Response Pending

11 July 2017

Cogito Ergo Non Serviam

Russia Threatens to Expel US Diplomats, Seize Property

The Obama administration expelled some diplomats and seized two rather expensive US properties from the Russian foreign ministry in response to Moscow's meddling in America's presidential election. At the time, President Putin did not respond, and President-elect Trump praised that restraint. Several months later, the Russians are threatening to expel US diplomats and seize US property in Russia as the Trump administration hasn't undone the Obama actions. The question is how will the Trump White House react when this occurs.

Russian Foreign Minister Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said, "We hope that the United States, as a country which promotes the rule of law, will respect its international obligations. If this does not happen, if we see that this step is not seen as essential in Washington, then of course we will take retaliatory measures. This is the law of diplomacy, the law of international affairs, that reciprocity is the basis of all relations."

If it were any other country in the world, the Trump administration would view this as a gift from the gods. It's a chance to slam foreigners and blame the Obama White House for the situation in the first place. However, the Russians are not accorded the status of damned foreigners. What they want seems to matter to the president and his people.

What is especially worrisome is that the properties in question were used by the FSB and GRU to facilitate espionage activities. The BBC notes, "The US seized a Russian diplomatic property on Maryland's Eastern Shore - a sprawling 45-acre (18.2-hectare) retreat. The facility, acquired during the Cold War, was used by Russian diplomats for recreation, such as tennis and swimming. But it also had sophisticated communications, and US officials said it doubled as a spying outpost.

"The other diplomatic property is a New York mansion at Glen Cove, Long Island. It has 49 rooms and is similarly surrounded by woods. Like the Maryland mansion, its location is ideal for eavesdropping on US communications, US officials say."

If the Russians do expel US diplomats and seize properties like the dacha at Serebryany Bor outside Moscow, it will be inconvenient for the US. Then, the administration will have to decide on what terms to make the exchange of properties. That is preferable, however, to the US simply handing the Maryland and New York facilities back for nothing.

The real issue is persistent Russian hacking and attempted hacking of US computer systems. Just a few days ago, it came to light that the Russians had launched a cyber-attack on US nuclear power facilities. The internet is becoming a battle space in a new Cold War, and it seems that the US is letting the Russians take control. To be sure, the US is probably engaged in similar actions against Russia, and it would be a surprise if the Russian government went public with that news.

At the same time, it is troubling that some many American computer systems are under attack. The barrage seems constant. If an American city were on the receiving end of a conventional attack like this, there would be a state of war.

During the Cold War, and event today, US and Russian aircraft and naval assets played chicken with each other. Jets fly within a few feet of each other, and submarines chase each other through the depths. Cyber-warriors fencing here and there is probably part of the deal. However, the Russians need to be forced back, and whether the Trump administration takes a hard line on the coming expulsions is relatively unimportant. What will matter is how the US confronts Russia in cyberspace. And a joint security unit is not the way to go.

© Copyright 2017 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Ubuntu Linux.

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