Obama’s Russia Epiphany
It took seven and a half years, but the Obama Administration is finally awakening to the nature of Vladimir Putin’s Russia. On Friday John Kerry said the Syrian and Russian governments should face a war-crimes probe for bombing civilians in Syria, while the U.S. intelligence community announced its belief that the Russian government is behind the cyberattacks on the Democratic Party.
Many readers will recall how President Obama mocked Mitt Romney in 2012 for saying in a presidential debate that Russia is America’s main adversary. And don’t forget Mr. Obama’s private whispers to then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, caught unaware on a microphone, that he’d be ready to wheel and deal with Russia again after his 2012 re-election.
The wheeling has all been done by Mr. Putin, who returned as Russian President and proceeded to roll over Mr. Obama as if he were the president of Azerbaijan. The Russian’s affronts include his conquest of Crimea and invasion of Ukraine, his military intervention in the Middle East, and now his attempts to influence the U.S. presidential election.
Secretary of State Kerry’s moral dudgeon about Syria reflects his frustration at being gulled by the Kremlin’s fake diplomacy one more time. But it won’t amount to much because Mr. Obama’s abdication in Syria has left the U.S. with little leverage on the ground. If Mr. Kerry took the war-crime issue to the United Nations, Russia and probably China would veto in the Security Council.
The meddling in U.S. elections is another matter. In an unusual joint statement Friday, the Department of Homeland Security and Director of National Intelligence said that “the U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC) is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations.”
The U.S. spooks added that “the Russians have used similar tactics and techniques across Europe and Eurasia,” and that given the “scope and sensitivity” of these efforts “only Russia’s senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.” Senior-most is a euphemism for Mr. Putin.
One question is why the Obama Administration has gone public with this hacking news now. One reason might be to warn Russia against dumping more of the U.S. documents it almost certainly has before Election Day. But then Russia’s hacking habits are hardly new, and Mr. Putin is still harboring the national-security thief Edward Snowden. The timing suggests the White House may also be trying to help Hillary Clinton given her campaign’s portrayal of Donald Trump as a Putin apologist. Sure enough, her campaign issued a statement linking Mr. Trump to the news almost on cue Friday.
A public declaration alone won’t stop the Russians. Mr. Putin has little incentive to cease because he and Russia have never paid a price for their cyber thievery. Now that he’s had an epiphany about the Kremlin, will Mr. Obama continue to let Mr. Putin get away with it?