Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Government and International Affairs

Major Professor

Jongseok Woo, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Bernd Reiter, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Nicolas Thompson, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Keenan Yoho, Ph.D.


United States, espionage, propaganda, cyberattack, Russia, Vladimir Putin


This paper examines the causal relationship between cyber technology’s deep global integration and changes in how states struggle for power in the international system. Specifically, it argues that cyber technology has changed international conflict by providing external actors the ability to penetrate states’ grand strategy decision-making and implementation processes to an unprecedented degree and scope. As a result, the meaning of power has changed from a material-centric metric to one that is more nuanced and difficult to measure.

To explore this hypothesis, the study follows a three-step process. First, it examines the history of cyber technology, how it has become deeply embedded within the modern state, and the vulnerabilities this has created. Second, to set the foundation for a comparative analysis, the paper uses a neoclassical realist framework to conduct case studies of US and Soviet / Russian grand strategies in the Cold War (1980s) and New Era of Conflict (2007-2018), highlighting the role of cyber technology in the latter. Third, the study compares the cases to gain an understanding of the differences in international conflict between the eras. The paper then synthesizes these results with evidence of the state’s exploitation of cyber-related vulnerabilities, to draw conclusions on how cyber technology has impacted international conflict.

Collectively, these steps not only validate the hypothesis, but they also raise fundamental questions about current international relations theory and highlight important implications for US national security policy. In addition, by examining cyber technology’s impacts holistically, applying neoclassical realist theory in a novel way, and using a broad definition for international conflict, the paper expands theory application and fills a significant gap in the current literature.