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Putin’s Russia Isn’t Our Friend

The U.S. and Russia have had a turbulent relationship for over a century with one another. They have been allies; have been enemies; fought wars together; fought battles against one another. I find myself asking if Russia and the U.S. are capable of improving global security together after so many ups and downs. However, I know that our global security isn’t going to change if President Putin continues executing cyberattacks on our core values and democracy.

In 1863, Russia sent its warships to U.S. harbors in both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans to protect U.S. cities from attacks by British and French militaries. They served as our protector for as long as we needed them. Fast forward some time, in 1964, George Kennan sent his now-famous “long telegram” to the Department of State, expressing his concerns about Soviet expansionism. The Russians were not our friends, they were now a direct threat to our democracy and core values. We shared a friendship once or twice, but the Russians chose a different path even when the U.S. tried on several occasions to work towards improvements. The Soviet Empire chose communism and inequality over democracy and equality. Former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, attempted to reset the relationship with Russia and rebuild a new friendship in 2009, but Russia continues to strive to undermine our democracy and core values.

The U.S. cannot engage positively with Russia when the country continues abusing human rights within Russia and around the world. In the world of cybersecurity, a world of uncharted territory, Russia continues to attack democratic institutions around the globe. They meddled in our elections and are attempting to do so again; they assassinated journalist Anna Politkovskaya and author Alexander Litvinenko; they cut off and exploded gas pipelines to Ukraine and Georgia and continue to threaten stability in both countries. The Russians even attempted to access U.S. infrastructure systems in 2018.

Russia has mastered the use of cyberattacks and will continue getting better and more anonymous with such attacks. The cyber-world may be uncharted, but it is a critical territory for U.S. national security. It’s challenging when Russia uses non-state actors to leave a small trace behind. To this day, the Kremlin has denied any meddling in our 2016 election. President Putin’s Kremlin does not direct government officials to execute attacks. Instead, the government hires private actors around the country and directs them to perform attacks on our nation and allies, leaving such attacks much harder to link back to Russia.

The U.S. and Russia were once allies, but such bonds are lost for as long as a leader like Vladimir Putin is in charge. We cannot collaborate with a country whose primary mission is to undermine our core values and democracy. The U.S. must instead continue working with NATO members and welcome other nations such as Georgia and Ukraine into the treaty. We must extend our invitation to these newly founded democracies and strengthen the NATO Treaty. We must explore the uncharted territory of cybersecurity to set clear regulations and expectations on what actions constitute an act of war. We must work with NATO members to create a unified department within NATO with a sole mission to safeguard us and our allies against cyberterrorism. And finally, we must include cyberterrorism under NATO’s article five. Cyberterrorism is their chief weapon they repeatedly use against the U.S. and our allies.

The U.S. is a world leader and a beacon of hope for democracy and freedom. The U.S. will use its power to sanction and exhaust Russia’s resources when they attempt to undermine our core values and democracy. Perhaps one day, we can try and reset the button to start over, but until that day, we will not work with a nation that continuously attempts to harm us.