After Geneva: U.S.-Russian strategy moves forward

expert’s point — On June 16, US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin met in Geneva for less than four hours. This is the first meeting between Mr. Biden and Mr. Putin during his presidency. Biden is the fifth American president to meet with Putin.

Both parties had relatively low expectations of the summit in advance, and their evaluations of the summit were slightly positive after the meeting. This meeting provided the two leaders with an opportunity to express their dissatisfaction and warning to each other (and to show a tough attitude to domestic voters). Apart from providing an opportunity to vent, the results of the meeting did not seem to be big: agreed to repatriate the ambassador, resume bilateral arms control discussions, discuss “strategic stability”, and conduct unspecified consultations on cyber issues. Mr. Putin rejected all of Mr. Biden’s assertions about Russia’s actions in a typical way and made counter-accusations on the grounds of hostilities by the United States.

Among the deliverables of the summit, the network will undoubtedly become the most problematic area in follow-up actions. Mr. Biden apparently provided Mr. Putin with a list of 16 U.S. critical infrastructure sectors, which should be regarded as a “forbidden zone” for cyberattacks, for example, where there is no risk of major retaliation. Cross the “red line”. As far as Putin is concerned, he asserted that Russia is the victim of cyber attacks originating from the United States and its NATO partners, and the victim of attempts to interfere in the Russian elections. The challenges of future online discussion will center on three areas: different interpretations of the relevance of deterrence theory in today’s network environment, attribution, and control.

Mr. Biden on recent cyber attacks against the United States such as ransomware attacks on colonial pipelines (Mr. Biden is said to have asked Mr. Putin how he would react if Russian pipelines were hit?) and a copy of his “forbidden zone” US infrastructure The list of entities shows that the current administration is convinced that Russia can be prevented from conducting future cyber operations against US targets or “sanctions” for attacks launched by criminal groups in the Russian Federation.

Unfortunately, Mr. Putin and those who control the leverage of Russian cyber operations are likely to agree that deterrence theory applies. Deterrence will only work when both parties know that the other party is capable and willing to cause significant harm to the other party.

Russia may believe (and may have fully demonstrated) that the United States is extremely vulnerable to cyber risks at all levels of its economic, social, and political infrastructure, while Russia is not. The use of network tools has become a core feature of Russia’s strategic doctrine for a reason. They are effective and seem to be a legitimate tool that cannot meet the requirements of conventional warfare. Russia believes that a hybrid war using cyber tools is no different from the economic war Russia is experiencing due to sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies.

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