In an interview with NPR, President Barack Obama said the U.S. was ready, willing, and able to respond to Russia’s digital involvement in the 2016 election. Obama, who maintains that Moscow intentionally intervened in the American democratic process, said that the U.S. would not hesitate to strike back.
“I think there is no doubt that when any foreign government tries to impact the integrity of our elections that we need to take action and we will at a time and place of our own choosing,” Obama said.
In reviewing the possible responses, Obama said that some of the U.S. countermeasures “may be explicit and publicized” but that some of them “may not be.”
Obama’s comments are leading many to believe that he plans to retaliate before his term in office is up – meaning he has only a month to take action. While it is within the president’s authority to direct such action, there is a host of reasons to hope that he will exercise some caution. Of all times, this is the worst possible moment for Obama to decide to actually get tough with Putin.
Obama has practiced a lukewarm form of appeasement diplomacy with Russia for the last eight years, and his disastrous “reset” led us to the pre-Cold War tensions we’re experiencing now. At this point, we need a course of action that will take us further away from armed conflict – not action that will drive us to the brink of mutual destruction.
The decision regarding what should be done to respond to the Russian attacks should be left to President-elect Donald Trump. If Trump and Obama can agree on a course of action before the inauguration, that’s fantastic. But for Obama to embark on a cyberwar that puts Trump in a crisis situation immediately upon taking the Oath of Office is unwise, to say the least.
Without providing some conclusive evidence to the American people about Russia’s involvement in the hacks – and their intentions – Obama will not escape charges from the right that he is politicizing this issue. Trump’s supporters have been expecting this for too long. They know the establishment is shaking in their boots, and they know the powers-that-be will do anything they can to hold on to that power, even if it means putting the country on a path to war.
Want to break through that skepticism? Act like you want what’s best for the country and not just what’s best for the Washington, D.C. political class.