US threats of cyber-attacks against Russia ‘double bluff & saber-rattling’

© Pawel Kopczynski
Threats of a possible cyber-attack against Russia show the US establishment is worried that Trump might win and is setting up the myth that, if that happens, it could only be due to outside interference, says former MI5 intelligence officer Annie Machon.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov assured that everything is under control after claims emerged indicating that US government hackers had managed to penetrate key infrastructure controls in Russia.

Moscow now demands that Washington provide comment on the matter.

“If no official reaction from the American administration follows, it would mean state cyberterrorism exists in the US. If the threats of the attack, which were published by the US media, are carried out, Moscow would be justified in charging Washington,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said, according to the ministry’s website.

NBC News reported earlier that US government hackers had penetrated “Russia’s electric grid, telecommunications networks, and the Kremlin’s command systems” to be ready to “hit back” in case Moscow tries to disrupt the US presidential vote on November 8.  

RT: How credible are these threats? Or is this just a double bluff of some sort?

Annie Machon: I think it’s very much a double bluff, a sort of saber-rattling. I mean, there seems to be no evidence to implicate the Russian state in the circled hacking claims in the run-up to the American election. Perhaps America is just saying: “You know, don’t try anything on the day, otherwise we will retaliate.” I think it will be very dangerous path to go down of starting to launch cyber-terrorist attacks. I also think that it shows that the American establishment is actually rather worried that Trump might carry the day during the elections. So, they’re setting up this sort of myth – that, if you happen to win, then it must be from outside interference tampering with the election results. And I fail to see now how the election – which has been incredibly divisive to date – is going to actually bring America together afterwards, because if Trump wins, the American establishment will blame the Russians, as we are seeing them lining up to do. And if Hillary Clinton wins, then the Trump campaign will say: “Oh, no. They’ve been tampering with the voting computers and rigged the election in America.” So, I can’t see how it can be a sort of conclusive result, even on the 8th of November.                

RT: How dangerous could this be for Russia should this threat prove credible?

AM: I think it would be incredibly dangerous for Russia and also, potentially then, it will escalate across the rest of the world, because once one side launches a unilateral cyber-attack, it’s like launching a unilateral missile attack, or something. In terms of physical safety, if the power grid goes down, the power supply is taken out, and that power supply is needed to run the cooling system, for example, on nuclear power stations and things like that, then things could get very messy very quickly, and there will be retaliation. If any one country does this, the other countries will have to retaliate. And all our countries are run by these computer grids now, and we’re all vulnerable to these sorts of cyber-attacks.   

RT: What reaction from the US do you expect?

AM: That will be denial, denial, denial – no doubt about that. I think they are just saber-rattling to say “we have the capability to do this.” But then all the major powers have the capability to do this. I would think, though, that it’s only America that has aggressively attacked another sovereign state through cyber-warfare to date. And that was the release of the Stuxnet virus, which was designed to attack the peaceful nuclear facilities in Iran. Now they unleashed this virus, and it was effective. Unfortunately, now that virus is out there in the wild and can be mutated and used by other players too. There are always unforeseen consequences. If a country goes down the path of launching cyber-warfare, it is very much a sort of terra nova.  

RT: These hacking scandals are coming in thick and fast. A day doesn’t go by without some sort of allegation or counter allegation here. Do you think this will calm down after the elections in the US, or are these scandals for the long-run?

AM: I think it is definitely here for the long run. This is a new frontline of any modern warfare. Also, the hysteria is being ramped up. America seems desperate to implicate WikiLeaks in the allegations around Russia, because that would strengthen their hand in trying to prosecute Julian Assange for espionage. As I said before, whatever the result of the American election now, one side is going to accuse the other of tampering with that election result. The American system particularly relies very heavily on voting computers. And this has been demonstrated over about the period of ten years already – how easy it is to flip the vote that you put into a voting computer to get the opposite result from what the people actually want. So, either side is going to call foul and more of these allegations will surface.

‘Clinton is master of conspiracy theories’

Charles Ortel, private investor and writer, describes the current state of affairs in the US as “deplorable.”

We have some very serious structural issues inside the [US] and around the advanced world, where incomes are so high. And we have an establishment inside the US that is attempting to cling to power, having run our economy and run down our geopolitical standing around the world since about 1998- 1999.  The establishment elites in both parties are terrified that there could be an outcome here where Donald Trump and others, who might get elected or reelected, would be far outside their typical control, so they are coming up with a preposterous thesis here,” he told RT. “Hillary is a master at suggesting... Back in the days when her husband was under a threat, that there is a vast right wing conspiracy. Now there’s supposed to be a vast crazy conspiracy involving the FBI and Russia… It’s just fantasy land to me.”    

Reports like the one published by NBC News ahead of the election aren’t constructive at all, he said. 

There are some nuclear weapons that have been unleashed thanks to WikiLeaks – that the American public and the global public, the Russian public need to study carefully. This Clinton Foundation has been operated as a gigantic slush fund, as a means for the Clintons to sell their influence and their potential influence to the highest bidder around the world. There are some explosive documents in there. So, it is no wonder that team Clinton and the Democrats are trying to distract people from looking closely at these documents. For that alone Mr. Assange has done a lot more good than harm,” Ortel added.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.