“We regret that Russia has decided to turn away from an opportunity to discuss bilateral obstacles that hinder U.S.-Russia relations,” State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a statement. “We would refer you to the Russian government to explain their decision to cancel this meeting. From our perspective, and as Secretary [Rex] Tillerson has made clear, there are many issues to be discussed. We remain open to future discussions.”
The announcement that Ryabkov would not meet with Shannon came a day after the U.S. Treasury Department added 38 individuals and entities, including two Russian government officials, to its list of those facing sanctions for Russian intervention in Ukraine and Moscow's annexation of Crimea in 2014.
The decision to widen the list came as President Trump met with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko at the White House.
Nauert defended the sanctions on Wednesday, saying that penalties were in line with longstanding U.S. policy and should not have come as a surprise to the Kremlin.And, as we mentioned in the roundup this morning, this:
"Let’s remember that these sanctions didn’t just come out of nowhere," she said. "Our targeted sanctions were imposed in response to Russia’s ongoing violation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of its neighbor, Ukraine."
. . . on Monday, an armed Russian Su-27 fighter approached within five feet of an American RC-135 reconnaissance plane in the Baltic Sea. This was the most dangerous of 35 similar incidents in the area since the beginning of June. It is also consistent with escalating Russian interceptions of U.S. aircraft in other regions, particularly the Black Sea and off the coast of Alaska.Pretty much puts the lie to the notion that the Trump administration is cozy with the Putin regime.
There is some solace in the fact that Russia and the US have a history of skilled backing away from the precipice. Remember the stakes everybody, and do what you can to ratchet this down.
UPDATE: A Wired article entitled "How an Entire Nation Became Russia's Test Lab for Cyber War" reveals much about Putin-era Russia's character.
this would happen. For decades they warned that hackers would soon make the leap beyond purely digital mayhem and start to cause real, physical damage to the world. In 2009, when the NSA’s Stuxnet malware silently accelerated a few hundred Iranian nuclear centrifuges until they destroyed themselves, it seemed to offer a preview of this new era. “This has a whiff of August 1945,” Michael Hayden, former director of the NSA and the CIA, said in a speech. “Somebody just used a new weapon, and this weapon will not be put back in the box.”
Now, in Ukraine, the quintessential cyberwar scenario has come to life. Twice. On separate occasions, invisible saboteurs have turned off the electricity to hundreds of thousands of people. Each blackout lasted a matter of hours, only as long as it took for scrambling engineers to manually switch the power on again. But as proofs of concept, the attacks set a new precedent: In Russia’s shadow, the decades-old nightmare of hackers stopping the gears of modern society has become a reality.
And the blackouts weren’t just isolated attacks. They were part of a digital blitzkrieg that has pummeled Ukraine for the past three years—a sustained cyberassault unlike any the world has ever seen. A hacker army has systematically undermined practically every sector of Ukraine: media, finance, transportation, military, politics, energy. Wave after wave of intrusions have deleted data, destroyed computers, and in some cases paralyzed organizations’ most basic functions. “You can’t really find a space in Ukraine where therebeen an attack,” says Kenneth Geers, a NATO ambassador who focuses on cybersecurity.
In a public statement in December, Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, reported that there had been 6,500 cyberattacks on 36 Ukrainian targets in just the previous two months. International cybersecurity analysts have stopped just short of conclusively attributing these attacks to the Kremlin, but Poroshenko didn’t hesitate: Ukraine’s investigations, he said, point to the “direct or indirect involvement of secret services of Russia, which have unleashed a cyberwar against our country.” (The Russian foreign ministry didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.)
To grasp the significance of these assaults—and, for that matter, to digest much of what’s going on in today’s larger geopolitical disorder—it helps to understand Russia’s uniquely abusive relationship with its largest neighbor to the west. Moscow has long regarded Ukraine as both a rightful part of Russia’s empire and an important territorial asset—a strategic buffer between Russia and the powers of NATO, a lucrative pipeline route to Europe, and home to one of Russia’s few accessible warm-water ports. For all those reasons, Moscow has worked for generations to keep Ukraine in the position of a submissive smaller sibling.While one motive is Russia's refusal to accept that, since the breakup of the USSR, Ukraine is a sovereign nation charting its own way in the world, this kind of funny business has a larger purpose we ought to take heed of:
Yushchenko, who ended up serving as Ukraine’s president from 2005 to 2010, believes that Russia’s tactics, online and off, have one single aim: “to destabilize the situation in Ukraine, to make its government look incompetent and vulnerable.” He lumps the blackouts and other cyberattacks together with the Russian disinformation flooding Ukraine’s media, the terroristic campaigns in the east of the country, and his own poisoning years ago—all underhanded moves aimed at painting Ukraine as a broken nation. “Russia will never accept Ukraine being a sovereign and independent country,” says Yushchenko, whose face still bears traces of the scars caused by dioxin toxicity. “Twenty-five years since the Soviet collapse, Russia is still sick with this imperialistic syndrome.”
But many global cybersecurity analysts have a much larger theory about the endgame of Ukraine’s hacking epidemic: They believe Russia is using the country as a cyberwar testing ground—a laboratory for perfecting new forms of global online combat. And the digital explosives that Russia has repeatedly set off in Ukraine are ones it has planted at least once before in the civil infrastructure of the United States.Russia really doesn't cloak its aims in any kind of ideology anymore. It's just emblematic of a mindset we see a lot throughout human history: nation-states, kingdoms and empires behaving aggressively because they feel their inherent greatness entitles them to.