Putin Is Winning Russia’s Hybrid War against America David R. Shedd and Ivana Stradner

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National Review
David R. Shedd and Ivana Stradner
Wed, December 9, 2020, 6:30 AM EST
While conventional military conflicts between large powers appear to be out of fashion — along with formal declarations of war — Russia has been waging a silent, “hybrid war” against the U.S. for years. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s goal: to influence American minds.
Christopher Krebs, the recently fired director of the U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), stated after Election Day that there was “no evidence any foreign adversary was capable of preventing Americans from voting or changing vote tallies.” He missed the point. The real issue is not that our enemies are trying to prevent Americans from voting — though that is certainly of concern. Putin is less likely to revel in a victory by either presidential candidate than to celebrate the fact that election results are being disputed in many states, with legal challenges brought before judges for resolution.
Based on 2016 evidence, Russian attempts to interfere with voter-registration lists and to promote voter fraud cannot be discounted. But in the 2020 presidential election, Putin’s primary aim was neither to hurt Biden, nor to aid Trump. We can ascertain today that his primary goal was to polarize the country, and to sow distrust and social chaos to undermine the confidence of Americans in each other and in their democratic process. A polarized, disunited America will help Putin end American dominance of a unipolar world and reestablish Russia as a global power. Russian operatives have been using old Soviet strategies to exploit racial division and stir protests in the U.S. by peddling disinformation about America’s racial injustices. The Kremlin has been successful in infiltrating, for example, both white nationalist and Black Lives Matter groups. Within such groups, Russia pushes inflammatory rhetoric, causing many Republicans and Democrats to question the fundamental structure of and confidence in their democratic institutions.
The response from the Justice Department and U.S. law-enforcement officials has been narrow in scope; thus far, it’s amounted to imposing sanctions on four known Russian agents for their alleged election-tampering efforts, and charging an employee of a Russian troll factory known as the “Internet Research Agency” with “criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States” (related to election influence). These cases notwithstanding, Putin is clearly winning Russia’s hybrid war against the U.S. because Americans don’t understand how they are being manipulated.
One of the main difficulties in countering malign Russian influence stems from divergent understandings of hybrid warfare. Russia considers hybrid warfare a form of conflict which includes strategic uses of economic, diplomatic, and influence operations, along with the use of military forces and espionage. By contrast, the U.S thinks of hybrid warfare as actions or tactics used before a conventional war. While the U.S. thinks it is managing pre-conflict aggression, Russia already considers itself in the midst of a strategic battle disguised as competitive aggression.
Since the 2016 elections, America’s intelligence agencies have repeatedly warned about the threats to American elections posed by foreign states such as Russia. A 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment highlighted the efforts of foreign states who try to “shift U.S. policies, increase discord . . . and undermine the American people’s confidence in the democratic process.” In 2018, NBC News reported that U.S. intelligence had substantial evidence that Russian-backed operatives successfully targeted voter-registration systems in all 50 states prior to the 2016 election. More recently, Bill Evanina, who directs the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, revealed that Russia used various methods to “denigrate former Vice President Biden.” The FBI and CISA also warned of foreign disinformation prior to recent elections, and U.S. intelligence agencies pointed to Russia, China, and Iran as the primary culprits in these malicious efforts.
Washington needs to be clear-eyed about the Kremlin’s hybrid warfare operations, and must begin to anticipate Putin’s intentions and identify ways to defend U.S. vulnerabilities. Additionally, the U.S. needs to counter Russian cyberattacks and dissemination of fake news globally. The U.S. should confront Russia with evidence of their malign behavior, and significantly increase information-sharing with friends and allies. This includes working closely with the EU’s Special Committee on Foreign Interference and the European External Action Service, and assisting with the establishment a new specialized and coordinated agency for countering Russian disinformation. Former Defense secretary Mark Esper correctly noted that winning cyberspace requires an offensive strategy: The U.S. should not shy away from employing its offensive cyber capabilities against Russia. Cost-benefit analyses seem to indicate that the Kremlin recoils — or is routed — when Washington pushes back. The U.S.’s covert cyberattack against Russia’s Internet Research Agency in 2018 during U.S. midterm elections is a perfect case in point.
The most significant step Washington can take, however, is to raise the level of international awareness concerning Russia’s relentless use of disinformation to manipulate open societies. Putin’s nefarious actions thrive on silence, and the current, muted international discourse on the matter represents a victory for the Kremlin. If Russia considers such meddling an act of “hybrid war” on its own terms, the U.S. would do well to address these efforts with commensurate vigor by calling out Russian disinformation publicly and taking retaliatory actions whenever possible.
David R. Shedd is a visiting fellow in the Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy at the Heritage Foundation, and a former acting director of the Defense Intelligence Agency. Ivana Stradner is a Jeane Kirkpatrick Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. The views expressed in this publication are the authors’ and do not imply endorsement by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the Intelligence Community, or any other U.S. government agency.
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My News Links – – 12:25 PM 12/8/2020

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Should the Biden Administration Prosecute Trump? – December 8, 2020

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Should the Biden Administration Prosecute Trump? – December 8, 2020

Rethinking America

Should the Biden Administration Prosecute Trump?

One of the toughest decisions that Joe Biden will have to make as President is whether to authorize, or allow, the Department of Justice to prosecute Donald Trump for obstructing justice.

By Ryan O’Connell, December 8, 2020

One of Joe Biden’s toughest decisions will be whether or not to authorize prosecuting Trump.
Some observers have argued that Trump should not be prosecuted because the underlying acts that he was trying to hide were not criminal. But that’s not the point.
Trump called repeatedly for the DOJ to prosecute a growing list of his opponents: Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and others.
Trump tried to tamper with several witnesses – and dangled the possibility of a pardon to keep them from testifying in court.

There are very strong arguments for a Federal criminal prosecution of Trump, based on the facts and the law.

But taking this momentous step would set a terrible precedent, which would further divide the country — and it might boomerang against the Democrats.

The best course of action, and the most painful punishment for Donald J. Trump, would be for the Biden Administration to ignore him.

This does not mean that the president should get a stay-out-of-jail card. New York state prosecutors are investigating Trump’s activities before he became President — and Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance’s staff has indicated that they are looking into possible criminal violations.

Those investigations are less politically fraught — and they should go forward.

Mueller’s roadmap for indictment
The issue of whether or not to launch a Federal prosecution is particularly difficult because Special Counsel Robert Mueller uncovered ample evidence that Trump did attempt to obstruct justice — and on numerous occasions.

Furthermore, in his report, Mueller basically invited the DOJ to indict Trump — noting that “a President does not have immunity [from prosecution] once he leaves office”. An ambitious U.S. Attorney might want to take Mueller up on that invitation.

In his report Mueller described ten incidents in which the president attempted to obstruct justice.

The president tried to tamper with several witnesses — such as Paul Manafort and Roger Stone — as he dangled the possibility of a pardon to keep them from testifying in court.

Trump also demanded that Don McGahn, his White House Counsel, lie about a key event and create a false document — which Trump planned to use to protect himself against Mueller’s inquiry. McGahn refused in each instance.

Trump lambasted McGahn for telling the truth to Mueller’s attorneys. Trump was essentially pressuring McGahn to commit perjury when he dealt with government investigators. The list goes on…

Richard Nixon’s crime: Obstructing justice
Trump’s goal was to impede investigations into his behaviour — or actions taken by close personal associates — that could create legal problems for him.

This is the very essence of obstructing justice. We don’t want to allow Presidents to subvert court proceedings or investigations. If judges or government officials can’t get truthful cooperation from witnesses, the machinery of government will break down. The rule of law will disappear.

Some observers have argued that Trump should not be prosecuted because the underlying acts that he was trying to hide were not criminal. But that’s not the point.

It is worth remembering that President Richard Nixon did not know about the Watergate burglary in advance. He did not authorize the break-in. Nixon broke the law because he tried to cover up the burglary — destroying evidence and condoning perjury by his aides. Like Trump, Nixon was trying to obstruct justice.

A prosecution might backfire
So, the Biden Administration could certainly justify a prosecution on legal grounds. But indicting Trump might create massive political problems — both short-term and long-term — which are more important.

Donald Trump has given every indication that he intends to remain a dominant player in U.S. politics. He might accomplish that feat — but he might also fade into obscurity.

Trump will make a lot of noise, of course, but he won’t have the power or the platform that he did as president.

Although Trump’s hard-core base may pay attention to his rants on Twitter or on a cable TV show, most Americans will probably tune him out. They’re exhausted by four years of his nonstop drama and chaos. They’re eager to move on — that’s why they voted him out of the White House.

But if the Biden Administration prosecuted Trump, he would stay in the limelight. Trump would declare himself a “martyr” — and rail against the trial as another “witch hunt.”

Trump would get the publicity he craves, as Fox News and other outlets followed the course of the proceedings.

Even moderate Republicans might be angered by the attempt to put Trump on jail — and the country could become even more divided.

What if the prosecution failed?
The worst of all possibilities would be a Federal prosecution that did not result in a conviction of Trump.

Although Mueller provided several damning examples of the president’s attempts to manipulate witnesses, Trump’s lawyers might somehow mount a successful defense.

Trump was wily in his dealings with McGahn — and in his statements about Manafort and Stone. One critical element would be his intent to obstruct justice — and that can be tricky to prove.

In that case, a triumphant Trump would use his “victory” over the “Deep State” to rile up the base — and raise a lot of money for a re-election campaign. He might even get some sympathy votes from independents or moderate Republicans.

And if he were re-elected in 2024, a vindictive President Trump would seek revenge on his political enemies. This time, Trump would find an Attorney General willing to put Democrats behind bars — or at least try to.

A terrible precedent
More broadly, prosecuting a former president would set a dangerous precedent — even if Donald Trump never returns to power. That’s because today’s Republican Party is becoming increasingly anti-democratic — even authoritarian.

One of the hallmarks of U.S. democracy is the peaceful transfer of power. When one political party wins an election, it does not launch a vendetta against its opponents and throw them in jail. In many countries, sadly, that is not the case.

But this tradition of relinquishing power depends on a fundamental principle: Each political party accepts the legitimacy of its rivals.

If the opposition wins the election, they have the right to exercise power and promote their policies. However, many Republican leaders no longer seem to accept this premise (That is also true, unfortunately, for some Democrats on the left side of the party).

Trump is a symptom, not a cause, of the GOP’s increasingly authoritarian tilt. Many Republican leaders (and their followers) refuse to accept the legitimacy of elections when Democrats win — on the state or the Federal level.

Senator Mitch McConnell’s refusal to recognize Joe Biden as the President-elect — one month after he won the election — is the latest example of this deplorable trend. And it is profoundly disturbing that 70% of Republican voters think that the 2020 election was rigged — and Biden was not elected fairly.

“Lock’ em p!”
Trump has certainly accelerated this trend of treating Democrats as illegitimate, which makes the political climate even more dangerous. Many rank-and-file Republicans have warmed to the idea of sending Democratic politicians to prison.

At Trump’s MAGA rallies four years ago, when Trump attacked Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee for president, the crowds loved to chant, “Lock her up”!

And in the latest campaign, Trump called repeatedly for the DOJ to prosecute a growing list of his opponents: Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Barack Obama, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and others. The crowds roared their approval, shouting “Lock’ em up!”

What is especially troubling about these rallies is that Trump has never provided a credible rationale for sending any of these Democrats to jail. Their “crime” seems to be that they have opposed or criticized him. In other words, they engaged in politics.

Democrats have not resorted to that kind of wild rhetoric. This is a Republican phenomenon, not a Democratic one. Other Republican leaders have not criticized Trump for suggesting that Democrats should be jailed.

We would be naïve to think that these attitudes will change just because Trump will depart the scene. Unfortunately, it’s quite possible that aspiring presidential candidates such as Mike Pompeo and Tom Cotton will follow Trump’s playbook in this regard. They have seen that it works.

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About Ryan O’Connell
Ryan O’Connell spent his career on Wall Street as a lawyer, banker and bond analyst.

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