By Jack Burns
While Hurricane Matthew this week has captured the attention of many U.S. residents, threatened by the damage it’s been inflicting on our Eastern coast, The United States and Russia are creeping closer and closer to military conflict. Although, for now, it may only be a skirmish of cyber-war, the Russians have re-positioned nuclear weapons along its border with Poland, prompting written responses from German officials. Adding fuel to the fire of political rhetoric, the U.S. has now openly and officially accused Russia of being behind the Democratic National Party’s email hacks, and tampering with our nation’s election equipment.
Prior to the official announcement on Friday, the U.S. had been increasing its political rhetoric directed at Russia’s support for the Syrians and Bashar Al Assad’s regime. The U.S. wanted Russia and Syria to implement a 7-day cease-fire to stop bombing rebel-held areas of Aleppo. According to Al-Jazeera, the Russians saw the request for a cease-fire as a way for the U.S. backed rebel troops, whom Syria considers “terrorists,” to rest from fighting, stock up on supplies, and sleep. But no cease-fire was reached and direct talks between the U.S. and Russia broke down this week, further escalating the conflict, which the Obama administration now admits may lead to the U.S. to take military action against Syria. Reportedly as a consequence of Washington’s tough talk, the Russians have now deployed anti-aircraft batteries to protect their bases in Syria — backed by threats to shoot down US jets.
After the collapse of talks and amid threats by the Russians to shoot down any unidentified aircraft over Syria, tensions further escalated on Friday when the U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC) issued a statement saying it, “is confident that the Russian Government,” was behind the DNC hacks this summer. The statement alleged Russia, “directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations.” The statement further added, “The recent disclosures of alleged hacked e-mails on sites like DCLeaks.com and WikiLeaks and by the Guccifer 2.0 online persona are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts.”
The announcement marks only the second time in history that the U.S. has called out a foreign government for cyber-hacking. The first time was when the U.S. openly accused North Korea of hacking Sony over its release of the feature film The Interview.
The USIC claims the Russian hacks on U.S. government accounts were intended to disrupt the election process and used, “servers operated by a Russian company” in order to do so. While many in government claimed the Russians were behind the hacking of the DNC servers this summer, the USIC’s official announcement marked the first time intelligence officials publicly charged the Russians with cyber-hacking claiming, “we are not now in a position to attribute this activity to the Russian Government.”
Saturday, on NBC Nightly News, correspondent Richard Engel said 20 American states have reported attempted break-ins of their election systems. Using specific IP addresses provided by the FBI, ThreatConnect, a U.S. based security firm, identified the server it says was used to hack into those systems. ThreatConnect’s Dir. of Research Operations, Toni Gidwani, told NBC News the servers were, “owned by a company called King Servers based in Russia.”
Engel then traveled to Russia and tracked down the server used to hack into election-related systems in the U.S. His investigation led him to the industrial city of Biysk, Russia in Siberia, where he found Vladimir Fomenko who runs King Servers and rents out his server space anonymously to paying clients. Flamenko admitted his servers were indeed used to hack into the U.S. based elections systems but says he has no way of knowing who did it. The majority of his clients use his server space to peddle porn, but Russian journalist Andrei Soldatov told Engel he believes Vladamir Putin ordered the hacks as retaliation against Hillary Clinton for organizing political protests against him in 2011 and 2012, when Clinton served in the Obama Administration as Secretary of State.
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The U.S. has promised to retaliate against the cyber-attack for which it now openly says Russia is responsible but will not disclose how they will respond. Politico said a senior administration official stated in an email,
The president has made it clear that we will take action to protect our interests, including in cyberspace, and we will do so at a time and place of our choosing…Consistent with the practice we have adopted in the past, the public should not assume that they will necessarily know what actions have been taken or what actions we will take.
Meanwhile, back in Russia, war games are underway, with late word the Russians have deployed nuclear missiles into Kaliningrad, along the border with Poland. The nuclear-armed projectiles known as Iskander missiles, have a 450-mile range, and are capable of hitting Berlin. Addressing the increases in hostilities between the West and Russia, Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said in a statement, “It is more dangerous than the cold war.” Steinmeier called on the Russians as well as the West to “end the madness in Syria” saying everyone involved should “leave no stone unturned” in attempting to put an end to the regional conflict in Syria. He added everyone needs to work to “find a way out of this hell.”
But all hope of a peaceful solution to the conflict was lost on Saturday when competing resolutions to stop the fighting in Aleppo failed in the UN. The French introduced a resolution to the UN Security Council for Russia to cease indiscriminate bombing in the rebel-held eastern part of Aleppo. The Russians introduced their own resolution. Both resolutions were vetoed, and nothing was achieved. But the Russians are blaming the U.S. for not separating their so-called “moderate” rebels from extremists (like ISIS), which echoes what The Free Thought Project has reported, contending the U.S. is working with ISIS.
Some say President Obama is hell-bent on overthrowing the Asaad regime, but with time quickly running out in his presidency, others are wondering just how far the president is willing to go to effect regime change. Some are questioning whether the president is willing to go to war with the Russians in order to do so, or is all the threats, the rhetoric, and the official charge of cyber-hacking just a political bluff on the part of the U.S. to put pressure on Russia to withdraw from Syria.
However, de-escalation is not likely when looking at the saber rattling the US has been engaged in with Russia for the last year. Couple this with the fact that Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told an audience at the Association of the United States Army’s annual meeting in Washington, D.C. this week that he’s ready to go to war with Russia and we have a recipe for disaster.
“The strategic resolve of our nation, the United States, is being challenged and our alliances tested in ways that we haven’t faced in many, many decades,” Miley said. “I want to be clear to those who wish to do us harm … the United States military — despite all of our challenges, despite our [operational] tempo, despite everything we have been doing — we will stop you and we will beat you harder than you have ever been beaten before. Make no mistake about that.”
“While we focused on the counter-terrorist fight, other countries — Russia, Iran, China, North Korea — went to school on us,” he said. “They studied our doctrine, our tactics, our equipment, our organization, our training, our leadership. And, in turn, they revised their own doctrines, and they are rapidly modernizing their military today to avoid our strengths in hopes of defeating us at some point in the future.”
However, it is not Russia who is invading foreign countries and oppressing their people. It is not Russian weapons found in the hands of ISIS. It is not the Russians who bombed the Syrian army to protect ISIS. And, it’s not the Russians provoking the Chinese in an attempt to bolster the output of the military industrial complex. No, all of these maneuvers toward war have been carried out by the ostensible land of the free.