The United States has failed to elevate Russia’s intervention in U.S. elections to the national priority that it is, and it has neglected to respond to it in a way sufficient to deter future attacks, warn Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellows Robert D. Blackwill and Philip H. Gordon in a new special report. They argue, “A wide range of additional measures is therefore needed in order to better protect U.S. society and political and electoral systems from further intervention.”
Surveying the full scope of the “extraordinary Russian attack on the core of the American democratic system” during the 2016 U.S. presidential election and beyond, Blackwill and Gordon—who served in Republican and Democratic administrations respectively—conclude that, “The United States is currently in a second Cold War with Russia.”
“The Russian effort to destabilize the United States does not take place in a vacuum. Rather, it stems from the Russian president’s strongly held view—shared by a wide range of Russians—that the spread of U.S. regional and global hegemony since the end of the Cold War threatens Russian vital national interests and deprives Russia of its rightful place on the world stage,” they explain.
“There is also little doubt that Russian interventions continue—both to influence upcoming elections and to divide Americans, fanning the flames of cultural, racial, and class resentment and seeking to delegitimize institutions, the free press, and elected officials,” the authors write.
The report’s prescriptions for U.S. policymakers are “designed in the first instance to deter Russia from again stoking disunity in the United States by making clear to the Kremlin and to its national security apparatus the significant cost of their activities.”
The recommendations in Containing Russia: How to Respond to Moscow’s Intervention in U.S. Democracy and Growing Geopolitical Challenge include:
- Expanded Sanctions. Working closely with European partners, implement asset freezes and visa bans on Russian officials and entities known to be involved with election and political interference. Current sanctions have “failed to send a sufficiently powerful message to Moscow.”
- Electoral and Cyber Countermeasures. Strengthen the cybersecurity of federal networks and critical infrastructure and support legislation to enhance transparency and update campaign finance laws to cover online activity.
- European Security. Work with European partners to expand sanctions, maintain the numbers of permanent NATO forces currently in Europe, and “deploy permanently an additional armored combat brigade in Poland and maintain permanent multinational battalions in the Baltic states.”