Russia Invasion of Ukraine Effects on U.S. Homeland Security Focus of EEP Webinar

The U.S. should prepare for the likelihood that an increasingly frustrated Russia, which has encountered unexpectedly stiff resistance from Ukrainians with support from the West, would “lash out” at our nation including through the use of cyber-attacks aimed at our critical infrastructure. 

That’s according to Center for Homeland Defense and Security instructor and international security expert Dr. Seth Jones during the first session of a two-part CHDS Executive Education Program webinar, entitled “America’s Evolving Homeland Security Threats—At Home and Abroad,” on Wednesday, March 16.

Dr. Seth Jones (left) and Mike Walker (right)

Moderated by CHDS subject matter expert Mike Walker, the former Assistant Secretary of the Army and former FEMA Deputy Director, the session entitled “A World Divided” focused on the international landscape and geopolitical threats to democracy that will shape the 21st century for U.S. homeland security leaders, including the Russian invasion of Ukraine, as well as an emboldened China.

Part 2 of the CHDS EEP Webinar entitled “A Nation Divided” is scheduled for Thursday, March 24, at noon Pacific time and set to focus on America’s domestic threats, including what they are, whether they’re connected to international threats, and how homeland security professionals can continue to do their jobs in a hyper-polarized environment. 

Jones, the Center for Strategic and International Studies Senior Vice President and Director of the International Security Program, said during the March 16 session that all four former Supreme Allied Commanders had agreed during a discussion immediately before the CHDS webinar on supporting the need for the humanitarian air cover effort. They included Gen. Phillip M. Breedlove, Gen. James L. Jones, Gen. Joseph W. Ralston, and Gen. Wesley K. Clark. 

“The U.S. and NATO should be willing to provide air cover for humanitarian aid in Ukraine territory,” Jones said, adding that the four former Allied commanders pointed out that the area at issue is “not Russian territory, it’s Ukraine. We can do this.” 

One of the former Allied commanders said he was “tired of hearing American politicians say what we can’t do.”  

While acknowledging the risks of escalating the conflict, Jones said they all believed the move is worth it to provide assistance for a population suffering from Russian aggression and alleged atrocities. 

Walker said he suspected the issue “would be and should be” a top priority during a summit of NATO leaders in Brussels set for March 24.  

While Jones said an increasingly frustrated Russia might attempt a malware attack on U.S. critical infrastructure in response, he added that U.S. leaders should make it clear what its “red lines” are and that the U.S. would retaliate with its own cyber-attacks aimed at Russian critical infrastructure. 

Even a frustrated Putin is unlikely to resort to the use of tactical nuclear weapons unless he perceives an existential threat to his power, but would be more likely to use chemical weapons, and the question is how the West would react to such a move.  

To open the webinar, Walker asked Jones to address those who wonder how geopolitical threats affect Americans at home, and Jones said it was “really important to connect what goes on overseas” to homeland security. He noted that Russia, China and Iran are all authoritarian nations actively engaged in targeting the U.S. with everything from cyber-attacks and sabotage to sowing discord through mis- and dis-information including electoral interference, all aimed at sowing discord in an attempt to undermine democracy—which they consider a threat. 

Meanwhile, Jones pointed to the effects on the U.S. of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, including supply chains and the oil supply and its impacts on gas prices. 

Asked by Walker about U.S. intelligence officials testifying before Congress that Putin could not afford to lose the war in Ukraine, as well as how Putin could declare victory in the conflict, Jones said intelligence suggests Putin hoped to be able to quickly invade and subdue Ukraine, depose Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and install a pro-Russian government in an attempt to turn back the clock. 

Russian military weapons destroyed and seized by the Armed Forces of Ukraine, near Bucha on March 1, 2022

Instead, Jones said, Putin and the Russian forces have been stymied by a surprisingly stout Ukrainian resistance, including the general populace, and the Russians have already suffered an estimated 6,000-8,000 troop fatalities in the first few weeks of the invasion—more than U.S. combat deaths over two decades in Afghanistan and Iraq combined, according to Jones. 

“(Putin) is in a very serious situation,” Jones said. “His future is in some doubt.” 

Jones said Putin has likely realized that a regime change in Ukraine that he had hoped for is now unlikely, and he will make an effort to drive his forces from southern Ukraine to encircle Kyiv in an attempt to strengthen his negotiating position. He said Putin could “save face” if he can negotiate a promise from Ukraine to declare its neutrality and eschew Zelenskyy’s expressed hopes to join NATO, and give up breakaway parts of eastern Ukraine and Crimea. That could give Putin enough cover to withdraw Russian troops, Jones said. 

“It’s not a win, but it’s also not a loss,” Jones said, adding that Putin must find a way to withdraw from Ukraine and declare some kind of victory because it’s almost impossible for Russian troops to hold any Ukrainian territory it might invade. At the same time, Jones said Russia will have “leveled huge chunks of Ukraine,” and that could serve as a warning to other nations such as Georgia against challenging the Kremlin’s grip on power. 

While predicting the failure of diplomacy in the short term and suggesting Putin is not acting like he’s ready for a deal, Jones said the longer the invasion drags on the better the prospects for a negotiated settlement.  

A protracted conflict, he said, means Ukrainians will need plenty of humanitarian aid and military support, including advanced weaponry, and that means supply lines are more important than ever. He said the Russian military doesn’t have sufficient force to prevent supplies from flowing into Ukraine from Poland and the West, and called Russian strikes against supply lines a relative “pinprick” while reiterating the argument for a humanitarian air defense effort. 

Russian bombardment of telecommunications antennas in Kiev

Suggesting Putin had already been surprised by the unity of the West in opposition to the invasion, Walker asked whether that unity is sustainable. Jones said that “remains to be seen,” and argued that it will be much more likely if the Russian military continues committing atrocities in Ukrainian cities or expands its invasion to Baltic states or continues fly-overs above Sweden, which is not a member of NATO but is considering a move to join. 

Jones said NATO is undergoing an “important revitalization,” including a commitment to increased defense spending by member nations as a percentage of their gross domestic product, as the U.S. attempts to rally NATO and others to oppose Russia and even China.   

Walker added that he believed U.S. politicians were working together better than they had in years in opposition to Putin, particularly as Putin gets increasingly brutal on the Ukrainian population.  

Walker said he had spoken with Russian military leaders who were still haunted by memories of the Afghanistan War in the 1980s, and he suggested Ukraine “has all the makings of a much worse quagmire.” 

Jones said there is in some ways a valid comparison between Ukraine and Afghanistan given the determined opposition from the citizenry and the military assistance from the U.S. and others.  

As for the information war, Jones said the U.S. did a pretty good job early this year in countering Russian disinformation efforts accusing the Ukraine government of pro-Nazi sympathies and suggesting it had no intention of invading. But he argued that the West must ramp up efforts to “break through” to the Russian people with information about the war, noting the success of such efforts during the Cold War. 

And in an important development, Jones said the media has been much more successful in continuing to report on the Ukraine invasion despite dangerous conditions that have already led to journalists being killed during the conflict, a marked contrast from previous Russian military involvement in countries such as Chechnya and Syria where media coverage was suppressed. 

Meanwhile, Walker said that Zelenskyy’s hugely successful global plea seeking support for his embattled nation had “put Russia’s efforts to shame.” 

Station of Kyiv Metro, converted into an air raid shelter after Russian invasion of Ukraine (2022)

Walker asked about Putin’s alliance with the Russian Orthodox Church and its influence on him, noting the church’s patriarch had warned about the threat from the “decadent West” and that the “end times” had already begun. Jones noted the church’s patriarch had issued statements in support of the Ukraine invasion and against NATO expansion. 

Asked by Walker about Russia-China relations, Jones noted that Russia is considerably weaker and of less intrinsic value to China due to a sinking economy and a military struggling with a nation of 44 million people. But he added that China doesn’t want Russia top come out of the Ukraine invasion with a stronger NATO and U.S., and a weaker Russia because it would shift the global balance of power. So, Jones said that Chinese premier Xi Jinping may end up trying to salvage Russia. 

As for how the Ukraine invasion influences the China-Taiwan situation, Jones said while China considers Taiwan to be Chinese territory and is willing to use military force to protect what it sees as its interests, he would be surprised if China were to invade and it is likely to continue building its military. While China hasn’t, and may not ever, surpass the U.S. and its allies in military power, Jones said China “believes time is on their side and they will eventually surpass us.” 

Jones said that underscores the importance of working with allies.   

“The U.S. cannot compete on its own,” he said. “We need our allies.”    

In conclusion, Jones said the U.S. should be prepared for a lengthy battle against authoritarianism, at home and abroad, with both ultimately affecting the homeland under a “new normal.”  

“If there was any hope after 9/11 that we could pull back inside our borders, that’s not going to happen,” he said. “This is not going to end quickly. This is an important battlefield in the U.S., strap on your seat belts.” 

Walker said he believes historians will regard the 21st century as a “battle between authoritarianism and democracy.  

“Our grandchildren are depending on us,” he said. 

Recorded Webinar, Part 1: A World Divided

Readers can also view Dr. Jones’ related CHDS APEX talk on “Russia, China, Iran and the Rise of Irregular Warfare,” which was given the day before the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

INQUIRIES: Heather Hollingsworth Issvoran, Communications and Recruitment |, 831-402-4672 (PST)

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