U.S. officials have determined that Russian hackers were responsible for the cyber-attack that breached the Joint Chiefs of Staff unclassified email system on July 25. Calling it the “most sophisticated cyberbreach in U.S. military history,” top officials told NBC News that this state-sponsored attack compromised the emails of 4,000 military and civilian staff.
Anonymous officials are stopping short of accusing Russian leader Vladimir Putin of coordinating the hack, but they seem certain that Russia was at least aware of the attempt. “It was clearly the work of a state actor,” one official told NBC.
The word now is that no classified information was compromised by the event, but the Pentagon didn’t waste time taking precautions. They shut down the email system upon discovering the attack, keeping it offline to this day. Pentagon officials say the system should be back online by the end of the week.
The revelation is the latest indication that our friends in the former Soviet Union are moving back to a Cold War approach. Tensions between Russia and the United States have been severely strained since Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine in the early months of 2014. And while there is ample evidence that Putin has no interest in a clean, above-board relationship with the Obama administration, State Department spokespeople seem unwilling to acknowledge the rift.
“The secretary doesn’t agree with the assessment that Russia is an existential threat to the United States, nor China, quite frankly,” said State Department spokesman Mark Toner. “You know, these are major powers with whom we engage and cooperate on a number of issues, despite any disagreements we may have with them. Certainly we have disagreements with Russia and its activities within the region, but we don’t view it as an existential threat.”
The fact that Obama officials are still waving their hands at the thought of a hostile Russia shows how desperate they are to avoid conflict. Obviously, no one likes the thought of a military confrontation with Russia, but there is a medium ground between war and fear. Putin is just like Castro, Assad, and Khamenei. He senses weakness in Washington, and he knows he can push his weight around without fear of reprisal. Obama is so keen on peace that he is going to make war inevitable.
When America abandons its position of strength in the world, the world gets messy. For all the criticism of the U.S.’s role as “policemen of the world,” there are very good geopolitical reasons to take the leadership role. But when you have a president who can’t even lead the country, you can’t have a country that leads the world. Given that, it was only a matter of time before another leader decided the position was up for grabs.