Why Putin Didn't Do It

Obama's accusations of Russian election hacking make no sense.

The media have reported that Mr. Obama is so angry at the Russians for supposedly helping Mr. Trump win the 2016 presidential election through a series of election hacks that his expelling a number of Russian diplomats is only his first step of a righteous retribution.

If so, it's a little odd that he's kept it so late.  Why didn't Mr. Obama get upset when someone stole our entire government personnel database and many military secrets?  He didn't care at all about hacking until a hacker, who may or many not have been Russian, embarrassed the DNC by promulgating unpleasant truths.

Mr. Putin has challenged the Obama administration either to show proof the the Russians did it or shut up.  It's been reported that politicians from both parties are "deeply concerned," but so far, nobody we know has seen any real evidence.  There may have been a time when we'd have believed the FBI or the CIA if they told us they had evidence that the Russians had done it, but those days are long gone.

In fact, there are many reasons to simply not believe that the Russians hacked the DNC to help Mr. Trump win the Presidency.

He's Read Her Mail

We're convinced that Mr. Putin had access to all of Hillary's email, including messages that are too secret to be shared with mere taxpayers.  As we've discussed, it's inconceivable that the Russian intelligence agencies didn't get everything off of her server including its serial numbers.  That's their job, and she made it nearly as easy as if she'd simply shipped them her hard drive.

We'll be generous to Hillary and assume that leaving all her emails, in effect, lying on the sidewalk wasn't a quid-pro-quo for giving Russia the right to buy most of American's uranium supply.  And we'll be even more generous in assuming that allowing a Russian company to pay her husband Bill megabucks for a speech had nothing to do with it either.

But there can be no doubt that Mr. Putin is well aware of all those individual events, and perfectly well knows the sort of people the Clintons are.  Vladimir Putin, ex-senior KGB agent, has Hillary's measure and knows exactly how to manipulate her - it's what he's spent his career mastering.

Why would he favor an unknown like Mr. Trump?  Mr. Trump may be a billionaire, and no doubt there were a few pages about him on file in the bowels of the Kremlin, but until a year ago he wouldn't have seemed politically important enough for foreign intelligence agencies to much care about.  They've been making up frantically for lost time, but there's bound to be an entire office in the Kremlin dedicated solely to tracking the Clintons, with apparatchiks who've spent their entire careers as Clinton analysis experts.  Any equivalent Trump experts will be newbies.

Putin has read all her email.  He has experts who know everything knowable about her.  He knows exactly how to manipulate and use her, and he's done it.  Why on earth would he favor her opponent?  Better the useful idiot you know than the unknown factor you don't.  That's not the kind of mistake any KGB agent would ever make unless they had a death wish.

Putin Pride

Mr. Putin is a very proud man - how many politicians go out of their way to be photographed in the most macho possible poses and stunts?

If you are a near-total ruler, your image matters enormously.  It's important that he be seen to be strong and powerful, because if his rivals ever starts to suspect he's not, he suddenly won't be.

This doesn't mean he has to be loved or to be honest.  It does, however, very much mean that he can't afford to be caught in a public mistake.

He would be infuriated beyond measure to be caught red-handed in a bold-faced lie after he challenged the Obama administration either to show proof the Russians hacked us, or to shut up.  We wouldn't believe an ordinary denial from him any more than we believed we could keep our doctors, but this sort of bold, forthright challenge lends credence to his denial.

If Russia really did hack our elections, there's no need for him to climb so far out on a limb.  He would only do this if he was absolutely certain it couldn't be sawed off behind him.

Some say that he knows that the techniques the FBI and CIA used to get the proof can't be revealed because the Russians would learn too much about what we know.  We doubt that, because:

  1. Putin knows that Mr. Obama has utterly no idea at all of the value of keeping secrets.  Mr Obama wouldn't care a fig for the loss of secrets implied by showing proof if he had any.
  2. Mr. Snowden's treasure trove has told him all he needs to know about what we know and what we don't.

Russian Command and Control

Our main reason for not believing Mr. Obama's charge is based on how the Russian governmental culture works.  When Korean Airlines flight 007 was shot down over Russian airspace in 1983, we learned that the Russian command-and-control doctrine gives pilots and other lower-ranking people very little freedom of initiative.  We're also told that radio intercepts showed that the airline pilot had convinced the fighter pilot that this was a commercial airline and that he'd gotten lost.

The fighter pilot shot him down anyway, on direct orders from the ground.

This decision had to be approved high enough in the Russian hierarchy that a number of people are convinced that the Russian government deliberately misdirected the flight so they could shoot it down, either to kill a prominent critic of the Soviet Union who happened to be aboard or to provoke a military incident.

Now, this was under the old Soviet Union.  Vladimir Putin's Russia is nothing like as barbaric or murderous.  Russian culture hasn't changed, though; there's no reason to believe that low-level soldiers or spies have any more independence today than they had during the Cold War.

Consider the international implications of releasing the DNC email trove.  Anyone who read them would know that they reflected poorly on Hillary Clinton and her party.  It would also be obvious that the Obama administration would not take kindly to a foreign power damaging the image of Mr. Obama's anointed successor.  Indeed, Mr Obama's tantrum is precisely the sort of reaction that Mr. Putin, who knows him well, would expect.

Would an unknown Russian government employee knowingly do something that could cause an international incident, if not a war, without direct orders from very, very high indeed?  Not a chance.

Although the world's best hackers work for national governments, there are plenty of free-lancers who could have victimized the DNC, particularly since Democrats don't seem to be all that savvy about computers.

While it's certain that Mr. Putin isn't aware of every action by every Russian, we can easily see him spreading the word through the hacker community: "If any of you did this, fess up, and I won't kill you.  If, on the other hand, you don't admit it, and it turns out that you did it, I will kill you in the most unpleasant manner at my command."

He would certainly ask that question before throwing his challenge at Mr. Obama.  In fact, he probably doesn't even need to actually ask anybody anything, since the Russian hacker community already knows how things work.  He's had enough people killed - no, not in their millions, but certainly in their dozens if not the low hundreds - that nobody wants to get on his bad side.

So either answer came there none, or someone said, "This is who did it, and he's not Russian."  Wikileaks even specifically claims that the emails were given them, not by a Russian, but by a disgusted DNC staffer, possibly the one who was murdered in DC shortly after the leak - though there's no way of knowing whether that's true.  Again, it wouldn't be in Putin's interest to bump off the non-Russian hacker: if anything, he'd want to keep him alive so as to present him to the world after Mr. Obama has huffed and puffed at the wrong target for long enough.

Either way, we believe that Mr. Obama is barking up yet another wrong tree. Fortunately, everyone in the world knows that they only have to put up with his buffoonery for another two weeks.

We await with eager anticipation President-elect Trump's pending revelation of “things that other people don’t know” about what really happened and by whom.

Will Offensicht is a staff writer for Scragged.com and an internationally published author by a different name.  Read other Scragged.com articles by Will Offensicht or other articles on Foreign Affairs.
Reader Comments

.... ("Obama") didn't care at all about "hacking" until a hacker, who may or many not have been Russian, embarrassed the DNC by (cutting and pasting and publishing its) communications .....

Who was absolutely not a "hacker" but -- and every-bit-as-absolutely -- was a leaker or were leakers. Who was or who were almost certainly not Russian but were or most likely an employee or employees of America's so-called "intelligence community." Or of the DNC. (Of, that is, our nation's least intelligent "community")

January 2, 2017 8:20 PM

Your comment has been flagged as spam.

That's a bit sad.

January 2, 2017 8:21 PM

I think Russia favored Trump because they knew that CHINA had Clinton's emails & Russia didn't.

May 1, 2019 9:20 PM
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