Russia's covert political warfare, which combines aggressive espionage with propaganda and subversion, is remarkably overt, U.S. columnist and former intelligence officer John Schindler said in an interview with BNS.
"The Kremlin's playbook of covert political warfare, what I've termed Special War, that was employed against my country last year — aggressive espionage combined with propaganda and subversion — is being used on France right now," said Schindler, who will be one of the speakers at the Lennart Meri Conference in Tallinn this weekend. "Germany is next. What's remarkable is how overt all this ostensibly covert combat actually is."
According to Schindler, Moscow is still using well-known fronts such as APT28, which is really the Main Intelligence Agency (GRU), the foreign military intelligence agency of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, and its Wikileaks pawn to do its bidding, "...even though everybody knows who's really pulling the strings.
"Putin doesn't care that we know, which is deeply alarming," the former National Security Agency (NSA) intelligence analyst said.
Schindler told BNS that NATO needs to accept that Russia has declared war of a kind against the West and that the West must start pushing back.
"Militarily, NATO can easily deter Russia," Schindler noted. "Regarding political warfare, however, I am much less optimistic right now."
He said that the blatant nature of Russia's clandestine aggression against Western democracy, playing out in real time for all to see, means that increasing numbers of citizens understand what is happening.
US can't change the course of war in Syria
Although Syria's war will drag on for years yet, its outcome is already known and there is nothing that the U.S. can do to change the course of the war, Schindler conceded regarding the Middle Eastern conflict.
"Putin has achieved most of his objectives in Syria already; he has preserved his client, the Assad dictatorship, which is a major win for the Kremlin," he said.
"I am skeptical that, after six years of dawdling and not knowing what to do about Syria, Washington has any practical good ideas," said the columnist, adding that he did not believe that the White House — particularly with Donald Trump in it — had the stomach to force Putin and his Syrian and Iranian partners to do much of anything.
"That said, the primary blame for this situation liess with President Obama, whose abandonment of his own 'red line' in Syria nearly four years ago de facto outsourced U.S. policy in the region to Moscow," he stated.
According to Schindler, everything else flows from that needless debacle.
Editor: Aili Vahtla