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Tue May 14, 2019, 07:03 PM

Russia Has Americans' Weaknesses All Figured Out

Russia Has Americans’ Weaknesses All Figured Out

Election interference is one front in Moscow’s larger campaign to undermine the U.S. without prompting a military response.

Jim Sciutto at the Atlantic



U.S. military commanders, national-security officials, and intelligence analysts have a definitive answer: Russia is an enemy. It is taking aggressive action right now, from cyberspace to outer space, and all around the world, against the United States and its allies. But the public has been slow to catch on, polls suggest, and Trump has given Americans little reason to believe that their president recognizes Russia’s recent actions as a threat.

All the uncertainty is part of Vladimir Putin’s plan. America’s confusion is both a product and a principal goal of a qualitatively new kind of warfare that the Kremlin is waging—a campaign that systematically targets a democratic but politically divided society whose economy, media environment, and voting systems all depend on vulnerable electronic technologies. The essence of this strategy is to attack U.S. interests just below the threshold that would prompt a military response and then, over time, to stretch that threshold further and further. The purpose of this shadow war is simple: to create what Russian General Valery Gerasimov has called “a permanent front through the entire territory of the enemy state.”

In a 2013 article bearing the innocuous title “The Value of Science Is in the Foresight,” Gerasimov, one of Russia’s top military leaders, spelled out his government’s intentions. “In the twenty-first century, we have seen a tendency toward blurring the lines between the states of war and peace,” he wrote. “Wars are no longer declared and, having begun, proceed according to an unfamiliar template.”

Today Russia is applying this “unfamiliar template” on multiple battlefields at once. During the Cold War, Moscow had few levers by which to manipulate American public opinion or meddle in American political campaigns. But the rise of social media created opportunities for troll farms, and poorly secured email systems offered a bonanza for hackers. According to the January 2017 assessment of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Russia interfered in 2016 to “denigrate Hillary Clinton and harm her electability” with “a clear preference for President-elect Donald Trump.” It tried to interfere in the 2018 campaign, and all evidence suggests it will do the same in 2020.


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