AUSTIN (KXAN) — An intelligence and law expert says among cyber operations professionals, there’s a conversation happening about the number of cyberattacks, or the lack thereof, that Russia has used against Ukraine as it wages war in a fight to claim Ukraine’s sovereignty.
Bobby Chesney, that expert, believes its a strategic move — and one that the United States is staring down the barrel of.
“It’s no surprise we’re not seeing the Russians using more destructive cyber capabilities within Ukraine for a variety of reasons, but most of all because when you can drop a missile or drive a tank over to disrupt something the old fashioned way, that actually makes a great deal more sense than it does to use a precious cyber capability which then will be seen and understood and guarded against in the future,” Chesney said as he sat among a panel of global security experts from the University of Texas at Austin Wednesday.
Chesney is the dean for academic affairs at the University of Texas School of Law and the director of the Robert Strauss Center for International Security and Law. He also previously worked for the Justice Department in connection to the Detention Policy Task Force.
He says what’s happening right now between Russia and the U.S. is a “game of chicken,” but that Russia’s cyber capabilities shouldn’t be downplayed.
“Geography drops out of the picture at that point,” he warned.
It’s a concern that’s being echoed by U.S. and NATO lawmakers who have said Russia could target power grids, banks and other critical infrastructure as a retaliatory move for U.S. sanctions.
“To attack American companies or American infrastructure,” said Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), earlier this week. “We have to hope and pray that doesn’t happen.”
President Joe Biden said the U.S. has worked to harden cyber defenses and sharpen the ability to respond to cyberattacks. But still, the risk remains that western sanctions push Vladimir Putin to react.
“One of the reasons why we (the U.S.) are proceeding more gradually has a lot to do with the fact that though they (Russia) cannot effectively economically sanctions us back, they can use destructive cyber capabilities and are holding that threat over us,” Chesney said.
Last month, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency issued a “Shields Up” alert for American companies.
It’s a move by Russia that could yank the United States headfirst into the middle of this war.
The UT panel on the war in Ukraine was hosted by the Asia Policy Program, the Clements Center for National Security, Strauss Center for International Security and Law, Intelligence Studies Project, Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies and the LBJ School of Public Affairs.
Other panelists included the executive director at the Clements Center for National Security at UT, the director of the Intelligence Studies Project and an assistant professor of modern Russian history and security policy.
You can find a biography for each of the panelists on the Texas LBJ School’s website under their War in Ukraine: An Expert Panel Discussion event.