As a former intelligence officer, I can tell you one fact that is very well known:
Russian Intelligence is formidable.
Formerly the Soviet-era KGB, its military counterpart the GRU, and all of the predecessors have been instrumental in world history for the last 100 years. They maintained order in the Soviet Union, a conglomeration of uncontrollable races, creeds and colors, they have orchestrated regime change around the world.
In fact, a former KGB officer now runs all of Russia – Vladimir Putin.
By CIA standards they are crude, un-subtle, low tech, oppressive, and immoral. But in operations worldwide, the Russians have had spectacular successes against the U.S. and its allies. The relationship between the two intelligence organizations has been one of mutual fear, mutual hate and mutual respect. No one ever doubts their capability.
A group of Russians has been “meddling” in our elections. This is not surprising, Russian Intelligence, now the FSB, is active all over the world. They look out for Russian interests, they “meddle” in other’s affairs to keep an advantage, and they maintain readiness by recruiting agents, by doing live operations, and by making sure that when Mother Russia needs influence or change, she gets it.
When Mother Russia DOES need influence or leverage, this massive and capable organization is as powerful, subtle and effective as any force on the planet, including our own CIA. Intelligence operations can be more powerful than military force or any form of extreme diplomatic pressure.
All of this is not meant to be a love-fest with the Russians. My point is very simple.
If the Russians wanted to have an effect on our elections, they would have.
They would have moved resources, funneled money in the hundreds of millions in black hat dollars to campaigns, bought tens of millions of dollars in advertising through front companies, had their intelligence officers applying pressure where pressure was needed. The Russians, if committed, would have put this onto a war footing and it would have been professional and effective.
A dozen guys hacking computers may constitute “meddling”, but it is not a serious effort by the Russian government to influence an election. In fact, the U.S. likely has Russian election equipment penetrated to a much greater extent, with our advanced technical capabilities.
A dozen guys constitute tool building, practicing, research, agent recruiting, obtaining access, etc., just in case they need to put together an operation to achieve a political objective. They likely have these operations all over Europe and the rest of the world, at levels in accordance with the interests of Russia. As do we.
Putin knows the considerable power at his disposal in Russian Intelligence. It is just not in his interest to attempt to truly affect our elections. As an experienced KGB officer, he knows the risk of exposure and the consequences, and the strong possibility that the outcome of the operation may not be as expected. This is a lesson that all influential intelligence agencies have learned (including and especially the CIA), that control of politicians is tenuous at best.
The media, however, does not seem to have much respect for the Russians. They seem to believe this is all the Russian can muster. They characterize Russia’s actions as an attack and are running in circles, shouting and waving, instead of seeing this as the low-level intelligence activity that it really is.
It’s easy to see why Putin appears confused at the media accusations and the calls for sanctions. Especially in an environment where China is eating our lunch by stealing valuable technology and using illegal techniques to dominate trade between our countries.
Is it ignorance, willful ignorance or outright fraud in the media? Surely all of the media cannot be so clueless as to not understand how the intelligence world works.
If so, the media understand NOTHING about politics.
Let’s just call it fake news.