“Put yourself in the shoes of Russian or Iranian leadership for a moment. Why not interfere with the voting in the U.S. presidential election? What could be more advantageous than catalyzing a bitter and protracted battle over the results of the election, with a chance of igniting civil unrest throughout the country? Sure, it might not work — but with little to lose and so much to gain, why not try?
When it comes to foreign election meddling in elections, disinformation is a serious threat, but the most disruptive form of intrusion is electoral cyber-interference: the freezing of voting systems, the mass deletion of voter registration information, altering vote counts and so on. Such feats may not be easily accomplished, but if they were successful, they could throw the United States into chaos.
The risk is not hypothetical. American intelligence agencies, having hacked into Russian computer networks, report that Russia recently infiltrated some voting systems in the United States. If Russia or another country were to alter tallies or voter information in just a few swing states, it could threaten our confidence in the results of the election.
That is why this week, Joe Biden and President Trump should threaten punishing retaliation should another nation attempt such forms of electoral interference. They should stress that by “interference” they do not mean propaganda or influence campaigns, but rather direct attacks on the election, which are attacks on political independence and thus a form of illegal aggression. And they should warn that such attacks will lead to destructive consequences — as permitted by international law — for the offending nation and its leadership.”