Skip to main content

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated Cookie policy, Privacy policy and Terms & Conditions

nye188_Sergei KonkovTASS via Getty Images_russia hacker Sergei Konkov/Tass via Getty Images

Rules of the Cyber Road for America and Russia

In the cyber realm, the difference between a weapon and a non-weapon may come down to a single line of code, or simply the intent of a computer program’s user. While this makes negotiating cyber arms-control treaties problematic, it does not make diplomacy impossible.

CAMBRIDGE – The United States responded weakly after Russian cyber operations disrupted the 2016 presidential election. US President Barack Obama had warned his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, of repercussions, but an effective reply became entangled in the domestic politics of Donald Trump’s election. That could be about to change.

Recently, American officials anonymously acknowledged that US offensive cyber operations prevented a Kremlin troll farm from disrupting the 2018 Congressional elections. Such offensive cyber operations are rarely discussed, but they suggest ways to deter disruption of the US presidential election in 2020. Attacking a troll farm will not be enough.

Deterrence by threat of retaliation remains a crucial but underused tactic for preventing cyber attacks. There has been no attack on US electrical systems, despite the reported presence of Chinese and Russians on the grid. Pentagon doctrine is to respond to damage with any weapon officials choose, and deterrence seems to be working at that level.

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading, subscribe now.

Subscribe

Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.

https://prosyn.org/YGLX7Gj;
  1. pisaniferry106_Mark WilsonGetty Images_phase one agreement trump china  Mark Wilson/Getty Images

    Explaining the Triumph of Trump’s Economic Recklessness

    Jean Pisani-Ferry

    The Trump administration’s economic policy is a strange cocktail: one part populist trade protectionism and industrial interventionism; one part classic Republican tax cuts skewed to the rich and industry-friendly deregulation; and one part Keynesian fiscal and monetary stimulus. But it's the Keynesian part that delivers the kick.

    0
  2. yu49_ShengJiapengChinaNewsServiceVCGviaGettyImages_G20trumpjinpingshakehands Sheng Jiapeng/China News Service/VCG via Getty Images

    PS Say More: Keyu Jin

    Keyu Jin assesses the “phase one” US-China trade deal, questions whether the US can ever accept China’s development model, and highlights a key difference in how the Hong Kong protests are viewed inside and outside China.
    0