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.”
Brig. Gen. Kevin Ryan (U.S. Army, retd.) is a Belfer Center Senior Fellow and served as the founder and Director of the Defense and Intelligence Projects until his retirement in 2017. 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. 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 is a member of the Belfer Center Board of Directors. 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. 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).
Serhii Plokhii is the Mykhailo Hrushevsky Professor of Ukrainian History and the director of the Ukrainian Research Institute. His interests include the intellectual, cultural, and international history of Eastern Europe, with an emphasis on Ukraine. He is the author of, among others, The Frontline: Essays on Ukraine's Past and Present (HURI, 2021); Nuclear Folly: A History of the Cuban Missile Crisis (W. W. Norton, 2021); Forgotten Bastards of the Eastern Front: American Airmen behind the Soviet Lines and the Collapse of the Grand Alliance (Oxford University Press, 2019); Chernobyl: The History of a Nuclear Catastrophe (Basic Books, 2018); and The Gates of Europe: A History of Ukraine (Basic Books, 2015). His books have won numerous awards, including the Ballie Gifford Prize and the Shevchenko National Prize (2018).
Michael Kofman serves as Research Program Director in the Russia Studies Program at CNA and as a Fellow at the Kennan Institute, Woodrow Wilson International Center in Washington, DC. His research focuses on the Russia and the former Soviet Union, specializing in Russian armed forces, military thought, capabilities, and strategy. Previously, he served as a Program Manager and subject matter expert at National Defense University, advising senior military and government officials on issues in Russia and Eurasia. Mr. Kofman is also a Senior Editor at War on the Rocks, where he regularly authors articles on strategy, the Russian military, Russian decision-making, and related foreign policy issues. He runs a personal blog on the Russian armed forces at https://russianmilitaryanalysis.wordpress.com/. Mr. Kofman has published numerous articles on the Russian armed forces, security issues in Russia/Eurasia, and analyses for the US government. He holds an MA in International Security from the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.
Paul R. Kolbe is the Director of the Intelligence Project. Paul served for 25 years in the CIA’s Directorate of Operations in a variety of foreign and domestic roles, including as Chief of Station, Chief/Central Eurasia Division, and Balkans Group Chief. His overseas assignments included operational and leadership roles in the former Soviet Union, the Balkans, Southeast Asia, Southern Africa, and Central Europe. He was a member of the Senior Intelligence Service and is a recipient of the Intelligence Medal of Merit and the Distinguished Career Intelligence Medal. Following his CIA career, Kolbe was Director for Intelligence and Analysis at BP, where he built an enterprise-wide intelligence capability focused on geopolitical threats, strategic cyber threats, and support to commercial operations. Clients included C-suite leadership, global business units, security networks, and legal teams. Kolbe is a Senior Advisor to the Martin + Crumpton Group and Spycraft Entertainment. He is also a member of the Cipher Brief network of experts and is an alumnus of Michigan State University’s James Madison college, where he studied International Relations.