A Conference on Today's Competitive Geopolitical Landscape -- In Honor of Robert Jervis

A Conference on Today's Competitive Geopolitical Landscape -- In Honor of Robert Jervis

On February 17, 2023, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines delivered keynote remarks at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs’ (SIPA) annual Gabriel Silver Lecture Dedicated to International Peace as part of “A Conference on Today’s Competitive Geopolitical Landscape — in honor of Robert Jervis.” One of the modern era’s most significant international relations scholars, Jervis taught at Columbia for more than four decades and his groundbreaking theories reshaped the field’s view of political psychology, great power competition, nuclear weapons, and intelligence. Following the keynote, SIPA Dean Keren Yarhi-Milo moderated a fireside chat with the DNI. The conference is available to view here, and the transcript is below.



Office of the Director of National Intelligence

Director Avril Haines at Columbia University

A Conference on Today's Competitive Geopolitical Landscape -- In Honor of Robert Jervis


Friday, February 17, 2023

9:00 a.m.


DIRECTOR HAINES: Good afternoon everyone. It is really an incredible honor to be here with Secretary Clinton and Jack and Ira. And President Bollinger thank you. It is extraordinary, but I am especially honored to be here today to deliver the annual Gabriel Silver lecture, and to do so on behalf of the Intelligence Community in honor of Bob Jervis, whose life, work, and legacy is so dear to us personally and professionally.


All of you know that Bob was a world renowned international relations scholar and teacher, and I know you also know that he made significant contributions to the study of intelligence. But what you may not know is that extent of his work with the Intelligence Community over more than 40 years, and the fact that he is absolutely beloved by analysts and officers across the Community, many of whom emailed me to tell me about their experiences with Bob over the years, knowing that I would be coming here to talk to you today about his work.


Those who sent me notes reflected on his wisdom, on his humility, on his sense of humor, kindness, integrity, and of course, that he was a great sounding board for their work. He charmed all of us with his exuberance, the twinkle that he would get in his eye, you know, when he saw a weakness in an argument, and his boundless intellectual curiosity.


And they also talked about the fact that, as one officer noted, he respected the Agency enough to criticize it forthrightly, fairly, and constructively. In many ways, Bob was a model for how the Intelligence Community can and should interact with academia. He unquestionably made us better.


Bob's engagement with the IC started in the late 1970's when CIA's head of analysis invited Bob to serve as a scholar in residence. And this relationship led to Bob producing a post mortem on CIA's assessment of Iran in the months leading up to the fall of the Shaw in 1979.



In this now declassified study, Bob flagged numerous concerns, including poor sourcing, status quo bias, the tyranny of expertise and politicization. And he went on to produce another review on one of our biggest intelligence failures as the Secretary mentioned, the assessment of an active WMD program in Iraq in 2002.


And in his book “Why Intelligence Failed,” Bob pointed to logic flaws and tradecraft weaknesses that culminated in our analytic judgment call, and is remembered by many who lived through that time as nuanced and thoughtful. And those efforts had a significant impact on our work, leading to changes in how we train our analysts today.


Moreover, there are many other instances in which Bob's work affected our training. For example, Bob would talk about his book, “System Affects,” as his most important work, which received significant attention from our analysts.


It was groundbreaking in applying complex, adaptive systems theory to international relations, and attempted to elucidate the challenges that arise when multiple actors and influences are interconnected, often resulting in unintended consequences and nonlinearities. His work again changed our approach to teaching advanced critical thinking. I believe that the closest thing we have to academia in government is the analytic community within the Intelligence Community. There's a bit more stress, no windows, fewer public publications, but still, we put a high value on independence of thought, freedom of speech, dialogue and debate.


We value rigor, expertise, evidence driven analysis. We are trying to understand and reflect on the world around us, and to provide policymakers and operators with insights that will help them make better decisions. Bob respected and loved the Community; however, he would be among the first to tell you that the classified nature and pressure of our work makes us especially susceptible to a number of cognitive and motivated biases.


And consequently, interactions with those outside of our Community to test our hypotheses are absolutely critical to our successes. Long before most, Bob recognized the value and importance of a strong partnership between the Intelligence Community and academia.



He encouraged the Intelligence Community to engage frequently with a broad range of experts outside of the government, and not just experts and scholars and academia, but also in the private sector. To ensure we had access to alternative perspectives to identify our biases, to challenge our underlying assumptions.


For decades, Bob gave generously of his time and insights, repeatedly reviewing our assessments, helping us to develop approaches, techniques, to make our work better. And for decades he was a trusted and valued interlocutor for multiple IC agencies.


He regularly participated in conferences, as Karen noted, brainstorming sessions, often heated debates, helping us make sense of emerging dynamics and long term trends, including contributing to such publications as our quadrennial global trends series.


And in fact, in 2020, he helped the National Intelligence Council, the NIC, conceptualize the scenarios for the most recent global trends report. And despite his prominence, and the busy schedule that came with it, Bob was always approachable, friendly, open to debates and discussion. He helped pressure test many of our analytic lines over the years, making us more confident in some of the work that we had done, and in other cases less confident, pushing us to develop new scenarios, and envision alternative possibilities.


Bob stressed the importance, for example, of falsifiable claims, asking what would cause us to reconsider our views? And also stressed the importance of careful, disciplined, and explicit reasoning that revealed where any differences of opinion lie. He believed that adopting good, social science methods would improve our chances of getting things right.


But he also never suggested that doing this would be easy. In all cases he understood the fact that intelligence analysts rarely have the luxury of time, do not always get to choose the questions they are answering. His pragmatism, humility, empathy were fundamental to his capacity to impact our work.


Bob also pushed us to declassify more information to better inform the American people during his decade of work with the CIA's historical review panel, for example. He believed it was critical that we make as much information available as we could to allow the public to assess policy successes, and failures, in a broader context, to understand their complexity, and hopefully help us make better decisions in the future.



And for this reason I think he would approve of our new transparency initiative, an effort that fundamentally seeks to promote and inform citizenry, greater accountability, and improved trust between the American people and the Intelligence Community. Through this initiative, we are proactively publishing unclassified and declassifying IC analytic work on our website, DNI.gov, on some of our most vexing national security problems.


And with the increasing importance of national security in our everyday lives, the more we can help to inform the public debate around such issues the better. But by doing so, we also give the public, including academia, a chance to contest our thinking, draw to our attention questions or perspectives we have not considered, and learn from those outside of our traditional circles.


At the same time, I'm hopeful that it gives the public a chance to observe the thoughtfulness and rigor, with which we approach national security issues. We're opening up our judgments to greater scrutiny and debate, making us, I hope, more attractive to diverse talent and expertise from across the country.


And as Bob worked to improve our capacity for self reflection, bring additional social science methods into analysis, promote engagement with outsiders who would test our assumptions, and promote an organizational culture better suited to counter our biases, and one would think that that would be enough, and yet his impact goes even further.


Specifically, let me just give an example of how this scholarship has informed our work to great effect in the context of today's geopolitical competitive landscape, which is the topic of this conference. One of Bob's critical scholarly insights was the role that individual leader's perceptions and formative experiences play in national decision making.


International relations have for some time focused primarily on the role of the state, with the view that the constraints of broader political, social, and economic forces significantly reduce the ability of any given individual to exert an amount of influence on state level decisions.


As Professor McDermott, one of his prior students wrote, "Prior to Jervis, most international relations theory would have argued that it would not have mattered if Adolf Hitler or Bill Clinton had been the leader of Germany in the 1930's. The assumption was that the outcomes would have been the same because the incentives and constraints on the international environment were seen as dispositive.”


But Bob's work rooted in social psychology recognized the importance of leaders, their perceptions, and misperceptions, particularly in the context of crises and how that could affect national decision making. In fact, he opened up his book on “Why Intelligence Fails” with a series of quotes, including one that seems especially relevant today.


"We missed the Soviet decision to put missiles into Cuba because we could not believe that Khrushchev would make such a mistake." This was said by Sherman Kent, a Yale University professor of history, who during World War II and for 17 years of the Cold War served at the CIA, and after whom the Kent School for Intelligence Analysis is named.


The quote encapsulates one of the primary pitfalls of the old way of evaluating foreign decision making, a clear bias towards rational actor theory, with a hefty dose of mirror imaging. Bob was telling us that our own biases kept us from understanding the actual perceptions and motivations of our adversaries.


Khrushchev was making a mistake, only from the viewpoint of an American. If we had taken that approach in the context of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, we would never have predicted the tragic and illegal, large scale invasion of Ukraine that the IC warned of in the fall of 2021.


And as we told the world that President Putin was preparing for a large scale invasion into Ukraine, we repeatedly encountered skepticism based on the perception that this would be a terrible mistake for Russia, and consequently Putin, as a rational actor, would not do it.


Well, such a reaction was understandable. The insight the analyst provided was that from Putin's perspective it made sense. He had long lamented the breakup of the Soviet Union, which he calls the greatest tragedy of the 20th Century, and for some time wanted to restore Russia to what he perceived as its former glory.


In his mind Ukraine has special significance, given its cultural and historical bonds to Russia, and he does not want to be known as the Russian leader who lost Ukraine. Yet Ukraine was moving, clearly, further and further away from Russia, and slowly deepening its engagement with the West and with NATO.


President Putin perceived Ukraine's military as getting increasingly stronger with assistance from the West and was of the view that the Minsk Agreement was effectively dead, in part because the political process associated with its implementation through the Normandy format was, again in his view, incapable of delivering Ukrainian compliance in accordance with his demands.


And, thus, having exhausted political possibilities in his view, military action would be the best remaining option to prevent greater Ukrainian integration with the West, which he believed to be a significant threat to Russia's national security. Furthermore, given the trend lines, it would only get more difficult to affect a military option over time. Putin would, of course, know that Europe and the United States would react to such an invasion, including through sanctions.


But he thought he could conduct the military offensive quickly, would be welcomed by most Ukrainians, and that he would be better at maintaining his resolve in the face of sanctions, than Europe would be. And he only had high reserves at the time, a strong national wealth fund, some of the strongest economic indicators in almost a decade, a few years before his next election.


And with high energy prices he likely thought that it would make it harder for Europe to join the United States in issuing significant sanctions that would also carry a cost for Europe's domestic economies. In short, the IC took Bob's lessons to heart, and strove to see the world through Putin's eyes. And not through the eyes of an American standing in a different place.


This lesson will be equally important to carry through into our analysis with respect to China. In fact, to guard against mirror imaging, we work with experts across a series of fields from anthropology, to sociology, to political psychology, to help us better understand the drivers of foreign decision making.


We use structure analytic techniques to help us better take into account the perceptions and views of the adversary and dampen the effects of our own biases. Techniques like formal red teaming help us emulate adversary thinking and gaming exercises offer an opportunity to test foreign decision making under stressful conditions.


That teamwork, pairing our outside expertise with internal intelligence analysis, allowed our analysts to call Putin's decision to invade long before it looked obvious or inevitable, because it made sense to him. At that point many people who claim they understood Russia and Putin were still talking about what a mistake it would be because it made so little sense to them.


We will, of course, continue to make mistakes, but we strive to learn the lessons that allow us to preserve and advance with those like Bob and others in and out of the Community have struggled to learn and apply over the years. I hope Bob would be proud of our work on Ukraine, even as I am confident he would also point out how we could continue to get better at the things that we might have gotten wrong.


But that is in part of the joy of the partnership between our institutions, which help organize our learning to greater effect for the future. In sum, Bob's work has had an enduring impact on the Intelligence Community, including on the way we think about the business of intelligence and the way we go about pursuing and then conveying it.


But above all, I cannot tell you how grateful all of us are to have had the opportunity to work with Bob. He was a genuinely wonderful human being, who exemplified the rigorous critical thinking and essential collaboration that is so crucial to our work and service to the country. And I just could not be more honored to have a chance to do him some honor. Thank you so much.


MODERATOR: Thank you so much for coming, for being with us today and for those beautiful remarks about Bob. We really, really appreciate it. All right. There's a lot that we want to cover, and we're very excited that you're here. I'm sure that many, many of our students in the room, and faculty are curious first to hear about your journey to the national security arena.


You are currently the first female Director of National Intelligence, and oversee the entire U.S. Intelligence Community, but you've also held various senior posts, as Principal Deputy, National Security Advisor to the President, Deputy Director of the CIA, and yet when we look at your undergraduate degree, you were a physics major.


DIRECTOR HAINES: What went wrong?


MODERATOR: What went right? So, at what point in your career did you follow along with national security? And maybe I should start with how does it feel to be back at Columbia after two years?


DIRECTOR HAINES: It's wonderful. It feels like I've been off on a separate island for a while. Like I sort of came back. It's lovely to be back here, to see so many people that I haven't had a chance to talk to. But you know, nobody ever really asked me the question in the way that you just did.


Honestly, it was a bit of a mistake, which is a terrible thing to acknowledge, but I loved physics and math, it was sort of what I was better at when I was younger, and when I opened up a book store cafe and became a business owner, which I thought to do while I was in grad school, which was a terrible idea, I started to learn about what it was like to be part of a community.


And it was really a different way of looking at the world in a sense. And I really enjoyed it, although I will say that my father at the time called my boyfriend, who I was opening the business with, and said you know, this is a terrible mistake. She's good at math, but you are going to have to support her if she goes down this other route, and it's going to be terrible.


But it was really, it was sort of an awakening to public service, and to what it means to be a responsible participant in community. And then I ended up going to law school and getting a job in the State Department, and I followed people that I respected, and I kept on learning new things, and feeling as if the work was consequential, and that's how I ended up in national security, yeah.


MODERATOR: Wonderful. We're lucky that you are in this business. So there is a lot of topics that we could throw up here, but one that seems to be most on everyone's mind is Ukraine and balloons. In political--


DIRECTOR HAINES: It will be okay.


MODERATOR: No, we will, we will. In political science we think of war, no matter what the motivation. If it's greed or security dilemma, or whatever it is, the war by itself reveals information from both sides about the balance of capabilities, resolve, and so on, which usually with that kind of revelation updating happens about warring, strategies, and so on.


So, I guess my question is two questions. Now we've been in this war for almost a year now. Do we see any shift in strategic goals or warnings by any side? By either side? And second, what should we expect to see in the next couple of months on the battlefield in your opinion.


DIRECTOR HAINES: I mean in terms of different strategic objectives, I think in some respects both sides have become more dug in, instead of there being a clear shift in objectives. And in terms of what we're going to see in the coming months, so here's kind of the general assessment of where we're at.


We're in what we call a grinding deadlock right now, where basically both sides are, you know, pushing at each other, and neither has really definitive military advantage, and we're not expecting that either side is really capable in taking major territorial gains.


We're seeing them move hundreds of meters some days, sometimes a bit more, but it's not significant in that respect. But we are also getting into kind of the spring offensive potential perspective, and we are seeing Russia attempt an offensive right now, even though it's not moving particularly quickly. But both sides are experiencing some pretty significant challenges, and one of the questions is whether or not for example, as the Russians are engaging in the offensive that they're in right now, how costly will that offensive be to them.


Will they in fact mobilize, will be one of the questions. Personnel shortages is one of the clear issues. Will they be able to essentially set up supply lines for ammunition that will allow them to, you know, resupply in effect, and to address some of their challenges on their side.


And if it is costly, and they're unable to do some of those things that can present essentially opportunities for the Ukrainians. And if they are, that will make it more challenging obviously. And on the Ukrainian side, they're relying just remarkably on Western assistance and aid, and that will be critical to their capacity to effectively move forward, and so we'll see how this continues in the coming months.


But we'll be I think the next, you know, six months or so going through to the summer will be a critical period essentially for the rest of the trajectory of the conflict.


MODERATOR: And talking for a second about surprises so far. Let's stay with that theme. So when we talked about surprises about the scope of revisionist intention. Surprises about the Russians' ability to fight, the military performance so far.


So the surprise about Zelensky and the resolve of the Ukrainians and their ability to sustain the fighting, and do so well on the battlefield. And then there was a surprise around the cyber component of it, or lack of more active cyber warfare. We haven't seen NATO and the United States been the target in the way that we anticipated.


So all of these things that we've been surprised with, what caught you by surprise the most?


DIRECTOR HAINES: I mean I think I'll get through a few of the things that are on your list, and then add maybe one or two. But I think one thing that we clearly have work to do in the Intelligence Community. And we have talked about this openly, but is the sort of will to fight questions, which are very challenging frankly with us, and we've gone through a variety of kind of learning lessons, pieces on this.


But I think there's I think we can improve, but I think there is a sort of a limit to what you can do in this space effectively. And then there is assessing the capacity of another military to execute on, you know, essentially a mission. And in the context of Russia as you say, you know, I think this was an area where we did not assess what occurred in terms of the Russian capacity.


And there were a lot of things that contributed to that that I think are actually quite interesting, and I won't go through everything, but I'll just name a few that I think are sort of the best. I mean one that is perhaps obvious is while we indicated that we thought that Putin and the Russia military was underestimating the resistance that they would encounter when they came into Ukraine.


What we did not then follow through on in that context is okay, they were actually planning for a different conflict than the one that they ended up with, right? So they planned for the short siege, and they didn't plan for the long siege, right? And you want different equipment, you want different approaches when you're going for that operation as opposed to another.


So it's an example of one of the challenges. The other thing is that they did their planning in a very tight way. In other words they were trying to keep it very close hold, right? And as a consequence they weren't doing the normal, you know, what we would say, the interagency coordination, right like across the board.


So you can also see how some of the challenges come up when you don't think about, you know, if you don't have the right logistics folks in there readily doing it. And I remember one of our generals saying, you know, when you're doing planning it's really, it's two thirds of your time in working at the plan is the planning.


And one of the -- for the decision making process, doing it. And they could already see how that was sort of breaking down in different spaces. So there are a number of things that kind of come into this, and I could go on, but we do find it intellectually fascinating.


And I think it is something that we can continue to learn, and it makes you realize too that, you know, to say on this point that it's not just about understanding the capabilities of a military, but it's actually about thinking about their capacity executing against a particular mission, and how they're looking at it, and what they're doing in relation to it.


You know, all of these other things that you're sort of having to factor in to what your assessment is as to the capacity of them to actually follow through. The one thing that you didn't mention that I'll just flag that I thought was quite interesting. You know, we did a lot of work, obviously, for the policy community in looking at sanctions. What are the sanctions that you might enact, and what would be the possible impact of that, and you know, and so on.


And one of the things we did not anticipate was the degree to which private companies, multi national companies, corporations that have a big impact, like all services and so on, self sanctioned afterwards, right? And you know, that's an important factor to think about, and to understand how that's going to develop, and that's something that yeah, that we should have been thinking about and looking at.


And it's kind of to my point of my remarks too. Getting out of our space and talking to folks in all walks of life and understanding better is critical to us getting better at our job.


MODERATOR: Absolutely. So, in the past year I've been playing this game, what Bob would have been fascinated about the most about this war. What would he have been writing about? And I think that the one thing that I have strong feeling that would have caught his attention is the decision early on to share intelligence about the Russians’ plans to attack to invade.


And, you know, we shared intelligence with allies, but this was a little bit -- a little different right? The scope, sharing not just with allies, with the public, with Putin himself. And I want to ask you about that decision because there were a couple of issues that comes up when the decision to share and reveal and disclose intelligence.


One is obviously the issues about burning sources and methods, and how do you weight that against the benefit? Another issue is thinking about the precedent that you are setting, because from now on does it mean that when the United States wants to bring allies onboard it is going to be expected to share this kind of intelligence with them?


And I'm sure that if you think about one of the goals of the intelligence, the sharing of disclosing was maybe to deter Putin, and that did not happen. So there were costs for this idea of thinking about the sharing in disclosing intelligence. But there were obviously lots of benefits.


And so if you can share a little bit about the decision making process, and how you weighted in all those other costs against the benefits and so on. Love to hear it.


DIRECTOR HAINES: Yeah. And can I just on the precedent issue, and the way that you identified it, I mean I have to say I think that's already a precedent that was set. But I mean in the sense, and I'm not and maybe this is not the right way to think about it, and I'd be interested in how you're framing it. But it has certainly been true that when we've asked allies and partners to work with us on responses to a variety of things, that they want to know if we're saying that we're responding to a threat, right? Like where's the evidence, you know.


And in this context part of the challenge, and maybe I'll go through the decision making process to highlight this, and see what you think.


MODERATOR: Yeah. Please.


DIRECTOR HAINES: Because what happened for us was we were collecting information that obviously led us to believe that something was happening here. That Putin was preparing for an option, a military option. And as we did this in the lead up, you know, so that in the fall essentially, of 2021, we had had a previous event, which folks may remember in sort of the spring period, the kind of March, April, May period where there had been another buildup by the Russians. Right?


It wasn't as extensive as the one that we had in the fall, but it was apparent buildup. And we were trying to understand what that was about, and whether that was setting up for a military option, but in many respects it seemed as if going through it may he was considering it, but it looked like in large part it was there to kind of bully a bit, you know, just sort of use the military buildup as a way to coerce diplomacy in a sense.


And so for many of the Europeans that we were talking to as we were then in the fall, and seeing this different kind of buildup, the concern was well, it's just another example of what he was doing before, right? Why is it different now? What's the change? And why do you believe he's going to do something?


And there was sort of two pieces to this. You know, the question was okay, are we getting this right, but then also if we are getting it right and we're working with Europeans, whatever the likelihood of this occurring is, would we precipitate him doing something by virtue of the fact that we're working on response options right?




DIRECTOR HAINES: So, because often what you do to deter also can escalate, right? And so, the challenge in the very first part was that we had to convince our own policy community, right, you know, we're providing information. We're testing it, we're saying is this actually -- does this seem right?


And when we got to the point where the President said okay, you know, Tony, Jake, I want you to go out there. Start talking to allies. We've got to figure out is there a way for us to deter? Is there a way for us to plan for a response option? Because if this does happen we're going to be ready for it, right?


So, they went out, and I remember they came back, and basically they said well they're really skeptical, like many of the folks that we're talking to, you know, don't think that this is going to happen, and are not really ready to plan. And that was when he turned to us in the Intelligence Community and said you’ve got to share.


You have to get out there and starting sharing because we've got to help them see what you're seeing so that they are ready to talk to us seriously about what to do. And I think, you know, in that context, it makes sense from those countries’ perspective to ask for what's the information that you're basing this on? Why should we be paying attention?


Why should we take the risk, essentially, and the time and resources to engage in this? So that's one piece of it. I would also say, you know, when you're sharing with allies, right, you're doing it in a classified form, you're not disclosing it publicly.


It really was a separate issue as we were doing this right, where we basically identified, you know, Putin was putting together pretexts for an invasion, and at some point the President said, you know, we should disclose this right? We should deny him the pretext for the invasion, and thought that made sense right? Can we do that?


So, the first thing we do exactly as you say, is sources and methods right? Are we going to be able to protect our sources and methods because obviously we're only as good as our sources and methods, right? We're not going to be able to continue providing you with this intelligence if we lose them.


So, we had to make sure that we could figure out a way to do this, that would be protective of sources and methods. And it was a team sport in the Intelligence Community, which is to say we really -- there was working together across the Intelligence Community to think through how we could put together information from open source essentially.


And that meant doing things like, you know, leveraging commercial imagery, or you know, sort of thinking about what is available in the open source that we could look at that would help us.


MODERATOR: You got that right.


DIRECTOR HAINES: Exactly. So I think we really, you know, and it's way too early to tell. I mean we've been asked, all of us in testimony and in Congress and so on, have you seen any degradation? And we haven't at this stage.


MODERATOR: All right.


DIRECTOR HAINES: But that doesn't mean that we won't over time, and you know, this is one of those things that takes a while to sort of see how it goes.




DIRECTOR HAINES: But we've done a lot of work to try to protect that. I think on the precedent piece, you’ve heard sort of my theory on this, and I think, you know, and the pieces that I was worried about that you didn't mention are as follows. One is in addition to sources and methods, it's we're promoting disclosures of information for the policy community in support of their efforts.


I did not want the Intelligence Community to be perceived as just a tool of policy right?




DIRECTOR HAINES: And this was something that, you know, we spent some time thinking about. So for example, when I went to the North Atlantic Council to put down the case, Tony and I talked. And I said I don't want to do this with you. I think it would be better if I did it separately, I brought the analyst with me, and we answered their questions.


We never cleared our talking points, we just laid it out as we could, and then policy could come afterwards, and have a discussion, and so we would sort of have a distinction between us. But this is a challenging thing that we're constantly trying to think through how we manage it yeah.


MODERATOR: Very interesting. We could spend hours.


DIRECTOR HAINES: I know. We could.


MODERATOR: This disclosure, it’s fascinating. All right. So let's shift from Russia to China.


DIRECTOR HAINES: Yeah. Big question.


MODERATOR: So the fundamental question that comes up for students of world history, especially in your room with political scientists. We tend to think about patterns, and we tend to think okay, so what can we learn from the Cold War? And this came up today, the panel on nuclear weapons and so on.


Can we learn something about interaction between the Soviet Union and the United States during the Cold War that led to the time let's say, in terms of how we think about the future of U.S.-China relations. So what are the issue, what were the factors that led to the emergence of the talk?


Well we know there was parity in the coalition of the forces, and we know that we had a series of crisis, the Berlin, the Cuban Missile Crisis, that led to establish some rules of the games and so on. That's one way of thinking about what do we need in order to get to this period of time with China? Others will say very different actors, very different environment. Cold War does not really serve us well in thinking about it. Where do you stand on this?


How do you think about the Cold War? Should it inform and in what way should it inform our thinking about U.S.-China?


DIRECTOR HAINES: Yeah. I mean it's part policy and part intelligence, right? I will try and do the analytic piece.


MODERATOR: The intelligence part. I know.



MODERATOR: No, no, fair enough, fair enough.


DIRECTOR HAINES: But I do think there's some interesting differences, and maybe I'll just reflect on a few of these areas, you’ve done a lot of work so obviously tell me what you think too. I am one difference that is challenging I would say is that we had a lot of channels with whether it was, you know, the Soviet Union, and then Russia, etc., and built this up over time, and not to say that they were easy.


And not to say that, you know, they always worked in the way you wanted them to work, but one of the challenges with China is that they tend to clamp down in a crisis and not talk. And sort of providing for and developing those kinds of channels is harder.


It's been a more challenging and I know Secretary Clinton with others would yeah, think about this and have views. But it is you know, in terms of you're sort of setting up for rules and trying to develop the sort of frameworks within which you try to manage escalation and issues moving forward.


There are obviously and people have written on the differences between China and Russia at this moment, and you know, there are clear, contrasts I think that are worth understanding, not the least of which, you know, China's economic integration with us is just in a very different place, right, and there's a whole other dynamic that is important to the relationship, these issues.


But there are also I would say, you know, it is as we're trying to provide assessments to the President and you know, National Security Council and so on, on these issues with China, we are mindful of the fact that in almost every respect China's timelines and perspectives are very long term.


That our efforts to lay things out is sort of there's almost an asymmetry in the way in which our, you know, political centers interact on these kinds of questions. And as a consequence, trying to help frame our policy efforts, and for us we're usually being asked what are the impacts of you know, what we're doing, and then how are the Chinese perceiving it? And does that give us greater challenges or opportunities in these moments.



It's rather difficult to pull out for them what are the opportunities for you to shift their thinking. Exactly, in ways that are consistent with the way we operate effectively. And but it is ... It's been a very interesting thing among other things, to watch. I think Xi has been obviously in charge for quite some time now, you know, sort of how he's developed over time, and how that is shifting and watching the third party Congress, and other things. So how do you think about this?


MODERATOR: People are not here to hear what I think about it. We'll be talking about -- we have dinner to talk about it. And the next question is very much, very -- to the research I've done, which is how did the Intelligence Community think about it, assess political tensions, and a long term intentions of adversaries?


And why do we see the patterns that we see in assessment over time? And even when the disagreement is within the Intelligence Community? And yes, that gets me to again, the issues of assessment of China's intentions.


So your office put out a threat assessment that says about China's intentions, that the Chinese Communist Party, the CCP, will continue efforts to achieve President Xi Jinping's vision of making China a preeminent power in East Asia, and a major power on the world stage -- a major power on the world stage.


But the national security strategy from 2022 says that Beijing's ambitions is to become the world's leading power. Now for the untrained eye, this may seem like splitting hairs, right? But from the perspective of a political scientist, the ODNI assessment sounds very much like multi polarity. Great power out of several great powers.


Whereas the national security strategy reads very much like replacing the United States as the hegemony-- unipolarity. So for me, this is fascinating. It's very relevant to the work that I've done. What accounts for the differences? What are the implications? Does it point to a disagreement within the Intelligence Community about China's intentions and so on?


DIRECTOR HAINES: So I think it's really more a question of timelines. In other words, from our assessment, it's not that our assessment would be intentioned with the national security strategy because I think over time China is looking to be the leading power. And we have kind of a claim on that. It's just it's looking out for a longer term.


But I would say a couple things. I mean that is also not to say that it wouldn't be fine if there were tension right?




DIRECTOR HAINES: Because from my perspective




DIRECTOR HAINES: Totally. And you're right that you know, one of the things, and Bob would talk about this a fair amount, and was worried that we were not reflecting this sense enough in our analysis and pushing that in, and I think that's a very fair concern, and we've been actually trying to do that because I think it actually helps people who are reading the work, understand better sometimes, how did the analyst come to a certain decision where there are these differences of opinion and why?


So we have, you know, obviously we have a big Community, we have different views, we try to reflect that. But it is also important, I think, to preserve the understanding that we may come to an assessment, and the policy community can disagree. That's perfectly fine right?


They have the benefit of our views, and they look at it and they say no, we don't think so. So we're going to take a different assessment essentially for themselves, and work on that basis. But in this case I would say it's not really, I think, a real--


MODERATOR: It’s not a disagreement but more a timeframe. So anything about Xi's order to the military to plan for a successful invasion of Taiwan by 2027? Can you talk a little bit about what does that announcement, you know, what does it do for your assessment of thinking about it? How do we portray the intentions? Does it make sense to talk about a 2027 date because it's coming up again and again, even in Bill Burns’s statement lately.


DIRECTOR HAINES: I mean look we assess that China continues to preference, basically, a peaceful, you know, unification of Taiwan with China. We think that that is what they would prefer. I think the challenge is that they are likely becoming increasingly pessimistic or skeptical, that that's something they can achieve peacefully.


And you know, we have been open about the fact that they are looking to essentially achieve a military capacity so that they could take it militarily over our intervention, and that's ultimately if and when they are able to do so from their perspective. And I think, you know, it's important for an analytic perspective for us right, that one of the key things of actually when do they think they can do it right, not when do we think they can do it.


That will be an important factor in their decision making, and it will give them, you know, leverage and an option that they haven't had before, and that will matter. So, whenever that is, then that would be yeah.


MODERATOR: Now I definitely would not be doing my job today if I did not ask you about the surveillance balloons But I don't think that I even need to unpack what we're talking about. So let me ask you this. A quick yes or no. No, no, I'm not about to ask what you think about that. A quick yes or no, do you think the outcry over the balloon issue is exaggerated?


DIRECTOR HAINES: What's the outcry? How do you characterize it?


MODERATOR: Well, you don't -- I have been approached by people now constantly about oh my God, this you know, what are the Chinese doing. This is spy wars. This time we had to reveal what's going on because open source and digital era, we didn't have that luxury -- you know, we had more luxury during the Cold War to decide what we want to reveal about things like that that were happening.


Here the Intelligence Community was kind of forced to say more to policy makers. And there is panic about what is happening. So do you think it's exaggerated? Do you see similarities to the psychological effect of the sputnik and the missile gap era?


How should we think about this? Whatever you can say about the balloon, please.


DIRECTOR HAINES: I know it sounds crazy. I feel like in an episode of Veep you know on some level. The trouble with this. Look, I think as has been true historically, as you sort of alluded to, if you send a balloon to when a country is caught spying in a clear and obvious way, like another country responds to it.


And I think that's appropriate and it is, you know, so I think that it's perfectly reasonable to have a clear and forceful reaction to a Chinese high-altitude balloon, you know, flying over the United States and surveilling us.


I think there is a question of as technology improves, as we start to see more high-altitude vehicles in effect, that we're going to see more of this, and we're going to have to understand that and manage it. And I think, you know, the President yesterday kind of gave people a sense of look, we're going to put this into a frame. We're going to figure out what our principles are, but we are going to work with our allies and partners to ensure that we're all on the same page.


And I think that's, you know, a pretty classic and appropriate way to handle it.

MODERATOR: So let's talk a little bit about threat assessment more broadly, and I'll just throw back to China and Russia, but also thinking North Korea, Iran definitely. We all know the JCPOA is practically that. But if you think about our ability of the Intelligence Community, or the Intelligence Community's abilities to track and monitor nuclear capabilities.


Again, thinking about the Cold War, the 1138, NIEs that were all about tracking Soviet nuclear capabilities was the pattern was over estimation, followed by under estimation, over estimation and so on. So compared to the days of the Cold War, have intelligence capabilities and new technologies really improved our assessment, and our ability to track those nuclear technologies?


How confident should we be? Especially as we think about countries, you know, China, Russia for sure, but also Iran and North Korea. Can you say something about that without revealing too much?


DIRECTOR HAINES: Yeah. I'll try to say something that's useful. We've definitely gotten better at detecting, you know, the status of programs as a general matter, related to nuclear issues. But it is also true that, you know, as we advance, so do others, right? And you know, in developing ways to avoid detection, one of the advantages of the JCPOA was that it gave us effectively through the IAEA, in other words, like the capacity to monitor and access for doing that.


And that increased with our capacity to be able to continue to detect, and so that is definitely one of the challenges. But I would also say that I mean, one of the most difficult spaces in the sort of weapons of mass destruction area is really in the bio area.


And I think, you know, for us, like as we continue to try to better understand what is possible there and to monitor that. It's really hard. This is just a brutally challenging area, and it's just with such little investment in a sense, one can do quite a lot. And you know, and it doesn't have a radioactive isotope attached to it, or you know, other things comparable, so it's yeah.


MODERATOR: Very optimistic.


DIRECTOR HAINES: I know. I am Debbie Downer pretty much every day. It’s not a good, yeah.


MODERATOR: So let's skip years entirely. Looking around we see all new generation of digital natives, a cohort of young people with the appetite for public service. To what degree, and in what ways are the realities of the digital age influencing recruitment strategies or how best to attract younger generations, all of the types of skillsets, and experiences you would look for in new hires. Can you say a little bit about that?


DIRECTOR HAINES: Yeah. No, definitely. And honestly, this is an area of passion for me. The thing that keeps me up at night is basically whether or not we're going to have the most talented, diverse population in our public institutions, and that we're actually able to be agile enough to address the challenges as they evolve over time.


And they're coming at us that much faster, more complex and everything else. And across the Community, if you talk to every head of an intelligence agency or department, they will tell you that recruiting and retaining a diverse and talented workforce is the most important thing to them.


And we are trying to get out in a variety of ways. I actually, before I came here, knowing that it would be in New York for a few hours, I went to the Bronx High School of Science. Like I am like I'm trying to get out to different parts of the country, and you know, just do a short stop in high schools and other places to try to help people who haven't thought about the Intelligence Community, you know, to think about it, to come in to see if you're you know, worried about it, if you think that all we do is spy on people you think of as heroes.


Like come in and, you know, see what it's like, and help to make sure that you're part of the decision making apparatus, so that you can actually make it into the Intelligence Community that you wanted to be in. I think it is one of the things that's hardest for us in the Intelligence Community, of course, is that it's really hard for people to know what is the work like, who do we talk to, how do really -- what's that going to be?


It seems like a black box. So what we tend to get is folks who know people, or are related to people, or go to the same schools. So it's so important for us to break out of that, and to get out to others and to try to bring in the extraordinary talent that we have in the country today.


MODERATOR: That is so important. And we here at Columbia, the Saltzman Institute of War and Peace Studies, this is a big mission of ours to -- and we have a program, Emerging Voices in National Security, especially for women and underprivileged minorities, to come and learn about the world of national security, and create this pipeline because we know that this is important.


So last question because I know we're timed. Besides thinking about recruitment, what keeps you up at night?


DIRECTOR HAINES: Well I said it. It truly is, it is about having just sort of the resilient, agile institutions with the best possible people, and that is something that we are going to have to work really hard, and it is not easy to do in government, and it's getting harder.


I mean things like, you know, the politization around budgets, and other things like that just make it so hard to plan long term, to think through issues that help us build up the capacity that we know we need.



And getting these partnerships with academia, with others, you know, to make sure that we are not in the group think mode, and that we are capable of growing and innovating the way we need to do.


So I'm really grateful to Bob Jervis most of all, obviously in honoring him, but to you, to everybody, to President Bollinger because Columbia is the kind of environment that really helps to feed our work, and you know, we learn from all of you. So we're very grateful for that opportunity, thank you.


MODERATOR: Thank you very much Director Haines.