John Petrie Transcript

Clint Betts

John, thank you so much for joining the show and talking to us, talking to our community, sharing your insights and wisdom. You are the Global Chief Information Security Officer at NTT Security. Let's start there. What does that mean? And what is NTT Security?

John Petrie

Actually, I am the counselor to the Global CISO for NTT globally, and I have been the Global CISO for NTT Security, which is our go-to-market business.

Clint Betts

Oh, I see.

John Petrie

And so, today, I am really the deputy CSO for our international business. And it might be easier to start out with sort of organizationally what we at NTT are. First of all, NTT is a $110 billion corporation. It is a global multinational corporation with several lines of business, primarily telecom, with business in ICT. We also have financial, real estate, et cetera. So very large conglomerate. We're in 123 countries, with actual delivery capability in 180 plus countries with sales offices. NTT Security is really a small corporation underneath the umbrella of NTT. It operates in several countries and provides security solutions, both in managed security service providing, as well as individual products. So hopefully, that gives the audience a little bit of context.

Clint Betts

And those services, are they for companies or governments or both or organizations?

John Petrie

All of the above. Our client base is a number of governments, which I won't detail, and our clients range from large Fortune 100 to sort of the top end of small medium business. So generally speaking, our services are a little bit more expensive than a local mom and pop provider would use, but in general speaking, we cover the entire spectrum.

Clint Betts

Let me ask you this, how do you view the current security of the world?

John Petrie

So as a Japanese corporation, obviously, we're very sensitive to the impact potentially of China and the decisions China makes, geopolitically. NTT is a critical service provider for the government of Japan. That's public knowledge. We provide all kinds of services, including telecommunications. I also might note that the government of Japan owns about 33% of our telecom business. So for those who are in the business for a while, it's the old AT&T model from 30 years ago or longer.

So from a geopolitical perspective, we are obviously concerned locally within the Western Pacific and what China does. We're certainly concerned about the Taiwan scenario and what could happen in that area. However, we are a global company, so geopolitics across the world have a direct impact on us from a security perspective.

Certainly from a cybersecurity perspective, as the third largest telecom in the world, we have concerns across multiple fronts, multiple theaters, if you will, in military terms. We are concerned about Russia and what they do, certainly, in the Ukraine situation, now with Israel and the Palestinians and specifically the Hamas group, as well as Iran and what they do in the region. Those three areas, we are concerned about. We provide services in all of those regions.

Clint Betts

Let's start with the one that's top of mind for everyone and who knows how it will end or if it will end and how much worse it gets here. I can't imagine it getting too much worse, but I bet it will. Have you ever seen anything like this in the Middle East?

John Petrie

No. Interesting you asked that question. So I must state up front, I identify I have a bias in this area. My first experience was in 1979 in this region, specifically with Iran. My second experience was in 1983 with the Beirut bombing and dealing with primarily Hezbollah and some other organizations. And now, in the corporate world, I am involved with issues that are in Israel specifically.

We do have a presence in Israel, and we are concerned, obviously, from a personnel perspective, we have people on the ground. So I have experience in this area, and unfortunately, most of it has been negative. And I have a personal bias, in that I've been on the ground in these areas in a previous life and have experienced some of the worst impacts of war. And I think, in this particular case, I haven't seen anything specific like we saw on Saturday.

And so, again, I think everybody has to form their own personal opinions. As it relates to cybersecurity, this is really a low-tech war, initially, that started. It's old tactics, and maybe with some new spins on some of the warfare tactics. And if we want to talk about that, I certainly can. I think Israel, as a country, is in a no-win situation. They're in the middle of a region that doesn't want them to exist as a people. And now, it looks like, at least in the news today, that this could become a two front war for Israel, a very difficult situation. So again, we can take that in whatever direction you want to take, but I do have experience and I've seen this picture before.

Clint Betts

Well, I have a bunch of questions around that. Maybe we start with this one. What do you believe the United States' role is in this conflict, given that we're allies to both Palestine and Israel, if I'm not mistaken? Obviously, we're not allies of Hamas though, which is a different thing. So what do you think the United States' role here is?

John Petrie

Well, first of all, I think it's been very clearly stated by the president in his recent discussions and press releases, et cetera, I think we're going to stand by Israel and help defend, if we're asked to do that. Certainly, we're going to provide material support and humanitarian assistance, I think, to both sides, both the Palestinian people and the Israeli people moving forward. It is absolutely important to differentiate between the Palestinians themselves and Hamas as a terrorist organization. And so, I think the United States has to have a very unique role.

Now, will the United States get into it with people on the ground? Sad to say, we already have people on the ground, and so, we're already involved, at least in a support perspective. We have people that are providing logistics support, et cetera. I'm sure we have people on the ground providing intelligence related services. So supporting Israel, I think, will continue. Do we get US forces on the ground? I don't think we do unless Iran directly gets involved. And then, perhaps, that is a scenario where we might provide US forces. As it relates to providing health and resources that will help the populations, I think we'll continue to do that through organizations, such as the Red Cross.

Clint Betts

I don't have anywhere near your extensive worldview and international and everything that you've been through in your career, but I have been surprised by the reaction within the United States and that it's somewhat of a divisive issue. There are actually people, it seems, and organizations, it seems, I don't want to be more clear than that, that are supporting Hamas within the United States. What has been your reaction to how the United States people have reacted to what's happening?

John Petrie

I think, first of all, let's try to take a look at it demographic-wise first, because I think there's an extensive difference when you get into 30 plus, 40 years old and above, I think the overall population and that demographic probably will support Israel. They will not support Hamas as an organization. When you start getting into college level demographics, say 21 to 30, and certainly, in your more Ivy League type universities, I think you see that trend of support to Hamas going forward and at a higher percentage.

I think the reason for the differences is because I don't believe that the younger generation and the current college level students, if you will, I don't believe that they understand that there's a difference between Hamas and Palestinian people. And I think that's been primarily the fault of our educators, who have not been able to differentiate between the two, and therefore, I think the student population draws attention to the fact that Israel is attacking the Palestinian people.

And I think that's a wrong viewpoint. I certainly don't agree with it. And having been there and understanding the difference between a general Palestinian family or people that are in the Palestinian population, most of them do not support Hamas as an entity, but they're forced to live in that environment. Now, there are some people who would say that they've taken their side by electing Hamas as a governing body. I'm not sure they had much of a choice, but that’s neither here nor there. I think the bottom line is that, within the demographics, I don't think the younger generation understands the difference between Hamas, the terror organization, and the Palestinian people.

So I think that's what drives the differences and why we're seeing protests, because of that clear misunderstanding by the people that are coming out in support of Hamas. Now, having said all of that, again to show a little bit of my bias here, I don't support Hamas in any way, shape or form. A terrorist organization is a terrorist organization. What they've done and the atrocities that they've committed in general terms, I think, is I can't even understand why human beings would think that's even acceptable.

Now, having said all of that, again, that's probably biased on my part, because I've seen those atrocities in the past, not in this particular incident yet, other than the pictures. But whenever these kinds of things occur, I don't care who they are, they're doing these kinds of actions and atrocities, then any right human being could not support this.

Clint Betts

How bad can this get over the next month?

John Petrie

Well, certainly, the Israelis appear to have decided that they're going to root out Hamas as completely as they can, which means they'll have to go in and it's going to be an urban combat situation within Gaza. They're going to have to fight house to house, tunnel to tunnel, person to person, identify them. If they're not considered Hamas, actual Hamas fighters, you're going to have to separate those out, and more casualties are going to occur as they clear house to house.

I think the second thing that Israel has to be concerned about is a two front war. And it looks like Hezbollah has decided that they're going to get involved. There's been recent reports of them firing rockets from Southern Lebanon into Israel. Hezbollah is much more capable than Hamas is, although Hamas had huge successes in the context of warfare. But Hezbollah is more sophisticated with their weaponry.

And so, at some point in time, Israel's probably going to need to effectively ask for some additional assistance from, primarily, the United States, and that could be in the form of having our airplanes, our technology, used in supporting them in different ways. If they ask and if the United States participates, I think that creates the tinderbox of Iran getting involved more heavily. And again, that could create a three front war, at least two fronts immediately, Russia, Ukraine fighting, Iran and their subsidiaries fighting against Israel, and the United States supporting both of those. And then, the potential for President Xi and China to do something with the Taiwan situation at the same time. So how bad could it get? Could get really, really bad. And the United States, historically, has never fought a three front war.

Clint Betts

What happens if Iran gets involved?

John Petrie

So I think the decision has to be made, do we confront it or not? I think, again, slight bias here, only having interaction with the Revolutionary Guard, I think, if Iran gets involved, there's going to be a huge political decision that has to be made by the Biden administration specifically. And that is, do you take them on now? Do you get involved? Do you stop this terrorist support that they've been doing since 1979, with organizations across the globe? Do you get involved? Do you stop it and become, in a wartime situation, committing more capability, both human as well as resources, and fight side by side with Israel? And does that get the Arab community galvanized against Israelis in the US? There's all kinds of things that would have to be thought about before you do that. However, if Iran does get involved, I think somebody's going to have to step in and prevent that from spreading.

Clint Betts

In your opinion, does the United States have the resources, capacity, and even political will, to be engaged in two conflicts? Forget the third, with what you're saying around the China thing and Taiwan being a possibility, that's crazy, but can we even do Ukraine and Russia and Israel-Palestine at the same time?

John Petrie

Well, could we do World War II with Germany and Japan at the same time? The answer was no at the beginning, and we had the resolve. However, these are different times. Will the population support a two front war if we had to get into it? And let's not forget, we haven't committed any troops to the Ukraine-Russia situation at this point, just resources.

Now, if we have to supply a larger and potential switch of support to provide resources, specifically equipment, munitions, et cetera, to Israel and to other like-minded countries against Iran, which theoretically, could be places like, I don't know, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, et cetera, and we have to get in that kind of war, do we have the capabilities to support both fronts?

We would have to spin up a huge industrial complex, that doesn't exist as it did during World War II, and so, therefore, do we have the intestinal fortitude to make that happen? I don't have that answer, and I'm not sure I want to speculate on that. I think, if Americans get attacked directly in some way, shape, or form, and the American resolve changes to support us defending ourselves, that changes the entire scenario.

Right now, I think there probably is a 50/50 split in the United States about doing anything that will get our troops or our forces heavily involved. But who knows? So the answer to your question is I don't know if we have the capability to do both at the same time. I would hope that, if we make that decision, it's for all the right reasons and that we have a hundred percent support. Because once we're committed into a two front war, you're going to have to carry it through.

Clint Betts

If you're Vladimir Putin and you see what's happening in the Gaza Strip, are you thinking, "Hey, this is good for Russia" or "This is bad for Russia?"

John Petrie

So I'm not going to try to get into Vladimir Putin's mindset. I've had to deal with his cronies before personally as well, at least on the intelligence side. I think, if the substance of the talks that Putin had with Xi and that Putin had with the Ayatollah, I think if those conversations were strategic enough where that he was involved or at least knew what Hamas was going to do at a very, very low level, and that this is part of a much bigger strategic plan, I think he moves forces into Ukraine, probably right now before the winter gets too heavy in Ukraine. And I think he tries to take it, and it's at that point NATO has to get involved and make a decision on whether they're going to fully support Ukraine. I would think that they would. And then, I think Putin ties up a bunch of our forces by doing that. And then, depending on what Iran does, it could become really, really bloody. And at some point in time, you've got to make that other decision we just talked about, do you get involved directly with Iran?

Clint Betts

That sounds like World War III.

John Petrie

Yeah, unfortunately, I think that this is a huge tinderbox right now. And for anybody that's been involved in warfare, myself included, combat, or has seen death in its warfare form, nobody wants to see that. That could turn into even a higher form of warfare, where we now involve nuclear weapons. And let's not forget, anybody can check the internet or scholarly documents and find out who's got nuclear weapons. It's a pretty long list in that region, and so, that could escalate as well. And yeah, you could be talking about World War III, and I can't believe anybody really wants to see that happen.

Clint Betts

As I understand it, China and Russia are not natural allies.

John Petrie

China and Russia generally hate each other.

Clint Betts

But because of the Ukraine War, it seems like they've become a little bit closer and because maybe their interests align currently, they've become a little bit closer. How bad would it be if Xi and Putin just partnered up together and did this larger strategic thing that you're talking about, where they have some sort of sense of what's going to happen in Hamas, go take Ukraine, and then, Xi goes into Taiwan, all at the same time? That's a lot for the United States to deal with, and the world.

John Petrie

Yes, I think that is a lot. But if our military personnel, our generals, our planners, our people are thinking through all the possibilities, if that's not one of the scenarios, then they're failing. And I think that has to be put in the overall thing. And I would add one more player. Let's not forget who we've been talking about. If Iran is providing weapons to Putin, which they are, if China is providing munitions to Putin, which they are, if Putin's providing other logistical support and agreements and the ability for Iran to wash its cash and to continue to have the money to support the terrorism effort, if we take President Xi at his word, and he's going to do something about Taiwan before his granddaughter becomes of age, then all of those things are on the table, and they all are possibilities. And I think that the fact that the Ayatollah, President Xi, and Putin are all talking, in one way, shape, or form, maybe not altogether, although there are press reports that their military leaders are all talking together, but the actual leaders are not, that should scare people.

Clint Betts

How important is leadership in a time like this? And do we have it?

John Petrie

Yeah, so you're going to try to put me in a box. I'm not going to go there.

Clint Betts

I don't want you to make a political statement, but yeah, I don't want you to bash any party or president or anything like that. Maybe just answer the first question, how important is leadership here?

John Petrie

So leadership is huge. Leadership, all the way, up and down, both the political spectrum, as well as the military spectrum. I think the leadership now is not just the general officers, and they are important. Everybody knows they're important, but it's the supporting teams underneath those general officers, the people that are actually doing the strategic planning, executing that, make all the wheels turn at the right time, at the right place, in the right synchronization, all of those things, all of those leaders have to lead.

They can't be sitting on the sidelines or partially producing. Same thing on the political side. And clearly, the US is in somewhat of a disarray. We have no Speaker. The president, at least visibly, is challenged right now. And I think the other leaders of organizations, such as NATO, I think they're probably concerned, "Are they willing to make the sacrifices necessary to make a leadership decision and, hopefully, the right leadership decision politically?" I don't know that all of those are in the place at the moment.

Clint Betts

In your career, over the years, how important has leadership been? And are there examples of like, "Hey, what happened here when these two leaders got together or this one leader did this, it made all the difference in the world?"

John Petrie

Well, I'm sure there's a lot of examples from the dawn of warfare, that, from a military perspective, specific leaders have been absolutely crucial to success. They've also been able to define, "What are the success factors, in business terms? What does it mean when we win?" Nobody's really said that and nobody's really committed to what winning is, right? And so, it's always this challenge, the political versus the military, to have the leaders agree and march in one direction, if you will. So to answer your question, for me, there's a couple of leaders throughout my military career that have absolutely been essential. One of those is General Al Gray. I think he was a Marine's Marine, if you will. He came from the enlisted ranks and rose to Commandant.

His only guiding principle was that leaders had to take the responsibility to take care of their Marines, no matter what the situations were, that was their first goal and objective. The second goal and objective was to win the battle. And so, I think those kinds of statements, in a time of war, are very important. And there are several generals and admirals within our current US forces that have that capability.

There are current leaders within the Israeli command right now, coming back to our first topic, that are absolutely capable and can lead their people. And they understand what winning is going to mean and what sacrifices have to be made to get there. And so, I think that's important. In a political context, in leading the country, now, I'm not a politician, I don't have that kind of experience, but I think rallying the populace and getting populace support to move in a direction is much more of an art than a science.

It is something that you have to yourself believe in and take that from a leader's perspective and translate that into the populace, so that you have support to execute. And I think examples of that are people like Reagan, like Eisenhower, like in some cases, even Kennedy, although he had some issues, I think he was able to rally the populace in the United States. And so, those leaders, I think, are important. But there's a number of those, that, I think, in this day and age, if this becomes a conflict, more than what it is right at the moment, I think we're going to need those leaders. I'm not sure they're in place.

Clint Betts

Coming back to the current conflict and where we're at right now, rather than like, "Hey, here's where we could potentially be," which is super scary, what we've talked about so far, what are the proper warfare tactics for Israel right now as they go into Gaza and, as they've said, wipe out Hamas? We need to first understand what "wipe out Hamas" means, and two, what is the proper warfare tactic here that could potentially stop the spread of this becoming World War III?

John Petrie

Well, I think the academic answer is that Israel does not go in and conduct an urban campaign to root out Hamas, and Hamas steps back and tries to look for some peaceful way out of this. I don't think that's going to happen, because I don't think Hamas wants that. They want the destruction of Israel. So anytime you have, even back as far as Attila the Hun, if you want to destroy a people, you're not going to negotiate with that kind of mindset. And so, the next layer, if you will, if you understand that you can't get to a peaceful solution, I think Israel has to play a bad word. They have to execute the campaign within the laws of war. And those laws of war are somewhat flexible, but they're doing the right things right now. So they're notifying when they're going to bomb a building. They're providing enough time for civilians to leave the buildings and get out.

They're notifying the other side, the fighting entities, via pamphlets, that they're coming through. They're putting themselves at risk by letting people know what they're going to be doing. 20 years ago, 30 years ago, maybe 50 years ago, we wouldn't have notified. We would've just walked in and done what we needed to do. Second, they're going to have to be overly cautious about any impact to civilian populations. And that's going to be difficult in this situation, because Hamas is going to mix in with that population. The population will be so scared, and they won't want to identify those fighters, the Hamas fighters. And so, they'll be mixed in with the civilian population.

So they have to be overly cautious about how they detain, how they move people, how they allow people to stay within the confines of the operating area that the forces are going to be operating in. So bottom line is that they're going to have to exceed the laws of war. They're going to have to be extremely sensitive. They're going to have to be extremely cautious, and that's difficult to do in wartime. And so, provided that everything goes a hundred percent right, they should maintain the support of like-minded nations as they move through. And I think that they will reach their objective, and that is to move and destroy Hamas as a fighting organization.

Clint Betts

As you look at the economic state of the world and inflation and what's happening in the United States, with prices going up and there's inflation all around the world, of course, China's economy is not doing great, Russia's economy is not doing great, United States economy isn't doing great, it's doing better than all of those, Europe's not doing great. When I see something like that, I'm like, "So that's instability." What role does the economy play in business and all of this type of stuff in helping to gain some stability?

John Petrie

Well, certainly, if we can turn the economy around, and "we" meaning the big we, all of the industrial bases, all of the business structures, if they maintain that stability and drive inflation down, continue to keep their employees employed across the country, where that they're not continuously thinking about the potential for World War III, as an example, I think that changes some of the dynamics. However, we continue, again, from a leadership role, if we continue to spend money we don't have, continue to pay forward, in the sense of a negative pay forward, I think we see the potential for our banking system to collapse. Depending on which system goes first, that could actually facilitate a quicker rise to all out world war.

If leaders can continue to move forward on doing something about the debt, allowing businesses to move forward, probably in this particular case, reduce some of the regulatory requirements, so businesses can spend their money more frugally, relating to improving their products and delivery of their services, I think that stabilizes the economy. Without a stabilized economy moving forward, and God forbid inflation drives us to the brink, I think there's a huge problem ahead. I'm not an economist, but in every war that you could go back in history, the lack of a stable economy has always driven the worst in people, therefore, the extension of the time it takes to solve a war problem or to come to a peaceful solution.

Clint Betts

How do you stay optimistic?

John Petrie

I have grandkids. So I think you have to stay optimistic. I sit in an organization that, as an American in a Japanese corporation, I think we're extremely diversified, so there's all kinds of viewpoints. I think, as a leader, you have to stay positive, and that doesn't mean you don't tell the truth. It means that you have to put some of those truths in context. And so, when I'm asked the questions that you're asking me by my employees, I give those truthful answers.

But also, "Here's what we're going to do to try to stay motivated, to try to look on the brighter side, to try to stay positive. Here's how we're going to do that, and here's how we do that together." I think that's a leader's responsibility to do that. And again, I think that's difficult for some of these leaders, who maybe don't have the experiences that some of us do have and don't understand what's happened in the past.

I think they always think there's a better way to do things, and sometimes, there's not. And one of those things that you have to do all the time is to keep your employees motivated, if you're a leader in business or even if you're just at a line manager level, keeping your employees up to date, keeping them happy, taking care of them the best that you can. That absolutely applies to your family. And I think the family units, whatever those may be in today's demographics, I think those have to be kept together and they have to be reminded that there is light at the end of the tunnel. There's a way to be successful, and I think that's the way I try to look at things.

Clint Betts

John, I can't thank you enough for joining us and sharing your expertise and experiences here. Seriously, I could probably talk to you for another three hours on this. We end every CEO interview the same way with the same question. I'm super fascinated how you're going to answer it.

At CEO.com, we believe the chances one gives are just as important as the chances one takes. And I wonder, when you hear that, who comes to mind, that gave you a chance in your career, in your life, to get you to where you are today?

John Petrie

Yeah, that list is very long and extensive. You never get to a position where you're a CEO, I've been a CEO or a leader within either an organizational structure of whatever type, you never get there by yourself. You always have somebody that is, A, supporting you, and B, there's always that individual or two that have put their hand out, mentored you, et cetera. And I know we're getting close to time, but I found this whole subject fascinating about who has helped me. And so, I wrote a book about it, and I talk about all the things that happened over my career, the mistakes that I made as an individual, in decisions that might not have been the right decisions at the time, but also, the people that guided me along the way. And we really didn't have mentors in the early part of my career.

You were out there facing your own. Certainly, cybersecurity is a very young profession. We were all, of my age, we were all trying to figure out our own ways at the time. So mentorship is important, and so, giving back is important. But I think a couple of folks along the way have given me an extreme amount of guidance. I'm not going to name those during this call. It's listed in my book, and I think I encourage everybody to read it. The title of that book is From Private to CEO (And Some Stuff In Between). It was printed in 2019.

Clint Betts

We'll make sure we put it in the link to all of this and share it with our community.

John Petrie

Sure.

Clint Betts

John, thank you so much for coming on, sharing your insights and your take on the current state of the world. It means a lot. Thank you so much for joining us.

John Petrie

Glad to do it, and appreciate you having me. And good luck to everybody.

Clint Betts

Thank you.

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