Friday, June 18, 2021

Hillary Clinton Makes the Case for Why Biden Shouldn't Meet with Putin


On the same day that President Joe Biden met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton weighed in. In a Wednesday morning interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” the twice-failed presidential candidate wasted no time in calling out Putin and former President Donald Trump, while she spoke more favorably of Biden’s approach to Russia.

Clinton has a long and contentious history with Putin, going back to her support of Russia’s 2011 pro-democracy protests. She characterized the Russian leader as “the great disrupter” of democracy for his alleged interference in the 2016 presidential election, despite the 2019 Mueller Report finding no sufficient evidence of collusion between Putin and the Trump campaign.

Clinton’s comments on Trump, which included calling him a “spokesman for Putin," suggest that she is not over her 2016 loss. In a tone mimicking Biden’s, she emphasized the need to “reset” United States-Russia relations after the “disaster” of Trump’s presidency.

“The problem is that Trump has elevated [Putin]. Trump, from the very beginning, even when he was running in 2016, lifted up Russia. … I never thought I would see some of what we saw during the four years of the Trump administration," Clinton said on Wednesday.

Of Biden, Clinton praised his decision to meet Putin one-on-one in Geneva without a joint press conference. She said Biden is a president who “will stand up and defend American interests,” and she called upon Biden to set clearer cybersecurity standards with the Kremlin.

“We’ve got to have some kind of process about cybercrimes and cyberattacks. I thought a number of commentators have made an excellent suggestion — that we look for a Geneva Convention, if you will. Bring the world around what we're gonna do to protect ourselves and to draw some lines about what's acceptable when it comes to the use of cyberweapons," Clinton said on Wednesday.

However, Clinton should recognize that the Biden administration has already missed several opportunities to take a stand against Russian cyberattacks.

On May 7, the Houston-based Colonial Pipeline fell victim to a ransomware attack in which DarkSide, a cybercriminal organization linked to Russia, is believed to be responsible. Biden responded three days after the attack, vaguely stating that the “Russian authorities have some responsibility to deal with this,” when mounting evidence suggests that the Kremlin perpetrated the attack and has no interest in “dealing with” its consequences.

In another win for Putin last month, Biden declined to impose sanctions on Gazprom, the Moscow-based gas company working to construct Nord Stream 2. The controversial pipeline will give Western Europe access to Russian natural gas reserves while providing Russia with greater access to European markets in exchange. Biden has long been opposed to Russia constructing the pipeline, but he indicated on May 25 that imposing sanctions would be counterproductive to America’s interests in Europe.

It’s not like the Biden administration has much of a plan to deal with the cyberattacks in the first place. Earlier this month, Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm admitted that America’s adversaries are enemies capable of cyberattacks at any moment.

“I think that there are very malign actors who are trying even as we speak. There are thousands of attacks on all aspects of the energy sector and the private sector generally. The [JBS] meat plant, for example. It's happening all the time," Granholm said earlier this month.

With the Geneva Summit over, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden can talk a big game about “defending American interests.” But getting Vladimir Putin to commit, and keeping him committed in any meaningful way, to the reduction of cybercrime is a task easier said than done.

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