All FSI Publications Policy Briefs

Policy Roundup: August 2022

Key policy takeaways from Rose Gottemoeller on why the U.S. should avoid a nuclear arms race, Michael McFaul on how Putin may try to end the war in Ukraine, Oriana Skylar Mastro on China's intentions toward Taiwan, Francis Fukuyama on political realignment in America, Renée DiResta and Samantha Bradshaw on Russian propaganda in cyberspace, and Gil Baram on the cyber war between Israel and Iran.

August 30, 2022

U.S. Nuclear Arms Policies

The Case Against A New Arms Race
Rose Gottemoeller, Steven C. Házy Lecturer at CISAC
Foreign Affairs, 8/9/2022

  • Putin’s invocation of nuclear war has reignited debates about deterrence and the utility of nuclear weapons.
  • Some argue that the United States risks weakening its own security if it doesn’t amass a larger nuclear arsenal to maintain its advantage over rivals.
  • But it would be a mistake for the United States, or any state, to embark on a nuclear arms race during this time, when a revolution is afoot in other types of military technology.
  • New defense innovations promise not just to transform warfare but also to undermine the logic and utility of nuclear weapons.
  • A fixation on building more nuclear weapons will only distract from this technological revolution.
  • The wisest choice for Washington, then, is to modernize its nuclear force posture as planned while putting its main emphasis on developing and acquiring new technologies for military applications.

Russia's Invasion of Ukraine

'Realists’ Have it Wrong: Putin, Not Zelensky, Is the One Who Can End the War.
Michael McFaul, FSI Director
Washington Post, 8/4/2022

  • Putin, not Zelensky, is the key decision-maker for ending the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
  • Western recommendations aimed only at pressuring Zelensky to quit won’t work.
  • The real party of peace is not those advising Zelensky to give Putin more land. It is those pushing the West to supply the Ukrainian army with more and better weapons, and as fast as possible.
  • No matter what Zelensky says or gives, Putin will not stop fighting until his army can no longer move forward.
  • If Zelensky gave Putin more Ukrainian territory today, Putin would demand more tomorrow — more land, more influence over the Ukrainian government, certainly more control throughout in Ukraine.
  • Giving Putin more Ukrainian land now would not only radically undermine Ukrainian sovereignty, but it would also threaten to unravel the post-World War II international system more generally.

China's Intentions Toward Taiwan

China’s Huge Exercises Around Taiwan Were a Rehearsal, Not a Signal
Orina Skylar Mastro, FSI Center Fellow
The Economist, 8/10/2022

  • Speaker Pelosi’s visit has allowed Beijing to move to a new level of military activity unchallenged, which will make it harder for America to defend Taiwan.
  • If activities in the vicinity of Taiwan become more routine, not only does this heighten anxiety in Taipei (and probably other regional capitals as well) but it helps to disguise any preparations for a real military campaign.
  • China needs an element of surprise to be able to take Taiwan before America has time to mobilize adequate forces in the region to defend the island.
  • If China’s forces are simulating formations, blockades, attacks and amphibious landings, it will be harder to decipher when they are preparing for the real thing.
  • It is unlikely that Beijing will return to its previous level of operations.
  • Instead, China might attempt to normalize greater Chinese activity around Taiwan. That makes war more probable.

Political Realignment in America

Paths to Depolarization
Francis Fukuyama, Olivier Nomellini Senior Fellow at FSI
Persuasion, 8/3/2022

  • Grassroots activism and electoral reform are important. But only a political realignment can save America.
  • The only way to resolve this is through the democratic process itself: that is, through a decisive electoral victory by one party that seeks to promote serious change, and is able to enact it.
  • The most direct path out of political polarization is for the Democrats to clearly move to occupy the moderate center of American politics and win elections on that basis.
  • They can do this by passing sensible economic and social policies that demonstrate the possibility of effective government, and by breaking cleanly with the cultural agenda of their own left wing.
  • If the Democrats were to recover this ground and start to win elections more consistently, the Republicans would have to recognize that Trump had led them into a dead end and that they needed to appeal not to their own extremist voters, but to the center.
  • This is the way that polarization ended in 1896, and how it might begin to end in 2024.

International Cyber Issues

How Unmoderated Platforms Became the Frontline for Russian Propaganda
Samantha Bradshaw, Postdoctoral Fellow at CDDRL andRenée DiResta, Research Manager at the Stanford Internet Observatory
Lawfare, 8/17/2022

  • Propaganda has – and always will be – a component of violent conflict.
  • In the modern information environment, social media platforms are one of the first lines of defense on the digital battlefield.
  • The Russia-Ukraine war has shown that platforms are not simply neutral or commercial entities.
  • Their policies make them arbiters of geopolitics, and the decisions they make – or don’t make, in the case of Telegram – can mean life or death during times of war, conflict, and violence.
  • Though information spaces have never been homogeneous, the invasion of Ukraine provides a preview of the policymaking challenges in a fractured and highly politicized information environment.
  • A comprehensive strategy to combat disinformation campaigns must consider full spectrum operations that incorporate both overt and covert dynamics across a wide range of analog, digital, and alternative media, including non-Western platforms like Telegram.

How the Cyberwar Between Iran and Israel Has Intensified
Gil Baram, Postdoctoral Fellow at CISAC
Washington Post, 7/25/22

  • Alleged cyberattacks and intrusions between Iran and Israel have intensified, gaining global attention and coverage, giving a new public dimension to the ongoing covert conflict.
  • My research shows that choosing to make details public isn’t a binary political decision between revealing or concealing the attack. Instead, victims of a cyberattack might choose to respond in a variety of ways, including complete silence, attributing the attack and assigning blame.
  • Both Israel and Iran have become noticeably more public about these attacks. For example, in April 2020, the Israel National Cyber Directorate confirmed an “attempted cyber-breach” of water command and control systems.
  • International law sets down a minimum standard of responsible behavior that is binding on countries. Many countries — including Israel and Iran — agree that the general principles of international law based on the U.N. Charter also apply to cyberspace.
  • Yet it appears the international community does not view these types of cyber-intrusions as crossing a certain threshold of violating international law, as no other country has addressed them.
  • The greater the public exposure to these cyberattacks, the greater the risk that they could extend beyond cyberspace and influence other areas of this conflict.

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