Weekly monitor of pro-Kremlin disinformation effort in Europe. We follow best European analysts, best counter-measures and trends.
The US Presidential Elections
Several recent events turned our attention towards the situation across the Atlantic.We decided to devote our first special issue of the Kremlin Watch Monitor to the US presidential elections in order to sort out what we do and do not know about the Russian connection to the hacking of the Democratic National Convention and to the US presidential candidates.
What happened with the Democratic National Convention e-mails?
The upcoming US presidential elections are a place of many surprises and twists as it happens to be nowadays with the latest affair of leaked emails of the Democratic Party and the presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
As a result of cyber-attacks, up to twenty thousand work and private emails from January 2015 to May 2016 had been stolen. This correspondence was then published on the WikiLeaks server; which however, does not state its source.
The entire incident was even more serious because the correspondence was made public right before the start of nomination convent of the Democratic Party in Philadelphia, where the election of presidential democratic candidate took place.
The electronic correspondence contained several voice records in which we can run across statements defaming Bernie Sanders as some of the people were not content with his influence inside the Democratic Party. Consequently, this led to the revelation of the fact that Democratic Party broke the rule of neutrality during the primaries since it was supporting H. Clinton to the exclusion of B. Sanders. This information already brought down recent head of the Democratic Party – Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
To get the whole picture, it is also important to mention that the cyber-attacks happened at the same time when the White House and The US Ministry of Foreign Affairs were attacked by another group of hackers as well.
Who is responsible for the attacks?
Washington Post was the first to come up with the assumption that the Russian Federation is behind the cyber-attacks. It bases this presumption on unnamed sources from security services. The complete issue is a subject of FBI investigation which has so far revealed that the attacks were conducted by two self-independent groups. One of them was probably connected to the FSB (Russian counter-intelligence service) and the other one was tied to GRU (Russian military intelligence service). According to the New York Times, the US intelligence agencies have “high confidence” that the hacking was the work of the Russian government.
The spokesman of Russian president denied all accusations and the White House is not pointing on Kremlin directly.
- CrowdStrike security firm investigation which has the hallmarks of two known Russian state hacking outfits.
- The questionable credibility of Guccifer 2.0, the hacker who admitted to the cyber-attacks and claimed to be a lone hacker. His claims fell apart when Motherboard tried to verify his identity.
- Security firm ThreatConnect confirmed that the hacker was tracked back to the Russian government.
- Several Donald Trump’s friends have Russian connections
- Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s campaign manager, is connected to Viktor Yanukovych.
- Michael Flynn, one of Donald Trump’s top national advisers, sat with Vladimir Putin at dinner celebrating the 10th anniversary of RT. He was paid to give a speech at the event.
- Another one of his advisers, Carter Page, denounced the United States’ “often-hypocritical focus on democratization” during his visit in Moscow. He also has financial ties to Gazprom.
- The DNC consultant Alexandra Chalupa started to receive notifications from Yahoo! that her account may have been targeted by “state sanctioned” cyberattacks once she began an investigation into Donald Trump’s campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his political and business ties to Russia.
Deutche Welle asked Andrei Soldatov, an expert on Russia’s security services, about the Russian role in the DNC hacks. He mentions that in many cases, it is not state agencies which are behind the leaks, but rather groups of mostly young hackers funded or supported by the political wing inside the administration of the president. According to him it is impossible that the Kremlin did not know what was going on.
A controversial role is also played by Donald Trump, who called upon the hackers to publish the stolen emails. This statement is one of many proclamations he made by which he played into Vladimir Putin’s cards. That is why we decided to name Donald Trump PUTINVERSTEHER of the Week.
What are the most alarming things he had to say?
“Russia, if you’re listening, I hope you’re able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing. I think you will probably be rewarded mightily by our press.”
- Jake Sullivan, Hilary Clinton’s senior adviser, suitably pointed out that “this has to be the first time that a major presidential candidate has actively encouraged a foreign power to conduct espionage against his political opponent.”
In a response to the question whether he would recognize Crimea as Russian and lift sanctions on Moscow, Donald Trump replied: “Yes, we would be looking at that.”
On NATO and the use of Article 5: “People aren’t paying their fair share. And then the stupid people, they say: “But we have a treaty.” They say: “What would happen if Russia or somebody attacks?” I said: “I don’t know; have they paid?” … “Well, they haven’t paid but we have a treaty.” I said: “Yeah, they have a treaty too – they have to pay.” “We’re gonna end up in world war three protecting people and these people can pay.”
Tweet of the week
Is Vladimir Putin Donald Trump’s secret fan?
The Economist seems to believe so. In one of its articles, it suggests that the Russians attempted to humiliate the Democrats in order help Donald Trump win the elections as his isolationist tendencies suit them; especially when he questions that the US would back their NATO partners in case of an attack.
Source: The Guardian
On the other hand, according to The Washington Post, there are several intelligence officials and analysts who seriously doubt that Russia would hack the DNC in order to install Trump in the White House. Some of them believe that Hilary Clinton’s predictability and unwillingness to start a confrontation would benefit Russian politics much more.
Or maybe it’s the other way around?
The Spectator points out that Donald Trump stated several times that he admires Vladimir Putin who is a wealthy and vulgar leader of an oligarchic system “in which money and political influence work in tandem – exactly the king of system that Trump and his children aspire to create.”