[text_output]The US presidential election of 2016 is entertaining the world and Russia’s Kremlin. The sad reality is one of the two major party candidates, Donald Trump (R) or Hillary Clinton (D) will be the next president of the United States come Friday, January 20, 2017.
The US electorate dislikes them both.
Global leaders and their intelligence and foreign policy apparatus are burning the midnight oils as they try and put their arms around what is coming to the global stage come 2017. If it wasn’t scaring the shit out of me, and so many others, then it would actually be humorous.
While the decision day of November 8, 2016 is fast approaching the US electorate, it is regrettable many will find themselves voting for the presidential candidate they think sucks less.
The Kremlin, led by Vladimir Putin, has made their choice early on.
A powerful statement. One may argue, countries don’t attempt to influence the affairs or elections of another country? To that I say, open your history books.The Russian Federation uses their intelligence community to achieve their goals, their “active measures” (активные мероприятия) capabilities are fully operational.They are not alone, the United States has used their intelligence community and covert action capability in a similar manner (Iran, Chile, Cuba), often times directed by Presidential findings and directives and congressional oversight. Every country takes steps to protect their national interests, to influencing the actions within another country. Scan the headlines you will see examples such as the one in the Indian Express, “Everywhere the foreign hand.”
Those familiar with the ways of the former Soviet Union, will recognize the Soviet Realpolitik toy box was never thrown out, it was simply repainted and refreshed by the Russian Federation, moreso under Putin than others. Their adroitness at chess (шахматы), a national pastime in Russia, is demonstrated as they move their pieces across the global landscape, reflecting their mastery of the gambit.
The US government is not naive as to the role of Russian active measures, and in fact, Section 501 of the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017 (which started 01 October) includes specific verbiage directing the President to “establish an interagency committee to counter active measures by the Russian Federation that constitute Russian actions to exert covert influence over peoples and governments.”
The Kremlin knows Clinton, they have danced with Clinton for more than 16 years, most intensively and directly during her term as Secretary of State. They respect her for her connectedness, both domestically and abroad, and marvel at 112 countries visited and the 956,733 miles she traveled as Secretary of State.
The Kremlin knows Trump, and the Russian oligarchs know him better than the politicos. They know his money, and he knows theirs. They respect the bazzari manner he displays, negotiate agree and negotiate some more. It is not alien in the Russian markets.
[icon_list_item type=”bullhorn”]Russian active measures[/icon_list_item]
The Democratic National Committee (DNC) hack has been well documented and discussed ad nauseum. I crafted a piece in June, Hacking Politics – Political Security in an Election Year, which discussed why Russia would be interested in the content of the DNC servers. I said then, “political parties plan to win, so lists and analysis on best candidates for key administration posts (cabinet and select appointees) will always be of interest to an adversary, as will the national security transition. Once the national primaries are concluded and the candidates for president solidified, these individuals will begin receiving national security briefings.” Then on 09 October, President Obama points the finger at Russia, and accuses them of meddling in the US election … about time.
With the DNC hack, the Russian’s have Clinton’s transition game plan.
Are we tired of hearing about Hillary’s email server? Absolutely. Let’s step over the discussion on whether or not classified correspondence was kept on these servers kept in her personal residence. Indeed, let’s assume, all the content was considered only sensitive and intra-office discussions.
From a foreign intelligence perspective, the content may not be platinum, due to lack of classified information, but it sure as hell is a treasure trove of gold. Containing the thoughts, methodologies, connections, interconnections and other jewels to assist an adversary in determining the plans and intentions of a leader.
The FBI Director James Comey, concludes that it is possible that hostile actors gained access to the email servers. Comey’s statement on the topic in July 2016, “With respect to potential computer intrusion by hostile actors, we did not find direct evidence that Secretary Clinton’s personal e-mail domain, in its various configurations since 2009, was successfully hacked. But, given the nature of the system and of the actors potentially involved, we assess that we would be unlikely to see such direct evidence. We do assess that hostile actors gained access to the private commercial e-mail accounts of people with whom Secretary Clinton was in regular contact from her personal account. We also assess that Secretary Clinton’s use of a personal e-mail domain was both known by a large number of people and readily apparent. She also used her personal e-mail extensively while outside the United States, including sending and receiving work-related e-mails in the territory of sophisticated adversaries. Given that combination of factors, we assess it is possible that hostile actors gained access to Secretary Clinton’s personal e-mail account.”
In summary, the Russian active measures produced reams of information from the DNC to include folio’s on every individual being considered for any number of the 100s of political appointee positions (to include intimate personal details). Coupled with correspondence on how Clinton engages her internal team, to include providing direction, redirection and decision making. Who would not want this level of detail going into any negotiation with an adversary.
The NSA tools go missing
In August 2016 the world realized that the National Security Agency’s offensive operations group lost their tool box. Indeed, the toolbox was splayed out for all to see by Shadow Brokers. In my piece, NSA’s Tools Go Missing to Shadow Brokers, I commented how this theft and subsequent exposure, was “a signal to the United States from Russia, let the cyber-espionage games begin, we have your toys.” The aforementioned reaction of President Obama re Russia’s technological shenanigans within the US electoral process provides credence – let the cyber-espionage games begin.
[icon_list_item type=”bullhorn”]The Kremlin’s Preference: A Russian Gambit [/icon_list_item]
The Russian playbook when it comes to Hillary Clinton is robust, complex and complete. Trump is a wildcard. They know him only in the context of his business acumen. The current residents in the Kremlin view Trump in the same way they viewed Ronald Reagan, an unpredictable gadfly. But Trump isn’t Reagan. Say what you will about Reagan and his Hollywood roots, he surrounded himself with subject matter experts who were on point. Trump has no plan, they know he will wing-it, and that is not in their interests.
Thus Putin continues to snub and embarrass the US in the diplomatic scrums at the G20, Syria, Ukraine, Crimea, NATO, etc. They feed their propaganda machines, RT, Pravda and others with global opinion on how Trump’s isolationist policy is in their interests. They create opportunity for the US media to grab soundbites and relish when Trump provides his own, leaving the public without comment on the “bromance” between Trump and Putin.
They smiled when Clinton said, on many occasions during the second debate (09 October) how the Russians don’t want her in the White House.
Others agree with Clinton’s observation that the Russian activity is in support of Donald Trump, and there can be a cogent argument made which arrives at this conclusion.
I submit, this is a Russian gambit, a beautifully mastered piece of reverse psychology which is being consumed by the US media, like a child consumes cotton candy. Indeed, the US media is not only buying it, they are serving it up to the US electorate in an unending narrative, that a vote for Trump is a vote for Russia.
But the reality is, they prefer the devil they know. The Kremlin prefers Hillary Clinton
Note: A version of this article was published by Huffington Post on 12 October 2016