President Barack Obama may have essentially threatened Russian President Vladimir Putin in a manner that again raises the specter of World War 3. In response to the WikiLeaks scandal surrounding Hillary Clinton, and the intelligence community’s belief that Russia hacked the DNC, some senior advisers to the 44th president of the United States wanted Obama to inform his Russian counterpart that any interference with the 2016 election would be tantamount to an “act of war,” directly resulting in an “armed conflict.”
Fortunately, Obama toned down the rhetoric when he actually spoke to Putin, but some critics fear the U.S president’s actions may have exponentially increased the chances of World War 3. Some believe that if Russia and its president are proven to have meddled in America’s presidential elections and the overall results, America could find itself mired in a war with Russia.
Obama is believed to have used the legendary “Red Phone” to establish a direct communication line with Moscow and reiterated the fact that international law pertaining to armed conflict also applies to the digital realm. According to NBC News, Obama allegedly informed the Russian bureaucracy that the laws that govern “armed conflict” between two nations also apply to actions in cyberspace. In other words, Russia can’t violate the digital sovereignty of the United States and expect it to tolerate the same because its physical borders weren’t threatened or soldiers weren’t killed in the physical world.
Part of the allegedly sent message read, “International law, including the law for armed conflict, applies to actions in cyberspace. We will hold Russia to those standards.”
Although any specific reference to an “act of war” was dropped, Obama reportedly informed the administration that any meddling with the affairs of the United States won’t be tolerated. Any interference, whether physical or electronic, will be considered as acts of aggression.
An act of war? President Obama called Putin on the ‘Red Phone’ with a warning about the hack that wasn’t https://t.co/w3kxji2xgD— Rep. Steven Smith (@RepStevenSmith) December 20, 2016
Interestingly, Obama did try to maintain his trademark restraint and practiced diplomacy before resorting to the aggressive and threatening language. Before Obama was to meet with Vladimir Putin and speak about the hacking during a September meeting at the G-20 summit in China, one of the American President’s senior advisers had recommended that Obama issue an ultimatum to the Russian President. However, reports indicate that President Obama feared issuing such a warning could deteriorate an already tense situation.
Instead of warning the Russian president of dire consequences, including World War 3, if the country didn’t cease any and all activities, digital or otherwise that might be interfering with the general elections, Obama chose to use diplomacy. While the American president did caution his Russian counterpart, he chose a less specific language and tangential remarks to convey the message.
However, a month later, the U.S. opted to use the “Red Phone” to send a communique that did not mince words. The message reinforced Obama’s rather oblique warning issued in September but chose a much clearer language to stress that the U.S. would consider any interference on Election Day a grave matter. Moreover, Obama used the phrase “armed conflict” this time around to ensure Russia heard his warnings loud and clear.
The Red Phone is a new take on the old emergency communication systems of the Cold War era. The system connects Moscow directly to Washington. It is supposed to offer a direct line of communication between the two nations in times of crises that have the potential to escalate into a full-blown war or, in the case of America and Russia, into a World War. The system has been used during the September 11, 2001, terror attacks, when U.S. invaded Iraq, and such other occasions.
The Red Phone is essentially a secure communication system that doesn’t allow verbal communication. Interestingly, it was never meant to be a literal phone. It first began as teletype more than 50 years ago. Thereafter, the system was upgraded to fax. Today, the system sends a secure email message through dedicated internet lines between the two countries. Needless to add, the Red Phone is secured with multiple levels of encryption and channeled through the highly covert Nuclear Risk Reduction Centers.
WATCH: Exclusive: White House used DC-to-Kremlin "Red Phone" system to reinforce Election Day warning to Russians. https://t.co/t0cXvmMskP— NBC Nightly News (@NBCNightlyNews) December 19, 2016
The current ability of the Red Phone to securely send email messages as well as attachments was added by the Obama administration back in 2013. The Cyber CBM channel was one of several cyber-related confidence-building measures that President Obama envisioned to address the rising need for secure and reliable lines of communication between nations that could be considered as perpetually hostile.
While Barack Obama allegedly halted Russia’s meddling in the 2016 elections, many experts fear the assassination of Russian ambassador Andrei Karlov could have already set in motion the events that might eventually result in a World War that would be fought not only on the battlegrounds but also in cyberspace. There’s also many other events which threaten world peace, including the disagreement between Obama and Putin on how to handle Syria.
Congress is currently debating how to pursue an investigation into allegations of Russia’s hacking, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wanting the Senate intelligence panel to investigate rather than a special committee. The Associated Press reports that “there’s no evidence Moscow succeeded in helping Trump win,” but CIA Director John Brennan says the intelligence community believes Russia tried to interfere in some manner.
In regard to the WikiLeaks dump of Hillary Clinton’s emails, Julian Assange recently told Sean Hannity that “our source is not the Russian government.” However, WikiLeaks has also offered to help U.S. officials authenticate any claims of Russia’s hacking.
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