Jun 30, 2019

Report: U.S. is underestimating Putin's "grand strategy" for Russian dominance

Vladimir Putin with President Trump at the G20 summit. Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

A new report prepared for the Pentagon suggests that the U.S. is underestimating the scale of Russian President Vladimir Putin's "grand strategy" for dominance on the world stage, and that inaction in the face of Russia's malign influence activities poses a serious threat to U.S. national security.

"Contrary to conventional analysis, after two decades under Vladimir Putin, Russia represents an ideological challenge to the West, not just a political and military rivalry. Although NATO continues to possess impressive overmatch against Moscow, that edge is dwindling, and Western vulnerabilities in certain military areas are alarming. Moreover, the unwillingness of Western experts and governments to confront the ideological — as well as political and military — aspects of our rivalry with Putinism means that the threat of significant armed conflict is rising."

The big picture: The study, which was compiled by more than two dozen national security experts and was first reported by Politico, finds that Putin's grand strategy is comprised of the following objectives:

  • "Reclaim and secure Russia's influence over former Soviet nations."
  • "Regain worldwide recognition as a 'great power.'"
  • "Portray itself as a reliable actor, a key regional powerbroker, and a successful mediator in order to gain economic, military, and political influence over nations worldwide and to refine the liberalist rules and norms that currently govern the world order."

In order to achieve these objectives and advance its foreign policy, Russia has sought to master the art of "hybrid warfare" through "the use of paramilitary forces and other proxies, interference in political processes, economic and energy exploitation (particularly in Africa), espionage, and media and propaganda manipulation."

  • The report argues that the U.S. is uniquely equipped to limit the success of this grand strategy, but that its "greatest weakness" is a lack of coordinated efforts across government agencies.
  • Anna Borshchevskaya, a contributing author to the report, tells Politico that internal divisions at home are weakening the U.S' ability to combat Russia abroad: "We still have a story to tell but because we are so polarized and are doubting ourselves we have a narrative problem. Russia does not."
  • The report also stresses that closer strategic ties between China and Russia — countries that share "an affinity for authoritarian stability" and a mutual fear or hostility toward the U.S. — would pose an extreme threat and must be countered.

Driving the news: The release of the report comes the same weekend that President Trump met Putin at the G20 summit and appeared to tell him — rather playfully — not to meddle in the 2020 U.S. elections.

  • Why it matters: Special counsel Robert Mueller concluded in his report that Russian interference in the 2016 election was "sweeping and systematic." Others in the intelligence community have warned that interference efforts are likely to continue in 2020.

The bottom line: "Political objectives matter to the Kremlin in a zero-sum worldview," the report claims. "For Russia to win, the U.S. has to lose."

Go deeper: Putin talks Trump in rare, wide-ranging interview

Go deeper

Federal judge strikes down Florida law requiring felons to pay fines before voting

Gov. Ron DeSantis. Photo: oe Raedle/Getty Images

A federal judge on Sunday ruled that a Florida law requiring convicted felons to pay all court fines and fees before registering to vote is unconstitutional.

Why it matters: The ruling, which will likely be appealed by state Republicans, would clear the way for hundreds of thousands of ex-felons in Florida to register to vote ahead of November's election.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 5:30 p.m. ET: 5,375,648 — Total deaths: 343,721 — Total recoveries — 2,149,412Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 5:30 p.m. ET: 1,639,872 — Total deaths: 97,599 — Total recoveries: 361,239 — Total tested: 13,784,786Map.
  3. World: White House announces travel restrictions on Brazil, coronavirus hotspot in Southern Hemisphere Over 100 coronavirus cases in Germany tied to single day of church services — Boris Johnson backs top aide amid reports that he broke U.K. lockdown while exhibiting symptoms.
  4. Public health: Officials are urging Americans to wear masks headed into Memorial Day weekend Report finds "little evidence" coronavirus under control in most statesHurricanes, wildfires, the flu could strain COVID-19 response
  5. Economy: White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett says it's possible the unemployment rate could still be in double digits by November's election — Public employees brace for layoffs.
  6. Federal government: Trump attacks a Columbia University study that suggests earlier lockdown could have saved 36,000 American lives.
  7. What should I do? Hydroxychloroquine questions answeredTraveling, asthma, dishes, disinfectants and being contagiousMasks, lending books and self-isolatingExercise, laundry, what counts as soap — Pets, moving and personal healthAnswers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingHow to minimize your risk.
  8. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it, the right mask to wear.

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Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

White House announces new coronavirus travel restrictions on Brazil

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro with Trump, March 19, 2019. Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo-Pool via Getty Images

The White House announced that beginning at 11:59 pm ET on Thursday, President Trump would suspend entry of non-U.S. citizens who have been in Brazil in the past 14 days in an effort to stop the imported spread of the coronavirus.

Why it matters: Brazil has reported nearly 350,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus — the second-most in the world behind the U.S. — and has emerged as a Southern Hemisphere hotspot as other heavily affected countries in Asia and Europe have managed to get their outbreaks under control.