Marco Levytsky, NP-UN.
The world was hit with a double whammy of revelations about the hydra of Russian interference in the United States democratic system last week. First, on February 13, came the testimony of heads of the lead U.S. intelligence agencies, who warned that Russia intends to use cyberattacks, more propaganda, and other tactics to try and influence upcoming elections for the U.S. Congress and in some European countries.
Testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee, the directors of the CIA, the FBI, the National Security Agency, and three other spy agencies all agreed with the assessment that Moscow had not curtailed its efforts to influence U.S. politics since the 2016 presidential election, reported RFE/RL.
“Persistent and disruptive cyberoperations will continue against the United States and our European allies using elections as opportunities to undermine democracy,” Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, who serves as head of the 17-member U.S. intelligence community, told lawmakers.
“At a minimum, we expect Russia to continue using propaganda, social media, false-flag personas, sympathetic spokespeople, and other means of influence to try to exacerbate social and political fissures in the United States,” Coats said.
“This is not going to change or stop,” Admiral Michael Rogers, director of the National Security Agency, told the panel.
Then, on February 16, a U.S. grand jury indicted 13 Russians and three Russian companies, including one known informally as the “Troll Factory,” for meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, and on charges including bank fraud, conspiracy, and identity theft.
The charges, announced by the Special Counsel Robert Mueller, are the most significant criminal allegations to emerge to date from Mueller’s deepening probe of Russian activities in the United States.
In the court document released by Mueller’s office, the jury said that the Russian entities began interfering in U.S. political processes as early as 2014, reported RFE/RL.
The 37-page indictment said some of those charged posed as “U.S. persons” who then communicated with individuals associated with President Donald Trump’s election campaign. It said those individuals were “unwitting” in their communications with the Russians.
Commentators on U.S. news channels have been in a feeding frenzy ever since these most ominous revelations surfaced, some even going so far as to label Russia’s actions as “an act of war”.
That assessment is not off the mark. Because for Russia to meddle in the elections of a democratic foreign nation is a gross violation of that country’s sovereignty which constitutes nothing less than an act of war. And we in Canada too are vulnerable. Although all three major parties in the House of Commons are fully behind Ukraine in its struggle with Russian aggression, and there is no Canadian politician deluded with Russian propaganda to the extent that Trump is (with the possible exception of Green Party Leader Elizabeth May, who has no chance of forming a government), it is unlikely that Russian election meddling would succeed in electing a Putin puppet as leader. But you can count on the Russians to target the most vocal supporters of Ukraine like Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland (who they already have targeted in the past) and virtually every member of the Canada-Ukraine Parliamentary Friendship Group.
Because the objectives of Russian meddling in democratic Western elections are multi-purposed. Their meddling in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election was not only intended to put a moron in the White House, it was also intended to keep Hillary Clinton out. That’s why the Russian supported the campaigns of both Bernie Sanders and Jill Stein. And why would Putin take so much trouble to take Hillary out? Because he hates her. To begin with, Putin has a very low regard for any woman in any leadership role. He has demonstrated that with his treatment of Angela Merkel as well. But he also hates Hillary because, in December, 2011, she publicly supported protestors who rejected the rigged Russian elections. The Crocodile of the Kremlin has never forgiven her for that. Freeland, therefore, perfectly fits the profile of politicians Putin hates.
But the effects of the meddling go even further. By using all means through social media and the internet to polarize the U.S. society, Putin has managed to disrupt the workings of government to such an extent that Congress cannot even put a funding bill together that would allow the government to function on a regular basis, as opposed to putting together a band-aid solution every three weeks just to keep the wheels in motion on a temporary basis. A dysfunctional U.S. government is a victory for Putin.
What is particularly disconcerting – and downright dangerous – is the continued refusal of the Trump administration to recognize the threat that Russian cyber warfare poses to the very future of not only U.S. democracy, but world security. As Commander-in-Chief, Trump has the ability to seriously impair all the U.S. intelligence efforts to mitigate the ramifications of Russian election meddling. His reasons for wanting to quash the Russia investigation are many. For one thing there is a huge money trail which leads from the Moscow underworld to Trump Tower. For another, there is much more yet to be uncovered in respect to possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Russian agents. But most of all this is a case of hubris – Trump’s pride in particular. His pride overrides any sense of public responsibility he may have had for his country and its welfare. It stands in the way of any proper resolution of the very real threat Russia poses to the United States and to the world. They say that pride leads to a fall. But in Trump’s case, he may bring the rest of the world down with him.