Opinion | The Biggest Risk to This Election Is Not Russia. It’s Us. – By Fiona Hill – The New York Times

By 

Ms. Hill was senior director for European and Russian affairs on the National Security Council from 2017 to 2019.

Credit…Alex Brandon/Associated Press

“Robert O’Brien, President Trump’s national security adviser, revealed this week that he had recently met his Russian counterpart, Nikolai Patrushev, in Geneva and warned him that “there would be absolutely no tolerance for any interference” in the November election.

This was a pointless exchange. It misrepresents how Russia actually interferes in our affairs. The Russian state does not meddle directly. It delegates to proxies, who amplify our divisions and exploit our political polarization.

And the truth is, Americans must recognize that the United States is ripe for manipulation. With a month to go before Election Day, we are ripping ourselves apart.

When I was at the National Security Council, I had similar meetings with Mr. Patrushev and other Russian officials; we met in Geneva, in Moscow and in side rooms at international summits. With the national security advisers H.R. McMaster and John Bolton, we called them out for intervening in our 2016 elections. We warned them not to repeat their operations in 2018 and 2020.

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Our Russian counterparts never admitted to anything. They professed surprise at the uproar in American politics. They had done nothing. The United States, they said, had “gone mad.”

ImageNikolai Patrushev, secretary of Russia’s Security Council.
Credit…Maxim Shemetov/Reuters

The uproar, we countered, was their fault. They had lost the entire American political class. Their actions pushed our bilateral relationship into a destructive spiral.

We would then run through the now widely reported facts about what Russian operatives had done. Russia’s 2016 campaign was a creative mix of old-style propaganda techniques and new cybertools. On the one hand, Russia state-backed media outlets magnified the most divisive U.S. political conflicts. On the other, Twitter bots and WikiLeaks spread disinformation and revealed hacked emails. Russia’s Internet Research Agency analyzed U.S. public opinion and hired individuals to pose as Americans on Facebook.

Opinion | Why Does Trump Put Russia First? – By Susan E. Rice – The New York Times

By 

Ms. Rice is a former national security adviser.

Credit…Rahmat Gul/Associated Press

“Since at least February, and possibly as early as March 2019, the United States has had compelling intelligence that a committed adversary, Russia, paid bounties to Taliban-linked fighters to kill American troops in Afghanistan. American service members were reportedly killed as a result.

To this day, the president of the United States has done nothing about it.

Instead, President Trump dismissed the intelligence as not “credible” and “possibly another fabricated Russia hoax, maybe by the Fake News” that is “wanting to make Republicans look bad!!!”

Mr. Trump also claimed that neither he nor Vice President Mike Pence was ever told about this critical intelligence before it was first reported in The New York Times. Setting aside for a moment the credulity of that claim, whenever the president learned of this deeply troubling intelligence, why did he not publicly condemn any Russian efforts to kill American soldiers and explore options for a swift and significant U.S. response?

None of this adds up.

As a former national security adviser, I find it exceedingly difficult to believe that no one told Mr. Trump about this intelligence.”

Idlib Was Their Last Refuge. They Couldn’t Hide From the Bombs.The New York Times video

Idlib Was Their Last Refuge. They Couldn’t Hide From the Bombs.

Millions of Syrians have fled to Idlib Province seeking safety. During a rare reporting trip, The Times found that President Bashar al-Assad and his Russian allies are still bombing them.

Putin’s Long War Against American Science – The New York Times

On Feb. 3, soon after the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus to be a global health emergency, an obscure Twitter account in Moscow began retweeting an American blog. It said the pathogen was a germ weapon designed to incapacitate and kill. The headline called the evidence “irrefutable” even though top scientists had already debunked that claim and declared the novel virus to be natural.

As the pandemic has swept the globe, it has been accompanied by a dangerous surge of false information — an “infodemic,” according to the World Health Organization. Analysts say that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia has played a principal role in the spread of false information as part of his wider effort to discredit the West and destroy his enemies from within.

The House, the Senate and the nation’s intelligence agencies have typically focused on election meddling in their examinations of Mr. Putin’s long campaign. But the repercussions are wider. An investigation by The New York Times — involving scores of interviews as well as a review of scholarly papers, news reports, and Russian documents, tweets and TV shows — found that Mr. Putin has spread misinformation on issues of personal health for more than a decade.

His agents have repeatedly planted and spread the idea that viral epidemics — including flu outbreaks, Ebola and now the coronavirus — were sown by American scientists. The disinformers have also sought to undermine faith in the safety of vaccines, a triumph of public health that Mr. Putin himself promotes at home.

Opinion | A Plea to Save the Last Nuclear Arms Treaty – By Madeleine Albright and Igor Ivanov – The New York Times

By Madeleine Albright and 

Dr. Albright is a former United States secretary of state and Mr. Ivanov is a former Russian foreign minister.

Credit…Yuri Kadobnov/AFP via Getty Images

“The relationship between Russia and the United States has been mired in crisis for much of the past decade. Communication once considered routine has been cut off, deepening mistrust and making it more difficult to reduce tensions and avoid miscalculation. The current state of affairs does not serve the strategic interests of either country, and it puts global security at risk because Russia and the United States are the only countries that possess enough nuclear weapons to destroy each other — and all of humanity.

Rebuilding mutual confidence and putting United States-Russian relations on a safer track will be a challenging long-term endeavor, given the political climates in Washington and Moscow. But the two countries have a chance to head off even more instability by extending the 2010 New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which expires in one year, on ‎Feb. 5. While 12 months may seem like a lot of time, in diplomatic terms and in the present environment, the clock is ticking fast.

The United States and Russia can avoid a senseless and dangerous return to nuclear brinksmanship if they act soon. There is no reason to wait, and extending the treaty, known as New START, is the place to begin.

With the unfortunate dissolution of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty last year, New START is the only agreement still in place that limits the size of American and Russian nuclear forces. It also provides vital verification and transparency measures, including on-site inspections, that have helped foster strategic stability. The treaty allows for a five-year extension if the leaders of both countries agree. President Vladimir Putin and President Trump should seize this opportunity.”

Hospitals and Schools Are Being Bombed in Syria. A U.N. Inquiry Is Limited. We Took a Deeper Look. – The New York Times

By Malachy BrowneChristiaan TriebertEvan HillWhitney HurstGabriel Gianordoli and 

“The bombs smashed into a child care center, a refugee camp and a school. They destroyed makeshift clinics and hospitals, disabling essential services for tens of thousands of people.

Over the past year, attacks on buildings in northwestern Syria, which are supposed to be off limits during wartime under international law, grew so frequent that the head of the United Nations launched an inquiry to document the violations.

Secretary General António Guterres’s establishment of the investigation is seen by many diplomats as a success at a United Nations largely stymied by division in the powerful Security Council. Russia, a Syrian government ally and a major perpetrator of these attacks, has cast 14 vetoes in the Security Council since the start of the war in Syria, blocking accountability efforts and hindering humanitarian aid deliveries into Syria.

Since April, at least 60 health facilities in northwestern Syria have been damaged in strikes, and at least 29 of them were on the off limits list. But the United Nations, at least so far, is looking at just seven incidents. A United Nations spokesman would not say how the inquiry’s sites were determined.

Human rights and medical groups that support hospitals in Syria have criticized the inquiry as insufficient, saying it fails to match the gravity of the violations. The inquiry, for example, is looking at only one attack likely to have been carried out by Russia, despite previous investigations by The New York Times that found Russia bombed hospitals at least five times in May and November.”

Seven incidents on the United Nations list investigated by The Times.Satellite image by Landsat and Copernicus, via Google Earth

Opinion | ‘They’re Doing It as We Sit Here’ – The New York Times Editorial

By 

The editorial board represents the opinions of the board, its editor and the publisher. It is separate from the newsroom and the Op-Ed section.

“If you were searching for a metaphor for the withering ideal of American public service — the one that puts country before party, truth before “narrative” or “brand” — it’d be hard to do better than the painful spectacle of Robert Mueller trying, in his halting voice, to sound the alarm on Wednesday about Russian subversion of American democracy.

It’s the same alarm that virtually every member of America’s intelligence and law enforcement communities has been ringing for the last three years: Russia attacked our elections in 2016 and is intensifying its efforts today. “It wasn’t a single attempt,” Mr. Mueller said. “They’re doing it as we sit here.”

Appearing before two congressional committees rife with politicians intent on using him to fill out their own versions of reality, Mr. Mueller seemed frail and at times even confused. But he successfully rebuffed nearly all efforts to draw him beyond the boundaries of evidence established in the report he delivered about Russian interference in the 2016 elections. The exceptions came when representatives actually showed an interest in Russian meddling and Donald Trump’s embrace of it. “I hope this is not the new normal,” Mr. Mueller said at one point, in response to a question about whether American candidates might now feel free to welcome foreign influence, “but I fear it is.”

The “sweeping and systemic” nature of that interference was the most unequivocal finding of Mr. Mueller’s 448-page report, though just as disturbing was the report’s meticulous recounting of the ways the Trump campaign accepted and even encouraged it.”

In Push for 2020 Election Security- Top Official Was Warned: Don’t Tell Trump – The New York Times

“WASHINGTON — In the months before Kirstjen Nielsen was forced to resign, she tried to focus the White House on one of her highest priorities as homeland security secretary: preparing for new and different Russian forms of interference in the 2020 election.

President Trump’s chief of staff told her not to bring it up in front of the president.

Ms. Nielsen left the Department of Homeland Security early this month after a tumultuous 16-month tenure and tensions with the White House. Officials said she had become increasingly concerned about Russia’s continued activity in the United States during and after the 2018 midterm elections — ranging from its search for new techniques to divide Americans using social media, to experiments by hackers, to rerouting internet traffic and infiltrating power grids.

But in a meeting this year, Mick Mulvaney, the White House chief of staff, made it clear that Mr. Trump still equated any public discussion of malign Russian election activity with questions about the legitimacy of his victory. According to one senior administration official, Mr. Mulvaney said it “wasn’t a great subject and should be kept below his level.”

Even though the Department of Homeland Security has primary responsibility for civilian cyberdefense, Ms. Nielsen eventually gave up on her effort to organize a White House meeting of cabinet secretaries to coordinate a strategy to protect next year’s elections.

Russia Picked Donald Trump and Ran Him for President- Former Israeli Intelligence Officer Says – BY CRISTINA MAZA – Newsweek

“Russia chose Donald Trump as the U.S. presidential candidate who would be most advantageous to Moscow, and used online tactics to win him the presidency, according to a former agent of the Israeli intelligence agency the Mossad.

“Officials in Moscow looked at the 2016 U.S. presidential race and asked, ‘Which candidate would we like to have sitting in the White House? Who will help us achieve our goals?’ And they chose him. From that moment, they deployed a system [of bots] for the length of the elections, and ran him for president,” former Mossad chief Tamir Pardo told the audience at the Marker’s digital conference in Israel on Monday, where experts gathered to discuss online disinformation campaigns and bots.

“What we’ve seen so far with respect to bots and the distortion of information is just the tip of the iceberg. It is the greatest threat of recent years, and it threatens the basic values that we share—democracy and the world order created since World War Two,” Pardo noted, according to Haaretz.”

Source: Russia Picked Donald Trump and Ran Him for President, Former Israeli Intelligence Officer Says

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