The US, Britain and other NATO allies upped the ante this week with a coordinated campaign of information war to criminalize Russia. Moscow dismissed the wide-ranging claims as “spy mania”. But the implications amount to a grave assault recklessly escalating international tensions with Russia.
The accusations that the Kremlin is running a global cyberattack operation are tantamount to accusing Russia of “acts of war”. That, in turn, is creating a pretext for NATO powers to carry out “defensive” actions on Moscow, including increased economic and diplomatic sanctions against Russia, as well as “counter” cyberattacks on Russian territory.
This is a highly dangerous dynamic that could ultimately lead to military confrontation between nuclear-armed states.
There are notably suspicious signs that the latest accusations against Russia are a coordinated effort to contrive false charges.
First, there is the concerted nature of the claims. British state intelligence initiated the latest phase of information war by claiming that Russian military intelligence, GRU, was conducting cyberattacks on infrastructure and industries in various countries, costing national economies “millions of pounds” in damages.
Then, within hours of the British claims, the United States and Canada, as well as NATO partners Australia and New Zealand followed up with similar highly publicized accusations against Russia. It is significant that those Anglophone countries, known as the “Five Eyes”, have a long history of intelligence collaboration going back to the Cold War years against the Soviet Union.
The Netherlands, another NATO member, added to the “spy mania” by claiming it had expelled four members of Russian state intelligence earlier this year for allegedly trying to hack into the headquarters of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), based in The Hague.
There then followed predictable condemnations of Russia from the NATO leadership and the European Union. NATO was holding a summit in Brussels this week. It is therefore plausible that the timing of the latest claims of Russian “malign activity” was meant to coordinate with the NATO summit.
More sanctions against Moscow are expected – further intensifying tensions from already existing sanctions. More sinister were NATO warnings that the military alliance would take collective action over what it asserts are Russian cyberattacks.
This is creating a “casus belli” situation whereby the 29 NATO members can invoke a common defense clause for punitive actions against Russia. Given the rampant nature of the claims of “Russian interference” and that certain NATO members are rabidly Russophobic, it is all too easily dangerous for cyber “false flags” to be mounted in order to criminalize Moscow.
Another telltale factor is that the claims made this week by Britain and the other NATO partners are an attempt to integrate all previous claims of Russian “malign activity”.
The alleged cyber hacking by Russia, it is claimed, was intended to disrupt OPCW investigations into the purported poison-assassination plot against Sergei Skripal, the former Russian spy living in Britain; the alleged hacking was also claimed to be aimed at disrupting investigations into alleged chemical weapons atrocities committed by the Syrian government and by extension Syria’s ally Russia; the alleged Russian hacking claims were also linked to charges of Olympic athletes doping, as well as “interference in US elections”; and even, it was asserted, Russia trying to sabotage investigations into the downing of the Malaysian civilian airliner over Ukraine in 2014.
Up to now, it seems, all such wildly speculative anti-Russia narratives have failed to gain traction among world public opinion. Simply due to the lack of evidence to support these Western accusations. The Skripal affair has perhaps turned into the biggest farce. British government claims that the Kremlin ordered an assassination have floundered to the point of ridicule.
It is hardly coincidence that Britain and its NATO allies are compelled to shore up the Skripal narrative and other anti-Russian narratives with the ramped up “global cyberattack” claims made this week.
Photographs of alleged Russian intelligence operatives have been published. Potboiler indictments have been filed – again – by US law enforcement agencies. Verdicts have been cast by NATO governments and compliant news media of Russian state culpability, without Moscow being given a fair chance to respond to the “highly likely” claims. Claims and narratives are being accelerated, integrated and railroaded.
It is well-established from the explosive disclosures by Edward Snowden, among other whistleblowers, that the American CIA and its partners have the cyber tools to create false “digital fingerprints” for the purpose of framing up enemies. Moreover, the vast cyber surveillance operations carried out by the US and its “Five Eyes” partners – much of which is illegal – is an ironic counterpoint to accusations being made against Russia.
It is also possible in the murky world of all foreign states conducting espionage and information-gathering that attribution of wrongdoing by Russia can be easily exaggerated and made to look like a campaign of cyberattacks.
There is a lawless climate today in the US and other Western states where mere allegations are cited as “proof”. The legal principle of being innocent until proven guilty has been jettisoned. The debacle in the US over a Supreme Court judge nominee is testament to the erosion of due process and legal standards.
But what is all the more reprehensible and reckless is the intensification of criminalization of Russia – based on flimsy “evidence” or none at all. When such criminalization is then used to “justify” calls for a US-led naval blockade of Russian commercial oil trade the conditions are moving inevitably towards military confrontation. The blame for belligerence lies squarely with the NATO powers.
A further irony is that the “spy mania” demonizing Russia is being made necessary because of the wholly unsubstantiated previous claims of Moscow’s malfeasance and “aggression”. Illusions and lies are being compounded with yet more bombastic, illusory claims.
NATO’s information war against Russia is becoming a self-fulfilling “psy-op”. In the deplorable absence of normal diplomatic conduct and respect for international law, NATO’s information war is out of control. It is pushing relations with Russia to the abyss.