15 April 2021
Good afternoon, Ambassador Freytag von Loringhoven, professors, distinguished guests, alumni of the George C. Marshall Center, and friends.
Thank you, Mr. Ambassador, for your remarks. Throughout your distinguished diplomatic career, we’ve had many opportunities to work together. Just a few months ago you met with the U.S. Embassy in Poland to discuss transatlantic relations and the Three Seas Initiative. We look forward to continuing that dialogue.
As national security professionals, everyone in this virtual room understands the importance of maintaining peace and stability around the globe. I thank you for your hard work and commitment to the greater good. As you know, the United States recently experienced a change in leadership. President Joseph Biden quickly released interim guidance, charting the course of our national security strategy. In preparing to share some thoughts with you today, I kept returning to two powerful ideas contained in that guidance:
- “America’s fate (and this applies equally to all of our nations) is inextricably linked to events beyond our shores,” and
- “Many of the biggest threats we face respect no borders or walls, and MUST be met with collective action.”
With the world becoming ever more interconnected, our ability to respond to crises depends largely on the strength and vitality of our international institutions. They are the products of our efforts to come together, set aside past or current differences, and work together towards a common interest.
We already understand very well that the agreements, partnerships, and alliances that we create in order to address these threats do not simply happen – they must be built. And cared for. And maintained. We are builders and crafters of answers to some of the world’s most complicated issues, which include climate change, large movements of people around the globe, the COVID-19 pandemic, and of course the topic of today’s event: Russian New Generation Warfare.
We find hope in the idea of building partnerships and taking collective action. Others do not. Our adversaries do not merely decline to join our partnerships; they seek to undermine and destroy them.
New Generation Warfare is a new concept but some of the tools and weapons that they use are as old as humanity itself – fear and distrust, feeding into xenophobia, and nationalism. Their means are stealthy and silent, and the effects are magnified by the capabilities of modern technology. This is the bleeding edge of modern warfare, in which an army is employed to not only shape today’s battlefield, but to erode the foundations of entire civilizations over generations.
We have all seen in our own countries how these weapons have been and continue to be deployed. They can cause our citizens to distrust our shared institutions, to doubt our democratically elected governments, and to question our foundational values. Truth and objective reality itself are under attack, increasing division when unity is essential.
We in the United States have felt the impact of this type of aggression. As noted by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, this includes the SolarWinds cyberattack, the possible use of bounties against our soldiers in Afghanistan, and interference in our elections.
Therefore, it is critical to our survival, individually as nations and collectively as democracies, that we better understand the strategies, methods, and tactics of this new warfare as we attempt to fortify against their destructive effects. We must enhance our cybersecurity to block intrusions, build our ability to detect and disarm false narratives before they persuade with their lies, and shine a light on the sources and motives of those spreading falsehoods. We must remain strong individually and as a group.
Russia has been developing its methods for some time and we were initially slow to respond. We have come together with Allies to share intelligence and coordinate responses. In our embassy, we have worked with partners to develop a tool to spot emerging false narratives before they are mainstream. We have learned that it is far more effective to flood the market with facts than to try in vein to debunk widespread lies. We have used this to good effect to head off falsehoods about U.S.-Polish defense and nuclear energy cooperation, COVID-19, and even a Chinese line that the Biden Administration would soften U.S. criticism of the CCP’s oppression of the Uyghurs.
While success shutting down some narratives is important, it is only the beginning. I’m grateful to the Marshall Center, itself a great example of the fruits of our cooperation, for leading this vital discussion on what more we can do. The United States continues to stand with Poland, Germany, and all of our NATO Allies to defend our societies and shared democratic values.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts and discussing how to identify hostile actions, engage in collective defense, and win in this new era of warfare.