Whatever red lines are raised, the fact remains that meddling in previous US elections has been incredibly inexpensive to the Russian government. The State-backed Internet Research Agency, to give a figure, spent a mere $ 46,000 on Facebook ads before election day 2016 which reached 126 million Americans. Its overall budget around September 2016, according to the US Department of Justice documents, was over $ 1.25 million per month, which is not much for a billionaire oligarch and Putin are trying to wreak havoc on US elections, especially with the hundreds of millions spent by the candidates. Such tactics stem from a long history of Russian security agencies and various front organizations using “active measures” to engage in covert activities, below the threshold of armed conflict, to stir up division and promote the objectives of the leaders. The internet has made today’s version even cheaper to run.
Washington has done relatively little in response. Many U.S. diplomats, law enforcement officials, and intelligence officials have publicly raised the issue of election interference under the Trump administration, although more often than not Trump contradicts and attacks them. United States possesses implemented a lot punishments on the Russian government, including recent additions from the Biden administration, which many Argue at least communicate in the Kremlin that election interference will get an American response. But reporting dissatisfaction is not the same as making the activity considerably more expensive or more difficult to perform.
US technology platforms have not fundamentally changed their business models and website structures to prevent (cheaply built) Russian “troll factories” from spreading disinformation. While these companies highlight the money spent to fight influencer operations, they still, in many ways, fight their own systems designed for maximum engagement and micro-targeting. Remember, for example, how Russian agents basically used Facebook advertising works as is in 2016 and 2018. And these players are constantly evolving targets, adapt their techniques for continuing to execute trades on the same platforms.
On the other hand, the gains have been significant for Moscow: information campaigns carried out without serious resistance, extensive US media coverage of Russian electoral interference, and narrative fuel for Putin’s strongman image. Not to mention that the Kremlin already sees itself in an information conflict with the West. Certainly, there is propagandistic value in these kinds of comments – for example, suggesting that America’s social media platforms are tools of subversion – but they also reflect a genuine Kremlin belief in the United States and the global Internet. and open. The Kremlin’s profitability decisions take place in this context.
Some things have improved; American journalists could be less prone to selectively cover pirated and leaked material like the Democratic National Committee in 2016, now more aware of how they are used to manufacturing scandal. Biden has also vocally engaged in cybersecurity dialogues with his Russian counterparts, an important part of contemporary diplomacy that has been degraded by the Trump administration.
Going forward, narrowly defining what attacks or infrastructure is considered “out of bounds” will be a key part of these lower level cybersecurity dialogues. Biden’s trip itself, and related public statements against election interference, also underscore the White House’s priority of diplomacy to U.S. allies and partners – another perk of the summit. Although if Putin’s electoral interference calculation is really going to change in the future, the same old American answers are barely enough.
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