At the very least, there is no reason to believe that one of the two candidates will change policy enough to outweigh the risks of another interference scandal. Even if we assume that Moscow has the technical ability to carry out malicious actions, it is difficult to imagine a situation in which the Americans do not know about them. It is unlikely that the Kremlin, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs or other departments are eager to spoil the already-bad relations for the sake of dubious results. On the other hand, the Americans themselves are unlikely to invent an intervention report without good reason. It is one thing to frighten the public and journalists by spinning notions of a hostile Russia. It is quite another thing to prepare and sign a formal report, in which knowingly false information will lead to the end of a career, or even to criminal prosecution. In other words, if we understand the interference in terms of Executive Order 13848, then the risks are small due to dubious motives for influencing the electoral infrastructure on the part of Russia and the extremely low probability of fictitious reports on the side of the United States. This was well illustrated by the 2018 midterm elections.
Of course, there remains a vast gray area in the form of social media on the issue of intervention. The past four years have been full of varied reports of trolls and bots. In the United States, there is a legal framework for imposing sanctions against those who engage in malicious activity on the Internet (Executive Orders 13694 and 13757 of 2015 and 2016, respectively
, as well as Article 224 of PL 115-44 CAATSA of 2017
). Blocking sanctions were applied against certain Russian individuals and organisations. However, they can hardly be called massive. To date, the US Treasury Department's SDN list includes 61 individuals and entities blocked due to cyber security issues. Despite the fact that there are a total of 308 Russian people
affected by blocking sanctions, their number is regularly replenished from time to time, but the impact of such a routine on business and the economy tends to zero. Undoubtedly, the topic of Russia's "malicious activity" on social networks will continue to be on the agenda. But this in itself will not lead to more widespread sanctions.
Attempts to consolidate strict restrictive measures on the topic of elections have been made in Congress on several occasions. The most famous bills are DASKA and DETER. In late September-early October of this year, two new bills on this topic appeared. The House of Representatives has proposed its own version of DETER
. They also proposed a draft law titled Safeguarding Elections by Countering Unchallenged Russian Efforts (SECURE) Act
. These bills offer sanctions against Russia's sovereign debt obligations, as well as broader blocking sanctions against members of the Russian elite. However, the chances that these projects will be completed are slim. In theory, the Biden administration may be more inclined to tighten sanctions on the topic of interference. But the current actions of the Democrats in Congress do not support this hypothesis. Both Democrats and Republicans do not stop criticising the Kremlin and denouncing the Russian president and his "inner circle". There are also advocates of draconian measures in the administration and in expert circles. However, the measures damage to the United States itself may be more tangible in comparison with the existing sanctions, and the result is far from obvious. In addition, by imposing draconian sanctions now, Washington will lose the opportunity to impose them when the political situation may really require them.