Originally appeared at DWN, translated by John T. Sumner exclusively for SouthFront; Edited by Desislava Tzoneva
The German secret services are presenting an amazing theory: allegedly, Russia is behind the cyber-attacks of the Islamic State (IS). Such an unproven thesis could be the prelude to a military confrontation with Moscow. In this conflict, Germany is siding with the wrong Americans: it would be better to support President Obama, who shows an astonishing degree of foresight and courage at the end of his time in office.
In its new issue, the German magazine, Spiegel, refers to Hillary Clinton as “America’s last hope” and assigns an objective to her: “Hillary Clinton must save the world from Donald Trump.” Why a shady-looking character like Trump could pose a threat to the world in one of the oldest democracies, is not entirely clear, especially as the US is not a dictatorship, but rather has a problem with the fact that instances like the House of Representatives, the Senate, the Supreme Courts and the President neutralise themselves too much. This condition causes the power vacuum to be filled by other forces such as the defense industry, the energy industry or the Wall Street banks.
However, Clinton does not want to become President of the United States to save the world from Donald Trump: she rather wants to protect the world from the Russians, who, in collaboration with US President Barrack Obama, successfully fight against the IS, much to the annoyance of the Saudis financing them and to the annoyance of Clinton and the neocons. Regarding the IS, Obama has learned his lesson: in a conversation with David Remnick from New Yorker in January 2014, he still considered them as a “Jayvee”-team, meaning a second-rate college team, to be defeated by the Americans, almost in passing. Later, Obama has revised his assessment, and a few months ago at “60 Minutes”, he even went so far as to describe the US strategy of combatting Islamists with mercenaries, as failed. Shortly after the interview, Obama joined with Russian President, Vladimir Putin; since then, Americans and Russians are fighting those unpredictable combat troops being financed by the Gulf States, more or less together, in Syria and in Iraq.
Successes didn´t fail to materialise and the Pentagon is not chary of praise towards the Russians, who have made the demoralised Syrian army battle-ready again. Observers in Washington say that the president and the administration are not estimating the Russians as being a threat to world peace. According to Deutsche Wirtschafts Nachrichten (DWN), they are indeed somewhat annoyed due to the Russians sometimes conducting their operations in “cowboy style,”like switching off the responders of their fighter jets and making incidents more probable this way. But everybody is in accordance with the fact that the campaign of the Russians and the cooperation of the Americans with them turned the tide, and in this way, accomplished a chance for a ceasefire despite all setbacks still existing.
The neocons and Clinton on the other hand, argue that the Russian president would be the most dangerous man in the world and do everything possible to torpedo the cooperation between Obama and Putin. With great concern observers see a “state within a state” in Washington, whose economic interests regarding the energy and defense industry are put above the political interests of the American nation.
Furthermore, Russia is a threat for Clinton out of a very personal reason: most likely, the Russian secret services have taken the unique chance to retrieve personal emails stored by Clinton on a private server. Only a few days ago, Russian services signalled to the Americans that they could even publish these documents. According to the special service Defense and Foreign Affairs, the cause of the Russians being annoyed is due to the sluggish elucidation of the affair by the US Department of Justice.
The threat of the Russians is primarily aimed at Clinton, who Moscow wants to prevent from becoming the next US President. Due to this announcement, the Clinton camp is on the defensive and they have stated that the Russian government has hacked a server of the Democratic Party in order to release Clinton´s anti-Trump dossiers. In fact, there should be nothing against Trump, which would not leak out to the US media sooner or later. Therefore, these papers are likely to be nothing but circumstantial for the Russians.
But that’s not the point here: unscheduled, NATO this week has emphasised once again that any hacking attempts will be treated by them as a military attack. In other words, if NATO accuses Russia of hacking an official US site, this could trigger the mutual defense clause of the Alliance. Without any more ado, this would put Germany in a state of war with Russia.
Having stored her emails on a private server now proves to be detrimental for Clinton: even if proven, a Russian attack would not be an attack on the Alliance, but one on a private person – and therefore, would not yet be sufficient for a military escalation.
At this point, Germany is trying to come to the aid of Clinton, whose resolute image is printed on the cover of the current Spiegel.
Allegedly, German secret services should have passed corresponding information to the magazine, indicating that the Russians would be much worse than expected: cyber-attacks on behalf of the jihadi group, Islamic State, would “probably” be committed by Russian hackers. According to findings of German security services, the IS would not yet be capable of launching complex espionage or sabotage attacks on the network, the magazine reported on Saturday. Some clues would insinuate those hacker attacks being masterminded by the Kremlin. The AFP advance report gives no further details on the exact nature of the alleged evidence collected.
The AFP provides a brief history of those suspicions: “This suspicion had arisen in April 2015 as well. After a large-scale hacker attack on the French tv broadcaster, TV5 Monde, the investigations were quickly directed against a group of Russian hackers. According to French media reports, this group had attacked the information systems of the White House and of other NATO members in the past, as well as those of Russian dissidents and Ukrainian activists.”
The IS has not yet claimed responsibility for these hacker attacks, but even if they should, these incidents are too vague anyway so that they hardly could be utilised for triggering the mutual defense clause. The other allegations are put forward in the subjunctive too. The AFP states that: “According to Spiegel the attacks on the Central Command of the US Armed Forces at the beginning of 2015, on the US State Department and on Saudi security authorities during last spring, could have been conducted by order of the Russians as well. The German security agencies would assume that the three Russian secret services would command more than 4 000 ‘cyber-agents’.”
But on sober reflection, an imminent escalation is not arising from this report. The New York Times (NYT), however, goes a little further and reports that the Russians were allegedly involved in hacker attacks against Estonia and the Ukraine, which would have led to power blackouts. However, the biggest electricity sabotage in recent months is not mentioned: it involved the Crimea in the greatest trouble and was triggered by more conventional means: Ukrainian extremists had blown up electricity pylons to ensure an electricity failure on the peninsula.
The NYT writes that cyber war would be the greatest strength of Russia. The Russians would clearly be superior to NATO and are referred to as a potential attacker. The Times writes: “NATO is only at the beginning of what they, in a delicate way, refer to as ‘active defense’.” Less delicately, NATO Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, had expressed himself in a keynote address in Washington: the Alliance would have the right to defend the US and the EU even on foreign territory. Regarding cyber-attacks, of which even NATO itself acknowledges in the NYT report that it would be virtually impossible to unequivocally convict the perpetrators, this announcement is quite far-reaching.
Critics of this policy of potential escalation exist in Washington and also in Germany. Lately, Federal Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who has kept a remarkably cool head in all the heated debates, had warned against “saber rattling and war cries” towards Russia. On the other hand, Angela Merkel maintains a low profile and is rather talking by actions: substitutionally, the NYT praises Federal Defense Minister, Ursula von der Leyen. Germany would have recognised the seriousness of the situation and would be more active than NATO. The establishment of a Department of cyber war in the German Bundeswehr would have been the right step to keep the Russians at bay.
The new publication in the Spiegel appears to be the launch of a trial balloon, aiming to insinuate that Russia could be behind the IS. This thesis may as well be called a bold one. Funding and support of the IS by the Gulf States, and especially by Saudi Arabia, has led to a direct destabilisation of Syria, resulting in a proxy war there and in the murder and expulsion of millions of people. The Russian intervention, in addition to economic interests, is particularly based on the concern that Islamist terrorism could also spread throughout the Muslim population of the former Soviet republics. In this respect, Russia has simply acted according to the NATO principle by defending its country on foreign soil – but with the consent of the local government.
Russia for its part, has repeatedly pointed out that the NATO member, Turkey, is cooperating with the IS – militarily and economically.
The geo-political masquerade shows that the Internet is adapted for being used as a casus belli. Germany and the EU are in the awkward position that, due to the lack of an independent foreign policy, Europe is unable to defend its own interests. Due to the absence of an independent, robust foreign and security policy, Europe, for better or worse, is dependent on the mercy of a third party to defend the European mainland, as it became evident with the refugee deal with Turkey.
Currently, a military escalation is unlikely because of the cooperation between Obama and Putin in Syria. In a tactical move, Russian President Putin has praised the US and ostentatiously, the Clinton family as well. He wants to avoid an escalation because he knows: if Hillary Clinton would actually “save the world from Donald Trump,” like the Spiegel is demanding, the relationship between Russia and the West could change quickly and fundamentally.