The overarching question imparting urgency to this exploration is: Can U.S.-Russian contention in cyberspace cause the two nuclear superpowers to stumble into war? In considering this question we were constantly reminded of recent comments by a prominent U.S. arms control expert: At least as dangerous as the risk of an actual cyberattack, he observed, is cyber operations’ “blurring of the line between peace and war.” Or, as Nye wrote, “in the cyber realm, the difference between a weapon and a non-weapon may come down to a single line of code, or simply the intent of a computer program’s user.”
Former US Ambassador Douglas Lute, former Defense Attache BG (ret) Kevin Ryan, and Intelligence Project Director Rolf Mowatt-Larssen will brief on the 2018 Elbe Group meeting and provide the insights and feedback they gained from discussions with Russian military and intelligence leaders.
The Elbe Group
The purpose of the “Elbe Group” is to maintain an open and continuous channel of communication on sensitive issues of US-Russian relations.
The members of the Elbe Group are senior retired military and intelligence flag officers, all of whom have strong connections back into their governments. It is an unprecedented gathering of three and four star veterans from the Federal Security Service, Main Intelligence Directorate of the General Staff, Ministry of Defense, Central Intelligence Agency, Defense Intelligence Agency, and Department of Defense. The Elbe Group has high level visibility in both the US and Russian governments. President Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov have all been personally briefed on the group by Russian members. Current chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov participated in the Elbe Group Round Table on Missile Defense in November 2011, hosted by former Minister of Interior, General Anatoly Kulikov. US members likewise send feedback directly to the highest levels in Department of State, DIA, CIA and Defense Department.
The next Elbe Group Meeting will take place March 2018.
Douglas Lute is the former United States Permanent Representative to the North Atlantic Council, NATO’s standing political body. Appointed by President Obama, he assumed the Brussels-based post in 2013 and served until 2017. During this period he was instrumental in designing and implementing the 28-nation Alliance’s responses to the most severe security challenges in Europe since the end of the Cold War. He received the State Department’s Distinguished Honor Award.
A career Army officer, in 2010 Lute retired from active duty as a lieutenant general after 35 years of service. In 2007 President Bush named him as Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor to coordinate the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2009 he was the senior White House official retained by President Obama and his focus on the National Security Council staff shifted to South Asia. Across these two Administrations, he served a total of six years in the White House.
Before being assigned to the White House, General Lute served as Director of Operations (J3) on the Joint Staff, overseeing U.S. military operations worldwide. From 2004 to 2006, he was Director of Operations for the United States Central Command, with responsibility for U.S. military operations in 25 countries across the Middle East, eastern Africa and Central Asia, in which over 200,000 U.S. troops operated.
In earlier assignments he served as Deputy Director of Operations for the United States European Command in Stuttgart, Germany; Assistant Division Commander in the 1st Infantry Division in Germany; Commander of U.S. Forces in Kosovo; and Commander of the Second Cavalry Regiment. Through his military career, he received numerous honors and awards, including three awards of the Defense Distinguished Service Medal.
General Lute holds degrees from the United States Military Academy at West Point and from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a charter member of the Flag Officer Advisory Group of the United States Institute of Peace.Ambassador Douglas Lute is the former United States Permanent Representative to the North Atlantic Council, NATO’s standing political body. Appointed by President Obama, he assumed the Brussels-based post in 2013 and served until 2017. During this period he was instrumental in designing and implementing the 28-nation Alliance’s responses to the most severe security challenges in Europe since the end of the Cold War. He received the State Department’s Distinguished Honor Award.
Brigadier General Kevin Ryan (U.S. Army retired) is an Associate Fellow at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.
Until his retirement from full time work in May 2017, Ryan was founder and Director, Defense and Intelligence Projects at Belfer Center. A career military officer, he served in air and missile defense, intelligence, and political-military policy areas. From 1995 to 1996, he was head of the Moscow office of the POW/MIA Commission, searching for missing Americans in the former Soviet states. From 1998 to 2000, he served as Senior Regional Director for Slavic States in the Office of Secretary of Defense and, from 2001 to 2003, as Defense Attaché to Russia. He also served as Chief of Staff for the Army's Space and Missile Defense Command, an organization with diverse missions that include deployment of missile defenses, cyber assets, satellite management and research in areas like directed energy. He has commanded at every level from platoon to brigade and served in Europe, Korea, and Iraq. In his last duty assignment he was responsible for Army Strategic War Plans, Policy, and International Affairs and coordinated Army policy in the domestic interagency and with foreign allies.
Ryan holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the U.S. Military Academy, a Masters degree in Russian Language and Literature from Syracuse University and, a Masters degree in National Security Strategy from the National War College. Ryan has been a fellow at Harvard Kennedy School's Shorenstein Center on Press, Politics and Public Policy and was Vice President for Business Development at iRobot Corporation. He is a member of the Board of the American Councils for International Education (ACTR/ACCELS) and a member of the Belfer Center Board of Directors. Ryan was the founding director of the center's U.S.-Russia Initiative to Prevent Nuclear Terrorism, where he also founded the “Elbe Group" (retired US and Russian flag officers from the military and intelligence fields). He was previously Executive Director for Research of the Belfer Center from 2010 to 2013. He is the author of over 20 articles and book chapters on various leadership and security topics.
For More Information
For more information on the Elbe Group: