Russia

Column: Why the Return of WikiLeaks Is a Problem for Trump

In his new US News column,“Why the Return of WikiLeaks Is a Problem for Trump,” Simon argues that the new WikiLeaks release reminds us the campaign Russia is waging against the West and the US is an ongoing effort, not something that happened in the past.

An excerpt from "Why the Return of WikiLeaks Is a Problem for Trump" 

"The new Wikileaks release of sensitive CIA documents about its cyber capabilities is many things, but perhaps most importantly it is a reminder that the campaign Russia is waging against the West and the United States is an ongoing effort, not something that happened in the past.

Not only does this new release involve Wikileaks, the main outlet for Russia's stolen materials from the Clinton campaign and the DNC, but a big part of the new dump provides previously undisclosed information about the CIA's Center for Cyber Intelligence, the unit assigned by President Obama to respond to Russia's interference in our politics last summer.

In a normal time, Russia's re-emergence would be considered the greatest security threat to America and our traditional allies. But the Trump administration has been remarkably silent on the issue. Despite tweeting on issues ranging from the ratings of his old television show to Ivanka's businesses, the new president has not once gone to Twitter to condemn any of these Russian aggressions. Nor has he even acknowledged that Russia intervened in our politics last year (let alone condemned it) or authorized a collective response to its ongoing efforts to disrupt the politics of our most important allies in Europe.

Consider that not only has Russia taken unprecedented aggression in the homeland of the United States, but it is, right now, waging similar cyber/disinformation campaigns inside of many of our most important European allies. It has escalated its activities in Eastern Ukraine. It has broken a 30-year-old nuclear treaty with the United States, deploying new offensive nuclear capacity that threatens Europe. It has propped up the Assad regime in Syria, helping prolong the civil war there and keeping the destabilizing flow of refugees into Europe. And it is even expanding its activities in places like Afghanistan and Libya."

To continue reading, please refer to the US News link. You can Simon's previous US News columns here.
 

Backgrounder: Countering Russia's Insurgency Against The West

This has been an area of concern for the NDN team for some time. Below is some of our most important recent work:

GOP and House Intelligence Hearing, Simon Rosenberg, Twitter Thread, 3/20/17. GOP used the hearing to lay predicate for a purge of IC, another Russian objective, and sent clear signal they care more abt protecting Trump than understanding what Russia has done in our countries and others.

Why the Return of WikiLeaks Is a Problem for Trump, Simon Rosenberg, US News & World Report, 3/9/17. Simon argues that the new WikiLeaks release reminds us the campaign Russia is waging against the West and the US is an ongoing effort, not something that happened in the past.

Corruption of Trump by Russia (Part 2), Simon Rosenberg, Twitter Thread, 3/4/17. Simon's take on what we are learning - that the Russia scandal is ongoing, not something that happened last year.

Corruption of Trump by Russia (Part 1), Simon Rosenberg, Twitter Thread, 3/3/17. Simon's take on what we are learning - that the Russia scandal is ongoing, not something that happened last year.

On Flynn, Pence and Russia, Simon Rosenberg, Twitter Thread, 2/9/17. Simon does a deep dive on the news Mike Flynn lied about his contacts with Russia, and renewed his calls for his suspension or removal.

NDN Calls on Trump, Congress to Respond to Russian Aggression in Europe, Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 2/9/17. NDN calls on the Trump Administration and Congress to respond to and counter Russia's aggression and preserve the West.

On The Difference Between The US and Russia, Simon Rosenberg, Twitter Thread, 2/5/17. In response to Donald Trump's comments in the O'Reilly Superbowl interview, Simon reminds us that Russia has done more to spread oppression and human misery than any other country in the world over the past 100 years. 

NDN Calls on President Trump to Demand Russia Honor Ukranian Ceasefire, Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 2/1/17. NDN calls on the Trump Administration to forcefully defend the Minsk agreement and demand Russia and its forces in Ukraine to stand down.

NDN Calls on President to Delay Decisions on Russia Policy until Investigations, Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 1/27/17. Simon calls for President Trump should refrain from making any significant changes in our policy towards Russia until these investigations are complete, and Congress and the American people have an opportunity to weigh in on their findings.

The End of Pax Americana?, Simon Rosenberg, US News & World Report, 1/26/17. Donald Trump is taking radical steps that is weakening the global order America imagined and built after World War II.  Before he does more harm to our interests, Congress must force a big debate about his vision, and challenge him if necessary.  

The Pernicious Politics of Oil – On Trump's embrace of petro-politics, Simon Rosenberg, US News & World Report, 12/16/16. In his recent column, Simon does a deep dive on why Trump's embrace of plutocratic petro-politics should be worrisome to liberals everywhere.

Trouble Ahead – 4 Scandals That Could Alter the Trump Presidency, Simon Rosenberg, US News & World Report, 12/1/16. In this recent column, Simon looks at four looming scandals that could alter the trajectory of the Trump Presidency – unprecedented levels of public corruption, collusion with Russia to alter the outcome of the election, the FBI’s late intervention and Melania’s immigration troubles.

The Russian Intervention In The US Election Matters, Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 11/28/16. Our government must explain what happened with Russia's successful intervention in our election, and what steps it plans to take to prevent it from ever happening again.

Prior to 2016 Election

The West Is On The Ballot, Simon Rosenberg, US News & World Report, 11/4/16. In the column, Simon argues that Trump isn't running just against Clinton, he's also running against what America has become and the world it has built.

Calling all Patriots, Simon Rosenberg, US News & World Report, 10/13/16. While in a reflective mood about the future, their nominee and party, Simon suggests two other activities Republicans should swiftly denounce and distance themselves from.

Trump's Worrisome Embrace of Putin, Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 9/12/16. In this column Simon does a deep dive on Trumpland’s embrace of Russia’s Putin, and why their admiration for his “strength” is a betrayal of our values.

Voting Machines Should Be Seen As Critical Democracy Infrastructure, Greg Miller, The Hill, 8/22/16. Our friends at the Open Source Election Technology Foundation (OSET) penned this thoughtful piece to provide a plan to protect our elections systems from disruption, foreign or domestic.

Fighting to Keep the Internet Open and Free, Simon Rosenberg and Jonathan Spalter, The Hill, 10/22/14. Simon and Jonathan Spalter offer up a whole of government approach to keeping the Internet open and free in the years ahead.

Trouble Ahead: 4 Scandals That Could Rock The Trump Presidency

US News and World Report has published Simon's sixth column, "Trouble Ahead," in his weekly Op-Ed series that will every Thursday or Friday through the end of the year.

Be sure to also read his recent column, "The West Is On the Ballot," in which Simon argues that Trump isn't running just against Clinton, he's also running against what America has become and the world it has built.

An Excerpt from "Trouble Ahead"

Democrats just spent an entire election cycle worrying that a lingering scandal could at any moment do significant, crippling damage to their presidential candidate. And in the end, we were right to be worried.

As someone who just went through this on the Democratic side, I have a message for my buoyant Republicans friends: You have far more to be worried about with President-elect Donald Trump than we ever did with Hillary Clinton. Consider that in just the few weeks since the election, Trump payed $25 million in a legal settlement to thousands of Americans whom he scammed and ripped off; he admitted to illegally using his foundation, which is subsidized by American taxpayers, for personal gain; he appeared to use discussions with foreign leaders to advance his business interests (here and here); and his newly-opened luxury hotel in Washington has rapidly become a potent symbol of the unprecedented legal and ethical challenges the president-elect's global business interests will present.

I'm pretty sure we've ever seen anything like this in modern American history.

But this is just the beginning, and there is certainly more to come. It is my take that there are at least four potential game-changing set of scandals that could alter the course of the Trump Presidency.

To continue reading, please refer to the US News link. You can Simon's previous US News columns here.

The Russian Intervention In The US Election Matters

The rise of Trump certainly gives our community much to be concerned about. But as I sit here in DC thinking about what NDN can and should do in the months ahead, I keep coming back to one thing – the Russian intervention in our election. Our government simply owes the American people a clear explanation for what happened, or at least a more transparent process to help us get one, soon.

A new, alarming Washington Post piece from over the break reminded us how extensive the Russian operation was, and how seemingly ill-equipped we were to counter it. There are so many pieces to put together here – the extent of the penetration into the Democratic Party and Clinton campaign; the many ties of the Trump campaign to Russia, something that the FBI is reportedly investigating; the active encouragement of the Russian actions by the GOP nominee and the Republican Party itself, and the precedent setting decision by Party leadership to actively use the questionable material in the campaign; the question of whether there was any actual tampering with our elections process, and the coming to terms with the massive, successful disinformation efforts by the Russians that are now well documented.

For some I am sure this all sounds like a bad James Bond movie. But it is clear now that a foreign hostile power played a major role in a US election, one significant enough to have potentially influenced the outcome. All of our leaders in Washington should be asked to step up here and work together to come to an understanding about what happened, and take concrete, publicly understood steps to ensure it never happens again. This is particularly true, as I wrote in a recent US News column, because the intervention here is part of a wide ranging Russian campaign to weaken the West and a global politics that resists authoritarianism.

It is possible the Russian intervention in our election this year was one of the most significant events in modern American history. While there are many things our leaders can and should be focusing on in the coming year, getting to a better understanding of what happened here has to be at the top of the list. It won’t be easy, and hard conversations will have to be had. The new governing party’s resistance is likely to be fierce. On this one, however, we need to be Americans and patriots first, partisans second. Our leaders need to lead and help America, and the world, understand what happened and to offer clear concrete steps to ensure it never happens again.

Related Materials

The West Is On the Ballot, Simon Rosenberg, US News & World Report, 11/4/16. In the column, Simon argues that Trump isn't running just against Clinton, he's also running against what America has become and the world it has built.

Calling All Patriots, Simon Rosenberg, US News & World Report, 10/13/16. While in a reflective mood about the future, their nominee and party, Simon suggests two other activities Republicans should swiftly denounce and distance themselves from.

Trump's Worrisome Embrace of Putin, Simon Rosenberg, NDN.org, 9/12/16. In this column Simon does a deep dive on Trumpland’s embrace of Russia’s Putin, and why their admiration for his “strength” is a betrayal of our values.

Column: A Call For Rs to Find Inner Patriot, Strengthen US Democracy

Simon has signed up with US News and World Report to write a column every Thursday or Friday through the end of the year. His first column, "How America Prospers in a Global Age," ran last week. His new column, "Calling all Patriots," argues it is time for Republicans to once again find their inner patriot and work with the Democrats to keep the Russians from intervening in our election, and to make it easier for Americans to vote.   

The piece was well received yesterday when it was released. DNC Chair Donna Brazile for example tweeted it to her many followers. You can read the whole piece here, and we include an excerpt below.  Check here and at US News each week for new insights from Simon. 

Simon released a related statement on Monday, October 17th. 

Excerpt from the article:

In the past week, we've seen Republicans from across the country denounce Donald Trump for his vulgar remarks caught on tape by Access Hollywood. Some, like John McCain, have said the remarks were so disturbing that he was no longer capable of voting for the GOP presidential nominee this fall.

While in a reflective mood about the future, their nominee and party, I would like to suggest two other activities Republicans should swiftly denounce and distance themselves from – the national effort to make it harder for Americans to participate in their democracy, and the attempt by a foreign adversary to intervene in and disrupt our upcoming election.

First, the pernicious effort to make it harder for Americans to vote. In the aftermath of Barack Obama's historic win in 2008, Republicans in dozens of states took steps to make it harder for people to vote. Their efforts ran the gamut – making registration far more difficult, eliminating the use of student IDs for voting even at public universities, cutting early voting windows, radically reducing the number of polling locations in heavily Democratic areas and, of course, successfully gutting the Voting Rights Act. It has been an all-out, national, party-wide effort to make it harder for every day Americans to participate in their democracy, and it has affected tens of millions of people including in big states like North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and Wisconsin.

In several states, courts have invalidated some of the more extreme measures. But what is perhaps most remarkable is how hard current GOP leaders are fighting court mandated changes in their laws. Election officials in Texas and Wisconsin have continued to follow practices declared illegal by courts in this current election. In North Carolina, a federal court recently invalidated their law, writing that it "targeted African Americans with almost surgical precision." Not deterred by being labeled racist, the Republicans of North Carolina, supported by Trump, appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court. Gratefully the Supreme Court denied to hear the appeal and this awful law was struck down.

This renewed embrace of time worn voter suppression tactics is particularly worrisome given America's already low rate of voting. As I wrote in U.S. News earlier this year, low rates of voter participation weaken our democracy by limiting the actual amount of consent Americans are giving to their leaders. For a party so powerfully inspired by the Revolutionary call of "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death," it is hard to understand how they've ended up embracing systemic efforts by politicians making it harder for the American people to exercise their liberties and keep our historic political system vibrant and strong.

To continue reading, please refer to the US News link. You can also find more of Simon's US News articles here.

Beyond the Sabre Rattling, Will Russia or the West Bail Out Ukraine?

The crisis over Ukraine is quickly becoming a geostrategic conflict. As Vladimir Putin maneuvers to restore Russia’s right to behave with a superpower’s impunity, particularly in its own backyard, the West pushes back. But economic forces also have shaped this confrontation, especially Ukraine’s record as the world’s worst-performing industrial economy over the last twenty years. It was popular discontent with this disastrous performance that drove the recent dissent, which in turn triggered such a bloody response from Viktor Yanukovych — and that response consolidated the opposition and cost Yanukovych his job. Beyond this week’s political and military maneuvers, the outstanding question is, who will bail out the Ukrainian economy — Russia, or the EU and the United States — as the price of drawing the country into its trading system?

Stated simply, Ukraine is the economic equivalent of a failed state. After gaining independence in 1991, the country moved briefly to liberalize its economy along the same lines as most of Eastern and Central Europe. But Ukraine soon jettisoned its reforms in favor of the state-oligarch model also evolving in Russia. Some twenty years later, Ukraine’s GDP has shrunk 30 percent.  Even Russia’s sorry economy is 20 percent bigger than it was in 1991 — and Poland’s economy, which looked much like Ukraine’s in 1991, grew 130 percent over the same period. Ukraine’s economic performance has been so terrible, for so long, that its sovereign debts are now considered the equivalent of junk bonds. Even before the crisis, Ukraine’s credit rating was worse than Greece’s — no small feat — and no better than that of Argentina, a global financial pariah for its mismanaged debt defaults and summary expropriations of foreign-owned companies.
 
Ukraine’s debts soon come due, with some $15 billion in sovereign bonds maturing this year and another $15 billion in 2015. With a current account deficit equal to 8 percent of its GDP, Ukraine cannot pay off and refinance those debts without large-scale aid — some $20 billion to $25 billion — and affiliating itself with a larger trading system. An economic and trade alliance with Russia would deliver the bailout, but with little prospects of improving the underlying economy. The EU and the United States (through the IMF) also are prepared to provide the bailout, if the Ukrainian government will accept far-reaching economic reforms. The EU-US/IMF reforms should lead to better economic times down the road. But they also would mean more short-term hardships for ordinary Ukrainians. That’s why Yanukovych sided with Putin: He feared that he could lose his grip on power if times got even worse — and yet, of course, he lost power anyway.
 
With a new, pro-Western government in charge in Kiev, Ukraine’s fate may well lie in the hands of Europe and the United States. Their choice is simple to state, if difficult to execute — namely, do they put sufficient economic and diplomatic pressure on Putin, to convince him to pocket his own bailout and let the West pick up the pieces.
 
This post was originally published on Dr. Shapiro's blog

Have Some Borscht with Your Apple Pie

In the presidential debate last Friday, Jim Lehrer asked the candidates about their position on Russia. Characteristic of the dreadfully dull debate, they managed to give precisely the same response. Senators Barack Obama and John McCain both called Russia’s aggression into Georgia “unacceptable,” recognized the need to reassure our European allies, and stressed the importance of working with Moscow, rather than against it

Peering into the recent past, Obama has been consistently firm on Russia, but has stuck to his broader theme of making diplomacy and negotiation a first-string response. McCain takes a harsher tone, and has been accused of trying to take the U.S. back into a Cold War with Russia. He has talked up the threat Russia poses, proposed ejecting Russia from the G-8, and advocated the creation of a League of Democracies—an organization from which Russia would be excluded.

It is true that Russia has been flexing its military muscles recently—most obviously with the incursion in Georgia. In the conflict, however, the Russian military did little to show it deserves to be feared. The army’s most senior commander in the field was wounded when poor intelligence led them into a Georgian ambush. The military’s limited technology was nearly useless—even their radios didn’t work, forcing officers to communicate via cell phone. And most of the bombs dropped were not modern smart bombs, but older, dumber bombs.

Still, by most measures, Russia’s performance in the field was better than in either of the Chechen wars in the ‘90s, and Moscow is getting serious about upgrading everything from equipment to tactics. The Kremlin will increase defense spending by 26% next year, much of which will go toward improving and updating the country’s nuclear program.

Beyond bombs and submarines, Russia has been looking for friends among America’s antagonizers. Moscow just offered a $1 billion military loan to Hugo Chavez’s government in Caracas. In November, Russian warships will enter the Caribbean for the first time since the Cold War, on their way to joint exercises with the Venezuelan Navy. Russia has 10 warships docked in Syria, and is helping to renovate Tartus port; in Iran, Russian technology and fissile material is helping to build a nuclear reactor, and Russian surface-to-air missiles may protect it.

Higher oil prices have gotten Russia back on her feet, and the Kremlin’s activities of late indicate that the government seeks to be taken seriously. Increasingly isolated on the world stage, Russia is responding by building its own coalition and trying to establish power within its historical sphere of influence. Moscow is asserting itself particularly in the Middle East, establishing its own version of the Monroe Doctrine: This is our backyard, so keep your meddling fingers out.

Though Russia’s military is a shadow of its former self, and from a security perspective, Moscow does not presently pose a credible threat, Russia is capable of making life difficult for the U.S., whether by turning off the gas, by giving cover (both literal and political) to Iran, or by bolstering Chavez in Venezuela.

But Russia and the U.S. share a number of interests, many of which were laid out last week by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice: Fighting terrorism, stopping nuclear proliferation, denuclearizing North Korea and finding a secure, stable resolution between Israel and the Palestinians, among others. John McCain’s aggressive, antagonistic ideas about Russia have the potential to become self-fulfilling prophecy. What we need now is not to escalate tension with a powerful state that has the capability of causing us great trouble, but to work together where we have common ground. The U.S. would be best served by keeping Russia engaged, rather than forcing it out into the cold.

A Tale of Modern Russia

The New York Times has an extraordinary article running in Thursday's paper about an investor named Bill Browder who has, let us say, run into some problems with the Russian government.

Bill was in my Aspen Institute Crown Fellowship Class a few years back, and told us incredible stories about his adventures in Russian capitalism. This story is a must read for any one wanting to get a better sense of how Russia has evolved in the age of Putin. It is isn't pretty.

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