Prelude to Conflict: Danish Military Intelligence Service To Develop Hackers

In what can be viewed a positive indicator for a NATO-Russian conflict, the Danish Defence Intelligence Service (DDIS) is set to open a “hacker academy” to begin developing their first generation of state-sponsored computer network attack and defense specialists pooled from the Danish hacker community.

Beginning in August, the DDIS will enroll hackers into the school, where candidates can gain employment in the Danish intelligence service if they graduate after the four-and-a-half-month long curriculum.

[Analyst Comment: In recent months, NATO countries have quietly begun improving their counterintelligence and cyber attack/defense capabilities by setting up schools and centers of excellence to train personnel who are more and more likely to be using their skills against Russian adversaries.  We’ve seen an increase in rhetoric from NATO countries, whose leaders are explicitly concerned about future Russian incursions into Europe.  Simply put, Russian rhetoric signals that its operations in Europe are far from over and NATO countries, in return, are preparing for war.

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To be fair, the NATO-Russian game of cat and mouse has been run since NATO’s inception and the beginning of the Cold War.  But with Russia successfully exhibiting operational capabilities in its proving grounds of Ukraine and Syria, NATO officers are rightly concerned.  The Russian military is built for regional conflict, even though there are significant unanswered questions about its ability to sustain high intensity operations against European nations.  Full national mobilization, which would be expected in a large scale war against NATO and other European nations, would take up to a year or more.  Mobilization of its reserve components, which, at 2.4MM personnel, is believed to be three times as large as its active components, would take months.

Europe has been at relative peace for decades as U.S. forces stationed there have allowed Europe to offset their military spending in favor of social programs.  With a resurgent Russia poised to begin vying for control and imposing its will in the region, NATO officers have gone on record stating their concern at that prospect.

Where NATO, and the U.S. for that matter, is especially lacking compared to their Russian adversaries is counterintelligence and electronic and cyber warfare capabilities.  Based on significant amounts of open source reporting, we assess that Russia’s asymmetric capabilities — especially electronic and cyber capabilities — are currently outmatching NATO’s ability to counter attacks.  That’s why we see the rush to play catch up before a potential conflict breaks out.  We absolutely believe that a hot conflict between NATO and Russia is possible.  Because European nations have been so reliant on the U.S. for defense of its continent, and U.S. budget cuts affecting overall military readiness, we should be preparing for several things should war break out.

The first is sustained U.S. and European casualties in Europe.  All four of the defense officials who briefed Congress this month stated that sequestration has affected the military’s ability to wage and win wars decisively against near-peer adversaries like Russia and China.  This probably moves the prospect of conflict toward Russia’s advantage, given the logistics of fighting a war in eastern Europe.

The second is that due to Russia asymmetric capabilities, “war” is not likely to be confined to just Europe.  The fighting is highly likely to be confined to the region, however, we expect the possibility that cyber attacks will affect the U.S. homeland, as well as European nations.  Any option to degrade U.S. command, control, communications, and decision-making that Russia has is an avenue that will be seriously considered.  That could mean cyber attacks against economic or financial targets, or military command and control hubs like bases or satellites.  We could even expect psychological operations that push anti-war sentiment onto military personnel and their families, as well as onto the American public.  Given Russia’s stiff upper lip through criticism from the “global community” during its Ukraine and Syria operations, we should expect that Putin does not cave into pressure, even as his actions against the U.S. also affects the world.  In other words, a war fought in Europe will certainly affect us here at home, even if indirectly.  Systems disruption, including of the oil/energy and  financial sectors, is a likely scenario for which we should be preparing, especially if conflict is likely to break out.  We’ll continue to monitor the situation for our subscribers.

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Last year, we reported on NATO’s first counterintelligence training center.  We also produced a report last week on U.S. military readiness, which was startling, even to us.]

Samuel Culper is a former military intelligence NCO and contract Intelligence analyst. He spent three years in Iraq and Afghanistan and is now the intelligence and warfare researcher at Forward Observer.

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