tv Russian Foreign Policy CSPAN March 3, 2018 3:30am-5:00am EST
committee vice chair mark warner talking about russian foreign policy and its attempt to spread disinformation to combat western democracies. his remarks are followed by a discussion on how to counter the threat with a former cia official and a russian journalist. hosted by the carnegie endowment for international peace, this is an hour and a half. good morning, everyone. my name is bill burns. i'm the president of the carnegie endowment. i'm very pleased to welcome all of you today to our launch of our new global russia project. our objective is to bring together carnegie's global network to take a fresh, sober look at the why and how of russia's increasing assertive foreign policy and the implications for us here in washington and around the world. as all of you know very well, this is not an academic issue. every single day, with every new indictment, hearing and news
headline, we're reminded of the ongoing brazen russia meddling in our democracy, and the domestic divisions the kremlin seeks to highlight and exploit. and every single day from keef to ca raw cas, we see russia playing its hand in ways few of us could imagine a decade ago. like many in washington, the action -- erratic, some people sharply but ep sodically focused and others retreating behind glib denial of inconvenient truths. we will not cure that particular syndrome, nor will we weigh in on the political drama unfolding in washington. what we will do is what we think is important to do is to help policimakers here and in capitals around the world develop a more sophisticated understanding of russia's aims and objectives, and in turn a more nuanced and effective policy response. that is far easier said than
done. i learned that the hard way. i served twice as a diplomat in russia. that was a long exercise in humility. not only about what's possible in the bilateral relationship, but also about my powers of prediction about russian behavior. but i think it's a pretty safe bet that vladimir putin will be reelected president in a couple weeks. as his speech today makes clear it's a safe bet russia's policy will continue to be a combustible combination of grievance and ambition. our challenge will be to manage a largely adversarial relationship. it's not that russia is 10 feet tall. it's handicapped by dependence on hydrocarbons and demographic realities. in putin you've seen a leader who's been agile, who's been willing to play rough and who sees a target rich environment
around him. by trying to fill geopolitical vacuums, the kremlin is asserting itself as a player that cannot be ignored in an expanding array of regions and countries. and by exploiting western divisions in the process, it threatens the rules-based international system we've warkd hard to cultivate for over 70 years. the stakes are real and they demand the very best from all of us. that is why we're so fortunate to have senator mark warner here this morning. senator warner has called the russia investigation he is leading the most serious undertaking of his public life. an extraordinary career from the governor's mansion in richmond to the u.s. senate, indeed, no one knows more about russia's meddling in the 2016 elections, no one has worked harder to study the strategy and tactics behind that operation and the broader implications at home and abroad. no one has demonstrated greater
sense of purpose, greater political courage or greater commitment to sustaining the bipartisan foundations of our foreign policy in hithese hyperpartisan times. weio him and senator burr a debt of gratitude for their leadership at this moment. following the senator's remarks, we'll move directly to our terrific panel. i want to congratulate my colleagues for putting together this timely and important endeavor, to thank you all for joining us and join me in giving senator warner a very warm welcome. thank you all. thank you, bill, thank you for that very kind introduction. it is great to see everyone here this morning. i am -- i recall a number of times in the last few weeks or
few months that people have been kind enough to come up and say, you know, to either me or richard burr, gosh, you guys, it's so -- we're so happy that you're the adults in the room. and i think what a low bar we've struck to. again, thank you, bill, for that introduction. and boy oh boy wow we could use your steady hand at the state department these days more than ever. i'm so glad you're still engaged in the fight here and through this great platform you have at carnegie. you've always been a clear and strategic thinker. and on behalf of all of us who continue to serve in the day job, thank you for what you're doing. and as bill mentioned, timely time to have this kind of presentation and the good work that carnegie's doing. i'm going to acknowledge my age and put on my glasses.
but the speech that mr. putin made yesterday, earlier today indicates that his current status quo approach of being extremely aggressive and bellicose on a series of fronts is not going to disappear. so, again, my initial kudos to carnegie for their informative work on drieg trying to deciphe extraordinarily complex u.s.-russia relationship. this is not a news flash. too often, those of us caught up in the day to day whose up whose down in washington, we're all caught up in the latest news sake cycle, and i'm concerned that we can miss this failure to step back how all of these events actually form a context and are basically presenting themselves in what i believe is an alarming picture of, in a sense, the new russia and how
it's emerging as a threat to both the united states and our allies. so the chance for me to come here today and take a step back and to try to sort through some of the strategic and policy implications for our national security is very important. so, again, i thank you for that opportunity. you know, if we just think about for a moment even the terminology, let me go down some of the litany, bots, paid trolls, click farms, little green men, distributed denial of service, in the last couple of years national security leaders have been forced to learn a whole new language in terms of dealing with 21st century threats. our long standing rival russia has clearly reimagined in the world. and with a new play book to
exploit our very openness in our society, to divide us from within, and to cut us off from our allies. since some commentators have tried to define this as a new phase of the cold war. but what we're experiencing now, to me, doesn't resemble the cold war that i recall growing up with. back then we had a clear sense of who our adversary was. americans across the board understood that threat. it even had a physical form, the berlin wall which divided east from west, capitalism from communism, freedom from oppression. we all know who the bad guys were, where they stood, and our national security, because of those clear divisions, strategically emanated from that. today's conflict, i believe, is
much more amorphous. in the traditional tool, in addition to the traditional tools of the cold war, mr. putin has at his disposal a wide array of nonconventional weapons and tools, tools like cyberattacks, energy deals, hacking, selective leaking, and a bot army to sew and spread disinformation. these tools are all designed to help russia undermine its enemies in the west. but they're often deployed. and this is, again, one of the distinctions between a phase of conflict we are in now versus the traditional cold war, many of these tools are actually deployed by non-state surrogates. thereby giving russia the ability to claim deniability when their hand or their agents are caught taking some of these actions. the bottom line, i believe
rather than a framework of an old cold war, i believe we're now engaged in a fight in the shadows. and i'm not sure that's a fight that we're currently winning. so, again, let me take a moment to at least give my perspective on how we got here and what we need to do on a going forward basis. after the berlin -- after the berlin wall fell, the united states reached out to the so-called new russia. under president -- under then president yeltsen and attempted to bring it into the western community of nations. we perhaps naively assumed that russia's eventual integration into the institutions like the g7 and the eu was both natural and inevitable. many of us imagined that after the failure of communism the allure and success of western free market democracy would
almost automatically spread eastward. at the same time we watch russia's conventional military atrophy. and its economy stagnate. and frankly, i think, across most of the foreign policy establishment, we assume that the russia threat was greatly reduced. facing these changed times we, in effect, declared the cold war was over and that we had won. we turned our focus from super power rivalry to counterterrorism. obviously the wars in iraq and afghanistan. and the challenges emanating from failed states. we work to track down, chase, and finally kill and eliminate terrorists around the world. this was a logical and understandable transformation given the 9/11 attack and the
other threats to our security emanating from the increasing number of failed states around the world. however, there was a cost to these decisions. and we took our eyes off the reemerging threat posed by russia. what we did not imagine at the time, and perhaps we should have, was the resentment that many russians felt at the economic uncertainties of the new free market. the chaos in inflation that wiped out many russians' permanent savings. we failed to recognize and i think adequately predict the corruption of a small, growing clique of oligarchs. and we failed to understand the psychic hit most russians felt with the loss of the superpower status the soviet union had. these led directly to ordinary
russians' desire for stability, and their disenchantment with that very short-term russian experiment with real democracy. all this ultimately led to a further enhancement and entrenchment of president putin's power. meanwhile, as we saw in yesterday's speech, and as we've seen throughout his comments over the last few years, putin continued to nurse a grudge against the west. he called the demise of the soviet union the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century. he used his growing control of television, film and other organs of propaganda as a way to stoke popular disconsent, and to further encourage ordinary russians' disillusionment. putin relied on these powers to boost his standing with the russian public and in a sense to
replace the old notion of a russian-led communism-based philosophy with a whole new sense of 21st century russian nationalism. and, with that backing of the vast majority of his public, he began an ambitious program of reownerment. all with the aim, i believe, of challenging the united states and our allies. so while our gaze shifted away from russia, which we began to kind of write off and at a certain level dismiss as simply a regional power, russia really never lost its focus on us. its geostrategic aim remained squarely targeted on western -- on the western liberal order. and more specifically, on what is kgb trained leadership views
as the main enemy, the united states. so roussia diligently honed and updated its tool kit for a different kind of power. it couldn't match us in the old paradigm. russia needed a strategy that would allow them to compete with us on a new emerging battlefield. russia's chief of general staff, general valerie garamosov, gave putin what he needed. he outlined a new strategy doctrine the kremlin was more suited to fight, and then -- and in this strategy doctrine, a strategy that they believed they could win and bring russia back on par as a superpower with the west. he recognized, in a way that i think very few within our government did, a blurring of the lines between war and peace,
between direct conflict, and indirect conflict, in the 21st century. he emphasized non-military means. to basically advance this doctrine. for informational conflict. and the using the measures of what he would call concealed character. general garamosov outlined a vision for russia's military doctrine that relies not just on conventional weaponry, but on a whole system of asymmetric means, his vision of hacking, cyberattacks, information warfare and propaganda would be the weapons of choice. he painted a picture of the fight -- of a fight really in the shadows, a type of hybrid warfare, it's a fight that i think from all of the comments made by putin and his allies, that the kremlin is actually
intent not only on bringing parody, but actually intent on winning. now, putin quickly put to work implementing this new doctrine. first, across the border in the ukraine, employing the so-called little green men. and information warfare to create a state of perpetual chaos and instability. he also targeted estonia and georgia, and other countries within the former sphere of the soviet union. he continued to invest in this type of deniable a symmetric tools that would help him overcome the west's advantages. he's now turned those weapons directly on the united states. and, i believe, at this moment in time at least, we are inadequately prepared to take on this new challenge. now, in recent months, senator
cardin and the democrats on the senate foreign relations committee delivered an extremely well researched report on russia ice asymmetric assault on european democracies. they jooutlined a comprehensive array of weapons in the tool kit, including use of organized crime, corruption, energy security, and even using the russian orthodox church to increase russia's influence throughout the region. now, we don't have time to get into all of those today. but i recommend everyone take a review of senator cardin's valuable work. what i do want to address today are the three major avenues of attack that russia used during the 2016 campaign. first, the targeting of our election infrastructure. second, the hacking and weaponizing of information, and use of those leaks. and third, a whole new realm of
information warfare, particularly as it affects social media. the senate intelligence committee, and, again, bill, i appreciate your comments, on a bipartisan basis, is intensely focused on each of these three items. first, truth is, our election system has enormous strengths. and beauty and curse of her system in many ways is that it is frag meanted and decentralized. that thought is comforting than it might seem when we step back and think how an outside power can use this decentralized system of elections in ways to attack us. we know in non-national elections they are often decided by a few thousand votes. and while it would be very difficult for any foreign power, russia included, to attack each and every system in a national election, in a presidential year, what we need to understand
is that a presidential election can actually be swung by a few thousand votes in a single jurisdiction, in a the ability s to target that to a level of specificity is remarkable. and even the threat of potential russian incursion undermines our public's confidence in our election processes, and that undermining of confidence can have devastating effects. the russians have tremendous cyber capabilities. and we have much work to do to insure that our election infrastructure can withstand anything the russians will try. and the truth is, where we stand here in the beginning of march, we are not prepared across the nation for the 2018 election cycle, which begins literally in a few days in terms of the
primaries. we have two sets of primaries in illinois and texas, even this month, and we're not fully prepared. second, the kremlin has gone to great lengths to foster one of the most permissive environments in the whole world for malicious cyber activity. including both hacking and weaponizing information. while putin maintains some of the most prolific state sponsored cyber capabilities, much of his active measures have actually not been state-led. the kremlin has been able to employ and co-op at times and compel assistance from a detached core of nongovernmental hackers that russia has nurtured and harbors from international law enforcement. rather than always being government-led and top down, these hackers are generally free
to engage in criminal activity and money-making endeavors around the globe as long as they keep their activities away from any of the russian oligarchs. when it suits them, putin and his allies are able to utilize these capabilities to further their own active measure campaigns. while allowing the kremlin to deny involvement. putin himself has in many ways trolled the u.s. by denying meddling in u.s. elections but allowing for the possibilities of, quote, russian patriotic hackers that he says, well, i can't control them. well, i think there's a little more control than he's been willing to acknowledge. hacking is obviously not unique to the kremlin. however, weaponizing that hacked information is a growing part of the russian playbook. the truth is, we should have seen this coming.
even if we didn't look at all the activities that russia had taken place in estonia and other nations in the east, if we simply recall back in 2014 when a bugged conversation between then assistant secretary of state and the u.s. ambassador to ukraine made its way onto youtube where it caused a diplomatic uproar, in retrospect, we should have seen this incident as a test run for the type of attacks and leaks that we saw during the 2016 presidential campaign. this was an area that we should have predicted better, and again, frankly, we're not fully prepared for it today. third, the president -- third, the kremlin is also making unprecedented investments in 21st century information warfare. during the cold war, we all recall that the soviets try to spread fake news before that term was even popular.
they assumed that the u.s. government -- spread theories that the u.s. government was involved in the assassination of martin luther king jr. or that the american military had in effect created and bred the aids disease. much like today, these efforts were geared at trying to undermine basic americans' faith in our democratic government. but the widespread use of social media has allowed russia to supercharge its disinformation efforts. before, the kgb would often have to go through setting up a newspaper in a neutral country or using a series of tools to create a dubious forgery that at its best would be through the newspaper or forgery, would only hit a very small targeted group of individuals. now, with social media, they
have senainstantaneous access t hundreds of millions of social media accounts where propaganda and fake news can spread like wildfire. while we all recognize the power and value of these social media platforms, if we step back and think about this from my day job on the intel committee, in many ways, if an intelligence organization was trying to create a network where they could do the most damage, spreading false information and undermining people's confidence, and they could sit back and imagine what that network might look like, chances are it would look like some of the social media platforms that exist today in terms of how we gain our news and information. the rise of these new platforms like facebook, twitter, youtube, have reshaped our entire culture
and the ways we communicate and access information. but while we marvelled at the new opportunities offered by this technology, i believe our government and the technology companies themselves have not fully understood the ramifications of these giant new communities that they've created. and how these communities on social media effect the dark belly can be abused and misused in terms of its interactions with our americans. tracking the impact of the russian disinformation is obviously inherently difficult. but if we look back at 2011, there was a russian operations manual that suggested that disinformation, quote, acts like an invisible radiation, silently and covertly pushing you in the direction the kremlin wants.
truth is, for most, you don't even know you're being attacked. that's how russia was able to target and co-opt unwitting americans into spreading their content outline. they even succeeded in transferring these efforts -- this is one of the things that was most described in some of our hearings -- from facebook into the real world. the example we like to cite was back in the fall of 2016, where two russian-created sites, both created out of st. petersburg, one that catered to a more far right group in texas called succeed texas, the other which catered to a group that was about a series of the muslim community within texas, and from a half a world away, they created an event where these two groups came into near conflict at a mosque in houston.
think about that. the ability to manipulate americans onto the street, and thank goodness for the police presence, or we could have had an event similar to the tragedy that took place in my state in charlotteville, all of this being manipulated and driven by half a world away. the truth is this threat continues and expands. these active measures have two things in common. first, they're effective. and second, they're cheap. we're spending hundreds of billions of dollars on national security. and at least in this area, in terms of misinformation and disinformation, our country is often being walked back on our heels. the kremlin is spending pennies on the dollar, pennies on the dollar, and candidly wreaking havoc. worst yet, they haven't stopped. this threat did not go away on election day in 2016. russian operatives remain active
today, stoking hate and discord online. we have seen russian-linked accounts pushing hash tags on both sides of the nfl national anthem debate. we have seen russian organized hash tags and bots attack the president's national security adviser. we have seen them push in many ways where it trended to the top of the list, hashta hashtag #releasethememo, and more recently, we have even seen evidence of stoking anger on both sides of the gun debate after the recent tragedy in the parkland shooting. and now this playbook is actually out in the open, and we have to worry about more than just russia. these tools can be used by other actors. china, non-state actors, terrorists, and others. to try to influence and sow discord within our nation.
so what can we do? unfortunately, there's no simple answer in this space. no single countermeasure that will stop the wave of attacks from russia. so the premise of what carnegie's global russian project means is that we have to take advantage and look at where russia seeks to take advantage and amplify these internal divisions in our country. it's focused on boosting cynicism and tearing down western institutions from the inside. in response, i believe we need to start right here at home. we need to recognize the threat. expose putin's game plan, and inoculate our society against these efforts. in order to do that, we need to understand the russian playbook and deliver a thorough accounting of what they did in 2016.
this is why i believe our committee's investigation is so important. it's why i believe the mueller inquiry is so critical. we need to get to the bottom of what happened, and we need to do it in a bipartisan fashion. plitatization of this effort will only undermine our country's understanding of the threat and truly the fact that this is not a threat of republicans versus democrats but a threat to our nation as a whole. the question about whether any americans knew or assisted russians' efforts in 2016 is vital. but more important and more critical is making sure that we make clear that this threat did not end on election day and that what mr. putin's games and aims are is not to favor one political party over another. but it is to simply sow discord and distrust within our country.
and the truth is, what we experienced was an attack from a foreign nation. next, we have to recognize that we have much to do to strengthen our security and systems against these asymmetric threats. our strategies and our resources, i believe, have not shifted aggressively enough to address these new threats in cyberspace and in social media. truth is, if you step back and look at how we spend, russia spends, i think the last year's budget, national level defense wise, was about $68 billion. united states of america spends ten times that much. yet, i believe we're spending oftentimes on weapons that were well suited for a 20th century conflict. we buy arms and materials to fight war on the land, in the air, and on the sea.
i do not believe that we shifted near enough resources to take on where oftentimes the 21st century conflicts will take place, in cyberspace or in terms of misinformation and disinformation. because until we do that, i believe the russians are going to continue to get a lot more bang for their security buck. no one questions america's superior technological advantages. but ironically, that technological advantage and the technological dependence that comes with that advantage actually makes us more vulnerable in the asymmetric battlefield in terms of cyber and technology dependence that russia has chosen to attack us in. we must spell out a deterrence doctrine so that our adversaries don't see cyberattacks or misinformation and disinformation attacks against us as a free lunch.
the united states, i believe, has often done too little to response to cyberattacks against us and our allies. and when we do respond, it's often been done extraordinarily quietly and on a one-off basis. that has clearly not been enough to deter our adversaries. we may need to make clear to russia and for that matter to other nations that if you go about using cyber warfare or disinformation against us, we're going to call you out, and we're going to punch back. we need to more quickly attribute cyberattacks. we need to increase the cost of the cyberattacks against our nation. we need to use robust sanctions and other tools. and that should include the sanctions against russia passed overwhelmingly by the congress,
which the president has still refused to implement. the sad truth is that we are handicapped in our response by a lack of presidential leadership. we need a president who recognizes this problem and not one who sees that any discussion of russian election interference as a person affront. we need a president who will lead not just a whole of government effort but in a sense a whole of society effort to try to take on these challenges. we need someone that will actually unify our nation against this growing asymmetric threat. we can't let putin and his allies succeed. we have to, as a nation, learn how to fight back and shine a light on this shadow conflict. we have to get our act together here at home. otherwise, we'll still be
shooting blindly into the shadows. thank you all very much. [ applause ] >> and now i've got to go back to my day job and save democracy. thank you all very much. >> that was fascinating to hear from the senator. my name is bianna gol adreeba. i'm with cbs news. we're going to spend the next portion of our time having a conversation with the panel, and we're going to open it up to q&a. i want to thank carnegie for having us on a timely day. seems like every day is a timely day on this subject. this is live stream. so if anybody is blogging this on twitter, snapchat, u
use #globalrussia. let me introduce my panel. far left is andrew weiss, where he oversees research on russia and eurasia. to his right is john mclaughlin, the former deputy director of central intelligence, and to my left is liza osetinskaya. a notable former editor in chief of the russian edition of "forbes" and of rbc, and i want to thank you all for joining us. i want to delve deeper into what the senator mentioned, and that was president putin's state of the nation today. the two-hour speech that he gave where he really bragged about their investment in new nuclear technology, saying that he has invincible nukes. my question to you is, what do you make of what he said, just 17 days ahead of the election where he is most likely going to win, and was that a direct
message to donald trump? >> i think it's a direct message to the russian voters. whereas you say just a few days away from what has been a very proforma re-election of putin for what is expected to be his fourth and final term. he has very little to run on except for this that russia is back and russia is a major force in the world again, and that it's better to be feared than loved. for him to play to a kind of joe six-pack view that life may be tough right now, we have been going through tough economic times but at least we're strong. i think that message resonates. whether it's enough to create excitement is to be seen. the election has unfolded without a serious contestant. his opponents are pretty lackluster. what he's ended up doing is presiding over a system which is
f fixat fixated. >> while he dedicated the large portion of his speech to revamping russia's nuclear program and military, i'm curious to get your take as a russian national, your reaction to his speech. because blanketed in there, he did talk about investing in russian infrastructure and cutting poverty by half in his next term. what is your takeaway, though, as a russian, to his message today? >> well, first of all, thank you for having me here. and andrew's deep understanding of russian, let's say, information policy, regarding the elections. agreeing with what andrew was saying about major focus of this information effort. i think for russians, it's extremely important to feel that russia is a superpower and also
as a leader, you could be judged by the strength of your opponent. and given that, putin addressed his speech to opponents basically united states, i'm guessing. that's important to have strong importance, and most of the population, he's not strong enough to fight. and that was very specific and strong message. also, what he delivered that russia has a weapon that nobody else in the whole world has. and that means that russia is basically so advanced and this is so important, you guys need to be patient. we need to invest in that. but that means all russians are stronger than the rest of the world, despite olympic games and other things. so yeah. so i think, yeah. i think that message was
completely totally 100% addressed to the national audience before elections. it was also hard to invite the audience for this election because the result is very predictable. the result is more than 100% predictable. so it's very hard to engage people to come to the places to vote. >> they do want a significant turnout? >> yes, of course, because it's valid to be elected by more than 50% of the voting population, not by just voters that came to the election places. >> which is why you hear people like opposition leaders urging people not to vote because that could send a message to putin and embarrass him. something stood out to me, too. when vladimir putin is bragging about a weapon no one else has,
i, in my mind, think of how our president will react to that news. specifically since he's been pushing for greater investment in nuclear technology and called for more nukes. so my initial question, saying obviously he's speaking to an audience of russian citizens about to go to the election polls, election booths, but is he also speaking to the u.s. as well and waiting for a reaction from president trump? >> i'm sure he is. i kind of expect a tweet tomorrow morning that says my missile is bigger than yours. or something like that. but in truth, i mean, i think having just the united states issued a nuclear posture review, we will have to look. and i have only taken a cursory look at what he said about the weaponry, but we have to look at the characteristics of the weapons he's talking about here, because one of the things going on in the world of nuclear weaponry is the technology is changing in ways and doctrine is
changing in ways that begin to erode some of the ways we typically have thought about deterrence. and the way we have typically thought about arms control, and the way we typically thought about the potential use of nuclear weapons. which i, you know, oppose on any grounds. but people are beginning to think in parts of the world and russia too, i'm sure, that there are circumstances in which it might be permissible to sort of break the nuclear taboo and use these weapons in some circumstance where you can control their impact. i think that's a grave mistake, but that thought is out there. and when putin starts talking about new kinds of weaponry, it's bound to play into that debate. >> does it give -- does it support president trump's call to spend more money specifically on our nuclear technology? >> well, i think he will interpret it that way, for sure. i would be astonished if that
wasn't the reaction we have out of the white house. >> some of your peers in the intelligence community have recently likened what russia did in the 2016 elections to a political 9/11. would you go as far as saying that? >> well, yes. i mean, it's always dangerous to use 9/11 comparisons because i don't -- you know, that's extraordinary. that's an extraordinary event in our history that hopefully would never be repeated. but yeah, in the sense of it being a surprise, in the sense of it being novel, in the sense of it being something that we typically have not done very well, in all of those respects, i believe it is. and it also underlines, for me at least, something the senator said, which is that this -- i think i heard him say it this
way. we shouldn't think of this as a new cold war. i think cold war metaphor gives us too much comfort in the sense that we understood that. and also, it could be seen as something that could have an end. and it did have an end. there were two sides, and one had to lose. and they lost. that's how we have seen it. that is not the circumstance we're in with russia now. russia will not go away like the soviet union did. and so to me, so we have to figure out how to deal with it. i'm sure we'll talk about that. but to me, that's the real significance of what they did in 2016. that it has an echo of the techniques we saw during the cold war. but it advances so far into the modern era that it moves us into a different strategic realm, i think. >> andrew, we haven't been right
thus far in figuring out how to deal with russia and vladimir putin. president obama famously called russia a regional power. lindsey graham called russian oil and gas company masquerading as a company. it has an aging demographic, shrinking population, an economy the size of italy. yet mitt romney is now getting praise for what he said back in 2012, calling vladimir putin the greatest geopolitical foe that the u.s. faced. you could say both sides are right. what's the approach to addressing that conundrum then? >> well, i think first of all, we need to establish what's real and what's inflated. if today's speech is nothing else, it's a great way of putin showing he likes to be talked about. all of the fixation on putin, the portrayal of russia, that's all kind of political gravy for him at home for the reasons we talked about a second ago. what we need to do is step back and think, as john said, about this is not a cold war, but it
is a different level of russian risk taking, a different set of tactics and it's a far bigger target. for my mind, we had assumptions for the last 25 years that have turned out to be wrong. we assumed russia was going to focus on its internal birth and it would want a benign external environment. that turned out not to be true. we assumed caution would be very important for how russia's foreign policy evolved. we have seen the opposite is true. risk is a way to double down on issues and put your opponent on the spot. risk and surprise, covert actions. those are key parts of the russian playbook. the other assumption is that they would focus largely on their neighborhood and that russia's priorities would be in countries like ukraine, georgia, and estonia. we're seeing, no, russia wants to mess with the united states and push back asymmetrically. part of this has to do with the events of 2011-2012 when we had big street demonstrations in moscow after a very kind of murky set of shenanigans in the
russian parliamentary election. since then, and going forward into the ukraine revolution of 2014, the russian government, i don't think it's insincere, believes that the stated goal of the united states is to overthrow them and to basically pose an existential threat to their regime. the way to deal with that is to punch back. they have punched back very hard. >> leza, you as a journalist have seen first hand this evolution in russia, in vladimir putin's russia. you have uncovered and exposed many stories there. most recently, putin's so-called chef, right? pergogen, and his involvement with syria. so none of this is a surprise to you, yet when we were talking backstage, you said you were surprised by what you saw in mueller's indictments. can you explain that? >> yes, of course. i was not surprised by the
actions described that happened in 2016. but i was really surprised that all those actions were planned in 2014. for example, as a journalist, i had no clue working, doing reforms in this media company, what's going on in some people's minds. i still believe -- in some people's minds in the kremlin. i still believe that the whole threat is in some ways overestimated and in some ways underestimated. i mean, what for me is the fact that putin's actions, i mean, the trolls' actions, have for elections' outcome. i think there was just one of the minor factors, the fact of the whole result, but i don't believe that it was the only
factor. and the way how it is presented now in media, in some ways scares me, because i can't believe that the russians changed completely changed the story line of american election. but in another way, from another point of view, i see underestimation of, let's say, smartness of people in russia and in power -- >> and determination. >> and determination, who planned certain things on the very early stage, and they planned their punch back soon after russian elections of 2011. that were considered by many in kremlin that as american involvement in russian elections. and frankly speaking, when we were saying that hopefully you will not face the same in elections in the future.
i don't believe in that. i think you will. i think now it's important to try to understand what putin has now, not what happened previously. because i think russia has, like, kremlin certainly has certain agenda now, planning something for future. >> how emboldened was this so-called victory or success for vladimir putin, given that he most likely, like everyone else, had assumed hillary clinton would win the election. and he most likely assumed that in some way, shape, or form, the u.s. would retaliate, right? but that investment for him was still worth it. we have not yet seen much of a retaliation. has that now emboldened putin to go on to bigger and even more bolder initiatives? >> well, in a sense that you want me to answer a question, what is in putin's mind, but i
don't know. that's a problem. i think that the goal was, of course, to weaken the democrats and hillary clinton if she wins. how they turned the situation, they were very lucky, but they didn't expect this outcome, i think, for at least -- i don't know, even 70%. so i think the techniques they use could be very efficient. and frankly speaking, it's very hard to fight the techniques and to defend from using social networks because social media is something in our psychology. it's injection of propaganda into human's brains. that's the way how people think,
in this social media or other social media, you cannot easily brand this or just say, you know, we are going to stop or regulate it. that's very hard. >> so john, then, this begs a question of what, if anything, the u.s. is going to do going forward, as the senator said, we're weeks, months away from elections here in the u.s. we heard from intelligence chiefs a few weeks ago testifying that they had not been directed by the president to do anything in retaliation for the 2016 meddling. nsa chief said that trump hadn't told him, mike rogers said the president hadn't told him to confront russia's cyberactivities. in his mind, he said they have not paid a price sufficient to changing their behavior. so how important is it for the president to speak out and give that order? >> actually, i think it's
extraordinarily important. my time in government left me with a lot of impressions, but one of them is that the u.s. government on something like this doesn't really mobilize thoroughly until the president of the united states says mobilize. until there's that signal from the top. that's just our system. until the executive branch hears that clearly from the leader of the executive branch, people may do what they think they're supposed to do. i know a lot of people in the department of homeland security who are actually working on this and doing some important things. but the forceful application of all of our intelligence and capabilities doesn't come about unless the president gives that push. and that's one aspect of this, i think. i thought about this recently. i think there really are a couple aspects of our failure so far to respond aggressively. that's one. and the other is i suspect that
we do not yet have a cyber strategy that we can all unite on, in part because -- i say we all. i mean all of the agencies and the whole of government, to use that expression. in part because i don't think we have an accurate understanding of what happens when you engage in a cyber exchange. for example, rogers was pressed to do more aggressive counter activity against russian cyber. and he said something to the effect that he's doing what his authorities permit him to do. without knowing what that means, we can't really juk the extent to how he's acting, but i suspect he's doing more than we know. that said, those who think this should just turn into an all out pitched battle, i think one of the problems is that we haven't
yet gamed out how this escalation works in cyber. as with any conflict when you're inflicting, let's say violence in this sense, a different kind of violence, you always have to have some thought about where is it going, where are we two or three moves down the chess board. and i think this is still frontier for us. that combined with a lack of push from the president, i think, leads us pretty much floating in the water here and not -- and quite vulnerable to what the russians will attempt to do as liza so persuasively said they will continue to do. >> andrew, i want to get to what russia is doing not just in the u.s. but around the world. you have just written a piece on russia's involvement in mexico's upcoming election. john, if we can just stick on this topic for another minute or two or three, i was listening to
general michael hayden earlier this week, former director of the cia. and he sort of took the blame from the intelligence side, saying listen, we dropped the ball in the sense that our intelligence community was focused on, you know, counterterrorism, post-9/11, al qaeda, and he should have picked up on the warning signs even when russia invaded georgia. by that, he gave an example of getting a phone call from stephen hadley asking about that, the national security adviser at the time for president bush. and michael hayden said, who are our georgia guys? give me our georgia guys. maybe they were three. he didn't have any idea who they were. they were good guys. he said he had no idea who these people were. he said in hindsight, our intelligence community should have picked up on what putin was thinking and doing even as early as decade or so if not longer ago.
how important, first of all, do you agree with him? and how important was that missed opportunity as far as what you're saying, playing catch-up with cyber warfare? >> i have to agree with general hayden. he's a good friend of mine. i agree with him in the sense that clearly, i don't think anyone in our national security establishment saw this coming. intelligen intelligence, policy side. in the magnitude in which it's hit us. that said, people are quite aware that there had been a serious cyber operation in georgia. people were aware of the doctrine and were talking in the intelligence world for quite a while about the danger of hybrid warfare and so forth. but, you know, i find a phenomenon here, i don't know whether mike hayden would agree, but a phenomenon i have noticed is that even though the intelligence community may be talking about something and writing about it and testifying on it, people do not become
seized with the threat until there is a very crystallized demonstration of that threat. this was true on terrorism. i mean, in the months before, the years before 9/11, the committees in congress held only one hearing on counterterrorism. so it is at the moment when people see clearly that something has happened that everyone becomes seized with it. i think that could have been the georgia event. had we tried to imagine where that could go and linked it up with the doctrine, but so i sort of half agree with him. in other words, we could have sounded that alarm more forcefully, but i am not sure that people would have mobilized in response to that threat without the demonstration we've had. >> yeah. andrew, going back to your piece about russia's involvement in mexico. and not just mexico, latin america, we have other elections coming up this year as well. you have really broken down
russia's involvement throughout the world. southeast asia, the middle east, what have you. but focus specifically on mexico and while we have had administration figures allude to it and actually talk about the significance of what russia's doing, why aren't we hearing more about it? >> well, it's sort of one of those great ironies where you have a whisper campaign that seems to initiated with the trump white house. we have general mcmaster, secretary tillerson starting to drop these broad hints that we're seeing the beginnings or initial signs of a campaign of fake news. information operations and cyber operations in the run-up to the july 1 mexican presidential election. there's a very fraught political environment in mexico, both as a result of all the failures, the fight against corruption, the drug war, and all the anger towards the united states and the trump era. so it's a very dynamic political environment. and there is a populist leader who speaks in a sort of
traditional fiery nationalist way for mexicans, which is the person known as amlo. a former populist mayor of mexico city, and we're seeing on social media and also just through sort of outreach, efforts by the russian government to embrace both him and his message. whether that tipped the political environment in one direction or the other is very unclear, but on social media, where mexicans are increasingly active, we're seeing a disproportionate number of the discussions and sort of twitter or facebook discussions coming from abroad. so upwards of about 30% in the last month of activities in some sort of social media discussion about the mexican elections is coming from abroad, and of that 30-odd percent, 80% of the traffic is coming from russia. >> you're seeing similarities to what we saw in the buildup to our election here. rt has a heavy presence in mexico as well. what about russia's role in
venezuela and russia's role in the middle east? and i talk about venezuela, but then i want to get to syria and touch on syria and maybe some of the news you were able to break. >> the situation in venezuela is a terrible human tragedy. we're seeing a country implod g imploding. at various stages going back to the early days putin was in office, there was this embrace, this bromance between him and hugo chavez. a lot of that was around weapons sales and venezuelans had a lot of money and were buying significant and expensive weapons system. at some point, when the venezuelans had trouble paying for those, it switched more to a relationship focused on energy. you had the russian state energy led by a portuguese speaking intelligence officer who is probably the most powerful person in russia other than putin launch a pet project to embrace the government of venezuela and expand russia's commercial activity there. in recent years as the
government has started to kind of go through this terrible domestic and economic crisis, they have been a key source of ballast. they have provided food. right now, the government is in a desperate battle for survival. the russians are sort of helping keep them afloat. when trump came into office, he basically started talking about a military option for the united states to overthrow the maduro government and impose sanctions against maduro, and the russian reaction has been, you have to talk about that with us. they have inserted themselves. that sort of follows what we have seen in syria, in libya, where russia is not looking to fix problems. it's not looking to own venezuela or own the reconstruction of syria, but it's basically saying we're at the table, and the united states can't just sort of rally or boss other countries around anymore. and that goes back decades in terms of what russia has been striving for. they wanted to create what they have called a multi-polar world, where the united states no longer sits at the top of the global pyramid, and they want
voice in how the world's key decisions are made. >> we're hearing that on north korea as well. >> that's the world we have. >> you talked about syria, and there have been concerns from day one about a potential proxy war from the u.s. and syria there. your piece that we talked about earlier, about pregogen and his role with the russian forces there in syria, can you talk about the significance of that when it comes to u.s./russia relations? >> first, let me disagree with you about russians' role in syria. i think russia has -- just my guess, because i don't have facts, but i believe i have just a few facts about pregoshen's role in the oil industry in the recovery of the country, as we reported recently, that just before the recent bombing of the private army, they signed a road map for restoring the oil
sector, participation in this restoration. but i think russia has clear russian companies, maybe state-owned companies, have clear intentions to participate in the syrian restoration and the reconstruction after at least that part of syria that is controlled by assad. i think it could be, again, i don't have facts, but i think it's very plausible and very possible that they will imply the same strategy as in chechnya, using resources to rebuild the infrastructure there. and this is a way how to gain something from basically from this operation. i was surprised at the kind of the job, he didn't mention argentinian story with the cocaine. >> so many. do you want to give us a bit of
a brief -- >> well -- >> how much, $100 million worth? >> about 400 kilograms of cocaine that somehow appeared in russia, that was reported from the ambassador of russian ambassador in argentina. that supposedly came with the airplane that belongs to state air company that transfers, you know, organizes flights for senior officials in russia. so that's an interesting story that's developing. and we still don't know -- >> that's a lot, like the last story we're talking about. i want to spend the last few minutes opening it up to questions, but before we do that, i want to ask you about what life is like as a journalist in russia. it is one of the most dangerous
jobs in the country. you're now spending the majority of your time in the u.s. we spend a lot of time talking about journalists in the u.s. we're fortunate at the end of the day to be able to have our civil liberties here as journalists in america. it's not the same in russia. talk about the ins and out. >> in russia, finally in the united states and supporting russian journalists. that's a joke, but yeah. >> humor. >> but a few explanatory words about my story. i'm currently a fellow at uc berkeley, the journalism school, but i founded a news organization. this is sanewsletter and website. we have team in russia working in moscow, so we have a bureau
that investigates and produces news mixed with our own scoop. and our focus, we have also english language newsletter published on friday, and we translate some of our stories, the most significant stories in english, so we can find it on the website. so i think it's, again, talking about trolls. in some ways, the dangers are highly exaggerated. so journalists, free journalists and liberal journalists are still able to work in russia freely. the only thing is that what defines us as a percentage. any time you work in emerging countries, developing worlds, and any place, if you have a certain amount of freedom, let's say working in russia, being a
journalist in 2005, working as a business journalist, as i used to do, it was very -- let's say it was less than 5%. now, this risk is increasing because the government puts more attention on independent journalists. and i would say fewer than we had before, but still there are some people who appear on state-owned -- state-owned radio station. and those people speak very openly about problems that we have, let's say, journalists. some journalists, opposition leaders who come from state tv and then promotes the liberal ballot. it's a kind of hybrid regime for journalists as well. but at some point, you definitely can face significant
problems and even threats and harassment and whatever. any tiype of harassment. that's a risk that increasingly comes with this profession nowadays in russia. >> that says a lot that these independent journalists are really primarily based outside of russia, too. some of the bigger known names. okay, well thank you for everything that you do, and helping us dissect what happens in russia, as a russian yourself. and i want to thank you both for helping us guide us through the next chapter in our u.s./russia relations. we have about ten minutes left. i'll take one here. >> so latvia is the country with the biggest proportion of russian-spi russian-speaking population in the european union. what advice would you give to the latvians how to deal with the local russian population, or
to take into consideration concerns of russian speaking population such as closing down existing russian language schools and also language issues? what advice would you give to a latvian government? thank you. >> who wants to take that? andrew? >> this is a situation which i think most people spend a lot of people looking at. the governments in the baltic region have carefully tried to manage competing situations, where it's making people that are prosperous, that they feel a connection to europe, that they feel the embrace of the united states and our nato allies, which have basically guaranteed their security to article 5 of the nato standing charter. but so for me, the challenge would be resisting the temptation to overreact and provocation. there were instances in the last couple years where people inside latvia tried to stir up trouble and it's a balancing act to make
sure the government is firm but also doesn't invite trouble we have seen in other parts of the former soviet union. the situation in the baltics is probably by comparison far more manageable than what we have seen in a place like ukraine where russia has been engaged in a covert war now for four years and at tremendous cost in terms of loss of life and in terms of keeping ukraine dysfunctional. the question will be, can through diplomacy, through presidential involvement, are there things western governments can do to make the situation along russia more stable? there is some, and i think the ambassador alluded to this, a target-rich environment along russia's periphery, and that's not going to go away. it has to do with exposing the russian tool kit, and in providing support diplomatically, politically, militarily to countries in that neighborhood without overextending and without sticking our hand in the power. that's a really constant and i think challenging set of policy issues. this administration is in a sort
of difficult spot in part given the rhetoric that president trump used on the campaign trail, where he basically disparaged nato. we have seen senior members of his team try to reestablish credibility around the defense commitment. we hope their voice continues to be persuasive at the end of the day. we're only at the beginning of this drama with a more audacious taking russia with issues that are not going to go away by any stretch. >> here in the second row. >> thank you. npr. i am headed to russia next week to cover the election, which is already proven a challenging assignment because it's awfully difficult to drum up excitement in the newsroom about an election with zero suspense for the outcome, but my mind turns to what another six years of putin will look like. that's the question i want to put to the panel. what are you watching for, both
internally, for russians who will be living through another six years of putin, it appears, and externally as russia exerts power on the world's stage? >> you know, i think -- i was thinking about this earlier when we were discussing things. i think looking six years ahead, it isn't that hard to figure out, actually, what his basic emphasis is going to be. i think he has -- and we were also talking backstage a bit about whether we have a danger of overestimating putin, as seeing him more than ten feet tall. and yes, that's always a danger, but i think really, he's rather good at strategy. and it's not that hard to be good at strategy when you have absolute power. you know, when we put together a strategy document in our country, it's weeks and weeks of bureaucratic discussion and then everyone is exhausted before
you, you know, implement the strategy. we were told during a visit to moscow that basically, four or five people get together once a week with putin and they decide what to do. so you're looking ahead to the next six years. i would say his goals are going to be, first, to further consolidate his power at home. second, to increase his strength in the neighborhood. that is the near abroad. the areas of the former soviet union. third, to weaken western institutions, primarily nato and the eu. and fourth, to increase russia's role broadly in the world and andrew has talked about that. so when we -- whether it's latin america, africa, middle east, that's what we're going to -- i would take those three or four ideas and just wait for him to fill them in or think about how we might fill them in. that's how i see the next few years unfolding.
>> let me add this. as a journalist, i am more comfortable to ask questions than answer questions, so let me figure this out in the shape, in the form of a question. so the things i would follow for the next six years, will he do the block in russia or operate free. let's say youtube, facebook, instagram. youtube now concentrates about 50 million users with video blogs having like about 5 million subscribers for it. that means russia has in some ways a free speech on youtube, using media organizations. that's the first thing i would look at. the second thing i would look at is will the kremlin follow
chinese example of changing the power and the system of re-election? and the third thing that is extremely important for all russian population, russian people, that's a key factor of success of my previous company. i worked at rbc. russian people follow the dollar ruble rate. so look at the predictions. that gives you certain thoughts about russian economic predictability. as i remember from today, the most recent prediction was about 60 rubles for a dollar. that is about the current situation. so it says something about the economy, that the economy could be on the same, approximately the same level. of course, it can be changed, but we'll see. >> i was going to ask you that,
what's the likelihood he would be inspired or jealous even -- >> it's very likely. >> that the president sees it -- >> and follows. yeah, big example. >> president for life. let's go to the back. gentleman on the right. yes, right there. you. yes. >> hi, thank you very much. i'm james from gilead sciences. i wanted to ask about soft power. and maybe where this falls in the continuum, but in the soviet union, we had doctors from cuba, of course, the soviet union and smallpox eradication did a lot of good work. as russia is back on the global stage, is there a soft power component to this, particularly interested in global health, if that's relevant? thank you. >> well, there's two aspects that i think are relevant. one is russia didn't invent
donald trump. there was a populist that has been unleashed in western societies, so they're pushing on every available door to amplify and expand that. italy is having elections this weekend. there's reports, i have only seen fragments, that came out that talked about the way russia is amplifying anti-immigrant sentiment in italy and playing on the stirring of nationalism, which is going to make a complicated political environment much more complicated. that sort of thought power, you can call it hard, active measures, is real, and that tool is used on a global scale. in pop culture, where i think russia excels right now, the use of videos, of movies, of tv, to sell narratives to russia's neighbors is very potent. you see this including in places like ukraine and eastern ukraine. so we're dealing with a russia which has gotten very adept at kind of spinning the world and spinning perceptions around the world in ways that are favorable
to its interests. as far as things that cost money, russia is not carrying the giant checkbook, and much of the money is going for checkboo. but russia is going through things like we talked about today. which is expensive weapons systems. available resources to do i think. even in a crisis situation. but when they do stuff, even if it's small, it's the collection of those small things that amplifies that russia matters. and they played that, i think, in a fantastic way in syria. by all measures of relatively modest footprint in the military operation had a disproportionately large impact of the fate of the country. also showing the world that russia can now be a force. >> i think we have time for one
more. here on the left. yes, you. >> we haven't gamed out how the worker escalades in cyberspace. do we have the skill sets to accomplish that? and if so, how are they deployed? >> well, everyone who works with cyber in the u.s. government said we don't have enough people technically qualified to do it. we have a lot of good people but we don't have -- i would say we're at the point of needing to
acquire and build the skills. in terms behalf i said earlier about understanding about the ladder, my real analogy there is looking back. and the only way we can are capable of understanding that is through arms control discussions and through a lot of work and strategy. and yet this world is more complicated than the cyber world. we're not talking about just a world which we're dealing with nation states. we're dealing with state actors. said we're about a six in terms
of the strategy for the problem. i know factoring in my time working on strategy and, yes, it's moving along somewhat but we're not a point where we have highly confident understanding of how it works. >> the u.s. and russia don't have monopoly on cyber tactics. you have china and other players. >> exactly. we have nothing, comfortable, for example, to the record we build over many years in arms control. this is a weapon that is a nuclear in that sense. we haven't had i referred earlier to the need for something that crystallizes. you would think the interference in our election is done with.
i'm not sure it amounts to yet a cyber pearl hay boar or cyber 9/11. because, you know, we're sensitive to it here in washington inside the beltway. this is all we talk about. people out there aren't as focussed on this as we are here in washington. there is not a consensus yet, to my knowledge, on appreciation of the problem and seriousness and then an infrastructure of support. pressure to do something about it. >> i'll land on the first question to you. how much does the president and the administration tax. if fdr or george bush have not responded the way they did following pearl harbor. >> i'm reading the latest biography of fdr now. one of the striking things that comes out wasn't there to
observe this but in the 1930s, particularly from 1935 on, '36, '37, fdr was focussed on where that trouble was coming from the united states and he had a deliberate strategy of moving the united states toward an understanding of that. against a backdrop of very serious opposition that had broad public support. yet he managed to get us there eventually. but it did take pearl harbor. and so a long way to answer your question, but i think until a president speaks to the country in a convincing way about the nature and seriousness of this problem and what we need to do about it, people will not take that seriously.
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