American Consequences - September 2021

The U.S. still sees itself as a global superpower and Russia is unwilling to accept second-fiddle status. So while the U.S. considers Moscow a menace – meddling in elections, invading countries in Europe, backing dictators around the world – Moscow sees the U.S. as an arrogant colossus... With an economy the size of New York state, the most that Russia can realistically aspire to on the world stage is to play the role of spoiler. As Irish dramatist Oscar Wilde said, “There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about.” And if Russia can no longer hang with the big boys as the second global superpower... it wants to be talked about. The quick (only) way for Russia to be noticed is disruption – and as any adolescent will tell you, bad attention is better than none at all. Cyberwar is a stealth way to sow discord, undercut the foundations of democracy, cultivate confusion, and otherwise throw sand in the gears of America. And cyberwarfare is a lot easier than the real thing. At $30 million, the cost of one of the next-generation Russian fighter jets – the stealth fifth-generation Sukhoi “Checkmate” – can fund the lifestyles of a lot of socially awkward hackers who live with their mothers. Russia’s T-14 Armata tank costs around $4 million... a sum that can cause more damage – reputational and otherwise – than a thousand T-14s if funneled into cyberwarfare. Why are Russians so good at cyberattacks? I asked an old friend who’s written books about cyberattacks. He says it’s due to a

Command testified that the organization had conducted more than two dozen operations to confront foreign threats ahead of the 2020 U.S. elections... December 2020. More than 200 organizations around the world – including multiple U.S. government agencies – were revealed to have been breached by Russian hackers who compromised the software provider SolarWinds and exploited their access to monitor internal operations and exfiltrate data. The complete list includes 95 “significant incidents” (defined as cyberattacks on government, defense, and tech companies, or which cause losses in excess of $1 million) in 2021 so far... And the tally back to 2006 extends to 63 won’t-sleep-tonight pages. Who’s to blame? Two obvious candidates... and a third possibility that you won’t like... CYBERWAR ENEMY NO. 1: RUSSIA As the ODNI explained in its risk assessment report, “Although an increasing number of countries and nonstate actors have these capabilities, we remain most concerned about Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea”... The order in which those countries are listed isn’t accidental. The report continued, “We assess that Russia will remain a top cyber threat as it refines and employs its espionage, influence, and attack capabilities.”

Why is Russia throwing cyber darts at America? Global-affairs experts Gzero explained in June...

American Consequences


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