USMA Research Unit Affiliation
Army Cyber Institute
Any attempt to interfere with democratic elections, and the peaceful transition of power that is the result of these elections, is an attack on the country itself as it seeks to destabilize and undermine the core societal functions and constitutional framework. We all agree on the severity of these attempts and that it is a real, ongoing concern for our democratic republic. That is all good, and democracies have to safeguard the integrity of their electoral processes.
But what is less discussed is why the main perpetrator — Russia, according to media — is seeking to interfere with the U.S. election. What is the Russian rationale behind these information operations targeting the electoral system?
The Russian information operations in the fault lines of American society, seeking to make America more divisive and weakened, has a more evident rationale. These operations seek to expand cleavages, misunderstandings and conflicts within the population. That can affect military recruiting, national obedience in an national emergency, and have long-term effects on trust and confidence in the society. So seeking to attack the American cognitive space, in pursuit of split and division in this democratic republic, has a more obvious goal. But what is the Russian return on investment for the electoral operations?