June 3, 2019 (Analysis) When Robert Mueller III stepped in front of the cameras, there were a few things he said. Most of the press is paying attention to whether he issued a report for Congress to take up impeachment, or not. Most of the discussion has moved on to whether Speaker Nancy Pelosi will take this up, or whether she will continue to resist. The politics of impeachment have taken center stage. However, there was something else to the statement, and the whole first section of the report is concentrating on this.
The United States was the victim of an attack in 2016. It was not unlike a Pearl Harbor, or even a September 11. Yet, there are no piles of bodies, nor a military mobilization. Partly, the actions taken by the Russian Federation are the kind that is hard to grasp for most Americans. Nor is the President of the United States, thin skin that he is, and poor leader, willing to even consider it. The Russian Federation participated in the American elections, and put its finger on the scale by favoring the election of Donald J Trump.
They used hybrid warfare. It is different from what most Americans think of war. It is hardly a linear conflict. Both are defined as follows:
Linear conflicts are defined by a sequential progression of a planned strategy by opposing sides, whereas nonlinear conflict is the simultaneous deployment of multiple, complementary military and non-military warfare tactics.
A nonlinear war is fought when a state employs conventional and irregular military forces in conjunction with psychological, economic, political, and cyber assaults. Confusion and disorder ensue when weaponized information exacerbates the perception of insecurity in the populace as political, social, and cultural identities are pitted against one another.
This “blurring” divides influential interest groups and powerful political organizations by exploiting identity politics and allegiances. Additionally, nonlinear warfare tactics act as a deterrent towards a more powerful ally of the besieged state.
This is not a full kinetic war. In other words, there are no casualties, and no military units clashing. It is just short of the need for a military response. And this is the way the Russians (as well as the Chinese) like it. It is doing a lot of damage, but the target is so far unwilling to respond. Any escalation could lead to a full-on war, which Russia will lose.
It is not new. The Russians have always been very good at misdirection. During the Great Patriotic War, World War Two for the rest of us, they used misdirection as a classic strategy. It is what is called Maskirovka. It kept the Wehrmacht on its toes, and ultimately was one reason for the defeat of the Third Reich. While it was deployed as part of an overall war strategy, in some ways Hybrid Warfare relies on misdirection as well.
Where exactly did the Special Counsel Office show us that the Russians were deep in a campaign of misdirection in the United States? The first was with the indictment of seven GRU officers, who engaged in cyber-operations against the Democratic Party. Per the indictment:
>The object of the conspiracy was to hack into the computers of U.S. persons and entities involved in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, steal documents from those computers, and stage releases of the stolen documents to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
It is not like the US will ever try any of these men in a US Court. The indictment was part of an American tactic of naming and shaming. We can question whether this is effective, or not, but what they did was engage in cyber-espionage. Why?
You have to look at the end of the Cold War for an answer.
When the Berlin Wall fell, Americans were elated. It was the end of a sub-rosa war that started in 1945. The United States and the western alliance won. The system of liberal democracies and capitalism succeeded over communism. It got so silly that we even claimed the end of history was upon us, and all was good. The global system was now in the model of the Western Alliance and in our delight and equality, we would open it to the defeated Russians and Eastern Europeans. There was a price to pay though. And the defeated nations did, as they opened their economies to the West and privatized large swaths of their public economies. State companies became private entities, making a few people very rich in the process.
It did something else. Many members of the KGB, among them a young colonel by the name of Vladimir Putin, suddenly found themselves without a mission and a job. Their careers were over, but the enemy was not gone. In fact, for that young colonel, who had to make a hasty retreat from East Germany, this was a formative blow. Putin saw this not just as a defeat of the Soviet Union, but a historic mistake. He vowed to reverse this error. In time he would rebuild the empire. He had a duty to the motherland, and he knew what he needed to do.
The first thing he did was join the civil government, first in St Petersburg, and later in Moscow. These were critical years for the Russian Federation. The economy collapsed, and quite a bit of the social safety net was privatized. This is when young Putin developed the kind of contacts he would need with an emerging Oligarch class. When he ran for Premiere in 1999 the country was in full-on collapse. He was seen as a young hope, after the disaster years under Boris Yeltsin. He created the political and social capital he needed and has been in the upper reaches of power ever since.
His promise to bring back the glory of the motherland never disappeared. He knows though that a direct confrontation with the west would lead to a fast military defeat. Worst case, it could lead to a nuclear exchange, and the end of Mother Russia as he knows it. This is not something he can afford.
Ergo, the return of Maskirovka, which is perfect for a former Colonel of the KGB. The old organization has been rebuilt in the form of the FSB, with competition from the Russian Military Intelligence, the GRU. Which brings us full circle to the Mueller report.
It is in the first part that the Special Prosecutor explained the findings. The United States was under direct attack by the Russians, who did help elect one of the two candidates to the White House. The warning from Mueller is stark because this is not over. He is clear in his report that the Russians will do this again in 2020, and that every American should be concerned. However, the top layers of our government are not.
Enter the Ego of Donald Trump
A good leader would step forward and admit it. He received help. For President Donald Trump this matter is where his thin skin shows the worst. He does not even want to consider this. Even if after the Mueller statement he came the closest. He tweeted as follows:
Russia, Russia, Russia! That’s all you heard at the beginning of this Witch Hunt Hoax…And now Russia has disappeared because I had nothing to do with Russia helping me to get elected. It was a crime that didn’t exist. So now the Dems and their partner, the Fake News Media,…..say he fought back against this phony crime that didn’t exist, this horrendous false accusation, and he shouldn’t fight back, he should just sit back and take it. Could this be Obstruction? No, Mueller didn’t find Obstruction either. Presidential Harassment!
These are the keywords in this Tweet, why I am repeating it in full “I had nothing to do with Russia helping me to get elected.”
He walked this back soon after. However, this is the closest he has come to admitting what happened in 2016. He is far from leading on this, partly because he believes (to a point he is correct) that this steals legitimacy from his victory in 2016. While the office of the SCO did not find enough evidence to indict his organization for conspiracy with the Russians, there was certainly some cooperation. It did not rise to conspiracy, and the SCO was careful to explain why collision does not exist under US Law.
However, a good leader and none will claim Trump is one, would get in front of this. He would demand that the United States Congress pass legislation to protect the integrity of the election. There would be money allocated to improve the cyber defenses of 50 different state elections. Instead, we are seeing the rantings on Twitter of a man with a deep sense of persecution that cannot get outside of himself and well, lead.
The ego is so great that he instead attacks all who point to this issue. He also attacked the investigation from the git-go and has favored the Russians at every stage of the game, instead of his country. At Helsinki, he took Putin’s word over that of his own intelligence officers. This should worry all since he seems to be placing the needs of the Russian Federation above those of the United States.
It may be partially about ego. If there is something that is clear is that the president has a very fragile thin skin. Anything that questions his role in this, or that of the Russians, sends him into paroxysms of rage that are obvious on his Twitter page. This is why the admission above was to a point surprising.
There is more about Trump. He has businesses around the world, We know that all he does is about Donald Trump first, and last. So this should not be too much of a surprise. The needs of the country are likely the last thing in his mind, and I hate to think this of any American president, but he has made this clear with his reaction to any criticism, or oversight.
While the inquiry did not find enough evidence to charge for conspiracy, they did find enough evidence of an intelligence operation. One that the president has yet to acknowledge.
He is not alone though. His party is part of the problem. And we need to start with Senate Leader Mitch McConnell from Kentucky. Leader McConnell refused to take any action when he was informed of the Russian meddling by the Obama administration. According to former Vice-President Joe Biden:
Biden said he and former President Barack Obama worried that without a united front of bipartisanship, speaking out before the election would undermine the legitimacy of the election and American institutions in a way that would play into the Russians’ larger ambitions.
“Can you imagine if the president called a press conference in October, with this fella, Bannon, and company, and said, ‘Tell you what: Russians are trying to interfere in our elections and we have to do something about it,’” Biden said. “What do you think would have happened? Would things have gotten better, or would it further look like we were trying to delegitimize the electoral process, because of our opponent?”
McConnell’s office disputed this account, pointing to a letter signed by all four congressional leaders in September 2016 and sent to the president of the National Association of State Election Directors, urging cybersecurity precautions in light of reports of attempted hacking.
That missive, however, did not address Russia specifically, or the larger topic of influence beyond voting systems.
This has been known for a while, and the pattern from Leader McConnell continues. To this day he is doing all he can to block legislation that would protect the system. Which should raise a lot of questions. Why is McConnell doing this? What is the benefit? Well, we have gotten donations from Russian oligarchs, as well as other Republicans, One needs to ask if this is one of the reasons. After all, it does look as if McConnell is bringing home the Russian bacon, though people like Oleg Deripaska, who was also involved in the 2016 saga:
Rusal, the aluminum company partially owned by Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, announced plans to invest around $200 million to build a new aluminum plant in Kentucky just months after the Trump administration removed it from the U.S. sanctions list.
The new aluminum plant, slated to be built in the home state of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, will be the biggest new aluminum plant constructed in the U.S. in decades. Rusal will have a 40 percent stake in the facility.
”Rusal, one of the leading global aluminium producers, and Braidy Industries Inc., a U.S. base holding company which owns both Veloxint, an MIT-incubated lightweighting solutions company, and NanoAl, a Northwestern University incubated materials research and technology company, announce an intent to establish a joint project in Ashland, Kentucky, USA to produce flat-rolled aluminium products for the U.S. automotive industry,” according to a company press release.
We are facing a constitutional crisis. But we are on the precipice of something far worse than that. The Russians intend to defeat the United States. Putin has not made any bones about it. The party that once accused Democrats of being a hate America first party, has turned out to be the hide in the sand, nothing to see here, party. In effect, they are in deep denial, if we are to be nice, that Russia is at war with the United States. Perhaps the lack of human casualties makes this hard to comprehend. Maybe it will take a cyber attack that will drop the electric grid and lead to actual casualties. Or perhaps the level of corruption in DC is such, that short term any of these people will sell the country for a few rubbles.
Mueller found the goods. There was Russian interference in the election, and he expects more. The party of Lincoln seems incapable of understanding this. And Democrats can pass all the bills they wish to in the House, if the Senate does not take them up, they are effectively dead.
For Russia, this is a waiting game. Like the Napoleonic invasion of the Motherland, they expect victory. It is the same after the Nazi invasion of mother Russia. They know that history and remember it. We don’t remember last week and are impatient to a fault. Our political class is more enamored with short term benefits, and with securing their power. That alone makes them easy to exploit.