NATO: The Growing Alliance and the Insider Risks

The alliance has not properly considered the risks emanating from the half-hearted or hostile within the organization.

During the Cold War, the insider threat to the transatlantic alliance was either infiltration by the Warsaw Pact or some form of theft. The central focus was on counterintelligence and the main enemy was Soviet espionage.  Today, in 2023, the insider threat is not only spies and sabotage; it is any misalignment with the mission, which undermines the mission and its ability to conclude the tasks successfully. Regretfully, that can mean some member states are the issue. This is of course a problem of success. As the alliance grows — Finland’s entry on April 4 making it member state number 31 — was a wonderful moment, reflecting the free choice of a representative democracy to seek the security offered by military alliance with its fellows.

But not every alliance country is Finland, as the case of member state number 32 makes clear. Sweden too is a democracy which ranks at the top of just about every global ranking, from wealth to personal freedom and personal contentment. It is, as Shakespeare once said of England, the envy of less happier lands. Its entry is being blocked by two NATO members — Turkey and Hungary — run by illiberal rulers using their veto power to punish a likely future ally for past slights. Sweden is no more a paragon of virtue than any other country, and can no doubt be very irritating in some of its positions, but there seems more than a hint of malice in this process.

The issue of Swedish membership is a case study of the problems inherent in a military alliance relying on consensus. It is inevitable that in such a huge organization there will be enormous cultural width, differing perceptions, call it weltanschauung or political views, as well as old and new cleavages. Several NATO countries have relatively large far-left and far-right parties, demanding everything from the rejection of the market economy to an illusionary condition of ethnic homogeneity, free from any foreign influence or influx.

Both the far-left and the far-right oppose NATO in most cases. Even 30-plus years after communism’s collapse, many citizens in former occupied states harbor a romantic view of what totalitarian socialism is and how it was to live under those conditions. They understand that such values, including an absolute hostility to liberal democracy, are among the defining features of the Russian Federation. And they admire that.

These anti-NATO sentiments will migrate into the military establishments of those countries, even on a minor scale, since the armed forces reflect the populations they are drawn from. And of course these societal fissures present opportunities for adversarial states to undermine the most important pillar of NATO democracies – the population’s trust and confidence in their political leadership.

We know this because we can see it. Russian troll factories have in recent years actively supported far-right groups to catalyze splits in targeted societies, with material designed to stoke anti-immigration, anti-government, and anti-NATO sentiment. The Russians know they have sympathizers within the European Union and NATO countries. The Kremlin’s agents present themselves as an alternative to colonialism, capitalism, and American influence — a narrative that might seem laughably false, but is packaged as a plausible explanation for those already leaning in an authoritarian direction.

The difference between this anti-NATO undercurrent and official policy surfaced very clearly as the full-scale war in Ukraine got underway. Several countries have faced a discrepancy between domestic popular support, or lack thereof, for sending arms to Ukraine and the official government position. Public backing for NATO commitments could erode, often stemming from a wider socio-historical context.

A commentary about support for Russia in Slovakia from the Polish Institute for Central Europe suggested: “An intuitive explanation may be that this is a generation that no longer had experience of communism or the occupation of Czechoslovakia by Soviet troops. After all, the last Red Army soldier left the country in 1991. This is also a generation that was born in a free country and does not associate Russia with danger.” (There have since been polling indications that pro-Ukrainian sentiment has risen.)

Are the Russians really the baddies, to use the British comedy act Mitchell and Webb’s term for bad guys, or are the Russians merely misunderstood? Russian disinformation campaigns present Russia as the defender of timeless European values, including family values, but suggest the West cynically portrays it as a genocidal dictatorship to malign its essential purity. For disaffected voters in the West, this can be an appealing message since it echoes their anger with their own governments and with the US, which they blame for their problems.

It would be profoundly naïve to dismiss or downgrade the significant insider threat within NATO among voters who have intellectually defected from free market economics and open liberal democratic norms. This segment of the population seeks an alternative to rule by so-called economic elites, even when their governments do not. Russia seeks to lure them though cognitive warfare and disinformation. That Russia is itself the ultimate corrupt crony-state run by illegitimate, thieving elites doesn’t matter, because this tale is clouded by illusion, confusion, and disillusion.

NATO needs to think about this, and think hard. Last time I looked at the ongoing work at NATO Science & Technology, not even one paper out of hundreds addressed insider threats.

The topic is uncomfortable, and politically sensitive, but that doesn’t remove the fact that NATO has an insider threat problem that warrants attention.

Jan Kallberg, Ph.D., LL.M., is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at the United States Military Academy. He is a Non-resident Senior Fellow with the Transatlantic Defense and Security program at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA). Follow him at and @Cyberdefensecom.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the United States Military Academy or the Department of Defense.

Russia’s Industry and Economy Can’t Sustain the War Effort

In the industrial age of the mid-20th century, tycoons became tycoons because they saw the big picture and could assess opportunities and risks. During World War II when Sweden stayed neutral, the industrial magnates and brothers Marcus and Jacob Wallenberg ran their businesses while also acting as official trade emissaries. The brothers were well-traveled and understood the fundamental dynamics of world trade and industry. Jacob negotiated with the Germans and Marcus with the Allies.

The Wallenberg family has been the leading Swedish industrialist family for over 100 years. The most famous Wallenberg, the diplomat Raoul Wallenberg who was murdered by the Russians, was from the outer circle of this notable family. The same day that the German Reich declared war on the United States, Marcus Wallenberg concluded that the war was over and started to plan accordingly. Why? He had traveled and worked in the United States; he had been to the Pittsburgh, Bethlehem, and Gary, Indiana, steel mills. He had seen manufacturing plants, shipyards, and airplane production lines across the country.

A year before El Alamein and Stalingrad, later considered turning points for the Second World War, and three and half years before the ultimate Allied victory, he realized that Germany had no chance of winning if the United States was fully committed on the side of the Allies.

The American economy, and the ability to manufacture military equipment, weapons, ships, and airplanes, would eventually lead to an Allied victory over Germany; it was only a matter of time. The American economy would outproduce the Germans. It may take a year, two, or five, but it would happen. Germany will run out of resources as their replenishment rate will not keep up with the pace of losses and material consumed.

Marcus Wallenberg’s views were shared by Winston Churchill, who, after Germany invaded the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941, concluded that Germany no longer had the strength to invade Britain and, after Germany declared war against the United States a half-year later, realized that the Allied forces would win. The power of the American production apparatus would ultimately force Germany to surrender. As James Carville later told us, it’s all about the economy, stupid.

During World War II, the British, with some American raw materials, and the Americans themselves built far more destroyers, airplanes, and tanks than they lost. Simplified, if the Allied forces lost 10 planes, they made 20 new ones. If the Germans lost 10 airplanes, they could build only five as replacements.

That is why Germany lost and that is why Russia will suffer the same fate. The only real question is how long it will take. This isn’t designed to comfort Ukraine, though that’s a noble goal, it is a statement of the facts and there is a wealth of evidence to support it.

According to the Icelandic data scientist Ragnar Bjartur, over half of all Russian tanks lost in January and visually confirmed, were manufactured before 1991. These tanks are Soviet vehicles brought out from long-term storage, but these stores will not last forever. The Russian mobilization adds to the problem as newly mobilized units require equipment that does not exist. Russian social media already talks about artillery regiments on paper only with no guns.

As for military outlays, his figures show that NATO’s European member states spend 5.75 times as much on defense as Russia ($276bn compared to $48bn.) Not only are those alliance numbers set to rapidly increase, but they also take no account of Canada or the enormous US defense budget. Russia too is increasing spending, but its anemic economy simply cannot compete.

Comparing Russia’s economy to that of NATO countries using purchasing power parity, the ratio is a huge 1:10. Non-NATO countries — Australia, Japan, Sweden, and Finland as examples — support Ukraine as well. Additionally, Russia is heavily sanctioned and has had at least $300bn international assets frozen.

The war in Ukraine has entered its second year; a war that very few believed — at the outset — would last beyond a few weeks. The fact that Ukraine continues to fight has not simply saved Ukraine; it has ensured that Russia lacked the strength to bully (or worse) the Baltic states, Moldova, Romania, and other neighbors. Vladimir Putin has failed to invade, absorb, and suppress Ukraine. Kids still read books in Ukrainian; the Ukrainian historical narrative spins even further, and Ukrainian freedoms still exist, at least for those outside the occupied parts of the country.

As is already evident, the Russian army is struggling to create new formations, where draftees are given hardware from the 1980s, of lower technical standards and are altogether inferior compared to the original invasion force on 24 February 2022. There will be no large-scale Russian offensive.

The Russian economy (GDP) from Kaliningrad to Sakhalin is smaller than the Italian economy in GDP terms. Russian military salaries are lower than NATO, but combat aircraft will cost the same for Russia, Italy, or whoever buys it because technology is increasingly expensive. If an airplane costs $30m, the pilot and ground crew costs do not matter; they are marginal.

Putin’s regime cannot win, but it may put its own future at risk. The longer the war continues, the chances of regime change increase. Either way, Russian media is banging the drum about a long war, and so preparing the population for lower living standards, scarcity, and hardship in the coming years. And, of course, many more combat deaths.

For Russians with any doubt about state propaganda, it will now be obvious that the economic costs of funding a war with too little productive capacity are enormous. The undersized economy is already apparent for the soldiers on the frontline, made plain by intermittent logistics and deteriorating competitiveness on the battlefield, older equipment, and the artillery’s shell famine.

Continued Russian offensives can guarantee only increased Russian casualties, beyond the 200,000 already suffered. A larger Russian army in Ukraine will only worsen the logistics crisis. There is no Russian victory in sight.

The outcome is clear. Now we should ask, what are the events that will lead us to the ultimate destination? Like Marcus Wallenberg, we must draw our conclusions and plan accordingly.

Jan Kallberg. PhD

My text in CyberWire: After the war in Ukraine: Cyber revanchism.

The original text in CyberWire: “After the war in Ukraine: Cyber revanchism.”

At some point in time, the war in Ukraine will end. How it will end is harder to forecast, but it will end.

Russia has taken a significant beating in the war; even if the Russian forces learned as the war progressed and partly mitigated the worst vulnerabilities, the war was not the intended success story it set out to be. The planned three days until the Ukrainian government collapsed and Ukraine could be absorbed into Russia never happened. Instead, it became a long war that made Russia look incapable, and less than a superpower.

The limited cyber exchanges during the conflict have surprised the cyber community as many expected far more cyber attacks and cyber campaigns to be executed at a time of war. So, will future peace be cyber peace as well? Probably not.

Here is the reason why. Russia historically has had a hard time dealing with defeat. There is a culturally entrenched will to strike back as any failure goes contrary to the spurious Russian perception of imperial grandeur and supremacy.

Therefore, it is likely that the time after the war in Ukraine will open the floodgates for Russian and Belarussian cybercrime as a state-sanctioned form of digital revanchism and proxy war. Why after the war and not now?

Revanchism, online.
The reason is simple. During the war, with sanctions and more questions asked in third- fourth-countries through which the harvest from the criminal activity is funneled, there is no business case. Cybercriminal networks need the ability to launder money in order to convert the stolen assets to such tangibles as gold, cash, apartments, cars, or whatever they want to buy. Under current sanctions, Russian cybercriminals face “hardship” in making these arrangements. Some of them have left the country to avoid being called up to the war in Ukraine, those still in the country cannot travel, and the outer world is more suspicious than before. Banks and financial institutions, even in developing countries, are concerned about breaking the sanctions and being punished, leading to an unwillingness to put profit before ethics. In the symbiotic relationship between the Russian cybercriminal networks and the security apparatus, some of the gangs might be pressed into service for the government as the war continues. Still, it is marginal compared to the cybercriminal activity driven by money.

Therefore, it is likely that after the war in Ukraine, we will see a general surge in ransomware, social engineering, and cyber attacks. Russia and its allies, who already harbor cybercriminal networks, would encourage these activities against Western countries as a form of digital revanchism.

These attacks don’t need to be at a grand national security level with strategic intent, because the cybercriminals want to squeeze out money, and the Russian regime wants the targeted societies to feel the pain. Consider the damage broad attacks can do, when they inflict individual pain: a ransomware attack that affected cars, for example, would leave drivers stuck with a car they can’t use unless they pay. David Brumley has envisioned ransomware locking up cars as one of his projections for 2023.

If you can’t beat them, at least hurt them.
Revanchism in the face of defeat is nothing new. At the end of WWII, Germans attacked London with V-2 rockets which had no strategic or operational impact, but the Germans wanted to strike deep against the Allies even as their war went from bad to worse.

For the Russian leadership, to give their cyber criminal networks free range to attack Western interests, sheltered by the government and by Russian sovereignty, gives a sense of striking back. The Ukrainian war was not only defeat and mayhem, the Russians were able to bring the fight to the Western countries through unrestricted cyber attacks. In a Soviet manner, the Russians will likely claim having no knowledge or responsibility of the crescendo of cyber aggression even if it is blatantly obvious.

So do not rule out a larger cyber engagement after the war in Ukraine, rather than under the war, as it could be the cyber fallout of the conflict. A revanchist-in-spirit counter strike through proxies would be a face-saving way of getting in the last word.

Jan Kallberg, Ph.D.

Russia’s Imperial Farce

Russia has moved from Soviet-style warfare to self-pitying introspection, but it remains dangerous and must be defeated.

Russia is going to war with Ukraine to defend the Motherland from gay parades. Russia is defending against an onslaught of transgender NATO satanist mercenaries of mixed ethnicity. Russian state television discusses whether it’s best to bomb Berlin first, or more sensible to start with London and then move on to eradicate the rest of Western Europe, thus removing the sources of support for the queer-Nazi government in Kyiv.

I must be honest and say it is hard to write about the Russian geopolitical situation when the Russian weltanschauung (worldview) is, to put it mildly, clinically interesting. For those of us who were active during the Cold War and spent time studying the-then Soviets, the war in Ukraine has gone from the predictable — e.g., the old-school Soviet doctrine of an initial air assault on the Antonov airfield in a bid to decapitate the Ukrainian government — to a humiliating exposure of Russian military shortcomings and failures, and thereafter a profoundly odd misalignment to reality. I don’t say Russia’s ability to kill and harm other people should be underestimated, but that now appears the only skill left in the toolbox, while the narrative supporting the war has disintegrated.

A recent interview with the Russian lawmaker and actress Yelena Grigorevna Drapeko, a long-serving member of the Russian legislature, epitomizes the supremacist and ethnocentric view dominating the official discussion. According to Drapeko, Ukraine doesn’t exist; it is Russia. Borders are not to be recognized; these lines on maps are phony, and the population in the territory of Ukraine would only benefit from a Russian takeover.

The interview is not unique; it is an echo of Vladimir Putin’s notorious July 2021 faux-history essay On the historical unity of Russians and Ukrainians and mirrors widespread sentiments that have not surfaced overnight. The Russian von oben perception of inherited supremacy considers Russian culture superior throughout all of Eastern Europe and Euro-Asia, which in turn gives Russians the right to establish hegemony across “its” sphere. This is not the creation of a disinformation campaign or a troll farm; it is a century-old (or more) supremacist belief that has gone from tsarist to communist to fascist.

The German school atlases from the 1930s showed the Deutsche Reich, that is Germany within its borders; but they also showed German Sprachboden, the Germanic language area, which was significantly larger, and then the German Volksboden, which was half of Europe; and then finally the most extensive map depicted the German cultural area, or Kulturboden, which stretched from Russia to Normandy. Modern (there really is no other word) fascist Russian rhetoric posits something similar within the concept of Russkiy mir; the Russian world is a statement of Russian kulturboden and the Russian regime’s right to conquer and invade and recapture “what is theirs.”

In reality, the Russian invasion has failed. The professional army has been humiliatingly denied victory by an adversary it considered inferior in every way. Russia now has to beg, and amend its foreign policy, to suit rogue states like Iran in its pursuit of the missiles and drones its industry is unable to produce. Likewise North Korea. The combat-averse air force only flies where there are no Ukrainians, it’s Black Sea flagship; Moskva, is a reef on the sea floor; and the hardware offered to newly mobilized units was old even in the 1980s. The shattered and rusted remains of Russia’s spearpoint shock units — more than 8,000 tanks and other vehicles — now litter the fields of Ukraine, or are in Ukrainian service.

Future reunions of Russian Spetsnaz, paratroop, and naval infantry units will be small gatherings, as their losses in Ukraine are staggering. The attack on the Nord Stream natural gas pipeline in the Baltic Sea to put a stranglehold on Western Europe didn’t work. Instead of a professional army driven by discipline, effective leadership and ethics, the Russian army gives no signs of being anything other than a fear-driven horde that kidnaps, tortures, and murders human beings. It is meanwhile so focused on loot that it is reduced to stealing llamas and a raccoon from a zoo, while despoiling Ukrainian museums and carting off electrical goods from vandalized homes.

Meanwhile, Russian public storytelling continues to assert a moral superiority in a world perversely misunderstanding its motives. This, it tells anyone willing to listen, is another Great Patriotic War. No, it isn’t; it is a failing supremacist dream. The war in Ukraine is better described as a Great Pathetic War which attempts to reshape the world, its history, and its realities. This is far beyond the powers of an energy-rich but kleptocratic state whose ability to inspire is illustrated by the hundreds of thousands of draft dodgers who have left the country rather than fight for Putin’s imagined “Russian World.”

The idea that the world’s democracies should bend their knee to this absurd ideology is preposterous. An early, face-saving peace enabling Putin to claim victory will merely guarantee another European war within the decade. Just as the participants at the Casablanca conference in 1943 did not waste time figuring out how to spare the blushes of Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan, the democratic world must stay strong in defense of Ukraine. Russia’s supremacist ideology must come to an end.

Jan Kallberg, Ph.D., LL.M., is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Mathematical Sciences at the United States Military Academy and a Scientist in the Insider Threat Research program. He is also a  Non-resident Senior Fellow with the Transatlantic Defense and Security program at the Center for European Policy Analysis (CEPA). Follow him at and @Cyberdefensecom.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the United States Military Academy, the Department of Defense, or the US Government.

The War in Ukraine – Russian officer losses reach strategic impact

For a mobilization effort to create new units that can enter the war and successfully fight, not only are arms, equipment, and soldiers are needed, but a cadre of available experience tactical leaders that can train, forge cohesion, and lead the new units into combat. After over ten months of war in Ukraine, Russian ground forces lost a significant portion of their able tactical leaders – the ground-war company commanders. The company commanders lead the fight at the forward platoons, are close to contact with the enemy, and must be in the forefront to maintain the initiative. The Russian junior officers have been more exposed due to the low motivation of the Russian troops, forcing the officers to be at the edge of the front and lead by example in urban combat, with heightened risks. The Russian mobilization efforts’ strategic impact is doomed to fail as the Russian army runs out of experienced tactical leaders – the company commanders.


The function company commander is a crucial player in ground combat because it is the first role that synchronizes fire, movement, indirect fires, and combined arms. A company commander is also the highest level that knows each soldier in their unit. It takes several years to train, educate, and prepare a junior officer to become a company commander. A captain or senior lieutenant leads a Russian company, and by looking at data from death records and published information, a fair assessment is that half of all Russian company commanders that have fought in Ukraine are either killed, wounded, or captured.

The Russian mobilization efforts will likely have a marginal strategic effect as the mobilization only produces replacement soldiers to compensate for existing units’ losses. So even if Mr. Putin orders the mobilization of additional 100 000 men, it will not translate into a more considerable fighting force but only enable existing units to absorb more casualties.

The reliance on experienced tactical officers is a flawed Russian organizational design, which is exacerbated by the absence of a leadership layer of non-commissioned officers that could train, lead, and augment the tactical officers. Russian companies have fewer soldiers than their Western counterparts and rely on the direct leadership of the company commander, who executes command and control.


According to the volunteer-driven Twitter feed Russian Officers killed in Ukraine, which gathers information about slain Russian officers in the Ukrainian war from obituaries, death notices, and other publicized sources, as of the 29th of December 2022, there were 1,602 Russian officers killed in action. International news outlets have to focus on the ten slain generals in the widely accepted listing, which is natural as a division commander is considered a more significant loss for the Russian war effort than a company commander, just from a strict news perspective. But the systemic impact that will cripple the Russian army is the loss of junior officers.

Western sources have estimated the initial Russian invasion ground force to have been 140 000 soldiers. As a raw estimate of the number of Russian company commanders that entered Ukraine on the 24th of February, an average Russian company has a size of 60 soldiers as Russian companies are smaller than their Western counterparts. As a simple calculation, that would give approximately 2 300 Russian company commanders at the start of the war, and adding an estimated transferrable 500 captains and senior lieutenants in other roles would give a pool of 2 800 company commanding Russian captains and senior lieutenants.

The researchers of Russian Officers killed in Ukraine had, by the 8th of December, identified and verified 840 killed Russian captains and senior lieutenants. The ratio of killed to wounded in action (WIA) is traditionally 1:3; for each killed in action (KIA), there are three wounded in action in a highly intense war. The Russian logistic failures also affected the ability to care for the wounded by having far more deaths due to the inability to evacuate in time and provide care. So the ratio KIA / WIA is likely 1:1.5, which would be using only the number of verified killed Russian captains and senior lieutenants 1 260 WIA. If half of these WIA will not return to active duty due to the severity of the injuries, then 1 470 Russian captains and senior lieutenants are either killed or injured to the degree that they can not be tactical leaders in the continued war.

The estimation of killed Russian captains and senior lieutenants is a confirmed minimum estimate.

In Russia, a soldier or officer missed in action is not declared dead, even if fellow soldiers witnessed, for example, a catastrophic armored kill, until at least six months after the report. There is also likely unwillingness to publicize all deaths in death notices and obituaries for several reasons ranging from family requests to cover up the extent of losses in highly valued units such as special forces.


Experienced company commanders play a crucial role in the creation of new units as they set the training standard, act as subject matter expert of the fight to come, and drives the preparation before a new infantry or armor unit is ready to be sent to the front. The Russian army has already lost many experienced tactical leaders and will need the ones it still has to upkeep the existing army. Not enough competent tactical leadership is available to lead the companies already engaged in the fight and divert officers to newly formed conscripted units. So officers from other branches will have to fill the ranks of these newly mobilized units, which will only increase the losses and hardship for the Russian army as there is no rotation of their officers between branches. So once the Russian army no longer has ground war officers, the other branches will fill ranks in the infantry and armor units. Due to no rotation, these officers from signal corps, logistics, and administration will have close to zero experience leading a ground fighting unit, which will only increase the fatalities and mistakes in the Russian tactical performance.

The massive losses of captains and senior lieutenants in the Russian army created an obstacle to creating capable military units out of the hundreds of thousands of mobilized Russian conscripts, which is almost impossible to solve in the short term. The Russian mobilization, followed by a second mobilization, will not produce the strategic effect sought to enable a decisive Russian offensive, as the Russian army has an increasing deficit of capable tactical leaders.

Jan Kallberg, Ph.D.