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War by other means

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Russian Active Measures and the Weaponization of Information

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Introduction and summary

Liberal democracies across the globe are under attack. They are being attacked not by traditional weapons of war but by disinformation—intentionally false or misleading information designed to deceive targeted audiences. While these attacks may not pose a threat to the physical safety of democratic citizens, they do pose a threat to democracy.

In modern democratic societies, credible information is critical to the economy, political system, and way of life that citizens have come to expect. When citizens of democracies do not trust information, the forums for discussing politics and debating policy are compromised. If the media in a democracy is viewed as biased or, worse, as aligned with special interests, the bedrock of the democratic system—its ability to resolve differences through debate, persuasion, and compromise—breaks down. A democratic society can withstand deep disagreements, but if its citizens cannot agree on some basic and fundamental facts, that democracy will struggle to function.

In 2016, the Russian Federation, under the direction of President Vladimir Putin, interfered in the U.S. election and in doing so also attacked the integrity of the American democratic system.


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