Facing the Realities of International Cyber Conflict


The massive Solar Winds cyber intrusion is the latest public eruption of an intensifying shadow conflict pitting the United States against Russian, Chinese and other international cyber warriors.  Unlike traditional conflicts, these digital engagements straddle the line between war and espionage, and the motivations of the combatants are often more complicated than they appear on the surface.  What is at the root of this conflict?  How dangerous is it?  And what can and should the new Biden administration do about it?  
To answer these complex yet important questions, the Center for the National Interest hosted a webinar discussion on the topic held on Thursday, January 7. This discussion features expert analysis from a trio of senior CIA veterans:

  • Milt Bearden is Distinguished Non-resident Fellow at the Center for the National Interest on intelligence matters.  He spent thirty years at the CIA, where he led its storied Soviet/East European division and directed the Agency’s covert support for Afghan resistance fighters during the Soviet occupation.  He is the author of The Main Enemy: The Inside Story of the CIA’s Final Showdown with the KGB (with James Risen) and The Black Tulip: A Novel of War in Afghanistan.

  • George Beebe is Vice President and Director of Studies at the Center for the National Interest.  He is a former head of Russia analysis at the CIA, a former advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney on Russian affairs, and author of The Russia Trap: How Our Shadow War with Russia Could Spiral into Catastrophe. 
  • Paul Kolbe is Director of the Intelligence Project at Harvard University’s Belfer Center.   He is a 25-year veteran of CIA’s operations directorate and former head of its Central Eurasian Division.  Following his CIA career, he became Director for Intelligence and Analysis at BP, where he built an enterprise-wide intelligence capability focused on geo-political threats, strategic cyber threats, and support to commercial operations.

  • Dov Zakheim, Vice Chairman of the Center for the National Interest’s board of directors and a former Under Secretary of Defense, moderated the discussion.