Image credit: BPA // Getty Images

January 19, 2019

The Shutdown Is Great News for Russia

The competition of democracy versus dictatorship is to a degree a contest of narratives.

By Richard Fontaine

The longest government shutdown in American history is making headlines around the world. It will also have global effects, none of them good. U.S. political leaders, so unable to compromise, should understand how their decisions chip away at national security.

First and most obvious are the practical consequences: the State Department employees who have spent weeks on furlough, unable to advocate for U.S. interests; the active-duty Coast Guard members who continue to perform essential functions without pay. Going into critical talks with China, the U.S. Trade Representative’s office lacks 70 percent of its staff.

These effects will end when the government reopens. Not so the increased political polarization that this process engenders, and that provides the kindling on which Russia and others are so keen to throw sparks.

Moscow believes that a divided America is weaker and more inwardly focused, less able to marshal national will or project power—or, to Moscow’s mind, threaten Russia. So Moscow continues to disrupt American democracy by empowering the most polarizing voices and amplifying them in cyberspace and beyond. Left wing, right wing—the ideological disposition matters less than the intensity of the fight.

Read the full article and more in The Atlantic.