Following the UK’s slow acceptance of the Russia threat, ranking member of the Committee, Senator Benjamin Cardin, pulls no punches from the opening line of the most explosive official report in years.
“For years, Vladimir Putin’s government has engaged in a relentless assault to undermine democracy and the rule of law in Europe and the United States. Mr. Putin’s Kremlin employs an asymmetric arsenal that includes military invasions, cyberattacks, disinformation, support for fringe political groups, and the weaponization of energy resources, organized crime, and corruption,” Cardin wrote.
“The Kremlin has refined the use of these tools over time and these attacks have intensified in scale and complexity across Europe. If the United States fails to work with urgency to address this complex and growing threat, the regime in Moscow will become further emboldened. It will continue to develop and re-fine its arsenal to use on democracies around the world, including against U.S. elections in 2018 and 2020,” he added.
Even at the outset, the incumbent President, Donald Trump, installed in the White House by Putin working with far-right partners, is not spared from the Committee’s assessment.
“the current President of the United States has barely acknowledged the threat posed by Mr. Putin’s repeated attacks on democratic governments and institutions, let alone exercised the kind of leadership history has shown is necessary to effectively counter this kind of aggression. Never before in American history has so clear a threat to national security been so clearly ignored by a U.S. president,” Cardin wrote.
Pleasingly, Cardin draws the same distinction I always have: that between Putin’s Russian state and Russian people. He wrote: “Many Russian citizens strive for a transparent, accountable government that operates under the democratic rule of law, and we hold hope for better relations.”
The report, written by key Democrats, mirrors my own work of 2017 and broadly confirms every aspect of Alternative War, which was published last August in the public interest.
“Putin’s government has engaged in a relentless assault to undermine democracy and the rule of law in Europe and the United States. Mr. Putin’s Kremlin employs an asymmetric arsenal that includes military invasions, cyberattacks, disinformation, support for fringe political groups, and the weaponization of energy resources, organized crime, and corruption”
In summary, the report draws near identical conclusions to those published here at Byline and in Alternative War last year.
1. Mr. Putin has thus made it a priority of his regime to attack the democracies of Europe and the United States and undermine the transatlantic alliance upon which Europe’s peace and prosperity have depended upon for over 70 years. He has used the security services, the media, public and private companies, organized criminal groups, and social and religious organizations to spread malicious disinformation, interfere in elections, fuel corruption, threaten energy security, and more.
2. The tactics that Putin has deployed to undermine democracies abroad were developed at home, and over nearly two decades he has used them against the Russian people with increased impunity. The result has been hundreds of billions of dollars stolen and spirited away abroad, all while independent media and civil society, elections, political parties, and cultural institutions have been manipulated and suppressed, significantly hindering effective domestic opposition.
3. Putin oversaw an opportunistic expansion of malign influence operations abroad, targeting vulnerable states on Russia’s periphery, as well as countries in Western institutions like the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). The Kremlin has substantially increased its investments in propaganda outlets beyond Russia’s borders, funded and supported nongovernmental organizations and political parties that advanced Mr. Putin’s anti-EU and anti-NATO agenda, nationalized mafia groups to help launder money and commit other crimes for the state abroad, and used its near-monopoly over energy supplies in some countries to exert influence and spread corruption.
4. In consolidated democracies within the EU and NATO, the Russian government seeks to undermine support for sanctions against Russia, interfere in elections through overt or covert support of sympathetic political parties and the spread of disinformation, and sow discord and confusion by exacerbating existing social and political divisions through disinformation and cultivated ideological groups.
5. While the countries of Europe have each had unique responses to the Kremlin’s aggression, they have also begun to use regional institutions to knit together their efforts and develop best practices. NATO and the EU have launched centers focused on strategic communications and cyber defense, and Finland’s government hosts a joint EU/NATO center for countering hybrid threats. A number of independent think tanks and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have also launched regional disinformation monitoring and factchecking operations, and European governments are supporting regional programs to strengthen independent journalism and media literacy.
The report extensively covers Brexit and the deployment of Russian disinformation networks during the referendum, broadly covered here last year.
The full document has been published by the Senate and is available here – reading is compulsory.
Fittingly, the first extract of my next project was released today and features below.
The Art Of Hybrid War is due for release in March 2018 and details on how you can support the work or simply pre-order can be found here.