The overarching question imparting urgency to this exploration is: Can U.S.-Russian contention in cyberspace cause the two nuclear superpowers to stumble into war? In considering this question we were constantly reminded of recent comments by a prominent U.S. arms control expert: At least as dangerous as the risk of an actual cyberattack, he observed, is cyber operations’ “blurring of the line between peace and war.” Or, as Nye wrote, “in the cyber realm, the difference between a weapon and a non-weapon may come down to a single line of code, or simply the intent of a computer program’s user.”
Relations between the United States and Russia may be at the lowest point since collapse of the Soviet Union, and the new Biden administration appears to place little hope in improvement anytime soon. Unlike past administrations which began their terms optimistic in changing relations for the better, the Biden team has signaled early that it will start with clear eyed toughness. The array of grievances on each side is daunting and dangerous. For its part, Russia nurses a host of bitter resentments to include NATO expansion, sanctions victimhood, and belief that the US support for democracy in the former Soviet Union is a fig leaf for regime change in the Kremlin. The U.S., in turn, can cite a litany of hostile Russian behaviors to include election interference, indiscriminate cyber-attacks, assassination targeting domestic and foreign critics, information warfare, and invasion of its neighbors.
Please join the Intelligence Project for a discussion with Dr. Fiona Hill, Brookings Senior Fellow and Former National Security Council Senior Director for European and Russian Affairs to diagnose the pathologies which underpin mutual distrust and hostility between Russia and the U.S., and to explore what might be done to improve the relationship. Questions that will be addressed include:
- What are the core conflicts of interests, values, and perception between Russia and the United States?
- Are sanctions, financial isolation, and political ostracization effective tools to moderate Russia's actions?
- Are there any models of success, or any new policy approaches which might be tried?
- Would a post-Putin Russia offer new opportunities for improved relations, or is this wishful thinking?
Fiona Hill is the Robert Bosch senior fellow in the Center on the United States and Europe in the Foreign Policy program at Brookings. She recently served as deputy assistant to the president and senior director for European and Russian affairs on the National Security Council from 2017 to 2019. From 2006 to 2009, she served as national intelligence officer for Russia and Eurasia at The National Intelligence Council. She is co-author of “Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin” (Brookings Institution Press, 2015).
Prior to joining Brookings, Hill was director of strategic planning at The Eurasia Foundation in Washington, D.C. From 1991 to 1999, she held a number of positions directing technical assistance and research projects at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, including associate director of the Strengthening Democratic Institutions Project, director of the Project on Ethnic Conflict in the Former Soviet Union, and coordinator of the Trilateral Study on Japanese-Russian-U.S. Relations.
Hill has researched and published extensively on issues related to Russia, the Caucasus, Central Asia, regional conflicts, energy, and strategic issues. Her book with Brookings Senior Fellow Clifford Gaddy,“The Siberian Curse: How Communist Planners Left Russia Out in the Cold,” was published by Brookings Institution Press in December 2003, and her monograph, “Energy Empire: Oil, Gas and Russia’s Revival,” was published by the London Foreign Policy Centre in 2004. The first edition of “Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin” was published by Brookings Institution Press in December 2013, also with Clifford Gaddy.
Hill holds a master’s in Soviet studies and a doctorate in history from Harvard University where she was a Frank Knox Fellow. She also holds a master’s in Russian and modern history from St. Andrews University in Scotland, and has pursued studies at Moscow’s Maurice Thorez Institute of Foreign Languages. Hill is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
Council on Foreign Relations, member
Harvard University, Graduate School Alumni Association Council, member