The Russia connection“We can't let Putin and his allies succeed”: Sen. Mark Warner

Published 5 March 2018

In one of the more important speeches by a political leader in the last few years, Senator Mark Warner (D-Virginia), the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, offered a sobering assessment of the challenge to U.S. interests and values posed by a resurgent Russia. “[W]hile 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,” Warner said. “Its geostrategic aim remains squarely targeted on the Western liberal order and, more specifically, on what its KGB-trained leadership views as the main enemy: The United States,” Warner said. “So Russia diligently honed and updated its toolkit for a different kind of Great Power rivalry. They couldn’t match us in the old Cold War paradigm, so Russia needed a strategy that would allow them to compete with us on a new, emerging battlefield,” Warner noted, adding that that the U.S. response is inadequate. “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.”

Last Thursday, at a panel discussion on “The Return of Global Russia,” held at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Senator Mark Warner (D-Virginia), the vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, urged Americans to step back from the flood of daily news flashes in order to see the larger picture – the full context – of the “reemerging threat posed by Russia”

Again, this is not a newsflash,” Warner said about the reemergence of Russia. “Too often, those of us who are caught up in the day-to-day, who’s up, who’s down in Washington, we’re all caught up in the latest news cycle. And I’m concerned that we can miss, by this failure to step back, how all these events actually form a context, and are basically presenting themselves in what I believe is an alarming picture of the — in a sense, the new Russia, and how it’s emerging as a threat to both the United States and our allies.”

If we just think about, for a moment, even the terminology,” he noted. “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 playbook to exploit our very openness in our society, to divide us from within, and it’s cut us off from our allies.”

Some commentaries — 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… Today’s conflict, I believe, is much more amorphous. The traditional tools of the Cold War, Mr. Putin has his — at his disposal a wide array of nonconventional weapons and tools; tools like cyberattacks, energy deals, hacking, selective leaking, and a bot army to sow and spread his disinformation.”

Many of these tools are actually deployed by nonstate surrogates, thereby giving Russia the ability to claim deniability when their hand or their agents are caught taking some of these actions.”