Editor’s Note: The German Marshall Fund’s Alliance for Securing Democracy recently hosted a discussion on Responding to Russia’s Attacks on Democracy featuring Senator Ben Cardin, Congressman Will Hurd, and former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff. We asked Congressman Hurd for his perspective on Russian interference in democracy and what needs to be done to address it.
How worried should Americans be about Russian interference in democracy, both here in the United States and around the world?
We should be worried because the Russians have been perfecting hybrid warfare and active measures around the world. What we call in the U.S. intelligence community “disinformation,” they have been perfecting it for three decades. They have gotten pretty good at it, and guess what? They are not going to stop. Their goal is to undermine trust in our democratic institutions. They know they cannot beat us economically, and they cannot beat us militarily, so this is something they will continue to do and we have to be prepared for it.
What actions should the United States take to secure our democracy and the democracies of our allies around the world?
Hybrid warfare, active measures — all of this is covert action. Countering covert action has historically been one of the responsibilities of the CIA. The CIA is not allowed to do covert action in the United States of America. So who has the responsibility in dealing with this? It is not just a public sector issue. We need to get the private sector, academia, and the press involved as well. We need a broader strategy that includes the public and the private sector. Highlighting the problem is important. It is important for social media companies to highlight the tactics, tools, and procedures the Russian’s are using to erode trust. But I ultimately think that the spearhead of this has to be something between the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security.
Do you agree that Russian interference in Europe is not just eroding democracy but also threatening America’s national security?
I 100 percent agree because that is the goal of Vladimir Putin. Vladimir Putin wants to re-establish the territorial integrity of the U.S.S.R. What is getting in his way from doing that? NATO, the EU, and the United States of America. The only way to disassemble that liberal world order is to destroy trust in our liberal democratic institutions. We have to be prepared to fight it.
The views expressed in GMF publications and commentary are the views of the author alone.