tv Russian Influence Efforts CSPAN May 26, 2018 12:10pm-1:53pm EDT
the start of -- the starbucks coo. wednesday at 8:00 p.m., hillary clinton, rex tillerson james mattis and justin trudeau. thursday at 8:00 p.m. eastern, tim cook, john kasich, kate brown and luis gutierrez. 8:00 p.m. eastern, jimmy carter, betsy devos, mark meadows and the atlanta mayor. next week, on c-span and c-span.org and on the free radio app. next, former cia officials look at russian influence around the globe. the discussion was held the same day kierstin nero send -- kierstin nilsson and mccall briefed reporters on russian meddling.
there is a hush, i guess that means i should start. thank you very much. for everybody join us -- for everybody joining us today. we are really excited about this panel today, i think we have a stellar group of speakers for you, and certainly a very interesting topic. i will not give a long introduction. i think it is quite clear that the united states and russia are in a competitive and increasingly adversarial relationship today. it is pretty clear that the cia and the american intelligence community more broadly are really at the forefront in that.
both in an operational sense because of the nature of some of the competition that we are engaged in. but also from an analytical perspective, as the u.s. government tries to understand russia, what is doing, what it might do, what motives are. and actually, what its decision- making system is, what do we mean when we say russia wants this, or russia wants that. i think we've got a great group here today, to talk about that. i will introduce each of them sequentially as they speak. we -- as they speak. we will start with either -- with peter clements to my right, and then we will go to my far left. and my colleague george will wrap up. peter clements, to my right, is a senior research fellow and an adjunct professor at columbia university at the school of international public affairs.
he left the cia just several months ago, after a career there on the analytical side of the agency. as as a deputy director for -- as a deputy director for intelligence, for analytics programs. and a number of other key posts . peter is a long time russia watcher and we are very pleased that he could be with us today. so peter, let's start with you, and i would ask each of you to try to limit it to 10 minutes. we have a big group, i'm sure we will have a lot of questions and discussion. peter: thank you for having me. it's always a pleasure to see all old friends from the intelligence community, from the think tank and world of academia and other agencies around town. and even some media friends i have made over the years, so thank you for having me today.
in the interest of time i'm going to cut right to the chase, and try to identify a core question. and give you my thoughts on that core question and hopefully frame the discussion that we have on the panel, but also during the q and a. so, the core question i have been thinking a lot about is what exactly is putin going to do in the next six years, now that he has won reelection? does have a strategy? what does he really seek to achieve during this timeframe? i'm not even going to get into whether he is running again in 2024. some of you may have seen that story out of of chechnya. their already floating balloons for a story that somebody might want to put in the constitution for 2024, that is a whole -- what's to amend the constitution for 2024, that is a whole subject unto itself. i'm going to focus on the next six years. so if i look -- by the way, i think everybody will become a russia expert. it is impossible not to pick up a newspaper and everybody has an
opinion on putin. so i'm just one of them. i spent a lot of time looking at russia but i acknowledge the fact that there are an awful lot of people who are looking and theat mr. putin russians from what they are doing. and reading the literature that is out there. right now i'm going to generalize and say there's basically two schools of thought. the first school of thought is putin has turned away from the west and there's no way he's going to get back on track and that perspective is epitomized by a recent article. it came out in early april and i only cite that because it is a good academic friend of mine who is plugged into russians and ukrainians, told me you must read this article. this is what is really going on with putin. and i read it, and i'm not entirely where he is on it. but it was a very provocative piece. and that the that the thrust of
it is russia is a half blood, it is a halfbreed, between east and west and because of what has happened. since 2014, since crimea, we are now on a path will russia remain that way for at least a century or maybe even longer. it will never become part of the west. the die is cast. that is one extreme on the spectrum. the other school of thought is no, no, no, putin is a realist. he understands there are certain things he must do to try to get russia back on track. for his own domestic economic reasons, for his own political position in terms of the relations he had with key oligarchs and benefactors who benefited from this system be -- that he has put in place. this school argues on the economic side he understands there has to be some interaction with the west, both politically and economically if he's ever going to get russia on a fully different track. one specifically that takes them off the mono-economy curse, if
you will. the utter dependence on oil and gas. if you can't start to seriously start to diversify the economy, russia will remain the way it is, always a perceptible -- always beholden to the flows of the oil martin -- market. is thex of it is where minister for the economics or finance or prime minister, that would be the biggest signal that putin must reengage. in the recent announcement of the new cabinet position, he was not among them. he was given the position as head of the audit chamber and the federation council. sorry, federal assembly. not exactly a big powerful position but nonetheless, for those who believe this particular track, he is sort of in a holding pattern. he is still there.
his name is still out there. maybe he will see where things go and let them do some things and get rid of them and elevate him. again, nobody knows. we don't have the answer to these. these are what i would call the two far ends of the spectrum. now what are some of the indicators i would look at? the things i would look for to see maybe which direction is -- which direction putin is really going. one thing i can say, with a fairly high degree of confidence, is every day you should be checking the price of oil. i'm sure most of you do. but if you checked this morning, it is about $72.30 a barrel. the brent crude is at $79.60 a barrel. pretty high. for my money, no pun intended, the extent will stay at roughly these levels for the coming six months, a year or so. basically he can put off the hard decisions.
they are getting a windfall right now. it is certainly helping a lot. remember, this year's budget was based on $44 barrel of oil. if you nearly double that, you have a lot more money to play with. that gives you a little more breathing room to get to where we are right now, potentially even more sanctions that seem to be on tap. second factor i would look at, and this one, i've actually given a lot more thought to, is legacy. i called the legacy factor. i personally believe that is all -- i personally believe that putin is all about legacy. this is a man who is upset with -- obsessed with russian history and of course a lot of russians are. i'm a little obsessed about it myself. i have spent most of my life studying it but putin never mentions an opportunity to reach back. most obvious, the march 18 speech, after the annexation of
crimea. we were all told about the conversion to christianity, and where that occurred and how important that was to rather solidify the idea that crimea has always been and will always remain part of russia because it is so core to its central identity. what i'm struck -- i was in moscow last december and i had not been there in several years. and i came across this gigantic statue of prince vladimir, at one of the entryways to the kremlin. in red square. it is 60 feet tall. and we have vladimir with this huge, huge cross, so he did not catch it, it is not only -- in -- it is not only prince vladimir, but the same one who brought christianity to russia. the ukrainians had a strong reaction to this, but there is, again, this reach back into history to show why things are the way they are and why they should be this way. so to close, on the legacy , piece, i think if we are
looking for potential indicators you can have an , interesting debate about what is it that putin wants to leave as his legacy? on the one hand, want to make an argument, he reincorporated crimea to its rightful place, quote unquote, back into the russian federation. he built this amazing bridge, 11.8 or 11.9 miles. which is near completion, by the -- which is nearing completion, by the way. if you get a chance, watch the video of his trip. it is almost done. sometime this summer, maybe cars will be going through, travelers will go through. that i'm sure will also be part of his legacy. if he has got broader ambitions. i am not dismissing this, but i'm not sure where it he is, you
can of these things to the high -- you cannot know these things to the high level of confidence. what if's broader goal is actually to reincorporate even more of ukraine? so the things you should be looking at their art do we see a step up and intention, more fighting, more casualties to the point where you have a crisis with the russians who have to intervene to protect the poor locals who are being abused by the ukrainian government. and then annex yet another chunk of ukraine. for people who think this might be a possibility, you should he wrote's book that in 1990. i've always been struck by the great interest that putin personally had in him. the irony there was of course pretty obvious, they kicked him out of the country. now we've got a former kgb officer who has embraced him. and if you read rebuilding russia, you understand why. i think there's a lot of
commonality in the way they tank -- think about the russia core. i'm going to leave that to the q and a if people want to get into these. it's a fascinating read. if youhink for putin , believe legacy is anything that does drive his thinking, for my money, ukraine is one of the things i would look most seriously. i'm going to stop there for the interest of time. >>thank you very much, peter. so let's turn next to mel -- milt bearden. he left the cia in 1994, after a 30 year career in the clandestine services. i think, as many people know, he was the cia officer who was assigned by the then director, bill casey, to run the cia's operations in pakistan and afghanistan, to counter the soviet intervention in
afghanistan. and for that effort, actually, he received the agency's highest decoration, the distinguished intelligence metal. he also, from 1989 to 92, directed the clandestine operations against the soviet empire as a whole. and then following that was the chief of station, in bonn. as east and west germany were uniting. so someone with a very deep and rich experience on the operational side of the cia's works, and someone who has actually received not only the highest cia medal, but also several others for his distinguished service there, so we will turn to him. and thank you so much for coming.
bank -- thank you for inviting me. it's an honor to be here. and i will cut it pretty quickly to keep this thing moving. peter is right. about putin and his view of history and the russians in general, and how they actually know their history. and what they think about it, so -- what they think about it. for us americans, now that i'm coming from texas, shurely it is -- surely the truth. most americans learn history from a football coach. but what i would do is to walk you through a little bit of the operation history at the end of the soviet union from my perspective. first is deputy chief, and the -- first as deputy chief, in the soviet division there, and the
afghan adventure that was had. and then sitting in the chief's as the soviet union disappeared. 1985, when i was deputy chief was the year of the spy. we were wrapped up with a realization that cia could be penetrated and just about every other agency in washington could be penetrated. we saw evidence of this as we watch one after another of our assets in moscow being taken down into the basement and shot in the back of the head. when edward lee howard, who we had dismissed because of suitability issues, as we said, turned out defecting into the
soviet union. we thought we had found our answer, but we thought -- but we were not. and the betrayals went on. i did move then at the cases -- at bill casey's request into pakistan, to take over the soviet adventure. in afghanistan, from1986 to 1989 and at that moment, the ironman boris, in a very theatrical meeting with his young son friendship bridge, he , is the hero of afghanistan. and that ended a 10 year, almost 10 year adventure in afghanistan, which i think write -- brought about some of the things that rapidly followed, into may of the next year.
the hungarians got the wire on the border with austrian people again to move rapidly from east to west, and then you had, in june, the elections. communism was actually voted out. and then all through the summer, and into the fall of that year, the demonstrations started in dresden and leipzig. a few hundred and then a few thousand. and then by the fall, by november, in 1989, you had the berlin wall was breached. 329 days later, germany was reunited inside nato. and one of the most stunning political maneuvers by the united states, and others. and i think a more clueless one
then wev and others might give him credit for. as then the rapid dissolution, of the warsaw pact on march 31. and i think they held off or moved up a day, so it would not happen on april fools' day in 1981, the warsaw pact. it slipped beneath the waves, and it was over. it was not long before a small attachment of red army soldiers marched out and held down the the hammered down and sickle and hoisted the russian color. and that was it. that was sort of the end of this long experiment. what i would leave you with, so that we can talk in the q and a, is that every step of the way, i think that the soviet, the kgb, putin, and all of the kgb
officers that i knew blamed us for everything that had happened. they gave us credit that was something like james angleton gave the russians credit for. ls angleton gave the russians credit for in the early days of the cia. when i was in moscow after the coup against gorbachev, i was told we were watching cnn the whole time and when bush came out and gates was there with him you knewsaid, we knew what was going on at the white house and we threw up our hands. they let this thing play out. as it did. to answer one of the questions peter raised is that there is a visceral history
-- faultyfalse she history of more recent years that it is payback time for the unite states. they we brought about this. for and none long of it that their kids seem to that let me leave it at and we can go into whatever, however we would like to play this out. milton, before we turn to george, maybe i could ask one as you think back to the soviet operations directed against the united's dates during that time -- the united do youduring that time, see any similarities with the current environment or differences? would you draw any particular from how we managed the
competition at that time that might be relevant today? we were less vulnerable across the board when the soviets were trying as many things as they might. nato was reasonably strong. forget,ets, do not would remind us every so often of who they were. czechoslovakia, 1968, their intervention in afghanistan. every 10 years or so, they would do something that would remind us exactly what the soviet union was. any progress they might have immenseinst us with the and that is the only word i could use that the united states had during most of thatperiod
failed. they may have made some moves on the margins that were pretty good and well thought through. moving against the larger american target, today it is different. could behe europeans managed to believe almost anything about the united states much more readily than when we had 360,000 young american gis looking across the gap. the rest of nato, a lot of people dismiss as generals and bands. that putin will move
against us where we might be most vulnerable today and i would say that is going to be in europe. and by aalliance extension of that, the european union itself. >> let's turn last to my beebe.ue, george career cia analyst, a former head of the russian analysis programs at the agency and a former national security aide to vice president dick cheney, now securitytor of our program here and a delightful colleague. george: thank you. i would like to start out by misquoting one of our nation's most famous intelligence analysts, mark twain. it is not the"
things you know they get you in trouble. it is the things you know for sure that are not so." there is a great deal of truth in this even though twain never said it. today, i think we have a problem with something we know for sure about russia and that is, russia's intentions toward the united states. redo some quotes about what prominent americans are saying about these -- read some quotes about what prominent americans are saying about these. russia hopes to fatally undermine a distracted west, from george will. " putin's fundamental goal is undermining american democracy." russia is attempting to destroy democracy in the united states."
that is john mccain. russia is trying to bring down our way of government." that is democratic senator ben cardin. " putin's once to make the world safer russian autocracy which means compromising every democratic center of power he can find a crushing democracy closer to home." that is a former senior state department official. andamentally, there is aversion to our system, and aversion to democracy. putin does not believe in it and use it as threatening to him personally. --is almost in his jeans genes to do what they did in the russian election and they will continue to do it. that is james clapper and he summed up all of this in one
soundbite and that is, "therein then."t russia may not aspire to incinerate the u.s. physically but rather, it hopes to undermine our democratic institutions, to set americans , exacerbatingther divisions and dysfunction. there's almost nobody on the u.s. political spectrum today that takes issue with that. this is something we seem to know for sure. i would argue this is something that could get us into trouble because we have not looked very deeply at this question. a important function of intelligence analysis, understanding the intentions of foreign adversaries is critical
to understanding the nature of the threat and how real it is and how damaging it might be and formulating effective responses to dealing with that threat. if you get the intentions wrong, you get your prescriptions wrong. it is not a easy thing to do. it requires what you might call analytic empathy, walking around shoes for aelse's while, seeing things through their eyes, understanding their hopes, fears, the constraints they are under. nobody is good at this. it is hard to do this when you know the people well. overl scratched our heads why a family member is doing things they are doing, trying to understand what they could be thinking. hard, particularly when you're dealing with a foreign adversary, a people with
different histories, cultures, beliefs, perceptions. we need to approach this with analytic humility. how do we do this in the case of russia? how do we compare this belief that russia is trying to destroy democracy in the united states to reality? we do something that is subjective. perceptions are squishy. offer a couple of suggestions in this. thes take a look at what russians are saying about our perceptions. what thewell aware of state of our beliefs are about russia and russia's intentions. what are they saying about us? second thing, what are they doing? in -- and deeds matchup? if these are their intentions,
are they doing things that are consistent with those goals and are they doing things that are inconsistent, things you would expect to see but you do not? is,third thing i would ask are there and's and means in a rough balance -- do their activities add up to their objectives they have got? what are the russian saying about our perceptions? i'm going to read a few more quotes. " anything they publish about russia is total garbage. russia constructed by american media outlets over the past 18 months shocks even the most in tight putin's -- anti-putin russian." that is a staunch putin's
opponent. --ther quote all me a blind man would not see that russia's diplomats are fixated not on reserving dictatorship but on preserving principles. it is aware a regime cane could precipitate chaos. change could precipitate chaos. " that is eight supporter. putin supporter. last quote. " what the hype is doing is elevating the position of the kremlin. i am an agnostic as to whether a strategy aimed at undermining
democracy exist but everything i know about how the government works make me doubt it. " that is another russian journalists, liberal and a skeptic of president putin's. you can see there is a contrast between what the russians say what they are at saying about our intentions and what they are seeing. why does this matter? it matters because it affects russian behaviors. the presidential election held in russia in march, one of the noteworthy results about this, constituencies that have not , peopleat fans of putin living in wealthy urban areas, ,ussian citizens living abroad
living abroad for a reason. they do not like what is going on inside russia. they're living in europe, the united states. they mode it -- they voted in inater numbers for putin greater numbers than in the past. part of the reason is what they cite as a reaction to what they ophobia in the west. it is causing a rally around putin affect inside russia. second question, what do they do? i'm going to look at counterfactual's that should cause us to question the conventional wisdom about russian intentions. if russia regards democracy as a mortal threat, something that by its nature, threatens the
russian state, is this evident in how they treat democracies around the world? the evidence says no. in the news from a couple of weeks ago should give us pause. russia was celebrating victory day, may 9, the triumph over germany in world war ii. the victory parade in moscow, president putin is marching. who is next to him? benjamin netanyahu, who talks to putin more often than any other foreign leader. it is a close relationship between israel and russia. do they agree on everything? absolutely not. there interests converge in some areas and diverge in others. they are able to manage their disagreements in a way that is pragmatic.
there is no evidence whatsoever that democracy in israel, which democratic a system as you're going to find, causes heartburn in russia. the same applies in india. a long-standing relationship they are. there.tionship india and russia do not agree. there are differences on their outlook and interests. the world'sracy, largest, as far as i can tell, does not cause heartburn in moscow. ideologically, it is not a threat. do ends andn, how means balance? there are a couple of things we would want to focus on. what things would we have inected the russians to do
the presidential election if they were trying to sabotage u.s. democracy, as opposed to poking their finger in our eye? one of the things they could have done was to circulate this information they were messing with the vote counting. lot ofknow, there is a evidence they probed boko to systems in a lot of eight -- nting systems in a lot of states. thatis interesting is not they did not try to sabotage the count. it is that no russia propaganda they couldut out have had plausible deniability suggested they had. it is not heard to imagine the
suggestion, the rumor that these votes were inauthentic would have caused a problem in the united states, a crisis of confidence that the election was legitimate. throw a't the russians little bit of disinformation out there that they could have thatnced themselves from would have gummed up the works and perceptions here about the legitimacy of the election? i would say that when you look at what the russians did during the election, you do not see a , inern in their advertising the postings that went on. the messaging was all over the map. they had no consistent themes. it did not look like they were targeting swing states with any kind of coherent strategy. that theit is clear
russians have the ability in the cyber realm to do things that have not happened. they can turn out the lights in key areas at least temporarily. they could mess with wall street trading systems. provocative, quite regarded as acts of war. have quitecertainly a detrimental affect on the functioning of our system. ,hy hasn't russia done that things within their capability? the answer is bad things would happen and that is the point. there are other, higher priorities that the russians have beyond destroying our democracy. i do not want to get into discussion on this but i would that are moregs
important goals for the russians now. one is they want us to knock off the democracy crusade. democracy, by itself, does not threaten them. it is not who we are they are concerned about. it is what we do. attempting to spread democracy abroad in key parts of the world that affect russian interests and inside russia itself in ways the russians believe are destabilizing, that bring chaos and violence, not prosperity and order. that, they find threatening. that, they want to change, no question. they want to corral american power, counterbalance it. they believe russia has a critical role to play. destroying us, undermining our system from within, presents
more problems for russian interests than it solves. why? the impact imagine on the global economy of disorder here. russia is a part of the economy. there is no way they escape the damaging effects of that sort of outcome for them. who would control u.s. nuclear weapons? a question if the u.s. starts to implode. what about the impact on other regions of instability spreading from the united states? those are concerns that anybody in moscow would have to wrestle with as they think about what their goals are vis-a-vis the united states. a final thought before q&a. an actualote from american soviet expert who wrote a book i would recommend, called
"russia under western eyes." says that western opinion has either demonized or i'd -- becaused russia, less of her real role in europe and then becauseates of the fears and frustrations, the hopes and aspirations generated within western society by its own domestic problems. i would submit today that the united states is going through of domestic period problems, generated from within. projecting those domestic problems and fears onto russia and positing they reflect actual tensions. we have to look at this with more scrutiny.
paul: thank you very much. before we open it up to questions, george set out a thesis that is somewhat controversial in the context of our current debates. youe i could have each of to react briefly. you first, peter. peter: which part? in on ours focus public discussion of russia's motives and intent toward the united states. peter: i am in agreement with the idea i do think prudent -- putin seeks to destroy the united states. partly for the reasons george has cited but also because a lot of our internal problems are of
our own doing. they have exploited it. i agree with the intelligence community assessment they came about russian interference and there is no question that occurred, in part because of the dislike of senator clinton, secretary clinton. there is a long history there which we can get into in the q&a about that issue. is a deep, long rooted history that was focused on her. it has secondary benefits from doing this kind of intervention. the issue with the polarization was already there. this was not generated by the russians. paul: milton, do you have any reaction? milton: i do not think vladimir wants who is a realist,
to destroy us or our democracy. , and i agree with peter, that they did meddle. i do not know the extent to what it amounted to in the election. they will do it again if they can. i do think they see some of what has been generated by issues here in america as opening up good options for them, let's say with nato. they will be pushing hard on putting pressure on nato based on how we are treating nato ourselves and how well they can work in europe. i do think that while the things they have not done, indeed they have not done, but there are
options that are open to them. is ine i would throw out do know know what percentage of believe there is a file on our current president. i think it is almost everybody. it does not matter what is in the file. if at some point, it would serve the interest of vladimir putin to put something out there that ,ould end up in the daily mail it could be true or not true, it could be whatever they wanted to stir up trouble in washington. they could have that and it does it have to be directly -- could be the way they usually do things, it ends up through cutouts and we trust somebody was able to steal it and it could cause great grief.
they can do great things in europe and they cannot pass that up. aftere nato continuing the warsaw pact is so long gone, i do not think they can pass that up. reaction?ge, any agree. on nato, i the russians see it in their interest to chip away and undermine nato. that is a almost universally good thing from their point of view. not very much downside. it gives them an awful lot of opportunity. , thehing on the file steele dossier, that has not gotten a lot of attention. if the russians wanted to mess
with us on this, they could put on the filemation they have got on trump, whether they have it or not. that would have a sensational impact on our domestic debate. it does not even have to be true. it might be more effective if it were not. that would throw us into a tizzy. a question we need to ask ourselves is why haven't they done that? the steele dossier itself might have been disinformation. >> the russians have arrested several former officers for and there was a lot of speculation in the russian press that these were people who had contributed to the steele dossier.
that as thew russians this liked hillary clinton, they had a lot of people in her camp who had a long history of friendship with the soviet union and friendship with russia. they were in russia in 2016 and met with the leadership of ssb. he had other interesting meetings in moscow. position that contacts with russians, particularly contacts with , there security services may be some hidden meaning, why wouldn't you entertain the possibility that russia was prepared to create trouble, to play both sides? they all expected hillary clinton to win.
why wouldn't you at least think about a scenario that they wanted to create political uncertainty in the united states? it is possible. credit for a great eince inpolitical presc the united states that is uncommon. knowing how this would play out in our domestic debate. howetrospect, looking at russia has reacted to what is going on here and our perceptions of russia and our domestic discussions, what i'm struck by is house apprised they how surprised they are.
you're the most powerful country in the world, the most powerful economy. all of this power long-standing deeply rooted political traditions and you have lost your mojo. you suddenly believe that we, russia, which lost its country not too long ago which has very , you now feel we going to destroy you. amazed that ist how we are thinking. i do not think they anticipated it. this came as a surprise. out the scenario you are talking about but it does not strike me as consist with how thestent russians have reacted to events.
frankly, i think a lot of americans are surprised. >> did the russians try to interfere? >> there is no question. what is in doubt are things like intentions and the chain of decision-making behind all of this. clearly, they were involved in doing a number of things but what motivated this is something we are not looking at with scrutiny. this was the center president. peter? peter: if you have not reread it, it is worth rereading the unclassified judgment from the intelligence committee assessment that came out. part of the analytic mind was the russians did think hillary was going to win. motivation in trying to discredit her, put out stuff about her health was in
make her lessto effective as president after she got elected. i think they were surprised that the outcome. come out aboutas the extent of their interference , they have created this problem they have which it is impossible to engage the united states. the ambassador was complaining he cannot get the time of day. it israel for him to get people to answer the phone -- it is rare for him to get people to answer the phone. they have become political kryptonite and how are we going to reengage? >> i would suggest a point as well. on the dossier file.
, as georgent is pointed out, it does not have to be true. it could be more interesting if it is not. the point to me tree made -- dmitry made is maybe it has already been done. i think it has not been done because we are doing a good enough job ourselves. if you look at any cable news outlet, it will tell you it is the 483 day of the trump presidency, instead of anything else. they can look at this and say, it is going fine. better, they get have that option, to throw something else out there. it will be believed by the necessary amount of americans and not believed by that other amount which gave us what we
have today. it will continue to stir the pot. i think there -- they are as amazed by what we're doing to ourselves as we are. they are paying closer attention than we give credit and waiting for openings to do something, not to destroy this democracy. it is a bridge too far. based on the believe the diminishing us can make them rise and maybe it does in some western european opinions, i think able do it. paul: let's open it up. firste on the right, here . >> thank you for the wonderful
panel. a question for george but anyone can answer. excuse ford a good the dearth of human intelligence. open and if you believe in the level of open toon, it has been human intelligence being ,ecruited and one of the themes especially in the past 18 months, is how little concept we have of decision-making in the kremlin. is there a problem with recruiting human intelligence on the highest level of decision-making in moscow or is it something else that george referred to, which is there is a inability to understand the motivating factors of russian decision-making? it goes back to education and to
assumptions or is it over ,eliance on liberal journalists dissidents, and exiled oligarchs as sources which lead to surprise about russian division -- decision-making? paul: i think that was directed to you. i would like to hear milton's comments on this. think one hand, i although russia is more open and in some senses, more vulnerable become ancentives source for u.s. intelligence. difficultn is a more target than it used to be in the 1990's.
there are specific reasons for that. officering a former kgb is security conscious. he does not use a computer, he does not talk on the phone. target and a lot of the senior officials in russia's government are patriotic, people who believe role of in the guiding the russian state. folks that are vulnerable to the sorts of enticements that one might rely on for human recruitment. it is not a easy technical target to penetrate. and aaid, i think putin
number of the other folks have been transparent about goals and have been going back to the document that putin issued at the turn of this millennium saying, here is the condition russia finds itself in. here is what we need to do to move toward a better future and you look back and it is pretty close to what is done. want to understand russian intentions, one way to do that is to look at what they had said compared to what they have done. it is a pretty good guy. paul: milton? milton: the recruitment of soviet sources, back in the cold war, where my service was focused. almost everybody they took into the basement and shot in the were nothe head, these
people that were wined and dined and recruited. they had somehow dropped a note into a car and said, call this number or something, some way of volunteering. some compromised themselves in the process. others came to us and gave us everything the soviets would be aircraft. it is not that they are not recruiting. it is that they are not volunteering. then, you would say, why is that? is it because we have had that rash of betrayal inside the fbi, inside the cia and that might discourage volunteers? happened had never until 1985 and we were able to say, edward lee howard was not
really one of us. he betrayed, he was in the pipeline to moscow, he knew our assets in moscow because he might be called upon to go out and make that meeting. he was able to betray a number of assets. we got him on suitability issues and kicked him out. he was not one of us. guess what? aldrich ames was. we even forget about jim nicholson, another one who was. has that affected volunteers into this era? i do know no. -- i do not know. i suspectthen and now, is the your greatest source
of assets in moscow have always been volunteers. peter: two quick points. i do not know i subscribe to the idea that russia is open. a lot of people are under surveillance and they are watched closely. maybe they come around and make business deals but it is still a security state, in my view. i am amazed at how the narrative hast what the u.s. is doing permeated even well-educated people. i had a conversation with a russian academic, in their mid-30's, who was incredibly intelligent and candid about war and policy issues. i made the mistake of asking how they voted in the election. well, i votedid, putin.
it was reluctant but what am i going to do? said, you did not want to vote for the opposition putin -- opposition? she said, you cannot be serious. we all know she works for you guys. this narrative they're putting out there, well educated people, they believe it. this person was not kidding. manage to believe that kind of thing going back into the 1980's and 1990's as well. they said you guys had more people in the white house than we did. the russian white house. this belief about the american intelligence capabilities has always been for good reason, inflated. thoughtfully inflated. think it is a lot
harder to conduct espionage. andhe era of smartphones running around and trying to maintain cover is harder. a wholeng people is different ballgame then it was pre-internet. paul: i will make a controversial statement. the era of human recruitment in intelligence is over. biometric data, meaning you cannot put someone undercover, have them travel around the world and recruit people, it does not work. identity is instantly known to governments that want to know who they are. their cellem on phones, investigating their social media histories, makes it almost impossible.
espionage is going to go in the direction of the digital domain. it is far easier to get access to people with information in quantities. it does not pay to try to do this through the old means. there are pros and cons to that. it does get to the question of assessing intentions. downloading data from a target abroad is one thing. getting the perspective on this that you can only get by talking to people that can help you understand what it looks like through someone else's eyes is something that is going to be harder to do as technology changes espionage. please identify your cells. -- your selves. >> a couple of comments on the
steele dossier. the panel does not say much about donald trump and what has theived enormous attention, election was aided in part by russian activity and what his andtude toward russia is how he has insulted scores of foreign leaders. what do you think is putin's perception of trump? is he seen as a useful idiot, as someone who's thinking is so inchoate, someone whose business interests provide a source of potential future leverage or something else? first >>?wants to go peter: there is a reason i never
wanted to broach that. i do not know how to begin to answer that. -- george: there is a reason i never want to do broach that. i do not know how to begin to answer that. it is almost impossible at this point because it is so politically charged that you can hardly engage. to speculate about what putin thinks, i do not know how fruitful that is. i would suggest putin knows more than we do in this --m, perhaps not as much as , all of thosery accounts analyzed. he has got all of that.
trump has said we have got a lot of russian money coming in. he knows what that meant. he is sitting and waiting in he needs to make any sort of move in trying to decide what that might be. i would throw a question of their -- is putin smart enough to say, do not do anything right now. just let them do what they are doing to themselves and sorted out if we have to intervene or to tweak what is going on in america. this is unique. we are at, in my lifetime, at a unique point. george, anything to add? we have little direct evidence to what putin thinks
about him. i would offer a couple of metrics. one is, to what degree is trump advancing russian interests in the world, things that russia would like to see? there has got to be disappointment there. during the campaign, trump said some things that had a lot of appeal for russia, how we needed to tone back on the approach to spreading democracy in the world and our involvement in regional conflicts that russia has felt had been counterproductive to their interests. for a candidate to come in, he was the only one, when you look at the republican and democratic candidates, none of them were saying we need to rethink what we are doing. trump was the only one and that inspired hope in moscow even though they thought he was unlikely to be president. the track record of what has
been done since trump was inaugurated is not at all what one would have expected, what the russians would have expected. that has got to be a disappointment. trump believes, in a strong, unified, purposeful state. a government that is adept in identifying interests, putting together strategies, implementing them. who believes that is the role, a strong executive, strong, top-down power. with that as a metric for assessing trump, i would imagine that putin is not impressed with the degree to which, under trump, we have had a unified, purposeful government, things that he prizes.
do i know how he perceives trump as someone who is incompetent? i do not. it is not hard to imagine he might have that impression. paul: thanks very much. we had wayne and then spencer. >> thank you. george has given us a number of good quotes. i feel compelled to give you my favorite, from bismarck. either as never strong as it appears or as weak as it appears." 20 years ago, we were persuaded the russians would be weak forever and we talked about a world without russia. today, we look at a country that has the 12th largest economy that does not have a hope of meeting putin's promised to become number five. we inflate it where it is a
midget compared with western europe or china or much of south asia. another point is this hopelessness of trying to find what you call westernizing intellectual forces in russia. probably, since most of them have got now. the kinds of people who made contact as me as -- with me as a young american diplomat, who could come to my apartment for dinner, i still see some of them. they are in new york, southern california. if you are a russian who is on tap he -- unhappy, you do not have to betray your country. you leave it. the loss of that quality of people in terms of aspirations, in terms of where they want their children to grow up, is a fundamental, not only failure,
of current russia but it renders russia week that even places like iran and china are not. this is where russia may be even weaker than it appears. paul: any reaction? to the earlier question andecruitment of sources the cold war. period.old war they could volunteer. now, they can buy a ticket to london or new york if they can get a visa. that wasnot something not part of the equation in those days. it is more complicated because i believe so many of those people who, if they had been locked
inside, might've had the courage to volunteer, have gotten out and they can say anything they want. it is a totally different target group today and they are gone. paul: let's come over here. sorry, right here. >> setting aside the united states, anything they do is a means to an end, rather than their primary objective. what are the primary objectives that they will take a risk for? is it more territory in ukraine, is it breaking the baltics out and what are the actions in westerntake
europe and the united states to , thoseate those goals right up against the border things they care passionately about? >> that is a great question. i think ukraine is high on the list for obvious reasons. that is a direct, national security concern. this is why putin went in there in the first place. ambitions,has other that is in the category i was suggesting earlier. i'm going to be looking for indicators. one thing i can say, there is a story about sweden. the swedish talking about, maybe we should all join nato. i did not see that coming but i suspect putin must have taken notice and they are thinking, this is the flipside.
to make sure you keep that nato threat away from the antagonism you have created with the west and certain parts of the ukraine, you might bring that reality closer to home, in this case the swedes. i did notaine case, mention my second alternative. we could hype up the pressure, have a minor conflict and have a basis for annexation. the flipside and this is one i subscribe to personally, is the pro and con approach. if your goal is to keep nato out forever, you can achieve that goal without annexation. you maintain a permanent territorial problem which keeps them from consideration in nato membership and you have neutralized ukraine. on the other hand, if you get into a crisis and you were to
detach parts of the east ukraine, the likelihood the rest of ukraine would join nato, there will be a strong likelihood. finding the right balance would be important and putin is shrewd enough to figure that out. what does he want his legacy to be? the great gatherer of lands, and to include all of ukraine or is he more realistic. i'm never ruling anything out anymore. milton?orge or there has been a long-standing debate about russia and the soviet union over offense versus defense. foreign affairs article a couple of years ago after the ukraine annexation is the result of
russia's defensive reaction to the possibility of nato moving into ukraine over time. any great power would have reacted this way. against that, there are those that argue russia is fundamentally offensive in its annexed territory more or less by force in the 21st century. here isthe difficulty it is about the russians are simultaneously driven by both offensive ambitions and defensive fears. their concerns about nato's eastward expansions are real. are they exaggerated? probably but they are still genuinely felt. russia does not see itself as sweden. it does not believe it can suddenly transform itself into a country that generates a great standard of living for its
people that does not have great power in the world. and a large group of the russian elite are convinced that russia cannot convince -- russia cannot continue to exist unless it is a great power and that the world will not be stable and less -- unless russia plays the role of a great power. that is not just a defensive goal. it is a believe that russia has two be taken seriously and to play a role in the world great issues on a global basis. what is interesting is, how do you do that? how do get there? you cannot just declare it and have it become reality. part of it has to be rooted in a economy that generates wealth. do that unless you
somehow liberalize that system. handles that is going to be a interesting, difficult question in his next years in power. otherso have to have great powers recognizing you are a great power in some way. right now, that is a problem for russia. powers,d's other great with the exception of china, which takes a condescending nottude toward russia, are treating russia as a great power and they are showing no inclination to do that. in order to get that recognition, that respect, putin is going to have to do different things. there is going to have to be some adjustments. as peter pointed out, much of what russia has done has been
>> let me actually ask each of you a follow-up question. i think sydney and his question raised a fairly nuanced point of, where would russia take risks? there is a fairly well researched idea in psychology that people actually are generally speaking, people are more prone to take risks to avoid losses than to pursue gain. do the three of you think that that is something that also holds true in the case of the russian leadership? or is the russian leadership perhaps counter to that, and more willing to take risks for gain? >> the very short answer for me on that is i think that they
will take risks for gain in the ukraine. i think the history of the baltic states is so different that they would not take risks to try to bring the baltic states back in. but, i would point squarely at ukraine as far as an area where they may take what we would define as a risk. depending on how they view those at that particular moment. don't forget their invasion of afghanistan, they thought the americans had come out of southeast asia with their tails between their legs. they have this jimmy carter thing. they may not notice. we will be in and out of there before the americans would notice. well, they were wrong. so, i would say ukraine. >> i really like the point you made about sometimes with the
psychologist discovered people are more prone to take risks more out of security and defensive purposes. i would say syria totally fits that mold. that was a case where the war was going really badly. russia's major geopolitical asset in the middle east was at risk of being lost. it is essential to russia's position in the middle east. and, putin took a risk. i would say it was a pretty pragmatic, modest risk to relatively low-cost and he got a lot out of it. relatively low mileage. now we are at the point where we will see what the endgame is. trying to manage assad is a real challenge. i would not want that job. we have seen multiple times now, where you can tell that assad's most recent visit to sochi. you are reading the transcript of the talks there. you do get the sense that putin is one more time, i think this is the third time i think this transition thing really needs to get moving and you get some traction with people you don't necessarily like. assad is saying we are going to
look at the u.n. and talk to some people about a process. he is clearly doing the heisman here, to tell putin, i am in charger. i am not giving up anything to anybody just in case you thought i might be willing to do that. putin, for a lot of reasons, and one of the most important ones i think, he is still smarting from a comment by a senior u.s. official that they were a regional power. way back. that official was president obama. >> that would be that person, thank you george. , i was trying to be diplomatic here. but, i do think that that is part of this. and, playing that role in syria still makes him a player. now, everyone is talking about how strong and powerful and assertive and they are projecting some power. they have had a chance to test some of their cool new toys, militarily. there has been a lot of gain, but at the end of the day now, i think it will get harder and harder. the problems with the iran. there will be problems over time. and trying to manage assad.
he has gotten himself in a place that is increasingly challenging. >> very quickly i agree. , i think the russians are more likely to run risks when they perceive that they are under threat. fear is the most powerful motivator when it comes to running risk. i think that's true in ukraine. which i regard as the most important country in the world from russia's perspective. the so-called near abroad is the highest priority and ukraine is by far the most important. that is an area where, of course, they will run the most risks. it is the highest priority. i think they believe they have got the most to lose there. i think syria also fits that. but, there is one interesting counter narrative there. that is meddling in the united states. you can, to some degree, construe that is defensive. you have got to start messing around in russia so were going to give you a dose of this to see how it feels and then maybe you will reconsider what you are doing. it is a relatively high risk thing to do.
i would argue in response to that, that the russians didn't think it was very high risk. paying a few hundred trolls to post some things on social media. it doesn't look like a real aggressive move from their perspective. obviously, in retrospect, we have reacted to this far more vigorously than i think the russians would have thought. >> thanks very much. we have got 16 minutes here. i have four people with questions. let's take them in pairs. i want to reserve a few minutes for our panelists to have any final comments at the end. so john hudson, you first. and then keith ther. >> i just wanted to take advantage of your knowledge of the russian system on an important development that has happened recently. this would be the april 6
a which isg of pask had an impact on the global metals market, it has irritated european allies that have been affected by it. i think what has confused some people is whether or not the that he was someone he was characterized adequately as a putin crony, because some people believe he is sort of a yelton era oligarch instead. can you give a sense of his sort of power in the russian political system, and what the impact of the targeting of him might be in russia? >> let's add your question. i think what i will do is just turn to one of you to answer each of these questions so we can move it along. >> we may not be able to identify putin's specific intentions. but we should be able to notice major strategic reorientation's of russia.
increasingly hearing noise about the west coming at the end of its 500 year dominance in the world. the rise of the ease. and russia does seem to be genuinely making a bit of a strategic reorientation toward asia. not just china but also to what , japan. i want to get the panel's sense of what that might mean and whether that is actually happening. >> peter i think the question , came to you. perhaps we can start with that? >> i suspect there are a lot of people in the room who are better qualified to answer that. my personal thinking is, i think he doesn't relationship with putin. absolutely. -- he does have a relationship with putin. absolutely. it all sounds very complicated. i have been struck by the pushback that has developed in the u.s., because people realize the implications, specifically for boeing. i think people are realizing when you start talking about sanctioning, what are the countervailing steps or measures that might be taken by the other side?
things are pretty complicated there. i don't know if that answers the question. somebody want to do the asia thing? >> the strategic realignment. that it was a capitalist monsoon in asia. a geostationary satellite, looking at where all the human activity was for the last 500 years, it would have looked over the mid atlantic and mainly western europe and sort of us coming in later. i think that satellite has moved over the indian ocean a little bit. where it is getting a look at that. there is an awful lot of demographic and political activity that is going to make that an interesting area to play around in. we will see the soviets moving over there, whether we will catch on. doesn't mean we will be diminished in the west as rapidly as others might think. but, i think that there is something to this -- the
russians are looking at that, as an area. it is very early in the day. >> i do think there is -- i will call it a rebalancing. not so much a reorientation. russia's orientation toward the east and the west. russia no longer secret self integrating into the west. -- sees itself integrating to the west. and, that has been true for quite some time. i don't think it sees itself as fully integrating into the east either. i think what you are seeing is greater emphasis on relationships in asia, china, and part of what is going on between russia and japan is russia balancing that relationship with china as well. making sure it has hedges and alternatives and counterbalances in that.
but, overall, i think that orientation more to the middle between east and west, the west tilt is clearly been going on. >> lets go of your to christian white first, and then jonathan >> given all the challenges towards allies to tradecraft using official cover of intelligence operatives against russia, would it make sense to make greater alliances to make russian trade illegal on not just assets but officers in place [indiscernible] >> i have spent more time outside the cia then must anybody who has been in sight. i think what is going on, i don't know anything about what is going on today.
the point is in dangerous or denied operational areas, if you can get anybody out of the country, the best thing is to do that, meaning maybe not necessarily london, but you could pick any number of other places in the world. and, russians can move so much more freely than one imagines. that is the big option. we used to try to stay 10 steps ahead of surveillance to do a brush pass somewhere in moscow. yes, the argument is spying is the second oldest profession, or the first. i don't know. it hasn't changed a lot until about now. these are big changes. it's a nice way of saying i have no idea. >> this is for george.
but anyone else can jump in. george, when you talk about the interaction with the americans you focused on the intervention , of the 2016 elections. challengessian becoming far more expensive than . you have the military challenges alone. the flyovers, the dangerous passovers of american naval vessels and aircraft. you have the deployment of nuclear capable missiles in: ingrid. -- n you have the deployment of these new nuclear armed or capable cruise missiles in southern russia. we know that we know of, nuance control, conventional or nuclear going on. the strategic dialogue is all but dead. don't you have to add those challenges to what has happened
in the election to get a much broader picture of where the russians are? >> yeah, i think you do. many of the things you are talking about there are more constants than variables. peter alluded to the comment that president obama made. he wasn't the only one a few years ago. russia is basically a regional power. it poses a regional to. out of weakness, not out of strength, if i recall correctly what the president said. and, he said this after ukraine. after the annexation. after the launch of the hybrid gray war in eastern ukraine. he is basically saying, hey, look. let's keep the russian threat in perspective here. that has changed. that threat assessment has changed rather dramatically. to the point where we don't think russia is a regional threat. we think they are an existential threat to the united states.
the very heart of our system. and, that change in threat perception occurred while all of those things that you are talking about, the flyovers, the developments, the new strategic weapon systems, all of that had been going on for quite some time. those are not what is driving our threat perception. are they real issues? are they real things we have to contend with in the bilateral relationship, and the multilateral activities in the international community? absolutely. but, i don't think they tell us much about how we view russian intention. anybody else have --? >> those are very -- that had been, i say, all the way back when submarines were playing games with each other or movement of missile systems. that is indeed a constant. it has been around a long time. i think that the package as a
whole probably represents something new with what you are getting it. >> even at the height of the cold war, we were still having strategic arms control negotiations and agreements. that is not happening anymore. we were still developing new systems on both sides. this didn't happen overnight. >> an important question. for a number of years, most of us would not consider russia as a main enemy. newa number of years -- russia as a main enemy. it was responsible? what were russian intentions? what were judgments? am i correct for better or , worse, we now consider russia as a main enemy? they are not asking, whether
this is an american mainstay. incorporate into the seney -- into this any closing thoughts you may have. >> as i did with my dear friend 'my maine that the enemy." the characterization of who we were. we were the main enemy. they are the main enemy. is that i had disagreements with people when i was at cia. some people sort of hated the soviet union because they were commies. i thought, well they have also , got 30,000 warheads. it will go more or less downrange. that is a more logical way to approach the thing. today, where are we? does anybody pose that type of
threat? i don't think we would ever look at china with what we know now. they have enough warheads. to answer your question, i think i could probably say, the main enemy thing is not a bad characterization. because who was second place? >> there is a lot packed into that characterization that i think we need to unpack and get right. in russian, it is different than --. right? main opponents versus an enemy. russia is an adversary. it is an opponent on the world chessboard. no question about that. but, that is a different thing than believing that russia is our primary enemy and that its
opposition to the united states is a derivation of fundamental incompatibilities between our political system and theirs. why is that? because if that enemy status is immutable, that it derives from things that are constant about us and about russia, you can't change that. it exists independent of our behavior. and there is nothing to do other than to outcompete them. to defeat them. i don't think that is what is going on at all here. i think a significant portion of the animosity and hostility that exists on both sides derives not from the nature of the system, but because of behaviors. -- behaviors in the world that we have some control over on both sides. it is the basic for negotiation and talk backed by force, backed by leverage? absolutely. but it is not something that is irreconcilable fundamentally.
>> i agree with george. i see it more as strategic -- like with china. somewhere on that list i think there are a number of things that we should be worried about if we become too obsessed with russia we run the risk of , missing other serious issues. some are transnational. i worry about cyber a huge amount. that the subject for another talk sometime. i want to close with one or two quick points on the ancient china question. i was struck immediately. when the sanctions were imposed after crimea, the first place putin went was china. very, very quickly. i think within two months. by the end of the year, they signed this major new deal on oil and gas. which has continued since then. if you look more broadly, it is the outreach to japan. a little bit to south korea. i was also struck by the major move in the middle east in terms of russia's efforts to buy into a lot of, not just energy, per
se, but the exploitation, the production, the pipelines, the logistics of the energy business struck me as a little bit of an insurance policy putin was pursuing to ensure streams of revenue because he could see what was going to happen with the sanctions. also, what the europeans were going to be having to do for the sanctions. they were as hard-line about crimea as the u.s. in closing, i want to read a great quote from the robert book that came out a little while ago. which i subscribe to completely. he is saying as we get into this new cold war, it is going to move the stages. and, it truly will when the two sides relent and seek their own detente, the earlier experience will have an echo in two respects. first, contemporary russias preoccupation with being treated as an equal. -- equal resonates no less powerfully than it did for the soviet union. i absolutely believe that. they want to be treated as an equal.
certainly, putin does. secondly, this is right spot on. second. success will depend on mutually agreeable rules of the game where, from the beginning, the interaction between u.s. and russia has been the most fraught and -- with those countries that once comprised the soviet union. ukraine. hopefully not others. we certainly saw it in georgia. if there are any movements or activities where the perception is nato or even the e.u. is making inroads that they see potentially as leading to nato, they will react. that, in particular, because it is the direct national security interest will remain one of the est we willeas -- dic have to manage our relationships with those countries. >> thank you very much peter. thank you so much. [applause] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national
cable satellite corp. 2018] conversation] meeting -- it was a very full discussion answering all questions. of 2016, i was free to the classified setting by secretary then jay johnson and director clapper on the russian threat and meddling in our elections. i can tell you it was very clear and convincing evidence. congress, as i called upon them had a responsibility to act in response to this act of aggression by foreign adversaries. what the response was with the russian sanctions bill, a very tough sanctions package that for the first time did not include a national security waiver in it.