8 minutes reading time (1533 words)

Henrik Fogh Rasmussen Interview


By Sa'Mya Hall

February 21st was another informative and fun night at the Pinery with guest speaker Henrik Fogh Rasmussen. Engaging and motivational, we had the privilege of learning and understanding the scientific and technological advancements of adversarial international forces like Russia and Iran have been working on. Rasmussen concluded with a motivational and patriotic emphasis on the United States' important role in International Security. The audience was eager to inquire more about the impending pressure Russia and Iran plan to pursue against their adversaries. We were left with a fascinating insight into the vitality of scientific and technological literacy in international security.

I had the priveledge of interviewing Henrik Fogh Rasmussen where he elaborated on weapons of mass destruction that is being focused on within internation security, below is the insightful dialogue...

February 21st the World Affairs Council had the privilege of hosting Henrik Rasmussen, executive director of the Institute for Science and International Security and an immigrant from Denmark who later became a U.S. citizen.

In his interview with us, Mr. Rasmussen emphasizes his perspective on the impending security issues facing the world, specifically Iran and Russia's collaborative efforts to increase weaponry inventory. Recently, Russia and Iran are advancing the technology in their weapons of mass destruction. Iran is dangerously close to becoming a nuclear power, and Russia's constant flow of artillery is giving them an advantage their war with the Ukraine.

Despite the global challenges, Rasmussen believes the U.S can address new international threats and protect the unique opportunities the country has to offer. Mr. Rasmussen explained why and how he decided to pursue science and international security in The United States. "I have always been interested in security issues, but I have always been a big fan of the United States" he stated, "I used to read all of the Davey Crocket books when I was little, and I always appreciated the pioneer spirit. I moved over here from Denmark and became a citizen in 2010. In the United States, it's okay to do something out of the ordinary, and you see people from everywhere in the world succeeding. And I don't think there is any other place in the world that provides that. I believe it is very important for the United States to remain engaged in the world, and that has motivated me to spend all of my time on the work I do."

Under Mr. Rasmussen's leadership, he explains that the Institute for Science and International Security serves as an authoritative and globally leading source of technical insight into capabilities that affect international security threats. They fill a niche in the think tank world focusing on providing technical analysis of America's adversaries mainly on nuclear weapons, and recently working on drones. Documenting Iran's assistance to Russia by building drones to use against Ukraine."

With new undemocratic global institutions developing weapons that threaten the United States, the future of international security is evolving and advancing scientific entrepreneurship.

To combat this trend, Mr. Rasmussen states, the institution is "Deepening our work on our core area of nuclear weapons. "Unfortunately, with Iran potentially becoming a nuclear power, China looking to double its national nuclear weapons, and with Russia bringing new types of nuclear capabilities online, including potentially in space, there's a lot going on there. You might also see us expanding to new areas, such as drones or other types of weapons of mass destruction that are highly scientific in nature. Biological weapons could be one example, with a lot of long-distance learning coming out of the pandemic. So, there's a need for the kind of work that we do, and that need is only increased."

To stay informed on these issues, Mr. Rasmussen and his team collect intel from trade data and imagery from a satellite deployed by the Institute. Communicating with other think tank organizations within security and working alongside the Washington Post and additional media outlets furthers their work. Elaborating further Mr. Rasmussen states, "What we try to do is really drill down and get to conclusions that have arrived from hard facts and that you can document based on real data and then draw policy conclusions from that rather than making the data fit drawn policy conclusions."

According to said media outlets, Mr. Rasmussen shares the most pressing international threats democracy currently faces—China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran. All four are working toward nuclear capabilities to use against their adversaries and present pressing danger. North Korea is threating to annihilate South Korea, while conducting weaponry testing, China is planning to evade Taiwan, Iran is a growing port for terrorist groups, and Russian is at war against Ukraine. Russia and Iran pose the highest threat level. Mr. Rasmussen states, "Unless we step it up on our end, you could see in the next year a Russian win in Ukraine and then Iran win in nuclear weapon."

With the bleak Ukrainian front, their dwindling ammunition, no indication from the United States House of Representatives will pass an aid bill, and increased pressure on the Europeans to provide more to the cause financially, I asked Mr. Rasmussen what he felt would be the best solution in providing aid to Ukraine.

"We should send aid from the United States, and yes, the Europeans can provide a lot of aid as well, and the latest figures are actually that Europe, so far, if you combine financial and military commitments, the figures show that Europe is now at double what the US has committed. I think this has really been a wake-up call for Europe, and it's long overdue for Europe to start spending more on defense. And it's very good to see them leaning in to help Ukrainians, but I think it's very dangerous to think that they can do it on their own and then we can just step back and focus on China. It's very important for the US to be engaged even if we're not the main provider of aid because it sends a signal to the appearance that we're in it with them, and that encourages them to do even more," he replied.

Desperate to cease the war, several European governments have called for a peace agreement between Russia and Ukraine, leaving the possibility of an increasingly belligerent Hungary, Slovakia, and Serbia becoming more aggressive to their neighbors and a gain in Ukrainian territory for Russia.

Weighing in on the actions the United States needs to take to prevent potential negative consequences Mr., Rasmussen stated, "So you will always have outliers in a continent as big as Europe with as many different nations, but I think the main thing is that the major powers there are rock solid behind Ukraine. If the US puts its weight on the scales most Europeans will follow. I do think this race is to question, you know, 'How do you handle those kinds of disagreements inside NATO?' and I think any outcome that gives Russia permanent control over Crimea is not a sustainable outcome because it allows Russia to command the Black Sea and to position itself for the next go around. So I think it's very very important that Ukraine recapture Crimea and as much of the other occupied territories as they can that they get hold of and then fortifying, it's extremely dangerous to let him [Putin] win in in Ukraine. And I really mean it when I say let him win. It's up to us if we provide the Ukrainians with what they need they can win. So we really cannot put away responsibility for the outcome in Ukraine even if we're not directly part of the fighting."

It seems today, political ideologies have become increasingly divided. On an international front, democracy versus authoritarianism tension is becoming more aggressive. On a security front, Mr. Rasmussen agrees, describing an atmosphere akin to the 1930s, threatening the United States. Totalitarian regimes are increasing their pressure, and the threat continues to rise as they are working together on obliterating democracy. Russia and Iran specifically have been trading weapons of mass destruction.

The Institute for Science and International Security collaborates with other think tank organizations, hosting a Twitter Space that brings in experts on various security areas to draw policy conclusions and call for potential action toward international security issues such as Russia and Iran.

They offer an internship program for anyone interested in pursuing science in international security, providing a unique combination of social and political education with a scientific foundation. "My advice is," he states, "anyone looking into the field, pursue both. Get an education in both scientific aspects and the policy and the strategic aspects of national security."

When asked about the most important insight he has taken from his work, Rasmussen states, "I think ultimately reality wins, but it can be difficult. You just have to keep putting out facts and ensuring that those facts are communicated well to a broader and broader audience. And in the end hopefully, that will then lead policymakers and politicians to draw the right conclusions and go in the right direction. The truth actually matters, and even if you feel like nobody is listening, you should keep communicating it because all of a sudden you will gain traction." 

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Saturday, 15 June 2024