March 21, 2018
Statement of General Philip M. Breedlove USAF (Ret)
Board Director, Atlantic Council
Committee on House Armed Services

March 21, 2018

Good morning, and thank you Chairman Thornberry, Ranking Member
Smith, and members of the Committee for the opportunity to speak
with you about Russian interference in democratic politics. The
Russian interference in the 2016 US Presidential Election is
deeply troubling, yet unsurprising. It is up to us as Americans
to acknowledge the threats that Russian disinformation provides,
and develop the effective strategies needed to combat them.

This weaponization of information by Russia is not new; in fact,
it dates back to the Soviet Union. In 1983, a pro-Soviet
newspaper in India published an article accusing the Department
of Defense of creating AIDS in an attempt to develop new
biological weapons. In 1964, the KGB used similar tactics in an
effort to convince the Indonesian President that there was a CIA
plot to assassinate him. The primary differences between these
disinformation campaigns and those today, is twofold: firstly,
the internet and social media make it much easier to spread
disinformation, and secondly, these campaigns are increasingly
targeting first world Western nations.

Russia took full advantage of this new media landscape by
promoting disinformation to sow discontent among Americans.
Russia exploited divides in the American populace to promote what
many have referred to as a ``culture war``. Surveys have shown
that the US is more polarized than it has ever been on issues
such as gun control, immigration, religion, and race. Russian
operatives, seeing an opportunity, purchased social media
advertisements and created social media profiles, in order to
promote partisan stances on these issues to further widen the
rift. Russian advertisements and profiles did not have a
consistent political position; the only consistent aspect is that
they all promoted partisan positions on immensely divisive

The details of Russia`s interference in the election are
maddening. However, the reality is that we should not be
surprised by this interference. The Russians have interfered with
numerous elections in Western nations recently, including those
in the Netherlands, Germany, and France. There is increasing
evidence that Russia worked to influence the referendum in which
the United Kingdom decided to leave the European Union, as
recently shown in a report prepared by some on the Senate Foreign
Relations Committee. It has promoted anti-immigration sentiment
in Europe, by creating and spreading the story of ``poor Lisa,``
a thirteen-year-old girl who, as the fallacious story goes, was
abducted and raped by migrants.

Furthermore, we have ``meddled`` in elections in our own way. In
1953, Allen Dulles offered $5 million to an agent to sway the
Filipino elections. 1958`s Operation Booster Shot encouraged
rural Laotian farmers to vote against Communist politicians in
Laos. This meddling did not end with the Cold War; in the 2006
Palestinian elections in Gaza, the United States provided
economic assistance in an attempt to bolster Fatah`s chances.

The reality is that both the United States and Russia have
meddled, and we should not be surprised by this trend continuing.
What is astounding about Russian meddling is how brazen Russia
was in executing it, as well as the fact that Russia seems to
believe that it can escape this with its reputation unsullied.
Russia appears to be surprised by the outrage that has been seen
throughout the US. The US has been a leader and pillar of Western
democracy, and the fact that Russia believed that it could
interfere with American elections with no response is truly

The Atlantic Council takes no institutional positions on policy
issues and has no affiliation with the US government. All
statements of fact and expressions of opinion contained herein
are the sole responsibility of the author. However, Russia`s
interference in the 2016 US Presidential Election is merely a
symptom of a larger hybrid war against the West, in which
economic, cyber, and disinformation tactics are used in
conjunction with conventional forces in order to exert force or
pressure on an adversary. In February 2013, General Valery
Gerasimov, Chief of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of
Russia, gave a speech entailing this strategy, claiming:

The very `rules of war` have changed. The role of nonmilitary
means of achieving political and strategic goals has grown, and,
in many cases, they have exceeded the power of force of weapons
in their effectiveness. The focus of applied methods of conflict
has altered in the direction of the broad use of political,
economic, informational, humanitarian, and other nonmilitary
measures applied in coordination with the protest potential of
the population.

This led to the coining of the term ``the Gerasimov Doctrine.``
This describes Russia`s view that warfare is not simply a
conventional affair, but one that uses the aforementioned cyber,
economic, and information tactics.

This is notable because it shows that Russia acknowledges that
its election meddling is a form of warfare. While Russia may deny
that it interferes with elections, or claim that it is innocuous,
the words of General Gerasimov ring loud and clear:
disinformation efforts are efforts of warfare. The reality is
that Russia is using hybrid tactics to target Western values,
democratic governments, and transatlantic institutions. President
Vladimir Putin claimed in a state of the nation address that the
collapse of the Soviet Union was a major geopolitical disaster of
the twentieth century. Russia sees the West, and in particular, a
unified West, as an adversary. Waging a conventional war against
the West would be unfavorable to Russia. As such, it has used
hybrid warfare to break up Western unity.

Exploiting divisions in US society and promoting a ``culture
war`` is one key element of Moscow`s efforts to weaken the West.
Through disinformation, it has plied differences in Europe to
promote Euroscepticism and to grow the notion among the peoples
of Europe that the EU is not beneficial to them. It has waged
cyberattacks, such as the NotPetya attack in Ukraine in 2017, the
Fancy Bear attack on German Members of Parliament earlier this
month, or the numerous distributed denial of service (DDOS)
attacks on the Estonian government. It has used economic
subversion to exploit the relatively smaller economies of its
neighbors to subvert political power.

It uses its vast energy resources to promote the dependence of
its smaller neighbors, working to keep them in the Russian sphere
of influence and preventing them from turning to the West. In
short, while the 2016 Presidential Election is the most notable
case of Russian hybrid warfare, especially for Americans, it is
not the only case of Russian hybrid warfare.

The Russian interference in the 2016 US Presidential Election has
received an unprecedented amount of media coverage. However, we
should not be so myopic as to see this interference in a vacuum.
In order to effectively combat said interference, we need to
understand the scope of Russian hybrid warfare. We need to view
this as a comprehensive problem that connects the dots of recent
Kremlin activity. We cannot simply The Atlantic Council takes no
institutional positions on policy issues and has no affiliation
with the US government. All

statements of fact and expressions of opinion contained herein
are the sole responsibility of the author. take a stance against
a specific case of election interference, we must take a stance
against Russian hybrid warfare in its entirety. In all the cases
of Russian disinformation and election interference, the West has
been slow to see it, and even slower to react. We need to move
past simply trying to formulate a reaction to interference in the
Presidential Election, we need to move to a place where we are
ready to combat hybrid warfare and not need to react at all.

Hybrid warfare is a form of warfare that the United States has
yet to fully understand, never mind prepare for. The revelation
of Russian disinformation in the election is the wake-up call
that hybrid warfare is occurring, even if we are unwitting
participants in it. Simply condemning the election meddling is
not going to solve this problem, and it is not going to prevent
future Russian hybrid operations. We must treat this with the
gravity that it deserves. We need to take a position, establish
policy, and execute it. The Russian hybrid threat is larger than
the 2016 Election, and larger than the United States. It is a
threat to liberal order that the West has become accustomed to,
and it will continue to be until we develop an effective strategy
and implement the necessary policies to combat it. Thank you, and
I look forward to your questions.