By Other Means- On Politics in Cyberspace and Russian Terrorism.
June 26, 2017
America is in need of a good stiff dose of old- fashioned patriotism. From without and within, from the highest office of the land on down, we are under attack, by the Russians and their underlings among the Republican Party. Citizens, we must rally.
CIA chief Mike Pompeo recently said "It's tough. You now have not only nation states trying to steal our stuff, but non-state, hostile intelligence services, well-funded. Folks like WikiLeaks, out there trying to steal American secrets, for the sole purpose of undermining the United States and her democracy."
For all the trouble that Russia manages to cause, and for all its miles and hundreds of millions of citizens, it has an economy of only the same size as little Italy. In order to make Russia great again, Putin has to find a way to fix that.
The Russian cyber-warfare apparatus allows him an inexpensive and shockingly effective way to cripple, entangle, and do literal physical harm to the infrastructure of anything that opposes his will. To understand why these attacks on the rest of us are being committed by Russia, it helps to understand two factors. First, Russia’s domineering and abusive relationship with its former satellite stakes, most notably Ukraine, its largest neighbor to the west. Second, its need to develop a way to compete with NATO in a manner that doesn't cripple its economy with excessive military expense. Since April 27, 2007, the day known to history as the Estonian 9/11, the world has been experiencing virtual assaults from Russia. From the way Russia defines cyberwarfare, to its employment for strategic use, Russia views cyber differently than its western counterparts. As James Wirtz has noted, “Russia, more than any other nascent actor on the cyber stage, seems to have devised a way to integrate cyber warfare into a grand strategy capable of achieving political objectives.” I. The Bronze Soldier of Tallinn. The Bronze Soldier attacks may be the first suspected state-backed cyber-attacks on another nation. The Bronze Soldier was a statue in Estonia's capital, Tallinn. It was viewed by Russians as a symbol of Soviet deliverance from Nazism. To many Estonians, however, it was an eyesore of Communist oppression, a miserable period that lasted more than fifty years. They decided to remove it from the center of town, and move it to a military cemetary on the outskirts. The Kremlin threatened trouble immediately, and they meant it. Little Estonia, for all it lacks in acreage, is a world leader in the field of internet freedoms. They are one of the most heavily wired nations in the world. For this reason, one can only imagine how disruptive and traumatic it was, when the website of Estonia’s largest newspaper was brought crashing to its knees, with unprecedented speed, under the weight of a wave of Internet traffic it couldn’t support. As with America's 2016 election, there was no way to legally prove Russia was responsible, but everybody knew. One Estonian government official told the BBC that evidence suggested the attack "was orchestrated by the Kremlin, and malicious gangs then seized the opportunity to join in and do their own bit to attack Estonia". 2007 marked the beginning of a new and troublesome tactic. For the hostility of nations to find its mode of expression virtually is new. It is a developing situation worldwide, but the bulk of it, of course, takes place in Europe. In order to understand the context of this struggle, it is necessary first to examine Russia's strained relationships with most of its satellite states, particularly Ukraine. The Kremlin has always considered Ukraine to be both a rightful part of Russia’s empire, and an important territorial asset. It presents a strategic buffer zone between Russia and the powers of NATO. It allows them a highly profitable pipeline route to Europe, and it is home to one of Russia’s few warm-water ports. For all those reasons, Moscow has worked for generations to keep Ukraine in the position of a submissive smaller sibling. It was the largest of their satellite states, and the one it took most effort to control. A great deal of bad blood on both sides remains. Information Systems Security Partners is the occupant of a small building in an industrial neighborhood of Kiev. Inside, a man named Oleksii Yasinsky sits in a darkened room behind a round table, covered in maps and timelines. They chronicle a timeline of intrusions by a whole galaxy of hacker groups, with names like Turia Group, Cozy Bear, and the most feared of all, Sandworm. This organization, which uses the nomenclature of Frank Herbert's Dune as code names, has been the focus of Yasinsky's interest since the first cyber- attack on Ukraine, a country that has been used as a test lab for new types of ways to wreak virtual havoc. In December of 2016, Yasinsky was watching the movie Snowden when his building lost power- along with the rest of town. The lights went out in areas all over Ukraine that night. Ukraine, however, is not alone. Numerous cyber attacks in Europe have been blamed on Russian-linked groups - many of them spectacular. The lines between physical reality and virtual reality have blurred. Russia has proven its ability to use automated systems to inflict real harm in the world, as in their attacks on the Estonian and Ukrainian power grids. In 2008, Georgia too found itself at war with Russia, and suffered similar abuse. In 2015 France's TV5Monde broadcaster was taken off air in the middle of a broadcast. Its systems were all but annihilated. Later the same year, another Russian hacking group calling itself APT28 perpetuated a massive data hack, in Germany's lower house of Parliament. 16 gigabytes of data were stolen. After that, Germany's head of domestic intelligence began speaking of a "hybrid" Russian threat" to the September 2017 elections in which Angela Merkel is seeking a fourth term in office. Angela Merkel, in the age of Trump, is the de facto leader of NATO, and therefore the most powerful leader in the world. Her reelection is all but guaranteed on a level field of play. Expect to see a great disruption as Russia tries knocking her off her perch. Another cyber attack, on Bulgaria in October 2016, was described by its president as the heaviest and most intense to be conducted in south-eastern Europe. Trump's victory the following month represented the greatest coup ever scored on the United States by Russia. And shortly after Trump's inauguration, the French elections were hacked and tampered with as well, on behalf of the virulently anti- Semitic Marine Le Pen, whose entire campaign was financed openly by Putin. Assistant Secretary of Defense Eric Rosenbach, the Pentagon’s principal cyber advisor, had the following to say about cyber operations in May 2017. "The place where I think it will be most helpful to senior policymakers is what I call in ‘the space between’. What is the space between? … You have diplomacy, economic sanctions…and then you have military action. In between there’s this space, right? In cyber, there are a lot of things that you can do in that space between that can help us accomplish the national interest." This is a fascinating situation for those interested in the nature and future of war. It is reflective of a growing worldwide trend among military strategists to consider cyberspace through the lens of the Clausewitzian spectrum of war, which is to consider it "the continuation of politics by other means."
That newness is also why cyberspace constitutes so many new strategic difficulties, particularly as it is being deliberately used as a weapon of war by aggressive and imperialistic powers such as Russia. This state of affairs exerts a destabilizing effect on international security, and complicates attempts to work together. Cyberspace has become a new sphere for great powers to carry out conflicts directly among each other (and any other power for that matter). Previously, their behavior was frozen at a certain level due to the strategic nuclear stalemate. There was a clear limit to how far great powers could go. Great care was always taken, to remain below the threshold of an armed attack and use of force. Instead, conflicts were carried out indirectly, through proxy wars in distant lands.
However, virtual reality and the revival of the Cold War has given us a new type of proxy, one that brings us much closer to direct conflict with one another. Moscow perceives the struggle within “information space” to be more or less constant and unending. This suggests that the Kremlin will continue to employ cyber in ways that U.S. decision makers are likely to view as offensive and escalatory in nature.
Nuclear deterrence is becoming obsolete, as mutually assured destruction is unpalatable even to the Russians, and new ways are being found to fight. The most ancient struggles for power and dominance are being played out in our very newest world. Cyberspace has become a very dangerous place, but it's a place we all spend a lot of time in. Therein lies the crux of the problem. No matter what Donald Trump would like to think, the solution won't be found by returning to the golden age of post-It notes and Rolodexes. The computer isn't going away any more than the firearm.
Going toward the future, U.S. policy should include the immediate and formal creation of a United States Cyber Corps. An overt, popular, and well- financed American cyber- force would overtake the puny efforts of the Russians within months.
As soon as our highest office has been vacated by the impeachment of Donald Trump, a man that Putin has been cultivating for five years and is the property of, it will be a top priority to attain world preeminence in this area as well. It won't be hard.
Back when the British ejected the Russians from the Crimea, a task we'll be attending to shortly, the term "jingoism" became popularized by the use of a popular rhyme used to rally British enthusiasm for the war. "We don't want to fight, but by jingo, if we do, We've got the ships; we've got the men; we've got the money too".
America created the Internet, and that makes its governance our responsibility. We consider this a sacred duty, and we will not shirk in its upholding.