The Volokh Conspiracy

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"World on the Brink"—Interviewing Dmitri Alperovitch

Episode 501 of the Cyberlaw Podcast


Okay, yes, I promised to take a hiatus after episode 500. Yet here it is a week later, and I'm releasing episode 501. This is my excuse. I read and liked Dmitri Alperovitch's book, "World on the Brink: How America Can Beat China in the Race for the 21st Century."  I told him I wanted to do an interview about it. Then the interview got pushed into late April because that's when the book is actually coming out.

So sue me. Anyway, I'm back on hiatus.

The conversation with Dmitri outlines his background in cybersecurity and geopolitics, beginning with his emigration from the Soviet Union as a child through the founding of Crowdstrike and becoming a founder of Silverado Policy Accelerator and an advisor to the Defense Department. Dmitri shares his journey, including his early start in cryptography and his role in investigating the 2010 Chinese hack of Google and other companies, which he named Operation Aurora.

Dmitri opens his book with a chillingly realistic scenario of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan. He explains that this is not merely a hypothetical exercise, but a well-researched depiction based on his extensive discussions with Taiwanese leadership, military experts, and his own analysis of the terrain.

Then, we dive into the main themes of his book—which is how to prevent his scenario from coming true. Dmitri stresses the similarities and differences between the US-Soviet Cold War and what he sees as Cold War II between the U.S. and China. He argues that, like Cold War I, Cold War II will require a comprehensive strategy, leveraging military, economic, diplomatic, and technological deterrence.

Dmitri also highlights the structural economic problems facing China, such as the middle-income trap and a looming population collapse. Despite these challenges, he stresses that the U.S. will face tough decisions as it seeks to deter conflict with China while maintaining its other global obligations.

We talk about diversifying critical supply chains away from China and slowing China's technological progress in areas like semiconductors. This will require continuing collaboration with allies like Japan and the Netherlands to restrict China's access to advanced chip-making equipment.

Finally, I note the remarkable role played in Cold War I by Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski, two influential national security advisers who were also first-generation immigrants.  I ask whether it's too late to nominate Dmitri to play the same role in Cold War II. Just remember that you heard it here first!

You can download episode 501 here.

The Cyberlaw Podcast is open to feedback. Send comments to @stewartbaker on Twitter or to Remember: The views expressed in this podcast are those of the speakers and do not reflect the opinions of their institutions, clients, friends, families, or pets.