Information Warfare · Russia

Were Russian Hacks Really a Threat to American Democracy?

Andrew Parasiliti

Once again, a statement is technically correct but off target in the bigger context.

Dr. Parasiliti is technically correct, the Russian hacks were not a threat to American democracy. On that, there is no doubt.

The information war waged against the United States and the West by Russia, however, did and will cause irreparable damage to the confidence in our democratic process.

Want and need proof?   We are discussing this. The United States and people around the world are questioning if “Russian hacks” had an impact on our election. Our psyche has been touched to the point where we have doubt.  Combine this with ongoing disinformation heaped on us from a myriad of sources, many originated, sourced, and assisted by Russia.  Combine this with ongoing efforts to assert Russian might by multiple Russian military operations around the world with their latest weaponry, all intended to portray a mighty war machine which might harm the West and the United States.  As an open society, we have read multiple and current reports that Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania could fall to Russian forces within three days, that American forces are not sufficient to stop them, and no actions, equipment, or statements by the West can deter Russia. We are also reading multiple reports undermining the faith in our new President-elect, impugning his reputation and our faith in the future of the United States, exacerbated by a much maligned mainstream media negative reporting about our PEOTUS.  All this we read in addition to now disproven reports of Russian hacking of voter machines, to DNC insider espionage and sharing with Wikileaks, of DNC subterfuge and presidential primary election tampering of Senator Bernie Sanders. The emails of these reports were then shared via Wikileaks, and the report is still out if Wikileaks has any relationship with Russia.  All this combined means Russia waged a punishing and successful campaign to undermine democracy in the West and especially the US.

Do you question reporting on Facebook now?  Thank Russia.  Do you read news reports about the Democratic Party and President-elect Trump with a cynical eye?  Thank Russia. Do you feel a bit less naive and a bit more jaded about the world in which we live?  Thank Russia.

This is what I reported, nonstop, during the entire US election cycle.

…and Dr. Parasiliti still got it wrong.  Hacking and cyber are sexy words, so, by all means, let’s discuss something which had no impact and claim victory.

Let’s talk about Russian Information Warfare.

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by Andrew Parasiliti

The United States yesterday announced tough new sanctions on Russia, including the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats, in response, according to a statement by President Barack Obama, “to the Russian government’s aggressive harassment of U.S. officials and cyber operations aimed at the U.S. election.”

U.S.-Russia relations, already acrimonious, will likely now take a turn for the worse. Obama’s action lays down a marker for President-elect Donald Trump, who has favored a less confrontational stance with Russia. Trump has said that claims of Russian interference in the U.S. elections on his behalf were “ridiculous.”

The Obama administration was right to put Russia on notice about its cyber operations. But let’s keep some perspective. Based on what is currently known, the DNC and Clinton email leaks, which contained no classified information, may not have been the affront to U.S. democracy some have described.

For example, Hillary Clinton said the Russian hacks were intended to “undermine our democracy” and resulted from Russian President Vladimir Putin’s desire to pay her back for claiming that the 2011 Russian parliamentary elections were rigged. She added that the incident was a challenge to “the integrity of our democracy and the security of our nation.” A letter signed by a bipartisan group of four senior senators claimed the hacks “cut to the heart of our free society.”

This is all strong stuff, and perhaps now that the president has taken action, a deep breath is in order. The Russian attacks should indeed be another wake up call about the relentless probing of America’s digital assets by U.S adversaries and the potential consequences of weak cyber defenses. But by all appearances, U.S. democracy and institutions have hardly taken a crippling hit from revelations about the inner workings of the Clinton campaign and the DNC….

The remainder of this commentary is available on

Andrew Parasiliti is director of the Center for Global Risk and Security at the nonprofit, nonpartisan RAND Corporation.

This commentary originally appeared on The National Interest on December 30, 2016.