Did Putin manipulate the US election campaign?

According to the findings of a report compiled by the US intelligence agencies Putin personally ordered hacker attacks to manipulate the US election campaign. Putin's interference in the US election campaign was mainly motivated by the desire for revenge, commentators surmise, also predicting that Trump's presidency will get off to a very shaky start.

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El País (ES) /

Putin's interference is revenge

Putin sees the interference in the US election campaign as revenge for the US's support of the mass protests in Moscow in 2011 and Kiev in 2013, political scientist José Ignacio Torreblanca explains in El País:

“Putin's conviction that the US was pursuing a policy of destabilisation and isolation against Russia was only confirmed by the Maidan protests in Kiev in December 2013, which ended with the resignation of then president Viktor Yanukovych and the subsequent loss of a country of strategic importance for Russia. Putin has always described this as a coup orchestrated by Washington. Russia's interference in the US election campaign and the way the Russian secret services have cultivated a special relationship with (or recruited) Trump and his team are therefore logical acts of revenge against Obama and Hillary Clinton, the architects (according to Putin) of this strategy. The former lieutenant colonel of the KGB Vladimir Putin never forgives and never forgets.”

Le Figaro (FR) /

Trump era off to a bumpy start

The situation in the run-up to Donald Trump's inauguration is anything but rosy, Le Figaro comments:

“Two or three certitudes have emerged from this dizzying imbroglio. Trump will don his generalissimo's cap although he is on bad terms with his own spies, which is regrettable. The future president's desired rapprochement with Russia is becoming complicated, and runs the risk that he will continually be treated as Putin's lackey. Once again America will not emerge any stronger from events as they progress. We are still far from the impeachment proceedings that were initiated against three American presidents. Nevertheless the Trump era is starting with a storm. And one question surfaces as the mud flows: how much longer can the solid American system withstand such thunderclaps?”

Revista 22 (RO) /

Trump is encouraging Russian aggression

Russia's brazen meddling in US politics may well go unpunished, the weekly paper Revista 22 worries:

“The intelligence services' analyses were not intended to question the election result. That was never the point. The main problem is the precedent created by Russia's interference. This is an attack on American democracy. ... Now is not the time to praise or embrace Russia but to decide how to sanction it. ... To act as an effective deterrent, sanctions must be imposed until 'credible deterrence as a whole is established' (John McCain). But on that score Trump has been sending out signals of a completely different nature. Above all his contempt for alliances, international institutions and norms - in other words for the entire postwar architecture - will only encourage Moscow's predatory behaviour.”

NRC Handelsblad (NL) /

Resolute measures to counter Moscow's propaganda

According to the US intelligence services Europe is exposed to the threat of Russian attacks aimed at influencing its elections. This harks back to the Cold War, but the West is no longer used to dealing with this kind of confrontation, NRC Handelsblad comments:

“After the Cold War the dividends of peace were eagerly pocketed. But along with the tanks the distrust also disappeared, and that was premature. … Russian propaganda aims above all to fuel political discontent and undermine confidence in the West. … There is no reason to panic. But we must be on the alert and use our common sense when wild stories devoid of all truth appear in newspapers and on Twitter. Also as regards disinformation campaigns, the maxim applies that the strength of the attacker is partially determined by the weakness of his prey.”

Diena (LV) /

Trust in US intelligence services sinking

The reports of the US intelligence agencies lack credibility for two reasons, Diena contends:

“Such spectacular statements with far-reaching political consequences, whose crediblity is highly questionable because of lack of evidence, have become so routine that trust in the US intelligence services is sinking not only in the US but also in the rest of the world. ... The West is currently going through a deep crisis of values. The fact that so many people believe politicised statements that are published without convincing proof is not a strong point of Western society. At the same time, such a situation can lead to people not believing serious warnings in future, even though they are well-founded and true.”

The New York Times (US) /

Trump is Putin's president

The Russian hacker attacks have shaken the US democratic system to its roots, columnist Charls M. Blow writes in the New York Times:

“Mr. Trump, your victory is tainted; your legitimacy is rightly in question. The American people cast their ballots in the fog of fake news and under influence of stolen property weaponized as a tool of propaganda. Some may hesitate to say that the American presidency was stolen, but it is irrefutable that the integrity of our democratic process was injured when the sanctity of what we considered uncorrupted self-determination was assaulted. Donald Trump is Vladimir Putin’s American 'president' - clearly his preference and possibly his product.”

Moskovskij Komsomolets (RU) /

CIA and FBI evidence very flimsy

The report by the three intelligence services states that the CIA and the FBI are highly confident that Putin personally ordered the campaign aimed at influencing the American election. The NSA, on the other hand, said it was only moderately confident that this was the case. Moskovskij Komsomolets finds this very revealing:

“Of all three agencies it is the third, the National Security Agency, that is only moderately confident. The CIA and the FBI base their claims on intelligence service sources that can't really serve as proof. … Only the NSA, which deals with the technical analysis of data, could have provided factual evidence (intercepted mails, hacked databases) of cyber-activity at the Kremlin. But precisely this agency is less confident than the others that the Kremlin is to blame. No, Russian agents haven't infiltrated the NSA. But unlike the blathering of the other agencies the evidence that the NSA has the potential to provide is easily verifiable.”

Dilema Veche (RO) /

Kremlin has already chosen its next target

The Kremlin's next goal is to meddle with the German parliamentary elections, Dilema Veche predicts:

“The Kremlin has every reason to go on the offensive. Since the annexation of Crimea in 2014, Angela Merkel has been the decisive voice calling for sanctions against Russia. She is the most resolute defender of a united EU as the bastion of liberal values and a sort of political and economic wall against Russia. According to the New York Times this year Russia wants to do to Merkel what it did to to Hillary in 2016. The paper has no doubt that armies of hackers have already been given the go-ahead. ... The consequences of such campaigns that blend propaganda, false information, fear and hatred are clear for all to see. The authorities have every reason to see this as a real act of aggression and to react accordingly.”

Le Monde (FR) /

US's weakness is worrying

The situation in the US is also alarming for Europe, Le Monde fears:

“This conflict-ridden transition is regrettable. But the destabilisation of the American intelligence agencies is even more regrettable, because it goes far beyond domestic political tensions. It weakens the US vis-à-vis Russia at a time when President Putin is increasingly making his presence felt on the international stage, and when the Western democracies, bogged down by several crises, are in retreat. There is no doubt that China and many other countries are watching the future American leader ranting, raving and flailing his arms with great interest. Seen from Europe, the spectacle is not just deplorable: it is extremely worrying.”

De Tijd (BE) /

The digital world is unsafe

The report by the US intelligence services shows that cyberwar has long since become a reality, De Tijd believes:

“This is further proof that the digital world has become a totally unsafe world. Literally everything can be unearthed and stolen, falsified or abused. There is no security in the cyberworld - that much is clear. Of course the big powers are using the cyberworld to extend their influence - and Putin is certainly no exception. But we shouldn't forget that that world is made up almost entirely of American companies. So US intelligence agencies have a natural edge over the rest of the world. The problem is that everyone can use the loopholes in the system. And that is exactly what is happening now in the US.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

The real problem is Trump

The biggest problem in the debate about the US intelligence report is not Vladimir Putin but Donald Trump, comments the Neue Zürcher Zeitung:

“It doesn't take an intelligence report to see that Russia is basically waging an information war against Western democracies. Private security firms have also gathered evidence of a Russian involvement in hacker attacks against Hillary Clinton's party. The Kremlin's preference for Republican Trump was never a secret, and nor was the latter's admiration for the strong man in Moscow. The worrying aspect of this story is not that Russia wants to manipulate American politics. Far more alarming is that soon a man will be sitting in the White House who closes his eyes resolutely to this fact and doesn't want to recognise the threat Russia poses.”

News.bg (BG) /

US claims are nonsense

The US intelligence report about Russian hacker attacks in the US election campaign are nothing but propaganda, the news site news.bg is sure:

“Trying to determine which country a cyber attack is coming from is all but impossible because the hackers have thousands of IP addresses at their disposal. They could attack from Japan or China, for example, and deliberately leave Cyrillic letters in the code. That acts as a red herring, and can't be used as proof that the attack came from Russia. The hackers could be sitting in Russia, Japan or even Africa. So it's complete nonsense to say that Putin personally is behind the attack. The intelligence agencies' tactics will no doubt sooner or later be exposed as American propaganda in the information war.”