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.”
Over the past two decades, the United States has increasingly turned to targeted sanctions and export restrictions, such as those imposed against Iran and North Korea, in order to curb the spread of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). One vexing problem, however, is how to contend with jurisdictional hurdles when the violations occur overseas, in countries that are unable or unwilling to assist US enforcement efforts. To solve this problem, US prosecutors are turning to strategies with significant extraterritorial implications— that is, exercising legal authority beyond national borders. One such tool is to use civil legal procedures to seize assets linked to sanctions or export control violations in jurisdictions that lack cooperative arrangement with US enforcement agencies. While this may be an attractive strategy to bolster enforcement efforts against overseas illicit procurement such tools are not without consequence.
Aaron Arnold is an associate of the Project on Managing the Atom. Prior to joining MTA, Aaron spent nine years as a non-proliferation and counterproliferation consultant to Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Justice. His work primarily focused on proliferation threat finance and sanctions evasion.
Aaron's research interests include illicit financial networks, the effectiveness of economic statecraft, technology transfer, and the role of innovation within formal and informal networks.
Aaron holds a B.A. from Virginia Tech, and a M.P.P. and Ph.D. from George Mason University School of Public Policy. Aaron currently holds a special appointment as an Assistant Professor at Curry College.