A Comparative Review of Russian Interference in Democratic Elections and Lessons Learned for Securing Future Elections were published by the Center for American Progress.
The report analyzes different countries’ approaches to prevent, mitigate, and respond to Russian interference operations and draws lessons for policymakers and stakeholders ahead of the 2020 U.S. election.
Authors of the study are confident, that Russian attempts to sow discord in the United States are ongoing, as Russian President Vladimir Putin continuously seeks to weaken and undermine Western democracies. Some lines of effort, such as disinformation, are perpetually active, even between election cycles. In fact, Project Lahkta, which was the code name given to the Russian disinformation campaign targeting the 2016 election, began in 2014 and ran through the 2018 midterm elections, and there is no reason to believe that it has ceased.
Following Russia’s 2016 interference campaign, analysts and journalists have spent a great deal of time dissecting Russian strategy, arguing that Putin has developed a new way of war. Terms such as “hybrid war” and the “Gerasimov Doctrine” have become commonplace. But in reality, Russia’s interference campaign is a renewal of Soviet-era intelligence operations, dating back to the earliest days of the Soviet Union. George Kennan, the American diplomat and architect of America’s Cold War containment strategy, referred to this approach as “political war.”
The report also analyzes how democracies in Europe have responded to Russian interference, and shows some of the most high-profile examples that have taken place since the 2016 election. This list is not comprehensive and does not focus on cases from before the 2016 American election. For example: 2017 French presidential election, 2019 European Parliament election, 2018 Swedish general election or 2017 German national election etc.
In the end of study authors indicate on lessons learned during this period and recommendations for 2020. The following are some of the recommendations:
1) To send a clear, bipartisan message. Leaders at every level of government should make clear in public remarks that interference in U.S. elections will not be tolerated.
2) To enact robust sanctions legislation. Failing to properly take action to respond effectively to the events in 2016 will undermine any future attempts to seriously deter malignant activities around the 2020 election.
3) To develop and vigorously promote a public awareness campaign.
The campaign should be a whole-of-government strategic communications push, spearheaded by the Department of Homeland Security.
4) To demand full transparency. When appropriate, law enforcement and prosecutors should also make indictments and related documents public to help expose these influence campaigns to all U.S. citizens.
Russia is always attempting to subvert Western democracies. As elections present an especially easy target, ongoing as well as ramped-up Russian interference in the 2020 race is all but certain. It has been a factor in one way or another in almost every democratic process since 2016, and when examining these recent interference efforts, it becomes clear that democracies around the world can learn a great deal from each other. America’s democratic allies can learn from the American experience;
But many European countries have been far more proactive when it comes to election security, and there is much that America can learn from its allies’ experiences. Free and fair elections are a fundamental democratic principle. By studying the lessons outlined above, candidates, political parties, and members of the public can help ensure that the United States will be better prepared to defend its elections from hostile foreign actors.
More about the study here