality was when Russian President Vladimir Putin delivered a blistering landmark speech back in 2007. Putin did not hold back any rhetorical punches then, propounding a withering criticism of Washington and its NATO allies for shattering international law and security through illegal military interventions around the world.

In the 11 years since Putin’s seminal address, the international disorder has vindicated the Russian leader’s prognosis. It has become even more frayed from US and NATO’s unbridled use of military force, overtly and covertly, to pursue regime change and other criminal intrigues.

If the Munich summit had any genuine objective concern about global security and conflicts then it would be airing criticism of how Washington and its allies are undermining the international order in numerous ways.

Former CIA director James Woolsey: “US meddles in foreign elections – but only for a very good cause”. Says it all. pic.twitter.com/ib51oA1rC8

— Russian Embassy, UK (@RussianEmbassy) February 17, 2018

From their military forces illegally occupying Syrian territory and covertly colluding with terrorist proxies for regime change; to ratcheting up tensions for a nuclear war with North Korea while shamelessly undercutting diplomatic peace efforts for the Korean Peninsula by Moscow and Beijing; to the Trump administration’s provocative trashing of the 2015 international nuclear accord with Iran, while also fomenting aggressive moves by Israel and Saudi Arabia against Tehran.

Washington’s green light to supply lethal weapons to the reactionary Western-backed Kiev regime is recklessly stoking a new war in Europe. The recent arrival of NATO military trainers to consort with Kiev’s militias who openly espouse Neo-Nazi ideology is a harbinger of a new offensive on the ethnic Russian population of eastern Ukraine.

But none of these pressing security issues and grounds for vigorous condemnation of Washington and its NATO allies gained prominent discussion at the Munich conference. Of course, they wouldn’t because the event is dominated by pro-NATO auspices.

Days before the conference opened, the preliminary MSC 2018 report hinted at aberrations in US policy under Trump. Conference Chairman Wolfgang Ischinger warned in introductory remarks that “the world has gotten closer – much too close! – to the brink of a significant conflict.”

With somewhat surprising candor, the MSC preview document deprecated how the US under Trump was a “hostile revisionist power” attacking the “building blocks of international order.”

Ischinger went on to cite conflicts between the US and North Korea and NATO-Russian tensions, admonishing: “2018 promises to be a year where some of these crises might either move towards resolution or escalation – with potentially catastrophic consequences. We must do whatever we can to move away from the brink.”

However, moving away from the brink of conflict is precisely what the Munich conference did not do. Despite its claims to the contrary, the event is reprehensibly winding up tensions and war by lending credibility to Washington’s fatuous anti-Russia propaganda. By doing so, the MSC has forfeited any credibility it might have claimed to have as an international forum.

Rather than shedding critical light on how Washington and its NATO allies are destroying the international order and provoking confrontation, the MSC turned over its proceedings at the weekend to Russia-bashing based on hysterical Russophobia and hollow claims of Kremlin meddling.

What is deeply disturbing is that a supposedly multilateral forum of professional diplomats and security experts has become an appendage of rank anti-Russian propaganda, instead of facilitating an earnest effort to honestly and accurately address real security concerns.

American politicians and the so-called paper of record, the New York Times, are openly equating dubious allegations of Russian interference in American politics as “an act of war.” President Trump is being castigated for “not showing leadership to confront Russia.”

“Trump’s conspicuous silence leaves a struggle against Russia without a leader,”declared a NY Times front-page headline.

The hysterical headlong rush to incite war based on American propaganda is one thing. US political culture has become so wholly debased to the level of crass stupidity and prejudice one can expect nothing better.

But it is truly disturbing that the allegations against Russia are being amplified by European leaders and other international ‘experts’, at a time when these allegations are shown to be even more tenuous and untenable. Rather than focusing on real causes of war peril and “moving back from the brink” the Munich conference this weekend is pushing the world over the edge.

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US ‘Mulling Cyber Strike Against N.Korea’

Despite talk of a “bloody nose” strike against North Korea in Washington, the initial round of warfare could be waged in cyberspace, according to Foreign Policy magazine.

“The first shot will be cyber,” it quoted a former U.S. intelligence official as predicting.

Quoting six former and incumbent U.S. intelligence officials, the magazine wrote, “The U.S. government for the past six months has covertly begun laying the groundwork for possible cyberattacks on North Korea in countries including South Korea and Japan.”

“This process involves installing fiber cables as bridges into the region and setting up remote bases and listening posts, where hackers may attempt to gain access to a North Korean Internet that’s largely walled off from external connections,” it added.

“America’s spies are pivoting the magnifying glass, funneling much of the weight of billions of dollars in technical infrastructure and trained professionals toward Pyongyang,” it said. “Military and intelligence contractors have posted a number of job announcements in recent months seeking analysts with Korean-language skills, including positions to identify and recruit human intelligence sources.”

Top-notch analysts have been assigned to a Korean affairs division at the Defense Intelligence Agency. “In November 2017, rumors flew around the halls at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia that the agency would also be surging analysts of all disciplines to work at the brand-new Korea Mission Center, established in May of that year, a symbol of serious potential for military action.”

Counterterrorism and drug specialists have been given new jobs related to the Korean Peninsula or will likely be given such jobs soon, according to the magazine.

There is “a nearly unprecedented scramble inside the agencies responsible for spying and cyber warfare” against the North.

Washington could fire “a warning shot” at Pyongyang over the cryptocurrency market, given CIA Director Mike Pompeo’s recent remarks that a “maximum pressure” policy against Pyongyang was designed by the CIA and that Washington is preparing a series of options in case diplomacy fails, the magazine speculated.

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WORLDWIDE THREAT ASSESSMENT of the US INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY | Cyberwarfare

1

STATEMENT FOR THE RECORD

WORLDWIDE THREAT ASSESSMENT

of the

US INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY

February 13, 2018

INTRODUCTION

Chairman Burr, Vice Chairman Warner, Members of the Committee, thank you for the invitation to

offer the United States Intelligence Community’s 2018 assessment of threats to US national security.

My statement reflects the collective insights of the Intelligence Community’s extraordinary women

and men, whom I am privileged and honored to lead. We in the Intelligence Community are

committed every day to providing the nuanced, independent, and unvarnished intelligence that

policymakers, warfighters, and domestic law enforcement personnel need to protect American lives

and America’s interests anywhere in the world.

The order of the topics presented in this statement does not necessarily indicate the relative

importance or magnitude of the threat in the view of the Intelligence Community.

Information available as of 8 February 2018 was used in the preparation of this assessment.

2

CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION ……………………………………………………………………………………………………. 2

CONTENTS ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 3

FOREWORD ………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 4

GLOBAL THREATS ………………………………………………………………………………………………… 5

CYBER THREATS …………………………………………………………………………………………………… 5

WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION AND PROLIFERATION ………………………………….. 7

TERRORISM ………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 9

COUNTERINTELLIGENCE AND FOREIGN DENIAL AND DECEPTION …………………. 11

EMERGING AND DISRUPTIVE TECHNOLOGY …………………………………………………….. 12

TECHNOLOGY ACQUISITIONS AND STRATEGIC ECONOMIC COMPETITION ……… 12

SPACE AND COUNTERSPACE ……………………………………………………………………………… 13

TRANSNATIONAL ORGANIZED CRIME ………………………………………………………………. 13

ECONOMICS AND ENERGY …………………………………………………………………………………. 15

HUMAN SECURITY ……………………………………………………………………………………………… 16

REGIONAL THREATS…………………………………………………………………………………………… 18

EAST ASIA …………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 18

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA …………………………………………………………………… 19

SOUTH ASIA ………………………………………………………………………………………………………… 22

RUSSIA AND EURASIA ………………………………………………………………………………………… 23

EUROPE ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………. 25

AFRICA ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. 26

THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE ………………………………………………………………………………. 27

3

FOREWORD

Competition among countries will increase in the coming year as major powers and regional aggressors

exploit complex global trends while adjusting to new priorities in US foreign policy. The risk of interstate

conflict, including among great powers, is higher than at any time since the end of the Cold War. The most

immediate threats of regional interstate conflict in the next year come from North Korea and from Saudi-

Iranian use of proxies in their rivalry. At the same time, the threat of state and nonstate use of weapons of

mass destruction will continue to grow.

 Adversaries and malign actors will use all instruments of national power—including information

and cyber means—to shape societies and markets, international rules and institutions, and

international hot spots to their advantage.

 China and Russia will seek spheres of influence and to check US appeal and influence in their

regions. Meanwhile, US allies’ and partners’ uncertainty about the willingness and capability of

the United States to maintain its international commitments may drive them to consider

reorienting their policies, particularly regarding trade, away from Washington.

 Forces for geopolitical order and stability will continue to fray, as will the rules-based

international order. New alignments and informal networks—outside traditional power blocs

and national governments—will increasingly strain international cooperation.

Tension within many countries will rise, and the threat from Sunni violent extremist groups will evolve as

they recoup after battlefield losses in the Middle East.

 Slow economic growth and technology-induced disruptions in job markets are fueling populism

within advanced industrial countries and the very nationalism that contributes to tension among

countries.

 Developing countries in Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa face economic challenges, and

many states struggle with reforms to tamp down corruption. Terrorists and criminal groups will

continue to exploit weak state capacity in Africa, the Middle East, and Asia.

 Challenges from urbanization and migration will persist, while the effects of air pollution,

inadequate water, and climate change on human health and livelihood will become more

noticeable. Domestic policy responses to such issues will become more difficult—especially for

democracies—as publics become less trusting of authoritative information sources.

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GLOBAL THREATS

CYBER THREATS

The potential for surprise in the cyber realm will increase in the next year and beyond as billions more

digital devices are connected—with relatively little built-in security—and both nation states and malign

actors become more emboldened and better equipped in the use of increasingly widespread cyber toolkits.

The risk is growing that some adversaries will conduct cyber attacks—such as data deletion or

localized and temporary disruptions of critical infrastructure—against the United States in a crisis

short of war.

 In 2016 and 2017, state-sponsored cyber attacks against Ukraine and Saudi Arabia targeted

multiple sectors across critical infrastructure, government, and commercial networks.

 Ransomware and malware attacks have spread globally, disrupting global shipping and

production lines of US companies. The availability of criminal and commercial malware is

creating opportunities for new actors to launch cyber operations.

 We assess that concerns about US retaliation and still developing adversary capabilities will

mitigate the probability of attacks aimed at causing major disruptions of US critical

infrastructure, but we remain concerned by the increasingly damaging effects of cyber operations

and the apparent acceptance by adversaries of collateral damage.

Adversaries and Malign Actors Poised for Aggression

Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea will pose the greatest

cyber threats to the United States during the next year.

These states are using cyber operations as a low-cost tool

of statecraft, and we assess that they will work to use

cyber operations to achieve strategic objectives unless

they face clear repercussions for their cyber operations.

Nonstate actors will continue to use cyber operations for

financial crime and to enable propaganda and

messaging.

 The use of cyber attacks as a foreign policy tool

outside of military conflict has been mostly limited

to sporadic lower-level attacks. Russia, Iran, and

North Korea, however, are testing more aggressive

cyber attacks that pose growing threats to the United

States and US partners.

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Russia. We expect that Russia will conduct bolder and more disruptive cyber operations during the next

year, most likely using new capabilities against Ukraine. The Russian Government is likely to build on

the wide range of operations it is already conducting, including disruption of Ukrainian energy-

distribution networks, hack-and-leak influence operations, distributed denial-of-service attacks, and

false flag operations. In the next year, Russian intelligence and security services will continue to probe

US and allied critical infrastructures, as well as target the United States, NATO, and allies for insights

into US policy.

China. China will continue to use cyber espionage and bolster cyber attack capabilities to support national

security priorities. The IC and private-sector security experts continue to identify ongoing cyber

activity from China, although at volumes significantly lower than before the bilateral US-China

cyber commitments of September 2015. Most detected Chinese cyber operations against US private

industry are focused on cleared defense contractors or IT and communications firms whose products

and services support government and private sector networks worldwide. China since 2015 has been

advancing its cyber attack capabilities by integrating its military cyber attack and espionage

resources in the Strategic Support Force, which it established in 2015.

Iran. We assess that Iran will continue working to penetrate US and Allied networks for espionage and to

position itself for potential future cyber attacks, although its intelligence services primarily focus on Middle

Eastern adversaries—especially Saudi Arabia and Israel. Tehran probably views cyberattacks as a

versatile tool to respond to perceived provocations, despite Iran’s recent restraint from conducting

cyber attacks on the United States or Western allies. Iran’s cyber attacks against Saudi Arabia in late

2016 and early 2017 involved data deletion on dozens of networks across government and the

private sector.

North Korea. We expect the heavily sanctioned North Korea to use cyber operations to raise funds and to

gather intelligence or launch attacks on South Korea and the United States. Pyongyang probably has a

number of techniques and tools it can use to achieve a range of offensive effects with little or no

warning, including distributed denial of service attacks, data deletion, and deployment of

ransomware.

 North Korean actors developed and launched the WannaCry ransomware in May 2017, judging

from technical links to previously identified North Korean cyber tools, tradecraft, and

operational infrastructure. We also assess that these actors conducted the cyber theft of $81

million from the Bank of Bangladesh in 2016.

Terrorists and Criminals. Terrorist groups will continue to use the Internet to organize, recruit, spread

propaganda, raise funds, collect intelligence, inspire action by followers, and coordinate operations. Given

their current capabilities, cyber operations by terrorist groups mostly likely would result in personally

identifiable information (PII) disclosures, website defacements, and denial-of-service attacks against

poorly protected networks. Transnational criminals will continue to conduct for-profit cyber-

enabled crimes, such as theft and extortion against US networks. We expect the line between

criminal and nation-state activity to become increasingly blurred as states view cyber criminal tools

as a relatively inexpensive and deniable means to enable their operations.

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WEAPONS OF MASS DESTRUCTION AND PROLIFERATION

State efforts to modernize, develop, or acquire weapons of mass destruction (WMD), their delivery systems,

or their underlying technologies constitute a major threat to the security of the United States, its deployed

troops, and its allies. Both state and nonstate actors have already demonstrated the use of chemical

weapons in Iraq and Syria. Biological and chemical materials and technologies—almost always

dual-use—move easily in the globalized economy, as do personnel with the scientific expertise to

design and use them for legitimate and illegitimate purposes. Information about the latest

discoveries in the life sciences also diffuses rapidly around the globe, widening the accessibility of

knowledge and tools for beneficial purposes and for potentially nefarious applications.

Russia

Russia has developed a ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM) that the United States has declared

is in violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty. Despite Russia’s ongoing

development of other Treaty-compliant missiles with intermediate ranges, Moscow probably

believes that the new GLCM provides sufficient military advantages to make it worth risking the

political repercussions of violating the INF Treaty. In 2013, a senior Russian administration official

stated publicly that the world had changed since the INF Treaty was signed in 1987. Other Russian

officials have made statements complaining that the Treaty prohibits Russia, but not some of its

neighbors, from developing and possessing ground-launched missiles with ranges between 500 and

5,500 kilometers.

China

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) continues to modernize its nuclear missile force by

adding more survivable road-mobile systems and enhancing its silo-based systems. This new

generation of missiles is intended to ensure the viability of China’s strategic deterrent by providing a

second-strike capability. China also has tested a hypersonic glide vehicle. In addition, the PLA

Navy continues to develop the JL-2 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) and might produce

additional JIN-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines. The JIN-class submarines—

armed with JL-2 SLBMs—give the PLA Navy its first long-range, sea-based nuclear capability. The

Chinese have also publicized their intent to form a triad by developing a nuclear-capable next-

generation bomber.

Iran and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action

Tehran’s public statements suggest that it wants to preserve the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action

because it views the JCPOA as a means to remove sanctions while preserving some nuclear

capabilities. Iran recognizes that the US Administration has concerns about the deal but expects the

other participants—China, the EU, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom—to honor

their commitments. Iran’s implementation of the JCPOA has extended the amount of time Iran

would need to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon from a few months to about one

year, provided Iran continues to adhere to the deal’s major provisions. The JCPOA has also

enhanced the transparency of Iran’s nuclear activities, mainly by fostering improved access to

Iranian nuclear facilities for the IAEA and its investigative authorities under the Additional Protocol

to its Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement.

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Iran’s ballistic missile programs give it the potential to hold targets at risk across the region, and

Tehran already has the largest inventory of ballistic missiles in the Middle East. Tehran’s desire to

deter the United States might drive it to field an ICBM. Progress on Iran’s space program, such as

the launch of the Simorgh SLV in July 2017, could shorten a pathway to an ICBM because space

launch vehicles use similar technologies.

North Korea

North Korea will be among the most volatile and confrontational WMD threats to the United States over

the next year. North Korea’s history of exporting ballistic missile technology to several countries,

including Iran and Syria, and its assistance during Syria’s construction of a nuclear reactor—

destroyed in 2007—illustrate its willingness to proliferate dangerous technologies.

In 2017 North Korea, for the second straight year, conducted a large number of ballistic missile tests,

including its first ICBM tests. Pyongyang is committed to developing a long-range, nuclear-armed

missile that is capable of posing a direct threat to the United States. It also conducted its sixth and

highest yield nuclear test to date.

We assess that North Korea has a longstanding BW capability and biotechnology infrastructure that

could support a BW program. We also assess that North Korea has a CW program and probably

could employ these agents by modifying conventional munitions or with unconventional, targeted

methods.

Pakistan

Pakistan continues to produce nuclear weapons and develop new types of nuclear weapons,

including short-range tactical weapons, sea-based cruise missiles, air-launched cruise missiles, and

longer-range ballistic missiles. These new types of nuclear weapons will introduce new risks for

escalation dynamics and security in the region.

Syria

We assess that the Syrian regime used the nerve agent sarin in an attack against the opposition in

Khan Shaykhun on 4 April 2017, in what is probably the largest chemical weapons attack since

August 2013. We continue to assess that Syria has not declared all the elements of its chemical

weapons program to the Chemical Weapons Convention (CWC) and that it has the capability to

conduct further attacks. Despite the creation of a specialized team and years of work by the

Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to address gaps and inconsistencies

in Syria’s declaration, numerous issues remain unresolved. The OPCW-UN Joint Investigative

Mechanism (JIM) has attributed the 4 April 2017 sarin attack and three chlorine attacks in 2014 and

2015 to the Syrian regime. Even after the attack on Khan Shaykhun, we have continued to observe

allegations that the regime has used chemicals against the opposition.

ISIS

We assess that ISIS is also using chemicals as a means of warfare. The OPCW-UN JIM concluded

that ISIS used sulfur mustard in two attacks in 2015 and 2016, and we assess that it has used

chemical weapons in numerous other attacks in Iraq and Syria.

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TERRORISM

Sunni violent extremists—most notably ISIS and al-Qa‘ida—pose continuing terrorist threats to US

interests and partners worldwide, while US-based homegrown violent extremists (HVEs) will remain

the most prevalent Sunni violent extremist threat in the United States. Iran and its strategic partner

Lebanese Hizballah also pose a persistent threat to the United States and its partners worldwide.

Sunni Violent Extremism

Sunni violent extremists are still intent on attacking the US homeland and US interests overseas, but their

attacks will be most frequent in or near conflict zones or against enemies that are more easily accessible.

 Sunni violent extremist groups are geographically diverse; they are likely to exploit conflict

zones in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, where they can co-mingle terrorism and insurgency.

 ISIS and al-Qa‘ida and their respective networks will be persistent threats, as will groups not

subordinate to them, such as the Haqqani Taliban Network.

ISIS

Over the next year, we expect that ISIS is likely to focus on regrouping in Iraq and Syria, enhancing its

global presence, championing its cause, planning international attacks, and encouraging its members and

sympathizers to attack in their home countries. ISIS’s claim of having a functioning caliphate that

governs populations is all but thwarted.

 ISIS core has started—and probably will maintain—a robust insurgency in Iraq and Syria as part

of a long-term strategy to ultimately enable the reemergence of its so-called caliphate. This

activity will challenge local CT efforts against the group and threaten US interests in the region.

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 ISIS almost certainly will continue to give priority to transnational terrorist attacks. Its

leadership probably assesses that, if ISIS-linked attacks continue to dominate public discourse,

the group’s narrative will be buoyed, it will be difficult for the counter-ISIS coalition to portray

the group as defeated, and the coalition’s will to fight will ultimately weaken.

 Outside Iraq and Syria, ISIS’s goal of fostering interconnectivity and resiliency among its global

branches and networks probably will result in local and, in some cases, regional attack plans.

Al-Qa‘ida

Al-Qa‘ida almost certainly will remain a major actor in global terrorism because of the combined staying

power of its five affiliates. The primary threat to US and Western interests from al-Qa‘ida’s global

network through 2018 will be in or near affiliates’ operating areas. Not all affiliates will have the intent

and capability to pursue or inspire attacks in the US homeland or elsewhere in the West.

 Al-Qa‘ida’s affiliates probably will continue to dedicate most of their resources to local activity,

including participating in ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen, as well

as attacking regional actors and populations in other parts of Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.

 Al-Qa‘ida leaders and affiliate media platforms almost certainly will call for followers to carry

out attacks in the West, but their appeals probably will not create a spike in inspired attacks.

The group’s messaging since at least 2010 has produced few such attacks.

Homegrown Violent Extremists

Homegrown violent extremists (HVEs) will remain the most prevalent and difficult-to-detect Sunni terrorist

threat at home, despite a drop in the number of attacks in 2017. HVE attacks are likely to continue to

occur with little or no warning because the perpetrators often strike soft targets and use simple tactics

that do not require advanced skills or outside training.

 HVEs almost certainly will continue to be inspired by a variety of sources, including terrorist

propaganda as well as in response to perceived grievances related to US Government actions.

Iran and Lebanese Hizballah

Iran remains the most prominent state sponsor of terrorism, providing financial aid, advanced

weapons and tactics, and direction to militant and terrorist groups across the Middle East and

cultivating a network of operatives across the globe as a contingency to enable potential terrorist

attacks.

Lebanese Hizballah has demonstrated its intent to foment regional instability by deploying

thousands of fighters to Syria and by providing weapons, tactics, and direction to militant and

terrorist groups. Hizballah probably also emphasizes its capability to attack US, Israeli, and Saudi

Arabian interests.

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COUNTERINTELLIGENCE AND FOREIGN DENIAL AND DECEPTION

The United States will face a complex global foreign intelligence threat environment in 2018. We assess

that the leading state intelligence threats to US interests will continue to be Russia and China, based on

their services’ capabilities, intent, and broad operational scope. Other states in the Near East, South

Asia, East Asia, and Latin America will pose local and regional intelligence threats to US interests.

For example, Iranian and Cuban intelligence and security services continue to view the United

States as a primary threat.

Penetrating the US national decisionmaking apparatus and the Intelligence Community will remain

primary objectives for numerous foreign intelligence entities. Additionally, the targeting of national

security information and proprietary information from US companies and research institutions

involved with defense, energy, finance, dual-use technology, and other areas will remain a persistent

threat to US interests.

Nonstate entities, including international terrorists and transnational organized crime groups, are

likely to continue to employ and improve their intelligence capabilities, including human, technical,

and cyber means. As with state intelligence services, these nonstate entities recruit sources and

perform physical and technical surveillance to facilitate their illicit activities and to avoid detection

and capture.

Trusted insiders who disclose sensitive or classified US Government information without

authorization will remain a significant threat in 2018 and beyond. The sophistication and

availability of information technology that increases the scope and impact of unauthorized

disclosures exacerbate this threat.

Russia and Influence Campaigns

Influence operations, especially through cyber means, will remain a significant threat to US interests as

they are low-cost, relatively low-risk, and deniable ways to retaliate against adversaries, to shape foreign

perceptions, and to influence populations. Russia probably will be the most capable and aggressive

source of this threat in 2018, although many countries and some nonstate actors are exploring ways

to use influence operations, both domestically and abroad.

We assess that the Russian intelligence services will continue their efforts to disseminate false information

via Russian state-controlled media and covert online personas about US activities to encourage anti-US

political views. Moscow seeks to create wedges that reduce trust and confidence in democratic

processes, degrade democratization efforts, weaken US partnerships with European allies,

undermine Western sanctions, encourage anti-US political views, and counter efforts to bring

Ukraine and other former Soviet states into European institutions.

 Foreign elections are critical inflection points that offer opportunities for Russia to advance its

interests both overtly and covertly. The 2018 US mid-term elections are a potential target for

Russian influence operations.

 At a minimum, we expect Russia to continue using propaganda, social media, false-flag

personas, sympathetic spokespeople, and other means of influence to try to exacerbate social and

political fissures in the United States.

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EMERGING AND DISRUPTIVE TECHNOLOGY

New technologies and novel applications of existing technologies have the potential to disrupt labor markets

and alter health, energy, and transportation systems. We assess that technology developments—in the

biotechnology and communications sectors, for example—are likely to outpace regulation, which

could create international norms that are contrary to US interests and increase the likelihood of

technology surprise. Emerging technology and new applications of existing technology will also

allow our adversaries to more readily develop weapon systems that can strike farther, faster, and

harder and challenge the United States in all warfare domains, including space.

 The widespread proliferation of artificial intelligence (AI)—the field of computer science

encompassing systems that seek to imitate aspects of human cognition by learning and making

decisions based on accumulated knowledge—is likely to prompt new national security concerns;

existing machine learning technology, for example, could enable high degrees of automation in

labor-intensive activities such as satellite imagery analysis and cyber defense. Increasingly

capable AI tools, which are often enabled by large amounts of data, are also likely to present

socioeconomic challenges, including impacts on employment and privacy.

 New biotechnologies are leading to improvements in agriculture, health care, and

manufacturing. However, some applications of biotechnologies may lead to unintentional

negative health effects, biological accidents, or deliberate misuse.

 The global shift to advanced information and communications technologies (ICT) will

increasingly test US competitiveness because aspiring suppliers around the world will play a

larger role in developing new technologies and products. These technologies include next-

generation, or 5G, wireless technology; the internet of things; new financial technologies; and

enabling AI and big data for predictive analysis. Differences in regulatory and policy approaches

to ICT-related issues could impede growth and innovation globally and for US companies.

 Advanced materials could disrupt the economies of some commodities-dependent exporting

countries while providing a competitive edge to developed and developing countries that create

the capacity to produce and use the new materials. New materials, such as nanomaterials, are

often developed faster than their health and environmental effects can be assessed. Advances in

manufacturing, particularly the development of 3D printing, almost certainly will become even

more accessible to a variety of state and nonstate actors and be used in ways contrary to our

interests.

TECHNOLOGY ACQUISITIONS AND STRATEGIC ECONOMIC COMPETITION

Persistent trade imbalances, trade barriers, and a lack of market-friendly policies in some countries

probably will continue to challenge US economic security. Some countries almost certainly will continue to

acquire US intellectual property and propriety information illicitly to advance their own economic and

national security objectives.

 China, for example, has acquired proprietary technology and early-stage ideas through cyber-

enabled means. At the same time, some actors use largely legitimate, legal transfers and

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relationships to gain access to research fields, experts, and key enabling industrial processes that

could, over time, erode America’s long-term competitive advantages.

SPACE AND COUNTERSPACE

Continued global space industry expansion will further extend space-enabled capabilities and space

situational awareness to nation-state, nonstate, and commercial space actors in the coming years,

enabled by the increased availability of technology, private-sector investment, and growing

international partnerships for shared production and operation. All actors will increasingly have

access to space-derived information services, such as imagery, weather, communications, and

positioning, navigation, and timing for intelligence, military, scientific, or business purposes.

Foreign countries—particularly China and Russia—will continue to expand their space-based

reconnaissance, communications, and navigation systems in terms of the numbers of satellites, the

breadth of their capability, and the applications for use.

Both Russia and China continue to pursue antisatellite (ASAT) weapons as a means to reduce US

and allied military effectiveness. Russia and China aim to have nondestructive and destructive

counterspace weapons available for use during a potential future conflict. We assess that, if a future

conflict were to occur involving Russia or China, either country would justify attacks against US and

allied satellites as necessary to offset any perceived US military advantage derived from military,

civil, or commercial space systems. Military reforms in both countries in the past few years indicate

an increased focus on establishing operational forces designed to integrate attacks against space

systems and services with military operations in other domains.

Russian and Chinese destructive ASAT weapons probably will reach initial operational capability in

the next few years. China’s PLA has formed military units and begun initial operational training

with counterspace capabilities that it has been developing, such as ground-launched ASAT missiles.

Russia probably has a similar class of system in development. Both countries are also advancing

directed-energy weapons technologies for the purpose of fielding ASAT weapons that could blind or

damage sensitive space-based optical sensors, such as those used for remote sensing or missile

defense.

Of particular concern, Russia and China continue to launch “experimental” satellites that conduct

sophisticated on-orbit activities, at least some of which are intended to advance counterspace

capabilities. Some technologies with peaceful applications—such as satellite inspection, refueling,

and repair—can also be used against adversary spacecraft.

Russia and China continue to publicly and diplomatically promote international agreements on the

nonweaponization of space and “no first placement” of weapons in space. However, many classes

of weapons would not be addressed by such proposals, allowing them to continue their pursuit of

space warfare capabilities while publicly maintaining that space must be a peaceful domain.

TRANSNATIONAL ORGANIZED CRIME

Transnational organized criminal groups and networks will pose serious and growing threats to the security

and health of US citizens, as well as to global human rights, ecological integrity, government revenues, and

efforts to deal with adversaries and terrorists. In the most severe cases abroad, criminal enterprises will

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contribute to increased social violence, erode governments’ authorities, undermine the integrity of

international financial systems, and harm critical infrastructure.

Drug Trafficking

Transnational organized criminal groups supply the

dominant share of illicit drugs consumed in the United

States, fueling high mortality rates among US citizens.

 Americans in 2016 died in record numbers from

drug overdoses, 21 percent more than in 2015.

 Worldwide production of cocaine, heroin, and

methamphetamine is at record levels. US

mortality from potent synthetic opioids doubled in

2016, and synthetic opioids have become a key

cause of US drug deaths.

 Mexican criminal groups will continue to supply

much of the heroin, methamphetamine, cocaine,

and marijuana that cross the US-Mexico border,

while China-based suppliers ship fentanyls and

fentanyl precursors to Mexico-, Canada-, and US-

based distributors or sell directly to consumers via

the Internet.

Broader Threats From Transnational Crime

Transnational organized criminal groups, in addition to engaging in violence, will continue to traffic in

human beings, deplete natural resources, and siphon money from governments and the global economy.

 Human trafficking will continue in virtually every country. International organizations estimate

that about 25 million people are victims.

 The FBI assesses that US losses from cybercrime in 2016 exceeded $1.3 billion, and some

industry experts predict such losses could cost the global economy $6 trillion by 2021.

 Criminal wildlife poaching, illegal fishing, illicit mining, and drug-crop production will continue

to threaten economies, biodiversity, food supply security, and human health. For example,

academic studies show that illicit mining alone adds some 650 to 1,000 tons of toxic mercury to

the ecosystem each year.

 Transnational organized criminal groups probably will generate more revenue from illicit

activity in the coming year, which the UN last estimated at $1.6-$2.2 trillion for 2014.

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ECONOMICS AND ENERGY

Global growth in 2018—projected by the IMF to

rise to 3.9 percent—is likely to become more broadly

based, but growth remains weak in many countries,

and inflation is below target in most advanced

economies. The relatively favorable outlook for

real economic growth suggests little near-term

risk of unfavorable deficit-debt dynamics among

the advanced economies. Supportive financial

conditions and improving business sentiment

will help to drive economic activity in advanced

countries. China’s growth may decelerate as the

property sector cools and if Beijing accelerates

economic reforms. India’s economy is expected

to rebound after headwinds from taxation

changes and demonetization, and the continuing

upswing in emerging and developing economies

could be tempered by capital outflows from a

stronger dollar and monetary policy

normalization in the United States and Europe.

Oil-exporting countries continue to suffer from the

late-2014 oil price drop, and their economic woes are likely to continue, with broader negative implications.

Subdued economic growth, combined with sharp increases in North American oil and gas

production, probably will continue putting downward pressure on global energy prices, harming oil-

exporting economies. The US Energy Information Administration forecasts that 2018 West Texas

Intermediate and Brent prices will average $58 and $62 per barrel, respectively, far below the average

annual prices of $98 and $109 in 2013.

 Low oil prices and production declines—along with poor economic policies—have pushed

Venezuela and the state-owned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela, to miss debt payments,

putting them in selective default.

 Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf oil exporters have experienced sharp increases in budget

deficits, forcing governments to issue debt and enact politically unpopular fiscal reforms, such as

cuts to subsidies, social programs, and government jobs.

 In Africa, declining oil revenue, mismanagement, and inadequate policy responses to oil price

shocks have contributed to Angolan and Nigerian fiscal problems, currency strains, and

deteriorating foreign exchange reserves.

 OPEC member countries and select non-OPEC producers, including Russia, in early 2017

committed to cut oil production in order to lift prices, with compliance likely to be offset

somewhat as Libya or Nigeria—both are exempt from the deal—are able to resume production.

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HUMAN SECURITY

Governance shortfalls, violent conflict, environmental stresses, and increased potential for a global health

crisis will create significant risks to human security, including high levels of human displacement and

migration flows.

Governance and Political Turbulence

Domestic and foreign challenges to democracy and institutional capacity will test governance quality

globally in 2018, especially as competitors manipulate social media to shape opinion. Freedom

House reported the 11th consecutive year of decline in “global freedom” in 2017, and nearly one-

quarter of the countries registering declines were in Europe.

 While the number of democracies has remained steady for the past decade, some scholars

suggest the quality of democracy has declined.

 We note that more governments are using propaganda and misinformation in social media to

influence foreign and domestic audiences.

 The number and sophistication of government efforts to shape domestic views of politics have

increased dramatically in the past 10 years. In 2016, Freedom House identified 30 countries,

including the Philippines, Turkey, and Venezuela, whose governments used social media to

spread government views, to drive agendas, and to counter criticism of the government online.

Poor governance, weak national political institutions, economic inequality, and the rise of violent nonstate

actors all undermine states’ abilities to project authority and elevate the risk of violent—even regime-

threatening—instability and mass atrocities.

Environment and Climate Change

The impacts of the long-term trends toward a warming climate, more air pollution, biodiversity loss, and

water scarcity are likely to fuel economic and social discontent—and possibly upheaval—through 2018.

 The past 115 years have been the warmest period in the history of modern civilization, and the

past few years have been the warmest years on record. Extreme weather events in a warmer

world have the potential for greater impacts and can compound with other drivers to raise the

risk of humanitarian disasters, conflict, water and food shortages, population migration, labor

shortfalls, price shocks, and power outages. Research has not identified indicators of tipping

points in climate-linked earth systems, suggesting a possibility of abrupt climate change.

 Worsening air pollution from forest burning, agricultural waste incineration, urbanization, and

rapid industrialization—with increasing public awareness—might drive protests against

authorities, such as those recently in China, India, and Iran.

 Accelerating biodiversity and species loss—driven by pollution, warming, unsustainable fishing,

and acidifying oceans—will jeopardize vital ecosystems that support critical human systems.

Recent estimates suggest that the current extinction rate is 100 to 1,000 times the natural

extinction rate.

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 Water scarcity, compounded by gaps in cooperative management agreements for nearly half of

the world’s international river basins, and new unilateral dam development are likely to heighten

tension between countries.

Human Displacement

Global displacement almost certainly will remain near record highs during the next year, raising the risk of

disease outbreaks, recruitment by armed groups, political upheaval, and reduced economic productivity.

Conflicts will keep many of the world’s refugees and internally displaced persons from returning

home.

Health

The increase in frequency and diversity of reported disease outbreaks—such as dengue and Zika—probably

will continue through 2018, including the potential for a severe global health emergency that could lead to

major economic and societal disruptions, strain governmental and international resources, and increase

calls on the United States for support. A novel strain of a virulent microbe that is easily transmissible

between humans continues to be a major threat, with pathogens such as H5N1 and H7N9 influenza and

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus having pandemic potential if they were to acquire efficient

human-to-human transmissibility.

 The frequency and diversity of disease outbreaks have increased at a steady rate since 1980,

probably fueled by population growth, travel and trade patterns, and rapid urbanization.

Ongoing global epidemics of HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis continue to kill millions of

people annually.

 Increasing antimicrobial resistance, the ability of pathogens—including viruses, fungi, and

bacteria—to resist drug treatment, is likely to outpace the development of new antimicrobial

drugs, leading to infections that are no longer treatable.

 The areas affected by vector-borne diseases, including dengue, are likely to expand, especially as

changes in climatological patterns increase the reach of the mosquito.

 The World Bank has estimated that a severe global influenza pandemic could cost the equivalent

of 4.8 percent of global GDP—more than $3 trillion—and cause more than 100 million deaths.

17

REGIONAL THREATS

EAST ASIA

China

China will continue to pursue an active foreign policy—especially in the Asia Pacific region—highlighted

by a firm stance on its sovereignty claims in the East China Sea (ECS) and South China Sea (SCS), its

relations with Taiwan, and its pursuit of economic engagement across the region. Regional tension will

persist due to North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs and simmering tension over territorial

and maritime disputes in the ECS and SCS. China will also pursue efforts aimed at fulfilling its

ambitious Belt and Road Initiative to expand China’s economic reach and political influence across

Eurasia, Africa, and the Pacific through infrastructure projects.

North Korea

North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction program, public threats, defiance of the international

community, confrontational military posturing, cyber activities, and potential for internal instability

pose a complex and increasing threat to US national security and interests.

In the wake of accelerated missile testing since 2016, North Korea is likely to press ahead with more tests in

2018, and its Foreign Minister said that Kim may be considering conducting an atmospheric nuclear test

over the Pacific Ocean. Pyongyang’s commitment to possessing nuclear weapons and fielding capable

long-range missiles, all while repeatedly stating that nuclear weapons are the basis for its survival,

suggests that the regime does not intend to negotiate them away.

Ongoing, modest improvements to North Korea’s conventional capabilities continue to pose a

serious and growing threat to South Korea and Japan. Despite the North Korean military’s many

internal challenges and shortcomings, Kim Jong Un continues to expand the regime’s conventional

strike options with more realistic training, artillery upgrades, and close-range ballistic missiles that

improve North Korea’s ability to strike regional US and allied targets with little warning.

Southeast Asia

Democracy and human rights in many Southeast Asian countries will remain fragile in 2018 as autocratic

tendencies deepen in some regimes and rampant corruption and cronyism undermine democratic values.

Countries in the region will struggle to preserve foreign policy autonomy in the face of Chinese

economic and diplomatic coercion.

 Cambodian leader Hun Sen will repress democratic institutions and civil society, manipulate

government and judicial institutions, and use patronage and political violence to guarantee his

rule beyond the 2018 national election. Having alienated Western partners, Hun Sen will rely

on Beijing’s political and financial support, drawing Cambodia closer to China as a result.

 The crisis resulting from the exodus of more than 600,000 Rohingyas from Burma to Bangladesh

will threaten Burma’s fledgling democracy, increase the risk of violent extremism, and provide

openings for Beijing to expand its influence.

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 In the Philippines, President Duterte will continue to wage his signature campaign against drugs,

corruption, and crime. Duterte has suggested he could suspend the Constitution, declare a

“revolutionary government,” and impose nationwide martial law. His declaration of martial

law in Mindanao, responding to the ISIS-inspired siege of Marawi City, has been extended

through the end of 2018.

 Thailand’s leaders have pledged to hold elections in late 2018, but the new Constitution will

institutionalize the military’s influence.

MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA

Iran

Iran will seek to expand its influence in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen, where it sees conflicts generally trending

in Tehran’s favor, and it will exploit the fight against ISIS to solidify partnerships and translate its

battlefield gains into political, security, and economic agreements.

 Iran’s support for the Popular Mobilization Committee (PMC) and Shia militants remains the

primary threat to US personnel in Iraq. We assess that this threat will increase as the threat from

ISIS recedes, especially given calls from some Iranian-backed groups for the United States to

withdraw and growing tension between Iran and the United States.

 In Syria, Iran is working to consolidate its influence while trying to prevent US forces from

gaining a foothold. Iranian-backed forces are seizing routes and border crossings to secure the

Iraq-Syria border and deploying proregime elements and Iraqi allies to the area. Iran’s

retaliatory missile strikes on ISIS targets in Syria following ISIS attacks in Tehran in June were

probably intended in part to send a message to the United States and its allies about Iran’s

improving military capabilities. Iran is pursuing permanent military bases in Syria and probably

wants to maintain a network of Shia foreign fighters in Syria to counter future threats to Iran.

Iran also seeks economic deals with Damascus, including deals on telecommunications, mining,

and electric power repairs.

 In Yemen, Iran’s support to the Huthis further escalates the conflict and poses a serious threat to

US partners and interests in the region. Iran continues to provide support that enables Huthi

attacks against shipping near the Bab al Mandeb Strait and land-based targets deep inside Saudi

Arabia and the UAE, such as the 4 November and 19 December ballistic missile attacks on

Riyadh and an attempted 3 December cruise missile attack on an unfinished nuclear reactor in

Abu Dhabi.

Iran will develop military capabilities that threaten US forces and US allies in the region, and its unsafe

and unprofessional interactions will pose a risk to US Navy operations in the Persian Gulf.

Iran continues to develop and improve a range of new military capabilities to target US and allied

military assets in the region, including armed UAVs, ballistic missiles, advanced naval mines,

unmanned explosive boats, submarines and advanced torpedoes, and antishipand land-attack cruise

missiles. Iran has the largest ballistic missile force in the Middle East and can strike targets up to

2,000 kilometers from Iran’s borders. Russia’s delivery of the SA-20c SAM system in 2016 has

provided Iran with its most advanced long-range air defense system.

19

 Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Navy forces operating aggressively in the Persian

Gulf and Strait of Hormuz pose a risk to the US Navy. Most IRGC interactions with US ships

are professional, but as of mid-October, the Navy had recorded 14 instances of what it describes

as “unsafe and/or unprofessional” interactions with Iranian forces during 2017, the most recent

interaction occurring last August, when an unarmed Iranian drone flew close to the aircraft

carrier USS Nimitz as fighter jets landed at night. The Navy recorded 36 such incidents in 2016

and 22 in 2015. Most involved the IRGC Navy. We assess that these interactions, although less

frequent, will continue and that they are probably intended to project an image of strength and,

possibly, to gauge US responses.

Iranian centrist and hardline politicians increasingly will clash as they attempt to implement competing

visions for Iran’s future. This contest will be a key driver in determining whether Iran changes its

behavior in ways favorable to US interests.

 Centrists led by President Hasan Ruhani will continue to advocate greater social progress,

privatization, and more global integration, while hardliners will view this agenda as a threat to

their political and economic interests and to Iran’s revolutionary and Islamic character.

 Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s views are closer to those of the hardliners, but he has supported

some of Ruhani’s efforts to engage Western countries and to promote economic growth. The

Iranian economy’s prospects—still driven heavily by petroleum revenue—will depend on

reforms to attract investment, strengthen privatization, and grow nonoil industries, which

Ruhani will continue pursuing, much to the dismay of hardliners. National protests over

economic grievances in Iran earlier this year have drawn more attention to the need for major

reforms, but Ruhani and his critics are likely to use the protests to advance their political

agendas.

 Khamenei has experienced health problems in the past few years, and, in an effort to preserve his

legacy, he probably opposes moving Iran toward greater political and economic openness. As

their relationship has deteriorated since the presidential election last June, Ruhani has tried to

mend relations with Khamenei as well as his allies, but, in doing so, he risks failing to make

progress on reforms in the near-term.

Syria

The conflict has decisively shifted in the Syrian regime’s favor, enabling Russia and Iran to further

entrench themselves inside the country. Syria is likely to experience episodic conflict through 2018, even as

Damascus recaptures most of the urban terrain and the overall level of violence decreases.

 The Syrian opposition’s seven-year insurgency is probably no longer capable of overthrowing President

Bashar al-Asad or overcoming a growing military disadvantage. Rebels probably retain the

resources to sustain the conflict for at least the next year.

 ISIS is likely on a downward trajectory in Syria; yet, despite territorial losses, it probably

possesses sufficient resources, and a clandestine network in Syria, to sustain insurgency

operations through 2018.

20

 Moscow probably cannot force President Asad to agree to a political settlement that he believes

significantly weakens him, unless Moscow is willing to remove Asad by force. While Asad may

engage in peace talks, he is unlikely to negotiate himself from power or offer meaningful

concessions to the opposition.

 Russia and Iran are planning for a long-term presence, securing military basing rights and

contracts for reconstruction and oil and gas exploitation. Iran is also seeking to establish a land

corridor from Iran through Syria to Lebanon. The Kurdish People’s Protection Unit—the

Syrian militia of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)—probably will seek some form of

autonomy but will face resistance from Russia, Iran, and Turkey.

 As of October 2017, there were more than 5 million Syrian refugees in neighboring countries,

and an estimated 6.3 million internally displaced. Reconstruction could cost at least $100 billion

and take at least 10 years to complete. Asad’s battered economy will likely continue to require

significant subsidies from Iran and Russia to meet basic expenses.

Iraq

Iraq is likely to face a lengthy period of political turmoil and conflict as it struggles to rebuild, reconstitute

the Iraqi state, maintain pressure on ISIS, and rein in the Iranian-backed Shia militias that pose an

enduring threat to US personnel.

 The Iraqi Government, which has accrued $120 billion in debt, requires substantial external

assistance to cover hundreds of millions of dollars in humanitarian-aid shortfalls and a World

Bank estimated $88.2 billion to restore heavily damaged infrastructure, industry, and service

sectors in areas retaken from ISIS.

 Prime Minister Haydar al-Abadi’s forceful reassertion of Baghdad’s authority after the Kurdistan

Regional Government’s (KRG) independence referendum in September illustrates the divisions

among Iraqi leaders over the future of the state. The move to curb Kurdish autonomy was

popular among many Arab Shia and Sunnis and may prompt Iraqi leaders to be

uncompromising in political reconciliation discussions in order to consolidate votes in the run-

up to elections planned for next spring.

 ISIS will remain a terrorist and insurgent threat, and the group will seek to exploit Sunni

discontent to conduct attacks and try to regain Iraqi territory. Baghdad will struggle to reorient

the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) from conventional warfare to counterinsurgency and

counterterrorism against ISIS while consolidating state control of territory and integrating the

Iranian-backed and Shia-dominated Popular Mobilization Committee (PMC).

 There is an increasing risk that some Shia militants will seek to attack US targets in Iraq because

they believe that the US security presence is no longer needed, want to reassert Iraqi sovereignty,

and support Iran’s goal of reducing US influence in Iraq.

Baghdad will have to contend with longstanding and war-hardened ethnosectarian divisions

between Shia, Sunnis, and Kurds that were kept in check by the threat from ISIS. Despite ISIS’s

loss of territory, the social and political challenges that gave rise to the group remain and threaten

the cohesion of the Iraqi state.

21

Yemen

The war in Yemen is likely to continue for the foreseeable future because the Iranian-backed Huthis

and the Saudi-led coalition remain far apart on terms for ending the conflict. The death of former

Yemeni President Ali Abdallah Salih is only likely to further complicate the conflict as the Huthis

and others scramble to win over those who previously backed Salih. We assess that the Huthis will

continue to pursue their goals militarily and that, as a result, US allies and interests on the Arabian

Peninsula will remain at risk of Huthi missile attacks until the conflict is resolved.

 Continued fighting almost certainly will worsen the vast humanitarian crisis, which has left more

than 70 percent of the population—or about 20 million people—in need of assistance and

aggravated a cholera outbreak that has reached nearly 1 million confirmed cases. Relief

operations are hindered by security and bureaucratic constraints established by both the Huthi-

Salih alliance and the Saudi-led coalition and by international funding shortages.

SOUTH ASIA

Afghanistan

The overall situation in Afghanistan probably will deteriorate

modestly this year in the face of persistent political instability,

sustained attacks by the Taliban-led insurgency, unsteady

Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) performance, and

chronic financial shortfalls. The National Unity Government

probably will struggle to hold long-delayed parliamentary

elections, currently scheduled for July 2018, and to prepare

for a presidential election in 2019. The ANSF probably will

maintain control of most major population centers with

coalition force support, but the intensity and geographic

scope of Taliban activities will put those centers under

continued strain. Afghanistan’s economic growth will

stagnate at around 2.5 percent per year, and Kabul will

remain reliant on international donors for the great majority

of its funding well beyond 2018.

Pakistan

Pakistan will continue to threaten US interests by deploying new

nuclear weapons capabilities, maintaining its ties to militants,

restricting counterterrorism cooperation, and drawing closer to

China. Militant groups supported by Islamabad will continue to take advantage of their safe haven

in Pakistan to plan and conduct attacks in India and Afghanistan, including against US interests.

Pakistan’s perception of its eroding position relative to India, reinforced by endemic economic

weakness and domestic security issues, almost certainly will exacerbate long-held fears of isolation

and drive Islamabad’s pursuit of actions that run counter to US goals for the region.

22

India-Pakistan Tension

Relations between India and Pakistan are likely to remain tense, with continued violence on the Line of

Control and the risk of escalation if there is another high-profile terrorist attack in India or an uptick in

violence on the Line of Control.

India-China Tension

We expect relations between India and China to remain tense and possibly to deteriorate further, despite

the negotiated settlement to their three-month border standoff in August, elevating the risk of unintentional

escalation.

Bangladesh-Burma Rohingya Crisis

The turmoil resulting from more than 600,000 Rohingyas fleeing from Burma to Bangladesh increases

regional tension and may expand opportunities for terrorist recruitment in South and Southeast Asia.

Further operations by Burmese security forces against Rohingya insurgents or sustained violence by

ethnic Rakhine militias probably would make it difficult to repatriate Burmese from Bangladesh.

RUSSIA AND EURASIA

Russia

In his probable next term in office, President Vladimir

Putin will rely on assertive and opportunistic foreign

policies to shape outcomes beyond Russia’s borders. He

will also resort to more authoritarian tactics to maintain

control amid challenges to his rule.

Moscow will seek cooperation with the United States

in areas that advance its interests. Simultaneously,

Moscow will employ a variety of aggressive tactics to

bolster its standing as a great power, secure a “sphere

of influence” in the post-Soviet space, weaken the

United States, and undermine Euro-Atlantic unity.

The highly personalized nature of the Russian

political system will enable Putin to act decisively to

defend Russian interests or to pursue opportunities

he views as enhancing Russian prestige and power

abroad.

Russia will compete with the United States most

aggressively in Europe and Eurasia, while applying

less intense pressure in “outer areas” and cultivating

partnerships with US rivals and adversaries—as well

as with traditional US partners—to constrain US

power and accelerate a shift toward a “multipolar”

world. Moscow will use a range of relatively low-

cost tools to advance its foreign policy objectives, including influence campaigns, economic

coercion, cyber operations, multilateral forums, and measured military force. Russia’s slow

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economic growth is unlikely to constrain Russian foreign policy or by itself trigger concessions from

Moscow in Ukraine, Syria, or elsewhere in the next year.

President Putin is likely to increase his use of repression and intimidation to contend with domestic

discontent over corruption, poor social services, and a sluggish economy with structural deficiencies.

He will continue to manipulate the media, distribute perks to maintain elite support, and elevate

younger officials to convey an image of renewal. He is also likely to expand the government’s legal

basis for repression and to enhance his capacity to intimidate and monitor political threats, perhaps

using the threat of “extremism” or the 2018 World Cup to justify his actions.

In 2018, Russia will continue to modernize, develop, and field a wide range of advanced nuclear,

conventional, and asymmetric capabilities to balance its perception of a strategic military inferiority

vis-a-vis the United States.

Ukraine

Ukraine remains at risk of domestic turmoil, which Russia could exploit to undermine Kyiv’s pro-West

orientation. These factors will threaten Ukraine’s nascent economic recovery and potentially lead to

changes in its foreign policy that further inflame tension between Russia and the West.

 Popular frustrations with the pace of reforms, depressed standards of living, perceptions of

worsening corruption, and political polarization ahead of scheduled presidential and legislative

elections in 2019 could prompt early elections.

 Opposition leaders will seek to capitalize on popular discontent to weaken President Petro

Poroshenko and the ruling coalition ahead of elections in 2019.

The conflict in eastern Ukraine is likely to remain stalemated and marked by fluctuating levels of violence.

A major offensive by either side is unlikely in 2018, although each side’s calculus could change if it sees the

other as seriously challenging the status quo. Russia will continue its military, political, and economic

destabilization campaign against Ukraine to stymie and, where possible, reverse Kyiv’s efforts to

integrate with the EU and strengthen ties to NATO. Kyiv will strongly resist concessions to

Moscow but almost certainly will not regain control of Russian-controlled areas of eastern Ukraine

in 2018. Russia will modulate levels of violence to pressure Kyiv and shape negotiations in

Moscow’s favor.

 Russia will work to erode Western unity on sanctions and support for Kyiv, but the Kremlin is

coping with sanctions at existing levels.

Belarus, the Caucasus, Central Asia, Moldova

The Kremlin will seek to maintain and, where possible, expand its influence throughout the former Soviet

countries that it asserts are in its self-described sphere of influence.

Russia views Belarus as a critical buffer between itself and NATO and will seek to spoil any

potential warming between Minsk and the West. Belarus President Aleksandr Lukashenko will

continue close security cooperation with Moscow but will continue to aim for normalized relations

with the West as a check on Russia’s influence.

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Russia’s continued occupation of 20 percent of Georgia’s territory and efforts to undermine its

Western integration will remain the primary sources of Tbilisi’s insecurity. The ruling Georgian

Dream party is likely to seek to stymie the opposition and reduce institutional constraints on its

power.

Tension over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh could devolve into a large-scale military

conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which could draw in Russia to support its regional ally.

Both sides’ reluctance to compromise, mounting domestic pressures, Azerbaijan’s steady military

modernization, and Armenia’s acquisition of new Russian equipment sustain the risk of large-scale

hostilities in 2018.

Russia will pressure Central Asia’s leaders to reduce engagement with Washington and support

Russian-led economic and security initiatives, while concerns about ISIS in Afghanistan will push

Moscow to strengthen its security posture in the region. Poor governance and weak economies raise

the risk of radicalization—especially among the many Central Asians who travel to Russia or other

countries for work—presenting a threat to Central Asia, Russia, and Western societies. China will

probably continue to expand outreach to Central Asia—while deferring to Russia on security and

political matters—because of concern that regional instability could undermine China’s economic

interests and create a permissive environment for extremists, which, in Beijing’s view, could enable

Uighur militant attacks in China.

Moldova’s ostensibly pro-European ruling coalition—unless it is defeated in elections planned for

November—probably will seek to curb Russian influence and maintain a veneer of European reform

while avoiding changes that would damage the coalition’s grip on power. The current Moldovan

Government probably will move forward on implementing Moldova’s EU Association Agreement

against the will of openly pro-Russian and Russian-backed President Igor Dodon. Settlement talks

over the breakaway region of Transnistria will continue, but progress likely will be limited to small

issues.

EUROPE

The European Union and European national governments will struggle to develop common approaches to

counter a variety of security challenges, including instability on their periphery, irregular migration to their

region, heightened terrorist threats, and Russian influence campaigns, undercutting Western cohesion.

 These concerns are spurring many countries to increase defense spending and enhance

capabilities.

 European governments will need to strengthen their counterterrorism regimes to deal with a

diverse threat, including ISIS aspirants and returning foreign fighters.

Turkey’s counterterrorism cooperation with the United States against ISIS is likely to continue, but

thwarting Kurdish regional ambitions will be a foreign policy priority. President Recep Tayyip

Erdogan is likely to employ polarizing rhetoric, straining bilateral relations and cooperation on

shared regional goals.

25

AFRICA

Nigeria—the continent’s largest economy—will face a security threat from Boko Haram and ISIS West

Africa (ISIS-WA) while battling internal challenges from criminal, militant, and secessionist groups.

ISIS-WA and Boko Haram are regional menaces, conducting cross-border attacks in Nigeria,

Cameroon, Chad, and Niger and posing a threat to Western interests. Meanwhile, militant and

secessionist groups in in the southern and central areas of Nigeria are capitalizing on longstanding

social and economic grievances as the country nears the 2019 presidential election.

Politically fragile governments in Africa’s Sahel region will remain vulnerable to terror attacks in 2018,

despite efforts to coordinate their counterterror operations. ISIS and al-Qa‘ida–allied groups, along with

other violent extremists, will attempt to target Western and local government interests in the region,

and a stalled peace process is likely to undercut the presidential election in Mali.

The Ethiopian and Kenyan Governments are likely to face opposition from publics agitating for redress of

political grievances. Somalia’s recently elected government probably will struggle to project its authority

and implement security reforms amid the drawdown of African Union forces in 2018, while al-Shabaab—

the most potent terrorist threat to US interests in East Africa—probably will increase attacks.

Clashes between the South Sudanese Government and armed opposition groups will continue, raising the

risk of additional mass atrocities as both sides use ethnic militias and hate speech and the government

continues its crackdown on ethnic minorities. The South Sudanese are the world’s fastest growing

refugee population, and the significant humanitarian challenges stemming from the conflict,

including severe food insecurity, will strain the resources of neighboring countries hosting refugees.

Sudan is likely to continue some aspects of its constructive engagement with the United States following the

suspension of sanctions because it has given priority to shedding its international pariah status and reviving

its economy. Khartoum probably will acquiesce to some US requests, such as increasing

counterterrorism cooperation and improving humanitarian access, but will be reluctant to take any

steps that it perceives jeopardize its national security interests.

Political unrest and security threats across the region are likely to intensify as the Presidents of Burundi

and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) face public and armed opposition to their rule and the

Central African Republic (CAR) struggles to cope with a nationwide surge in conflict. Over-stretched UN

missions in CAR and DRC are unlikely to stem the rising challenges from their concurrent

humanitarian and security crises.

26

THE WESTERN HEMISPHERE

A key feature of the 2018 political environment in Latin America almost certainly will be popular

frustration with low economic growth, corruption scandals, and the specter of endemic criminal activity in

some countries. Larger and increasingly sophisticated middle classes—with greater access to social

media—are demanding more accountability from their governments. Presidential elections,

including those in Mexico and Colombia, will occur at a time when support for political parties and

governing institutions is at record lows and could bolster the appeal of outsider candidates.

Mexico

Mexicans are focused on presidential and legislative elections scheduled for July 2018, in which

corruption, high violence, and a tepid economy will be key issues. The Mexican Government has

made slow progress implementing rule-of-law reforms and will continue to rely on the military to

lead counternarcotics efforts. Mexico’s $1.1 trillion economy benefits from strong economic

fundamentals, but uncertainty over trade relationships and higher-than-expected inflation could

further slow economic growth. President Enrique Pena Nieto is focusing on domestic priorities,

including recovery from the September 2017 earthquakes and managing impacts from potential US

policy shifts ahead of the elections. In recent years, Mexican US-bound migration has been net

negative but might increase if economic opportunity at home declined.

Central America

Insecurity and lack of economic opportunities likely will remain the principal drivers of irregular

migration from the Northern Triangle countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

Homicide rates in these countries remain high, and gang-related violence is still prompting Central

Americans to flee.

Venezuela

Economic woes and international diplomatic pressure probably will put political pressure on the

Venezuelan Government in 2018. Living standards have declined and shortages of basic goods are

driving the increase in Venezuelans seeking asylum in the United States and the region. Venezuela’s

negotiations with creditors probably will lead to messy legal battles. Venezuela almost certainly will

seek to minimize further disruptions to oil production and exports to maintain its critical oil export

earnings. Oil prices have increased slightly this year, but crude oil production continues to decline.

Colombia

President Juan Manuel Santos will seek to cement implementation of the Revolutionary Armed

Forces of Colombia (FARC) peace accord, as campaigning intensifies for the May 2018 presidential

election. The FARC’s new political-party status and the uncertainty around the transitional justice

reforms will be a factor in the political environment ahead of elections. Substantial budget

constraints will slow major programs or policy changes. The influx of FARC dissidents, drug

traffickers, and other illegal actors into remote areas will challenge security forces during the next 12

months. Cocaine production in Colombia is at an all-time high, and crop substitution and

eradication programs are facing stiff local resistance.

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Cuba

Havana will seek to manage President Raul Castro’s planned retirement in April 2018. Castro’s

successor will inherit a stagnant economy and a stalled economic reform process.

Haiti

As President Jovenel Moise begins his second year in office, he will confront competing interests

within his government, a vocal opposition, and a fragile economy. Crime and protest activity will

test the Haitian National Police following the departure of the UN Stabilization Mission in October

2017 and the transition to a police-only UN mission.

28

Related:

Senate Intelligence Committee Targets China, N. Korea as National Security Threats

From left, FBI Director Christopher Wray, accompanied by CIA Director Mike Pompeo, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, Defense Intelligence Agency Director Robert Ashley, National Security Agency Director Adm. Michael Rogers, and National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency Director Robert Cardillo, speaks at a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on worldwide threats, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

OAN Newsroom

UPDATED 10:02 AM PT — Tues. February 13, 2018

The Senate Intelligence Committee conducted its annual hearing on worldwide threats, questioning FBI Director Christopher Wray as well as other members of the Intelligence community.

During Tuesday’s hearing, National Intelligence Director Dan Coats said the U.S. is “under attack” from foreign adversaries like China, which has been seeking to gain a foothold in space and penetrate U.S. institutions through cyber warfare.

When discussing North Korea, CIA Director Mike Pompeo warned Kim jong Un is “intent” on staying in power, and there has been “no change” in the threat his regime poses despite a so-called “smile campaign” with South Korea.

Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats speaks at a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence hearing on worldwide threats, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

“The United States is under attack — Under attack by entities using cyber to penetrate virtually every major action that takes place in the United States,” Coats stated. “From U.S. businesses, to the federal government to state and local governments, the United States is threatened by cyber attacks every day.”

Coats went on to say terrorists have also been taking part in cyber warfare abroad, and mentioned ISIS has been using chemical attacks in Syria.

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Beyond Denuclearization: Four Priorities for Managing the North Korea Challenge

Editor’s Note: This is an excerpt from Policy Roundtable: Are There Any Good Choices When it Comes to North Korea?from our sister publication, the Texas National Security Review. Be sure to check out the full roundtable.

U.S. policy on North Korea has failed. For more than 25 years, the United States and its allies have worked to prevent North Korea from achieving a deliverable nuclear capability. Over the first year of the Trump administration, rapid advancements in missile technology have brought North Korea to this threshold. The program is too advanced, too dispersed, and too valuable to the regime for us to quickly eliminate it through diplomatic or military means on acceptable terms. As a result, the United States and its allies are now forced to manage a nuclear-armed North Korea that deters aggression and other destabilizing behavior, contains illicit activity from spreading beyond its borders, and encourages the transformation of the regime over time. Each month that passes that has the United States clinging to an outdated, invalid policy is one that runs a severe risk of war and allows North Korean activities to go unaddressed. The regrettable fact is that a nuclear-armed North Korea exists and is not being managed.

U.S. Policy

During its first year in office, the Trump administration has finally prioritized North Korea on the U.S. agenda. Yet, an inflated assessment of U.S. leverage, coupled with a poor policy process, has prevented additional resources and attention from transforming the standoff.

The Trump team has manufactured a military and economic crisis they hope could force North Korea to capitulate. In its formal public statements and in a series of highly inflammatory statements on Twitter, the administration has claimed that Pyongyang cannot be deterred, and that the United States will not tolerate vulnerability to North Korean missiles. In so doing, the administration is attempting to convince North Korea that failure to denuclearize will lead to war. If this effort were coordinated effectively and launched a decade ago, it may have stood a decent chance of success. However, both the execution of the policy and the state of North Korea’s capabilities are proving to be fatal complications.

In their more lucid moments, administration officials claim that, once heightened economic sanctions have an opportunity to take hold, they intend to convene denuclearization negotiations. Yet, these moments of clarity are almost immediately obscured by contradictions, reversals, and vague threats of war that lack credibility or clear terms. There remains a very real and entirely unacceptable possibility that influential groups in the administration prefer war or could talk themselves into one. The mixed messages allow Pyongyang to temporize and select the interpretation of U.S. policy they consider most advantageous. Washington has not forced Pyongyang to respond to a credible negotiations proposal that stands a realistic chance of halting North Korea’s rapid development of a nuclear arsenal that the Kim regime sees as critical to domestic legitimacy and international survival. North Korea will continue to develop, test, and operationally deploy these systems in the coming months and years.

Instead of forcing North Korea to capitulate to U.S. demands, the Trump administration’s belligerent posturing has deliberately eroded stability on the peninsula, significantly raising the risk of an accidental or deliberate conflict. At the same time, the exclusive and hopeless fixation on immediate denuclearization has prevented the United States and its allies from confronting the evolving North Korean threat. Despite a great deal of rhetoric, the Trump administration has done very little to actually address North Korea’s development of intermediate and intercontinental missiles and its demonstration of a more destructive nuclear device. Despite the regime’s dramatic nuclear and missile advancements over Trump’s first year in office, and despite ongoing improvements in its submarine, special operations, cyber, and artillery capabilities, U.S. force posture has not adapted.

North Korea’s technical developments are invalidating the basic assumptions of U.S. policy toward the regime. Strategies predicated on coercing Pyongyang into negotiations to eliminate its nuclear arsenal now appear untenable, at least for the medium term. On the other hand, a military strike – whether to degrade North Korean forces or to coerce the regime – is unlikely to eliminate its programs and would in all likelihood incur unbearable humanitarian, economic, and strategic costs. For the foreseeable future, the world will face a regime that possesses the capability to strike U.S. and regional targets with a nuclear weapon.

Policy planning in Washington, Seoul, and Tokyo has not kept pace with Pyongyang’s rapid evolution, leaving the conversation marked by inertia. Because denuclearization has been the overriding objective, the United States and its allies have made little progress on developing a coordinated and sustainable North Korea strategy. Though a remarkably broad, bipartisan array of experts have proposed components of that strategy, very little is known about the constellation of concepts, principles, and policy options necessary for managing a nuclear-armed North Korea.

The priorities of deterring, containing, constraining, and transforming a nuclear-armed North Korea should animate that effort.

Deter

The overwhelming imperative for the foreseeable future is to continuously deter a highly capable, rapidly evolving military adversary from aggression against U.S., South Korean, and Japanese targets, as well as other extremely destabilizing actions. The United States and its allies will have to accept the necessity of sustainably deterring a novel adversary – one that is armed with nuclear, chemical, biological, and conventional standoff retaliatory capabilities, highly capable in cyber, but also conventionally inferior.

North Korea is rapidly expanding its capacity for provocation and aggression on land, at sea, in space, and in cyberspace. The United States and its allies must retain the capabilities necessary to credibly retaliate in response to any such aggression. However, the high potential for escalation means that defeating and defending against these attacks will be critical to protecting allied civilians and servicemen. Nuclear deterrence will remain a part of allied posture for the foreseeable future, but is not sufficient to defend against North Korean aggression at lower levels of conflict, which will require that joint conventional forces remain capable and ready.

As the North Korean threat evolves, so must the allied defensive posture. The alliance should consider new deployments of unambiguously defensive forces, including anti-submarine warfare, anti-special operations forces, cyber-defense, as well as measures to ensure that U.S. forces from anywhere in the world can reach South Korea to reinforce allied positions despite North Korean attacks. Deterrence of coercive or limited chemical and biological attacks also demands considerably more attention.

It is not enough to deter aggression. Beginning immediately, the allies must work to deter North Korea from other extremely destabilizing and dangerous activities, including an atmospheric nuclear test, continued ballistic missile overflights of Japan, and proliferation of fissile material or nuclear weapons technology.

Contain

Despite its diplomatic isolation, the regime in Pyongyang has never confined its activities to its own borders. North Korean operatives are growing increasingly adept at acting across the globe, spreading financial crimes, smuggling illicit goods, procuring and exporting military equipment, placing North Korean workers in foreign countries to gain currency, stealing funds from banks through cyber intrusion, and a myriad other illicit activities. North Korea has already sold nuclear technology abroad and may well continue to do so.

A sustainable strategy must work ceaselessly to contain North Korea’s destabilizing criminal behavior abroad. In addition to the ongoing activities immediately above, the allies will have to contain types of potential instability, including assassination of North Korean defectors or foreign citizens abroad, attacks against shipping or other economic activities in Asia, cyberattacks against regional infrastructure, and disruption of civilian or military space operations.

Sanctions will be an important tool in this effort, as U.S. laws and U.N. members work to encourage countries to restrict these activities. While the Trump administration has stepped up sanctions enforcement efforts, most existing sanctions are still calibrated to apply political and financial pressure to coerce North Korean denuclearization. Adjustments will be necessary to calibrate sanctions to deny and contain North Korean illicit behavior.

Negotiations will also be an important component of containing North Korea and so must cover more than a single-minded insistence on denuclearization. The immediate priorities should be to open military-to-military communication channels to prevent North Korean missiles from overflying Japan and avert the first atmospheric nuclear test since 1980.

Constrain

Deterrence and containment will be ongoing challenges requiring consistent attention to prevent a catastrophe. The United States and its allies should buttress its deterrence and containment posture with efforts to constrain the regime’s ability to challenge it. Sanctions impose severe constraints on scarce petroleum supplies that the North Korean military relies on to train and operate; the allies should preserve this advantageous position if possible. Maintaining these restrictions could facilitate deterrence over the long run. Negotiating conventional arms control measures can also help to constrain North Korea’s ability to threaten and aggress against allied forces, without forcing us to recognize their nuclear capabilities.

Preventive restrictions can also be sustained and expanded on North Korea’s ability to spread cyber, financial, and illicit transfers. For example, all countries should retain limits on North Korean diplomatic staff stationed around the world who arrange illicit transactions. If at some point there is evidence that Pyongyang is rolling back these illegal activities, it may be possible to lift certain constraint restrictions without requiring that we abandon containment measures, or nuclear, missile, or human rights sanctions. In this way, preventive restrictions afford leverage.

Transform

Even if North Korea is rendered incapable of exerting destructive influence in its region and the world, the existence of a highly militarized, totalitarian state that commits crimes against humanity will remain morally, practically, and legally unacceptable. Any transformation of North Korea will have to occur as the result of an internal process, but South Korea and the United States should seek effective ways of assisting this process. At the very least, allied policies should not inhibit transformation.

In South Korea, ongoing research into unification issues has yielded an understanding of North Korean economic and diplomatic issues that is generally absent in the United States. Concerted attempts to penetrate the regime with information about the outside world is an important first step, but not a complete strategy. Is there a virtue to permitting trade from allies or nonaligned countries over the long run, or would continued restrictions constitute leverage to force nuclear weapons back onto the negotiating agenda? Can diplomatic initiatives stabilize the security relationship or advantage moderate voices among ruling elites? The questions will be critical to achieving U.S. and allied objectives over the long run.

Lastly, management of a nuclear-armed North Korea requires strong alliances. Each policy decision discussed above will have to be coordinated with Seoul and also with Tokyo. It will require difficult conversations about economic and diplomatic initiatives, deterrence, and counter-provocation planning (including counterforce, damage limitation, and assassination). Divisions within these alliances or between Seoul and Tokyo will afford North Korea unacceptable opportunities to aggress or escape containment.

Twenty years ago, it was already cliché to say North Korea was at a crossroads. While Pyongyang has chosen its path and moved rapidly ahead, the United States and its allies still stand at the crossroads wishing that nothing had changed. U.S. strategists in particular are poorly equipped to cope with a failure of a critical policy. As a nation, we want to hear that there is a solution, a way to rectify a setback and make a decisive adjustment to our policy. Yet when the basic assumptions and objectives of a strategy are no longer valid, a failure to replace it will cause irreparable damage to American interests.

Managing a nuclear-armed North Korea will be an arduous task. As Washington comes to recognize that North Korea’s nuclear capability cannot be eliminated on acceptable terms, there will be an impulse to withdraw from the issue and move on to soluble problems. Neglect would allow Pyongyang to improve its military position, illicit networks, and coercive leverage, seriously worsening the greatest external threat to American national security. A sustainable and tolerable management strategy will be difficult to devise, and even more difficult to implement. It will require consistent attention, considerable resources, and constant vigilance to a thankless and unpopular task. Yet, having failed, we are left with no choice but to manage an unacceptable situation as best we can.

Adam Mount, Ph.D., is a Senior Fellow at the Federation of American Scientists.

Image: Air Force/Jeffrey Allen

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Russian cyberspies stole sensitive US defense technology

WASHINGTON — Russian cyberspies pursuing the secrets of military drones and other sensitive US defense technology tricked key contract workers into exposing their email to theft, an Associated Press investigation has found.

What ultimately may have been stolen is uncertain, but the hackers clearly exploited a national vulnerability in cybersecurity: poorly protected email and barely any direct notification to victims.

The hackers known as Fancy Bear, who also intruded in the US election, went after at least 87 people working on militarized drones, missiles, rockets, stealth fighter jets, cloud-computing platforms or other sensitive activities, the AP found.

Employees at both small companies and defense giants like Lockheed Martin Corp., Raytheon Co., Boeing Co., Airbus Group and General Atomics were targeted by the hackers. A handful of people in Fancy Bear’s sights also worked for trade groups, contractors in US-allied countries or on corporate boards.

“The programs that they appear to target and the people who work on those programs are some of the most forward-leaning, advanced technologies,” said Charles Sowell, a former senior adviser to the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence, who reviewed the list of names for the AP. “And if those programs are compromised in any way, then our competitive advantage and our defense is compromised.”

“That’s what’s really scary,” added Sowell, who was one of the hacking targets.

The AP identified the defense and security targets from about 19,000 lines of email phishing data created by hackers and collected by the US-based cybersecurity company Secureworks, which calls the hackers Iron Twilight. The data is partial and extends only from March 2015 to May 2016. Of 87 scientists, engineers, managers and others, 31 agreed to be interviewed by the AP.

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Most of the targets’ work was classified. Yet as many as 40 percent of them clicked on the hackers’ phishing links, the AP analysis indicates. That was the first step in potentially opening their personal email accounts or computer files to data theft by the digital spies.

James Poss, who ran a partnership doing drone research for the Federal Aviation Administration, was about to catch a taxi to the 2015 Paris Air Show when what appeared to be a Google security alert materialized in his inbox. Distracted, he moved his cursor to the blue prompt on his laptop.

“I clicked on it and instantly knew that I had been had,” the retired Air Force major general said. Poss says he realized his mistake before entering his credentials, which would have exposed his email to the hackers.

Hackers predominantly targeted personal Gmail, with a few corporate accounts mixed in.

Personal accounts can convey snippets of classified information, whether through carelessness or expediency. They also can lead to other more valuable targets or carry embarrassing personal details that can be used for blackmail or to recruit spies.

Drone consultant Keven Gambold, a hacking target himself, said the espionage could help Russia catch up with the Americans. “This would allow them to leapfrog years of hard-won experience,” he said.

He said his own company is so worried about hacking that “we’ve almost gone back in time to use stand-alone systems if we’re processing client proprietary data – we’re FedEx’ing hard drives around.”

The AP has previously reported on Fancy Bear’s attempts to break into the Gmail accounts of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, American national security officials, journalists, and Kremlin critics and adversaries around the world. US intelligence agencies have concluded the hackers worked for the Kremlin and stole US campaign email to tilt the 2016 election toward Donald Trump – all of which Russian leader Vladimir Putin has denied.

But the hackers clearly had broader aims. Fifteen of the targets identified by the AP worked on drones – the single largest group of weapons specialists.

Countries like Russia are racing to make better drones as the remote-control aircraft have moved to the forefront of modern warfare. They can fire missiles, hunt down adversaries, or secretly monitor targets for days – all while keeping human pilots safely behind computer controls.

The US Air Force now needs more pilots for drones than for any other single type of aircraft, a training official said last year. Drones will lead growth in the aerospace industry over the next decade, with military uses driving the boom, the Teal Group predicted in November. Production was expected to balloon from $4.2 billion to $10.3 billion.

So far, though, Russia has nothing that compares with the new-generation US Reaper, which has been called “the most feared” US drone. General Atomics’ 5,000-pound mega-drone can fly more than 1,000 miles to deliver Hellfire missiles and smart bombs. It has seen action in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

The hackers went after General Atomics, targeting a drone sensor specialist. He did not respond to requests for comment.

They also made a run at the Gmail account of Michael Buet, an electronics engineer who has worked on ultra-durable batteries and high-altitude drones for SunCondor, a small South Carolina company owned by Star Technology and Research. Such machines could be a useful surveillance tool for a country like Russia, with its global military engagements and vast domestic border frontier.

“This bird is quite unique,” said Buet. “It can fly at 62,000 feet and doesn’t land for five years.”

The Russians also appeared eager to catch up in space, once an arena for Cold War competition in the race for the moon. They seemed to be carefully eyeing the X-37B, an American unmanned space plane that looks like a miniature shuttle but is shrouded in secrecy.

The US Air Force’s X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle 4 is seen at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center Shuttle Landing Facility in Florida.US Air Force

In a reference to an X-37B flight in May 2015, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin invoked the vehicle as evidence that his country’s space program was faltering. “The United States is pushing ahead,” he warned Russian lawmakers.

Less than two weeks later, Fancy Bear tried to penetrate the Gmail account of a senior engineer on the X-37B project at Boeing.

Fancy Bear has also tried to hack into the emails of several members of the Arlington, Virginia-based Aerospace Industries Association, including its president, former Army Secretary Eric Fanning. It went after Lt. Gen. Mark Shackelford, who has served in the military and aerospace industry as a corporate board member. He has been involved with major weapons and space programs like SpaceX, the reusable orbital rocket company founded by billionaire tech entrepreneur Elon Musk.

Along another path, the hackers chased people who work on cloud-based services, the off-site computer networks that enable collaborators to easily access and juggle data.

In 2013, the CIA signed a $600 million deal with web giant Amazon to build a system to share secure data across the US intelligence community. Other spy services followed, and the government cleared them last year to move classified data to the cloud at the “secret” level – a step below the nation’s most sensitive information.

Fancy Bear’s target list suggests the Russians have noticed these developments.

The hackers tried to get into the Gmail accounts of a cloud compliance officer at Palantir and a manager of cloud platform operations at SAP National Security Services, two companies that do extensive government work. Another target was at Mellanox Federal Systems, which helps the government with high-speed storage networks, data analysis and cloud computing. Its clients include the FBI and other intelligence agencies.

Yet of the 31 targets reached by the AP, just one got any warning from US officials.

“They said we have a Fancy Bear issue we need to talk about,” said security consultant Bill Davidson. He said an Air Force cybersecurity investigator inspected his computer shortly after the 2015 phishing attempt but found no sign that it succeeded. He believes he was contacted because his name was recognized at the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, where he used to work.

The FBI declined to give on-the-record details of its response to this Russian operation. Agency spokeswoman Jillian Stickels said the FBI does sometimes notify individual targets. “The FBI takes … all potential threats to public and private sector systems very seriously,” she said in an email.

However, three people familiar with the matter – including a current and a former government official – previously told the AP that the FBI knew the details of Fancy Bear’s phishing campaign for more than a year.

Pressed about notification in that case, a senior FBI official, who was not authorized to publicly discuss the hacking operation because of its sensitivity, said the bureau was overwhelmed by the sheer number of attempted hacks. “It’s a matter of triaging to the best of our ability the volume of the targets who are out there,” he said.

A Pentagon spokeswoman, Heather Babb, said she could release no details about any Defense Department response, citing “operational security reasons.” But she said the department recognizes the evolving cyber threat and continues to update training and technology. “This extends to all of our workforce – military, civilian and contractor,” she added.

The Defense Security Service, which protects classified US technology and trains industry in computer security, focuses on safeguarding corporate computer networks. “We simply have no insight into or oversight of anyone’s personal email accounts or how they are protected or notified when something is amiss,” spokeswoman Cynthia McGovern said in an email.

Contacted by the AP, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Boeing, Airbus and General Atomics did not respond to requests for comment.

Jerome Pearson, a space system and drone developer, acknowledged that he has not focused on security training at his company, Star Technology, where Buet has consulted. “No, we really haven’t done that,” he said with a nervous laugh. “We may be a little bit remiss in that area.” He said they may do training for future contracts.

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Cybersecurity experts say it’s no surprise that spies go after less secure personal email as an opening to more protected systems. “For a good operator, it’s like hammering a wedge,” said Richard Ford, chief scientist at the Forcepoint cybersecurity company. “Private email is the soft target.”

Some officials were particularly upset by the failure to notify employees of cloud computing companies that handle data for intelligence agencies. The cloud is a “huge target for foreign intelligence services in general – they love to get into that shared environment,” said Sowell, the former adviser to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

“At some point, wouldn’t someone who’s responsible for the defense contractor base be aware of this and try to reach out?” he asked.

Even successful hacks might not translate into new weapons for Russia, where the economy is weighed down by corruption and international sanctions.

However, experts say Russia, while still behind the US, has been making more advanced drones in recent years. Russian officials have recently been bragging as their increasingly sophisticated drones are spotted over war zones in Ukraine and Syria.

At a 2017 air show outside Moscow, plans were announced for a new generation of Russian combat drones.

Rogozin, the deputy prime minister, boasted that the technological gap between Russia and the United States “has been sharply reduced and will be completely eliminated in the near future.”

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