Not using intelligence publicly is not the same as not using it at all. And I don’t agree that gathering embarrassing tidbits about leaders is as or more important than military and other strategic intelligence. Every instance of intelligence gathered is an instance of a risk taken by our people and the people cooperating with or selling information to us. Let’s not spend those risks cheaply.
You seem to be saying, why should we waste our time with strategic intelligence, when we could embarrass Putin and his cronies in front of their people?
First of all, I think the world requires a demonstration. Espionage is just another tool of statecraft, and sometimes visible action - deniable, of course - is needed. Now is one of those times.
Second of all, why shouldn’t you be trying to undermine the Russian regime? They did it to you, with exceptional success. They weakened you, now it’s time for you to weaken them.
How is intelligence that weakens an enemy not “strategic intelligence”? You think it’s all just missile submarines and shit? The Russians managed to get a dangerous idiot elected President of the United States. That’s far more dangerous than messing with some nuclear program or something.
Because it’s a very unequal relationship. The US is a threat to Russia in its capacity as a virtually unchallenged global superpower. Russia is no such threat to anyone in that capacity, but only insofar as they are a rogue nation that deploys hackers and spies to undermine western democracies, particularly the US. It serves Russia’s interests to meddle in US elections and embarrass US politicians. It would do the US little good to do the same to Russia. US interests are best served in this regard through strong defensive countermeasures.
Trump is such a huge risk to American security because he’s the exact opposite of that; he’s an ignorant, thoroughly corrupt, self-serving stooge with deep and largely unknown ties to Putin and Russian oligarchs and would happily sell out his country in a heartbeat if it earned him a few bucks.
I just think you overestimate the effectiveness of using the same tactics on Russia that they are using on us. They are effectively a dictatorship where voting results are a foregone conclusion. I think it would take a lot more espionage to undermine such a regime than it does to cause problems for a democracy. Do you think Putin would care if we leaked a document that said that in our opinion he was a megalomaniacal bully or revealed his sexual kinks (if any)?
I frankly hope our intelligence service is using their efforts on more useful and powerful ammunition.
Russia may not be quite as tightly closed as North Korea, but not for lack of trying. If Putin doesn’t want certain information to circulate inside Russia he has quite a few tools at his disposal to prevent its spread.
It’s not as though it’s going to appear on the evening news on Russian television—those who make such decisions would know better than to displease Putin that way.
So Alessan’s call for the USA to do “exactly the same things to the Russians” has little point—the Russian regime controls information there to a degree that most Americans can’t even imagine.
If the US can take out a Russian ransomware operation quietly, that’s ok with me. If we can spin an Iranian centrifuge remotely till it breaks, and do it without a grandstanding press conference, that’s ok with me. If we could have quietly captured and disappeared Osama Bin Laden off of a Navy vessel, with no comment, that would have been fine with me, too.
No, what you want is for Russia to stop fermenting chaos in the United States and elsewhere. The way to do that is to create enough chaos in Russia to scare them into backing down. Make sure they know that anything they do to you, you’ll do to them twice over. That’s the only effective form of defense.
Russia should be more afraid of the United States than the United States is afraid of Russia.
I’m not saying that America should use the exact same tactics Russia is using on it. Of course not. But autocratic oligarchies like Russia are not more stable than democracies; it’s just that their pressure points are different. You have to find the various power centers and factions and use the information you gather to play them against each other. But first, the U.S. has to decide it’s going to fight.
But then, if we’re not using the same pressure points, then there’s no inherent reason why what we’re doing would need to be public. You only need it to be public when the public has a say in how the country is run.
Saber rattling is also just not the safest thing. We have to do it, but you do NOT want it to go wrong, or we go from a second cold war to a hot war.
We may be doing exactly what you say, just in secret. But, if we’re not, then I trust that it’s because we think we can be more effective cutting off the points. Put in good security so that these sorts of things can’t be taken in the first place, rather than trying to make Russia stop.
Also Biden’s kinda busy right now with the pandemic and getting us out of the Middle East while dealing with the other saber rattling we’re doing with China and Russia. Before Trump, these types of tactics weren’t seen as a huge threat to the country as a whole. We were more worried about hackers being able to shut down infrastructure or mess with the GDP, not leaking emails. And it’s not like Trump was going to do anything to stop his pal, the guy who helped him get into office.
Then there’s the worst case scenario: that we’re not doing anything, and the reason is that there is other kompromat involved.
We were doing exactly that. Strong sanctions against the various oligarchs around Putin, the powerful people with whom he is locked in a mutual ring of dependence, made it difficult for them to move money internationally, limiting their travel and financial options, and seriously destabilizing Putin’s hold on power. That was working.
Then fucking Trump came into office, and all that went away. But Putin never stopped his campaign of disinformation within the U.S. He just doubled down, and Trump cheerfully looked the other way. More than anything, Putin feared Clinton’s presidency because it was an existential threat to his continued administration. Four more years of sanctions and the Russian billionaires would start to wonder what Putin was doing for them. Yes, he’s a billionaire in his own right, but if the other oligarchs turn on him, he’s in trouble. That’s the self interest that motivated his support of Trump, on top of his value in throwing wrenches into American governance.
I presume — I hope — that Biden is looking to reinstate this kind of program.