White House National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster confirmed that the U.S. would, in theory, sit down with Russia to come to some compromise on operations in cyberspace, but not while ample evidence exists showing Moscow continues to perpetuate cyberattacks and meddle in global affairs and elections.
“We’d love to have a cyber dilague when Russia is sincere about curtailing its sophisticated form of espionage, enabled by modern technology,” McMaster said during a dialogue at the Munich Security Conference.
This came after he chided a Russian cybersecurity expert who asked a question, saying “I’m surprised [Russian] cyber experts are available, given how active they’ve been undermining our democracies in the West.”
Until Russia does change its ways, McMaster stated firmly that United States will “expose and act against” those that use cyberspace, social media, and other means to advance campaigns of disinformation, subversion and espionage. He also pointed to international cooperation, with nine NATO allies establishing the European Centre for Countering Hybrid Threats in April 2017.
“We’re becoming more and more adept at tracing the origins of this espionage and subversion,” McMaster said. “And as you can see with FBI endictment, the evidence is incontrovertible and available in the public domain.”
Special Counsel Robert Mueller indicted Friday 13 Russian nationals connected to Russia’s Internet Research Agency, who posed as Americans and spread disinformation online in an attempt to influence the 2016 election.
But more than indictments, McMaster argued that Russia might reevaluate its practices in cyberspace “because it’s just nto working.”
”This effort to polarize our societies, to support rightest groups — even the most extreme forms of fascist groups — and groups on the left, to pit western societies against eachother, all that has done is appeal to those big fringes while uniting [the majority] against Russia and Russia interference.”
And while the U.S. is notoriously bad at passing bipartisan legislation these days across, sanctions against Russia passed easily with a vote of 98 to 2, Mcmaster noted.
Jill Aitoro is editor of Defense News. She is also executive editor of Sightline Media's Business-to-Government group, including Defense News, C4ISRNET, Federal Times and Fifth Domain. She brings over 15 years’ experience in editing and reporting on defense and federal programs, policy, procurement, and technology.