Should the West Prepare an Off-ramp to End the War?

Harlan Ullman:
We’re deadlocked.

The American policy is not to negotiate, Putin has said no to negotiations. And so the American expectation is that ultimately the battlefield will cause so much Russian bled to be let, that Putin will have no option except to make concessions and negotiate. I don’t think that’s a good idea.

Simone Gao:

On September 30, in a speech on celebrating the four states merged into the Russian federation after the so-called referendum. Putin hinted at a nuclear attack.


In the event of a threat to the territorial integrity of our country and to defend Russia and our people, we will certainly make use of all weapon systems available to us. This is not a bluff.

Simone Gao:
it’s one thing that, uh, you know, whether Putin’s threats are real. It’s another thing whether Putin thinks his, uh, threats could make a difference.

Harlan Ullman:

Putin understands shock and awe, the threat of nuclear weapons, certainly over a cold winter when combined with energy shortages in Europe, are gonna be taken quite seriously.

Simone Gao:

The world is on edge over Putin’s nuclear threat. Could he really do it? Is there still an offramp to end the war? I spoke with Harlan Ullman, former naval officer, author of multiple books, and Senior Advisor of the Atlantic Council about this and more.

I am Simone Gao, and you are watching Zooming In.

Simone Gao:
Thank you, Mr. Ullman for joining Zooming In today.

Harlan Ullman:
I’m delighted to be with you.

Simone Gao:
Okay. Congratulations on your new book. And I would like to discuss with you on that book a little bit later. But first I wanna discuss the war over Ukraine. is that okay with you?

Harlan Ullman:
Of course.

Simone Gao:
Okay. So last week, Putin gave a long speech accepting the four states into the Russian Federation after the so-called referendum. In that speech, Putin made the nuclear threat. But other than that part, what is your overall impression of that speech? And Putin’s psychological state right now.

Harlan Ullman:
In my book, which will get to the Fifth Horseman and the New Man, I have three chapters on Vladimir Putin and China’s president Xi Jinping. You need to read that speech of annexation very carefully. He used the nuclear reference to Hiroshima, but he also used the reference to Dresden, in which that German city was obliterated by a combination of US and British bombers using conventional weapons. I think the point he was alluding to is that the West was evil and destructive rather than the threat of nuclear weapons. However, the fact of the matter is, imagine a worst case for President Putin. Imagine the call up of 300,000 reservists doesn’t work. Suppose the Ukrainian military continues its advance in the Northeast, around and in the South against Kherson, and the Russian military is forced to retreat. And indeed, people are afraid that it might even break.

Harlan Ullman:
What does Putin do? So I think that we need to take the nuclear threat seriously, but I think it’s very, very unlikely because I do not think the nuclear threat is something that would be to Putin’s advantage. But when you’re talking about nuclear weapons, there’s no such thing as a small nuclear weapon. One kilo ton, which is about 1/20 of the size of the bombs that fell on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, is worth a thousand tons of TNT, a thousand tons, and a megaton, which is an H-bomb, a hydrogen bomb, is a million tons of TNT. These are extraordinarily powerful weapons. And so I think if Putin were to use nuclear weapons, I don’t think he’d do it to obliterate Kyiv, because that would destroy the state. And if he did use them, I think that the United States and the West have the capability through conventional weapons, basically missiles and standoff attack to destroy the Russian army in Ukraine.

Harlan Ullman:
And make no mistake, we would devastate it, and it would no longer be a fighting force. What’s interesting is that later this month of October celebrates the 60th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis, which was arguably the most dangerous nuclear standoff during the Cold War. What happened was that when John Kennedy was elected president, he had run on a promise to rebuild America’s defense thinking there was a huge missile gap. There was a missile gap, but the Russians, the Soviets, were miles and miles behind. They had virtually no strategic weapons. And so Kennedy began this arms build up at the same time that Nikita Khrushchev, the leader of the Soviet Union, had started two years before a huge defense build down. So in many ways, Khrushchev was forced to respond because the build down meant that he could transfer scarce rubles to the Soviet civil side of the budget and improve people’s lives, putting short range nuclear weapons into Cuba really out-flanked America’s strategic advantage.

Harlan Ullman:
But of course, as we know, the Americans found out, and of course, because of geography, Cuba being only 90 miles off the Florida coast, and the fact that we had an overwhelming strategic nuclear advantage over the Soviet Union, Khrushchev was forced to withdraw. I make that analogy because President Kennedy did two things that were very sensible. He formed an excom, an executive committee of outside experts to advise him, and he had excellent communications directly with Nikita Khrushchev, in part through Anatoly Dobrynin, who was a well respected Soviet ambassador in Moscow. Now, I make those two points because President Biden has not convened an executive committee. I’m not sure whether he has enough people advising him who know Putin well enough and are providing him all the advice he needs. And communications with Russia do not seem to be very good. Now, where are we?

Harlan Ullman:
We’re deadlocked. The American policy is not to negotiate, to give Ukraine enough weapons for them to defend themselves without escalating the war. As I said, no to negotiations, Putin has said no to negotiations. And so the American expectation is that ultimately the battlefield will cause so much Russian blood to be let, that Putin will have no option except to make concessions and negotiate. I don’t think that’s a good idea. I think there should be lines of diplomacy that are open to begin to discuss how this can end. But right now, we’re deadlocked, Ukrainians and the Americans aren’t gonna give in. The Russians aren’t gonna give in. Nuclear weapons have been threatened. The war is escalating, and there’s no apparent off threat. And then you overlay that with other crises over Taiwan, what’s happening in the Middle East and in the Persian Gulf, the fact that the OPEC and Russia are gonna cut back on oil inflation and elections in the United States.

Harlan Ullman:
And we have far too many crises and potential crises that are ongoing right now. So this is a very perilous time. And indeed, that’s why I hope that Mr. Biden will solicit opinion beyond his own people inside the government and establish some kind of diplomatic inroads, possibly through China or India or Turkey or France with Russia. So we can begin to see how we can put an end to this conflict in which thousands of people are dying. Ukraine is being destroyed, and this is a war at this stage that has no positive outcome, at least as far as most people can see.

Simone Gao:
Let’s talk about Putin’s off front a little bit later. You know, first, former CIA director General David Petraeus said yesterday that there is virtually nothing that Russia can do that can make a difference. He also said that the Russians do not appear to be all that prepared for some kind of nuclear activity, the preparations you have to take before you do that, otherwise your own soldiers would be vulnerable. So my question is, you know, first of all, do you agree with him? Do you think Putin’s threats are real? And also, it’s one thing whether Putin’s threats are real. It’s another thing whether Putin thinks his threats could make a difference.

Harlan Ullman:
I agree. General Petraeus has got a, he’s a terrific general, he’s a great strategist, he’s a brilliant guy. He’s also a good friend of mine, and I agree with him. Imagine if the incompetence that the Russian military has shown persist in their nuclear weapons. I mean, that’s really frightening. And the Russian army has got absolutely no experience in a nuclear battlefield. So even if the order were to be given, and there are several lines of chains of command, it’s not just Putin. There are at least two ranks of generals that he’s gotta go through. I’m not sure how competent the Russians would be in using them, and they have no idea about how to operate in a nuclear battlefield. So those are constraints. But having said that, Putin understands shock and awe, as you may know, that I was the original author of Shock and Awe, and the threat of nuclear weapons, certainly over a cold winter when combined with energy shortages in Europe, are gonna be taken quite seriously, certainly by the Alliance. So at this stage, I think he views this as a psychological weapon to affect will and perception. I think it’s unlikely that nuclear weapons will be used, but I didn’t think Putin would be stupid enough to invade Ukraine. And so we’ve gotta take that seriously and prepare for it. But you’re right, and General Petraeus is right. The Russian army has no preparations for using these weapons, and it could turn out to be a huge disaster for them if indeed they did.

Simone Gao:
Hmm. Okay. So if this threats would not be realized in the end, should the West take it seriously?

Harlan Ullman:
Absolutely, absolutely. You need to take these threats seriously, because supposing he uses it, even if it was a 5 or 10% chance. And I think we’ve done that. I’m sure that the Pentagon has done lots of war gaming. I’m sure that when National Security advisor, Jake Sullivan said the consequences would be catastrophic, I’m sure the Russians know that we would eliminate basically most of their military forces in Ukraine and certainly in Crimea and sink the Black Sea Fleet. And we can do that. He can’t. We can. So I think that in itself will be a real constraint to what Russia could do. But imagine a worse case. Imagine this is now Russia 1917, the protests get out of hand. People are fleeing the draft. He’s got a really chaotic situation. The Army is losing badly. Is he gonna surrender? Surrender is gonna mean perhaps giving up his leadership role in a potentially bloody coup. So given the fact that they’ve got some 2000 so-called theater or tactical nuclear weapons, you have to leave open that option, even though it’s very, very unlikely it would be used. And I think we’ve done that. I think we’re prepared the best we can, and I think that alone should be, as I said, a sufficient way to prevent and constrain Putin from considering their use.

Simone Gao:
Hmm. Okay. So do you think Putin is now backed into a corner? Other than the nuclear weapons, does he have any other options?

A World Stood up to Beijing, A Conversation with Miles Yu | Zooming in with Simone Gao

Simone Gao: The war in Ukraine has brought changes to the world.

Do you think it has changed the balance of power and strategic Alliance of the major powers in the world so far?

Miles Yu: NATO is no longer considering itself, a purely regional and European defense path. It actually considers peace and stability in the Indo Pacific part of its new mission as well.

Simone Gao: But, has Xi Jinping heeded the warning?

Miles Yu: I don’t think Xi Jinping is even teachable of any lessons.

Simone Gao: Dr. Miles Yu, former Secretary of State Mike Pomeo’s top China advisor, nevertheless, suggests that Xi learns two things.

Miles Yu: Bullying a small country will never work, the United States and its allies are determined to defend Taiwan.

Simone Gao: And his words to Taiwan is:

Miles Yu: Never give in to threat and bullying.

Simone Gao: Dr. Yu, thank you so much for joining Zooming In today.

Miles Yu: Thank you for inviting me. I’m glad to be here with you again.

Simone Gao: Okay. So I know a new China Center was just formed at the Hudson Institute last month, and you are the director of it. Can you tell us a bit more about this center? Why was it formed? What is it going to do and how is it going to be different from other China-related think-tanks in DC?

Miles Yu: Let me answer your last question. First, the China Center at the Hudson Institute is unlike other think-tank centers in Washington. Uh, in that it is a product of a unique moment in US history when America’s attitude, understanding and resolve to face a formidable challenge that is the Chinese party has reached an unprecedented national consensus. Political forces from all sides, left, center and right, have all agreed on this historical shift, which is almost 180 degrees of our national policy toward communist China.

The cross of this unprecedented national consensus on China is the end of a misguided area of engagement and appeasement to the CCP and the beginning of a national awakening to the intention, capabilities and opportunities of the Chinese communist party. Uh, the party has used different ways to upend the free and democratic global system and to replace it with the autocratic model of governance led by the Marxist-Leninist Chinese Communist party, a party that has been to be frank, enabled and empowered by our decades of naive engagement and unprincipled appeasement.

So, the central mission of the China Center at Hudson is therefore to promote and preserve this historic national consensus on China to prevent it from becoming another victim of partisanship. Uh, so another unique feature of Hudson’s China Center is that many of my colleagues associated with the center are the veterans of the revolutionary change of our China policy during the Trump administration, secretary of state Mike Pompeo, for example, works with us in the capacity of the China central chairman of the advisory board.

I myself was deeply involved in that China policy revolution during the Trump administration. We will do our best to ensure a policy continuity, help the current and future American administrations, no matter which party it may be, with our expertise, experiences, and recommendations, so that American democracy will withstand the CCPs challenge. And we will win the strategic competition for freedom, human rights and world law.

Simone Gao: (03:06)
Right, right. Uh, talking about this historic moment in the US-China relations, one of the geopolitical events that has a major impact on China is the Russo-Ukrainian war. So what is your overall assessment of the war? Was it avoidable in your opinion? And, uh, do you think it has changed the balance of power and strategic alliance of the major powers in the world so far?

Miles Yu: I think all wars are weighed with certain kind of ideas behind it. I think that Russia has long held a dangerous idea. And so that idea has not really been refuted sufficiently. Therefore I see the war coming, uh, sort of in a expected. Now what is the idea? Well, Russia war against Ukraine is completely unjustified. It reflects an antiquated imperialistic Russian mentality that all peoples of other sovereign nations who may have shared historical ethnic, or even linguistic ties with Russian culture should be ruled by the Moscow civilization state called Russia.

So this justification for agression in Ukraine is very dangerous and it is exactly what the Chinese Communist Party is advocating for in the context of Taiwan. Russia and the CCP share exactly the same absurd warmongering logic, uh, both Moscow and Beijing are saying that history, ethnicity and a language should determine political sovereignty and territorial belonging, but not political independence, popular elections and international law.

So this Chinese and Russian thinking must be stopped for the sake of world peace and international stability. Now, you asked me another aspect of the war that is, uh, what does it mean? Well, the war in Ukraine itself has rendered profound lessons to all, both aggressors and aggressed. To the aggressors. It has really become a perfect case of global rallying, uh, of tremendous moral and material support for Ukraine and Taiwan against the naked threats of invasion and subjugation. Uh, just as a very familiar Chinese saying goes, “a just cause attracts great support and unjust one finds little”.

Because of this Russian-Chinese joint venture of aggression, these two countries are extremely isolated, morally, internationally, and China is a warrant that if it does the copycat act by invading Taiwan, China will be sanctioned, boycotted, and resisted severely and debilitatingly. So I would say, you know, uh, another important consequence of the war in Ukraine is that it has really taught the victimized and threatened small countries like Taiwan, that they must have their own indigenously, strong national defense forces, but most importantly, never give in to threat and bullying.

Only when a nation shows its resolve and tenacity for self defense can great international military support, make any difference. With strong self defense and great military assistance from allies, Taiwan will prevail.

So I think, you know, in the end freedom and democracy will win. But you asked me, excuse me, you asked me also about whether the war in Ukraine has changed global balance of power. My answer is not really, despite the Russia’s broad war in Ukraine. I think the international consensus that the CCP is a world’s number one threat still remains. Not only that, I think that because of the war in Ukraine, global major power players have even deepened, their existing strategic perspective by viewing the CCP as even more dangerous because of its closer and closer relationship with Russia, not just in Europe, but more importantly in the Indo-Pacific as well.

Uh, well I think this is happening because the world knows that Russia is kind of less advanced economically and technologically than the CCP. Let me just make this right clear. China’s economy is a more than 10 times bigger than Russia’s.

It has much more advanced asymmetrical weapon platforms in emerging new frontier of modern warfare. So that’s why we have seen that for the first time a global multilateral collective defense ground Alliance is slowly but steadily taking shape, with China and Russia at the center of its preoccupation. For example, NATO is no longer considering itself, a purely regional and European defense pact.

It actually considers peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific part of its new mission as well. And this is pretty amazing. You can see that in a recently concluded NATO summit in Madrid, Spain, for example, for the first time ever leaders of key Indo-Pacific democracies, South Korea, Japan, Australia, and New Zealand are invited to take part in, and the NATOs 2022 strategic council specifically mentioned this PRC as one of its strategic security priorities. And that is pretty amazing. So that’s why I say the war in Ukraine has not really changed global power balance and China, not Russia, continues to be world’s biggest security threat.

Simone Gao: Hmm. In your early part of the answer, you talked about whether the Taiwanese people are ready for a possible CCP aggression. I wanna talk about that a little bit more later, but for now I have another question, you know, regarding the war, some analysts say from now to winter is a critical time for how the world would turn out. America and Europe should provide enough heavy weapons to Ukraine for them to launch an offensive, to turn the dynamics of the battlefield around.

Otherwise when winter kicks in, the ban on Russian energy will put Europe in a very difficult situation, which might undermine our result to keep supporting Ukraine and keep the sanctions in place. However, America and Europe are not determined. I mean, those two, those analysts, uh, America and Europe are not determined to let Ukraine win before winter. They’re not providing enough heavy weapons. What is your opinion on this?

Miles Yu: Well, I think, you know, I might challenge the sort of the premises of some of your questions a little bit, but, uh, let me just try to answer this way. Uh, I think European countries are realizing the importance of energy independence more and more. They’re trying not to be blackmailed by Russia for energy supply. However, I do not believe Russia is a number one factor in Europe’s energy crisis. It is a crisis.

It is a problem, but it’s not the biggest one. I think the real problem with Europe’s energy crisis is extreme left-wing woke politics. Germany, for example, is most vulnerable to Russia’s energy blackmail. That’s because German leaders for many years have purposefully neglected its energy independence, gone woke with over-reliance, unlimited renewable energy sources, basically solar and wind, you know, solar and wind can never supply enough to meet Germany’s national energy demand.

So Germany has to rely on Russia. However, you know, you don’t hear much about the French worrying about their winter’s energy shortage. That’s because about 85% of France energy comes out of its own nuclear power plants. In other words, France has energy independence, therefore making France far less susceptible to Russia’s energy blackmail, but nuclear power plant is considered not politically correct in Germany and the Germans are now in trouble, but I think they should really blame themselves more, not just the Russians.

About energy shortage and the war in Ukraine, I think the winter harshness is a double-edged sword for both sides of the war. It might be tough for the Ukrainians and its allies in Europe, but it may even be a bigger problem for the Russians. Uh, let me, let’s just say this way. If the Russians in good weather couldn’t win the war, how could we expect them to do better in harsh winter conditions, with the Europe’s legendary winter muddiness and the snowy mess, Russian tanks, armored vehicles and soldiers may well be further and further stopped, becoming Ukrainian’s sitting ducks for target practice.

Simone Gao: That’s interesting. You know, I wanna ask you a couple more question on that, but let’s just go to the biggest question. I mean, this has a lot to do with Xi Jinping what do you think Xi Jinping has learned from this war so far?

Miles Yu: Well, personally, I don’t think Xi Jinping is even teachable of any lessons, but if I were Xi Jinping, I would be aware of the following: Number one, bullying a small country will never work, as the small will gain more inner strength and external support becoming much stronger and more lethal in the end. Number two, the United States and its allies are determined to defend Taiwan, especially after Puutin’s aggression in Ukraine, because the world has realized once an act of aggression started, a chain of aggression may follow, and Taiwan should not be allowed to be the first link of world of aggression in the Indo-Pacific.

Number three, there are great limits in modern warfare because there are many variables. China may look strong, but it has great weaknesses and vulnerabilities too. So a war of aggression against Taiwan may not really be that easy to win. So you ask how the war impacts Taiwan’s strategies. I think the biggest impact is that the previously rampant defeatism and capitulationism has been further discredited in Taiwan, the free and sovereign people of Taiwan are now more united. And the freedom’s cause has indeed formed a united front in Taiwan’s defense.

Simone Gao: You answered this question. Uh, so I was gonna ask you, but I’m glad you already answered. So you think this war has strengthened Taiwan’s defense strategies?

Miles Yu: Yes.

Simone Gao: Okay. So do you think the Taiwanese people are mentally and physically prepared for a potential military aggression by the CCP now?

Miles Yu: More so than ever.

Simone Gao: Okay. Than ever, but are they prepared enough if the CCP is going to launch an aggression right now, are they ready?

Miles Yu: Well, it’s very hard to put simplistic yes or no answer, because the wars are basically kind of unpredictable, but I see Taiwanese people are more and more together. They have gained a much broader consensus on the survival of the nation, what’s really at stake. And most importantly, I think Taiwanese people are realizing more and more that they will get much, much more support from the international community.

That’s because, as I said earlier, many people, particularly countries around China, you can see Japan, Australia, you know, even Vietnam, many people view the China threat against Taiwan is just the beginning of the China aggression. If China takes Taiwan, who knows might be next, the South China Sea, China might fight a war with Vietnam, with India. So this is the reason why Taiwan’s cause has gained so much more support. Most of them sort of passively, but some of the leaders in the China’s periphery actually have said openly, they will come to Taiwan’s defense in the case of the war.

Simone Gao: Yeah. Okay. Next question. I wanna talk about the CCPs 20th National Congress. You know, the party’s conclave is going to happen in October this year, and there’s a lot of a speculations on whether Xi Jinping will get a third term and whether China’s reform-oriented forces represented by premier Li Keqiang would chip away some of Xi Jinping’s power. So what do you make of the top power struggle politics in China right now?

Miles Yu: Well, you use a very good word, conclave, which implies secrecy and furtiveness. I mean, that’s exactly what the Chinese Communist Party politics is all about. It’s very, very undemocratic, it’s very non-transparent. You asked me the question the result, Li Keqiang up or down, Xi Jinping in or out. You know what, I don’t know and I don’t care. What’s going on inside the Byzantine labyrinth of CCP power struggle, inside the ruling elite should never be the Chinese people’s top preoccupation. I know the CCP has exerted an iron group over the Chinese people, but if the Chinese people do not play into the CCPs game and consider the CCP intellectually irrelevant, then we will see real progress in China.

To me personally, whether Xi Jinping stays or gets out, whether Li Keqiang gets in or out, it doesn’t really matter. They are all communist, dedicated to one and only objective, that is to preserve the longevity of the CCP dictatorship. We should also keep in mind, even the most reform minded, Chinese communist leaders, such as Deng Xiaoping would never hesitate for a split second in ordering the massacre of the Chinese people, just as what happened in 1989 Tiananmen Square. So the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre should have waken up the Chinese people to this simple fact: for the CCP to prolong, the Chinese people must suffer and die. There’s no other arrangements.

Simone Gao: I know you came to America. I don’t know when, but you had experienced or heard. I mean, I know you had a deep memory and a lot of thinking regarding the Tiananmen Massacre happened in 1989. Can you just tell me a little bit, whether, I mean, before and after, like how your thoughts on China have changed because of the event?

Miles Yu: I think, you know, many people who experienced the 1989 momentous events in Tiananmen and elsewhere, like the Eastern Europe and Soviet Union, all share something in common. And that common experience is this: that is, a communist rules all have something similar. That is, they rule people with fear. They instill tremendous fear to its people. So people were afraid of doing this and doing that. They were afraid ofspeaking up.

So the true meaning of Tiananmen movement is that for seven weeks people of China, center in Tinanmen square were more or less free of fear instilled by the Chinese Communist Party, those were the freest seven weeks in the history of a Chinese communist regime. So I think that’s why even though it’s a short-lived seven weeks of glory, but that seven weeks gave a lot of people freedom and an individual who tests freedom, no matter how briefly, would never be the same person again.

Miles Yu: That’s why Tiananmen is a momentous moment, not just for any particular individuals who actually participated in that, but also is a moment of awakening to a generation of people, even to generations to follow. And that’s also why the Chinese Communist Party has done its utmost best to wipe out any memory, any commemoration of the Tiananmen movement. And that’s tragedy. Our job as an individual citizen of the world is to keep the memory alive and to understand and appreciate the true meaning of the Tiananmen movement of 1989. That is freedom. So I think that freedom can mean, many things to many people, but that’s my understanding.

Simone Gao: Right. And do you think China will ever regain its freedom?

Miles Yu: Oh yeah. I remember one of the most moving moments in my memory, in the immediate aftermath of Tiananmen, was the American singer, Joan Baez, she composed a very emotionally charged song. And I think the song, the lyric repeats over and over again, it says just simply that China shall be free.

Simone Gao: Okay. All right. Thank you so much. Doctor Yu, these are all my questions. Do you have anything else to add?

Miles Yu: Well, good luck with your program and thank you for having me today.

How China’s Telecoms Steal America’s Most Sensitive Information and What Needs to Be Done About It?

Simone Gao:
On July 25, CNN published an exclusive report that revealed a dramatic escalation of Chinese espionage on US soil over the past decade. The Report says Since at least 2017, federal officials have investigated Chinese land purchases near critical infrastructure, shut down a high-profile regional consulate, that is, the Chinese Consulate in Huston. The US government believed it to be a hot bed of Chinese spies and stonewalled what they saw as clear efforts to plant listening devices near sensitive military and government facilities.

The report also highlighted Huawei, China’s biggest telecommunications company that was once poised to take over the world 5G deployment until the America-led coalition stopped it. The report says the FBI uncovered Huawei  equipment atop cell towers near US military bases in the  rural Midwest. According to multiple sources familiar with the matter, the FBI determined the equipment was capable of capturing and disrupting highly restricted Defense Department communications, including those used by US Strategic Command, which oversees the country’s nuclear weapons.

It’s unclear if the intelligence community determined whether any data was actually intercepted and sent back to Beijing from these towers. Sources familiar with the issue say that from a technical standpoint, it’s incredibly difficult to prove a given package of data was stolen and sent overseas.

It is significant that this report came after Hua Wei’s 5G ambition had been shattered by the U.S. government two years ago. The defeat of Hua Wei in 5G was a great victory on the side of the free world. Many people think the threat posed by Huawei is gone. But is it really? To find out the answer, I spoke with Keith Krach, former under secretary of State for the Trump administration, who was behind the Hua Wei take down operation, about this matter and more.

Simone Gao:
Do you think Huawei still poses a significant national security threat to America right now and what should be done about it?

Keith Krach:
Absolutely, Simone, and I am sure our intelligence agencies and the Defense Department are monitoring this closely, but it should be shut down immediately. You know, Huawei is an arm of the Chinese government. They have some of the most sophisticated capabilities in the world to do all kinds of things that might not be detected. And obviously the information in that area is some of the most vital to our national security. We’re talking about the nuclear arsenal and it ranks absolutely near the top in terms of the kind of information the CCP wants, that information is priceless.

Simone Gao:
You are the person who executed the Huawei take-down operation and later expanded that approach to create the clean network. What are the essential facts you learnt about China’s technological aggression from that operation and what is your core strategic response to that aggression?

Keith Krach:
Well, Simone, here’s what I learned: that Huawei is the most important company to the CCP. It’s the backbone for their surveillance state. They’re the national champ in 5G. And you know, this tool is a tool that, you know, the worst of dictators could have only dreamed of, you know, they use this in Xinjiang, they use it literally everywhere. They test it out in Xinjiang, they monitor all the people in China. Now they’re exporting it like, dictator out of the box. And you know, it seemed two years ago was inevitable that the CCP’s master plan to control 5G was absolutely unstoppable. But as you pointed out, the Clean Network Alliance of Democracies ended up defeating this master plan. And, you know, the interesting thing is they’ve tried to use this everywhere and they will stop at nothing.

Keith Krach:
You know, the other big area, and Huawei has a subsidiary in this area is underwater cable, because there you can literally tap at anything. And I’ll tell you what we found out as we went around the world, building that Clean Network Alliance of Democracies, which has now formed the basis for president Biden’s internet declaration, is that nobody trusts the CCP and that’s their biggest weakness. And, you know, if you look at the information that 5G networks carry, you know, we’re not just talking about a smartphone, we’re talking about sanitation systems, utility grids, power systems, internet of things, manufacturing processes. This is vital. So, you know, we have to stay on top of this as democracies all around the world.

Simone Gao:
I understand recently you formed the Krach Institute for Tech Diplomacy and the Global Tech Security Commission. I believe they are the continuation of your response to China’s technological aggression. So can you tell us more of the thoughts behind these efforts?

Keith Krach:
Sure, Simone. You know, the key to securing freedom for this next generation is securing technology and tomorrow’s tech must be trusted tech and developed by a global trust network of like-minded countries, companies, and individuals who respect the rule of law, human rights, labor practices, the environment, respect for property of all kinds, and of course, respect for national sovereignty. And, you know, the objective is to develop the definitive global tech security strategy to safeguard freedom through the adoption of trusted technology, by designing a set of sector specific strategies, as well as taking an integrated approach that democracies can adopt to counter techno-authoritarianism. So three factors make up the commission’s scope uniquely, strategic in terms of countering those threats. First, the commission will focus on in-depth strategies in the 17 critical tech sectors that the White House name.

Keith Krach:
Basically the same ones that we used in the last administration just broken up a little bit differently. And the key is to integrate those into an overarching tech strategy. The second is, the scope is gonna be global and also private sector led, with commissioners from international companies and institutions. And we will represent more than a dozen countries as parts of democracies’ common efforts to compete in this emerging technology space. You know, the third thing is while previous commissions have primarily focused on analysis of the problems with recommendations limited to defensive policies, the global tech security commission will integrate offensive and defensive strategies and it will be beginning to build a global tech trust network, kind of carry on that Clean Network Alliance of Democracies, as well as defining overarching tech trust standards. And the objective is to accelerate the adoption of trusted technology,

Simone Gao:
Right. One of the strategies Global Tech Security Commission features is that the scope of the operation will be global and private sector led. Why is that? Why should the private sector instead of the government lead the effort?

Keith Krach:
So, first of all, Simone, the commission’s global tech security strategy is designed to complement recent multinational efforts that are led by governments to counter authoritarianism, such as the Indo-Pacific economic framework and the future of the internet declaration, as I talked about before. And by building a public- private coalition to promote democratic trust principles and digital trust standards and the widespread adoption trusted technology, you know, this is gonna have a really, really big impact. You know, one of the things that we’re seeing is, you know, some of the most prominent board members in the United States are demanding from their CEOs a China contingency plan, with the heightened risk of a conflict between China and Taiwan. There’s no doubt about it, that secretary Xi looks at China as, you know, it dispels his myth that he’s created that the Chinese culture cannot live in a democracy.

Keith Krach:
Nothing could be farther from the truth and Taiwan proves that. So he wants it destroyed. And so this has kind of heightened that risk, and for democracies Taiwan’s role model of freedom and a lynchpin in that area in terms of global economic security and national security. And obviously there’s semiconductor businesses the top in the world, which is the most important industry. So, you know, for corporations, if there’s a China-Taiwan conflict, then you know, this is gonna be devastating and absolutely catastrophic for the high tech industry. So, you know, these companies are putting together these contingency plans because they saw what happened when Putin invaded Ukraine. They had to pull all their operations out of Russia, cost hundreds of billions of dollars. And they were totally caught off guard and China is 10 to 20 times larger impact, more entangled.

Keith Krach:
So this is really important for boards to demand this from their CEOs because a board member’s fiduciary duty is to mitigate risk. And just like you have a plan for a cybersecurity breach, you need to have a contingency plan in case there’s that Taiwan-China conflict because if you don’t, and you don’t actually start on it right now, it’s gonna be too late by the time if it’s after the fact. And that’s why at the Krach Institute for Tech Diplomacy at Purdue, we’re getting requests in terms of what do these contingency plans look like? So those are some of the areas we’re helping out different corporations on.

Simone Gao:
Right. The commission will also integrate offensive and defensive strategies while previous commissions have primarily focused on defensive policies. Why is there such a change?

Keith Krach:
Well, the one thing I can tell you Simone, is that the best defense is a strong offense. So, you know, if you look back at the global economic security strategy that we put together a few years ago, there were three main pillars of that. The first one was to turbo charge our economic competitiveness and innovation. The second one was safeguard strategic assets that would be looked at as defensive that first one offensive. And the third one of course, was to build a network of trusted partners. So that is absolutely critical. You know, a great example of what we’re doing offensively is the Chips Act, the Chips plus Act

Simone Gao:
On August 9, President Joe Biden signed into law a multibillion dollar bill boosting domestic semiconductor and other high-tech manufacturing sectors that US leaders fear are being dominated by rival China.

Joe Biden:
The CHIPS and Science Act supercharges our efforts to make semiconductors here in America. This increased research and development funding is going to ensure the United States leads the world in the industries of the future. From Quantum computing to artificial intelligence to advanced biotechnology, the kinds of investment that will deliver vaccines for cancer cures, for HIV, invent the next big thing that hasn’t even been imagined yet.

Simone Gao:
The Chips and Science Act includes around $52 billion to promote production of microchips.

Keith Krach:
Because this is investing and securing the semiconductor supply chain, which all kind of began with that 5G trifecta, which was the opening salvo for the clean network, where we onshore TSMC in the largest onshore in history, 12 billion dollars.

Our strategy for that and our hope was that it would do three big things. One is TSMC would bring their ecosystem of suppliers, which is absolutely huge, that indeed happened. The second is that it would spur the other semiconductor manufacturers we’re trying to get on board to invest, especially Samsung and Intel. And indeed that happened as a matter of fact, Samsung recently announced 17 billion dollars additional investment in the United States and then Intel, you know, less than a year after we did that onshoring, they announced a 20 billion investment in Arizona, and now they’re doing a 20 billion plus investment in the state of Ohio where I’m from. So this is absolutely great. The other thing that we’re hoping for and we really, our strategy was designed for, is that we would get universities to develop curriculum in semiconductor engineering and also much more work in semiconductor, R and D.

Keith Krach:
And that is happening, you know, at Purdue, my old Alma mater, we just announcedthe United States’ first master’s degree in semiconductor engineering. So there’s a lot of investments. It really spur that on. So that’s an example of the areas where we can work together. And that’s one of the reasons why, you know, we designed a thing called the TD 12 or Techno Democracy 12, where we could not only work on things like defensive things like investment screening and export controls, those kind of things, but also in terms of collaborating in terms of R and D ’cause there’s a lot of economies of scale there.

Simone Gao:
China is weaponizing big data against the West, applications such as TikTok collect massive amount of user data, analyzing them, generate content that tailored to individual users’ interest, get people addicted, and then try to influence their political views once the app becomes indispensable to them. So what is the best way to eliminate such a danger?

Keith Krach:
Well, I can tell you one thing, Simone, that, you know, TikTok as well as U.S. tech platforms are used as a propaganda tool by China and, you know, and why do they do that? They want us so dissension because there’s nothing that general secretary Xi fears more than a united United States. So to try to work both ends of the political spectrum or so discontent, that’s been their aim for a long, long time. We have plenty of evidenc in open source on that. You know, the other thing is two big key areas is transparency and reciprocity. So if you look at that great, I call it the great one way China firewall, where all the data comes in for their own use, including their military artificial intelligence applications, as well as their social credit score.

Keith Krach:
I mean, you look at that and then, you know, but none flows out and then reciprocally all the propaganda goes out, but the truth does not come in. And what they’re doing is they’re extending their great one way firewall to, you know, to really, you know, export that all around the world to influence operations, influence different countries, influence different political systems. So this is something where this tech state craft model that we develop while we were building the Clean Network Alliance of Democracies that integrates Silicon valley strategies with foreign policy tools, all based on this trust doctrine. That’s where that this model works in all those different areas. So that’s the key thing that we’ve gotta do.

Simone Gao:
On one side, there is the alliance of democracies, on the other side, we start to see a China-Russia alliance taking shape quickly. In recent years, Russia and China have significantly deepened their bilateral ties, with Putin and Xi going so far as to proclaim that their countries’ “friendship has no limits.” China and Russia share economic and security interests, an authoritarian style of government, and a common enemy- The United States. Cooperation on high-tech has become an important element of this strategic partnership with areas of collaboration include, for example, artificial intelligence (AI), big data, robotics, and biotechnology. Furthermore, China has also become Russia’s largest supplier of semiconductors and consumer electronics over time.

Simone Gao:
My last question, are you concerned about a China-Russia technological alliance against the West and what should be done about it?

Keith Krach:
Well, the totalitarian twins, they signed their love letter back there, early February, right before the Olympics, this pact between Putin and Xi, and, you know, that’s where they both agreed. You know, that was, that was a green light for Putin to attack and this bloody war in Ukraine and commit all these war crimes and also, you know, Russia’s backing China on Taiwan so, you know, but the bloom has come off the roses for both these totalitarian states. I think the world has really woken up that these guys they’re up to no good. And they want to take, you know, countries’ freedoms away. They’re exporting that model. Now the good news is they don’t trust each other. And they never will, you know, but I could tell you who has the upper hand in that relationship, you could see it in that love letter, is China that’s for sure. And by the way, that’s more reason Simone, why an alliance of democracies based on this trust doctrine, which is something that they fear so much because they know if it’s a battle that involves values and ideals, we’ll win every time.

Simone Gao:
Thank you. The secretary Krach for joining Zooming In today again.

Keith Krach:
Thanks so much for having me Simone.