By Editorial Board,
AMERICAN DIPLOMATS and intelligence officers were targeted in Cuba and China with a mysterious attack that began with a loud noise, a pain in the ears, a headache and dizziness. It was followed by visual problems, tinnitus, cognitive difficulty and lasting health troubles. Two CIA officers were hit with the same malady while traveling in Australia and Taiwan. A Russian military intelligence unit secretly offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants to kill coalition forces in Afghanistan — including U.S. troops. A prominent U.S. cybersecurity firm was targeted in a breach that saw the looting of valuable hacking tools. The Democratic National Committee’s computers were raided by Russian military intelligence to disrupt the 2016 election.
What’s going on? All the above incidents occurred between 2016 and this year. While there are murky aspects and unanswered questions about each of them, taken together they look increasingly like a concerted effort by Russian President Vladimir Putin to wage asymmetric warfare against the United States. It is warfare using unusual weapons — including directed, pulsed radio frequency energy — as well as cyberattacks that are nowadays more common, but damaging nonetheless.
In a broad sense, Mr. Putin may be seeking to score political goals, such as forcing Americans out of Afghanistan, disrupting the U.S. election or spoiling the U.S. rapprochement with Cuba. Or his attacks may serve tactical ends: weakening U.S. cyberdefenses; tormenting U.S. diplomats and intelligence officers serving abroad.
President Trump, for reasons that have been mysterious, never confronted Mr. Putin about his dirty tricks. Now President-elect Joe Biden must do so. Although there are important issues to tackle with Russia, including an extension of the New START accord, Mr. Biden should, early in his term, make clear to Mr. Putin that he will not remain silent nor tolerate these or any other attacks on Americans abroad by Russia’s unleashed intelligence agencies.
A study by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine for the State Department on the Cuba and China attacks has now been released. The authors acknowledge many uncertainties about what happened and gaps in information. But they declared that the misery inflicted on the U.S. officials is “consistent” with directed pulse radio frequency energy. The panel does not say who did it. But the panel recalled “significant research in Russia/USSR into the effects” of such directed energy in the past.
Who aimed those invisible beams at the Americans? Who offered to pay for the killing of U.S. soldiers? Like a good veteran KGB officer, Mr. Putin offers
denials. But it is time for these black operations by the Kremlin to be seen for what they are and called out by the new U.S. president.
Read more: Vladimir Kara-Murza: Putin’s biggest fear is to be held accountable for his regime’s crimes David Von Drehle: Putin may be using new technology, but he is a classic Russian czar The Post’s View: America needs to reinforce the message to Putin that killing your critics is wrong