Garry Kasparov writes: When the entire U.S. intelligence community united to accuse Russia of tampering in the 2016 presidential election, it seemed redundant to later add that Vladimir Putin was directly involved. Nothing significant happens in Russia, and no action is taken by Russia, without the knowledge of the man who has held total power there for 17 years, first as president and later as unchallenged dictator. Having steadily eliminated every form of real political and social opposition in Russia, Putin turned his attacks on the foreign powers that could — should they decide to act — weaken his grip.
The United States, in other words, doesn’t have a problem with Russia — it has a problem with Putin.
And instead of deterrence, President Obama continues the policy of belated responses that has enabled Putin’s steady escalation of hostile acts. The sanctions against Russian intelligence assets that the White House announced last Thursday, while welcome, left me searching for a Russian equivalent for the proverb “closing the barn door after the horse is gone.”
With Putin’s background as a career KGB officer, he takes a particular interest in operations dealing with that organization’s specialties of disinformation and manipulation. The KGB is called the FSB these days, a makeover that made sense after the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, but under Putin it is as aggressive as ever in its mission of infiltrating and destabilizing the West. More aggressive, in fact, because Putin is not constrained by national interests or global alliances the way the Soviet leadership was. There is no consideration of what is or is not good for Russia, or for Russians, only what is best for him and his close circle of oligarch elites. The 2012 U.S. adoption of the Magnitsky Act, targeting Russian officials tied to criminal repression, was answered by banning the adoption of Russian orphans by Americans. Western sanctions over Putin’s illegal annexation of Crimea were met by boycotting many foreign goods, harming Russian businesses and consumers — to the perverse point of physically destroying thousands of tons of smuggled food in a country where many millions are battling hunger and poverty. Putin’s strategy is to get Russians to blame the free world by further punishing Russians himself. This can be countered only by being for Russia, but against Putin. [Continue reading…]