East and West are drifting apart – with the leaders of Russia, Europe and the US exchanging threats. And it’s not just a matter of words: in the digital arena, warfare is in full swing. But, will the new US president elect, Donald Trump, be willing to reduce the tensions? Or will the running war of words, and bits & bytes be extended to the physical world?
The last few months have shown an acceleration of the hostilities between the Russia and the United States. The US is accusing Putin of hacking the computers of the Clinton Campaign, as well as and Hillary Clinton’s personal servers and e-mail accounts. Plus, WikiLeaks is supposed to be supported by Russian Hackers. And whistleblower Edward Snowden, who exposed the unparalleled and Stasi style of NSA mass surveillance, has found asylum in Russia. The US has warned Putin for retribution in the physical world if Russia continues its alleged infiltrations on the US digital infrastructure and systems. US spokespersons claimed that their military cyber soldiers are already ‘in’ the Russian systems – perfectly able to disrupt Russia’s critical infrastructure.
Putin, from his side, denies all the accusations. In the meantime, he has pulled the economic card in trying to hurt U.S. IT companies like Microsoft by having the company stop using Microsoft solutions. The American IT company is the biggest in Russia – and is accused of conspiring with the U.S. government by providing backdoors in the software that enable access for Western intelligence agencies. Russia’s capital city, Moscow, was the first to throw Microsoft out the window.
So what’s next? As the situation is very tense and complex, an accident may happen that will trigger fast and massive escalation to a full-fledged cyberwar that could spill over into the real world of bombs and grenades. We now need leadership that crosses the gaps to the adversary, just like Nixon did to China, Assad to Israel and Gorbatjsov to the West. From this perspective, Trump’s victory in the U.S. presidential election may turn out as a blessing in disguise, as he and Putin seem to maintain warmer relations than the Obama/Clinton leadership did. Let’s hope that a new ‘Entente’ in cyberspace has dawned.
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