August 07, 2023

Election Interference Demands a Collective Defense

How Democracies Can Fight Back Against Foreign Meddling

As campaign season heats up ahead of the 2024 U.S. election, so does the potential for foreign political interference. Russia and China both pair a willingness to do harm with sophisticated cyber capabilities. Iran has its own track record of meddling in American politics, and it, too, may be tempted to interfere. And the United States is not the only target. In recent years, Australia, Canada, France, and Germany have all been subject to attempts at foreign interference. For the foes of democracy, distorting electoral politics now seems to be a low-cost, high-reward way to support their favored candidates, harm their perceived enemies, or simply deepen polarization and sow internal distrust—often with the added benefit of plausible deniability.

The stakes have grown too high and the threats too pervasive to leave every democracy to its own devices.

This threat cuts to the core of the liberal democratic way of life. So far, however, democracies have mostly responded unilaterally. The United States’ democratic friends looked at Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election as mainly an American problem, to be dealt with by Washington. Similarly, Moscow’s interference in the 2017 French presidential election was considered a problem for Paris. Chinese intrusions into Australian politics that year were deemed a matter for Canberra. None of these episodes, nor other incidents since, have elicited a collective response, even from allied democracies.

Read the full article and more from Foreign Affairs.