I gotta say, I love the new diplomacy by tweet. People keep saying the Donald should put down his Tweeter when he becomes President. I say it’ll never happen, and I’m happy to see it continue.
I wrote before about how I appreciated our new Negotiator-In-Chief’s use of a single tweet to render the Chinese drone theft meaningless in The Pre-President Practices Pre-Diplomacy, and his use of tweets in the Obama Gives The Wailing Wall To The Muslims. Somewhat unnoticed in this, for the first time a foreign Head of State replied when Bibi Netanyahu commented on Trump’s tweet, saying:
I like this situation a lot. Yes, it’s not how diplomacy is done … but on the other hand, this isn’t diplomacy. It’s a tweet. And I am comforted by the knowledge that Netanyahu understands that Trump is on his side. That’s a good thing, and pre-Twitter we would never have known that in as clear and unequivocal a manner. I think it is great that more of this is playing out in public.
Now we have the whole Russian drama. Let me see if I can bring some light to that.
First fact. It’s very possible (few things in espionage are ever fully clear) that Russia hacked the DNC. However, the information released to date is far from convincing.
Next fact. There is no evidence at all that the Russians released one scrap of whatever they found if they hacked it. I read the Joint Action Report (JAR). It has one sentence on the release of the information, saying:
The U.S. Government assesses that information was leaked to the press and publicly disclosed.
That’s it. That’s all they say about it. They don’t even say who in “the press” that it was leaked to … and we’re supposed to just say “OK”? At least they should identify who in “the press” got the info. That’s not confidential or secret. If Russians are spoon-feeding info to someone in the press, that’s something we should know … and to me, the fact that they have not named names means they are just blowing smoke. I hate to say it, but then it’s not the first time the CIA et al. have been caught with their hands in the cookie jar giving false but politically convenient information …
Next fact. Julian Assange has repeatedly denied that the Russians gave him anything. He says it was leaked by someone who was disgusted with the DNC plotting against Bernie Sanders. Assange’s offsider has also said he was the one who went to DC to get the flash drive getting the information.
Not only that, but it would be very unlike the Russians to release anything they found. The information that was released would have been much, much more valuable as blackmail when (as was assumed) Hillary eventually took power. The Russians would have been fools to waste the emails by making them public in a forlorn hope of electing someone who everyone knew would lose … and the Russians are many things, but rarely fools of that magnitude. Think about what it would mean to be able to blackmail a new administration …
Next fact. Obama got in big trouble a while back for his intelligence service listening in on Angela Merkel’s phone calls … so please, no anguished hand-wringing about countries spying. Everyone does it.
Next fact. Obama tried to influence the Israeli elections using your and my taxpayer money:
According to the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (PSI), the State Department gave $349,276 in U.S. taxpayer-funded grants to a political group in Israel to build a campaign operation, which subsequently was used to try to influence Israelis to vote against conservative Benjamin Netanyahu in the March 2015 election for prime minister.
Yes, the Russians possibly DID HACK the DNC server, as well as possibly hacking every other server they could hack over the last decades including Hillary’s server, but to date we have no clear evidence for them hacking either one. We do know that publicly available Russian software was used … but that doesn’t mean the Russian government was involved. Maybe so, maybe no.
No, if it was the Russians they most likely DID NOT RELEASE one scrap of that information, whether to affect the election or for any other purpose. It is much, much, much more valuable as blackmail.
Yes, every country is spying on every other country.
Yes, Obama did spend a third of a million taxpayer dollars to influence the Israeli election, and now he’s up in arms about unproven Russian “interference” that nobody has shown to have actually occurred.
So with that as background, Obama decided that after a eight years of not responding to Russian hacking except to tell Putin to “Cut that out!”, it was imperative that he act right now … so he imposed the weakest sanctions imaginable. Expelled some diplomats, froze the US accounts of some people and groups most of whom didn’t have US accounts, said they couldn’t shop on 5th Avenue. Booooring … their money is in Switzerland, as is their shopping …
Now, it was up to Putin to respond. Be clear that everyone involved, including you, me, and Trump, knows that Putin was the head of the KGB, and is used to torturing prisoners and poisoning his enemies.
However, you don’t rise to the top of the Russian political toilet bowl and keep from being flushed out in one of the many periodic purges without being smart. So Putin thought it out, and realized that he had a chance to do to Obama what Trump had done with the Chinese drone. He could laugh it off and say “So what?”.
Of course, it being Russia it was all orchestrated. The head of the Russian Foreign Ministry reportedly recommended expelling US diplomats tit for tat. Putin published that fact, and then after a few hours he said no, he wasn’t going to expel any diplomats, so he could look like the good guy. He also said he didn’t care about what Obama did, it didn’t matter, he’d deal with the Trump Administration when Trump got into power.
Now, in my opinion this was pretty brilliant. First, it was unexpected, outside the box. Everyone expected tit-for-tat. Second, it was crafted in collusion with the Foreign Ministry’s purported opposition, great optics. And finally, he thumbed his nose at Obama and rendered him impotent.
Trump couldn’t resist tweeting on that, of course, saying:
Great move on delay (by V. Putin) – I always knew he was very smart!
Immediately the chatterati clutched their pearls and kicked their usual fluttery quackathon into high gear and jumped all over Trump, saying things like “It’s wrong to ever tweet any good things about a murderous thug like Putin!” and “You can’t cozy up to a beast!” and various other virtue-signalling statements.
Trump didn’t say Putin was good, or trustworthy, or a candidate for a Nobel Peace Prize, or decent, or caring, or a humanitarian, or a potential partner.
He said Putin was SMART, and if you go up against Putin, for me that is the very first thing that you should know, and it is what you better keep in mind at every step throughout the negotiations. Putin is damn smart.
And returning to Trump’s tweet, as a businessman I know that if you are going to be negotiating with someone, it’s generally to your advantage to say whatever true good things you can say about your opposite number … can’t hurt.
Plus, of course, by complimenting Putin on his smarts, Trump is actually saying “Yep, Vlad outsmarted Barry all right” …
Like I’ve said before, the man can pack a lot into 140 characters.
But the twitter exchange is not over. Next, Putin has the Russian Embassy in the UK tweet the following:
Ooooh … like I said, I greatly approve of Twitter diplomacy, in part because it’s enormous fun to watch. As you can see, nobody is mistaking it for regular diplomacy, which we still need. But world leaders, following the Donald’s example, are starting to take advantage of Twitter to applaud actions, encourage friends, stake out the far edge, and other non-traditional uses.
Plus which, it is fun to see the different national characters expressed. For example, it is so typically Russian for Putin to use the Russian Embassy UK as a cat’s-paw to distance himself from the “lame duck” tweet, which everyone knows he had to personally approve of … that gets extra style points.
And to put the final cap on the year, Putin stepped forwards with this closing tweet …
Superb, considering the Obamas famously said “When they go low, we go high” … plus a nice touch to invite the kids on the grounds of, quote, “In response to the US Sanctions”. You could almost convince yourself that Putin actually has a heart …
… and you can be sure that Trump is not fooled. Donald appointed General “Mad Dog” Mattis as his Secretary of Defense in part because neither one of them trusts Putin one bit … and because both Trump and Mattis know that Putin is the worst kind of bad person.
He is a smart bad person.
AS USUAL, I ask everyone who comments to QUOTE THE EXACT WORDS THAT YOU ARE REFERRING TO. This allows all of us to understand exactly what you are discussing.
PS: Do NOT believe the recent story about Russians attacking the electricity grid. What happened was that PUBLICLY AVAILABLE Russian malware was found on one laptop not connected to the grid. See here for more. Key quote from that analysis (h/t to Steve McIntyre):
… assuming that Russian-made malware must have been used by Russians is as irrational as finding a Russian-made Kalishnikov AKM rifle at a crime scene and assuming the killer must be Russian.