With Biden’s New Threats, the Russia Discourse is More Reckless and Dangerous Than Ever

The U.S. media demands inflammatory claims be accepted with no evidence, while hacking behavior routinely engaged in by the U.S. is depicted as aberrational.

by Glenn Greenwald
Dec. 23, 2020

To justify Hillary Clinton’s 2016 loss to Donald Trump, leading Democrats and their key media allies for years competed with one another to depict what they called “Russia’s interference in our elections” in the most apocalyptic terms possible. They fanatically rejected the view of the Russian Federation repeatedly expressed by President Obama — that it is a weak regional power with an economy smaller than Italy’s capable of only threatening its neighbors but not the U.S. — and instead cast Moscow as a grave, even existential, threat to U.S. democracy, with its actions tantamount to the worst security breaches in U.S. history.

This post-2016 mania culminated with prominent liberal politicians and journalists (as well as John McCain) declaring Russia’s activities surrounding the 2016 to be an “act of war” which, many of them insisted, was comparable to Pearl Harbor and the 9/11 attack — the two most traumatic attacks in modern U.S. history which both spawned years of savage and destructive war, among other things.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) repeatedly demanded that Russia’s 2016 “interference” be treated as “an act of war.” Hillary Clinton described Russian hacking as “a cyber 9/11.” And here is Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) on MSNBC in early February, 2018, pronouncing Russia “a hostile foreign power” whose 2016 meddling was the “equivalent” of Pearl Harbor, “very much on par” with the “seriousness” of the 1941 attack in Hawaii that helped prompt four years of U.S. involvement in a world war.

With the Democrats, under Joe Biden, just weeks away from assuming control of the White House and the U.S. military and foreign policy that goes along with it, the discourse from them and their media allies about Russia is becoming even more unhinged and dangerous. Moscow’s alleged responsibility for the recently revealed, multi-pronged hack of U.S. Government agencies and various corporate servers is asserted — despite not a shred of evidence, literally, having yet been presented — as not merely proven fact, but as so obviously true that it is off-limits from doubt or questioning.

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Any questioning of this claim will be instantly vilified by the Democrats’ extremely militaristic media spokespeople as virtual treason. “Now the president is not just silent on Russia and the hack. He is deliberately running defense for the Kremlin by contradicting his own Secretary of State on Russian responsibility,” pronounced CNN’s national security reporter Jim Sciutto, who last week depicted Trump’s attempted troop withdrawal from Syria and Germany as “ceding territory” and furnishing “gifts” to Putin. More alarmingly, both the rhetoric to describe the hack and the retaliation being threatened are rapidly spiraling out of control.

Democrats (along with some Republicans long obsessed with The Russian Threat, such as Mitt Romney) are casting the latest alleged hack by Moscow in the most melodramatic terms possible, ensuring that Biden will enter the White House with tensions sky-high with Russia and facing heavy pressure to retaliate aggressively. Biden’s top national security advisers and now Biden himself have, with no evidence shown to the public, repeatedly threatened aggressive retaliation against the country with the world’s second-largest nuclear stockpile.

Congressman Jason Crow (D-CO) — one of the pro-war Democrats on the House Armed Services Committee who earlier this year joined with Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) to block Trump’s plan to withdraw troops from Afghanistan — announced: “this could be our modern day, cyber equivalent of Pearl Harbor,” adding: “Our nation is under assault.” The second-ranking Senate Democrat, Dick Durbin (D-IL), pronounced: “This is virtually a declaration of war by Russia.”

Meanwhile, Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT), who has for years been casting Russia as a grave threat to the U.S. while Democrats mocked him as a relic of the Cold War (before they copied and then surpassed him), described the latest hack as “the equivalent of Russian bombers flying undetected over the entire country.” The GOP’s 2012 presidential nominee also blasted Trump for his failure to be “aggressively speaking out and protesting and taking punitive action,” though — like virtually every prominent figure demanding tough “retaliation” — Romney failed to specify what he had in mind that would be sufficient retaliation for “the equivalent of Russian bombers flying undetected over the entire country.”

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For those keeping track at home: that’s two separate “Pearl Harbors” in less than four years from Moscow (or, if you prefer, one Pearl Harbor and one 9/11). If Democrats actually believe that, it stands to reason that they will be eager to embrace a policy of belligerence and aggression toward Russia. Many of them are demanding this outright, mocking Trump for failing to attack Russia — despite no evidence that they were responsible — while their well-trained liberal flock is suggesting that the non-response constitutes some form of “high treason.”

Indeed, the Biden team has been signalling that they intend to quickly fulfill demands for aggressive retaliation. The New York Times reported on Tuesday that Biden “accused President Trump [] of ‘irrational downplaying’” of the hack while “warning Russia that he would not allow the intrusion to ‘go unanswered’ after he takes office.” Biden emphasized that once the intelligence assessment is complete, “we will respond, and probably respond in kind.”

Threats and retaliation between the U.S. and Russia are always dangerous, but particularly so now. One of the key nuclear arms agreements between the two nuclear-armed nations, the New START treaty, will expire in February unless Putin and Biden can successfully negotiate a renewal: sixteen days after Biden is scheduled to take office. “That will force Mr. Biden to strike a deal to prevent one threat — a nuclear arms race — while simultaneously threatening retaliation on another,” observed the Times.

This escalating rhetoric from Washington about Russia, and the resulting climate of heightened tensions, are dangerous in the extreme. They are also based in numerous myths, deceits and falsehoods:

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First, absolutely no evidence of any kind has been presented to suggest, let alone prove, that Russia is responsible for these hacks. It goes without saying that it is perfectly plausible that Russia could have done this: it’s the sort of thing that every large power from China and Iran to the U.S. and Russia have the capability to do and wield against virtually every other country including one another.

But if we learned nothing else over the last several decades, we should know that accepting claims that emanate from the U.S. intelligence community about adversaries without a shred of evidence is madness of the highest order. We just had a glaring reminder of the importance of this rule: just weeks before the election, countless mainstream media outlets laundered and endorsed the utterly false claim that the documents from Hunter Biden’s laptop were “Russian disinformation,” only for officials to acknowledge once the harm was done that there was no evidence — zero — of Russian involvement.

Read more at  greenwald.substack.com