President Obama has declared that the United States will retaliate against Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election "in a time and place of our choosing." Yet what the president plans on doing remains an open question. Here, I list some possible actions and the pros and cons of each.
The president could place harsher sanctions on Russia in retaliation for its cyberattacks against the United States. Crippling sanctions could decrease Putin's popularity at home and ability to influence events abroad.
-Sanctions have mixed record in altering state behavior
-Could increase anti-Western sentiment in Russia
The president could increase sanctions on Putin and his inner circle, making them pay a personal price for their actions.
+Does not harm innocent Russians
-Putin has $81 billion. I don't think he cares if his vodka gets more expensive.
The president could ask the NSA to acquire damning information about Putin and the United Russia party and leak it on the internet through a Wikileaks-like frontgroup
+Equivalent to Russian action
Panama Papers demonstrated ability of leaks to damage Putin regime is minimal.
The president could make the Russians pay a price on their overseas ambitions by shooting down their planes in Syria.
+Indisputable evidence of resolve
+Might save civilians
+US wants Assad gone anyway
+Demonstrates potential for kinetic response to cyberattacks
-Might further destabilize Middle East
-Probably requires attacking SAMs and airfields, might escalate from there.
-Some losses inevitable
-Russia or other powers could acquire, reverse engineer technology from downed US aircraft
Large Scale Cyberattacks
The president could a massive cyberattack against Russia, causing massive damage to its infrastructure and economy.
+Sets clear retaliation threshold & precedent for future cyberwars
+Potential for immense damage
+Potential deterrent for future cyberattacks against US.
-Russian retaliation could cause immense damage to US infrastructure, economy
-Potential to escalate to shooting war
The president could order cyberattacks against individuals in the Russian regime with the goal of financially ruining them, obliterating billions of dollars of wealth overnight.
+Couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of guys
-Russian retaliation could lead to broader cyberwar
World War III
The president could invoke Article 5 and the US-Japan Security Treaty (citing the right to mutual self-defense and Russian occupation of the Kuril Islands as a means to circumvent Article 5) and initiate a large-scale attack on Russia from air, land, sea, and cyberspace with the goal of evicting them from all territory not internationally recognized as Russian soil as well as Kaliningrad.
+Permanently cripple Russia as potential adversary
+Massive boost to future US deterrence efforts if successful
+Makes for great television, Youtube
-Inevitably leads to war with Iran and Syria. Possibly North Korea and China as well.
-Large-scale losses inevitable
-Allies may not agree to assist
-Potential for nuclear holocaust
-Losses may impede future attempts to contain China
-Obama might have to return Nobel prize