Meanwhile, Reince Priebus, chairman of the Republican National Committee and Trump’s pick for White House chief of staff, disputed the conclusion of US intelligence agencies that Russia interfered in the election and denied that the RNC was hacked by the Russians. He told ABC News:

“We contacted the FBI months ago when the [alleged hacking of the Democratic National Committee] issue came about. They reviewed all of our systems. We have hacking-detection systems in place, and the conclusion was then, as it was again two days ago when we went back to the FBI to ask them about this, that the RNC was not hacked.”

In fact, US intelligence found evidence that Russian hackers probed the RNC, but is inconclusive as to whether they actually got in.

How big a threat is Russia, really?

It’s a serious threat. Putin seeks to weaken the US, the EU, and NATO to the degree that they can no longer presume to call the shots without his agreement in international affairs. Since western governments are not ordinarily prepared for such stout challenges to their democracies, they are vulnerable to the weapons of doubt he is employing, mainly creating the impression that there are no indisputable facts, that anything could be true, and that everything is either already compromised, or could be. Since trust is the bedrock of democracy, this threatens social stability across the West.

How should the US respond?

While its defenses are obviously not so great (or at least they weren’t at the time of the hacking), the US has the most advanced offensive cyber capability on the planet. It has been reluctant to retaliate out of fear of triggering a dangerous, all-out global cyber conflict. But it’s clear that the US will have to do something to show Putin that two can play this game.

Among the options is to out him on his presumed personal wealth, with details of all his homes, property, and hard cash. Or the Internet can be shut off to important government or personal facilities or homes. What the US likely won’t do is to launch a debilitating attack, such as temporarily taking out the Moscow electric grid. That would go beyond the realm of mere mischief and into the risk of tit-for-tat warfare.

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