ChinaOctober 15 2020, 11:57 am

RECOMMENDED READING: “The Shifting Chessboard Of International Influence Operations”

The Brook­ings Insti­tu­tion has pub­lished a short but use­ful sum­ma­ry of what Rus­sia, Chi­na, and Iran are var­i­ous­ly attempt­ing to achieve through their infor­ma­tion oper­a­tions. The arti­cle begins:

Sep­tem­ber 22, 2020 Microsoft recent­ly announced that it had detect­ed efforts by Rus­sia, Chi­na, and Iran to influ­ence the upcom­ing U.S. elec­tion. The dis­cov­ery should not come as any sur­prise. In his 2019 tes­ti­mo­ny, for­mer FBI Direc­tor Robert Mueller cau­tioned that Russia’s for­eign elec­tion inter­fer­ence “wasn’t a sin­gle attempt. They’re doing it as we sit here.” The rea­son the Rus­sians attempt­ed to influ­ence the elec­tion out­come in 2016 is sim­ple: They think that domes­tic pol­i­tics mat­ters for for­eign pol­i­cy. That cal­cu­lus hasn’t changed, so it’s no sur­prise that Rus­sia is again inter­est­ed in influ­enc­ing the U.S. elec­toral out­come. What’s dif­fer­ent this time around is the chess board of the inter­na­tion­al sys­tem: the actors, their pre­ferred out­comes, and their pre­ferred mech­a­nisms of influ­ence. The reprise Russians
In the last elec­tion, although the Rus­sians appeared to have a gen­er­al pref­er­ence for can­di­date Trump, they were pri­mar­i­ly inter­est­ed in sow­ing con­fu­sion, widen­ing polit­i­cal divides, and exac­er­bat­ing racial ten­sions. The ben­e­fit of a polar­ized U.S. domes­tic polit­i­cal land­scape is straight­for­ward: The more divid­ed the Unit­ed States is inter­nal­ly, the weak­er it will be inter­na­tion­al­ly and the less like­ly it will be to chal­lenge and con­strain Russ­ian inter­ests. Coher­ent for­eign pol­i­cy is pred­i­cat­ed on shared ref­er­ence points, fun­da­men­tal agree­ments across the aisle about U.S. inter­na­tion­al com­mit­ments. Dur­ing the Cold War, the Unit­ed States fash­ioned a bipar­ti­san con­sen­sus that remained large­ly intact until the fall of the Berlin Wall and the break-up of the Sovi­et Union, per­haps with a blip dur­ing the post-Viet­nam peri­od. Con­tain­ing Com­mu­nism, in par­tic­u­lar, gen­er­at­ed over­whelm­ing, con­sis­tent sup­port that trans­lat­ed into a suc­cess­ful strat­e­gy. But the rel­a­tive uni­ty of pur­pose that marked Amer­i­can views toward the country’s role in the world has not per­sist­ed in the post-Sovi­et era.

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