US and Russian officials said on Friday the two countries would work together in a number of areas, including cybersecurity.
Officials revealed the effort following the first high-stakes meeting between President Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Group of 20 summit in Germany.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov have both indicated that countries will focus on cybersecurity, while describing potential efforts in different terms.
Lavrov – who attended the meeting with Trump, Putin and Tillerson – told reporters that the United States and Russia will launch a “bilateral task force” that will focus on cybersecurity.
âIt was agreed that all these issues, including counterterrorism efforts, combating organized crime and hacker activities in all their manifestations, will be at the center of Russian-American bilateral cooperation. A bilateral working group will be set up for these purposes. “Lavrov said, according to the Russian state press organ TASS.
Meanwhile, Tillerson told reporters executives plan to set up “a task force” to handle cybersecurity issues.
The two leaders also recognize the challenges of cyber threats and interference in democratic processes in the United States and other countries, and have agreed to explore creating a framework around which the two countries can work together to better understand how to deal with these cyber threats, âTillerson said.
Tillerson said the “framework” would deal with “how these tools are used to interfere with the internal affairs of countries, but also how tools are used to threaten infrastructure, how these tools are also used from a terrorism perspective.” .
While Tillerson’s remarks hinted at the joint effort, including a focus on government-led cybersecurity attacks, such as the interference in the 2016 U.S. election that Russia is accused of leading, Lavrov’s comments did not appear to refer to such an effort.
Tillerson said the operation on the US side would be led by the State Department and the Office of the National Security Advisor.
The announcement raised eyebrows among Russian experts fearing that Putin could take advantage of Trump and that continued cooperation ahead of deterrence for recent Russian attacks would send the wrong message.
“If the Russians want to coordinate with us on cybersecurity, it is probably an intelligence gathering operation,” said Jim Townsend, former Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Europe and NATO, currently Associate Researcher at the Center for a New American Security.
“Usually when the Russians make an offer to the United States these days, it’s not because they like us.”
Instead, Townsend said, the move could be a measure to reap the prestige of working with the United States and as a chance to take a look at the United States’ team of experts and his approach to the problem.
It is unlikely, he said, that any kind of task force would accomplish much due to the layers of secrecy the two countries would place in front of their envoys and the fact that Russia is viewed by most allied nations. as the author of many destructive cyber attacks. .
Democrats sounded the alarm on Friday that the United States and Russia could work together on cyber issues.
representing Adam schiffAdam Bennett Schiff Jan. 6 panel votes to despise Bannon Press: Steve Bannon behind bars in the basement of the Capitol? Paris Hilton to travel to Capitol Hill to advocate for children’s treatment center bill MORE (California), the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee investigating Russian interference in the election, said setting up a task force with Russia “would be like calling on North Koreans to participate in a commission on non-proliferation “.
Schiff said the idea “tacitly embraces the fiction that the Russians are a constructive partner on the subject instead of the worst actor on the world stage.”
“It’s like giving the alarm code to the guys who just broke into your house. Make it easy for them next time,” Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.) Also tweeted.