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We Must Be Hesitant To Frame Russian Cyber Hack As Necessarily “Pro-Trump.”

Russian cyber hack
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Ksenija Pavlovic, Editor-in-Chief of The Pavlovic Today, cautions against hasty judgment concerning recent revelations of Russian cyber hack. It is unclear if it was decidedly “Pro-Trump,” or simply a general attempt to wreak havoc on the integrity of the American political system. We all have to reserve our judgment until an intelligence agency or senior intelligence official is prepared to go on the record about this and put their name behind it.

It took only a moment for all media networks to adopt the Washington Post’s view on the CIA’s “confirmation” that Russia helped Trump get elected.

However, considering that the intelligence source has been anonymus, I ask: How credibly should we view an anonymous intelligence officer’s account of Russian meddling in a U.S. election. Why has there not been any official, on-the-record testimony by the agency?

While widely considered to be a reputable publication, Washington Post  has never been shy of  heavily relying on anonymous intelligence sources.

U.S. intelligence officials accused Russia of hacking into Democratic officials’ email accounts in an attempt to interfere with the presidential campaign,” writes Washington Post.

However, anonymous US intelligence sources cannot be considered – by any intellectual, academic, or journalistic standard –  to be credible evidence until someone from the intelligence community is ready to go on-the-record and put their name behind it. So far, nobody from the intelligence community (consisting of nearly 16 agencies) has come forward to comment on this officially.

Referring to a review Obama issued on election-season cyberattacks,  Eric Schultz, White House spokesman said that “the  The review will look at the tactics, targets, key actors and the U.S. government’s response to the recent email hacks”, but there was no mention of  the motivation of the attack.

Certainly, it goes without saying that the anonymous intelligence officer who contacted the Washington Post has certainly been thoroughly briefed on this matter. It is also incredibly likely that relevant U.S. senators have already been made privy to this information by way of presentation. But, we must be hesitant to frame this attack as necessarily “Pro-Trump.”

Here’s why:

The intelligence community consists of sixteen separate governmental agencies. The anonymous intelligence officer’s findings cannot immediately be considered to be representative of the “consensus view” of the intelligence community porper.

Absent this “interagency” consensus, we must be willing to recognize that all 16 US intelligence agencies probably do not share the same views as regards Russia’s motivation in the cyber attack.

As we publish on the Russian cyber hack, it is important to distinguish two main components here.

  • The involvement of Russia in the DNC cyber hack
  • Russia’s motivation in the cyber hack (i.e. whether it was “pro-Trump’ or simply designed to undermine the integrity of the American political system)

While nobody is doubting that Russia was behind the cyber hack, it  is unclear if it was decidedly “Pro-Trump,” or simply a general attempt to wreak havoc on the integrity of the American political system.

To be clear, President-elect Trump not only questions the motivations of the cyber hack but also reserves skepticism that Russia was behind the breach at all.

This perspective is out-of-line with the general consensus of the intelligence community.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at the possible motivation of the Russian cyber hack.

The Goal of the Russian Cyber Hack

There are two major hypotheses  to be taken into account:

  1. Russia was equally surprised about the election’s results as President-elect was himself.
  1. Russia’s  primary motivation was to produce havoc and distrust in the American political system.

We can all agree that liberal America was surprised of Donald J. Trump winning the election.

However,  a high-level official from the United States government recently told The Pavlovic Today suspect that Russia was equally surprised about this election’s results as the President-elect himself.

If Russia was surprised by the election results, the claim that the goal of the Russian cyber hack was to help Trump get elected does not actually  hold. Being anti-Hillary does not automatically predispose Russian cyber hack as being “pro-Trump.” To be sure, Russia’s actions nonetheless undermine the general integrity of the American political system.

If future revelations incline us to believe that the Kremlin acted in a way favorable to Trump, we should view it as secondary to Russia’s principal interest in discrediting the legitimacy of America’s political process.

By tying the President-elect’s interests to Russia’s cyber hack, we are missing the real geopolitical implications of this action – something that goes well beyond petty partisan politics.

The entire integrity of American political system is at stake here. Russia’s cyber hack should concern all Americans, irrespective of whom they voted for in this election. Our relationship with Russia cannot be reduced nor be explained away by Putin’s alleged affinity to the President-elect.

International security is way more complex than that. And at least in America, where the democratic system is triumphed above all, national security cannot be predicated all upon one figure, even if it that one person were to be, indeed, the next President of the United States. Attacking the President-elect and bringing him into yet another unresolved equation concerning Russia’s long-term political calculus only hurts the American political system.

By missing the point of this meddling, perhaps we are playing right into the ruse concocted by the Kremlin.

Thus, prudence and reservation is necessary. Journalists must temper their judgment until an intelligence agency (or senior intelligence official) is prepared to go on the record about this and put their name behind it.

The stakes are too high, and the implications too severe, to do anything but this.

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Read more: Simon Glendinning: I Have Not Lost Faith In The European Political Project

 

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  • Wise council from the editor-in-chief! To elucidate the true implications of the alleged hack, rather than squinting at whether partisan politics were legitimate this election, is crucial. Indeed, regardless of the purpose of the hack, it is utterly unacceptable! Of course, it is a carrot for all who were surprised about the election’s results

About the author

Ksenija Pavlovic

Ksenija Pavlovic

Ksenija Pavlovic is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the Pavlovic Today, The Chief White House Correspondent.

Pavlovic was a Teaching Fellow and Doctoral Fellow in the Political Science department at Yale University, Lead Instructor in International Affairs and Security and Politics Law and Economics programs at Yale Global Scholars, Head Writing Fellow at the Yale Graduate Writing Center, Fellow of the “Research and Travel Award in Grand Strategy” from International Security Studies (ISS) at Yale University, Fellow of the Roger Hertog Global Strategy Initiative in Religious Violence at Columbia University, a Doctoral candidate in Political Conflict and Peace Building Processes at Complutense University in Madrid, Fellow of the OSI Global Supplementary Grant Program, and a Visiting Doctoral Fellow at the Juan March Institute. She holds an M.Sc. in European Politics from the London School of Economics, an M.A. in American Politics, and a B.A. in Journalism and Communication from the University of Belgrade. She speaks English, Serbian, Croatian, and Spanish.

Pavlovic has interviewed exclusively pivotal figures including Arianna Huffington, Sir Richard Branson, President of the World Bank Jim Yong Kim, Karlie Kloss, filmmaker and founder of the Webby awards Tiffany Shlain, film director Lars von Trier, actors Adam Brody, Monica Bellucci, fashion designers Adolfo Dominguez, Tommy Hilfiger and Donna Karan, publisher and former presidential candidate Steve Forbes; the world No.1 tennis player Novak Djokovic; novelist Martin Amis, as well as big names in the governmental arena such as the former President of Serbia Boris Tadic, the leading members of the first democratic Serbian government and Milorad Dodik, President of the Serbian entity of BIH. Moreover, Ms. Pavlovic has exclusively covered the Cannes Film Festival, Venice Film Festival, Sarajevo Film Festival, London Film Festival, Madrid Fashion Week, The Madrid Open, and a range of other international benefit and political events.