President Barack Obama acknowledges the crowd as he arrives to deliver his farewell address in Chicago, Illinois. REUTERS/John Gress
President Barack Obama acknowledges the crowd as he arrives to deliver his farewell address in Chicago, Illinois. REUTERS/John Gress

The “Russian hacking” scandal in the US acquired a new dimension with the latest intelligence chiefs’ briefing of both outgoing and incoming presidents that Russia has illegally collected some damaging information – the so-called “kompromat” – against President-elect Donald Trump. If so, the report goes, the information could conceivably be used to coerce Trump into bowing to the Russian agenda.

Just as before, no evidence has been presented to substantiate allegations. Just as before, this newly publicized addendum to the earlier published report is, to use the US spooks’ language “consistent with [their] understanding of Russian behavior.” In other words, it is prejudiced. Once again, the claim is based on “assessments” and “judgments” while lacking any corroboration of the presented allegations. In other words, it is opinionated.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama instructed all Americans to be alarmed by Russia’s actions. In his farewell address, Obama took another swipe at Russia’s president Putin in a thinly veiled reference to “autocrats in foreign capitals who see free markets, open democracies, and civil society itself as a threat to their power.” Russia’s ultimate sin, in the outgoing president’s assessment, is “a contempt for the rule of law” and “a belief that the … propaganda machine is the ultimate arbiter of what’s true and what’s right.”

The Obama administration’s insistence that Russia took actions intended to interfere with the US election process, together with the newly announced sanctions against Moscow clearly puts less pressure on Russia than it does on President-elect who promised to improve the American-Russian relations. The liberal establishment’s attempts to intimidate Trump continue with a de-facto threat of impeachment because of his alleged vulnerability to Russia’s “coercion.”

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) calls the idea that the hacking helped President-elect Donald Trump win the presidency “absurd.” Trump himself saw a “political witch hunt,” and rightly so. The Kremlin echoed this assessment, also noting a serious fatigue with the accusations.

While we still haven’t seen any evidence that the hacking was indeed, Russian in any form, shape or substance or even firm assertions that such evidence – apart from the opinionated “judgments” and “assessments” – really exists, what strikes me most is an apparent attempt to deny one of the world’s superpowers the very right to gather intelligence or influence events in another country in a way that suits its national interests.

As the Asia Times has already noted, so what if Russia tried to influence the US election? The idea that any single country’s diplomats or intelligence officers should not be trying to influence affairs in another country to their nation’s benefit is rather extraordinary even from the common-sense perspective. When defended by a commander-in-chief of the world’s greatest country, it reveals either a serious lapse of reasoning or the conscious application of double standards: what America can do, no one else should try to repeat.

Influencing other countries and their state leaders to be favorably predisposed to your own nation must be literally in the foreign affairs and foreign intelligence services’ job description. These services were specifically created with that purpose in mind. In very recent history, the USA itself was accused of tapping the phone conversations of 35 world leaders, including its NATO allies Germany and France. Britain has been spying on the African heads of state and prime ministers. Israel and the USA cooperated on cyber attacks against Iran. Even as Obama waves his accusing finger at Russia, Amnesty International and the American Civil Liberties Movement petition for the presidential pardon of Edward Snowden – the whistle-blower that revealed the extent of the US-orchestrated global surveillance.

Against such a background, the outgoing president’s efforts to demonize “Russian hacking” should be seen for what they are: a not-so-tacit attempt to sting president-elect Trump with an intention to block even modest normalization of the U.S. relations with Russia as allegedly “anti-American” and “coerced.”

Mikhail Molchanov is a policy analyst and international relations observer based in Canada. He has worked as senior policy analyst for the federal government, and as professor of political science at several Canadian universities. He has authored and co-authored seven books and nearly 120 articles and book chapters.

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