RUSSIAN HACKING: VALDIMIR PUTIN’S ATTEMPT TO RESTORE RUSSIAN WORLD DOMINION?
THE NEW YORKER PROVIDES THE CONTEXT FOR RUSSIA’S INTERFERENCE IN THE U.S. ELECTIONS
From the time of Catherine the Great who ruled Russia from 1762 until her death in 1796, to the Russian Revolution in 1917, the Stalin and Khrushchev Era’s up until the breakup of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia had been a world power second to only the United States in its later years for most of the Twentieth Century. Today, Russia more closely resembles a failed state where civil rights are non-existent, the press is tightly controlled, protests are put down with violence, and where Vladimir Putin rules with an iron fist. Reporters and others who publicly criticize President Putin have a nasty habit of winding up dead. Economically depressed and no longer wielding the same Cold War influence in the world as it did since the end of World War II, hard times are a fact of life in Catherine the Great’s once powerful nation.
This, in sum, is what the recent New Yorker Magazine article lays out as the background which has led Russia to engage in massive cyber warfare against not only the United State but against the West in general. Putin sees this assault as the modern equivalent of the Cold War’s “Hot Wars” that both the U.S. and the Soviet Union engaged in around the world.
The article itself is a long, thorough look at how Putin and the FSB have come to adopt this means of undermining Western democracies in an effort to restore Russia’s influence in world affairs since – absent its nuclear arsenal – the nation no longer has the same means to interfere physically in the domestic affairs of countries around the world and it can no longer rely on its former Soviet Union client states (Ukraine, Georgia, Latvia, Roumania, etc.) to assist in its efforts. (The U.S.’s defense budget is $600 billion annually. Russia’s is $85 billion, ranking in third place after China at $216 billion.) While the United States engages in similar kinds of cyber warfare, so far there has been no evidence that the U.S. has engaged in the kind of cyber attacks that undermine the basic institutions of a country that Russia does. (It may be that such activities have simply yet to be exposed.)
I urge you to read the full article since it does explain how and why it is that Russia came to hack the Democratic National Committee’s computer systems and cooperated with Julian Assange and WikiLeaks to hack and disseminate Hillary Clinton’s e-mails. Below are a few of the more interesting snippets from the New Yorker. Here's the link: ACTIVE MEASURES
In case you still have doubts that it was Russia who hacked the DNC, 17 Federal intelligence agencies have agreed that Russia and/or its agents, was responsible. In addition, in previously secret testimony before the Senate, former National Security Director and long time intelligence officer James Clapper, (he served under both President Bushes as well as Clinton and Obama) described an unprecedented Russian effort to interfere with the U.S. electoral process. The operation involved hacking Democrat’s e-mails, publicizing the stolen contents through WikiLeaks, and manipulating social media to spread “fake news” and pro-Trump messages.
But Russia’s destabilizing efforts aren't and weren’t limited to the United States. In fact, Russia has actively attempted to undermine other Western nations as well. A decade ago, Russia was displeased with the government of Estonia’s proposal to remove a statue of a World War II Russian soldier from the center of its capital, Tallinn. On April 27, 2007, the statue was moved. Almost immediately, commentators in Russian-language chat rooms posted instructions on how to become a “script kidde,” or an amateur hacker. The attackers did not need to “hack” Estonian’s cyber sites, exactly; they simply swamped them with “distributed denial of service” – DdoS - assaults, which continued for two weeks. The Estonian event showed that Russia, allegedly working in concert with the mafia, was going to react in an aggressive way to even perceived political slights.
Barely a year after the Estonian attack during a conflict with Georgia over the territory of South Ossetia, Russian tanks and planes crossed into the disputed territory at the same moment that hackers broke into fifty four Ukrainian Web sites serving the government, the media and banks. They stole military information and immobilized the nation’s internet. Georgian officers struggled to send orders to troops, and bewildered citizens had no way to find out what was happening. The Georgia campaign was “one of the first times you’ve seen conventional ground operations married with cyber activity,” Michael Sulmeyer, a senior Pentagon official, said. “It showed not just an understanding that these techniques could be useful in combined operations but that the Russians were willing to do them. These guys implemented.”
Did you know that Michael Flynn was a frequent presenter on Russia Today, RT Television, one of the propaganda outlets funded by the Russian government? And that he got paid for his appearances? Putin describes RT’s role in the political war Russia finds itself waging with the West today, referring to the “complicated” state of global politics and “distortions of events,” including in Ukraine and Syria, and saying that RT can describe “the true events” to a growing global audience yearning for unbiased facts.
The New Yorker describes the CIA and FBI's initial dismissal of the now infamous dossier on Trump's activities (the water sports) and connections to Russia and Putin compiled by former MI-6 British spy, Christopher Steele, but as they began to check out the allegations contained in the dossier, they discovered that they were, in fact, turning out to be substantiated.
If you, like me, wondered what the hell was going on July 22, 2016 when WikiLeaks suddenly dumped 30,000 e-mails hacked from the Democratic National Committee’s servers on the public, The New Yorker article is invaluable to understanding that this was not just some one-off but a tried and true pattern of similar such attacks by Russia for over a decade to influence the internal actions of sovereign nations. Efforts to destabilize democratic institutions, in the words of the spy community. In this case, an effort to prevent Hillary Clinton from winning the Presidency. It would appear that Russia's efforts struck gold here in the United States. The New Yorker article doesn't answer the questions concerning Trump and Tump's associates involvement in or assistance to Russian nefariousness but it does bring some much needed context and reasoning to how and why such contacts might have occurred. Donald J. Trump's tax returns would also provide context and reasons.
The latest Jeff Sessions news is a mere side show to this entire matter. There is no longer any question that Russian hacks and subsequent media efforts were designed to assist Trump in his election campaign. The hacking of the DNC by Russia has been called “an act of war” by public officials. The question remains, however, of just what involvement did Trump and/or his campaign associates and family members have in assisting Russia and Putin to accomplish this goal. Were members of Trump’s Team involved? Was Russia promised the removal of sanctions after Obama kicked 30 of their diplomats out of the United States following the DNC hack? What are Trump’s financial connections to Russia? Was a closer, less adversarial U.S. /Russian relationship in the offing should Trump win the Presidential election? It looks as if we are going to find out answers to these questions despite powerful resistance by the FBI and Republicans and Trump defenders. The entire matter is beginning to unravel before our eyes. It might take some time but we’ve been through this before.
Once more it occurs to me that this drip, drip, drip of information and revelations emerging from the alleged Trump/Russian connections are just like the early stages of the Watergate scandal during the Nixon Administration. This one, however, is much more serious than a third rate burglary or a “dirty tricks” campaign against political opponents that Nixon and his associates carried out during his Presidency. We are dealing with something that is potentially much more explosive and potentially dangerous.
Have A Good Day But Remember That The Patriot Act Enabled Our Intelligence Agencies to Monitor (Spy On and Record) Our Phone Calls and Internet Activity Something That A Number of Trump Associates Seem to Have Forgotten.