By Harry C. Blaney III

Now that we have a definitive unclassified American intelligence reading and finding of the extent and purpose of the Russian hacking of American political parties and efforts to influence the 2016 presidential elections. Those responsible for its writing and those with access to the classified document say the unclassified finding is in keeping with the more detailed classified document. Now the question is whether there will be further U.S. action in response to this report and what the consequences for both sides will be?

We have not yet seen, but may soon see this week, the response by the Obama administration to these now public findings. Also of great importance will be the reaction and statements by Donald Trump and Republican Party leaders. Both Trump and the Russians have been, and are still downplaying, the significance of these acts of active cyberwarfare.

The final great question is whether the reactions and policies and strategies that follow will enhance the security of America and its allies as well as protect the democratic institutions and processes of all NATO members and other American allies. In that context we can put in place protective and preemptive actions to halt or, more likely mitigate, and effectively respond to efforts to divide and weaken Western institutions, especially NATO and the EU. The Russians also have an active program to bring into power far right-wing fascist parties with an anti-American, anti-EU/NATO, anti-liberal democratic, and pro-Russian tendencies. If Russia has its way, these parties will be dependent on Russian support and money – all efforts already undertaken by Russian intelligence agencies, surrogates, and online trolls.

One question that is being asked is whether Trump plans to “clean house” or “de-fang” the CIA and other intelligence agencies and/or set up his own intelligence unit in the White House as has been rumored. This would and should be seen as a major gift to Russia and it security and military forces. Our allies are already scared of what they hear and our cooperation with them on security and intelligence is at risk.

But of even more importance is how to balance the long term American strategic and political interest of working to help create the conditions for a responsible, rational, and cooperative Russia. A Russia where its people can have large measures of freedom and see a future as part of a larger peaceful, cooperative, and non-threatening international community. From what we have seen so far, it is not at all clear that Trump and his often reckless, extreme, and myopic ideological advisors have the temperament, knowledge, and openness to receive expert and unbiased advice or the smarts to navigate that complex path. It also takes courage and patience to fight the “long-game” and there is little ego satisfaction to simply avoid catastrophic mistakes.

In that long-run both Russia and America must learn to live with each other otherwise we as a human civilization will not survive. Both sides have more than enough nuclear weapons to destroy civilization. This is not time to play games on the part of either side. That is a mistake that Putin has made and in the long run will cost him and Russia dearly.

We may on our side have a new leader that is even more reckless and more ignorant of the necessity of caution, understanding complexity, and the proper use of the tools of diplomacy and carefulness than Putin – not a very happy combination for the world.

In Russia, Putin’s advisors have become lackeys. These and his appointment of former KGB colleagues with the same mind set that won’t argue with him – some of them who have dissented have lost more than their jobs. The result is a nation lead by kleptomaniacs, self-serving officials, and lackeys. The result is an inefficient economy, inequality, and the deadening hand of authoritarian rule that deprives Russia of joy, initiative, and not least openness of debate and any real democracy. Its brutal suppression of its citizens’ freedoms, media, and free organized groups are all part of Putin’s aim to create a dictatorship with the use of all the instruments of the state to ensue his rule without question. Is it this Russia that Trump so admires and sees as his modal? 


Image taken from the New York Review of Books

In America, those already chosen by Trump, in large part, were picked because of unquestioned obedience, with a fair share of flawed but be-medaled military paraded by Trump like “arm candy,” or billionaires without a nickel of experience in running a government. There are already reports that Trump’s son-in-law will be controlling foreign Affairs from the White House and that he is the “go-to” person if you want Trump’s ear on foreign affairs or security issues.

All of this is a sign of setting up a family plutocracy. One has to wonder what real role will the incoming Secretary of State have or Trump’s new National Security Council head? That, along with disrespect for the intelligence community when it needs to tell an “inconvenient truth.” Especially this is the case when it has to say the truth to a leader most known for his habitual lies and an ego that brooks no dissent.

In short, we could see an administration made up of not much more than useful idiots, stooges, and unquestioning family members with no experience in governing on sensitive national security issues! Cyberwarfare by Russia may not be needed in a Trump administration

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