Thursday, August 11, 2016

Mr. Putin Goes To War, While Mr. Obama Wrests On Imaginary Laurels.

Putin’s Infowar on America. “The DNC leaks were another Russian victory as the U.S. fails to fight back.

Information wars are damaging only to the side that cares about “image” and certain public perceptions. The United States can launch similar hacking campaigns against Russian official institutions, but I seriously doubt that making the information available to the public will have similar effect on Putin and Co. as their own campaign is having on the American political scene. The Russian people are already quite familiar with the corruption of their government, and many seem to have accepted it and are ready to keep living with it so long as their living standards don’t deteriorate below a certain as-of-yet undefined line. At best, some leaks might bring some public embarrassment to certain officials, and might prove career-enders for some. Perhaps, the biggest damage that can be done is the mere act of showing that Russian official institutions are as vulnerable to hacking as American and European ones.

Still, the overall impact might still too minimal in comparison to the impact of Russian-instigated and orchestrated hacks. Responding in kind may not be the right strategy then. Yet, punishing this behavior by the Russians through economic and diplomatic sanctions requires bringing Europe on board and keeping it on board for as long as required to send the message. This has not proven easy. Also, there an embedded risk here of having more direct and militaristic confrontations in places like Syria and Ukraine, and of starting new conflicts even. Still, democracies are particularly vulnerable when it comes to infowars, which is why continued dithering is not an option. The next American president needs to find the right strategic and tactical response.

The Putinistas’ Unlikely Plan

The Putinista: Sergei Glaziev

"This group understands that neoliberal policies make Russia’s economy susceptible to destabilization by Washington if the US wants to punish the Russian government for not following Washington’s foreign policy.  Their aim is to promote a more self-sufficient Russia in order to protect the nation’s sovereignty... ... Glaziev also wants the ruble’s exchange value to be set by the central bank, not by speculators in the currency market."

An exit from the global financial system will be disastrous for Russia as its frail economy will not have enough time to adjust. Gradual disengagement is also unlikely to work, as require a measure of cooperation from the very financial institutions being abandoned and the government involved. This cooperation is unlikely. This is not a Brexit situation, that is, it’s not a friendly divorce between parties that largely still share similar values and interests. I short, then, Putinism is above all a danger to Russia itself, a danger that is much more deadly than its avowed enemies: the United States and the European Union.

At this stage, it’s not clear whether Putin himself actually subscribes to Putinism, or whether he is using it to advance a much more limited agenda. The future president of the United States need to explore this, without risking pushing Putin over the edge, unless he’s already there. It shouldn’t take her long to know, and to adjust her policies accordingly.