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In early November, U.S. President Barack Obama reportedly contacted Russian President Vladimir Putin personally to warn against cyberattacks aimed at the American presidential election.In an election that turned on 100,000 votes in three key states, some observers argue that Russian cyber interference in the political process may have had a significant impact.In 2015, a United Nations Group of Government Experts (including the U.S., Russia, China, and most states with significant cyber capabilities) agreed to a norm of not targeting civilian facilities in peacetime.But how should one interpret Russian behavior in regard to the American election? This alleged Russian disruption of the Democratic presidential campaign fell into a gray area that could be interpreted as a propaganda response to Clinton's 2010 proclamation of a "freedom agenda" for the internet or retaliation for what Russian officials saw as her critical comments about Putin's election in 2012 . A number of critics believe that the level of official Russian state involvement in the 2016 U.S. election process crossed a line and should not be dismissed as a form of tolerable gray-area behavior. These critics have urged the Obama administration to go further in naming and shaming, by providing a fuller public description of what U.S. intelligence knows about Russia's behavior, and by imposing financial and travel sanctions against high-level Russian officials who are identified. Russia's involvement in the 2016 U.S. election was a watershed.
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