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Feb. 6, 2017

International Affairs

Russia's President Vladimir Putin (C), Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov (L), and Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu attend a meeting at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia December 29, 2016

Mikhail Klimentyev/Sputnik/Kremlin/Reuters

After Moscow's Meddling in the Election, What Can the United States Do to Manage Relations with Russia?

Earlier this year, the U.S. intelligence community released a declassified report that described Russian activities intended to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election. While the Kremlin has a history of attempting to weaken the United States' standing in the world, the assessment found that the actions taken to influence the election represented an escalation over previous efforts.

Days after convening, the 115th Congress sent a clear signal that the Russian actions are not acceptable and that it will address the Kremlin's behavior. Legislation has been introduced in both chambers that would sanction individuals who interfere in U.S. elections. The Senate Intelligence Committee also announced that it would conduct an inquiry into Russian intelligence activities.

In the articles below, RAND experts provide insights to policymakers on how to deter foreign cyberattacks, manage security risks with Russia, and counter Russian propaganda.

Featured Work

How to Deter Foreign Cyberattacks on U.S. Elections

People protest as electors gather to cast their votes amid allegations of Russian hacking

Chris Chivvis writes that deterring foreign cyber-meddling in the U.S. electoral process will require convincing Russia and other adversaries that any future involvement will be either ineffective or too costly to be worthwhile. Both active and passive defense strategies can be used to render foreign interference ineffective.

To show that intrusion in the democratic process is too costly, the United States must demonstrate a will and capability to strike back. Washington could also move toward a stronger declaratory posture that clearly states to its adversaries that interfering in elections will not be tolerated.

Read the commentary »

No Quick Fix with Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin gives his annual state of the nation address

RAND expert and former U.S. ambassador to Georgia and Kazakhstan William Courtney joins other former ambassadors in asserting that ties with Russia are more likely to improve through a series of limited steps rather than by trying to reset relations through a grand bargain. While some argue that a summit meeting between President Trump and Russian President Putin is the best way to close gaps with Moscow, Western differences with Russia are too numerous and deeply ingrained to be quickly overcome.

"The Kremlin's current hostile policy toward the West, especially America, makes it harder to manage security risks. They are more likely to be reduced through a step-by-step process aimed at restoring dialogue, building confidence, and strengthening cooperation," remark the authors. Potential areas of engagement include upgrading military-to-military contacts, countering violent extremism, lessening the risks of nuclear proliferation and terrorism, and promoting sustainable economic development and environmental protection in the Arctic.

Read the commentary »

The Russian "Firehose of Falsehood" Propaganda Model: Why It Might Work and Options to Counter It

Visitors walk past TV sets showing a live broadcast from Russian President Vladimir Putin

In their analysis of Russia's propaganda operations, Christopher Paul and Miriam Matthews observe that while Russia's emphasis on obfuscation and getting targets to act in the interests of the propagandist are techniques torn from the old Soviet playbook, Moscow has taken full advantage of technology and media that were not available during the Cold War. These means include the Internet, social media, and professional and amateur journalists and media outlets.

The authors found that Russian propagandists use a large number of modes and channels to create a high volume of messages; disseminate partial truths and outright lies; spread misinformation rapidly, continuously, and repetitively; and lack a commitment to consistency. Research in social psychology shows these characteristics to be quite conducive to effective influence. To counter Russian propaganda, the United States and its allies should forewarn audiences about the sources and nature of propaganda, focus on countering the effects of the misinformation, compete against it by increasing the flow of persuasive and true information that supports U.S. and NATO objectives, and use various technical means, as appropriate, to eliminate or constrain the Russian propaganda sources.

Read the report »

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Jayme Fuglesten
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Kurt Card
Legislative Analyst

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