As the debate about Russia's interference in the 2016 US election pushes into 2018, a look behind the scenes at American counterintelligence efforts reveals red flags have long been waving—but that the US formed what the Washington Post calls a "piecemeal response" rife with players who didn't take the threat seriously enough and internal conflict on how to deal with it. "Dozens" of ex- and current US government, European, and NATO sources offered insight to the Post on these "miscalculations and bureaucratic inertia," with the US adopting a "naive" belief that Russia was a weakened rival after the Cold War, per an Obama administration official. Now, others are concerned the Trump administration is downplaying the Russian risk as well—a move some fear could imperil the democratic institutions underlying American society.
Once Vladimir Putin took over in Russia, the Post notes, the country made up for its lack of military power with cyberwarfare and disinformation, escalating efforts as time went on. US officials discussed ways to fight Kremlin propaganda, including spying on social media and saturating the Eastern European landscape with pro-America movies and TV shows. But logistical and legal issues, lack of resources, and ideological conflicts among US officials, including President Obama, brought many efforts to a halt—and the Russian troll army kept growing. This could all come back to haunt the US. "They want a distracted United States that can't counter Vladimir Putin's ambitions," a former official says. An ex-ambassador to NATO adds: "We should have every expectation … [that the Russians] will be back in 2018 and 2020 with a more sophisticated and targeted approach." More here.