Strategic Competition in the Financial Gray Zone

Over the past 10 years, the U.S. government has slowly reoriented its foreign and security policy from the fight against global terrorism toward strategic competition with Russia and China. This reorientation has been accompanied by a new examination of how strategic competition will impact the integrity and future stability of the U.S. economy and financial system. One of the most important elements of strategic competition is sub-threshold warfare (also called asymmetric, hybrid, or gray zone warfare), wherein strategic competitors seek to shape the geostrategic environment in their favor, from information operations to economic warfare—which includes such tools as illicit finance and strategic corruption. Strategic competitors present a clear economic and financial threat to the United States when they operate in the emerging financial gray zone, in which malign actors can take advantage of the U.S. financial system to further their aims and disarm the country internally. The U.S. government, along with its allies, has only begun to acknowledge the sweeping nature of the financial gray zone and to reposition itself to compete within it. Because adversaries exploit the seams between the internal and external policies and authorities, Washington must have greater insights into a complex operating system and better integrate data across the many relevant agencies—in a way, connecting the financial dots. As it develops this comprehensive picture, the U.S. government should develop stronger defensive and offensive policy tools to counter this emerging threat.

 

 

 

This product was funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), but any opinions expressed by the authors are independent of any funding or sponsorship. Any opinions, arguments, viewpoints, conclusions, or recommendations expressed by the authors herein do not represent those of DHS or the U.S. government.

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James Andrew Lewis
Senior Vice President; Pritzker Chair; and Director, Strategic Technologies Program
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Eugenia Lostri

Eugenia Lostri

Former Associate Fellow, Strategic Technologies Program
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Donatienne Ruy
Director, Executive Education and Abshire-Inamori Leadership Academy

Heather A. Conley

Former Senior Vice President for Europe, Eurasia, and the Arctic; and Former Director, Europe, Russia, and Eurasia Program