Ventriloquizing for the Kremlin, the director of Russia’s state-run international media giants, RT and Sputnik, Margarita Simonyan, in a recent TV interview declared:
“Russia will invade Ukraine, sparking a conflict with the U.S. that will force entire cities into blackouts…All-out cyber warfare, nation-wide forced blackouts…she describes as a fated war-to-come against the U.S.” reports journalist Julia Davis (Daily Beast 13 April 2021).
“War is inevitable,” according to Russia’s Simonyan, “I do not believe that this will be a large-scale hot war, like World War II, and I do not believe there will be a long Cold War. It will be a war of the third type: the cyber war.”
Russia’s Simonyan continued saying:
- “In conventional war, we could defeat Ukraine in two days. But it will be another kind of war. We’ll do it, and then [the U.S.] will respond by turning off power to [a major Russian city like] Voronezh.”
- “Russia needs to be ready for this war, which is unavoidable, and of course it will start in Ukraine.”
- Russia is “invincible where conventional war is concerned, but forget about conventional war…it will be a war of infrastructures, and here we have many vulnerabilities.”
- “I’ve been agitating and even demanding that we take Donbas [eastern Ukraine]. We need to patch up our vulnerabilities as fast as we can, and then we can do whatever we want.”
“We only lose if we do nothing,” agreed Russian TV interviewer Vladimir Soloviev. “He argued that by absorbing parts of Ukraine—or the entire country—Russia would be able to remove the zone of American influence further from its borders,” reports Julia Davis.
Simonyan’s claim Moscow needs to “patch up our vulnerabilities” to cyber warfare—since these vulnerabilities are minimal—is really propagandizing to the Russian people an excuse for nationalizing the internet, as planned by dictator Vladimir Putin to weaken Western influence and strengthen totalitarian control, as in China.
Russia’s electric grid relies heavily on “retro-technologies” like electro-mechanical controls that are invulnerable or less vulnerable to electromagnetic pulse (EMP) and cyber-attack. Russia is the world’s leading manufacturer of vacuum-tube electronics, not from backwardness, but because these are one million times less vulnerable to EMP than modern microelectronics ubiquitous in U.S. critical infrastructures and military.
To defeat the U.S., according to Russia’s Simonyan: “We don’t even need the nukes.”
Moscow’s Cyber War knockout blow—blacking-out U.S. electric grids and other critical infrastructures—it has planned for years:
- March 2016, U.S. Government Joint Technical Alert warned Russia’s cyber-attack Dragonfly: “Targeted government entities and multiple U.S. critical infrastructure centers, including the energy, nuclear, commercial facilities, water, aviation, and critical manufacturing sectors.”
- In 2017, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) disclosed, as headlined by Wall Street Journal and Newsweek: “Russian Hackers Could Have Caused Electricity Blackouts In The U.S.”
- March 2018, Reuters reported: “Senior U.S. intelligence officials said…the Kremlin believes it can launch hacking operations against the West with impunity.” Russia “staged malware…and gained remote access into energy sector networks.”
- July 2018, DHS warned of Russian cyber-penetrations into hundreds of U.S. electric utilities. These cyber-attacks were probably the simulated “tip of the spear” for VOSTOK-18, a major joint Russia-China strategic exercise held in September 2018, practicing World War III.
- December 2020, DHS disclosed Russia’s Solar Winds cyber-attack penetrated 18,000 U.S. Government and private sector agencies and corporations, including the Defense Department and U.S. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. Damage is still being evaluated.
Now Russia has mobilized 85,000 troops for possible invasion of Ukraine while China threatens Taiwan.
President Biden’s response to the looming threat of Cyber War?
Ventriloquizing for the Biden Administration from a leaked National Security Council (NSC) draft plan is a recent article “Biden Rushes to Protect Power Grid as Hacking Threats Grow.” Reportedly: “A White House plan to rapidly shore up the security of the U.S. power grid will begin with a 100-day sprint, but take years more to transform utilities’ ability to fight off hackers, according to details of a draft version of the plan.”
Moreover: “Experts say initiatives to enhance the security of the U.S. electrical grid are years behind …At the same time, hackers from Russia, China, Iran and North Korea are launching increasingly aggressive attacks.”
President Biden deserves great credit for moving quickly to protect electric grids from cyber-attacks, and should heed Ambassador Henry Cooper’s recent advice in Newsmax (15 April 2021): “This is a step in the right direction, especially if this study includes the electromagnetic pulse (EMP) threats the Congressional EMP Commission reported many years ago to be the most horrific cyber threat posed by the military doctrine of Russia, China, North Korea and Iran…”
However, amidst the current crisis with Russia and China, is it prudent for NSC to disclose that their plan to protect the national electric grid is only a draft, is only 6-pages long, will take years to implement, and relies chiefly for cybersecurity on electric utilities who cannot protect power grids from high-winds in California or ice storms in Texas?
Surely, federal and state governments that can mandate wearing masks can also order and supervise protection of electric grids that sustain the lives of 330 million Americans.
About the author: Dr. Peter Vincent Pry is executive director of the Task Force on National and Homeland Security, was Chief of Staff of the Congressional EMP Commission, and served as staff of the House Armed Services Committee and CIA and author of Will America Be Protected (2021) and The Power And The Light (2020).