Containing Russia, Again: U.S. Must Deploy Strong Measures to Punish Moscow and Defend Against Future Threats

“With each passing week, the evidence of Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election—and in U.S. politics and society more generally—grows,” write Council on Foreign Relations Senior Fellows Robert D. Blackwill and Philip H. Gordon for Foreign Affairs. “Russia’s geopolitical challenge to the United States is also growing,” they warn. “[Russian President Vladimir] Putin has apparently concluded that a larger Russian regional and global role requires the weakening of American power, and the United States needs to rise to the challenge.”

“In the face of such a comprehensive challenge, strong new measures are needed to protect U.S. society from further intervention and punish Russia for attacking the United States,” urge the authors, both former high-level officials in previous administrations—Blackwill, for Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, and Gordon for Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

Tracing “the Kremlin’s unprecedented efforts to sow and exacerbate divisions among Americans,” they conclude that, “Growing domestic strife and diminishing trust in national institutions represent as great a threat to the United States as any traditional national security concern, with the exception of a nuclear attack.”

“Considering the gravity and consequences of the Russian intervention, the U.S. response has been grossly inadequate. The Obama administration was slow to realize the full extent of the Russian operation and, when it did, was reluctant to react,” Blackwill and Gordon note. “The Trump administration has done even less. Far from responding to Russia’s intervention, Trump has refused even to acknowledge that it happened.”

“Without a more vigorous and comprehensive response, the Kremlin’s meddling will continue,” caution the authors. “Washington needs to impose real costs on Moscow, while also enhancing defenses against future attacks and bolstering its military commitment to European allies most threatened by Moscow’s aggressive posture.”

“If this package of measures sounds like a prescription for a new Cold War with Russia, it is,” write Blackwill and Gordon.

The article is drawn from a forthcoming CFR special report, Containing Russia: How to Respond to Moscow’s Intervention in U.S. Democracy and Growing Geopolitical Challenge, which will be published at 2 p.m. Eastern Time on Friday on CFR.org.

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