Russians Are Working To Reelect Trump: What Can Progressives Do?

Progressives in the US have done a good job of presenting a united front on many domestic issues affecting America today. From Medicare for All to a wholesale rebalancing of the US economy, progressives of all stripes are in broad agreement about what these policies should look like in practice.

When it comes to foreign policy, however, progressives have been less concrete in their proposals. Scaling back the presence of US troops and infrastructure abroad, while well-intentioned, would be a dangerous move with Russia on the rise once again. The US intelligence community is once again in agreement that Russia is working to reelect Trump in November 2020.

What Is Russia Doing?

For the last couple of decades, cybersecurity researchers have been sounding the alarm over the level of penetration of American networks that foreign intelligence agencies have achieved. Part of the reason that hackers have managed to reach so deep into American networks is complacency on the part of private businesses.

While businesses have access to DMARC monitoring services, which can make it very difficult for hackers to spoof email addresses and launch sophisticated phishing attacks, a report from the Federal Trade Commission found that only 10% of businesses with a significant online presence are utilizing DMARC to its full potential. 

During the 2016 election, Russia used spear-phishing attacks to target specific individuals with custom-crafter phishing attacks. This time, Russia’s tactics have changed, but their objectives remain the same.

Sanctions?

It is hard to think of any person more antithetical to the progressive cause than Vladimir Putin; he stands for everything that progressives oppose. And yet, many progressives are still reluctant to advocate for a hard line against Russia.

Sanctions on the Russian economy, in combination with Magnitsky sanctions against specific individuals involved in human rights abuses, have been very effective at restraining Russia. Unfortunately, some progressives have made a habit of denouncing sanctions as an attack on the Russian people and, unwittingly or otherwise, playing into Putin’s hands.

Other Options

No sane person wants a military confrontation to break out between the US and Russia. Progressives definitely don’t want a war. But if war is off the table and sanctions are off the table, what tools can progressives propose for dealing with Russia? Allowing Russia to run unrestrained across eastern Europe would be a disaster for the US in the long-run.

There are often no easy answers when it comes to matters of foreign policy. However, Russia has become increasingly assertive in recent years and its persistent meddling in US elections shows how emboldened it has become. A lack of action on the part of the US government since 2016 means that we are still vulnerable to election interference. If progressives do gain control of the White House or a seat in Biden’s cabinet, they are going to need to be able to bring some more concrete solutions to the table. For all the blunders that the US has made in its activities abroad, Russia’s deliberate actions outside its borders are far more concerning for the world.