Russian cyber operations against the United States aim to both collect information and develop offensive capabilities against future targets. Washington must strengthen its defenses in response, according to a new report from the Carnegie Endowment’s Task Force on U.S. Policy Toward Russia, Ukraine, and Eurasia project.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman on Tuesday issued a blunt denial of U.S. allegations that the Kremlin intervened to help Donald Trump win the presidency, and expressed hope that Moscow will be able to “reset” its relationship with the new administration, The Washington Post reports:
Gleb Pavlovsky [right], a former Putin adviser, said in a recent interview that the Kremlin leader privately enjoys the attention the hacking accusations provide, both as a sign of his political power, as well as for the chaos it causes his adversaries in the United States.
Mr. Putin, a student of martial arts, had turned two institutions at the core of American democracy — political campaigns and independent media — to his own ends, The New York Times adds.
The United States needs to revive the political warfare skills it once possessed and that have since atrophied, says Council on Foreign Relations analyst Max Boot.
“Putin has shown himself to be a master of this game; other adversaries, including Iran and the Islamic State, also actively wage political warfare. We don’t have the luxury of saying that it’s beneath us to play that game. Nothing less than the future of democracy is at stake,” he writes for Foreign Policy:
Putin suspects the United States of waging just such a campaign against himself and his allies; he holds the CIA responsible for the 2005 and 2014 uprisings in Ukraine that defeated pro-Russian leader Viktor Yanukovych and the 2003 uprising in Georgia, which brought Mikheil Saakashvili to power. The irony is that, beyond the overt and benign democracy promotion efforts of the National Endowment for Democracy, Washington has done little to undermine anti-Western leaders or to promote pro-Western alternatives.
Time to push back
“Russian-sponsored rants about America get airtime in America, while U.S.-underwritten attempts to fairly and honestly inform Russians are massively curtailed,” note Jeffrey Gedmin and Gary Schmitt, respectively a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, and co-director of the Marilyn Ware Center for Security Studies at the American Enterprise Institute. “That’s not an uneven playing field; that’s our adversary owning the field and using America’s own liberality to attack U.S. policies and discredit Western values. The new administration needs to push back,” they write for The Washington Post:
Under U.S. law, there is a standing presumption that foreign ownership of broadcast companies or broadcast licenses may exceed 25 or 20 percent, respectively, only if the Federal Communications Commission determines that allowing it is in the public interest. However, while the law has not changed, the FCC has adopted more lenient rules for assessing that interest and indicated that it no longer frowns upon 100 percent foreign ownership.
In the case of Russia, we see vividly how human rights, democracy promotion and national security interests coincide, notes The Washington Post’s Jennifer Rubin. Ironically, human rights and grand strategy have not been as intertwined since the Cold War. In both time periods, the reason for the linkage was the same: Russia, she writes:
But now we need to be concerned, Arch Puddington of Freedom House says, “about Putin’s willingness to export his authoritarianism, undermine democracies, make its neighbors like Ukraine ungovernable and intervene into Europe.”
“We are not prejudging anyone,” Puddington told me over the phone. However, he continued, “There is a well-established tradition since Jimmy Carter that the U.S. incorporates values into foreign policy. There are things presidents can say and secretaries of state can say. There are democracy programs the government can support and promote. There are many different ways to push forward on democratic values and, in some cases, make a real difference. We want to hear the secretary of state [nominee] state that human rights is an important part of his mission.”