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‘Don’t get too comfortable,’ national security expert Clint Watts warns CFOs over Russia’s cyber capabilities

June 23, 2022, 10:13 AM UTC
Updated June 23, 2022, 7:31 PM UTC

Good morning.

One of the surprises of the past four months is that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine hasn’t been accompanied by more intense cyberattacks on countries⁠—and companies⁠—supporting the Ukrainians. But Clint Watts of the Foreign Policy Research Institute told a group of CFOs in Atlanta last night: “Don’t get too comfortable.”

“Think of it as a volcano. Right now in Russia, they have made some gains in the east and they will take the area in eastern Ukraine known as Luhansk. They will take turf that is just filled with holes, that they have destroyed, but they will take it. Beyond that I’m not sure they can go much further, which will lead them to this point where, how do they bring the U.S. and the West to the negotiating table? Cyber is a great option to do that.

“I would be worried particularly if you are in oil and gas around September, October, November, because that’s when they want to bring Europe to its knees, they will want oil prices to soar. And this may grind into the U.S. midterm elections.”

Watts was speaking in Atlanta to a dinner of the Fortune CFO Collaborative, which was created in partnership with Workday and Deloitte to help CFOs deal with their widening array of responsibilities and risks⁠—including geopolitical, cyber, ESG, A.I., and more. CFOs interested in being part of the conversation can go to Fortune’s CFO hub here, sign up for Sheryl Estrada’s CFO Daily here, or just send me a note. We will be doing similar dinners in coming months in Chicago, Dallas, and San Francisco.

More news below. And check out David Meyer’s piece on the head of the International Energy Agency warning of another nightmare scenario⁠—that Russia cuts off all natural gas shipments to Europe as winter approaches.

Alan Murray


Gas crisis

In a new development regarding the above, Germany has become the first EU country to move to the second stage of its national gas emergency plan, owing to reductions in Russian gas flows. Economy Minister Robert Habeck: “We are in a gas crisis. From now on, gas is a scarce commodity…Prices are already high, and we must prepare for further increases. That will have an effect on industrial production and weigh heavily on consumers. It is an external shock.” Financial Times

China tariffs

Remember the U.S.’s Trump-era tariffs on $335 billion worth of Chinese imports? The Biden administration might reduce the levies to fight inflation—though U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai advocates for maintaining them as leverage. Fortune

Chinese tech

J.P. Morgan reckons the worst of China’s regulatory crackdown on tech is over, and its asset management division is plowing back into the sector. Country specialist Rebecca Jiang: “A clearer and more defined regulatory framework around these internet businesses is a definite positive.” Bloomberg

Money furnaces

Tesla’s new Berlin and Austin factories are “gigantic money furnaces” that are losing the company “billions of dollars,” CEO Elon Musk admitted in a video posted yesterday (but recorded at the end of May). Musk also said the Texas plant has been struggling to scale up production of Model Y SUVs using Tesla’s new 4680 cells. Fortune


Roe v. Wade

How should CEOs handle the likely imminent scrapping of Roe v. Wade? Here’s a taste of a comprehensive piece by Fortune’s Phil Wahba: “Leaders will have to make immediately clear how Roe v. Wade will affect employees’ benefits coverage, especially for those in states where trigger laws will go into effect; how the company is augmenting its reproductive care benefits, such as covering travel costs to obtain abortion procedures in other states; how the company will ensure health care data privacy; potential changes to drugs covered by health plans; and whether employees will receive additional time off if they have to travel out of state.” Fortune

Mars’s girth

Mars’s sales are now probably outstripping those of Coca-Cola, with growth being powered by its diversified business model, and its booming pet-care division. Fortune

Russian planes

Russia’s inventory of commercial jets is shrinking, because neither Airbus nor Boeing is sending parts anymore nor their technical expertise. Nobody’s quite sure if the result will be mass groundings, as parts wear out, or a lot of planes flying with unapproved or unauthorized parts. What could go wrong? Wired

Hello again?

In a not-at-all-creepy development, Amazon’s Alexa will possibly get a new feature allowing the virtual assistant to read you a bedtime story in your dead grandmother’s voice. That’s the scenario the company chose to explain the feature, which can allegedly mimic a voice after hearing just one minute of it. Some fear the technology will prove too useful for constructing scams and deepfakes. Fortune

This edition of CEO Daily was edited by David Meyer.

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