A part of the US “disinformation campaign” as this report is, it equally passes, ironically though, a judgement on how weak, fragile, hollow, vulnerable and easily “hackable” the entire US election process is. Hence, the “death of democracy” in the US—a country that although claims to be the world’s best democracy yet is finding it difficult to come to terms with Trump’s democratic election victory, which is a direct result of Obama’s extremely poor performance as the US president.
Therefore, more than a judgment on Russia, this report actually reveals how the Obama administration continues to inject Russophobia into the American society as a means to not only to justify its own various policies, some of which just happen to be based on the concept of supporting terrorism, but also to hide behind it to justify the Democrats’ defeat in the elections. Hence, as the report, “assess”, without actually assessing “the impact” Russia’s (imaginary) involvement left on the elections, “state-owned Russian media made increasingly favorable comments (as if the US media doesn’t pass judgements on Russia or its leadership) about President-elect Trump as the 2016 US general and primary election campaigns progressed while consistently offering negative coverage of Secretary Clinton.”
This is both the most interesting and the biggest flaw of the report that it does not deal with assessing the impact Russia involvement, if it was ever involved, left. Hence, the question: what if it didn’t leave any meaningful impact? The report neither entertains this possibility nor raises this or many other questions.
Besides it, the title of the US intelligence report has been carefully worded – Assessing Russian Activities And Intentions in Recent US Elections. While the title tends to convey the impression that Russia deliberately interfered in the November elections and successfully stage-managed Trump’s victory, the reality is that the report poorly fails to weigh in on that issue at all. If anything, buried deep within the report is a curt admission that Russia was actually not involved in vote tallying.
Presenting Russia Today as a thorn in the American flesh, the report “finds” RT’s coverage of Hillary Clinton as “consistently negative and focused on her leaked e-mails and accused her of corruption, poor physical and mental health, and ties to Islamic extremism.”
Other points of the report go as follows:
Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered the interference in the US election campaign “when it appeared” to him that Hillary was likely to win the November election.
Motivated by what the report says “Moscow’s longstanding desire to undermine the US-led liberal democratic order” Putin’s motives could have been: a) to avenge the Panama Papers disclosure; b) to avenge the Olympic doping scandal; c) to avenge the alleged US interference in the 2011 Russian presidential election; d) to avenge Hillary’s disparaging remarks about him (‘Adolf Hitler’, etc.); e) “a clear preference” for Donald Trump; f) to influence the US foreign policies under the new president to move in a direction toward working closely with Russia to defeat the Islamic State; g) the expectation that Trump would turn out to be like former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi or German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder (“Western political leaders whose business interests made them more disposed to deal with Russia”); h) to weaken public faith in the US democratic process; and, i) to undermine Western liberalism as a whole.
While the report does give such least-informed judgements, leaving us only to laugh at it, technical data is equally conspicuous by its absence—the data that made the “analysts” reach these conclusions. Where is it if it exists at all?
As such, in its “Scope and Sourcing” section, the report explains that this evidence exists, but can’t be declassified. And that means the report would fail to satisfy the majority of the cybersecurity community that might otherwise wold have continued to believe, had the report not been released, that Russia did hack elections in some way.
The report, thanks to the vast propaganda inserted into it, is actually going to make a great many Americans believe that no hacking ever took place, that Trump has undoubtedly and legitimately defeated Clinton and that Clinton’s party is just doing its best now to put the blame of its defeat on Russia (to salvage Obama of his flawed and failed policies and defeats in the Middle East and elsewhere too).
In this context, with just a fortnight left for Obama in the Oval office, what could be his game plan in releasing such a hastily prepared report? Without doubt, the sole purpose and the real political intention seems to be to demonize Russia – Putin, in particular – in the public opinion to a point where Trump would self-destruct his presidency if he were to try to improve US-Russia relations.
Contrary to what the Obama administration is trying to achieve out of this massive and officially financed propaganda, the biggest sceptic of the report is none but the president-elect himself, who has challenged its accuracy, saying that “While Russia, China, other countries, other groups and people are constantly trying to break through the cyber infrastructure of our government institutions, businesses and organizations including the Democratic National Committee, there was no effect on the outcome of the election including the fact that there was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines.”
Donal Trump has thus actually endorsed what the report has failed to establish and prove in any possible or meaningful way.
That is, at no point in the entire report has there been any intelligence assessment that Russian interference was decisive in the outcome of the November election. Neither is there any assessment of the actual or potential “impact” nor is there anything about who actually did all this (if it happened at all in the first place) except that it says that Putin “ordered” this operation.
The bottom-line is that the CIA, FBI, NSA—US’ top intelligence agencies—have drastically failed to convince their own president-elect of the ‘fact’ that Russia has tried, or even planned, to hack, influence or sabotage the November-2016 elections.
While the Obama administration has already imposed sanctions, basing its decision on this so-called “assessment of intentions”, it has done what it could do at the most: sowing seeds of potentially bad relations with Russia into the next few more years.
The big question now is: can Trump and his team come out of this crisis without hurting their political and foreign policy standing? Were this not to happen, it will only accelerate America’s departure from the Middle East in particular and Asia in general.
Salman Rafi Sheikh, research-analyst of International Relations and Pakistan’s foreign and domestic affairs, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.