Last week, multiple US government agencies were targeted and “genuinely impacted” by a large-scale hacking attack. Among the targets were the US Treasury, Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security, with hackers even reported to have “breached the U.S. government agency responsible for maintaining the nation’s stockpile of nuclear weapons.”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo blamed Russia for “what is being described as the worst-ever cyber espionage attack on the US government,” saying “we can say pretty clearly that it was the Russians that engaged in this activity.”
In response, Joe Biden and his transition team are reportedly preparing a “cost imposition strategy,” with “measures that will include but won’t be limited to sanctions.” On Thursday, Biden said that “a good defense isn’t enough,” without specifically calling out Russia. “We need to disrupt and deter our adversaries from undertaking significant cyberattacks in the first place. We will do that by, among other things, imposing substantial costs on those responsible for such malicious attacks, including in coordination with our allies and partners,” Biden added.
Sure, this sounds reasonable, in theory. However, when we remember that Biden was a central member of the Obama administration and intends to fill his administration with other members of that same administration, the chances that Biden’s supposedly firm words will spark even the smallest quiver of fear from Vladimir Putin or his allies is laughably minimal.
Most recently, the Obama administration’s handling of Russian meddling in the 2016 election — to which Democrats still attribute Trump’s victory — was deemed to be inept by a bipartisan report issued by the Senate Intelligence Committee. The committee’s chairman, Sen. Richard Burr, said that the administration was “frozen by ‘paralysis of analysis,’ hamstrung by constraints both real and perceived,” and that officials “debated courses of action without truly taking one.” Sound familiar?
Indeed, Obama’s inaction was the only consistent variable in his strategy for Russia. During his time in office, with Biden by his side, “Russia annexed Crimea, invaded eastern Ukraine, intervened in Syria, and hacked the Clinton campaign and the DNC.” And who can forget the Obama’s insipid arrogance during his 2012 debate with Mitt Romney, saying “the 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back because the Cold War’s been over for 20 years.”
While Democrats applauded this “zinger,” Mitt Romney was right and Obama was wrong, and we are still paying the price. As we stand on the eve of a Biden administration, what does this mean in practice for the ongoing struggle with Russia, and more broadly, our foreign policy?
Biden’s return to the White House means a return of the Obama administration’s foreign policy. This means apology tours, Iran deals, and popularity tests. What matters most when it comes to Putin and his government is the return of Obama-style “all talk, no action.” Dictators like Putin measure and judge their competitors on the global stage by one metric: strength. Through this lens, naive western career politicians like Obama and Biden are the weakest of them all.
In 2012, Obama famously drew a “red line,” saying that the use of chemical weapons would “change my calculus.” When that red line was crossed by the Assad regime, Obama did nothing, and America’s enemies noticed. Biden is coming close to drawing a red line with Russia regarding cyber warfare. The only question that matters is whether Putin thinks Biden would ever have the guts to enforce it. History suggests otherwise.
Ian Haworth is host of The Ian Haworth Show and The Truth in 60 Seconds. Follow him on Twitter at @ighaworth.
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.