Senate Democrats have produced a factual report about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s attempts to undermine democracy. Everyone should read it. On Wednesday morning, Sen. Ben Cardin, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, sent a report to his colleagues entitled “Putin’s Asymmetric Assault on Democracy in Russia and Europe: Implications for U.S. National Security.” This so-called minority staff report (because it was authored by the staff working for the Democratic minority on the committee) is an impressive piece of work. In more than 200 pages, it lays out Putin’s tactics over nearly two decades — and includes a host of specific practical recommendations for a U.S. response.
The timing of the report — after what must have been months of research and writing — is serendipitous: It comes just a day after Sen. Dianne Feinstein released the transcript of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s interview last summer with Glenn Simpson, the founder of political research firm Fusion GPS. The transcript blew holes in some of the Republican attempts to raise doubts about the so-called Steele dossier (a report by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele, first made public by BuzzFeed, alleging that the Russian government “had both compromised and colluded with President-elect Donald Trump,” as Ben Smith, the site’s editor in chief, put it), especially because it recounted how the document, when it was first shared with the FBI, corroborated information the bureau had already obtained, including from an unnamed source within the Trump organization. In addition to undermining Republican arguments about the dossier, the transcript of Simpson’s interview also, of course, raised questions about the loyalties of Republicans who are apparently more concerned with offering political protection to the president than with defending the United States against a threat about which it still knows and understands too little.
The report does not delve in detail into the Russian intervention in the U.S. election. Its strength lies rather in the way that it provides a context for understanding that aggressive action as part of a broader, decades-long effort by Putin to undermine democratic institutions at home, in Europe, and in the United States, and thereby to challenge the rules-based order that found its genesis (and still has its foundation) in the trans-Atlantic alliance between the United States, Canada, and their democratic allies and partners in Europe. The report makes clear that Russia’s attempts to undermine democracy are an ongoing threat, and one that demands a robust U.S. response. It should be required reading for every member of Congress — and indeed for all Americans who want to better understand the threat that Russia poses, and what can be done about it.