How they see us: Blaming Russia for everything

How they see us: Blaming Russia for everything

 The U.S. government has uncovered a massive intrusion into its computer systems, said Alexey Poplavsky in Gazeta .ru, so of course it’s blaming Russia. America’s top cybersecurity agency says that back in March, hackers embedded malicious code into updates of software used by government agencies and bluechip companies. 

Since then, the hackers have roamed around the networks of the U.S. Treasury, Commerce, Homeland Security, and other departments. Citing no evidence, American officials claimed “the hand of the Kremlin” was at work. That was to be expected. They “traditionally accuse ‘Russian hackers’ of attacking U.S. systems.” Recall that in the waning days of the Obama administration, Moscow was accused of manipulating the 2016 election, and wild accusations of malign Russian influence persist in U.S. media. Dmitry Peskov, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, vehemently denies Russian involvement in the latest hack. Such accusations are “baseless,” he said, and rooted in “blind Russophobia.” Not all Americans point the finger at Moscow, said Alexander Panov in Novaya Gazeta. Explicitly contradicting U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who said Russia was “pretty clearly responsible,” President Donald Trump tweeted that China might be the intruder. But Trump is on the way out, and President-elect Joe Biden has made clear that he will impose “significant costs” on Russia for the breach. 

That could include a refusal to extend New START, the only remaining U.S.-Russia nuclear arms control treaty, or even “retaliatory cyberattacks” that could cripple Russia’s economy. The sad truth is that Americans see Russia as fundamentally malevolent, said Fyodor Lukyanov in Rossiyskaya Gazeta. Whether Democrat or Republican, U.S. analysts are united in their view of Russia as a once formidable enemy that is still dangerous as it lashes out in its decline. In their eyes, Russia is “aggressive and malicious,” constantly pressuring former Soviet countries to return to its sphere of influence, while trying to undermine European democracies by bolstering authoritarians. A few moderates do concede that this is partly the fault of the U.S.—for going back on its word and expanding NATO into the former Warsaw Bloc. But in general, “this extremely repulsive portrait is the accepted consensus in the U.S. foreign policy sphere.” That brings Putin a certain freedom, said Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan in The Moscow Times. 

If Russia is to be blamed no matter what, then there’s no point in covering its tracks. That’s why the Kremlin increasingly uses “the kind of operatives whose lack of training combines with toughness, no-questionsasked loyalty, and adventurism.” Recruited from the special forces, these new recruits frequently “get caught red-handed”: Western journalists and governments have identified the agents who poisoned ex-spy Sergei Skripal in the U.K. in 2018; who interfered in the U.S. 2016 election; and those behind the recent poisoning of opposition leader Alexei Navalny. But the new operatives simply don’t care. “The rules have changed.”