If we excluded from the U.S. population everyone who works for or invests in a large private business and everyone who has a Facebook account, how many people would we have left? That’s the small group of Americans that the government of Russia may not be spying on. And it appears Obama is teaming with the U.S. extreme right to give the Russians a free hand in doing so.
This month, it was revealed that the government of Russia is actively using hacking and cyber warfare to spy on American companies and perhaps even Facebook users. The news came on the heels of Americans learning that Russian hackers lurked behind the massive recent compromising of credit card data at retail giant Target.
If word from two high-ranking congressional leaders that Russia assisted Edward Snowden in stealing U.S. secrets, and the likes of Barack Obama telling them that Russians can be trusted, were not sufficient to convince Americans that they face a new cold war with Vladimir Putin’s despotic regime, this latest sequence of events certainly ought to be.
Stealing is one of the few things Russians do really well, with a truly national passion and zeal. According to Transparency International, in fact, only 42 nations on the planet do it better, and Russia is unrivaled among the major industrialized countries. Gambia, East Timor and Ethiopia are all substantially more honest than Russia, TI reports.
And Russians have a particular affinity for computerized stealing, having taken various titles in international programming competitions. You’ll be hard-pressed to find many legitimate commercial products that Russia is marketing for computers, but when it comes to the manufacture and distribution of computer viruses, Russia is building an empire that may put Bill Gates to shame.
And now, it seems, Putin has decided to weaponize these two Russian national strengths and to point that weapon at the USA. He crossed the Rubicon with Snowden, and now it’s no holds barred.
Reuters quotes Dmitri Alperovitch, chief technology officer of cyber security firm CrowdStrike, explaining that the Russian government is using its resources to provide a competitive advantage to Russian companies. Alperovitch told Reuters: “These attacks appear to have been motivated by the Russian government’s interest in helping its industry maintain competitiveness in key areas of national importance.”
What this means is pretty simple: American companies losing market share, and Americans losing jobs, to Russians. And it is happening for one simple reason: For the past six years, Barack Obama’s “reset” policy has made it quite clear to Putin that he’d be able to get away with it.
Obama has been chillingly silent as wave after wave of evidence has shown Russia’s malevolent intentions towards the USA. He has no choice but to be silent, since he spent six years telling Americans they could trust Russians and, if they’d only stop acting so provocatively, could turn Russia into an ally.
Commercial espionage isn’t, of course, the only way that Putin is seeking to harm Americans. He’s also in part responsible for the hefty bill Americans have to pay at the gas pump. Ever since he first came to power, Putin has aggressively done all he could to sow discord throughout the Middle East, supporting every rogue regime and terrorist cell he could find in the hopes that a roiling region would drive up the price of oil, lining his pockets while emptying American wallets.
But an invasion of the Internet, which accounts for a gigantic portion of the U.S. GDP and social life, is an even more ominous sign that Putin is deadly serious about his new cold war.
Hackers on their own are one thing. But state-sponsored hackers, funded by Russia’s oil profit windfalls, are quite another. And Americans facing such an onslaught while their president turns a blind eye is a daunting prospect indeed.
It’s not clear yet that the Russian government was behind the Facebook spying, but what is clear is that the Kremlin is already obsessed with social networks. The Russian version of Facebook, called “In Contact” (Vkontakte), has been under direct assault from the Kremlin for quite some time now, and the pressure has succeeded in forcing the website to knuckle under to some Kremlin demands for data, so Putin doesn’t even have to resort to spying. The more Vkontakte users migrate to Facebook, the more interested Putin will become.
And Putin left no doubt as to his open hostility towards Western criticism on the net, particularly from Americans. He recently expelled seasoned Russia correspondence David Satter from the country, due no doubt to Satter’s numerous online reports criticizing Kremlin policy and performance. It’s not the first time Putin’s neo-Soviet regime has ejected American reporters. The more successful Putin is in crushing Russia’s domestic Internet freedom, the more interested he will become in centers of opposition located abroad.
To be fair to Obama, certain forces on the extreme right in America are also working hard to help Putin get stronger as he battles their fellow citizens. Take Dave Agema of the Republican National Committee, for instance.