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Wed Jan 10, 2018, 06:01 PM

Senator Cardin's report on Russia's activities is stunning and worth the read.

Found on Balloon Juice.

I've been following the saga as closely as anyone, but this report gave me the serious chills. Before I read it, I was a proponent of a measured response to the attack, isolating out the bad actors and the oligarchs and freeing Russia from their grip.

This report has pushed me toward the Stone Age crew, as in 'Bomb Them Back To'.

Why are we not in a hot war with Russia? Because they've temporarily defeated us.

Full Summary

Excerpts:

Chapter 1 covers Vladimir Putin’s rise to power in Russia and puts in context why he is motivated to invade Russia’s neighbors, interfere in democratic elections and processes abroad, and sow division and chaos in the West.

~The length and intensity of these operations emanate out of Russia in concentric geographic circles: they
began in Russia, expanded to its periphery, then into the rest of Europe, and finally to the United States. The
United States must now assume that the Kremlin will deploy in America some of the more dangerous tactics
used successfully in Russia’s periphery and the rest of Europe.

~ Russia’s security services are aggressive, well-funded by the state, and operate without any legislative
oversight. They conduct not just espionage, but also active measures aimed at subverting and destabilizing
European governments, operations in support of Russian economic interests, and attacks on political
enemies.

~ Putin’s regime appears intent on using almost any means possible to undermine the democratic institutions
and transatlantic alliances that have underwritten peace and prosperity in Europe for the past 70-plus years

Chapter 2 chronicles the tools and tactics of oppression and misinformation Putin perfected at home, in Russia, before they were deployed abroad. Within Russia, Putin’s regime has harassed and killed whistleblowers and human rights activists; crafted laws to hamstring democratic institutions; honed and amplified anti-Western propaganda; curbed media that deviate from a pro-government line; beefed up internal security agencies to surveil and harass human rights activists and journalists; directed judicial prosecutions and verdicts; cultivated the loyalties of oligarchs through corrupt handouts; and ordered violent crackdowns against protesters and purported enemies.

~ Russia’s ‘sovereign democracy’ relies on democratic structures, albeit largely hollow ones, to give a sheen of
legitimacy to a regime that puts its own interests before those of its citizens. Under Putin’s leadership, the
Russian government has undermined political processes, parties, and opposition that present a meaningful
check on the Kremlin’s power. In October 2014, then-Russian Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential
Administration Vyacheslav Volodin famously quipped that “there is no Russia today if there is no Putin.”

~ An estimated $24 billion dollars has been amassed by Putin’s inner circle through the pilfering of state
resources.

~ At least 28 journalists have been killed for their reporting inside Russia since Putin took office in
December 1999… [T]he Kremlin has created a climate where physical attacks against civil society activists,
as well as political opponents and independent journalists, occur regularly and often with impunity.

~ Putin and his allies have neutered political competition by creating rubber-stamp opposition parties and
harassing legitimate opposition. [O]pposition activists attempting to join forces…have been blocked from
using hotels and conference facilities to hold gatherings, and some have even had their homes raided.

~ The pro-Putin United Russia party’s hold on seats in the Russian Duma grew to 76 percent in the 2016
elections, and the number of seats currently held by liberal opposition has been reduced to zero.

~ The image of Putin as defender of traditional religious and cultural values has also been leveraged by the
Kremlin “as both an ideology and a source of influence abroad.” In projecting itself as “the natural ally of
those who pine for a more secure, illiberal world free from the tradition-crushing rush of globalization,
multiculturalism and women’s and gay rights,” the Russian government has been able to mobilize some
Orthodox actors in places like Moldova and Montenegro to vigorously oppose integration with the West.

~ Throughout Putin’s tenure in Russia, independent media outlets have been a target of Kremlin pressure to
prevent them from being a meaningful check on his power. The Kremlin’s early efforts to neutralize
independent or critical national media and consolidate state ownership of media outlets had a chilling
effect on the development of independent journalism in the country, and both official and unofficial
pressure have continued against TV, print, and online media outlets that challenge the Kremlin line. Since
Putin’s return to the presidency in 2012, a spate of firings, resignations, and closures among numerous
media outlets suggest that the Kremlin under Putin has no intention of reversing its longstanding trend of
controlling the media space.

~ The use of disinformation and propaganda has long been a hallmark of the Kremlin’s toolbox to manipulate
its own citizens. The historical precedent for these tactics stem from the Soviet era… Propaganda under Putin
has played up examples of Western failures in an attempt to undermine the credibility of a Western-style
alternative system of government to Russia’s corrupt, authoritarian state.

~ To implement its propaganda, Putin’s deputies reportedly summon chief editors on a regular basis to
coordinate the Kremlin line on various news and policy items and distribute it throughout mainstream media
outlets in Moscow. Driving the narrative often requires media partners who have “created myths and
explained reality” in the production of news as well as entertainment—often blurring lines between the two to
ensure that media content fuels enthusiasm for the Kremlin’s overall narrative.

~ State-sponsored media have also doctored the Kremlin’s image to help justify Russian military incursions into
Georgia, Ukraine, and Syria to the Russian population. During the 2008 invasion of Georgia…“television
channels were part of the military operation, waging an essential propaganda campaign, spreading
disinformation and demonizing the country Russia was about to attack.” Russian television inflated
figures of civilian deaths and refugees in South Ossetia by the thousands. Alleging genocide, the picture
that media painted was of the Kremlin “fighting not a tiny, poor country that used to be its vassal but a
dangerous and powerful aggressor backed by the imperialist West.”

~ Vladislav Surkov personally curated what was allowed on to Russia’s television screens, and was seen as
the architect of ‘post-truth politics’ where facts are relative, a version of which some have suggested has
now taken hold in the West.

Chapter 3 catalogues old and new disinformation operations and tactics used by the Kremlin in other countries both to promote its narratives and advance divisive narratives with the goal of eroding social cohesion.

~ Soviet bloc disinformation operations were not a rare occurrence: more than 10,000 were carried out over
the course of the Cold War.

~ Today, the Kremlin’s malign influence operations employ state and non-state resources to achieve their ends,
including the security services, television stations and pseudo news agencies, social media and internet trolls,
public and private companies, organized crime groups, think tanks and special foundations, and social and
religious groups.

~ Disinformation campaigns are used to discredit politicians and democratic institutions like elections and an
independent media; cultural, religious, and political organizations are used to repeat the Kremlin’s narrative
of the day and disrupt social cohesion; corruption is used to influence politicians and infiltrate decisionmaking
bodies; and energy resources are used to cajole and coerce vulnerable foreign governments.

~ “[W]hat they do to us we cannot do to them ….Liberal democracies with a free press and free and fair
elections are at an asymmetric disadvantage … the tools of their democratic and free speech can be used
against them.”

~ The Russian government’s work to destabilize European governments often start with attempts to build
influence and exploit divisions at the local level…. An analysis by the German Marshall Fund’s Alliance for
Securing Democracy found that the Russian government has used cyberattacks, disinformation, and
financial influence campaigns to meddle in the internal affairs of at least 27 European and North
American countries since 2004.

~ These operations require relatively small investments, but history has shown that they can have outsized
results, if conditions permit.

~ “If everything is a lie, then the biggest liar wins.” At their core, the Kremlin’s disinformation operations
seek to challenge the concept of objective truth…. For Putin and the Kremlin, the truth is not objective fact;
the truth is whatever will advance the interests of the current regime. Today, that means whatever will
delegitimize Western democracies and distract negative attention away from the Russian government. It
means subverting the notion of verifiable facts and casting doubt on the veracity of all information, regardless
of the source.

~ The Kremlin employs an array of media platforms and tools to craft and amplify its narratives. The Russian
government’s main external propaganda outlets are RT, which focuses on television news programming, and
Sputnik, a radio and internet news network. RT and Sputnik target a diverse audience: both far-right and farleft
elements of Western societies, environmentalists, civil rights activists, and minorities.

~ Internet “trolls” are one such tool—individuals who try to derail online debates and amplify the anti-West
narratives propagated by RT and Sputnik. These trolls use thousands of fake social media accounts on
Facebook, Twitter, and other platforms to attack articles or individuals that are critical of Putin and Kremlin
policies, spread conspiracy theories and pro-Kremlin messages, attack opponents of Putin’s regime, and
drown out constructive debate.

~ According to one former employee [of a Russian troll farm] staff on the “foreign desk” were responsible
for meddling in other countries’ elections. In the run up to the 2016 U.S. presidential election, for
example, foreign desk staff were reportedly trained on “the nuances of American social polemics on tax
issues, LGBT rights, the gun debate, and more… their job was to incite [Americans] further and try to
‘rock the boat.’” The employee noted that “our goal wasn’t to turn the Americans toward Russia. Our task
was to set Americans against their own government: to provoke unrest and discontent.”


Just too much wow. Read the whole goddamned thing.

%$*@.

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