Facing an evolving asymmetric political warfare threat from Russia and other actors, further complicated by artificial intelligence (AI), the growing availability of big data, and other developments, the West needs an effective "whole-of-society" response including better information sharing, greater investment in relevant research, and a deterrence strategy against political warfare with clearly defined consequences for specific offensive actions, David M. Rubenstein Fellow Alina Polyakova and Nonresident Senior Fellow Spencer P. Boyer argue in the fourth of a series of papers for the Brookings - Robert Bosch Foundation Transatlantic Initiative (BBTI).
This paper outlines the current state of play in political warfare, identifies emerging threats, and proposes potential policy responses. It argues for greater information sharing mechanisms between trans-Atlantic governments and the private sector, greater information security and transparency, and greater investments in research and development on AI and computational propaganda. As authoritarian regimes seek to undermine democratic institutions, Western societies must harness their current— though fleeting—competitive advantage in technology to prepare for the next great leap forward in political warfare. Western governments should also develop a deterrence strategy against political warfare with clearly defined consequences for specific offensive actions, while ensuring they retain their democracies’ core values of openness and freedom of expression.