US Vice President Joe Biden went on NBC’s “Meet the Press” recently and said the US was sending a message to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Biden’s words come after the US released a statement that it was “confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations.”

The statement also said that the hacks must have been ordered from Russia’s “senior-most” officials and were “intended to interfere with the US election process.”

The NBC interviewer likened it to the US throwing a “high hard one.” Another scenario is what we’re dealing with here.

Note that Biden’s comment isn’t even really a threat. All Biden really did was warn about a future message the US is going to send to Putin at an inopportune moment that no one but Putin will ever know about.

For all we know, it’ll be a really strongly worded email.

War of the words

The US assertion that the Russian government hacked into the offices of the Democratic Party with the intent of manipulating the US election is striking. But it shouldn’t surprise anyone.

Russia is certainly not the only country that tries to get information through various means to shape perceptions and reality.

It is more interesting that the US chose to call out the Russians for the hacks publicly and then follow up with Biden’s controversial interview. Maybe the US hopes to undermine Russia’s position in Europe by demonstrating its meddlesome nature.

 

Photo by Dmitry Terekhov
Photo by Dmitry Terekhov

In most government responses to questions on this topic, US representatives never fail to point out that Russia does this in Europe and Central Asia too.

Also, such a public accusation could have a significant domestic political impact. For example, Donald Trump now gets hurt by his previous comments about Putin. Whatever the case, the Russians are already turning this back around.

The practical consequences of this war of words will not amount to much. It’s hard to see much in the way of serious geopolitical consequences for the Russians, even if they are guilty of these hacks.

It certainly doesn’t change the imperatives or conditions of the various areas in which the Russians and Americans don’t see eye to eye.

Spinning the Hack

This will all just become more grist for Russia’s public relations mill. The Russians use moments such as these to make the US seem simultaneously paranoid and overbearing. This also helps them justify some of their more aggressive moves.

Then you have Trump, whose campaign is on the ropes, and who has responded by touring the country and insisting to his passionate followers that the system is rigged. The elites of the Republican Party have distanced themselves from this line, and so has Trump’s running mate.

Now technically both the Democrats and Republicans are trading conspiracies of attempted manipulation of election results. Trump thinks it’s the system. The Democrats think it’s the Russians. Both are trying to use it to their political benefit.

So the Obama administration is sending a very strong message to Russia through Biden that it is going to be sending a very strong message. Putin is sitting back and watching the show, chiding the US for its “hysteria.” It makes you wonder who is sending what message to whom.