Russia-Ukraine cyberattacks risk ‘spillover effect’ to the U.S. and other world powers

Retired Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, former National Security Council Director for European Affairs, joins Yahoo News’ “Skullduggery” podcast to discuss the mounting tensions between Russia and Ukraine. Vindman tells Yahoo News that, while the U.S. and NATO are unlikely to be involved in ground combat, unconventional warfare including financial and cyberattacks could inadvertently pull the U.S. and other world powers into the conflict.

Video transcript

VICTORIA BASSETTI: So I want to home in a little bit quickly on the nature of the war that's about to unfold, because we've spoken a lot about troops on borders. But there's a whole different set of fronts that are probably going to be involved-- a propaganda war, a cyber war. Unlike a kind of a kinetic war, those are the sort of wars that can spill over into the United States and spill over into Europe. What do you think are the odds of massive cyber attacks that leak into the United States or into other parts of Europe?

ALEXANDER VINDMAN: I think those are very high. And this is going on now. It's been going on for a long time. You know, the attack on US elections in 2016 is part of that. The cyber attacks on Ukraine recently are part of that. And these are things that are-- do have the highest probability of having a spillover effect.

So you could envision a legitimate scenario-- this is not a far fetched hypothetical-- in which Russia conducts major cyber offensive against Ukraine in preparation for its conventional war. It seeks to attack and disrupt Ukrainian critical infrastructure, communications, power grids, you know, all the kind of utilities. But those things don't-- they're not limited.

They're going to-- they are absolutely going to spill over, as they have in the past, to Europe and to the US. Then the US is forced to respond. That's an escalation.

VICTORIA BASSETTI: So is it sort of like a cyber world war? Is that-- is that what we're talking about?

ALEXANDER VINDMAN: I think, you know, this is-- that's a really interesting point. I think we could see something unfolding, where the spillover requires a response by the US and NATO. And that could escalate very quickly to, you know, easily the entire European theater or more broadly. I'm not sure if I would necessarily think that, you know, the Chinese would weigh in, in this regard, because they don't want to necessarily be drawn into this conflict. But maybe the North Koreans and the Iranians jump in. They [INAUDIBLE] opportunities.