Two generals, from Poland and US about security.

Major General Bogusław Pacek and Liutenant General Robert L. Caslen Jr.. (It was prepared with cooperation of Angelica Fortuna)

Bogusław Pacek

What is your opinion on a current security situation in Europe, Asia and the rest of the world? What is the main threat and the main chance for the world security?

Robert L. Caslen, Jr.

Let me address some overall global security trends first. In the area of political-military affairs, we are seeing a rise of competing powers, a decline of traditional allies, and overall degenerating collective security. The risks to NATO and its collective alliance are an example of that. Economically, we will see a rise of protectionism, and a stagnation of global economic integration. Look at the tariff war as an example. We will also see an increase in food prices due to shortages, and the challenges to feed an exponentially increasing world population. In the category of justice and human rights, we’ll see an increase in nationalism, a rise in corruption, declining tolerances and freedoms, and rising socialism. The world population will increase to 7.9 billion in 2024, and 8.7 billion by 2034. 60% of that population will live in urban environments, principally in megacities – many of whom will be unable to provide essential services – like clean water, sewage, and power. A megacity has more than 10 million residents. Today there are three dozen megacities, and by 2030, there will be 48. Most of these are within 100 miles of a coastline. All of these trends contribute to how nations will govern, and how they govern first within their regions, and then globally. And border disputes are always a threat: Russia-Ukraine // Lebanese Hezbollah & Lebanon-Israel // India-Pakistan // India-China // China-Bhutan // South China Sea (which involves the 6 nations of -- China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, and the Philippines.

The current security situation in Europe is tenuous, but it is still stronger than what we have historically seen in the past. Looking at revanchist Russia over the next 5 years -- their military spending will remain a priority, and although struggling to gain strategic allies, they will continue to work on forming alliances in the Middle East (i.e. Syria), North Africa, and South America (i.e. Venezuela) in order to offset US-Western alliances. NATO’s continued expansion is a concern to Russia. Looking at the configuration of NATO nations on a map, Russia sees that as a western encirclement (and the last time they saw an encirclement like that was what the Axis powers did in early WWII – they do not easily forget). In addition to its conventional weapons, Russia has employed Cyberspace Operations, Electronic Warfare and Information Operations to great effect in Georgia, the Balkans, and, most recently, in the Crimea and Ukraine. Russia also has a degrading population which will continue to hamper their attempts to grow economically and sustain their armed forces. Finally, their economy will continue to remain reliant on energy resources instead of economic diversification.

The 5-year outlook for China is equally challenging. The PLA reform will continue to focus on the Air Force and Navy, as well as setting up their Rocket Forces as an independent service. They will also continue to exercise low-intensity coercion to advance territorial claims in the East and South China Sea. And of note, they are showing a more public willingness to take actions in this arena. The territorial claims create a concerning and growing risk to trade routes and freedom of navigation, which can have a detrimental effect on the global economy. Finally, China’s overt strategy to build infrastructure and alliances internationally will continue to increase their influence as a global power.

Both Russia and China constantly bombard the Cyberspace Domain. From outright cyber-attacks, to directed fishing campaigns; from impacting gaming networks to the radicalization of our own citizens to carry out lethal attacks on our home soil -- the Cyberspace Domain is an avenue of approach to the homeland. There is a growing number of disruptive technologies, which include robotics, photonics, artificial intelligence, hypersonics and human enhancements.

Continued uncertainty of a North Korean agreement or treaty, including additional nuclear and missile tests, will continue to insert instability in the region and prompt neighbouring countries to take actions, sometimes unilaterally, to protect their security interests. As a result, growing tensions around the Korean Peninsula remain very possible with the possibility of a serious confrontation in the coming years.

Speaking of nuclear weapons, Israel, India, Pakistan, and North Korea are not members of any nonproliferation treaty.

We also see adversaries who are simultaneously employing non-kinetic capabilities across multiple domains delivering real-time effects in public opinion and international media with the intent to interfere with our national decision processes, our infrastructure, and our support to and from strategic partners.

Bogusław Pacek

Do you think that Iran and the Middle East constitutes the essential threat to the world?

Robert L. Caslen, Jr.

Iran continues to see itself as the vanguard of Shia Islam, particularly against the encroachment of an antagonistic Sunni Islam, led by Saudi foreign policy. As a result, Iran may increase its aggressive activity, only to intensify the Iran-Saudi rivalry. Iranian proxies in Syria and Iraq will link up along the common border, establishing an Iranian "land bridge" across both countries. And the Iranian Republican Guard Qods Force will be a cornerstone of Iranian foreign policy. Iran will continue to develop its missile capability, establishing a higher level of accuracy for short and mid-range ballistic missiles and as you know, restraints on nuclear enrichment ended with the US withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear treaty, thus providing a potential crossroads for Iran to rebuild its nuclear program in the future.

As far as Iran being an existential threat, it is to Israel, as Iran has sworn to totally destroy Israel and wipe it off of the map. They have proven unable to do that through proxy forces, but what has grabbed Israel’s attention, was Iran’s nuclear program. If Iran does acquire a nuclear weapon, then it would indeed become that existential threat. Israel, however, has vowed to not allow Iran to fully acquire and test a nuclear weapon, so we’ll see how this plays out.

As far as the rest of the Middle East being a threat, the Middle East has a number of divides, that for the most part, remain regionally aligned within the Middle East – with one big exception – and that is immigration. The major divides are Sunni-Shia – which we see playing out in Yeman and Syria. Another divide is radical Sunni and moderate Sunni. That is playing out in Iraq and Syria, between ISIS and moderate Sunni’s. The Awakening during the Iraq War showed how great a divide this was. Then there is the Kurd-Arab divide, which is being played out in northern Iraq, southern Syria, southwest Iran and southern Turkey. The Kurdish region is the largest ethnic population without its own state, and they desperately desire to become a nation. And finally there is the Palestinian – Israel divide. The unrest we see in the Middle East continues to create immigration issues, particularly within western Europe.

Bogusław Pacek

What are your predictions for development of Syrian conflict?

Robert L. Caslen, Jr.

The US withdrawal out of Syria is a game changer. Our presence served a number of national interests. Continued pressure on the Assad government, a check to Soviet presence and influence, pressure on ISIS – which is a global threat, and a counter to Iranian influence and the Iranian bridge over Iraq into Syria and then into Lebanon. Anyone can predict the consequence of US withdrawal, and my assessments are that the Assad government is assured to remain, Soviets have gained an ally in the Middle East and basing for their influence, ISIS remains in an ideological state and will now have safehaven to begin to reestablish their self-proclaimed caliphate, and Iran’s pro-Shia influence is assured through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, and an increasing threat to Israel.

Bogusław Pacek

Is there any chance for achieving stabilization in Palestine?

Robert L. Caslen, Jr.

There will not be stabilization until they agree to a two nation state.

Bogusław Pacek

What is your opinion on Russian actions? Is it possible for Moscow to instigate the armed conflict?

Robert L. Caslen, Jr.

Let me explain my answer by focusing on Russia’s on-going efforts in Ukraine and Crimea.

Many think eastern Ukraine is best described as “WWI with technology”, because the two greatest threats facing Ukrainian soldiers on the front line are snipers and Russian artillery. But unlike 1915, soldiers on the 2018 “Eastern Front” will receive text messages on their phones telling them their cause is hopeless. And they are constantly concerned about unmanned aerial vehicles, because if they are spotted, they can expect to receive mass artillery within moments of being spotted.

Those of us who were in the military during the Cold War were fortunate to know an enemy, how he would fight, what his weapon capabilities were, and how we would defend against it. That is not the case today.

Although the Russian threat remains, it is in a completely different form and combines with an array of other threats to create a challenging global operating environment. Things like explosive technological growth, information dimensions, and long-range reconnaissance and fires, have eroded the military edges the west used to enjoy.

In the area of electronic warfare, Russia will use a wide range of electronic warfare systems to jam communications, locate headquarters and then target them with long range artillery. During a recent US/NATO training exercise, a senior Ukrainian officer observed a US tactical headquarters with an antenna farm only a few meters from the command post. His comment was only, that while pointing to the antenna’s, that it means “aim here” to the Russians, and it would immediately evaporate with indirect fires.

This has significant consequences on how we will command and control. No longer can we talk forever, and no longer will we have situational awareness of our units’ status as we have learned over the past 20 years. In addition, our GPS technology will be at risk and we will have to learn how to navigate as we did 40 years ago – with a map and compass.

The United States and NATO divested its information capabilities (“foolishly” divested its info capabilities – I might add) after winning the ideological debate during the Cold War. But Russia, learning what happened to them during the Cold War, has invested heavily into their information warfare. For example, Russia’s strategic information and disinformation campaign in its annexation of Crimea, created sufficient paralysis within NATO. NATO literally stood by and watched it all happen without taking any action at all. And what Russia has done in the US internal election process illustrates not only what their intentions are, but what their capabilities are as well.

Tactically on the eastern Ukrainian front, Russia targets individual soldiers, commanders, and their families using cellphones and social media to undermine their war efforts. The Russian air defense system is extensive and capable and has completely grounded the Ukrainian Air Force, to include their tactical rotary aircraft used for medevac, intelligence and fires. The air superiority we have become accustomed to over the past 30 years is gone.

Russian UAV’s are prolific, and as soon as something is identified, it is targeted almost instantaneously with massed long-range artillery. To respond to this capability, Ukraine has had to learn how to camouflage. Whenever vehicles stop, camouflage netting goes up. They’ve become camouflage experts. Their vehicle formations look like giant, mobile vegetation clusters. We think our speed alone will secure our movement. That’s not going to cut it in a conflict with Russia.

In the Ukraine Cyber domain, Russian hackers have seemingly penetrated just about every one of their networks. They have spoofed GPS signals and captured video downlinks of unencrypted transmissions from Ukrainian UAVs to view the feeds as the aircraft are overflying Ukrainian positions during takeoffs and landings. They have penetrated the cellular network for locational data and information operations, sending targeted messages to individual soldiers showing them nearly real-time pictures of their families and asking if they know whether their families are safe. On other occasions they have sent messages after an artillery strike telling soldiers to go home; their corrupt government officials aren’t worth dying for. In yet another case, the Russians tracked Ukrainian artillery units using a malware implant on Android devices. Placed in this context, the U.S. Army’s desire for perfect information brings real vulnerabilities that could be exploited by a sophisticated enemy.

Russia brings an entirely new perspective on how to fight in urban terrain. The Second Battle of Donetsk Airport demonstrated these challenges. At one-point, Ukrainian military forces controlled the first and second floors of the international airport while Russian-led separatists occupied the basement tunnel system and the third floor. Two dimensional maps don’t work in this environment. Likewise, they aren’t afraid to fire artillery from populated areas knowing Ukraine is hesitant to return fire into their own populated areas and risk collateral mass casualties of their own citizens.

Crimea creates an equally challenging situation and another revelation into how future war will be conducted. Russia’s strategic objective in annexing Crimea was their ability to create ambiguity and non-attribution without drawing global powers, like the US or NATO into the conflict. Their goal was to maintain plausibility and deniability with the intent to limit international responses. The tactical ways and means to accomplish this were to create a threat against ethnic Russians living in Crimea, and that Russia had to protect them. In addition, they claimed the Russian Naval fleet was at risk, and it had to be protected. Then the ethnic Russians led a vote to succeed from Ukraine, creating a legitimacy for Russia to go in and protect them and to enable their liberation. And the bottom line is that roughly 3 weeks after the Crimea President’s ouster, Russia had successfully annexed Crimea without firing a single shot while the Ukrainians and the rest of the international community stood by and watched.

Bogusław Pacek

The United States have recently got more involved in providing help in Ukraine. Can the Ukrainians be sure that the US will not withdraw? Is this conflict only between Russia and Ukraine? What is the solution to this conflict?

Robert L. Caslen, Jr.

I cannot respond to US policy with regard to Ukraine. But I can say that the US has come to understood the Russian strategy and their tactics (as indicated in the previous answer) and the US understands the importance of remaining close to Ukraine as it deals with this threat along their eastern border. The solution cannot be how Ukraine and NATO dealt with the Crimea annexation. It is clear that a strong deterrence must be part of the solution.

Bogusław Pacek

Are the hybrid wars, by using modern technologies in parallel with traditional ones, the future way of conducting conflicts?

Robert L. Caslen, Jr.

Absolutely not. The way we fought wars in the 20th Century during the Cold War is not how we will fight wars in the 21st Century.

Bogusław Pacek

What is your opinion on possible terrorists’ actions? Is the scenario from 11.09.2001 possible to happen again?

The 9/11 scenario is certainly possible, and is a stated objected of radical Sunni Islam. But Islam is fighting an ideological war within itself. At issue is the incursion of modernity and how to deal with it. Radical Islam is threatened by how globalization brings a western culture with human rights and women rights into their culture. And they still carry grievances against Israel’s presence in Palestine and their inability to establish Palestine as a state. Moderate Islam would engage the West while maintaining their Islamic ways, while radical Islam would revert to 14th Century Sharia Law denying any engagement with the West. How Islam resolves this is to be determined. A great example of this internal Islamic strife was the “Awakening” during Iraqi Freedom where moderate Sunni Islam rejected violent radical Sunni Islam by joining with the Shia led Iraqi government denying safe haven, and having their “Sons of Iraq” fighting in support of the Iraqi government.

But radical Sunni Islam did not go away. They morphed into the “Islamic State” or “ISIS” first by maintaining their ideology, and then establishing safe haven when the Malaki government polarized the Sunnis after the 2011 US withdrawal, which ultimately led to their self-proclaimed Caliphate. As you know, that has since been defeated, but what remains is their ideology. And until this ideology is defeated, the terrorist threat of radical Sunni Islam remains. And since their ideology remains, it still attracts numerous disenfranchised and radical Sunni Islamists. ISIS media activities and their aligned supporters have waged a successful information and propaganda campaign to strike fear around the world and rally others to their cause.

Bogusław Pacek

What is your view on the German actions: their cooperation with Russia and China and NordStream2?

Robert L. Caslen, Jr.

The greater Germany’s cooperation is with Russia, especially economic cooperation with energy resources which are significantly dependent on Russian supply, the more difficult it would be to deter and to counter Russian aggressiveness in eastern Europe. Further, given Germany as a significant player in NATO, it will make NATO’s deterrence more challenging as well.

Bogusław Pacek

the war between China and the US possible in the near future?

Robert L. Caslen, Jr.

Of course it is possible. However, it is fortunate that both the US and China recognize the great risks of an armed conflict with each other. Nevertheless, China’s growing territorial claims create a concerning and growing risk to trade routes and freedom of navigation, which can not only have a detrimental effect on the global economy, but create increasingly volatile high risk areas where an accidental engagement can quickly escalate. I believe both the US and China recognize this, but there needs to be greater assurances that an unfortunate incident would not lead to possible hostile aggression.

Bogusław Pacek

Do you agree with the statement that modern security depends more on economy and energy than on armed forces?

Robert L. Caslen, Jr.

I agree to an extent, but as you look at the growing security trends, a strong economy does not placate all of them. For example, a rising economy with increased protectionism, may not lead to a hostile war, but certainly a tariff war. The exponential increase in the world’s population, particular in urban environments where nations are unable to provide for their essential services, will create security risks particularly where economic growth is unbalanced. Border disputes do not depend on the economy. And ideological wars that manifest in terrorism and armed conflicts are not dependent on the economy. Many of the 9/11 terrorists came from middle class economic families. So even if the economy and energy will assist increased security, there still remains unsettling risks that are independent of economic growth.

Bogusław Pacek

How do you justify actions concerning security taken by president Trump, Putin or Xi Jinping?

Robert L. Caslen, Jr.

I am not exactly sure what you mean by this question. Each President will make security decisions in line with their national interests. You would hope they would also make security decisions in line with understanding the consequences on alliances, the region, and the global security as well.

Bogusław Pacek

Should Europe develop its own army which could be a strengthening power to NATO but also additional defence for Europe?

Robert L. Caslen, Jr.

I do not think a “European Army” would work. Heck – there is so much inconsistency in fulfilling their 2% GDP NATO responsibility, I believe it would be even more difficult if they were to contribute to a “European Army”. National interests are varied. And the equipment and material alignment would be nearly impossible to sustain, not to mention the challenge of command and control structures. Despite all its challenges, the NATO alliance has proven itself in combat, and in deterrence, and I believe this war fighting structures remains the best hope for European security in the future.

Bogusław Pacek

Will NATO survive? Is there any threat for its existence? What will happen if its members do not fulfill their responsibilities to spend 2% of GDP on defence?

Robert L. Caslen, Jr.

I believe NATO will survive. The greatest security threat to NATO remains Russia, and the more revanchist Russia becomes, the more western Europe will realize how critical it is to have a strong alliance.

Bogusław Pacek

Will the US win the technological arm race? China declares implementation of artificial intelligence, Russia has the hypsometric weapons – how should America reply to this?

Robert L. Caslen, Jr.

The US has lost much of its technological advantage. However, as you know, technology is advancing at radical rates. So don’t count the US out of the race so soon.

Having said that, technology today is more connected, more cloud, more artificial intelligence, more downloadable, more morphable and more adaptable. It has exponential convergence - just look at your iPhone and see the integration of Aps. For example, someone called me the other day, and their ID was displayed based on an email that I received 2 weeks earlier. And then after the call, it asked me if I wanted to create a new contact, that also included their address – and I have no idea how they came up with that – but the phone was able to do that.

Innovations are arriving faster than we can imagine. Drones that can fly for up to 30 minutes and carry 3 times its weight are less than $60 each. Within 5 years, our Artificial Intelligence will fight adversary AI in both cyber and real space. Autonomous weapons and forces with grow at exponential rates. Conceivably, wars will be started and finished with autonomous units operating on artificial intelligence.

Technological advances are emerging in the hacker’s world that we’re not yet in touch with. Criminal terrorist organizations are thriving in the dark web. What this means is that individuals and small group non-state actors can create regional and national effects. If we are to defeat the dark network adversaries, we must be experts within these dark networks. We cannot be rigid in our policies. And we must have policies that give us the agility and adaptability to be able to engage in the domains are adversaries are expert in.

The future force will include drone warfare, autonomous drone forces for resupply and evacuation, 3D printing for parts and pieces, even nuclear components, and drone insertion of communication systems.

The keys to successfully integrating technology into the fight require us to get out in front of it and understand how we would use it and how the threat will use it. We have to engage with the tech communities; relate to them and see how their work translates to battlefield weaponry. There are pockets of innovation out there that we must identify and exploit. We will have to create agile platforms, and then expeditiously, to find ways to integrate them into the force.

As the Army thinks about the future, and to have the agility to take advantage of opportunities, it must organize itself to produce concepts, doctrine, and material as fast as or even faster than technologize can produce this for us. In order to do this, the U.S. Army recently created the Army’s Future’s Command, with that specific mission – to produce concepts, doctrine, and material as fast as technology can produce it, and then integrate it into the force.

The Future’s Command is focusing its operations under 6 portfolios which are:

  1. Long Range Precision fire

  2. The next generation Combat Vehicle (think of the new armor platform or the next generation “tank”)

  3. Vertical Lift (think of helicopters)

  4. A Network that will provide redundant, and secure communications

  5. Integrated Air Defense

  6. Soldier Lethality

I personally think there should be a 7th, which is to develop the leaders who will be intellectually agile and adaptable enough to not only integrate technology into the force, but to use it to create the lethality necessary to achieve our national interests. Regardless of the technology, regardless of the autonomy, regardless of the complexity, and regardless of what future war will look like there is one key differential that will always remain constant. And that is that we must have the best leaders, who are disciplined, who are operating in a culture of empowerment and trust. Technology can and will be transferable because it is easily hacked. Leadership and discipline cannot be stolen.

The above answers are in no way affiliated with the Department of Defense or the United States government. They are entirely my own personal opinion. Robert L. Caslen, Jr.

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