Russia's Image Tanks In the West, but So Does Trump's
The West took a coÃ¶rdinated stand against Russia on Thursday, for undermining its governments and international institutions in a global campaign of cyberattacks. In Washington, the Department of Justice indicted seven Russian military-intelligence agents for multiple hacking schemes. Britain charged that Russia is now behaving like a âpariah state,â because of its brazen use of chemical weapons, its meddling in Western elections, and its attempted cybersabotage of probes into its illegal activities. And the Dutch government disclosed that it had deported four Russian intelligence agents who were caught red-handed, in April, trying to hack the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, an international monitoring agency based in The Hague. The agency was investigating the poison attack on Sergei Skripal, a former Russian spy in exile in Britain, and also the use of chemical weapons by t he Syrian government, Russiaâs closest ally in the Middle East.
In Brussels, the U.S. Defense Secretary, James Mattis, met with defense ministers from the other twenty-eight NATO countries, who agreed that Russia must pay a price for its malfeasance. Mattis pledged that America would stand behind its allies against Vladimir Putinâs intervention. âWe are ready to provide cybersupport to counter Russian hacking,â he said.
The Justice Departmentâs indictment alleged that Russiaâs state intelligence service, the G.R.U., engaged in a four-year cyber campaign against international organizations, including a U.S. group that had exposed doping among Russiaâs Olympic athletes. The forty-one-page document chronicled conspiracy, disinformation, identity theft, money laundering, wire fraud, and data theft, to âfurther Russian interests, retaliate against Russiaâs detractors and sway public opinion in Russiaâs favor.â It also charged that a Russian agen t had spied on the networks and staff of Westinghouse Electric, a nuclear-power company based in Pennsylvania that has reportedly done business with Ukraine.
The new allegations are not part of Robert Muellerâs investigation into Russian meddling in the U.S. election, but the two scandals share similarities and may involve the same conspirators. âThey evince some of the same methods of computer intrusion and the same overarching Russian strategic goal: to pursue its interests through illegal influence and disinformation operations aimed at muddying or altering perceptions of the truth,â John Demers, the Justice Departmentâs Assistant Attorney General, said at a press briefing.
The Westâs united front against Russia included tough warnings. âThe G.R.U.âs actions are reckless and indiscriminate,â Jeremy Hunt , the British foreign secretary, said. âOur message is clear: together, with our allies, we will expose and respond to the G.R.U.âs attempts to und ermine international stability.â The Russian Foreign Ministry angrily rejected Europeâs charges as the products of a ârich imagination.â Maria Zakharova, a spokeswoman, reportedly told a press briefing that the allegations were âsome kind of a diabolical perfume cocktail.â
But the Westâs collaboration may have little effect on Russiaâs behavior. âI donât anticipate any change,â Alina Polyakova, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told me. âThe latest indictments are primarily symbolic.â No actions by the Westâ"whether they be punitive sanctions or positive diplomatic outreachâ"have had much impact on Putinâs government. âThe Trump Administration pushed through even tougher sanctions than Obama did, some coÃ¶rdinated with the European Union,â Polyakova said. âBut weâre still seeing this massive cyberattack in the Netherlands, the disinformation campaign surrounding the attempted Skripal assassination, and the Russian attacks of U. S. congressional candidates in the current election. Russia is on a clear course of more aggressive behavior toward the West. Strong statements and narrow sanctions wonât change that.â
Despite their warm rapport in Helsinki, in July, Putin had some angry words for Trump this week. The Russian leader cited Trumpâs recent complaint that the price of oil is too high. âDonald, if you want to find the culprit for the rise in prices, you need to look in the mirror,â Putin told the Russian Energy Week conference, in Moscow. Todayâs prices are âlargely the result of the current U.S. Administrationâ"these expectations of sanctions against Iran, the political problems in Venezuela. Look at whatâs happening in Libya. The state is destroyed. Itâs the result of irresponsible policies which have a direct impact on the world economy.â
Trumpâs image among Russians is tanking. Only nineteen per cent now have a positive image of the U.S. leaderâ"down from fifty-thr ee per cent a year ago, according to a poll released this week by the Pew Research Center. The majority no longer believes that the President will fulfill his campaign promise to better relations with Moscow. âIt has been over two years, and nothing is improving. In fact, sanctions-wise, it is getting worse,â Nina Khrushcheva, the granddaughter of the former Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev and a professor of international affairs at the New School, told me. âRussians are pleased with the reverence Trump displays in relations to Putin, but the U.S. President does look weak in their eyes. All this positive rhetoric, and he canât rein in his people. âWhat kind of a leader is he?â Russians wonder. It is certainly a sign of not winning, when the President canât pursue the policy of good relations he says he wants.â
The sharp drop in positive perceptions of Trump is not limited to Russia. The Pew poll, which covered twenty-five countries, found that Trump scored jus t as lowâ"or lowerâ"among Americaâs longtime allies. In Germany, arguably the most powerful country in Europe, only ten per cent of the public had confidence that Trump would âdo the right thing in world affairs.â In France, it was nine per cent. The President earned his lowest score in Mexicoâ"a country he wants to wall offâ"with only six per cent. The poll found that people in the twenty-five nations surveyed had more confidence in both Putin (thirty per cent over all) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (thirty-four per cent) to do the right thing than they did in Trump (twenty-seven per cent).
Under Trump, Americaâs image has suffered, too, its approval dropping by almost fifty per cent in Germany and France in the two years since he was elected. Worldwide, seventy per cent of those polled lacked confidence in the worldâs most powerful leaderâ"even as half the world maintained a favorable view of the United States. âItâs more interestingâ"and more comforti ngâ"that thereâs a large and growing gap between international perceptions of Trump and perceptions of the United States,â Ian Bremmer, the president of the Eurasia Group, told me. âNearly two years in, people around the world are starting to recognize that Trump-talk and American actions are strongly differentiated.âSource: Google News Russia | Netizen 24 Russia