President Barack Obama recently issued a statement indicating that the United States would take action against the Russian government in response to their 2016 cyber attack. Both the FBI and CIA have concluded that the cyber attacks were perpetrated by the Russian government.
These attacks, which are alleged to have been ordered by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, involved the hacking of emails that were sent by members of the Clinton campaign. They also targeted the Democratic National Committee.
It is believed that the Russian government’s goal was to sway the presidential election and ensure Donald Trump’s victory. The Russian government has repeatedly denied involvement in the cyber attacks.
However, the Russians have been known for interfering in the elections of other countries. They have carried out the same types of attacks against Germany, France, and England.
While we know that the President intends to retaliate, the question many are asking is “how?” There are several different actions the United States could take.
This is probably the most well-known response. Imposing sanctions has been a common punishment tactic. It’s an option that we have used many times before.
In some cases, they can be quite effective. Economic sanctions can severely limit a country’s ability to do business. However, in Russia’s case, it may not be as potent.
There are already several sanctions in place against Russia. It’s not clear how much further sanctions would hurt Putin’s government. While it could do some damage, it may not be enough to deter any future attacks.
Another option would be to launch our own cyberattack against Russia. We certainly have the same capabilities as they do. As a matter of fact, we may even be able to cause more damage.
Using cyber attacks, we could cause major harm to Russia’s economy and social structure. It’s probably being discussed at the highest levels of the United States’ government.
However, going this route isn’t risk-free. While we could do serious harm to Russia, they could also do the same to us. It’s possible that they could come back with a more severe cyber attack. It’s easy to see how this could continue escalating until both countries have suffered greatly.
The possibility of escalation might be too high of a price to pay. Punishing Russia in this way may not be worth the potential consequences.
Attack Putin Personally?
One of the tactics the United States could use doesn’t involve the actual Russian government, but Putin himself. Instead of targeting the country, the U.S. could limit their retaliation to the Prime Minister.
It could be possible to attack Putin where it hurts: his wallet. Vladimir Putin is quite wealthy. It’s estimated that he is worth about $8 billion to $22 billion. Our intelligence agencies know where much of his wealth is.
What if the United States were able to hack into the banks where Putin keeps his holdings? Instead of worrying about sanctions and cyber attacks, we could just relieve him of his great wealth.
This isn’t a new idea. President Bill Clinton was considering taking this type of action against Slobodan Milosevic during the Serbian war. As a matter of fact, we even threatened to do this to some of Milosevic’s underlings. It’s one of the main reasons they turned on Milosevic.
Expose Their Leadership
Of course the U.S. could just fight fire with fire. Russia’s cyber attack exposed the corruption of Hillary Clinton. It also brought to light some of the less savory dealings of the Democratic National Committee.
It’s common knowledge to the rest of the world that Putin is a paranoid, brutal tyrant. However, this isn’t the image he enjoys in his own country, thanks to the government-controlled media. Not only that, Putin has managed to keep his shadier dealings under wraps. No doubt the United States’ intelligence agencies have been able to gather this information.
If the United States were to release this information a la WikiLeaks, it could cause much embarrassment to the Russian Prime Minister. This tactic could be especially potent if the United States were able to circumvent the Russian government’s protection of its state-run media. Putin’s misdeeds would be exposed to the Russian citizenry. This option is currently being discussed by the United States government.
Another target might be Putin’s image at home or abroad—for instance, information that shows him to be weak or corrupt or in some other way the opposite of the image he projects. These ideas, as well as several others, have been discussed at high levels of the U.S. and other Western governments.
There’s no doubt that the United States has many weapons at its disposal. However, the issue isn’t what the United States has, the issue is how the United States plans to use its weapons. There are several options, each with its own pros and cons. Regardless of the path they choose, it’s obvious that this conflict is not over.