The intelligence community’s top brass made one thing clear before a Senate panel on Tuesday: “We expect Russia to continue using propaganda, social media, false-flag personas, sympathetic spokesmen and other means to influence, to try to build on its wide range of operations and exacerbate social and political fissures in the United States,” Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats said. Russia, he continued, “views the 2018 U.S. midterm elections as a potential target for Russian influence operations.”
It says a lot that such truth-telling should seem remarkable. But for an administration run by a man who regularly stokes doubt about such facts, this was a refreshing dose of honesty from a group that included several of President Donald Trump’s appointees. Though Trump may see talk of 2016 election meddling as a political threat — and, perhaps, further Russian involvement as a potential political benefit — there are many in the government who are appropriately alarmed at the hostile actions of a foreign adversary. The question is whether they will do enough, particularly without strong White House support, to counter the next Russian influence campaign.
The sowing of doubt and division is only one aspect of the threat. Even more alarming is the possibility that Russian cyberintrusions could disrupt voter-registration files, vote counting and election infrastructure, or cast doubt on results.
The proper response to Russian aggression, as it was decades ago, is containment and deterrence, leveraging superior U.S. capabilities and relationships with strong allies. This starts by making it much clearer that Russia will pay a price for interference.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE WASHINGTON POST