Implications of the DNC hack for U.S.-Russia cooperation

Implications of the DNC hack for U.S.-Russia cooperation

Whether or not the Russian government is blamed for the DNC hack, a forecast of implications for the U.S.-Russian relationship should be premeditated.

The recent Wikileaks release of emails regarding the DNC campaign have continued to cause political casualties, most notably the DNC chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz. The majority of blame for this breach has fallen to either the Russian government, or to Russian organizations pinned for earlier breaches against the DNC, White House, State Department and others.

Whether or not the Russian government, who has denied any involvement, receives the final blame, a forecast of implications for the U.S.-Russian relationship should be premeditated. What is most at stake are areas of mutual cooperation and confrontation, namely, Middle Eastern military efforts and Eastern European trade and energy. While on a steady decline in relations for a decade, the U.S. and Russia have still been working together to lead the global community. Military activity in the Middle East is underpinned by Russian and American forces, and more organized cooperation is currently underway. While cooperation in the Middle East has been increasing, NATO-Russian conflict in Eastern Europe has escalated. This poses a direct threat to European trade and investment, as well as to global terrorism. This cooperation could be the major casualty of a Russian interference.

It should be clearly stated that no conclusive evidence has surfaced tying the Russian government to these crimes. And yet, the FBI has continued to insinuate their involvement. If such a connection is found, it would mean that Russia is attempting to meddle in the American election. This would merit a vehement response from Washington, almost surely not limited to cyber measures.

Similar pinpricks are what have led to the overall decline of U.S.-Russian relations. No major conflicts have occurred recently between the two countries, but general ambivalence has been fuelled by statements such as John McCain declaring Russia a gas station, and Putin declaring the fall of the Soviet Union a geopolitical disaster. This has resulted in a very uneasy relationship, vulnerable to a blow such as interference in democratic elections. The effects of another major offense would have far-reaching consequences.

Firstly, the effects could be felt in the Middle East, leading to a decentralized approach to global terrorism. Both states have vested interest in squelching the Middle Eastern conflict, as both have experienced the backlash of terrorism and mass immigration. The U.S. has seen a rise in terror attacks, and ISIS has recently called for increased attacks in Russia. Immigration has continued to flood both Russia and the West, increasing the need for bilateral cooperation.

Cooperative efforts between the U.S. and Russia, while positive, are extremely fragile. U.S. officials recently expressed concern over combined efforts, dealing a major PR blow to the campaign. With such fragility already growing, a major breach of trust such as election interference could prove fatal to cooperation in the near future. If cooperation continues to fragment, efforts in the Middle East will continue to flounder.

Secondly, this could cause complications in the Baltic States and Eurasia, where U.S. retaliation could lead to increased Russian influence in European states. Whether or not Russia is to blame, it is unlikely they would admit to the breach. Accusations from the U.S. could fuel pro-Russian sentiment in Eastward-leaning states, building a barrier to the E.U. trade and investment market.

Loyal Russian populations served as an open door for the Crimean event of 2014 and Georgia in 2008, and remain significant influences in other Eastern states. Key countries of concern should be Poland, Belarus, Georgia and Moldova. Each state, formerly parts of the Soviet Union, should be watched carefully to discern sentiments towards the U.S. and Russia as the DNC event unfolds. As accusations against Russia from the West increase, pro-Russian sentiment could be fuelled in these areas of key concern for Europe and the U.S.

Many of these countries also hold the key to trade and investment for the E.U. Ukraine and Georgia are major players for energy transit West, and Poland has served as a beacon of post-Soviet democracy, before recently sliding back towards nationalism. The E.U. has also pressed forward with its Neighborhood Policies, attempting to bring former Soviet States into the trade structure. If pro-Russian populations have further reason to resent the West, these partnerships could see fragmentation in the near future.

The potential link between Russia and the breach would be a significant and negative development in overall relations, which are already on edge. A further downturn in relations would have implications for security and investment in areas of cooperation and competition. Investors should pay close attention to the U.S.’ handling of this delicate situation, which has the potential to further provoke Russia. Whether or not Russia is found at fault, this is a pivotal moment of response for U.S. authorities.

Categories: Europe, North America

About Author

Jonathan Hoogendoorn

Jonathan is a Massachusetts-based geopolitical analyst with an M.S. in International Relations and Diplomacy from Northeastern University. He works at a global analytics firm as well as Wikistrat, focusing on the Russian-European relationship, industry/political dynamics, and diplomatic relations. Follow Jonathan on Twitter: @jonathanhoog