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Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his annual press conference on December 14, 2017 in Moscow. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov / Getty Images

Russia's political war against the West has been going strong for decades and shows no signs of abating. Last week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) published a 200-page report that documents, in great detail, how Russia has sought to undermine European democracies through cyberattacks, disinformation, cultivation of political networks, and export of corruption and crime.

European countries, especially the frontline states of Eastern Europe, have started to fight back by establishing units — the so-called StratCom teams — to monitor Russian propaganda. The German government recently enacted a law that compels social media platforms to take down hateful and inciting content or face fines of up to 50 million euros.

The U.S., however, “still does not have a coherent, comprehensive and coordinated approach to the Kremlin's malign influence operations," according to the SFRC report. Meanwhile, Fancy Bear, the same Russian military intelligence hacker group that penetrated the DNC and Clinton campaign servers in 2016, is now lurking in the U.S. Senate’s systems. And the infamous Russian troll-factory that spread disinformation during the U.S. elections is expanding operations and hiring more “staff.”

Why it matters: Russia’s influence operations are only accelerating. As its tools and tactics evolve, the U.S. must catch up or be left vulnerable to more, perhaps worse, interference in the 2018 and 2020 elections.

Alina Polyakova is the David M. Rubenstein Fellow for Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution.

Go deeper

Alabama trying to use COVID relief funds to expand prisons

Inside the Julia Tutwiler Correctional Facility in Wetumpka, Alabama in 2018. Photo: Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images

Alabama state lawmakers are trying to funnel up to $400 million of the state's American Rescue Plan funds to pay for a $1.3 billion plan to build and renovate prisons across the state, the Associated Press reports.

Why it matters: Diverting dollars from the COVID-relief package, passed in March, is prompting criticism over misuse.

1 hour ago - World

Jake Sullivan discussed human rights and Yemen with Saudi crown prince

MBS in 2018. Photo: Fayez Nureldine/AFP via Getty

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman discussed efforts to end the war in Yemen, the de-escalation of regional tensions with Iran, and Saudi Arabia's human rights record in their meeting on Monday, a senior U.S. official told Axios.

Why it matters: This was Sullivan's first trip to the Middle East since taking up his post in January, and he was the most senior visitor to the kingdom so far from the Biden administration, which has kept the crown prince at arm's length over his roles in the murder of Jamal Khashoggi and the war in Yemen.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Top Pentagon officials contradict Biden on Afghanistan advice

Photo: Carolone Brehman/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

Top military leaders confirmed in a Senate hearing Tuesday they recommended earlier this year that the U.S. keep 2,500 troops in Afghanistan, and that they believed withdrawing those forces would lead to the collapse of the Afghan military.

Why it matters: Biden denied last month that his top military advisers wanted troops to remain in Afghanistan, telling ABC's George Stephanopoulos: "No one said that to me that I can recall."