U.S policy towards Russia should be “based on a hard calculation of national interests and an unsentimental, non-ideological assessment of how Russia might help us advance or thwart our goals,” argues Thomas Graham, managing director at Kissinger Associates, and a former senior director for Russian on the National Security Council staff. “We should focus more on its external behavior and less on its internal politics,” he writes for The National Interest.
Whatever happens in Russia….
But such a stark distinction between the Kremlin’s revanchist foreign policy and domestic repression lacks validity, analysts suggest. By actively undermining international democratic norms and institutions, actively promoting illiberal ideology and unashamedly funding authoritarian parties abroad, the regime has inverted the Las Vegas principle: whatever happens in Russia, no longer stays in Russia.
China has become an incubator for the development of cutting-edge methods for controlling online communications, while Russian authorities have also boosted their capacity to pollute legitimate discussion, notes Christopher Walker, vice president for studies and analysis at the National Endowment for Democracy.
“In the era of globalization, authoritarian regimes are making their presence felt beyond their borders, and not only in the media and online. In regional and international organizations, activities such as election monitoring and their treatment of civil society, these regimes are reshaping the rules of the game,” he writes for The Financial Times:
It is particularly worrying that the authoritarian trendsetters, along with modernizing their domestic censorship toolkit, have adapted their techniques for international application. At home, these regimes employ censorship and propaganda methods which enable them to dominate the media space and create an alternative reality for domestic audiences. Abroad, Beijing and Moscow cannot control the media in the way they do domestically. Instead, these illiberal regimes exploit the openness of democracies and use trolls, disinformation and cyber attacks to pursue censorship beyond their borders.
“Authoritarian regimes have turned the openness of the modern information space to their own advantage,” notes Walker. “The democracies must reckon with this harsh reality if they are to safeguard free expression.” RTWT