Like Captain Renault in Casablanca, feigning shock that there was gambling at Rick’s club and ordering it closed, President Barack Obama has expressed his outrage at Russian hacking and has now ordered a variety of retaliatory measures. Yet Washington has been long aware of Russian cyberwarfare and the need to counter it. So why now, and to what effect?
To be sure, Russia has employed cyberwarfare and information warfare extensively, not only against the United States but many other countries. Much of this is well-known. Part of Russian hybrid warfare, cyberwar in the past several years has become an increasingly crucial tool of foreign policy in the eyes of Russian leaders. Additionally, cyberwar and information warfare are key parts of the 2013 Gerasimov Doctrine (named after General Valery Gerasimov) that holds that “non-linear war” is the way of the future and that covert tactics are essential since there is no longer a clear line between peace and war.
The open secret is that Russia has made extensive efforts to recruit all possible talent, including some with a shady past, to help its cyber efforts. The Ministry of Defence even advertised for coders on VKontakte, the most popular Russian social network.
Further, for years now, the Kremlin has sought to influence elections throughout Europe, so there should have been little surprise they did this in the United States. In fact, the FBI had informed the Democratic National Committee of hacking back in the fall of 2015 and Mr. Obama certainly was apprised about Russian efforts in April, 2016, when Hillary Clinton’s path to victory seemed assured. The Russian hacking consortium, named Fancy Bear, which also targeted the DNC, was known in the U.S., and the group proudly and publicly adopted its moniker.
So why did Mr. Obama wait so long to act?...