The most recent United States intelligence community report on international meddling in American elections specified that Kremlin is “using a range of measures” to interfere in the 2020 elections. So it is quiet natural that after a big jackpot by a minimum monetary investment to create chaos in the 2016 elections, Putin would have recourse to the same strategy.
If current polls hold true — and they may not — and President Trump is defeated and a new administration with a more combative attitude toward Russia takes over, many people may feel we can all relax. In particular, people may be tempted to feel a sense of triumphalism at having “pushed back the Russian threat” and negated the ability of Putin to meddle in U.S. politics.
This would be a mistake.
Putin has used a period of past few years in his favour to give Russia an important role in world scene — certainly a role out of proportion to Russia’s economic, military or political strength. Syria, Iran, North Africa, Britain, Eastern Europe and the rise of the right wing in Western Europe and America are all hallmarks of Putin’s success in promoting Russia’s power and influence abroad.
A Biden administration could be a blow for Putin. A less politically compliant, more traditional, more predictable, and less disorganized America in 2021 would be something Putin would have to address quickly and aggressively. To resolve this challenge, he may draw his attention to other areas of American life, to include setting Americans against each other in the culture wars, incitement racial and socio-economic strife, and instigating violence through “active measures.”
The susceptibility of the commercial world will ensure it is a target.
It is very important for business leaders to understand Russia, the influence of Putin and the oligarchs in the business world, and the potential role of the Russian intelligence services in taking advantage of the Western objective for profit and commercial success. Moving forward, Putin will use his intelligence assets more urgently and cleverly to consolidate the achievements reached over the past six or more years, particularly in the area of democracy disruption, as he has in Europe [Russia’s role in the Brexit vote] or throughout Latin America, all of which also serves to distract from the focus on the United States.
It is believed that the Kremlin will keep using American media and social networks for disinformation and turn Americans against each other, will try to infiltrate American business and cultural institutions, NGOs to spread its narratives and influence. Consider Maria Butina’s impact on the National Rifle Association and others. America’s already bifurcated media system could become even more scattered if supporters of the then-former administration starts a media company or the already-in-place truly fake news organizations such as OANN, InfoWars or Russian-controlled RT gain larger audiences.
Putin and his team of oligarchs and industrialists will pursue investing in Western companies through overtly innocuous surrogates in critical tech, health care and infrastructure companies in order to have access to information to intellectual property, personal data and industries.
It means more diligence in relations with Russian business counterparts, understanding the oligarch and business class and their linkages to Putin and the Russian state. Steps should be taken to ensure that deals, acquisitions, operations, companies and other deals and entities are not used against the West to the detriment of companies’ reputations — such as Deutsche Bank has experienced — and bottom lines.
Executives, officials or other persons traveling to Russia or countries- allies of should be particularly vigilant of where they stay or eat, and with whom they meet. Any activity, even those considered mildly questionable, can be weaponized — even more so as corporate America continues to adjust to the still new stakeholder capitalism and consumer-activist dynamic. In Russia, kompromat is king.
Regardless of political situation and the winner of the U.S. presidential election Putin’s actions to undermine the United States will continue. It is incumbent on every level of American society — especially the business, legal, investment communities and management class — to remain alert to Russia’s capabilities and to sustain efforts to minimize the influence Putin’s chaos agents, be they a few dozen cyber warriors working in a warehouse in Russia, or billionaire investors, can have on American political and economic life.