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Covid19 Related Geopolitical Questions To Drive Your Strategic Planning

As we have written before, the number one goal of all of us in this pandemic is preservation of life, but we also have to protect our way of life, the system that should endure long into the future. There are business components to this. There are also strategic geopolitical concerns.

Over the next three months the Covid19 virus may cause dramatic changes on the international scene that will impact decision-making in government and industry. We have no special insights into what they could be, but through thirty years of close observations of national security topics we can say this, we should be prepared for surprises.

The impact of surprises can be mitigated by collecting information, and that collection can be optimized by starting with good questions. Here are questions we are very interested in:

Topic: Cyber Conflict

  • How will the highest end adversaries, China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, shift their use of cyber capabilities? What will they prioritize to steal, what will they prioritize to disrupt? What will they prioritize for manipulation of their own citizens? What will they do to try to manipulate our citizens?
  • What shifts should we expect in the tactics and targets of high end cyber criminal groups?  We know that many are already exploiting the circumstances to launch COVID-19 phishing campaigns and at least two hospitals have been hit with ransomware.
  • From a great powers perspective, will some nations cross the line into critical infrastructure attacks to further exacerbate social integrity in nations dealing with the crisis?  For example, an attack on critical infrastructure like power or telecommunications would have a disproportionate impact during trying times.

Topic: Nation Collective Action

  • How will the virus impact coordination and support among and between open style democracies, especially EU nations, the US, India, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Brazil, Columbia?
  • Will these pressures cause the EU disintegrate?
  • Will nationalism rise among democracies and nations seek to protect their own?
  • To what degree will globalism, especially global supply chains, exist after coronavirus?
  • How will the virus impact coordination between hostile dictatorships, communist nations and kleptocracies, especially Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, Venezuela (or any other weaker closed society).
  • How will the COVID-19 event impact elections?

Topic: Transnational Organized Crime

  • How will the virus impact drug trafficking, human trafficking, wildlife poaching and trafficking?
  • Will illicit markets shift to address shortages in the market?  For example, toilet paper from Mexico?  It sounds ridiculous, but likely already happening to a small extent.

Topic: Terrorism

  • How will the pandemic play into terrorism ideology and propaganda? Will it cause shifts in terror group target sets?

Topic: Weapons of Mass Destruction and Proliferation

  • Will nations be more or less inclined to use chemical or biological weapons to achieve their goals because of the virus?  The national leadership in Iran is already publicly stating this is a manmade event, so will this accelerate their development and use of these weapons as a new norm?
  • Will North Korea accelerate nuclear testing or testing of delivery vehicles?
  • Will Iran accelerate nuclear weapon design, production, testing or testing of delivery vehicles?

Topic: Regional Instability

  • For key hotspot regions like South America and South East Asia and most of Africa, How will populaces view the actions of their own nation to protect them and how will that impact internal instability?
  • How will the virus cause deterioration of the situation facing displaced persons globally and how will that contribute to regional instability?
  • Will nations move to nationalize or take over US business interests?

Topic: China Regional Ambitions and CCP Control

  • How will the virus impact China’s aggressive actions in the South China Sea, East China Sea, neighboring countries or their belt and road initiative?
  • Will threats to the Chinese Communist Party’s hold on power materialize?
  • Given China is the first nation to recover, will they exert this situation to advance global power initiatives?

Topic: US, Canada and Mexico Trading

  • How will the virus impact trading between US, Canada and Mexico? Will this trade alliance benefit from pressures on globalization overall?
  • How will it contribute to instability in this key region? Will borders be shut to trade at any point for any duration?

Topic: Counterintelligence

  • How will adversary nations shift their intelligence collection against the US and allies because of the virus?  How will they adapt the workforce to adhere to social distancing concerns?
  • Will the intelligence capabilities of non state actors shift because of the virus?
  • How will collection against US businesses shift?
  • With remote working being enabled across the country, will intelligence collection shift to those platforms?

Topic: International Media

  • How will the ability of the international free press to collect and report be changed because of the virus? How will that impact the behavior of nations? How will that impact the ability of businesses to optimize decisions?
  • Will we see a resurgence of local news sourcing given our desire for more immediate knowledge of what is happening near us?
  • How will we counter misinformation and other online media disruption activities? For example, memes are already circulating accusing Germany and U.S. of intentionally mishandling the pandemic as a way to kill the elderly and solve pension/social security insolvency issues.

Topic: Advanced Technology

  • How will shifts in R&D spending change the current course of development of technology? Will this impact US competitiveness in any way?
  • Will buying patterns for new ways of work (including work while social distancing) change the course of advanced technology?
  • How will requirements for new technologies to counter pandemics shift the course of technology?

Topic: Space and Counterspace

  • Will the virus impact the ability of hostile nations to mount attack against space assets?

Topic: Supply Chains

  • Will the impacts of the virus on supply chains be short lived? Will nations shift more manufacturing to inside their borders because of the virus? How fast will that shift be?
  • How can we develop adaptive supply chain practices to ensure that all citizens get the supplies and nutrition they need?
  • How will online delivery like Amazon Prime handle the increased demand for home delivery of core supplies?
  • How will the transportation infrastructure handle the increased demand for home delivery and how will we manage the safety of those deliveries to ensure they are not a factor for transmission?

Topic: The Price of Energy and Commodities

  • Other than the global economic slowdown and its impact on prices, how else might the virus impact the price of energy and commodities? Will production be impacted?

Topic: Environment and Climate Change

  • How will the virus, and the attention being put on the virus, change actions around the environment and climate change?
  • What pollution metric changes will we see with a large portion of the population in self isolation?

Topic: Capabilities of US Intelligence Collection

  • How will the virus impact the ability of US human intelligence (HUMINT) to collect?
  • How will the virus impact the ability of US intelligence agencies, including counter intelligence to analyze information?

Background Assessments and Foundational Intelligence

The situation with Covid19 is a very dynamic one. We will be updating all relevant intelligence assessments produced for our members to ensure you always have access to actionable information to drive your decisions.

Find the full list of our threat assessments and research reports at our OODA Member Resources page.

Key references to review include:

Bob Gourley

Bob Gourley

Bob Gourley is the co-founder and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of OODA LLC, the technology research and advisory firm with a focus on artificial intelligence and cybersecurity which publishes Bob is the co-host of the popular podcast The OODAcast. Bob has been an advisor to dozens of successful high tech startups and has conducted enterprise cybersecurity assessments for businesses in multiple sectors of the economy. He was a career Naval Intelligence Officer and is the former CTO of the Defense Intelligence Agency. Find Bob on Defcon.Social