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September 17, 2017

Russia Blends Cyber Attacks with Information War

Stefan Meister offers expert commentary to the Cipher Brief

Russia has shown it is both willing and capable of using cyber capabilities to interfere in the West’s democratic elections. With the German elections coming up on September 24, it is likely that Russia will again – much like the United States and France – seek to sow confusion and distrust intended to weaken the foundation of liberal democracy – its electoral process.


The Cipher Brief’s Levi Maxey spoke with Stefan Meister, the head of the Robert Bosch Center for Central and Eastern Europe, Russia and Central Asia at the German Council on Foreign Relations, about what tactics Russia will likely employ against Germany and what it ultimately seeks to accomplish in its efforts.

The Cipher Brief: Russia influence operations have been around for years, but have since taken on a modern twist by leveraging cyber capabilities. How have these been primarily used in various elections in Europe as well as the United States?

Stefan Meister: With the return of Russian President Vladimir Putin in 2012, we observed a change in Russian information and security policy. Russian leadership understood, with the mass demonstrations in large Russian cities in 2011 and 2012, that the government needs to control the information sphere and fight the West back, where it seems strong, namely in foreign media, impact of NGOs on civil societies, and providing a narrative which is widely accepted. Disinformation, fake news, and cyber attacks have become part of a Russian security strategy to fight the West in soft areas of influence. Moscow has not sought to offer a positive alternative narrative, instead it first seeks to deepen the weaknesses that already exist in the West, work with right- and left-wing populist and other groups who challenge the Western political and media system. In doing so, Russia seeks to interrupt and weaken the credibility of the West worldwide.

Read the full interview here.

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The Cipher Brief, September 17, 2017

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