Information operations · Information Warfare · Russia

Responding to Russia’s Attacks on Democracy: Key Takeaways and Lessons Learned

The German Marshall Fund of the United States

Post-Event Tidbits

January 12, 2018

Responding to Russia’s Attacks on Democracy: Key Takeaways and Lessons Learned

On January 10, The Alliance for Securing Democracy at The German Marshall Fund of the United States hosted a bipartisan discussion on the need to respond to the threats posed by the Kremlin’s continued assault on democracies and democratic institutions. The first conversation featured U.S. Senator Ben Cardin, ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, as he presented findings from his new report, “Putin’s Asymmetric Assault on Democracy in Russia and Europe: Implications for U.S. National Security.” This was directly followed by a conversation with U.S. Representative Will Hurd on Russia’s threat to U.S. national security. Former U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff moderated both sessions.

Key Quotes

“Today, the Government of the Russian Federation is engaged in relentless assaults against democractic institutions, universal values, and the rule of law at home and abroad. President Vladimir Putin directs these attacks with the arsenal [of] cyber-attacks, disinformation, support for fringe political groups, weaponization of energy resources, organized crime, corruption, and military aggression.” – U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

“Some of the reporting we’ve seen with the use of fake news by the Russians have been examples of exploiting existing social divisions, taking actual stories, real stories, and propagating them around,  in order to enflame populations… That suggests that for Putin to be successful in planting seeds of discord, there has to be fertile ground and that means our civil society, obviously, has a role to play in creating conditions that don’t allow the fertilization by this kind of malevolent news.”– Secretary Michael Chertoff, former Secretary of Homeland Security

“We all know, don’t get into a car with a stranger… [so] why are you listening to a stranger on social media?”- U.S. Representative Will Hurd (R-TX)

“It’s therefore essential that we come together, across party lines, to defend our democracy. This is, I know all of us here today believe, a national security imperative… But time is not on our side, and we need to take meaningful action along with our partners and allies.” – Laura Rosenberger, director of The Alliance for Securing Democracy


  • A video of the entire event is available on ASD’s YouTube channel.
  • A transcript of the event is available at
  • The report, “Putin’s Asymmetric Assault on Democracy in Russia and Europe: Implications for U.S. National Security” is available at

GMF sat down with Congressman Will Hurd (R-TX)

Congressman Will Hurd responds to a question about how concerned we should be about Russia’s interference in our democracies and what steps we should take to defend our national security by stating, “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.”

Our Take 

Following the event, Dave Salvo and Stephanie De Leon at The Alliance for Securing Democracy discussed the need for collaboration among governmental and non-governmental actors and allies to defend against the Kremlin’s multiprongedoffensive. “While the Kremlin’s instruments of influence have embraced new technologies, the underlying methods are not new and continue to exhibit patterns that can be analyzed, exposed, and confronted. Our strongest defense going forward will be to acknowledge Russia’s actions as a threat to national security and the security of democratic governments across the transatlantic space; to implement a comprehensive, interagency strategy with full bipartisan support in Congress; and, to harness the expertise and strengths of the private sector and the nongovernmental sector to participate in a nationwide effort to address this national security threat.”

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