Tensions between the U.S. and Russia have become inflamed after the Trump Administration’s sanctions on Putin-backed aggressors. One of the the latest incidents victimized Western ally Britain after former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal was poisoned with a Soviet-era nerve agent, according to the Ministry of Defence’s Porton Down laboratory. Moreover, the sanctions come after Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was recent elected to a fourth consecutive term, launched cyberattacks and interfered with the domestic power grid, financial firms, and, most controversially, the election system in the U.S.
In response to the subversive tactics from Moscow, President Donald Trump has issued sanctions on the Russian state, a measure fully supported by Britain, France, and Germany. The sanctions target the same three Russian organizations and 13 individuals currently under indictment from White House Special Counsel Robert Mueller for malicious cyberattacks carried out during the 2016 presidential election season. As well, two companies and six other individuals have been added to the sanctions list after various cyberattacks were launched on the U.S. dating back to March 2016, including a previously unconfirmed attempt to penetrate the domestic energy grid.
According to a report from the New York Times, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin issued a statement saying, “The [Trump] Administration is confronting and countering malign Russian cyberactivity, including their attempted interference in U.S. elections, destructive cyberattacks and intrusions targeting critical infrastructure.”
“These targeted sanctions are a part of a broader effort to address the ongoing nefarious attacks emanating from Russia.”
Republican Congressman Scott Taylor (VA-2) appeared on Fox News this weekend to answer the questions surrounding the latest sanctions from President Trump and the ongoing aggressive cyber tactics from Russia.
Are they doing enough?
“This is certainly a good first step…they imposed sanctions, but also joined in [with] our allies in the U.K.,” Taylor said. Though, the congressman, who is a member of the House Subcommittee on Homeland Security, believes that, “we have to ratchet it up.”
“Quite frankly, Russia’s been a bad actor – clearly they were trying to meddle in our elections…that started under the last administration,” he said.
Under the Obama Administration, a lack of strong leadership on the international front led to the furtherance of the power vacuum in the Middle East, spurred on by unfavorable moves from Putin’s Russia. Moscow has held a vested military interest in the area which has allowed the lingering civil war in Syria to seemingly have no end.
Furthermore, due to previously weak international leadership by the U.S. and the West, Russia’s occupation and subsequent annexation of the Crimean Peninsula has caused an geopolitical imbalance currently encroaching into Europe. The cyberattacks led by Russia on Western nations have allowed Putin’s government to become a key player for non-U.S. allies to conduct operations of aggression.
With Russia establishing dominance in the cyber arena, the U.S. must keep up with the very overt and direct offensives launched from the Kremlin. Taylor opined on the fact that cyberwarfare, while not specifically a new tactic, is becoming a tactic which is used more often and U.S. must recognize this in policy stances.
“The U.S. needs to have a policy, a broad policy…a Monroe Doctrine, if you will, in cyber that tells the world and certainly Russia what they will not do,” Taylor said.
Taylor also believes there is a “lack of understanding” surrounding the evolutions in cyberattacks and computing technology and that there needs to be a “revolution” in the country’s response to increasing attacks. This is magnified by the fact that cyberattacks are not conducted solely on military targets. Typically, the victims of cyberattacks are in the private sector.
The U.S., “doesn’t have a policy on what is an act of aggression in cyberspace, an act of war in cyberspace, an act of disruption,” Taylor explained. “90 percent of cyberspace is in private hands…never again will we have a conflict that doesn’t have some cyber component to it. Gone are they days where you [just have] a military target and a civilian target.”
With the previous attacks on American industrial and energy corporations, it may suggest that Russian state-sponsored hackers have been mapping U.S. and other Western industrial, energy, and nuclear facilities in preparation for eventual sabotage. To this new threat of Kremlin-backed interference in civilian infrastructure, Taylor says the Trump Administration must, “lead as a nation – to create policies and set the rules of the game internationally.”
Although the Russian government has been the main instigator of acts of aggression via cyberwarfare, Taylor told Fox News that in the future, nations will not be the only belligerents the U.S. will encounter.
“As computing power gets better, it won’t just be nation states we’ll have to worry about, it’ll be transnational actors, terrorist organizations, criminal syndicates, and even individuals,” he said.
“It’s important and we need to grab the bull by the horns and get moving on this,” Taylor stated. With the election of Donald Trump, the U.S. has been positioning itself back on the world’s stage as a main proprietor of police power. If Congress steps up to the plate, Russia’s continual intrusion into Western affairs will inevitably confront a domestic bulwark that will shielded by improvements in cybersecurity infrastructure.
Taylor says the U.S. and Western allies must put the pressure on Putin and proclaim, “you will not go any further.”