Russian intelligence and security operatives have been systematically harassing and intimidating American diplomats and embassy personnel all across the European continent, according to a startling report by The Washington Post’s Josh Rogin.
Rogin notes the sheer extent of Russia’s hostile intimidation game:
At a recent meeting of U.S. ambassadors from Russia and Europe in Washington, U.S. ambassadors to several European countries complained that Russian intelligence officials were constantly perpetrating acts of harassment against their diplomatic staff that ranged from the weird to the downright scary. Some of the intimidation has been routine: following diplomats or their family members, showing up at their social events uninvited or paying reporters to write negative stories about them.
But many of the recent acts of intimidation by Russian security services have crossed the line into apparent criminality. In a series of secret memos sent back to Washington, described to me by several current and former U.S. officials who have written or read them, diplomats reported that Russian intruders had broken into their homes late at night, only to rearrange the furniture or turn on all the lights and televisions, and then leave. One diplomat reported that an intruder had defecated on his living room carpet.
In Moscow, where the harassment is most pervasive, diplomats reported slashed tires and regular harassment by traffic police. Former ambassador Michael McFaul was hounded by government-paid protesters, and intelligence personnel followed his children to school.
The abuse is so acute that America’s chief diplomat, Secretary of State John Kerry, has personally contacted Russian President Vladimir Putin and begged him to back down. Meanwhile in Simi Valley, California, Ronald Reagan is rolling over in his grave.
While Russian operatives have toyed with their US counterparts since Barack Obama first became inaugurated in 2009, the abuse American diplomats have been receiving since the US placed sanctions on Russia for its colonialist interference in Ukraine hasn’t been this pronounced since the fall of the Berlin Wall.
“The harassment is not new; in the first term of the Obama administration, Russian intelligence personnel broke into the house of the U.S. defense attache in Moscow and killed his dog, according to multiple former officials who read the intelligence reports,” reports Rogin, adding that “harassment and surveillance of U.S. diplomatic staff in Moscow by security personnel and traffic police have increased significantly, State Department press secretary John Kirby confirmed to me.”
The State Department now trains all US diplomats on evading Russian intimidation tactics. However, government insiders told Rogin that President Obama ultimately decided to refrain from responding to Russia in kind. The White House has established guidelines for defensive, as opposed to offensive measures, against Kremlin-sanctioned harassment of American diplomatic personnel.
Rogin asked Moscow about the behavior of its operatives in Europe. Rather than replying to the issue-at-hand, Kremlin representatives sent Rogin back a protracted response about US sanctions.
President Obama himself has yet to publicly acknowledge the systematic abuse campaign against his own government’s employees. Kerry has ostensibly tried to push back against Russian molestation, but his attempts have so far been unsuccessful. “Kerry raised the issue directly with Putin during his visit to Moscow in March. Putin made no promises about ending the harassment, which continued after Kerry returned to Washington,” explains Rogin. “The U.S. ambassadors to Europe are asking the State Department to do more.”
In September, Russia’s defense minister urged the US military to stand-down in Syria and concede control over the country’s airspace to Russian fighter pilots targeting anti-Assad opposition forces, many of which are sponsored by the CIA. Although US officials rebuffed Russia’s demands at the time, the reality in Syria today privileges Moscow’s military assets, both on the ground and in the air. Russia is in de facto control of Syria’s airspace as the US has apparently made a deal with the Kremlin to avoid confrontation between American and Russian pilots. American bombers and drones only target ISIS-held territory in Syria essentially pre-approved by Putin and Assad. The US has not targeted any sites that may harm the Syrian military on the ground, even as Assad steps up his campaign against civilians and US-backed opposition fighters alike to purge all dissent.
Obama’s sheepish stance toward Russia has in fact encouraged more hostility against the US military. In April of this year, Russian jets buzzed by a US warship in a dangerous maneuver to intimidate navy personnel. Obama’s response? Crap happens.
Indeed, Obama’s unofficial foreign policy platform of “Don’t do stupid sh*t,” as he once called it, has even been mocked by his own former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton.
Here’s an excerpt of the infamous Atlantic interview Clinton gave in August. She later had to walk back her comments after the White House expressed its anger over Clinton’s disloyalty.
At one point, I mentioned the slogan President Obama recently coined to describe his foreign-policy doctrine: “Don’t do stupid shit” (an expression often rendered as “Don’t do stupid stuff” in less-than-private encounters).
This is what Clinton said about Obama’s slogan: “Great nations need organizing principles, and ‘Don’t do stupid stuff’ is not an organizing principle.”
She softened the blow by noting that Obama was “trying to communicate to the American people that he’s not going to do something crazy,” but she repeatedly suggested that the U.S. sometimes appears to be withdrawing from the world stage.
In the same interview, Clinton noted that President Obama’s “failure” to arm moderate Syrian rebels ultimately led to the rise of ISIS.
As the US continues to abandon key allies in the region, in favor of rapprochement with Iran and appeasement toward Russia, Putin, Assad, and his Shiite allies in Tehran will expand their sphere of influence exponentially unless they are stopped by something other than silence from the Obama White House.