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‘We’ll have the first global cyber warfare this year’: Nouriel Roubini

Daniel Howley
Technology Editor

An economist who predicted the 2008 housing crisis and recession is now predicting that 2020 will be the year the world sees its first full-fledged cyber war. 

The online battle, according to NYU Stern School of Business professor Nouriel Roubini, will take place between the U.S. and four of its rivals: China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea.

According to Roubini, the 2020 election will prove pivotal in this cyber war, with America’s adversaries working to undermine the election results starting with the primaries — 15 of which will happen this Tuesday, March 3, on so-called Super Tuesday.

“We imposed sanctions against Russia, China, Korea, and Iran...and they cannot respond to us with conventional power, because we are stronger from a conventional point of view,” Roubini told Yahoo Finance’s On The Move in an interview Friday.

“So if you are a weaker rival of the U.S., and you want to contain the U.S., what you do is asymmetric warfare. Asymmetric warfare means you try to weaken your enemy from the inside, and how you do it is with cyber warfare. So we’ll have the first global cyber warfare this year.”

Dr. Nouriel Roubini of New York University Stern School of Business, testifies during a Senate Banking Committee hearing titled "Exploring the Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Ecosystem," in Dirksen Building on October 11, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Russia has already proven it’s willing to deploy cyber weapons to interfere in the U.S. election process. In 2016, the country used social media and disinformation campaigns in an effort to influence voters ahead of the election.

“Suppose they interfere with the election, they do misinformation, and fake news, and deep fakes, and they try to undermine the primaries and so on,” he said. “Then whoever is going to lose, it could be a Democrat or Republican, is going to scream ‘rigged.’”

That, Roubini explained, could have disastrous results for the U.S. political system, beyond even the fallout from the 2000 election and Supreme Court decision that saw George W. Bush named president.

And while Al Gore conceded to Bush, Roubini says Donald Trump is unlikely to take a similar route.

“I don’t think Trump is going to concede,” he said. “If he says it’s rigged, there are going to militias in the streets of Washington with guns saying this was a rigged election.”

The goal for China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea, Roubini said, is to sow discord within the U.S., blunting its ability to project power abroad, and damaging its hard and soft power capabilities.

“All four of them feel the U.S. either wants regime change, or is undermining them, so they are going to respond. And the only way they can respond is cyber.” 

While the phase 1 trade deal between U.S. and China may have eased tensions in the ongoing trade war between the countries, Roubini says the reality is relations between the nations are only going to deteriorate. That’s because, he says, while the U.S. believes its economic and national security depend on a containment strategy toward China, the People’s Republic sees the U.S. as an impediment to its future growth.

Often referred to as Dr. Doom, Roubini’s predictions regarding a massive housing bubble proved prescient when the housing market collapsed, taking the global economy with it, in the 2008-2009 financial crisis. Roubini, in fact, called the Great Recession back in 2006, saying then that the economy would face an incredible shock that would hammer financial institutions.

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Got a tip? Email Daniel Howley at danielphowley@protonmail.com or dhowley@yahoofinance.com, and follow him on Twitter at @DanielHowley.

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