Shaheen Applauds Senate Foreign Relations Committee Report Detailing Putin’s Attacks on Democracy and Russian Interference in US Elections

January 10, 2018

**U.S. Remains Vulnerable to Russian Interference without Unequivocal Presidential Leadership, Learning Lessons from European Democracies** 

**Report Makes Series of Recommendations to Counter Putin’s Asymmetric Arsenal, Bolster Defenses Ahead of Future U.S., European, Elections**

(Washington, DC) – A Senate Foreign Relations Committee Democratic staff report released Wednesday and commissioned by U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) details Russian president Vladimir Putin’s nearly two decades-long assault on democratic institutions, universal values and the rule of law across Europe and in his own country. U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) has actively called for a unified response to the Kremlin in the wake of their 2016 attack against the U.S. elections and was recently sanctioned by the Kremlin for her work to counter Russian aggression. The report, titled “Putin’s Asymmetrical Assault on Democracy in Russia and Europe: Implications for U.S. National Security,” makes a series of recommendations to adequately bolster U.S. and European defenses and counter the growing Kremlin threat to democratic institutions.

The report finds that President Trump’s refusal to publicly acknowledge the threat posed by the Russian government has hampered efforts to mobilize our government, strengthen our institutions and work with our European allies to counter Putin’s interference in democracies abroad. Never before in American history has so clear a threat to national security been so clearly ignored by a U.S. president, and without a strong U.S. response, institutions and elections here and throughout Europe will remain vulnerable to the Kremlin’s aggressive and sophisticated malign influence operations.

"There’s no question that the Kremlin continues to use hybrid tools to interfere in democracies worldwide,” said Shaheen. “However, because of President Trump’s refusal to fully acknowledge Russia’s actions against our own elections, the United States continues to lag behind the rest of the world in devising a comprehensive, enduring response against this threat. With the 2018 elections fast approaching, it’s important to heed the lessons of like-minded, democratic allies, which are so eloquently compiled by Senator Cardin.  I have no doubt that this report will benefit our Committee and collective efforts for years to come, and I hope that the anecdotes and recommendations presented will ultimately help persuade President Trump to respond to this growing threat with strength, leadership and clear determination.”   

The report details the tools the Russian government has repeatedly deployed from its asymmetric arsenal and how the Kremlin has learned and perfected its techniques attacking democracy both internally and abroad. Such tools – drawn largely from a Soviet-era playbook, but updated with new technologies – include military incursions, cyberattacks, disinformation, support for fringe political groups and the weaponization of energy resources, organized crime and corruption. Through her assignments on both the Senate Foreign Relations and Armed Services Committees, Senator Shaheen has sought to bolster the U.S. government’s cyber defenses by banning Kaspersky Lab from critical U.S. systems. She has also called on Kremlin-sponsored channels, RT and Sputnik, to register as foreign agents and act in a more transparent manner. 

The report includes more than 30 recommendations for the U.S. and its allies.  Key recommendations include:

  • First, Mr. Trump must demonstrate presidential leadership by declaring it is U.S. policy to deter all forms of Russian hybrid threats and begin to mobilize our government in defense. He should establish a high-level inter-agency fusion cell, modeled on the National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), to coordinate all elements of U.S. policy and programming in response to the Kremlin’s malign influence operations.
  • Second, the U.S. government should provide assistance, in concert with allies in Europe, to build democratic institutions within those European and Eurasian states most vulnerable to Russian government interference. As part of this effort, the President should convene an annual global summit on hybrid threats, modeled on the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL or the Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) summits. To reinforce these efforts, members in the U.S. Congress have a clear responsibility to show U.S. leadership on values by making democracy and human rights a central part of their agendas. They should conduct committee hearings and use other platforms and opportunities to publicly advance these issues. 
  • Third, the United States and our allies should expose and freeze Kremlin-linked dirty money. The U.S. Treasury Department should make public any intelligence related to Mr. Putin’s personal corruption and wealth stored abroad and take steps with our European allies to cut off Mr. Putin and his inner circle from the international financial system.
  • Fourth, the U.S. government should designate countries that employ malign influence operations to assault democracies as State Hybrid Threat Actors and subject them to a preemptive, escalatory sanctions regime that would be applied whenever the state uses asymmetric weapons like cyberattacks to interfere with a democratic election or disrupt a country’s critical infrastructure. The U.S. government should also produce yearly public reports that detail the Russian government’s malign influence operations in the U.S. and around the world.
  • Fifth, the U.S. government and NATO should lead a coalition of countries committed to mutual defense against cyberattacks, to include the establishment of rapid reaction teams to defend allies under attack. The U.S. government should also call a special meeting of the NATO heads of state to review the extent of Russian government-sponsored cyberattacks among member states and develop formal guidelines on how the Alliance will consider such attacks in the context of NATO’s Article 5 collective defense provision.
  • Finally, U.S. and European governments should mandate that social media companies make public the sources of funding for political advertisements, along the same lines as TV channels and print media. Social media companies should conduct comprehensive audits on how their platforms may have been used by Kremlin-linked entities to influence elections occurring over the past several years and should establish civil society advisory councils to provide input and warnings about emerging disinformation trends and government suppression. In addition, they should work with philanthropies, governments and civil society to promote media literacy and reduce the presence of disinformation on their platforms.

The full report and some accompanying summary documents can be found at the following links: